Small Business Toolbox – September Twenty Nine

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Viral Heat – Social Media publishing and monitoring service that lets you manage up to 7 accounts for free.  Schedule posts, track analytics and manage your social media accounts across several platforms.

QR Hacker – Create your own custom QR codes, no coding required.  Create and customize your own colored QR codes, you can even add your logo into the code.

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

10 Tips For A Successful Media Interview

How to give a great media interviewYou've been trying to get the local media's attention for months and it's finally paid off.  You finally got the call from  the local cable network saying they would like to interview as an industry expert for next week's show.

High five for doing what sometimes seems like more work than it's worth, pitching your local media.  They may have ignored you the first five times you contacted them, but when they had a need for an industry expert on an upcoming piece, you were the first one that came to mind.  That's how pitching local media works.

So you have the interview set, now you just have to prepare for it.  If it's your first or second time, you're probably nervous.  That's good, it means you're taking the opportunity seriously.  Doing an interview isn't difficult, you just need to prepare and understand a few basic tips that will lead to a successful media interview.  Follow these ten tips during your interview and you and your businesses will come out looking like superstars.

Calm

Stay calm!  People watching your interview will find it hard to enjoy watching you if you look like you're being interrogated at Guantanamo Bay.  The more calm and relaxed you can be, the more calm and relaxed your audience will be.  Take a deep breathe, scream into a pillow, and go out and  do the best you can.

Clear

Speak clearly.  Keep your head up and speak in a clear tone. When we get nervous, we tend to speak faster.  Try not to race through what you have to say, no mumbling, and take some time to take a breath in between thoughts.  Be sure to practice, or even better, record yourself doing a mock interview and listen to how you sound.  It's cringe worthy to listen to your own recorded voice, but it's very helpful.

Concise

Know your key messages by heart before you step into any interview.  If you don't know your key messages, you'll tend to ramble and drift as you speak.  Keep your answers short, sweet and to the point.

Candid

Speak like you would if you were talking to friends, or one on one with a customer.  Don't all of a sudden start breaking out $20 industry words just because it's an interview.  Use the same language and tone you would use if you weren't being formally interviewed.  Keep it real!

Casual

Try not to look and speak like a robot.  A media interview is not like a Congressional hearing, people want to see the real you.  Like in the previous tip, think of it more like a one on one conversation and you'll feel more relaxed during the interview.

Confident

Keep your head up, maintain eye contact, and speak clearly.  You may be shaking in your boots during the interview, which is fine, but try and maintain an air of confidence when your speaking.  Body language alone will give off a confidant aura about you, stand tall and don't slouch!

Colorful

This means don't be boring.  Try and add a little personality to the interview.  Maybe a personal story that had a humorous ending, alot of smiling and maybe even a little self deprecating humor.  The point is to be interesting and real.

Correct

Know your facts.  Take a cue from just about every presidential candidate ever, don't make stuff up!  It makes you look unprofessional, and sometimes like an idiot.  So before you publicly claim you are a world class marathon runner, or that cow flatulence is the cause of global warming, get your facts and your story straight.

Compassionate

If you're discussing a sensitive issue, be careful of how you use your words.  What you say can easily be misconstrued by others and paint you in a bad light.  Show that you care about an issue and that you recognize how others might feel too, even if you don't share that point of view.  Remember that what you're saying is being recorded, this is not the time to discuss your political or social views, it's about you and your business.

Respectful

You may not like where the interviewer  is taking the conversation, maybe you strongly disagree with someone else being interviewed, keep your cool!  You can disagree and still be respectful during the interview.  Do your best to get through the interview while maintaining your composure.  Showing respect to others, even if you're not being shown it at the time, is a mark of a true professional.  You'll have plenty of time after the interview to cite your displeasure.

 

So here are 10 easy tips to get you through your next media interview.  If you do a good job of preparing for your interview, and follow these tips, you and your business will come out looking great the next time the cameras roll!  Do you have any tips to add?  Leave them in the comments below :-)

 

 

 

WordPress Weekly Roundup

This week in the WordPress Roundup……..

4 Disqus Widgets That Will Encourage More Comments On Your Blog

Discus is one of the most popular 3rd party commenting systems on the web.  These 4 widgets will add even more functionality to Discus and will encourage more people to comment on your awesome blog posts.

