Give Your Audience What They Want

Give your audience what they want by knowing what they like
Audience is defined as a gathering of spectators or listeners; all those reached by printed matter or radio or TV; a regular public that manifests interest, support, enthusiasm, or the like; a following. As business owners, we’re all familiar with the word. And for those of us using social media to attract new customers, audience is critical to our success.

Every ‘guru’ in the world will tell you that the key to growing your audience is to ‘give them what they want’. Sounds simple enough right? But how do you know what your audience wants? The secret, I’ve found, is studying what they like.

Looking under the hood: What does your audience like?

It’s actually not that hard to determine what your audience likes – you just need to do a little looking under the hood. Where exactly? Start with the usual suspects – the places where you communicate most often with your followers, fans and connections.

How do you define ‘what they like’? By identifying what content of yours they comment on and share. In other words, analyze your blog and social media platforms to see what your audience is responding to. That will tell you what they like, so you can keep giving them what they want.

How to find what your audience is responding to on Facebook

Your Fan Page insights will reveal the story. Go to your Administrative Panel. Find and click on the tab that says ‘See Insights’. If you haven’t already explored Facebook’s new insights, you’ll see a message at the top of the page welcoming you to take the tour.

Fan Page Administrative Panel
Just beneath the name of your page are various sections, including ‘overview’, ‘likes’, ‘reach’, ‘visits’ ‘posts’ and ‘people’. Since your goal is to focus on the content that’s resonating with your audience, click on ‘posts’.

Facebook Posts Insights
By default, you should be able to see all of your fan page posts for the past 3 months, broken down by date, content, content type, number of people reached (yellow), and engagement based on the number of post clicks (blue), and the number of likes, comments and shares (pink). You can also toggle these settings by clicking the down arrows to see (for example) reach based on fans/non-fans and engagement by just ‘likes, comments and shares’.

How to analyze what your audience likes on Facebook

Toggle the ‘engagement’ options so what you see is ‘likes comments and shares’. Then grab a pen and paper to make a list that looks something like this:

Post Type Likes Comments Shares

Focus on the ‘engagement’ column to see what’s really catching the eye of your audience. What you’re looking for is your 10 most popular posts. Keep an eye out for the items with the widest bars as you scan through the information. As you take notes, you’ll start to see trends, and be able to make some observations.

What my Insights told me about my Facebook Audience

Of my ‘Top 10′ in the last quarter, 3 were blog posts, 6 were images, and 1 was a quote. The blog posts that resonated the most with my audience were all of the ‘how-to’ variety. The most popular was The Ultimate Pinterest ‘How to’ Guide for Business Owners.

Facebook Insights popular post
I’ve always been one to share graphical quotes. The one with the most shares was a compliment to anyone who read it. The one with the most likes was a personal Christmas greeting from the heart, seen by almost 3,000 people. The one with the most comments was pure cuteness.

By doing this exercise, I learned that ‘how to’ content is a big draw for my Facebook audience. If I paint a clear path to understanding, and give people information they need or want to know for their business, they appreciate and find value in it. Likewise, I discovered that images that bring a smile, share a compliment, or reflect a sentiment that people hold dear, tend to win your audience over.

This tells me what type of content I need to keep offering my Facebook fans to ‘give them what they want’. Just like I found what works best for my audience, you will too when you do your own analysis using Facebook Insights.

How to find what your audience favors on your Blog

This is an easy no brainer for most bloggers. If you have a plugin that identifies your most popular posts, your top entries will be easy to find. Even if you don’t use a ‘popular post’ plugin, you can always go to your ‘posts’ administrative panel and see which ones have the most comments.

Make a quick list of the posts where you got the most traction (purely by the numbers). Then look at them separately to see which ones got the most shares and the platforms they were shared on. That will help you zero in on the kind of blog content that is favored by your audience. Presumably you’ll find a mix, so you’ll be able to plan future posts around what you know works.

