5 Amazing Small Business Quotes

Sometimes we need a little pick-me-up.

If this week has been a long week for you, you’re not alone… and for small business owners, it can seem like you’re never off the clock.

Well, we have five amazing small business quotes that might help you feel a little bit better!

Nelson-mandela-quote

Found at FindingSilverPennies.com.

Whether you’re a small business that handles orders from your home, or you’re looking to open a new store sometime soon, it can seem like growth and success are impossible. But with some perseverance, you’ll soon find that it’s not.

elevator-to-success

Found at LaDolceVitaBlog.com.

If you haven’t met them, you’ve heard of them: The guys that think there’s some way to get rich quick just waiting to be discovered. As a small business owner, you know that that’s not the case. So while they’re out trying to get the out-of-service elevator to work, you’re going to be making your way up the stairs. Slowly but steadily.

say-i-will

Found at DesignInspiration.net.

If you find yourself saying “I wish I had more time”, “I wish I could make more money”, or “I wish this were easier”, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Sometimes all it takes to push through the tough times is a change of perspective: Try saying “I will make more time”, “I will find a way to make more money”, and “This might not be easy, but I will work hard and succeed.” Cheesy, but it works!

time-will-pass-anyway

Found at FromUpNorth.com.

A year ago, where were you? Were you doing better or worse with your small business? Time passes no matter what. Sometimes our efforts take longer to pay off than we expect. Think of where you’ll be in a year, how you’ll feel if you keep working at your goals. You’ll be able to reflect on what you’ve learned and how far you’ve come. Time will pass anyway–so you might as well try to move forward and work on making your dreams come true.

today-is-a-new-day

Found at The36thAvenue.com.

If all else fails, just remember that today is always a new day. Yes, your problems won’t go away because the sun set and came up again, but you can look at things with a rested mind and a more positive outlook.

Happy Friday, everyone, and have a safe and fun weekend!

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10 Reasons to Make New Year’s Resolutions

setting-goals1. You set a realistic goal for yourself.

Let’s start off with the easy one: Making a New Year’s resolution allows you to focus on a goal. It makes you admit to yourself that there is a) something you really, really want, and b) a seed somewhere deep inside of you that’s already been planted–you wouldn’t have the desire to change if it hadn’t–and pursuing the goal will allow it to grow.

Unfortunately, making resolutions is an abstract concept to some people. If you’re a person who sets goals regularly,this might seem to you, but it’s true. Not all people love goal-making and forcing change upon their lives. That’s why it’s important to visualize your goal–and keep it realistic. Picture it clearly and be able to define it in one actionable sentence. Examples:

  • I will incorporate more vegetables into my meals.
  • I will make home-cooked food at least three times a week.
  • I will save two thousand dollars by the end of December.
  • I will make some time for myself by blocking out an hour massage two times a month.
  • I will increase my company profits by 30%.

These are all positive, affirmative, and confident statements. The goal is clearly defined, and it’s easy to imagine yourself being successful in your pursuit because you’ve been realistic. So whether you’re the type who looks forward to setting goals or you’ve avoided them your entire life, you’ll have a much better chance of  enjoying success if you follow these tips!

2. Starting from a clean slate feels great.

Maybe you’ve been setting goals for yourself for years and felt like you’ve come up short. Maybe you’ve had a terrible year and just want to hide in a hole and recuperate. Or maybe you’re not feeling particularly inspired to make a resolution because you find them boring, pointless, or otherwise marginally effective.

That’s okay.

Yes, that’s right: That’s okay.

But here’s something you might want to consider: Now is a great time to clear your head and create the atmosphere of newness. 

Newness is a great feeling. It makes you feel fifty pounds lighter. It scrubs your mind of lingering doubts and fears. It creates the perfect setting for you to think clearly and create room for yourself to grow.

Even if you’re the most pessimistic person around, you can appreciate a nice clean feeling. If you imagine the new year as a way to scrub the residue from last year, you might be more receptive to making resolutions. Examples:

  • Scrap the one hundred projects you’ve started but will never finish. Choose one thing you’d like to salvage and focus on that.
  • Clean out your inbox. You probably underestimate how great this feels until you’ve actually done it. (It’s wonderful.)
  • Organize your office and get rid of any old papers and files you just don’t need anymore.
  • Remember that time you messed up the report and felt like a total idiot? Let it go. Study up on how to better prepare reports so you’ll ace it next time.
  • Trying to salvage a floundering social media project? Dump it. Start over and try new things. Take a few risks. It’s a brand new start!

overcoming-obstacles3. Overcoming challenges gives you pride.

Maybe you’re the kind of person who feels very small in day-to-day life. Perhaps you’re at a job where you feel unimportant, or you have failed to “lose the weight” or “be more mindful” many times over and just don’t think you can make any real changes in your life. Chances are, you’re feeling kind of cynical about resolutions.

They don’t work. I’ll just fail. Everyone makes these dumb promises and ends up breaking them anyway.

But that’s just the thing: This is something you choose to do. You choose to dedicate yourself to your goals. You might slip up, but that’s no reason to quit altogether. You don’t have to be perfect! Take this opportunity to view a resolution as a challenge–one that will give you a great sense of pride if you reach it. Examples could be:

  • Run your first marathon. Start lifting weights. Learn how to swim better.
  • Start doing freelance work on the side, so you can bolster your resume and set yourself on track to reach your business goals.
  • Learn how to play an instrument, how to salsa dance, or how to grow a garden in an urban area. Do you have to be a master to enjoy learning? Of course not–everyone has to start somewhere.
  • Has someone told you you’re too stubborn? Too negative? Study up on how to see the silver linings in things.
  • Face a fear you’ve always had. Speaking in public, looking silly while trying new things, or flying across the country–you can work step by step to overcome these obstacles. It’s immensely rewarding!

4. You can put a bad year behind you.

Alright, you. You know who you are. You’ve had a terrible 2014 and you’re over it. You want to forget about it already.

Hey, we’ve all been there. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. But that’s actually all the more reason to make a resolution!

