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6 Reasons Why Your Business Needs A Blog

Everywhere we go, we hear that if we are in business, we need a blog.  The real question is, do you know why? In this week’s blog post, I will outline 6 reasons why you need a blog for your business, like…yesterday!

REASON #1

A blog is a GREAT way to connect with your customers.  Blogging about your product or service gives your customers an in-depth look at what you offer and it gives them the opportunity to ask questions about your offerings.

REASON #2

SEO.  Search Engine Optimization!  Search engines crave keyword-rich, value-driven, website content.  Blogging is all about delivering keyword-rich content teaming with value!  

REASON #3

A blog is a great starting place for social media content.  Social media is geared towards smaller more “snackable” pieces of information.  Imagine how many “tweetables,” Instagram, and Facebook posts you can come up with just from one single blog post.  Ninja tip:  When you repurpose blog posts for social media, don’t forget to direct your audience back to the blog for more detailed information.

REASON #4

Blogging is a FANTASTIC outlet for telling your brand story.  

REASON #5

You have the opportunity to monetize your blog if you chose, adding another stream of income to your business.

REASON #6

Blogging can help you stay focused on your content marketing strategy.

Ready to get started blogging?  

Here are a list of blogging best practices:

  • Your first step should be to make a list of topics to write about
  • Make blog entries value-rich
  • Identify keywords and use them naturally in your blog post – avoid mentioning a keyword just for the sake of using a keyword in your post
  • Be consistent.  If you elect to blog once a week.  Stick to the schedule. Don’t approach blogging haphazardly
  • Write in batches and schedule your posts to hit your blog – this practice saves time…trust me!
  • Have fun!  If you don’t enjoy writing, consider delegating the task to someone on your team or outsourcing the job to a copywriter

Happy blogging!

Yeah, NO – Networking is not really working for me . . . and yet . . .

I recently re-relocated to the Tampa Bay area (grew up in St. Pete), I jumped into (literally and figuratively) Bay area networking. You know… those events where people gather and make small talk in hopes that it leads to large sales. 

Occasionally, I come across someone I’ve known for a while who says “Yeah, NO – I’m not getting anything OUT OF networking” and a juxtaposed two-shot of Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality enters my head . . . and the question begs “what are you putting INTO Networking?”

As a business nerd, I’m comfortable dealing with facts and figures and there’s no mistaking the impact of building business through “Word of Mouth” marketing.  Networking can be an effective tool in hearing more words – and seeing more mouths:     

  • 84% of American consumers completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends – it’s the highest ranked source for trustworthiness.
  • 74% identify word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decision.
  • 91% of B2B buyers are influenced by word-of-mouth in making buying decisions.
  • Word-of-mouth improves traditional marketing effectiveness by up to 54%.
  • 64% of their survey respondents mostly or completely agree that word-of-mouth marketing is more effective than traditional marketing.
  • 50% indicated that they’ve incorporated word-of-mouth marketing into their traditional marketing campaigns.
  • But how do you get that Bullock “after” look? 

Here are a few tips:

Treat your business card as an asset versus a card-game

When you show up ready to pass out business cards like you’re a Las Vegas blackjack dealer, you’re creating an impression that anyone with a pulse is a prospect.  Having a thoughtful conversation AND making a connection warrants a business card. 

Using it as a “calling card” usually means there will be no callbacks. 

Use networking opportunities to practice speaking in “elevators”

Become so well-practiced (but not robotic) that you can focus your attention on the reaction and response people give you. (It’s not what you said – it’s what THEY heard).  In one group, several of us marvel that a woman speaking could talk a full two minutes in rapid staccato without taking a breath.  We were no longer listening but hearing her memorized monologue. 

Regular networking opportunities give you a chance to change up your initial impression by practicing in a “safer space” – if it is a regular group, you can ask for feedback on which approach resonates better with prospects.  What do they want to hear from you? 

“Read the room” before the room reads you

Sometimes the best connections (who have the best referrals) are the people standing on the sidelines.  The regulars know each other and have moved beyond business to chat about personal life.  It certainly makes it hard to talk about business when the first question is “How’s the family?”  Seek out people who are alone – welcome them – and ask them questions about their business:  who’s their target market, who’s a good referral, why do people buy from them.

Know your own target market – there’s a difference between a warm body and a warm lead

“If you stand in it – or on it, I can sell it.”  “It” was real estate, and that’s the intro I got from a real estate agent. (I heard that there were more real estate agents in Pinellas County than anywhere in the nation – so she’s got LOTS of competition)

Because she didn’t specialize – or by inference – excel – in any segment, I was left with the impression that her approach was like cooking pasta “throw it against the wall” and see what sticks.  On a side note, I asked her if she was in sales and she looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language.  She focused on what she does and not who she serves.   

