3 Ways Social Proof Can Help Your Business

September 17, 2019 / Roberta Hill  / 

Many businesses have heard about social proof marketing, but aren’t really sure if it will help their business. In short, it will. Social proof marketing relies on one group, usually referred to as ‘the masses’, to influence the purchasing decisions of others.

If for example, all of your friends used a particular e-commerce site, you may also choose to use that one based on the positive experiences you’ve heard about. This is social proof and if you haven’t started using it yet in your business’ marketing efforts, there’s many reasons you should. The three biggest benefits it will bring to your business are listed below.

  • Build trust and credibility: People are naturally inclined to believe other consumers than they are marketers and business owners. When potential leads see that many people are using your business or product, it builds trust in your company and makes you seem much more credible than if you had told them yourself that you were the best in the industry.
  • Provides validation: People need a reason to buy something and that reason doesn’t always come to need or want. Sometimes, people make purchases simply to see what all the hype is about, or because someone else, such as a celebrity, purchased them. They want to achieve the same notoriety or are simply curious. Social proof provides this validation that others are using it, so they should, too.
  • Simplifies decision-making: Customers will take a lot of things into consideration when making purchasing decisions. Do they need it? Will they use it? How will they use it? These are just a few questions. Social proof eliminates these questions, making the purchasing decision easier. They only need to consider that many others are getting use out of it, so they will, too.

These are just a few of the main benefits social marketing brings. Once you start incorporating social proof into your marketing, you’ll soon find there are so many more.

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Why Every Small Business Owner Needs To Attend Local Networking Events

August 23, 2019 / Roberta Hill  / 

Joan is a virtual assistant who was trying to get her first few clients. She’d heard that networking events were a great way to boost her business growth, but she didn’t know if they could be helpful to her. So, she asked Elsie, her business coach about networking events and Elsie shared the major benefits of attending live networking events.

Meet Potential Clients

Elsie explained that local networking events are a wonderful place to meet new clients. “You never know who you might meet. When I attended a local networking event several years ago, a seasoned local business entrepreneur, whom I trusted, introduced me to a startup company that was looking for in-house leadership coaching. That introduction led to a five-figure contract.”

Not only can you meet potential clients, but you’re also at a wonderful place where others can refer you. A small business owner, at an event, may not need your content marketing services, but she may know someone else who does and can put you in contact with each other.

Stay on Top of Industry Trends

No matter what your industry, your business is constantly expanding and changing. Trying to identify all of the new trends happening by yourself can be a bit overwhelming. But by being around others in business, you’ll be exposed to new trends without even realizing it.

Understanding trends can be very valuable for your business. For example, you might learn about a new web design trend that affects how you offer branding packages to your clients.

Connect with Influencers

Influencers aren’t necessarily potential clients. But they’re typically enthusiastic cheerleaders who can get the word out about you and your brand. They’re always on the lookout for new products and trends they can share with their circles, which makes them ideal to chat up at events.

Of course, influencers don’t want you to engage with them in the hopes that they’ll promote you. Instead, you’ll need to focus on developing an authentic relationship with influencers based around a common interest or passion.

Learn New Things

There’s a saying that goes (citation unknown), “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

What this means is simply that you should put yourself in situations where you can learn. If you’re already an advanced entrepreneur then hanging out with new entrepreneurs might be fun, but you’re not likely to learn very much. In fact, you may find yourself doing a good bit of teaching.

You don’t have to look for networking events that billionaire CEOs attend, but you do want to make sure there’s a good mix of experience levels at each event. This allows you to learn and absorb new things from entrepreneurs who are further along on their journey than you.

Develop Your Message

Another perk of attending local networking events is that you will frequently have to introduce yourself. You’ll typically tell other attendees who you are, what you do, and who your target demographic is.

When you must repeat who you are and what you do week after week, you get good at pitching yourself. You’ll become more comfortable sharing your message and communicating what makes your brand stand out from others.

Try to vary your “elevator pitch” to sound more authentic. When you say what you do, it should invite further questions.

Become the Expert

Elsie also explained to Joan that attending local events affects how others view you. “For example,” She explained, “I went to a mastermind every week for several months. After a while, I noticed I was the go-to person for tech problems or questions. This allowed me to find more consulting clients.”

You develop a reputation when you attend events regularly, and people start to associate what you do with your name so when they think “social media marketing” or “sassy web design”, they think of you. This naturally leads to more referrals which leads to more paying work for you.

Find a Joint Collaboration Partner

Not only are potential clients and influencers waiting for you at local networking events, so are potential collaborators. These are people who might choose to partner with you on a project.

