How To Ask For Testimonials, Recommendations & Online Reviews

September 11, 2020 / Roberta Hill  / 

Let's focus on online reviews for this blog post.  Why? Because they can have a huge impact on your business and bottom line. Besides many of these principles apply in getting testimonials and recommendations.

91% of consumers between the ages of 19 and 34 trust reviews and consumers are more likely to trust your company if you have at least 40 reviews. If you don’t already have a solid review presence, it’s time to get serious about building one.

The great news is that 68% of customers who are asked to leave a review are willing to do so. Here’s how to ask them.

Asking for Reviews, Testimonials or Recommendations in Person

If you’ve got a brick-and-mortar store, then asking for reviews in person may be the way to go. The trick is doing it in a way that doesn’t feel forced or put undue pressure on your customer.

Conversational flow is important. One option is to have your cashier(s) engage with customers when they check out. They can start by asking if the customer found everything they were looking for. Any customer who praises your store or products represents a positive review.

That said, it’s not a good idea to ask for a review as soon as the customer says something positive. Ask a few follow-up questions. Then, as you end the conversation, say something like “We really appreciate feedback from our customers because it helps people learn about us. Would you be willing to write an online review?” You can plug in your platform of choice, whether it’s Yelp, Google, or Facebook.

Asking for Reviews via Email

Perhaps your business doesn’t have a lot of face-to-face interaction with customers. In that case, sending an email may be the right way to ask for reviews or recommendations.

My suggestion is to segment your list and send out emails accordingly. Getting too many reviews all at once may not be helpful, since there’s evidence to suggest that Google and Yelp may ding you if you have a massive influx of reviews.

On a related note, it’s also not wise to link directly to your Yelp page in your email since their algorithm might penalize you for doing so. Instead, mention your preferred review site if you have one, and suggest that the recipient Google “Your Business Name + Yelp” to find your page.  While this step is recommended, it does add another layer of work for your customer.

However, if you are asking people to leave reviews on your page, you may link directly to the product page.

Asking for Reviews on a Thank You Page

Does your business have an online store where customers can buy products? If so, you may want to use your “Thank You” page to ask customers for a review.

It’s important to remember that first-time-customers aren’t going to be able to review your products if they’ve just ordered them. However, they can review their experience on your site, and they may be able to offer insights on your customer service if they’ve interacted with you.

Of course, some customers who land on your Thank You page will be buying a product for the second or third time. That’s why it’s important to ask because those people will be primed to leave you a review. If you don’t have a “Thank You” page, you can also ask for a review on a confirmation page or in a confirmation email. (more…)

Try These 11 Marketing Ideas to Help Get You Through the Pandemic

August 16, 2020 / Roberta Hill  / 

Have you cut back on marketing due to the COVID-19 pandemic? You’re not alone. A lot of business owners are trying to save money by reducing their spending. Or maybe you don't have a marketing budget at all.  Well now might be the time to set a small amount aside specifically now. Costs have never been lower.

Cutting back is understandable and may be necessary, but marketing isn’t a luxury for your business. It’s a necessity. And it’s possible to keep things going even if you need to reduce your spending. Here are eleven ideas to help you stay in the marketing flow.

#1: Focus on Social Media

According to Statista, Americans are spending more time on social media now than they did before the pandemic. That translates to an opportunity for businesses who need low-cost ways to engage their target customers.

It’s a good time to share the ways your business is coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and highlight the ways your business can help people cope with social distancing and stay-at-home orders. You may also want to consider boosting your ads or running a page promotion to get your business in front of potential new customers.

#2: Take Advantage of Cheap Advertising

Speaking of running ads, one of the biggest potential upsides to the pandemic is that advertising costs are lower than usual.

If you’re wondering how low prices are, the answer might surprise you. There’s no hard data, but anecdotally, marketing agencies are reporting costs that are between 50% and 75% lower than they were before the pandemic. That includes pay per click advertising and social media advertising, where you’ll mostly pay based on impressions.

You may want to investigate the costs for your target market and rethink your budget to take advantage of the savings while they last.