Sharing who your target market is (and who it isn’t) allows people to better define (and remember) who you are and what you do.    I’m not in digital marketing – but have lots of referrals who are – so when I attend networking events, I’m actually introduced as “Sheila – she doesn’t “do” digital but she’s hugely creative – and measures her success by YOUR sales” – That’s an okay – and clearly differentiating – introduction – by me.

Follow-up – Follow-up – Follow-up

Don’t put those business cards in a drawer and check in every 3 months to see who changed jobs or call them immediately looking for an introduction to the decision maker in their office (unless they volunteer it, of course):

Connect with them on Linkedin (again, stats say a personal note increases connection rates). 

Send a thank you note for their time

Think – and do – referrals! 

Connect THEIR dots – introduce people who might be good mutual resources – take the lead in making positive e-troductions, including “why” the two people should meet.  One person struggling to grow her business sent me her database and said “just use my name . . .” Ugh, NO – but it also explains why her business was struggling.  She didn’t value her database – nor me for that matter. 

Follow-up with a coffee / lunch – or just connect at the next networking event – you should be there anyway (are you going is a great incentive / encouragement)

Be alert to articles about their business or industry – share it with them – it shows that you 1) try to stay current with business and 2) they weren’t out-of-sight / out-of-mind

And it works: 

In my roughly 10 months of actively networking in Tampa Bay – I’ve met the highest caliber of professionals – and connected to some great organizations – made my fair share of sales. I may not look like the Bullock “after” – but I’m certainly in the running for Miss Congeniality :- ) !

Are You Prepared To Speak? 4 Tips to Make Your Next Presentation A Success!

As a business owner, entrepreneur, or someone who generates business, you must be prepared to speak.  Whether you are called on to tell people what you do for a living, who your ideal or perfect client is, or you get the opportunity to talk about your business to a room full of people, you must be prepared.  In this blog post, I will share with you my 4 tips to make your next presentation a success.

Let’s dive right into the tips!

TIP 1:  DON’T “Present”

You heard me.  Take “presenting” out of your presentation.  Instead, tell a story. Why? Stories bring impact because they:

  • Organically cause audiences to use their imagination, placing themselves into the story line – this holds their attention longer
  • Make the content more relatable
  • Keep people engaged, especially if you can lead them through a series of emotions during your “non-presentation” (make them laugh, feel sad, happy, determined, motivated, etc.)

 

TIP 2:  KISS

Keep It Simple, Sweetheart!  Especially when you are trying to teach something or show how a product or service can help impact someone’s life.  Use everyday language, avoid acronyms, and don’t shroud your content in a cloud of mystery and complicated scenarios.  People are listening to you because you are the expert, not because you are trying to prove your expertise.

 

TIP 3:  DON’T USE SLIDES AS A CRUTCH

We can all read.  There is nothing worse than going to a presentation and have the presenter read from slides.  Instead, use slides for visual impact and creating interest. Otherwise, you risk:

  • Sending signals that you/the presenter doesn’t know the material
  • Putting the audience to sleep
  • Being be more engaged with the slides rather than the audience

 

TIP 4:  CHOOSE GRAPHICS WISELY

When designing graphics for your presentation, design them with the audience member seated at the back of the room in mind.  As an attendee, there is nothing more frustrating than seeing a slide with:

  • Tiny print
  • Spreadsheets that no one can read
  • Graphs with weak visual impact

Instead, aim for:

  • High quality, clean, sharp images
  • Graphs that do not include too much information so that the point gets across
  • Few words

Remember the old cliche “A picture is worth 1,000 words.”  Apply that mantra to your next presentation if you decide to use slides.  Slides should supplement the presentation to drive a point home, they should not be the presentation.

What changes will you make to your next presentation to make it a success?  I would love to hear your ideas!

 

How To Build Consistency In Your Business In 4 Easy Steps

When you are consistent in your business, you provide a predictable experience for your customers and clients.  Consistency builds trust, which, in turn, builds business. How can you make sure you are building consistency in your business on a daily basis?  There are several ways to do it. You can rely on things like customer experience, branding, messaging, values, language, etc. Below we will explore how to make consistency a regular occurrence in your business in 4 easy steps.  

Step ONE: Set Standards and Expectations

Setting up a strong foundation of what people can expect from your business helps to keep you, your team, and your employees accountable for delivering an outstanding product or service.  When everyone clearly knows what is expected of them, how it is to be done, what the vision is, and what standard to achieve, the natural byproduct is consistency.

