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By Debbie Gregory.

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Today, having a quality website is the cornerstone of your business’s online presence and overall marketing efforts. Your website should attract visitors, build their trust, engage and inform them, and finally convert them into customers. Keeping all of this in mind, there are key elements that your business website needs to be competitive in today’s marketplace that include:

 

1.) High Quality, Clear, Clean Images:

The first thing a visitor to your site will see are the visuals displayed on the pages. These visuals include your logo, header images, product photos, portfolio pieces, etc. The human brain is wired to notice and remember images much more than text. Make sure that every single image on your site is crisp, clean, and interesting. Carefully selecting the right images and taking the time to take high-quality product photos will really bring your site to life and engage visitors.

 

2.) Include a Minimum of One Call to Action on Every Page:   

A call to action is critical to have on every page of your site. Most businesses have one or two on their home page but often forget to include them on the other inside pages of the site. A call to action is designed to help guide your prospective customers to reach out to you or make a purchase.

 

Calls to action are usually buttons that include phrases such as:

  • Buy now
  • Call today
  • Click here for more information
  • Get in touch
  • Get offer
  • Send us an email

 

Placing multiple calls to action on pages such as blog posts, about us, single-page landing pages, portfolio pages, testimonial pages, and other pages on your site will help reduce the number of visitors who navigate away from your website without taking further action.

 

3.) An About Us Page Is Essential to Your Business Website:

The second most viewed page on your website will be your About Us page. This page needs to be carefully worded so that it clearly spells out how your company can help your prospective customers as well as informing them about your business history.   Often it is most engaging when you tell your story in an interesting way.

 

4.) FAQ Pages Must Be Included on Your Business Website:

Most people like to do their own research before they reach out to a physical person. Having extensive FAQ pages that clearly answer the most common questions your business receives enables you to establish your company as an expert in your field.  It also saves you money on support costs as well as helping your customers ease their valid concerns on their own.

 

 

Stay tuned – Part 2 of this series on  “Essentials for Your Small Business Website” will review your value proposition, trust signals, social proof, and why your site should have separate landing pages for important services or products.

Creating Engaging Social Media Images : Part 2 of 2

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By Debbie Gregory.

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We all realize just how important it is to have top-quality, clean, clear, images as well as entertaining video or gifs to accompany our business messages. Part one of this blog article provided you eight very cool sites to help you create and share images, gifs, videos, templates, and more on your business social media accounts. These next eight free or inexpensive tools are ones you should also bookmark and consider using to create your next social media campaigns.

 

iStock

iStock is a collection of royalty-free photos, illustrations and videos. They offer a lot of great, less mainstream, items that can be collected into boards for easy retrieval or organization. Royalty-free doesn’t mean that the images are free however, this service does cost money to use.

 

Over

Over is a popular free mobile app (for phones only) that allows you to add text, overlays, and blend colors on images.

 

PicMonkey

PicMonkey offers easy-to-use tools to create attractive social posts, cover photos, ads, and more. Boasting over 6,000 graphics and textures, hundreds of fonts, thousands of design templates, and even collages. They currently do not offer a free version.

 

Piktochart

Piktochart is another place where you can create infographics, presentations, and printables. You can begin this service for free of charge as well, which allows you to create a limited number of items, or choose one of their paid packages.

 

Placeit

Placeit helps you generate mockups or demos of your website or product being used in real life as well as logos, videos, and other designs. They currently do not offer a free version.

 

Skitch

Skitch is an Apple-only mobile phone app that allows you to add comments to any visual. Basically you take a snapshot of your screen and use arrows, text, stickers, and a handful of other tools to make your point.

 

Stencil

Stencil is another image creation/editing site that has both free and paid options. They currently boast of over 2,100,000+ photos, 1,000,000+ icons and graphics, 100,000+ quotes, 2,500+ fonts, and 730+ templates that users can access.

 

Venngage

Venngage offers a large library of social-media-ready templates and has a great user-friendly editor that is easy for just about anyone to use. The site is free for all basic functions and also has a paid version with access to select features.

