Simplify Your Content Marketing Strategy with a One-Page Plan

The recent Content Marketing Institute release, a B2C content marketing report, took the attention of all content marketers. It’s an important annual study because it helps shed light on various aspects of content marketing that we’d otherwise be blind to.

B2C marketers with a documented strategy were found to be more effective than those without one in every aspect of content marketing. But yet, only 39% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy.

Why do you need a one-page strategy?

We’ve already established that having a documented content strategy is far better than the alternative. For people that don’t have a written content marketing strategy, having a simple one is a great place to begin.

On the other hand, if you do have a detailed strategy but are having a hard time with it, simplifying it is going to help you figure out where the weaknesses are and possibly seal them.

A one-page content marketing strategy is advantageous regardless of the size or stage your business is in, because it helps in the following concrete ways:

  • It helps clear up holes in your overall business plan.
  • Content producers can all be sure of what exactly is expected of them.
  • It gives the business a more focused vision.

For smaller business, it might end up being all you need. Most times content strategies end up being too convoluted and ineffective.

Pinpoint the organization’s needs and goals

The first step in creating a simple content marketing strategy is to find out what the organization aims to achieve in that year. Since almost every company’s ultimate goal is growth, they share almost the same objectives. This should be outlined in documents like internal memos. They should help you outline:

  • The profit target
  • Revenue target
  • How growth is to be achieved

With all this data, the next step is to figure out what role content marketing is supposed to play in helping the company achieve those three goals. Don’t forget to have a way to measure the kind of impact content marketing will have had on the company’s end goals at the end of the year.

What to include in your one-page strategy

Having been used to writing five pages of more worth of details for your strategy, how do you know what to include and what to leave out? The following are the most important aspects it will normally boil down to:

Goals

Business goals are the most critical achievements your business should reach in the near fiscal year or over a 5-year period or so.

Examples of goals that could be outlined in your content marketing strategy include:

  • Increase market share of your product from XX% to XY%.
  • Grow percentage of sales from new products

Objectives

There is understandable confusion among marketers when it comes to differentiating between goals and objectives of a business. Goals are the general guidelines that are going to direct you over the long term and reflect the mission statement and vision of the company.

Objectives are meant to define how the goals are to be achieved – think of them as measured steps towards achieving your final goal. These should optimally have a measurable impact, should be specific and, preferably, have a completion date.

For instance:

  • Increase revenue by XX% over the next 12 months.

Strategy

This part of the document should detail how exactly you plan on achieving your goals and objectives. What qualitative impact will content marketing have on the business over the course of the next year? For example:

  • Increase awareness of the new product by launching an ad campaign.
  • Create a better customer service experience by retraining company representatives.
  • Increasing brand engagement by launching a social media campaign.

Metrics

This section should detail how you are going to measure what the content marketing strategy has achieved in the course of a year or so. These should directly reflect on the goals, objectives and strategies the business has put in place for itself.

It’s important to note that all details included in this section should be concrete and measurable. For example:

  • Awareness of the new product was increased by XX%.
  • Customer satisfaction rating improved from XX% to XX%
  • Sales revenue jumped from XX% to XY%.

Other useful details to have at hand

Once all of this is said and done, there are a few more factors you might have to consider when it comes to a content marketing strategy. A one-page strategy is a great rough guide for how the business should achieve its goals, but you may end up leaving out some finer details that are required to get to the end result.

These include:

The type of content to produce

There are several different kinds of content that can be used to reach the eventual end goals.

  • Blog posts: Blog posts are an excellent way to increase search engine presence and make your business discoverable on the internet.
  • Case studies: Case studies usually coincide with testimonials and are an excellent way to let potential customers know how your customers feel.
  • Videos: Videos have risen to the top of the content marketing world because they are one of the most engaging forms of content that can be produced. According to the data presented by HubSpot, videos are 40 times more likely to get ahead on social media than other kinds of content. Granted, it needs a larger amount of investment, but it has a proportionately higher ROI.

If you want to outsource your content to an expert, find the best essay writing service through essay review and domywriting reviews online. It will help you focus on your core areas and get you better results with the help of professional online writing experts.

To sum up

A Content Management System (CMS) is a program that helps to manage all the content you create and could have a lot of bearing on how your content appears and what kind of analytics you can harvest from your visitors.

Some of the most popular CMSs out there include WordPress, Contentful and HubSpot. Your business strategy might include new ways you can use and implement a new CMS or how you can leverage the power of the old one to your advantage.

Guest Post: About the Author

Lilian Chifley is a digital marketing expert working mainly with online writing services. Her current assignments are with Assignment Masters, Dissertation writing service and Custom writing services. When she’s not at work, she loves to go out for jogging or cycling, read motivational and inspirational books and spend time with her two young daughters.

How To Optimize Your Business For The Digital Age

Nowadays, everything and everyone is digital. But how do you keep up? With a few simple tips on how to optimize your business, moving it online and utilizing the cloud for example, you can be on your way to fitting in seamlessly with today’s ‘phone-zombie’ crowd.

Be Realistic

You have to consider the pros and cons of doing a full-on move to the online world vs. just dipping your toe into the digital revolution. Not every business will need to drop everything and go entirely online, so consider the scope of your business and the degree of change which will be necessary. Taking down a checklist of your personal goals for your company, and seeing how many of these could be made easier or achieved by going online, might help – do you want to reach global customers easily and cost-effectively? A website would be a good idea. Do you want to become a quaint local business, and cater to the surrounding customers? Maybe the internet isn’t quite for you, or at least you shouldn’t put too much of your budget into building the perfect, modern website.

