Saturday, January 25, 2014

Video blogging tips for marketing your small business

video blogging for small businessIf you run a small business, then you're probably always on the look-out for new ideas and marketing tips that will help give more exposure to your business - but at the same time won't break the budget!

Well, maybe you should think about video blogging, or "Vlogging" (as it's sometimes referred to), if you're not already doing it. This can be a great way for you to personalise your message and begin to build a connection with your potential customers. You'll see some examples of video posting further down in this article.

  • Add video to your blog
People like to know who they're doing business with - so video blogging can allow you to present yourself and your story to your target group. Your viewers get to see the passion and conviction you have when you speak about your topic.

Many small business owners have already learned about the importance of a blog to support their business website. A blog that is reasonably regularly updated with fresh, original and relevant content is said to transmit important "SEO juice" to the website it's linked with.

Blog posts that comprise just text can be a little bland, so you add some imagery. But when you also supplement  your content further with some relevant video, then you are offering your reader an even more interesting and rewarding experience. Particularly when the video has an informative focus to it - as opposed to just being a commercial for your business. When you provide useful content in your videos, you come to be seen as an authoritative source and a visitor will more likely become a follower and return to your site when your next post is done.

Studies have revealed that visitors remain more than three times longer on a blog when it has video, compared to when it does not. You can make videos that are informative - or you can make a simple promotional video of an animated nature, which can be entertaining in its appeal. See what you think of this one for example .....

  • Keep it simple when you start out
Adding video to a post on your blog can be as simple and easy as recording yourself on the web-cam of your computer - and then uploading it for hosting at YouTube ........ No cost, and maybe just a couple of hours of your time.

Sure, it can take longer if you want to include some fancy graphics - but when you're getting started, it's often best to keep things simple and build your confidence by acquiring some experience. Then as your capability grows through increased familiarity with the medium, you can start getting into some of the more complex and admittedly more visually appealing functionalities of the medium.

There is no doubt that an increasing number of businesses are incorporating video clips on their websites as well as their blogs. They know that video helps engage and maintain the attention of site visitors. And the longer a visitor is on your site, the more likely they will take action. Either a sale or an enquiry or a subscription to your newsletter or signing up to your email list.

  • It doesn't have to be "perfect"
OK, there are probably some small business owners reading this who may be thinking that they don't have any "camera appeal" and so are very reluctant to consider recording themselves on a video and adding it to the blog  of the business........ But I think that would be a bit like how many teenage girls look in the mirror and don't like their appearance. They can be way, way too self-critical and harsh in their self-appraisal! (hey, for those of you with teenage daughters, you know what I mean here).

If you're worried that your first few goes at this may "damage your brand" - there's no reason why you can't just leave the video hosted at YouTube without necessarily embedding it into your blog or website. You can ask some friends and customers to look at the video and give you some feedback on it. Then learn from the experience and try recording some more video, whether it's on the same topic but from a different angle, or on a different topic.

  • Like so many things, gaining more experience will help
You WILL get better, so don't worry if it's not perfect and you feel like you suck at it. You might even feel like you've got some stage-fright and you lose your fluency when you sit in front of the camera and start recording yourself speaking the first few times - but this discomfort will eventually pass.

Hey, even if you upload the video and publish it on YouTube, you can always  delete it from your channel if you later decide that you don't like it.

With more experience, your video presence will improve and your delivery become more natural in front of the camera. I believe you will find that video blogging can become a powerful marketing tool for your small business.

I have about 20 different blogs and websites, most of which have video clips embedded. Also, your video clip may actually generate traffic to your website from people who are using YouTube as a search engine ..... Did you know that YouTube is the second most frequently used search engine, behind Google and ahead of Bing and Yahoo.

  • Optimise and customise your video, in the same way you do your blog
When you have uploaded your video to YouTube, you will be prompted to give it a title and to provide a brief description ........ Think carefully here about the "keywords" you want your video to be found for, and make sure the description is properly optimised by including these keywords - but also making it sound interesting too! Ensure that you include a link back to your website within the video description. You can either simply leave your video on YouTube, or if you want to also embed it in your blog, then there will be a "sharing" code that you need to copy and then paste to your blog.

For those of you who intend to embed your video in a post of your blog, look for the customising options that YouTube give you. Select a size for the video that will fit nicely into your blog frame. Another customising option you are offered is to de-select other videos from appearing at the end of your video. Select your preferred customisation options before you cut and paste the code.

  • Use your own natural communication style
Different people when they are video blogging, of course deliver their message in different ways.  Some are quite energetic, others are humorous and others are quite intense. There is no single communication style that video bloggers must adopt - what is most important is that the style that you use is natural. Just be yourself - speaking in a natural way when you record your message. After all, if your customers actually meet you in person at some point, they will probably want to be dealing with the type of personality that appeared in the video and with whom they connect with.

