Small Business Digital Marketing Blog

An effective website is something that when executed properly, can have a significant impact on your marketing initiatives, and the overall success of your practice. Sure, a lot of businesses have a website, but do all businesses believe in the benefits of having a website? Likely not. Judging by the number of old and outdated websites that our clients have come to us with, we have no other choice but to come to one conclusion: the importance of keeping a current website has been lost on many owners, somewhere between the excuses of I don’t know how, my brother-in-law takes care of it, and I’m too busy. Keeping a website relevant with up to date content is one of the keys to a successful web presence, unfortunately far too many entrepreneurs overlook the importance of maintaining their website. We have identified three instances that will show you why having an outdated website can be harmful to your business.

1. Lose Your Credibility in 15 Seconds or Less

As you are hopefully aware, your potential clients are researching your name online before they decide to do business with you. A recently published study from the Pew Research Institute shows that 78% of internet users research a product or service online, and yes, this includes financial services.  As income and education increase, so does the likelihood of online research, with 87% of college educated internet users doing online research about products and services that they’re interested in.
I was sitting at brunch a few weeks ago trying to convince a colleague why it’s so important for today’s CEO to be involved and active in social media. I was trying to sway him on the benefits, the rewards and all the new opportunities that await the socially savvy-CEO. I thought I was doing a pretty good job until my friend took a bite into his bagel, looked me in the eye and quipped, “…but that’s only if he’s smart enough to ‘get it’. Otherwise, he’s a liability.” He was right. Though nearly every business, regardless of niche, could find value engaging in social media, that doesn’t mean it’s meant for everyone. Should YOUR company get involved in social media? Maybe…but maybe not. Here are 10 signs your company isn’t suited for social media.

1. You have no social skills (and don’t want to fake them) :

This social media thing is about people. That means if you can’t DEAL with people and didn’t have friends as a child, then perhaps its best you stay away from it. Because, really, the only thing worse than not having a social media presence is when your presence is used as a case study for why companies shouldn’t have one. If talking to people gives you hives, hire someone to handle your social media services for you. Those little people you hate (read: customers) will thank you.

2. You have no sense of humor/can’t handle criticism:

This is the Internet. If you can’t laugh at yourself or others, then you don’t belong on it. So many times success in social media means being able to embrace and leverage what is weird and quirky about you and run with it. It’s about being able to hop in and laugh with the people laughing AT you, get them on your side and move it to something good. If you don’t possess a sense of humor and can’t deal with criticism, then you may not want to swim in these waters. Companies that take themselves too seriously are written off as the dweebs of the Internet and will be virtually stuffed in lockers. It’s also a long way down when you fall off that high horse.
One of the key distinctions between an entrepreneur and an operating executive is an entrepreneur’s almost seamless agility in the face of changing circumstances versus an operating executive’s intense execution focus on a plan. World-class entrepreneurs learn how to combine both. Driving home over the mountains from a Coastal Commission hearing, I had time to ponder an email I received from a city official as the road wound through the Redwood trees. The Coastal Commission had found that a zoning change his city requested didn’t conform to the Coastal Act, and we denied it. I felt sorry for him because he had put together a project that depended upon the property owner, developer, unions, hotel operator, local neighbors, city council, weather, wind speed, phase of the moon and astrological sign all aligning just to get the project in front of us. It was like herding cats and pushing water uphill. Reading his email I was sympathetic realizing that if you substituted customers, channel, product development, hiring, board of directors, and fund raising, he was describing a typical day at a startup. I felt real kinship until I got to his last sentence: “Now we’re screwed because we had no Plan B.” Say what?
We talk a lot about how small business owners can use blogs, Facebook and Twitter to aid in lead generation, build awareness and grow their audiences. But one social network that doesn’t get quite the same love or attention is LinkedIn. Because of that, you may be surprised to know that LinkedIn has more than 1 million members, according to TalentHQ. Combine those numbers with LinkedIn’s reputation for being the ultimate professional social search engine, and suddenly SMBs start looking at LinkedIn the way they should be – like a social media goldmine. How can you use LinkedIn to grow your SMB? Here are just a few neat ways.