Elsie partnered with a writer she’d met at a networking event. Together, they published several helpful books on various technology platforms that businesses use. The books were popular (and profitable) for both women.

Discover Local Contractors

If your goal is to one day outsource part (or even your entire) business, then local networking events can be a great way to meet others. You never know who you might discover—your future virtual assistant, that web designer you’ll hire, or the coach who will help push you to the next level.

But what if you already have an amazing team built around you and you’re not looking for someone new? Local networking events can still be a wonderful way to meet entrepreneurs who give you insights into how your team can work more efficiently.

Increased Motivation

Elsie also mentioned how much she enjoyed the atmosphere of many local networking events. “It’s energizing to meet others who are just as passionate and committed as you are to building an amazing business,” she explained to Joan.

Sometimes, being an entrepreneur is difficult and you lose your mojo but connecting with entrepreneurs who are excited about their businesses can remind you of why you started yours.

Even more importantly, Elsie commended that she had made some valuable long term friendships

Solve Problems

When you’ve been staring at the same problem for too long, it’s easy to miss the obvious solution that’s right in front of you. But going to local networking events can give you a fresh perspective and you might connect with someone who knows how to solve your problem or helps you look at it differently.

That’s what happened to Elsie at an event last March. She’d been searching for a way to create more content for social media pages. A content marketer at an event suggested she repurposed some of her evergreen blog posts and use snippets from them to quickly schedule more social media content.

Give Back

Keep in mind that local networking events aren’t just a place to get—they’re also opportunities to give back to other entrepreneurs. You may meet a potential client with whom you end up doing thousands of dollars in business. But you may also just meet someone who needs a quick word of encouragement or a simple suggestion and they’ll be on their way.

When it comes to networking events, it’s smart to walk in with a giving mindset. You’ll attract positive people and other givers to you. Plus, you’ll feel good and enjoy yourself more when you show up this way.

If you’re worried you don’t have anything valuable to contribute, shut that thought down. Even if you’re a brand new solopreneur, you can still listen to others and encourage them to pursue their passion. You bring value just by showing up!

Grow Your Confidence

The more networking events you attend, the more confident you’ll become. You’ll find more confidence when you’re delivering your message and when you’re talking with others about what you can do for their business. This confidence will help you shine and give you the courage to take smart risks in your business.

Like Joan, you might think local networking events sound a little scary. But they don’t have to be. If you attend a few regularly, you’ll find they can be a fun and exciting way to connect with other entrepreneurs just like yourself.

7 Ways You Can Make Sure Your Website Isn’t Falling Behind the Times

August 5, 2019 / Roberta Hill  / 
Web Design Blueprint

Is your website hip and modern – or is it out-of-date and sad? If it’s been a while since you updated your site, there’s at least a chance that it’s a dud. That doesn’t mean it’s poorly designed, but it does mean that it’s your job to give it an honest evaluation and update it if it’s not good enough.

Fortunately, an update doesn’t mean a full redesign. Here are 7 simple things you can do to make sure your website is offering the user experience and value your customers deserve.

#1: Optimize for Voice Search

One of the biggest problems I see with websites is that many are using keywords that haven’t been updated in years. The days of short, generalized keywords are long past. Instead, focus on voice search, which is already important and on the rise.

As of 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice-based. With virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana more popular than ever, it’s safe to assume that a hefty percentage of the people who land on your site will get there via voice search.

#2: Add Structured Landing Pages

Structured landing pages have content that’s easy for Google to interpret. They provide context for your content and identify how it relates to your metadata.

The best-known tool for structuring your content is Schema markup. Schema provides a vocabulary that web developers can use to structure data around people, places and things on the web.

When you add Schema markup to your site, it delivers rich snippets and rich cards as part of your search result on Google — making it easy for users to choose your site over the others that are available.

#3: Update Your SEO

Optimizing your website takes times, which is why a lot of companies do it only when they notice a big drop in their traffic. If it’s been a while since you updated your SEO, then it’s time to take another look. Why? Because Google updates its algorithm constantly.

The most important update in the past few years has to do with relevance. Google Rank Brain, which is now part of Google’s search algorithm, prioritizes sites based on their overall relevance to the term being searched. It measures bounce rates and the amount of time visitors spend on your site. The longer you can get them to stay – something that’ll happen if you provide tons of relevant content – the better off you’ll be.

#4: Be Ready for Mobile

There’s really no reason for any website not to be mobile optimized at this point. Google rolled out its Mobilegeddon update back in 2015. That’s when they started to penalize sites that weren’t mobile optimized.

It’s not enough to have a mobile site now. You need a site that’s perfectly optimized for mobile users. That means that mobile visitors can get the same content and functionality as a visitor using a desktop computer regardless of which device they’re using.