#3: Don’t Lose Sight of SEO 

Search engine optimization is easy to neglect when money is tight. There’s a tendency among small business owners to invest in SEO only when it becomes a problem.

The issue with that mindset is that SEO is the longest game in digital marketing. If you don’t stay on top of it now, you could find yourself facing an uphill battle to regain your coveted page one rank on Google. You don’t need to spend a lot of money, but you should stay on top of keyword research and maintain your local SEO to ensure you don’t slip.  

If SEO confuses you, check out this article.
 Be sure to download the article in pdf which includes a great infographic. (more…)

What Are the Most Important SEO Metrics to Track?

August 17, 2020 / Roberta Hill  / 
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SEO matters. You don’t need me to tell you that – although I certainly have told you all about it!

Understanding the importance of SEO is one thing and knowing what to do with your SEO metrics is another. With so many metrics to choose from, how do you know where to put your focus? Which metrics can help you the most?

It’s a lot to ask any small business owner to learn everything there is to know about SEO. It’s a complex topic. But here are the SEO metrics that you really should be tracking, even if you don’t have time for anything else.

Organic Traffic

The traffic your website generates is the life’s blood of your business online. If your site doesn’t attract new visitors, it’s a sure sign that your SEO isn’t doing what it should.

Organic traffic is all the traffic you don’t pay for – in other words, it’s the traffic you get because someone searched for a keyword on Google and then clicked on your link. Traffic from paid ads is not organic.

You need to track organic traffic using Google Analytics because it’s a good barometer of your SEO in general. If you get little or no organic traffic, it means your site needs work. If your organic traffic is high, your SEO is doing something for you.

Your Target Keywords

What are the keywords you want people to use to find you? Tracking their search volume and variations on them can help you target them on your website.

A tool such as Keywords Everywhere is a good place to start. You should look at the monthly search volume and dig into the search results looking for opportunities to rank for them. You may be able to identify opportunities that other websites have missed.

The Keywords You Already Rank For

How are people finding your website now? Whether you meant to target them or not, there are keywords that earn your website a first-page spot on Google. Knowing what they are is essential if you want to fine-tune your SEO.

The best tool for the job is Google Search Console. I recommend using your existing rankings to capitalize on opportunities at the same time you think about how you can use the traffic you have to get the traffic you want.

Backlinks  

Backlinks are still a huge factor in SEO. A site that has an array of high-quality backlinks is always going to rank higher on Google than a site with few or low-quality backlinks.

There are two aspects to tracking your backlinks. The first is tracking your own, which you can do using Google Search Console. Seeing what you have can help you identify the areas where you’re falling short.

The second aspect is tracking your competitors’ backlinks. There are a lot of potential backlinks out there and I’m willing to get you haven’t capitalized on all of them. Using a backlink evaluation tool, such as the SEMRush Backlink Checker or Moz can help you spy on your competitors’ backlinks.

If you see an authority backlink that you’d like for your own site, you can work on getting it. Some of the best methods include writing a guest blog post or simply contacting the site directly to ask if they’d be willing to link to your site.

Social Media Traffic

Google says social media posts (and other metrics, including Likes, Follows and Shares) don’t impact your Google rank directly.

“Directly” is the keyword because there is evidence that social media activity does impact a website’s rank in some way. There’s a reason that when you search for a big company, their social pages show up at the top of Google’s SERP.

The good news is that you can track your social traffic using Google Analytics, which is free. Pay special attention to the posts and activity that’s leading people back to your website. You can use that information to do a better job of targeting your social media posts – and to create the kind of content that people will respond to on social media.

Voice Search Rankings 

Alexa, are people finding your website through voice search?

If you’re not asking that question, you should be. Voice search is taking over the world of search. As of 2020, 49% of all searches are voice searches. Mobile phones are still the source of most voice searches, but virtual assistants Alexa, Cortana and Siri aren’t far behind.

You can get your Alexa search rank on Alexa.com. Apple doesn’t release search rankings for Siri, but you should make sure that your business is listed on Apple Maps if you want to rank on Siri, and Google Maps is a must for Google voice search.

