mastermind groups small business

Why Every Small Business Owner Should Join a Mastermind Group

Owning your own business can be lonely.

We all dream of the day of leaving someone else's employment for the freedom of becoming our own boss with no one else to answer to.

But with that freedom, comes a feeling of isolation.

When you work for someone else, you have your peers and your managers and bosses to speak with.  You have the opportunity to discuss ideas and challenges, or just someone to complain about work in general.

With your own business, all of these conversations happen in your head.

You see, there are no peers, there are no co-workers to chat with.  The only boss you can complain about is yourself.

Once the rush of starting a new business wears off, this isolation can become a real problem, especially when you start running into challenges that you are not sure how to handle.

And yes, you may have some employees that you chat with day to day, but can they really help you to work out some of the real challenges you have in front of you?  Are you going to let them know about your cash flow problems or how all of your current marketing initiatives are producing nothing in the way of new business?

No, you won't.  You'll keep those skeletons to yourself and feel your stress levels rise along with your blood pressure.

You need peers that understand the challenges you face

Research conducted by Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina reviewed 148 studies on social relationships and concluded: “that people with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival than those with weaker social relationships.”

It's the same with business, you need strong social connections in order to thrive.  In this case, you need strong connections with your peers in order to thrive.  You need a group of fellow business owners who are going through the same struggles you are.

Mastermind Groups

A mastermind group is where you as a business owner can discuss successes and challenges with like-minded business owners.  You can discuss things that your friends, family, and employees would not understand or relate to.

So what is a mastermind group?

Napolean Hill coined the term mastermind group in his 1937 landmark book about personal success, “Think and Grow Rich”.  A mastermind is a group of individuals with their own experiences, talents, and insights who work together to collaborate, brainstorm and support one another.  For a business mastermind, this would be a group of business owners who gather to support each other, brainstorm new ideas and help to solve each other's challenges so they can grow both their business and themselves.

It's like having your own board of directors, a group of smart people who are invested in helping you succeed.

That sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

The sad part is that the vast majority of business owners don't know what a mastermind is, let alone belong to one.  Most assume it is some sort of networking or referral group, like one you would find on Meetup.com

The truth is, mastermind groups have been around for a long time and there have been some very famous mastermind groups over the years.

The Vagabonds

The vagabonds mastermind group

Image: From left to right: Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Warren G. Harding, Harvey Firestone

The Vagabonds formed in 1915 and lasted until 1924, with the death of Warren Harding and the increasing media attention the group was getting.

The group consisted of business titans Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone (Firestone Tire & Rubber Company), US President Warren Harding, Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company and Luther Burbank.  All were famous men of their time who believed in the power of a mastermind group.

The group would routinely plan camping trips where they would discuss the news of the day, as well as business challenges and opportunities they each faced.  They would also spend time holding impromptu tree chopping and climbing contests and other recreational activities.

The Inklings

the inklings mastermind group

The Inklings were a famous literary mastermind group in England that consisted of CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and Owen Barfield.  The Lord of The Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia were both honed and improved in the mastermind group.

Over tea, pipe smoke, and beer, the group would meet at a local pub, the Eagle and Child (Or the “Bird & Baby”, as the Inklings referred to) or at CS Lewis's room at Magdalen College.  There they would read their current writings aloud and the group would offer criticisms and commentary on each other's writings.

This was a group of literary giants who discovered that they could take their writing to greater heights by bonding together in a mastermind group.

 

What a mastermind group consists of

Group

A group of like-minded individuals who see the power of working with a group of peers to help them achieve more than they could alone.

Time

A mastermind group meets on a regular schedule.  This could be weekly, monthly, or any other schedule everyone agrees to.

Voice

Every member of a mastermind has an equal voice.  They are given adequate time each meeting to discuss any challenges they are currently facing.

Goals

A mastermind group is about growth, not just socializing.  Members set goals for themselves and the other members help keep each other accountable for reaching these goals.

Privacy

The conversations that go on in a mastermind group are candid.  The conversations that happen are private to the group so members can feel safe discussing their biggest challenges and opportunities.  A confidentiality agreement is often signed by incoming members.

Find a mastermind group or start your own

If a mastermind group sounds like something you would like to be apart of, then go find one.  Most cities will have at least a few of them, though you might have to do some searching.  I have been in Charlotte for 4 years now and was struggling to find one, so I started my own mastermind group in Charlotte.

When you do start your search, you'll find that some groups call themselves a mastermind group, but they are not.  A mastermind group is not a networking group, it's not a group coaching class and it's not a place where you go to sell something or to generate leads.  A mastermind is a group of smart people who want to grow their business more than they can do alone.

A mastermind group should be small, usually 4-8 people.  Smaller than that and the energy and momentum can feel a bit flat. If you have more than that and not everyone will have a chance to voice their challenges and to get meaningful feedback from the group.

If you can't find a mastermind group in your area, then consider starting your own mastermind group.  If you have questions about how to organize one, you can contact me here.

24 Awesome Free Tools Every Small Business Owner Should Be

24 Awesome Free Tools Every Small Business Owner Should Be Using

Most small business owners are on a tight budget, they don't have the money to hire designers, marketers, videographers, etc, so most look to learn how to do things themselves.  And while using DIY software is great, paying for each one every month can add up pretty quickly.

There are so many tools available online for just about anything.  Some are free and some are paid.  The problem is figuring out which ones are worth your time and money and will do the job for you.  You can waste countless hours trying to figure out how to use a new tool, only to find out it wasn't going to be much help.

Below are 24 free tools that every small business owner should have.  They include tools for design, marketing, and productivity.  I use all of these tools myself, many of them every day, so I know first hand the value they bring.

Design

Canva

Canva is the design platform for non-designers.  It's a drag and drop visual design editor that allows you to layer elements the same way you do in Photoshop, without the high technical learning curve.  If you use social media then this is a must have tool.  They also have a nice design course for beginners that is free as well.

Pic Monkey

Pic Monkey is my favorite image editing tool for fast and quick image editing if I don't want to open Photoshop.  It's web based, has browser extensions, and is super simple to use.  It's great for doing quick resizing, cropping and light touch-ups.  The free version will be fine to use for most people and does the job for most general image editing.