1. Dramatically Grow Your Network

Unlike the other social networks, people swarm to LinkedIn for one reason – to connect with others for business-related reasons. They’re looking for future vendors or job prospects or a way to build a resume they can cash in on later. Because the mindset of a typical LinkedIn user is much more focused than, say, that of a Twitter user, LinkedIn is the perfect platform to reach out and connect for business reasons. As a small business owner, you can use LinkedIn to find vendors you can outsource things to, connect with others in your industry you can partner with down the road, and more. People are on LinkedIn with the sole purpose of connecting for business reasons. Take advantage of it.
Depending upon the location of your lookout perch on the nation’s workforce tree, you may or may not be aware of a rapidly growing trend in workspace design—the trend toward open office spaces. Popularized by an explosion in the European market, open offices are now catching on in the States, even though the precise definition of “open” is itself still very much open to interpretation. In some settings, the traditional “four walls and a door” office is being replaced by various forms of less compartmentalized partitioning where employees are still somewhat separate while working more closely together. In the more extreme cases, every kind of wall is undergoing the same fate as the Berlin Wall—tumbling down completely—and the result is an environment where employees sit together with no barriers between them in a large central workspace. The common denominator here is the evolution from an isolated and insulated atmosphere to a more unlocked, uncovered, and unplugged one. But is this trend a good thing? This is the subject of a very spirited and ongoing debate. Interestingly, both the proponents and detractors of open space offices tend to relate their arguments to a very similar, and nearly identical, set of metrics. Supporters often cite the positive effect of open space on employee morale, workforce productivity, environmental concerns, and individual worker performance. But detractors will point out how openness impacts these same criteria—only in a negative way. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons and maybe we can learn something:

Employee Morale

Why open space is good:  Even animals in the zoo don’t like being cooped up in cages, right? This is why you see many of them roaming around modern zoos in open-looking areas that somewhat resemble their natural habitats. Well, common sense tells us that if it works for animals it should work just as well for people. Open offices afford the ideal conditions for humans to roam around and in the process make friends, collaborate with co-workers, communicate more, and achieve a true sense of community within the office space. All these things are bound to add up to higher employee morale. Why open space is bad:  Morale is great when you are sitting face to face on a daily basis with someone you like. But what if that person happens to be someone you dislike? And communication can be great—but some kinds are much better than others. Unfortunately open spacing gives us the bad along with the good. Being forced to listen to every co-worker’s phone calls and conversations, not to mention bad-mouthing and gossip, can kill morale instead of enhancing it. And another side effect of openness can be a higher risk of personal property theft. What could be more demoralizing than that?
Strategy expert and author of Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, Richard Rumelt says that bad strategy “grows out of specific misconceptions and leadership dysfunctions.” In short it is goals and not action. “It assumes that goals are all you need. It puts forward strategic objectives that are incoherent and, sometimes, totally impracticable. It uses high-sounding words and phrases to hide these failings.” To detect a bad strategy, Rumelt suggest looking for one or more of its major hallmarks: Fluff. Fluff is a form of gibberish masquerading as strategic concepts or arguments. It uses “Sunday” words (words that are inflated and unnecessarily abstruse) and apparently esoteric concepts to create the illusion of high-level thinking. Make it simple.
Do your employees seem a little—well, lackluster—lately? Have you noticed they just don’t seem to have the enthusiasm they used to? It’s not just your imagination. A recent Gallup poll found that 71 percent of American workers are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” from their work. Just 30 percent are “engaged,” or involved in and enthusiastic about their jobs. What’s most interesting about this study to me is that the very workers you might expect to be most engaged are least so. Gallup found that:
  1. Workers with some college education are significantly less likely to be engaged at work than are employees with a high school diploma or less;
  2. Workers aged 30 to 64 are less likely to be engaged in their jobs than those who are younger or older;
  3. Men are far less likely to be engaged at work than women.

“With the pace of change accelerated for most people, the importance of following a process becomes an important, critical and really effective tool. The process is as important as the results it produces.” ~ Deborah Shane

How does anyone navigate change, be it business or personal? Whether it’s changing jobs, lifestyle, health or where you live, the unexpected is part of our lives today in a more relentless way then ever before. I’m thinking of real examples of people I know who have been thrown into the unknown. That unknown is producing some extraordinary outcomes because each one is following a process. I just spoke to an old high school friend who made a bad decision to practice medicine in the wrong way and lost her license. And then there’s a seasoned HR professional who was just let go after being at the same company for 16 years. An unexpected visit to the doctor by a childhood friend just revealed a serious fight with cancer (fortunately, she is winning). And then there’s the 50 percent drop in business the last year by a well-established company that did not keep pace with trends. Change - the cheese moved, the situation unexpectedly shifted, and a radical new reality is now in place. What do you do?  You follow a process and move through and with your new reality.
Someone who works in a cubicle or a corporate office can leave his or her mess at work. Yet when your business and personal life are under the same roof, it’s more difficult to keep home office chaos to a minimum. By following a few do’s and avoiding the don’ts, you can keep your home office under control.

Do:  Set a schedule

When you work for yourself, it’s important to make every minute count. Each day set a schedule, but make it flexible. If you wait for the right time to work on something, you may never get started. Your schedule may change based on the appointments you’ve scheduled or the tasks you need to complete, so focus on the top five tasks you need to accomplish each day. Otherwise it’s easy to get sidetracked.