Consider Employees

“Employees are the backbone of your business, so you can’t make any major changes without considering them,” Charlie Miller, a marketer at Lastminutewriting and Writinity, says. “If you have a fast-paced, modern set of staff, then they will, most likely, have no problem with some hardware and software updates, and will most probably welcome the modernization. However, older and more conservative employees may be harder to convince, and need specific training or even just less change altogether in order to keep the office running smoothly.”

Plan Frugally

Of course, moving online isn’t going to be an inexpensive process, but you can make sure that your bank account takes the least amount of damage possible by planning ahead and making your budget stretch as far as possible. If you’re working with freelancers – which is a cost-effective method in itself since it eliminates a lot of the cost associated with traditionally hiring – make sure that you communicate and only hire at a reasonable rate. Hiring someone – traditionally or otherwise – to keep your finances in order might be a sensible idea, so that you don’t splash the cash and end up running low on funds for your business after a digital buzz.

Keep Security In Mind

“Although the internet is a wonderful place, it can also be very dangerous.” Izzy Hicks, a business writer at Draftbeyond and Researchpapersuk, warns. “Hackers are constantly trying to access normal people’s information, so businesses are a higher risk, higher reward target to them. If they can get into your data, which your digital transformation (if you don’t consider security) will give them more access points to, then it could be horrible for your security, and cause you to lose massive amounts of customer trust and possibly even money.” Invest in cyber-security, possibly even hiring some employees specifically for this purpose, to make sure that your digital move is secure.

Work With Your Employees

Not all employees will be as happy about the digital move as you are, so make sure that you don’t just sweep their concerns under the rug and actually deal with them head-on. Staging meetings where all employees are welcome to voice their opinions and ask any questions about the digital move which they might have. If you’re certain about the level of your digital changes, then make sure that you can bring all employees up to speed, and not just some. Everyone needs to feel welcome and like they can contribute and work with the digital changes to the office.

Automation Is Key

Once you’ve started your digital change, something you should consider is automation. Ideally, automation should be so stream-lined and smooth that a customer doesn’t even realize it exists in the first place – the difference between a human response and your automated response should be minimal at best. Emails and social media can benefit from automation, and giving your employees some training on implementing and working with automation could do your business a world of good.

Mobile

Finally, mobile phones are key. Almost everyone now carries a smartphone in their pocket everywhere they go, so you need to take advantage of that and make sure that you are catering to the huge mobile phone-using audience. Many prefer a smartphone over a laptop, so you’ll need to make sure your website is optimised for viewing on a smartphone screen, or perhaps even invest in the creation of an app (which could be commissioned by a freelancer) to appeal to this very modern, digital audience.

Guest Post: About the Author

Ashley Halsey writes professionally at Lucky Assignments and Gum Essays, while being involved in many projects throughout the country, which focus on both writing (and the English language) and business. As the mother of two beautiful children, she is well-used to working through adversity and getting her job done alongside bringing up the kids, and yet she still finds time for travelling to amazing places, reading fantastic novels and attending business training courses – her schedule is almost as busy as the creative insides of her mind, which is really saying something!

 

 

Social Media Tricks That Can Bring a Fresh Breath to Your Business

Growing your small business through social media should not be that stressful. If you know which tools to leverage and you are equipped with ample knowledge of online marketing, especially social media marketing, it will be easier to attract prospects and gain customers. Social media is a huge platform where you can promote your business in fun, simple and cost-effective ways. If you have a small business and want to conquer all social media channels, here are some social media tricks that can bring a fresh breath to your business.

Cinemagraphs

If you want to keep the interest of your prospects online, don’t bombard them with lengthy texts since they will only find these overwhelming and boring. Instead, make visual content your weapon in increasing engagement. For one, use cinemagraphs or still images with some animation. Unlike actual videos, they are very easy to make using programs like Fixel and Fotodanz. Using these apps, you can make beautiful cinemagraphs which your audience will surely find interesting and engaging.

Stock Photos

If you don’t have enough time to take your own pictures or you just want to save some bucks from hiring a professional photographer, you can always take advantage of stock photos. They can increase your business’ visual appearance and make your content more appealing. Stock photos are easy to find, save and upload to your social media page and they have the same quality as the photos taken by professionals.

Hello Bars

Also known as floating bars, hello bars are simply notification bars that prevent your visitors from being disturbed when browsing your page. These will notify your customers and prospects when you are making announcements, offering a lead magnet, showcasing more content, asking your prospects to subscribe to your email list or running a limited-time offer. By using a simple floating bar, you can easily promote your business without annoying your prospects.

Free ‘Click to Tweet’ Option

The click-to-tweet option is a good way to promote your brand and boost your sales. This is free and you can put it on your website or anywhere there is text on your page. If people like your content, they will click it and share it on Twitter, where more prospects can see it. A lot of people use Twitter and when people start sharing your content in this platform, you’ll have a higher chance of gaining customers.

Shopping on Instagram

Every month, more than 800,000 consumers use Instagram to shop and business owners around the world have been using this platform to share their products and stories. Now, you cannot just use Instagram to share content, but you can actually sell your products here. You only need the approval of Facebook shop and you can start tagging your products on your posts. This is a great way to increase your revenue since more people can now see your products and go to your website when they find any interesting item from your shop.

Killer Captions

Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, always make sure that you use killer captions. Don’t post your content right away without making an interesting caption or checking each word you wrote. If you’re not that good with wordplay, you can let your social media manager take care of it or hire a copywriter to improve your captions. Killer captions are made with some storytelling using captivating words. Just make sure the captions are free of clichés and focus on quality instead of quantity.

