With nearly 130 million people in the U.S. walking around with smartphones in their purses or pockets, you’d better be sure you’re doing all you can to be available to and market to this mobile-loving crowd. Shockingly, 34 percent of small businesses recently surveyed still do not employ mobile technologies in their businesses. What could be the reasons? Some of the reasons entrepreneurs gave include not understanding the technology and not having the time to learn and engage. But the top reason is that their customers haven’t requested mobile from them. We’ve got news for you: Mobile isn’t going away—and just because your customers aren’t asking for mobile doesn’t mean they don’t want it. They could just be moving on to your competitors’ mobile-friendly sites.
When you think about hiring, do you automatically think of hiring a full-time, permanent employee? There are many other options for hiring that can save you money, expand your range of possibilities and give you access to skills and talents you might not otherwise have. Here are four “out of the box” hiring options to consider.
- Hiring seniors. More employees over 55 are staying in the work force longer, so even if you are looking for full-time employees, those in their 50s, 60s and even 70s could be part of your talent pool. However, seniors are also a good bet if you’re looking for part-time or seasonal employees. Many retired seniors want to stay active and engaged by working, but don’t want full-time hours. By hiring a retired senior as a part-timer or consultant to your business, you might be able to access years of experience without paying full-time salary and benefits.
- Hiring stay-at-home moms. Similar to seniors, many stay-at-home moms formerly held jobs (often quite high-powered) and while they can’t go back to work full-time just yet, many are itching to use their skills and earn money. Consider seeking out stay-at-home moms if you are looking to fill a job that offers flexible hours (while the kids are in school) or can be done from home.
- Hiring interns. High school and college student interns can be valuable to your business, but it’s important to know the rules relating to interns. Check with your state department of labor to see if your state allows unpaid internships or if interns must be paid. Either way, for a job to qualify as an internship, the employee must learn about your industry and gain useful skills during the period of employment—they can’t just be filing or making coffee. The bonus for you is that if you find a great student intern, you can groom the person for a full-time job when he or she graduates.
- Hiring virtual employees. Virtual assistants (people who work remotely helping you with all the tasks an administrative assistant would do) are probably the best-known type of virtual employee, but in reality you can hire people to work virtually for a wide range of jobs. Hiring a virtual employee is especially useful for companies that need specialized skills which may not be available in their local area. It can also be a way to tap into specialized skills for less—for instance, a Silicon Valley tech company could save money by hiring virtual tech workers from an area of the country where the cost of living, and thus salaries, are lower. If you hire a virtual employee, it’s important to be aware of tax laws (if the person lives in another state), make sure you understand whether the person is classified as a true employee or an independent contractor (again, this affects how you handle their tax withholding), and put systems in place for effective communication with and management of the remote worker.
Image by Flickr user Creative Tools (Creative Commons)
The U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) has revised the work eligibility form I-9 required when businesses hire new employees and made it available to employers as of May 7, 2013. To make sure you’re using the correct form, look for a 3/31/2016 expiration date. You do not need to fill out an I9 for any temporary workers, independent contractors or those employees living outside of the U.S. In addition to form I-9, you can also register for the E-Verify system. If you haven’t used the E-Verify system because you feel it’s too complicated, a recent study might change your mind. The National Restaurant Association and ImmigrationWorks USA report that nearly 80 percent of restaurant owners surveyed found the E-Verify system yielded 100 percent accurate results for them.
What gets the most likes on social media site Facebook? Pictures of cute animals, of course. According to a new study of 3,000 images used in “Like Ads” on Facebook by 125 brands, those with images of animals had the highest response rate overall. Does that mean you should start working Grumpy Cat into your posts? Not necessarily, but it is advisable to use some kind of images in your Facebook ads and posts. Facebook research shows Like Ads that are text-only have the lowest interaction rate. In contrast, simply adding a logo, product shot or picture of people increases interaction with the ad.
If you want to increase the reach of your blog and the value it delivers to your readers, consider starting a guest blogger program. Before you start inviting people to contribute, though, read through these do’s and don’ts to ensure the program runs smoothly and actually meets your goals.
Do: Invite people you trust and respect
You need guest bloggers who can not only deliver engaging content, but who also deliver it on time, respond to you fairly quickly, and are generally easy to work with. There’s no need to work with someone who is high maintenance if it will only cause you aggravation.
Don’t: Reach out to strangers
I would think twice about reaching out to a stranger, even if they are an influential expert in your field – and not because they will probably say no, but because you have no idea what it is like to work with that person. Again, avoid headaches.