7 WordPress Map Plugins That Put The World At Your Fingertips

Map integration seems to be getting better and better.  Here are 7 plugins that will help you add an interactive map on your WordPress site.  From adding a simple map to integrating more complex features, one of these plugins should do the trick.

Edit Your Writing with the Free Pro Writing Aid WordPress Plugin

The Pro Writing Aid plugin is a free plugin that acts as your online editor.  It scans your writing and looks for overused words, cliche's and similar writing traps that all of us fall into from time to time.  If you don't have a friend to look over your work before your publish it, try out this free plugin.

A Guide to Canonicalization for WordPress

Canonical-what??  If you're not familiar with canonicalization, don't fret, most people don't.  It's actually a common problem with websites, particularly on WordPress powered sites since WordPress likes to create lots of similar pages when you publish an article.  This is an relatively easy guide to understanding canonicalization.

7 Great Ways To Find Free Images Online

Finding royalty free images for your blog posts is always a challenge, and it's also time consuming.  Check out these 7 ways to find free images online for your next article.

How to Find and Fix Broken Links on Your WordPress Site

Too many broken links on a website gives the impression to readers and search engines that the site is not being maintained properly.  Use this plugin to quickly find broken links on your website.

Beginners Guide on How to Add Twitter Cards in WordPress

Twitter is starting to roll out a new feature called Twitter Cards.  Find out how you can enable Twitter Cards on your website.  After enabling it on your site, you'll have to apply directly to Twitter to enroll in the program.

If you want to find even more great WordPress resources, follow us on Twitter!

Have a question about what plugin or theme you should use for your website?  Ask and you shall receive an answer!

An Open Door – Open-Source Software Dominates

By: Ayaita

Do you use open-source software for your business?

Open source software is software which is usually developed under an open source license, which allows users to study, change, improve and even distribute the software. It is a type of software which has been around for many years, and continues to be successful. What was the open source software that started it all? What continues to be successful? A “who's who” of the top open source programs includes:

GnuCash: An open source program under the Gnu GPL, GnuCash is designed to function as a small business financial software. It has the quick and intuitive feel that businesses need and is easy to use; it allows businesses to track bank accounts, stocks, income and expenses. GnuCash uses professional accounting principles to provide businesses with accurate reports and balanced books. This is a strong open source program to use, though it should be noted an accountant may still be required for some of the larger accounting principles.

Open Office: Apache Open Office is the most popular open source program suite which covers all the bases: word processing, database, spreadsheet and presentations, among other programs. It was developed over the course of the last twenty years to deliver the exact programming demands of businesses and anyone else needing to use the program. Its most universal appeal is the low price tag and the fact that anyone using the program can report bugs. This makes it a highly transparent system as well.

LibreOffice: Like Open Office, LibreOffice is a highly versatile productivity suite that offers its users six programs to draw from. Its claim to fame is its flexibility and reliability, as well as its development under a transparent process which calls upon all users to take advantage of the lack of lock-in into just one product brand.

GimpShop: One of the most expensive types of software to purchase is packages devoted to graphics editing and development. Gimp takes the worry out of your program – and pocketbook – by providing one of the most versatile free graphics editing programs on the market. It runs remarkably similar to Photoshop with downloads available for both Windows and Mac platforms, and has an intuitive user interface which allows the user to run with their graphic editing smoothly and effectively. Now, you can design logos and other graphics your business may require, such as for business cards.

WordPress: This is a very intuitive website development program that can be used virtually out of the box. In essence, the program is ready to go as soon as it is installed. With its one-button update feature, WordPress is the hottest open source website developer out today. It is generally used for blogs, but can be used for other website types. It all depends what your overall purpose is in installing the software.

Pentaho BI: This is a strong performer in the business intelligence field, allowing users the opportunity to tie together multiple data sources for parsing and analysis, among other functions. The GUI to the web-based report designer gives even the least-technologically advanced user a break and allows them to put together powerful reports. This will, in turn, allow employers stay better informed about their business requirements, as they will be getting first-rate reports quickly from multiple data sources.

Drupal: This content management program has become more intuitive with time, allowing users to have a true user-friendly experience. It now handles the evolution of HTML 5 seamlessly and also updated all its widgetry.

