Expand Your Business With Blogging

Statistically speaking, you’re likely reading this outside of normal business hours. Am I right, or am I right? Why? Because if you have a life (okay … admittedly many people don’t) the majority of your time is spent away from the office and outside of normal business hours. Usually, when the sun goes down you are already out the door. Frazier has left the building.

But the sun never sets on the internet. It operates 24/7/365 for online and offline businesses both. There are no doors to unlock and no lights to turn on. The doors are always open and the lights are always on. No brick; no mortar; no time clocks.

There are so many important online tools for both marketing (presenting your company and product to the market) and sales (trading that product/service for revenue) … if you’re not using them you’re soon to be extinct. Even the US government figured that out. Filed any corporate taxes lately? Most companies now do it online (it is called EFTPS, if you’re at all curious).

Low-to-No Cost – Many of the online resources available for your business are usable with no cost and can offer great results. Calculate the ROI on that: small investment (mostly in your time) and great results. Infinite ROI? No, not quite. But as a business owner if you use these available tools correctly it will make a difference in your business. Put another way, if you are not using online tools for your business, the wolves are at the door and your house is made of sticks. Not brick and mortar; sticks.

Blogging is increasingly being used to effectively to present businesses and products to the market. Websites like Blogger and WordPress make it possible to share value – your knowledge and experience – through blog posts. Helpful blog posts on relevant content establish you as a leader and creates a relationship that your consumers don’t normally get from just visiting your website. Just today in a phone conversation a client said, “I was so glad to see you are a real person!” The personal touch works.

Need a great example? Go look at 3PAR’s company blog called “StorageRap” (www.storagerap.com). No, I’m not associated with 3PAR in any way. But Marc Farley is awesome at what he does for the data storage industry. Take special note of the value that he delivers. Yes, it comes with a heavy dose of opinion, and more than a bit of controversy, but that is the whole point of blogging! Ever read a boring blog post … more than part-way? I rest my case.

If you are venturing into a company blog, ensure it has a clear objective. Brainstorm with colleagues on ideas of what to write and how to represent the company. Then just to it.

Don’t be stingy. And don’t be a twit. – Contribute to the communication in meaningful ways. A terrific way to increase your network is to be active and to comment on others’ posts. Respect the poster; comment on the post. Remember that a single post could be read by thousands, some of whom may take great interest in you and the products you represent.

Don’t Abuse the Blog – If you use your blog correctly, clients and consumers will appreciate your information and insight. But consistency is key. Deliver value to your business community by remaining active in blogging and in social networking forums. Don’t hold back. Give more, and you will receive more.

Brian Moore is a business coach and mentor that assists serious entrepreneurs in building a profitable online business with multiple incomes streams. Brian and his team have assisted hundreds of people in generating profits that exceed $250K or more in their first year. For more information and to contact Brian, visit: http://www.meetbrianmoore.com

Should You Guest Blog?

Plan and simple, yes you want to guest blog, but you want to be picky about the sites you are guest blogging on. I say this because you want to make sure your blogging on a site that is actually going to help you get target traffic to your site. You don’t want to waste time and energy creating a blog post on say SEO (which is your specialty) on a blog that is dedicated to preserving Barbie. The point of guest blogging is that it is a win win for the webmaster and the guest blogger.

I am sure that you are not really interested in what guest blogging does for the webmaster at this point. You want to know what it is in it for you. That is the focus on this post. So here we go, the first benefit of guest blogging is that you get instant exposure to your blog. Let’s say that you just launched a new site that you are really excited about and you know offers great benefit to visitors. You want traffic now, not in a few weeks or months. Find an authority site or other site that is reputable in your niche, contact the webmaster and offer to guest blog for them. You blog post will offer informative content and a plug about you and your website.

The second benefit is that exposure you gain. If you don’t have a business that you are trying to promote, but skills you want to offer to hire… guest blogging can help you there as well. When you guest blog on a site, as I said above, you get to do a little blurb about you and what you do, and from there you can direct people to a place where they can learn more about you.

The third benefit and reason as to why you should try to guest blog is that you get a link back to your blog. We have talked in the past about how important back linking is. This is a great way to increase your rankings with links from reputable sites.

Notice that I have mentioned reputable sites. You want to look for sites that have a good ranking, because you know that they are getting traffic. You also know that they are getting crawled by the spiders on a routine basis and that what they say on that website is trusted by people in the niche you are addressing. You don’t want to waste your time blogging on a site that isn’t getting more traffic then you currently are, or worse yet, they are not getting traffic at all.

