Gettin’ Busy: Growing Your Business Online

October 2, 2009

Last week I traveled to Boston for Safeco‘s “Bricks & Clicks: Growing Your Business Online” workshop. I was a bit apprehensive because I thought I already knew everything there is to know about using the internet and the resources which it has to offer (ooh, the arrogance of today’s youth)!  My apprehension was met, though, by an incredibly informative workshop led by sharp, knowledgeable instructors. They were able to artfully deliver engaging presentations on topics that normally would have lulled me to sleep.  The wealth of information, ideas, advice, tools and resources the workshop provided was almost overwhelming, but exciting nonetheless.

I’ll share with you some of the valuable INSIDER information (ooh la la)! I learned and will be implementing on our re-vamped site!

What Your Customers Want:

  • People want to manage their affairs and finances online
  • …and they want to do it on their own time—are you there (with your online presence) when they need you?
  • Online shoppers (i.e. looking for insurance quotes) want speed, convenience & objectivity à they want a virtual producer, available after the 9-5
  • People network online; they refer, endorse and review
  • Users look for relevancy, familiarity, quick answers/info and calls to action—what should they do next?
  • LISTEN! They’ll tell you what they want! If not, ASK! 

How You Can Deliver with Your Website:

  • Clarify: What you need, want and don’t want. Create a PLAN.
  • Find out: Who is visiting and from where are they navigating?
  • Ask: What do my customers/prospects expect when they get to my site?
  • Address: User needs in terms of aesthetics, content, usability—you know what they say about first impressions!
  • Try: The 5-sec test & have others test it for you: what will people glean from your site in 5 seconds? Will they know who you are and what you do?
  • Engage: Identify valuable content! Keep it current and succinct.
  • Use: Free advertising in your favor! Put customer feedback & testimonials on your website and use them to your advantage—they show your value to prospective customers!
  • Create: a plan to review your site regularly. Keep it current!
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Improve the volume & quality of traffic to a website from search engines via search results
  • Use: Free SEO tools like Google’s—www.google.com/webmasters/start  and check your page rank here: www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php  
  • Or: Hire a SEO company. They improve your organic rating, ensure search-engine friendly content, conform to search engine guidelines, improve your site’s relevance in search results
  • Use: E-mail marketing to build and strengthen customer relationships (marketing, upselling/cross-selling, newsletter); measure your results
  • Have: A strategy! Be creative, implement an organized deployment plan (have a database or hire vendors/e-mail services that do it for you [i-contact, constant contact, jango mail, mail chimp, responsys, cheetah mail, epsilon, yes mail, exact target]
  • Track and measure: Your marketing efforts! Is it working? What can you do to make it better?

Social Networking

Visit us on:

Asset Security Insurance on Facebook Asset Security Insurance on Twitter Jaime Randle on Linked In

  • It’s your digital business card! Extend your hub of connection, control your online reputation and reach out!
  • A human approach to business and marketing
  • Have a conversation w/ your audience & clients
  • Engage audiences in an authentic way to provide helpful info, solve problems & build relationships to achieve business goals
  • Address problems, concerns, what’s going on in your industry, news, relevant seasonal info, self-written articles, guest spots on your blog, community events and info
  • Listen (gather feedback & customer insight)! Talk (spread the message about your company/product/service)! Energize (enthusiastic customers use the power of word of mouth)! Support (tools to help customers engage w/ you and each other)! Embrace (integrate customers into how your business works & use their help for new products or improved services)!

If you are a Safeco agent, seriously consider attending a Bricks & Clicks workshop in your area. I enthusiastically endorse the program!

Now go get busy!

Advertisements

The Social Side of Business

September 28, 2009

Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, oh MY! Don’t mind the Wizard of Oz allusion–diving into the social media world is not nearly as frightening as lions and tigers and bears (oh my). 

While I was in college (a mere 2 years ago), Facebook exploded onto the social scene, shrouding earlier social networking sites and creating a fresh avenue for communicating with (and stalking) friends and acquaintances. Now that social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs are captivating people and entities outisde of college dorms, I am interested, as a burgeoning businesswoman, in learning how to maximize these resources as a tool for business development.

Used to the traditional face-to-face networking and referrals of yore, many older businessowners are ambivalent toward social networking sits, but hey! It’s 2009!  The amount of people that are connected via social media is phenomenal and is growing at an even more phenomenal rate. In business, we must take advantage of this trend to reach customers on the go, market to prospects and stay connected in an increasingly wired world.

