You may have heard stories of teenagers making a shed load of money from a blog and retiring at 19 to travel the world, or of new Mums starting blogs in their spare time to share parental advice who then go on to land guest spots on prime time TV shows and feature in popular magazines. But what you don’t hear about is the millions of small business owners across the globe who are currently using the Internet to market their business, service or trade online, gain more traffic, secure more leads and engage with current customers.In this modern age every business not only needs to be online with a website, but they need to be consistently adding interesting and relevant content to that site on a regular basis, which is also known as blogging.My business has a website, why isn’t that good enough?If your business is still using a traditional ‘brochure’ style website with no blog functionality, then I’m afraid you are missing the boat my friend. Search engines are increasingly favouring sites with fresh content and reward sites that update regularly. Your stale old brochure doesn’t contain any new content for the search engines to offer potential visitors and that means you get no search engine traffic.Take the following for example:Johnsons carpet cleaning website doesn’t have a blog, just a homepage with some information about the service they offer and the company contact details. The site functions OK as an online business card, a place to direct people to go for some more information but the site was built 2 years ago and there are only 3 pages.Jamesons carpet cleaning website does have a blog as part of their website and they publish a new post every week. Sometimes they write about the types of service they offer, the methods they use to clean carpets, tips and advice for homeowners to keep their carpet clean or feature reviews of cleaning products they use on a regular basis. At any time there is an information packed (and keyword rich) article less than a week old on the site.Now, when someone searches for carpet cleaning service, which website do you think the search engine would see as most relevant to serve up to the user?Regular content is a must for you to get traffic to your website.As you get visitors to your website by whatever means, regular fresh content will also give the visitors a reason to bother coming back ever again. Interesting and useful content gives them a reason to share your website with others, which could lead to viral marketing. Isn’t it expensive to keep updating my website?You need a website design for your business that has a blog built in, built on what is known as a content management system (CMS). This will enable you to have a gorgeous website with all your photos and contact details on the home page just like your brochure site, but most importantly a CMS like WordPress enables you to easily and quickly post new content to the blog section without the need to call in a web-designer each time.WordPress is probably the most popular CMS at the moment… and for good reason, its simple to create new content in the easy editor (its just like writing a word document) and you can publish new content to your site at the push of a button. Can I just use a blog service like Blogspot or a Tumblr?Well you could, but then you would have to send people to something like blogspot.com/MyBusiness – which doesn’t look too professional does it?Some of those free blog platforms do have a feature which enables you to use your own domain name, but you are still using a 3rd party service you don’t control, its possible they could pull the service or change the rules at anytime and all your hard work is gone.If you already have a website but it doesn’t have blog functionality, you could use one of these free services and link off to it in your header navigation. But it wont benefit you much in search rankings as all the juicy content is not on your domain. It would be better in the long run if you converted your site to a WordPress installation so that your website becomes the authority in the search engines. I don’t have time to keep writing articles for a blog – I’m trying to run my business!You don’t have to keep writing articles!Good meaty articles should feature in your website content but not every post on your blog needs to be an article, you can post your latest offers, videos of you working, photos, copies of your latest sales literature, the list is endless.You can outsource article writing for your business blog. Outsourcing article writing is easy, by signing up with a service such as Odesk.com or Elance.com you can find English speaking writers and hire them to produce high quality articles on any topic for about $5-$10 (3-7) – I used a great article writer from Odesk for my first business website and I still employ her now for writing tasks on various websites. As an added bonus the articles you have written for you can also be used offline in your flyers, adverts and brochures.
Great customer service is not an accident. Beyond the immediate experience, the primary concern of your customers is that they will continue to receive great service every time they encounter your business. Service that is great one time, terrible next and mediocre the time after that will drive away customers quickly.Mature businesses understand this concept and develop systems to serve their client’s needs and, when feasible, go above and beyond.Let’s consider the average rental car company office at a busy airport. For all offsite offices the company may expect that the weary traveler needs transportation – typically a shuttle bus or van – to reach the office and sign for the car. If you’ve ever traveled to a new airport and tried to find the right curb for the right rental car company you may know how confusing this can be.Imagine for a moment that your car rental company sent you a simple email with easy to follow instructions on your arrival airport, how to get from the terminals to the shuttle area, the hours that shuttles run and how to contact the office for help.That’s the level of customer service that each and every business should strive to achieve and, the best part, is that by systematizing the process you won’t have to invest a lot of time or money into making it reality.Great customer service doesn’t happen by accident, it’s measured and researched and designed with the client in mind.By systematizing your processes the majority of your investment happens up front when you are reviewing and preparing. Then, once the system is complete, it can usually go on auto pilot.For the airport example, a simple rule that recognizes each rental reservation at LAX would trigger an email to send 24 hours before the pick up time.Another benefit of systems is that once the first iteration is complete, each subsequent system is easier to adapt. By completing the LAX to rental company instructions, the national office can recreate such a system for other airport locations, substituting the maps, written instructions and contact information.Systems enable you to deliver high levels of customer service as standard practice, increasing the value of your offers and conditioning your clientele to expect the best from you and your team. It’s not just receiving one great customer experience that makes a difference, but the consistency that encourages repeat business.Don’t you want your clients and customers to say the same thing after they encounter your business? If you want to make an impression that creates loyalty then you need solid customer service systems to guarantee that your business is meeting and exceeding expectations.
As a small business owner, you know how difficult it can be, and how costly, to have a constant flow of new customers coming through your doors. You need to use every means available to you at the best price possible to generate leads and get your products or services in front of as many eyes as you possibly can. One very effective method is cross-promoting with another business.To do this, you need to find other small businesses who market to the same people as you do. A prime example of this would be for the caterer who can cross promote with an event planner or wedding planner, a DJ and a photographer. All of these businesses service the same customers yet are not in direct competition with each other.By setting up a small network of companies who reach the same market and each one is promoting the other’s services or products, you effectively can reach four times as many customers at absolutely no cost to you. Working as a team, yet as separate entities, you capture a larger market share.It is easy to set this up. You can jointly decide on a marketing strategy. It may be as simple as including their information at the bottom of your invoices or email signatures or you may decide to print out flyers or brochures to be distributed to each others customers. If budget is a factor, you can jointly produce these printed marketing materials and share the cost.Customers want things to be easy. They want to be able to find everything they need in one place. By offering suggestions to your customers of businesses that you recommend, your customers are likely to follow your advice and give the business to your marketing network rather than taking the time to source out the services themselves. The same goes for all of your cross-promotion businesses to their customers.Since you are essentially giving a testimonial for the businesses you recommend, be sure to fully check out their track record first. Make sure they offer great customer service, the same quality of products you have and have a good reputation. You do not want to tarnish your own reputation by suggesting a business with a poor track record as it does reflect back on you.Establish connections at your local Chamber of Commerce or business network group. Most other small business owners are in the same position you are and are very receptive to new marketing ideas. Especially those ideas that cost little or nothing to implement.This is not a new marketing technique. Big businesses have been doing this for years with great success. Very few small businesses have taken advantage of this very profitable means of grabbing new business. You will have a distinct advantage over your competition by cross-promoting.You and your network may even consider a joint website and internet marketing campaign that will extend your reach even further. Just like the brochures, you can split the costs and provide a one stop shop on the web that will pull in even more customers that you may not have been able to reach with traditional marketing methods. Now more than ever, it just makes sense to band together as a team and take the market by storm.