Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Using Your Competitor to Promote Your Blog and Bring You More Business

As an entrepreneur with a fledgling business, you have read a lot about how important a blog is for promoting your business. According to Google, 73 percent of Internet searches use location-related content. The Internet is the No. 1 place where consumers search for local businesses that provide goods and services. You specialize in rare collectibles and have begun a blog that discusses current news and finds in the rarefied atmosphere of rare collectibles.

So here is your blog sitting out on WordPress, and suddenly you have a eureka! moment — Eureka! How will I get folks to read my blog and enhance my online reputation? Will I have to dedicate my life to my company blog?

No, you will not. Following are some tips to help you to promote your blog without losing your soul, with help from an old pro.

GoDaddy specializes in selling domain names and setting up and maintaining Web sites. On his site, CEO Bob Parsons reveals his 16 Rules for Survival. Of interest to us is Rule 11:

“Pay attention to your competitors, but pay more attention to what you’re doing. When you look at your competitors, remember that everything looks perfect at a distance. Even the planet Earth, if you get far enough into space, looks like a peaceful place.”

You may ask, "What does this have to do with blogging?" Well, quite a bit. Let’s tie it together.

Use the Competition for Inspiration

Suppose your competitor’s blog tells a great story about a hidden set of collectibles found in some attic in the country that is worth thousands. An interesting story for sure. You can either recycle it, which is not recommended or use it as an inspiration for a new blog topic. It might be about a one-day getaway to country estate sales and how to pick winning buys, or it could be about how to get a collection appraised after purchase. The point is that your competitor had a good idea that you made better. Your content is fresh, relevant and fun.

Pictures Tell a Compelling Story

Your blog can use words sparingly. If you set your blog up on Pinterest, you can primarily use images with short descriptions. Pinterest is broken into categories, so by posting to “Collectable” you are already in an area where your blog will be seen. A good way to promote your Pinterest account is to invite others to post images of their collectibles to your board. Folks who do this will likely link to your Pinterest board by Twitter, a Facebook posting or a Google+ mention. In the interest of self-promotion, your blog should also call the above three additional sites home — or at least have pages that link to your blog. Explore these four sites to determine how to best place your blog for the best visibility.

Fresh, Relevant and Original

Blog content must always be fresh. You do not need to post every day, but frequently enough that visitors do not see the same content headlines for long periods. There is nothing less attractive to a consumer than a business blog with the last entry more than six months ago. We all have seen some blogs that are dying for lack of attention. GoDaddy's Bob Parsons started doing video blogs when he no longer had the motivation to write out blogs. Sometimes a new perspective can give your audience the fresh content they were craving.

Get Help

If you cannot commit to two to three posts each week, you have two options: do not start a blog or hire a content management firm to blog for you. They are cost effective and pretty much manage the entire process for you: from writing and editing to posting and placement. Social media and blogging are great ways to stay in front of current and potential customers. But, make sure that your privacy policy is prominent and that unsubscribing is easy.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

TRADE SHOWS: Are ending?

As an exhibitor: Learn how to benefit and maximize your return. 
By Verna Lee

"Lights, Cameras, Action.”

You are not on a movie set.

Rather, you are in the halls of an illustrious trade show—and what a show it is! Looking at the exhibit hall, it is no surprise that you think that you are on the grounds of Universal Studios because many of the booths showcase grandiose sights befitting royal productions.

Companies invest thousands of advertising dollars into the design of their exhibit displays to create lasting and memorable impressions. Videos that resemble miniature movies are produced. Unique gimmicks and innovated, promotional giveaways are featured, and stages are set to lure attendees to their booths. Exhibitors set out to capture your attention and, oftentimes, they do!

Despite all of the pomp and circumstance, the bottom line and overall purpose of the tradeshow is to publicize, promote, unveil, market and showcase a company’s products and services. After all, that is why people go to exhibitor’s row.

