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LinkedIn for Your Small Business

by Admin 14. July 2009 10:07

This will be the first part in a series on how to use LinkedIn for your business. We have been using LinkedIn here at OfficeClip to build brand awareness and create an online presence, as well as establish each of us individually as experts in the areas we work (such as marketing, software, development, etc.). There are several ways in which businesses can achieve these (and I must stress that it takes time and effort) and I am going to talk about a few briefly here as an introduction. Follow-up articles will discuss some of these techniques in more detail.

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Tech Skills for the Next 5 Years

by Admin 6. July 2009 09:07

Global Knowledge gives 10 technology skills you should acquire over the next 5 years. Some of them may be long gone before that so I will discuss a few that are relevant and will more than likely remain so for awhile at least.

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Building an Online Community: Part 1

by Admin 27. April 2009 10:04

This is the first part of a two-part series; we are now focusing on forums and the second will focus on how blogs can help small businesses to build an online community.

So far we have been serving our customers and prospects using direct email, phone and our product knowledge base. We have known for awhile that we wanted to implement a forum, where our OfficeClip customers could discuss their own findings with the software, such as easier ways to use web timesheet or web contact manager, how to set up issue tracker, etc. In effect, we want to create a community for our users so they have some place to go to find answers. This will make their satisfaction with our product even better and allow us to easily look to the conversations to see what we are doing well and where we need to improve. Additionally, prospective OfficeClip users can look to the forum to gather their preliminary information and talk with current users about their experience. This does put pressure on us though, because we want the word-of-mouth comments to be positive!

Our next step was to find a forum for us to implement. While researching for an online support forum, we found that there are many inexpensive and open source forum products out there. To my surprise the free and open source are almost as good as the paid ones.

We selected the YAF (Yet Another Forum) to implement our support forum. The advantage of being open source is that we could make some minor tweaks to the source code to make it work exactly like what we want.

When using open source, it is important to remember that developers of these open source programs need to be supported through donations (many of them have donation links on their website) or contributing to the open source product (if you are a developer and want to add more features to the product).

Please visit our OfficeClip Forum, let us know what you think and let us know if forums are working for your business. And if you like our community and want more discussions, follow us on Twitter, too!

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Small Business Tips | Marketing Strategies | Other

SEM is still bigger than Social Networking

by Admin 2. April 2009 12:04

...But for how long?

CRM Magazine concedes that social networking is becoming bigger and bigger by the day but holds firm to the idea that SEO and SEM are still holding their ground. Social networks, according the article, have yet to lead to a true revolution but consumers are changing how they are searching, so marketers need to be involved and ready to adapt quickly.

5 Strategies

The article then goes on to give 5 strategies to improve your SEO and SEM by including, not excluding or ignoring, your social networking efforts.

The first one is to start preparing for mobile search. Jon Diorio of Google Adwords pointed out that people have a different mindset when they are using their mobile device for search than when they are sitting at a computer and searching. Bottom line: get ahead of the game and start devoting some of your marketing budget to this because by 2009, almost 90% of mobile internet users will be searching, compared to 13% in 2007.

The second point mentioned was to make sure that your social content is searchable. Optimize it because if you don't, there could be unintended consequences, such as searchers being attracted to your competitors whose social content is optimized.

Strategy #3 advises marketers to use brand awareness as a selling point and only 25% of marketers currently track brand awareness. 98% of ads aren't clicked, so their only real purpose then is is to create and extend brand awareness. People can be encourged to perform searches after viewing some kind of online or offline marketing. Your paid ad may not get the click, but that person may search for you later, which is even better since you won't have to pay for the click! Online and Offline campaigns can be used in combination.

This 4th strategy suggests that a TV, newspaper or radio ad could be used to drive traffic to your website by getting people to search for you.

The final idea was for companies who have ideas and budgets, but not enough personnel to manage the intiatives, to use technology.

Things like CRM software, which OfficeClip offers, can help you do this by managing campaigns and contacts. Other marketing technologies are constantly evolving and can really help you manage your programs.

So are you implementing any of these strategies? How are they working for you? What would you add to this list? Please leave comments for us!

A Discussion on Geo-Targeting

by Admin 26. March 2009 10:03

Some conversations have come up here at OfficeClip regarding reaching local businesses. Since we are located in Atlanta, GA, we are keenly aware of how many great opportunities there could be to reach out to other companies to offer our product or simply share ideas.The web is massive and sometimes  leads and sales can come from companies that want to or are willing to support other small businesses in their community.

