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Marketing Advantages of Blogs

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By James Pruitt – Senior Staff Writer

A blog allows agency over your company’s narrative. With a blog, your company’s news comes from your perspective. With news releases, any information must filter through another outlet. Your blog allows information through the horse’s mouth so to speak.

Blogs are essentially websites with primarily informational content. Your company’s blog should provide information directly from you and your organization. While news releases certainly have value as marketing tools and as evidence for recognition of your company’s accomplishments, blogs eliminate the hearsay factor and allow you to control the narrative of your company’s development.

Blogs are a boom to new companies. In the past, marketing was a more challenging process. News releases, public relations specialists, and advertisement executives mattered far more. Since the Information Age, blogs have done much of the initial marketing work, and applications such as WordPress have placed much of this work directly in the hands of the small business owner.

Assuming access to a newswire, a news release can in fact reach more people. Hence the continuing relevance of news releases. However, blogs allow a starting point for directed marketing.

From your blog, you can begin a directed marketing plan for yourself, under your own thumb. Not least important, blogs allow tracking of website traffic, and hence facilitate marketing through the most appropriate channels. No one likes spam. However, directed marketing works.

As you are starting a company, starting a blog allows opportunities for the initial pitch, for control over your own cycle of news, and for a plan to track site visits. Additionally, a blog administrator for a new business should consider the ins and outs of visitor feedback, and archiving information. The new blogger can trace organizations that may link back to your blog or track the number or origins of site visits. Such information can help with directed marketing and provide cues about the best routes for varieties of outreach strategies.

Blogs can serve as their own news release source.  The business owner can schedule posts over the course of the year regarding any variety of subjects, including new hires, new innovations, and new policies. The owner can set their own rhythm to these updates, and at their discretion, news outlets can respond accordingly.

Also, blogs allow an opportunity for feedback. In other words, blogs are interactive, rather than news sources which are under the control of some third-party news outlet. Therefore customers can provide business owners with feedback, and give endorsements and create greater opportunities for more business. The interactive nature of blogs is priceless for a new business owner. The old-fashion news report only spews information through any channel that will publish it. A blog allows a one-on-one with the ownership of the company.

This direct interaction can provide some of the most important feedback for a small company at its earliest stages.

Traditional routes such as press releases are not irrelevant for your new company. However, this deep into the Information Age, blogs allow the business owner unprecedented control over the initial stages of their marketing campaign. By setting up a blog, you, the business owner, may control your own business plan and marketing trajectory.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes that you enjoyed this first article on blogs in our mini-series.  Stay tuned….

If you are not already a member of VAMBOA, please consider joining.  There are not any dues or membership fees.  We provide a great deal of valuable information weekly.  You can also proudly display the VAMBOA seal on your website and collateral.

Here is a link to sign up:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

Turning a News Release into a Blog Post

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By James Pruitt – Senior Staff Writer

Congratulations on your news release. News releases in themselves show interest in your product or services. Whatever the news source, the publisher of the news source clearly feels confident in your business idea. These news sources could be local newspapers, free publications, or newspapers. Engaging the interest of these publications is an outstanding business strategy.

A first-hand blog can and should provide the vanguard marketing strategy of a new business. That supermarket newsletter may validate your product, demonstrate interest, and spread the word about your offerings. However, a business blog allows a business to express itself, through a diverse range of media, without resorting to an intermediary.

Your business has hit the news, whatever that news source may be. Here, we flesh out how to exploit that story in your blog.

  • Transforming a News Release into Web-Friendly Format:

Blogs differ from news releases in the web-based content, which allows the business owners more direct control.  Blogs allow various channels for the owners’ creativity, such as graphics, personal interaction, and other multimedia.  This enables the owner to develop the company’s brand. A cold news release can provide the information “meat” of the blog, demonstrating the successes of the company itself. However, the graphics and other media of the blog demonstrate the character and personality of the company itself.

  • The Headline:

With a blog post you control the headline. A news outlet prefaces information about your company with a line they feel will grab their readers’ attention. However, in your blog post, your own marketing spin prevails. Generally, readers may ignore large blocks of text absent a catchy, attention-grabbing hook at the beginning. Whatever the targeted viewers’ interests, the headline should grab that reader and drag them into the deep end. The headline should cater to their interests and leave them salivating for more.

  • Formatting:

The web offers endless opportunities for multimedia presentation. Use them. Business promotions are not news stories. Viewers know they have no responsibility to “close-read” your content and tend to dismiss content from private companies. It is on you to make the content fun, and to use your own artistic sensibilities to draw in the viewer. The informational “meat” that may go into a news release must be presented in an entertaining manner, else face consignment to the vortex of discarded advertising content we see all around us.

  • Images:

News releases are informational and lack images. Your blog provides an opportunity to color this information as you see fit. Feel free to celebrate your news release on your blog with appropriate graphics. Your company’s image will brighten as a result.