Many trade shows provide educational seminars that feature nationally recognized speakers and celebrities. Unquestionably, the residual value and marketing impact are great. It is not surprising that the trade show industry is responsible for billions in transactions and sales annually.

It’s value is set—here are some tips to help your next trade show!


Below are marketing checklists primarily centered on preplanning, executing the plan, delivering the message, and facilitating the results for participating exhibitors. Summarized, it is a “things to do list, and provides an itemized approach for planning and success.

Step One: The Preplanning phase
  Things to do before you leave:

  • Commit and register early.
  • Select the most proficient and experienced team to attend.
  • Take along an adequate supply of business cards, company brochures, and promotional giveaways.
  • Remember that your logo engraved promotional giveaways become your companys walking billboard. Carefully select these items for optimal results.
  • Download the exhibitor directory and strategize beforehand.
  • Do research on companies with which you have limited familiarity.
  • Establish and prepare a "hit list.
  • Target companies to obtain the highest impact.
  • Determine who will host your exhibitor's table and who will prospect; rotate as necessary.
  • Utilize pretrade show marketing strategies by notifying prospective clients that your company will be an exhibitor; provide your booth number and extend an invitation.
  • Pick a prime location that will give your exhibit booth optimal visibility. A corner booth is ideal. Placement near a refreshment / coffee break area also drives traffic. Being located next to a prominent or national, non-competing company can be a bonus and draw additional traffic.
  • Ship the exhibit display and promotional items early preferably utilizing the trade show-shipping vendor so that all items will be delivered to your booth space. The shipping service will ship the items back as well.

Step Two: Executing the plan and delivering the message
Things to do while there

  • Take time to professionally "decorate" your exhibit space and table. Do not exhibit clutter. Place all unnecessary items under the table. An advanced preparatory sketch will produce a professional crafted display that delivers the desirable marketing message.
  • Produce a sophisticated, carefully orchestrated display that draws attention and projects powerful marketing messages. Photographic renderings, graphics, videos and continuous running power point presentations should be maximized.
  • Showcase a professional uniformed look by wearing your company's imprinted logo apparel that will enhance your corporate branding.
  • Wear comfortable shoes because of the long hours, extensive walking and standing.
  • Bring minimal items to the exhibit hall as you will be collecting information for later use.
  • Carry exhibitor directories as they become key informational guides and your exhibit hall road map.
  • Use your ingenuity; sophisticated gimmicks draw attendees to your table.
  • Put on and maintain a happy face at your exhibit display.
  • Employ the fair exchange model before distributing promotional giveaways.
Offer your business card and always ask for theirs.
  • Take a moment to make a notation on received business cards to rekindle your memory for follow up communication, if time permits.
  • Start the marketing dialogue. Invite yourself to visit their company or establish a form of engagement for follow up.
  • Visit your competitors booth. Collect promotional items from other companies. Take mental notes for comparative purposes. Pick up ideas and tips for future planning.
  • Attend selected social events to continue networking.



Step Three: Facilitating the Results
 Things to do after you leave.

  • Develop a detailed objective driven follow up communication system.
  • Remember that each business card represents a valuable contact and a prospective client.
  • Gather your collected business cards as they become your navigational guide for follow up purposes and possible engagement.
  • Place and organize business cards in a portfolio system labeled by the event.
  • Assemble your business cards by designated categories in terms of the importance of prospective clients.
  • Develop a tracking system by using specialized marketing software or an excel spreadsheet to capture basic information.
  • Personalize your communications if possible. Do reference a comment from your business card notations, if available.
  • Communicate initially by email. Follow up by telephone. Send a qualifying document, capability statement and a company brochure. If email personalization is not possible, use a form letter that it is succinct and well written.
  • Continue communications aimed at developing a “preferred client relationship.
  • Be persistent. Remember that you are in a numbers game until you differentiate yourself.