In short, open-source software continues to grow in popularity for both the “civilian” and business consumer. Programs are evolving carefully but in keeping with the excitement that continues to build among all open source software. It will continue to be interesting to see how other programs work to keep up to these changes, and what other programs will develop from this. Truly, though, businesses can only continue to benefit from the growth of open source software; with its collaborative spirit and its high versatility, there is no denying that open source software may be one of the chief considerations you need to make in deciding what software package to use for your business.

Joy Maiywa is a professional writer and blogger. She has worked with clients from different fields including technology, education, health, and business and entrepreneurship. She encourages everyone to blog, and is always looking for NameCheap or Godaddy coupon codes to help friends and family start their own blogs.

Small Business Toolbox – September Twenty Two

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Scribblar – Have you ever been online or on the phone with someone and wanted to explain a concept to them, but you needed to visualizer it for them?  How about having an online whiteboard where you can show them with a drawing….just like on a real whiteboard!  Scribblar is a free online tool that let's you create an impromptu whiteboard session in seconds.

Catch Notes – If you're an Evernote fan and looking for a solid alternative, check out Catch.  Capture your ideas digitally anytime the moment strikes.  Has a good looking user interface and the mobile apps are very highly rated.  Generous free plan with paid ones available.

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

How To Promote Your Website Face To Face

seo icon

If you have a website then you will likely be familiar with the concepts of SEO and web marketing and you will probably be adept by now at getting people you meet online interested in your site and in potentially offering you a link. Despite this though, it seems that the vast majority of website owners who might be great at promoting their sites online  are nevertheless useless when it comes to promoting themselves in the real world – or maybe don’t even think to try and do it in the first place. The problem is that many of us who operate online will think of our site only as an online entity and not as something that we can take into the real world to promote.

However promoting a website in the real world is actually a crucially valuable way to make it a hit – and it can give us a huge edge over other websites that operate only online. For instance imagine that you're at a party and you're talking to someone passionately about your website and what it does, and then you find out that that person just so happens to be the owner of Mashable. They're impressed, and as a result they give you a one-way link completely free. It's a completely possible situation, but one that would be almost impossible if we were trying to accomplish it online – it would just be an e-mail that got deleted or even picked up and discarded by the spam-filter.

So if you're sold on promoting your website face to face, here's how to actually go about doing it…

Go to the Right Functions: First of all, if you are going to promote your website to relevant parties then you of course need to be where they are in order to accomplish this. There are many places you can network with people who work online – for instance you can go to tradeshows or corporate events run by other websites, or you can go to networking events which take place in most big cities.

Host Functions: Don’t know any functions where you can promote your site? Well don't let that stop you – why not just host your own? Whether it's a launch party or a tradeshow hosting an event is a great way to raise your profile even before you've got talking to the guests.

Talk: Even when you're not at a tradeshow or a networking event however, don't assume that you can't still promote your website. You never know who you might be talking to in a coffee shop or in supermarket – so make sure that you're willing and happy to talk about your site wherever you go and you'll be likely to strike up conversations that lead to useful connections.

Carry Business Cards: Business cards are immensely useful as a way to allow people to follow up on your discussions. If you carry a business card you can then turn a chat into a lead and show the person that you really mean business. Without one they might forget to get in touch and you can squander a perfectly good opportunity.

Practice Your Pitch: Imagine someone comes to your corporate event and it turns out that they are the owner of a huge blog. What are you going to say to them knowing this? This is why it's worth practicing what's known as your ‘elevator pitch' – getting across all the information you need to convince someone of your project in the two minutes it would take for an elevator to get from the bottom to the top floor.

Is It Time for Your Small Business to Start Using a Social Intranet?

using intranet for small businessThe hype around social intranets has escalated anew with Microsoft shelling out $1.2 billion to acquire Yammer, a social intranet platform, in July, 2012.  If that’s saying anything, the social intranet space is getting big and bound to get bigger. But before you get any ideas and start thinking along the lines of Facebook or Twitter to associate the term “social intranet” with, let’s define social intranet.

 

What is a social intranet?
Social = people. Intranet versus Internet, within an entity versus between/among entities. Not too complicated, right?
Now, let’s complicate things a bit for the sake of complicating things. If you Google “social intranet,” there’s a likely chance you’ll come across social intranet being defined as an enterprise 2.0 platform. If you’re no tech geek, enterprise 2.0, in a nutshell, is the use of software that promotes employee, customer and supplier engagement and collaboration through Web 2.0-supported applications within an organization.
Web 2.0, on the other hand, is a site that encourages user participation and collaboration as opposed to a static website. Blogs and social media sites are some examples.
Simply put, you were sort of right to think of Facebook and Twitter (if indeed you did) when thinking social intranet as long as you don’t forget that the operative words are “engagement and collaboration within an organization,” which, of course, can be your own business organization.

