Why Every Offline Business Needs a Website

Have you ever searched for a specific local business online, only to find listings on other people’s sites? It’s hard to believe, but there are still quite a few brick and mortar businesses that haven’t created their own website yet. Without a website, businesses have no presence online. But it’s not just about keeping up with all the other local businesses. There are huge profit and customer relationship benefits as well.

Consistent visibility

Even though local businesses are offline, their customers are online. By only being visible when customers walk down the street or drive by, these businesses are invisible the rest of the time. However, people spend a huge amount of time online, whether it is on their computer, smart phone, laptop or tablet. They search for information online, not by driving down the street.

Communicating with Customers Regularly

A website gives the business owner a venue for collecting email addresses, which in turn is a vehicle for communication. Most people still check their email regularly. Instead of spending money on print advertising, it’s much cheaper to send customers special offers and discounts via email. At the same time, email can be used to build a relationship with customers by offering other tips and advice.

Build Your Online Brand Awareness

Your website is completely under your control, so businesses can use it to create and promote their brand image. Everything from the design of the site to the content and interaction that occurs there builds the image that you want the world to see. You can use it as a kind of dynamic billboard which the whole world can see and interact with.

Demonstrate Social Proof

People make purchasing decisions based on recommendations more than any other factor. By including testimonials from customers, businesses can offer the proof that prospective buyers need. Ratings and reviews are another way to help people make purchasing decisions, though they are more difficult to control.

Go Global

As a local business, you have a very limited prospect and customer base. However, once a business goes online, the potential for more sales is only limited by the logistics of shipping. And international delivery rates are cheaper than ever, so that’s not an excuse! In fact, some websites, like Etsy, have made it feasible for even the smallest individual business owner to give the whole world access to their products.

While it’s certainly possible to survive purely as a local business, the potential to grow and prosper is far greater when you have a website also. It’s just a matter of being visible to customers and prospects in the place they spend much of their time, while opening up your business to a whole new market.

Building Your Business On Just 15 Minutes A Day

I think we’re all guilty of overestimating what we can get done in one day, and the number of projects we can work on at any given time. Writing a book in a week sounds fine, for example, until you realize that you’ve got a million other projects on the go at the same time! On the flip side, some projects can look so huge that you just never get started. You keep putting it off and putting it off until you decide you’re just never going to get around to it.

There is one way to feel like you’re making progress even when you don’t have much time to work on a project: by dedicating just 15 minutes a day to doing something that’ll take you closer to your goals.

This is enough time to actually see some progress each day, but not too much time that you won’t be able to fit it into your already busy schedule. You may be thinking that projects will take too long to complete if you only give them 15 minutes per day, but they’ll take even longer if you never start! That 15 minute block is a way to motivate yourself, to keep you working consistently, and to help build momentum until you see something through to the end.

How To Make Sure Those 15 Minutes Are Productive

The best way to make sure you get the absolute most done in those 15 minutes is to know what you’re doing. If you’re writing a book or report, make sure you write an outline so that you can dig into any section whenever you have time. If not, spend one of your 15 minute chunks of time breaking down any project into smaller, more workable chunks. It may not seem like it, but this really works to make things easier on you, so don’t skip it!

It also helps to get into a routine: if you have 15 free minutes in the mornings, set this time aside for your new projects. Or, if you’re the kind of person who constantly seems to be on the move, keep a notebook/ smartphone/ eReader etc. on you so you can work on your project whenever you get a chance: at the doctor’s office, while waiting for a friend, sitting in a taxi and so on.

It also helps to let someone else know your goals. A partner or friend can help to keep you accountable, or you could even post daily updates on a blog and get others to join in. Whatever works for you!

Does It Really Work?

When do you feel the happiest and most successful: when you’ve been thinking about doing something for a while but are trying to get the motivation to actually start, or when you stop thinking and start doing? Even if you’re not doing much, you know you’re doing something. That should be enough for you to stop beating yourself up and to start feeling proud that you’re taking action on your goals.

Remember – every single person can find 15 free minutes in their day. There are no more excuses!

