My Top 8 Easy and Effective WP Plug-ins

Although WordPress comes complete with some pretty useful and nifty stuff to begin with, plug-ins are a handy way to make it even better! As I mentioned last time, not only can they help you customize your blogging site, but they can also make it much more efficient.

To begin with, what is a plug-in exactly?

I’m gonna give you the easier to understand and simplified version, because if you’re like me, you might not understand all of the crazy techno jargon.

Basically, a plug-in is a piece of software that can be added to a website or program in order to alter it in some way or another. For example, you can find a plug-in that adds your social networking links to your blog site so that the reader can click on the icon and go directly to your page.

Plug-ins can add things to your blog site, change the format of certain parts of your site, or even make it more efficient.

If you want to make a change or add something to your site, chances are there is a plug-in that you can install that will do it for you.

That having been said, below are 8 plug-ins that I think are not only very useful, but that are super easy to manage for the WordPress beginners out there.

1. GoogleXML SiteMap

If you only install one outside plug-in to your blogging site, this should be it. The GoogleXML SiteMap plug-in generates a sitemap that helps Google and other search engines to better index and navigate your blog. Not only that, but it notifies all search engines when you create a new blog post.

This is an extremely helpful plug-in in terms of SEO and if you want readers to find you blog, it is a MUST HAVE.

Even better, it’s FREE…so take advantage of it!

2. Contact Me

It is paramount that readers and prospective clients do not have to search for your contact information and that it is always readily available to them. If it isn’t, there’s a good chance that they won’t take the time to find it.

This is such a great plug-in because it ensures that you will never have to worry about losing clients for that reason.

The “Contact Me” plug-in gives you a form that you fill out with all of your contact info. After installation, a stationary link with that information is incorporated into your blog page.

Do you see the blue tab on the right hand side of my blog post? That is what installing it will do for you. Not bad, right?

Cost for this depends on how far you want to go. The simplest version, and the one that I use, is FREE. With it you get a contact form, unlimited contacts and unlimited groups. If you want more features, there are packages starting at about $4.00 a month and increasing depending on what you want.

3. Subscribe 2

One way to make sure that people who have read and liked your blog come back to read more is to incorporate a subscribers list to, or in effect “like,” your blog. The more often someone views your content and is reminded how great of a resource you are, the more likely they will want to use your services.

The reason that the Subscribe 2 plug-in can be so beneficial to you is because it not only creates and maintains a subscriber list for you, but it sends an e-mail out to everyone on that list each time you publish a new post. It also generates a form for your readers to fill out in order to subscribe to your site.

You can customize the e-mails that get sent out to your subscribers as well as the settings for when the e-mails are sent out.

Subscribe 2 can save you a lot of time and effort and will ensure that your readers remain up to date at all times. It is also FREE, meaning that the benefits substantially outweigh the costs because there are none! ; )

4. Akismet

Akismet comes installed with your WordPress blog site, a perk because that means you don’t have to take the time or effort to install it yourself. That being said, you do have to get an API key to activate it.

What Akismet does is prevent comment spam from being posted on your blog. Although I prefer to go over comments myself and manually accept or deny them, it is a great plug-in for people who do not have the time to put into doing blog maintenance every day.

It is a convenience thing, plain and simple. You do not want a blog filled with comment spam. It looks unprofessional and is overall just a turnoff to readers. Akismet filters out all of your spam for you, which leaves you with more time to focus on other things and a pristine wall ready for quality comments and discussion.

5. Digg Digg

Digg Digg is a great little plug-in that adds your social media icons to your blog site. It ensures that it is super easy for your readers to connect with you via FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many other social networking sites.

Not only does it allow you to connect to those sites, but it integrates buttons that show how many users have “liked” or followed your through each networking site as well.

It makes it easy for your readers and potential clients to stay updated on what you are doing and offering and will create more traffic to your networking profiles.

6. All in One SEO Pack

The All in One SEO Pack plug-in is another great SEO tool. It is a plug-in that modifies the options that you have when writing blog posts. What it does is it allows you to add a meta title, meta description, and keywords to your post. These additions increase your search engine optimization exponentially.

The reason why I have not included this higher on my list is because it is not as easy to use as some of the other ones. You cannot just install it and then expect it to work swimmingly for you.

In order to reap the full benefits of this plug-in, you have to put in a little bit of extra work. It is by no means difficult; it just takes a little bit more time, three to five minutes at the most.

Enter in the title of your post, a short description of what your post is about, and your main keywords for better SEO…and voila! Your blog post is set to go and has a better chance of being found by prospective clients.

The basic package is free, or you can buy the pro pack for $40.00-$70.00

7. WordPress Policy Pack

I have just recently found this plug-in, and I love it. Including a terms of use, and disclosure/disclaimer policy in your blog site is very important. However, writing these things can not only be a huge pain in the butt, but super time consuming.

This pack comes equipped with templates for a bunch of important policy pages. You do need to put a little bit of work into it to make sure that each page fits your company and exactly what you want it to say, but all things considered, it makes it a much, Much! easier and less painful process than creating them from scratch.

After you first install the pack, you will need to fill in a form with the necessary information about you and your business. Once this is done, the info will automatically be incorporated into each of the pages that come with the pack.

The next step is deciding which pages you want to be incorporated into your blog. There is a good chance that you will not want to activate each and every page. That’s fine; just don’t check it off when you are choosing the pages that you want.

Simple as that.

You can also edit each page if you feel it does not already address everything, or says something that does not pertain to you and your business, before you put it up.

If you don’t want six to ten new pages created in your Pages menu, it’s simple enough to create one Parent page titled Terms, Policies and Disclaimers. Then you just go in to edit each of the policy pages and select each page’s parent to be your Terms, Policies and Disclaimers page. That way you can set it so that the only page that needs to show up on your menu is the parent page, and each of the individual policy pages can be accessed from the parent page.