Locating the Pins your audience loves on Pinterest

This exercise is only worthwhile if you are actively using Pinterest to promote your brand. If your business focus is marketing, for example, but you’ve really only been pinning recipes, DIY tips and things that are purple, skip this. You won’t be able to judge whether you’re reaching your niche audience on Pinterest, let alone determine whether your content appeals to them.

When Pinterest first started, there were several of free tools, like the now defunct Pinpuff, that gave you metrics on the number of people following you, as well as your most popular boards and pins. Now they’re either gone all together, or have transitioned into paid services for large brands who can afford to advertise to the enormous Pinterest audience.

That said, the rest of us are stuck having to do our own digging to find out what content we’re pinning that appeals to our niche. As you’ll see, Pinterest does not make this easy.

Searching for Pins from your Blog or Website on Pinterest

The best way to do this is to enter the URL http://pinterest.com/source/yourdomainURL in your browser window (use your own domain name of course). Pinterest will show you all the pins linking back to your site.

The good news is that you can see them. The bad news is that there’s no ‘count’ to tell you how many total times a given piece of content got pinned. So instead of seeing one pin with a repin count of 25, you’ll see the pin 25 times, and have to assume your audience liked it. Like I said, Pinterest does not make this easy.

Incidentally, the free Pinterest analytics tool is of little help here, since it focuses more on numbers instead of specific content. Even then, (unless I missed something) you can’t get historical data on your pins if they’re more than 3 months old.

With all the fanfare about Pinterest Analytics being so great for business, I have to say I’m a bit disappointed. However, being able to pull up the feed from your domain does give you a place to start.

Finding what else you’ve pinned that resonates with your Audience

Clearly we pin more content from other sources around the web than we pin our own. Depending on how you set up your notifications on Pinterest, (i.e. send me an email whenever someone likes or repins my content) there’s still some hope tracking down what your audience likes. If you’ve been getting these notifications, you probably already have a sense of your most popular boards, and most popular pins.

Start with your most popular board – the likeliest one to have the most repins (people repin what they like, so it’s safe to use repins as your main criteria). Look through the pins to see which ones appeal to your audience of followers. Make a quick list of the content titles and number of repins. Go to your next most popular board and do the same. Rinse, lather and repeat.

Note: Only look at boards where you are the sole pinner – not group boards unless you are the creator of the board and can easily identify your own pins. The goal is to identify popular content you’ve pinned with the intent of targeting your niche audience.

Be sure to include boards that feature your own blog content whether the board is popular or not. As with Facebook and your blog, studying what gets shared gives you a clearer sense of what to keep offering the people you most want to reach.

If you are persistent ...

Discovering what works for your Audience on other platforms

Twitter: the easiest way to find your top retweets (if people like it, they’ll retweet it) is to use Twitter search. Simply log into Twitter and enter ‘RT@yourtwittername’ (use your own handle) into the search box and hit ‘enter’. Within a few seconds you’ll see a list of your most popular tweets. Study what’s there to determine what content your Twitter audience prefers. Offer more of that.

Google+:  Using this link  it’s crazy easy to find your most shared content on Google+. Just enter your 21 digit Google+ ID and you’re set. It will show you how many posts, 1+’s, shares and comments you have, plus your top posts. Look through, see what grabbed the attention of your Google+ audience and keep giving them more. Many thanks to Justin Matthews for this gem of a good find.

LinkedIn: I have yet to find a tool that identifies your most popular content on LinkedIn or an easy way to tell what your network connection might prefer. If you come across one, let me know.

However, following the steps above, at least you have a reasonable way to evaluate what content on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google+ works best for your audience. Let this and your inner private eye lead you to more success on the platforms you use most for business!

So tell me, what ways have you tried to get the same information? Fill me in below :)  Oh – if you liked this, feel free to share …
 
Have a good one!