Catchy Hashtags

Hashtags are also a great way to increase your audience so make good use of them all the time. To garner a broad interest, use popular hashtags in your industry and include your company’s name in the list of hashtags you use. However, avoid using too many hashtags and only put relevant ones. Try to shorten your hashtags since long ones are difficult to read due to the lack of spaces.

Giveaways

Everybody loves freebies and even though giveaways are very traditional, they hardly fail marketers in boosting their sales and engagement. Because people are always on social media, it is a great place to run all these contests. Take advantage of holidays and celebrations and run a contest where you can give some nice giveaways. The rewards may come from your shop or you can also offer other appealing and valuable items. It is also a great way to thank your customers for their patronage and encourage them to buy more of your products.

Fun Facts/Inspirational Quotes

Sometimes, you can rest from posting videos and other visual content. You can also post some fun facts or memes to entertain your customers or share some inspirational quotes to cheer them up. If you’ll notice, most fitness coaches use this trick but even if you’re not in the fitness industry, you can always do this to increase engagement and motivate your customers and prospects.

Guest Post: About the Author

Lidia Hovhan is Digital Marketing expert and SEO guru. She contributes articles about how to integrate digital marketing strategy with traditional marketing to help business owners to meet their online goals. You can find really professional insights in her writings.

6 Ways to Make Your Customers Trust Your Brand

Trust between the customer and brand isn’t always so evident. People are wary of who they give their money to now more than ever. We can read into this too much, but the matter of the fact is that the market is too large and people just aren’t sure who to trust. In a day and age when scams are very frequent, it’s only natural to do thorough research before you spend money on anything.

That being said, it’s your job as a business to extend a hand to your customers and show them why they should trust you. It may seem like a very abstract concept, but building trust between you and your target audience doesn’t have to give you a headache. Just like with everything else, you’ll need a game plan. In this case, you’ll have six to choose from.

1. Have a voice

Without a voice, your brand is just a name. Soon enough, people will forget all about it. Coming up with a brand voice makes you more memorable, more human, and more trustworthy. It can be hard finding your voice, but if you ask yourself one simple question, you’ll be there in no time. That question is: what do I stand for?

In other words, figure out what you care for most. Whether it’s the environment, family values, or anything in between, make sure it’s a consistent part of your voice. The message you’re trying to send should be evident and easy to understand. Be direct, but don’t be pushy. It’s important for your customers to know where you stand but try not to push your agenda onto them.

Also, make sure that your message matches your actions. Consistently saying how you care about the environment and then not actually going green or doing anything to help the environmental crisis just makes you a hypocrite. People want to see you act on your ideals as well as hear them.

2. Be transparent

Though you may not think what goes on in the office is any of the public’s business, some of it actually needs to be. The more transparent and open you are about how you run business, the better you’ll resonate with your users. People don’t like businesses who keep everything behind closed doors and who refuse to share any of the information the public might want to know.

It’s pretty simple, those who are reluctant to share anything with the public probably have something to hide. You could be the most honest business in the world, but people are simply not going to believe you unless they have evidence for it. No one just takes anyone’s word for anything anymore.

With the facts out in the open, you’ll have nothing to worry about and people will have no reason to talk. Even if someone starts saying untrue things about your business, there will be outright solid evidence to show them they’re wrong. In any case, people will have no reason to distrust you when you’re completely open with them.

3. Build relationships with customers

By building relationships, you’re building trust. You can do this on a more personal level by taking an interest in your existing customers and showing them that you care. Whether it’s remembering their birthdays or sending an email for the holidays, you’re bound to win them over with the attention you’re giving them.

When they come into the office, always be kind and interested in whatever they have to say. People like being listened to, so extend your hand, ask them how their day is going, and you’ll already be making an impact. Little tokens of affection are also very nice ways to nurture customer relationships.

Just think of Christmas, for example. This is the time of year when everyone’s thinking of someone else. You can send all your customers season’s greeting cards to thank them for their business. This is bound to impress them and make them trust you even more. Don’t be afraid to splurge on gift baskets for your most valued customers or whenever you make a new business deal. Giving even the smallest gift makes a person feel appreciated and loved.  This is a gateway to trust.

4. Own your mistakes

You’re not a robot, of course, you’re going to make mistakes from time to time. Regardless of how big or small that mistake is, you have to own it. Most companies try to sweep it under the rug, bury it, and completely forget about it. This just makes it seem like you’re ashamed of the mistake you made and leaves room for others to dig up dirt about you.

Owning your mistakes and making an effort to publically fix them makes you way more responsible and trustworthy. By doing so, you admit that you aren’t perfect and show your customers your humane side. A public apology may be a nice touch, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you have to offer for your mistakes. Instead, come up with a plan of action to fix what’s broken.

This plan should also be public and you should let people in on your progress from time to time. This will let them know that you’re still actively working on fixing your mistake and that the plan and public apology weren’t just a sham. People respect those who can tell when they’re wrong and who actively try to make amends. They’re going to forgive you much more easily if you show them you’re growing and changing.

5. Work on Authenticity

Being authentic may be the safest bet you have that your customers will take to your brand. With so many similar products on the market, people like seeing something completely original and unique. Whether it’s the design and patterns you use, the way your product works, or the product itself- it should be something they tie only to you.

The trouble here is that customers won’t be the only ones who notice your authenticity. Competitors may want to get a piece of the action, which may lead them to copy your products. If you believe that someone is selling knock-off or has copied any part of your product or process, you should contact experts like Actuate IP. This way, you’ll be able to protect your authenticity and show your customers that it’s not your product which doesn’t work the way you promised.