A problem many people have (particularly entrepreneurs and small business owners!) is that they just can’t let the past go. Whether your business venture was a bust or you had to make some difficult personal choices, it’s hard not to wonder what could have been had you chosen differently. But there’s honestly no point in that.

You can take this chance to put your bad year behind you and look forward to progress. Examples:

  • Made a rough personal choice? View it as reinforcing your armor. This makes you stronger so you can perform better in other areas of your life and make a better future for yourself.
  • Did you have a terrible year at your company–even had to shut your business down? It’s terribly difficult. But as trite as it might sound, you can take this opportunity to look at what you’ve learned, what you’d do differently next time. 
  • Feeling upset with your job? Dedicate some time to looking for something that suits your needs. Feel like you need more skills? Enroll in an online class, take a MOOC, or find a community class to enroll in.

5. Next year at this time, you’ll thank yourself.

Sometimes it helps to project forward in time. If you’d started your goal a year ago, where do you think you’d be now? More than likely, you’d be happy that you had done so much work! Wouldn’t you like to enjoy that feeling next year? Of course you would. You can start today and prepare for a big pat on the back from your future self.

If you need some numbers or any other inspiration, here are some examples:

  • Do you want to lose weight? Imagine if you lost a pound a week for the next fifty-two weeks. 52 pounds lighter! Wow. Now that’s a noticeable difference!
  • Do you want to save money? Check out this nifty savings plan–by the end of the year you’ll be $1378 richer.
  • Are you aiming to grow your company’s social media following? Start by aiming for a new follower every day. That’s 365 followers this year–and who knows, once you gain some traction, you might even start gaining more without having to put forth more effort.

punch-fear-in-the-face6. Punch fear in the face.

If you make a resolution, you might fail. That’s a realistic thing that could happen.

But how do you know if you don’t try? If you never take a risk, you’ll never know just how much you’re capable of. So if you’re afraid of failure (and let’s face it, most of us are), suck it up and punch fear in the face. Tell it to back off and stop bullying you. It’s taken control of your progress for far too long–and what better time than now to put your foot down and tell it to get lost?

Mantras you could repeat to get that confidence you will need:

  • “I’ve spent X years wanting this. I won’t spend any more.”
  • “What’s the worst that could happen. I could fail. So what? Then I pick myself up and I try again, or I learn from it and move on.”
  • “Fear is what holds back many great thinkers, artists, and entrepreneurs. I won’t let myself be among that group any longer.”
  • “What will I tell myself when I’m older if I never tried? I will regret never taking a chance on myself.”
  • “Fear is stupid and I’m going to punch it in the face.”

7. Refine your personal values.

If you’ve had a rough year or been busy with work, school, family, or life in general, you might be feeling burned out right now. Lots of people suffer from stress, and as such, they lose track of what’s really important to them.

What’s important to you might be completely valueless to someone else. For example, you might enjoy working on writing music outside of work, but your boss would rather have you spending more time following up with clients. Alternatively, you might be a small business owner trying hard to get the company growing, but employees aren’t matching your enthusiasm. When you’re unable to fulfill that undeniable need to engage with activities and people that you value, you become stressed and anxious, and eventually your health and well-being suffer.

Put a stop to that in 2015. Tell yourself:

  • I really value X. How can I arrange my schedule so that I get to enjoy a bit of X every day?
  • Which part of my day makes me the happiest? What does that tell me about my health and happiness?
  • How can I get others excited about my vision? Am I being realistic with my friends and family, or am I pressuring them too hard?
  • Which runs my life right now: My values or my obligations? How can I better balance these two things?

8. Surround yourself with things that bolster you.

When you go to work, what does your desk/cubicle/office look like? Are you sitting around a bunch of drab boxes and file cabinets? Or are you able to put up a few pictures or even bring in a little plant?

When you’re at home, do you have a space that is instantly comfortable and relaxing? Do you flop on the couch and never move or do you have something else in your routine that energizes you?

These kinds of things are really important to your mental health and general well-being. A person needs to have a space where he or she can relax completely. A person also needs to be able to feel comfortable and welcome in his or her workspace. If you don’t create these little sanctuaries, it can be difficult to unplug from the chaos of the day.

Here are some things you could try:

leap-of-faith9. Take a leap of faith.

Perhaps you have read through this entire list and you can’t find a single thing that would entice you to try to make a resolution. Maybe you can’t find it to believe in yourself. Maybe you’re just tired of this happy-poppy-bubblegum idea of positive change being the solution to everything in your life.

Okay, that’s fair.

But what if you took a leap of faith?

What if, just to see what happened, you tried something crazy and completely new? Something that you know would make you happy if you were to succeed?

You can place your faith in your deity of choice or have faith in yourself and those around you. Wherever your faith comes from, place trust in that and push forward.

  • Want to start your own business? Read up on it. Talk to as many experts as you can. Believe that you can be like them.
  • Want to lose weight? Look at all the people who have turned their lives around by getting fit. It doesn’t only serve them, and it’s not all “shallow” or “vain”–it impacts health long-term, which affects family and friends. Believe that this helps everyone in your life.
  • Thinking of writing a book, playing in a band, directing your debut film, or learning to dance? Take a class. Network with other creatives and start blogging. Believe that you can do it when you have the support of the creative community.
  • Want to do something daring like skydive or speak on television? Figure out ways to do it. Believe that you can overcome your fears and do something that will make you feel proud and powerful.

10. Bring happiness to others around you.

If nothing else, remember:

You have the power to make those around you happy or miserable. One human being can be capable of having a surprisingly profound effect on others. You can learn a new skill, spend more time with your family, work harder to get that promotion, or save up to take the soul-searching trip of a lifetime. All of these things have potential to do good for others. Make sure that whatever you do, even the smallest things, bring joy to yourself and to others, and you’ll fulfill the best resolution of all!

Happy new year, marketers, small business owners, readers, and those who just stumbled by. We look forward to bringing you more articles about our specialty soon: SEO, Marketing, and Social Media!

In the meantime, take these tips and apply them to your home, business, and personal life. You should make a resolution this year. We did!

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to see how we can help you be seen online.