Unlike the other plug-ins that I have featured for today, this one isn’t free unfortunately. The package costs a onetime fee of $20.00. Not free, but also not that expensive. And for the time and frustration it saved me, it was very well worth it in my opinion.

Because instead of spending hours creating the terms and policies and disclaimers pages, I spent about 20 minutes total reviewing the pages, and I made a few little tweaks to make them more appropriate to my sites, and it was super simple and painless.

Twenty dollars saved me literally hours upon hours of research and writing time that we would have spent to create our own version of each of the pages.

8. Twitter Tools

Twitter tools can be great, BUT only if you are a Twitter user. What the plug-in does is fully integrate your WP blogging site with your Twitter account. This is great because if people follow either your blog or your Twitter, they in effect get updates on both.

You can alter the settings in order to use it for different things. You can set it up so that each time you make a blog post, a tweet is automatically created with a link to that post. You can also set it up so that recent tweets appear on the right side of your blog, posts are created from each tweet, and you can pass your tweets along to another service.

The extent to which you incorporate your Twitter activity into your blog and vice-versa is completely up to you.

 

Plug-ins enhance the appearance and functionality of your blog. Above are some of my favorites that are really easy, but also very effective. There are MILLIONS out there.

What plug-ins have you found to be especially helpful? Is there one out there that you thought you would really like, but turned out to be a big headache? Share your stories by clicking on the bubble in the upper right hand side of this post or by leaving a comment below.

Until we meet again…make it great!

 

 

WordPress: The Best Business Blog Hosting Platform Out There

Last week I briefly went into some of the benefits that having a business blog can hold for you and your business.

Although there are a number of perks that come hand in hand with maintaining a blog, it truly is one of the best measures that you can take to humanize your company for your target audience. However, you want to make sure that the blogging platform that you choose allows you to showcase your strengths.

So is there one blog hosting platform that is better to use than others?

In my opinion, the answer is YES!

WordPress is the cream of the crop when it comes to blogging.

“Why?” you may ask…I’ll tell ya!

The first thing that you need to know about WordPress is that there are two different versions: wordpress.com and wordpress.org. Although they have a lot of similarities, there are a few differences between the two that are important to understand before creating your blog.

WordPress.com is a website where you can create your blog, and your blog address is going to be a wordpress.com address. In other words, not at your own domain – not at yourbusiness.com. This impacts your ability to brand yourself.

So WordPress.com is good for bloggers who do not have their own website/domain. It allows you to create and maintain your own site on their platform.

However, if you already have a website, which as a business owner YOU SHOULD, wordpress.org is a better choice for you. Not only does downloading the software version allow you to use it on your own website, but it allows you to use your own custom domain name or url as well.

This is extremely beneficial with respect to SEO (search engine optimization) and it will make it easier for people to both find and remember your site.

Aside from that obvious benefit, there are many other reasons why I recommend WP as a blogging platform as well.

For one, it is 100% FREE. Why pay money for something when you can get it for free? Especially when it offers essentially everything you could ever need for your blog.

Oh, and…it is constantly being updated and enhanced to better meet your wants and needs.

Compared to most other blog hosting platforms, WP is super versatile. You can customize it to fit your needs and business in a number of ways.

One of the first things that you do after you install your new WP blog on your domain is to pick a theme or template that will be the base of your blog. This is the visual layout of your blog, which of course needs to be attractive and engaging and represent who you are and how you want your audience to perceive you.

Not only are there thousands of premade themes – many of them free, and some of them paid – but you can create your own if you have the skills, or you can outsource the task to someone fairly cheaply on oDesk or http://www.fiverr.com/ if you like.

With most pre-designed themes, once you have installed it, you can customize it by putting in your own pictures and ideas.

What’s more, if there are certain aspects of a theme that you don’t like – say the contacts form- there is usually a plug-in (or add-on) that will allow you to change it. There are thousands of plug-ins that are easy to install and that serve as easy to use tools to help you create your ideal blogging site.

You also have a lot of choices about the organization of your blog site. You can choose which widgets – which are essentially helpful tools – that you want to incorporate in your sidebar.

If you blog often, it would be a good idea to include the archive widget, which allows readers to pick a month and see which posts you have written during that month.

If you are familiar with a lot of other websites that you know would be beneficial to your readers/clients, you can include them in your blogroll.

Again, one of the best things about WP is it is so customizable and can be manipulated to showcase you and your business in exactly the way that YOU want it to. It does require a degree of expertise to design new templates, etc., but as long as you don’t want to go too design-crazy, the basic functionality is easy to use.

Although the steps and concepts that I described above may sound complicated, WP is set up in a way that is really straight forward, and easy to use and understand.

Trust me, when I first decided to install WP in order to create my first blog, I was terrified that it was going to be overwhelming and that I would have to hire someone just to set everything up the way I wanted it. I am not exactly the most tech-savvy person when it comes to website design and coding and all of that jazz.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have gotten some help here and there. BUT, for the most part I was pleasantly surprised by how easy the whole thing was, and I’m confident you will be too.

And of course, that means it’s easy to train my interns to use the blogging platform as well – that’s important because they generally come in with no WordPress experience at all.

Another bonus is that when you are confused or have questions, WP has some great resources available to clear them up. WP has a huge archive of tutorials that cover a ton of different concepts.

If you don’t understand how to install a plug-in, all you have to do is go to the search bar, type in what you need to know, and a ton of articles will show up that will cover everything you could ever possibly want or need to know about plug-in installation.

It makes solving a problem really easy and it can be done in a snap.

If for some reason you can’t find what you need to know in any of the tutorial articles, the WordPress team is at your disposal as well. All you have to do is join the forum, which takes about two seconds, and then post your question. You can expect a reply within a day or two.