One final note about voice search. Unlike regular Google rankings, voice search provides a single answer to a single question. That means your best bet is to identify questions that the people in your target audience are likely to ask and then optimize your content for them.

Page Speed

Nobody likes a slow website and research shows that if your site takes more than a few seconds to load, people will navigate away. That makes tracking your page speed a no-brainer.

This is an easy metric to track using Page Speed Insights by Google. If your page is slow, you’ll need to address it immediately.

Organic Conversions

I saved the best for lost. Your organic conversion rate is a measurement of how well your organic search rank is converting casual searchers to subscribers or (best of all) paying customers.

Here again, you can use Google Analytics – which is free – to track your conversions. You might get a ton of organic traffic, but if it’s not helping you build your list, attract leads, and make sales, then it’s not doing you any good.

Most of these metrics are free to track. You don’t need fancy tools, nor do you need to be an SEO expert. With a bit of research and perseverance, you can use your metrics to help you do a better job of optimizing your site – and growing your business.

Be sure to sign up for my monthly digest magazine with covers interesting topics like this one every month.

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My personal interest and expertise are in social media rather than SEO. However, if you do need help in this area, I would be pleased to do an overall analysis of your site and then make some recommendations for you.

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Critical Tools to Help You Learn about Your Audience and Potential Customers

August 15, 2020 / Roberta Hill  / 
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In order for your business to succeed, you need to get to know your customers on a one-on-one basis. Since you can’t do that with hundreds or thousands of customers over the internet, tech tools can help you learn as much as possible about them.

What Do You Need to Know about Your Customers?

Demographics. Demographics tell you who your customers are and includes data such as age, geographic location, economic status, family make-up, and other data.

Psychographics. This data identifies psychological factors such as values, needs, beliefs, and issues the customer faces.

Buying Behavior. It’s especially important to look at how people make decisions about what they buy.

Analytics Programs

Analytics can help you get to know your audience. Google Analytics is a free tool offered by the world’s biggest search engine that offers a wealth of information on website visitor behaviour. It tells you how people interact with your website, which pages they spend time on, what traffic sources direct them to your site, and much more. Through Google Analytics, you can discover things like which of your pages’ content is most interesting to your audience.

Take advantage of the analytics offered by any tool you use. For example, Facebook offers various data for its Pages.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System

Customer relationship management (CRM) programs help you collect and analyze a variety of data about your customers, including demographics and behaviour. They track every interaction you have with your customers from initial inquiries to repeat purchases. This data is analyzed and presented to show trends that give you insights into your audience.

Online Surveys

If you can’t talk to your customers directly, you can do so virtually through online surveys. Tools like Survey Monkey allow you to create and run surveys where you ask your audience whatever you’d like. To get more responses, you can offer a discount or freebie as an added incentive.

Look at the platforms you use as well to see if they have survey functions. Many social media platforms offer built-in survey features.

Social Media Tools

Social media is a great way to learn about your audience. There are many tools that can give you insights from these platforms. Tools like Mention let you choose topics to follow since you can’t follow every single conversation. HubSpot has a free tool that uses social media to help you create a customer persona. Tools can help you analyze content and profiles for overall trends.

Don’t Forget the Personal Touch

In addition to the above tools, don’t forget to maintain the personal connection. Nothing is more valuable than the relationships you nurture with your customers. Keep channels of communication open and encourage them to reach out to you. Spend time interacting in a friendly way on social media. Use every interaction as a valuable opportunity to learn about the people you serve.

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Essential Tools You Need for Effective TeleWorking

August 2, 2020 / Roberta Hill  / 
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Make It Happen New Ways Positive Thinking Proactive Concept

Teleworking working has become a regular part of life for many of us, especially if you run your own business. There are many things to learn and get used to, but it’s much easier if you have the right tools. Here is everything you need to work remotely.

A Good Computer with Reliable Internet

The very basics are a good working computer and a reliable internet connection. A PC gives you a bigger screen and more power, but a laptop gives you the option of working on the go. Your regular household Wi-Fi is probably enough for remote working, but you may also look at your usage and consider adding more bandwidth.