Holiday Shopping with Social Media

As we draw closer to Thanksgiving, ads for the upcoming shopping season can be seen everywhere: From the mall to the grocery store, it seems there’s always a reminder that the holidays are sneaking up on you, and your window of opportunity nabbing the best gifts is closing. But whether you’re the type who wants to go out and get all the best products on Black Friday, or you’re more the kind of person who procrastinates until mid-December, you’re still always looking for a great deal! After all, you don’t want to spend more money than you have to, and you definitely want the whole shopping process to be as painless as possible. And that means you’re probably going to do your fair share of shopping online. But in 2014, online shopping can be a lot more than just logging on to your favorite store and filling up your cart.

You can also utilize the power of social media to do your holiday shopping.

By using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, you can easily find what you’re looking for in multiple places. You can quickly compare availability, prices, and more. Even better, you can read reviews and get feedback on any items before you add anything to your cart. Sure beats the old way of doing things, doesn’t it?

Here are a few ways you can use social media for your holiday marketing strategy—and maybe even use some of these tips yourself when you go shopping!


 

Holiday Marketing with Twitter

twitter-for-small-businesses

In a survey conducted among 500 US adults, 36% said they wanted to use Twitter for holiday gift ideas. Another 35% admitted they used the social media platform to find links to the business’s online store.

Now, in case you didn’t know, 284 million people are on Twitter and active every month. That’s a lot of potential business.

Furthermore, 4 in 10 consumers who are active on Twitter plan on beginning their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. That leaves about a week and half from the publishing of this article to get your store holiday-ready! You can begin by tweeting about special deals, ask your followers to “please retweet” your updates, and direct people to your store for coupons or special checkout codes. Perhaps you could offer a “new followers” coupon for your new fans. Think outside the box on this one–people who use Twitter want to get information and get it fast. If you deliver it in an attention-grabbing way, you’re sure to get a few new eyes on your merchandise.


 

Holiday Marketing with Facebook

facebook-logo

With Facebook, you are provided a more “permanent” platform to advertise to your fans. Permanent is in quotes because, of course, Facebook is actually moving at a rapid pace–updates seem to come and go quickly, and the feed refreshes constantly. But fans can easily find apps or albums that you’ve set up on your business page to promote your holiday specials. You can make your page visually appealing and full of content to entice your audience. Plus, sharing on Facebook works a bit differently than sharing on Twitter does—people get more personally invested. Family members are likely to share with one another over Facebook, whereas Twitter tends to foster more professional connections. When was the last time you tweeted your grandparents? (or grandchildren!)

A good place to start is with two of the biggest shopping days of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to AllFacebook.com, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are growing into a quarter-long phenomenon. They urge businesses and advertisers to “capitalize on lower reach costs and high consumer engagement before and after peak days.”

Yeah, yeah, that’s nice. But what does it mean for small businesses?

Basically, that you can promote your great deals before and after days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get the best returns. But that doesn’t mean you should only focus on those days. You should also keep promoting your business’s specials throughout the holiday season, because shoppers will be buying more heavily until Christmas.


 

Holiday Marketing with Pinterest

pinterest-logo

If you haven’t gotten into the habit of posting to a Pinterest board, you might want to start: 47.7% of holiday shoppers say that Pinterest has influenced their buying decisions. That’s a lot of people!

But just how can you make the most out of your pins and get people interested in your products? It’ll take a bit of creative thinking, but if you try, we bet you can come up with a variety of effective marketing strategies. For example, you could try making a themed board. You can showcase great gift ideas. You can create a storyboard where a shopper uses your product to bring happiness to friends and family. You can show how other customers choose to use your products to make their lives better. It’s all in how you choose to present yourself!

We hope that these tips have been helpful for you. The holidays are a great time for helping customers get the special gifts they want for friends and family. By putting your best foot forward, you can prove to your community that you are dedicated to their needs, and that you’re ready to help them make this holiday season the best one yet!

Can you think of any other ways to use Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest for holiday marketing? It’s always a learning experience, and everyone gets different results. But with a little bit of practice and creativity, you can learn how to get more sales, happier customers, and better engagement during the holiday season. If you have any tips or tricks, be sure to leave them in the comments below!

Good luck!

Back to Basics #24: How to Find Your Writing Voice

If you’ve ever posted an update on a blog (or even thought of starting a blog!), then you’ve probably thought about how you would like to address your audience. Unless you’re writing your own personal diary, it’s absolutely necessary to figure out your writing voice—because how you appeal to your readers will have a direct effect on who chooses to come back to your blog, and who decides that it’s not for them and navigates elsewhere.

Whether you want to inform visitors about how to build and care for pools, or you’d like to provide tips on how to dress professionally for work, a blog can be a great place to start out. In this article, we’ll go over some of the basic things you’ll need to know to find your writing voice—and be well on your way to blogging success!

 

Define Your Audience

audience

This is probably another phrase you’ve heard before. But there’s a good reason for it: It’s the most important step to take before you begin publishing your posts. When you know who you’re writing for, coming up with post ideas and defining your goals becomes much easier.

To define your audience, ask yourself:

  • Am I selling a product or service to someone?
  • If yes, what makes my product unique?
  • If not, what am I offering my visitors instead?

Once you know this, then you should think about:

  • What are my audience’s interests?
  • What are their ages?
  • What is their education level?

And finally, you’ll want to know some important personal data:

  • Where do most of my customers or visitors come from?
  • Are they male or female?

So, let’s say you’re selling handmade soaps to your visitors. They tend to be casual shoppers who are looking for an alternative to soaps made with chemicals. They are interested in health, beauty, and natural living. Most are female, from the United States, and tend to be from wealthy metropolitan areas. They are educated, and between the ages of 35-50. So with this audience, you wouldn’t want to write in an ultra-casual manner like you would with, say, a vaping or e-cig store. That much should be obvious!

