Tag Archives: marketing

Make “Shop Small” a Big Win for Your Business November 24th

Since American Express launched Small Business Saturday in 2010, it’s mantra “Shop Small” has become the rallying cry to encourage the support of local small businesses in communities across the nation.

According to the Shop Small website, a 2017 survey found that 90 percent of consumers believe Small Business Saturday has a positive impact on their community.

With this year’s Small Business Saturday approaching on November 24, 2018, are you prepared to seize the momentum and boost your business?

Fortunately, there’s still time—even if you haven’t given it much thought yet.

5 Tips for Making Small Business Saturday a Success for Your Business

  1. Make your place of business a Small Business Saturday destination.

Give consumers some extra incentive to stop by your location on Small Business Saturday. Some ideas to make your store or office a Small Business Saturday destination include:

  1. Partner with other local businesses in your community.

When you and the other local businesses in your town support each other by cross-promoting  the diversity of offerings in your business community, everyone wins. Consider sharing other businesses’ marketing materials at your location, and tell customers about the different stores near you—with the understanding, of course, that they’ll do the same for you.

  1. Power up your social media efforts.

Social media is a powerful medium for generating buzz about Small Business Saturday and promoting what you and the rest of your business community have planned for that day. If you’re on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, use the hashtag #shopsmall in your updates to encourage engagement from other small businesses and people who are actively seeking out to support small businesses on Small Business Saturday. To boost the number of people who see your posts, consider spending some dollars on social media advertising in the weeks leading up to Small Business Saturday. For example, Facebook’s advertising options (ads and promoted posts) can expand your reach significantly—to a very targeted audience—for a very minimal investment.

  1. Use the free marketing templates available on the Shop Small website.

American Express offers free Shop Small and Small Business Saturday templates that you can customize and download for use on your website, email marketing messages, social media, and in your print marketing efforts.

Some examples of what’s available there include:

  • Website badges
  • Email template
  • Email header
  • Shop Small video (10 seconds)
  • Social media profile and cover images
  • Social media post content and images
  • Event flyer
  • Poster
  1. Ask a SCORE mentor for guidance and ideas.

SCORE mentors have experience in all aspects of running a business, and we’re here as a resource to help you formulate your marketing and sales plans. Contact us today as you develop your Small Business Saturday ideas.

 

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4 Tools to Help You Write Better Content

Writing content isn’t every entrepreneur’s strong point, but bootstrapping startups don’t always have the funds to hire professional writers or marketing firms to craft content for them.

Fortunately, some online tools are available to help even the most unaccomplished writers among us improve our writing and make a great impression.

4 Writing Apps to Help You Create Better Content

Hubspot’s Blog Ideas Generator

When you’ve hit a wall and can’t think of what to write about, Hubspot’s blog topic generator can help you break through writer’s block. It prompts you to add up to five different nouns of your choice, and then it will generate seven blog topic ideas related to those nouns. While some of them might not be a perfect fit at face value, you can modify them to your liking, or they might help you develop new ideas.

Hemingway Editor

The Hemingway app helps ensure your writing isn’t too complicated and over the heads of most readers. It assesses your content and tells you at which grade level it is readable. Anything above a grade-9 reading level is flagged as less than ideal. Hemingway also alerts you to overuse of adverbs, use of passive voice, and complex phrases and sentences.

Power Thesaurus

If you love the assistance of online thesauruses but get annoyed by the advertisements on their websites, meet Power Thesaurus. For the most part, the app is ad-free (except for some non-intrusive advertisements by premium sponsors). It has a simple, uncluttered interface that suggests synonyms for whatever word you type in its search box. Fast and effective, Power Thesaurus helps you power through finding just the right word more quickly than when using other thesaurus websites.

Grammarly

Grammarly is quickly becoming a tool of choice (for writers and non-writers alike) for fine-tuning writing. Its free version detects critical grammar and spelling errors. Grammarly Premium has enhanced capabilities including offering vocabulary suggestions (if you appear to have used words out of context), flagging complex sentence structure, and evaluating content according to its intended purpose, audience, style, and emotional impact.

Bonus Benefits

Not only can these tools help you fix weaknesses in your content, but also they can help you improve your writing skills over time. As you use them, you have an opportunity to learn to think out of the box, increase your knowledge of grammar rules, and broaden your vocabulary.

Of course, apps can’t do it all! Another resource available to help you assess the content you create for your business is a SCORE mentor. SCORE volunteers have experience and expertise in all aspects of entrepreneurship, including marketing, and they are here to offer honest feedback to help your business succeed.