 
 

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Enhanced Privacy Notice: This site ignores 'do not track' requests since we do not put cookies on your computer or use any network or service that delivers targeted ads to you when you visit. We collect personal identifying information (like your name, email, etc) when you voluntarily join our lists and/or make purchases from us. That information is only shared with our secure back end email management and/or online payment system, for administrative purposes.

The Ultimate Pinterest ‘How To’ Guide for Business Owners

The Ultimate Pinterest How To Guide

How to I wonder ….

Pinterest is a great platform for promoting your brand. But there’s a lot to learn, and many of the practical things you might wonder how to do are not immediately obvious. Worse yet, the information you want can’t always be found quickly or easily.

I’ve searched everywhere for a comprehensive Pinterest ‘how to’ guide that focuses on those small but important details, with no luck. So I’m trying my hand at one now, hoping you’ll find it helpful.

Like many others who use Pinterest for business, I had lots of questions. This is Part One of my Ultimate Pinterest ‘How To’ Guide for Business Owners.

The Long & Short of ‘How to’ do 20 Simple Tasks in Pinterest

How to add a ‘pin it’ button to your browser
For most browsers, go to the goodies page on Pinterest. Look for ‘The Pin Button’. Drag it to your bookmarks bar (at the top of your browser page) to install it. To add it in Chrome, go to this page. For iPhone & iPad, go here. To install it in IE , watch this video. Whenever you discover something great to pin on any website, simply click the ‘Pin It’ button and you’re good to go.

How to edit or delete a pin
Mouse over the pin you want to edit. On the right side, look for the pencil icon. Click it to open the ‘Edit Pin’ screen. There you can change the board it’s on, or modify the description. If you changed the location on a link you uploaded from your own site, you can edit the source URL as well. You can delete a pin from a board by clicking ‘delete pin’ in the same edit screen. Images

how to edit a pin

How to rearrange your boards
Click on your name at the top of your Pinterest (look in the upper right hand corner). From the drop down list, choose ‘Your Profile and Pins’. Nothing will appear to happen, but you will be able to change the order by using your mouse (mouse over the board, left click and hold the cursor down to drag it somewhere else). Pinterest will save the new order you’ve created. If you run into trouble, read the instructions here. FYI: You can’t rearrange individual pins on a board.

How to rearrange your boards

How to set a board cover
First, mouse over the board in question. You will see ‘set board cover’. Click that to select a different pin to be the cover for that board. Use the right arrow to systematically choose the one you want by previewing the thumbnail. Use the left arrow to go back through the pins as necessary. Hit ‘save changes’ and you’re done. Do this periodically with all of your boards to keep your Pinterest profile fresh.

How to change a board cover screen

How to pin images from Facebook
First go to this page to download the Pinterest browser extension for Firefox. Look for ‘The Pin Button’. Make sure the image with the red and white Pinterest icon is the one that is showing. If you don’t see it, click on the link that says ‘Looking for the Pinterest Browser Extension?’ For Chrome, go here, for Safari here,  or watch this video to install it in IE.

How to pin from Facebook

Then click on the image you want to pin while inside Facebook. You’ll come to a screen where the image is isolated against a black background. Right click on the image with your mouse to see the Pin It button, click on it, and you’ll be able to pin the image from Facebook to Pinterest. FYI: If you simply click the Pinterest icon installed in your browser, it will tell you that you cannot pin directly from Facebook.

How to verify your website
You can show other pinners you are a trusted source by verifying your website on Pinterest. Go to your profile and click on the edit pencil in the top section with your picture. On the next screen, enter the URL of your site where it says ‘website’. Then hit ‘verify’. Follow the directions on the next page, which requires you to download a file from Pinterest and upload that file to your server. Once that’s done, hit ‘complete verification’. Assuming you did everything correctly, a check mark will show right after your site link. You can read more about this process in my earlier post 4 Steps to Getting Verified by Pinterest.

