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What is your New Year’s Resolution for Your Business in 2012? December 11, 2011

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Mobile Marketing, Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Video Marketing, Virtual Technology.
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This is an updated re-print our our resolution article from 2010. We had a lot of requests to update the article and re-distribute it. We hope you find it of value.

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I had someone ask me today about their business, “If I could do one thing better, what would it be?”.  As a business consultant, I am frequently asked some version of this question, but today it got me thinking that the close of one year and the start of another is probably a great time to pass along one of the answers to that question that I give to everyone who asks it of me.  Are you ready?  Here it comes!

Resolve for 2012 to fully embrace technology and to completely integrate it thoughout every aspect of your business; from your marketing, to how you work with and interact with clients and staff, to how you manage your administrative tasks and operate your business, etc.

What I mean by this is:  integrate and take advantage of all the benefits that today’s technologies have to offer, including:  webinars and other types of virtual events (including virtual environment events), social media, mobile technology (and I don’t just mean mobile marketing), cloud computing software options, video, email and any other type of technology that will help you increase efficiency, productivity, and profitability. 

Those that don’t choose to embrace technology will be left behind very quickly because 2012, I believe, will be a ‘game-changing’ year for how business is being conducted.  Mobile technology in particular is having significant impact on the way we live and the way we conduct business today. If you continue to do business as you always have, you – and your business – will very quickly become irrelevant.

Think about your business in a new way, for example:

  • could mobile technology enable your customers to order and pay for your products or services via their cell phone?
  • can you use social media to interact with your customers and potential customers on a more in-depth level so you can be certain you’re providing the products and services they need?
  • will location-based technologies enable you to more effectively target potential customers?
  • do you have an email marketing program to keep clients, vendors and staff aware of what’s going on in your business?  If not, why not?
  • can you make your field staff more productive by dispatching them with tools provided by GPS mobile technology?
  • can you get more immediate response to special offers by sending them directly to your existing customers via their cell phones?
  • can cloud-computing technology allow you to access information from wherever you are as long as you have some sort of mobile computing device (think smartphone or tablet anyone?)?
  • can RFID mobile technologies help you manage your warehouse more efficiently?
  • can you be more available to your staff for those decisions only you can make if you’ve embraced the use of a SmartPhone or tablet device?
  • can you cut down on travel costs, and yet increase the number of people that you can effectively interact with to present your products or services by engaging in virtual sales and training programs?
  • can bluetooth or QR code mobile technologies help your firm in the manufacturing or supply chain processes?
  • can mobile marketing technologies make your marketing more effective?
  • can you get more people to engage with your website or product videos by enabling them to reach it via QR code technology?
  • would video technology help you more effectively communicate the benefits of your product or service?
  • can mobile technology help you increase the viability of the leads you receive at the next trade show you participate in?
  • can participating in virtual trade shows help you decrease travel costs for your staff, and the ‘down time’ that results from that travel, while increasing the number of viable leads you receive?
  • could social media, mobile and virtual technology increase your ability to recruit new employees with higher rates of effectiveness?
  • could the use of mobile technology increase lead generation at trade show events your firm participates in?

So far, I’ve not found one business that I’ve spoken with or worked with that would not be positively impacted by increased integration of technology in their business.  Given that, I now challenge you to consider how technology can help to improve your business – and as a result, your life.  If you would like some assistance in evaluating your business and the options available to you, please contact us, Strategic Growth Concepts is here to help!

Here’s to increased efficiency, productivity and profitability in 2012!

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The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant for Strategic Growth Concepts, a marketing / management consulting firm focused on start-up, small and mid-sized businesses, as well as the Executive Director of the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan (MTAM), a trade association for Michigan’s mobile /w ireless industry.  Linda is a recognized small business expert with 20+ years of experience in a wide variety of industries. 

Linda is available for consultation, and can be contacted at Linda@StrategicGrowthConcepts.com.  The company website can be viewed at http://StrategicGrowthConcepts.com .  MTAM’s website can be viewed at http://GoMobileMichigan.org .

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Mogreet Debuts First-Ever Mobile Video Marketing Platform Across All Top U.S. Carriers November 4, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in mobile, Mobile Marketing, Strategic Growth Concepts, Video Marketing, Web 2.0.
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Hundreds of Millions of Americans Can Now Receive Targeted Mogreet Video MMS Messages From Marketers On Everyday Flip Phones or the Latest Smartphones, Including iPhone, Blackberry, Android and Palm Pre

By: PR Newswire Nov. 4, 2009

Mogreet, the company behind the world’s first mobile video messaging platform, today announced the debut of its game-changing mobile marketing solution, the Mogreet Mobile Video Marketing Platform. Mogreet’s platform can deliver short format videos to more than 200 million U.S. mobile devices, while measuring the effectiveness and ROI of each campaign in real-time.

Mogreet clients routinely experience open rates, video views and click-through rates 15 to 25 times higher than other forms of advertising media. And by virtue of the fact that mobile customers react to text messages in 20 seconds on average — versus hours or days for email — brands see results almost instantly. Marketers also benefit from the inherent virality of Mogreet Mobile Video Marketing, as mobile messages can simply and easily be shared amongst friends, which can result in 5 to 10 times additional reach.

“It’s 1993 all over again … only this time, rather than email, the race is on to harness mobile to build a direct relationship with the end consumer,” commented James Citron, CEO, Mogreet. “The ability to deliver your message in video to just about every mobile phone in the U.S., and not just smart phones with Internet plans, means marketers are not forced to sacrifice reach when they add mobile to their marketing mix.”