Duplicate yourself by outsourcing

When you started your online business, you probably did not envision a life of nonstop work, no vacations, and even days where it’s hard to find time to take a shower! Nope, you likely had many visions of yourself working remotely from your favorite vacation spot or the local coffee shop. If you’re a work at home mom, you likely envisioned yourself working in your air conditioned home office around your family’s schedule, having elaborate dinner ready on the table each and every night, all the laundry done…. You get the picture.

Now that you’re actually doing it, things aren’t going exactly as planned. Sure, you’re starting to see results, and you’re getting a lot accomplished, but the work never ends. You’re never done, and you have a hard time shutting the business off at night and focusing on yourself and your family. You can see a future where the business is earning a lot of money, but you’re no longer sure you’ll make it at this rate.

You’re in luck because you can duplicate yourself by outsourcing! Imagine this: Someone else is handling your customer service email, someone else is setting up your sales pages, someone else is adding products to your shopping cart after setting it up, someone else is writing unique content for your blogs and article marketing is handled by someone else, all without hiring a single employee. That’s right! You can outsource many of these tasks and more without hiring a single employee. There are contractors who love doing these tasks for you with whom you can contract. They will work as “Independent Contractors”.

Independent Contractors are available in many countries and at many different prices. Remember, that most of the time you get what you pay for, and you have to determine for yourself whether it’s moral or ethical to outsource outside of our own country. You can’t let other people tell you what is right or wrong in terms of whom you choose to pay to help you with your business. The important thing is that you invest in your business in a way that lives up to your own ethics and expectations. In addition, interview each person who applies to work with you and make sure that the fit works for you both.

There are laws regarding what constitutes an independent contractor in each country so ensure that you read up on that. In both Canada and America, the law is essentially the same in that you cannot control those you outsource to in terms of whether or not they have other clients, and you cannot provide training, or tools for them to complete the tasks you assign to them. However, please read about the laws in your own country. Outsourcing is very simple and has very little paperwork involved. The contractor is responsible for paying for all his or her own taxes and benefits. This makes for an ideal situation for you because it makes outsourcing as simple as determining which tasks you want to outsource, and finding the contractor in which to outsource.

Boost your Link Building with YouTube

One of the most buzzworthy places to embed your own links these days is YouTube… attached, of course, to a buzzworthy video.

Answer a question – one that plagues a lot of people in your niche. Provide a short tutorial. Make the focus all about them, not you. Don’t waste time introducing yourself for more than a few scant seconds, but plunge right in.

Make the video you wish someone had made for you, when you were starting out. And provide low-res (360) versions as well as high, for those who are still on dialup, or on plans that eat up minutes and megabytes.

How do you choose what to film? Get familiar with the site. See what’s popular on a day to day basis. Create a video series with a strong title. What you call your video adds greatly not only to your SEO, but to its searchability – and Google does favor series. And make sure your title contains your keyword, as well as the word “video” (a major organic search parameter) and can be turned into natural-feeling anchor text, when you publicize each one. Create a signature “look” – brand your videos.

How To Help it Go Viral

Your choice of subject will play a huge part in whether or not your video goes viral.. but even with the driest or simplest subject (and remember, simpler is better) one of the major steps you are taking is making sure your URL gets “out there”.

Don’t just include it prominently with your upload information: Display your URL at the beginning and end of your actual video. Search engines won’t find graphic links, of course, but it’s yet another way of getting known.

The real strategy lies in other places you promote your video. You should link not just your website but:

– Publicize it via Twitter links
– Digg
– Your Facebook or MSN page
– YahooVideo
– Your Homepage

Create a separate channel for it on YouTube, and create a separate category for it in your blog.

Use your videos to thank people who have helped you, or contributed to your answer. Never be shy about sharing praise – people appreciate it and in turn are more likely to promote your link. Mention at the end of your video that you are available for guest posts or interviews. These are both great opportunities to publicize your anchor text links. (Send out press releases too – but make sure they’re about the subject; not about you. Something readers will want to check out, answering the inevitable question, what’s “in it” for them.

Don’t ignore YouTube communities, either. Add your video to any community or subject area where its relevance will be appreciated.

Above all, focus on helping the viewer, not publicizing your URL. After all, one of the main benefits will be in an increase in popularity and web visibility. And the more you’re in demand, the more people will want to link to your anchor text and URLs.