Piktochart

Piktochart is a free design tool to create your own infographics without all of the design challenges traditionally associated with creating infographics.  They have a large library of templates to start from as well as great tutorials on how to start creating amazing infographics.  It uses a simple to use drag and drop visual editor so there isn't much of a learning curve.

Open Shot Video Editor

Open Shot is easy to use open source video editor that allows you to edit video.  Many open source programs are difficult to use, but Open Shot has an intuitive editor that is visually similar to many paid video editing programs like Adobe and Filmora.  While there are many free video editing apps available on phones and tablets, if you need to do extensive editing you will see the frustrations with editing video on a mobile device.

Audacity

Audacity is free to use audio editing software that works just as well as any paid audio editing software.  Audacity is one of the most popular audio editing tools around and many people prefer it to paid audio editing programs.  We have used it for years to edit our podcast, The Small Business Express, and have found it very easy to use and very reliable.

 

Productivity

Grammarly

Grammarly is a Chrome extension that I cannot live without.  I'm not the best typer and make frequent typos when writing.  Grammarly scans your writing and shows you not only spelling errors but also grammar errors as well.  It also shows you the correction and replaces it with the click of the mouse.  This is a must for anyone who wants to ensure their writing is error free.  They have a free and paid version, but the free version is enough for most people.

Hemingway

Hemingway App is another app that helps with your writing.  If you paste your article into the app, it will show you numerous ways to make your writing simpler to read and make your sentences shorter and more concise.  The web version is free, the desktop version is paid.

Trello

Trello uses a Kanban style system that allows you to create cards and drag them across your boards until complete.  Think of it like putting sticky notes on a wall and moving them left to right as you get closer to completing a task.  It's a wonderful and simple to use productivity and project management tool and is great for small teams and solopreneurs.   Best of all, it's simple to use and free.

Zoom

Zoom is a video conferencing tool that is easy to use, reliable and has a generous free plan.  There are many video conferencing tools out there but Zoom has the perfect mix of being very reliable and offering a super easy to use interface.  It also comes with a mobile app and Chrome extension.

Loom

Loom is a free to use video screen recording app that is great for creating quick video tutorials.  The browser extension makes it simple to use and created an instant share link when you are finished with your screenshare.  Loom is great for creating quick videos for customer support as well as explaining tasks to other team members.

Asana

Asana is an easy to use project management app that is great for managing small teams.  While I use Trello for most project management, Asana is a better choice for bigger teams and more complex project management needs.  It's a great platform for group collaboration and for making sure the entire team knows what others are doing.  They have a generous free plan for up to 15 team members.

IFTTT

If This Then That (IFTTT) is a free tool where you can create simple automation tasks by linking two services together.  This is just an awesome app and a total time saver for redundant tasks.  An example would be connecting your Gmail account to Evernote, so when you star a message in Gmail, it will save a copy of the email in Evernote.  Or if you connect Twitter and Google Sheets, you can automatically save any tweet you star in a Google spreadsheet.  The connection possibilities are endless and there are hundreds of different services you can connect.

Google Keep

Google Keep is a free note taking and to-do list tool that is simple to use but has powerful features.  I prefer paper when it comes to creating to-do lists but Google Keep is the one app that I use every day.  I love the ability to create multiple notes to-do lists with this app and to be able to color code and organize them how I want with a drag and drop interface.  It also syncs with Google Drive and allows you to import notes into Google Docs. Has mobile and web app versions.

Feedly/Pocket

I included Feedly and Pocket Reader together as they go hand in hand.  Feedly is an RSS feed app that lets you add the feeds of websites you want to track so you can get their content delivered to you instead of going to numerous websites each day to find their latest articles.  Feedly is great for staying on top of what is happening in your industry.  Pocket allows you to save articles for later viewing.  You can then read the articles later in an ad-free, distraction free reader that only shows you the actual article and nothing else.  I love the using the two of these together as I can scan my Feedly feed for anything of interest and save any of them to Pocket for later reading.

Evernote

Evernote is my digital junk drawer.  Anything I might want to remember in the future, I either write to down in Evernote or take a quick picture of it and save it.  Evernote has tons of useful productivity features, but I mainly use it for saving stuff I might need later.  Notes you have written down, business cards, phone numbers, receipts, are just a few examples of things you can and should be saving for future reference.

 

Marketing

Buffer

Buffer is my favorite social media tool for schedule posting updates.  Buffer lets you curate content and share across your social media platforms according to any schedule you create with a touch of a button.  You set up the schedule once and then just load your queue with posts and Buffer does the rest. It is easy to use, powerful and has a ton of features like social analytics.  Buffer also integrates with just about anything so it makes sharing across your social platforms very easy to do.  The free plan is enough for most people, with a paid plan if you manage a lot of social media accounts.  And their customer support is fantastic.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is one of the original social media management platforms and is still one of the best.  Hootsuite lets you manage your social media accounts in one dashboard, allowing you to create and respond to messages within the app so you don't have to log into several different accounts.  The free plan allows one user and three social media profiles.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a free web monitoring tool that will send you a notification is a keyword is found as it scans the internet.  This is a great tool for monitoring mentions of your brand and personal name on the web so you can see where the conversations are happening online about you and your business.  You can setup as many alerts as you want, you can even track competitors and just about anything else you want to set alerts for.

MailChimp

MailChimp is the perfect email marketing software for any small business just getting started with email marketing.  it's super simple to use, integrates with just about anything and offers a generous free plan to get started (2oo subscribers).  Email marketing provides one of the best ROI's out of any online marketing channel (way more than social media), and MailChimp makes it easy to get started.  They also have great tutorials to get you started.

Rapportive

Rapportive is a free Chrome browser extension that will pull in the social media details of the person you are corresponding with.  This is a great business tool and will give you more information about a contact as well as links to their social media profiles.  LinkedIn purchased this tool so hopefully, they will keep it free in the future.

Soapbox

Soapbox is a free video and screen recording app from the team over at Wistia, which has a legendary reputation in the video marketing industry.  Soapbox allows you to create screen shares and video presentations right from your computer.  It also includes video editing software so you can record and edit your videos right inside the app.  They also store all of your videos online for free.