That’s a lot of information you’ve gathered! But now, after all that hard work, you also have an incredibly well-defined audience. Knowing these statistics will help you come up with effective advertisements and well-informed posts that your audience will love to share. Plus, you’ll easily be able to find topics popular with your audience and build your posts around those ideas. But first…

What is the Focus of Your Blog?

doing-online-research

Now that you know who you’re writing for, you need to know what you want to write about. In our example, you’ll be writing about health and beauty topics, particularly those linked to skin care—so you can really let your soaps be the star of the show. But even within this in mind, there are still a number of routes you could take. For example:

  • A how-to blog: How to make your own soaps, how to use natural soaps, etc.
  • A sales blog: Tips for better sales with natural products, or you can purchase a soap starter kit and be a part of the soap-selling team.
  • Better living blog: A guide on how to live frugally or lower your carbon footprint.
  • Beauty blog: A blog covering all kinds of new products, with the focus on your soaps and how they’ll fit into a beauty routine.

As you can see, it can be a tough decision to make. But once you’ve chosen a theme for your blog, you’ll want to stick with it. It can be confusing to readers to have a blog offering skincare advice in one post, and then how to make your own soaps in another. Chances are, these are two different audiences. (Although of course there could always be some overlap!)

What Purpose Does Your Blog Serve?

kitty-reading-a-book

Now, this might sound obvious, but you’ll have to remember why you’re writing a blog in the first place.

For many people, they want to start a blog to make an income. Others, however, want to add a blog feed to their existing website for a little extra information. Still others want to have a blog simply for search engine optimization purposes.

We’re not here to tell you why you should have a blog—but you should know why before you begin this project! If you’re aiming to make sales through your blog, you’re going to have a different approach than you would if you were just using it to post occasional how-to articles and company updates.

So before you get posting, be sure to figure out exactly how your blog fits into your business and marketing plan.

How Much Time Do You Have?

scheduling-updates

If you don’t have a lot of time to update your blog, you’re going to want to keep your posts simple and short. On the other hand, if you have a lot of time to devote to crafting articles, then you may want to write in-depth pieces. You may even want to add beautiful photographs that your viewers will want to share! It all depends on your schedule.

The short, to-the-point articles work great for company updates, brief how-to’s, or making a “listicle” that is helpful to your visitors (For example, 3 ways to get snow off your roof without falling and hurting yourself!)

The longer articles work well for those who want to get really in-depth—like photos of those handmade soaps accompanying an in-depth article about the different uses of natural cleaners.

You might choose to mix and match, and that’s fine, too. But make sure to realistically look at your schedule before you begin posting. You’ll want to stick to the schedule you make, so if you think you’re pushing yourself too hard, err on the side of safety and cut back on your posts.

So Now What?

So now that we’ve talked your ear off about how you can get everything ready for your blog, you can finally take a look at everything you have figured out and decide how you want to write. Your writing voice will probably come naturally once you know who your audience is. Most of us already know what our customers like, and if we don’t, we can always ask for feedback to make sure we’re doing everything right. Your job now is to make sure that you deliver your own, original, fresh content to your readers when you say you will. Stick to your schedule. Don’t mix personal rants with your business updates. If you want to focus on how-to videos, don’t throw in an article about why one brand of snow-blower is better than another.

If you’re writing for mothers, don’t use abrasive language. If you’re writing for potential college students, appeal to their hopeful attitudes while assuaging fears of failure. If you’re writing for people who test the strength of rebar, don’t focus on the difficulties of the job—provide solid statistics and ways to interpret test results.

Finding your writing voice doesn’t have to be difficult. It just takes a bit of time and research. And you know what? Once you’ve been blogging for a while, you will find that you naturally fall into that mindset as you write. Plus, you’ll hear from your readers through blog comments, social media updates, or even emails, and they’ll give you helpful advice to follow.

The Long and Short of It

To summarize:

  • Learn who your audience is and what they like.
  • Decide which topics will be the most important to your readers.
  • Determine whether your blog will be used to drive sales, supplement your marketing strategy, or simply provide regular company updates to readers.
  • Create a realistic schedule for updates—and stick to it!Use language appropriate to your audience.

Do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments below!

Back to Basics #22: Small Business Marketing for Local Storefronts

SMALL BUSINESSMARKETINGFOR LOCAL STORES

Here at Internet Local Listings, we focus on helping our small business clients with all of their online marketing needs—social media, websites, and managing local listings for a variety of business directories. This is an important part of your small business marketing plan, because being seen online is integral to your success as a business in the modern marketplace. And, as you know, it can be a bit confusing and time-consuming to handle all this on your own. Having help is a great asset in this case.

However, what we aren’t able to help with is the management of your storefront. That might sound obvious, but an important aspect of small business marketing that many people overlook is the effect that a storefront’s appearance can have on a customer. You already know that first impressions matter when you’re on a job interview or first date, and the same can be said of a customer’s first visit to your business—a store’s appearance can have tremendous influence over whether a person chooses to return or not. In this article, we’ll talk a bit about how appearance can affect a customer’s decision to purchase or leave, as well as how keeping your store beautiful can help create more online interactions and engagement.

A Storefront’s Appearance Matters.

According to a study done at Retail Customer Experience, more than two-thirds of the surveyed group had avoided a store simply because the storefront was unattractive, outdated, or dirty. Although it might be a bit difficult to make a building look newer than it is (particularly if you share the building with other offices and have no control over renovations), it’s always possible to keep the inside of your store looking neat and tidy.

pretty-store
Keeping your storefront neat and clean is one great way to impress customers.

Image from I Loved New York.com

Keep the Place Smelling Fresh.

Aside from keeping your store’s appearance tidy and clean, you’re going to want to make sure it smells okay. This might seem as obvious as keeping it clean, but if you’re, say, a car mechanic and you’re used to the smell of oil, you might not realize how off-putting it can be to some people. While you obviously can’t control the smell of the vehicles you’re working on in your shop, you can control the smells in the lobby. Brew some fresh coffee. Set up snacks. Keep everything wiped down and clean; keep the doors to the shop closed to prevent extra noise and smells sneaking in. Finally, you may want to use this as an opportunity to promote some great-smelling air fresheners!

This goes for any industry, however. Even if you run a bookstore (and many people love the smell of books), make sure that everything is clean without overdoing it on the “chemical” smell.

