Create Your Own Marketing Holiday

A constant struggle for online business owners is standing out from the crowd of competitors. In the world of the internet, you can find competitors from every continent so that struggle can be even tougher. Having a strong marketing plan and out of the box ideas can certainly help bring your company’s name to the forefront.

Take the example of Chick-Fil-A. They are a fast food company that built their menu around their signature chicken sandwich and they have a cow as a spokesperson. You’ve probably seen the commercials where the cows wear signs, “Eat Mor Chikin,” with the hopes people will eat at Chick-Fil-A instead of the burger joint.

The marketing folks at Chick-Fil-A have gone one step further and created their very own Cow Appreciation Day, where anyone who dresses up like a cow – either from head to toe or just with an accessory – receives some free food. Think it’s silly? In 2011 they served 450,000 customers across the country.

Sure, they came in for free food but if they had a good experience, they will likely come in again for another meal or will bring friends to the next Cow Appreciation Day.

Did Chick-Fil-A use direct mailings to promote their holiday? I don’t really know but this would be an excellent case where they would finely target their list to include ONLY those people who lived near one of the 1,600 national restaurants.

Absolutely any business can create their own holiday with some planning and creativity. Add to that a special direct mail campaign promoting the holiday and you’ll create quite the buzz around your business.

The most important thing to remember is that your holiday should integrate effortlessly into your existing marketing plan. Chick-Fil-A already had a cow in their plans, so a Cow Appreciation Day was a natural choice. If your idea needs explanation for people to understand it, then it might not be the best choice.

If you don’t want to create a unique day, you can certainly plan a direct mail campaign around one of the other untraditional marketing holidays I discovered while researching online. Again, the holiday theme should meld easily with what you sell. Here are some examples:

January: National Bath Safety Month, National Blood Donor Month, Winnie the Pooh Day

February: Black History Month, National Grapefruit Month, Make a Friend Day

March: National Nutrition Month, Crochet Week, National Craft Month

April: International Guitar Month, Library Week, National Poetry Month

May: National BBQ Month, National Police Week, Mother Goose Day

June: Candy Month, Fishing Week, National Donut Day

Source: http://www.holidayinsights.com

A business owner who sells baby toys and clothing might consider promoting Winnie The Pooh Day by offering a discount on Winnie The Pooh merchandise. Create an appropriate mailing and send it 2 weeks before the event and hopefully you’ll see lots of traffic to your website which could then lead to sales.

As you can see, most of us have never heard of these “national” holidays before but if they tie in with what you sell, then use that to your advantage. Create a fun direct mail campaign, schedule fun content on your website related to your chosen “holiday” and share the buzz on your social networks.

Business Networking: Following up with a Thank You Note

Networking should be part of your monthly business activities. Whether you network online via social media or offline at events one thing is for sure, you need to write thank you notes. Once you connect with someone and share information with him or her, especially if it was at an event or online webinar, you need to take the time to write them a little note reminding them who you are and what was discussed.

Before you get your stack of note cards out there are a few things you should always include. First, always add the date of the event. Second, restate your interest in becoming business partners. Third, re-emphasize how your skills will help them in reaching their goals. Fourth, set up another meeting or contact. Fifth, include your contact information. Sixth, be sure to send it within 24 hours of the event. Finally, be neat, to the point and take the time to hand write your note.

Refer to the date of the event
Networking events are gatherings where you meet many different people. It’s hard to keep all the names, faces and businesses straight. Include the date of the event in your note to remind them when you met.

Restate your interest in becoming business partners
Hopefully you struck up a conversation and asked a number of important questions regarding their niche and their goals for their business. With this in mind remind them that you think a partnership with them sounds like a possible way that you both can build your businesses.

Re-emphasize how your skills will help
During your short conversation you probably mention your 30-second pitch which highlighted your skills and products. Reiterate those to remind them how you fit into his or her business goals.

Set up another meeting or contact
Choose a set time and meeting place for a follow-up. Even if it’s only via email or Skype, setting the date and time and then scheduling it on your calendar will give it a high priority.

Include your contact information
You probably exchanged contact information or business cards at the event but go ahead and include your information again. Networking events are a pool of information and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to contact you again.