“Over 150 million U.S. consumers do not own a smartphone, and most have never seen a video on their mobile phone. With Mogreet, we have designed a way to reach these consumers and enable brands to communicate in rich, engaging media, creating an iPhone-like experience across all major cell networks and phones, ” explained Jay Goss, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Mogreet.

Mogreet is expanding marketers’ reach by harnessing the power of over four-billion text messages sent each day in the United States from consumers of all ages, including adults 35-44 who now send more texts than place calls. Mogreet’s platform has been utilized by leading brands in numerous verticals from hospitality — including the launch of a sixty-property line of hip hotels — to apparel, retail and entertainment, with four #1 box office film releases.

How Are You Promoting Your Business – the Old Standby Methods or Utilizing New Technology? October 31, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in email marketing, Marketing Plan, Mobile Marketing, Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Video Marketing, Virtual Technology, Web TV.
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dma-expected-change-in-media-use-by-medium

Expected change in media use by medium

As the economy continues to be a major factor affecting the ways in which small businesses promote themselves and go about the business of obtaining new customers, we at Strategic Growth Concepts have also found ourselves seeking new, higher impact, more cost-effective ways of promoting our business to prospective clients, as well as ways to help our clients promote their businesses. Our interactions with our clients and those in our many networks tell us that most small businesses are also interested in learning all they can to make the most of these new marketing and advertising tools.

Therefore, we thought we would conduct a brief study to determine the methods of marketing and advertising currently being used by small businesses, as well as to determine which methods are being explored. We will use this information to develop a series of articles and radio shows to help small businesses review and evaluate the marketing and advertising options available to them, and to assist in their determination of which methods will work best for their business. Click HERE to take survey.

We will share the survey results, as well as information about the various marketing methods, in upcoming articles and broadcasts. In the meantime, we would love to receive your comments in response to this article with your thoughts about the results various forms of marketing have produced for your firm.

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The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant at Strategic Growth Concepts, a consulting and training firm specializing in start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. She is a recognized small business expert with 20+ years experience in providing Marketing, Operations, HR, and Strategic planning services to start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. Linda can be contacted at linda@strategicgrowthconcepts.com and the company website can be viewed at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com.

5 Advanced Social Media Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses October 13, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in FaceBook, LinkedIN, MySpace, Naymz, Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Twitter, Video Marketing, Web 2.0.
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by Samir Balwani

Social media marketing and the businesses that utilize it have become more sophisticated. More small businesses are beginning to understand how to best leverage online tools to build a community and recognize that engagement and interaction are the foundations of social marketing, but most don’t know what’s next.  What follows are five advanced strategies for small businesses that may already have small online communities and understand how to create an online presence, but don’t know what to do next.

What Is An Advanced Strategy?

The definition of an advanced social strategy is a technique that goes beyond the normal social media presence. It introduces or reinforces a marketing message while pushing a user to another profile or business site. Before moving forward with an advanced strategy, it’s important that your business understands social marketing, has experience engaging consumers, and that you possess a basic understanding of online marketing.

Strategy 1: Multimedia Usage

The term “A picture is worth a thousand words” has never been truer. Consumers are now using the web to look for product pictures and videos; they want more information and want to see what they’re considering buying. The good news is that it’s easy for a company to create and publish videos and pictures.

In addition to taking photos of products, you can also take pictures at office events as a way to highlight company culture. This not only helps convince others to work with you or to buy from you (consumers see that you are down to earth and one of them, instead of a stuffy company), it also helps your HR department recruit new employees. Who doesn’t want to work for a company that celebrates birthdays and has a good time?   

Videos are useful for explaining complex how-tos or concepts. Showing step-by-step directions can have a greater impact than even the most well written article. Businesses don’t have to invest huge sums of money to create good videos, either. I highly recommend the relatively cheap Flip camcorder, which takes great videos and is easy for even a non-technical marketer to use.  Multimedia can break down the faceless business-to-consumer sales flow and make your company appear friendlier. Use videos and images to show that your business is fun, you care about your employees, and most importantly, that you care about your customers.

Example: WorldMusicSupply.com

WorldMusicSupply.com, an online retailer of musical instruments and accessories, has used YouTube to build a strong online community. Their channel has built over 7,000 subscribers and has over 260,000 views.

Strategy 2: Integrate Offline and Online Advertising

Many small businesses do some sort of offline advertising, whether it be radio, print, or cable. Social marketing allows a business to extend their offline sales pitch.  Including your Facebook Page, Twitter ID or blog URL in offline ads act as social proof, inviting potential consumers to see your community and increase trust in your business. Not only can integrating online and offline advertising help the conversion process, but it can also help build your community. Introducing potential consumers to your social profiles means they may join your community now and buy later.

Strategy 3: Message Adaptation

As businesses start to become more sophisticated with social media they are starting to leverage more online platforms.  However, most deliver the same message over multiple platforms instead of tailoring communications for each individual site.

Social platforms each have an ecosystem of their own. What might be acceptable on Tumblr might be considered spam on Facebook.  A specific style of writing might spread on Twitter but fail on FriendFeed.  Understanding that each site is different and then customizing your message ensures they do well on each respective site.

Not only does customizing messages across sites help the message spread but it keeps users from receiving multiple identical communications. Be sure to maximize your potential by sending a user that follows the business on Twitter and Facebook two different messages, instead of the same thing.