The “Value Added” Touches -
Step Four: Things to do and continue year around:

  • Seek to highlight members of your team as featured speakers at upcoming trade shows and conferences.
  • Keep reinventing your exhibit booth until you make it a state of the art display. Evaluate your current promotional items in terms of effectiveness; eliminate and upgrade your lineup accordingly.
  • Stay current by investigating the latest innovations, such as the Quick Response (QR) Codes, the new wave of the future for trade shows.
  • Determine marketing to sale effectiveness and return on investment.
  • Learn, grow, regroup, and improvise. Then, head to the next show.

Step Five: Things to do that will give your company extra publicity:
  • Consider sponsoring an event at the trade show.
  • Participate in raffles and gift drawings.
  • Advertise in trade show announcements.
  • Seek to be featured on trade show websites and magazines.


In conclusion, I must confess that I was “bitten by the trade show bug” while attending the 2012 National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) in Denver. It happened at the Office Max booth. I did not go to their booth to examine paper stock or view electronic equipment. Instead, I ventured over to their display to have my photo taken with President Obama. Make no mistake, the President was not there but with the ingenuity of photography, I was photographed next to him. I stood in the line like everyone else to have my photograph taken with our 44th President. Proudly displayed in my office is a photograph of President Obama and me! Thank you, Office Max!

Vernalee is President of Lee Enterprises Ltd.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, Ms. Lee is also an external marketing/business development consultant for McTech Corp. Her specialties are Marketing, Human Resources, and Retail consulting.  She has written numerous articles for trade magazines, local newspapers, and journals. She can be reached at lee.verna@ymail.com

Monday, June 10, 2013

SPRING-CLEANING YOUR VIRTUAL-COMMUNICATION HABITS

Communications expert Kimberly Gerber offers valuable strategies to eliminate bad habits and become an effective virtual communicator
ORANGE COUNTY, Calif.– Kimberly Gerber, a renowned communications expert and president/CEO of Excelerate, a communication training and coaching firm delivering innovative strategies and leadership development, has compiled a “spring cleaning” to-do list that can help people eliminate bad virtual-communications habits to become highly effective communicators.
                As former marketing director for top brands like Starbucks Coffee and Fleetwood Enterprises, Gerber brings decades of communications experience to the table and can provide insights that help people adapt to a changing environment and craft powerful, effective communications in every medium. Gerber is an expert at providing CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs, high-potential employees and millennials with the power tools to master effective communication. She has valuable advice for leaders and potential leaders on how to shed ineffective habits and replace them with effective virtual communication tools.
                “Effective communicators can increase an organization’s productivity, boost morale, improve satisfaction and increase profitability,” says Gerber. “Modifying your technology habits even slightly can help you streamline your communications and save tons of time.”
                Some of Gerber’s “spring cleaning” tips are:

  • Advertise accessibility. Let people who work from other locations know when you’re available and how to best access you. You can also let key team members know when you won’t be available due to meetings, travel, holiday, or because you plan to be in a creative workflow.  
  • Be proactive to build rapport. Initiate informal check-in calls with your boss and colleagues on a daily basis. The key word is “routine.” If you make this a habit, you increase your top-of-mind awareness, and people will come to expect and look forward to informal chats with you.
  • Understand differing styles. Pay attention to people’s communication trends and you will see basic patterns emerge. Some people are directive. (They might seem a little bossy and always have a sense of urgency.) Others are informing. (You might think they spend too much time in the details of the story.) However people present themselves to you, expect and respect that we each have a style that directs us to certain behaviors.  When working with someone whose style you don’t understand or find unproductive, ask for what you need.
  • Take advantage of company resources. Your manager, peers, administrative supporters and the company help desk are excellent resources to help you better learn how to master and leverage technology. In-person and online classes can help for some software. If e-mail and voicemail overload are your weaknesses, check in with an efficiency expert who can help you establish mailbox rules and guidelines to reduce time spent on communications. 
  • Apply the “one touch” rule to your e-mail. As often as possible, deal with e-mail messages at the time you read them so that you can delete or file them accordingly. The fewer times we have to revisit each message, the more time we create in the day to focus on other work and activities.

