Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

Page 139 of 176

7 ways to improve your Internet presence!

Here are seven quick tips to help you improve your online presence.

  1. If you have a section on your website or blog, called “news” either update it regularly or delete it.  When someone clicks on that page and sees that the last entry was 6 months ago, it hardly makes you or your business look dynamic.
  2. Write the copy (wording) of your site exclusively for your target prospective clients and no one else.  If you are reading this, it’s almost certain that you are the owner of a business – that’s because you are the person I write for.  Everything I do here, is designed for you.  A message that is 100% relevant to a target group of people will generate massively better results, than a message that tries to be all things to all people.  If you want to work with your ideal type of clients, write just for them and stop trying to please everyone.
  3. If you ask people to comment on your blog or email you, you owe it to them to reply (if a reply is necessary.)  I find it amazing that even the top social media gurus get this wrong.  They ask for comments and then ignore 75% of them.
  4. Look before you link!  What do you think it says about you and your professionalism, if prospective clients visit your site and see that you link to sites that are unprofessional?  The power of association is incredible.  Show that you associate with great people and brands.
  5. If you have a blog, it’s nice occasionally to tell your readers how great some other people or companies are.  Don’t just talk about yourself.  It shows confidence and class.  BTW: Most of the people I tell my readers about on my blog are fellow marketing guys; my supposed competition.  If they provide useful, valuable content, I want you to know about them!
  6. On the subject of blogging, it’s not for everyone.  I find it amazing when I hear social media gurus telling everyone to get a blog.  Here’s the problem with that: Not everyone wants to write or enjoys writing.  If you don’t like writing or find it hard to come up with interesting ideas – leave it!  A poorly written blog that’s seldom updated, is not going to help you achieve anything.
  7. If you make a claim on your site or social network, make sure you can back it up.  My friend Irene Koehler from almostsavvy.com met the top tech journalist and blogger Robert Scoble at an event in San Francisco last year.  She introduced herself to Robert, by saying that they had a mutual contact; Jim Connolly from the UK.  Scoble smiled, said yes and asked her to say “hi” to me.  Can you imagine how bad I would have looked, if I had told her we knew each other, and he told her that he’d never heard of me?  If we make a claim about who we know or what we have achieved, it better be true; because it’s never been easier to bust a fake!

So, what tip or tips would you like to add to that list?

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

 

So, you want more enquiries from your blog?

If you want more sales leads or enquiries from your blog, the following tips may be just what you are looking for!  What I am about to share with you, is based on years worth of testing and measuring feedback. (I’m too good to you!)

Many business bloggers find that they put a great deal of time and energy into writing great blog posts, but they get very few sales leads or enquiries for all that work.  I get email enquiries all day, every day of the year via this blog and would like to share some of my secrets with you.

So, here they are!

Stop placing so many barriers in the way

Most sites use some kind of a form, in order for people to contact them.  Although many people like putting these forms on their blogs or websites, I’ve tested and measured the impact of forms, as opposed to just offering my email address and the results show (every time) that forms reduce the number of enquiries I get.

Why?

Forms generate a number of additional barriers, between you and your readers.  We know, for example, that people do not like giving too much personal information away on sites.  Some worry that their details will be sold on or shared with marketers.  They also know that those forms are used by people who sell data, because forms collects people’s data in a format that’s database friendly – ready for selling.

Then, to make prospective customers even less likely to contact them, many bloggers insist that the person using their form includes; their full name, email address, company name, phone number, location etc, etc.  If you really must use a form on your site, just ask for their email address and name.  Each additional piece of data you insist on, makes them less likely to contact you.

Also, make sure that you CLEARLY state that you will not share or sell their details to anyone.

By the way – Almost everyone who emails me after visiting this blog, includes their full contact details, as part of their email signature file or simply to show they are serious about connecting with me.

If you want people to approach you, be approachable

Some bloggers are very smart and really know their subject, but they come across as distant or hard to approach.  Some are confrontational in their posts and in their comments.  Others write in a way, which distances them from their readers.

In my experience, the best bloggers are like a host at a party.  They mix with (and look after) everyone.  They want people to have a good time and so they work hard to create a great experience.  The party host approach is what I aspire to.  Friendly, professional and approachable.  In my opinion, you should try to make people feel as comfortable about contacting you as possible.  Aim to make them feel like they already know you.

Ask people to get in touch, but only at the right time

If you want people to get in touch, remember to ask – but ask at the right time.  For example, if you look at the bottom of this post, you will see a box that asks people, who found this post useful, to think how much better their marketing results would be, if I was working with them.  If they click the link, it takes them to this page, which makes it super-easy to find out what I do AND get in touch with me.