The “First Ten Feet” Rule.

According to Rick Segel, author of Retail Business Kit for Dummies, you must offer a price-sensitive incentive for customers to continue shopping within the first 10 feet of the door. For example, this could be a special offer you’re running, a promotion for your store’s top-selling product, or even a poster board offering information on local community events. Whether you’re in the business of selling auto parts or you offer home cleaning services, you can always find some related community events or classes that would appeal to your clientele. Don’t be afraid to get creative—have some of your customers asked questions about the availability of a specific product? Have they asked where you could learn more about your business? Maybe they just simply get lost on the way to the bathroom! Do whatever you can to help them feel welcome and at home in your store, and they’ll be likely to remain long enough to explore. Plus, you may just earn yourself a repeat customer!

clean-store
Clean stores with nicely-arranged displays entice customers to stay and shop!

Maintain Your Store’s Fixtures.

Sometimes your store is clean, your employees are welcoming, and the place is set up to draw the customers in—but people just aren’t staying. You’re confused and you’re wondering what could be going wrong.

  • Take a step back from your store. Walk into it again as if it were the first time you’d ever set foot in it. Now, you’re probably so used to it that this will be difficult for you, but try really hard to place yourself in your customers’ shoes. Here are some key things to look for:
  • Are your displays are neatly arranged? Do they look up-to-date? An old, faded poster or a messy stack of “clearance” products might make your store look disorganized.
  • Do the lights seem too dim or too bright? If they’re too dim, it might make your store look unwelcoming or shady—which is, naturally, off-putting to customers. If your lights are too bright, it can make customers feel uncomfortable, too, because who wants to feel like they need to wear sunglasses inside of a store?

Finally, make sure your staff is friendly and welcoming.

Make sure there’s always a manager or knowledgeable person available to answer your customer’s questions. And of course, ensure everyone looks his or her best to keep with the professional appearance you’ve worked so hard to instill in your store.

The wonderful part of keeping your storefront clean and inviting is that it will cross over into the online realm. People will be happy to leave you positive reviews. They’ll want to follow you on Facebook or Twitter to see what your new specials are. They’ll refer friends and family. Remember that this is all part of the bigger picture–getting the word out about your fantastic business!

welcoming-customers
Welcome your customers and make them feel at home! Maybe don’t dress as Dracula, though.

Small business marketing is complex. It’s a mixture of online finesse as well as a little bit of good, old-fashioned business skills. While the marketing experts at Internet Local Listings can help you with the internet marketing part of the equation, we can only offer tips for the local aspect of it! We hope you’ve found these helpful!

If you have any tips or suggestions, leave them in the comments below! And be sure to subscribe for regular updates from our small business marketing blog.

If You’re a Small Business Blogger, Don’t Make This Mistake

the-one-mistake-small-business-bloggers-make
Yikes.

Tell us if this scenario sounds familiar:

You set up your blog. You think it looks great, and you’re excited to start writing. Everyone will want to read what you have to say! After all, you’re the expert in your field. Right?

Well, you may very well be a great resource for people in your industry, but no one’s going to read what you say at first.

It sounds harsh, but hear us out.

When you first start a blog, you’re putting a water droplet in the ocean. You’ll send out ripples, but will they be big enough to be noticed? Chances are, they will come and go quietly. But that’s not because you don’t have great things to say—it’s because you don’t have an audience. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t able to summon readers using existing star power, so we have to do it on our own.

There are great ways to do this simply by blogging: Updating regularly, posting your updates on your social media accounts, and sending your clients emails/newsletters with links to your newest posts.

But the mistake many small business bloggers make is this:

They don’t comment on other blogs.

Thankfully, this is an easy problem to fix. Below, we’ll explain why it’s so important for a small business blogger to comment on other blogs, as well as offer some practical, easy-to-follow, and completely FREE ways to improve your comments and start getting results.

blog-commenting
If only it were as easy as pressing a “comment” button.

Why Do I Need to Comment on Other Blogs?

Commenting on other blogs allows you to build connections and relationships with other bloggers. By appearing regularly and leaving thoughtful, well-structured comments, they’ll take notice of you and more than likely follow you back. When you create a profile in order to comment—whether it’s WordPress, Blogger, Disqus, or something else—you get the opportunity to add a link to your website. It’s a great way for you to advertise yourself without actually leaving self-promotional links on someone else’s site. Also keep in mind, the blogger won’t be the only one to seeing your comment—other bloggers show up to do the same thing you are. So the more readers a blog has, the more eyes fall on your comment and the higher the chance someone clicks through to your site.

Commenting also allows you to ask questions and contribute to conversations you might not have had elsewhere. If the post was particularly thought-provoking, it can be fun to participate in an intelligent and fast-paced conversation about the topic at hand. Even if you don’t agree with what the author says, as long as you play your cards right (and keep a cool head), you can still successfully market yourself while not coming off as an annoying marketer.

happy-dog
This has nothing to do with anything, but it’s funny.

How Do I Leave a Good Blog Comment?

Leaving a comment that says, “Thanks, great post” isn’t enough. In fact, leaving a short, generic comment can actually read as spam to many bloggers, and they may even block you from leaving comments if they think you’re just a robot! Plus, if someone just wrote “great post” on something that you spent a long time creating—and probably put a lot of thought into—you wouldn’t feel very special, would you? No. So don’t do this to other bloggers, particularly ones you respect and want to forge connections with.

To leave a good comment, think of a personal experience you’ve had with the post’s topic. For example, if you’re a plumber and the post is about the worst ways to deal with pipe leaks, you might leave a light-hearted comment about a time when you made a mistake, or when your customer tried to fix their own toilet and ended up in a… messy situation. Then tell them you appreciated the information they provided and finish up with another friendly relationship-building statement. You could try saying, “I’ll be sure to keep these tips in mind next time I’m speaking with a customer about their pipe leaks!” or “I know now that I can check back here to see what creative ways you think of to solve pipe leak problems!”