Send it within 24 hours of the event
Get in the habit of completing your thank-you notes before leaving the parking lot or shutting your computer down. Also, put a stamp on it and place it in the mailbox. The sooner this is done the less procrastinating you’ll do.

Be neat and to the point
Don’t scribble some words of insincerity or write a long dissertation about how your partnership will skyrocket sales. Get to the point which is to set up a meeting; it is then that you can talk in more detail about ideas and plans you might have.

Handwritten is preferred
If at all possible don’t type or email your note of thanks. If your handwriting isn’t legible ask someone with excellent penmanship to write it for you. Keep it neat.

Social Media Strategies — 5 Time saving tactics

Saving time on social media is imperative if you want to escape time wasters and time suckers. By setting up a system you can avoid many of the distracting games, gossip, and out and out worthless parts of social media. There is a time to play games, but it’s not while you’re at work. Even though you don’t have a boss looking over your head, the time wasting will catch up with you if you don’t get a handle on it.

Plan for Success — If you have no road map to your destination you’re not likely to make it. Sure, sometimes people accidentally hit the lottery, but most of the time success comes from careful and thoughtful planning. Don’t set out blindly for a hit or miss effort. Instead, make a plan and stick to it, adjusting as necessary.

Implement Automation — Social media automation is a great way to save time. There is no good reason why you should not schedule automatically new posts, new articles and new information across all your social media. There are many tools available that do a great job. This will enable you to use your social media time more wisely in conversation with your potential clients rather than just pushing information to them.

Schedule your time — If you set up automation you can then carefully schedule your time for using social media for being, social. Imagine that! The automation of updating friends and followers of blog posts will create time for you to actually read other people’s tweets, re-tweet good information, and to actually participate. The trick is to schedule the time, and stick to the schedule.

Outsource — Yes, you can outsource a lot of aspects of social media. A virtual assistant can set up all your automation. She can also keep track of your metrics, and alert you to important tweets or buzz that you need to address in a blog post or in a direct message to someone. A good long term virtual assistant can even answer your direct messages for you when needed.

Turn it off — You read that right. When you’re off work, turn off your business social media. When you are doing other work, turn off your social media completely. There is no reason to have it on 24/7 because that will only serve to distract you from money making tasks. There are better ways to monitor social media with automation and RSS feeds.

With proper planning, implementation and perseverance your social media efforts can and will pay off to bring you more traffic, more business, and more success than you ever thought possible. The important thing to learn is to control your time since that is your most important asset. If you can do something else that earns you more money, do that instead, while using tools that let you continue with using social media strategically.

Sales Pitches Out: Social Advertising In

Are you considering just putting one of your existing banner ads on a social site such as Facebook?

Don’t. At least… not yet…

It’s important to remember you are dealing with two different mediums. What works on one – even if it’s your strongest ad – may not work on the other. There are a number of mistakes I’ve seen marketers make, when creating their own social ads, and impersonal headlines beginning with anything even remotely close to: “The Untold Truth About…” – ones that sound like a sales pitch – will turn people off faster than a slap of ice water.

It’s important also to match the ad with the right social network. There are now so many in play that it seems as if there’s a social network for every market – and they’re not all created equal. Besides a difference in sales tracking metrics and flexibility, you also have to consider the demographic that uses each particular one the most.

For example, Scribd’s population leans more heavily towards young male professionals, with college education, whereas MySpace’s demographic is the 17-21 year old age group (usually non-spenders, except on electronic items such as iPhones, music and gaming systems).

But no matter what platform you finally pick, you won’t get anywhere with the sort of sales pitches that sound like the beginning of a TV commercial: The sort that wake you up at night, while their presenters enthusiastically shout about the latest gadget.

Remember that social advertising is just that… social. Nobody’s really got the ultimate handle on it yet… but when it comes to social advertising for your business, remembering you’re supposed to be interacting, and that a give and take has to go on with your fans, will go further than the cleverest headline.

Free Advertising Using 5 Social Media Sites

You’ve been realizing lately that you really need to spread the word about your business, website, event or product. But you don’t have
the largest budget on the planet. If you’re looking for ways to advertise for free, you might want to consider making full use of social
media.