By putting that box right at the bottom of every post, I get my marketing message in front of people at the exact time, when they are thinking how useful my information is. 

This is exactly when you should give a call to action – when people are ready!

Build trust.  Don’t hide behind an email address

Too many legitimate business bloggers, lose the trust of their readers by failing to give their full contact details.  They hide behind an email address.  We’ve all heard people say that they liked the look of a provider, but felt it odd that they worked behind an email address, rather than a “real” address.  This is why I believe it’s a good idea to show people you are totally open.

If you look at my contact page, it has everything you need to get in touch with me, from my full postal address and office phone number, to my email address and Twitter account.  This shows people I am out there, in the open, nothing to hide, a “real” business.

So, what are your tips for encouraging more people to enquire about your services?  What’s worked for you or failed for you?  Get in touch and share your experiences!

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Jason Rogers

Why your Google ranking may soon start falling!

How serious are you about the success of your website or blog as a business development tool?

The majority of small business owners I speak with, claim they are serious about the marketing value of their sites, but then they place their sites on cheap hosting plans.

Here’s why this matters: Google now punishes slow sites with lower search rankings!

Google has announced that as of last month, your site will be penalised if it doesn’t load nice and quickly! That’s right, if your site loads slowly, it will now receive a lower search ranking from Google, than a site that loads quickly.  This makes the true cost of using cheap web hosting providers a lot easier for people to see.

The true cost of cheap web hosting plans

Long before Google’s shock announcement, cheap web hosting plans were a really bad idea for commercial sites.  That’s because no matter how nice your site looks or how good the SEO is, if it loads too slowly, people will NOT hang around and wait. Internet users get really frustrated at having to hang around for pages to load on slow websites.  This is definitely not the frame of mind we want people in, if we are about to give them an insight into our business.

Why are so many small business sites so frustratingly slow?

I used to believe it was because the site owners didn’t think it mattered; that cheap web hosting was just an ill-advised, cost saving measure.  However, this is certainly not always the case! In many instances, the site owner has no idea how unreliable or slow their site is, because they visit it too infrequently to notice.

Bloggers, for instance, who only blog a few times a month, will often only visit their blog when posting or responding to comments.  As a result, they miss well over 99% of their sites performance.  The same is true for business owners, who have websites, which are not regularly updated.  These sites too can be down or too slow to respond for extended periods, again, without the site owner even knowing.  I strongly advise you check out your site regularly and at different times of the day, so you get a more accurate picture of what your prospective customers or clients see.

QUICK TIP

Don’t fall for the “we promise 99% up-time” claims of low end web hosts.  In web hosting, 99% is a very poor service.  This actually means that they expect your site to be down for 1 full working day every month or down for 3 full working days, every 100 days!  What is that worth to you, in lost business, lost enquiries, lost sales?

The bottom line: If you have a commercial site, get it on the most reliable web hosting package you can.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Jpctalbot

So, you want more blog readers?

I wrote a very popular post recently, about getting more blog comments.  This post is all about how to get more blog readers and it starts with a question:

“Have you noticed how some blogs and websites are really difficult to read for any period of time?”

You know the blogs I mean, right?  The blogs where you find yourself just skimming the content because after a glance of the page layout, you just don’t feel like reading the whole thing?  If you want to attract more blog readers and increase reader engagement on your blog, you need to make reading your posts a comfortable experience.  Otherwise, people will just skim your content and miss what you have to say.

There are already millions of posts that explain how to get more readers via SEO / social media etc.  This post offers you some easy, yet super-effective ways to massively improve the readability of your blog and by extension, it’s reach, impact and readership.

So, let’s go!

Column width

There’s a lot of research, including my own, which suggests that once the width of a content column (that’s the part of the blog you are reading now) goes beyond a certain limit, it becomes less and less readable.

Although some have said that the maximum width should be just 65 characters (including spaces) I have found that there’s almost no difference until you go past 85/90 characters.  I did a test a while ago, where I increased the width of the content area on one of my blogs to 100 characters and had to stop after just a week, because of the massive drop in every reader-based metric!  I saw a huge drop in the average number of pages per reader, fewer comments and a drop in the number of times a post was shared.

So, if your current blog layout goes beyond 95 characters – consider reducing it.

BTW: The content area here is 502 pixels wide and I use a 15px Arial font, which equals a limit of around 85 characters.