Do: Ask for writing samples
No matter how much you like and respect someone, ask for writing samples on the topics you’d like them to cover – or that they would like to cover – to ensure they can actually, um, write.
Don’t: Assume people will write in “your” style
Just because your style is informal and conversational doesn’t mean theirs will be. It might be more reserved and formal, or full of meandering stories that eventually make a point. That’s OK – see my next point.
Do: Put together a style guide
A blog style guide need not be long – one page should do. Include tone of voice (formal or informal, warm and friendly or more professorial), word usage (Is slang OK? Cultural references? Jargon?), general length, and style (Should blog posts be educational or actionable? Are opinion piece or personal or customer stories to illustrate a point OK?). Your goal is to ensure consistency.
Don’t: Rewrite what they submit
If, even after distributing the style guide, you receive a blog post that is a hot mess, don’t rewrite it. Make suggestions on how to improve it, and send it back. If version 2 is still way off-base, consider a brief conversation to help steer them in the right direction. If version 3 is still awful, well, you’ve done all you can. Thank them for their time.
Do: Structure your program
Set up a spreadsheet in the cloud (Google Drive or Dropbox), and give your guest bloggers access. Ask them to choose a date and fill in their topic and the general points they will make (give yourself a few days lead time for editing). Once they pick a date, send them a calendar reminder.
Don’t: Be inflexible
Life is full of surprises. Your guest bloggers might fail to deliver a blog post when they say they will due to many reasons, some of which will be legitimate, and some of which will not. Try to be flexible and understanding – and always have a backup blog post.
Do: Encourage them to share
If one of your goals is to increase your blog’s reach, encourage and remind your guest bloggers to share their blog posts with their network – on social media, in their newsletter, on their website, etc.
Don’t: Forget to highlight your guest bloggers
Include a short bio with links to their social media accounts, email, and/or website at the beginning or end of each of their blog posts. When you share their blog posts, tag them.
Do you have a guest blogger program? What has worked well for you? What mistakes have you made?
Image courtesy of advancewebranking.com
A gift shop’s success is based on the visual aspect of what they do. People need to see the items to buy them. So how do you get them interested in your gifts when they’re not in the store, but without spending a lot of money on advertising?
There are three social media tools every gift shop owner can use to build interest and traffic to their stores.
Start a Facebook page for your store, and invite your customers to like it. Then, communicate with them on a regular basis, but for more than just promoting your store’s items. Ask questions, like “what was the best gift you ever received?” or “what’s the funniest gift you ever gave?” to keep people coming back and interacting with your page. It will teach them to check out what you have to say on a regular basis.
Instagram is a mobile app that lets you take photos, apply creative filters, and share them with your Instagram network, as well as Facebook. Take photos of some of the cool stuff in your store, especially as it comes in, and share it via Instagram.
Pinterest is another app that works on your laptop or your mobile phone. See a picture of something you like, and pin it to your “board.” While most people use it to pin pictures of things they find on the Internet, you can also use it to pin the Instagram photos you shared on Facebook. Pinterest is also a good way to take photos of stock items you’re thinking about bringing in to the store and asking your customers for their opinion.
Tumblr (no ‘E’) has been embraced especially by Generation Y who wanted something more informal and easier to use than a regular blog. While a regular blog is just as effective — if you have one, don’t abandon it — there’s something hipper and funner about a Tumblr blog.
The first thing to do is claim your Tumblr blog. Go to Tumblr.com, and set it up using your gallery name — StevesGallery.tumblr.com — and set the background theme the way you want it.
Next, download the Tumblr app to your mobile phone. Take a few minutes and familiarize yourself with how it works. It’s pretty easy. Just take a photo on your phone (or choose one from the gallery), type in some text, and upload it to your Tumblr blog. Unfortunately, you cannot send more than one photo at a time this way.
You can also email several photos and copy at once to your Tumblr blog. Each account is given its own special, secret email address. Put that in your phone’s address book. Then, when you take a series of photos, attach them all to an email to your Tumblr account, add in the text, and then send it off.
And of course, you can also upload a series of photos to your Picasa or Flickr account, and then copy the embed code for a slide show into your email and send that off, or just go to Tumblr.com on your laptop, and write the post like you would any other blog post.
Then promote the posts via your social network and use it to build both search engine traffic and foot traffic to your gallery.