QZZR

QZZR lets you create online quizzes that you can create for your website and social media.  Online quizzes are one of the best ways to create engagement on social media and for also building your email list.  Quizzes are fun, interactive and interesting to use.  QZZR offers a good free plan in addition to paid plans for a more advanced feature set.

Cyfe

Cyfe is an all in one digital marketing dashboard.  It allows you to pull in your website, social media and a bunch of other data into a single dashboard.  They have a solid free version that will be sufficient for most small business owners.

 

What tools do you use?

These are some of the free tools I use to help me run my business.  There are plenty of other free tools out there that provide lots of value so if you have any suggestions you can let me know on Twitter @3BugMedia.

 

Local SEO Optimization Tips Small Business

Easy To Implement Local SEO Optimization Tips For Small Business

Every local business wants to be at the top of the Google or Bing search engine results when someone searches for a product or service like theirs.

Just think how much business you would have if every time someone searched for, “family dentist in Charlotte”, your family dental practice showed up at the top of the search engine results every time.

For every local search result in Google, there is a local business sitting at the top of the page.  These businesses usually place a high importance on Local SEO optimization and invest the time and resources to get their business at the top of the search engine results.

Wouldn't it be great if your local business could do the same?

Local Searches Lead 50% Of Mobile Visitors To Visit Stores Within One Day – Google Think Research report

Now you might be saying to yourself, “I don't have the money to hire someone to do this”.  The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to help in your local SEO efforts that require no money and little to no SEO experience.  It simply requires a commitment from you to do it and a few hours a month to set aside to get it done.

Below I am going to outline some Local SEO optimization tips that can help your business show up higher in the search engine results.  More visibility in the search engines will get you more targeted traffic to your website and more opportunities to generate leads online.  Isn't that worth investing a few hours a month on for your business?

Now, not every industry is equal.  For example, if you are a lawyer, mortgage broker or a plumber in your city, the competition online is fierce.  With highly competitive industries like these where the rewards for new a customer is high, they are usually paying marketing companies with their local SEO to get to get top search engine rankings for their city.  You may eventually need to hire someone to help, but you will have a solid foundation in place and a much smaller gap to close when you do get to that point.

So if you are serious about wanting to get your business higher in the local search engine results, here are some local SEO tips to get you started.  All of these tips, when done correctly, can have a big impact on your rankings.  They work best when you use them in conjunction with each other and when you do them consistently over time.

Google My Business and Bing Places

If you do a local search in Google like, “Pizza in Denver”, you will see a map show up in the search results along with a bunch of local pizzerias nearby.  That is a local search result, sometimes called a maps result.  This type of result has two parts:

This type of search engine result has two parts:

  • The map listing, which shows local businesses on the map.
  • The organic listings, which shows a list of the top web pages for that particular search.

Sample local seo search results page in Google

When a business shows up on the local map results, it is not your website that is doing it, but your Google My Business listing, which is a free listing by Google.  Bing Places is the Bing search engine equivalent and works pretty much the same way.  We'll talk about Google My Business here as it is the dominant search engine in most markets.  When you look at a search engine result with a map listing, you will notice these local businesses are listed above the traditional search engine results, giving them a lot of visibility on the page.  This is why optimizing your Google My Business page is so important.

Setting up your Google My Business page is pretty simple.  Go to Google My Business and sing up for your free listing.  You will be asked to verify that you are the owner of the business and they will usually send you a postcard in the mail to verify your location.  The good thing is that you don't have to list your business address publicly if you don't want to, which is great for home based businesses.

Once you have signed up and accessed your listing, these are the most important things you need to do:

  • Make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) are correct and match what you have on your website
  • Make sure your business category is relevant. You can add multiple relevant categories for your business
  • Add lots of images.  Add multiple images for every image category
  • Fill out your listing completely. They show a progress bar, make sure it is at 100%

Now, once you have finished this for Google My Business, head over to Bing Places and do the same.

Once Google and Bing have verified your business, your listing will be live and you now have the opportunity to have it shown in the local search engine results and appear on the map.

Local SEO optimization tip: Download the Google Maps app on your phone and search for your business.  Once you find it, scroll down and look for the “Add Photos” tab.  Click on that and you can use your phone to take pictures of your business and upload them to Google as a customer of your business.  Encourage your customers to do the same.  Google loves to see customers interacting with local businesses through reviews, image upload, etc and it helps add content to your Google My Business listing and will help it rank higher in the local search engine results.

 

NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)

This is a simple tip that can pay big dividends over time.  Make sure your NAP is consistent across all of your online web properties.  These include:

  • Your website
  • Google My Business and Bing Places
  • Social media properties
  • Review sites
  • Online directories

For every business, Google has to scan numerous websites and try and match each page to a business.  Sometimes, if the NAP is inconsistent, Google will have doubts if this is the same business, so when in doubt, they will leave it out.  So by not being consistent with your NAP, you run the risk of losing associations (and resulting links to your website) because of NAP inconsistencies.

Examples of NAP inconsistencies would be:

  • Business Name: Sam's Plumbing, Sam's Plumbing Service, Sam's Plumbing Services, Sam's Plumbing Services Inc.
  • Address: 123 Main Street, 123 Main Street, 123 Main
  • Phone Number: 704-999-9999, (704) 999-9999

Now many times Google will pick up on the inconsistencies and still give you credit for the listing, but sometimes it won't.  It's such a simple thing to do so it doesn't make sense to lose any time of SEO credit for a silly technical mistake.

Out of these three identifiers, your phone number is the most unique.  You may share an address and other people may have the same business name, but a business will rarely share their phone number with another business.

Local SEO optimization tip:  Perform your own NAP audit to check for inconsistencies with your NAP.  The easy method is to go to https://moz.com/local/search and enter your business and check the results.  From there, you can make edits to any inconsistencies you find with your NAP online.

 

Citations For Local SEO

A citation is a mention of your business online, regardless if it is a link or not.  There are two types of citations, structured and unstructured.