Communication Tools

Remote working requires some kind of communication tool beyond email to talk to your colleagues and clients. Email gets clunky and hard to manage. Messages pile up on threads. It’s especially inconvenient when you have a team of people talking together. A chat platform like Slack or Skype is a much better option. You can talk throughout the day as if you were together at the office.

Video Conferencing

It’s highly likely that you’ll sometimes have to attend meetings. For this, you’ll need video conferencing software. With a program like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, you can have virtual meetings where you can see everyone and take advantage of features like screen share and presentations.

Project Management

If you’re collaborating on projects with other people, you’ll need a project management program like Asana, Jira, or Basecamp. These programs allow you to see and edit the progress of projects, share and edit documents, and communicate together as you work.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage allows you to store files in the cloud rather than on a physical device. The advantage is that you can access these files anywhere. It also gives you more storage in addition to what your computer can handle. The simplest and most popular are Google Drive and Dropbox.

Pocket Wi-Fi

If you’re going to be taking your work on the road, you may want to buy a pocket Wi-Fi. This is a small device that gives you your own hotspot. It allows you to use Wi-Fi anywhere and not have to rely on unsecured public networks. You can also use it as a backup at home if your Wi-Fi goes out.

Organizational Tools

Finally, there is a wide selection of tools that help you get and stay organized. When working remotely without a boss or office, this can be quite helpful for staying on top of things. These tools include online calendars, time management tools, automated to-do lists, and time trackers that help you audit how you spend your time at work.

Many of these options can be found for free and are very easy to use. They make work easier and more efficient for remote workers.

Do you want to learn more about using Zoom effectively? Check out my course, Communicate & Meet with Zoom, which teaches you the A to Z of leveraging all aspects of video conferencing.  Free for a limited time. Click the Image below.

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7 Tips to Run an Effective Video Call When Working Remotely

July 28, 2020 / Roberta Hill  / 
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If you’re working remotely, you almost certainly have to make video calls. Some remote workers are constantly on video calls throughout the day. If you haven’t participated in video calls often in the past, it can be a bit awkward and difficult to get used to at first. Here are some tips and best practices on how to make your video calls smooth, natural, and effective.

Check Your Connection

Before your call, make sure you have a strong internet connection. A bad connection can be extremely distracting and even drop your call. Check with any devices you’ll use and have a backup ready in case there’s a problem with one. Make sure others in your household aren’t placing a burden on the Wi-Fi while you’re on the call.

Pay Attention to Presentation

Even though you’re working at home in your pyjamas, you should be dressed in business attire for video meetings. This not only creates a good impression, it also puts you in the correct mindset for work. Pay attention to what’s in the background of your video. For example, remove hanging clothes or kids’ toys. Experiment with the angle so that you’re not too close or too far away.

Act Like You’re in a Meeting

During the meeting, keep in mind that people can see you. They can see your facial expression and can tell whether you’re listening or not. Non-verbal clues like nodding and smiling are even more important on video calls than in person to confirm that you’re present.

Experiment with Lighting

Before the call, check out your lighting. See how it looks on the camera. You don’t want to appear too dark or too washed out. Try out different lights to see what looks most natural. Make sure there isn’t any light behind you which would backlight.

Meeting Timing

Just like any meeting, be on time. We’re often looser with time when we’re not hurrying to get anywhere, but just like a regular meeting, everyone should take it seriously. Create an agenda and stick to it, wrapping up the call at the appointed time so participants can get back to other things they need to do.

Use the Mute Function

Especially if there are several participants on the call, mute yourself when you’re not talking. There may be background noise you’re not aware of that everyone can hear such as cars passing outside, household noises, or the sound of you moving.

Have a Backup Plan

There are bound to be some technical or connectivity problems, so have a backup plan ready. This might be an alternative time slot for the meeting or switching to audio-only if video slows down some participants’ computers. Another option is to record the meeting in the case that someone can’t connect and participate.

