Join In on LinkedIn

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You’ve set up a profile on LinkedIn, added all your jobs, skills and achievements – now what? Just sit there? Occasionally adding old colleagues and friends – Get more involved.

LinkedIn for me is the best B2B Social Media platform around. The obvious choice of using LinkedIn is for recruitment purposes, but it’s a thriving community of professionals and business owners and is so much more than an online CV.

Groups

There are thousands of groups on LinkedIn where you’ll find an A-Z of industries and interests. If you can’t find a group on a particular subject then you can create one and start your own community.

You can join up to 50 groups on LinkedIn, which for one person to navigate is more than enough. I’d recommend joining no more than 20-30 groups otherwise you’ll struggle to dedicate the time to be involved and contribute meaningfully to those groups.

Join a mix of groups where you can engage with your prospects, customers and industry peers. Leverage your skills and knowledge to utilise LinkedIn groups as a lead generator, but focus on connecting, engaging and building trust with each individual person – The art of Social Media is to be social.

Be an active member of your professional community by networking with industry peers from across the globe to gain an understanding of the different perspectives to help you learn and develop in your career.

Comment

Join in the conversation by answering questions from your fellow professionals thus demonstrating your experience, know-how and specialist skills. This will help you to gain credibility and position you and your company as experts in your respected field.

One of the most common reasons for failing to convert a prospect into a sale is the fact that the customer has unanswered questions. Ask customers questions and respond swiftly to any questions they ask on LinkedIn groups. If you can solve their problems then you’re half way to achieving a sale.

Ask questions as well as answering them. Ask your customers and peers what problems they encounter or ask for their opinions and experiences. Instigate a response in your community by encouraging people to comment and engage with each other – Be an Influencer.

Contribute

You can distribute your company blog on LinkedIn groups but make sure the content is relevant to your audience; you don’t want people disengaging because all you do is self-promote.

Post articles from other sources and always aim to add value in some way to the group you’re contributing to. Share information which is relevant, fresh and thought-provoking and encourage other members to contribute to the conversation.

Community

Ensure that you’re a responsible and actively engaged member of your selected groups and treat each group like a community. Groups shouldn’t be abused for promoting your products/services or for self-gratification. You’re simply one person who’s part of a wider community with shared interests.

Each individual group will have a set of rules and these should be adhered to and respected for the good of your community.

The 3 C’s

Remember that the 3 most important elements to consider with LinkedIn groups are:

COMMENT – CONTRIBUTE – COMMUNITY

What LinkedIn groups have you joined and why? 

Always look over your shoulder – The Importance of Competitor Analysis

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It’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s happening inside your own company, after all there’s a lot to juggle – profits, margins, new products, employees, tax, cashflow and so on.

Every so often you need to look over your shoulder to monitor your competitor’s activities.

One question I ask all my clients is – “Who are your main competitors?”

The response is often – “We don’t have any competitors because our product/service is unique”

Wrong answer – You’ve just not done your homework.

Regardless of your industry or company – you always have competitors. Yes your product/service may indeed be unique but you will have competitors, often offering a substitute or alternative.

SWOT

Begin an analysis of your competitors by conducting a SWOT analysis.

Strengths

Identify the main strengths of your competitors, what do they do well?

Weaknesses

Cast a critical eye over your competitors products/services, their website, Marketing and social media activity. You will be able to identify areas you consider to be inferior to what your company offers.

Opportunities

Focus on identifying opportunities from 2 points of view.

1) What opportunities might my competitor pursue?
2) What opportunities can my business capitalise on?

Threats

Use the information gathered from identifying your competitor’s strengths and focus on how these strengths may pose a threat to your own business model. Form a strategy to counteract any threats posed – Do you need to:

• Change your pricing structure?
• Focus on different benefits of your product/service?
• Do you need to delay or accelerate a new product launch?

Differentiation Strategy

By spending time on analysing your competitors you should be able to identify any gaps in the market, particularly from the opportunities section of the SWOT analysis.

Homogenisation blights every single business in the world so you need to be unique in some form or simply do what your competitors do – but better. Sounds easy in theory but having a genuine USP is a problem area for many businesses.

You’ll never know if what you offer is unique, unless you know what your closest competitors are offering. If you want to gain a competitive advantage in your market then you need to have a differentiation strategy, some areas to consider are:

• Product/service uniqueness
• Minimising expenditure to improve margins
• Leveraging your employee strengths and skills
• Price
• How you promote your company – Focus on benefits rather than features

To gain a deeper understanding of how to apply a differentiation strategy I’d highly recommend reading the work of Michael Porter – A true master of business strategy.