Structured Citations

These are where your business is listed in an organized and structured format.  Examples would be:

  • Google My Business and Bing listings
  • Review sites like Angie's List and Yelp
  • Online directories like the Yellow Pages and Manta

Unstructured Citations

These are mentions of your business, but not in a formal structure.  Examples would be:

  • A blog or media website mentions your business name in the body of an article
  • Someone mentions you on a social media post
  • Someone mentions your business in an online forum or Q&A site like Quora

Google understands that not all local businesses can be SEO and link building masters.  So they routinely scan the Internet for people talking about your business.  When they find these mentions and the sentiment is positive, they give you credit for that towards your local SEO, which helps to increase your rankings and visibility in the local search results.

Your goal with citations is to make sure you are listed properly (having a consistent NAP) on major 3rd party platforms like Facebook, Linkedin, Yelp, etc.  You also want to make sure you are listed in niche sites that cater to your industry.  An example would a restaurant being listed on AllMenus.

Here is a nice resource from Moz that shows you the best places for citations organized by business category.

Local SEO optimization tip: To find important websites to be listed for your business, perform several searches in Google just like a person trying to find a business like yours would.  Check the first 1-2 pages of Google to see what directories and review sites show up.  These are important to for your business and you should make sure you are listed on all of them.  Another tip is to Google your competitor's phone number and sift through the first 5 pages of results.  Here you can find websites where your competitor is listed but you may not be yet.

 

Online Reviews

Online reviews are super important when it comes to local SEO and getting your web properties to rank high in local search.  Google reviews on your Google My Business listing are probably the most important as they directly tied to your Google My Business account and are the first reviews people will typically see when they search on Google.

 93% of all Millennials rely on online consumer reviews, both from their social media contacts and from strangers, when they make purchasing decisions. – Adweek

Depending on your country and industry, Google also pulls in reviews from 3rd party websites as well.  This is why it is important to have positive reviews on all of the major review sites like Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc.  There are also review sites like Angie's List and Homestars (Canada) that cater more towards service businesses or specific industries.

As you can see with the example below, Google pulls in reviews from across the web all of the major review sites play a part in your local rankings, not just Google Reviews.

Nusite_Group_Waterproofing_Toronto_Google_My_Business_Listing

How many reviews you need to rank higher in the search engine depends on your competition.  If the Google My Business listings ranking at the top of the local search results are averaging 30 reviews, then you need that at a minimum in order to compete with them.  When it comes to reviews

When it comes to online reviews, having a system in place is critical to gaining reviews on a steady basis.  Timing also plays a big role in getting people to leave reviews. Have a system set up where you call or email (better, do both) your happy customer right after you have delivered your product or service.  This is usually when they are the most enthusiastic about your business and most likely to leave a review.  Do this on a steady basis and you will steadily add reviews to your online profiles over time.

Local SEO optimization tip: If leaving a review becomes a hassle for the customer, then they most likely will not do it.  Try to make their lives as easy as possible.  If a customer is using a Gmail account for email, then ask for a Google review since you know they already have a Google account and do not need to register.  Unless they are regular “Yelpers”, don't ask people to leave a Yelp review, they have a notorious filter system and one time reviewers on Yelp almost always get their reviews removed from public view.  Facebook is a generally good place to send people as most people have a Facebook account these days.

 

Service and Category Pages

Service pages, and category pages if you sell products are great pages to rank high in the search engines.  They are specific and focused in content and with a little tweaking, you can localize the pages for your area.  Spend some time customizing these pages to get them to rank higher in the local search results.

Let's use a local dentist in Charlotte, NC as an example.  These are the typical offerings on a dentist website:

  • Family Dentistry
  • Cosmetic Dentistry
  • Orthodontics
  • Dental Implants

You would start with localizing the titles of each page for their city:

  • Family Dentistry in Charlotte
  • Cosmetic Dentistry in Charlotte
  • Orthodontics in Charlotte
  • Dental Implants in Charlotte

Once you have done this with all of your service/category pages, you have started the process of localizing the page for your city.  You will further localize the each page and stand a better chance at ranking locally by doing the following:

Body Copy.  In the text description of each service, talk about how you serve the residents of Charlotte and talk about how long you and your staff have been doing business in Charlotte.  The important thing is not to keyword stuff, but to incorporate your city into the description naturally.  Something like, “Big Smiles Dentistry has been serving the residents of Charlotte for over 20 years…..”, or “Our dental office, located conveniently in South Charlotte,….”.  Aim for at least 500 words for each page, anything less and there probably isn't enough text for Google to view it as comprehensive enough to rank high for that topic.

Images and Video.  Bring your page to life with various media you can incorporate into the page.  Insert images of your dental practice and staff.  Add video to the page if you can.  Google loves to see multi-dimensional content, so if your competitors have Plain Jane service pages, turn yours visual eye candy for both Google and your customers.

Interlinking.  Interlinking is when you link one of your website pages to another.  It's not much of a ranking factor, but linking from high authority pages on your website to other pages can help give these pages a boost.  Your homepage is almost always your strongest page, so be sure that any service/product page (or any important page you want to rank high) has a link on the homepage pointing to it.  The easiest way to do this is with your main menu navigation.

Local SEO optimization tip: Similarly to Service/Category pages, consider creating area pages for your website to get even more hyperlocal with your marketing.  If you do not have a physical location in an area, don't pretend that you do.  But you can create pages about the various areas you service in your city.  For Charlotte, you could create “Areas We Serve” pages for Matthews, Pineville, BalHuntersvilletersvills, Concord, etc.  People will often not search for their city, but their specific neighborhood when looking for a local business.

 

Blogging

Think of your blog as the doorway maker for your website.  If you do not have a blog or an optimized website, then your homepage is most likely the only door for your website, which is how people find your website.  With a blog, every time you create a new piece of content, you are creating a new door where potential customers can find you.  Wouldn't you like to have 500 doors to your website instead of just one?

A blog is great for what we call “Long Tail Keywords”, which are longer and more specific search queries people make in Google.  An example of a long tail keyword would be, “Dentists in Charlotte that cater to young children”  This search query may not get a ton of searches in your area each month, but if you are the only dental practice in Charlotte that has a blog post talking about how your practice caters to young children, you have a good chance of ranking very high in the search results for this query.

Below is a list of hundreds of potential topics by simply entering the term, “Dentist”, in our keyword research tool.  You can do the same by using a free service like Keywordtool.io

Content_Suggestions_for_Dentists

Local SEO optimization tip: Make a list of the top 20 questions prospective customers ask you on a regular basis.  These should be the foundation for your first 20 blog posts.  Make each one at least 500 words long and add several images to the blog post.  Don't actively promote your business in the article, but add a nice byline for your business and a call to action at the end of the article.  Be sure to add local elements to your blog post, like the city that you are in.

 

Youtube

Most small businesses avoid video like the plague.  If you are not used to being in front of a camera, recording yourself on video is akin to public speaking, most people are terrified of it.  But like public speaking, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.  If you can get over yourself and get comfortable in front of a camera, video marketing can be a gold mine for your local marketing strategy and give you a major boost in your local SEO efforts.  While the links you add in Youtube are what's called no-follow and don't directly contribute to your Local SEO, the content of your videos can and will contribute to your overall Local SEO.

When it comes to video, Youtube is the king of video marketing.  It's free, easy to use and is the second largest search engine on the planet, after Google.

Google is incorporating video into its search results more and more, and there is less competition with video than there is with traditional text-based content.  The good news is that the only thing you need is a mobile phone and some nerve to create lots of videos for your business.

Use Youtube like your blog, create lots of Q&A posts on common questions people ask you.  You can also create a brand video for your business, basically you in your business talking about what you do and who you serve.  Make the videos short, 2-5 minutes in length, and keep them upbeat in tone.  The last thing you want to do is bore people to death.  Aim for being educational and lighthearted, smile a lot.

When it comes to creating Youtube videos, follow these tips when uploading your videos to Youtube:

You can upload videos directly from your phone when you are finished recording, but be sure to go back to Youtube with your computer and finish adding all of the necessary details that help you rank high in Youtube as well as possibly in the regular Google search results.

Add a proper video description.  A good format is to use the first paragraph to describe what the video is about and what people will learn from it.  After that, add information about your business along with a call to action and a link to your website.  You can also add links to some of your social media properties.

Add Tags.  Tags are keywords you can add to a video to give Youtube a better idea what your video is about and how to associate and categorize it properly.  Spend time adding lots of relevant Tags to your video to help it get more visibility on Youtube.  Currently, you have 500 characters available to add Tags, add as many relevant ones that you can, including your industry and city.

Example_Youtube_Tags

Embed videos on your website.  While embedding a Youtube video on your website is not a ranking factor (according to Google), embedding a video on your website will help it get more views, which can translate into higher rankings for your video.  Adding multimedia like video also adds another dimension to the pages on your website and can help liven them up.

Local SEO optimization tips: If you are hesitant about getting in front of a video camera, there are lots of other types of video you can easily create without getting in front of a camera.  Take lots of pictures of your staff and location and create an awesome video using a tool like Animoto.  Create a Powerpoint slide answering a question and either add your voice narration to the PPT or just play it to music.  Powerpoint lets you easily convert slideshows into a video.  With their permission, take short (less than 20 seconds) testimonial videos of your customers.  Best of all, every video you create for Youtube, you can also upload your video to Facebook as well.

 

Optimizing for Local SEO isn't difficult

Yes, it takes time and patience, but it isn't rocket science.  You just need to create a plan and dedicate yourself to implementing it.  Your business will thank you for your efforts.

Google Post For Google My Business

Google My Business: Post Specials, Updates and Promotions Directly To Your Listing

Google has been testing the ability to post directly to your Google My Business listing for awhile now.  But as of June 2017, they have opened up the feature to all businesses.

Posting on Google lets you post directly to your Google My Business listing and provides a continued stream of fresh content for people searching for your business.  Google is launching this feature in response to other social media platforms, namely Facebook and Instagram, where businesses currently post timely specials and promotions.

The ability to post directly to your Google My Business listing solves Google's problem of keeping content on each listing fresh and current.  It is also a great opportunity for businesses to keep customers and potential customers up to date on their latest deals and promotions.

For many small businesses, their Google My Business listing receives just as much traffic (or more) than their website.  So the ability to post timely specials and events directly to your Google My Business listing is a great feature.

Examples of Posts For Google My Business

Why Post Directly To Your Googly My Business Listing?

  • Share daily and weekly specials with your audience and encourage people to take advantage of your offers
  • Introduce new products and arrivals to your store.  Showcase some of your top products and give them lots of free visibility
  • A fast and easy way to promote timely events and to give a heads up on upcoming events
  • The ability to add links to your posts lets people click directly from Google to your events or specials page
  • It's free and your Google My Business listing already gets lots of visibility

As far as the longevity of your posts, I did not see anything official from Google but I have heard from several sources that the life of a post will be around 30 days before it disappears.  This makes sense as you have limited room on your public Google My Business listing and the purpose of these posts is to showcase timely offers and events for your business.  Posts will show up both in the Google search results as well as the local map results.

Here is an example of how it looks:

Sample Post To Google My Business Listing

 

Posting To Your Google My Business Listing

When creating a post for your Google My Business listing, you can currently do the following:

  • Add an image to your post
  • Write between 100-300 words
  • Create events with start and end dates and times
  • Add the following call to action buttons with a link of your choice: Reserve, Sign Up, Buy, Get Offer
  • Posts can be created from your Google My Business listing desktop dashboard or through the Google My Business mobile app

The process of posting is super easy, just follow these steps:

1 – Log into your Google My Business account (or download the mobile app)

2 – Select the new Posts tab in the dashboard

Post Feature Now Available To Small Business in Google My Business

3 – Create your post

Sample Post To Google Editor 2

4 – Publish and enjoy!

Post To Google My Business - Mobile Editor

The whole process is very easy and was built so small businesses can post their events and promotions quickly and easily.

Check out the new posting feature on Google My Business today and start taking advantage of this great new feature.  If you know of any other business who might not know about this feature yet, you can share this article with them.

Local Business Marketing Planning Strategy

The Missing Ingredient In Your Small Business Marketing Plan

I was speaking to a business owner at an event the other day who owns a successful retail store and she was explaining to me her frustrations with online marketing.  She said she had dedicated the last 6 months to learning everything she could about online marketing and she still can't seem to get anything to work.  She's at the point where she is almost paralyzed as she is afraid to spend more money for little to no results.

She has been following top marketing sites like Hubspot, Moz and Quick Sprout where she has learned a ton about online marketing, but still can't seem to get anything she has tried to work.

Sound familiar?

Just like in sports, there is a huge difference between learning how to play a game and understanding how to play it.

It's like basketball. You may learn lots of tips, drills, and tactics, but you still don't really understand how to play basketball and how to think strategically about it.  Or karate, do you think the movie The Karate Kid (the original) would have turned out the same way if Daniel had learned some karate tips from a magazine than from Mr. Miyagi?  I think not, so don't expect similar results by watching Youtube videos or reading blog posts full of marketing tips.

Karate Kid Final Scene GIF

That's not to say watching marketing videos or reading marketing blogs aren't helpful, they are super helpful and you can learn a lot.  I'm a self-taught marketer going on 12 years now and I read and watch marketing content daily.  But if you lack the foundation of really understanding marketing and how it works, then you'll most likely end up more confused at the end of the day.  It's like learning advanced drills and tips on becoming a great soccer player but you haven't really learned how to play soccer yet.  Helpful, but not practical.

If you want to become a good marketer, you have to understand marketing.  More importantly, you need to understand how your business works and how to create a marketing strategy for your specific business.  What works for one business won't work for another.

To be successful at marketing your business, you need to have a solid understanding of 3 things:

Who your ideal customer is.  If you don't know who you are marketing to, then save your money and just stop.  The foundation of marketing is understanding who your ideal customer is, what their challenges are, why they buy and how your product or service will make their life better.  Without this information, you are doomed to creating generic marketing campaigns that appeal to no one.

How people buy from you.  What do your marketing and sales funnel look like?  What does their decision process look like?  What information do they need before they will consider buying from you?  You need to understand how people buy from you and why, so you can make sure you give them everything they need in order to make a purchase.  This sort of quantitative analysis is crucial in forming a marketing strategy that works.

Where to find your ideal customer.  Once you understand who you want to reach and how/why they buy from you, you need to find out how to reach them online.  Is it through blogging (inbound marketing), Google Adwords, Facebooks Ads, social media,…..once you know who you want to reach it becomes clearer how to find and engage with them.

Video: Learn the elements needed to create a simple, but effective online marketing funnel for your small business

Once you have figured out all of the above, it will become clearer to you what your marketing strategy should look like.  You're not going to waste time and money on Instagram (despite everyone telling you to) because you understand now that is not where your ideal customer hangs out online.  Once you know these 3 things like that back of your hand, all of those marketing videos and blog posts will start to make more sense and you can pick and choose which ones are useful to you.

You need to develop an understanding of marketing and how it applies to your specific business.  You can either learn this yourself or work with a mentor or marketing consultant to help you figure out what your marketing strategy should look like.  If you skip this step and jump straight into tactics, you'll forever be like a ship sailing without a captain, drifting from place to place without a clear destination.

Most small business owners spend money on advertising or hire marketing companies without having a marketing strategy in place.  They assume (or hope) the company will develop it for them.  Most marketing companies are tactical in nature, they will run a Facebook Ad campaign for you but not knowing if you should be doing this in the first place.  Hiring a marketing company to do tactical things for you like run a Google Adwords campaign or do content marketing for your site is much different than working with a marketing company or consultant to help you develop a strategy tailored to your business.

Do you need to hire someone to figure this out?  Not at all if you are willing to spend the time to really understand how marketing should work for your business.  If you are not willing to spend the time to understand all of this, then working with someone who has the experience is your next best bet.  There are lots of potential mentors out there accomplishing exactly what you want to accomplish.

The worst thing you can do is nothing and continue to waste time and money on marketing tactics that won't work for your business.  You need a plan, a clear strategy, and system that will take turn potential customers into customers for your business over and over again.

You need to understand how to play the sport of marketing before you can excel at it.

Business

The Small Business Toolbox #94

The resources I post are usually easy to use and will provide some value to your business. All of the tools are ones that I either currently use or have used in the past. I don't go into much detail here so I encourage you to take some time and explore each one to see if it will be of help to your business.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for tools, you can contact us here.

Think with Google – Free resource from Google that provides data and insights for digital marketing and customer insights.  Provides a wealth of free market research information for any size business.

Zoom – Easy to use video and web conferencing tool.  Hold one on one video meetings for host web conferences for hundreds of participants.  Free and paid plans available.

HotJar – Web analytics tool that lets you see how your website visitors interact and navigate your website.  Create recorded heat maps of user sessions to understand your visitors and to improve conversions on your website.  Free and paid plans available.

Lao Tzu

 

Productivity Strategy

Learn How To Create Your Own Productivity Strategy

Articles on productivity are a dime a dozen, and the vast majority of them are worthless.

The sad truth is that there is a content war being waged online today with thousands of websites pumping out tons of low-grade, generic content that are mostly written by recent college grads with little to no experience on the given topic.

Why is this?  Content creation is expensive and laborious and younger people will work for basically free in exchange for the hopes of some exposure and maybe a full-time job one day.  The Huffington Post built a media empire without ever paying a single writer and thousands of other websites use the same model.

With that said, there are lots of high-quality blogs out there creating amazing content, they are just harder to find as the big media players tend to drown them out with endless amounts of generic content.

Anytime I see a productivity post telling me I have to do something specific in order to be productive, my eyes roll.  Everybody is different and everybody has a different way of being productive.  I can't tell you how you can be productive because what works for me might very well not work for you.

Being productive does not start with learning from others, it starts with learning about yourself and what will work best for you.  You have to figure out the best way to make yourself productive.  Your body and mind are your own and it works differently than anyone else.  Once you understand yourself and how you work the best, then you can go externally and start to see examples of how others like you are productive.

The productivity articles I like are the ones that discuss the things that work best for the author and they leave it up to the reader to decide if it would be helpful to them or not.  Kind of like how Bruce Lee created Jeet Kune Do, you have to look at a lot of different productivity styles and strategies, taking the best of each and creating your own system.

Everyone is different so when someone tells you this is the only way to do it, ignore them.  Take what is useful for you personally and disregard the rest.  You'll find that you will be disregarding the majority of content you read on productivity, but the small nuggets you do find will add up and become very useful for you.

