Monday, January 24, 2011

Is Your Website Marketing Stuck in a Rut?

The beginning of a new year is a natural time to give your online marketing efforts a thorough checkup. What might you add to your marketing arsenal? What current activities need tweaking for better performance? And are there activities that should be cut out altogether?

What Gets Measured, Gets Managed

Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured, gets managed.” This is especially true in terms of your website and Internet marketing efforts. The only way to really know which efforts produce results - which exact efforts should be repeated - is through tracking, then analyzing your results.

We can talk about revving up your online promotion through search engine optimization, content marketing, pay per click advertising or banner ads, but without a really good tracking mechanism in place, you'll never know exactly which efforts pay off. How can you improve what you cannot measure?

Google Analytics is our tool of choice for tracking. We install it on every WordPress site using the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin by Yoast. With this tool, we can quickly see which blog posts draw the most visitors, where in the world these visitors are located, what keywords drew them in, how long they stayed on site, how many pages they visited and the path they took through our site, and so much more.

So, step one for today: If you already have Google Analytics or another statistical tracking tool installed on your site, give it a thorough review. If you're not currently tracking, don't delay even one more day. Sign up for your free Google Analytics account today.

Related Article:
Is Your Website Invisible?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Making Virtual Business Solutions Work

Virtual marketing departments and outsourced business solutions are becoming more mainstream with improved technology. Companies can outsource everything from human resources to data entry, and marketing to off-site consulting. Why not? Work previously requiring overhead can now be completed with shortened man-hours and reduced office space. It isn't as simple as turning over the keys, however, and some of the issues that used to be uncovered during the employee hiring process may not be as apparent when hiring an entire department. Additionally, getting those issues resolved might be handled differently.

Communication is the key

It is every bit as important to communicate effectively with a virtual department as it is with an in-house department. Regular meetings should still be kept, and guidelines should still be adhered to. One of the most effective ways to work together is to schedule video or phone conferences weekly to discuss the parameters of outstanding and pending work. Staying 'in the loop' will allow open conversation  - an opportunity to praise work well done or identify areas for improvement. At the same time, it is equally important that the outsourcing company is reachable and willing to discuss questions or concerns stemming from the virtual department.

Keep these things in mind:
  • Spell out exactly what is expected of your virtual department. Documentation can be helpful.
  • Discuss dates for product or project completion. Virtual departments work for several companies and will have requirements due to their time lines as well as the outsourcing company's expectations. 
  • Working together will assure that goals are met.
  • Require accountability. What is the hierarchy within both companies for problem resolution?
  • Have a good attitude.
  • Working Smarter Should Work
If your company isn't using collaborative tools and team effort to accomplish goals, working virtual won't be more efficient. The end results should be easier to accomplish, not more difficult. Using something as easy as Google tools, like G-mail, Google Docs, and Google Reader can help multiple people work on, approve, and share vital information so individual tasks can be managed off-site.

Other helpful collaborative tools that help with various aspects of communication include: - Screen sharing and voice conferencing. Allows the presenter to change between screens for different screen sharing perspectives. Also provides a pointer for the other participants to comment directly on the presenter's screen. Large file transfer ability is also a plus. - File and document sharing with up to date communication and task management in a secure environment. Allows projects to be broken into tasks and individually assigned all under one project listing. Also shares large files and comments with all or certain team members. Great for project approval due to the comment structure and editing ability. Additionally manages time for entire projects as well as individual team members. - Largest free file share I've seen. Easy desktop application allows a drag and drop for files, documents and images, and task bar alert when new information is included. All team members can access at the same time quickly and seamlessly. One member can drop a file in the box, and other members instantly have access to it.

Virtual Problem Resolution
Somewhere, somehow, or sometime a problem will arise. When it does, how will it be resolved? Part of that question has already been answered above. First, know the hierarchy involved within each business. Know who to go to when issues are not resolved. Second, have a good attitude - even in adversity. Nothing gets the defenses up like feeling an attack coming on, and you won't get the resolution you've hoped for without practicing patient people skills.