Most social media platforms offer paid advertising – and if you have the budget, it’s always better to cover all the bases. But there are
some free methods and techniques utilizing social media that can really increase your exposure (and even your personal brand).

Here are suggestions that have worked well for many internet marketers and entrepreneurs on these 5 social media sites…

1. It’s not enough just spread the word by blogging: You have to also promote your blog. Do it by using Delicious or Digg. Link to your
blog from your Facebook news feed. Send people to your blog by tweeting on Twitter about your latest post; shorten the URL with bit.ly –
and then check your stats on the number of clicks.

2. Upload a video to YouTube, and make sure links to your business are placed in the first and last frame of your video (appearing long
enough for people to quickly make a note of the link). Have the same URL in as many places on your YouTube channel page as you
can manage.

Make sure it either (a) is extremely helpful about one tricky subject for the niche you’re targeting or (b) contains all the elements of a viral
video: Memorable, entertaining, personal, unique – if appropriate, perhaps even funny. (A Singing Parrot is far more likely to engage
people’s attention than a dry “talking head” video where you earnestly explain your automobile part numbering system.)

You do have to be careful not to be so irrelevant with your amusing video that you don’t attract your target audience at all. (Perhaps have
your Singing Parrot humorously interrupt your earnest explanation of your automobile part numbering system.)

Get creative. One marketing mom was having a particularly hard time with her 3-year-old twins “ruining” every attempt at making a video. Rather than lose her cool and fight the situation, she edited the clip in Windows Movie Maker to leave in only one interruption – one that was particularly funny. Her mostly female work-at-home-mom audience loved the video, and she reported a 50% increase within 2 weeks in her opt-ins.

There are many other social media sites that offer free features, apps, widgets and opportunities. Check them out to see which ones are the best fit for your business!

Affiliate Marketing Secrets – Taking it to the next level

If you’ve had some minor success with promoting affiliate products you’re probably wondering what you can do to move up the ladder to the next level. You seriously want to become a super affiliate and start making six figures in affiliate marketing so you can quit your “day job” and come “home” full time.

Well, it is possible for you to come home full time if you pull out all the stops and truly devote yourself to affiliate marketing as your career choice. Once you are earning money it is important to invest in your business so that you can take it to the next level. Remember that you are only one person, and if you really want to reach your dream of quitting your job, or making this part time endeavor earn a full time income, you’ll need to think strategically.

Outsource – You’re only one person, and you only have so many hours in the day. The quickest way to increase your reach and your income is to outsource various administrative tasks to someone trained to do those tasks.

You can outsource to:

Virtual Assistants – Handles administrative tasks such as customer service, formatting eBooks, eReports, checking email, posting blogs and content.

Graphic Designers – Handles all your graphic needs such as banners, book covers, and can even design special buttons and graphics for your website.

Affiliate Managers – If you create your own product which you want to promote via your own team of affiliates an affiliate manager can help boost sales by directing your sales army and motivating them. The affiliate manager would also create or have created banner ads, text ads, and marketing materials for your affiliates to use.

Content Managers & Producers – The content manager would handle all content for your site from creating a publication calendar, to writing or having written the content, and posting or having posted the content where appropriate. The Content Producer would only write content as directed. He or she can then send it to your VA to post.

Web Developers/Designers – This person would design your website, and perhaps maintain your website in terms of security and upgrades and updates.

Some people choose to employ an Online Business Manager sometimes referred to as an OBM to organize and lead all the people above including your activities. The OBM can help keep you on track with product creation, newsletters, and your marketing goals. There are others to whom you can outsource but it is best to start small. Always remember your budget, and once you’ve started earning some money stick to a budget for outsourcing so that you can run your business the way you want to.

By outsourcing various tasks you can concentrate on what it is you do well. Perhaps you’re an idea person who can churn out money making ideas but you’re not good at implementing them. If you have a staff at your fingertips you can simply tell you Content Manager to find someone to write the eBook or eReport or other informational product that you want per the terms of your outline. Then it will be created fast and you can keep coming up with ideas and work on the more “fun” aspects of your business like engaging in social media while sitting on the beach someplace. Now, that is truly taking your business to the next level.