Here's a short video clip that offers some really useful video blogging tips for the beginner. Although I don't know the speaker, he projects a low-key, authentic  style - and gets some helpful points across quite clearly. Personally, I think he has represented his business in a professional way. One of the tips is to be yourself when you record your message.

  • Promotional videos
Video blogs tends to be more of an informative nature, in which the blog author is usually the speaker in the video. But you might also choose to produce more of a promotional type of video to help introduce your business, blog or your website. Again, this doesn't necessarily have to be too expensive to do.

Here's an example of a video clip that I had produced a while ago through Fiverr that cost me around $20 to make - which also included a professional presenter. This particular video was a promotional one, with the title and description optimised for YouTube. It has been moderately successful in directing some traffic directly from YouTube to this blog ...... And yes, I know - this is an Australian blog and yet the speaker has an American accent - I didn't say it was an ideal example

  • One of my own video blogs
The following example is provided as a contrast to the promotional video. This is a video clip that does feature me as the speaker - produced on my laptop at no cost. The topic was "Time Management Tips for Small Business" and was aimed more at being informative rather than promoting my business. And by the way, the post which featured this particular video - on this Australia Small Business blog  - is one of the most highly visited posts on the site.

  • Do-it-yourself video - or get a professional to do it?
One last thought. In this post, I've tended to focus on the simple DIY video - but you might want to consider having the video professionally made. Yes, it will cost you at least a few hundred dollars - but if you're going to have it on your website for a long time, as opposed to a post appearing on your blog for a shorter time - then it may be worth the extra investment.

So I will include a video clip below - it's only around one minute duration, that does explore this issue. But the video also nicely illustrates how the speaker has developed something that is informational and educational for the viewer - and yet uses a soft-sell to promote her own video production business

About the author Brian Carroll is the founder of a management training company Performance Development, based in Melbourne, Australia.  He is a qualified psychologist, experienced leadership coach and an engaging presenter, with a passion for helping people develop their full capabilities. He regularly delivers leadership courses in Melbourne

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A small business owner shares her digital marketing story

small business and digital marketingOver the past ten years, the digital world has completely transformed the way in which businesses go about marketing their products and services.

And Jo Macdermott has been at the forefront of guiding businesses through many of these changes. She is the Chief Marketing Consultant at Next Marketing, a marketing agency for SME's based in Melbourne, Australia.  She describes herself simply as someone who works closely with business owners “who are looking for a better ROI for their marketing spend”. I asked Jo to share some of her own small business story with us …..

1. What motivated you to initially start your own small business Jo?
I had a couple of marketing roles which just hadn't worked out the way I had thought or intended - so I decided to go it alone.  It was quite a brave move - now that I look back upon those early days in a more detached way, quite a few years later!......  I hadn't ever worked out-of-house. My career until that point  had always involved working as an in-house marketing manager. Never-the-less, I made the move despite having no database, no clients and never having sold anything …  A bit of an understatement to say that it was a big learning curve!

2. What have you found most rewarding about running your own business?

The ability to make things happen - which I'm sure other small business owners who might have worked in the corporate world can relate to.  No need to seek approval for an idea from several levels of management bureaucracy, I can just make it happen and  be 100% responsible either way.  That is also why I love working with Business Owners directly as well.  No layers of decision making; you can generate ideas and then get moving with them much more quickly.
3. What about some of the challenges or frustrations you’ve had to deal with?

Lots!  I actually don't focus on them so they aren't really that top of mind. However having said that, let me add that I don't like making the same mistake twice.  One of the over-arching philosophies I have in my business is to have two of everything - skills - file copies - you name it. I suppose it’s a bit of contingency planning. ……. It is really crucial and I work hard at maintaining this back-up discipline at all times.
4. You’ve specialised in marketing for more than ten years – how should a small business approach developing a digital marketing strategy?

Pick a channel (one or two) and stick to it.  No point trying to be all things to all social media channels. Otherwise in the end, your content and main message can become completely lost. 

My preferred channel for my business is LinkedIn, I really like that it isn't full of what people are having for lunch or pictures of coffee.  Over the past several years I have found LinkedIn to be highly effective, given the demographic that I want to connect with. Especially when this strategy is further combined with face to face networking.  Ironically, just today I received a website enquiry from a contact that I met at a networking function six months ago, who has been following my content on LinkedIn.  Bingo …..

Patience is typically needed here – don’t expect a new contact to immediately start generating business for you. Work on building a relationship first. 

A small business owner simply can't afford to ignore social media and digital marketing, so really try to understand what platform is best suited for your business and then go for it!! Invest in some professional advice if you're not sure .... But there's a lot of educational resources freely available on the internet for those who prefer to handle their digital marketing themselves.

