November 28, 2014

9 Tips for Marketing Your Business

9ball_rack_2As a Communicator/Marketer | Web Designer | Writer and Blogger, I’m a big fan of Inbound Marketing, the Internet is a great forum for any business to present itself to customers who are researching “what’s out there” before they buy. To help you attract attention online and to honor the unusual date 09/09/09, I’ve put together  9 tips for Marketing Online. Forget, trade shows, traditional advertising, cold calls, and the yellow pages, the web is where you should be.

1.) Develop a flexible website:

Many of the clients come to RavenWood Creative seeking to either establish a web site or redesign one where they can “control the content” and “update it” whenever they like, without having to depend and wait on IT Professionals to make the changes. Content Management Systems such as WordPress, Joomla, and other Content Management Systems today make it the right choice for businesses today. It enables business owners to control their content and more importantly respond to changing market conditions, world news, and their competition online, where the customers are looking.

2.) Make your Online Presence – Attractive:

Anyone can have all the greatest content and be subject matter experts in their field, but much like a box of cereal on the market shelf, without attractive packaging and an organization behind the content, no one will spend the time to stop and peruse the offerings. Visuals in Web Communication are as important as the words on the screen. People often forget that the World Wide Web is a visual medium, much like television. That images and how information is categorized is paramount to the content itself. If a potential customer can find what they need from you in an easy and attractive fashion, you’re one step closer than the competition to landing that customer. People like clean and easy, they move past unorganized and screens full of text for sites NOT designed in the 1990s. Break up the text with visual cues, and use visuals as part of your navigation.

3.) Don’t forget “Grammar” School:

Writing, that subject you learned in grammar school, is also important. Sure you’ve attracted a potential client to your site by means of a good ranking in a search engine and a visually attractive web site, just to make them click the back button. Why? Because your pages are full of typos, run-on sentences, and a general “let’s put everything up there” attitude about the web site. Your site shouldn’t be a dumping ground for every profile or market report you’ve ever produced. Editing is good. People scan web sites, if they want more, they’ll ask. Less is more on the Web, and your bad-typing skills and lack of organization over your content will lead them to look elsewhere.

4.) Seek Other Opinions:

Sure you know your business and you know what your customers want, you wouldn’t be successful if you didn’t. But, have you ever asked your customers how you can better serve them? The web is a great place to get other opinions about your work. Polls, surveys, comments, and testimonials are the backbone of most social media sites and other successes on the web. Why do you think people seek out recommendations on LinkedIn, or answer a polls on Facebook? Businesses like people seek feedback. Generally, the feedback is constructive and helps you focus your efforts. Use the tools available on the Internet to your advantage and allow other to comment on your work. The next five tips on on tools to use to spotlight your business online.

5.) The Magic of SEO:

With every web design client RavenWood Creative works with, the question of search engine optimization, SEO soon pops up. Many clients have heard of it and many know they should have it on their web site. It makes sense, increase your web site’s ranking in the search engine and drive traffic to your site, but how? It’s like some sort of magic to most, but it all comes down to using the right keywords and other tools within your site that match what a typical or ideal customer will search. The confusion comes from which search engine the customer is using, Google, Yahoo, Ask. Or what the search engine returns, BING returns are slightly different than Google rankings. But all search engines like new, fresh content (see #1) and any way you can do that for your business will pull your information closer to the top in rankings.

6.) Blogs:

You reading one right now, you probably read one more often than you think. Blogs are a great way to keep your site fresh, up-to-date and relevant (remember, search engines like this type of content). But it’s more than a way to post information fast, blogs are a two-way street and comments and conversations are their life blood. Post as often as you can and comment on other blogs more often and soon you’ll be positioning yourself and your company as a subject matter expert. Blogs can be your entire web site, as WordPress and other blogging technology gets more and more sophisticated, keeping your content rich and your visuals up-to-date is easier and easier.

7.) Social Media Worlds:

Each day the Social Media sites converge more, and with this convergence your customers, old friends, and existing clients are spending more time on the sites. It makes sense to be in the location where your customers are asking questions, seeking advice, and sharing thoughts. Ask Comcast, Zappos, and other corporations that are using social media like Twitter to address customer needs. It’s the future of customer service, no longer do you search out an 800 number to call, you Tweet about your service on Twitter and more often than not, you get a response from someone with advice or help. Go where your customers are, go on social media sites.

8.) Social Media Releases:

Gone are the days of typing up a press release on paper and sending it to the local business editor. Social media releases are rapidly taking the place of the static, and stale press releases. Releases with video clips, images, and actual quotes or testimonials are helping get the word out for many companies. PRXbuilder, Pitchengine, storycrafter, realwire are some of the companies helping to push the social media release technology.

9.) Viral Marketing:

We’ve all received them in our inbox, a video or photo that has circled the globe with sleeping cats, crashing cars, or blenders chewing up an iphone. Take advantage of the human behavior to share the fun, the wacky, or the unbelievable. Don’t take yourself or your business too seriously and word-of-mouse techniques can work for you. Ask for opinions, ask them to share and reward those that help you. Sooner or later something will go viral, ask the Blendtec folks.