The good news is that we’re all getting increasingly used to holding video meetings and the technology is better than ever. You can hold important meetings without everyone in the same location and there are customization options you can take advantage of to make meetings more productive.

Do you want to learn more about using Zoom effectively? Check out my course, Communicate & Meet with Zoom, which teaches you the A to Z of leveraging all aspects of video conferencing.  Free for a limited time. Click the Image below.

 

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Get Your Audience Involved With These Conversation Starters

June 30, 2020 / Roberta Hill  / 
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You can’t read anything about marketing and content these days without reading about engaging your customers. But what does that really mean?

Engaging means capturing someone’s attention – connecting – and having a conversation. This is not easy to do on the internet, particularly when there are millions of other things clamouring for attention at the same time.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It just means you need to try harder.

The thing is, your customers want to talk to you. If they didn't, they would unsubscribe. Remember, that is OK too. From your experience on Facebook, you would probably rather have a civilized conversation than ta debate or argument. 

Your readers want to know what you think, and most importantly, they want to believe that you care what they think.

It’s not as hard as you might think. Here are 7 simple conversation starters to get your audience talking to you.

#1: Express an Opinion about Industry News

You want to build authority within your industry or niche? One of the best ways to do that AND start a conversation with your followers is to express an opinion – particularly if it might be new or controversial. Of course, you should only do this if you can back up your opinion.

Despite what I wrote earlier, some bloggers do want to be controversial but then you need to be prepared for the ‘haters”.  It depends on your niche and what you are trying to achieve. If this is a business web site, I would tend to avoid the three taboos – sex, religion or politics.

A good way to get started with this tactic is to follow relevant publishers and influencers in your industry. When you see them post a piece of news that’s relevant to your followers, read the article (or watch the video) and figure out what you can add to the conversation. Then share it – and make sure to include a call to action that encourages your followers to chime in with their own opinions.

#2: Ask for Stories and Experiences

Everybody has a story to tell – and when you’re speaking to an audience who all have something in common with you, then it’s easy to think of a topic that may inspire people to share their stories.

The key here is to share your own story and then ask your followers to share their best stories with you. For example, say you own a travel agency. You might tell a story of a trip you booked for yourself before you were a travel agent and how it went wrong. Then, you could ask your followers for their travel horror stories.

The value of this type of sharing is that it provides you with an opportunity to respond, express sympathy or amazement, and build a bond with potential customers online.  Sometimes it can also be a source of great additional content.

#3: Get Recommendations

People might love to tell stories, but do you know what else they like? Giving advice and making recommendations! And asking them for recommendations is a great way to get them talking.

What kind of recommendations should you ask for? Ideally, they should be relevant to your product or service. For example, I’m a marketing guy. I might ask:

  • What are your favourite marketing podcasts?
  • What publications do you follow on Facebook and Twitter?
  • Which marketing technique is your favourite, and why?
  • What marketing apps would you recommend?

You get the idea. The key is not to stray too far from your brand and product. Instead, keep a tight focus and encourage your followers to share their experiences and recommendations with you and each other.

#4: Promote Your Events and Your Community

Are you appearing at a local street fair or charity event? Sharing your involvement is a great way to remind people that you stand for something other than making money – and to underscore your involvement in your community and industry.

Even if you’re not appearing at an event, there’s a benefit in letting your followers know what’s going on in your community. Giving a nod to other businesses or to local charities can help you build trust and earn the admiration of your followers. You can encourage conversation by asking questions like these:

  • Will you be attending the ****  celebration?
  • What was the last community event you attended?

Another option is to include an open call to action at the end, something like “We hope you’ll stop by and check out our booth! There’s a free gift in it for you!”

#5: Ask about Do-It-Yourself Projects

Whatever industry or niche you’re in, the chances are good that your followers have some  DIY experiences that are relevant. Asking about them is a great way to learn about potential customers and build a warm rapport with them by responding to what they share.

Ideally, a DIY project should be something that uses (or could use) your products. However, it doesn’t have to be. The key is to find a way to make what you post relevant to your brand – and then stand back and let your followers do the rest.