3 SEO Tips to Help Your Small Business Stand Out Online

As more and more consumers look online before buying products and services, basic search engine optimization is essential for your business. If you don’t prioritize your company’s visibility in online searches, you could end up at a competitive disadvantage.

According to a consumer survey by BrightLocal, “97% of consumers looked online for local businesses in 2017.”

SEO is a complex and multifaceted discipline, but by following just a few best practices, you can help boost your business’s chances of getting found in searches on Google.

1. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly yet, make it so.

Fifty-seven percent of all online traffic comes from smartphones and tablets. Google has estimated that 9 out of 10 people will leave a website if it isn’t easy to use from their mobile device. So, even if your company has better products and services than your competitors, you could miss out on business opportunities if you don’t have a mobile-ready website.

Mobile-friendliness also affects your website’s ranking in Google searches. Beginning in April 2015, Google began giving mobile-ready websites an edge over sites without mobile support on the search engine results pages.

Adding to the importance of having a mobile-ready site is the rollout of Google’s mobile-first indexing, which began in March 2018. In Google’s own words, “Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.”

Although mobile-first indexing has not rolled out to all websites yet, Google is encouraging webmasters to make their content mobile-friendly to perform better in mobile search results.

You can check to see if Google considers your site mobile-ready by using Google’s free Mobile-Friendly Test. If your site has room for improvement, talk with an experienced web development resource to discuss your options.

2. Establish a business profile (or claim your business listing) on online directories and review sites.

Well-known sites such as Yelp, Facebook, Citysearch, and TripAdvisor, often rank higher than business websites in search results. If you’re listed on them, prospective customers will have an easier time finding you. Also, the links to your website from these sites (“backlinks”) can help improve your website’s ranking in search results.

The benefits of better visibility and backlinks also apply to listings on local directory sites like those provided by your chamber of commerce, tourism bureau, and other organizations.

If you operate your business from a physical location, you’ll also want to make sure you appear on Google My Business. Doing so will help your business show up higher in local search results, including on Google Maps.

Important Note: Wherever you list your business online, make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) information is consistent. If you’ve moved or changed your name or phone number, you’ll want to update that information on every website that lists your company. Most SEO experts agree that search engines look for uniformity to validate that a business is legitimate. Inconsistency can result in your business information showing up incorrectly—or Google might choose to omit your business from the search engine results page altogether.

3. Have a keyword strategy that goes narrow rather than broad.

Keywords remain critical for helping Google determine what your website pages are about. However, they need context and must appear naturally in content that satisfies what your audience wants to know.

Rather than use keywords that consist of only one or two general words, focus on long-tail keywords that more closely resemble—in your customers’ words— the exact types of products and services your customers are looking for and the area where they hope to find them.

So, say you have a dog training business in Portland, Maine. Rather than using the general keywords of “dog training” or “dog trainers” (which have a tremendous amount of competition in search results), consider using wording that’s reflective of what your customers will be looking for online. For example,

  • Dog trainers in Portland Maine
  • Aggressive dog training Maine
  • Therapy dog training Portland Maine

While these don’t have the same amount of monthly search traffic coming to them as “dog training” and “dog trainers,” they have far fewer businesses competing for them and will better your chances of ranking higher in search results. Also, they will help ensure that the people who do find your website are potential customers for the services you provide.

Brainstorm on your own to determine some relevant keywords, and do some keyword research by using tools like Google Adwords Keyword Planner, SEMRush’s Keyword Research tool, or Moz Keyword Explorer.

Bonus Tip: As you’re deciding which long-tail keywords to use, also consider the increase in voice-activated searches. Think about how people talk, not just how they type!

Where Can You Find More Information About SEO Best Practices?

If you want to learn more about ways you can improve awareness of your business online, consider following SEO and digital marketing blogs like Yoast, Moz, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Journal. Also, contact SCORE to talk with a mentor who can direct you to reputable SEO specialists in your area, and who can advise you on all aspects of your business’s marketing endeavors.

Communication Tips Part 1: Write Like You Mean Business

writing

Among the many skills small business owners need to hone, communicating like a pro is one of the most critical. Whether crafting an email to a prospective client or delivering a workshop to peers at a chamber of commerce event, your prowess in communicating affects how others perceive you.

This blog post is the first in a two-part blog series sharing practical tips to help entrepreneurs write and speak better.

