Guest Post: A Glimpse Into the Future: The Essentials for Business Entrepreneurs

This is a guest post from Mark Kirkpatrick, an experienced writer in mass communication in its relation to business globalization.

guestimageIn the business world, it pays to stay ahead of the curve. Marketing, technology, and basic business tactics evolve all the time; and if you aren’t keeping up with the newest thing, it’s easy to get pushed aside. Here is a look at where the business world seems to be going, and what tools will be essential for entrepreneurs in the near future.

Network Advertising

Gone are the days of cold calling and blind elevator pitches. Today’s businesses are taking advantage of the growing power of social networks.  Sites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn can help businesses expand their reach and influence.

Cloud Sharing

Sharing documents, reports and other files with coworkers is a cinch when businesses utilize cloud storage. What’s more, one cloud system allows the integration of office, mobile and home storage options, streamlining how data is compiled and shared.

Wireless Printing

Companies like Canon, Lexmark and Hewlett-Packard introduced web-enabled printers that offer businesses the capability to print documents directly from a mobile device or tablet. Rather than having to carry around a ton of printed documents,professionals can now keep their needed documents on their devices and print them when they are needed.

Touch Enabled

Since the introduction of smart phones with touch screens, the technology has constantly expanded. Now computers and printers are touch screen enabled. Also, as the technology grows and spreads, the price of such devices has started to drop. Technology that was once only available to high end customers is now easily accessible for even the smallest startup business.

Zero-Clients

Companies that require many desktop computers but don’t necessarily need the additional operating system are turning to zero-client PCs. They are smaller and more cost-efficient than their larger desktop counterparts. Zero-clients come with a fast onboard processor and speedy boot up times. An added bonus? They can’t get viruses. Because they are simplified computers: they require minimal maintenance and don’t need regular updates like other systems. They are great options for business that want to provide basic computers for multiple employees for a smaller investment.

Voice Control

Voice control has grown leaps and bounds since it was first introduced. Though it won’t completely replace a keyboard, or an actual human, voice control technology is useful for dictating short notes while you are driving or just too busy to write something down. Along the same lines is voice recognition. Software, like Dragon Naturally Speaking, types your spoken word as you speak it. One word of caution on these tools, they aren’t always 100% accurate and do take some getting used to. Take some time to practice with them before completely converting to them for business use. Nevertheless, they are very useful for certain tasks and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Go Old School

Email and social media have changed the way we communicate. To really get someone’s attention, send them a letter. Even better, make it handwritten. Emails tend to get deleted; tweets get buried in a busy social stream. But a mailed letter to someone isn’t as easy to ignore. It’s a forgotten communication method that still packs a big punch.

As technology and marketing strategies evolve, the business world evolves with it. Adopting new tactics as they come about can really help businesses succeed.

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Today’s guest blogger is Mark Kirkpatrick, an experienced writer in mass communication in its relation to business globalization. In addition to writing for 1800-number.com’s blog, he also enjoys covering business finance, technology and online networking.

Rise of Personal Branding = Return of DIY Marketing

A guest post by Sam Peters

English: "Evolve Or DIY"

English: "Evolve Or DIY" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was a time when DIY marketing sounded a little bit crazy. Entrepreneurs who were going it alone and lighting out for new business shores were expected to hire a marketing team in order to properly brand and position a new product or service. Doing it yourself was tantamount to representing yourself at trial—foolish, arrogant, and even dangerous.

But the landscape has changed in the last couple decades and new tools are at our disposal that make hiring an entire marketing team unnecessary. In fact, solo entrepreneurs are on the rise and more and more of them are finding that new web technologies—specifically, social media, cloud services, and mobile devices—afford them the opportunity to do their own personal branding without the need of a team, fancy hardware, or even a primary office.

Social media=team of one is possible
An aggressive, prolific social media user can accomplish all the goals of a traditional marketing team online by creating dialogues with consumers and forging organic, viral campaigns. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram are just the beginning. Smaller, niche networks will be the wave of the future, allowing a more granular assessment of target demographics.

Cloud services=less hardware needed
Documents and files can be stored online and changes can be made to them that will be synchronized across a shared or private network. Therefore, you can work with clients on massive projects without the need for a preponderance of expensive hardware. This makes your output more efficient, more economical, and more secure.

Mobile devices=stop paying office rent
A DIY marketer can work on the go, facilitating projects and networking with clients with mobile devices. While an office isn’t a bad thing to have, if you’re looking to reduce your costs, working without an office has never been more legitimate. A marketing team no longer needs to be a workforce of dozens occupying an entire office floor.