 

Does your business need a social intranet?
Microsoft spending a whopping $1.2 billion to incorporate Yammer's social intranet functionality into Microsoft Office is not a small deal. Businesses use social intranets because they provide a whole host of advantages. Below are just three of them:
  • Information. Information repositories are cool, especially if you know how to get to them. As well, information is meant to be shared. Through file and content sharing, status updates and comments, information is easily disseminated across an enterprise.
  • Communities. Social intranets are a good way to bring like-minded people together, where they can exchange and share ideas and learn from their peers, fostering a spirit of teamwork within a company.
  • Collaboration. Constant engagement leads to collaboration and proper implementation of processes that benefit the whole business in the long run.

 

How small can small businesses go?
You may have already heard of prominent names in the cloud-based enterprise solution space – the likes of Oracle and SAP, which, for the most part, cater to companies with headcount ranging from hundreds to thousands. And you may also have heard of a few vendors serving the enterprise solutions needs of small businesses. Knowing that you have options if you dig deep enough, one sensible question to ask is how small can a small business go? Statistics obtained from one social intranet provider shows that for the average small business intranet,the  user size is 4.9.  Even very small teams can benefit from their own social intranet.


How much does a social intranet cost?
Social intranets can range from free to ridiculously expensive, meaning, tens of thousands of dollars. The costs generally depend on whether:
  • you want your intranet cloud-based, which is less costly
  • you want it installed in your own server, which is normally more secure but more expensive and time-consuming
Depending on the application developer you choose, costs can also be:
  • one-time in nature
  • per user, which, of course, can add up depending on the number of employees your company has
  • per amount of data space used, which is more economically attractive unless you work with large chunks or hundreds and hundreds of gigabytes of data

 

Conclusion
While the excitement around “social” has never before been so palpable, as Fred Cavazza of forbes.com asserts, it is paramount to keep in mind that the best social intranet solutions are those that tie the most data and business processes to an employee’s social behavior. At the end of the day, it's not always about the “social” in social intranets, it's keeping a balance between productivity and people engagement.
Maricel Rivera works for Bitrix24, the world’s fastest-growing social intranet + CRM solution for small businesses. With 10,000+ clients now under its belt, Bitrix24 is 100% free for companies with 12 employees or fewer.

How To Successfully Pitch Your Next Guest Post [infographic]

Guest posting, or guest blogging, can be such a great way to get your name out there and to connect with other bloggers.  It's also one of the best ways to get links pointing back to your website, which drives additional traffic back to your website and is great for seo.

As the owner of several active blogs, I often receive guest post requests from other bloggers as well as websites looking to gain exposure (and links) for their site.  When it comes to pitching me for a guest article, some of the things that really bug me and decrease your chances of getting your article published are:

  • Your email is not personalized. It's easy to find out who I am if you take 30 seconds. Don't start off an email with “Dear Webmaster” or “Greetings Madame or Sir”
  • Don't blow smoke up my butt by making me feel like I should be privileged because you're offering me a “totally free” article and all you ask for in exchange are a few links placed in the article. This one is aimed at seo agencies, train your teams better, especially the overseas ones!
  • Generic articles.  I'd love an article personalized just for my audience.  If you've pre-written an article that you've pitched to 30 other blogs in addition to mine, it's probably not a very good article.  People love actionable, insightful articles. The world doesn't need another article on “Why you should be doing social media”.

If you're just starting out and new to the world of guest posting, there are a few guidelines you should keep in mind when you're getting ready to pitch a blog for a guest posting opportunity.  This infographic courtesy of GuestBlogPoster.com is a great reference for anyone looking to get into the world of guest blogging.

The guest posting guide for bloggers

Small Business Toolbox – September Fifteen

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

**Bonus inspirational video at the end of this post : )

Base – The problem with most CRM's is that people don't use them because they are too complicated.  Base is an easy to use CRM that has all the features you need and leaves out the ones that you don't.  A simple CRM for small businesses that don't need complicated software.  Free and paid plans available.  Integrated with Google Apps, bonus!

