You’re finally at the point where you have a couple employees, a part-timer, and a few contractors helping you out.
The first time you do it, this is scary. Until now, it’s been mostly Â you, and maybe all you.
Will the new people you hired be the self-motivated, independent workers you hoped when you interviewedÂ them?
Only one way to find out!
Regardless of who you hired or how you hired them, there’s going to be some stresses and growing pains.
Here’s how to make sure you get the most from your employees and keep your businessÂ running as smooth as possible:
1. Listen More than You Talk
Since it’s been mostly you up to this point, it’s tempting to think you should know all the answers of how everything at your business should be.
Some managers work that way. But it gets mentally draining, emotionally stressful, and then you start hating the work you used to love.
So have ongoing conversations with your employees and ask:
â€˘ What motivates you to do your work?
â€˘ What changes would you make to our workplace or procedures to improve your happiness with your job?
â€˘ What changes could be made to deliver more value to our customers?
â€˘ What are customers most common complaints?
â€˘ Do you have any other feedback I should consider?
2. Only Hire Employees with Strong Self-Motivation
These employees are hard to find. But in their resume and work histories, you should look for a self-starting pattern.
Maybe they like to volunteer. Maybe they have side projects they enjoy.
It’s not your job to motivate your employees. You can provide incentives and a fun workplace. But they are ultimately responsible for “bringing it” day in and day out.
That takes a lot of pressure off you too.
3. Fire Fast If It’s a Bad Fit
You’re going to make mistakes in hiring. It’s a new process to you, so you can’t expect perfection from yourself.
If you notice a certain employee doesn’t perform well, have a conversation about it. Try to understand if it’s a motivation problem or a skillset mismatch.
If it’s the latter, and they’re a self-motivated employee otherwise, try them out at a different position before firing them.
That saves you more time and money versus firing and hiring anyway.
If the same issues happen at the new position, let them go.
4. Give Your Employees Freedom to Operate
No one likes a “micromanager” type of boss. Plus, micromanaging causes you lots of work hours and stress, taking away from your peace, happiness, and joy.
Give your employees firm limits, with some wiggle room for innovation. It’ll make them happier, more productive workers too.
Get their feedback regularly and work with them to design a job that makes them, and you, happy.
When Work Becomes a Four-Letter Word…
It’s time to review how you’re managing your team. Part of the reason you got into your business is to make more money, spend less time at work, and do more of what you love.
If work becomes a curse word to you, and you find yourself muttering it under your breath, take a look at how you’re managing things.
Remember, you’re the boss, so you can build your business any way that creates a win-win-win for you, your employees, and your customers.
Running low on time and need more sales?
Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. You don’t need a lot of time, or an elaborate marketing campaign to sell more of your product.
Here’s what you can do to boost your sales right now – and with minimum effort:
1. E-mail Your NewsletterÂ List
Now there is one caveat to this. You need to have a relationship with your e-mail list already in place for maximum effectiveness.
Think of it this way:
â€˘ A friend, who you haven’t heard from in months, calls you and needs $50 now to get a taxi ride home.
â€˘ Another friend, who you talk to almost every week, calls you and asks for the same.
Who’re you more likely to give money to?
Your newsletter works best when you keep e-mailing and helping your customers out. E-mail them out of the blue after not talking for several months, and they’re less likely to buy.
2. Get Yourself Published on an Important Blog
Now this is harderÂ than it seems. Your content has to be unique, or it should build on other hot topics already discussed on the intended blog.
When you check out blogs, don’t go for just any blog. Find one with at least a few hundred social shares. That way you know there’s going to be activity when you’re published.
Then make your content the greatest of its kind available anywhere on the web. The “best” content is the most useful.
Add lots of images to increase interest. And then give people lots of links to resources not your own to give them even more value.
3. Create a Special Promotion that Includes Referrals
This works well if you already have a built-up community floating around on your website. Simply build the idea and promote it across your blog, home page, and social media profiles.