They are the techno-geniuses, and are there with the very specific purpose of helping YOU. When I was having a difficult time understanding the process that I would have to go through to change some visual elements of my blog, they not only told me what I would have to do in order to make the changes, but were very willing to provide coding help. Their confidence and willingness to help allayed my fears, and strengthened my own confidence.

The main dashboard is extremely straightforward, and it will notify you automatically if there are new comments for you to moderate or if there are any updates for the software or plug-ins. You can easily access every aspect of your blog site from the dashboard.

When writing posts, there are a number of options for you. You can either save your writing as a draft, schedule it to be posted at a certain date and time, or post it on the spot.

The tools bar at the top of the post makes it simple to add pictures, videos and hyperlinks to your post. And what’s more, WP uses the same shortcut commands as Microsoft Word does, so you don’t have to learn any new methods in order to quickly customize and change your fonts.

Another advantage to WP is that it is very SEO friendly. Not only is it keyword oriented, but WP make it really easy for Google to rate your content. The “category” option for each of your blog posts, the ability to name your links, and the inclusion of keywords makes it much easier for Google to find your posts and to rank them higher on search results pages.

Overall, WordPress is an awesome blogging platform. It exceeds expectations where many other blogging platforms are lacking.

So if you feel like you want to incorporate a blog into your business website, keep WordPress.org and their downloadable software on the top of your list of blogging platforms.

Do you have any WordPress stories of your own? Are there things that you just don’t like about it? Let me know your thoughts by clicking on the talk bubble icon on the upper right hand side of this post or by leaving a comment below.

Take the world by storm – why not? It’s yours!!

Make it Great!

Important Things to Incorporate into Your Web Site Continued…

Last week I left you with three different pieces that are essential to include in your business website. Today we’ve got four more things that you’ll want to incorporate into your site.

1. Contact Info

I know that we talked about this last time, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that a potential client can easily find your contact info on every page of your website. People are much more likely to use it if they are being constantly reminded to do so.

There should be an extremely visible link that the reader can click on in order to make contact with you.

You can see mine on the upper right hand side of this blog in blue. It is incorporated into every page and does not move when the reader scrolls up or down.

The site that I used to incorporate the plug-in into my site is ContactMe.com. It’s an easy and super effective way to make sure that it is effortless for potential clients to contact you.

2. Testimonials

Including a few testimonials from past clients who loved your services is a great way to instill a higher level of confidence and trust in potential clients.

Those powerful statements about how passionately you serve and how skilled you are remove any lingering doubt that a potential customer might have. In their minds, if other people have loved you, there is no reason that they won’t as well.

Testimonials should be personal and positive. It is best to avoid using generic compliments and raves because they can come off as disingenuous. You want it to not only be — but come off in writing as — authentic, relatable, specific and personal.

Even better is if the testimonials you get talk about what dire or dramatic position the client was in before they met you, and even the doubts they had that they could be helped.

Then when they explain how powerfully they were impacted by you, it holds even more credibility…and it really helps your prospective clients to see that other people, just like them, have been helped by you and your amazing gifts and talents.

3. Privacy Policy, Terms and Conditions and Disclaimer/Disclosures

The inclusion of all of these things within your website is important as well. They set the rules and regulations that you and anyone with whom you do business dealings with must follow in advance. They explain the rights of both you and those people you work with, and can save your butt in the unlikely and unfortunate event some legal issues arise.

In most cases, the privacy policy goes along the lines that anything disclosed to you by customers or business associates will remain between you and that person. If that is NOT your policy, you need to make it clear because that will most likely be assumed and could be a cause for mistrust if not established from the very beginning.

There are always exceptions to non-disclosure as well. Those need to be stated.

Privacy policies not only protect both you and those you work with in legal situations, but create further trust.

Although much of it is legal jargon, and most people will probably not actually read them, having them available is important.

These additions may seem nitpicky or trivial, they are most certainly NOT and should NOT be forgotten or blown off.

You can either insert these by yourself, or if you use WordPress you can upload plug-ins that will do it for you.

If you do a search on the web, you will find numerous plug-ins that will take care of each for you.

If you want to spend a little bit more money ($20.00), you can buy the WordPress Policy Pack. It not only comes with these three policy pages, but many more and you only have to input your business information once, and it will be applied to each page automatically.

4. Business Blog

A business blog is one of those things that is optional, and that may be more practical and beneficial for some than others.

Obviously, I am an advocate and think that they are a good idea and that they can significantly help a business. After all, you are reading one of my posts right now.

If you want to include one, and have the time to put in to maintain it regularly, GO FOR IT!! If you are just starting out and don’t have the time or effort to put into it, or you just plain don’t want to, then don’t. It’s your prerogative.

There are definitely benefits of having a blog presence though.

Creating multiple posts, and therefore multiple pages, increases your visibility in the endless sea of pages on the internet. The more work you have out there, and the greater the number of times your name is mentioned, the greater the traffic to your website will be.

And it’s another way to connect to and maintain contact with your potential, current and past clients. To potential clients, it serves as proof that you know and care about what you are doing. Your blog can also be a big credibility booster for you.

Business blogs are also a lot less formal than the rest of your website, and you personality can shine through a lot more.

For your current and past clients, it can serve as a reminder of just how great you are and that you will be there in the future if they need or want to use your services again.

Blog writing is a great means through which you can share passion for what you do, form strong blonds and connections with your audience, show your human side and be more relatable. You can showcase yourself and your knowledge, and overall, just have more fun with the work that you love doing. After all, doing what you love is supposed to be enjoyable.

 

Like I said before, there is a lot of freedom that you can take advantage of when you are creating and personalizing your business website. BUT, there are a few essentials that you can’t forget.

Is there anything else that you think should be a part of each and every business website? What kinds of things have and haven’t worked for you on your business site?