How to verify your site screen

How to tag, mention or give credit to other pinners
Add the “@” sign and their name (or Pinterest user name) to your pin descriptions or in your comments. if they follow you, their name and image will appear as you type. If not, you may need to locate their Pinterest user name (try their site and look for the social icon URL) and use that one.

How to create an online shop
Start a ‘My Store’ board (or something similar). Upload the items you have for sale to that board, making sure to add a ‘$’ sign to the price, along with a description. Link each item to the specific URL where the item(s) can be immediately purchased. Avoid just linking to your website home page or the main page for website store. You will end up with multiple links all going to the same place, which Pinterest may consider spamming.

How to showcase your own work
Start a board exclusively dedicated to your best blog posts and pin them to this board. Make sure you brand your images, and have a summary description for each one. If you contribute to other boards where your posts will find an audience, repin them from your blog board to the other one(s).

How to get your pins featured on other boards
Accept invitations to pin to other group boards that attract your niche. Alternatively, if you find a group board you’d like to join, look for instructions in the board description about how to contact the board owner and ask. FYI: If the board is very active and/or has lots of pins, don’t just ask ‘can you add me to this board?’ when commenting on an individual pin – the person in charge of invitations may not see it at all. Participating in a Facebook group that ‘shares the love’ on Pinterest is also an excellent way to give your pins greater exposure.

How to connect with pinners on other social platforms
Look in the profile section of the pinner for a link to where you can find them on Facebook and/or Twitter. If their site is verified (you’ll see a check mark after it), go visit and see what other platforms that person is using. Drop them a note, send a tweet or even a private message to say you found and followed them on Pinterest, and suggest you connect on the other platform. You can find more about how to do that in this article.

How to find other pins from the same source
To the right of any Pinterest image is a picture of the board it is pinned to, and a picture below that which says ‘More from XYZ site’. Click on that to see other pins that originated from the same website or author.

How to find more from this site

How to find out what’s recently been pinned from your website
Type http://pinterest.com/source/yourdomain.com (replacing “yourdomain.com” with your own site URL) to see the list.

How to add a video pin
You have two options here: either use the Pinterest ‘Pin It’ social share button on sites like Dailymotion, TED, YouTube, and Vimeo, or open your Pinterest and click on the ‘+’ button on the top. Choose ‘add from a website’. Then simply type in the URL to the video you want to pin. PS – you can copy/paste the URL if you prefer.

How to add a video pin

How to find specific kinds of pins to repin
The easiest way to do this is to use the ‘search’ feature in Pinterest. Just type in your keyword(s) to see a range of pins on that topic. The more specific you are in your search definition, the better your results will be. Alternatively, you can search other platforms like Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn or Facebook for ‘Pinterest pin+your search term’ pins posted on other venues.

How to brand your pins
This is simply a matter of adding your name or your website to an image you pin. You can open the image in any image editor and use the text tool to do this or use a free online image editor like PicMonkey for the same purpose. Save the image to your computer, feature it on your blog then pin it to Pinterest.

How to create a group board
Pinterest gives you the ‘create a board’ option by default. Click on the ‘+’ sign to open the ‘create a board’ screen. Name the board, give it a description, choose a category for it, and select whether you want to add a map to the board or use it temporarily as a secret board visible only to you. The new board will be what you see next. Click ‘edit board’. The last option is ‘who can pin’. Type in the name(s) or email address of anyone you want to allow to pin to it and click ‘send invite’. When you’re done with your list of potential contributors, save your changes.

How to choose who can pin

How to create a secret board
Follow the steps outlined above for ‘create a board’ and select ‘secret’ as the type of board you want it to be. When you’ve added a sufficient number of pins and you’re ready to have it visible to anyone, go back to the board, click ‘edit’ and change the ‘secret’ status from yes to no.