Give your customers a referral bonus. For example, if youÂ refer friends who buy at least $400 in duvets, your customers get their own free duvet valued at $100.
4. Find Your Niche-Equivalent of Uncrate and Advertise
This website, which features a handful of products for men, lets you advertise on a cost-per-thousand impressions basis. You’ll pay somewhere between $11.05 – $17.85 per 1000 impressions.
The site has a solid rep for providing quality products to men. So you have to make sure yours is a high-quality product men want.Â It also gets something like 7 million visits per month. So make sure the advertising costs are within your range.
Mainly, whatever the site is that you choose, you want to make sure it’s a great fit for who you sell to. Run away from websites that try to get you buy advertising based on how many people visit their site.
You’ll make many more sales at a website that fits the market you sell to!
Those ideas are simple, fast, and likelyÂ low-cost.
It’s the dream of every business owner…you know exactly how things are going to go before you you take actions.
Well, I can’t help you with that, but I can help you get close.
When you first start out your new business, all sorts of emotions are going on. You feel stressed, fearful, excited, and you shoot up and down with each good or bad break in your business.
You scratchÂ and claw for every dollar you can get. Sometimes no money comes in at all when you need it most.
Other times, you have so much you don’t know what to do with it all.
Emotion is a part of making business decisions. But you have to weigh the facts too.
If you feel good about starting a certain venture, that’s a good sign. But you should check a simple fact like this to see how it’s going to work and improve your decision-making:
1. Analyze How Many Units You Need to Sell to Break Even
Armed with this information, you’ll know how many units you need to sell to run your business from home. And once you know the costs of office space, you’ll know the number of units to sell to support that.
The same goes when you start adding employees.
Remember all that complex math you took in gradeschool, high school, and maybe college? You don’t need any of it in business. At least not for what you’re doing anyway.
Simply do this calculation to discover your break-even point:
Break-even point = fixed costs/(average product price – variable costs)
Yes, you have to have the parentheses in there, otherwise you’ll get the wrong answer.
2. What are Fixed and Variable Costs?
Fixed costs never change, regardless of how much product you sell. This could be rent, supplies like your computer, subscriptions for software services, and salaries for employees.
Variable costs do change. And in fact, employee salaries could go in both categories. For example, you have 2 salaried employees. They are “fixed” costs. Or, you have employee you pay a commission. You might also pay yourself a salary that changes each month. Those are variable costs.
Other variable costs could include utilities, shipping costs, or your product costs (if you buy and resell, for example).
3. What about Average Product Price?
This number is the best you can calculate right now. You should base it on your actual sales. If you, for example, don’t sell a high volume of an expensive product, you should only include the average number of sales you can make of that product during the year.
What Do You Do With Your Break-Even Point?
This number is invaluable. Now you know:
- How many sales you have to make just to stay in business
- Whether or not you need to raise your prices
- If you need to look at lowering your fixed or variable costs
- How toÂ develop strategies for selling more
- The additional resources you’ll need to support higher break-even points
With this information, you can be a precision, goal-driven business, rather than relying on the hope that business continues to grow.
It’s one of the biggest lies you’ll ever hear in current inbound marketing.
It’s devastating. If you follow this lie, which many accept as conventional wisdom, you build your business on a house of cards.
The deck is stacked – but this time not in your favor.
What’s the lie?
I’ll lay it on you:
“Write great content and they will come.”
Yes, you need great content. And you should focus on writing using natural words too.
BUT, you still have to optimize it with keywords appropriate for your niche.
That’s the part where many online marketers and business owners get hung up.
And let me tell you, finding keywords you can rank for isn’t easy.
If you’re doing it the way everyone else does it – blindly typing keywords into Google Adwords – you’re going to burn a lot of money and time you don’t need to in order to rank.
That’s where the stiffest competition on the web comes from.