Geo-targeting is what it's called when you do this with ad campaigns. I am not sure what it's called when it's a focus for social networking, like Twitter and Facebook...but I will lump it together for now.

My last post kind of hinted that Google has its faults (gasp!) and in this post, I am planning to return to that idea with this article, by Brian Carter of Fuel Interactive-a marketing agency in Myrtle Beach, SC and also offer some of my own thoughts on geo-targeting.

Mr. Carter's article focuses on experiences he has had with Google Adwords and his geo-targeted campaigns. He gives the following example:

"Say I want to serve ads about Myrtle Beach Hotels only to people in North Carolina – I’m creating a campaign specifically for North Carolinians with ads about a gas credit to save money on the drive down to Myrtle Beach. With AdWords’ current set-up and the query parsing exception, if someone in California searches for one of my keywords, like “myrtle beach hotels”, AdWords may still show them that ad. This happens despite the fact that the ad is for a gas credit that no one in California would ever use. Ridiculous. "

And I will have to agree with him here. Ridiculous. He goes on to further express some things I occasionally think when using Google:

"If I’m smart enough (or have good data from my analytics) to geotarget more specifically for better results or for specific campaign goals, I should be able to do so. Google either thinks their algorithm is smarter – and clearly it’s not - or they care more about making money than about helping me reach my advertising goals, or this is an antiquated approach they need to update. "

Things are tough out there right now and from what I've been hearing on Twitter and in some LinkedIn groups, people seem very committed to helping out their local businesses. Geo-targeting lets us try to get in touch with one another. If I want everyone to see my ads, I will create a campaign for the whole USA. But if I also want to target the Atlanta metro area, to see if any businesses here need web timesheet software or a web contact manager, I will want to create a campaign to geo-target this area for OfficeClip. Why does Google Adwords get to decide differently? Isn't it our money and our data? This is, for me, certainly an example that Google is too big and has too much control.

On another note, we have not implemented geo-targeting here at OfficeClip as of yet, but we are interested and engaged in our research. Any advice or comments...please post 'em as we would love to read 'em!

Is Twitter Really Better Than Google?

by Admin 20. March 2009 17:03

Interesting thought and one that had never crossed my mind until I read this article from Kuno Creative Strategic Marketing. They assert that Twitter is quickly replacing Google as the go-to place for valuable information. Of course, this should all be kept in perspective: Twitter still has a relatively low number of users, at 7 million, compared to Google's massive worldwide reach.

Their point is interesting though. They concede that Google is still "king of meta data" but go on to say that it is just too massive and people really can struggle to find relevant results and therefore go digging through the pages, wasting alot of time. Hmmm, I've done that a few times, how about you?

Twitter, in their minds, is like a search engine that is full of people with similar interests to yours, whether it be marketing, software, supply chain, medical, etc., giving you direct access to the 1% of the information Google would give you but without having to go through all the other "junk." Twitter is indeed full of "gurus" who are the best of the best at what they do and they are constantly feeding a steady stream of information. If you go to search.twitter.com and type in what you are looking for, you will get a very relevant, quality list.

So while Google has everything, Twitter may be able to save you some time searching for it because it is smaller and a lot more personal. Give it a try sometime.

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Small Business Tips | Marketing Strategies

Making Web 2.0 Work for You

by Admin 4. March 2009 09:03

Web 2.0, according to a McKinsey report and analysis, is extremely beneficial for companies but under-utilized. They give some reasons for this, which I think are very common, in small and large businesses alike:

"Web 2.0 efforts often fail to launch or to reach expected heights of usage. Executives who are suspicious or uncomfortable with perceived changes or risks often call off these efforts. Others fail because managers simply don’t know how to encourage the type of participation that will produce meaningful results. "

If these kind of problems exist, how can Web 2.0 even be beneficial? The McKinsey report explains that Web 2.0 is able to engage a broader base of workers and many of those have grown up using this technology. Also, the enagement demands a different mindset than the technologies of CRM software of the '90s, which were instituted mostly from management.

Web 2.0 consists of things like blogs, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, forums, wikis, etc. and require a lot of interaction from users to generate new content and information. In return, companies must to be open to these ideas and comments. Web 2.0 is like an open conversation...it is not for blatant self-promotion. Instead, it fosters the concept that by engaging with current and potential customers, news about your business and the products and services you sell, will increase.