Some things that are particularly important are having buttons that are right-sized for mobile users, content that’s easy to read with no teeny fonts or horizontal scrolling, and access to ALL the relevant content on your site – not just a few things.

#5: Gather Some Social Proof

Social proof can take many forms. Some of the most common kinds of social proof are:

  • Customer reviews
  • Customer testimonials
  • Consumer ratings
  • “Best Of” awards
  • Industry awards
  • Industry certifications

There’s plenty of research that shows that people give just as much importance to third-party reviews online as they would to a recommendation from a trusted friend. If you’re not including some type of social proof on your website, then you’re missing out on an opportunity to show casual visitors to your site that they can trust you.

#6: Improve Your Page Loading Time

How quickly does your website load? If the answer is more than four seconds, then it’s a virtual certainty that you’re losing visitors as a result. After just three seconds, approximately 53% of mobile users will navigate away from a site and try another one. The numbers are just as bad for desktop users.

The problem with not updating your website often is that technology keeps moving. You can use a free online site loading speed testing tool such as Pingdom to see how fast your site loads. If it’s not making the grade, you’ll need to upgrade it to ensure that you’re not losing customers faster than you can attract them.

#7: Update Your Call to Action

Calls to action are everywhere – in every marketing email you send and on every landing page you create. However, not all CTAs are created equal. And if your calls to action are outdated and tired, then you might be losing subscribers and leads as a result.

Think about the opt-in form for your mailing list. What’s the call to action? Does it just say SUBSCRIBE or SUBMIT? If it does, then it’s time to rethink it and give it some spice.

I’m a big fan of calls to action that emphasize something positive about subscribing to your list. Here are a few examples:

  • Yes! Send me special offers each week!
  • Download our “10 pounds in 10 Days” Workout for FREE!
  • I’m ready to save 20% on my car insurance!

I also like the idea of using humorous opt-outs because I think they nudge people in the direction of subscribing. Here are some opt-outs that could pair with the calls to action above:

  • No, saving money is not for me
  • I don’t need any weight loss help – my abs are perfect.
  • No thanks, I’d rather pay more somewhere else.

Those are goofy, but I’ve seen a lot of opt-in forms with similar wording – and for good reason. They’re effective. Let’s face it, it feels a little silly to click a button to say you don’t like money.

Your website might be out of date, but it doesn’t need to stay that way. The 7 quick fixes here will help you give your Google rank a boost and ensure that you’re not missing out on leads and subscribers because your website’s more vintage than modern.

Why a Mailing List is a Must for your Business

January 8, 2019 / Roberta Hill  / 

Why You Need a Mailing List for your Local Business

Do you have an email list for your local business? If you’re like a lot of business owners, the answer is no. You might think you don’t need one, or that you simply don’t have the time to make use of it.

The truth is that building an email list is easy and inexpensive, and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming if you have the right tools to manage it.

Benefits of Having an Email List

If you’re wondering why you need an email list, here are a few of the benefits of having one:

  1. It gives you a simple, inexpensive way to communicate with your customers.
  2. It makes it easy to segment your list and market to the people who are most likely to buy a particular product.
  3. It can help you learn more about your customers. If you send out emails about different products and one gets a lot more attention than the other, it can help you grow your business and give your customers what they want.
  4. It increases name recognition and keeps you at the forefront of your customers’ minds.
  5. It increases sales.

Not only is it a good idea to have an email list, it would be a mistake not to have one.

A recent study shows that customers who receive email newsletters spend 82% more when they buy from the company. (iContact) and 7 in 10 people say they made use of a coupon or discount from a marketing email in the last 7 days. (Blue Kangaroo)

How to Get People to Sign up for Your List

Getting people to sign up for your email list might seem like a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Of course, some of your customers may be reluctant to give you their email address, but here are some ways to incentivize them to sign up:

  1. Ask them for their email address when they check out, and tell them they’ll get a coupon or special offer if they do.
  2. Put a postcard with your website and a description of the benefits of joining your list in their shopping bags.
  3. Offer special incentives such as sneak-preview sales, coupons, and other perks that will be available only to your subscribers.
  4. Post information about your list and the incentives of signing up on your social media accounts.
  5. After you have a list started, include a “Share this” button at the bottom of your emails to make it easy for your current subscribers to share your offer with their friends.

As a rule, people love to get special incentives and behind the scenes information. One of the main reasons people follow their favorite brands on social media is to get exclusive content, and you can use that preference to build your email list, too.