Not only do these tools make it easier to inexpensively operate a business and market your own products and services, it opens doors for personal branding that previous generations of DIY entrepreneurs missed out on. The one-two punch of social media optimization and SEO makes it possible to leverage a small brand in big ways.

These innovations allow entrepreneurs and DIY marketers to focus on the important part of marketing, which is creating a personalized brand that connects with consumers. Focus your efforts on creating the kinds of relationships with clients, customers, and partners that will last for years.

This is a Guest Post written by Samantha Peters, an avid blogger who enjoys writing about various career and job related topics. Sam manages The Education Update and lives in beautiful San Diego, California.

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How infographics can be weaved into your social strategy

A guest post from @adriasaracino

A social media marketing strategy is integral to how you promote your business (or your clients’ businesses) online. After the meteoric rise in the popularity of the infographic, it’s worth considering how you can best weave this kind of content into your strategy.

A fresh source of quality content
A good social strategy always involves bucket-loads of high quality content, whether you’re creating it yourself or finding it online to share. This can sometimes be challenging, particularly if your business isn’t the most engaging of industries.

The infographic creates many opportunities for fresh content, even for less immediately exciting subject areas. Because the heart of the infographic comes from presenting complex information or data in a simple and accessible way, it means as long as you have access to data and some creativity, you’ll be able to find something interesting to say.

In fact, some of the most successful infographics around comes from companies who analyze their own data – such as the online dating website, OKCupid. This is because, if you’re the only one with the numbers, you’ll be creating something truly unique – a hard feat in today’s blogosphere.

Innately shareable
Your social strategy probably revolves around conversations and sharing. The infographic perfectly suits the latter of these activities and doing something as simple as adding interactive share features makes it easier than ever to watch your content spread like wildfire online. For example, Simply Business created this interactive productivity guide series that allows readers to socially share the piece directly off the graphic. Think carefully about where you position these kind of features on the infographic, as you don’t want to seem overly pushy, nor do you want them to be overlooked.

The very nature of infographics also makes them ideal for sharing. They’re visually appealing, load on a single page and can usually be digested in a very short time. If you think about how short a time you have to make an impression on a visitor, this last feature is a really important benefit. In fact, it means that infographics are often a better way to present certain bits of information than, for example, a traditional blog post.

They can be quick and easy to create
Although many infographics involve lots of crunched data and careful design, it doesn’t have to be this way. Sometimes, the simplest designs are the best, particularly if they play off well-known or trending memes. For example, take a look
at this one created by South African Hotels that takes a look at foods South African expats miss the most. Meme-based
infographics tend to share well and are easy to create, so this can be an extra incentive to keeping things simple!

Some stock photography websites also offer great vector images for infographics that can be crafted into something suitable for your business. The beauty of this approach is that, by using vectors, you can scale your infographics for whatever purpose you want – from presentations to merchandise!

These three points just go to show how accessible and worthwhile infographics are to anybody’s social strategy. And, with those stock vectors ready for you to use straight away, there’s no excuse not to get creating some fresh, irresistibly shareable content for your business.

Adria Saracino is a marketer and blogger. When not consulting on business’ content strategy, you can find her writing about style on her personal fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.

Seven Ways to Ensure Marketing Consistency

A guest post from Christopher Wallace

A long time ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth, there were no social media sites or smart phones. The Internet was still in its infancy and the business world relied on meetings… lots of meetings, ranging from in-depth strategy and sales sessions to mundane status meetings. Fortunately, we have moved way beyond this dated concept of getting-everyone-in-the-same-room-looking-at-the-same-stack-of-papers to embracing technology in its varied forms to accomplish the same things more quickly and without the need for all those face-to-face meetings. Not only that, software programs themselves have become much easier to use, making it possible for more people within a company to design their own campaigns and messages.

Bottom line: the sales and marketing divisions within a modern company operate much differently than they did just ten short years ago. And while most of these developments have been advantageous, the problem of inconsistent messaging is a growing concern. With customers now coming in from the Internet as well as standard feet-on-the-street sales teams, it’s very important that a company’s message be standardized across the board, or you’re liable to create a potentially confusing story for your prospects.