Have any other tips about inbound marketing to share, please share a comment below. Until next time, Tim

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Social Media

Social Media is all about community and like-interests finding each other online. RavenWood Creative can help you find your place in all the social media environments available.

So if you’re struggling to figure out how your business should use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other social networking tool, contact us, and we’ll get to work on a social media communication plan.

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    Social Media Exploding and Twitter is Lighting the Fuse

    Tomorrow, I plan on taking on the impossible. I need to sum up what’s happening on the web in the realm of social media for group of business people, and I only have about 30 minutes. I’m presenting on the web to the Flourtown Businesspersons Association, FBA, a group that spans several generations and obviously is a diverse audience from different lines of work.

    I plan on briefly covering the history behind social media, about a minute. Discussing how eBay and other original online communities (remember listserv, bulletin boards, chat, etc.) have continued to evolve to the facebooks and Twitter of today.

    Then, I’ll explain how facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have taken the online world by storm. Facebook offers advertisers the opportunity to get in front of 175 million pairs of eyes.

    Finally, I’ll tackle some of the many examples of how people are using social networking, these new media tools and micro-blogging such as Twitter to find jobs (Dave Murray), recruit members (Coast Guard), and stay in contact with customers (TSA, Timbuk2, Zappos).

    I’ll let you know how it goes.

    Until next time, Tim

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    11 Things I’m Thankful For…

    Hey You Lookin' at Me?

    Hey You Lookin' at Me?

    As I’ve been known to do I usually post something on Thanksgiving. Today, as the owner of RavenWood Creative, a designer, a blogger and social media evangelist, I’d like to give thanks for what has helped me build my business, explore social media and have some fun along the way.

    11 items I’m thankful for …

    1. A supportive wife, my wife Eileen, while not as into social media as me, she does understand it helps me learn about the industry, make connections and lets me experiment with it as much as I like. For that I’m grateful.

    2. Great clients, who let me be creative in their design and marketing approaches. They listen to me on how social media can help them and for that I’m grateful.

    3. Friends, either former colleagues, schoolmates, friends have helped me land clients, helped me find opportunities. My relationships with them helped me find the courage to go out on my own and start my business.

    4. IABC – The International Association of Business Communicators is a great organization, that I’ve found educational opportunities, networking connections and most importantly, more friends.

    5. FBA – Flourtown Businesspersons Association a local business group that I’ve become increasingly involved with, as I believe all business is local and the more we can do to help the small, local business the better it is for everyone. I try to bring the lessons I’ve learns at multi-national business to their level and help everyone.

    6. Flourtown Fire Company – as it’s president and volunteer firefighter I’ve learned more about leadership and the power of teamwork with this organization than any corporate initiative or training ever will.

    7. Social Media – the most important innovation in the World Wide Web since it’s inception. By connecting community of like-minded and sometimes those with differing opinions we all learn.

    8. LinkedIn – I’ve gained clients from my profile connect with me here at this most important of social networks.

    9. Twitter – Ask Motrin about the power of this up and coming micro-blogging platform. I’m so interested in how people are using it, it’s fascinating to watch. Follow me here.

    10. Facebook – just a lot of fun and allowed me to reconnected with some old friends, it’s what the web is all about.

    11. my iPhone – I’d be lost without it. Very cool indeed, and with all the new applications for it, the future is bright!

    So what are you thankful for? Let me know and we’ll add to the list.

    Until next time, Tim

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    Social Media Trends – Part 4 of 4

    In this last part of this series on Social Media Trends, but I’m sure to continue, I’d like to point out some of the cool sites and people I had the pleasure of hearing about in my trip to NYC.

    Social Media Research – Ryan Williams (a nice guy, whom I had the chance to speak with for a while on my trip), Tudor Williams of twisurveys.com have done some great research in how companies and those responsible for communication are using social media.

    Sites recommended by Ryan and Tudor:
    trendpedia.com (searching trends on the web)
    forrester.com/groundswell (an traditional book, Groundswell, recommended numerous times to learn more about social media and its effects)
    ning.com (set up your own social networking site)

    Shel Holtz, ABC, the guru of communication technology was also at the conference. Of course he had a list of cool sites that communicators could be using to help themselves and their company.

    SlideShare- the YouTube of PowerPoint presentations. One of those “why didn’t I think of that?” sites.
    Stopblocking.org – a blog that talks about a lot of the same ideas I do here and with a theme of work/life balance, corporations trying to block employee access to social media sites. I recently answered a question on LinkedIn that dealt with irrational behavior in corporate world.

    View Tim Ernst, ABC's profile on LinkedIn

    Blocking access to the web was my answer and it drew a response from the question’s author, Ori Brafman, co-author of Sway. Seems this type of irrational behavior is evident everywhere in the corporate world where trust of one’s employees is behind the repressive act. It was something I heard about over and over again at the conference, communication leads being blocked from the Web by their IT departments to “increase productivity,” my question is what information outside your company isn’t on the web? Being handcuffed from accessing it isn’t helping anyone. What are your thoughts?

