Local Biz Blogs Official Blog
Welcome to our BizBlog! Browse blogs and find unique local businesses on the web at LocalBizBlogs.com. Get to know your neighborhood marketplace. You'll be surprised at what you'll find!
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I will be live tweeting today from the 2010 Governor's Conference on Small Business & Entrepreneurship.
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The economic downturn of the last two years has taken a toll on Main Street businesses. With so many people watching their wallets, getting new customers through the door can be a huge challenge. Now more than ever, small business owners are forced to maintain their competitive edge on an ever-shrinking budget.
Enter: LocalBizBlogs. Business blogs are a cost-effective way to connect with customers and cultivate those relationships. The real kicker? Web 2.0 technologies generate valuable business, yet COST LESS than traditional advertising. Small business owners can now independently market their services for a FRACTION of the old cost.
Kirstie Bennett, owner of Framer's Workshop in Berkeley, CA, updates her BizBlog with product news, framing tips, and photos of the store's frame inventory. "Blogging allows me to get new product and sale announcements online immediately without the delays that making changes to my web site would entail." Kirstie's BizBlog is also set to automatically update to her Facebook business page each time she posts something new. Like many small businesses these days, Kirstie has reduced costs by cutting back on print advertising and opting to do more marketing on the web. By simply blogging a few times a week, she has doubled traffic to her existing website because customers are consistently finding her BizBlog as a top search result on search engines.
Dedicating several hours a week to updating her BizBlog, Kirstie wants to gauge her efforts: How many people visited? Where did they come from? What keywords did they use? According to Kristie, "LocalBizBlogs makes it easy to track visitor statistics. I get weekly reports that show the keywords people are using to reach my BizBlog." Identifying high referral sites and keyword trends is vital to any business on the web. Not only can business owners use this information to optimize their BizBlog, but to optimize their overall marketing plan.
Joan Bacino, owner of John's Pizzeria in Merrillville, IN, has been publishing online coupons to her company blog and customers are responding in a huge way. "We average 250 coupons a week. That's a lot for a business like ours." Coupons have been a way for John's Pizzeria to stay price competitive in a region where budgets are tight and people are going out to eat less often. "Our BizBlog gets the word out. Keeps our doors open."
Other businesses are using the web as a way to stand out from competition. Randy Ralls, owner of Service Doctor in Hobart, IN, recently purchased a digital camera so he can post photos of his business to his BizBlog. Randy and his team use the camera to capture photos of showroom items, and "before and after" shots of their remodeling jobs. The camera also records high quality video, allowing them to make short commercials that are uploaded to YouTube and posted to the Service Doctor BizBlog.
"Our business model is made up of a wide variety of conventional and restoration remodeling services. Video commercials allow us to inform customers of Service Doctor's unique restoration process and various home remodeling solutions," says Randy. By educating customers about Service Doctor's range of services, Randy is reaching out to those customers who research products and services on the web before they buy. Randy says he has a higher chance of winning their business if he can address their questions/concerns upfront and make a positive impression.
Marketing a small local business on a tiny budget is easy when you leverage the power of business blogging. LocalBizBlogs provides a simple and affordable way to get more customers in the door. All it takes is a computer, a BizBlog and the commitment to reaching out to customers through the web. The power is in your hands.
Bloggers who review products given to them for free should disclose that fact in some circumstances, but journalists who write reviews for news outlets generally need not do so. That's according to the Federal Trade Commission's revised guides to testimonials and product endorsements. If you review or endorse products on your blog, make sure you are in compliance with the new rules.
Today's marketing, which some have dubbed Permission Marketing, is built around trust and relationships. Permission marketing is the act of marketing to people who want to be marketed to. It works like this: customers who find value in your content will opt-in to hearing more from you. For example, they might subscribe to your blog or join your facebook group. This relationship lasts as long as the customer finds value in your marketing.
In contrast (and without going into a great amount of detail), permission marketing is much different than the 'intentional interruption' approach that comes from the mass marketing mindset. Think how commercials interrupt a television program. Annoying, right? And what if the commercial is not something you are interested in? A total waste to time... People are tired of being interrupted, so they find ways to circumvent the noise. Tivo, which allows you to skips commercials, is a classic example.
How to get involved
With permission marketing, your messages should be personal and relevant, and offer value to the customer. And they need to appear at the right time and place in order to be effective. To really take advantage of permission marketing, you need to clearly identify your target customer, find where they spend their time online, and become a part of their community. Building trust and relationships are core features of online social networks, so they are a good place to start. In many cases social networks allow you to leverage demographic information (age, gender, location, etc.) so you can drill down from the masses and reach your target customer.
Having a blog and maintaining an email list are also good ways to participate in permission marketing. With blogs, folks can subscribe to your blog's feed, and unsubscribe at will. They do not need to give any personal information, like an email address, making the subscriber totally anonymous. Email lists operate differently, in that the subscriber must give you their email address. People are reluctant to give out their email these days due to the fear of receiving more spam. Once they have given their information, there is no way they can get it back.
Obey the law
If you are maintaing an email list for sending out newsletters or company updates, you are required to comply with laws governing commercial email. The extent of the laws are too much to go into detail, however here are a couple to give you an idea:
- Never send unsolicited email
- Provide an opt-out method (a way to unsubscribe)
- No misleading subject lines or sender information
The FTC has created a summary of the CAN-SPAM Act for more information.
Since email can easily be abused, it requires more effort on your part to comply with the laws. This may be well worth it because email newsletters can be very effective for small businesses. Email lists also require more trust on the subscriber's end, so don't be shy in reassuring them that you take their interest in your company seriously and promise to never abuse your email privileges.
Everyday, people online share their favorite â€“ and not so favorite - products, services, businesses, and organizations. The discussion is happening whether you are a part of it or not. Isn't it time you joined the conversation?
Let's look at a few tips for approaching the social web.
Claim a web presence
The first step in joining the conversation is to claim a web presence for your business. You might already have a website, but that is not enough, especially if your website is updated only once a year. Get a blog. Blogs allow you to instantly post new information, keeping your business current. Your business also needs to be a part of existing social networks, like FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you are new to these sites, join one at a time, and move on to the next once you have mastered the first. Nothing looks worse then a half-hearted attempt. People will notice.
Contribute in a meaningful way
Now that you have a web presence, it is time to participate in the conversation. Here are a few ideas on how to contribute in a meaningful way:
Tell your story - Stories put a human face on your business. Every business has a story. How it started? What is your mission? What have you achieved?
Demonstrate your expertise - Publishing articles and videos on specialized topics lends to your credibility as a professional. Share your knowledge and you will get recognized as an expert in your field.
Offer customer service and support - It means a lot when a business stands behind their products and services. Offering service and support shows customers you are committed to them beyond the sale.
Share relevant news - Sharing information related to your field of work is a good way to show that you are on top of the current trends. Only share relevant information.
Answer questions - People often have questions when learning about your business. Answering questions helps them know more about you. Consider creating a Frequently Asked Questions page to group them all in one place.
The worst thing you could do is be a fraud. The word will get out and it will probably end up on some user review site. You don't want that. Honesty is essential to your relationship with the customer.
I hope these tips are helpful. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment.