When Was The Last Time You Had A Day Off?

Chances are if you are reading this, you are a small business owner or soloprenuer. Welcome! Small business ownership provides you with a stability and potential that in my opinion has long been lost in the corporate jungle. After all, small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms; employ just over half of all private sector employees; pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll; and have generated 64 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years.

But what isn’t defined in your role as a small business owner is something that you probably enjoyed on the corporate front…a set schedule. You remember the days, 8-5, Monday-Friday, where anything outside of that was probably well compensated and hopefully kind of out of the ordinary? Those days are over. As a small business owner you have to remember to sleep. And weekends? Ha! Finishing your day by 5 or 6 without a stack of papers to read or a laptop nearby is probably a memory as well.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The fear/panic/worry that another client will never call, or another contract will never be signed can be fleeting IF you remember to make room in your life, well, for a life. It’s important to actually slow down and remember who you are building this business for, whether that’s you, your family, or even your employees, and taking some time to spend time with them. Trust me, it doesn’t clutter your calendar, it clears your mind.

Taking just one day a week, or heck, even a couple of evenings, and focusing on what’s truly important can do more to help raise your productivity than anything else you can do.

As Jack Canfield writes in The Success Principles, that the most successful people he knows maintain a balance among work, family, and recreation in their lives. “The value of regular free days is that you come back to your work refreshed and ready to tackle it with renewed vigor, enthusiasm, and creativity. To become truly successful, you need these breaks to allow yourself some distance from your normal day-to-day life – so you can become more creative in generating breakthrough ideas and solving problems.”

And by free, he means FREE. Not taking a report to read to a ball game, or going to the coffee shop to catch up on your email backlog. No laptops, no emails, no documents, and no contact with your work. Free. Go to the park. Take your kids to the zoo. Go swimming. Catch a ball game. Free. I dare you.

Give it a shot, I promise you, it works. And let me know how it benefits you work AND your life!

Here’s to self-employment!

When It Comes To Facebook – Show Your Followers You Like Them Back

You built it; you asked your friends, family, and colleagues to like it, you asked them to tell those near and dear to them. Now what.

Facebook isn’t about the NUMBERS it’s about the conversation. What are you talking about? Why should people keep liking you? Are you giving them anything? Are you providing them with links and information they can’t easily get anywhere else? Or are you one they guiltily followed because your mom is their next door neighbor and they just skip you on their feed?

The key to having a vital Facebook page is the conversation. You know, the kind that could take place between you and your followers. You say something, they respond, back and forth, is how it should go. Hot topics, cool trends, industry specific news – NOT a sales pitch.

More often than not though, Facebook is just an extension of some high dollar ad campaign. For example, there’s a local business that I “followed” recently, and guess what, the ONLY thing that appears on their wall is snippets from their latest, greatest TV and radio spots. You might find out about their next sale – sure – but after weeks of “check us out” are you even listening anymore? I just want to say, “tell me something – give me something – pay attention to me, don’t just jumping up and down asking me to like you.”

When I was in the third grade, a boy named John asked me to “go with him” (do I sound old now or what – geeze). It’s a relationship that started when he asked his friend to ask me if I liked him, when I said yes, he quickly followed up through same friend and asked me to go with him, to which I agreed.

Guess what! Once we were “going together” (there’s that old part again, ugh) we talked LESS than we talked before we were boyfriend and girlfriend. Sure, I got a heart shaped box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day, but his friend gave it to me for him. I realized by President’s Day that I “liked” John much better before I was his girlfriend and broke it off.

Numbers are worthless, conversation is king and when it comes to Facebook, it’s all about the conversation. Facebook is where relationships are built, for better or for worse, and relationships as we all know are two-way streets. If you get someone to like you, you had better show them that you like them back, because guess what, if you don’t, your competition will.

Brand-Building and Content: Don’t Let Your Message Look Like A Class Project Gone Wrong

Not that long ago, I was called by the marketing director of nationally recognized organization to do some writing. They needed someone local to help develop and write a couple of large campaigns and the projects encompassed several months. While creativity was definitely called for, so was continuity of the brand.

This organization has a “look” to all of their advertising, same basic layout, same logo, same color scheme, and same tag line. But what might not be as readily obvious is the “tone” of all of their marketing materials. Every single piece of written material and every single word of radio and TV they have carries this “tone” so that means the verbiage and way things are worded carry the same message, building brand recognition.

Carrying this tone throughout all materials provides a degree of continuity in a brand’s advertising that, over time, will help that brand come to stand for something specific in the mind of the consumer. Paying as much attention to the copy as the design can also help a brand achieve distinctiveness and stature in a competitive market.

So guess what. For the first few days on the project, I simply studied everything this organization had done in the past couple of years. The marketing director handed me a stack of materials when we met, and we both knew that it was my job to read and reflect their style. How do they word this? How do they word that? Turn of phrase here? Style there. Crucial, crucial stuff for a copywriter, and UNIMAGINABLY IMPORTANT to a business owner.