  • Include Details, but Keep them Relevant:

The initial news story hopefully draws readers to your business blog. The news source may or may not have included assumptions or questionable statements, hopefully positive. One strategy is to expound on your own perspective on these statements, and clarify any misunderstandings, as well as address any questions. The news is hearsay, and media is not always 100% accurate. However, news statements that require clarification may be opportunities. In a business blog, owners can expand on these statements to educate readers about their company.

  • Sources:

For the news release itself, you are the source. However, remain mindful of the legitimacy of any of your blog content. Business owners should never venture claims absent tracing the sources.

Connect to Other Content:

On a related note, part of the magic of the web is the ability to link. Once your news release hits your blog, feel free to link to the news source itself. Also feel free to link to any of your other articles, as well as any source that provides information or resources that supports that article. Just use care in the choice of associated content.

In conclusion, successful news releases in themselves provide ample opportunities to promote your business. However, business owners may color and amplify this opportunity by spinning that news information on their blog. Whether the publication is local or widespread, blogging allows the new business to pounce on the opportunity to put their newfound publicity to the best possible use.

If you are not already a member of VAMBOA, please consider joining.  There are not any dues or membership fees.  We provide a great deal of valuable information weekly.  You can also proudly display the VAMBOA seal on your website and collateral.

Here is a link to sign up:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

Gaining the Most from your Business Blog

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By:  James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

 

1)  Establish your Authority:

Through advice, anecdotes, and selective marketing, a blog allows business owners to establish themselves as leaders in their field. An interior decorator can post home repair advice. A computer technician can share cybersecurity tips. Your business is helping your customers in their everyday endeavors. A blog allows you to provide free tidbits to demonstrate your potential, nudging viewers toward deeper engagement.

2)  Promote your Brand to Attract Talent:

A blog allows a chance to profile your company’s employees, showing the human face of your enterprise. Whether a college degree, special award, or new business license, a blog enables a business owner to boast about their talents and human assets. This is the time and place to boast about achievements and milestones. Whatever a business has to offer, a blog allows a channel to share the value of their human capital.

3)  Share Testimonials:

A blog lets potential customers hear from the horse’s mouth. Did you know that 50 % of customers   make purchases after researching products online, and 92% trust referrals from people they know? Online testimonials offer a personal connection in researching your product or service. Blogs are the perfect venue to showcase good karma and positive goodwill.

4)  Drive Traffic to your Website:

When customers read your blog, they are nearly twice as likely to click on your website. The more engaging the blog, the more hits will accumulate on your main website. Blogs offer the perfect chance for engagement with clientele. One simple link multiplies exposure to the site providing information

5)  Analyze Demographics:

Any marketing campaign needs user data. The back-end data from site visits provides feedback on the geographic and behavioral characteristics of your audience, and hence allows wise use of advertising dollars. Google Analytics and SEO software can prove valuable tools in breaking down this information.

6)  Promote Business Partners:

Most businesses have partners involved in their supply chain or service delivery. A blog provides opportunities to plug fellow companies. Business relationships are by nature reciprocal, and owners can expect good karma from small acts to promote your fellow travelers in the industry.

7)  Involve Employees:

Your business allows creation of a fun, vibrant workplace community. A blog allows the showcasing of get-togethers, life events, and updates about your workforce. Every time a worker shares these updates on social media, more attention is drawn to your company. Every time they tell a friend about their fun workplace activity, you spread positive word of mouth.

Better yet, with each share, your SEO numbers go up. Engagement with your own website increases, and your business will more likely appear in search results.

8)  Earn Cash through Promotions and Advertisements:

A blog provides advertising space, and selling these promotional opportunities only adds to your company’s value. Not only can a blog provide saleable advertising space, but other ideas may include selling products online, providing internet-based courses, and conducting online market research.

9)  Inform Customers of Socially Conscious Activities:

Community engagement provides some of the best advertising opportunities. Did you know that 85% of customers are more likely to support businesses that donate or volunteer?  Bloggers should not hesitate to draw attention to their good works and promote relevant causes. Goodwill from customers and good karma follows.

Conclusion:

Online marketing is all about engagement. Engagement provides outreach as well as market feedback necessary to adapt products and services to their relevant markets. Blogs are vibrant, living documents that provide a dynamic, engaging sphere for client outreach. The above strategies can maximize traffic to both your blog and your website, adapting your business to your specialized market niche as well as changing demands.

If you are not already a member of VAMBOA, please consider joining.  There are not any dues or membership fees.  We provide a great deal of valuable information weekly.  You can also proudly display the VAMBOA seal on your website and collateral.

Here is a link to sign up:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

Tax Questions for Small Business Owners

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

The year 2020 has been a very shaky on numerous levels.   Many small businesses have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are some that have continued to operate profitably and even experience growth with the help of government loans, tax credits, and payroll deferrals.

All have seen drastic changes to their income, workforce, supply chains, and customers. As we head into the holiday season and New Year it is time to focus on what your potential tax liabilities for 2020 will be. What are the questions you should discuss with your accountant or tax professional to plan appropriately and not be surprised?