Step TWO:  Document, Document, Document

Document your process for everything.  When you can provide your team and/or employees with specific steps of how you plan on accomplishing regular tasks or projects, it organically builds consistency.  If everyone is following the same guidebook, the outcome becomes predictable. Where there is predictability, there is consistency.

Step THREE:  Build Systems Based on Step TWO

To maintain consistency in your business, design systems, both automated and manual.  Systems help to make your business accurate and predictable with desirable outcomes.

Step FOUR:  Measure Everything

Measurement will tell you how consistent you and your business are.  Measured outcomes will alert you to successes, issues, and will reveal where inconsistencies are occurring in your business.  The inconsistencies that reveal themselves will alert you to successes and potential problems, allowing you to pivot and adjust as needed.

Using the four steps outlined above will help you get a start in the right direction when it comes to making consistency a priority in your business.

Are You Working In Your Business Or On Your Business?

If you are an entrepreneur, a small business owner, or someone who is responsible for a specific business unit in your company, pay close attention. The difference between working in your business or on your business can make a HUGE difference in how successful you ultimately are.

Knowing the difference

Knowing the difference between working in your business working on your business is huge. Sometimes we can get trapped into thinking we are working on our business because of the level of importance we give an activity or task. When, in reality, we can actually delegate or outsource the “important” task or activity leaving us the creative space and time to breathe life into our businesses.

Key Clues That You Are Working “In” Your Business:

Working “in” your business ties you down with tasks and activities that can be easily automated, delegated or outsourced.

Examples of these types of activities include things like:

  • Payroll
  • Bookkeeping
  • Social media and content creation
  • Customer service
  • Some marketing functions
  • Answering phones
  • Answering emails

Many of the above tasks can be delegated to people like Virtual Assistants (VAs), freelancers, hourly employees and others can be automated

Working “on” your business centers your efforts, time, and energy around things that help your business gain momentum and move forward. Things like:

  • Developing strategies
  • Setting goals
  • Measuring successes
  • Creating plans
  • Ensuring focus
  • Investing in yourself (education, workshops, etc.)
  • Hiring the right people
  • Building systems
  • Leading a team to success

How do you determine whether you have been working in your business rather than on it? You probably already have a gut feeling. But, just to make sure you pinpoint it accurately, I recommend you do the following:

  • Grab a sheet of paper and pen
  • Divide the paper into 3 columns
  • Title 1 column “Tasks”
  • Title the 2 column “Delegate”
  • At the top of the 3rd column put your name
  • Under the “Tasks” column, list all the tasks you do on a daily basis. The best way to do this is to spend an entire week recording your daily tasks or “to-dos”
  • At the end of the week review the list
  • Put a check in the “Delegate” column for all of the tasks you could outsource, give to a VA, an employee, or automate (be realistic – not everything must be done by you!)
  • Put a check in the column with your name for absolutely every task that must be done by you.

Take a shortcut!  Download my worksheet HERE

Now that you have a sense of what type of tasks you can delegate or automate, it’s time to start! You may not be able to do everything all at once…that’s ok! Start with what makes the most sense, what you can afford, and then, grow from there. For me, the first thing I chose to delegate was bookkeeping! Bookkeeping was by far, my least favorite task to do – EVER! As a result of giving this one task away, my taxes are so much easier to prepare and my accountant seems to be a little happier too!

What are you waiting for? Go work ON your business!

Why Video Is More Important Than Ever To Your Social Media Marketing Plan

We are a little more than 3 months into 2018 and have seen some drastic changes when it comes to social media.  Almost every major platform has changed its algorithm which has marketers, entrepreneurs, and businesses scrambling to figure out what the new social media marketing system is and how to automate it.  What was working in 2017 has come to a screeching halt due to regular algorithm changes.  This is why I believe video will be more important than ever to your social media marketing plan in 2018.

While people are scrambling to find the answers, I’ve been watching to see what has been gaining businesses the most exposure.  The one constant that I am finding to be an effective way of marketing in 2018 is video. Here’s why…

“To ensure you social media marketing efforts are a success, you must embrace video.” ~ Lora Shipman

Social media platforms are working hard to improve the user or audience experience.  They are looking for ways to keep:

  • Audiences or users on the platform for as long as possible
  • Users engaged and active on the platform for extended amounts of time
  • Audiences interacting with each other – the more they interact with each other, the longer they stay on the platform

The one thing that does all three of the above, is video.  People love to watch video, comment on it, react to it, engage with it and engage with other views.  The exact formula the social media platforms want. The more you use video, the more you will be rewarded with exposure by the social media platforms.