Fonts

If you want people to be able to comfortably read your blog content, they need to be able to see what you’ve written without squinting!  Many blogs use very small font sizes and as such, are way too hard to read on normal monitors and almost impossible to read, on smaller laptops and netbooks etc.

I use a 15px font size here, similar to that used by many other marketing and social media bloggers.  You may want to use something a  little smaller, but I strongly advise you not to go too small.

Black and white? Not quite!

Most new blogs use black text on a white background.  Although black text on a white background REALLY stands out, it can be harsh on the eyes; especially tired eyes!  That’s why it’s a really good idea to use a dark grey font on a white background, as used on many popular sites, like; The BBC, Seth Godin’s blog, Problogger and many other leading sites.

On this blog, I use the same shade of grey as The BBC, which is #464646.

Don’t let Bob or Mary screw up your blog

Whenever you make changes to the layout of your blog or website, you will get feedback from people, like Bob and Mary.  Bob’s a great guy and has a passion for blogs with really wide content columns and super-small fonts.  Mary’s also a wonderful warm human being, who loves those blogs that have jet black text on snow white backgrounds.  They are both entitled to their opinions, but you must not change the basics of your blog design based on what Bob or Mary might prefer.

The vocal minority will often unintentionally lead you to make piss-poor decisions about the look and feel of your blog.  As bloggers, we need to be a lot smarter than that.  We need to look at the facts – The metrics we can measure.  If after making a change, you notice; greater engagement, more comments, more people sharing your content, an increase in the number of pages the typical reader reads – then you are on track.  Even if Bob or Mary’s intentions were good, they were simply expressing their unique preferences.

Listen to all your readers, not just the vocal minority!

Some advice on making these changes

If you are like me and know nothing about HTML or CSS coding, it can be an expensive pain in the rear, to have to make changes to the layout of your blog.

This is why I recommend you consider doing what I did, and start using the Headway wordpress theme; which will allow you to make changes to your blog, without learning how to code.  Headway (affiliate link) lets you make the kind of changes mentioned here, in seconds.  In fact, I built this blog from scratch, with zero need for expert help, using Headway.  It’s given me total control over the blog and saved me a fortune.  It’s also the ONLY product I have ever endorsed here!

Summary

Ultimately the decision regarding the look and feel of your blog, is down to you.  However, there’s an old saying in business, which assures us that; “success leaves clues.”  There’s a reason why so many of the world’s most respected and popular blogs do things in a certain way.  They have already done the testing and measuring.  Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to the readability element of your blog, it’s a wise move to make the experience as good as possible for your readers.

I’d like to know what additional tips you have, for making content more readable.  Equally, do you have any experience of changing any of the elements mentioned in this post?

Let us know what you think!

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Image: TEIA MG

Here’s a glimpse into YOUR future!


Would you like to know what your commercial future looks like?

Let me show you!

Just as your past actions have created the commercial success you are enjoying (or otherwise) today, the actions you are taking today are what will determine your results over the coming months / years.  Cause and effect.

If you are repeating the same approach to developing your business today, as you have done in the past, then your future will be “about the same” as it is now.  Yes, there will be highs and lows, but these will be within the same ballpark as your current ones.  Never much better, never much worse.

Of course, if you are working smarter today than you were last month or last year, then your future will be brighter.  The highs will be higher – maybe MUCH higher, and the lows will be less frequent and not quite so low either.

The great news is that we can change our future and improve it beyond all recognition, by making better, more informed decisions today and taking action.

True; we can’t instantly achieve massive commercial success.

You know what though?

We CAN instantly set a new course, which will take us there!

Isn’t that fantastic?

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Vestman

Quick tip: Know your outcome!

I wrote recently about how people often look for the right answers to the wrong questions, so the best they can hope for, is to discover how to do the wrong things, correctly.  Here’s a quick tip, if you want to avoid the cost and frustration of this happening to you!

Know your outcome

In order to start getting the right answers to the right questions, you need to get back to basics and ask yourself what ULTIMATELY is it that you want to achieve – Your outcome.

For example: A guy recently asked me how to improve the results of his paper company’s telemarketing team.  That was the wrong question, because it’s not the outcome he wanted to achieve.  What he ACTUALLY needed to know, was how to cost-effectively increase the quality and volume of sales into his company.  I explained this to him and was able to show him how to cut his overhead by more than £50,000 a year and increase his sales at the same time – sending his profits into the stratosphere!  Had I simply answered his question, he would have seen a smaller increase in sales and far smaller profits!

Take a moment to consider the outcomes you want to achieve for your business and see if you are focusing on the right questions and answers, for what YOU want to ultimately achieve.