Simple changes in a few key areas can yield significant results in the lives of busy professionals.   

From texting and voicemail best practices to efficient phone and tablet use to streamlined and highly effective communication using collaboration software, Gerber can provide insight on dozens of additional virtual communication topics.  For more information about Kimberly Gerber and Excelerate, visit www.exceleratecomm.com

ABOUT KIMBERLY GERBER: For the past two decades, Gerber’s focused approach to communication strategies has successfully led Fortune 500 companies such as Starbucks and Fleetwood Enterprises toward real results. Her innovative ideas, breakthrough programs and proven techniques have served as a catalyst, helping countless C-level executives, entrepreneurs, millennials and high-potential employees reach their goals. Organizations such as Allergan, Starbucks Coffee and Verizon rely on Excelerate, Gerber’s communication training and coaching firm, for highly specialized communications guidance and training to help them succeed. Gerber also brings the power of effective communication to podiums across the country as a motivating and empowering public speaker. With the ability to speak on a variety of topics related to transformational communication, Kimberly is among the region’s most sought-after and acclaimed keynote speakers, consistently leaving attendees feeling energized and inspired. Gerber holds a B.A. in Marketing and Public Communications from SUNY Buffalo. Committed to lifelong learning, she’s completed graduate studies at San Diego State University; is a graduate of Newfield, an ICF-certified executive coaching program, and has earned mediation certification from the Los Angeles County Bar Association.  

ABOUT EXCELERATE: Excelerate is a communication training and coaching firm delivering innovative strategies and leadership development. For more than two decades, Excelerate has made an extraordinary difference for organizations of all sizes, giving CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs, high-potential employees and millennials the power tools to become effective communicators through interactive workshops, executive coaching, group coaching, mediation and laser coaching to focus on specific issues. Excelerate’s mission is to empower individuals and organizations to make holistic, transformational changes in the way they communicate. The firm’s 360-degree approach to communication helps clients increase productivity, raise morale, improve satisfaction and boost profitability. For more information, visit www.exceleratecomm.com.

Friday, June 7, 2013

News Release

                                                                         
Square Co-Founder Jack Dorsey to Talk Business and Technology with SBA Administrator Karen Mills at National Small Business Week

WASHINGTON—Jack Dorsey, Square and Twitter Co-Founder, will join U.S. Small Business Administrator Karen Mills in Washington, D.C., June 20, for a discussion with small business owners on best practices, technology, and resources for building and growing their business.

The discussion will take place during an evening reception with National Small Business Week award winners.

In 2006 Dorsey founded Twitter, which now has more than 200 million active users and is one of the most visited websites in the world.  Dorsey and President Barack Obama made history when they hosted the first Presidential Twitter Town Hall to field questions from the public on the economy and jobs on July 6, 2011.  In 2010, Dorsey launched Square. Square’s technology helps businesses to get started and grow with its free credit card reader and point of sale app. Square recently introduced the Square Stand, new hardware for brick and mortar businesses that turns an iPad into a complete point of sale system.

Small businesses across the nation are adapting their business models to accommodate the ever-changing pace of social commerce.  Mills and Dorsey will discuss how technology can benefit small businesses.   

This event, and all other National Small Business Week events throughout the week will be live streamed for public participation and accessible at: www.sba.gov/smallbusinessweek.
  
Those wishing to attend events can register online:

•             Seattle – June 17                              http://2013nsbwseattle.eventbrite.com 
•             Dallas – June 18                                http://2013nsbwdallas.eventbrite.com 
•             St. Louis – June 19                           http://2013nsbwstlouis.eventbrite.com
•             Pittsburgh – June 20                       http://2013nsbwpittsburgh.eventbrite.com
•          Washington, DC – June 20-21         http://nsbwdc.eventbrite.com/.