That’s the best link building strategy, in the long run!

Content is Still King for Product Review Sites

So, you want to build a product review site and make a lot of money. Of course, you do! But, like with anything you have to do it right if you want to earn money. First, you need to decide who your target market is, then you need to choose the right products for your audience, and then you must fill it with keyword rich content that attracts search engines and humans alike. This is no easy task, but with a little practice, you can get really good at writing reviews that get results. We all know what results you want, right? You want to make money. So read on to discover the perfect formula for your product reviews.

Try it — When possible try the product you are going to review. If you cannot try the product, it makes it difficult to give it a great review. If you can’t review it yourself, offer the ability for site visitors to submit a review or invite those whom you know have tried the product to submit a review. If the reviews aren’t accurate, and someone buys the product they’ll blame you. How can you be accurate, if you haven’t tried the product or service — think of a way.

Be Truthful — If there are issues with the product that aren’t wonderful, but some are wonderful be truthful. Consider not posting reviews for products that are really bad. Sometimes, if you do that it makes the other products look that much more wonderful. However, be prepared for the owners of the product to be angry, especially if they gave you a review copy.

Why You? — Why should people trust your product reviews? Ensure that your site visitors and guests know why you are the one to give the reviews about your particular niche. Are you an expert in the area? Do you use these type of products on a regular basis? Do your clients use them? You don’t have to be a Doctor to review stethoscopes, but you do need to be able to interview those who do use stethoscopes.

Remember your Audience — You’re writing the review for the audience, not for the product creator, the vendor, or even yourself. If you keep in mind that you’re writing for a potential user of the product and not for anyone else you can keep your sights set on the correct keywords, the right attitude, and the best approach for the products you are reviewing.

Who, What, When, Where — These are the questions every product review should answer. The reader should know that the product is for him or her, what it is and does exactly, when they need it and where to get it. If you can’t answer those questions, then do more research, because nothing else matters as much as those four answers.

Benefits vs. Features — You’ve likely heard, when you are writing your own website, especially if you offer a service, that you should focus on benefits, not features. In the case of a product review, focus on both benefits and features. Discuss the features and the benefits of the features. What problem does the feature solve for the potential user?

Sum it up — In the ending paragraph tell your reader exactly what you think about the product. Is it worth the money? Now is the time to consider how you feel about the product. If you were going to use this product, do you think it’s worth the money the reader will need to spend? If you think so, say so, if not say so too. Your readers will appreciate your honesty.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing can go by a lot of different names such as private media, branded content, customer media and so on, but they are all essentially content marketing. This is probably one of the best ways to make sure your marketing is being truly effective.

One definition of content marketing is: a technique of making and distributing valuable and relevant content to bring in a much defined target audience with the over all objective being the creation of sales. Basically this is a way to reaching out to your customers and potential customers in a way specifically designed to attract them to you and keep them coming back.

Content marketing is all done without overtly trying to sell a product; it is intended to educate and inform the customers. With typical marketing, the goal is to make a sale and the product or service is the main point of the approach. Content marketing is very different from this approach and has proven to be very effective.

The idea around content marketing is to deliver consistent and useful information to the customer. In return, they will reward the company with their business and, over time, their loyalty to the brand. This form of marketing creates a bond between the customer and the company. This bond is a very hard one to break and results in ongoing business over time and a loyal customer.

Traditional marketing is becoming less and less useful as customers are able to skip commercials or change the channel on the TV. Ads in papers and billboards are not interactive and provide no real help to the customer. Pop-ups on the Internet are another way advertisers try to market their products but this can be ineffective as more and more people use their pop-up blocking tools on their browsers to avoid these invasive marketing tactics.

Content marketing breaks the mold completely and as odd as it may seem, the customer is the one who searches out the information they need. Not only do they remember where they found what they needed, they remember who provided the useful information as well -and this is where the marketing comes in.

Potential customers will buy from a company they trust and feel has the same interests as they do. This is why providing helpful advice and information is so very important to this marketing strategy. Most of the time, the people reading information on a web page don’t realize they are being marketed to as they read the content.

Recent studies have shown 70-80% of people who were surveyed, felt more comfortable buying something from a company they trust. Content marketing builds trust, because the customer begins to look forward to your next content installment and may make decisions based on the information given.