So get up to speed here in 2015 and do this:
Optimization Best Practices for 2015
Optimizing itself is easy. You can optimize the typical web page of about 300 – 500 words for 1 – 3 keywords. Pick a primary phrase, and then make sure that word appears exactly in the URL, H1, and somewhere in the body content. You should also include it in the ALT tag if there’s a picture anywhere on your page.
For any other supporting keywords, place them once each (verbatim) in your content.
That’s really all there is to optimization. Don’t make it harder than it has to be.
But What’s Really Hard is Finding Low-Competition, High-Converting Keywords in the First Place
How would you like to optimize for a ton of keywords, rank decently, and then find out, after the 4-12 months it takes to rank for them, they don’t convert or sell like you hoped they would?
That’s the nightmare SEO can be for you.
So instead, you should run a quick PPC campaign on each keyword you’re thinking of to see how well it converts.
And here’s how you can find low-competition, high-converting keywords in the first place:
1. Use Google Autosuggest
Simply start typing in a keyword in Google, and a bunch of suggestions pop up. Many of those suggestions do not appear in Adwords at all.
Perfect! Other people can’t find them, which means they’ll be low competition. And you know at least some people will search for them and buy because they are being typed in.
2. Google Related Searches
These are pretty simple too. They don’t work for every search. But for many searches, simply scroll to the bottom of the page after you hit “Search.”
You’ll see this:Â Searches related to “your search”
And then you’ll see a list of phrases.
Boom! Gold mine right there of low-competition, high-converting key phrases.
Simply go to any of their articles. The introduction and table of contents are loaded with keywords. And the rest of the articles are too, if you want to read further.
That suggestion comes from this author, and there’s tons of other easy techniques to use too.
The internet makes all sorts of keyword research simple to do. These creative examples will help you get an edge on the competition they don’t even know about.
Why does one website seem to get all the shares, comments, and attention, while the other struggles to even get just a single comment?
Many reasons. And one big one is because some websites know how to identify more interesting topics for their visitors than others.
What techniques do they use?
I don’t know ’em all, but here’s some you can use to find spot-on topics that win interest and more sales:
1. What Questions Do Your Customers Ask Over and Over?
You can actually get a couple of pieces of content out of this. Short, simple, and sweet answers can go in your FAQ.
In-depth answers can go in your blog posts.
If it’s a question almost every new customer asks, that may be an idea for a special report you give your customers in exchange for joining your newsletter list.
You could even do video answers to their questions. Regardless of the form of content you choose, questions customers ask are always great content ideas.
2. Subscribe to Your Competitor’s Newsletters
…But not just any competitor. You have to be relatively sure that the content ideas they create are actually engaging.
Simply look at their content and see how many social shares and comments they get. High numbers are a sure sign of great topics.
3. Quora, Yahoo Answers
Go to either of these websites and enter in a search term you think your users would search on. All sorts of questions come up.
4. Niche Forums
Regardless of the product you sell, there is an online forum for it somewhere. Join the forum. See what questions users are asking.
These make particularly good questions because people that come to forums and ask questions are very knowledgeable and committed to that niche.
When you write the post, make sure you post the answer to the person that asked the question so everyone can see how helpful you are.
5. Industry-Leading Publications
In your niche, you know of 3-5 great resources that publish so much content you’ll never be able to keep up with it all. These “thought leaders” have skilled and experienced editors who know how to pick topics that will engage their audience.
Write on some of the same topics – but take your own unique angle.
6. Check out Amazon’s “Top Industry” Book List for Your Niche
Because of its popularity, Amazon is becoming one of the best mini search-engines for content ideas. Check out the top books sold for your niche, and write a blog post, or whole series of blog posts, on them.
7. Customer Reviews
They’re no longer optional to any website. So find a big site in your niche, and read their reviews. See what people mention over and over again.
Write blog posts on those aspects of their reviews.
Good content ideas are in limitless supply no matter where you look. And now you know how to do that.
So it’s time to head off, start engaging, and start earning more sales!