Before you get started with video in your social media marketing strategy, understand that not all video is created equal.  Before you can understand how video is weighed, you must recognize the 4 main types of video you can use on your social media accounts.

Social media video can be broken down into 4 types or forms:

  1. Pre-recorded video
  2. Live video
  3. Disappearing video (video that only lasts for 24 hours)
  4. Animated video (still images put into motion, looping video)

Each social media platform or channel views video differently and gives each type of video a score within its algorithm.  But, if I were to rank the various types of video, I would say the following pecking order would work well to get you the most exposure.  Why this particular order? In a word…ENGAGEMENT.  Engagement is always going to be the key in any algorithm.  The more people engage with a post, whether it be a photo, text, or video, the more weight it will carry.  Engagement tells the social media platform how important the post is to people. If it has a very high engagement rate, the social media platform will give it more exposure.

  1. Live video – While a live video may not have viewers at all at the start of the broadcast, the social channel will invite audiences or people you don’t even know to help you get more viewers.  The fact that viewers can have a conversation with the broadcaster through the comment section adds to the engagement rate. The more the audience engages with the broadcaster, the popular the video becomes.  Additionally, those who take the time to watch a video on the “replay” tell the social platform that the content is important and desirable.
  2. Disappearing video – This creates a fear of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).  When viewers see that a disappearing video is available, they will do what they can to see the content before it is gone (usually within 24 hours)
  3. Pre-recorded video – This type of video doesn’t have the same allure or sense of urgency as live or “FOMO” video may have which causes it to carry less weight.
  4. Animated video – While this type of animation or video may capture someone’s attention or “stop the social screen scroll,” it does not compel people to interact with the content as much as a live video or disappearing video might.

When creating a video marketing plan for your business, take the time to evaluate all the types of video you can use.  Create a plan that incorporates all types of video mentioned above so that your social channel is interesting, fresh, and exciting.  Above all, stay consistent with your plan. This is where most social accounts fail – lack of consistent content made available to their audiences.

~ Have a profitable week.

Lucky In Business? Nope! It’s A Business Plan!

Sometimes, doesn’t it seem that some people just seem to be extremely lucky with their business? They tend to be on the fast track to closed business deals, higher numbers, more clients, etc. It almost appears effortless.

I know their secret!

Their secret is not edgy, sexy, or mystifying. It’s the result of the stuff you don’t see…behind the scene. As a matter of fact, their “lucky” business is the result of something called a plan. And, the plan is probably the result of several years of plans getting them to where they are today. You just tend to see the result as of right now. To you, this success seems like an overnight phenomenon but it goes much deep than that.

“People are rewarded in public for what they practice in private.” ~ Tony Robbins

Now that we know the “secret” behind business success, what goes into a business plan? Honestly, it can be as complicated and detailed as you want it to be or you can make it simple. Simple to understand and simple to execute. I tend to go for simple and something that can be adjustable.

Some of the things I believe that are non-negotiable for business plans are:

  • What problem does your business solve and how do you solve it?
  • Who is your competition?
  • What makes you different?
  • Goals – where do you want to be in 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 5 years, 10 years?
  • How will you get there? What does the roadmap look like to get you to your goals? Who makes up the team to get you there?
  • How will you market your business, product, or service?
  • What does your social footprint look like? How will you expand it?

How do you put it all together? Remember how I said I like simple? I have prepared for you a simple, one-page, at-a-glance business plan you can keep with you to monitor how you are progressing towards your goals. Download the plan by clicking HERE.

Make it your mission to be a goal digger and have fun crushing goals!

© Lora Shipman, Keep It Local, LLC, March 11, 2018, All rights reserved

3 Ways Not To Suck At 1 to 1 Meetings

Networking is a highly effective tool for growing and building your business.  But, it is only effective when you use all the tools and features available to you and you know how to use them properly.  One of the most overlooked and avoided features/tools of networking is 1 to 1 meetings.  This is mostly due to people using the tool incorrectly or not knowing how to do it all…Let’s change that!

There are many reasons why people avoid 1 to 1 meetings.
Make sure your approach isn’t one of them!

