Defining Your Business Niche and Target Market

I have mentioned before that in order to create a successful business it is EXTREMELY important that you take the time to define your business niche and to identify a specific target market. If you do not specialize and aim the efforts of your business towards a specific group of individuals, then you will have a very difficult time appealing to anyone at all.

A “niche” is basically a specific area or activity that someone is particularly good at or knows a lot about. When I talk about it with respect to the business world, I am referring to a specific and specialized area of a larger market.

Let me simplify it – I look at your target audience as “who you help” and niche as “how you help those people with their particular and specialized needs”

For example, the service industry is a huge market, and is comprised of a ton of different smaller markets. Restaurants, salons, spas, bars, and retail stores all fall under that category. A “niche” would be found within an even smaller division that would fall under one of these kinds of subcategories.

Let’s take a spa into consideration for a minute. There are tons of different kinds of spas, and thousands of different kinds of treatments that can be done at one. Maybe you know a lot about skin, so a possible niche within this category could be a spa that focuses solely on skin treatments. Maybe you are more into aromatherapy kinds of things, so you could create your business around that. That’s the how-you-help part.

Basically, when I say that you need to find and embrace your very own “niche,” I mean that you need to come up with, and focus your business around, a very specific sector of your particular business market. It should be something that you are particularly passionate about, that you know a lot about, that really suits your talents and personality, etc. It should be something that makes you stand apart from the rest of your market and that is not too generic or overly used.

The idea is to be unique, and to be the BEST at what you do. Defining your niche should significantly aid you in doing that.

The idea of finding your niche goes hand in hand with defining your business’s target market. Your “target market” is the people who you want to aim your business and marketing efforts towards. These people are your potential clients.

We went over this a couple of weeks ago, but I want to reiterate that you DO NOT want to target everyone out there. There is a reason why it is called a T-A-R-G-E-T market. You should not throw your advertising and efforts out blindly shooting in every which direction, but aim it towards a specific group of people. It may seem counterintuitive, but it will actually aid you in gaining a larger client base. And you don’t want to be wasting what could otherwise be productive time, energy and money.

How do you go about defining your target market?

Good question!

There are definitely some great tactics out there that can help you do this.

FIRST of all, you should think about the kind of people that YOU want to work with. Yes I said YOU!!! This is one of the few times when it comes to your business that you will really be able to focus on yourself and what exactly you want. Define your absolutely ideal client, thinking about what characteristics you do and do not want in the people that you work with/for.

Do you want to work with that lady who always complains and that can never be satisfied? No? Then throw her out of your target market!! Believe it or not, you have a ton of control over the kind of people that come to you. You just need to define who those people are, what they are looking for and want, and build your business and marketing strategy in a way that caters specifically to them.

Another thing that is important to think about is who you best relate to. You are going to be much more successful when it comes to marketing your business if you can understand what it is that your potential clients want, why they want it, and how they want it. This understanding is strongest between you and people that you have an affinity for, that you can identify with, and whose conversations you can simply step into as the solution they’re looking for.

You need to KNOW your clients. You need to be able to really get into, and understand, the conversations that are going on in their heads. Although a group of people may seem like a great and profitable target market, if you can’t understand what it is that they are looking for and what they want, then they will be absolutely useless to you. In order to solve their problems, you must first know and understand them.

Ask yourself these things: What is it that they want? What are their compelling desires? What are they lying awake worrying about? What are their secret fantasies?

If you can’t begin to answer those questions, than you should probably look deeper. Ask them. Do surveys, have conversations, etc.

TRUST ME! You will be much better off if you take these things into consideration. Not only will you be more successful, but you will be much happier doing it.

And let’s face it, if you aren’t happy doing what you do, then why should anybody else be happy with it? Clients want to work with people who love what they do and who are good at it, not with people who hate their job and push through it every day.

Happy people do a much better job and are much much much more pleasant to work with. It’s a fact of life!

So think about these things when creating or re-defining your business, they are CRITICAL.

What other kinds of things have helped YOU when deciding upon a target market? I want to hear about your experiences and any ideas that you may have. Either leave a comment below or by clicking on the bubble in the upper right hand corner of the post.

Make it a great week!

 

What Do You Say?

