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  1. How Your Employees Can Increase the Power of Your Brand

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    articleimage1235 How Your Employees Can Increase the Power of Your Branding

    A corporate brand can only succeed when it is supported by the people behind it. Oftentimes, startups rely on the charisma of their respective founders and entrepreneurs to drive the power of their brands forward, but once a company hits stable grounding, the relative charisma of the CEO takes a backseat to the general state of the brand (with some rare exceptions). At that point, most marketers shift their focus to communicating to their target audience with a singular, unified, corporate brand voice unaccompanied by any individual personality.

    There’s one major problem with this approach: people don’t trust brands. People trust people, and given the choice between listening to a branded message and one from a personal acquaintance, they’ll listen to the acquaintance almost every time. In the modern worlds, brands are seen as progenitors of deceit. They are seen as faceless, corporate tools designed solely to sell to consumers, and consumers are therefore skeptical of branded messaging. You’ll still find success in adhering to a consistent brand message and leaving your brand at the center of your marketing and advertising campaigns, but you’ll be missing out on a lot of potential.

    What’s the answer? You need to rely on that peer-to-peer trust evident in human connections while still maintaining the image of your brand. To do that, you’ll need your employees to step up and increase the power of your brand through their own personalities.

    Encourage the Active Sharing of Branded Content

    articleimage1235 Encourage the Active Sharing of Branded Content

    Your first strategy is a simple one, especially if you already have a strong content marketing strategy in place. By the time your company hits a stable growth stage, content should be a no-brainer—you should be producing regular articles and materials weekly, with syndication on your brand’s social media pages. However, the organic reach of your syndicated content on social media is not what it used to be, and it’s getting smaller. Plus, people are far less likely to click on an article shared by a corporate brand than one shared by someone they happen to know.

    This step is easy. Simply send out a memo (or regular reminders) that encourage your employees to share any materials posted on your brand’s social media pages on their own individual accounts. For example, when a new landmark article gets published on your company’s Facebook feed, ask your employees to share that article on their own Facebook accounts. Even if only a handful of people follow your instructions, you’ll greatly increase the visibility and reach of the article, and you’ll end up with more interested potential fans as well.

    Highlight Personalities on Your Site and Social Media

    articleimage1235 Highlight Personalities on Your Site and Social Media

    Your next step will require more ongoing work from your marketing department. Start by fleshing out a “team” page, or some other section of your website that shows off the individual personalities that make up your company. Include a headshot and bio of each one, and encourage your staff members to write their own descriptions. Doing so will infuse your site with more personality, and will make your brand seem more trustworthy.

    Once that’s done, your job is to follow up that approach on your social media channels as often as possible. Take pictures of your employees hard at work, having fun on break, or engaging with each other in team events. When a potential customer checks out your social feeds, they should get a glimpse of what your team looks like and how they interact on a regular basis; it adds a personal touch to your brand, and gives a face to an otherwise corporate shell. You can also pass off control of your social media accounts to various employees on a rotating basis; doing so injects new personality and diversity into your brand.

    Help Develop Personal Brands on Social Media

    articleimage1235 Help Develop Personal Brands on Social Media

    Personal branding is one of the best marketing-by-proxy strategies out there. Essentially, the individual members of your team will work to improve their own reputation and authority in the industry through content, networking, and social media. For example, your lead engineer might start his own blog and engage in outside interviews, slowly building an independent audience. This is mutually beneficial; the employee becomes more recognized and more valuable in the industry, and the company’s brand becomes more authoritative and trustworthy as a result.

    One or two personal brands are sometimes enough for the boost in authority, but if you can get your entire team working on this, the benefits will be enormous. You’ll even get more links to your company’s website and more SEO authority, ranking you higher for online searches.

    Reward Active Networkers

    articleimage1235 Reward Active Networkers

    Finally, encourage all of your employees to network as often as possible. List upcoming networking events in the break room, and offer compensation for any networking events that require payment for admission. You can even hold your own networking events in the office after-hours. The more your employees mingle with other professionals in your area, the greater your company’s reputation and visibility will grow—you might even get a few direct leads out of the deal.

    Over time, with these strategies in place, your employees will serve as brand ambassadors and enhance the collective power of your brand. This is a way of creating a tight network of interpersonal connections that lead back to your brand, and let your audience know that at the heart of your company is a team of real people.

  2. 7 Ways to Mitigate Negative Business Reviews

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    In many ways, Yelp and other local review sites have been a blessing for local businesses. They offer a convenient, popular outlet for you to list your information, engage your customers, and collect feedback, all while steadily increasing your rank in Google. Of course, positive reviews are the ideal you strive for—they’ll make you more visible in both Yelp and Google, and will help convince new customers to come to you—but no matter how hard you try, you’re bound to get a negative review on occasion.