I recently participated in a webinar called “The Social Side of Business: Using Social Media to Create Real Business Relationships,” hosted by Anita Campbell of SmallBizTrends.com with guests Shashi Bellamkonda of Network Solutions, Pamela O’Hara of BatchBlue.com and Partha Dutta of MobileTribe.net. Here is some useful information I gleaned from the webinar:

Shashi says: Create Social Media Plan

  • Set up alerts (i.e. Google Alerts) for yourself and business; keywords people may use to find you/your products
  • Spend 15-20 mins each day looking at the alerts–you could find a customer praising you on a forum or someone giving you a great (or not-so-great) review on Yelp.com
  • Join and setup profiles on 3 social networking sites
  • Choose 3 blogs in your field to read and comment on. Get connected with your peers and experts in your industry; join the conversation!
  • Answer questions yourself and become an expert in your niche on sites like LinkedIn
  • Measure your efforts–i.e. How much revenue? How many leads? How many people read your posts? Are customers evangelizing?
  • Encourage your customers to submit reviews about you (Google, Yelp, etc.)
  • Attend one local event each month to help with networking efforts

 

Pamela says: Build a community

  • She created SBbuzz.biz and invited small business owners to talk about their processes
  • The goal: help small businesses understand technology, social media, twitter; meet and learn from other owners what their needs were and what was working for them
  • She now has 12K+ followers and hundreds of members
  • She built a community, which drove more traffic to her site and attracted new customers

Partha says: Connect, Converse and Share!

  • You can use the web to manage customer interaction, reach a wider audience, retain customers and get feedback
  • People are on-the-go! You can give them relevant and timely responses
  • Talk maximally with minimal cost!
  • Build relationships on the go; invite new friends, send updates to fans (Facebook) and/or followers (Twitter)
  • Make it real work: start small with social networking sites and incorporate it into your daily work–you will build up relationships and a following
  • Create a community around your company

Summary: Milk Social Media for All it’s Worth (which is a lot)!

If you are still weary, intimidated or unsure of what to share, realize:

  • There are people out there interested in what you’re doing! Be a useful, helpful and entertaining resource.
  • Every business has something valuable to offer their community–Simply having something valuable to say and offering advice will encourage people to come to you for information!
  • Engage, educate and entertain your current customers and prospects–they will look forward to seeing what you have to say.

Uh, It’s 2009!

September 23, 2009

I am always surprised at the number of people who ask, “this button?” when asked to snap a photograph on a digital camera. Maybe it’s because I’m young, sprightly and technology savvy, but I can’t help but think, “Uh, it’s 2009! Yes, it’s that big button on the top, in the same position the button has been for decades, even on those ancient 35 mms.”

In the same vein, I realized, “Uh, it’s 2009(!) and our company has yet to establish a strong online presence!” Incorporated 3 years ago, the owners of Asset Security (with 40+ years of combined experience) have dedicated their focus to serving their clients. While nothing is more important than our loyal clients, something had to be done about getting savvy for 2009 and beyond! After all, this is an age where everyone and their grandmas (but not my grandma, in fact) are interacting with the world online. In my own internet experiences, I have realized that if a company does not have website, I immediately furrow my brows as a bewildered looks washes over my face and I think, “Uh, it’s 2009! Who doesn’t have a website?”

To bring Asset Security up to speed, a great team at Safeco (one of the excellent insurance companies Asset Security represents) laid a phenomenal foundation for our website as a gift, recognizing Asset Security as one of the top agents in the country (Safeco Conference of Champions 2009). To augment the design element of our site, we hired a company found through Elance. Elance is a great resource for any individual or business, as it offers an “immediate, cost-effective and flexible way to hire, manage and pay independent professionals and contractors online.”

A website is only the first step, though. Social media trends are growing faster than the speed of light (this is a rough estimate, as it has not yet been scientifically tested) and is THE way to connect, converse and share information. Facebook began as the college student’s online playground and as a recent college graduate, I know the ins and outs, ups (great way to connect with friends!) and downs (great way to procrastinate studying!) of utilizing Facebook for social purposes. Now that I’m all grown up, it is time to get the most out of Facebook (become a fan!), Twitter (follow us!) and other avenues of networking for business.