Let me know by either leaving a comment by clicking the bubble icon on the upper right hand corner of this post or by making a comment below.

Make it a great week!

 

 

Stuff I Love – Kunaki

If you’ve ever wanted to publish your own training CD or DVD, (or even an entertainment one) Kunaki is the place!

It’s cheap, it’s fairly simple to upload your files, and they even have a simple design tool to create the cover of your CD or DVD if you don’t have the skills or capability to design a fancy-schmancy one – although to be honest, lately I’ve taken to hiring a graphic designer from oDesk or Fiverr.com to design a more professional looking cover for me.

I just give the designer the dimensions that Kunaki specifies, then when they’ve created my cover, I simply have to upload it and voila´– there it is.

If you want to see my latest, you can see it at Turn Conversations Into Clients.

Now, I have to tell you that there is virtually no customer service at Kunaki. It is all very self-serve and driven by technology – not humans. And they only do single disc products. If you do multiple disc packages, you pretty much have to do each single disc, and then put the package together yourself. Or maybe the better option is to find a different cd/dvd fulfillment place that can do multi-disc products.

This is how they explain the process on the Kunaki.com website:

How is digital manufacturing different from traditional manufacturing?

You design and configure your product (case, disc, inserts, cover art, contents) with our publishing software. The software renders a precise 3-D replica of your product and lets you modify and review different possibilities. The software compiles your product’s content, packaging, art-work into a single digital file and uploads it to our facility.

Then a seamless, automated system accepts orders; manufactures, prints, assembles, packages, wraps, and ships your product in minutes.

Digital manufacturing eliminates setup costs, coordination, human error and most labor costs. This yields a constant low production cost for all quantity levels — so you can order smaller quantities with minimal upfront and warehousing costs.

 

But the pluses are nice –

First off, very reasonable – I’ve never seen such low prices – depends on how many you order at a time, but about a dollar or so per CD.

You don’t have to order multiple copies (although you can.) You can order as few as one or as many as thousands at a time.

They’ll even dropship to your customers for you so you don’t have to keep a basement or garage full of your product and do your own fulfillment.

They’ll include a barcode on your product if you like.

They have systems in place to make it easy for you to sell through CDBaby and Amazon…

I could go on and on, but…

Well, why don’t you just go to the website and see for yourself – just go to http://www.kunaki.com/, but remember – I warned you: don’t expect anything fancy.

But if you’ve been wanting to create your own product, maybe an audio training or DVD and you want a professionally created product – not something that you duplicate one by one on your CD/DVD writer – then check out Kunaki.

I’ve been using them for almost two years now, and the only issue I’ve run into is when I forget to order at least one copy of my product at least once every six months. Because they delete your files if there’s been no orders in 180 days.

That’s a pain to have to re-upload everything, but really not the end of the world. I’ve decided I’m just going to include it in my calendar every five and a half months, and that will resolve that issue.

Make it Great!

Important Things to Incorporate into Your Web Site

I would like to begin by saying that I hope you got a chance to learn a little bit more about, and perhaps even partake in some of the activities of, Global Entrepreneurship Week last week. After all, it celebrates YOU and your accomplishments and aims to inspire you to reach even higher.

With that said, this week we are back to the topic of your business website. In a previous post, we established that it’s an important facet of your marketing strategy, but what are some of the “must-have” elements that you need to incorporate into your site?

When building your business website, you have a lot of freedom with respect to the layout and overall visual presentation. Your website should be a representation of you, and as such, unique to you.

However, within that freedom naturally comes a framework, meaning that there are a number of elements that you should absolutely incorporate into your website. How you choose to do it is largely up to you.

 

Below are the Top Essential elements that YOUR business websites should have.

1. Easy Navigation

The most important characteristic that your website must have is EASY NAVIGATION. I’m sure that at some point in your virtual adventures you have come upon a site that is just plain confusing and does not seem to want to let you go to the page that you are looking for. Did you stick around, or go somewhere else? I know I for one have moved on. It is pretty likely that you can find the same information somewhere else, so fighting with a difficult website to extract the information that you are looking for just isn’t worth it.

If a website is confusing or difficult to navigate, people will not stay long enough for you to say “Thanks for your interest!” There is nothing that people dislike more than inconvenience and being led on what seems to be a wild goose chase. Easy navigation is key to keeping people around to see what you have to offer.

All links should stand out and it should be blatantly obvious where they go. There should be either a horizontal list of page links at the top or a vertical list along the side of each page. Not only does incorporating this into every page ensure that your potential clients can access whatever page they want at any stage, but it is also a good SEO technique.

However, unless you are creating an authority site – something like CNN.com or another one-stop site for all aspects of a given topic, it is important that you do not create an excessive number of pages either. Keep your navigation bar simple, even if you do have a larger number of pages. Nobody wants to go through a million different links to find all of the information they are looking for. I would limit it to ten links in your navigation menu at most, and less if possible.

Make sure that every main element of your business has a page, and then expound on each element within each page.

Easy navigation is not a difficult concept. If at any point you are unsure about your layout, ask for outside thoughts and opinions. If your non-tech savvy uncle, friend or grandmother finds it confusing or annoying, then other people probably will too.

2. Home Page

Your homepage is what your potential customers will see first. As such, it is essential that you make it engaging and interesting. You want to catch their attention and draw them into exploring your site further.

The last thing you want to do is give them a reason to look elsewhere. It should be professional, but your unique personality should always shine through.

There should absolutely be graphics of some sort, whether it is a picture of you, your work place, or some other aesthetically pleasing image. Graphics catch the eye, and hold attention much more efficiently than text alone does.

Something else that generally does a good job of grabbing potential customers’ attention is a deal of some sort. If you are having a sale or you are offering a desirable product or service for a good price or free, your home page is a great place to showcase it. With the economy in the hole, people are even more apt to look for the best deals they can find.

