Small business communications

Blogging – the “fresh goods” of your business

Posted on April 6, 2009. Filed under: Small business communications | Tags: , , |

eyesOne of my clients (a very worthy organization) has me blogging for them… and you can’t actually get to the page.  I have been blogging in the dark vacuum of space now for a couple of days.

I fully expect the problem to be fixed by the end of today because the right people have been alerted – but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen blogs buried in the clutter of a website.  Another client currently hides the company blog deep in the sub-menus of their website, and updates it very rarely, even though this client is bubbling over daily with great ideas.  What a waste of a wonderful resource!

The way I see it, when you are blogging for a business, or to gain support for a cause, or just to share your ideas, why would you hide it where no one can see it?  Why not have a section on the home page that gives visitors one-click access to your latest helpful hint?  How about putting it right on the navigation bar throughout the site?

Because a blog is designed to be updated on a regular basis,  it can add ongoing freshness to your online presence.  It brings the aroma of fresh-baked goods right onto your site.  That’s attractive – people will go there to see what is new, and they will stay longer if they find news, thoughts, ideas or interactions when they get there.  Hiding your blog in the depths of your site is like having a storefront, and hiding in the back room with a “ring bell for service” sign out front.

Go stand in the middle of your shop, and interact with the people who come in.  Serve them your fresh goods with pride.

On that same note,  I am currently in domain-hosting purgatory, waiting for my blog to be united with the rest of my website.  Once everything transfers over, you – dear reader – will be the first to know.

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Social Media – as important to business as a telephone?

Posted on March 24, 2009. Filed under: Small business communications, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Which tools is more important to your business – social networking sites or a telephone?

retro telephone

Does it seem like a ridiculous question?

Up until this past year, I’m sure the standard answer would have been, “My telephone is an essential business tool.  Social networking – you mean Facebook? MySpace?  They’re a total waste of time, and I don’t let my employees use them at work.”

How things change, and yet remain the same. Think back to the tv series of old, where the boss says “Miss Smith, take a letter.”  That directive comes from a time when telephones were seen as a less-than-concrete way to do business.  If the order wasn’t in writing, then how could you be sure it happened?  Right through the 50s and 60s, telephones weren’t an obvious feature of every employee’s desk.  If everyone had access to a phone, then how could an employer be sure that Fred in accounting wasn’t spending precious working hours talking to his girlfriend?

Eventually, the business case for telephones trumped any fears, grounded or not, about their potential for misuse at work.  And this is the stage we are at with the adoption of social media tools for business right now.

Business owners know that people are spending less time in front of the TV, or at least being captive to the ads, and more time in front of the computer screen.  And that screen time is, more often than not, tied in some way to the Internet and the many interactive ways that we use it.   It’s where we go when it’s time to get a movie or a restaurant recommendation.  We log on increasingly to file our tax returns, to look up information on our children’s schooling and our parents’ aging.   The internet is the place where we spend our social time and do a ton of shopping.  And increasingly, we are sharing that information with friends, followers and connections on social networking sites.   If social networking sites are where customers are hanging out, then you can bet that business people looking to build relationships with their current and potential clients are going to want to meet them at those hangouts.

Put that way, it seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?  As important to business as a telephone? That day may well be here.  But using social networking sites efficiently for business is an art, much like the business use of a phone.  More on that in my next post.

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“Only Connect” – Why I’m Renaming My Blog

Posted on March 2, 2009. Filed under: Small business communications | Tags: , , , , , |

connect1It’s all about taking action, folks.

“Sea Change” requires a name change
I’ve had this little blog since the end of November, and its existence has coincided with a fascinating sea change in the way I do business.  What started out as a vaguely self-absorbed exploration of my own life coming to terms with and even thriving with ADHD (yes, grown women can have it too) insisted on evolving into a place where I could talk about my business.  At the same time, I went from de facto employee with one major client and a couple of side projects to full-time business writer and PR and Marketing consultant.  In December, I thought this blog was going to be about the area of expertise where I’ve always had a sharp edge: getting your message out to the right people, at the right time, in the right language.