Whatever you do, don’t leave a comment berating someone. It’s fine to disagree with an author or another commenter—particularly on a more controversial post—but don’t call anyone names or go on a rampage. Keep the comment constructive and non-hostile, and always remember that what you say on the internet will reflect on you and your company. Make your words a positive reflection of your integrity as a small business owner, and you’ll build a reputation based on respect.

happy-baby-blogger
Remember to stay positive!

What If I Run Out of Things to Comment About?

There comes a time when you simply can’t think of anything else to write on other bloggers’ posts. Or maybe you’re just sick and tired of putting in the effort when you feel like no one is paying attention to you either. Sarah Arrow of Sark-E Media has some great advice on how to craft a great comment in only a few minutes—and even if your heart isn’t in it, it’ll still be helpful and worthwhile for the author to read.

You can try a number of things to come up with commenting ideas:

  • Relate to the author. Why did you click on the article in the first place?
  • Tell a personal story. Bonus points if you can make people laugh.
  • Tell the author if you know of someone who will find the information useful, and then offer to share the post with that person.
  • Ask a question. Is there anything else people might want to know about the topic at hand?
  • When all else fails, share the author’s post on social media and be sure to tag them. At least they’ll notice that you are promoting them—even if it’s not through a comment.

And there you have it. Now you understand why small business bloggers make this mistake and have some good information on how to avoid it. Do you have any other suggestions for leaving great comments? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Back to Basics #21: Thinking Outside the Social Media Box

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While there are tried-and-true methods to growing your social media following and keeping your customers connected through social media, sometimes your efforts seem to stagnate. Maybe you hit a stride of nice growth, but then discovered that it plateaued. Or maybe you’ve been on a steady climb, and still see growth happening, but really want to push your social media presence to the next level. Whatever it is, you’re ready to try something a bit bolder, a bit louder, and a bit more… well, scary. It’s out of your comfort zone, but that doesn’t mean that you have to avoid it. Let’s talk a bit about what you can do to start thinking outside the social media box and really getting into your stride as a business owner and marketer!

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Find A Few Friends.

No, we don’t mean find a few friends like the ones you’re already following back, or the ones who are related to you. (Even if your mom is always going to be your #1 fan… sorry, mom.)

What we mean is, find the big names in your industry and connect with them.

Take the time to do a little research around your type of company—who is active on social media? Is there a particularly interesting website or blog that you could start following? Whose name frequently gets brought up in the news? Once you’ve found these people, start paying attention to what they’re doing. They’re obviously a credible resource for a reason, and that’s more than likely because they interact with fans, provide valuable content, and frequently update their blog and/or social media sites. You’re probably trying to do all this already, but when you have a role model to emulate, things get that much easier.

Here are some more helpful tips to try once you’ve found a few new friends:

Do:

  • Retweet/share/pin their articles.
  • Leave a friendly compliment or start a helpful discussion on their blog posts.
  • Ask them for their opinion on something in your niche.

Don’t:

  • Engage with controversial topics with them.
  • Subtweet (that is, tweeting about someone else without actually tagging them) snarky comments or get upset if they don’t respond to you.
  • Blast anyone publicly if they don’t agree with you.

dummies-self-promotion

Advertise less.

We know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t the point of social media to help me with marketing and advertising? Why would I want to advertise less?”

Well, because without even being aware of it, you might actually be driving away people with constant self-promotion.

Basically, social media has its own set of etiquette and rules—in fact, each platform tends to have different etiquette standards and rules for connecting with fans. For instance, on Twitter, it’s acceptable to post many times in a day—it’s fast paced and the information is kept brief, as well as generally unobtrusive. Facebook, on the other hand, tends to show big posts with pictures and videos, and to see a stream of media from the same person or company is aggravating to many users. But if there’s one thing all platforms have in common, it’s this:

It’s a big no-no to constantly advertise your own services.

To keep people from getting irked with your updates, you should always follow the 80/20 rule: Post 80% other content—like industry news, other followers’ posts, etc.–and 20% your own content.

Here are some helpful ways you can implement this idea:

  • Don’t make your advertising posts hard pitches; i.e., “Click here to buy dog food now!” Instead, keep it light and craft an interesting title to entice click-throughs: “The #1 best thing you can feed your dog: It’s cheaper than you think.”
  • Link back to older blog articles. If you have a content marketing schedule, go ahead and tie that in with Twitter, Facebook, and whichever other sites you use. You worked hard on your old posts—so be sure to link them again! This doesn’t make it seem like you’re “selling” anything, but you’re still directing traffic back to your site.

good-job-note

Show off your reviews.

We’ve talked before about how important reviews are for ranking. But reviews aren’t only important for this reason—they’re also a leading influence on how customers perceive your business, as well as how customers choose which business to support. According to a 2013 survey from Bright Local, 73% of consumers say positive customer reviews make them trust a business more. [Edit: Here is the updated 2014 survey!] That’s no small number—so it makes sense that you should promote the ones you have!

This should fall under the same guidelines of self-promotion, however. Constantly linking your reviews comes off as spammy and self-absorbed. When you’re on social media, you want to present an honest picture of who you are and what your business is about. Occasionally linking a new review and thanking the customer for their time is a good practice to get into—and it’s not going to make you look bad.

Try these helpful tips the next time you link your reviews:

  • Place a few testimonials on your site. If you can, take them directly from the source and link back. Testimonials without links seem fake to many visitors—so take that worry off their minds by citing your sources (just like you did in those pesky term papers!).
  • Publicly respond to any bad reviews you receive (unless they are abusive; then it’s best to just report or ignore them). By doing this, you show that you care about your customers’ experiences and are willing to listen to their complaints and concerns.

stay positive

And finally…

Whether you own a small home-based business or run a local chain of businesses, it’s in your best interest to keep a positive attitude. It can get discouraging to to run your own social media sites, and we get that. In fact, we wrote an article about how to handle these feelings of discouragement! But when everything stacks against you and it seems like nothing you’re doing is working, remind yourself that this all takes time. Brainstorm ways you can get your voice heard. Talk to friends, family, customers, and other business owners to see what they recommend. Be willing to learn from mistakes and go that extra mile. In the end, you will make progress if you keep trying, and keep an open mind while at it.