 

Six Tips To Help You Write Like You Mean Business

  • Set aside dedicated time, so you don’t have to rush through it. The phrase “haste makes waste” is true when writing anything. If you try to squeeze writing in on the fly, you won’t have time to gather your thoughts properly, you’ll struggle to find the right words to get your point across, and you’ll make silly mistakes. That means you’ll need to spend extra time editing—and maybe even completely rewriting—what you originally wrote. Instead, block out some time to tackle writing projects when other priorities—and people—won’t distract you.

 

  • Organize/outline the key points you want to communicate. Never underestimate the power of planning. Before you start writing, think about your purpose and the specific details you want to share. Also, consider in what order you should write about those details, so they flow seamlessly and won’t confuse your audience. A good way to do this is to prepare an outline or simply create a list of bullet points that put your main points and key details in logical order.

 

  • Make sure you clearly state any action you need readers to take. If you need your audience to do something after reading your email, memo, letter, or other written communications piece, say so openly. Consider making calls to action more prominent by using bold font. If you have multiple action items, put them in a bulleted list. Also, make sure you share the dates/times by which you need responses or tasks completed.

 

  • Use tools to edit and proofread. After you’ve written drafts, take advantage of apps and software available (many offer free versions) to help you fine-tune them. For example, the spell check features in Word and email platforms can help you detect misspellings and some basic grammar errors. Also, take a look at Grammarly. It offers a browser extension that checks grammar in your online communications (e.g., when crafting emails and social media posts) and a downloadable version that allows you to check grammar in Word documents. Realize you should still review your writing in addition to using tools. Tools can save time and pick up on items you might otherwise miss, but they’re not 100 percent accurate all the time.

 

  • Read your writing out loud. Vocalizing what you wrote will help you ensure your writing projects the right tone. If your “voice” comes across harsh or angry, you may want to make adjustments to soften your approach. When you read your communications out loud, it also enables you to flag anything readers might misinterpret or not understand.

 

  • Ask someone else to review. This added measure of review provides valuable insight. By getting a third-party point of view, you can get impartial feedback that enables you to fine-tune your writing before you send it to your intended audience.

 

No matter what type of business you run, you’ll need to write to some degree. You don’t need the skills of Ernest Hemingway to do so, but you do need to give the task some concentrated attention. By devoting enough time, organizing your thoughts, checking your tone, and carefully reviewing your content, you can communicate professionally and successfully.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in this two-part series: Tips to Help Small Business Owners Communicate More Effectively: Part 2 – Speaking

 

 

3 Reasons Why You Need a Business Logo

focusme

 

If you think logos are only important for big brands, think again. Logos provide big branding benefits for small businesses. How will a logo help your business?

  • It will provide a way for prospects and customers to more easily recognize your brand. A logo can help make your brand more memorable by giving people imagery to associate with your company. So when people are looking for products and services like those you offer, they’ll be more likely to have your company in mind.
  • It will facilitate consistency across your branding efforts. When you use a logo on your marketing and sales materials, whether printed or online, all pieces of collateral will present a unified front. That makes your brand appear more polished, professional, and consistent in how it presents itself.
  • It can boost your credibility. A logo in and of itself doesn’t make your business any better at what it does. However, it can bring more legitimacy to your company in the eyes of potential customers and clients. A logo can help show you’re a credible, bona fide business.

 

What to Consider When Having a Logo Designed

Unless you’re a graphic designer by trade, chances are you personally don’t have the creative chops to design your own logo, so you’ll need to outsource that work. You might seek the help of a marketing firm, independent designer, or an online service like 99designs.  We used 99designs to get a custom logo designed for FocusME,  game changing support for women entrepreneurs. We were very pleased with the results and the cost!

Regardless of whom you hire to design your logo, keep the following things in mind as you collaborate with them:

 

  • Your brand personality: How you want your business to be perceived—traditional, trendy, sophisticated, rugged, creative, high-tech, exciting, calming, etc.?

 

 

  • Adaptability: How will the design translate into different media? You’ll surely be using it in print marketing collateral of various sizes, and online, it will be seen on the screen of mobile devices and on desktop computer monitors. Also consider how it looks not only in color but also in black and white. Regardless of the size or color, you’ll want your logo to appear bold and distinctive.

 

The Lowdown on Landing an Effective Logo

Realize that before you ask someone to design your logo, you must first understand what your brand stands for. Think about your company’s core values and the traits and characteristics that define it. Communicating what you’re looking to convey through your logo is the first step in having one designed that will effectively and accurately represent your company.

If you’re thinking about having a logo created for your business and want help zeroing in on what it needs to project, contact SCORE Maine. With mentors who specialize in marketing and branding, we have volunteers who can provide you with expert guidance and feedback.