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Friday Small Business Roundup: Lead Generation and More

October 11th, 2013 ::

You’d like more leads, wouldn’t you? We thought so. Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post 5 Ways to Generate More Leads and start getting them.

Is your email campaign working? You’ll never really know unless you learn How to Measure Email For Engagement and Sales. Read Monika Jansen’s post to learn how.

If You Advertise on Facebook, You Need To Know About Power Editor. Read Monika Jansen’s post to learn more.

Are you using content marketing? See how you measure up to other businesses – read Rieva Lesonsky’s post How Companies Use Content Marketing to Generate New Leads.

Friday Small Business Roundup: Get Ready for Holiday Retail and More

August 23rd, 2013 ::

Is Your Ecommerce Site Making These 5 Fatal Mistakes? Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post and find out what you might be doing wrong.

Then start getting your ecommerce site ready for holiday 2013 retail: Read 3 Ways Email Can Boost Your 2013 Holiday Sales.

Get more out of your social media presence. Read Monika Jansen’s tips on How to Become an Industry Influencer.

Then check out her post 13 Small Changes That Will Greatly Improve Your Social Media Marketing for quick tweaks you can make right away.

Are you marketing to moms? Learn the secrets to attracting these powerful consumers in Karen Axelton’s post, When Marketing to Moms, Mobile and Social Are Key.

How Do Your Healthiness Habits Measure Up? Learn how you compare to other small business owners in Maria Valdez Haubrich’s post.

4 Ways to Get More Subscribers to Your Email Newsletter

April 26th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

An email newsletter is a key element of your content marketing strategy, driving users to your website, your social media accounts and your business. So if you’ve got an email newsletter, you’re ahead of the game. But how do you get more subscribers to help spread your content far and wide (and buy more stuff from your business)? Try these tactics.

1. Encourage sign-ups everywhere.

It’s essential to put a signup box above the fold on the home page of your website. Ideally, you should also have it on every page. But don’t limit yourself to your website. Regularly post on your social media sites reminding customers to sign up for your newsletter if they haven’t already. Or post content from the newsletter and then say, “To get articles like this every month, sign up for our newsletter (link).” If you send receipts or order acknowledgements by email, make sure those emails include a link to sign up for your newsletter.

And don’t limit yourself to the digital world, either. Have sign-up sheets at the point-of-sale checkout in your store; ask for signups when you give customers the check at your bar or restaurant; ask if customers want to sign up when you’re handing them the invoice after completing work on their home or car. You get the idea. You can also enclose information about your newsletter in packing slips when you ship product, stick it in the bag when customers buy at the counter, or print it on receipts.

2. Keep it simple.

Subscribing to a newsletter is often an impulse decision, so don’t smother the impulse by asking for too much information. To send out an email newsletter, all you really need is the person’s email (it’s nice, but not necessary, to have their name too).

Keep in mind, you can always collect more details about them later, after they’ve been a subscriber for a while and you’ve earned their goodwill. Customers will be more likely to provide personal details if they’ve grown to trust you and feel that they are getting something of value from your newsletter.

3. Offer something in return.

Bribery works. Make your newsletter desirable and encourage subscriptions by offering something in return. This could be a downloadable ebook on tax tips (for an accounting firm) or a $5 discount off the next purchase (for a clothing retailer or restaurant).

4. Make it shareable.

People trust their friends’ recommendations, so using social sharing is a great way to encourage new subscribers. Include icons in your email newsletter to make it easy for recipients to like or follow your business on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or whatever social media sites you use. Every issue of your newsletter should also include a friendly request asking customers to forward the newsletter to others who might enjoy it.

Image by Flickr user Sean MacEntee (Creative Commons)

How to Craft Content That Works for Your Content Marketing Campaign

April 24th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

The essence of any content marketing strategy is, of course, content. But for small business owners, this is often the biggest stumbling block. Chances are you’re not a writer, so how do you and your team craft content that will work to improve your website’s SEO and drive traffic and sales? Here are some tips.

Focus on quality. You may read articles that give you the idea your content has to be stuffed with keywords. In reality, this leads to articles that make no sense (we’ve all read them—those blog posts that sound like they were written by someone who didn’t speak English). Think about what your audience wants to know, and write articles that answer their questions. For example, if you own a lawn care and landscaping business, your customers might want to know how to keep their lawns green, how to prevent weeds, what types of grass are best for the local climate, etc.

Include both timely and timeless content. You don’t want every article you write to become outdated in a month. However, tying your content to current trends (such as seasons, holidays or hot topics online) does help boost your SEO and make your site seem fresh. Aim for a mix of timeless topics (such as what types of grass are best for the climate, or how often to mow a lawn) and timely ones (such as popular plants this summer, or how to prepare your garden for winter).

Use keywords. I mentioned not stuffing your articles with keywords, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to use them. Figure out what keywords you want to be found for (for example: San Francisco lawn care, landscaping service, best landscaping company) and use those keywords in the headlines, subheads and first paragraphs of your articles. If you use photos or graphics, you should also use keywords in the captions, descriptions and tags of the artwork.