What Does A Successful Joint Venture Partnership look like?

You’ve found a partner who is compatible to you and your business. You work well with him and you are ready to launch into the next phase of business planning. You pause. You realize that before you take your next step it might benefit you to know what a successful joint venture relationship looks like. To begin with you should expect to share all responsibilities. Your customer reach should increase as well as your profit but your partner should reap those same rewards. Finally, you will notice a marked increase in your productivity because you have a partner to stay accountable toward.

First and foremost a successful partnership involves shared responsibility. This means that the workload is evenly distributed among the partners. No one person gets stuck with all the dirty work. You can agree to do all the graphics if you prefer but you shouldn’t be expected to do it all, especially if your partner is just as capable of creating outstanding graphics.

A symbiotic partnership will look like a committed relationship. Each person will see to it that the other is treated fairly and with respect. Forgiveness and understanding will be the keys to longevity in the relationship. Competition will be non existent and trust will outweigh suspicion.

Second, your potential customer reach should be expanding past your normal reach. You should be reaching not only your readers and customers but also the readers and customers of your partner. This grows your business twice as fast in the same amount of time.

Each will be promoting the other in various means. Press releases will be sent to notify the public of your partnership. Interviews will be given and eBooks written. Everything you do for this venture will ultimately be for the joint goal of success.

Nothing builds productivity more than accountability. Knowing that you have to report your progress to someone pushes you to complete a project on time. Sure, you are in business for yourself but any successful solopreneur will tell you it is the support of their team that drives their success.

Built in evaluations and reviews will help you stay on target. Evaluate how your businesses compliment each other periodically. Partnerships are rarely long-term relationships. You might outgrow each other or your businesses might change direction.

Last but certainly not least, a successful partnership will be profitable for all. You might divide the profits directly in half or you might choose to split it by a fixed percentage. It depends on what is being done and what each partner is offering.

Having a written contract that explains each part of the partnership as well as what is expected of each party will ensure that all involved are protected.

A great partnership, just like a great relationship, is cultivated over time. Commit to getting to know each other. Develop trust. Partnering with someone who is like-minded both in their personal ethics and their business ethics will produce the most beneficial business venture.

The Most Important Element in Your Sales Funnel

Perhaps it’s starting to become evident at this point how important a sales funnel is for your online business success. Sales funnels facilitate your ability to build trust with your customers. Trust is the key to having a profitable funnel, and it can be quite simple.

There are times when you, the business owner, need to make the decision to give away a product of value. Something your customers will know is a top-notch giveaway. Most often, the best sales funnel system starts out with a free product, and then begins to gain momentum with something at a low price, then on and on gradually increasing the value and the price of your offers.

Eventually, the trust and confidence between you and your prospects will reach a point where you can break out the dealmaker item you’ve been preparing. This is your product, which carries the larger ticket price, and your customers won’t even hesitate to purchase it. This is a result of the time you have spent building that relationship of trust and confidence.

Keeping you customer in control of the business relationship, with them able to severe the ties without worrying about any risk, is what will sustain their trust in you and your business. These are essential keys – it’s all about your customer, building their trust and serving their needs. Sales always come afterwards in this particular line of priorities.

Once trust is established and prospects have become customers, they’ve entered your sales funnel, then you can begin to offer your higher end products. Earn your prospect’s trust with valuable and quality information and you will have a company built with a positive and solid reputation.

21 Best StumbleUpon Tips

So you’re getting started with StumbleUpon, and you’d like to make the most of your Stumbling experience. Good for you, for being concerned with starting off on the right foot. There are definitely things that you can do to increase your chances of becoming popular through stumbling. Let’s take a look at 21 of the best all-time tips:

1. Remember that your mission is to be yourself. So only stumble sites that you are genuinely interested in.

2. If your website or blog is all about photography, make your photos big enough to stun people with their detail, contrast and fascinating subject matter. Don’t worry about bandwidth.

3. If your website or blog is all about photography or art, keep the background colors neutral – let the images speak loudly for themselves.

4. If your website or blog is about information, make sure the visuals don’t distract. Focus on your headlines and first paragraphs instead.