Here are seven ways to help you insure marketing consistency within your company:

  1. First and foremost, top management has to recognize that it’s no longer “business as usual.” Think of all the divisions – sales, marketing, support – that interact with customers. If you want a consistent message, then the company leaders have to make it clear that they support whatever changes are necessary to ensure a consistent message.
  2. If you’re larger than a four-person shop, seriously consider a Content Management System (CMS) to help manage and control the amount and quality of the information being posted on the corporate website. It will allow a larger number of people to contribute, reduce the chances for duplicate data and will help control access to any privileged data.
  3. Don’t assume everyone will immediately agree to all the changes. A CMS is no good if you’ve got a few rogues who refuse to use it. Adopting and using any new systems should be given top priority. Offer hands-on training sessions frequently until all those responsible for web content are familiar with how it works.
  4. Make it easy for folks to share information in the early planning stages, like at the beginning of a new campaign or the planning of a tradeshow. Pinterest is new to the scene, but has a lot of promise in being able to aid in this area. Anyone anywhere can “pin” pictures on a certain topic where others can see them, even that sales rep who always seems to be on the road with their laptop.
  5. Ensure that your information looks and feels the same no matter what format it’s in – online, print, or video. This means more than making sure that everybody is using the same logo in the same font and color. For example – coordinate the look of any Call To Action (CTA) forms with any printed response cards you use. Whitepapers should have a similar look to them, even if different departments are writing them; ditto for case studies. Don’t use a different jingle or theme song in every new video you produce. There should be no question as to what company is delivering the message.
  6. Face up to Facebook – it’s here and it’s not going away any time soon. Develop a policy as to who can post to Facebook and enforce it. Don’t get all carried away with the idea of getting 1000’s of “likes,” because studies have shown that these often have very little to do with sales. People will “like” you because it’s quick, easy and costs them nothing. If you want a presence on Facebook, then take a little time to develop a policy that ties back in to what you’re presenting on the rest of your corporate website.
  7. Finally, meetings. No, not the dinosaur of old. Modern meetings can be done without getting a whole bunch of people together in one room, thanks to programs like GoToMeeting. But with all the new activity going on, you’re going to want to touch-base on a regular basis to keep everyone in focus and to resolve any issues before they get too troublesome.

With a little bit of due diligence, your company will be able to present a clear and unified story about its products and services. This will make it easier for your prospects to understand how you can help them solve their problems, leading to your ultimate goal – more customers!

Christopher Wallace, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, has more than 20 years experience in sales and marketing. At Amsterdam, a leading provider of personalized pens, and other personalized items such as imprinted apparel and customized calendars, Christopher is focused on providing quality marketing materials to small, mid-size and large businesses.

7 Steps to Blogging For Foreign Markets

thank you note for every languageA guest post from Christian Arno, founder and Managing Director of global language services agency Lingo24

If you’re an English-language blogger, you might want to consider exporting your blog to foreign markets. It’s not as difficult as you might think, and could be a great way of seriously increasing your readership. Here are few tips to get you started.

Invest in a local domain
If you want to be taken seriously in other countries and build trust amongst your foreign readers, it’s well worth making a small investment in a country-specific domain name. For example, if your English-language blog is on myblog.com, you should host your French and German versions of your blog using myblog.fr and myblog.de, respectively. This approach will help you to get ranked by local search engines and will encourage your readers to take you more seriously.

Reuse your English content
One of the toughest aspects of blogging is having to constantly develop new content. The beauty of moving into foreign markets is that you can recycle the content on your existing English-language blog. If you’ve been blogging for a while in English, you probably have enough content to provide a regular supply of posts on your foreign language blog, with very little extra work required. It’s often frustrating to think of your historic posts languishing in your blog’s archive – by recycling them into foreign languages, you’re giving them a whole new lease of life.

Use straightforward language
When you are writing new posts for your foreign language blogs, try to use clear unambiguous prose. This means avoiding the use of slang, unusual metaphors and abbreviations. By doing so, you will be creating content that can be more accurately translated and can be used in more of your foreign blogs. If you’re planning to reuse some of your older posts from your existing blog, it might be worth editing them to make sure the language can be easily translated.

Avoid specific cultural references
You should also be careful not to include cultural references which might not be understood in other countries. For example, if you refer to TV shows or celebrities which are well-known where you live, it’s possible that your foreign readers won’t know what you are talking about. It will also remind your visitors that they are reading translated content originally intended for readers in another country, which could be a turn-off for them.

Use a professional translator
If you want to be taken seriously in foreign markets, you need to ensure that your content is well translated. There are online machine translation tools, like Google Translate, but they are no way near as accurate as a professional translator. Badly translated content will give your blog an amateurish feel and put off your readers. The only way to be sure that your posts are accurately translated is to use a professional translator. If you’re going to the trouble of setting up a foreign-language blog, you might as well make sure your content is good quality!

Build links in the local internet
If you already have an English blog, you know the importance of link-building. It’s not only essential for SEO but it helps you to establish yourself as a respected member of the ‘blogosphere’. If you want your foreign blogs to be a success you will need to put some effort into link-building in the local internet. Having your posts professionally translated will be a big help, because other bloggers within your target markets are more likely to link to and comment on good quality content. Other link building strategies, like submitting to good quality, high traffic directories, can be replicated for your foreign blogs.