I know it’s been a couple of weeks, but I hope you remember everything that we have gone over with respect to mistakes to avoid when building and positioning your business. Today I am going to go over one last big mistake that is all too often made by business owners when trying to develop their business.

Something that many people struggle with, and that if you do it wrong, has a tendency to really detract from the attractiveness of your businesses, is mastering their message. This is the message that you use in order to appeal to your potential clients and to bring them to YOU. It needs to resonate with your target audience and to address their personal needs and desires.

I mentioned this in our last positioning post, but in order to come up with a really great business message, you need to get into the conversation in the heads of the individuals that make up your target market.

You need to know what it is that they need and are looking for, and to appeal to those wants and needs. It should be personal and unique.

In order to be as helpful as you can to them, and in order to create a message that really resonates with them, you need to think about what is going on in their head throughout the whole process. For example, say you are a real-estate agent that focuses on downsizing seniors.

Maybe they have just lost their spouse and can no longer stand the thought of living in a home that is filled with so many memories. Maybe it is a senior couple whose kids have grown up and moved out, and they feel that it’s too big of a house for them and they don’t need all the extra work to keep it maintained. You need to think about WHY they may be choosing to downsize.

Once you have considered the WHY, you need to think about what comes along with it. So, with our downsizing seniors, when they’re thinking about moving into a smaller, easier-to-maintain place, they’re probably going to have to get rid of some of their stuff. What can you do to help your client’s with the process?

Something else to consider – How might they be feeling about leaving the home that they have lived in for so many years? They may be disheartened to think about losing their connection, their touchstone to all those family memories, in the home and the neighborhood where their babies grew up. Because they have such an emotional bond with the place.

Maybe they are worried that they will have no idea how to go about selling and buying a house since the market has obviously changed drastically since they bought the place.

Maybe they don’t have anyone to help them move, and have no idea who to turn to.

It’s all so overwhelming, and can even be terrifying for some.

Think about this: When anybody is doing anything, there is a reason for it. By figuring out what that reason may be and by being sensitive to it, you can better appeal to potential customers in your specialty field.

Thinking about their worries and concerns allows you to address them beforehand, thereby preparing yourself to have all of the necessary things in place already when they come to you.

By tapping into the conversation within your potential client’s heads, you can position yourself as the person best suited to meet their wants and needs. It allows you to better relate to them.

People like to feel understood, and it is comforting when the person you go to seems relatable and accommodating. You need to keep all of these things in mind when creating your message.

This also ties into the last two mistakes that we went over before. Your message needs to set you apart from the crowd. It needs to show you and your business are different than the others. It should be presented in a unique and creative way that will catch the attention of you prospective clients.

But most importantly, it should position you as the obvious choice. It would make much more sense for a senior couple who is downsizing to go to someone who specializes in such things then to some generic agent who is just looking to move as many people in and out of houses as quickly as possible without taking their special needs into consideration.

Let me give you two examples, and then I want YOU to decide which would be the obvious choice for this situation.

Real-estate agent number one’s message: “Hi. My name is Joe Schmo, and I have an incredibly high sell rate. I would love to help YOU sell your house as quickly as possible, too!”

Real-estate agent number two’s message: “Is your house too big now that your kids have all moved out? Has the maintenance just become too much? My name is Joe Schmo, and I’m the downsizing senior specialist. I can help you to sell your home and to get settled into a new place that’s a better fit for you. I can make the entire process easy and as stress-free as possible, and I will work WITH you to make sure that your every question is answered and that every concern is addressed. You are not alone. I’m here to help you.”

Which one would be the obvious choice? If you don’t say the second, then we really need to talk! : )

Nobody wants to feel as though they are just a means through which someone else can make money. That makes them feel devalued and like you just don’t care. By tapping into what is going on in their minds, you can avoid that, and show them that you care about them as individuals.

They won’t mind the expense, because they will feel that it’s worth it for the specialized and genuine care that they get from you. In short, you will resonate with them, and they’ll be tickled that they chose you.

As I’ve said before, positioning is not the simplest thing in the world. There are a lot of things to be considered, and there is no one quick fix that will suddenly make your business boom.

However, that being said, all of the mistakes we have talked about are relatively easy to avoid. Being aware of them is the first step in avoiding them. They definitely take some time to work through, and a heck of a lot of thought, but the time and effort is well worth it in the end.