5. Use the Related Posts plug-in to provide readers with more valuable content – from you.

6. Make sure you submit your own site pages, or new ones from others you’ve discovered, with accurate tags.

7. Send your own pages, via StumbleUpon, to your friends.

8. Submit your best work (i.e., specific pages, perhaps not highlighted on your site but buried deep within) to StumbleUpon

9. Don’t submit your own stuff daily – that’s a sure-fire way to send up a red flag and possibly get your site banned.

10. Be selective about who you add: Quantity is not better than quality.

11. Don’t befriend someone and then ignore them. Remember, all relationships need to be nurtured!

12. Thank people who compliment you or stumble your sites. Everyone appreciates courtesy.

13. Don’t neglect your other social marketing – but why not do it via StumbleUpon (it’s one-click easy!)

14. When checking out another Stumbler’s profile, pay attention to your Similarity Meter (located in the right-hand sidebar)

15. Use your “info” toolbar button to see site reviews – and leave your own

16. Subscribe to people who you are really compatible with via content – click the green “Subscribe” button in the upper right corner or send them a message

17. Create a StumbleUpon group and stumble each other’s best links.

18. Stumble people who stumble you – if you find their content valuable, give it a thumbs up (but don’t be indiscriminate!)

19. Review StumbleUpon profiles of those whose sites you’re interested in

20. Stumblers love dynamic photos. Occasionally include one (relevant to your blog subject, of course) – even if normally you focus only on text information.

21. Don’t forget to add a StumbleUpon button to your blog or website!

Finally remember that most of all, StumbleUpon is all about entertainment. Keep your heavy-duty business report for your LinkedIn contacts… and let StumbleUpon help you develop your “lighter” side. It’s a bit of an art form to learn to mix business with personal in a way that feels natural to both you and your reader – but letting that spark of personality shine through is ultimately your biggest social networking advantage.

Happy Stumbling!

Establish Credibility in Your Niche with Pinterest

Being credible is a very important goal for any business. If your audience views you as credible then they not only see you as an expert in your niche, they also trust what you say as the truth. In order to gain this designation as credible it’s important to demonstrate your knowledge, and be able to back up what you say in a demonstrable way.

When you consider that according to research over 50 percent of online consumers have purchased based on Pinterest recommendations, that’s pretty powerful stuff. What’s more using Pinterest is a fun and effective way to help you establish credibility, so why not add it to your marketing mix.

Here are some ways to get started establishing your credibility on Pinterest:

Effective use of profile bio — Put simply, fill out your entire profile and include a good professional picture. Nothing can increase your credibility as much as a great photograph. Pinterest profiles are indexed by Google and other search engines so the more completely and keyword rich your profile is, the better.
Links to Case Studies — Prove how effective you are by creating a board of case studies. A case study is an entire overview of a business or client. Essentially a before and after. For instance, if you’re a business coach you can go in depth about how your suggestions made huge improvements.
Clever Presentation of Testimonials — Seeing pictures and the words of happy customers and clients can make all the difference in how people perceive you. Ensure that you get your clients’ and / or customers’ permission to show their image and their words, and when potential clients see the real people you’ve helped your credibility factor will go up exponentially.
Strategic use of Graphics — Almost anything can be made into a graphical representation. Create colorful flow charts. Have a professional logo made. Get a professional headshot. Ensure that all images that you use are legal and that they are also very well done.
Use of Audio & Video — If people can hear someone sing your praises they’ll love you even more. If they can hear you talking, in addition to seeing your photograph, the trust quotient explodes most barriers. Create a board that is all about linking to your audios and if you have them video.
Show infographics that prove your numbers — People love to see the numbers in action. Infographics are a terrific way to show the statistics behind your work, and as an added bonus they work great on Pinterest. Don’t make it too busy, use color, scale and as few words as possible to get your point across.

Establishing credibility is about building relationships with your niche audience. Strategic use of Pinterest to help you establish credibility is a pleasurable way to educate your target audience. You’ll be able to educate, entertain, amuse and even, if you dare, rouse your audience wide awake with your Pinterest boards and pins. Let your imagination go, but do it in a focused strategic way, and before you know it you’ll be well established as an expert in your niche that is well trusted.