Ahh SEO…it gets more complex with each passing year.
Or does it?
In some respects it does seem to get more complicated. But you can actually stick with certain fundamentals over time that’ll keep you in pretty good shape.
Here’s what to do to get and keep high rankings:
1. Find Low-Competition, High-Converting Keywords
Of all these tips, this is the hardest and most critical to pull off. Optimize for the wrong keywords, and you struggle to convert. Optimize for the right ones, and the sales roll in over and over again for years.
So how do you find the “right” keywords?
Use keyword research tactics few other people use:
â€˘ Browse the social media profiles of your target market to see what words they use to talk about products you sell
â€˘ Insert your competitor’s landing page into Google’s keyword tool to find keyword ideas
â€˘ Manually type keywords into Google, and look at the blue titles for each page. Ones that are not optimized with your specific keywords will be easier to knock off.
â€˘ Run a quick PPC campaign first on each keyword to see how they convert
Remember, most people just enter their desired keywords into Google Adwords to find ideas. So if you do it that way, you’ll get the most competition.
2. How to Optimize Each Page
This isn’t hard to do, despite what you might hear out there. Each page should have a “head term,” a primary phrase you’re targeting.
You should get the head term in the page’s URL, search title, the meta description, the on-page H1 tag, and maybe another place or two in the text. You can add another 1-2 close variations of that head term throughout the text to add relevancy and rankings for those.
3. Images Can Give You a Nice Little Edge
Your e-commerce store should be loaded with images. Each image should have a descriptive “ALT” tag. Mention just 1 keyword in there, along with an accurate description of what the image is all about.
Google knows if you’re stuffing your image ALT tags with keywords, and it’ll dock you as a result.
4. Content, Content, and More Content
The #1 rule of content: be more useful than anyone else in your niche. That gives them reason to pay attention to you and not them.
After you’ve written an incredibly useful piece of content, go back and optimize it with 1 keyword or keyphrase about every 500 words.
You don’t have to publish a lot. 1000 words per week or so will do. But you do have to be consistent.
Otherwise, Google stops caring about you.
SEO’s Simple, But It Sure Ain’t Easy!
SEO is fairly straightforward. But it’s not an easy thing to do repeatedly over time. You may have to hire help to take care of some of the gruntwork for you.
But if you keep at it, and you keep aiming to please your visitors, you’ll do just fine.
So you’re a true bootstrapping entrepreneur. You’ve got absolutely 0 connections you can leverage to start your Facebook campaign. And you’ve got no money, either.
And let’s make no secret about it: Facebook is making it harder to get your posts in front of more people so you have to pay them more money. And when you do that, they profit, and their stock price shoots up.
So should you build a Facebook page if you don’t want to spend any money advertising?
It still makes sense because you’re still getting your content in front ofÂ the right people. And there’s lots of talk that paying for advertising on Facebook isn’t all that effective for small businesses anyway.
So how do you build a thriving Facebook audienceÂ from scratch?
Here’s some tips:
1. Have the Most Useful Content in Your Niche
This is the bottom line for any company in any niche. Your content doesn’t need to be pretty or long (although these things help).
But it does need to be useful. Because if someone reads one piece of content you wrote, and they find it useful, they’re likely to come back again in the future to read more. And eventually, they’ll buy from you because your content stays top of mind, while everyone else gets forgotten.
So research your niche. Who gets the most social shares on their content?
Take their content and 10x it. If they have a top 10 list of ways to care for your patio furniture, make yours the top 100.
It makes you stand out. And promote the heck out of that content on your Facebook page.
2. Guest Curate Content for other Facebook Pages with Products/Services Complimentary to Yours
If you sell patio furniture, find a company that sells products for cleaning, storing, and maintaining patio furniture.
Then, you simply offer to find them 3-5 awesome content pieces each 1-2 times per month. The company should mention your name in the post.
Make sure the pages you do this for have at least 1,000 targeted likes or so. Oh, and thank Social Media Examiner for this tip.