5. A good quality website forms an important component of a digital marketing strategy – what makes for a good website?
A design that is appropriate for your brand and industry.  It is actually a bit hard to put in words, as websites are highly visual – and need to be designed with your target group in mind.  Ensuring that you regularly include up to date content and touch bases as well - such as a newsletter sign up form or a RSS for a blog etc…  I actually don't believe websites really need to be more than a few pages - for standard B2B types ones that is.  Larger websites with more pages are known to be more favoured by Google, however I recommend using a blog to boost pages and content.  In the Next Marketing site for example, I have only about 12 standard website pages, but about 400 blogs - with three to four new blogs being published every week. These offer the advantage of controlled opportunities to engage and interact with your followers – thereby adding fresh content with each interaction occurring on your blog - so Google loves it.

6. You’ve been able to help many small businesses improve their lead generation and also their rates of conversion to sales – any tips you can share?
No single one element of your marketing mix is going to be the holy grail.  Marketing is very much about having many balls in the air and managing them in a consistent manner, to leverage each as much as possible.  For example, my blog gives me content - which then feeds social media and helps with my Google position as well.  It's also important to have a mix of strategies in place - LinkedIn works well for me, when combined with face to face networking. 

Google generates many leads for me because of my high search result ranking – but this must be combined with a great website.  And all of these things combine to provide a boost to my email marketing efforts. … A digital marketing strategy comprises many actions that must be inter-connected and therefore require considerable forward planning and co-ordination.

7. Any final words of advice for small business owners who might be wanting to grow their business?
Get found in Google!  Having a number one ranking for my targeted search terms changed the Next Marketing business forever in an incredibly powerful way - so that is my final word of advice

Thanks to Jo, for sharing your story. And if you want to learn more about getting a higher search engine result for your small business, then take a look at Getting Your Website Found By Google

About the author Brian Carroll is the founder of a management training company Performance Development, based in Melbourne, Australia.  He is a qualified psychologist, experienced leadership coach and an engaging presenter, with a passion for helping people develop their full capabilities. He regularly delivers management courses in Sydney

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Social Media Marketing Tips for Small Business

social media marketing tipsIf you’re running your own small business, then you’ve probably given some thought to social media and how to incorporate it in your broader marketing plans. If you are one of those small business owners who find themselves a little confused by the hype associated with social media, then read on. 

Gaynor Parke is a passionate social media specialist and digital marketing strategist who runs a business based in Sydney, NSW called Social Media Mamma.
Gaynor believes that less stress equals more success. She says that stress is the killer of creativity and productivity and she helps clients create Social Media strategies that can meet both personal and professional needs. With over 25 years of sales and business experience, Gaynor is in her element teaching business owners how to develop their business using the relationship marketing techniques that Social Media provides.

I recently invited Gaynor to share a few social media marketing tips with us - as well as to share some of her business experience:

1. What motivated you to start your own business Gaynor?

 I started playing with Facebook as a means of communication with my married children back in early 2009. I quickly discovered how powerful it could be for business so I created my wedding directory FIND IT For Weddings. As the business took off I realized I could teach other business owners how to successfully use Facebook to market their own businesses.

It might sound corny but Social Media Marketing led me to the fulfilment of a childhood dream, to become a teacher. Thus my Social Media Mamma business was born. Here I can combine business and personal development. You see you really can’t separate the two. Who we are shapes our business and our business impacts our lives. When you understand more about how a person ticks you are much more proficient at helping them grow their business.

  2. What were the biggest “start-up” challenges and difficulties you had to overcome in your own business during the first 1 - 2 years?

 I don’t think I am all that different from other people when I admit that self doubt was one of the biggest challenges I needed to overcome.

 As there were no courses back when I started using Facebook for business, I had to learn by trial and error. The upside of that is that everything I teach I have found to be successful first hand. No theory from a book - but real success from real efforts.

 Plus when you are on the leading edge of something new sometimes it’s tricky for businesses to see the value in your expertise. Most Australian businesses still don’t fully grasp the power of effective Social Media marketing, but at least there is increased awareness now and it is beginning to be taken much more seriously. It was an uphill battle in the early days, and sometimes still is, to explain how business can benefit from these new relationship marketing precepts.

3. Gaynor, you’ve advised many small business owners on how they can leverage social media – what are some of the common mistakes that small business makes with social media?

 i)  Immediacy. We all want to see immediate monetary results from our efforts. The biggest mistake that all newcomers to Social Media make is that they think they will just create an account and sales will roll in magically overnight. The reality is that Social Media is a long term investment.