If you just let people get away with things like these, it makes you seem rather unprofessional and untrustworthy. Your audience rarely knows the difference between the knock-offs and the original, leaving them to think it’s you who lacks quality and originality.

To have grounds to take legal action against someone copying you, make sure that you’ve protected your product with copyright. Everything from the making process to the specific parts of your product should be protected. Also, make sure that you’ve protected the idea you’ve had for the product. This way, you have plenty of evidence that the idea, manufacturing process, and product were all yours to begin with.

If we look at the other side of the mirror, it’s also important not to copy anyone around you. Using your competitors for inspiration and coming up with something yourself is fine, but copying anything off them is a huge no. Not only will this be bad for business, but it also shows your customers that you’re someone not to be trusted. Integrity and trust don’t go without each other.

6. Always reply

Lastly, you should always reply to your users. Whether it’s emails, social media accounts, or any other platform, their comments and messages should not go unanswered. The main benefit of technology is that it has made communication much easier. In business, this means that you don’t have an excuse not to listen to your users anymore. People want to be heard and listened to.

Post relevant content to engage your users and you’ll see how many more comments and messages you’ll be getting. Ask them questions, be funny, and encourage their interactions by replying. Not only does this bridge the gap between the firm and the customer, but it also makes you seem more down to earth.

Companies usually seem way out of our reach, thus making them less human. You become something abstract instead of something they can relate to. By communicating, you show people that you’re just as human as they are. This makes it much easier for them to trust you and guarantees an increase in sales.

Conclusion

Loyalty comes hand in hand with trust. This means that, by building trust, you’re building business relationships that will last a lifetime. To grow and expand your firm, you’ll need to attract as many new customers as you can, but you’ll also have to retain them. Trust is the healthiest glue that can tie you and your target audience together, so don’t be afraid to use it excessively.

huge no. Not only will this be bad for business, but it also shows your customers that you’re someone not to be trusted. Integrity and trust don’t go without each other.

Guest Post: About the Author

Nick is a blogger and a marketing expert currently engaged on projects for Media Gurus, an Australian business, and marketing resource. He is an aspiring street artist and does Audio/Video editing as a hobby.

10 Video Content Ideas That Work with Your Small Biz Budget

Savvy marketers know that, in 2019, video marketing simply must be a part of the strategy. To illustrate why that is, let’s take a look at a few stats: 93 percent of businesses say they’ve earned a new customer by posting a video on social media and 72 percent of users say they prefer video over text when they’re learning about a product or service. Video as a digital medium and a mode for advertising grows exponentially every year, making it a requisite for all businesses looking to position themselves for success.

With all of this in mind, it’s clear that your small- or medium-sized business could benefit greatly from integrating video into your process. But with a limited budget, is that even possible? Indeed, it is! Start by realizing that you don’t need any expensive equipment or software to shoot viral-worthy vids. In fact, you can transform your DSLR camera or iPhone into a high-tech piece of equipment by purchasing affordable video accessories to outfit your existing gear, and there are plenty of free and cheap editing programs out there.

Coupled with some of the affordable video concepts listed below, you’ll be well on your way to a successful campaign that doesn’t bog down your budget.

  1. Crowd-Sourcing Content: Basic User-Generated Videos

    Looking to produce compelling video content without actually making any videos? Here’s a tip: encourage your users to make their own vids that you can use in your campaigns. Offer an incentive to your fans to create a review, a tutorial video or a testimonial that you can then turn into its own video. Nothing’s better than word-of-mouth advertising, and this is one of the best ways to do it in the world of modern marketing, where everything’s online.

  2. Getting Personal: Meet the Team and Behind-the-Scenes

    One of the things that video marketing does especially well is helping users connect with brands, giving marketing a real, personable face and voice. Filming a few behind-the-scenes videos, such as a meet the team video or a how it’s made video, will help your viewers, fans and potential customers get a better idea about the essence and vibe of your company. Don’t forget to film an interview or a feature showcasing your founder and the origins of your brand.

  3. Brand Rep 101: Testimonials and Reviews

    Perhaps the most obvious way to use video as a marketing tool is to create content that promotes. Invite in a few of your most loyal customers or those who have seen amazing results from your product and film an interview-style video featuring their feedback. Make sure your testimonial videos are built for success: make them short, simple and authentic, and definitely don’t use a script.

  4. Educating Users: How-Tos andTutorials

    Gone are the days of in-store demos and door-to-door salesmen. These days, YouTube is all you need to explain how your product works. Have one of your most camera-ready employees film how-tos and demonstrations detailing how your product or service works. Whether you film it yourself with your iPhone (and a few essential filming accessories, of course) or have an artist create a custom animation just for you, you can count on these vids to educate and sell at the same time.

  5. NoFilmingNecessary: Webinars and Audio-Only Videos

    Naturally, with the set, the hair and makeup and the lighting, the visual component of video marketing can be hard on the budget, especially when you’re working with minimal funds. Consider recording audio only and then pairing the audio portion with still photos, screen-sharing shots and other components to provide the same enjoyable viewing experience of a regular video. This can be done relatively easy with your phone or DSLR and a camera microphone.

  6. Expert’s Circle: Interviews and In-Depth Guides

    If you want to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry (and therefore gain more leads and better brand recognition), you need to be pulling insight from the experts in the field. Cater to general searchers who are looking to learn with educational, expert-driven content that adds to a broader conversation.