Your homepage should give the viewer a basic understanding of what your business is about. If you offer multiple services, it’s a good place to include a list of those services. It should be relevant and should promote trust in you and your company.

3. About Page

There should be a page somewhere that summarizes who you are and contains some important information about your business.

Although this page is technically your “About Page,” I would not recommend that you actually label the link that way. It is too generic, and says nothing about you or your business.

Use something that is more personal, which could even be the name of you or your business. This is a great place to show why YOU are the best person to help them resolve their problem and why.

Even though the About page is theoretically about you, you still need to maintain your focus on who your potential clients are, and why they’re looking for you and your expertise. You MUST speak to them where they’re at.

As you explain what you do, why you do what you do, your vision as an entrepreneur, etc. on your About page, you must at the same time be focused primarily on them and how and why your services are exactly what they need right now.

How do you solve their problems?

For example, if you’re a real-estate agent that specializes in downsizing seniors, you need to know why they (or a family member) is on your website looking into you and your services.

What is the conversation going on in their head?

Perhaps that conversation goes something like this:

“I need to move into a smaller house – this four bedroom place is too big for me now that my spouse has died. I can’t keep it up anymore. The maintenance is too much for me, and it’s got too many painful memories – but heck, we’ve lived here for 28 years, and I can’t bear the thought of leaving; it’s all so overwhelming.

And I don’t know the first thing about selling a house these days – it’s changed so much since we bought this place almost thirty years ago – it’s so much more complicated. I’m terrified that I won’t understand it at all – and what am I going to do with all this stuff we’ve accumulated over the past 30 years?

If I move to a smaller place, I’ll have to get rid of some of my collections and antiques, not to mention just all the furniture and where will I go?

How will I ever find another place…blah, blah,blah.”

So how do you respond to that? Even though your About Page is presumably about you, in reality it needs to be about them first and how what you do can help them. So your About page will talk about you in a way that builds credibility and authority in the arena where they need help.

It will most likely be the most personal of your pages and it should help potential customers relate to you and form a bond of trust.

So…yes. You can explain that you were born and raised in the local area, but explain why that matters to your prospective client.

You can explain your passions, your hobbies, your interests, but be sure to tie that back in to them and where they are when they’re looking for you.

If you have a special degree, certifications or whatever, explain why that’s relevant to them from where they’re sitting right now – and where they’re sitting right now is considering whether or not you’re a fit for them.

So I recommend that you don’t talk about your parakeet collection or the fact that you lived in a commune for 8 years unless you can find a way to tie it in with your expertise, your skills, or your blessings in a way that matters to them.

Other important information that you can add to this page, and that needs to be easily attained somewhere on your site, is your business hours and location and your contact information.

Depending on what you do, your business may or may not have a physical address. If it does, you need to make it visible and easy to find.

Linking it to Google Maps makes it easy to get directions to your place of business and helps the viewer calculate his or her bearings.

Hours of availability are also something that needs to highly visible and would fit in great on your about page.

Although your contact information should be accessible from every page, it is a good idea to organize it into a section that on the about page as well.

 

Next week, we’ll continue on with several more important parts of your website that you won’t want to forget. Come back to make sure that you cover all of the angles that need to be covered in order to ensure greater success for you and your business!!

Until next Tuesday, go out and make it a great week! : )

 

Global Entrepreneurship Week!!

Although you may already know it, this week is Global Entrepreneurship Week. For the past three years, one week in November has been designated as Global Entrepreneurship Week throughout the world. This year GEW runs from November 14 – 20.

Global Entrepreneurship Week first started in 2008 and has grown to become the world’s largest celebration of innovators and entrepreneurs everywhere. Through thousands of different activities, gatherings and campaigns, people throughout the world join together with the common goal of changing the world for the better.

Events focus on inspiring and recognizing exceptional innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. GEW advocates innovation and progression and supports the unleashing of ideas and taking the necessary measures to ensure that great ideas are realized.

According to Kauffman Foundation, it is all about “spotting opportunities, taking risks, solving problems, being creative, building connections and learning from both failure and success. It is about thinking big and making your mark on the world – doing good while doing well at the same time.”

Although it is aimed at everyone, there is most certainly some focus on the younger generations since they are the future leaders that will create a future for us all.

Global Entrepreneurship Week is a movement supported not only by thousands of organizations worldwide, but by iconic individuals and world leaders. In fact, Barack Obama just recently gave a speech on the matter during which he proclaimed the month of November as “National Entrepreneurship Month.”

This year 123 countries including Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Gambia, Switzerland, the US and many many more have committed to participating in this multinational celebration. Over 100,000 events are scheduled to take place, and it is estimated that over 10 million individuals will take part in GEW related activities. The activities scheduled to take place range from huge competitions and happenings to smaller local events.

Not only are they meant to celebrate and promote entrepreneurship, but are a means through which people can network and possibly even find potential investors. I would encourage you to find the nearest event, or create your own!! You never know what you could run into or the magic that could be released from just the right encounter!

Two great sources with lots more information about what is going on this week and how you can participate include http://www.unleashingideas.com/ and http://www.unleashingideas.org/. Definitely go to visit either one of these sites. There are some inspirational stories, innovative ideas and a lot of great posts on both. You can even add your own event to the festivities if you want to!

You can also go to your social networking sites to find out more about GEW and the activities near you.

How do you feel that YOU have brought innovation to your work and community? What kinds of ideas do you have for activities that could promote the values of GEW? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on the matters at hand, and to learn from your past and present experiences. Either leave a comment by clicking the bubble icon on the upper right hand corner of this post or leave a comment below!

Stay tuned, because next week we’ll be going back to the components of your business website, and we’ll talk about some of the essential pieces you should not forget.