If you have a website, it is important to have an opt-in form for your email list there. People who visit your site are already interested in what you are offering. One question a lot of business owners have is “Where should I put the opt-in form on my website?” Here are some tips:

  • People tend to read web pages in an “F” pattern. That means that putting your opt-in form at the top of the page or along the left margin increases the chances that it will be seen.
  • When people have skimmed the top of your page, they often scroll down to the very bottom. The footer of your page is another good location for your form.
  • If you have a blog, put an opt-in form at the bottom of your blog posts. People who are reading your blog are already interested in your content, and it’s a natural place to have them sign up for your list
  • Finally, you might consider using a feature box. That’s a highlighted, boxed off section in the middle of other content that asks people to opt-in to your list.

Any one of the above suggestions will help increase the chances that visitors to your site will sign up for your list.

How to Use Your List

Once you have started to build your list, it’s time to find some ways to use it. The point of having an email list is to engage your customers and provide them with valuable content and information. The more useful they feel your emails are, the more likely they will be to stay subscribed and share your emails with others.

There are a lot of different ways you can use your list. For example, you might segment your list and use it to market to specific categories of customers. Imagine you own an apparel store that sells clothes for men and women. You might ask customers to choose which products they want to hear about in email, and then add customers to segmented lists based on their responses.

Another good way to use your mailing list is to announce the arrival of new products in your store. If you just got something exciting, you can email your list to let them know about it. You can think about including a short video. The arrival of a new product might be the ideal opportunity to share a how-to video, or even a simple unboxing video to show customers what they will get if they buy your product.

One of the best things about email lists is that they can help you grow your business. You can use your email list to send out information about sales and special offers. You can even offer customers on your list a special preview sale or sneak peek at a new product. A lot of local business owners hold regular events for people who subscribe to their mailing lists. It’s a great way to make customers feel they are getting a unique opportunity, and to get them into your store at the same time.

Get creative with your mailing list. There are lots of things you can do to make receiving an email from you a fun and rewarding experience.

Tools to Manage Your Email List

Some local business owners hesitate to set up an email list because they think they’ll have to spend a lot of time managing it. It’s an understandable concern, especially if you are already working full time and managing social media accounts. The good news is that there are many tools available that will help you manage your list and get emails sent out in a timely manner.

MailChimp has free and premium versions of their service. The free version allows you to manage a list with as many as 2,000 subscribers. You can set up your list, customize sign-up forms, and use their templates to create professional-looking emails. Their premium options offer additional features including list segmentation and A/B testing.

ConstantContact is another great tool for managing your email list. They offer a free, 60-day trial and affordable plans. The basic plan includes all the list management tools you will need, including mobile apps and social sharing. The premium plan adds email automation, additional storage, customer surveys, and trackable coupons.

Either one of these tools will help you manage your list in a professional and affordable way. I personally use Aweber which I find is the most reliable but on the higher price end. There is a free 30 day trial as well. It can have a bit of a learning curve if you want to do some of the fancier “stuff”

Automation is an especially nice benefit because it lets you write and set up emails in advance and send them out at pre-set intervals. That means that a lot of your email marketing can be as easy as “set it and forget it.” Every business owner can appreciate that.

Setting up an email list doesn’t have to be complicated and it can garner you some very impressive benefits in terms of increased customer engagement and higher sales.

Building Your Relationship Network That Supports Your End Goals

October 3, 2018 / Roberta Hill  / 

Networking is creating a foundation of connections that can boost your business, motivate and support you with all of your efforts. If you're an entrepreneur or business owner, you never want to operate alone.

Having people surround you who can motivate and inspire you, as well as share knowledge that can catapult you to the forefront of your niche – is always a good idea.

You don't want all of your networking efforts to be in just one area (such as list building) – because that can narrow the positive benefits for yourself and the people with whom your connecting.

You want to networking with people who excel in a myriad of ways, so that you can learn from all of them and bring your business to a higher level. How you connect to these people should also vary.

You can connect with face-to-face encounters in your personal and professional life. You can make connections on social media sites, through email contact or on forums.

You can connect with a network both far and near by text or by phone calls, too. The sea of networking is a vast, endless supply of connections just waiting to be tapped into by anyone willing to put in a little effort.

Why You Need to Network

While being a solo entrepreneur sounds wonderful, it can also put a lot of pressure on you because you don't have a support system or team of individuals to help you succeed. (more…)

Do you think women are disadvantaged on LinkedIn?

September 21, 2018 / Roberta Hill  / 

I recently did a video addressing some of the concerns that women have on LinkedIn for my 15 Day Challenge. Some women are reluctant to put their picture up because they're afraid of what kind of response it is going to get.

Or they refuse to put in their email and contact information with a call to action.

