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Invisibility – a cautionary tale for small businesses

What do these things have in common? H. G. Wells’ “The Invisible Man”, Harry Potter and your small business? All have the ability to become invisible! is your business invisible?

Invisibility for small businesses comes in two flavors – deliberate and accidental.

If you don’t have a website then you are pretty much deliberately choosing to be invisible. That’s not to say people won’t find you on-line but you are making it hard for them and if the only thing visible is a less-than-flattering review you are just beating yourself.

Accidental invisibility occurs when you have a website but can’t be seen by search engines. This happens for a number of reasons including these common mistakes: (more…)

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Google Adwords and Small Business

Did you ever wonder how Google became the multi-bazillion dollar company they are? It’s not just the awesome algorithms they invented or how they seem to know before you search what you are looking for. It’s the way the learned to make money from those things – by offering ads related to those searches and charging would-be sellers lots of money for those ads through their AdWords program (AdSense is a sister product designed to allow site owners to host those ads). The company has just reported revenues of $7.3 billion of which 97% comes from advertising.

AdWords serves up those ads as the “sponsored links” you see across the top and down the side of the Google search result page.

Why is this important to the small business person?

Even though $7.3 billion is an awful lot of money it’s made up of billions and billions individual ads placed by small and large businesses alike. Although many of the hot “buzz-worthy” search terms can command between $10-50 PER CLICK (apparently “mesothelioma” commands $100 per click) small business people should be aware that in their field the cost of advertising can be lower than $1 per click, sometimes only pennies per click if you are clever. (more…)

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As a small business owner do I need to worry/think/do anything about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Whether your company has a website or not, most people have heard something about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).Often it’s from the sales and marketing manager who instructs a staff member to “do something about SEO” so that their site can appear on Google’s first page (good luck with that by the way…). Sometimes it’s from an “SEO” company who can absolutely guarantee that they’ll get your site on Google’s first page of results – maybe they should talk to that staff member? More often with small businesses its one of those topics that gets discussed once or twice and is then consigned to the “someday, maybe never” file.

To answer my own question – I’m here today to tell you that in this Google-dominated, internet-driven, 24/7 world SEO isn’t just something to worry or think about its EVERYTHING if you want to get found on the internet. Here are my top 5 SEO “do’s plus 5 “don’ts” that every small business owner needs to be aware of: (more…)

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Trade shows – a relic or an essential component of a marketing campaign?

My last blog post was about the role of printed material in the “internet age”. Another area that I’m heavily involved in is the managing of trade shows and I started thinking along the same lines – does the traditional trade show still have a place in this modern world?

Typical trade show

The biggest show I’m involved with is Pittcon (or the Pittsburgh Conference of Analytical Chemistry!). My first Pittcon was 1998 and total attendance was approx 28,000. This was slightly down from the biggest year ever which maxed out at about 34,000 attendees in 1996. Attendance at the 2010 was an all time low at 16,800 – that’s more than 10,000 people who have just stopped going. The number of exhibitors is down too – not by the same percentage but still significantly (1200 in 1998, 960 in 2010).

The average cost of exhibiting at trade shows is a tricky number to pin down, but I found a 1999 article that talked about the costs averaging out at between $99-156/sq. ft. of booth space and I can only imagine its more than that now. So for a 10 x 10 booth the small business owner is likely looking at least $10,000, maybe $15,000 or more.

Surely the combination of diminishing numbers and increasing (or at least not decreasing) costs means that trade shows are D.E.A.D, dead!

Not so fast! (more…)

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Is there still a need for printed marketing materials?

I found a really fantastic brochure in a junk store during one of my trips to the UK. It’s an “Ogden and Lawson” catalog from the 1930’s, describing their range of steam fittings and valves – prefect for a technology nerd like me! It’s hard-bound with a couple of wonderful, colorized pages showing valve cross sections. There are also printed prices for every item.

beautiful colorized valve image from the 1930's Think about that – a hard-bound brochure with pricing that the publishers fully expected to stay current for, how long, 1 year, 3 years, 10 years? When the only means of communication to your customers was by mail, it was worth spending a bit more on the brochure knowing that they were going to keep it and refer to it for years. Fast forward to 2010 – when the internet rules and it seems that prices change on a daily basis, surely there’s no need for printed materials. Can’t all the relevant info be taken off a website somewhere? (more…)

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Social media and small business

social_mediaMany small businesses have embraced the concepts behind social media and in-bound marketing – primarily those in the B2B services and consultancy industries, where they make their money promoting  themselves as opposed to a product. On the other hand many product based small businesses (manufacturers, distributors, etc) have done next to nothing with these new marketing avenues. Why? Because, I think, they think there’s very little ROI in it for them.

No-Cost / Low-Cost

But what investment are they referring to? The one really great thing about the new world of social media & in-bound marketing is that it’s either no-cost or low-cost. The major investment is one of time and to a lesser extent of creativity. (more…)

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Small businesses and their web presence

I read an interesting post the other day titled “Guide to Building a Small Business Site With WordPress Pt. 1” which included a sub-section “6 most common reasons for building a small business website”.

The six reasons given were:

  • I simply need my address and phone number online so people can find my business
  • Everybody says I need a web presence
  • I want my business to look more professional
  • I want to be number one on Google and Yahoo
  • My competitor has one
  • I want to sell online

On the face of it all are reasonable and seem to reflect the needs and desires of sales managers everywhere. And of course they all miss the point (more…)

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Content is king! And a complete pain in the neck

In my last corporate job one of my tasks was to create a new web site – pretty much from scratch. The basic design and layout was decided within the first couple of weeks of the project and then the hard part…filling those empty layouts with content. Adding the content took months and months and I don’t think my bosses ever understood what was taking so long. Writing relevant copy, making illustrations, collating product information is very, very time consuming and then formatting it to go onto the site was a job in itself.

There are thousands of “web providers” out there that will be happy to take your money to design and create a web site for you. But when they are finished what next? All they’ve built for you is an empty vessel that needs filling. They don’t know your product and aren’t going to spend the time to learn it. You need to fill the vessel with content but as I allude to above it’s a) time consuming and b) tricky for the non-programmer. One of my friends called it ‘web geekery!” (more…)

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