Patient people skills? Yes. No matter what side of the circumstance you're on. Remember that people are only people, and even if everyone is truly trying to do their best, something still may go wrong. Having a good attitude isn't taking abuse, neglect, or irresponsibility with a smile. Rather, it's recognizing that the whole picture may not be evident to the naked eye, and deciding you're not going to let an issue destroy relationships.

If the situation has a poor outcome and your company has handled it well, you'll be better prepared for the next scenario. Understand that sometimes the resolution of a problem is a parting of the ways.

On the other hand, apologies, flowers, and concert tickets can go a long way.

Susan Hamilton is a freelance business writer from the Dallas, TX area, and business member of the virtual marketing collaborative Zero To Sixty Marketing LLC, serving small to mid-size businesses nationwide.

Article Source: Making Virtual Business Solutions Work

Monday, June 7, 2010

Small Business Grants - Are You Eligible?

By Kennedy Angle

Government small business grants are a hot topic of discussion among small businessmen with limited access to funds and capital. The federal government does not provide grants for developing or expanding a small business; but the state government does.

Small business grants are handed out to entrepreneurs by their home state governments. It is not very difficult to get business government grants, though it is time-consuming. The federal government on the other hand, does provide some low-interest loans to encourage and assist upcoming entrepreneurs. The criteria to get a small business grants usually depends on location, race, sex, sales revenue, total number of years in business and the purpose for which it has to be funded. The requirements for grant eligibility are specific and one must be prepared thoroughly for it with a clear-cut plan.

The initial steps involved in seeking business government grant are:
  1. You have to spend a good amount of time and resources to search for small business grants program in your state. Thanks to computer and internet it has become less tedious now.
  2. After you have searched a grant program matching your business plan, hire a consultant to apply for the plan. The consultant will make your grant application a presentable one before the state authority. Alternately you can spend some time learning the grant application process and apply. Remember you have overcome bureaucratic bottlenecks.
  3. Define for yourself the time limit-do you want it now or wait for a year.

To find small business grants, one can look into the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CDFA). This CDFA lists thousands of grants from all government agencies. Many of these business grants are targeted at rural business improvement, minority business development or export-oriented businesses. After finding a   Small Business Grant suiting your business needs be prepared to undergo lengthy and time consuming process of approval. You must be ready or tough competition as the grants' funds are limited.

There are some tips to receive a grant.

  1. Complete and accurate information of your business outfit is necessary. If your application contains incomplete details or inaccurate information, it may not make through the review process or may end in an ordinate delay.
  2. It will be advisable to interact with your grant officer and come to know their concerns, budget limits, and constraints with your grant.
  3. A well prepared business plan and demonstrating your strong business acumen will make your approach a discernible one. A smarter strategy would be to show the benefits it will make to US government agencies.
  4. Bringing in an outside expert or consultant would add credibility to your application. Also it would create an impression of professionalism.
  5. Keep tracking your application process. It will be helpful to be in contact with a concerned grants officer in a non-intrusive manner to tilt the balance in your favor.

If you are looking to venture on your own you need to apply for Business Government Grants.

Article Source: Small Business Grants - Are You Eligible?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tour de Fest Supports The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Participation in Paperfest's 6th annual Tour de Fest bike tour is unlike any other. What a great place to meet others in the community concerned with the issues associated with leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's Disease and myeloma. To those who know, those diseases impact every area of life for the entire family. Since early symptoms aren't as apparent as an allergic reaction or broken bones, these diseases often go undiagnosed until in their later stages. Supporting families and community members, diagnosticians and staff all come together in recognition and fellowship of each other in this phenomenal display of camaraderie on July 17, 2010.

This year's bike tour will begin and end at Kimberly, Wisconsin's Sunset Beach. Participants will choose the length of their course, varying from 18 - 100 miles. SAG wagons will regularly patrol routes to ensure the safety of the bikers and offer water or assistance as necessary. Bus rides to showers after the rides will be available to everyone who would enjoy attending Paperfest's activities afterward with their families.

It's no small event. Music, refreshments, games and rides will all be a part of this venue. Don't miss out! Register now, the first 300 to sign up will receive a free water bottle. Advance registration is open until July 4, and after that will increase by $5.00.