And make sure the companies you do this for are complimentary to you and not competitors.
3. Curate the Heck Out of Content on Your Facebook Page
It’s completely okay to post your own content on your Facebook page. But, you need to have a lot of stuff coming from other third-party sources too.
Offer the most helpful content on the web in your niche at your Facebook page. That way, people have a reason to keep coming back to your page and not anyone else’s.
Organic Facebook Growth Isn’t Easy!
Remember, that nothing in online marketing is easy. People talk about online business being a great way to work from home and go on vacation all the time.
You can get there. But it takes an awful lot of work. It’s not as simple as buying a computer, starting a business, and watching the customers roll in.
With hard work though, you can become a successful online business owner.
What is the real failure rate for small businesses in the US?
You’ve heard all sorts of statistics. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says about half of all small businesses last 5 years, with about a third lasting 10 years or more.
The statistics have changed little over the decades. And the longer your business lasts, the more likely it is to survive.
Actual failure rates may be lower, though, because government statistics also include businesses that were shut down voluntarily (and not just because of lack of cash).
Regardless, most businesses hit points of stagnation, where profits and revenues stay roughly the same for a period of time. That’s where some businesses make the breakthrough, while others sink.
Here’s what you can doÂ if you’re feeling stuck:
1. Hire a Consultant
You can’t possibly see all aspects of your business from all angles at all times. No one can.
But you can’t be cheap with consultants. They’re only as good as they charge.
The instinctual thinking is to hire one that helps you cut expenses. But that’s just a short-term, band-aid solution.
Hire one that helps you grow your revenues. It could be a conversion rate expert, marketing guru, or sales expert.
2. Hire an Employee
As a business owner, you feel the need to be the smartest and best at everything in your business. But the companies who succeed are the ones with a number of very smart people.
You’re the best at something in your company. Identify what that is, and focus most of your time around that skill, and maybe your 3 other top skills.
Hire someone else to compensate for your weaknesses. You’ll make much more progress in business focusing on your strengths rather than spending time developing skills you’re already weak at.
3. Prepare to Take a Risk
One of the overblown myths of entrepreneurship is that you need to take a stupid-crazy risk to succeed.
There’s no doubt some businesses become successful that way.
But many entrepreneurs prefer to take calculated risks.
So have you had something itching away in your head or gut for months, maybe years, and haven’t acted on it?
Now’s the time to explore that inkling further. Think it through. Talk with others who know your business. Get some feedback from customers.
Remember, if you keep doing what you’re doing now, you’re going to get what you always have got. So, you need to try something different to get to a stronger place in business.
4. Fix Problems with Your Business
You’re probably aware of some glaring issues with your company. Have you been too afraid to fire an underperforming employee?
Has a vendor that gives you sub-par service been hanging around too long? Maybe you don’t like how you’ve positioned yourself in your marketing.
Now’s the time to fix those problems so you can get your business to a better place.
It’s All Going to Be All Right!
Remember, everyone fears change. So you’re hardly unique if new things scare you.
Successful entrepreneurs simply take a deep breath and do it anyway. And remember, things rarely work out the way you plan them.
But they do work out. Try, try again…you never know where you’ll end up!
One of the “Big 4 Accounting Firms,” Deloitte, projects record online sales this year in a recent press release:
Additionally, Deloitte forecasts an 8.5 to 9 percent increase in non-store sales in the online and mail order channelsÂ during the 2015 holiday season.
Further, their vice chairman of the Retail and Distribution Sector, Rod Sides, says we’ve “passed the tipping point” in terms of mobile and online engagement playing a much larger role in physical store sales (where about 90% of all sales still happen).
You know people buy from those they know, like, and trust.
So how do you earn more of the third one,”trust?”
Well, that’s simple. You follow these tips:
1. Watch How Backyard Chickens Knocks it Out of the Park
The first interaction you have with any online customer will often be your search listing or paid ad.