There are a few rules that you need to keep in mind in regards to your posts. You want to make sure that your post fits into the category of blog you are posting on. Remember, Barbie isn’t going to care much on how to SEO optimize. The blog post that you create must be original and unique. You can’t post an article that you wrote and posted elsewhere.

Also, we are talking about your reputation so you really want to post only articles that you have written. If you are going to farm out the blog posts writing then make sure that you have proofed what is said in the article. The last thing in the world you want to do is make yourself look bad or the website you are guest blogging on.

Finally, when you guest blog if you are going to use a link in your post, it must be a link that is related to the website you are writing for. You should NOT use your own affiliate links. This is just poor taste and not only will the webmaster kick you to the curb, it will get around in the industry that “type” of person you are and you will have a hard time getting another guest blogging spot.

Neil Bartlett is the founder of MyIMCoach.com. My IM Coach provides aspiring Internet Marketers with Tips and Techniques for getting started and/or improving their marketing skills. To learn more INSTANTLY grab his FREE report “How To Make It Online”

Get Started With Your Business Blogging – What Do I Write About?

You’re sold on the concept of blogging for your business. You’ve set up your blog template and now you’re staring at a blank screen. And it’s staring back.

I think this is probably the hardest part about blogging. Most people imagine sitting down to a computer with an empty screen and feel the heady challenge of filling a page with prolific prose – and the added weight of having to do this every other day! It can be daunting, even crippling. But if you start with a plan, that screen will become a canvas on which you can paint freely every time you sit down. To develop a plan for your blog, take a methodical approach to what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it to have the greatest impact.

Decide what you want to write about and when. Are you going to give tips to your customers that are problem-solving solutions? Do you want to discuss one of the latest trends? Is there something new on the horizon that will position you as a leading resource? Make a list of all the topics you could blog about and then start writing! It can be as simple as commenting on an article or book you’ve read, or sharing a video or quote you’ve come across. Share an anecdote or tell a story about a recent experience. Not every post needs to be an epiphany! Keep the tone light and personal, and limit your word count to 150 to 250 words per post. Here’s another tip: Having some blogs “in the can” will help balance your posts that are based on what might be happening on the immediate horizon.

Focus on your core interests and then become an expert in them. You want to be the authority and position yourself as such so that your followers continue to come back to you for the answers. Reinforce your value as a reliable, knowledgeable resource.

Be human. Give yourself a voice and be human. Blogs are not meant to be formal articles or pools of research. They are designed to give helpful information and to get the reader thinking inward about what they’re reading. Pose questions. Engage your customers to think about how they do business. Give them the opportunity to use your ideas in their business.

Give them something. A blog entry should offer your customers something of value. They are expecting to read your blog and walk away with a new tip, insight, or with something that will give them a leg up on their competition or simply inspire them to be a better person and/or business person.

Inject authority. It’s OK to give examples and information from others, just make sure you attribute it as such. In fact, share the link to those people’s sites and you could reap the rewards of connecting with their networks as well. Being “connected” with trust leaders, advocates and leaders in the field is just as important as being one yourself.

Incorporate keywords in your entries. As I mentioned before, a blog rich in relevant keywords and tags is going to give you a higher search engine ranking.

Invite others to share your ideas. Use your blog as a way to communicate with your customers and potential leads. Allow them to pose questions and comments that you can respond to and create dialog and a community. This will again build a following of like minds, with you as the leader. You can also invite “guest bloggers” to participate in your blog. Ask your vendors, colleagues, and clients to provide posts on their own expertise and you gain the benefit of the association.

Once you start, don’t stop. Your goal is to build a following of loyal customers and readers. They are going to expect something “wise” from you frequently. If you fall off the wagon, hop back on. There’s nothing worse than a neglected blog. And you will quickly lose your followers to a competitor’s blog that always has new insight.

Words to and for the Wise

Along with the content of your blog, you have the opportunity to make your website more search engine friendly just by keeping a few tips in mind:

– Create a powerful title for your blog that influences readers. Make it interesting, compelling, even a bit controversial so you can grab their interest immediately. Include keywords here as well. It will help with search engine searches.

– When you have a series of thoughts or points, present them as a bulleted list instead of a paragraph or two. This approach increases the readability.

– Add an image, if it’s appropriate and relevant. Don’t always add one but many times an interesting or entertaining image may communicate your message better than words can.

You are the expert.

Blogging allows you to showcase your expertise in your field. It affords you the opportunity to share ideas and resources openly and in an easy-going manner that is simple to read, yet rich with knowledge and insight. Some might say it’s the perfect soft sell because you’re not necessarily pushing a product or service directly. Rather, by building your platform as a credible VAR, you are gently promoting your ideas and your company. And you really will be amazed at how many topics you do have to write about.