    When you get a negative review, don’t panic. They’re a natural part of the system, and you might not have done anything wrong. Occasional negative reviews definitely won’t kill you, and if you react to them in the right way, they might even help you out. Try these seven strategies to mitigate the effects of a negative business review:

    1. Respond Quickly.

    articleimage1212 Respond Quickly

    There are a few reasons why you’ll want to respond quickly. The first is somewhat obvious; the longer a negative review goes without being responded to, the angrier your negative reviewer might become. Second, if a negative review is left unattended to for longer than a few days, dozens or hundreds of people might get to read it without ever seeing the other side of the story. This could leave them with a negative impression that could have been avoided with a prompt response. Finally, in the event that the negative review sets off a chain reaction of other negative reviews, a fast response proactively cuts off the opportunity.

    2. Respond Appropriately.

    articleimage1212 Respond Appropriately

    Emotional reactions or poorly worded responses aren’t going to cut it, nor are obviously automated messages. If you want to make any kind of meaningful impact with your response, you’ll have to be calm, professional, logical, personal, and well-spoken. Take the time to draft out a response, then set it aside and review it later once you’ve established some distance. This will help you emotionally cool off, and will give you the chance to make edits if necessary. You’ll only get one chance to make a good impression with your response, so take it seriously.

    3. Explain the Situation.

    articleimage1212 Explain the Situation.

    In your response, it’s important that you explain the situation. In colloquial language, you might call this giving “your side of the story.” However, it’s important that you don’t see it this way; implying this is your side of the story means that it’s you against your customer. Instead, try to see you and your customer as working together to find an amiable solution to a mutual problem. You can do this by illuminating the situation with details or facts the customer may not have had when writing his/her review, such as your cancellation policy or the level of chaos in your business on that particular day. Contextualize the negative review as much as possible, while acknowledging what he/she is saying.

    4. Apologize.

    articleimage1212 Apologize

    A simple “I’m sorry” goes a long way. Even if you feel that you did nothing wrong as a business, it’s important to apologize in some form, such as by saying “I’m sorry we did not meet your expectations” or “I’m sorry to lose you as a customer.” This shows that you have genuine regret as a business, and that you care about the feelings of your customers, even when they’re no longer your customers. Without an apology, you may appear stubborn and dissuade others from doing business with you.

    5. Offer Compensation.

    articleimage1212 Offer Compensation

    Offering compensation is ideal, but it doesn’t have to be monetary compensation, nor does it have to be a specific amount. You can offer a refund for the customer’s purchase or a discount on future orders, but try to think outside the box. Offer compensation in the form of another recommendation that the customer may find more helpful, or simply promise that their next experience with your company will be better. All you have to do is find some way to give them something positive in exchange for their recent negative experience.

    6. Learn from the Feedback.

    Even if the review was written in a shoddy, unintelligible mess by someone with little emotional stability, there’s probably a grain of truth in the review. Every negative review, even the offensive ones, have something that you can learn from as a business. It may highlight a policy that needs to be updated, showcase a staff member who needs re-training, or demonstrate some other potential improvement that can make your business better.

    7. Influence More Positive Reviews.

    Finally, don’t forget the overwhelming power of positive reviews. If you can influence just three positive reviews from your standing customer base, you can easily outweigh the potential negative impact from that one bad seed. Once you’ve handled the negative review situation to the best of your ability, focus on overshadowing it gradually with the positive force from your more loyal customers. Hang signs that encourage people to review you on local review sites, talk to your customers and subtly suggest the review process, and above all, try to perfect your customer service.

    If you follow these seven methods of negative business review mitigation, you’ll save yourself from the worst effects of such events. Remain patient and treat these types of reviews for what they are—opportunities. Even the most vicious reviews can be turned into something positive, so never let one get the better of you.

  3. 5 Easy Landing Page Fixes to Increase Conversions

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    Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, social media marketing, SEO, and content marketing all share a common purpose: generating traffic. That traffic often goes to your main website, but many companies also funnel a portion of their traffic to specific landing pages in order to increase the chances of eventual conversion. After all, what good is 1,000 visitors a day if none of those visitors actually buys anything from your company?

    Conversions, though, are a tricky element to change. You can increase traffic easily enough with sheer effort or, if you’re desperate, direct money. But getting those users to sign up, buy something, or submit information requires a larger commitment, and is a more difficult behavior to influence. There could be any number of factors preventing your users from converting, from large-scale items like the difficulty of signing up to small-scale items like the color of the submit button.

    Still, if your landing page is struggling to achieve your target conversion rate, there are a handful of easy fixes you can apply to maximize your chances at converting:

    1. Make your form (or process) shorter.

    articleimage1211 Make your form

    This is the fastest and easiest fix that can improve your landing page conversions. People are impatient. They don’t want to fill out lengthy forms that ask for 20 different types of personal information, and they don’t want to go through a 10-step ordering process. Even if your form or process is already short, there is always room to make it a little shorter. Cut your form down to two fields if necessary, asking for your contact’s name and email. You can figure out the rest later. The key here is to create the shortest possible path for your customer to go from point A (landing on the landing page) to point B (completing the conversion).