So I am not going to tell you how to be productive, though I will share how I try to be productive and what works for me.  What I am going to do is give you some things to think about and then you can decide what type of productivity strategy will work best for you.

 

What times are you most productive?

Are you a morning or evening person?  Does it take you a few hours to get going or do you have lots of energy in the morning?  Your body has it's own internal rhythm, waking up naturally without an alarm clock is the most natural way to wake up, your body knows when it has had enough rest, whether that is 6 hours or 8 hours of sleep.  Some people only sleep a few hours at night but take a nap in the afternoon instead.  Everybody is different.

Find out what time of the day where you feel like you have the most energy and mental focus and use those periods for your most productive work.  For me, I am the most productive in the morning and then later in the evening, so I use those times to work on my important projects that require mental focus.  I leave the afternoons for email, phone calls, general planning and non-important tasks.

 

What kind of learner are you?

Are you a visual, kinesthetic or auditory learner?  Everybody learns differently, which is why the school system fails many children as it teaches everybody only one way.  Having an understanding of how you best digest information can help you learn and absorb material quicker.

Are you a visual learner where you need to see something visually before you can better understand it or are you an auditory learner, where hearing it helps you better comprehend the information?   This is why some people are more drawn to reading and watching a video as opposed to listening to podcasts or having a phone conversation with someone.  Others are kinesthetic learners where they need to physically do it before they can really understand it.

Sidebar: watch my favorite TED Talk on learning and creativity here.

Most people have a dominant way of learning, take some time to find out what learning styles work best for you.

Back in the day when I was studying for the captain's test for the NYC Fire Dept, I had to memorize about 2K pages of boring manuals and procedures.  This was not going to work for me as I'm more of an auditory learner so I transcribed every page onto audio cassettes (yes, it was a long time ago) and used that to pass the test.  I would never have passed if I only read the manuals, I needed to hear it in order to really understand the material.

 

How long can you focus?

All of us have different attention spans.  Our attention span is also influenced by the time or day, how tired we are and what we are working on.  We have limited mental focus so we need to understand how to use it wisely.  Understanding how long you can effectively work before needing a break is very important and can help you better organize your day to be the most productive.

For me, I find I can focus really well for about an hour before needing a break.  I have the most mental focus in the mornings and then later in the evening.   I will work on a project for an hour and then take a 10-15 minute break.  During that break, I might respond to email, take a short walk, grab a snack, or straighten out my office.  The break can be anything that works for you as long as it doesn't require mental focus as you need your brain to take a rest before starting again.  I personally like to take breaks where I have to get up and do something active, I get restless sitting or standing in front of a computer for long periods of time.

If you find times when you are feeling mentally stuck, try some of these tips to get unstuck.

 

How do you prepare for your day or week?

One thing I will say is that if you do not take the time to plan out your day or week, you will most likely waste a lot of time and mental energy trying to figure out what to do rather than getting stuff done each day.  Planning properly will definitely make you more productive with your time.

I take an hour during the weekend, usually Sunday evening, to plan out my week ahead.  I create a list of my most important projects as well as smaller items that need to be done during the week.  I then schedule out my days using one-hour chunks of time with breaks in between.  I usually plan out the first few days of the week and then plan out the rest of my days the night before.

I find that planning my days ahead of time allows me to jump right into work without having to think or expend mental energy trying to decide what to do.

 

Paper or Tech?

I own an online marketing company and spend pretty much all of my days on a computer.  Yet, paper and pen are how I have always planned out my days.  I've tried so many different productivity apps over the years but I always come back to my paper planner.  Jerry Seinfeld wrote every single episode longhand on a yellow legal pad, so going old school on paper does not mean you are any less productive.

My advice is to try out a bunch of different methods and see which ones work best for you.  Don't be swayed because someone else or a blog post told you that using a certain app is the best way to be productive, only you know what will work best for you.

Like I said, I've always used a paper planner and have a single app, Google Keep, for basic to-do list keeping and writing down ideas when I am out.

 

These are some of the things I do to make my week as productive as possible

  • I plan out my week and days beforehand so I don't waste time mental energy doing it every day
  • My most productive times are in the mornings and later in the evenings, I use these times for my most important projects
  • I can focus for about an hour before needing a break, so I work for an hour and then take a 10-15 minute break in between
  • I use a paper planner and keep it in front me during the day to keep me on track. Apps do not work for me and keeping my phone next to me all day is a distraction
  • I get restless sitting for long periods, so I do physical stuff during my breaks like take a walk, hit the heavy bag or clean my office so I can get up and move around

 

Create your own productivity strategy

Hopefully, this will give you some things to think about and help you create your own strategy for making your days the most productive as possible.  I don't read too many productivity blog posts anymore, especially from the bigger media outlets, as they are just rehashes of the same old stuff.  If you do want to read some quality stuff on productivity, check out Zen Habits and James Clear's blog.

 

Asian Man Small Business Chinatown Shop

The Small Business Toolbox #93

The Small Business Toolbox is your place to find free and low-cost software and services to help grow your business.

The resources I post are usually easy to use and will provide some value to your business. All of the tools are ones that I either currently use or have used in the past. I don't go into much detail here so I encourage you to take some time and explore each one to see if it will be of help to your business.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for tools, you can contact us here.

Crashplan – This service has been around a long time and is great for backing up your data.  They have a free plan that allows you to backup all of your computers to any computer or hard drive you own, even off-site.  Just install the software and it will automatically backup your computers at scheduled times.  They also have a few cloud backup options for a small monthly fee.

AppSumo – My favorite place to buy steeply discounted marketing, design, and business software.  Many offers are lifetime deals for less than $50 that normally cost almost that much per month.  They also have lots of free stuff that they give away on an ongoing basis.  Some of the deals they offer are amazing, I have purchased over 40+ deals over the past few years.

EpicBeat – Find trending content in different niches and by using keyword search. Also, find influencers in any category.  Great tool for doing research in your niche, finding out what is popular and who the main players are in your industry.  Free and paid options available with paid option offering a plugin for your WordPress website for super easy content curation.