Or they'll adopt the strategy where only people they know  can find them.

Or they may put up other security restrictions on their profile that make it more difficult to identify who they really are. 

All of these things defeat the very purpose of LinkedIn! It's a professional business networking tool and yet I understand that women are afraid sometimes that they're going to be slightly harassed.


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What Are the Right Social Media Platforms for Your Business?

September 5, 2018 / Roberta Hill  / 

It is hard to keep track of how the social media landscape seems to be changing constantly. New media sites don’t pop up every day, but our perception of them is always shifting. The same is true of the general public. You might feel like you need to maintain a presence on every social media site from Facebook to Instagram, but guess what?

You don’t. Not by a long shot.

In fact, it could be detrimental to your business to do that. Your target audience might be very active on Pinterest and Facebook and never give Twitter a second glance.

The trick is knowing which platforms are most likely to bear fruit – and which are better left alone. Here are some things that can help.

Understand the Key Attributes of Each Platform

Each social media platform has unique qualities. Sometimes the benefits of one platform overlap with another and sometimes, they don’t. Here’s a rundown of each platform’s marketing value as we see it.

Facebook

Facebook is still the biggest social media platform. That means that you’re likely to find a significant percentage of your target audience there. In most cases, choosing just one social media site for marketing probably means choosing Facebook.

Facebook is ideal for brand-building, establishing yourself as an authority in your industry or niche, and strengthening customer loyalty. It’s easy to share an array of content, including written, visual, and video content.

Of course, arguable Facebook’s biggest strength in terms of marketing is its advertising options. You can easily segment your target audience, run ads, view detailed analytics, and adjust as needed.

Twitter

Twitter is built for instant communications. It’s the perfect place to share updates with your followers, create an immediate give-and-take, and release company news without relying on the media.

Twitter’s use of hashtags also makes it easy to track your company’s mentions and trending topics. Many companies have integrated their customer service with their Twitter accounts to provide immediate support when it’s needed.

Pinterest

Pinterest focuses on visual content and is a great platform for driving users back to your blog or website. They also have an option that allows retailers to sell directly on Pinterest.

The ability to create micro-targeted boards and use hashtags can make it easy to ensure that people in your target audience see the content you create.


Instagram

Like Pinterest, Instagram is a visual platform where you can share photographs and videos of your products or services. It has a slightly more casual feel that the other sites we’ve mentioned so far and that can be useful for some brands because it can help them connect with customers.

Instagram is also a good place for user-generated content. For example. Starbucks uses Instagram every year for its White Cup Contest, where it asks users to decorate a plain white Starbucks cup with a unique design. The contest winner’s design is manufactured each year and available as a limited-run product in stores.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the best social media platform for B2B marketers. It’s where you can share relevant blog posts, connect with other leaders in your industry, and make the kinds of connections that can help your business grow.

You can target LinkedIn users by their industry and job title, as well as by using traditional keywords. Sharing information about your business is a good way to build credibility and trust.

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GDPR: Why You Can’t Afford To Ignore It (Even if your small business isn’t in the EU)

June 25, 2018 / Roberta Hill  / 

What does a European Union law about privacy have to do with your small business?

That might seem like a ridiculous question to ask, but it’s not.

The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR for short, went into effect on month ago today on May 25, 2018. And with privacy issues in the news on a near-daily basis, with the recent Congressional hearings about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, you can’t afford to ignore the ramifications of GDPR for your business.

You could keep your head buried in the sand – but that’s not a good idea. Here’s what you need to know about GDPR.

GDPR is a law that was designed to standardize data privacy in the European Union’s member countries. It represents a big chance – and a victory for EU citizens, who can now be confident that their data will be secure and that the regulations used to ensure its security are transparent.

On the flip side, EU-based businesses have had to scramble to be compliant with the new rules. The biggest requirement involves Personal Identification Information, or PII. PII is sometimes used as a general term in the United States to describe personal information that companies might collect and store on behalf of their customers.

While PII has traditionally included information like Social Security numbers and addresses, the GDPR expands the definition of PII to include other things. For example:

  • Web data, including the user’s location, IP address, cookies, and RFID tags
  • Medical and genetic data, including medical records, test results, and DNA
  • Biometric data, including fingerprints and other unique identifiers
  • Racial and ethnic data
  • Political opinions and orientation
  • Sexual orientation

In other words, companies in the EU must now protect their customers’ IP addresses and other information collected online with the same care that they would financial information. It further requires that organizations:

  • Store and process personal data only with an individual’s explicit consent
  • Hold data for only as long as it is necessary to do so
  • Destroy stored data upon request

There’s no denying that the implementation of GDPR represents a big change for EU companies.

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