I will be going into further detail with respect to some of the most important things that you can do in order to position yourself in a way that sets you apart and that will ensure you greater overall success.

If you have any questions or there is anything in particular that you would like me to write about, LET ME KNOW, and I will do my best to answer your questions or point you to someone who can.

I’m excited to move into the topics of positioning, branding and defining yourself as different from all of the others out there because this is MY passion. It is MY specialty, and I can’t wait to share it with YOU!

Until next week…

Make it Great!

 

Who’s Your Client? Everyone With A Pulse and A Wallet…

We’ve recently discussed how one of the biggest business positioning mistakes that you can make when marketing your business is to take too generic of an approach. If you don’t separate yourself from the crowd, you and your business are no different than any of the other ones out there.

This week I’m going to go a little deeper into this concept with a closely related concept, because so many people make this mistake: Trying To Appeal To Everyone.

Too many people try to appeal to the masses thinking that it is the best way to get the most clients and to make the most money.

This approach may seem like the rational way to go, but in reality…it is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when creating and marketing your business.

By trying to make your business appeal to everyone, you end up really appealing to nobody.

This goes hand-in-hand with being too generic. If you try to appeal to everyone, then it is almost impossible to be unique.

However, if you position yourself to appeal to a certain demographic or segment of the population, rather than trying to appeal to everyone, you can play up the ways in which you are unique and how your solutions are beneficial to that specific group of people. By trying to appeal to too many people, you stretch yourself thin and minimize any difference there may be between you and your competition.

The most successful businesses have streamlined their target market to include only specific groups of people. This allows you to better appeal to, and to better address, your potential clients’ wants and needs. In doing so, you will significantly increase your allure to those people and will as a result gain more of them as clients.

Let me explain what I’m talking about with an example or two.

Say for example, that you sustained some physical damage from a car accident several years ago, and you’re tired of suffering and not being able to sleep through the night and move your body in a certain way with ease, so you’re looking for a massage therapist.

You have a choice – you see that there are about 100 choices to select from. You can pick a masseuse that has a generic “let me help you relax and heal the pain” message, or you can select a masseuse who actually specializes in deep tissue massages for people who have sustained injuries in an automobile accident and have significant scar tissue hampering their mobility and movement.

And that’s all that they do.

That’s their specialty.

They are the expert.

Who are you going to choose?

Any masseuse may be able to do a massage that feels good in the short term, but are they really skilled in working with scar tissue from previous injury?

Sure, they may be qualified – they may have learned how to do that in massage therapy school…

Just because someone is qualified to provide whatever service you’re looking for, doesn’t mean that they specialize in it!

Think about that – qualified does not equal specialized.

Here’s another example I use all the time – Stop me if you’ve heard it before…: )

(Uh-oh, Warning: personal story coming – you may want to close your ears and hum : ) )

I gained a lot of weight when I became pre-menopausal. Up until that point I hadn’t had any weight issues. I’d been at a healthy weight for my whole life. But then hormonal changes, slower metabolism, getting more sedentary, and not really paying close attention to what I ate, all kind of crept up on me, and I gained quite a bit of weight.

Frankly, I was never so obese that I broke 200 lbs, but even so, I have no business being anywhere close to 190. So for my frame, it was quite a bit of weight.

And then a few years ago I shook myself awake and recognized, hey – time to address this issue before it gets worse. So I started doing all of these things that I know will take the weight off – I was becoming way more active, started really paying attention to eating healthier, got off of fast food and junk food, high fructose corn syrup, carbonated soda, started drinking way, Way more water, etc.

And nothing was working.

I got even more determined – really focused on walking at least 10,000 steps a day.

Even started running a little, really started reading package labels, eating more natural foods and staying away from a lot of these processed and modified foods, etc. Kicked up the running to where I could run for three miles.

Did I lose some weight? Yeah I did – a little.

But I was so-o frustrated! Because I was putting all of this focus and attention on it, devoting a lot of time every day to the activity and keeping track of what I ate, and it should have dropped off like I was in my first week as a Biggest Loser contestant.

But it didn’t.

