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Thoughts and opinions on sales, marketing, social media, digital content, technology and social business.

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Smart Strategies to Stand Out on LinkedIn

stand out on linkedin 2

Often, when building a business all of your effort goes into making your company or employer stand out from the competition.  But equally important in the business world is keeping your persona front and centre. LinkedIn is an excellent way to promote yourself as a thought leader in your field. With over 175 million members and new members joining at the rate of one every two seconds, LinkedIn is an effective tool, if you understand how it works.

How to Build Trust as a Salesperson

How to build trust as a salesperson

If your customers were asked to rate how trustworthy you are as a salesperson on a 1 – 10 scale, how would you rank? To be effective in any sales capacity, one of the most valuable traits you can possess is trustworthiness.

Harness the Power of Online Video for Your Business

Video for business

Online video has been growing in popularity for quite a few years now. As more homes and businesses have installed hi-speed Internet access, the number of videos online has exploded.  If you’re looking for a great way to educate website visitors or promote your product or service, it's time to consider video.

The Most Important Social Media Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

Social Media KPI

While the majority of companies have put in place some type of social media marketing strategy, few know how to accurately measure their return on investment (ROI). There are actually several key performance indicators (KPI) that your business can start using today to help determine how successful your social media efforts are, and you will be happy to hear that many of them are free.

ClickZ walks through several key performance indicators that will prove to be extremely beneficial to your business:

  • Social Connections: While many social media experts claim that this metric is your least valuable one; most marketers of small-to-medium sized businesses tend to dwell on this number. The truth be told is that unless your business has an enormous budget for earning thousands or even millions of fans, focusing on growing this category adds little value.
  • Social Page Views: Knowing at any point in time how many people have viewed your Facebook page is valuable information, and perhaps more meaningful than knowing the number of views that your business's website is getting.
  • Video/SlideShare Views: Making yourself aware of the number of times that people have tuned into your YouTube video or viewed your SlideShare presentation can help you to measure the success of your content and gauge whether it's engaging your target audience or not gaining much traction.
  • Engagement Rate: As you can imagine, this key performance indicator is a critical one. The engagement rate basically measures the number of "likes" and comments that your business has received and divides it by a total fan count. Not only can it help you to determine the type of content that your target audience finds most appealing, but it can make you aware of the best times of day to post content. Facebook's EdgeRank takes a good hard look at this metric and factors it in to how it will rank your business on its newsfeed.
  • Talking About This. Next to the number of fans that your Facebook page has is the number of people that are talking about your brand. Basically, this metric tracks the number of people that are talking about your brand and/or your posts on their Facebook page.
  • Facebook Reach: This Facebook metric measures how far your brand's reach is extending on Facebook by dividing it out by organic, viral, and paid. While this might not be the most accurate metric that your business looks at, it can still help you to determine how your business is performing over prior periods.
  • Re-tweet Rates: This metric is just as obvious as it sounds. It tracks the engagement rate of your tweets and if people feel that it is valuable enough to re-tweet.
  • Social Clicks: If you use Bitly as a URL shortener, you can take advantage of its API (application programming interface) to see how many clicks your business is getting and which categories are driving the most clicks. This key performance indicator is valuable because even if you share a link in a status update that is not for your website, you can still find out how many clicks you are generating even if they are not to your own website.

While there are several other key performance indicators that would be valuable for your business to know, these basic metrics mentioned above can help you to determine if your social media marketing strategy is working.

Which key performance indicators does your business rely heavily upon to measure its social media success?

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Top Takeaways from National Small Business Week

SMB week

Since 1963, the United States has celebrated National Small Business Week, which honors the contributions of America's entrepreneurs and small businesses. The country's economy is heavily driven by small business, with more than 50 percent of the American population either running or working for a small business.

This year's National Small Business Week took place June 17th through June 21st and consisted of motivational speakers, panels, breakout sessions, webinars, Google+ hangouts, and more. The weeklong agenda of activities began in Redmond, Washington and concluded in Washington DC; meanwhile, anyone interested in small business could easily tune in on the Internet. This week provided some extremely useful information for small-to-medium sized businesses, which is why we wanted to share some of the biggest takeaways from the event as they pertain to the world of digital marketing:

  • You need to build a strong online presence. To be the most effective, map out a plan for your social media marketing strategy and which sites you will spend most of your time on. For example, social media expert Darnell Holloway shared a recent study where small businesses saw an $8,000 increase to annual revenue just by having an active presence on local review site Yelp. This proves that finding the right social media site for your business can truly pay off.
  • Social media giant Facebook will offer more information to small business users through its Insights analytics tool. The recent enhancements will provide businesses with more detailed information about the people categorized under the "People Talking About This" and "Virality" metrics.
  • Google rolled out some new productivity tools to assist with digital marketing efforts. Such tools include Priority Inbox (allows you to highlight your most important emails) and Smart Rescheduler (enables you to schedule appointments with friends, family, or colleagues that also work with their schedule).
  • While the majority of U.S. small businesses have a website, most are not satisfied with the quantity and quality of traffic that they are getting. For this reason, 48 percent of marketers plan to increase their inbound marketing spending in 2013.
  • While content is a critical component of any inbound marketing strategy, content creation should not be the only aspect of it. More small-to-medium sized businesses are using a team approach to address content marketing, such as allocating a single person to content creation and a second person to optimize the content for SEO purposes.
  • Small-to-medium sized businesses are experiencing less success with traditional marketing models such as television commercials and direct mailers in 2013. Businesses are finding that it is more affordable to utilize social media to attract new customers.