    2. Make your phrasing more urgent.

    articleimage1211 Make your phrasing more urgent

    Creating a sense of urgency is your next greatest responsibility as a conversion optimizer. When faced with a decision, most people hesitate. They think about the pros and cons of following through, whether that’s in buying a product or giving up their information. If there’s more than a few seconds of hesitation, they may decide against the action by default, relying on the fact that they can always change their mind. Using more urgent language, such as implying that your deal is a limited time offer or that there isn’t any time to waste, can help prevent this outcome and increase your total number of conversions.

    3. Include a visual direction.

    articleimage1211 include a visual direction

    This is a subtle trick, and while I’ve met many people who have doubted its effectiveness, I’ve never seen it fail to improve a landing page. A simple visual directional clue is sometimes all it takes to get more people to sign up or click a button—for example, you could include a drawn arrow from the top of your landing page pointing down to the “sign up” button, or you might include a human face whose line of sight points directly to the conversion form. These visual clues help guide your user to the ultimate conversion—even if they don’t realize it’s happening.

    4. Demonstrate your trustworthiness.

    People will only convert if they trust you as a source. Therefore, increasing your trustworthiness is an absolute must. You can do this in one (or more) of several ways, but all of them involve showcasing your brand or personality. Include at least one human face, and possibly a bio if you have a strong personal brand. Include a description of your company in the footer, along with links to your website and social media pages. Show that you’re a real company (or person) with a real reputation, and let your customer do his/her own background research.

    5. Call out the value.

    articleimage1211 Call out the value

    Sometime, people don’t convert simply because there’s no value for them in converting—or the value isn’t good enough to warrant the submission. For example, you might be asking your users to submit their personal information, but what are you offering in exchange? If you’re offering a free download of a resource, do you make the value of that resource clear? Make sure you concisely and fully describe the benefits of converting for your customer; otherwise, there is no motivation.

    A Note on Implementation

    There are two principles you’ll need to keep in mind when implementing any kind of fix or improvement to your landing page.

    First, all your experiments need a control group. If you don’t have anything to compare your results to, you’ll never knew whether you’ve actually improved. You can use data from the older versions of your landing page to serve as this control group or launch two similar landing pages in an A/B test to compare results in real time.

    Second, your changes should be implemented incrementally. Don’t try to change everything at once; instead, focus on making small changes, one at a time, and measuring each of their impact. Only with this individual, incremental process will you be able to determine which landing page qualities are worth keeping and which ones aren’t actively increasing your conversion rate.

    If you follow these principles and apply the strategies I listed above, you should have no problem turning your landing page into a conversion generating machine. Because conversion optimization is an ongoing process, be sure to take measurements accurately at every stage of the process, and never stop making tweaks.

  4. The New Entrepreneur’s Guide to Online Brand Building

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    Starting a business isn’t easy. On top of all the ideation, business development, fundraising, process establishing, hiring, and sales work, you also have to build a complete identity—your company’s core brand—from the ground up, often with few resources and little experience to go on. Experienced entrepreneurs might have an easier time building a brand from scratch, having learned the importance of a brand and how to navigate the significant pitfalls around it, but new and emerging entrepreneurs have much more difficulty.

    Fortunately, despite the rigors of the process, building a brand today is actually easier than it was even a decade ago. There are tons of new resources, new technologies, and new strategies available to make your job easier—but that also means more difficult choices to make.

    The Major Obstacles Holding Entrepreneurs Back

    First, it’s important to put your difficulties into perspective. There are a handful of major obstacles, hesitations, fears, and limitations that could keep you from building a great brand for your company, but each of them can be navigated if they are properly understood and addressed:

    • Lack of experience or familiarity. Brands might seem alien to you as a concept, and if they do, you just have to jump in and start doing some research. Until you get more familiar with the concept, just remember: your brand is your identity.
    • Lack of personal investment. Some entrepreneurs feel that brands are superfluous or secondary to other important business qualities. In reality, the image and integrity of your brand can make or break any of your relationships, from partnerships to sales and even hiring.
    • Lack of resources. If you’re starting with a skeleton crew, you may not have a creative team or the funding necessary to build a brand. If this is the case, you need to find a good freelancer and work through the process one step at a time. Do not get cheap with your brand.

    Now that you’ve begun to understand your key weak areas, you can start working on the actual brand for your business.

    Step One: Identify Your Audience

    articleimage1192 step one

    Your first step is to define your audience concretely. You may have taken a stab at mentioning your key demographics in your initial business plan, but in order to build a brand, you have to get to know your target audience and know it well. What type of people are your customers? What’s important to them? What do they need? Where do they shop? What do they like? What do they hate? Where did they go to school? What type of music do they listen to? What do they do for fun? There are a million questions you need to ask, and you need to rely on objective data—from market research—to answer them.

    Step Two: Outline Your Identity

    articleimage1192 step two

    Now that you have a deep familiarity with your target demographics, you need to sketch an outline for the type of brand you want. The easiest way to do this is to imagine your brand as a person. What type of person would your target audience want to be friends with? Should your brand-person be soft-spoken and easygoing, or boisterous and fun? Should your brand be conservative and professional or casual and energetic? Make a list of all the key traits your brand needs to have in order to appeal to your core demographics. You’ll be able to start building a brand from there.