Over the course of several months, I lost a few pounds. All the pounds put together over the months: not even a good week 9 or 10 for a Biggest Loser contestant.

And of course, every day we are bombarded with weight loss messages. There are weight loss programs out there by the hundreds. I was certainly not at a loss to find some help if I wanted to.

But I didn’t want a generic weight loss program.

I felt like I was doing everything a typical weight loss program would recommend. I was watching what I ate; I was getting a significant amount of activity every day, etc.

What I really needed was for someone to show up with a message that said something like “Menopausal weight gain getting you down? Do you feel like you’ve tried everything and your body just isn’t cooperating? Don’t know what else to try? Well, I specialize in helping menopausal women really fight the weight gain that comes from those hormonal changes and metabolism slowdowns that naturally occur as we age. Call Me Today. P.S. The bonus is that one of the side effects of you and I working together is that we get those hot flashes and night sweats under control, too! Naturally!”

If anyone, ANYONE had presented me with a message like that, I would have been all over it.

I didn’t care about the generic weight loss messages – because they didn’t speak to me. I knew the basics. I just didn’t know what to do about the things specific to menopausal weight gain.

Why would you go to someone to fix your problems, when they may not know how to do it any more than you do? That’s a lot of time wasted and money spent on something that might not provide you with the maximum benefit that you could be getting.

And that ladies and gentlemen, THAT is why you should specialize. When people want something, they want something specific. People have specific needs. If you focus on a more specialized area, and a smaller group of people, you will actually appeal to more people.

Understand that when I say “specific groups of people” I don’t necessarily mean small groups of people. You can still target your efforts towards a large group; the members just have to have common wants and needs. There needs to be something that they all have in common that makes them good candidates for your services.

What’s the specific group that could have been targeted by my need? Women who had never had weight issues until they hit menopausal age, and then they’re struggling to deal with it.

It’s not like that’s a small market.

It’s simply smaller than the market defined as “everyone who’s overweight”.

Well, now you’re wondering “What about all of those people who you don’t appeal to anymore?”

Okay…What about them?

Realistically, you never appealed to them or anyone else before. In order to really appeal to someone, you have to be able to address their specific wants and needs and to help them overcome whatever obstacles they are facing.

That is why you have to get into the immediate conversation in their head. Like that menopausal message above would have stepped directly into the dialogue I had with myself every single freaking day and night for several years – if anyone had provided it – but no one had a message like that for me.

I don’t know anyone that can fix anything and everything, and even if that is you – you still need to focus on your specialties and who you can provide the most benefit for.

You really need to hone in on: How can you truly serve those you’re most able to help?

Along with narrowing your target market, you need to define your own niche and concentrate all of your efforts towards that specific area of the market. You focus on what you do best.

You figure out what you are passionate about, and build your business around that. This is one of the easiest ways to help you figure out what your target market should be. I will go more in depth on defining your niche and target audience in the future here, so keep them in mind.

For now, think about what we have gone over in the last couple of weeks and how it applies to your business.

If you still think you need to go generic and undifferentiated with your marketing and promotional message, I don’t know how else to convince you. I’ve given you some of my best stuff – I even pulled out my “I got fat” story to share with you. : )

Next week is Super Bowl week and we’ll talk about how that pertains to your business. After that, we’ll come back to positioning, and we’ll go over another big marketing mistake that you should avoid making at all costs.

Make it a great week!!

 

P.S. Bribe: If you want to know how the “I got fat” story has worked out for me, just drop a note in the comments below. If there’s enough clamor and ruckus – I might even share with you! : )

 

Would You Buy The Box Of Cereal That Just Said “Cereal” On The Box?

Although positioning your business is by no means rocket science, it isn’t the simplest thing in the world to do, either. It’s multifaceted, and as such, requires a multidirectional approach. You can’t just do one thing and call it good.

In order to create a truly successful business and to clear out a space in the market to call your own, you must approach positioning from a number of different angles.

Many people either neglect, or don’t know how to use, some of the important positioning tactics available to them.

One of the most commonly made positioning mistakes is being too generic. Defining oneself or one’s businesses in a generic way, using generic ads and campaigning messages, explaining one’s business to others in a way that they have heard a million times before…the list goes on and on. Blah blah blah…

The LAST thing that you want to be is generic. Have you ever heard someone say that they aspire to be generic? That they would really love to be one of the sheep that follows some other go-getter blindly?