Yes you may be able to create a fabulously viral marketing campaign and that may or may not result in an immediate upswing in sales. Mostly though, Social Media marketing is a race for the tortoise, not the hare. Continued consistency and great content, will definitely win the race.

ii)  Many people think that it’s all so easy and they don’t need help. After all, their children can help them create a Facebook page for business right? Wrong! There is always a right and wrong way of doing things that’s why there are professionals in any field. Just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come!

The right strategies and marketing plan along with a strong knowledge of the program you are using is vital to success. It’s all too easy to waste precious time and money floundering around and “playing” at Social Media rather than getting the right advice from the beginning.

iii)  Some small business owners think it’s all too hard. In fact Social Media is actually dialling back the clock to the old days of talking to the customer one-on-one over the counter. Business owners just need to see Social Media as real life communication only you just can’t see the other person.

Social Media has actually turned marketing on it’s head. Passive marketing just doesn’t cut it now-days. People want to know who is behind the business. They want to communicate and they want to be engaged. If you don’t communicate with them in their chosen digital space – then the likelihood is that they will simply go off and connect with one of your competitors.

To build trust and actually communicate first hand with customers is the “gold” that most business owners miss. Knowing your customer is priceless. The more you can get to know them via Social Media the more you can offer them products they really want to buy. Small business owners don’t need to be overwhelmed by it all – there are people around who can help you make sense of it.

4.  Do you have any tips on which social media platforms are best suited to different types of businesses ?

Business owners need to become very familiar with the profile of their customer and be clear about what they want to achieve. A simple place to start when you run a business is with a regular blog, producing fresh content that will interest your audience. This has many benefits including SEO and should be the hub of how you leverage your business via Social Media networks.

This demographic analysis of your customer will help decide where to place your Social Media marketing efforts. If you’re selling to women between the ages of 20 – 40 for example, I’d say Pinterest is a must. Users spend much more on Pinterest than on any other Network, have an income close to that of LinkedIn users and they spend more often.

Determining what resources are available to be allocated to your Social Media strategy will also determine what Network to use. Pinterest uses much less time and effort and generates more traffic to websites than LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube combined. However all platforms have their purpose and can be extremely effective when fully understood and the right strategies developed.

5. Some small business owners have complained to me they don’t receive an adequate ROI for the time they allocate to social media marketing – what are your thoughts Gaynor? 

It all depends on what you mean by ROI. Social Media is for the business owner who is in the long distance race and not the sprint. How do you measure the good will of a business? How do you measure the impact of not being seen as a professional business? I’m old enough to remember when people would ask “do I really need a website” and now everyone sees the benefits of a website.

Social Media gives the business owner access to so much priceless information. You can actually do your own market research and save thousands of dollars on otherwise failed products. You can communicate like never before with your potential customer. Newspaper advertising is declining because everyone is online. Magazines are going the same way. Even television must be feeling the pinch as it’s so easy to watch movies and shows online.

The question today is not whether you need to do Social Media, but how well are you doing it? If you’re not up to speed with the new marketing concepts you can be sure your competition is.

I believe that those businesses who feel that the ROI on Social Media isn’t sufficient don’t really understand how to use it effectively. Without fail, every client that I see, leaves me with the same comment, “ I had no idea it could do so much for my business”

6. In addition to social media of course, what other marketing strategies have you found most effective in growing and developing your own business?

Social Media IS my marketing tool. I have been approached to speak at networking events, to write articles, enjoyed large consulting roles, teaching positions and generate online sales - all via my Social Media marketing efforts.

7. Any final words of advice you would offer small business owners about how to grow their business?

Invest in advice from a professional from the start. I have seen too many small business owners lose money and put the reputation of their business in jeopardy due to acting upon poor advice from non-professionals. A Social Media professional can help you choose the right platform and help you create a Social Media marketing plan. The technicalities can be learned, but the golden success is found in knowing what strategies to apply and when.

The landscape of Social Media is changing so quickly and it can be a bit overwhelming. But almost anything can be easy when someone clearly shows you how - just don’t try and master everything at once.

If you don’t want to do Social Media marketing, what type of marketing are you going to do? Whatever you do in your small business, make sure you are directing your message to your target audience, speaking in their language, being consistent and  regularly measuring your impact. Marketing is crucial for your success; you just have to choose your communication medium and let the world know about your wonderful products and how it will help them.

Gaynor concludes by advising “I’ve found that when you focus on service, then the sales will take care of themselves!”.
Thanks Gaynor for taking the time to offer some great tips. Another related article that might be of interest is Marketing for Small Business

About the author
Brian Carroll is the founder of a leadership training company Performance Development, based in Melbourne, Australia.  He is a qualified psychologist, experienced leadership coach and an engaging presenter, with a passion for helping people develop their full capabilities