 

 

Words are great but a high-quality image will get noticed and shared more than text alone. Bookmark, download, and utilize these great tools to help your social media posts make more of an impact.

 

 

By Debbie Gregory.

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Our last blog article discussed asking for testimonials, making it easy for people to get in touch with you, and how important it is to provide excellent customer service. Moving forward, we will discuss the importance of engaging people on social media, monitoring your online reputation, maintaining a positive image both in person and online, and how making donations that will improve your business reputation.

 

Engage People on Social Media:

Social media is important. The challenge is to get people talking about your business. Social Media is an excellent method to use for customers to talk positively your business. Ask people for their opinions, reviews, and thoughts. Remember that social media is an active conversion and respond in a timely manner.

 

Actively Monitor Your Online Reputation:

As you spend time actively engaging customers or potential customers online, it is important to monitor what is said about your business and what platforms that you are being talked about.  You can do the searches yourself to see who is talking about you and what they are saying or you can utilize online reputation monitoring tools to help. Some tools you can use are:

 

Maintain a Positive Image:

As a small business you are never off the clock. You need to work hard to maintain a professional, helpful, and friendly appearance at all times; especially if you drive a vehicle with your company logo or are wearing company branded clothing. Your behavior in public, when not directly in front of customers, can affect how people view your business.

 

Clean and Pleasant – In Person or Online:

This one goes hand in hand with the past point – your office, vehicles, attire, and online presence all must match the atmosphere and brand of your business. You want people to have their best experiences working with you. You want them to view you and your business as experts in your field that are professionals who are approachable, helpful, friendly, and clean. Would you want to eat in a dirty or see the chef with a crusty, dirty apron and dirty hands? You would only NOT eat there; you would tell everyone what you experienced. It works the same with positives.

 

Obtain Positive Publicity & Contribute Visibly to Your Community:

As a small business, it makes sense to invest in your local community. It helps both your community and helps your business grow.  Contributing brings your business front and center in the minds people’s minds of those who may need for your products or services. These contributions not only enable you to do good and be part of your community, but they provide your business high visibility and very positive word of mouth    from supporters. It improves the reputation of your company and is very good for business. Consider donating your time or money to things such as:

  • Contributing financially to a local charity
  • Participating in holiday charity events
  • Sponsoring local tournaments, school sports, or other competitions
  • Sponsoring community or charitable events
  • Joining a public board of directors
  • Working with community organizations
  • Donating time to city council committees

 

Provide Free Public Lessons or Seminars:

This can take more time to plan and execute properly but giving away your time at very public events provides an opportunity to showcase your expertise and gain positive publicity.  It also sets you up as an expert in your field.

 

 

Word of mouth happens whether you pay attention to it or not. It is such a powerful marketing tool that you would be remiss to ignore it and allow it to flourish without your guiding hand. Take the time to tune into to what people are saying about your business and help them spread positive words about you, you won’t regret it.

 

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful advertising methods.  People highly value and trust the opinions of those they know and love. If you can get them to speak positively of your business, odds are good their friends and family will be knocking at your door as well.

 

Even word of mouth from strangers can have a huge impact on a person’s buying habits. Online reviews are very important with approximately 9 of 10 people reading and being influenced by online reviews. Most people use online reviews to determine whether a business is trustworthy and deserving of their business. This is consistent with all types of businesses including doctors, attorneys, restaurants, tradespeople, brick and mortar retail stores, E-Commerce stores and more.

 

What can you do to get people to talk positively about your business? Below are some ways to help you foster more positive word of mouth endorsements and grow your business.

 

Ask for Testimonials and Display Them Prominently:

Customer testimonials are powerful endorsements. Make sure that your business is in the habit of asking for testimonials and make sure that you display prominently where others can find and read them. Share the testimonial on your website, on your social media channels and you can even print and post them in your place of business.

 

Make It Easy for Your Customers to Contact You:

Poor communication will frustrate people and drive customers away from you. You need to be reachable across multiple platforms and in multiple ways. Make sure that your website is easy to read and navigate.   Being responsive can make a huge difference. Make sure contact numbers, emails, or a contact form are all easy to access and use. It is important that your phone connects, that someone answers courteously, and that your voicemail has space to receive new messages if no one can pick up the call. Answer all voicemails, emails, and messages received through social media in a timely and professional manner.