  7. Live-Streaming:Day-to-Day Snippets

    No doubt about it: embedded videos and a strong presence on YouTube and other platforms are great, but you also have to make sure you’re leveraging your “one-and-done” channels, like Snapchat, Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories to get your products in front of users. Film and post everything from employee community engagement to press conferences and company networking events.

  8. Listicles: Turning Your Text Content into Compelling Videos

    You’ve probably come across short videos on Facebook and Instagram that feature still photos and video clips with text overlays, highlighting interesting facts or telling a story. This is a great format for companies that want to repurpose their existing text content into video format — listicles, tip articles and buyer’s guides can make surprisingly sharable video content.

  9. Adding Art: Animations and More

    It may be a lot cheaper and even more effective to ditch the video footage altogether. Instead, consider hiring a digital artist to create an animation or a stop-motion video highlighting your product or service. These kinds of videos tend to capture the attention of people scrolling through your feed, but they don’t require actors or a set, so they can save you a pretty penny.

  10. Influencers: Creating ‘Why We Love It’ Vids

    Finally, don’t forget to invite real, influential users to come onto your channel to help highlight why it’s worth trying your product or service. Whether you enlist a real-life user from your community or a professional influencer is up to you, but you can count on these vids ramping up your reputation and earning you more followers.

Once you start exploring, you’ll be surprised to find out how many clever video concepts you can nail without a hefty investment. It’s all about leveraging what you have around you — your existing equipment, your existing content and your video-ready team — and then dialing it up a few notches by adding the special sparkle of video. When your brand goes viral, you’ll be glad you made the effort!

Guest Post: About the Author

Ethan Long is the business development director for MovoPhoto. Before starting with them, he worked in advertising in NYC where he gained over eight years of experience in content and video marketing. In his free time, he enjoys being outside, learning new photo and videography techniques, and spending time with his wife and their dog, Rory.

10 Trade Show Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Been thinking about setting up shop at an expo or special event? Since trade shows are proven to help boost brand awareness, increase sales and enhance product knowledge, there’s no reason why your small business shouldn’t consider attending one. Get your promotional banners and book that well-positioned trade show spot. Be ready to assemble a sales dream team, grab some flashy swag and print up those can’t-miss marketing materials, because we’re headed to the trade show!

Get to Know the Event Before You Go

First things first: do some recon. Seriously though, the best trade shows and industry events will publish numbers pertaining to attendance, attendee demographics, competitors and other important items that you can use to create a highly effective trade show strategy. Focus on finding ways to draw in your ideal customer through buyer personas, and market to your target consumer.

Invest in a Custom Display Kit

If it’s your first time exhibiting at a major trade show, make sure you show up with a professional display. Small businesses typically can’t afford huge, custom-built rigs. These displays cost money to design, conceive and build, and also to transport to the event. Instead, invest in an all-inclusive trade show display that comes with backdrops, banners, tablecloths and other essentials. These bundles basically allow you to turn any space into a pro-level trade show display.

Write a Special Sales Script

Remember how we discussed marketing to your core consumer? Make sure that you tweak your typical sales script or pitch so that it very closely aligns with your target attendee. For example, if you’re hoping to get your product in front of C-suite execs or other decision-makers at a given show, then focus on positioning your product or service as a high-value investment that will bring big returns. If your goal is consumer-focused, make it more of an emotional experience.

Where Possible, Make it Interactive

In a world where we demo, interact and do business in a primarily digital setting, the trade show is a unique opportunity to get real face time with consumers and other innovators within your industry. Don’t miss out on this important component! Try your best to make your booth interactive and engaging by allowing attendees to touch, feel and play with your product. Videos, prototypes, virtual reality setups and mock-up environments can help people visualize products and experiences in a real, meaningful way without a massive spend on your behalf.

Send out a Digital Blast Beforehand

Before you set up at any event, especially a large trade show or convention, make sure to send out a digital marketing blast through email. Let everyone in your circle of clients, customers and partners know where you’ll be exhibiting (list the exact booth number, if possible). Even if your booth is flooded with existing fans or customers, count it as a win! Crowds beget crowds, and if event-goers see that your booth is happening, they’ll stop by, too.

Provide Sneak Peeks to Hype the Crowd

We probably don’t have to tell you that good trade show giveaways can earn you massive points in the exhibitor market. Of course, they’re great for drawing people into your booth and capturing the attention of attendees, but they’re also an amazing way to hype up your display before the event even begins. Tease your swag with sneak peeks a week or so beforehand.

Develop Incentives and Advertise Them

In the same vein, you can use your swag items to help you achieve specific event marketing goals. Maybe you decided to exhibit in order to develop leads, to build brand awareness or to grow your social media numbers. Whatever you want to do, your freebies can help. For example, you might offer a small giveaway to anyone who signs up for your email list or “likes” your page on social media.

Make Something “Share-Worthy”

These days, it isn’t enough for your audience to like and share content related to your business. They also have to create it themselves in what’s known as user-generated content (UGC).One of the best ways you can encourage them to do this is by having a totally unique photo opportunity in the midst of your booth. Think: a large, life-sized prop of some sort or a funny face cutout board with your logo and branding on it. Don’t forget the hashtags!

Draw Attention with Games and Chill Spots

If you’re setting up shop at a trade show that’s primarily business-to-business, remember that most attendees will be on the clock when they’re wandering through the aisles. Thus, anything you can do to provide them with a fun break in the day—which they have probably spent in exhausting meetings, presentations and networking events—will be welcome. Set up a place for attendees to relax, charge their phone or play some games (with prizes, of course) to help them take a much-needed rest as they ink deals.