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)

Why Blogging is Important to Your Business

In a Business Week article from February 2008, blog tracking firm Technorati Chairman David Sifry said that his company indexed about 112 million blogs, with 120,000 new ones created each day. Were you one of them? He clarified, however, that of those millions, only about 11 percent of them actually included new posts.

Sifry contends that about 99 percent of blogs aren’t delivering useful information (e.g., a mom blogging about her kid’s first day at school, spam blogs), but that still leaves a healthy helping of new blogs sprouting up every day that are gathering readers, fans, and potential leads for the businesses that have committed to using this viral marketing tool. As a blogger, you could (and should) be promoting your business and your ideas to existing customers and employees as well as prospective buyers.

Blogging is not a fad. The phenomenon that Sifry cited is still gaining momentum a year after Sifry quoted those statistics. So, what are you going to do with this valuable information?

If you’re like me, you don’t like to hear yourself talk too much, let alone put your thoughts on paper (or computer screen in this case) for the entire world to see. But isn’t that the point? You want to spread your ideas to build your platform as a resourceful and innovative VAR. Blogs, done correctly, can do this for you.

When blogging started to become popular in 2005, I know I was one of the skeptics who thought, “Who would want to just listen to someone’s random thoughts?” It seemed that blogging was either self-righteous, self-serving, or politically motivated – none of which appealed to me. I deemed this task to be time-consuming and very low on the ROI scale. But now, blogging has gone mainstream. Visit the site for any established company and you’ll likely see a blog page there. You have to ask yourself, if it didn’t work, would they all be investing their time in blogging?

Blogging should be an integral part, if not at the forefront, of your web and marketing mix. Blogs will change your world. Here are a few reasons why you should leap onto the blogging bandwagon:

– Blogging provides a casual way to communicate with your current customers as well as potential new customers. The conversational tone allows you to initiate and engage in a discussion in a very soft-sell manner, where you can showcase your strengths, products, and services without screaming “buy me!”

– The personal touch helps to cultivate relationships that will, in turn, build loyalty between you and your customer.

– A blog where your customers and visitors can interact with you presents the exceptional market research tool to actually learn what your customers need and then use that information to deliver the goods. Your customers are happy because they have found instant solutions, provided by you!

– Blogging involves very minimal investment. Some blogging sites are free; others may charge a fee. Ultimately, though, you want to have your blog on your website to benefit from search engine optimization. The major investment is your time in being vigilant about writing and posting your blogs. Frequency and consistency is key to success here.

– SEO and blogging go hand in hand. Search engines are looking for websites that are constantly being updated with new content and useful information. Be sure to incorporate tags and keywords in a relevant manner. These are simple words that people will use to search your topic on Google or Yahoo! Updating your blog frequently (every two to three days) and creating topical tags will garner a higher search engine ranking.

Statistics show that more and more adults are using the Internet and paying attention to blogs. Consumers use the product reviews from bloggers to assist in their buying decisions. They either bookmark their favorite blogs or receive them daily into their email via RSS feeds. Blogging is an opportunity to reach out to the masses, yet make it personal. It builds credibility about you and your brand and positions you as a thinker, leader and a resource. Your thoughts will become a direct link to increased leads and sales. And in this tough economy, blogging is one of the economical ways to market. You can’t afford not to blog.

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)

The Power of Blog Marketing

With the rise of the Internet, blogging has become one the most influential means of communication. People and organizations all over the world are building relatively low budget web sites created as a forum for sharing insights and trading ideas.

In the business world, the method has become an important tool for reaching current and potential customers. Businesses leverage blogging to raise the company profile, as a method for communicating with customers and staff, as a means to generate new ideas, or as a way to improve their image as a forward thinking company, among other reasons. The thoughts contained in a blog can spread like a virus, delivering powerful new ideas to hundreds of thousands of people in minutes.

For these reasons and others, blogging has become a powerful method that businesses can utilize for less time, effort, and cost than with traditional marketing and public relations. This Quick Guide will provide you with some effective techniques for leveraging blog marketing.

Monitor the Buzz
A good way to determine how your company is faring against competitors is to read public forums devoted to the products or technologies you sell. Doing so will help you understand your customers. You’ll quickly learn what disgruntled users and customers (and possibly even former employees) think about your company and the brand without spending a dime on focus groups or research.