Promote within the local social media
All bloggers know the importance of social networks for promoting their blogs. You can get a lot of leverage by using social media within the foreign markets you are targeting. Try to make new Facebook friends within the country you are launching your blog. You may wish to provide a translated version of your bio in your Facebook profile and maybe include some posts from your foreign blogs in your Facebook feed. You could use your foreign-language keywords to search for Twitter users in your target countries. You should also research any country-specific social networks which may not be well-known in your home country.

About the author

Christian Arno is the founder and Managing Director of global language services agency Lingo24. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 120 employees spanning four continents and clients in over sixty countries.

Contact Lingo24 with a translation request mentioning www.nikkipilkington.com before 30 November 2010 and receive a 10% discount on your first order.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: woodleywonderworks

You mean you don’t have an eCommerce site yet?

me

A guest post by Matt Chatterley of MattchedIT Ltd – thanks Matt 🙂

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Over the last few years (or perhaps more accurately, months), we’ve watched the way we interact with each other online change drastically through facebook, twitter and various other less-known services and tools. But how many of us have really sat down and studied the impact these changes could have on our businesses?

Once upon a time it was hard to set up an online shop. They were few and far between and they were major undertakings. That certainly isn’t the case now – we have the technology, you might say.

It’s probably harder to choose the solution you want to use – or to find a reputable developer amongst the masses – than it is to actually go through the motions of planning, implementing and opening your store.

Sadly, many would-be virtual shop-keepers learn a hard lesson shortly after they open – although laying the foundations and opening a shop is pretty simple, making sales is something else entirely.

Marketing is a serious business

You’re reading my scribblings on Nikki Pilkington’s blog – so you must already know that she is well known in Internet Marketing circles, for all the right reasons. I’m sure she and I will agree on this point – the toughest job which lays before you with your shiny new online shop is going to be bringing in customers and making sales.

I don’t mean to gloss over the importance of making sure your website is going to make sales – that’s clearly critical too, but you need an audience before you can even find out if it’s laid out in a manner which will tempt them to buy.

Instead of telling you about the importance of a marketing plan or about all the things you should be doing, I’m going to suggest some ideas for your site itself – some of the things which we are busy incorporating into the in-house eCommerce framework which we use to build sites.

Three ways to engage customers, get referrals and to save those sales!

Engage Customers – There is so much you can do to increase the level of customer engagement your site permits.

Sure, it might make recommendations for similar products – thats nothing new. But how about sending an existing customer a quick tweet when you add a new product the system thinks they’d like, based on their past purchases?

Hi @you! A new book has been published by @your_favourite_author..”

Get Referrals – If you can get your customers to recommend you to their friends, particular over social media, you’ll be tapping into one of the most powerful and effective marketing resources in the world. Perhaps you could offer a discount code if they perform enough “social shares” – or you could issue them with an affiliate code and hand out a share of the cash if one of their friends makes a purchase.

A recommendation from a friend is always going to be stronger than any advertisement you can issue yourself!

Save those Sales – don’t you hate it when the product you want is out of stock? Particularly if it’s a high demand item – by the time an email notification of new stock arrives, the odds are it’ll be sold out again. So why not return to twitter, facebook and other “instant gratification” messaging services?

Get it right and not only will you be able to make your customer feel important with their notification – you might draw in a few of their followers, too!

Social Networking is for life, not just for this year

Perhaps I should say “Social Marketing” rather than “Social Networking”. It’s not going anywhere – and it’s only going to get more important. Sure, like anything online, it’s going to change quickly and we’re all going to have to run to keep up at times, but fortune favours the brave!

That’s why as we push ahead with our development schedule, finding new ways to integrate with and get the most out of social networks is going to remain high on our list of priorities. Is it on yours yet? And if not, why not?

Matt Chatterley is an experienced software developer and one of the directors of Mattched IT Ltd, a web development company based in Hampshire which specialises in providing tailor-made web and software solutions to the business market.

Can you write about your experiences of email marketing? Want some free promotion?

I'm looking for people to write guest blogs on a fairly well trafficked blog. The blog itself focuses on email marketing, so your guest blog would have to be about that. Obviously you can promote your own website within the blog post, but it must also be of interest to our readers.

The basic outline is:

  • there is no fee for this
  • 200+ words
  • Must not be a purely self promotional piece

It could be about how your company uses email marketing, an issue that you had and solved, how you keep in touch with customers through email marketing, how running an email list has helped you to gain customers, even advice about how to write a newsletter or sales email.

In the first instance please contact me on nikkipilk@gmail.com with any questions, or post in the comments here!

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