#6: Ask Open Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to get your followers talking. It’s especially helpful to you if you can get them talking in a way that helps you to learn more about them – because that’s information you can use to create future content.

For example, if you’re targeting small business owners, you could ask questions like:

  • What’s your biggest challenge as a business owner?
  • What problem do you wish someone would solve for you?
  • What product or service has helped you the most?

The answers to these questions can help you write blog posts, create a social media strategy, or even develop new products that are ideal for your target audience.

#7: Ask for Testimonials

You already know that reviews and testimonials are hugely important in the world of marketing. What better way to get some new testimonials to share on your site than to ask your customers to provide them on social media?

Not only will asking for opinions help you get some positive testimonials, this may also help you discover potential issues and nip them in the bud before they become big problems. You should be prepared for some surprises – but if you approach the request with the right mindset, this technique can help you learn a lot about your customers.

Look who’s talking… 

The bottom line is that your audience wants to talk to you. They don’t read your blog or follow you on social media because they’re looking for a lecture. The key is to give them the encouragement they need to share their thoughts, experiences, and opinions with you – and then, to stand back and listen to what they say.

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20 Remote Work Tools to Help You During the Pandemic

May 10, 2020 / Roberta Hill  / 
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In the past two months, business owners and employees have had to adapt to working remotely. The probability is high that even after we have a vaccine, there will be a paradigm shift. More of us are going to be working from home, and that means we’ll all need to have tools to help us manage our assets, collaborate, and connect with one another.

With that in mind, here are some of the best tools available for working remotely, now and in the future.

Asset Management Tools

A lot of companies have moved to cloud-based backup systems, but some haven’t. If you need a way to manage your data and assets online, so everybody can access what they need, here are some suggestions.

  • Google Drive is a free tool accessible to anybody with a Google account. While it updates frequently, and that can be frustrating, it’s easy to use and allows you to work on documents with colleagues. It also tracks changes.
  • Dropbox is a tool with free and paid options where you can have employees and freelancers put documents for you to access. It’s easy to set up folders to organize your content.
  • Canva is one a tool that’s intuitive and easy to use for creative content. They have a free option, but the premium account is ideal for business content and collaboration, even for people who don’t have any design experience.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud is one of my favorite tools to create and collaborate on visual content. You can add team members as needed and give them editing privileges.

If you’ve been reluctant to embrace cloud technology for file sharing and asset management, now is the time to embrace it.

Time Tracking Tools

If you bill clients hourly – or pay employees hourly – then you need a way to track time spent on projects. Here are three tools to try:

  • Harvest is a simple tool that allows you to create projects or to-do list and track the time spent on each item. It’s best suited for tracking personal time, but not the best tool for managing employee productivity.
  • iDoneThis is a tool that tracks team progress on projects. If you have multiple employees working on the same project – and you want to avoid duplication of effort – this is a useful tool to have on hand. It will send everyone on your team a digest to recap what everybody did.
  • Time Doctor allows you to create projects and track time spent on them using a clock. It’s ideal if you need to manage employees or freelancers.

Tracking employees’ time helps to keep people accountable when they work from home.

Virtual Meeting Tools

Virtual meetings are everywhere these days, and I’m willing to bet you’ve already tried some of the tools I’ll cover in this section. Keep in mind that some of these may be useful for keeping in touch with friends and family as well as for business meetings.

  • Skype is the original video calling tool. It’s not the most sophisticated tool on this list, but it’s suitable for one-on-one calls with colleagues or collaborators. There’s a chat feature where you can put links and other information.
  • Zoom is the video conferencing app that’s received the most attention. It’s useful for large group meetings. In addition to real-time conversations, you can share screens and record meetings for later viewing.
  • GoToMeeting is ideal for speaker meetings where you want people to be able to dial in and listen to a speaker or host. You can also record meetings to share later.
  • Google Hangouts are a free and convenient meeting option, especially if you’re already using Google Calendar or Google Docs.
  • me is a great app for screen sharing meetings. You can also use it to create a dedicated meeting room for people to visit when they need to meet with you.