Got any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments!

Coming Up with Blog Post Ideas

Coming-up-with-blog-post-ideas

If you’ve been keeping up with our blog posts, you know that we strongly advocate starting a blog of your own. The fact is, if you want to see your website ranking higher in search engines, then you need to be contributing regular, fresh, high-quality content to your site to stay in Google’s good graces. But it doesn’t just help with ranking, of course. Blogging can help you stay caught up in your industry’s trends, as well as help you network with other professionals in your field.

But the inevitable problem with writing regular blog posts is that you’ll eventually feel like you’ve talked about everything there is to talk about! After you’ve hit this roadblock, how do you overcome it? Do you take a break? Hire someone else to write for you?

No! Don’t give up just yet!

Coming up with blog post ideas doesn’t have to be difficult. With practice, you’ll get better at finding topics from almost any resource. But if you need some ideas now, we’re here to help. And the best part of all of these ideas is that they’re completely free! What more could you ask for?

Think of a question you’ve had lately.

This might sound obvious, but it can be one of the simplest answers to your topic dilemma! Chances are that you’ve had a question about something in your industry—even if you’re an expert—and you did some research to come up with an answer.

Well, the general rule of thumb is that if you have a question, someone else will too. And the best way to really learn something is to teach it to someone else. What better way to do that online than come up with an informative blog post?

Let’s try an example. If you’re a fencing contractor, maybe you’re wondering about the best way to deal with an early frost. (I’m not a fence expert, so if this is really obvious, please forgive me—I’m just trying to illustrate a point!) After doing some research, you come up with an answer. Now why don’t you write a blog post about your new-found knowledge and tell your customers how they can prepare for frost, deal with frost, or make sure their fences stay safe throughout the winter? There are a lot of topics you can come up with just by thinking about this one question.

customer-service

Have your customers asked you for help with anything?

This is somewhat related to the above point, but it’s from a customer’s point of view. There’s something called the “curse of knowledge” when you’re writing your own content. It works like this:

You are the expert on the subject you’re writing about. This means that you have an advantage over your audience, especially if you’re writing how-tos or informational posts about your area of expertise. This can blind you to your audience’s level of understanding. You could be skipping over information you deem obvious, when it isn’t obvious at all to your readers. Or you could be using terminology they’re not familiar with because you don’t even think twice about your verbiage, but they are not industry insiders, and therefore don’t know the lingo.

So if your customers have come to you with questions that you think are too simple or dull to warrant a blog post, think again. You might have a great opportunity to really go the extra mile for some of your customers by simply writing a short blog post!

Seasonal events are an easy go-to.

Especially for contractors and retail stores. Are you running a seasonal promotion? Write about it. Do you have ideas why your products and services would make great gifts? Sell yourself in a blog post. Are there spcial weather-related or season-related events that could impact your business? Let your customers know.

Our fencing contractor could write about how to protect different kinds of fences from sleet and snowdrifts. A clothing boutique could talk about how their clothes make great holiday gifts. Even a pool contractor—someone who works primarily during the summer months—could post helpful articles about how to care for a pool in cold weather, or pitch spas and hot tubs instead!

Do a search in Google trends.

See what is going on around the web by doing a Google Trends search. Now, you may not have a particularly interesting or newsworthy profession—maybe you do demolition, for example. (Sorry, demolition experts!) Plug some terms into trends and see if people are searching for your topic. If they are, run a Google search yourself and see what recent news articles pop up. For example, let’s run demolition through Google Trends:

demolition-google-trends

As you can see, it’s a pretty steadily searched topic. Now let’s run a Google search:

demolition2

That red arrow is pointing to a pretty interesting article. Maybe you can get some ideas from that topic and incorporate them into your own post! It’s easy to do when you have inspiration that’s already being provided by other content creators.

Check Quora.

Quora is a place where people go to ask questions, and then other Quora users will answer these questions. Just like with Google Trends, you can find things people are asking about. This doesn’t mean you have to answer the questions (unless you’d like to!), but you can use these queries as a way to come up with blog posts. Oftentimes, users will be asking simple questions that you, as an expert, know the answers to. By reading through the existing questions, you’ll know what people are wondering about without having to conduct a survey or tally up customer questions.

All of these ideas are completely free and easy to do. Even if you’re not super blog-savvy, you can certainly improve your content creation by taking the time to learn a few of these tricks. After all, coming up with blog post ideas shouldn’t be a terrible chore!

We hope these tips have been helpful for you and wish you luck with your blogging endeavors! If you have any other ways of coming up with topics, please let us know in the comments below!

Back to Basics #19: Digital Marketing for the Holidays

digital-marketing-for-the-holidays

Ahh, you knew something like this was coming up soon. It’s October, which means that autumn decorations have been on the shelves since the 4th of July clearance rack cleared out (for Americans, anyway). Soon, you’ll see Thanksgiving decorations, and then come the December holidays—it’s all going to be Christmas and Hanukkah themes until it’s almost 2015. And let’s not forget about Black Friday and Cyber Monday…

During these next few months, you’re going to see a lot of expensive marketing campaigns from big name companies. You’ll see sales events, promotional deals, and all sorts of bundles and shipping specials and limited-time releases that your head might feel like its spinning.

And, as a small business owner, you might feel pressured to come up with some campaigns of your own.

But you don’t have millions in your budget. And you don’t have a lot of time to put something together. So how can you go about digital marketing for the holidays if you own a small business?

lady-oven
Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, you can always help out with a charitable donation.

1. Make a charitable donation. This is probably our favorite suggestion because it really helps everyone! You get to help others and draw attention to a great cause, as well as draw positive attention to your business.

Whether you choose to donate a small sum of cash or you volunteer your time at a local charity, these types of gestures speak volumes. Make sure it’s something that you can get everyone involved with—your team can come up with great ways to make sure it’s an event that won’t soon be forgotten. But you also can’t forget to let your clients and customers know that you’re taking part in this special occasion. Be sure to send out a card or email and let everyone know that you’re participating in a special charity event, and that your clients are welcome to participate, too!