NOBODY WANTS THAT! And you shouldn’t settle for that either.

And yet, millions and millions of passionate service professionals and business owners who genuinely have the ability to change lives get stuck in that generic mindset.

And then they wonder why it feels like they’re invisible and they’re not attracting the clients that they need to survive.

Let me explain it to you –

You Can Not Attract Energizing and Fun Clients to Work With You

If You Look Like Everybody Else

Who Does What You Do

 

In fact, right now, print this page up, and then cut that blockquote piece out and post it above your work space.

Get that done?

Okay, onward…

Uh-oh…some of you didn’t do that!

And after I asked so nicely, too…What’s that all about? : )

Here’s another one for you to cut out and paste over your desk…

Would You Buy The Box Of Cereal

That Just Said “Cereal” On The Box?

 

You have to think outside of the box and emphasize what makes you and your business unique. If you have had experiences that help you to relate to your target market, emphasize that!

If you offer something that nobody else does, make sure that everyone knows it! And do so in a creative way…

Celebrate and focus on what makes YOU different from the rest!

Showing that there is something that sets you apart from other businesses in your market is the first step to gaining potential clients’ attention and recognition. However, like I said before, it is not the ONLY step.

Next week I will go into another positioning mistake that altogether way too many people make and how you can avoid doing the same.

Until then, ask yourself these questions. How is what I offer different than what my competitors offer?

What makes both me and my business unique?

How can I present my business in a way that makes it stand out from the crowd?

If you can’t think of anything, well then think about what steps you can take to make your business unique and different from the other generic commodity businesses.

I know that it may feel like a big task, but it is a necessary one.

Make it a great week, and see you on the flipside!

Positioning: Molding Your Business Image

Creating a successful business relies heavily on the right positioning by you as a business owner. Good positioning can be the difference between a surviving business and a thriving business.

So what exactly do I mean by positioning?

If you ask ten people, they may all give you different definitions of the word “positioning.” This is because it is not a super simple and straightforward concept. The positioning of a business involves a number of different things, and there are a ton of different strategies out there.

However, in a nutshell positioning is the steps that a business owner takes in order to become the recognized name in specific market.

It’s what you do to create top of mind awareness, meaning that your business is the first that comes to people’s minds when they need whatever service you provide. By using good positioning tactics you can create a space in the market that is essentially YOURS.

That brings us to the next question – What kinds of things can you do to better position your business and to gain greater success?

Well, first you need to dig deep and figure out what you really want your business to stand for and what you want to accomplish through it. When doing this, there are a number of things that you should take into consideration.

For example, what are you passionate about? In my opinion it is always best to build your business around something that you are truly passionate about.

That way, you are a lot less likely to get bored and/or end up hating what you do. If you focus on your passions, not only will it allow you to better serve others, but it will add an element of sincerity to your work that potential clients will see and be inspired by.

I absolutely believe that if you’re following your passions and serving to the best of your ability with your gifts, skills and talents, you’re actually doing your greatest good in the world.

Once you have figured out what you are truly passionate about and how you want to apply that to your business, you need to identify your target market. These are the people that you will focus your marketing towards and the people that you believe will most benefit from your services.

After doing that, you need to think about what makes you and your business different than your competitors. Like I said before, if you do not SHOW that you are different in some way or another from the masses, your prospective clients will not see you as any different from them.

On Thursday I will continue with the idea of positioning and go further into HOW to set yourself apart from the crowd. Until then, I want you to really think about what your passions are and what you truly want to accomplish through your business. This is the MOST IMPORTANT step when it comes to creating and defining your own business.

The world is at your fingertips, it is up to you to mold and create the business of your dreams…

 

Everything is Marketing

You may think that your business exists for serving your needs. Because of course you went into business for reasons that revolve around you.

Maybe you wanted more autonomy or freedom, or more money or longer vacations or … whatever.

It’s not likely that you went into business for yourself because you wanted to make your life worse.

But here’s where the shift needs to happen for you if it hasn’t yet.

Right here…Are you ready?

It may have started out being about you.

But once it’s past that initial catalyst, your business is not about you.