Every year since 1963, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight through National Small Business Week the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories.  This year’s event will be held June 16-21, in Seattle, Dallas, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. offering tips, tools and trainings for small businesses to start, succeed and grow.  In addition to in-person events, small business owners can participate in online-only panel discussions on hot topics like social media and business financing starting daily at 4 p.m. ET. All events, in-person and online, will be streamed live on www.sba.gov/smallbusinessweek. The event hashtag is #SBW2013.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s participation in this cosponsored activity does not constitute an express or implied endorsement of any cosponsor’s, donor’s, grantee’s, contractor’s or participant’s opinions, products, or services. All SBA programs and cosponsored programs are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. Reasonable arrangements for persons with disabilities will be made, if requested at least 2 weeks in advance, by contacting sbw@sba.gov. Cosponsorship Authorization #SBW2013.

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Release Date: June 5, 2013
Contact:  Tiffani Clements, (202) 401-0035
Release Number: 13-28
Internet Address: www.sba.gov/news
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Thursday, June 6, 2013

International Franchise Expo Spurs Small Business Growth

Media Contact: Kelsey Brennan, Fishman PR, Kbrennan@fishmanpr.com, (874) 945-1300

For Immediate Release

International Franchise Expo Spurs Small Business Growth
Thousands of Entrepreneurs and Hundreds of Reputable Franchise Brands Congregate in NYC
Paramus, NJ – The International Franchise Expo (IFE) returns to New York City, June 20-22 at the Javits Center for a second year offering entrepreneurs the unique opportunity to gain insight into the vast world of franchising. Boasting more than 400 reputable franchise brands, the IFE is the top destination for attendees seeking a new franchise opportunity.

The three day show consists of a veritable “who’s who” of the franchise industry allowing prospective small business owners to meet face to face with franchise representatives from more than 60 business categories.  Many of the exhibitors are developing their brand in the United States and internationally further contributing to economic growth.
It's no surprise that franchising accounts for a large part of the recovering American economy, contributing significantly to two critical elements - job creation and GDP – and outperforming the economy as a whole in 2012. According to the International Franchise Association’s (IFA) 2013 economic outlook, franchising is projected to add more than 10,000 franchise establishments, account for nearly 8.3 million jobs by the end of 2013 and contribute a GDP of $472 billion.

“Mirroring this steady growth is the increasing number of franchisors participating in trade shows to strategically grow their system,” said Jim Mastandrea, Group Show Director of MFV Expositions. “The IFE also draws qualified attendees ranging from recent college grads to retirees looking to get back in the business world.  The expo truly covers all ends of the spectrum – from out-of-the-box, niche franchises to well-known, global brands.  Attendees are sure to find a concept that fits their interests and lifestyle.”

Industry experts will host educational symposium geared toward every stage of the journey. Offering more than 70 free seminars along with nine in-depth symposia, the IFE offers a wealth of knowledge into the franchise industry. Some of the symposia topics include The A to Z’s of Buying a Franchise, Franchising Your Business, and Global Franchise Expansion: Strategies for Lucrative and Planned Growth.

With more than 90 countries represented from around the world and more than 150 U.S. Embassies through their Foreign Commercial Service Offices actively promoting the IFE within their regions, the IFE has been a significant catalyst to the global expansion of franchising.

For more information on the 2013 International Franchise Expo, please visit http://www.ifeinfo.com/.

About MFV Expositions
For 22 years, MFV Expositions has been producing the leading franchise events worldwide that consistently bring together franchise concepts, at all investment levels, with the most qualified visitors seeking to own their own business. In addition to quality franchise expos in the United States and overseas that offer face-to-face opportunities to grow your franchise, MFV also offers access to online franchise opportunities through web-based resources, lead management tools and solutions for generating sales.
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