Strategy 4: Local Social Networks, Beyond Yelp

For a small business, local search can be a big win. Being visible to consumers looking for a business in their area is extremely important. Make sure your site is included in local business directories in order to help ensure that consumers find you when they need you. Sometimes finding that many sites can be difficult, however. First, make sure you check your competitors.

Where are they listed? Check their inbound links to check for business directories you can add yourself to. Also, make sure your business has been added to Google Maps, using the Local Business Center.  Take the time to include all the information you can and update any old news. For many consumers, this will be their first interaction with the business.

Example: Bella Napoli in New York

Bella Napoli is a small pizzeria in New York that has done a great job of making sure they appear in as many local searches as possible.

Strategy 5: Contests and Discounts

Building a community is only the first part of social marketing. Using that community to drive sales, propagate marketing, or crowdsource operations is the true power of social media. One way to excite the community is to collectively do something to create a contest or offer an exclusive discount (i.e., the contest can create competition between users). Not only does a contest build buzz organically but if contestants need to, for example, publish an article that gets the most comments in order to win, the contest itself becomes viral.

A good social media contest should include some sort of sharing or virality as a requirement for winning.  Discounts are also a great way to connect with your community. By giving exclusive coupons to your social community, you’re rewarding and reminding them that you are not only a brand to engage with, but also to buy from.

Example: NetFirms.com

NetFirms.com decided to make it easier to register a domain by allowing people to do it via Twitter. Those who participated or spread the word by tweeting, were also entered into a prize drawing.

Conclusion

Creating a basic social media presence is easy enough, getting your community to actually do something is more difficult. Taking advantage of these strategies can help you build your community, make your marketing more effective, and incentivize buying.

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Samir Balwani is an emerging technology strategist at Morpheus Media, a firm specializing in Social Marketing, SEM, and SEO. 

You can follow him on Twitter @leftthebox and get his newsletter.

Do You Need Your Own Web TV Show? October 2, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Video Marketing, Web 2.0, Web TV.
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In our quest to continually bring information to our readers on the latest technologies available to aid you in marketing your business, today we present  another idea that’s beginning to gain traction for small businesses.  Thanks to technology, anyone today can be a “TV star” by hosting your own online television show to promote your business – and, you may even be able to make money doing it!

Below is an article from Business Week which reviews this latest marketing ‘tool’ and talks to small business owners currently utilizing it to promote their firms.

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Independent Web shows can attract advertisers, sponsors, and thousands of viewers, but marketing and profiting from them is a challenge

By Karen E. Klein for Business Week Smart Answers, 9/29/09

Yana Berlin dabbed on a product sample for a new perfume and liked it O.K. But when her three grown daughters got a whiff, they had one reaction: “You smell like Grandma!”

“I don’t think the manufacturer is going to like it, because it’s being marketed to women over 40 and no one at 44 wants to smell like Grandma,” Berlin notes wryly.

In the past, the perfume company might not have gotten direct feedback from people like Berlin, a San Diego entrepreneur who founded the Fabulously40 social networking Web site. But that’s changed now that Berlin and her daughters, Daisy, Sasha, and Stephanie, have started a Web TV show called, The Love or Hate Debate. It features product reviews and demonstrations from two generations of women.

$20 Billion in Ads at Risk

Like growing numbers of entrepreneurs, Berlin and her family produce the show themselves, edit it, and post it online using free or low-cost video-uploading and streaming software. These Internet-based videos—most packaged in short episodes no more than four minutes long—have the potential to transform marketing and turn small business owners into celebrities in their own right, experts say.

“It’s a fascinating shift and one of the more important ones we’ve seen in B2B communications,” says Daniel Taylor, lead technology and media analyst at The Big Picture, a research firm covering digital media, technology, and communications.

If Internet video continues to catch on as a marketing alternative for small businesses, Taylor says, $20 to $30 billion in advertising that currently goes to the business and trade press could evaporate. Small firms that typically advertise in their industry trade publications, business publications, the Yellow Pages, and on cable television could shift their marketing dollars into producing their own video content. “About 10% of the overall advertising spending in the U.S. could be at risk because of this” new phenomenon, Taylor says. “It’s largely small to midsize businesses that are involved in this, and the caliber of people and the quality of what they’re doing is really amazing.”

Starting in a Garage

Take Andrew Lock, a marketing consultant and former U.K. television producer whose weekly show, Help! My Business Sucks! provides entrepreneurial advice and interviews and attracts corporate sponsors.

The 74-and-counting episodes of Lock’s show attract 100,000 viewers each, have helped boost his consulting business to five-figure monthly revenue and brought him speaking invitations around the world, he says. “I go to conferences where entrepreneurs line up and ask for my autograph,” Lock says. “And I’m just this little British guy living in Utah who started a show out of my garage!”

That show proved so popular, he says, that he built a studio facility near his home in Salt Lake City where he houses professional sets, six employees, and a host of additional presenters who tape their own shows there.

Production Quality Improving

While it’s still very early in the world of Web TV, Lock says, there are myriad shows springing up that cover niche topics like wine, gadgetry, and scrapbooking and are building loyal audiences. “These are real people, not Hollywood, air-brushed celebrities, and it seems viewers respond positively to that real-ness that is very different from traditional TV,” he says.

All of this, of course, is only possible due to technology updates that have taken place in the last three years, says Steven C. Hawley, principal analyst and consultant at tvstrategies, a telecommunications consulting firm in based in Seattle.