How to create a secret board screen

How to remove someone as a board contributor
Now and again things don’t work out with someone you chose to contribute to your board. If you can’t come to terms about changes that need to be made, remove them. Select the board and ‘edit board’. You will see the list of contributors under ‘who can pin’. Look for the person’s name and hit ‘remove’.

How to set up email notifications
You’ll want notifications to find out who is pinning your content, and how often it is getting attention. Click on the bar with your name and image in the upper right hand corner of your Pinterest screen. From the drop-down list, choose ‘settings’. On your account settings page, scroll down to ‘email notifications’. Decide which options you want (get an email when …, also get an email when …etc).  Save your setting when you’re done.

How to change email notifications

That’s it for my first installment of the Ultimate Pinterest ‘How To’ Guide. Look for more tips in the coming weeks. Of course, it would be great if you followed me on Pinterest. I’m glad to follow back :)

Do you have any practical tips or tricks on how you navigate Pinterest? Let me know in the comments. Oh – and don’t forget to share this if you liked it!

 

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4 Great Ways to Reuse Blog Content to Get Visibility

4 Great Ways to Reuse Blog Content
Great blog content informs, engages and says hello in a way that encourages people to come back for more – more information, more perspective, and more you. It’s the magnet that can draw repeated attention to you and your brand, making it a valuable marketing tool for your business.

Creating blog content also takes up a lot of time – to outline an idea, find the right words, frame a concept, and tell the story (in short) from beginning to end. In other words, it’s work. Good work that merits being used again, in order to reach your broader audience.

Those of us who spend our days on social media tend to forget that everyone in our niche doesn’t routinely hang out on Facebook. They’re looking (and finding) other ways to learn, by reading articles, listening to podcasts, studying ebooks, watching videos and attending webinars that focus on what they want to know.

So what should you do about that? Give them what they want, the way they want it. If you re-purpose your blog content by putting it into different formats, that content will be seen by more people, and give your business greater visibility.

Four Ways to Reuse Your Blog Content to Build Your Brand

Turn your blog content into an article. Rewrite your post and submit it to a reputable article directory along with an author box that has information about you and a link back to your website. As a general rule, most directories expect an article of 600-800 words. However, the word count can vary between 400 and 1500 words, so you need to follow the guidelines set by the publisher.

Tip: Google article directories and/or ask around for the best ones to use for your type or re-worked blog content. Read featured articles to get the lay of the land, check the submission requirements, and decide whether it’s a good fit for you. Narrow your selections to 2 or 3 directories that are likely to appeal to your niche.

Note: You always want to rewrite your blog content for any article submission. That way you continue to get ‘credit’ for your original work and you’re not offering an exact duplicate, which will get you penalized by the search engines. Allow enough time for your post to get indexed before you submit your article.

Turn your blog content into a podcast. This is an idea whose time has come. Podcasts are very popular, especially among people who prefer to listen rather than read. Just look to the popularity of audio books to appreciate the demand for information delivered to the ear.

There are many tools available to convert your blog content into a podcast, depending on whether you want to be the ‘voice’ people hear or you’re willing to entrust that job to ‘near-human’ characters.

They include Soundgecko, Podcast Generator, Podbean, Hipcast, Buzzsprout and iSpeech. Most of them are subscription plans available for a low monthly fee. If you’re interested in free podcasting tools you can use with your blog content, you can find some of those options here.

Tip: To get the most benefit from creating audio content out of your blog posts, make sure the platform you choose allows you to generate a feed that is accessible via web or mobile device, lets people subscribe, and does not contain ads.

Turn your blog content into an ebook. If you’ve created a body of work that delves into different aspects of a particular niche topic, why not create an ebook that can be sold or downloaded as an enticement to join your mailing list?

You can make an ebook on your iPad with Blurb, format ebooks automatically for Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble ‘Nook’, or Apple iBook Store with the Ultimate Ebook Creator or create eBooks in the ePub, Kindle and Mobipocket formats from existing blog content with Zinepal, to give your readers more choices.