Enlist your staff. If you’re not a good writer, do you have someone who is on your team? Remember, content isn’t just words, so see what kind of talent exists on your staff. You might have someone who’s great at shooting videos or taking photos. Used properly on your website and social media accounts, these can be excellent traffic drivers.

Get professional help. Creating content, especially blog posts, articles and newsletters, can be time-consuming and stressful if you don’t have an experienced writer on staff. Consider outsourcing to a freelance writer or marketing copywriter. You can find tons to choose from on sites like Guru.com, Elance.com or Freelancer.com.

Image by Flickr user mrsdkrebs (Creative Commons)

Mobile Email Access Is Growing Fast

January 1st, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

It’s a mobile world, and increasingly, even email access is going more mobile, according to a new study by email certification and reputation monitoring firm Return Path. Although webmail (accessing email via the Web) still accounts for 44 percent of all message views worldwide, and desktop (accessing email via a desktop client like Outlook) comes in second with 33 percent of all views, mobile is rapidly catching up, accounting for 23 percent of all views.

The Return Path study showed that between October 2010 and September 2011, mobile email message views increased by 34 percent, while webmail views dropped by 11 percent and desktop views dropped by 9.5 percent.

One reason for the growth of mobile email viewing is the surging popularity of tablets. Return Path data found that access of email via tablets grew by a whopping 73 percent in that April–September time frame.

What does this trend mean for your business? Make sure your emails—whether they’re brief messages or longer newsletters—are optimized for mobile viewing, and that any links in it lead to mobile-friendly pages. Customers or prospects who think your email is too clunky to view on their phones or get frustrated by being taken to your standard website may never go back to that email again.

Return Path also found some interesting data about when users are more likely to view email in a mobile format. As you might expect, most emails during weekdays are viewed on desktops, since people are typically at work. Monday is the worst day for mobile email views. However, on the weekends, mobile email viewing surges.

The survey also found that certain types of emails—in particular, entertainment, social networking and publishing-related emails—were more likely to be viewed on mobile devices, while messages from software or financial services firms were more likely to be opened via desktop or webmail.

Desktop and webmail aren’t going away anytime soon, but this study points out the necessity of making your messages accessible to your customers wherever, whenever and however they want to read them.

Image by Flickr user Sean MacEntee (Creative Commons)

Small Biz Resource Tip: ToneCheck

April 13th, 2011 ::


We’ve all experienced it: The misunderstood tone in an email or text message lands us in hot water and we struggle to explain and make amends. Since business communication relies so heavily on the written word, it’s more and more important to convey the right tone in an email, tweet or post. Even when we’re trying to sound positive, we may unknowingly sound negative or, worse, offensive! ToneCheck, a new program (still in beta) from Lymbix, a “sentiment intelligence technology” company, checks your emails for tone before sending it out. Only available for Microsoft Outlook at this stage (it will soon be available for Hotmail and Gmail), this application could save the speedy emailer from an embarrassing situation and put emails in a more positive light.

Small Biz Resource Tip: email-list.com

April 11th, 2011 ::


Whether you’re creating a marketing campaign for businesses or consumers or simply trying to get the word out about your company to the media, you can never have enough names and email addresses in your database. If you’re feeling a little pathetic in the contacts department, don’t fret. Many small businesses turn to list sellers like email-list.com to purchase email addresses for their target audience. Email-list.com maintains one of the largest email list databases in the industry including 8.5 million businesses and 82 million consumers. You can target emails by lifestyle, buying habits, SIC code and more. Email-list.com also has 400,000 media contacts in their database for those newsworthy announcements.

The Definitive Guide to Retaining Email Subscribers

February 18th, 2011 ::
This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series email marketing

Happy peopleIn my previous blog post in this series, I wrote about how to build an email list; the post is based on what I learned from an eBook called the Bionic List Building Guide, which was published last summer by Lyris, a provider of integrated online marketing products (email marketing, Web analytics, search marketing, mobile marketing, etc.).  I forgot about it for six months and just stumbled upon it recently.

According to Lyris, legally acquiring new email addresses is the first component of building a list.  The second component is to provide valuable content to retain and build trust with subscribers, which I will focus on in this blog post.  (The third component is allowing each new subscriber to manage their opt-in preferences, which I am not going to cover because it’s standard practice.)

Once you get a new subscriber, you need to cement the relationship, begin building trust right away, and make them as happy as the people in the photo.  Here are Lyris’ tips, intermingled with my tips:

Keep your opt-in form short. When people subscribe, ask for minimal information: email address, first name and last name.  Company name and industry would be OK, too, but keep in mind that the more information you ask for, the lower your conversion rate will be.

Add trust-building statements to the opt-in page. Explicitly state that you will be providing valuable content on a regular basis.  Explain what your emails will contain (industry news, tips and tricks, how-tos, guides, etc.) and how often they will be sent.