Camscanner  -One of my most used mobile apps ever.  Easy to use app that lets you create PDF documents right from the camera on your phone.  Take an image of a document and Canscanner will crop it, lighten it, and turn it into a PDF document in a matter of seconds.  Create multiple pages and share straight from your phone.  Free and paid versions available on iPhone and Android.

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

How To Successfully Pitch Your Story To Local Media

How often does your business make the headlines in your local media market?

Pitching local media for small business

Businesses are always looking for cost-effective ways to gain exposure and expand their customer base. Local media outlets such as newspapers, local TV, magazines, and even online publications are powerful marketing tools for entrepreneurs and business owners. Local news typically focuses on community centers and events, smaller local businesses, and the residents of their community, making it a perfect place to advertise for entrepreneurs looking to gain exposure within their own community.

However, pitching a story to local media takes more skills than just simply emailing the newspaper editor a press release. In order to successfully pitch your story to local media you need to put the same energy and thought that you do into running your business into effectively gaining media coverage. There are a few golden rules for getting media coverage, and some ideas that will help you refine your ability to pitch stories.

 

Do Your Research

When you pitch an article to your local media outlets, make sure you are familiar with the publications you are pitching to. Know the outlet’s format, target audience, frequency, and reporting style. You should be able to have a brief conversation about the media outlet, and why you chose them. Read similar articles and get a feel for what they cover, and how they write about local businesses before you approach them.

Make sure you know who you are contacting. Don’t just email a press release to a general “info” email contact. Dig around websites, Twitter, and Linked In until you find an editor’s email address and first name. Engage with them on a personal level and you will be much more likely to get a response. Just like you might not accept cold calls from solicitors, newspapers may not pay attention to unsolicited pitches.

 

Target your Pitch

Each time you pitch a story to a local media outlet, you should make sure that your story is tailored specifically to that media contact. This can’t be stressed enough. Don’t send a form email. Don’t cut and paste your email and change the name of the editor. Make sure you are creating an individual pitch that explains why your story will engage the readers of that publication.

Ask yourself “why would these readers care about my story?” and emphasize this to your media contact. If you take the time to present yourself and your business, as well as the way it relates to readers and followers, you will be able to build a real relationship with your local media outlets.

 

Make it Personal

Local media outlets are focused on their community – this includes the businesses, community attractions, and people. Find a way to connect the story to your own background to make it engaging to local media outlets and their readers. Did you go to a nearby college or high school? Did you grow up nearby? If you can find a way to tie yourself to your news story, you will easily bring that local touch that makes a successful local news story.

 

Make it Worthwhile

Media coverage shouldn’t be thought of as free advertising. Getting a story in the local paper and running an an advertisement are not the same thing! Make sure that any story you pitch has a purpose and highlights an aspect of your business that will engage to readers. Don’t submit stories that are solely self-promotional – they will come across as spam to readers and are unlikely to be published. You will lose the interest of editors and reports instantly, so wait until you have a real story to pitch!

 

Be Brief

Brevity is an invaluable skill when pitching your story to local media. Long rambling paragraphs with links and attachments will probably be ignored. Save your media kit or press release until you’ve started a conversation. Small paragraphs that are easy to read are key. Keep it short and simple and make it easy for an editor to say “yes.”

Same goes for your subject. Keep it to seven words or less and grab your reader’s attention. Stay away from subjects like “Please read!” and tailor your subject to your reader, just like the rest of the pitch. Would you open the email? If not, revise your pitch and subject line until you are sure they are engaging!

 

Be Patient

The reality is that you can easily send 10 pitches and maybe only one will get picked up. This is okay. Don’t slow down because of rejection: simply refine your pitch and repitch it to another media outlet – or even just another editor!

If you haven’t had a response after a week, you can follow up with a brief email inquiry. After two weeks you can make a phone call to check with the editor. However, don’t spend time calling and emailing excessively. Simply refine your pitch and move on.

 

Remember that local news media can be a powerful way to engage your customer base and get your business known. Since local media outlets are constantly on the lookout for what is happening in and around the community, illustrating what your businesses is doing and how you interact with other businesses, customers, and community centers is a great way to get your name in the news.

This is a guest post by Julie Cornell.  Julie is a writer, runner and WordPress enthusiast who loves writing about small business, marketing and anything else that involves the written word.  She is currently the community manager for the Nusite Group, a specialty trades company in Toronto.  You can reach out to her on G+.