While there were numerous topics covered throughout Small Business Week 2013, the points referenced above seemed to echo throughout the week-long conference. It is clearly evident that more businesses will be investing in a digital marketing strategy this year and in the future.

Did you have an opportunity to attend or tune in to any of this year's Small Business Week events? If so, what were your biggest takeaways for small-to-medium sized businesses as they relate to digital marketing?

Click here for your free Inbound Marketing Assessment:

How to Use Social Listening to Enhance Your Brand

social listening

While many people think of social media as a powerful relationship-building tool as it provides brands with an additional opportunity to connect with consumers, it also allows brands to really listen to what their consumers want. Taking advantage of social listening is one of the most effective ways to boost sales and ROI as well as increase your brand's awareness. It's a powerful component of a business's social media marketing strategy that is all too often overlooked.

Probably the biggest reason why brands aren't listening to their consumers is that there is so much data and information floating around in online conversations that it can be difficult to capture it. While there are a number of free social media monitoring tools out there such as HootsuiteSocialMention, and Klout, to be most effective, you probably need to invest in technology that can actively listen to these conversations for the best results.

Establishing a social listening strategy can benefit nearly every department within your organization, and Search Engine Watch shares how:

  • Customer Service: More and more companies are turning to social media to implement a customer service strategy as consumers are demanding a prompt response to their questions and concerns and do not want to be hassled with a 1-800 number. This is a great resource for solving problems in a timely manner and can offer tremendous cost savings when integrated with CRM.
  • Marketing and Public Relations: Social listening can enable your brand to pick up on mentions about its products and service in real time. Whether this information is positive or negative, your business can leverage this information to create a better content, SEO, and/or PPC strategy.
  • Product: Through social listening, your business can gain feedback on any issues with products, better measure the success of existing products and product launches, and uncover ways to improve products when necessary.
  • Sales: By monitoring for mentions of your brand or conversations that include the intent to make a purchase, your sales team can better identify hot leads and work them through the sales funnel. It's also a useful tool for staying in tune with what your target audience thinks of your competition.
  • Human Resources: More companies are turning to popular social media sites like LinkedIn to find qualified talent, but social listening can provide an opportunity to find out who the influencers are in your industry and learn how your employees really feel about your organization.

A prime example of a company that did not practice social listening in the time of a crisis is Lululemon Athletica, and the brand's image suffered as a result. Online buzz about the brand picked up when the popular fitness-clothing retailer's stock declined due to a recall of its women's yoga pants that were too transparent. Instead of addressing the issue on social media or on the company's website, Lululemon completely ignored the issue. In this situation, the customers actually became the marketers for Lululemon with their online conversations about the brand, and by not responding, the brand risked that its image would be negatively impacted.

An example of a company that benefited from social listening to improve its product is Maker's Mark. When the company announced that they were going to reduce the product's alcohol content, conversations online about the announcement exploded, and the feedback shared about this change was not positive. By picking up on this consumer displeasure through social listening, Maker's Mark quickly reversed its decision to modify the alcohol content.

In summary, social listening is a vital tool for gaining powerful consumer feedback and enhancing your brand's image and offerings.

Click here for your free e-book on how to get your business' blog discovered!

How Social Media Impacts Every Department of Your Business

How Social Media Impacts Every Department of Your Business

Social media goes perfectly with business, and many people think that the two compliment each other based on the value social media can add to a company's sales and marketing team. While this is true, social media marketing actually has the ability to positively impact all areas of your organization, including HR and customer service.

How to Use Linkedin Groups to Generate Leads

How to Use Linkedin Groups to Generate Leads

When you think of social networking, popular sites such as Facebook and Twitter are usually the first that come to mind. For your business, however, LinkedIn should be a bookmarked social media site for expanding your online reach and positioning yourself as an industry expert. LinkedIn can offer your business some extremely effective ways to generate qualified leads, and one way that you can accomplish this is through LinkedIn Groups.