Host an Event or Presentation

The exhibiting portion is only part of the equation when it comes to trade shows. You can, and should, develop a full-scale trade show plan by adding sponsored events and demonstrations to your schedule. Host thoughtful industry-related panels and question and answer sessions or keep it casual by inviting leaders in your field to mingle at a happy hour or luncheon hosted by your company.

Catering to the Right Crowd — 

 There’s no one-size-fits-all formula to marketing your trade show presence, but you should bank on the things that work. Effective event marketing includes creating an eye-catching display, handing out high-value freebies and building up hype around your exhibit. If you spend a bit of time beforehand conceptualizing a strategy that plays to your target attendee, you can bet that your exhibit fees will bring a pretty impressive return on investment.

Guest Post: About the Author

Leslie Pierce is the VP of Marketing for Half Price Banners. She has a demonstrated history of working in the wholesale industry and has been with her company for over 10 years. She is skilled in luxury goods, sales, retail, store management, and sales operations.

6 of the Best Sales Negotiation Skills for Business Success

Sales negotiation skills are key to business success. Business owners continually encounter situations, ranging from trivial to complex, that require negotiations.

Expert sales negotiation traininghelps business owners achieve optimal results. In this training, sales course content is infused with negotiation skills development. Six sales skills for business owners to improve their sales outcomes include:

The Courage to Walk Away

Skilled business owners avoid going into discussions without options. A businessperson entering discussions should have a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA).

A BATNA is what you walk away with if you can’t reach an agreement. Understanding your BATNA gives you the confidence to reject unprofitable or low-profit deals and only make informed concessions for win-win outcomes. Confidence grows when you have a favorable fallback position and are not desperate for a deal.

In addition to coming prepared by having your BATNA, knowing your buyers’ and suppliers’ BATNAs can inform your negotiation strategy.

Effective Listening Skills

Negotiations can be highly pressured. Business owners might be itching to get their points across. However, holding the floor in discussions can lead to not paying attention to what others are saying. The dominating speaker is too busy thinking of their next point.

Just waiting for your chance to speak instead of truly listening is also considered disrespectful to others at the table. When you don’t listen, you can also miss chances to create and claim value.

When you pay close attention, you are likely to uncover details that could enrich the deal and improve the relationship. Listening is so crucial that top business negotiators write out their best questions before meetings. Questions give you control of the meeting, allowing you to steer discussions.

Documentation Skills

Sales negotiation training teaches students to put discussions and agreements in writing. It’s possible to agree to something and later forget details of the agreement.

Additionally, it’s almost inevitable to come across a dishonest person in business. Documenting terms makes it more difficult for someone to later use deceptive tactics to challenge agreements.

Other times, clients or suppliers may forget committing to an agreement. When you have agreements in writing and all participants retain a copy, the contract acts as a reminder for smooth operations and timely deliveries.

Effective Communication Skills

In business negotiations, there’s little room for miscommunication or communication breakdowns. As Lee Iacocca once said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” Similarly, if you can’t communicative effectively in business, your negotiation efforts may not amount to much.

Effective communication is key in simplifying complex information, resolving conflicts, and persuasion. Negotiation seminars often train sales professionals to hone their communication skills through role play. Strong communication skills need practice to form positive habits like being engaging and responsive.

Fortunately, communication skills can be honed. To improve your effectiveness in negotiations, you can:

  • Take time to thoroughly research and prepare before the meeting.
  • Consider enrolling in expert negotiation training.
  • Engage in negotiation simulations to rehearse and improve.
  • Conduct debriefing sessions to analyze your performance.

Problem-Solving Skills

Businesses make profits out of solving other people’s problems.

The same steps a businessperson takes to solve problems can be used to reach agreements. Problem-solving steps you can take to reach agreements include:

  • Clearly defining the problem.
  • Pursuing alternative opportunities for solving the problem.
  • Questioning the cause of the problem.
  • Identifying multiple possible solutions to the problem.
  • Prioritizing potential solutions.
  • Deciding on an acceptable solution.
  • Assigning tasks for implementing the solution.
  • Setting measures to track progress on the problem and solution.

Empathy

Empathy helps a businessperson understand others’ problems and create appropriate solutions. When you’re empathetic, you’re positioned to understand the feelings and attitudes of others, even if your own feelings differ.

Empathy forges mutual respect and develops trust. In persuasion, empathy can encourage positive social behavior. This increases the chances of creating win-win solutions. Expert sales negotiation training can:

  • Equip people to identify their own and other people’s emotions.
  • Train people to identify emotion by reading body language, tone, and non-verbal cues.
  • Train business owners to employ skillful probing without sounding interrogative.
  • Practice active listening to understand rather than interrupt.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of others’ concerns without judgment.

Sales Negotiation Skills Summary

By training in and nurturing these six key skills, business owners can create favorable outcomes. After all, business is ultimately about exchanging value for profits. If you fail at negotiations, you are more likely to fail in business. If you employ these six skills to succeed at negotiations, your business is positioned to grow consistently.

Guest Post: About the Author

Specialists in the corporate business negotiation market, The Negotiation Experts offer instructive advice on their site via articles, Q&A’s, book reviews, case studies, and negotiating definitions.

How to Optimize Your Note-Taking Process

Taking notes is a vital part of life. It allows us to focus on and remember important information that we’d otherwise forget. From meetings at the office to attending lectures or training seminars and even talking with family and friends, there are so many different occasions where you might need to take notes.

But there’s more than one way to take notes. You can use writing pens, digital note-taking apps, or try sketching out your notes if you prefer working with visual information. Learn how to optimize your note-taking process with these helpful hints.