Steal

Yes steal!

Steal ideas, mash them up and make them your own. What benefits do your competitors promote? How can you match or improve on these? And one of my favourite areas is Marketing – How are my competitors Marketing their company?

Competitor or Ally?

Your competitors don’t have to be your enemy, consider striking up a relationship with your rivals to embark on a referral programme. Refer clients to each other depending on what speciality areas you both offer.

For small businesses consider collaborating with rivals on larger contracts that you would not have been able to fulfil on your own.

Just remember to always keep an eye on your competitors.

Is stealing ethical? Do you collaborate with your rivals? Tell me your thoughts 

Building a Brand from Scratch

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Branding is an essential element in any Marketing strategy for any business in any industry. Your brand defines your company by encapsulating who you are, what you offer and what differentiates you from the competition.

Ask anyone to provide you with an example of a successful brand and you’ll hear the likes of Apple, Coca Cola and Microsoft. Branding isn’t monopolised by the big corporations as small businesses can also build a successful brand, here’s some guidance on how to build a brand from scratch.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Be consistent with all your branding efforts or don’t bother building a brand at all. Think about a Franchise like McDonalds or Starbucks, in every store you get the same coffee, same decor, get asked the same questions and you get this consistently. Here are 10 of the most important elements to consider when building your company brand:

1) Keep your LOGO prominent and consistent
2) Use the same LANGUAGE, TONE and level of FORMALITY
3) Keep COLOURS consistent
4) Use the same IMAGES, GRAPHICS & PICTURES in all Branding efforts
5) Use the same LAYOUT, FORMAT & TEXT
6) Display the same WEBSITE, EMAIL ADDRESS & PHONE NUMBERS
7) Keep CUSTOMER SERVICE consistent by having FROMALISED PRE & POST SALES FEEDBACK
8) Ensure ALL CUSTOMERS receive the same level of focus and service, regardless of their size of wallet
9) At all times apply the MISSION, VISION & VALUES of your company
10) Fully INTEGRATE all Social Media Channels with your company website, and vice versa

Lifestyle

When I was 1st taught about Branding I couldn’t get my head around the fact that people buy into the lifestyle of a particular brand. I was a salesman and you sell a product or service – not a lifestyle! However if you understand the lifestyle of your target market then you can relate your brand to the lifestyles they lead.

If you want to understand the lifestyle of your customers then you need to collect, store and utilise data about them – building a database is critical otherwise you’re fumbling around in the dark.

Building a database with names and addresses will reveal nothing about the lifestyle of your customers, you need to understand:

• Opinions
• Trends
• Hobbies & Interests
• Occupations
• Family
• Culture

Build relationships with your customers and gather feedback at every opportunity, ask them what they do in their spare time – Now you understand their lifestyles you can relate your brand to the very people you serve.

Positioning

The positioning of your brand is all about how the consumer perceives your brand in relation to your competitors, the keyword here is PERCEPTION. The brand you create will result in people forming an opinion on your company – the quality of your product/service, the value of your brand and if you’re high, medium or low quality.

Get outside that little world of your company and think like your customer. What makes you similar/different from your competitors? What’s your USP? How is my brand viewed in the minds of my customers? – Just remember it’s the customer’s perception of your brand that’s important not yours.

As with all strategies you must formalise your goals and objectives, create a plan and implement it successfully – Always have a plan.

What do you think a brand means?

Marketing your Small Business Blog

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Now that you’ve started your blog, it’s time to put it in front of as many pairs of eyes as possible. There’s no point in putting in the blood, sweat and tears if nobody reads or benefits from your blog.

Small businesses usually have little to no Marketing budget so this article will explore ways to promote your blog using only sweat equity.

Sign Up

Your blog should contain interesting, engaging and practical information that people find useful. You’re giving away information tips and tricks for free so ask for something in return – their email address and/or social media details. This way you can build a database of prospects and you now have their contact details to facilitate relationship building with your target audience.

Twitter

Twitter is a micro-blogging site and you’ve got 140 characters to capture the attention of passersby to make them read your blog. Videos, images and infographics will help to increase engagement but with Twitter you need to focus on words.

Post your blog everyday for 2 weeks, change the heading until you find the winning formula. Don’t think “what heading shall I use to describe my blog” – answer questions, solve problems and think like your customer.