2. Decorate your social media sites. Another cheap way to get everyone into the holiday spirit! Change your banners, headers, and color themes to reflect the holiday of your choice. You can even change your logo by adding a little Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween or a cornucopia for Thanksgiving. The best part is that you can reuse these again next year—a great return on your very small investment. And when you’re finished? Simply replace the logo with your usual fare and you’re good to go.

holiday-store
You can do digital marketing for every holiday. You just have to get creative!

3. Send out special holiday offers via email. This is one that you’ll have to be careful with—you don’t want to appear as if you’re spamming, after all—but sending out special coupons or offers to customers who subscribe to your newsletter can be particularly effective. Make an announcement on your site. Say something like “only subscribers will receive a special deal via email, and they can look forward to receiving it just in time for the holidays.” The incentive can be whatever you want it to be—whether it’s a coupon, a special one-of-a-kind item, or a free service. Whatever you can come up with!

4. Start thinking of gift suggestions. People choose different times to do their holiday shopping. While some wait until the last minute (right now would be a good time to capitalize on the Halloween costumes or decorations!), others do so months ahead of time (these people are already keeping an eye out for Christmas deals). You will want to keep your social media sites and blog updated with all the latest deals that would appeal to these shoppers.

5. Make yourself stand out from the crowd. We mentioned at the beginning of the article that you don’t have the budget or resources to compete with the big companies. But you can make up for what you lack in budget with quality services.

For example, you’re probably a small, local store. You can offer personalized attention to each and every client. Can a big-name store do that? No, they can’t. You can also remind people that when they support your business, they’re supporting local businesses and real people who contribute to the community. There are so many people looking to switch to buying local now (and sometimes exclusively), so this is a great way to let them know that you truly appreciate their business. If you have years of experience, highlight that. If you have a positive track record for customer satisfaction, mention it. And if you have a great story about how you came to build your business in your town, people will love to hear it. It’s all about aligning yourself with the “big guys” in ways that highlight your strengths—not your lack of financial resources.

small-business-saturday
And don’t forget about Small Business Saturday!

By thinking a bit on the creative side, you can come up with some great ideas for digital marketing for the holidays—even if you’re a small business without much revenue.

Do you have any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments below.

How to Stay Motivated When You’re Feeling Discouraged

be-awesome-today

Photo courtesy of Jessismoreblog.com

We’ve all been there: You’ve been working hard and trying to remain positive. You’ve been diligently maintaining your blog or vigilantly replying to customer reviews and encouraging engagement on social media.

But growth has been slow.

And one day, you wake up, and it hits you: You’re tired. You’re frustrated. You’re completely discouraged and don’t know what to do.

How to stay motivated when you’re feeling sad

Everyone is motivated by different things. Some people like watching happy movies. Some people look up inspirational quotes and pin them on their office walls. Still others turn to family and friends to support them during tough times. These are all great ways to stay motivated—personal connection and fostering positive feelings are some of the most basic human needs. Fulfilling these needs tends to put you back in the frame of mind to concentrate on your goals again.

But it doesn’t necessarily erase or push away those bad thoughts. And it certainly doesn’t make you feel like blogging or marketing again. Here are a few things you can consider to help you get back into the right frame of mind to take steps forward once more.

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Read.

Perhaps you’ve been in the wrong frame of mind for a while. Maybe your marketing strategy isn’t panning out because there’s an element to the unique formula for your success that’s missing.

Picking up a book relating to your problem can do just the trick. An author might tell a story about when they were discouraged and how they overcame it. They more than likely have some good advice to consider. And while this is all anecdotal evidence, it’s still worth it to read and consider what others have to say. Reading allows you to reframe discouragement into a fresh new view on the problem.

Write.

So you’re not a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. That’s okay. Sitting down and making a list counts as writing, as does writing an entire blog post. Something as simple as starting with “What frustrates me right now” and just free-writing your feelings can help you sort out your thoughts. Many people find writing to be cathartic, even if they don’t bother to publish their writings, or never even show anyone! This is what the point of a diary is, after all. But it can be useful for anyone, not just pre-teen girls.

Re-visit great times in your company’s history.

Did you host a BBQ once that was a great success? Did you hold a promotional event where a lot of customers showed up to your store and left happy? Can you remember how you felt when you first cut the ribbon at your store’s grand opening? Do you still have that first dollar you earned framed on the wall?

All of these things can evoke a positive emotion in you. It helps you remember that your hard work does pay off. You’ve had successes and you’ve had failures. You’ve had ups and downs. That’s okay—everyone does. Celebrate the times you’ve felt truly proud of your business and your successes, and soon you’ll remember why you do this in the first place. It’s a labor of love!

overcoming-failures

Ask yourself what you’ve learned from your failures.

It is painful to think of the times we’ve failed: We released a product that fell flat. No one responded to our call for reviews. Worse, a customer lambasted you in a public forum despite you trying your hardest to please them, and you just can’t get them to change their mind or give you a second chance.

Well, you can’t please everyone. And there is no guaranteed formula for success when it comes to marketing.

But all successful people take their failures and turn them into a positive experience. By looking at them as learning opportunities, they can understand where they went wrong and learn to view it as a way to weed out the ideas and strategies that don’t work. Here’s a great quote from Thomas Jefferson to remember when you’re trying to learn how to value your less-than-successful endeavors:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Now that’s a great way to motivate yourself when you’re feeling down!

Find support forums online.

This one probably goes hand-in-hand with seeking support from family and friends, but it has the extra advantage in that it offers support in an anonymous space with unbiased people and advice.

Finding a small business support group can be immensely helpful for discouraged business owners. You can share stories with others and get advice on how to get through tough times. You won’t feel like they “have to” say these things (like you might when talking to your mother, friends, or spouse) and you’re getting advice from people who truly understand what you’re going through. This can provide a different perspective that you can use to bolster your confidence once again.

We hope you’ve found this at least the tiniest bit helpful! If you have any suggestions for how to deal with discouragement, please leave them in the comments below.