Important Pinterest Tools, Apps and Plug-ins

Like with any other social media, awesome tools and plugins that increase the usefulness of the service are being developed all the time. It’s important to stay abreast of the different tools so that you can get the most out of your Pinterest account. You probably already know about the follow buttons and the “pin it” buttons so let’s move past that and talk about some other useful tools, apps and plugins.

Mobile Apps — Both Android and iPhone offer apps that allow you to immediately pin imagines that you’ve taken and saved to your mobile. You do have to go back in and edit links, as well as change the names of the pictures to useful, keyword rich file names, but it can come in handy when on the go to save important images and update and edit them later. However, if you have access to the web via your mobile device you may also be able to update links, keywords and more, all on the go.

Browser Extensions — Chrome, Firefox and Internet explorer all offer browser extensions to make Pinterest more automated and easy to use. Each adds a button to your various browsers for easier pinning from any website. Firefox’s extension allows you to create a right click Pin Image choice which is super useful and easy. Chrome even has an extension that enables you to search information about images you find on Pinterest, called Pin Search. It can even help you find the actual photographer of the image in question.

Editing Software — Developers are creating some useful fast ways to develop pin worthy memes and images with words. ShareAsImage.com allows you to create an image out of any quote or text that you find on the web. PinWords.com allows you to edit an image with professional looking captions and text quickly and easily without having to use complicated software like Photoshop.

Collaborative Apps — There are a variety of collaborative apps that allow open boards to be made even more interesting. Say you’ve created a collaborative vacation planner board for your entire family. If you have an app called Pinstamatic.com, you can add your favorite music, a sticky note for someone, quotes, maps, music and more to the collaborative board.

Infographic Creators — Pinterest is a very visual social media platform, but not all of us have the skills and talents to create eye-catching graphics using complicated software, nor the money to hire someone else to do it. That’s where cloud-based software such as Easel.ly, Bubbl.us and Infogr.am comes in. These online software allow you to create interactive infographics ( […Visual representations of information data or knowledge. — en.wikipedia) that are perfect for use on Pinterest.

Analytics and Alerts — As a savvy marketer you already use Google Alerts to be notified of content with your keywords or your name, why not add that functionality to your websites and blogs? You’ll be notified each time someone pins something from your web real-estate. It makes it easier to interact with your followers and those who re-pin your content. You can also try out Reachli.com, which helps business owners market Pinterest content across the web. Create campaigns with their intuitive system within your budget and get started right away.

Setting your niche marketing goals

Every successful business venture starts with a plan. Without one, how will you know where you are going and how you will get there? Take the time to not only become familiar with your niche and target market, but set goals for yourself.

Time Goals
Set a date for when you would like to launch your niche marketing website and business and do everything in your power to meet that deadline. As you move forward, continue to set goals and timelines to follow as a way of keeping yourself on task and on schedule.

Budgetary Goals
Be sure to set a budget and stick to it. If your plan is to invest $100 or even $1000, set up a budget that allows for expenses that stay within your means. Sticking to your budget will be a large deciding factor as to whether or not your business becomes a success.

Profit Goals
Of course, the purpose is to make money, but you must set realistic financial goals in order to meet them. In other words, say your ultimate goal is to make $5,000 a month. Well, that is a great goal. But is it realistic for your particular niche?

Your potential for revenue will directly depend on what you are selling and whom you are selling it to. Some niche markets lend themselves to higher profit because of the value of the product being sold (like limited edition watches), while others require more volume in order to meet high revenue goals. Neither one is better than the other, it just depends on your individual business scenario.

No matter what your goals or how extensive they are, the most important thing to remember is to be realistic with yourself first. If you are, and you know and understand your boundaries and limitations, then the rest will follow and your goals will be that much easier to achieve.

Virtual Event Etiquette — 10 Tips to have a successful event

1. Send a reminder — Send every registered participant a reminder about the event at least the day before and an hour or so before the event. By sending a reminder you ensure better attendance to the event. People have very busy lives, get mixed up with time changes, and just simply forget about things even when they paid for it. Reminders are really nice and help clear up misunderstandings about time zones.