    Step Three: Create Your Brand Bible

    articleimage1192 step three

    There are a lot of elements that culminate in a comprehensive “brand,” and you’ll need to develop each of them individually with your core brand identity in mind. Collectively, I like to refer to these elements as your Brand Bible, or your guidebook to consult any time you have a question about what to use. Be sure you include your business name, your logo (and any variations), your tagline, your colors, and even your tone of voice. Detail these specifically, so that anyone who relies on this guidebook can follow your brand standards exactly.

    Step Four: Anchor Your Brand With a Site

    articleimage1192 step four

    Once your brand is fully established, you need to support your brand with an anchor—in today’s world, that’s going to be your website. Your website needs to show off every element of the brand, from your logo and colors to your tone of voice and personality. Anyone who visits your site should be instantly familiar with your identity, and accordingly, you’ll use this anchor to tie all your other marketing channels together.

    Step Five: Claim Your Outer Online Presence

    articleimage1192 step five

    With a website established at the end of your online marketing funnel, you can start working on the mouth of your funnel. Start claiming your business’s profile on as many different platforms as possible, and fill out the information while retaining your image as a brand. That means claiming all your major social media accounts as well as all your local directory profiles. The more you claim, the wider your presence will be.

    Step Six: Start Marketing

    Finally, you can start marketing and pushing people to your main website. How you choose to do this is up to you, but do keep in mind the communications preferences of your main demographics. No matter how you choose to start marketing your business, make sure you keep one main priority at the center of your campaign: never deviate from your brand standards. The minute you lose consistency, your identity will be lost.

    It will take some time for your brand to start developing a reputation, but with this groundwork in place, you’ll have a good shot at becoming successful. Brand value and consistency should be your main goals, and from there, it’s only a matter of time before you start generating a following.

  5. 7 Ways You Need to Use LinkedIn for Your Business

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    LinkedIn isn’t exactly an underdog in the social media world. It has more than 364 million users in dozens of different countries, making it one of the most successful platforms around today. Yet it still pales in comparison to Facebook and Twitter, at least in the eyes of business owners and marketers everywhere. They see Facebook as the universal standard for social media marketing, and sometimes dabble in Twitter, but rarely go beyond those two platforms to market their products and services socially.

    Part of the problem is that LinkedIn is seen only as a platform for networking and job hunting, rather than as a viable tool for an ongoing marketing strategy. In fact, LinkedIn has several distinct functions, each of which can be used to improve your business:

    1. Personal Branding.

    articleimage1188 personal branding

    Personal branding may seem counterintuitive at first, as your intention is to market a business. However, personal branding as a complementary strategy is a highly viable means of generating more traffic and a stronger reputation for your company’s brand. Most modern users trust individuals more than they trust corporations, so making an initial point of contact as a person—rather than as a business—is a surefire way to build trust. Develop your personal brand by getting involved in discussions, circulating content, and building yourself as an authority in the industry. You’ll have an easier time making new contacts, plus when people do background research on your company, they’ll see you and think more highly of the organization.

    2. Company Reputation Building.

    articleimage1188 company reputation building

    On LinkedIn, you’ll also have the ability to create a company page and build a corporate brand. It’s true that personal brands tend to be more successful in attracting an audience and building trust, but you’ll also need to have an anchor page for anyone doing research on your company on LinkedIn. Develop your company page fully, filling in every piece of information you can, and make regular updates to your page with new content, news about your business, or other engaging tidbits. It’s also a good idea to encourage all your employees to associate with the page in some way, to make your organization appear stronger.

    3. Content Circulation.

    articleimage1188 content circulation (more…)

  6. 7 Essential Brand Qualities That Resonate With Customers

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    Building a brand is the first step in establishing a dominant online presence. Your brand, your corporate identity, should be the consistent center of every branch in your marketing strategy, from your website and social media presence to your content and paid ads. Without a solid, memorable brand to spark a relationship between your company and your customers, you’ll miss out on the enormous potential your business has.

    Every business is unique, and every brand needs to stand apart as something original, especially in a competitive landscape. However, there are seven essential brand qualities that serve as prerequisites to capture and keep consumers’ attentions:

    1. Trustworthy.

    articleimage1187 trustworthy

    Imagine two brands. One you consider trustworthy, and one you do not consider trustworthy. If forced to make a purchasing decision between these two brands, which one would you choose? Trustworthiness should be an obvious quality to go after for your brand, but many companies neglect to prioritize it. You can improve your perceived trustworthiness by ensuring the accuracy and validity of each and every one of your posts. One misstated fact, false claim, or misleading piece of information can wreck your trustworthy reputation, so double check everything. Aside from that, just make sure you remain honest, and your reputation will naturally follow.

    2. Authoritative.

    articleimage1187 authorative

    Asserting yourself as an authority in a given space takes some time, but it also forces you to exaggerate your expertise in a given area. That doesn’t mean inflating your capabilities or lying about your status, but it does mean choosing your words carefully when describing your business. For example, including references to your certifications or your history can make you seem like more of an authority, as can calling out the fact that your content has been featured in major publications. It also helps if your company is mentioned or gains the approval of other influencers in the industry—so start networking!