In the earliest years of Internet video, picture quality was low, frames were tiny, and the action dribbled out herky-jerky. But now, new technology platforms, such as Blip TV and Vimeo, have sprung up and are maturing so quickly it’s difficult to track them. “The number and type of are proliferating and changing constantly. Internet technology competes head-to-head with cable and satellite, and the availability of multiple platforms makes it possible for just about anybody to distribute content over broadband,” Hawley says. “In fact, I’ve thought of doing it myself as a consultant and an analyst.”

All You Need is $100

It is also nowhere near as expensive as it once was to produce and distribute PC-quality video content. “You can build an audience through social media and through your customer database and drive traffic to your own site. All it takes is $100 for a video camera and a mike. You set it up on a tripod, talk to it, and upload it,” Hawley says.

He sees most small business people using Internet shows to do self-publishing and self-promotion. But entrepreneurs are also infiltrating—if not dominating—the entertainment side of the Web TV experience.

Leyna Juliet Weber, a writer and actor, moved to Los Angeles from New York City a few years ago hoping to break into the big time. But she found that opportunities were few and far between. “The TV climate is really bad, so instead of just waiting around, I worked on some student films at USC and met a fantastic gal named Annie Lukowski,” Weber says.

Launched at Funny or Die

The two stayed in touch, and after Lukowski attended Weber’s live comedy show, they decided to collaborate. They formed a company called Working Bug Media and produced two shorts that they posted at FunnyorDie and YouTube (GOOG).

“We funded them ourselves on a dime budget,” Weber says. After the shorts were well-received, they decided to write and produce a 10-episode show called Road to the Altar. “It’s a wedding story shot as a mockumentary and told from the groom’s point of view,” Weber says. “We pitched it around town and to Web production companies, but everyone is afraid to put money into anything.”

Eventually, the pair negotiated a deal with a company called MWD Media. When Weber was able to get Jaleel White, who played Urkel on the 1990s TV show Family Matters, to star opposite her in the series, they attracted corporate sponsors including Panda Express and Pier 1 Imports. At least 40,000 people have viewed the series on YouTube alone, Weber says.

Old-Fashioned Show Sponsors

Still, although independent Web shows can attract advertisers, sponsors, and thousands of viewers, marketing and profiting from them is a challenge, says Joshua Cohen, the co-founder of Tilzy.tv, a Web site that chronicles and reviews episodic Web series.

The options for Internet video advertising include pre-roll, post-roll, and mid-roll ads as well as overlay ads that pop up at the bottom of the screen. Then there are old-fashioned show sponsors that hark back to the early days of television, when one company or specific product would fund a show and often get a plug by the host. “There are thousands of these shows being produced by major studios, TV networks, film students, and amateurs. It’s everything from NBC down to the most independent, bare-bones productions,” Cohen says.

Episodes typically run from three to five minutes, because most Internet shows are viewed at work. “Lunchtime is the new prime time for online viewing. Technology is being developed so you can watch the Internet on your big screen TV, but it hasn’t broken through yet, so most of the viewing is still happening on the PC at work,” Cohen says.

Trying to Monetize the Shows

While some firms predict that Internet advertising will reach $1 billion by 2011, Cohen says, online shows are not yet pulling dollars away from traditional television advertising. “People are still trying to figure things out online, where they’ve been making money off of TV for 50 years and they’ve gotten very good at it,” he says.

Lock says that while he has used his Web TV show to attract sponsors, increase his consulting profile, and boost his revenues, many Internet entrepreneurs are not as good at monetizing their efforts as he has been. “The show enables people to discover me and what I provide in a relaxed and informal setting. I don’t have to sell. If people respond to the messages in the show, they’ll come to me. I don’t have to do any cold-calling or any of that silly nonsense,” he says.

While many entrepreneurs love what they do, and enjoy producing their own shows, he believes that many of them could make more money at it if they did strategic marketing and advertising campaigns. “There are extremely popular shows that aren’t making any money at all, because they don’t know how to monetize it,” he says.

“A Slow Process”

Lock predicts, however, that advertisers will be increasingly willing to buy into Web TV series in the near future. “It’s a slow process, but it’s definitely happening. Advertisers are looking for other avenues with people tuning out of television, fast-forwarding through commercials or watching their shows on Hulu,” he says.

Karen E. Klein is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers entrepreneurship and small-business issues.

Go Viral. Go Visible. Go Video! July 31, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Strategic Growth Concepts, Video Marketing, Web 2.0.
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Article by Lou Bortone, a long-time marketing and branding consultant who helps entrepreneurs build breakthrough brands on the Internet, with services such as online video production, video branding, coaching and creative support.  Lou is a former television executive who worked for E! Entertainment Television and later served as the Senior Vice President of Marketing & Advertising for Fox Family Worldwide, a division of Fox in Los Angeles.  Lou is an author and ghostwriter of six business books, a Certified Guerrilla Marketing Coach and a Book Yourself Solid Certified Coach. Visit Lou’s website at http://www.OnlineVideoBranding.com.

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“I see you everywhere!” Yup, I get that a lot!  Colleagues and clients tell me all the time that I seem to be “everywhere.”  They see me on YouTube, Facebook, on blogs and on Twitter.  I am definitely visible!  But my online visibility is no accident.   My visibility strategy is simple:  I leverage the power of video to increase my exposure – and you can, too!  Lou Bartone - video

Online video is the perfect tool to maximize your web presence because it’s highly visible and viral.  You can create one video and have it spread from YouTube to Facebook to your own website and beyond.  It’s the ultimate leverage resource, because you create it once and use it in many different ways, and in many different places.