To channel the spirit that Global Entrepreneurship Week is based upon, go out and make it a great week and think about how you as an individual can make a change for the better in the world!

After all, that’s what we’re dedicated to – passionate service!

 

If You Own a Business, You Need a Business Website!!

When you want to find an answer, learn about something or someone, or find a place in your area, where do you go?

TO THE INTERNET!

And more specifically, probably Google. The number of people who use Google on a daily basis to find answers to whatever question or need they may have is MONUMENTAL.

Although many searches conducted on Google these days surely focus on Kim Kardashian’s not so surprising divorce or other newsy bits, millions of people search for local businesses or services as well. For many, the internet has become an easier and more convenient version of the yellow pages. People go to find the address of your business, to view a list of services you provide, and to just overall check you out.

So why on earth wouldn’t you take advantage of the internet?!?!

Like all marketing strategies out there, creating a website that represents your business is about getting your name out there and gaining more recognition from potential clients. In a virtual world, internet marketing can hold substantially more power than word of mouth. It can absolutely help you gain more clients, and quite literally puts you on the map (Google Maps that is).

So what kind of benefits can having a website hold for you?

First of all, it will simply increase the number of people who know about you. When people search for whatever service you provide in your area, and your business pops up, you will gain more attention than you would otherwise. Even if people don’t click on your specific site, just seeing the name of your business could help – because when they hear it in the future it will sound familiar to them. When people know and recognize your name, they are much more likely to trust you.

Familiarity breeds respect – at least from a business branding aspect.

Another benefit of having a site is that when clients like your services and what you provide, they have a specific place to refer their friends to. If your friend told you she went to this great massage therapist, but did not have any more info, would you go?

Maybe, but maybe not.

What if she told you she went to this great massage therapist and here is the website where you can find out more?

When you check out the site, you see it’s nicely designed and easy to navigate with some attractive pictures; you have a price list and list of services provided there, and you start to get comfortable. At the website you also have all of the contact info, and a number of previous client recommendations are showcased.

Are you more likely to go to that person next time you need a massage?

ABSOLUTELY!

Because you’ve started establishing a level of comfort and whether you recognize it or not – at least on a subconscious level – some trust.

Having that extra info available to whoever may be interested in seeing it makes a world of a difference as well.

Not only that, but it substantially increases your credibility. Nobody wants to go to a dump to get anything done. By showing that you are professional, and that your place of work is clean, bright and welcoming, you will automatically increase interest. People don’t like to leave that kind of thing up to chance.

Think about it, if they are doing an online search, it is because they are looking for something more than just a name and address. They want to know whether they can trust you or not, and if you can give that to them through your website, more people will come to you.

A business website is a place where you can showcase yourself and your services. It is a place for you to show how you are different from the other people who offer the same services as yourself. It serves as a reminder to those who know you, and a friendly suggestion to those who don’t, that you are there and that you want to work with them. It is personal, yet professional at the same time, and should make people want to go to you.

If done correctly, a business website can increase your success considerably.

Next week we are going to focus on Global Entrepreneur’s Week. Not only is it a week that celebrates YOU and YOUR achievements as an entrepreneur, but it serves to inspire an era of change for the better. After this special week, I will come back to the concept of a business website and focus on the essential parts that should be incorporated into your business website in one way or another.

Hope to see you then, and make it a great week!

Cold Calling: A Hot or Cold Business Tactic?

Cold calling is one of those things that some people swear by, and that others swear off. Cold calling is terrifying for most people. There is no question that it goes hand-in-hand with rejection and sometimes even anger from the other side of the phone line. That being said, studies have shown that it does work.

So…the question arises, should you or shouldn’t you incorporate cold calling into your business marketing regiment?

It’s a rare person who can pull off the cold-calling thing, not only from an effectiveness standpoint where they actually get results from it, but from a “coming-off-authentically” and “being comfortable” doing it standpoint.

Most people who do it, hate it. They do it because they think they “should.” First off, there are no “Shoulds” – as they say, stop “shoulding” all over yourself. You can make a conscious choice to do something or not after weighing out the benefits and downsides, but don’t respond from a “should-y” place. That’s you giving up your life and control to what other people say. And that’s messy and just asking for trouble.

You have an internal guidance system, use it. Pay attention to your intuition, guts, instinct, spiritual guidance – whatever you call it – you have it. I always recommend conscious choices. Now conscious choices don’t make a decision good or bad, right or wrong. It just makes sure that it aligns with you and your best life. Because you know the reasons why you made the decision you made, and you’re not just doing the lemming thing. (I make no judgements as the lemming thing might work out for lemmings, but presumably you’re not a lemming, so … not recommended.)

Okay, stepping down off my soapbox, let’s continue onward : )

After having said all that and going all the way down the lemming track just to warn you, I’m going to turn around and apparently contradict myself, so hold on. Try not to get whiplash : ) .

I actually would recommend that everyone in business do the cold calling thing for at least a few months, just for the experience and the insights that you’ll gain from having done it. Not just insights into human behavior by looking at the wide spectrum of responses you get from the people you’re cold-calling. But even more beneficial are the skills that you’ll develop and the insights into your own personal behaviors and methods of response to the people you’re calling and their behavior. Expanding your comfort zone and doing things that you are uncomfortable with can push you into becoming a more well-rounded individual and will give you a deeper insight. Cold calling will not only increase your people skills, but can help you better understand your target audience.

However, once you’ve gone through the “trial-by-fire” growth experiment of cold calling, if it’s just not you, and it’s not your thing, I say “Don’t do it.” Simple as that.  There are easier, more effective and certainly more authentic ways to reach your audience with your message and offers. Cold calling is by no means the only way to gain potential leads and grow your business.