Tip: Be sure to brand your ebook with your business logo, website and social media links so that your audience can find and follow you on multiple platforms.

Turn your blog content into a video. Videos are hot. Millions of them are watched every day by countless people, young and old, looking to learn something new or be entertained. The combination of audio, video and graphics is now as familiar as breakfast, and viewers are hungry for more. Turning blog content into video form can easily open the door to a bigger audience.

Make no mistake – there’s a real art to creating videos from scratch. Fortunately, there are also a number of great tools to make the job easier. Screencast, Vimeo, Animoto, YouTube Movie Maker and even Microsoft PowerPoint will all do the trick of delivering your blog content with video flair.

Tip: Use resources that output video in a format that you can upload YouTube. Create your own YouTube Chanel and publicize it on your website. Include a link to your video blog content in the author box of your articles, and in your social media posts to get maximum exposure.

Bonus Suggestion:

Turn your blog content into teachable moments using Google Hangouts, webinars, guest radio spots and other ‘live’ presentations where you can interact with people in your niche. Share what you’ve learned, invite easy conversation and open the floor to feedback.

Tip: Remember to close the discussion with an upsell – a paid product or service you offer that will give your listeners even more benefit. Include a link to your website or landing page to seal the deal.

Yup. Your blog content has lots of marketing potential that can go a long way towards growing your audience, building your authority and increasing your profits. Maybe all that time you spend blogging has a silver lining in it after all.

How are you reusing your blog content? What’s been successful for you? Feel free to leave your comment below.
 
 
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The 2014 Enhanced Online Privacy Laws: What They Mean for Website Owners

The 2014 Online Privacy Laws

Online privacy and more specifically disclosing to consumers if and how their visitor data is being tracked is now an important matter for all website owners.

As of January 1, 2014, there are specific requirements to provide ‘enhanced’ privacy notices about the tracking practices you use. This holds true whether you are the one doing the tracking, or some other entity is involved.

Online privacy is now a very hot button topic for consumers. We’ve developed a strong sense of concern about what happens with our private information following the recent security breaches at Target and other large retailers. Alarms raised over the tracking of personal data by the NSA have also given us a wake up call.

As business owners in the virtual world, we now have a responsibility to our customers to clearly disclose our online privacy policy related to two specific issues.

The Two Major Compliance Issues Affecting Your Treatment of Online Privacy

1) The Better Business Bureau now has an Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program, which regulates behavioral advertising across the Internet. Under the current regulations, website owners are required to give site visitors ‘enhanced notice‘ (meaning it has to be in an obvious location, not buried in your privacy policy) whenever their data is gathered for Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA).

OBA uses information gathered from multiple unaffiliated web sites to predict a user’s preferences, and display ads most likely to interest consumers. The Better Business Bureau began auditing and enforcing their accountability program on January 1, 2014.

2) There is a new amended California Internet Privacy Law, which requires operators of a commercial Internet website or online service (including mobile apps) that collect personally identifiable information (PII) about consumers residing in California who use or visit its website or service to disclose how it responds to “do not track” signals or other mechanisms that provide consumers a choice regarding the tracking of their online activities, and to disclose whether others may collect PII when they use the operator’s website or online service. The legalese is long, I know, but you get the drift.

In other words, if your website can or does collect information about California residents, then you need to be in compliance with the new law by adding the disclosures. A case in point, as highlighted in this article, would be if you allow a third party to place ads on your site and the advertiser places “cookies” on the user’s browser to allow them to track that user’s movements across domains, you would likely need to disclose that fact to your users.

About the ‘Do not Track’ Online Privacy Provision

Do not track‘ is intended to work in much the same way as the more familiar ‘do not call’ request for opting out of unwanted calls, except it asks whatever sites you visit not to track your movements for the purpose of delivering ‘like it or not’ ad content. But unlike ‘do not call’, there’s no current requirement that the site receiving your ‘do not track’ signal has to honor your request. It just has to disclose its policy about how the requests are handled in plain view.