Best of all, creating a video to enhance your visibility is quick, easy and inexpensive.  Armed with only a webcam or an affordable Flip Video camera, you can shoot a simple video message and upload it to YouTube in minutes.  All you need is a (high-speed) Internet connection and a free account on YouTube.com.

Once your video is posted on YouTube, you can send it to Facebook and MySpace with one click!  Other free video hosting sites like Blip.tv give you easy sharing and cross-posting functions to add your video to your own website, or to social sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon. To really leverage your time and energy, use another free service, TubeMogul.com, to blast your video out to over a dozen sites with one click!  You get the idea: One video to many sites means leverage and visibility across the web!

Keep in mind that even just posting your video to Facebook is going to give you video some mileage.  As others comment on your video on Facebook, the video then appears on their Facebook page in addition to your own.  That’s the “viral” in viral video!

And let’s not leave Twitter out of the video party…  While you can’t post the video itself on Twitter, you can certainly promote the link to your video on Twitter.  Better yet, there are several free services, such as Tweetube and Twiddeo, that will notify Twitter for you whenever you put your video on their sites.

Finally, if you want the ultimate, maxed-out, super-charged version of video visibility, be sure to get in touch with me about a free trial of Veeple.com.  Veeple is the video hosting platform that I use to make my videos clickable (with live links) and interactive. Veeple’s  new deal with TubeMogul means you can even blast your video from Veeple.com to a boatload of popular video sites.  It’s one-stop shopping for massive video visibility!  You can find more info on Veeple here: http://tinyurl.com/ltdjgv.

If you’d like more information or a quick crash course on video visibility, please feel free to visit my “Video Traffic Blast” website.  There you can find out more about my step-by-step viral video process.  Be sure to get your video online now!  Start sharing your video on the web and soon, you too can be seen “everywhere!”

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If after completing this article you’re still not certain how Video can be utilized to market your company, we would be happy to assist you in developing a customized program to promote your business.  Please feel free to contact us via our website or via email at linda@StrategicGrowthConcepts.com to schedule a FREE initial consultation.

Top 5 Social Media Tips for Small Business July 16, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in email marketing, FaceBook, LinkedIN, MySpace, Naymz, Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Twitter, Video Marketing, Web 2.0.
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Some content in this posting is from an article by Mya Frazier for Bankrate.com

A few years ago, using the Internet to market a small business simply meant to create a presence online with a simple, informational Web site.  Then came the demands of search engine optimization to ensure Google and Yahoo searches yielded top-ranked results for your company. Was your business’s Web site chock full of the key search terms that would bring it to the attention of customers?

Social Media graphicToday, social media is transforming the small-business marketing landscape. Social media are Web- or mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information. It’s not just for seeing who your high school sweetheart married. Businesses can tap into powerful networking sites and other social media to drive customers to their shops or companies.

If done right, small-business owners might even be able to slash their traditional marketing spending to zero. Writing blogs (short for “Web logs”) or on-going online commentary using social-networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, can provide inexpensive but powerful online marketing.

Because it’s free, people think it’s easy to create a social media presence. But this attitude can lead to missteps. So before you dive headlong into social media, take some time to observe the customs and social norms of these new forms of communications, says David Spark, founder of Spark Media Solutions, a San Francisco-based firm that helps companies tell their story through social media.  “Also think about your strategy for effectively utilizing social media before you jump in,” says Linda Daichendt, CEO/Managing Consultant of Strategic Growth Concepts. “It’s easier to avoid costly mistakes before you begin than to correct them after they’ve done damage to your company’s reputation.”

“Think of social media as a cocktail party,” says, David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and “World Wide Rave,” books about how to create buzz online. “You don’t go into the cocktail party and go into the middle room and scream at the top of your lungs and say, ‘Buy my products.’ … What works is you have some meaningful conversation first. And that’s just how social media works.”

If you decide to take the social-networking plunge, here are five ways to harness social media to help your business.

1. Use free sites. Use free online services, such as the mobile short-message site Twitter, and popular networking sites Facebook and MySpace, to post significant news, specials or events. For example, you run a small Italian restaurant with a loyal following. You could create a Twitter account and upload the lunch or dinner specials via “tweets,” or short messages of up to 140 characters, daily to customers’ smart phones or to other Web sites.

“All you have to do is give a (Twitter) handle and start a conversation. You could put the Twitter handle on the menu or in the restaurant,” says Chris Abraham, Abraham Harrison LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based digital public relations agency. Granted, social networking sites are still for early adopters.  “You aren’t going to get Aunt Matilda to tweet about the experience she had at dinner,” Abraham says.

Abraham considers Twitter one of the easiest ways for a newbie to social media to get started.  “It’s more challenging to do Facebook,” Abraham says. “You have to create a personal profile, create a page and so on. With Twitter, if you’re Joe Smith with Motorcycle Emporium, you don’t have to create a page. And you can create Twitter updates via a phone or mobile device easily.”

“Don’t try to reinvent the wheel,” he says. “There are lots of people sold on really expensive solutions, but two of the best investments for reaching out to people and engaging with them are free on Twitter and Facebook.”

2. Shift marketing costs to social media. After learning how social networking operates, use social media to free up traditional marketing dollars for your small business by putting it online. You can quickly learn which of your Facebook or MySpace “friends” or online “group” members received and responded to your message.