Use a Pen and Paper

While digital devices and note-taking apps have become increasingly popular in recent years, studies show taking notes by hand is more effective when it comes to remembering important information over the long-term than taking notes on a laptop. Writing out information by hand helps us spend more time with the information at hand.

Autotype and other smart features can automate the note-taking process, which might help you save time, but you won’t retain as much information as you would if you were practicing your handwriting with a pen and paper. You’ll think about each word and letter as you write down key concepts, so you can easily recall this information down the road without having to go back over your notes.

Map Out Your Information

If you’re trying to absorb information that deals with lots of moving parts, such as a series of events or a timeline of information, try mapping out your notes. Like a diagram or flowchart, mapping out your notes helps you connect different subjects simultaneously. You can draw lines between different concepts to see how they’re related, giving you a sense of how these concepts fit together, so you can keep your eye on the bigger picture instead of getting hung up on individual terms and phrases.

This method of taking notes can be especially effective when studying history, learning new concepts, and weaving together different subjects and individuals. When you go back over your notes, you’ll quickly recognize the most important concepts without having to go through your notes line by line.

Try Sketching Your Notes

If you consider yourself a visual person, writing down hundreds of words might not be the most effective way to master new concepts. While some words may be necessary, you can also try adding drawings and sketches to your notes. This will help break up the page, but it also helps you work with and make sense of this information in new ways. Turning a concept into a drawing forces your brain to interpret this information differently. You can visualize the person, event, method, or process you’re trying to learn, so you’ll be that much more likely to remember this information down the road.

Utilize the Cornell Method

You can also try using the Cornell Method for taking notes, which means separating your notes into three distinct sections. Start by drawing a line down the left-hand side of the page about two and a half inches from the edge. Draw another line across the bottom of the page. The large section on the right-hand side of the page is for taking notes, while the left-hand side is known as the cue column. This is where you’ll add markers and comments to your notes, so you can highlight important information, ask questions, and clarify key concepts. The bottom section is for adding a summary of your notes, giving you a chance to reflect on everything you’ve learned.

The Cornell Method was coined by Cornell University, one of the most prestigious learning institutions in the world. It helps students organize new information, and each section forces these students to interact with this information in different ways. One section is for simply recording the information, the other is for annotating it, and the last is for summarization, so students are more than familiar with these concepts by the end of the lecture.

Highlight Key Terms and Headings

Staring at a long page of notes can be overwhelming for some individuals. Going through this information can be time-consuming, especially when every line looks the same. That’s why it’s helpful to break up the text by highlighting certain phrases, keywords, and concepts. You can use a highlighter, underline, or draw a circle around individual words, so you can quickly find these terms later without having to sort through your notes line by line. These concepts will stand out to you on the page, reinforcing their value in your mind over time.

Add a Summary

Adding a summary to your notes helps you revisit everything you’ve already learned that day. Thinking over these concepts a second time increases the chances that you’ll remember them later, but it also forces you to look at the bigger picture, including how this information is related and what these concepts amount to in the end.

This is also a great way to cap off a long meeting. You can organize your notes chronologically, separating meetings by the date they occurred. As human beings, we often shape events into a narrative to help us make sense of what happened in the past. Adding a summary gives you the chance to put this information to use by turning it into a story.

In Conclusion

Taking notes won’t do you much good if you can’t find the information you’re looking for or you have a hard time remembering what your notes were about in the first place. You can try revisiting this information by sketching or mapping it out, adding a summary, or using the Cornell Method.

Effective note-taking is about prioritizing important concepts and organizing your thoughts in a way that makes sense to you. Use these note-taking strategies to make the most of your time at work or in lectures, so you can master the art of learning and retaining new information.

Guest Post: About the Author

Chris Napa serves as the Global Ecommerce Experience Manager for A.T. Cross Company, LLC. Chris oversees the customer experience on Cross.com from the Providence, RI headquarters. Before joining A.T. Cross Company, LLC., Chris was the User Experience Lead at FootJoy, part of the initial team that launched their Ecommerce site in 2016, and the Ecommerce Project Manager at TaylorMade Golf Company.

6 Security Tips For Small Business Websites

Website security is something that matters just as much to any business with an online presence, though the reasons vary. An enterprise-level company has a huge amount to lose from a data leak — customers might desert it, and its reputation might be left in tatters. A small business, however, is trying to get established, and its website is key to that: should it become compromised, it might completely arrest any momentum and prove very costly to address.

If you’re running a small business website, then, it’s important that you commit the necessary time and attention to maintaining a reasonable level of security. Fail to manage it, and the consequences could be dire. Here are 6 simple tips for how you can keep on top of it:

Don’t leave passwords around the office

When you’re just starting out, or you just don’t have a large enough operation to feel like a viable target, it’s very easy to form bad habits when it comes to password security — even to the extent of leaving your admin passwords on sticky notes attached to PC displays. This is a really bad idea! At some point, you’re likely to want clients, business partners and/or prospective employees to visit your office, and you can’t afford to have them learn your login details.

A lot of businesses manage to get through the digitization process without truly grasping the basics of cybersecurity, so this is your opportunity to revisit the essentials. Sure, it’s unlikely that someone who sees your password notes will do anything with them — but if someone unscrupulous doestake the opportunity to access your system, they could blackmail you for money, or leak your data just to be vindictive. Don’t take the risk.

Update your plugins when possible

Whether they’re billed as plugins, extensions, apps, or add-ons (this will depend on the CMS you’re using), you can accomplish a great deal with plugins — they’re often free, and can add a huge amount of functionality to a small site without the budget to invest in custom development.