Do you set time aside to ask questions that ensure you are on track?  What kind of questions do you find useful?  Let us know!

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Marco Bellucci

http://jimsmarketingblog.com/2010/04/26/the-right-answers-to-the-wrong-questions/

Do you give too much away for free? Read this!

As a marketing coach, I get asked that question all the time.  In order to answer it for you, we need to split the kind of expert or specialist advice you can offer, into one of the two following categories:

General advice – Which is designed to address common questions or challenges.  For example; “Are mail shots as effective as they used to be?”

Specific advice – Which is designed to address someone’s particular situation.  For example; “I have a 3 partner law firm and need to attract more local, commercial clients.  What should we invest our marketing budget on?”

Giving general advice away for free

This is what I do, here on the blog.  In my case, I write about general areas of marketing and business development, which I hope will be of value and interest to as many small to medium-sized business owners as possible.  Giving general advice in this way, is known as content marketing.  This gives  prospective clients a chance to see my approach to marketing and to get to know me a little.  It also helps me reach more people with my work, as many of the people who find something they find really useful here, share it with their friends and social networks.  It works for my readers and it works for me.

However, before you decide to become a distributor of free information, you need to factor in the cost of writing and delivering it to your marketplace.  I spend a huge amount of my time on this blog and have paid out on things like server hire, programmers and designers.  The information on sites like this is only free for the reader, not the provider; so consider the time and financial costs before you proceed – BUT DO PROCEED!

I highly recommend offering general advice for free, as a content marketing tool.  This blog and it’s Twitter account, has generated the majority of my fee income over the past 12 months and massively increased my name awareness within my target market.

Giving specific advice away for free

This is a lot trickier, because of the enormous amount of risk attached.  So, although giving specific advice to people on their unique problems can be a way to generate new clients, you need to be cautious before adopting it as a business development option.

Let’s look at it from a time management perspective.  You only have so many hours in a day and it can be enormously time consuming to plough through all the details of someone’s problems, in order to give them the answers and instruction they need.

For example: In a quarter of the time it takes me to give free, specific advice to just 1 person, I can write a blog post, which will be seen by thousands of people that day!

Also, let us not forget those freebie hunters out there, who will never spend a penny on your professional help and simply leech free information from you, posing as a prospective client.

The bottom line

If you run a busy enterprise and you value your time, the best way to market your services via free advice, is to focus on helping as many people as possible; as I do here.  Yes, if someone contacts you with a specific problem and you believe that by showing them a little of what you can do, that they will pay you to provide the help they need – do it!

However, we can’t expect the marketplace to place a monetary value on our expertise or time, if we don’t!

What have your experience been, either of offering the kind of global help I provide here or on people looking for freebies from you?  Share your experiences with your fellow readers and myself, with a comment.

Photo: Ell Brown

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Marketing tip: Use a wider marketing mix!

How well do you prepare for unexpected, potential business problems?

Some people are great.  They cover all the bases and sleep well at night.  Others are not so good; like the trainer I heard of, who had 30 people in a conference venue waiting for his seminar, only to find that his laptop was broken.  He failed to take a second copy of his presentation, to use on a replacement laptop.  The event was cancelled.

A USB thumb-drive with a copy of his seminar presentation would have cost him pennies and saved him thousands in refunds.

From a marketing perspective, I’m always amazed that so many business owners rely too heavily on a single, major source of new business, leaving them exposed and unprepared, if that source stops delivering.

I remember speaking with the owner of a printing business, who attracted most of his sales leads from a networking group he attended.  Although it worked for him, others in the group saw little in the way of results, so the group folded.  Overnight, he lost his primary source of new business.  His income dropped like a stone and he ended up having to let some staff go, because he literally couldn’t make payroll.  It took him almost 18 months to get back to where he had been, before the collapse of the group!

Your marketing strategy needs the right mix

As I have said many times, one of the secrets to a successful business, is to have a number of effective marketing processes working for you all the time, to form a marketing strategy.  The most successful businesses I know, use 8 or more different forms of marketing at any one time (often more.)  This broader approach to marketing provides 2 massive benefits:

  1. It means the business is never over dependent on any single source of sales or enquiries.  This makes your business far more robust and better prepared.
  2. A number of effective marketing processes working together, creates something called compound marketing leverage.  Like compound interest, compound leverage gives you a disproportionately large increase in sales; because the sum of the parts is greater than the total of their individual values.

If you are over dependent on a small number of marketing activities, the time to develop a broader, more robust and reliable marketing mix is now!

So, how many different forms of marketing are you using right now?

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Basykes

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