It also takes a good amount of time. Remember, Web 2.0 is now a huge part of online marketing and if you use it, you should have a proper strategy in place and be willing to commit to blogging, twittering and responding to people's comments.

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Small Business Tips | Marketing Strategies

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

by Admin 26. February 2009 14:02

So there's a lot of buzz right now about Twitter and how small businesses can leverage it.  Everyone has ideas about how this microblogging phenomenon can help companies improve communication with customers and foster open dialogue and feedback. While all of that seems to be a good thing, it remains to be seen how much value a company can get out of Twitter for the time they put into it.

Benefits

There is an article on CIO.com that discusses the best ways to get started using Twitter for your business. For businesses, you need to be interested in sharing ideas and tips with others in your industry or field and also committed to responding to others, which is called "following." For example, a small marketing firm might join Twitter, seach out other marketing professionals and discuss articles, news, industry updates, etc.

The other benefit is that, when you have enough of a following, you will see an increase in traffic on your website, blog, etc. and perhaps an increase in sales. This would come from the large exposure of your company to your followers on Twitter who perceive you as an "expert" and will be interested in your product themselves, or pass your information on to others.

Drawbacks

The main thing Twitter is not for, however, is self promotion. You should not put your blog and website link on every update. The idea is to connect with others and build relationships with those who share common interests. Trying to aggressively sell yourself is highly frowned upon (and it is in the blogosphere as well).

It seems to me that this would all take a large amount of work. I am still unsure of the true benefit this would provide to OfficeClip; some people say it won't take a lot of time because the updates are only 140 characters. This is certainly a fair point, but you still have to find the research, news, etc. to share with others. Also, every other kind of social networking, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and even blogging and forums, require quite a bit of time investment in order to achieve results. Its seems that Twitter would need to be approached from that perspective as well: you get out of it what you put into it. The question I have is, what do you really get out of it as a small business?

What to do?

But, on the other hand, we all know how powerful the internet is and how many companies are not taking full advantage. Maybe this a great to join Twitter then and get established as a company unafraid to enter the world of micro-blogging. I would love to hear some ways that Twitter has or has not worked for you, please leave comments below!

 

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Small Business Tips | Marketing Strategies

Make the Most of Your Marketing

by Admin 19. December 2008 18:12

Make the Most of Your Marketing

By now everyone has heard we’re in a recession. How do you improve your business during a recession? There are, of course, many answers to that but one would certainly be to improve your marketing. Embracing Web 2.0 can be a way to gain visibility for your product/service in a way you might have only been doing through PPC ads and SEO. And while no one is arguing that Google is still king and SEO is still a necessity, Web 2.0 may offer new ways to connect with your target market that (for most of us anyways) is increasingly looking for ways to cut back.

Web 2.0, or inbound marketing, focuses on attracting highly qualified customers to websites through creating blogs that customers can follow, forums they can participate in, videos they want to watch and newsletters they want to read. It is pretty much the opposite of print and TV marketing, where a message is thrown into the crowd over and over again. And if you are reading this OfficeClip blog, you are already participating in inbound marketing!

3 Main Components

Inbound marketing campaigns, according to Hubspot’s Marketing Blog, have three main parts:

1. Content- The content is what attracts the customers to your tool

2. Search Engine Optimization- Nope, this has not gone away, it still has to be a huge part of any marketing strategy, as users will still use your site as a starting point.

3. Social Networking- Things like Facebook and Linkedin allow you to spread the word about your company in a personal way and gets other people talking about you! In addition, Jake Kilroy of Entreprenuer.com, talks about the benefits of using Twitter, a networking site where you constantly update your status, have people “follow” you and “follow” others with whom you share a mutual interest.

Communication is Key

Perhaps the main point of Web 2.0 is that consumers want you to communicate with them and they want to be able to give you feedback! This is why blogs are so common now, even though it can be challenging to get one started and develop a following. Another way to interact with your customers is through email-yes, its been around longer than social networking, but it is still a great tool! Using  OfficeClip’s Web Contact Manager can help you organize all your customers and send out recurring email campaigns, updating them on any news, tips, changes, etc. with your company/product.

In the end, inbound marketing alone will probably not be enough, at least initially. PPC ads, emails, phone calls, etc., can still be effective as long as you do them well. But a combination of these strategies will enable you to connect with your customers in the ways they want…and that’s always best!

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