Keep in mind that Zoom’s free option limits meetings to just 40 minutes, but their paid plans start at just $14.99 per month. That will get your meetings up to 24 hours with up to 100 participants.

Remote Login Tools

Depending on your situation, you or a member of your team may need to log in to a computer in your office while you’re at home. Here are some tools that can help you.

  • Remote PC allows you to access computers and create teams to allow for easy collaboration with your employers or freelancers.
  • TeamViewer has a free option for personal use and a business option where you can allow multiple users to log in remotely.
  • LogMeIn offers a free trial and account options for business owners and IT professionals who may need to log in remotely to fix computer issues.

Keep in mind that for any of these tools to work, the computer being accessed must be turned on.

Project Management Tools

Even small businesses may have ongoing projects where multiple employees must collaborate to complete their work. Here are some of the best project management tools to try.

  • Asana allows you to create projects and tasks, assign them to employees, upload files, and communicate via live chat.
  • Trello gives you an easy-to-use dashboard where you can track projects, mark them as urgent, and even colour-code them to make it easy for collaborators to see what they need to do.
  • Basecamp has calendar management and project management tools on a convenient dashboard. You can grant access to employees and freelancers for easy communication.
  • Microsoft Office Teams allows you to download Microsoft tools such as Word and Excel onto your computer and collaborate with employees.
  • G Suite is a Google-created tool that allows teams to collaborate and manage products using Google Docs and Google Slides, as well as creating and working from a shared calendar.

The likelihood is strong that working remotely will be the norm in the future. It’s going to be essential for business owners and employees to have the best tools to help them keep track of their assets and collaborate with one another. The tools on this list are some of my favourites.

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Ways to promote your business during the COVID-19 crisis

April 8, 2020 / Roberta Hill  / 
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It is a delicate matter to find out how to promote and market your company in a time of crisis.

On the one hand, many small businesses struggle to stay afloat in the hope of weathering the storm and reopening after the crisis. On the other hand, nobody wants to appear insensitive or opportunistic.

Nevertheless, there are still opportunities to promote your business in these troubling and frightening times.
The key is to do four things at once:
1. Meet your audience where they are.
2. Offer a clear value in a time of need
3. Be sensitive to the time and avoid missteps.
4. Take advantage of special advertising offers and promotions.

Here are some suggestions to help you.

Meet your audience where they are

In a sense, the fact that most people stay at home and avoid social gatherings gives small business owners a unique opportunity. Even at the risk of taking the seriousness of the situation too lightly, you have a captive audience. This means that the people you want to reach, spend more time with you than they normally do online. Digital marketing will be more critical now than ever before – and small businesses can and should benefit from it.

It is an excellent time to rethink your marketing mix. You should consider taking money from things like direct marketing if you've always done it and investing it in these things:
  • Advertising in social media
  • Advertising in search engines
  • E-mail marketing
It is a good time, as you are going through your analyses over a few weeks after an almost worldwide “stay at home” to see what is happening to subscribers. Do you have a bunch of new followers at Pinterest? Your marketing budget should reflect that.

Offer a clear value in a time of need

While many of us are scared and unemployed, many people work from home and like to support local businesses. It is an excellent time to get creative and think about how to serve them. For example, I have seen some companies offering “Buy Now and Save Later” promotions where they introduce offers even if the company is closed at present. What a great way to engage your audience and buy from you – and create some continuity to help you through a temporary closure. Another option is to find ways to put your regular services online. This is not a solution for everyone, but many companies have adapted in a truly inspiring way.

If you can find a way to use technology to help your audience, now is the time. If you are a manufacturer, there are potential ways to help people directly and concretely. A good example is Toast, a company that usually makes phone and laptop cases and other products from natural materials such as wood and leather. In a short period, they have converted their machines and developed a fully reusable face shield that they make available to hospitals and emergency responders.