Copy is an essential part of advertising, and a key element of your brand. It needs to reflect continuity in any and all communications you have with your customers or potential customers. From the beginning it is crucial that you set a tone, and you use the same style of writing and verbiage throughout your websites, advertisements, TV, radio, and collateral materials, making sure they all reflect the same style.

Imagine how confusing it would be if you wrote the home page on your website, your spouse tackled the about and services, your mother-in-law wrote the blog, you hired a writer to just do your brochure, and you didn’t talk to anyone else on the project. Where would the tone be? Would it all look like it was written by the same person, or would it look like a class project gone haywire?

Continuity goes far beyond the tag line, it is the verbiage and phrasing you use throughout all of your communications, and is the foundation for your business communications and your brand. Yes, this can and should evolve over time, but in the beginning you want to exhibit professionalism and set the tone.

If you are tackling your writing initially by yourself, the most important thing you can do is make sure it looks like the same person wrote it, and not some random band of gypsies that can spell.

You can do this, all you have to do is set the tone.

Making Time for Social Media

Social media marketing – UGH – another thing on your to-do list, right? You might have gone as far as creating Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts, but have you done much with them? Are you struggling to find the time to actually ENGAGE in the process? Well you need to make the time, because that process could very well determine the future viability of your business.

 

The numbers in the video don’t lie – social media sites are where people are…. like 250 million people. And guess what, a large percentage of those people don’t trust traditional advertising – they trust their friends, their family, and other people they consider to be like them. That’s why it’s important to take off your marketing hat when it comes to social media. Think user first – marketer second.

Content Is King – Who’s In Charge Of Yours?

If you’ve done the research, you probably know that blogging is one of the most effective ways to communicate with your customers. Chances are, you’ve even built your blog, or have it on your to-do list. The question now is – content.

While design elements on a website play an important role in catching a visitor’s attention, when it comes to the blog, content is king. Content is the heart and soul of your message, and can not only educate, but can build your expertise. At the end of the day, a blog is its content. The better the content, the better the blog.

So the question is, who’s in charge of your content? An assistant? Your partner’s wife? A friend of yours that has some free time?  Does that person have a clear idea of your business, your principles, and your overall communications strategy? Do they have the ability to make the content useful and interesting on a regular basis? Can they write? Do you trust that they always always check spelling and grammar?

You had better hope that they do, because poor content and a poorly written blog will undermine any potential that your online presence has. Misspellings and poor grammar will make you AND your company look amateur at best, and that is NOT what you want people to think of when they think of you.

Every single blog post needs good content. That means each post needs to have a purpose, and a potential for the reader to benefit from it. If not, what’s the point in putting it online in the first place? And your blog should not be a direct sales tool, it is a discussion. It is not a place to advertise or highlight your products or prices, it is a place to communicate with your readers.

If you’re too busy to write your blog posts yourself, or don’t have someone you can ask to do it for you, there are several ways you can still have an active and engaging blog. You can hire someone to write it for you. You can attend a class to learn or brush up on your skills. You can populate your blog with free content, links to industry-specific news, or even use audio and video to get your blog in business and actively begin communicating with your readers and potential customers. You can network with other experts in your field and feature them. You can connect with other bloggers and invite them to be a guest blogger on your site. The possibilities are endless!

A blog can be an active marketing tool, and a great way to get the word out about you and your business. Blogs are versatile—news, views, and fresh content can be accompanied by videos, audio clips and photographs. And for the business owner who is constantly on the go, blogs can be updated anytime and anywhere. And most importantly, a blog can become a resource for customers…potential customers…or even complete strangers. As long as you do it well, and always remember, content is king.

Why Your Business Needs A Blog

Maybe it’s fitting that the first blog post on the newly redesigned Wordmiller.com site is all about blogging, and why it is so important not only to my business, but to yours.

Now I know what you might be thinking…a blog? Why does my business need a blog? Well, you need fresh content on your site – often. You need to connect your business to your customers. You need a platform to share your expertise and knowledge with a larger audience, AND you need to get started right away.

Why a blog and not a website? Well, a website alone isn’t enough anymore. Shama Hyder Kabini sums it up in The Zen of Social Media Marketing, “the website of today in many ways is a living, breathing thing. In the past, you could create a website and sit back. Today, you can’t. Passively keeping a website is almost akin to opening a store, stocking the shelves, and then doing nothing.”

A blog is the easiest way to keep a website fresh and ever-changing, an informal and informative “journal” that you update regularly, and something that can also be used as an active marketing tool.  A business blog is a major component of social media and can help you build relationships with your potential customers.

And guess what, as you build these relationships, you make your business real to your customers.  You share what’s new and changing in your company, and have a platform form everything from staffing changes to research, news, and special events.  You show your expertise by providing useful information.  You become a point person and a resource by solving problems for your readers.

When you show you have the expertise, ability, and credibility to meet the needs of your reader, you are better able to persuade them to make the purchase or contract a service. The blogging movement is picking up speed as more and more business are realizing the benefits of blogging. Don’t get left behind, this is one trend you can’t afford to miss.