Luck is the sense to recognize an opportunity and the

Review of Missinglettr Social Media Software

Missinglettr Review: Create Targeted & Automated Social Campaigns

I love social media.  No other marketing channel allows you to reach so many people with your content.  But it can also be a beast to try and manage several social media accounts, let alone use them effectively.

But, I also know that creating content is only a part of content marketing, promoting it effectively is just as important.

Using tools to help manage your social media accounts is a necessity, especially if you are using the platform for business.  We all know what a time suck social media can be, so when I find a good tool that saves me time and increases my productivity, I jump all over it.

I want to introduce you to a social media tool I started using, it's called MissingLettr.  Here we will review MissingLettr, going over what it is, what it's used for, and a walkthrough on how it works.

MissingLettr is a social media tool that lets you create targeted and automated social media campaigns for your content.  Now, you're probably thinking, I already have a tool that lets me schedule my content on social media.

But here is a big difference with MissingLettr.

They let you create a 12-month social media marketing campaign across several of your social media profiles for each individual blog post.  Yes, MissingLettr is much more granular than other social media tools.  You can take a great blog post of yours and create a 12-month social media campaign, then set it and forget it.  MissingLettr will then activate and run your 12-month campaign for that individual blog post.  I don't know of another social media tool that will let you create a drip marketing campaign like this for every one of your blogs posts, automatically.

The beauty of MissingLettr is that all you have to do is add you blog to their platform and they will automatically pull in your latest blog posts and have them ready for you to activate.

Wouldn't it be great to create an entire social media marketing plan for every one of your blog posts?  Even your Youtube videos, how cool is that?  Maybe you can write a guest post on another website, you can create a campaign for that too.

If you are a marketing agency or content marketer, a tool like this is like gold, it will make you look like a superstar in front of your client.  What other agency would create a year-long marketing plan for every single blog post?  You, that's who.

Social Platforms MissingLettr Supports

As of this writing, they currently support the following social media platforms but they say they are in the process of adding more

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • Facebook

I spoke with Benjamin DellFounder & CEO, Missinglettr and he says that Pinterest is the next integration they are working on.  In addition, they are working on a custom campaign option where you’ll be able to tweak durations, frequencies, and auto-repeat rules

MissingLettr Pricing Plans

They currently have 3 different pricing options, Personal, Business, and a free plan to try it out.  MissingLettr has a  free plan that gives you 1 website to connect, 2 campaigns a month and 1 social media profile.  The free plan is enough to test it out and see if it's a good tool for you.

missinglettr pricing plans - personal business free plans

Here's how MissingLettr makes this so easy.

Here is your overview page when you log in.  It will show you what social media profiles you have connected, how many campaigns are active and how many you have pending for you to review and activate.

missinglettr overview page

MissingLettr automatically pulls in your latest blog posts.  You can also manually add any url you want to run a campaign for.  This is the Campaign page where you can view the content MissingLettr has ready for you to review and activate.  MissingLettr creates 9 different social media posts for you, automatically pulling quotes and creating images for each one of the 9 posts, so none of them are the same.

missinglettr campaign page

 

 

Once you choose the campaign you want to review, you will see the 9 social media posts that MissingLettr has automatically created for you. The first page is where you choose your hashtags. MinngingLettr creates some hashtags for you, but I found most of their suggestions are too general and I usually create my own hashtags.  Their hashtag tool also gives you an idea of how many times that hashtag is used on Twitter, which is cool.

missinglettr campaing review page select hashtags

Once MissingLetter creates the campaign for your blog post, you then have a chance to review each post and edit the text and images for each one before approving.  I added a blog post of mine on Facebook Ads, the screenshot below is that they came up with automatically for me.

missinglettr Campaign editor page

Some of the suggestions were good, others needed a quick edit.  For each post, MissingLettr gives you several options you can slide through for the text quotes as well as the images.  You also have the option of manually editing the text and uploading your own images.  I spent about 3 minutes fixing up a few of the posts for this campaign, below is what I ended up with minimal editing.

missinglettr campaign editor finished version

Once you are happy with the 9 posts, you then move to the last step where you finalize the campaign and select what day you want your 12-month campaign to start on for this post.

missinglettr campaign scheduler page

 

And that's it!

It took me a total of about 5 minutes to review and edit the social media posts and activate it.  Now I know that for the next 12 months, this piece of content will be promoted on social media, with each post being different from the others.  Now I can work on my next blog post to promote.

Check out MissingLettr Here

You can see how this tool can (and should) be a part of your regular content promotion workflow.  Aside from Buffer, my favorite social media tool, MissingLettr is now standard when it comes to promoting my content on social media.

Have questions about how I am using MissingLettr to promote my content as well as our clients?  You can contact me here with questions, and you can also visit MissingLettr to learn more and to sign up.  They are pretty open about what is on their roadmap, so check out their blog for updates.  If you are not sure, sign up for the free account so you can test it out and see how valuable a tool it is when it comes to promoting content on social media.

 

Disclaimer: I am a paying customer of MissingLettr, but I am also an affiliate.  This means I may get a small commission if you click on a link to visit MissingLettr.  My link will not cost you any more than if you went there directly.  Hopefully, you found this review valuable if you have any questions you can contact me here.

Antique Book Store Image Free

The Small Business Toolbox #92

The Small Business Toolbox is your place to find free and low-cost software and services to help grow your business.

The resources I post are usually easy to use and will provide some value to your business. All of the tools are ones that I either currently use or have used in the past. I don't go into much detail here so I encourage you to take some time and explore each one to see if it will be of help to your business.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for tools, you can contact us here.

Ben Sound – Creative Commons licensed royalty free music.  Great if you need an audio jing for your video or podcast.

GIPHY – Everone loves watching animated GIFS on social media.  GIPHY lets you download and create your own animates GIFS.

Google Keep – Many people still don't know that this exists.  It's a free note-taking and to-do list app and is one of my favorite productivity apps.  Simple, visually appealing and has lots of great advanced tools if you need it.  Mobile app + Chrome app available.

MissingLettr – Great social media tool that lets you create a 12-month social media marketing campaign out of any blog post or content you want to share.  Automated and awesome.

The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression.
Missinglettr