 

Provide Excellent Customer Service:

Excellent customer service is the most important thing you can focus on to gain positive word of mouth as well as set yourself apart from your competition. If someone is unhappy with your customer service, they are even MORE likely to tell their friends and family than if they have a positive experience with your business. They will also take their own as well as the business of those near and dear to them elsewhere.  It is critical that you demonstrate to your customers how important they are to you. Treat them as you would want to be treated, with kindness, courtesy, respect, and show that you are interested in their needs.

 

Stay tuned for the second part of this series which will discuss engaging people on social media, monitoring your online reputation, maintaining a positive image both in person and online, and how giving your time or and/or donations that can greatly improve your business reputation.

Veteran Business Owners’ New Year’s List

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Happy New Year to our Veteran and Military Business Owners.   There are always many tasks for entrepreneurs to do and not always enough time to do them.   This is an excellent time to start with a fresh prospective, plan and focus.   You may want to reflect on the prior year and refocus your energy.   Below is a list to begin 2020:

 

  1. Recap & Forecast: Now is a good time to look at where you are and where you want to go with your business.   Review your return on investment, ROI on major projects, your finances and your goals.   Make sure you and your team understands your goals for the coming year.   This will make any changes easier.  It is a also an excellent time to  gain valuable input on what works, what can be improved and what has not worked.

 

If you have a team, you need to talk with them and develop an understanding of their roles and how they feel about them.   The New Year is an excellent tine for an annual review.    This is the time to perform your due diligence and be proactive to place you ahead of your competition.    Consider this to be your plan for success in 2020.

 

  1. ROI Marketing Focus: Your focus in determining your 2020 marketing initiatives must be what is the ROI (Return on Investment) on each initiative.  These include social media, advertising, blogs,brand building and more.  Not every marketing initiative is measurable but you should evaluate those you can.   You want to direct your money and resources to those initiatives that pay off for you.
  1. Look At Industry Trends: You need to take the temperature of what is going on within your own industry as well a industries that impact yours such as your suppliers.  This will enable you to react to changes and be proactive.   If the Trade Wars with China or oil prices affect your business, you need to take all of this into consideration and be prepared for a worst case scenario.
  1. Realistic Financial Goals: It makes a great deal of sense to put your financial goals in writing at the beginning of a New Year to achieve them.  You may want to check out SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound) and OKRs (objectives and key results) formats.   This can include creating a list of objectives and key results for each area of your business (such as sales, finance, marketing, manufacturing and product development, etc.).   Each member of your team needs to have a keen understanding of their goals for the new year and how they are going to achieve them.

 

You might want look into affordable financing options for your business too.   This can make sense even for thriving businesses because the best time to look for financing is when your business is doing well.   Don’t take out loans unless you need one to grow your business and take it to the next level.

 

  1. Look at Automating Your Business: You might want to look into automated software solutions that will enable you to automate accounting, customer management and time tracking  to allow you to focus on accomplishing the real work.  Automating your finances will also provide you valuable input into better managing your cash flow and ROI and to forecast properly.
  1. Working Remotely: This is a good time to determine if some or all of your business can be done remotely.  Remote work is a trend and many believe that almost three-quarters of all  departments will have remote workers by 2028.   You may want to look at whether hiring remote workers and freelancers can benefit your business.   This is not viable for every business such as a retail store.   However, for some businesses, it can reduce the cost of office space and enable you to draw from a larger pool of talent.   We recommend that if you are considering a remote staff that you look into collaborative and communication tools.
  1. Mentors: Mentors are one of the most valuable resources for any business at any level.  Mentors provide objective advise, experience and access to a larger network of resources and people.   Almost all small business owners believe that mentors have had a direct impact on the growth and success of their business.   Those who don’t have a mentor, wish that they did.   If you don’t have mentors, the new year is a a good time to find them and start the year right.
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