Refine your SEO

Your marketing should reflect what you do to create added value. If you offer emergency services or virtual services, you might want to put some money into SEO for keywords related to the changes. For example, a restaurant that is focused on display and delivery could invest some cash in local keywords that contain these terms to ensure they reach their audience. However, it is not a good idea to completely stop spending on your regular keywords. Remember that both Google and Facebook have advertising credit programs for small businesses to use during the pandemic. It's still important to maintain your Google rank for your general target keywords. If you don't do this, your ranking may get a hit – and if that happens, it can be difficult to recover when we return to business as usual.

Keep the conversation going

If your business is temporarily closed or offers limited services, you can still invest in “soft” marketing to engage and involve your audience. Two of the best ways to do this are social media marketing and e-mail marketing. You may be tired of hearing me talk about e-mail marketing, but it still has a very high ROI, and it's a great way to stay in touch without being overbearing. The same goes for social media marketing. Your organic contributions provide an opportunity to stimulate conversation, find out what your followers think, and remind them of your value. Promoted posts can do the same.

Be sensitive to time and avoid missteps

One of the most challenging things in marketing during a crisis is finding the right balance between sensitivity and business issues. Any business that is seen as an attempt to exploit people is likely to have unpleasant consequences. The first thing to avoid is for marketing to take the current situation lightly or to reject the genuine pain and fear of people. Empathy is the word of the day and companies that demonstrate their customers will reward this. The second point is that you focus on your customers and not on your financial worries. There is nothing wrong with worrying about the survival of your business, but if it looks like that is the only thing you worry about, you may end up alienating the people you want to attract.

Be adaptable

None of us knows what next week or next month will bring. It may be that a marketing campaign that works today will be twice as effective in a week, or it may not deliver results, and you will need to redesign it. I realize that this may not be reassuring, but I believe that with the right attitude, it can be a good thing.

Check your analyses regularly.

If you can afford it, do some A/B testing to refine your campaigns. Change elements as needed – and be prepared to change them again if you need to. Marketing your business is still a must during the pandemic, but you need to be on your feet and do everything you can to serve your audience. If you can do that, your company will survive the crisis.
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Why content remains king

January 23, 2020 / Roberta Hill  / 

This is a follow-up short article regarding my previous post:  8 Great Types of Content Marketing for Local Businesses  In that post, I point out eight types of content you can use/create.  In this one, I elaborate on why content is and always will be “King”.

Long before the Internet existed, the defining axiom in print was: “content is king.” Today, with online content dominating print content, many of the world's leading SEO and web marketing experts still say that “content is king.”

Why is this the case? That even after decades, regardless of the medium, content is still the crux of good marketing?

This is what builds loyalty

Companies were not built on first-time visitors. Companies like the Wall Street Journal do not make most of their money with people who pick up their newspapers for the first time.

They make money from people who have read their content and then decided that it is good enough that they either want to buy again or take out a subscription. If the company required a new customer every time to get paid, they would all have failed by now.

But many online publications approach their business that way. Instead of focusing on recurring visitors, they focus on search engine optimization to get more new customers. 

However, the famous and successful blogs like the Huffington Post or TechCrunch still get most of their traffic from repeat visitors. Their businesses would only be a fraction of what they are today if they did not have great content.

The evolution of the search engines

Google and other search engines strive continually to ensure that their search results deliver better results ever. They want people who search their search engines to find the best possible content concerning what they are looking to find.

As search engines become more intelligent, marketers who focus primarily on marketing tactics rather than the actual content will become extinct. 

Google has proven this repeatedly by downgrading the importance of inferior links and increasing the importance of usage statistics and other metrics actually to measure the content of a website.

If you build your site around great content and have a good understanding of basic SEO, your website will thrive. If you put all your efforts on SEO and don't pay serious attention to your content, you will always try to stay one step ahead of the search engines. 

The ability to sell high-ticket items

A site with inferior content might be able to sell $0.20 clicks through AdSense. But a high-quality website could sell $5,000 DVD sets by the hundreds.

With high-quality content, you can build a relationship with your readers. This relationship allows you to sell any number of things to your readers. From high-quality articles to recurring memberships to one-on-one coaching, it all starts with high-quality content.

Over time, only content that helps people will be successful. Content that does not do so is likely to be downgraded more and more over time.