It’s one of those concepts that are kind of hard to get your head around…

But let’s give it a try.

The Only Reason A Business Is In Business (including yours) … is because it serves a need for a customer. Because if you have no customers, guess what?

You have no business.

Consequently, everything you do in your businesses is marketing—Everything!

Even the smallest things that seem almost irrelevant embody elements of marketing. This is because everything you do in your business ultimately revolves around your customer.

Whether the task revolves around your ability to generate leads or attract prospects or to service your current clients or not, it’s all about attracting, servicing and retaining them.

It doesn’t matter if it’s an activity typically considered marketing – like crafting your marketing message and going to networking events – or things that are not typically considered as “marketing,” like customer service, hiring an accountant, or emptying the recycle bin and cleaning the windows in your office entryway…

There are aspects of marketing in each and every single action you take that has anything to do with your business.

Think about it…

Why do you take the actions that you do? In order to enhance your business.

And why do you want to enhance your business?

In order to make it more enticing and desirable to prospects, referrals and clients.

Every step that you take is done in order to better your business in a way that will make it more appealing to, and a better fit for, your potential and current clients. It is about presenting and marketing yourself in a way that brings more people in and keeps them coming back.

If everything in your business doesn’t revolve around your prospect/client’s needs and desires, it should. And I’m not saying that you need to be open until midnight seven days a week, or anything like that. But I think you “get” that.

So…This is where you need to start – in shifting your mindset to revolve around the CUSTOMER PERSPECTIVE.

What do they need? In what form are they looking for it? How can I help them get the solutions they need? How is this task helping me to create a better experience for my prospects, referrals and clients?

Because that’s the whole point of your business – to serve those you’re most able to by following your passions and sharing your gifts.

 

 

Would You Rather Be A Generic Commodity Or A Brand Name?

In the marketplace, would you rather be a cola beverage or Coke? What about a box of tissue or Kleenex? Adhesive bandages or Band-Aids? Puffed rice cereal or Rice Krispies?

Take a second to think about these pairs…

There’s definitely a difference between the first and the second item in each. But why?

Because one is a brand name and the other is a commodity.

A commodity is a generic and undifferentiated product or business. It is one of the masses, and in the mind of a potential client or consumer, it is no different than all of the other ones in the endless sea of options.

A recognized brand name is automatically preferred by the consumer. Why? It boils down to the recognition factor.

It is the first thing that pops into their head when they are in need of whatever product or service someone has to offer.

Because a brand name is so well known and recognizable and has already built such a strong reputation, it comes with an automatic position of credibility and authority.

There is an implied concept of “BEST” and “NO RISK” with a recognized name because the assumption is that it would not have gained such a reputation if it was not reliable and one of the best ways to go.

Doesn’t make it right, but recognition generally builds esteem in the mind of the consumer.

Think about it… how many times have you chosen the recognizable over the mystery choice? Even though the mystery choice may very well have been the better selection?

I do it all the time when I’m out of town and need to find someplace to eat. I’m more likely to choose a recognizable restaurant chain over a small local hometown eatery. Why? The small local hometown place could very well have delicious and amazing, healthy, home-made options that would be preferable to the mediocre straight-from-a-can-or-freezer, processed food choices that I know I’m going to get at a chain restaurant.

But…it’s a bigger risk to sit down at the local mom and pop diner I’ve never heard of before. I don’t know what their standards are. So I stick with what I’m familiar with: mediocre but recognizable.

We all do it with different things.

When creating and developing your own business, the concepts of brand name and commodity are really important to understand.

If you truly want your business to be successful, you must create a name for yourself. Become recognizable.

Otherwise you will blend in with the crowd, and if potential clients can’t see a difference, then there is no difference between your business and all of the other ones out there.

And they have absolutely NO REASON TO CHOOSE YOURS.

In order for people to think of you first, they must KNOW about you.

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to help break down ways in which you can gain greater appeal and increase the success of your business.

This is my true passion, and there is nothing that I would like more than to help share my expertise with you in order to help you reach your true potential.

So let’s get started!

Over the next week think about ways in which you can position yourself to be more visible and gain greater recognition in your marketplace.

Leave me a note in the comments with what’s going great for you or what’s your current struggle in making yourself more visible.

Make it great!

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!