As a business owner, you understand the importance of being viewed as a thought leader by peers in your industry. LinkedIn Groups provide you with the perfect opportunity to connect with other thought leaders and share your content with this highly targeted group. In order to build authority for your brand and attract more qualified leads, Social Media Today offers the following tips for using LinkedIn Groups:

  • Join the right groups. With over 1.5 million LinkedIn Groups to choose from, this can be a daunting task. Your goal should be to join a group that not only discusses topics that are relevant to the content that you share, but is also active. To find groups, go to the Groups page on LinkedIn and search for a topic that is relevant to your industry. To truly determine how active a group is, scroll through a week's worth of content shared and discussions. This should not only indicate the group's activity level, but how engaged its members are as well. It's also a good practice to check the group's statistics. Social Media Today recommends comparing the total number of weekly comments to the natural post total. The higher the ratio, the higher the group's engagement.
  • Actively participate in the group. Upon joining a group, you should introduce yourself, scan through the conversations to determine whom the key influencers are, and comment on posts. You want to show the other members of the group that you are truly there to network, learn, and grow. The biggest mistake that many business owners make is joining a group and then pushing their content down the other members' throats without investing time in the group.
  • Obey group rules. Before sharing content or contributing to conversations, make yourself aware of the group's rules. If you join several groups, you will probably find that the rules will vary depending on the group. Generally, the more active the group is, the stricter the moderator will be about enforcing the rules.
  • Track where your referrals are coming from. If you find that some groups are bringing you more referrals than others, you know where to focus your energy. Since LinkedIn limits the amount of groups that you can join to 50, weeding out the non-performing groups is essential for making the most of your LinkedIn strategy.
  • Connect with group members on LinkedIn. If you find that you are often conversing with a particular group member, connect with him on LinkedIn. You should specify that you know this person through your particular LinkedIn group. Building connections is critical for creating advocates for your brand.

Hopefully, you will find that these tips allow you to make the most of your LinkedIn Groups strategy and better position you as an industry thought leader and influencer.

How to Use Keywords to Attract Marketing Qualified Leads

How to Use Keywords to Attract Qualified Leads

If you're like the 61 percent of global consumers that consult the Internet before making a purchase, you've probably used a search engine or two to research a product or service. Those keywords that you type into the search engine query provide very powerful information to marketers. For business owners, conducting keyword research is one of the most critical components of creating high quality content to drive more qualified traffic to their webpages. You probably noted that qualified is in italics, and this is because the name of the game is not just attracting traffic to your webpage, but getting the right kind of visitors. By optimizing your website with keywords that your target audience is typing into search queries, you will be more successful with converting online visitors to customers

Keywords can indicate shifts in consumer demand, and having knowledge of what these keywords are can allow business owners to proactively respond to changing market conditions when necessary in order to provide the products and services that their consumers are searching for. According to MOZ, keyword research has significantly lowered the barrier to understanding what motivates consumers in purchasing decisions, and never has there been a time like this in the history of marketing before.

So how do you determine the value of a keyword to your business? How does the keyword relate to the content on your website? Would consumers be happy if they came across your website if they typed that keyword into a search engine query? Would that keyword attract the right traffic to your website, resulting in more closed business? If so, you probably have a profitable keyword on your hands and can continue to run it through the keyword value test. Below are three additional steps that you should take to ensure the quality of a keyword:

  1. Type the keyword into major search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo to see which websites pop up. Not only will this give you an indication of how hard it would be to rank for that keyword, but if a lot of advertisements are running along the top and right hand side of the search results, you probably have a high value keyword on your hands.
  2. If you found that your website did not rank for the keyword, you can test out its impact by purchasing the keyword from Google Adwords for a temporary period of time. This will allow you to track impressions and the conversion rate over a short period of time to better determine the value of the keyword.
  3. Based on the research that you've completed, you should be able to determine an accurate value for each keyword. For example, if during your test period the keyword attracted 200 visitors to your site and 2 converted to customers with a total profit of $200, you can determine that they keyword is worth $2 to your business.

Another piece of the keyword research puzzle to introduce is long tail keywords. According to MOZ, 70 percent of all searches involved long tail keywords, which generally result in a higher conversion rate as you are catching consumers further through their research process. For example, not only are they searching for a bathing suit, but a two-piece blue bikini. The long tail keywords are more descriptive, resulting in a higher chance that the consumer will be directed to a website with the exact product that she is looking for. 

All in all, keyword research is an extremely powerful tool for business owners to stay in tune with market demand and is essential for inbound marketing success.

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How to Use SlideShare to Generate Leads

How to Generate Leads with SlideShare

If you're not currently familiar with SlideShare, it is the world's largest content sharing platform for professionals. According to Social Media Examiner, SlideShare generates five times more traffic from business owners than other popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. 

While SlideShare may not be the first social media platform that comes to mind for business owners, here are some ways that your business can use the site to separate yourself from the competition:

  • Business owners can gain quick and easy feedback of the content shared on the site through the tracking of view counts.
  • Keyword optimized SlideShare presentations offer businesses another opportunity to boost SEO.
  • SlideShare allows you to more effectively expand your online reach by embedding your PowerPoint content into the site and making it easy for others to embed and share your content in their websites and blogs.

By using SlideShare to separate your business from the competition, you can position yourself as an industry expert, which opens up more opportunities to generate qualified leads. Social Media Examiner shares three great ways that your business can use SlideShare to generate more leads:

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