Below are five tax related issues that immediately come to mind that you will want to discuss:

1.) Will the government stimulus check impact my taxes?

The answer is both yes and no.  It depends on the programs and assistance you may have taken or not taken.  Below are three of the most popular COVID assistance programs and if they will help or harm your taxes for 2020:

  • If you participated in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) you will not be taxed on any loans you took under that program. However, any expenses incurred that are eligible for forgiveness are not tax deductible that may create a tax liability for you.
  • If you paid any employees for time off under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act, you will be entitled to a tax credit once this year ends.
  • If you deferred payroll taxes, you will still owe them; you simply delayed when you needed to pay them.

2.) How does working from home impact taxes?

You and your employees who are working from home may be able to deduct expenses incurred from running an office out of your homes.  Some of the expenses may include such items as the space you used, equipment, utilities, etc. However, if your employees are working from home out-of-state you may be liable for higher payroll taxes than your home state charges. It really depends on the makeup of your company and employees if you may be facing any potential tax liabilities or benefits.

3.) Should I be saving more for my retirement?

Most of the current workforce working from home has seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of money they spend on food, going out to restaurants, entertainment and other consumer goods that may translate into building greater savings.   Now is a very good time to put those savings away for the future. Consider contributing more to your 401(k) or IRA accounts.

4.) Is now a good time to invest in capital equipment?

Right now, there are a lot of outstanding deals out there and interest rates are very low too. Lots of businesses are taking advantage of that fact and are buying needed equipment, furniture, technology, and other capital items at steep discounts. A lot of these purchases are deductible and can equal huge tax savings.

5.) Can I estimate my 2020 taxes based on last year?

Candidly, 2020 has been so chaotic and unprecedented that your estimation based on the prior year should be tossed out the window! You may have made way less this year than anticipated, or way more, and your actual tax implication may not even properly reflect the reality of your income. Take a close look at how your business did this year overall to make a better estimation of what your taxes may be.

Taxes are an unavoidable and annual huge expense for all of us. This year taxes are going to be more confusing and difficult than ever before. The earlier you can get together with your accountant or tax professional to go over what your potential tax liability will be, the better it will be, and you can prepare accordingly.   These are questions that you need to address with your account or tax professional.

If you are looking at updating your technology, please check out the very significant discounts being extended to VAMBOA family and friends by Dell Technologies.  Here is a link to check them out:  https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

Plans for Reopening in the Wake of the Pandemic

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

 

Just when we thought we were “over the hump,” coronavirus cases spiked. Many brick-and-mortar stores took fatal blows trailing the last wave of shutdowns. Hopefully, the lessons from the first wave may cushion the impact of the next.

The necessary steps include education about the necessary measures to protect customers and staff, and to balance this information with the needs of your business. Then business owners can plan the necessary steps for reopening in a safe manner.

Always ensure that information sources are reliable. Some of the best sources for information include the CDC:

Misinformation abounds about coronavirus, and the importance of accurate information about this crisis cannot be overstated.

We can expect another spike in coronavirus cases over the winter. Brick-and-mortar businesses will face a larger impact than online businesses. Brick-and-mortar stores should consider the following:

  • the ability to enforce proper social distancing
  • any lockdown orders that may exist within that locality
  • the severity of the pandemic within your locality
  • the level of contact with customers.

Examples of businesses facing the worst impact include gyms, restaurants, and beauty establishments.

Depending on the structure of the business, human resources issues may prove tricky. For example, last spring, a business had to shut down for two weeks because an employee called in to lie about having coronavirus: https://www.thestate.com/news/coronavirus/article241351951.html.

The company’s facility needed a thorough cleaning, that led to huge financial losses in the meantime. Other, more small-scale companies may have the flexibility to deal with such issues on a case-by-case basis, given the management’s closer relationship with the employee. The ABA (American Bar Association) notes the importance of input from both employees and clients. They also note that each reopening plan will be different, given the circumstances of the company. For example, some businesses may require brief health screenings by qualified health professionals, such as quick temperature checks.

The ABA notes that “[r]eopening a business during the pandemic is essential and inevitable but it will certainly be a daunting process that will require consideration of how workers can be brought on safely, how customer concerns will be addressed, and how everything can be done in a way that allows the company to survive financially.”

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/business_law/publications/blt/2020/10/protecting-workers/.

On the plus side, news is positive about defeating the pandemic in the next several months. Recently, several companies and institutions have developed several vaccines with amazing success rates. On the negative side, winter promises to bring a spike in cases before return to a semblance of normal. Dr. Anthony Fauci estimates a rollback of coronavirus measures sometime in April:

https://www.deseret.com/u-s-world/2020/11/13/21562555/coronavirus-dr-anthony-fauci-covid-19-vaccine.

In the meantime, small businesses can use this next spike as an opportunity to expand their horizons, build their online presence, and augment their human resources expertise. This pandemic will not last forever, and resources abound for struggling business owners, despite its devastating impact. Such a crisis arises once in a blue moon. Hopefully we will be able to strike a balance.

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