LinkedIn

Join groups on LinkedIn relevant to your industry and target audience. Post your blog onto LinkedIn groups and if your blog is interesting then you’ll begin to gather feedback and open up debates.

Don’t just use LinkedIn groups to promote your blog, contribute to conversations and make your opinions heard so those very people will have an interest in reading your blog because they know who you are.

Google +

The most important reason to consider Google + or any other Social Media platform is to communicate with people according to how they communicate, and Google + is growing in size.

However SEO is a critical reason to use Google + to promote your blog. WordPress is an excellent platform for creating a blog, so just copy and paste your work into Blogger. Last week’s blog Small Business Blogging touched on the SEO benefits from blogging and if you want to get seen on Google then get on Google +.

Join communities, much like groups on LinkedIn share your blog content and always respond to comments, +1’s and feedback.

External Promotion

Your existing network is finite and therefore limits the exposure of your blog to your followers, friends and friends of friends. Personally I feel that building credibility and trust so you can create long term relationships is the most important aspect of a blog. Of course you want to sell, but gain credibility, trust and build relationships 1st – then you can sell to people who trust you.

Put your blog on someone else’s platform, you obviously lose an element of control but the benefits of leveraging their experience and fan base can seriously boost your exposure. The reason I recommend this method is because it works. I was recently approached by a company who read my blog on an external website which wouldn’t have been possible using only my own WordPress account.

Here are some of the best B2B platforms to help you catapult your blog into the big league:

http://www.business2community.com/

https://exploreb2b.com/

http://www.businesszone.co.uk/

An up and coming platform http://www.thewriterssocial.com/

When promoting your blog on Social Media always remember to share and be shared, build your network and grow your audience.

Use external platforms to build your fan base by sourcing websites which look for authors/bloggers like you to help provide them with interesting and fresh content.

Why don’t you blog? What problems do you experience? Got a blog already but not being seen? Your comments are welcomed 

Small Business Blogging

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Why Blog?

If you can talk then you can blog, that’s all blogging is – talking with words. Some people may struggle a little with writing a blog, but anyone can do it if you have a passion for your business.

Writing a blog can help differentiate you and your business from your competitors. There are very few original ideas and businesses as competition has intensified in most industries.

The most important question to consider when blogging is “What value does my blog add?” Always start with the customer in mind by asking yourself:

• What questions do my customers ask?
• What problems can I solve?
• Will my blog benefit my customers?
• What does my customer want to read?

So why blog? – To build credibility and trust. Demonstrating your credibility can only be achieved by sharing your knowledge and skills. Once your customers view you as being credible in your industry, you can then nurture customer relationships to build trust.

Of course the end product of blogging is to sell, but you don’t necessarily have to do this directly – focus on communicating, engaging and building a mutually trusting relationship with people.

WordPress – Free Version

Ideal for new bloggers is the free version of WordPress which is easy to use and customise. HTML for non-technical people is confusing, but WordPress makes this easy for you by having simple buttons which do all the work for you. You can alter the font, size, layout and background; add URL links images and other media to your blog to make it more engaging and appealing.

Once you become more experienced and advanced with blogging, you can consider upgrading your WordPress account which is fairly inexpensive.

Branding

WordPress have a good range of themes for your format and layout which can be tailored to match your company Brand. Keep colour schemes, logos, images, text and language consistent with your website and other Marketing material to maintain a consistent Brand image.

Link all your Social Media accounts to your blog, and link your blog to all your Social Media accounts and website. This ensures Brand consistency, but also allows you to direct people back to your website increasing the likelihood of a sale.

SEO

SEO – Another scary word for us non-technically minded people, but again WordPress make this easy for you. Add the appropriate tags (keywords) and categories to your blog so people can easily find your material. Make sure you use keywords in your blog and the headline, if you don’t know what keywords to use just ask your customers. Ask them what they would type into a search engine to find a company like yours.

WordPress provides you with an option to enter meta data, this sounds technical but it’s actually really easy to implement. By entering the tools menu you can add meta data to optimise your SEO with Google and Microsoft (Bing). You must firstly have a Gmail and Hotmail email address. Follow the WordPress instructions and then copy and paste the required code from Google & Bing into your WordPress account so people can now find your blog when making internet searches.

Get Started

Anyone can blog and WordPress makes it easy to put together and distribute. If you run your own small business then you obviously have a passion for what you do – so get typing and let everyone know how good you are.

Stay tuned for the next blog from King’s Content – Marketing your Blog

For a free step by step guide on how to start a WordPress blog please leave a comment and I’ll send you the guide 🙂