    3. Emotional.

    articleimage1187 emotional

    Many companies choose the logical, conservative approach when it comes to communicating with their audiences. It’s less risky that way, but it also has a way of alienating your followers. People don’t want to deal with a faceless, bland corporation—not in any context, and not in any industry. If you want to seem more appealing and truly resonate with your potential customers, you need to inject your messages with a little more emotion. Show it off when you’re happy. If your company announces some bad news, show that it’s personally affecting you. Otherwise, you’ll come off as robotic.

    4. Personable.

    articleimage1187 personable

    This goes along with the emotional element, as customers are more naturally drawn to brands that seem like people. What you really need to do is inject a bit of your own personality into the brand personality you intend to demonstrate. Add a bit of characteristic flair with some colloquial language, informal expressions, and a bit of direct humor. Doing so will make your brand seem more human and more approachable, and it’s going to lead to more people seeking you out for their needs. It also helps to show off the names and faces of your team—especially on social media.

    5.Open.

    Openness goes along with trustworthiness, but it is a distinct characteristic. People want to engage with brands that aren’t afraid to hide anything from their customers. For example, when facing controversy, many large modern brands choose the route of ambiguity—hiding or speaking in generalities about whatever subject is being hotly debated by their fans. This leads to a sense of distrust, or a sense that the brand doesn’t have the people’s best interests in mind. Instead, be open about anything and everything you can be. Develop a reputation that you’re willing to share information with your followers.

    6.Helpful.

    articleimage1187 helpful

    Obviously, helpful brands are going to get more attention than apathetic ones, but showcasing this trait is harder than it might seem. All you can really do is pay attention and look for opportunities where your brand can step in and do something valuable. Watch for people complaining about your products, and step in to try and resolve the situation. Find individuals with problems in forums and offer your own advice. Include tutorial or FAQ sections on your website, and go out of your way to ensure your customer service processes are unrivaled.

    7. Passionate.

    Finally, you’ll have to show off how passionate you are about your business. Corporations that are in it only to make profit come off as evil, intimidating, or otherwise alienating. Companies that appear to truly enjoy what they do and live and breathe that culture have a far better reputation, and tend to fare better in attracting new customers in their marketing programs. Shine a spotlight on individuals of your team, show off your latest and greatest accomplishments, and do whatever it takes to show you really care about the industry.

    As you develop your company’s brand, try to keep these seven qualities at the forefront. Along the way, you’ll develop your own original brand personality, various quirks that differentiate you from your competitors, and landmark initiatives that continue to define and sculpt your brand, but these seven core qualities of your identity will serve as your foundation. If you can exhibit these qualities, you’ll have a much easier time attracting an initial audience and retaining an initial following so you can experiment with the more superficial and idiosyncratic elements of your brand.

  7. How to Build Your Online Authority From the Ground Up

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    Online authority is the keystone for a variety of different marketing strategies. When your algorithmically determined domain authority is higher, you’ll rank higher in search engines, which means more traffic for your business and therefore more revenue. When public perception of your brand is higher, people will have greater trust and respect for you, and that means they’ll be more likely to buy from you in the future. When your social influence is higher, you’ll have a greater recurring audience for your news, deals, and promotions.

    Authority is near the top of the wish list for most online marketers, but it isn’t easy or straightforward to build. If you’re just starting out, your brand is going to have next to zero authority, and it’s all on you to build up your influence from there.

    If you don’t have much (or any) authority to work with, follow these steps to earn your reputation as a major online influencer:

    Step 1: Build Your Website

    articleimage1177 build a website

    The first, and perhaps most important, step is to build your website. This is going to serve two main purposes, both of which are vital in your pursuit of greater online authority. First, it’s going to serve as a research ground for anyone who found out about you on other mediums or heard about you from someone else. These people will come to your site to see if you’re all you’re cracked up to be, so make sure your site has clean, aesthetically pleasing branding and an intuitive navigation to help seal the deal. Second, it’s going to be where the majority of your impressed audience members convert, so make sure you have plenty of obvious conversion opportunities, whether that’s an interactive e-commerce platform or ample contact forms throughout the site.

    Step 2: Build Your Personal Brand(s)

    articleimage1177 Build Your Personal Brand

    Even if your main strategy is to build the authority of a corporate brand, it’s a good idea to leverage the power of individual personal brands in order to do it. Develop a personal brand for your founder or your CEO, and if your company’s large enough, develop personal brands for other major players in your organization. Use these personalities to publish content on your website, use their social profiles to syndicate that information, and use their identities in subsequent steps to build relationships with other individuals and organizations.

    Step 3: Start Posting Killer Content

    articleimage1177 Start Posting Killer Content

    Once your personal brands are developed enough to put them to good use, start blogging like crazy. Before you move on to the other steps in this authority-building strategy, you’ll need a sizeable archive of reputable posts. Focus on the quality of your pieces before the quantity, and make sure you capture a wide variety of different formats. You’ll also want to make sure your content is 100 percent original—don’t go repurposing or mimicking the content strategies of your competitors. Once you have a good few dozen posts in your archives, you can start using them as fuel for subsequent phases of your authority development.