That said, every plugin you add constitutes a fresh security risk, because it has extensive access to the main system. If one of your active plugins got hacked, the hacker may well be able to take control of your entire website — and the longer you go without updating your plugins, the more vulnerable they become to attack.

You may be able to enable automatic updating, so consider that if it’s an option, but the only thing that ultimately matters is that you install updates when they’re available.

Use two-factor login authentication

Two-factor login authentication demands more than just a username and a password to gain access to a system — it adds a second step, usually in the form of a temporary verification code sent to a phone number or email address. Add it to your website, and you’ll make your admin dashboard far harder for hackers to access. Here’s a more extensive guide to give you pointers.

Use a website host you can trust

If you’re not running any enhanced ecommerce features, and using a popular platform like WordPress, then find a suitable host to back you up. If you’re an online merchant, that’s still a great option, though you should also consider hosted ecommerce platforms because they’re designed to scale: either WooCommerce or Shopify would be a great choice, the former being a self-hosted WordPress plugin and the latter being a paid SaaS option.

Make regular site backups

Over time, the amount you have invested in your website will inevitably go up. You’ll accrue valuable content that brings in traffic, resources that establish your expertise, and (eventually) a notable level of domain authority. Leaving aside the prospect of blackmail for a moment, you still have a lot to lose from a hack — namely, the current form of your website.

Imagine that someone gained access to your admin dashboard and deleted every post on your site, or even got into your hosting account and deleted the entire website. Would you be able to recover? If you get into the habit of making and storing full-site backups, then a hack — no matter how catastrophic — won’t be able to completely shut you down, because you’ll always be able to go back to a slightly-older version.

Follow industry news

Security demands change over time, and while some threats enter public awareness, many only get mentioned in industry publications. Even if you don’t understand the underlying principles (you may not be particularly technical), it’s worth following such publications, visiting them occasionally so you can scan the headlines.

In the event that you read about a new type of hack or fraudulent activity that’s making waves, you can take action to guard your website against it, and be more alert about possible signs of intrusion. Sites like ThreatPost and the TrendMicro Business Security blog are particularly worth checking out for small business owners.

These days, the website of any small business is its primary hub: its main platform for communicating with the world, promoting its wares, and driving interest. Given that importance, it makes no sense to give security short shrift. It needn’t be especially complicated to protect your site, so follow these tips, keep an eye on developments in the website security world, and you’ll have a stronger foundation for further growth.

Guest Post: About the Author

Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer and campaign designer for MicroStartups, a website focused on the charity world, and microbusinesses. With years of experience in the sustainability, marketing and creative the industries, Kayleigh knows how to grow a business from the ground up. Visit her blog or follow her on Twitter @getmicrostarted for the latest startup and entrepreneur-based news and tips.

6 Ways to Increase The Value Of Your Business Over Your Industry Competitors

Instead of trying to shoot for the moon in terms of your company’s aggregate value, it might be better to measure your success against the competition in your industry. If you can increase the value of your business compared to those in your industry, you will capture market share and be that much closer to achieving market dominance.

Here’s how to do it.

Understand Customer Options and React Accordingly

The most important thing you can do as a business owner or manager is put yourself in the position of a prospective customer in need of your product or service. Get a sense of the options on the market. Consider what differentiates the competition from your business. This is not to say you should steal the competition’s ideas; rather, you can enhance your offerings all the more if you understand what customers have to choose from.

Offer Something Unique

Variety is the spice of life. Differentiate your offerings from that of the competition and your business will ramp up. Even if you offer a product or service with a subtle difference, this unique twist will distinguish you from the rest of the competition. Just make sure the distinguishing factor makes your offerings better than the competitors’ products in some way.

Invest in Your Online Footprint

It is not enough to simply have a website or a Facebook account. Your digital marketing efforts should be a major component of your overall marketing campaign. This means you should have a website with a regularly updated blog, social media accounts on all the major platforms, an active email account and other web-based touch points. Make your company accessible through the web and it will be that much easier to establish a rapport with your target audience. After all, those who seek you out online are inclined to spend for your products and services as they have displayed an active interest in your line of business.

Make Your Employees the Heart and Soul of Your Business

No single man or woman can operate a business of considerable size on his or her own. It is important to recognize the fact that at the end of the day, your employees really are your business. Hire the best employees on the market, invest in your staff to retain their services and your company’s value will eventually surpass that of the competition. 

Keep Your Finger on the Pulse of the Industry

Forewarning of industry advancements and other events of significance really can give your company a meaningful competitive advantage. Continue to research and analyze the happenings in your particular industry. If research is not your thing, consider outsourcing research and writing projects to freelancers who can add insightful content to your online blog. Remain in the loop and your informational edge will provide your company with a significant competitive advantage across posterity.

Consider Acquiring a Competitor

One of the best ways to enhance your company value is to scoop up a competitor. Do your research, determine which companies would provide a strategic competitive advantage and make a bid. Bring the right company into the fold and you will immediately boost your company’s value. Perhaps more importantly, buying out the right competitor can directly eliminate a large part of the competition.

Keep Pushing to Expand Your Market Share

Focus on enhancing the value of your business and it will not be long until you emerge from the pack. Capture additional market share with each passing day and you will get better prices from suppliers, have more leeway with business partners and enjoy lower overhead costs. Continue to push for more and more customers until the competition gives in. You might even win enough market share to attract attention from a larger company looking to merge with or acquire your business.

Guest Post: About the Author

Marla DiCarlo is an accomplished business consultant with more than 28 years of professional accounting experience. As co-owner and CEO of Raincatcher, she helps business owners learn how to sell a business so they can get paid the maximum value for their company.