2. Send an agenda — In your last reminder sending an agenda or menu of what is going to happen during the event is a very nice added special touch that can create anticipation and excitement for the event. It can also help attendees think of questions and encourage them to invite more people if there are last minute sign ups.

3. Greet participants upon arrival — If you had an in person event you would stand at the door and greet visitors as they came in the meeting room. It is important that you, or someone assigned to do so, greets attendees as they come into the conference room. This will make them feel included and avoid the tendency for people to just click in, and click out if they don’t know what is going on.

4. Explain the technology — Before the virtual event officially begins but most of the attendees have arrived take the time to explain the technology to them. Just a quick couple of minutes explaining how to mute a microphone, raise your hand to speak, and how things should look can go far in making attendees comfortable.

5. Explain how the event will proceed — When the event officially starts take time at the beginning to go over the order of events according to the agenda. This will be a way to prepare yourself, the speakers and attendees about how everything will proceed.

6. Introduce each speaker/presenter — Always have a clear transition to the speakers after the Q & A time. Either have the speaker introduce the next person or, most effective, the host should introduce the next presenter.

7. Keep track of time — Someone should be keeping track of time, it is important to keep the event running smoothly on time so that everyone has plenty of time to do their planned presentations. This is why practicing helps keep the time factor into consideration.

8. Allow for Q & A after each speaker/presenter — Another reason time is important is to ensure that each speaker / presenter has ample time for a Q & A session after their presentation. Most event participants report better experiences (and open their wallets more readily) when they feel heard and have their questions answered.

9. Have a clear closing of the event — Instead of just stopping the event suddenly make sure to have a planned closing that has some sort of call to action, whether that is to sign up for a newsletter, attend the next event, or to remind participants to grab their bonus materials does not matter, just make sure that a clear closing occurs.

10. Follow up — Never ignore the follow up after a virtual event. Sending attendees some bonus materials in email, a recording of the event, and thanking them for coming along with a survey that gives feedback to you so that you can do better with each event is a very important part of the entire experience.

Online Business Outsourcing – How to manage your contractors

When you outsource tasks and functions for your online business, you will need a way to manage your contractors that doesn’t end up making outsourcing more work for you than it should be. Outsourcing should take a lot of work off your plate and put it on some else’s, so that you can have room to do the things you love to do or the things that make you more money. The way to make sure that you manage your team the best that you can is to consider either hiring an online business manager, or you might want to purchase a project management system (software) or both.

A project management system will help you manage one to an entire team of contractors that you outsource to by organizing activities and tasks in a way that your team can easily understand and that you can keep organized. There are several different project management systems that you can use both free and for a price. A couple good project management systems are CentralDesktop.com, and Basecamp.com. You can also use a file sharing system such as Google Docs or Dropbox.com to share securely various files and information between you and your contractors.

Another alternative is to contract with an online business manager. An online business manager or a project manager is a person, or even a firm, that handles all aspects of your business on an independent contract basis. Your online business manager, or project manager, will manage your entire team of contractors for you so that you only take to him or her and not 10 different people. You tell the manager what needs to be done and he or she will delegate the tasks to the appropriate team member, keep an eye on your outsourcing budget and make sure everything is done on time to your standards before you lay eyes on it. In this case, you will still likely need to have some sort of project management system (software) if your online business manager does not already have one that is secure that they can use.

Most project management systems or software is ran ‘in the cloud” which is very useful for outsourcing since you and your contractors can be at any location with Internet access to see the projects, due dates, time kept and so forth. Using one of these systems, whether or not you hire an online business or project manager will greatly improve your efficiency within your business. The great thing about the professional paid versions is that your clients, and contractors can watch the online tutorials and videos to learn how to use the system so that leaves little to no training in your hands other than to point them to the relevant online information if asked.

By implementing one of these solutions you will actually gain more control over your business and the profitability of your business because you will have everything in place to be able to read all the metrics, see what needs to be done, and have ways to get things done too. You can be a company of one, yet act like a company of 500 with a good project management system in place.