Tell A Story

It never ceases to amaze me how once people start a business, we think that we have to speak in PPT and lofty language to build a business brand.  What every business could use is a compelling story.  What’s the story for why your business exists?  Have you ever written it down?  Well if you haven’t now is the time.  Maybe you spent some time with those thoughts when you developed the content for your “About Us” section of the website.

Stories can be very powerful.  They bring together ideas and emotions in a way that move people and can motivate them to action.  Take a couple minutes today and think about the story of your business.  Why did you start it?  What was the need?  Next you’ll need to think about the obstacles your business has faced.  Take your reader on the journey.

The best way to perfect the story of your business is to tell it.  Practice telling the story to your employees or your friends.  Telling them the story multiple times will help you get it right.  Once the story is ready, you can tell it.  You can tell it to customers, potential customers, employees, and more.  You can even pull it up and read it yourself every once in a while when you need a reminder of why you do what you do.

Tell your story.

To Tweet or not to Tweet

So we’re looking at some pretty popular tactics for businesses and helping you decide whether or not this tactic is right for your business.  When deciding whether or not to use these applications, you must understand the application.  If you can’t explain what Twitter is, then you shouldn’t be using it.

Let’s first summarize what the tool is.

Evan Williams, one of the founders of Twitter, does a great job of introducing it here and sharing some of the ways businesses use the tool!

Summary: Twitter is a service that allows you to post 140 characters or less in an ‘update’.  People who have subscribed to your posts (followers) will receive those messages.  They can opt to receive your posts via SMS text message as well.  Messages can be searched as well using the internal search engine.  In order to tag your message you’d put a # in front of the category word.  (ex. We love #firmdigital blog posts.)  You can also include links in twitter though due to the length of some links, companies like TinyURL help you shorten them to make more room for your posts.

Now that you have a basic understanding of what Twitter is, ask a few questions.

Is your customer here? This is an important question to ask.  In addition to your customer, you may have other audiences that you would want to reach like potential employees, the media, policymakers, and so on.  You could check out the age demographics of Twitter users, or use a couple of key searches to see if people are talking about a problem that your product offers a solution for.   One could also see if the competition is using Twitter and see what their following looks like.  This is key because you want to know how many potential/current customers could be in this group and then you need to figure out how to get them to follow your tweets.

How would you use the tool? You could send your blog posts with tiny urls or send out discount codes via the twitter feed.  Some businesses send updates on job postings.  Some businesses send information about where they’ll be heading for promotional events.  These things could be useful for you. Twitter also may have useful data you can gather.  Use the search function to see what your subject area trends are.  Some associations and industry organizations have Twitter profiles as well.

You may be a perfect Twitter fit, but take the time to find out.  This post is a start to helping you find out whether or not Twitter would work for you.  Remember to always factor in the time it would take to begin using the tool.

To Blog or not to Blog

First, let’s recap what a blog is.  Simply put, a blog is an online journal.  You can “post” content to your blog in the form of text, images, and links to other sites.  You can also post files like audio or video content.  Once you post a blog entry, your reader community can post comments and feedback.  They can also link to your blog from their websites to drive traffic to your page.

Most bloggers measure the effectiveness of their blog through page views, number of comments, and number of links to the post.  This way you get an idea of readership and engagement.  You can also see if your post was bookmarked on Delicious.  Delicious is a searchable bookmarking site.  Just think of it as a place to store your “favorite websites”.  You have this capability in your browser (Explorer or Firefox probably) so it’s really just your list of favorites saved online that you can access from any computer anytime.

Blogging quickly became symbolic of the new found power of the internet.  Individuals could easily share their stories and the most powerful stories connected millions of people around a topic.  That collective energy prompted real action.

Knowing this, blogging sounds great!  Don’t race off to WordPress or Blogger to create a profile.  As a small business you have to think about whether blogging is a good idea or not.  Being thoughtful about choosing web tactics is important.  We all have limited capacity.  We have our core business to think about, customer interaction, product development.  Here are 6 things to consider before jumping into the blogosphere:

  1. Content: What are you going to write about?  If you’re a small interior design company maybe you want to write about interior design.
  2. Time Investment: How long will it take to develop content?  Have you already created it for another project and just need to repurpose content?  (edit for this medium and audience)
  3. Promotion: Is your site traffic established?  Are you going to invest time in promoting your blog to your target audience so that they read and participate in the conversation?  Are you going to create contests or giveaways to get the readers?  Promoting your blog also represents an investment of time.
  4. Value for Time: Some businesses have a good idea about how much time they have to invest to make one sale.  If you don’t, I would try to.  If your time is better spent doing other activities, then maybe blogging isn’t the best idea.  Now blogs, like any other part of your site need a lot of cultivation at the beginning and attention to keep the conversation going with your readers.
  5. Posts: Your blog posts will have categories and tags which are essentially subjects that will inform how your blog is viewed and searched.  Those merit some thought upfront because the way most blogging tools archive your post is by categories, so you don’t want to delete those.  My advice is to do 20-30 posts before you launch.  This way, you’ll give time and energy to create a structure and write thoughtful pieces.  You can think about topics of discussion and layout how it will work.
  6. Risk: Are there any risks you see in taking on this blog?  Accountability is important.  Think about the worst case scenario and make sure there are things you can do to mitigate those risks.  Maybe everybody in the company doesn’t blog, just a few people.  Perhaps you want to create a review system before posting.  Maybe you want to ensure posts don’t give away too much of your competitive advantage or value.

Blogging can be a great tool for your business but a thoughtful strategic approach should help you understand the workload and mitigate risk.  The internet is littered with blogs that didn’t last because the authors did not give the decision to blog much time.  Think about it, and if blogging is for you… enjoy!

Start 2010 With a Plan

The beginning of the year is a motivating time. People are thinking of goals and resolutions to help them advance towards the goal. As you think about your business goals for 2010, we’d like to assert one: Stronger digital marketing planning.

It’s great to create a profile on a social networking site but have you thought about what content to post, or what the time commitment is on the project? These things matter. If you have a profile that’s never updated, it could do more harm than good for your business. It gives the appearance of stagnancy.

Since not all small businesses have a resident marketing expert, we’re going to do some blog posts about creating your marketing strategy. This strategy provides a lot of the input for your digital marketing strategy. It helps you answer questions about your value proposition, market position, and customer/competitor targets.

Small business owners tend to wear a lot of hats. 2010 is certainly a good time to try on that marketing hat!

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