Schedule With Intent

Your intention with a 1 to 1 meeting will change everything about your experience!  As a member of a networking group or chapter, your primary goal should be to want to get to know everyone in the room at a deeper level.  Why?  Because this gives you the opportunity to refer and to be referred.  The 1 to 1 meeting is an effective way to get to know your referral partners. If done correctly, you will begin to build a relationship where you learn things like:

  • Who their target market is
  • What type of business they are looking for
  • How you can refer them

As you are learning these things about your referral partner, they are doing the same.  This deeper connection begins to build the “know, like, trust” factor with your referrals partners.  Let’s be realistic, people are not going to refer your business out just because you show up to a meeting.  They will refer you if they know who you are, how you approach business, if you are trustworthy, and if you are likable.  Once somebody refers you out, their personal brand is attached to the referral.  People will only refer when they feel comfortable that their personal brand will not be tarnished as a result of the referral.

Take Selling Out Of The Equation

One of the most common reasons people avoid 1 to 1’s is that many people use the 1 to 1 meeting to sell the other person.  No one wants to be stuck in an hour-long meeting which results in being sold.  It’s a waste of time.  Avoid selling altogether.  Instead, focus on helping.  You will be amazed at what comes back to you the more you help.

Don’t Be A Brain Picker

Many will see a 1 to 1 meeting as the opportunity to get free advice.  This is another surefire way to build walls instead of networks and relationships.  Instead, steer the conversation towards things like how you can work together to build a referral partnership.  Explore things like how to identify meaningful introductions, co-marketing opportunities, and other ways to expand a collaborative network.

Networking is one of the most effective and cost-efficient forms of by-word-of-mouth marketing.  Make it work for you.

Curious about getting involved in networking?  Explore the Chapters available through Keep It Local.

© Lora Shipman, Keep It Local, LLC, March 11, 2018, All rights reserved

Got A 2018 Networking Plan?

I LOVE when one year ends and a new year starts.  It gives me the opportunity to start fresh and create new goals. 

Networking is the most effective by-word-of-mouth marketing you can participate in.  This is why a Networking plan is the one plan everyone should have in place before 2018 hits.

What goes into a networking plan?

That’s a great question!  Some of the things you will want to layout for your networking plan are: 

GOALS:

Why are you networking in the first place?  What do you want to get out of networking. Once you know why you are getting involved in networking you can fill in the rest of your plan.

GROUP:

What type of group do you want to be involved in.  Do you want to network through philanthropic organizations, interest groups, or a traditional lead generating and referral group.

ONE-TO-ONES:

The best way to meet others is to set up weekly one-to-one meetings.  These meetings will help you to build relationships and help others.  The more relationships you have and nurture, the more referrals you can begin to generate. 

PRESENTATIONS:

When given the opportunity to present to your networking organization, what types of topics will you talk about?  My recommendation is to plan for one presentation per quarter. It’s always good to have a presentation in your back pocket just in case you are invited to speak

30-SECOND COMMERCIALS:

What will your 30-second commercials look like in 2018?  Have several planned out and ready to go.  The key to 30-second commercials is to intrigue your audience so that they want to talk to you after the meeting or schedule a one-to-one.  Remember, the 30-second commercial is not a sales pitch.

FOLLOW-UP PLAN:

This is where most networkers fail.  They fail to follow-up.  What is your plan and how will you follow up with your fellow networkers.  Will it be through an email campaign, social media, one-to-one schedule, etc.  Take some time to map out what that looks like. 

The above are just a few ideas of how you can make the most of your networking efforts during 2018.

Have a profitable week!

~ Local Lora

3 Social Media Trends That Will Take Off During 2018:

As 2017 draws to a close, it’s time to think about what your social media marketing plan will look like during 2018.  In order to plan appropriately, it’s important to know what the expected trends will be.

3 social trends that will take off during 2018:

  • Ephemeral content – a.k.a. Disappearing content:  Think Snapchat and the “stories” feature on Instagram and Facebook.  This type of content creates a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out), driving viewers to consume content before it’s gone.
  • Personalized content:  Consumers will want to see more content that is relevant to their needs and want.  This will increase the usage of “Feature” accounts on social media.  Feature accounts are those accounts that only focus on 1 specific service, product, interest and not your entire offering.  Gone are the days where all of your content lives under one umbrella on social.
  • Video!  This one area of social media has been on fire!  2018 is the year to harness it for your business.  Video gets more engagement than any other type of content on social media and will continue to do so.  Episodic content or a series of videos will be important to viewers in 2018.

How will these trends impact your social media marketing plan for 2018?  Taking advantage of the trends above will make a difference to your social media marketing efforts.  First, you need to determine if you:

  • Have the right tools
  • Know how to use video effectively
  • Need further training or coaching

One of the biggest investments you can do for you and your business is investing in proper training and education.  Identify where you need that help now and search out those who can provide the training you need.