About the Third Party Online Privacy Disclosure

In the past, website owners tended to rely on whatever advertising network they subscribed to for sharing specific tracking details to consumers. With the new law, the responsibility falls directly on the owner of the individual website. The California law is the first in the United States to impose disclosure requirements on website publishers that track consumers’ online behavior.

Who the Online Privacy Regulations Affect

Generally, the new rules apply to you if:

  • You use any kind of advertising network (including those WordPress plugins that feature posts from around the web on your site in exchange for showing your content on other sites)
  • You have affiliate links on your site
  • You host AdSense ads on your site
  • You use Google Analytics that track your visitor’s activity on your site or blog
  • You capture personal identifying information through forms handled by third parties on your site or blog
  • Your site places cookies on your visitor’s computer
How to Comply with the 2014 Online Privacy Regulations

I’ve read a good amount of information on this subject, and there doesn’t seem to be a universal standard for complying with these new changes. As best as I can determine, here’s what you can do in the near term to keep the Better Business Bureau away from your door.

If your site ignores ‘do not track’ signals (and most do because they are fairly new), you need to make that obvious to your site visitors. If you do happen to honor them, you need to also clarify how you do that to be in compliance.

If you are a network or affiliate marketer, or you allow third party advertising on your site or blog, you need to let your site visitors know that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology.

In the interest of transparency, you should state whether you use Google Analytics. While their tracking is anonymous (it doesn’t mine personal identifying information like names and email) it should be noted in your privacy policy. Note that this is also part of the user agreement for having Google Analytics on your site.

If you have affiliate links on your pages or posts, it should be clear that you will receive compensation if someone buys through one of your links.

If you writing about a product that you received a sample or review copy of, you need to mention it.

If your site creates cookies, you should say so prominently and explain how they are used. The Pillsbury Law site does a very neat job of this by adding a statement at the very top of their web pages.

If you collect information from web forms, your privacy policy should identify what happens to it (it gets emailed, put into a database, etc.) and what you do with it (send out newsletters and special offers). The law doesn’t seem to apply to situations where visitors willingly share their data with you, but, as in the case of Google Analytics, it is best to conform to the spirit of online consumer privacy law, which is all about transparency.

Well, It looks like we’ve got some work to do. How do you feel about the new online privacy regulations? Were you aware of them before? Add your comment below.
 
 
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Enhanced Privacy Notice: This site ignores 'do not track' requests since we do not put cookies on your computer or use any network or service that delivers targeted ads to you when you visit. We collect personal identifying information (like your name, email, etc) when you voluntarily join our lists and/or make purchases from us. That information is only shared with our secure back end email management and/or online payment system, for administrative purposes.

Up Your Game: 3 Smart Steps to Small Business Success

Up Your Game: 3 Smart Steps to Small Business Success

Small business success is largely about planning. But it’s also a function of perspective – about your customer, your knowledge gaps, and your market.

You build the foundation for your success as you gain mastery of these three areas, which is what allows you to up your game. The steps are pretty straightforward, if you examine them in bite sized pieces.

Walk in Your Customer’s Shoes

Anyone who visits your website wants to know more about you and what your business has to offer. That’s a given. But beyond that, today’s customer is interested in how you ‘quack’, your perspective on things, and whether you’re someone they should connect with and trust.

We depend on our website (and not just our blog) to represent us in ‘now’ mode. To show the human side of our business, as we are today. That’s a tall order for a website, especially if our main content is as fresh as the day we wrote it years ago.

That was way back then. Before you learned as much as you know now, before you found your online voice and before you really knew what you were doing. Times have changed. You’ve probably changed. And your website should too.

Walking in your customer’s shoes will give you a different perspective. So take a leisurely stroll through your site, looking at it from their point of view.