Reach out to Bloggers
Marketing professionals familiar with blogging recommend reading all the blogs related to the products you sell. If you start your own company blog, it’s also a good idea to engage in dialog with users and others who regularly post messages. Though some use a Web log simply as a forum to let off steam, their ideas may provide valuable insight that can help you fine tune your messaging and improve customer service. Responding to the blog community is not only a good way to promote your product or brand, it also is an effective method for correcting false or inaccurate information. You can humanize your company with a corporate blog, either by having one or more employees and even upperlevel management personnel such as a CEO contribute to the blog. Companies of all sizes can leverage a blog to open dialog and thus build closer relationships with users and customers.

Advertise on Blogs
Targeting the audience of a blog relevant to the product you sell is a valuable form of advertising. Research shows that blog readers tend to typically read 20 other blogs daily. Thus any messaging aimed at bloggers spreads exponentially, maximizing blog advertising dollars spent.

Vary Your Banner Ads
Since users tend to visit blogs often, it’s important to change banner ad content on a regular basis. Banners and text copy should be relevant to the blog. If you’re starting your own blog, you could try creating a blog topic along with a series of related ads.

Helpful Hints for Creating Your Own Blog
If you’ve decided to develop your own blog, the following basic guidelines will help you create one that people actually read and respond to:

Create Interesting Content
To ensure readers visit your blog and share the information you provide, you must keep them interested. Therefore, it’s essential that you offer useful ideas and content. It’s also important that you develop a unique style. And don’t be shy about posting ideas that others will disagree with. That will only generate more buzz for your blog.

Post Blogs Often
Especially if your blog is popular you need to post comments and updates on a frequent basis. It’s often a good idea to post a minimum of five postings per week. And the more frequently you blog, the more chance that you’ll have in getting your blog listed in the
Google News index which is updated daily.

Don’t Forget About Distribution
Consumers and others new to blogging can have a tough time finding a blog, so it essential that you make it easy for them to find yours. Make it easy for news feed subscribers to locate your blog via web search engines such as Google and Yahoo, and using RSS search engines, including Google Blog Search, Bloglines, Feedster, and Technorati. This will ensure that your blog is well promoted.

Concluding Thoughts
I hope that you enjoyed this article and that it will help you supercharge your marketing effort, leading to increased sales. Thanks for reading!

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)

Podcast Marketing

Almost as soon as the original Apple iPod was introduced, people in the marketing profession began to realize the medium’s potential to carry brand and product messaging. Today, podcasting is popular method for communicating corporate information that enables businesses to deliver valuable content to listeners. Because the sound of the human voice carries emotion, the medium can deliver content more effectively than text. In fact, some marketing experts believe that podcasting is more powerful than other marketing media such as direct mail advertising. By developing and incorporating a podcast into their marketing programs, companies can, for example, educate listeners about new and upcoming technologies in their industry, inform customers about soon to be released products, and promote new services. Use the following guidelines for developing your podcast.

Plan Your Attack
Before you even begin to record a podcast, you need to decide what you want to say, what your target market is, and what your call to action will be. At the end of your podcast you may want to point listeners to a specific web URL that will drive sales and measure how many people heard your podcast. You should also develop a script that tells the person doing the voice over exactly what to say. And due to people’s generally short attention span, you should avoid creating a podcast that is longer than 20 to 30 minutes.

Get the Right Tools
To create your podcast you will need a PC and a microphone. Many computers already have microphones built in. But you might want to purchase an echo canceling variety to ensure the highest audio quality of your production. Headphones also are a good idea if you want to hear your recordings played back without hearing extra noise from your surroundings.

You’ll also need software for recording voice such as one of the basic or preloaded programs that came with your PC’s operating system. Or you can purchase a more sophisticated solution that enables you to edit the audio file such as ePodcast Creator or the simple to use and Windows and Mac compatible program Audacity. Audacity is available for free download at audacity.sourceforge.net.

Start Recording
Go the file menu of your program and select New. Test your microphone’s input level and then just click on the record button and begin. If you’re using Audacity, the software saves the recording automatically as an .aup file. However, some programs cannot open this format so you should export your podcast as an .mp3 file after recording.

Upload Your File
After you’re finished with production, you’re ready to upload the .mp3 file to your website or publish it to a blogging service such as Podcasting.com or Apple’s iTunes Podcast Directory. If you want to publish on a regular basis, you’ll need to create an RSS feed. You can do this with an easy to use program such as FeedForAll.

Publicize Your Podcast
To ensure you get a large audience, you should e-mail contacts in your company’s database that your program is available. Include some basic details that will attract their attention. And be sure to include a URL where they can download the podcast. You can also maximize your audience by ensuring your podcast is listed with web search engines such as Google and Yahoo and by using RSS search engines, including Google Blog Search, Bloglines, Feedster, and Technorati.

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)