Are you familiar with the term “mastermind group?” You may hear it called other things, but basically, it’s a group of people who are closely aligned to your business’ success and growth. These are people you meet with on a regular basis, so you can contribute to each others’ success.
A mastermind group can be built around a certain industry or niche, like residential real estate, which includes a Realtor, a mortgage broker, an attorney, a handyman, and anyone else who might be related to that specific niche.
The group could be built around a certain type of people, like small business owners or marketing directors. People who want to share new information and ideas with each other, so that they can take it back to their own jobs and do them better.
Or it can even be based on geography, like all the retail businesses in a particular neighborhood. While some of them may compete, they instead focus on the general health and prosperity of the neighborhood, and share ideas on how to run their businesses better.
The idea is to find people who share a common business goal and can work together without competing. They come together once a week or once a month to share knowledge, share ideas, and even share leads with each other.
The Realtor can refer new clients to the mortgage broker. The marketing directors can bounce ideas off each other, and give advice. A small theater and a restaurant can team up to sell special dinner-and-a-show packages.
Whatever you do with your mastermind group, leave yourself open to the possibility that some very creative and beneficial ideas can grow out of it.
We’ve talked about the importance of online social networking for the last several months, but we don’t want to ignore the importance of meeting people in person. This kind of networking is just as important to growing your business as online networking is.
Here are three benefits of doing real-world networking:
1. Networking events lets you meet more than one person at a time.
We like networking events where you get to meet a lot of people at once. Not only does it increase your odds of meeting people who can have a positive influence on your life, it lets you be more visible within your community. Your Chamber of Commerce, business networking groups, and even local industry groups are all places to network.
2. Read nonverbal cues, and learn about a person’s passions.
Sitting down and speaking with someone face-to-face lets you hear the excitement in their voice when they tell you about the things that excite them. It’s a bonus when that passion is their work. It helps you understand why they love what they do, and helps you make connections for them later on.
3. Create deeper relationships than you can online.
It doesn’t matter how well you get to know someone online, you will never have as deep a relationship as you can by talking to them in person. You need to see their face, hear their voice, and see their nonverbal communication to get to know them. You’re creating, in a loose sense of the word, a friendship, and you just can’t do that through a keyboa
Let’s say you own an ice cream parlor, along with three other parlors within a five mile radius. You can win a search any time someone looks for “ice cream shop” or “ice cream parlor” when they do a search while they’re in your city, or do a mobile search on their phone.
The biggest trick that will help you win this mobile search is registering your business on Google Places.
Claiming your Google Places spot does one very important thing for you: it tells other people how to find you on Google and on the maps. And if you’re the first ice cream parlor in your neighborhood to do it before your competitors, you appear higher in the search than the other ice cream shops.
Log in to your Google account with your Gmail address and password (register for one if you don’t have one yet), and then enter in the necessary information. You’ll enter your business address, hours of operation, methods of payment you accept, any photos and videos, and anything else you want customers to know (free parking, specialty flavors you offer, etc.).
While Google typically wants you to list a mailing address, home-based and mobile businesses can also participate. Just put in your home address, and when you get to the section on Service Areas, select “this business serves customers at their locations.” Google will hide your address from the map, which means you can maintain your home’s privacy, and/or avoid any confusion with customers who may want to find you in person.
In yesterday’s post, we started talking about how important content is, but we didn’t want to include it in the list of three blogging SEO tips. Not because it’s not important, but because it’s very important.
One thing Google wants now is high-quality content, and they ignore content that was poorly written.
In the past, content writers did everything they could to cram as many keywords into their copy, often at the expense of the writing quality. Now, bloggers need to focus on making their content the best it can be. The keywords should almost be an afterthought — not something you ignore completely, but don’t spend any more than five minutes on them.
Since Google looks at things like time on site (they assume people spend more time on a page reading well-written content), it makes more sense for you to focus on making each blog post or web page the very best it can be.
If that means hiring a professional, consider it money well-spent. If it means writing and rewriting until it’s just right, then take the time. And if it means having a couple of friends tell you what they really think of the writing, then steel yourself and ask them to look it over.
As long as the end result is well-written and interesting, people will read it. If it’s not, your web traffic and search rankings will suffer.
One online guerilla marketing tactic is to write blog posts and other content that capitalize on the hottest trends going on that day. But how do you practice this real-time communication and real-time marketing, and find out what’s going on locally, nationally, or even internationally as it’s happening, rather than after the fact?