Stanya Doty has cut her print marketing budget to zero. As owner of Simple Indulgences, a wine and high-end gift shop in Delaware, Ohio, she began using Facebook in December 2008 to communicate with her brother but quickly realized the online marketing possibilities.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, there are so many people here,’ ” she says. Indeed, Facebook boasts 200 million users worldwide.  In April 2009, she began promoting monthly wine tastings via a Facebook page for the shop that quickly attracted 100 members. Combined with an e-newsletter created using the do-it-yourself, e-mail marketing Web site Constant Contact, she keeps enough buzz going about her shop that her advertising budget for local print ads no longer seemed necessary. She usually sends out about 700 e-mails, with the response rate sometimes reaching nearly 50 percent. It sure beats a postal mailing.  “If I sent out a postcard with postage and paid for all that, I’d still have no idea who read it and who threw it away,” she says.

Indeed, unlike a print ad, Doty gets instant, measurable results. “On Facebook, you can see who has responded to invites,” she says. “It’s easy, it’s cheap and I’m actually appealing to people that at first know me from the store and then hopefully … pass the word along throughout their networks.”

3. Do your own social-media optimization project. Learn about the competition in your industry and geographic region that are tapping social networking. Spark recommends starting by researching the competition in the major search engines — Google and Yahoo.

“Type in keywords and phrases that people would use to find you, like ‘plumber’ and ‘San Francisco.’ If you don’t appear in the top percentage of pages, take a look at the Website of those plumbers that do show up,” says Spark. “Look at their pages, and usually they will have a lot of content on their sites.”

To increase a business’s presence on the Internet, Spark advocates companies create blogs, newsletters and other articles on their sites to bolster the number of keywords — terms that search engines recognize — to boost their ranking in all-important Web searches.

“That’s the way people discover you,” he says. “Take that plumber in San Francisco. The right search terms might just be ‘clogged toilet and San Francisco.'”  “That tells me I should write … in my blog about how to fix a clogged toilet and mention that I am a plumber in San Francisco,” he says.

4. Take social-network marketing to the next level. Create and post richer content about what your customers would expect from someone in your business. Don’t view social media sites as a place to simply hype your wares. It’s a place for conversation.

“Social media is about earning attention,” says David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and “World Wide Rave,” books about how to create buzz online.  “What’s most important is to forget about what your company does. Instead, think about the people who are buying your products. Simply hyping products and services online and in social media sites completely backfires. People are not looking for products but for something fun. They are looking to make connections,” Scott says.

So it’s all about having something interesting to say or show. It could be a blog, or a video on the video-sharing Website YouTube.

For example, if you’re a caterer, instead of talking about your service, create engaging culinary content. Imagine positioning yourself as a gourmet magazine on the Web, complete with links to a video you uploaded to YouTube.

“A caterer could create a blog with information about how to create a fantastic party, and each blog post or YouTube video could be another installment,” Scott says. “On the Web, you are what you publish and being on the Web is about publishing information.”

So back to that plumber faced with the prospect of dropping an expensive Yellow Pages listing but worried about customers not finding him if they have a burst pipe or a misfiring shower head. Scott recommends the plumber post a list of “the 100 home fixes for common plumbing problems.”

“All of a sudden you are going to get indexed very highly in the search engines, and people are going to share that content with their friends,” he says. “When someone puts an update on Facebook asking if anyone knows a good plumber in Boston, a friend might point to your content.”

5. Use blogging to drive search results and help new customers find you. Lately, blogging has gained greater attention, with the advent of “micro-blogging” on Twitter. But consider the time commitment and strategy before launching an account.

Even with the spread of micro-blogging, Abraham remains a big fan of traditional blogs, which are lengthier and show up on Web sites. In general, no matter what form the blog takes, it should be consistent over time.

“If you can’t keep up one (blog) post a day or 12 tweets a day, do one tweet every Thursday. Consistency in blogging or tweeting will create a relationship of trust with your followers or readers. Do it once a week, but for the next two years,” Abraham says.

And don’t spend extra money on blogging software, technical help, or a ghost writer for your blog.  To get started, sign up with WordPress.com or Blogger – both are free blogging platforms which are easy to use for beginners.

Additional opportunities within the social media environment include:  online radio shows on platforms such as BlogTalkRadio, social networking sites such as LinkedIN, Plaxo, and FriendFeed, and a wide variety of additional tools as well depending on your type of business.

Following these social media basics for small business will get your company started on the right road to gaining new customers and increased revenue via social media.

If after completing this article you’re still not certain what your company’s social media strategy should be, we would be happy to aid you in it’s development – and implementation if you would like.  Please feel free to contact us via our website or via email at linda@StrategicGrowthConcepts.com to schedule a FREE initial consultation.

A Basic Guide to Social Media Tools Geared Toward Small Business June 14, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in FaceBook, LinkedIN, MySpace, Naymz, Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Twitter, Video Marketing, Web 2.0.
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Web 2.0 technology in the form of social media tools empower you to maximize your business’ exposure and interaction with customers, potential customers, vendors, employees, and the community at-large; allowing you to connect and stay in touch more often, and with more people, than was ever possible utilizing the previously standard methods of Marketing your business.  These tools are currently typically free, and therefore, the only investment required is that of time to insure that they are utilized effectively to promote your firm.

However, as I speak with small business owners, the question inevitably arises, “how do you utilize social media to market your business?”.  The answer begins with having an understanding of which social media tools are available, and of those tools, which are most useful for your business. In fact I’m often asked “what are the best social media marketing tools for small businesses?”.   So in this essay, we’ll provide a bit of an overview and our recommendations.