    Step 4: Network With Influencers

    articleimage1177 Network With Influencers

    It’s a good idea to syndicate your posts through social media whenever possible; you should make sure and push them out whenever they are published for the first time, and you should also set up a recurring publication system to syndicate older blogs on an occasional basis. Hopefully, your content will be good enough to attract an initial audience, and from there, you’ll be able to network with influencers to grow your audience even more. Communicate with major social players in your industry—you can share content with them, share their content, or just open a dialogue. No matter what you do, you’ll get a bit of their attention and a bit of the attention of their audience, and you might even build the makings for an ongoing professional relationship. Whatever the case, your audience will be sparked and start growing faster.

    Step 5: Guest Post in Your Industry Circuit

    articleimage1177 Guest Post in Your Industry Circuit

    Once you’ve got a baseline of social authority, you can start shopping some guest posts around to other blogs and websites within your industry. You can start by asking your target influencers for any guest posting opportunities they might have. Use your existing blog as an example of what you’re capable of, and be open to any opportunity (as long as the site has a decent reputation of its own).

    Step 6: Guest Post on Major Outlets

    This step is difficult, and some brands never quite make it this far. Once you’ve established a significant resume of onsite blog posts and guest posts within your industry, you can start shopping your material around to major publishers. These are typically news outlets, national publications, and other high-authority, high-profile sites. They’ll do wonders for your authority, but the flip side is that it’s extraordinarily hard to get your content featured there. In order to be considered, you’ll have to ensure your content is top-of-the-line, and that your existing online presence leaves a great first impression.

    Step 7: Continue Publishing and Circulating Great Original Content

    After all’s said and done and you have strong personal brands, a great onsite blog, and a presence on both industry-related and national publications, your job is to keep circulating thought-provoking, original content. Keep your momentum going, and gradually ratchet up the size and trust of your audience.

    It’s easier to nurture an existing level of authority than it is to build new authority from scratch, so once you’ve reached an ideal level, kick back and put recurring processes in place to ensure you don’t lose your position at the top. Take regular measurements of your audience size, traffic level, and conversion ratio, and keep making adjustments until your authority-based lead generation strategies are nearly perfect.

  8. 7 Common Marketing Mistakes New Entrepreneurs Make

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    Entering the world of entrepreneurship leaves you vulnerable to countless mistakes. You may have a great idea, a great plan, and a dedication to seeing your vision through, but your inexperience as a company leader is inevitably going to lead to some missteps.

    Once you’ve got a solid system and a reliable team in place, one of your biggest priorities is going to be marketing your company. Through marketing, you’ll be able to build a reputation for your brand, get more attention for your products and services, and start attracting an initial customer base. But before you can start seeing success in your marketing strategy, there are several critical mistakes you’ll need to avoid:

    1. Not Putting a Brand First.

    articleimage1005 Not Putting a Brand First

    Your brand is your company’s identity, and it has to be your absolute priority. Otherwise, should you start placing ads, writing content, or communicating through social media, your messages will seem disjointed and unrecognizable, even if you’re communicating frequently. Before you promote any messages, written or visual, make sure your brand is developed and in alignment. It’s also a good idea to hire a professional when it comes to branding rather than trying to do it all yourself. You’ll have to identify the key colors, tones, and personality elements that characterize your brand and commit to those elements for a long, long time.

    2. Failing to Tie Channels Together.

    Just because your magazine ad and your PPC landing page exist in separate mediums for separate campaigns doesn’t mean they can’t be related. In fact, your messaging will be amplified if your channels are all tied together and diminished if they remain apart. For example, you can carry a single theme throughout all your individual campaigns, regardless of medium, and anybody who sees multiple iterations will recall the previous iterations. It can help your brand feel more familiar, prompting them to take action, or at least improve your brand recognition in the general public.

    3. Having No Data.

    articleimage1005 Having No Data

    As an entrepreneur, you probably like to trust your instincts, and in many cases, your instincts will enable you to make the best decisions. However, starting a marketing campaign based on instinct alone is a recipe for disaster. You need to have some measure of data before you make a single move, and use that data to help point you in the right direction. Market research will help you learn your audience and key demographics, competitive research will help you understand the landscape of the industry, and financial data will help you determine the most cost-effective strategies around. Without any data to ground your decisions, you’ll be flying blind.

    4. Relying on Historical or Competitor Data.

    On the other extreme, relying too heavily on data can be your undoing. If you’re simply looking at what your competitors have done in the past and following what they’ve done, you’re going to end up regretting it. Your company is unique. Your product and brand are unique. And you’re in a unique moment in time—yesterday’s most effective strategies won’t necessarily be today’s. Do take your historical and competitor data into consideration for your marketing decisions, but don’t make them the sole determining factors. Consider the environmental variables in play, and use critical reasoning.