If it is your thing, then by all means, study it, practice it, learn it, get good at it, and most importantly, get better at finding a way to be of service while you’re doing it. Don’t just do it from a selfish and self-centered angle in order to get people to do business with you. Do it from the perspective that you truly, genuinely have something that will be of benefit for the person or organization you’re contacting.

The reason telemarketers and other people who cold-call get such an icy reception from many of the prospects they’re trying to reach is because of the blatantly obvious, spot-it-from-a-mile-away, self-centered approach that those cold callers use.

Think about it from the prospect’s perspective: it’s clear that this person is trying to sell me something that I don’t want or need – their only agenda is to make the sale – and I’m the one who’s going to pay – and it ain’t gonna happen on my watch.

So it immediately becomes an adversarial battle of wills. It doesn’t suddenly “go pretty” from there. That battle will often get ugly and turn into abuse from one direction or the other or both as the egos of the battlers get inflamed.

So…it’s no wonder heart-centered business people think cold-calling is a punishment worse than emergency tooth extraction. Rejection is much more personal and disheartening when you feel passionate about whatever you are selling or whatever services you provide. The trick is in expressing that passion within the first few minutes and showing that you genuinely want to help and benefit the lives of those who you contact through cold calling.

If you can come at it from a viewpoint of being of service, and really examine the question,

“How can I let them know that I can help them solve the issues they’re facing and at the same time see if we’re really a good fit?” rather than from the desperation and selfishness of “I’ve got to make this sale,” you have taken the most important step that you can for cold calling.

There are plenty of good books or internet resources out there that can teach you how to create win-win scenarios through cold-calling. If you think that it would be an option for you, take a gander at some of these resources, put together a plan, and give it a whirl.

Before doing it though, make sure that you have a plan. It not only takes away some of the anxiety of the whole thing, but substantially increases your chances of success. Just like you wouldn’t give a public speech unprepared, I would not recommend jumping into marketing your business to strangers via telephone without a plan and practice beforehand.

Like I said, I think everyone should do some of it at some point in their life just for the experience.

If it scares the crayons out of you, I’d recommend that you do it every day for three months. OR, if you just want to get it out of the way faster, just make 300 phone calls. Keep track of your stats and make a game out of it. Because it will work if you recognize and adhere to the philosophy that it’s a numbers game. Despite the fact that you will undoubtedly face a decent amount of rejection, each lead that does come through is beneficial to your business. Focus on the good rather than the bad when it comes to cold calling.

As they say in “The Aladdin Factor” by Jack Canfield (great book by the way!) …

“Some Will.
Some Won’t.
So What?
Next”

Give it a shot, no matter whether you decide it’s for you or not – I guarantee that you’ll learn tons in the process….

Has cold calling worked for you? What have you learned through doing it? I always love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Just leave a comment by clicking the speech bubble on the upper right hand corner of this post or by leaving a reply below.

Next week, I will go into the importance of a business website in the marketing and success of your business.

Hope to see you again then, and in the meantime…go out and make it a great week!

Stuff I Love — Fiverr

As they say, Fiverr.com is the place for people to share what they are willing to do for $5. I’ve hired numerous people from Fiverr to do everything from design a logo, to create a video to transcribe audios and videos. Most of it is business related, but occasionally I’ll have them do something different, out of the ordinary, like design a tattoo from a picture.

Sometimes I just read the Fiverr site for entertainment – to see what people are willing to do for $5. There are some crazy and mind-blowing things that people will do for $5. For example, here’s what’s on page one the day that I’m writing this in October 2011:

I will make a video of my Bunny eating your message for $5

I will draw a cute chibi for $5

I will make a 1 dollar turn into a 100 DOLLARS for $5

I will make this amazing intro video8 for your business/website in HD for $5

I will scream your message while flipping on a trampoline for $5

I will put your logo on a Pumpkin for $5

I will make and send you a soda top bracelet for $5

I will deliver an HD Video of my pet tortoise wearing your website or business name for $5

I will make my fingerpets hold your message or endorse your website for $5

I will mention your website, business, or play ur audio ad, up to 60 seconds, live on my radio show for $5

I will make a 15 second long stop motion video with a 4 word or less message for $5

I will write a poem or rap lyrics for anything you want me to talk about for $5

I will do a Turkish coffee reading for $5

I will dance and sing your logo business or friend for $5

I will make a video of your message with candy at high speed for $5

I will hold a sign of your choice up on a busy Boston street for $5

 

Fiverr – Gotta Love It!!

Make it Great,

Theresa

Networking: A Business Owner’s Best Friend

I guarantee that you have heard the phrase “It’s all about who you know.” As much as we would like to discount the notion, you gotta admit, there is definitely an element of truth to this phrase. Some people take it a step further and say “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you,” which of course moves us closer to the truth of the matter. But I like to take it even further than that, and I say “It’s not who you know, but who knows what you do and how you can help.”

As a business owner, your success can depend on who you know and who the people you know know. The more people who know you, the greater chance there is of people knowing about your business and what you do and who you serve, and consequently, the greater the number of people who will think about YOU first when looking for the services that you provide. As such, networking is ESSENTIAL for business success.

When it comes to networking, simply knowing people is not enough. You have to build and maintain RELATIONSHIPS. In order to do that, you have to actually put forth an effort. And therein lies the problem, because everyone wants immediate solutions, and relationships take time. Not only time to grow, develop and strengthen, but time out of your busy life that you may or may not have readily available.

If you want someone to care about you, you need to not only stop and be interested in them and what is going on in their lives, you need to figure out how you can be of service to them as well. It’s not all about how they can help you – although most people networking act as if that’s the bottom line. I don’t remember who said it, but you’ve probably heard the expression, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Don’t turn into a used car salesman whenever you talk about your business.