Social Tools

Communities   Social Bookmarking   Video Sharing
LinkedIn Facebook

MySpace

Friendster

Plaxo

Naymz

Hi5

AIM Pages
Badoo
Bebo
CyWorld
EarthFrisk
ECpod
Faves
Grono
iBritz
LiveJournal
Lovento
Multiply
MyWebProfile
NetFriendships
Netlog
Orkut
Passado
Skyrock
Tagged
Tribe
Trig
Windows Live Spaces
Yahoo! 360
Zaadz

Professional

APSense
Biznik
CitiAlly
Cofoundr – Entrepreneurial
CompanyLoop
DoMyStuff
Doostang
Ecademy
Fast Pitch
JASEzone
KillerStartups
Konnects
Lawyrs
MeetIn
MyCareer.ge
NetHooks
Ryze
Small Business Brief
StartupNation – Entrepreneurial
Startupping – Internet entrepreneurs
Synergy Street – Entrepreneurial
Tapped In – Educational professionals
Upspring
Venture Capital Network
Xing
Ziggs

  Digg    del.icio.us

Stumbleupon

Reddit

Newsvine

AllMyFavorites
Backflip
Blinkbits
Blinklist
Blogmarks
Blummy
BuddyMarks
BookmarkTracker
ChangeToLink
Chipmark
De.lirio.us
Diigo
Dogear
Favoritoo
Feedmarker
Foxmarks
FreeLink
Furl
GiveALink
Hyperlinkomatic
iKeepBookmarks
Jack of All Links
Lilisto
LinkaGoGo
Linkatopia
Linkroll
List Mixer
Lycos iQ
Mister Wong
Mobilicio.us
MyBookmarks
MyHq
Mylinkvault
MyPip
My Stuff (from Ask)
MyVmarks
Namakkal
Netvouz
Online Bookmark Manager
OnlyWire
Oyax
Shadows
Simpy
SiteBar
SiteJot
Snipit
Socializer
StartAid
Stufflinker
Sync2it
SyncOne
Turboclip
Windows Live Favorites
WireFan
Zurpy

  YouTube Blip.tv

Vimeo

Metacafe

Stickam

Broadcaster
Panjea
Revver
Tubearoo
Viddler
Video Bomb
Video Sift
Vimby
Xillian TV

         
Photo Sharing   Blogging / Micro-blogging / IM / Mobile    
Flickr    Fotolog

SmugMug

Zooomr

Photobucket

Webshots

  Blogger      Wordpress

Typepad

Twitter

BeeMood
Feecle – Japanese
FlickIM

Frazr – German & French
IMified
Jaiku
Komoo – Chinese
loopt

mbuzzy
Numpa – Dutch
Pownce
Radar
Robisz – Polish
Rummble
Zannel

   

Additional categories of social media include:

CONNECTING WITH FRIENDS:

Classmates
ConnectU
Friends Reunited
Graduates
Meetup
MyYearbook
Reunion
SKOUT

CONSUMER REVIEWS:

Cork’d – Wine reviews
Chowhound
– Food
Epinions

RateItAll
Yelp

All of these tools enable you to interact with people, but in each group a different kind of content is the focus.

Social Communities – in some ways the simplest because it is the content focus is YOU. Each individual creates a profile and the directory enables you to find and connect with people based on the information they supply about themselves in that profile. This has extended beyond individuals to “entities”. So that a company or group can also create a profile. One thing to be aware of about these social communities – that not all of them approach “entities” the same way and most of them don’t make it very easy to figure out how to create a profile for your entity. Facebook invites you to create a Facebook “page” for your business but does not want you to create a “profile” for your business even though pages and profiles can use many of the same features and tools (but not all). On the other hand, LinkedIn has a very limited “page” for businesses providing very limited functionality. Small businesses often struggle to figure out which kind of existence they should have in these communities (should it be me? Should it be my company? Should it be someone else within my company?) that allows them to stay within the terms of service and yet still maximize the tool’s marketing potential.

Social Bookmarking (also called Link Sharing) – these tools allow you to highlight and share individual Web pages you like by sharing a link to them. People can “vote” on each link that has been shared and the links with the most votes move to the top of the page making the site a portal to the “best” content as filtered by the participants of the community. Note that an individual profile is connected to the posting of each link so over time you can get to know your fellow bookmarkers by their sharing habits, genre, frequency etc. These sites are useful if you post a lot of content and would like that content to be found and read by more people.  Be aware though that in order to gain a following in these communities, it is best to post content of general interest and value rather than “promotional” content for your business.  Community participants can be rather unforgiving of those seen as “self-absorbed”.

Video Sharing – sites like YouTube are usually very straightforward in functionality. They make it very easy to upload your own video and once the video is uploaded, it is also easily viewed and commented on by others. YouTube also provides ways for the video to be shared and embedded in other sites increasing the video’s ability to turn “viral”.  Using video to market your business can be done easily with a minimal investment in equipment.  While editing can be an expense, it’s not really necessary for educational, promotional, or testimonial videos – shooting them live tends to give them an authenticity that is appreciated by consumers.  A recent video and PowerPoint presentation by Hubspot gives excellent information on ways to effectively use video for small businesses.

Photo Sharing – these sites are usually quite simple in functionality. Members can post photos which then can be viewed and commented on by the general public, or only by those who are invited to see them. Small businesses sometimes use these sites to share photo galleries instead of building photo gallery capability into their own Web site.