What’s the message? What is it asking or expecting me to do? Do I clearly understand what this person or small business does? Does this site/person sound or feel stiff? Is the site visually appealing? Am I being engaged, or just being talked to? Is it interesting enough for me to return or bother connecting on social media?

You get the idea. Take a second look at your online home. Make sure it’s really saying what you want it to say, doing what you want it to do, and creating the atmosphere you want to associate with your business brand.

When you, thinking like your customer who is tuned into station WIIFM (what’s in it for me), feel like you came to just the right place, then you probably have :)

Get the Help you Need

To become wildly successful in business, you have to learn a good many things that you weren’t taught in school. Most people who venture out on their own didn’t grow up around a successful business owner or mentor who could teach them the ropes. Even if you were lucky that way, what applied then and what’s needed now are two very different things.

It’s a bear trying to keep up with social and now mobile media. It seems like there’s a boatload of new information to learn every day, and sometimes it’s downright exhausting. But to excel, you have to keep going, and find ways to work smarter instead of harder.

Ask yourself three simple questions:

  1. What do I need to know?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Who can give me the best insight on how to get that done?

For example, if Twitter is an important platform for you, but you don’t know how to use it to your advantage, talk with someone who knows it inside out.

If Facebook has you stumped, find a Facebook expert or join a Facebook group that can bring you up to speed and support you on your way. Need help getting organized or managing your time? Find a pro. Need to create a master strategy for your business? Hire a success coach.

Source out your social media connections – chances are you’re already in the company of people who are expert in the area where you’re less experienced. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to say ‘I need your help with XYZ’ whatever that is. Be clear, honest and up front about it.

Remember that everyone’s time has value, so be sure to respect theirs. Ask them whether they can help, if they’re willing to help, and when they might have the time.

Ask about rates. If they’re higher than you expected, see if they’re comfortable being flexible with their pricing, or willing to barter to offset a portion of the cost. You might be pleasantly surprised at how well an arrangement like that can work.

If they agree, and you come to an arrangement, be prepared to follow through immediately. Don’t waste their time if you’re not really ready to accept the help you asked for. You’ll ruin the relationship and greatly reduce your chances of getting help from them in the future.

If their advice helps you in your business, find a way to celebrate your win together. You know that great feeling you get when someone unexpectedly acknowledges you? Be the person sending that awesome message – say ‘thank you’ in a unique way to show your gratitude.

Clarify your Marketing Strategy

When you’re running a business, creating new customers is your top priority. In this day and age, that means you have to be visible, out and about, spreading the word (in a nice way) about who you are and what you do.

The long and short of it is that small business owners need a strategy for reaching prospects online, offline and in the mobile space.

Figure out which social platforms are working best for your business. Try and focus your main efforts on a maximum of three. Schedule your posts in advance so you’re not rushing. That way when you participate ‘live’, you’re fully present. Grab attention when the time is right with contests, giveaways, Facebook ads, LinkedIn group promos, Pin it to Win It events, etc.

Have a plan that guarantees you’ll connect with people in your offline audience. You live in a community that includes people (probably thousands) for whom your product or service is perfect.

Find out who and where they are. Check out local meetups or networking opportunities that are likely to attract your ideal customers or other professionals who might know them. Sponsor a community project in your business name to spread goodwill.

Take your business mobile, so you don’t miss the opportunity to reach that massively growing mobile market. Use mobile coupons and QR codes to promote your offers. Make it easy for people to reach you with Tap-to-Call, Tap-to-Email and GPS directions. Link back to your main site and to your blog RSS feed. Let them see you’re on it.

If you walk in your customer’s shoes so you know what they want, seek out the help you need to make sure you’re on the right track, and put a marketing strategy in place that hits all the bases (online, offline and mobile) you’ll be well on your way to a stellar year. Pinky promise!

What’s your perspective on creating small business success? Share what your experience has taught you.

Oh, and feel free to Tweet This, or mention it on social media if you found it helpful.

To your business success,

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