I just got back from a conference with about 300+ attendees, and I probably met and got to know about 40 or 50 awesome and passionate service professionals: people that I conversed with and engaged with in a vibrant dialogue, getting to know each other and discussing what we did, and some of our struggles and how we were focused on moving forward and what our next steps were for growing our businesses bigger and better than ever, etc. It was fun and engaging and pleasant and even energizing. We laughed; we brainstormed; we connected with each other.

Then there was one person who was all about using the conference to “sell herself” and get clients. Every conversation she had revolved around her business, what she did and that everyone needed what she had. It felt very invasive and pushy. It was the difference between midnight and high noon; the difference between apple pie and cowpie. A conversation should not be one sided, and you should not come off as if it’s all about you and the only reason you would deign to have a conversation with me is because you are trying to sell me something. You need to listen, and to show interest in a person if you want to create a genuine relationship with them.

Now I suspect that she most likely didn’t realize that she was coming across that way. I’m sure she thought she was just as social and friendly and personable as everyone else at the conference. Perhaps, though, it’s time for her to grow into that lesson, or the Universe may have a stronger, more impactful way for her to learn (think the Wicked Witch of the East if you’re not sure what that “more impactful way” could be…)

The best thing you can do to develop those relationships with people is to ask questions about them, their life and their business and anything else that’s important to them. If you help people in a particular arena of their life, there’s nothing wrong with focusing your questions on that area – for example a health coach asking questions about someone’s busy life and family, and how they manage to handle the stress and overwhelm of it. Or a printer asking questions about how someone’s business is going, or inquiring about the progress on the volunteer event that the person is coordinating. In general, you don’t have to do much of the heavy lifting keeping the conversation going if you’re asking questions. And if you’re smart, you’ll pay attention to the answers. Because the way that people answer questions and talk about their lives and what’s important to them will give you tremendous insight into who they are and how you might be able to offer solutions to the problems they’re facing.

Don’t look at networking like a work activity. Look at is as a friend-ing activity. You’re making new connections, new friends, and you can never have too many friends!!

Speaking of friends, they are a great place to focus your initial networking on. They already know you, and obviously like you at least a little bit if they have stuck around long enough to become your friend. Family is another great resource because they are essentially obligated to like and support you. People who you have known for a long time and with who you have a good relationship can often sell you better than you can sell yourself. Referrals and testimonials have a ton of value, and can be extremely persuasive. They can give you a whole other level of credibility. PLUS, they have a ton of other friends who they can introduce you to or recommend you to.

People that you are close with are not the only acquaintances to keep in mind when networking. It can also be extremely beneficial to go to someone that you have met in the past. For this reason, it is important to maintain relationships with people you trust and respect. A good example of someone who may fall into this category would be one of your professors from college. People you have worked with or done services for in the past can also be great resources. You do not have to call these people on a weekly basis or pretend to be their best friend. It is as simple as making contact with them once every few months. Shoot them an e-mail asking how they are doing, or in the event that you come across something that you think they would be interested in as well, let them know. You can send a letter or card thanking them for their business if they are previous clients. Just maintain contact and make sure that you do not fall off their radar.

There are a number of ways to reach out in order to develop new relationships. One great way is through social networking sites. I know that I keep coming back to networking sites, but I can’t emphasize enough just how beneficial they can be for you and your company. With respect to networking, they are especially great because people who you don’t know can get to know you through your profile, and because there are MILLIONS of potential clients out there that spend a TON of time on them.

Joining networking clubs and/or associations that pertain to your career field is another great way to meet new people, create new relationships, hear different perspectives, and to have some fun while you are doing it all. : ) You can attend meetings, seminars or industry mixers as well.

Really, networking can be done ANYWHERE. All you need to do is embrace your outgoing side and put yourself out there. Be friendly, be real, listen, and talk about what it is that you do. You never know where you could meet potential clients or someone who can be of help to you and your business in other ways. Maybe the guy sitting next to you on the plane has a best friend who runs a website that runs great ads for really cheap. Maybe the lady doing your nails is part of a club of women who could all really use your services. Or perhaps the student you ran into at the library wants to do the same thing as you and has some really great ideas that could take your business to the next level. The point is…you never know!!

If you truly are passionate about what you do and serving those you’re meant to serve, people will see and appreciate that, and want to be a part of it.

Along with this, ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS keep business cards with you. You can make a great connection, but the card can seal the deal. It is a constant reminder of you and your business, and of course it contains all of the contact information that anyone would need to get ahold of you. Don’t be afraid to hand one to an acquaintance, you will be happy that you did.

Networking does not need to be as difficult as it often can seem. It’s all about people skills and promoting what you love. With that, there are certainly a number of guidelines that should be taken into consideration. Don’t ever be pushy. Nobody wants something that is being pushed on them, and nobody wants to help someone that is so obviously self-serving. Do not overuse on person. If you go to the same person over time, they are going to get tired of it and begin to question your motives. SPREAD THE LOVE!! If you expect, or want help from others, you have to be willing to dish it out yourself in large helpings. It should be a give-give, and a win-win situation for all the parties involved, not just a take-take endeavor. Conform to general social rules, and be a good person, your most kind, generous and loving self, and a friend, and you should be just fine.

I recently met and had dinner with Sue Clement (a Referral Pro) at a conference, and she gifted me with her fabulous book called “Insider Secrets to Referral Success – Uncover the Power of Your Network.” (and signed it for me, too!) She really focuses on creating a “Referral Network” so if you want to take your networking to the next level, her book is a definite must-read! You can get it here: http://www.SueClement.com/referral-success-book (just click on any of the links in this paragraph to take you there)

In what ways has networking benefited YOU? I would love to hear your stories, and I’m more than happy to answer your questions. You can either click on the speech bubble on the upper right hand side of the post, or click on the reply button on the lower right hand side to leave your comment. Look forward to hearing from you.

Make it a great week!! Why not? It’s all yours!