Start with Hashtags.org, which keeps track of the different Twitter #hashtags. If people are talking about it, it’s on Hashtags.org. To see how popular a topic is, visit the site, and either look at the most popular topics on the front page, or do a specific search for a topic of your choice to see what kind of traffic it’s generating.
We also like TweetLevel, a Twitter monitoring and ranking tool. You can find people who are influential about a certain topic (which you found on Hashtags.org), and start interacting with them, or place them in a Twitter list so you can follow them more easily.
With this information, you can now create your own content — blog posts, tweets, videos, podcasts, you name it — and capitalize on the popularity of the subject. Write your post, then tweet out the URL, using the same hashtag.
Next, find the influential people who are talking about a particular topic, and respond to their comments and questions. Share your own content with them. They may share your stuff with their own networks, where it can be seen by tens of thousands of people. Do this often enough, and you can be recognized as a voice of authority within that field or topic as well, and become your own influencer.
With Google Analytics, the free analytical package that shows you your web traffic performance, you
can see what’s working and what’s not.
For example, let’s say you published your post on “Five Fun Sandwiches for Kids” on a Monday. By
Friday, you’ve sold 100 of your sandwich cutters. How can we find how many of those sales came as
a direct result of the blog post?
First, we check out the Google Analytics page, and see that the post has generated 1,000 visits this
week. We can see how long everyone spent on the page, where they came from, and even where
In our hypothetical case, of the 1,000 visitors, we can see:
- 600 of them came from Facebook, 300 came from Twitter, and the other 100 came from a
variety of other sources.
- 80% of them spent 1 – 2 minutes on the page, 10% spent 5 minutes on the page, and 10% spent
less than 1 minute.
- 100 of them clicked a link that took them to another page on the website (we can even find out
which page), 800 of them left as soon as they read the page, and 100 of them went straight to the
sandwich cutter catalog page.
By switching over to the Google Analytics for the sandwich cutter page, we can see that 50 of our
visitors actually bought the $15 sandwich cutter.
Based on all this, we can determine that 1) our blog post resulted in 50 sales this week; 2) it
generated $750 in gross revenue; 3) it has a 5% sales rate.
Without Google Analytics, we would never know what a particular blog post, or even a week of
traffic, has done for our business.
There are several social media review networks and apps where people leave reviews about their favorite (and not-so-favorite) restaurants, businesses, doctors’ offices, and retail clothing stores. Sites like Yelp, Foursquare, UrbanSpoon, FoodSpotting, and OpenTable all encourage users to leave comments and reviews of the restaurants.
Back before we had social media, people would frequently complain when they were unhappy, but rarely give public compliments. These days, people are more willing to share when they’re pleased, and are more likely to leave positive reviews.
Restaurant owners can help encourage these reviews, and using them to their marketing advantage, by trying these quick tips:
- Remind people to check in on Foursquare, and ask them to leave a tip about
their favorite appetizer. If you have a free wifi network, name it [RESTAURANT NAME]
- Hold a weekly or monthly contest where people send their Foursquare checkin as a tweet with a
#hashtag with your restaurant name.
- Leave a tablet tent that says “Love us? Hate us? Leave a Yelp comment” and a QR code that
takes people right to your Yelp page.
That last tactic is a bit of a calculated risk, because you’re showing people the exact path they need to take to complain too. But if your staff is on their game, this won’t be a problem. And if people do complain, we’ll tell you how to fix the problem tomorrow.
Restaurants need to keep track of what’s being said about them, but it’s not enough to watch each
and every review site — at one count, we saw over 10 of them, and that didn’t include networks like
Twitter, Facebook, or anyone and everyone’s personal blogs.
You could spend all day online looking for mentions of you and your restaurant, and you’d still miss
That’s why we like Google Alerts as our brand watchdog.
The search giant indexes millions of websites a day, looking for any and all important keywords,
including yours. So why not put that to work for you?
Go to Google.com/alerts, and enter your
restaurant name. “Use quotes” around the name if it has more than one word; that tells Google to
find exactly that phrase. Otherwise, it returns all instances of all the words, regardless of where they
appear on the page.
Set the Result Types to Everything, How Often to Daily,
and How Many to All Results.
This way, you will receive a once-a-day email of any and every time someone mentions your
restaurant name in a blog post, news article, or restaurant review. Then you can respond accordingly,
either thanking the person for the compliment, or offering to fix any problems.
There are other tools to help keep track of your restaurant brand and name (i.e. setting up a search
column on your favorite Twitter client), but Google Alerts will save you time while still keeping a
watchful eye on your brand.