Blogging – the content is your creativity, your voice. You post content on a regular basis whether it’s text, video, photos, podcasts or all of the above. Blogs enable you to be an individual publisher, and usually enable readers to participate in the conversation by posting comments.

Of all the tools available, the top 4 in my list for small businesses to utilize would include:

  • Blogs
  • FaceBook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Global New Media Trends and Using Them to Grow Your Business May 8, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in email marketing, mobile, Mobile Marketing, Social Media, Twitter, Video Marketing, Web 2.0.
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A recent report issued by The Nielsen Company, a global information and media company active in more than 100 countries, provides a comprehensive overview of the status of new media in today’s marketing environment.  Some highlights of the report include:

  • Online display advertising’s share of revenue has plateaued at 20% of total online ad spend in the U.S.
  • Despite online video’s persistent positive buzz, actual usage is averaging around six minutes per day in the U.S.
  • Packaged goods manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and telecommunications firms, three of the largest historical spenders on traditional media, are moving online at a pace we haven’t seen before, even as the recession continues to deepen.
  • Access to social networking sites via mobile devices almost tripled during 2008, largely due to rising smartphone penetration and improved network speeds.  Increasingly consumers are turning to their phones for a wide range of online content.
  • The pace of new online users has significantly slowed down, and the story has become about how much time people are spending online and what they’re doing while there.
  • Americans spend the most time online during the average month (about 2 hours per day).
  • The U.S. online population skews more to the age 50+ than the other countries listed in the study.
  • It is rare to see segments grow from BOTH an audience and an engagement standpoint, but we are seeing exceptional growth in these areas over the last couple of years in both video and social media sites.
  • While Member Communities (Facebook, MySpace, etc) have been garnering impressive audience numbers for the last five years, video audiences have been growing at meteoric rates.
  • From a time spent perspective, Member Communities surpassed email for the first time in February 2009.
  • From February 2008 to February 2009, the viewers of online videos grew 10%, the number of streams grew 41%, the streams per user grew 27%, and the total minutes engaged with online video grew 71%.
  • The reach of Member Community (social networking) sites is highest in Brazil (80%) but growting fastest in Germany (from 39% to 51% in one year).
  • The steady upward march of micro-blogging site Twitter will likely be the biggest online media story this year.
  • In the U.S., the mobile Internet audience grew 74% between February 2007 and February 2009.
  • More than 12 million U.S. mobile subscribers access their social networks over their phone.
  • As consumers look to do more on their phones while maintaining or perhaps decreasing their overall wireless spend, we expect that consumers will continue to warm to the idea of ad-supported mobile content.

This information is extremely valuable to marketers and small business owners as it enables companies to see areas of tremendous opportunity where they can maximize their firm’s brand awareness among target audiences.  Click HERE to review the complete Nielsen report and determine how it can be utilized to your company’s benefit.  Should you need assistance sorting thru the options to develop the best marketing strategy for your firm, please contact us to schedule a FREE initial consultation.

Video Marketing; A Great Way to Showcase Your Business April 23, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Video Marketing, Web 2.0.
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In today’s Web 2.0 marketplace small business owners are learning to take advantage of every new technology tool they can find to grow their business. One of the least understood tools is Video Marketing. In this week’s episode of our BlogTalkRadio program ‘Strategic Growth Concepts for Small Business’, our panel of experts explains how you can utilize Video marketing to grow your business, and how you can achieve this extremely cost-effectively. If you’re seeking new ways to market your business in the Web 2.0 environment, this is the show for you. Our panel of experts includes: Tim Tevlin, President of Local Business Videos Online; Greg George, Founder of iVideo Makers; and Bob Sullivan, Development Director of Think Creative Media Works.

Click HERE to listen to the complete broadcast!

Domino’s Nightmare Provides Social Media Lesson for Marketers April 16, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in public relations, Social Media, Video Marketing.
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Think about it – your worst nightmare – one of your employees is on tape tampering with your product and has posted it to YouTube for all the world to see.  And they’re seeing it, 550,000 of them as a matter of fact!  That’s the problem Domino’s was facing when two employees decided to perform disgusting acts with its food, on camera, and then post them to YouTube.

In today’s environment of social media, viral video, and cell phone web access, every company needs to be vigilant about it’s brand and what is being said on the Internet.  The following article discusses the challenges faced by Domino’s in this particular situation, preventative measures to be taken to insure your company is not involved in a similar situation, and lastly steps to take if it happens to you.  Click HERE to read the article.

Should Your Company Explore Online Video Marketing? April 7, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Strategic Growth Concepts, Video Marketing.
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Another area of technology that marketers need to consider these days is the use of online video.  I’m just beginning to explore this topic in-depth myself, and am finding an interesting diversity of opinions on the subject.  Additionally, I’m finding a lot of interesting ways in which it is suggested that video be used. 

Since we’re just beginning exploration of this topic, at this time I’m going to provide links to some of the discussions I’m reviewing and we’ll delve in to the topic on a deeper level in future posts.  Additionally, on April 21st at 2:30 p.m. EDT I have scheduled a discussion on this topic with a variety of video marketing experts during my regularly scheduled BlogTalkRadio program, ‘Strategic Growth Concepts for Small Business’.  Information about this program is available at http://blogtalkradio.com/strategicgrowthconcepts.

The following are links to some discussions on the topic of online video marketing, more will be forthcoming in the near future.  http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=102798

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=102683

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=101511

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=102214