I had no idea that social media was going to become such a huge part of the picture. (See “Social Media: My Christmas Project Run Amok” for my initial thoughts as I dove into the pool).  But here I am at the beginning of March – and helping clients get a feel for social media has become as much a part of what I do as the actual writing and editing consults.

Time to take action
Then this morning on Twitter, one of my good buddies ADHDParenting (actually, Debra Sale Wendler) asked which pitch was more interesting: “Kids w ADHD 5 conditions under which child can pay attention. OR, 5 things that MUST happen B4 discipline works”  Forgive the formatting folks, she only has 140 characters to pose the question.

Well, give me the “5 Things That MUST happen” even better – “5 Things You Can Do”.  Why?  Because it’s information you can act on.  I’m always harping on about how “what X is” messages pale next to “what X does” messages.  And it’s time to apply that message to myself.

What X Does > What X Is
“The Message Maven” may be what I am.  Actually, I’m kinda tired of the term “maven” – so even that may need a facelift. You’re going to be more interested in what I do – even better, what I do for you, or what I wish we could all do a bit better.  And the answer to that is in one of my favourite literary quotations, from the novel Howard’s End, by EM Forster.

Only Connect.  That’s what we are aiming for each time we reach out to friends, potential clients, mentors, whoever.  It’s the bedrock philosophy behind everything that happens on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, YouTube and any number of other social media sites, blogs, bookmarking services and what-have-you on the Web.  It’s a second-person imperative, for you grammar geeks out there.  I’m asking myself and the whole world to do something, and something good: to touch people with our messages.  To affirm the community that we are a part of, online and off.

Thankfully, the URL and feed of this blog will stay the same, so I don’t have to rewire all the places that I feed this blog.  It’ll still show up on Facebook, LinkedIn, MetroCascade, and feeding to my Twitter Account through Twitterfeed.  Yes, if you want to turboboost your blog in the same way, I can help you…

I hope you like the new name, the new focus and the new energy that comes with it!

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Entrepreneurial Women “Get” Social Media

Posted on February 11, 2009. Filed under: People to Follow, Small business communications | Tags: , , , , , |

I’ve just come back from a terrific eWomen Network meeting, head buzzing, and purse full of business cards given to me by people who want me to follow up with them.

Artemis Exec Unspins the Web
I’m thrilled, because I really have the guest speaker of the evening to thank.    Maggie Kerr-Southin, of Artemis PR and Design here in Victoria, was our guest speaker, and her topic was “Social Media: It’s Not Just Kid Stuff”.  Maggie, Kerry Slavens and their team at Artemis operate on a whole different plane than I do – they offer the whole package for companies wanting a comprehensive branding, design and PR package.  They have the experience and the staff to run entire campaigns, and they do it very well.  So when Maggie shares her knowledge, I drop what I’m doing and go listen.  (Yeah, and I paid the late fee too – this being a “kid week”, I didn’t think I was going to eWomen this month until I heard that Maggie was coming to talk about social media)

Maggie started by asking the crowd of  entrepreneurs from around 30 to 60 years old how many of us were using Facebook.  A good number of hands rose.  More for LinkedIn, a few for Flickr, quite a bit less for Twitter.  Social media is happening in fits and starts for this crowd, but hardly anyone has figured out how to make the most of it.  Our speaker didn’t ask who had experienced a boost in their business from their social media interactions, but if she had, I probably would have been one of just a few with my hand up. 

The Lights Go On
Thank heaven the focus of her talk was demystifying how to use some of the most popular social media platforms – I could “see the lights go on” around the room, as the audience started to understand the power of online presence, and of building rapport using social media. 

The Power of a Good Network
Here’s the thing: eWomen Network women are incredibly good at using the network to share ideas, to cultivate friendships, and to recommend favourite businesses – both inside and outside the membership.  These women are excellent at building a mutually supportive business community.  What the marketing and PR insiders are excited about with social media is basically the same as what happens around the dinner table at this women’s business meeting.  It’s about building rapport, giving first, supporting each other, and listening as well as speaking. I know that given the necessary tools and a nudge in the right direction, this crowd will be fantastic at bringing their business specialties to the online communities of their choice.  They just aren’t doing it – yet.

