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Self-Marketing for Entrepreneurs

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Marketing is its own field within the business world. Specialists in marketing often come out of school with vast coursework and little experience. The generalities acquired by “professional marketers” often fail entrepreneurs seeking their niche in the economy. 

Every company is different. Each entrepreneur likely has their own set of values, as well as their own understanding of the niche of the economy they seek to occupy. Outsiders may provide guidelines and principles, but the core of a marketing strategy must come from the source of the business idea itself. Successful marketing ultimately comes from within.

Remember the sitcom Family Ties from the eighties? Consider the episode “The Spirit of Columbus.” In a classic standoff between money-obsessed Alex P. Keaton and his opposite, the artist Nick, Alex usurps Nick’s greatest artistic triumph and markets the sculpture “in volume” as home decor. In several fabulous colors to boot. 

These days, marketers rely largely on online strategies. Professional marketers know the web, social media, and other such channels. Entrepreneurs know their own hearts and the goals of their companies. Efforts of marketers fall impotent absent coordination with the leadership of their clients. Consider the ongoing lament of online gamers in the face of recent waves of offbeat, sometimes offensive marketing campaigns. “Why do they do this? The game is nothing like that!”

Entrepreneurs do their best to market themselves, often with advice from ad agencies. Marketers should stick to their roles. These days, marketers do have irreplaceable functions on the online and social media fronts. However, unless the marketer and entrepreneur are one and the same, no one can sell that great idea better than its originator. A marketer can filter the idea. A marketer can find the right channels. However, no one can express the idea’s heart and soul better than the entrepreneur themself.

There are strategies that business owners can use to market themselves. First, no matter the niche product or service, business owners should make their outreach efforts personable. Sometimes, a little creativity can liven up not only the brand but even the lives of its patrons. Perhaps the Michelin man can be an example. The iconic 120-year-old character is as old as the company itself. Over the years he has evolved from grease-monkey to symbol of fine dining. The Michelin brothers needed no marketing agency to accomplish that.

Second, entrepreneurs should ensure focus on their fundamental message. Marketing ideas should have organic roots in the core ideas of the company. Whatever the original focus of a business venture, a marketing campaign should beam this inspiration into their target clientele with laser intensity. A “meeting of the minds” does wonders between owners and clientele, at least in the early stages. Third-party marketers have the potential to complicate this process. Business owners should always stay in control of their message, at least until the enterprise diversifies and becomes too complex.

In the end, business owners should never allow third parties to market their idea in far-off directions, at least in the early stages. Marketers have their place and their own expertise, especially in the age of social media and other forms of online exposure. However, while the business owner provides the capital, the business owner provides the leadership. When the visionary separates from the vision, only broken dreams loom on the horizon.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

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/

What Are Hashtags and Why Use Them?

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

The symbol that we now know as a hashtag was once called the pound symbol, or octothorpe, and was initially used to mark numbers. The first known usage of this symbol as a “hashtag” was in the summer of 2007 by Chris Messina, a web marketing specialist. He approached the company Twitter with the suggestion that they use the symbol to group related Tweets together. Since that fateful day the use of hashtags, their reach, and their effectiveness has grown exponentially.

 

Hashtags in a nutshell:

  • Connect social media content to a specific topic, event, theme or conversation
  • Make it easier to discover posts around specific topics

 

Where are hashtags used?

Hashtags are used on almost every social media platform that we use today.

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • And more

 

Why should you use hashtags?

Hashtags help your post take part in a larger conversation which makes your posts more visible to both followers and non-followers on any given platform. This can lead to better engagement with others including likes, shares, comments, more followers, etc. as well, it can boost your brand’s overall standing on the platform. When hashtags are used correctly, they are a very effective and easy way to promote your business and drive the conversation. You can also use hashtags to show your support for social issues, help your target audience to find your posts on social media and add more context to your posts without adding too many more words.

 

Should you use popular hashtags?

Just because a hashtag is popular does not mean it is a good idea for you to use. For example, the hashtag #followme has more than 515 million posts on Instagram but is broadly used in every industry and category. That hashtag will not help you get more followers. You want to avoid using a hashtag simply because it is popular. If the hashtag does not engage your followers or add to your post, it is best to be avoided.

 

This does not mean that you should ignore popular hashtags.  In fact, some hash tags are excellent to insert your brand into a fun or popular conversation. For example, hashtags such as #throwbackthursday or #flashbackfriday, help you mix up your social posting with fun and popular social media games.

 

Keep in mind that popular hashtags also differ depending on what social media platform you are using. On Instagram, popular hashtags include ones such as #instagood, #photooftheday, and #photography, among others. However, on LinkedIn, popular hashtags include more business-focused ones such as #leadership and #productivity. You may need to do a bit of research to find the popular hashtags on each platform that boost you.

 

A few things to keep in mind for using hashtags:

  • Hashtags always start with the ‘#’ symbol and contain no spaces between the words such as #thisisahashtag.
  • Hashtags listed on private accounts cannot be seen by non-followers of that account.
  • The best hashtags are short and easy to remember.
  • More is not better when it comes to hashtags. Limit the number that you use and make sure they are relevant to your post.

 

As you can see, hashtags really help people connect with the things they find important or interesting on social media. If you have not been using them in your posts, now is the time to start! They are one of the best and easiest ways to get your brand in front of people who may be interested in what you are offering.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

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.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

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.

 

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