Follow up with a thank you page. As soon as someone submits a subscription, a thank-you page should load immediately.  Here’s what to include in the message: a thank you for joining the list, of course; confirmation of both the information the subscriber just supplied and any steps needed to complete the subscription, such as replying to a confirmation email; and a reminder of the benefits of subscribing to your list.  If you provided an incentive to entice people to subscribe, such as a coupon or eBook, add that it will be arriving via email shortly.

Send a “welcome” email.  In your message, provide more details on subscription benefits, link to a “preference page” where subscribers can provide more detailed contact information, and include any special subscriber-only offers, coupons, ebooks, white papers, or special reports.  This should go without saying, but be sure to label your email as a welcome message in the subject line.

Make their subscription worthwhile! To retain your subscribers, send them information and promotions they can’t get elsewhere.  Your emails should include valuable content that your readers can use, such as industry insights, reports, eBooks, white papers, guides, how-tos, product tips and tricks, etc.  You also want them to feel special, so give them access to new products or services before they launch, whether it’s beta-testing, sneak peeks, surveys to gauge interest on possible new features, etc.

Don’t bore them. Keep your emails interesting by adding graphics, images, screen shots, video, and audio.  Humanize your company with photos of staff, events, and parties; employee profiles; short articles written by key employees; and success stories that customers either wrote or relayed to an employee.

Image by Flickr user Douglas Duffield (Creative Commons)

The Definitive Guide to Building an Awesome Email Marketing List

February 16th, 2011 ::
This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series email marketing

Towers of LegosLast summer I downloaded an e-book called the Bionic List Building Guide.  It was published by Lyris, a provider of integrated online marketing products (e-mail marketing, Web analytics, search marketing, mobile marketing, etc.).  I tucked it away and promptly forgot about it.  I am very glad I stumbled upon it a couple of weeks ago, because it is full of great information on building an e-mail marketing list.

Here’s what I learned:

E-mail addresses tend to churn 30 percent every year, so it is important to retain your e-mail marketing subscribers while continually adding new ones.  According to Lyris, there are 3 components to effectively building a list:

  1. Legally acquiring new e-mail addresses
  2. Providing valuable content to retain subscribers
  3. Allowing each new subscriber to manage their opt-in preferences—on an ongoing basis

I am going to focus on the first component in this blog post and the second component in my next blog post.  The third component is an obvious one; every e-mail newsletter I subscribe to has an opt-out button.  It’s just standard practice.

Now, here is something new that I learned: Just because you have an e-mail address doesn’t mean you can go ahead and add that person to your e-mail list.  It’s actually illegal!  You must obtain their permission by asking them to opt-in, or subscribe, to your e-mail list.

The e-mail addresses of people who are not subscribers are called raw names.  If you just go ahead and add names to your e-mail list, you violate spam laws and risk damaging your relationship with those people.

Here’s how to convert raw names and website visitors into opt-ins:


Make it easy to subscribe. Provide the opportunity to opt-in by posting a link to your registration page on every page of your website and in your (and your employees’) e-mail signatures.  Make sure the opt-in is positioned prominently on your home page.

At checkout. If you have an e-commerce site, everyone who makes an online purchase should be asked to check a box to indicate his or her desire to receive e-mail updates or an e-newsletter.

Landing pages. Use paid search to have better visibility in search rankings and to attract new subscribers.  Post a link to your opt-in on the landing page.

Use partner e-mail lists. I recently formed an informal but committed partnership with three other marketing-related companies, and we pooled our lists to launch a blog via e-newsletter.  Just be sure your partner has specifically stated to subscribers that they will receive offers from affiliates.

Newsletters. This is an easy suggestion that I really like: consider reciprocal promotions in complementary newsletters.  Start with the companies you partner with regularly, as you probably have similar target markets.

Incentives. Offer opt-in incentives such white papers, eBooks, guides, e-mail-only discounts, free shipping, and/or special reports to significantly increase opt-in rates. Remember, content is king! Do this via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other social media channels you use.


Events. When your company exhibits at trade shows or conferences, have sign up form or scanner available to add names from the show floor.

In print. Publish your opt-in link on all printed materials, especially sales brochures and direct mail pieces.

Just ask. Ask your sales team to ask potential and current customers if they’d like to opt-in.

Presentations. Add your opt-in link on the last slide of your presentation so attendees can jot it down while you’re taking questions.

Point-of-purchase. If you have a retail outlet, ask customers to subscribe as you ring up their orders.  You can also provide a sign-up form or small bowl where customers can leave their business cards next to the cash register.  So many businesses still do this that it must be effective!

Image by Flickr user Ninja M. (Creative Commons)

Small Biz Resource Tip: Constant Contact

November 23rd, 2010 ::


Contemplating creating an e-mail marketing program, an e-newsletter or a social marketing campaign? Constant Contact is one of the leading online marketing solution companies and for a very low monthly cost allows you to create e-mail newsletters and updates, online surveys and more. You can even send marketing e-mails from your smartphone. Try Constant Contact’s free 60-day trial offer and create an e-newsletter for your customers from one of the many templates. E-mail address can be stored directly at Constant Contact. Want to discuss your needs with someone in person? The company has representatives all over the country.