Proceeds from Tour de Fest jersey and t-shirt sales benefit The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the world’s largest voluntary health organization, improving the quality of life of patients and their families.

Sign up today.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Why Do WI Contractors Need Content?

In the July 2009 edition of Phc News, Dan Holohan made some good points about the quality of Web sites contractors use, and makes a great argument about the need for content on these sites. You see it all the time - service company Web sites making no attempt to engage their readers. Many contractors believe that aspect of their business is either not worth their time, or not worth the money to do right. He asks,

How many times have you rolled your eyes and looked down on the low-bidder when it comes to the heating business? That bum who doesn't have the right tools, or the proper insurance, or even a decent truck. That stinker who tracks in mud and is doing his on-the-job learning on every job. You can't stand that guy, right? So why look for that guy when it comes to building a Web site? Why buy on price alone? Or try to do it yourself. Is Web design your specialty?

WOW. You said a mouthful, Dan. Truth be told, in our business you see that quite a bit. The logic says 'keep the price down,' but the way to keep the cost down isn't to present yourself sub-standard. You're a contractor. You want a fair price for a quality job. You do what you do because you're good at it. When it comes to your advertising, the same thing applies. Throwing foolish money away on flash and hype isn't the answer, either. Quality doesn't mean gaudy, it means pleasing and fully functional.

The online atmosphere is saturated. Engaging your customer is absolutely the most important thing a service and contracting business can do besides providing quality workmanship. While many feel that updating posts and answering questions is 'giving away the farm,' the opposite is true. Your business won't be hurt because you've empowered your readers with inside information. Your business will be hurt by ignoring the fact that the answers are being provided by everyone else already, and if you're not involved, your credibility is affected.

What Qualifies as Content?

It may surprise you to know that content is many things, not just updated posts. Keeping your posts updated at least once a week is important for several reasons, one being the ability it has to be fed into an email subscription newsletter as-is. Using an email follow up campaign like AWeber allows your reader to opt-in and opt-out, and allows you to track the types of information that your readers enjoy the most. Providing newsletters to your readers brings your post right into their inbox, and isn't spam because they first request it, and then have the ability to get out whenever they want.

Another reason blog updates are important is because news changes often, and your readers need to know it. When you respond to your reader's comments, you engage them, and possibly you hand-feed them an answer that brings them right into your gates. If problems exist in your company response, a blogging platform allows you a way to remedy the situation. No matter how much you don't want to know what's lacking in your business, it's always better to address issues head on, and you'll be the better for it. Blogs are not the only source of content, however, and you may enjoy using these types of updates:

  • FAQ's - Answering or posing a question is helpful dialog, and very good updated content when used regularly.

  • Pictures - Before and Afters, and new products.

  • Video -That's right, you don't have to write your blog post. For around $40 USD you can get a video camera that sits right on your computer. If you spend two minutes discussing an industry issue, new product or service, that video can get uploaded to YouTube as well as your site. That's a great link.

Service industry professionals and contractors should make the most out of their online presence. Putting the customer's needs on the forefront of new material draws powerful benefits now and down the road.

Gary's Quality Plumbing serves the Plano, Murphy, and North Dallas sector. For all your plumbing needs, call family-owned and operated Gary's Quality Plumbing. Susan Hamilton and Zero To Sixty Marketing LLC offer a full service virtual marketing department, and specialize in the small business and home-based service communities.

(c) Copyright 2009 Zero To Sixty Marketing LLC

Article Source:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Do You Have a Link Strategy?

If you're doing your own small business marketing, and you're using the Web to attract your customers, you need to be sure that your Web site is getting the most possible traffic. Simply repeating a keyword in the SEO description is not the way to do it if you plan on long-term success. A redundant, pointless description doesn't attract the types of readers who convert into sales. It doesn't even provide any SEO benefit.

Instead, carefully thought out SEO descriptions grab your reader's attention because you've interested them in the first place. You will have a much higher chance of a sale if that reader peruses your site than if they click on your link wondering, "What's that?"