    5. Throttling the Budget.

    articleimage1005 Throttling the Budget

    Startups have notoriously low budgets. If you’re just getting started in the entrepreneurial world, you’ll have to be extra careful how you allocate your budget. Unfortunately in most companies, marketing is considered an unnecessary expense, and is typically one of the first things to go when the budget hits dangerously low levels. However, as a marketer you should be making decisions based on ROI, or the return on your investment. If you spend $1,000 on a marketing campaign and earn $2,000 in profit from new sales, you’ve essentially gained $1,000. When considering your budget, make sure you’re looking at ROI instead of total spend.

    6. Neglecting to Track Results.

    If you don’t have some means of measuring the results of your campaign, you’ll have no idea whether your efforts were successful or not. No matter what type of medium you’re using or how long you’ve been implementing a campaign, take the time to ensure an effective means of tracking related activity, such as visits, engagements, leads, and eventual sales. In their haste to establish something as soon as possible, many entrepreneurs neglect this step and simply get their ads rolling—don’t let this happen to you.

    7. Not Making Changes.

    Obtaining the data from your results is really only the first step of the process. The important part is to learn from that data. What factors of your campaign led to your results being higher or lower than you anticipated? How can you modify your campaign to be better in the future? The most successful marketers today are the ones who learn to adapt and change based on their previous efforts. Continue to improve your marketing campaigns for as long as you’re running them.

    If you’ve already made one or more of these mistakes as a new entrepreneur, don’t be discouraged. Even the most seasoned marketers out there make mistakes from time to time, and you’re always going to have the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and move forward stronger.

    Take this time to critically evaluate your approach to marketing and look for any potential improvements you can make. Getting your business started on the right foot with a strong initial marketing initiative can propel you to a reliable stream of revenue in a matter of weeks.

  9. How to Find Great Press Release Topics Every Week

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    Writing regular press releases is a valuable strategy. Because you’ll be mentioning your company news, you’ll get more brand visibility and more attention. Because you’ll be writing great content, you’ll earn a stronger reputation in your industry. And because you’ll be earning brand mentions and links from news publishers and other high-quality sites, your domain authority and SEO ranks are going to significantly improve.

    If it sounds like a pretty sweet deal, it’s because it is. There’s only one downside: press releases aren’t easy. Just paying to push your press release to various publishers can be expensive, and perhaps more importantly, getting your press release published is tough. Most publishers have incredibly strict standards and only let the most newsworthy posts onto their sites. That means you can’t just write about anything and submit it to the press—you have to have deep, meaningful, or otherwise newsworthy material to submit.

    If you’re trying to submit a press release on a regular schedule, perhaps weekly, this poses a critical problem. How do you go about finding topics for press releases on a weekly and consistent basis without compromising the quality of your final product?

    Responding to a Crisis

    articleimage996 Responding to a Crisis

    This should be your first line for a press release, as it is the most urgent. However, this type of topic rarely, if ever, needs to be searched for. Crises appear randomly and without warning, but sending a press release off preemptively or in response to a crisis can be very helpful. For example, if one of your products is found to be defective, sending a press release is a perfect opportunity to explain the situation, clear your name, and get in front of the inevitable wave of negative attention that will come as a result.

    Legal Shifts and Public Information

    articleimage996 Legal Shifts and Public Information

    Also consider what legal shifts have occurred in the past week, or if any new information that’s publicly interesting has been revealed. For example, has your company experienced a transfer in ownership? Have you filed a lawsuit? Are you about to initially offer your stock to the public, or are you announcing any dividends? Any financial or legal information that you’re willing to publicly disclose could serve as a newsworthy press release, as long as you frame it in a way that emphasizes why it is valuable for the public to know about it.

    Upcoming Events

    articleimage996 upcoming events

    If there are no crises or legal shifts in your company, consider what upcoming events your company will be participating in or hosting. For example, does your company have any seminars coming up? Are you going to be appearing at a tradeshow? Will you be sponsoring an upcoming event? Keep in mind that these events don’t have to be large in scale, and they don’t even have to be in person. You could even write a press release about an upcoming webinar or online class series.

    Charity or Community Involvements

    These types of press releases are great because they’re about a local newsworthy event and they also portray your company in a very positive light. Take the opportunity to write a press release if your company makes a substantial charitable donation, or if your team is getting involved with some kind of charitable event. You could also write a press release if you sponsor a local event or team, or if you have any inspirational stories related to your brand that you could mention.

    Products, Promotions, or Contests

    Failing any charitable or community topics, you could move on to newsworthy events related to your products or offerings. Generally, these types of press releases are low on the totem pole; if you have something better to write about, write about it, and don’t just write about one of your existing products or your release is bound to be rejected. Instead, focus on brand new products coming out, major promotions you’re announcing, or a contest that needs a little help getting initial attention.

    Company Milestones

    Major milestones for your company are another potential press release topic, so long as the milestone is actually newsworthy. For example, have you reached an anniversary for your company? Have you recently revised your brand or updated your website significantly? Have you hit a specific revenue figure or made significant personnel changes? Have you won any awards or public recognition for your efforts? Any milestone like these could be turned into a valuable press release.