    Other sites to check out:
    Dopplr- if you travel a lot, this is the site to keep friends and colleaques up-to-date on your travels.
    FriendFeed – collects all these social networking profiles into one neat little package.

    What sites are you using and what do you find appealing or wrong with them? Let me know.

    Until next time, Tim

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    What does Social Media say about You?

    It’s a interesting question. The information that many of us are pouring into the Internet and social media site like, Facebook, MySpace, or favorites of mine LinkedIn, myragan or merchant circle can and will be searched by potential clients, prospective employers, or just people you hand a business card to at a meeting.

    I know for a fact that most employers “Google” names of candidates to see what type of web trail you’ve left for yourself. I know at my last corporate job (Google me and see what that would be) we did it for prospective interns and often found the beer-party photos or swimsuit shots from Spring break on a few. Those photos once the sole possession of many a spring-break-party animal and his friends are now out there for the world to see. And I’d be lying if it didn’t influence decisions we made about interns, it had to, as it becomes a part of the first impression.

    But beyond the college crowd and the new grads, many of us have personal web sites or are a part of the social media phenomenum and have put ourselves out there. What do your profiles and extras say about you? Would you be proud to show a business colleague? It does sayyou’re an early-adopter of such technology as most people still don’t know a wiki from a widget, so congratulations on that, but I feel you have to manage your online presence just as you would your credit, by keeping it in the good category nice things will happen to you.

    What are your thoughts on sharing so much about yourself online, any horror stories? Let me know,

    Until next time, Tim

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    LinkedIn Grows and SEO Comes of Age

    There’s an interesting thing going on out on the Net, social media and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) are both coming of age. I was reading a cool new blog recently from Dinkum Interactive where its head was discussing his thoughts on how News Corp. and Rupert Murdoch were toying with the idea of buying LinkedIn. This business-centered networking site, where you can keep “connected” with present co-workers, past co-workers, college-buddies, and just friends or colleagues, is growing so rapidly (currently 6th biggest of its type and gaining) and its successful that it’s attracted the attention of big business and the media.

    I’m a member of LinkedIn – View Tim Ernst's profile on LinkedIn and see if we know anyone in common, it’s that simple. The ability to keep connected to people you know is very powerful, I know when I started RavenWood Creative, it was daunting to think, “Okay, I have started this business, but how do I start doing business.” Well, networking and social media has taken a lot of that fear away, people want to connect, people want to do business with nice people, and I’ve found that through cyber-networking and old-fashioned shaking of hands people want to see other people succeed and do well. Friends want to help friends and my friends have certainly helped me. Thanks Regina, Marci and of course, Eileen, and the countless others who have given me words of encouragement and support.

    As for SEO, I’m off to a luncheon meeting today of the local Rotary, another great way to network, and the speaker, the head of Dinkum Interactive … I’ll let you know what he has to say about SEO in its coming of age in the next entry.

    In the meantime, how do you network? What sites do you use to network? What do you think of LinkedIn? Please share your thoughts … until next time, Tim

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    Making Connections: Networking On line and Off

    This week it occurred to me just how wonderful the Internet is and how it’s shaped my life since around 1995 when I was first really introduced to it. This blog, so simple to use and interact with now, was just a dream back then. Social media and networking hadn’t really come to its full potential 12 years ago and I think it still has a ways to go before it does, but what it’s done so far boggles the mind.

    This week I found out about www.geni.com from a local newscast which features What’s New on the Net, weekly, something else that has changed over the last decade. News people using all the tools of the net to their advantage and letting their viewers interact with them. NBC 10 in Philadelphia has taken it the furthest with it’s All That & More broadcast, a completely interactive newscast where viewers share their opinions on news stories almost live. There’s polls, IM, chat rooms, forums, you name it and you can share your opinion.

    But back to geni.com, taking the work the likes of LinkedIn has done for the business/career minded people and making it simple to connect with your family and build your family tree is amazing and easy to do. Try it out, I found within ten minutes with just the information in my head about my family I had built my family tree out to my grandparents and nephews and nieces. My wife who is really into genealogy built hers to her great-great grandparents in under 30 minutes. The power to connect with people is amazing online.

    I also participated in an “old fashion” business card exchange this week through the Eastern Montgomery County (PA) Chamber of Commerce. I must say it was one of the better ones I’ve attended – sure the nice spread of food and drinks helped, but I also think it was the people in attendance that made it so successful. Maybe the web has helped people open up about themselves and their businesses more because they know the power that networking and connecting with people. And they realize this, because in the information age they are doing it constantly. What do you think? I made some solid connections and got about three or four leads from them, not bad for two hours work as I ate appetizers and handed out my card.

    Well ’til next time, let me know what you think, Tim

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