So Much To Do
It was clear though, from the response to Maggie Kerr-Southin’s talk, that the members of our group want to figure this stuff out, and they’d appreciate the support they could get from someone with experience in social media.  When these offline networking and community-building pros start to look at their online strategy, many of them will be looking for a guide.  I hope to be there and of service to as many of them as I am able.  And as I was saying to a fellow marketing and social media pro at the event – there’s plenty of work for all of us.

So thanks again, Maggie, for the terrific message.  Once I’ve posted these thoughts, you’ll have me subscribing to your blog AND following you on Twitter.  And thanks, lovely eWomen members, for building such a great network.  This is the way we all prosper.

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Connect With Your Clients – Create a Plan

Posted on February 3, 2009. Filed under: Small business communications, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Are you a small business owner who wants more business?

I believe – as do 99% of marketing and sales professionals – that business is built on the strength of your client relationships.  Sure, there are strictly transactional sales processes, like when I pick up some gum at a random corner store, but they don’t sustain business for the long term.  (Hmmm, I’m sure there’s a post about the decline of the local corner store there.  Remind me.)

How do you want to connect?
That said, how do you build relationships with clients, or with the people that you hope to make your clients over the longer term?  By connecting with them in a variety of ways.  Let me give you an example:

Mind mapping my communications plan
This morning, I pulled out my roll of newsprint to get a handle on the many ways I want WordSpring to connect with my target market, and become a successful business.  In less than 10 minutes, I had a spider-webbed mind map of the various ways I want to interact with and provide service to my clients.  Some of them will bring in money, and some of them are simply smart ways to help them know, like and trust me.  I’ve included a picture of my handiwork – it’s not beautiful, like Christine Merkley’s drawings, but it is at least a framework for me to follow.
03-02-09_09421
Remember to include the other details
I can’t overemphasize how important that framework is, no matter the size or scope of your business.  My little web is going to form the basis of my communications plan, which I will write out in further detail and make a part of my business plan.  Here, I have mapped out the “what” of my plan.  As I convert it into a more detailed document, it will include the “why”, the “how often”, the “what method”, the”who is it for”. 

Communications plans work for EVERY business
These are the steps I go through with my clients as well, in preparing communications plans for them.  When it is done, you can actually figure out exactly how often you “touch” your client base, and for what purpose.  You’ll also know how much time and money you are spending on each activity, and be able to calculate the much-talked about Return on Investment. 

The advantage of diverse communications
You know what is the best part of a multi-faceted communications plan?  You are planning a diversity of relationship-building communications, and not restricting yourself to what comes naturally.  Your chances of making that crucial connection increase vastly because you are using a variety of formats.  Heaven knows, many people don’t read blogs at all, while others are happy to use Twitter, but couldn’t imagine stepping into a business networking meeting.  And yes, some people would probably rather get a nicely written note or even printed newsletter from you every so often than deal with anything on-line.

Obviously, my business lends itself naturally to this process.  What is marketing about, if not connecting?  But believe me, it is important as well for mechanics, chiropractors, and ink jet refillers.  Tell your people how you go about your work, why you are unique, and why they – as clients – are important to you.

You don’t have to do this alone
Perhaps you are so busy working in your business that you would rather delegate some of this communications planning work to someone with experience.  While the core information still has to come from you, the small business owner, most reputable PR and marketing professionals will work with you to create a communications strategy.  Certainly in larger companies, communications plans drive the marketing department activities, and marketing is in constant communication with the executive to make sure that their marketing efforts fit with the overall company strategy. 

Here’s your challenge: take 10 minutes and a big piece of paper.  Jot down all that you do to connect with your customers.  See if it forms a picture that you are happy with.  And why not send me a comment with your results?  I’d be happy to give you a hand, if you need it.

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