Notice the star ratings Backyard Chickens, and a couple other companies, have. They’re good, and there’s a number of ratings that makes the actual rating reliable.
On top of that, they’re almost the only gold things on the entire web page. So they make your search listings stand out obviously above the rest.
Few companies do this, so it’s a HUGE ADVANTAGE in your pocket.
2. Clear Contact Information
It sounds so simple, but for the small guys it often gets overlooked. You should give your customers the impression it’s you or a small team running your company.
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to look “big and corporate,” unless you know your customers like that. One of the biggest advantages you have over corporations is your ability to be small and personable.
So get a phone number and e-mail in the upper right-hand corner of your website, so it’s visible on every page.
In your About page, put a photo of you and all your team members. Add links to social media profiles in the upper right and bottom of every page, and one place on your product pages too.
3. Make Service Simple, Easy, and Fast
You should have a clear return and refund policy on a separate page on your website. You should have simple instructions on how to do a return.
Make it so easy to understand that your 6th grader gets it.
Consider having live-chat, if you can afford to have someone man it almost 24/7. If you can’t, return all e-mails withing the hour, and within 24 hours for sure.
Return every inquiry you get – whether by phone, e-mail, or social media. Response time makes a huge positive impression on customers, even if they have a complaint.
You can have an automated response, just to acknowledge receipt of messages. But don’t make anything else sound automated.
That’s a Starting List…
Those are basics, but they oftenÂ don’t get covered by SMBs. Make sure they happen – and watch your sales take off this holiday season.
According to Worldometer, right now at the time of this writing (11:24 AM Eastern Standard Time), almost 1.8 million blog posts have been published.
So say that number ends up at about 2 million at noon. With 12 hours left in the day, simple math says that comes to about 4 million blog posts in 24 hours.
You probably knew an insane amount of content gets published daily.
But did you know it was that much?
I didn’t until I did that research.
Many questions naturally arise. One of them is: how do you make content marketing actually work so you get exposure and results from it?
That’s a topic entire companies have been built around.
So I’ll do my best to make it quick and simple for ya:
1. Make Sure Each Piece of Content Has a Goal
You shouldn’t write more content just to “keep your ranking in Google.” That’s the first step of any kind of content marketing – so view it as a start.
You can get so much more value out of your content by writing it with a goal in mind. So simple goals might be:
â€˘ Writing landing pages so you make more sales now
â€˘ Creating a blog post that logically pushes your web visitors to subscribe to your list
â€˘ Crafting a special report that informs your customers about a new problem arising that your products solve
2. Aim to be the Most Helpful Resource in Your Niche
You remember those 4 million blog posts from before? Most – and this is no joke – most of them suffer from the same old problem:
Most content tells you what to do, but doesn’t show you what to do
As an example, most blog posts tell the readers to do obvious things, like this:
“Be careful when turning a light switch off without a cover plate”
Because your readersÂ already know to do that, they just skim over the content and don’t really read any of it. And they do the worst thing possible they can: they leave your website with no special memory of it.
Instead, your content should be like this:
“Don’t turn a light switch off without a cover plate. If you stick your fingers in the outlet box, you’ll get electrocuted. It’ll be painful. And it won’t be fun. And you could end up taking a trip to the ER.
Instead, find your circuit breaker and turn the power off. Then attach a plate to the switch using a Phillips screwdriver and an assembly you purchase from your local hardware store for just a couple bucks. You can even get designer switch plates (and then go on to describe the examples, and perhaps ones you sell too).”
Do you see how much more specific and helpful that is?
That’s what readers want. And if they can get it from you, it makes you different and stand out from all the rest.
That’s a huge win for your business.
Understand Those Two Points of Content, and You’ll Do Fine
That’s really all you need to start writing online content. Because most businesses don’t understand those things.
So put ’em to use, and watch your site get all sorts of organic traffic and sales, and e-mail list subscribers.