    New Market Trends or Other Thought Leadership Material

    If you’re still hard-pressed for a press release topic after considering all of the options above, you can write a release on new trends in your industry, or any new information you’ve uncovered in the course of doing business. New market research, studies, or polls work great here, as well as any events or situations that illustrate your personnel as authoritative in the industry.

    Press releases may seem intimidating at first, and there’s no question that they’re difficult to take on. But with a little experience and a lot of patience, you can start collecting more, better ideas for your press releases and write them with expert proficiency. Don’t be intimidated if many of your early press releases fail to make it to publication; it’s just the nature of the business. All you can do is write the best, most consistent material you can, submit it to the most relevant publication sources, and hope for the best. Even a handful of press links will make all your efforts worth it.

  10. How to Improve Your Onsite Search Functionality

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    Onsite searches can be highly valuable for improving your user experience, helping you understand user needs and behavior, and ultimately facilitating conversions on your site. While potential customers may be able to find your site easily, if they can’t find what they’re looking for on your site quickly, they may leave before they have a chance to interact with you.

    Setting up an onsite search is relatively simple, and you might already have one prepared. However, perfecting your onsite search approach is a different, more intensive issue. Like with any marketing or user experience initiative, there is always room for improvement, and improving your onsite search function could significantly increase your onsite conversions.

    Types of Onsite Searches

    articleimage780The Dangers of an Outdated Sitemap

    The central premise is identical—to use an onsite search function to find something—but there are actually three different types of onsite search. Each one caters to a different type of user with a different intention, and you’ll have to change your search function to best suit its ideal type.

    Destination-Oriented

    Destination-oriented searches are all about getting somewhere. It could be a returning user looking for a specific page, or a social follower looking for a recent post. In any case, this search function needs to display the most relevant result as quickly as possible.

    Information-Oriented

    Information-oriented searches don’t have a destination in mind. Instead, they’re focused on getting to a page that discusses a certain subject. These types of searches require a function that displays lots of results throughout your site, starting with the most relevant to the user’s query. Finding the “perfect” match isn’t the primary goal; finding multiple viable options is.

    Product-Oriented

    Product-oriented searches are exclusive to e-commerce platforms, and incidentally, e-commerce platforms have the most to gain from improving their onsite search functionality. These searches involve a customer searching for a specific product or service, and the type of search results you display in response could dictate whether or not the customer eventually purchases from you.

    Where to Place Your Search Bar

    articleimage765 Search Appearance

    The placement of your search bar will dictate how many people use it, and how easy it is for them to find it. The ideal user will want to use your search bar, look for it, find it immediately, use it, and get to their intended destination. Any break in this cycle could compromise your ability to ultimately convert that user. To make sure your search bar can be found easily, place it somewhere in the upper-right hand corner of your site; this is where most users initially look. Also be sure that the search function shows up on every page of your site.

    Predictive Search Functions

    Predictive search features aid the functionality of your search bar considerably. If a user isn’t sure what he/she is searching for, or if he/she only knows a piece of the information necessary to perform a search, a predictive search populating function can fill in the rest of the puzzle. This can also be extremely useful in helping users with typos or misspellings. If a user returns no results for a mistyped query, he/she may leave, but if your search bar corrects the query, you can avoid the problem altogether.

    Adding Filters

    Filters are great for product-oriented searches, but you may not find it useful for other types of onsite search. Filters are essentially options that your users can toggle on and off when searching for a product. For example, if a user searches for “shirts,” pop-up filters can allow the user to refine that search based on shirt size, price range, gender, style, and color. The type of filters you include will vary based on your industry and the types of products that are most popular on your site.

    Using Breadcrumbs to Simplify Navigation

    This is especially useful for product-oriented searches, but any search that features pages or products in categories and subcategories can benefit from it. For example, if a user starts by searching for a category of products, then drills down into a subcategory, a breadcrumbs-style mini navigation at the top of the search results page can help the user get back to the beginning of the process easily. It can decrease bounce rates and recover possible sales when the user doesn’t immediately find what he/she is looking for.

    Using Semantic Search

    Semantic search is a sophisticated search function that analyzes the intent behind a user query rather than analyzing the keywords they input at face value. This is becoming increasingly important as fewer people rely on keyword-based searches and more users rely on full phrases. If you can develop a semantic search functionality into your onsite search function, you’ll be able to give more accurate, relevant results for long-tail user queries.

    Reviewing Your Success in Analytics

    articleimage643 Left Data

     

    Once you’ve got your search functionality near-perfected, you can start reviewing the fruits of your labor. In Google Analytics, you can easily set up monitoring for your onsite search history. Once that’s in place, you can review onsite search trends including popular user queries, bounce rates post-search, and how many people ended up converting after finding what they were looking for. You can use this data to further enhance your search features.

    Your onsite search function is more important than you might have realized, especially if you’re running an e-commerce platform. Make whatever improvements you can, whenever you can, and keep a close eye on your data to determine what changes you’ll need to make in the future.

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