But getting that client to click on your link if you're not found on the first page is pretty slim, because most people never make it that far. A key ingredient to accomplish that is a great link strategy. That starts with referencing other material with links to specific topics that relate in some way to your niche, and ends with a great deal of back links from other sites into yours. Not just any site will do. Hook up to the wrong site, and all the hard work gone into your site could suffer. The links you need have more authority than yours, and you won't attract them willy-nilly.

High-authority back links are very helpful to the authority your site will enjoy when an outsider realizes your information is worth mentioning on their site. That can happen when you comment on their site and are allowed to leave a link back to your domain, you engage in a two way dialog in the comment section, or it can happen if you're reviewed and mentioned in it.

Other outside links can be built by you and your team, putting some effort into writing informative, interesting, or controversial topics, and using Web 2.0 sites to link back to the original site you're promoting. All of those methods have some relevance to your 'big picture', but here's where I see many problems that can ultimately have very negative effects. You don't want to go to all that trouble and then lose credibility over too many reciprocal links or poor anchor text use.

Keywords are very important - if they're the right keywords. Industry-standard word use usually isn't going to help the small business owner or contractor that's trying to develop their Web presence. Market Samurai breaks down the keyword research to finely tuned words and phrases that can be craftily woven - not stuffed - into your online writing. Words that many of your clients currently search on, but your competitors ignore, or simply haven't found out about yet.

When you carefully use keywords in anchor text that links from a Web 2.0 site such as Weebly,, Blogger, Squidoo, etc., you begin to develop authority on your Web site for those keywords. Using an effective strategy will improve your visibility over time.

Ah, time...the other factor. The longer your site exists with continual updates and activity, with active unbroken links and user-friendly navigation, the more you will gain credibility in the search engines. Shortcuts won't be effective long term, and if you get penalized for them, can take you down a peg or two for a long time. You're much better off to get your strategy in order, continue to update, and know that staying in the game is infinitely more important.

Susan Hamilton is a freelance commercial copywriter in the Dallas, TX area. Susan has a passion to see the small business survive during economic hardship through better marketing practices, and teaches home-based, service, and contracting businesses how to compete inside their market. Read more about small business marketing strategies on Inside Line.

(c) Copyright 2010 Susan Hamilton Copywriting

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Can a Dormant Blog be Revived?

A neglected blog is a sad affair. Once a blog has sat dormant for 11-months, is it better to delete it and put it out of its misery or can it possibly be revived? I honestly don't know the answer to that question ... how 'bout we figure it out together?

It's been an intense several months, lots of ups and downs both in business and in our personal lives. We started a new business, Zero To Sixty Marketing LLC. Anyone who's started a business knows how all-consuming a new business can be. It's fun, exciting and exhausting.

Zero To Sixty Marketing is a virtual marketing department serving small businesses nationwide. Our "staff" are independent business owners, each with a stake in providing the best possible service for a reasonable price. So far as a team, we've taken on the layout, design and marketing of a niche magazine, built and wrote copy for several search engine optimized Web sites, created advertisements for print and Web, designed trade show materials, and wrote lots of copy for brochures, sell sheets, press releases and business profiles. Our goal is to provide agency-quality services at freelance prices. That doesn't mean we're cheap, but our overhead is low and we pass our savings on to you.

So where does that leave this Local Wisconsin SEM Blog? My initial goal was to help you develop online strategies and show you steps you can take to draw local traffic to your business. The need for this information is just as strong as it ever was, so if you'll forgive my absence, I'd like to pick up where we left off.

Today's tip is rock solid and simple. Whether you've heard it before or not, you absolutely need to build quality links to your Web site or blog.

Link building includes things like commenting on blogs, writing articles that point back to your Web site, posting links to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and an assortment of social networking sites, getting involved on forums associated with your industry, submitting your site to local business directories, even setting up feeder Web pages that point back to your main site. It’s not a do-it-once type of endeavor, but something that is done systematically, and the results are cumulative over time.

So where do you start? How does a busy business owner find the time? You set a reasonable goal - say 3 blog comments in a one-week timeframe, and you make the time. In subsequent weeks, you tackle other link building activities, one small step at a time.

Read more about link building for a better Web site.

Image Credit: a.drian on flickr