Small Business Digital Marketing Blog

Zombies have taught us a lot about surviving in the world: Always check the backseat, beware of public restrooms, wear seatbelts and, most importantly, keep up with your cardio.
  But what can they teach us about content marketing? It turns out, a lot. If you want to thrive in the content marketing world, remember these important truths as revealed by the latest learnings on dealing with zombie hordes.

Zombies are more effective in groups

It’s pretty easy to take one zombie out. They don’t move very quickly, and they’re easily distracted. One swift blow with a blunt object usually does the trick. However, zombies in groups are intimidating, harder to fight off, and harder to outrun. The effect is the same with content. If you write just one blog post or tweet, some people may read it, but then it could quickly be forgotten amid the rush of new content that’s created every day. For a much bigger impact, spread your message using multiple channels and link it all together into one unified social media campaign. A blog post that you tweet about, discuss on Facebook, and mention on LinkedIn will reach a much bigger audience. Your message will build on itself, creating a conversation that will cast a wider net than just a single post. Here are 12 things to do after you’ve written a blog post.
Much of what happens at a startup happens out of sight of journalists and their readers. It's not the stuff of compelling reading, either. Running a business involves a vast amount of logistical work, stuff that has to be learned step by step if you don't already know how to do it. You don't find this out in business school. The only way to learn it is by doing it. That's why, if you've got a killer business idea, you should go out and do it. You don't find this out by being a journalist, either. Back in the dot-com era, another writer and I got together, decided we had a pretty good grasp on this digital publishing thing, and started a company. We probably did have a good idea. Our plan was to write and syndicate how-to content like tips and tricks, starting with tech products and then expanding into other categories. We figured we'd sell advertising, and syndicate our content to sites that needed to make themselves stickier, like e-commerce sites. A better-funded competitor, eHow, went on to dominate the how-to category before getting acquired. It's still around. Meanwhile, syndication turned out to be a decent model for making money from content. We were just 10 years too early. At least, that's what I like to tell people. In reality, we had a great idea but no clue how to execute it. Despite great advice from more experienced business people and investors, we were good at the writing and editing business but not so hot at the generating-revenue and organizing-a-team business.
As entrepreneurs and founders of businesses we have a great many balls in the air at any given time. The average day finds many of us actively managing a team, communicating with investors, raising funding, performing HR chores, recruiting, keeping the books, executing marketing plans, performing customer service, and taking out the trash. To accomplish all of this, we struggle mightily to stay efficient and to increase our own productivity, all the while struggling to find the personal capacity to do it all and to do it all well. Keeping focus is the critical component in our days and our ability to do so can impact not just on how much work we can get done on a given day, but can also seriously effect the ultimate success or failure of our business. One of the ways that I have learned to manage my own capacity, and maintain my own focus in the face of mighty of all manner of interruption, disturbance, interference, and hindrance is with a simple tool: the checklist. It is as low tech as low-tech gets: a piece of paper (in my case a Moleskin notebook) and a pen is all it takes to manage your own time, improve your efficiency, and increase your capacity. Here are 5 thoughts on why a checklist works and some tips for their use.

1. Efficiency has an ebb and a flow.

Face it: some days you are just better than others. We all have days when we are rocketing along, firing all cylinders and hitting one home run after the next. These are the great days when we can accomplish just about any task we have set for ourselves and these are the days that matter. Of course there will be the less-than-great days and these are the ones that require you to focus all the harder to maintain your productivity. On bad days I am even more dependent on the simple unadorned checklist I use to keep me focused, force me to be task-oriented, and drive me through in spite of that low-tide of efficiency.
Mondays are good days to think about change, establish new habits, and embrace chaos. And, all of those things come with successful marketing – it’s just part of the deal. You can’t not like marketing, not do marketing, or concede you’re no good at it – marketing must become a habit you come to love. It’s tough to get around to marketing, I get it. You didn’t start your business because you were dying to get your hands dirty with blogging, copywriting, and selling, but you soon found out that your business would die if you did not. So, what to do? The secret to getting marketing done is to make it a habit. Or, if I may roughly paraphrase Aristotle - “We are what we repeatedly do. Marketing, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Most of us, I think, have more experience trying to break a bad habit than establish a good one, the secret is to create a system and process you can focus your attention on while establishing the behavior that eventually becomes second nature. When it comes to marketing I’ve learned that small business owners can move towards making marketing a habit by doing these three things.

1) Monthly themes –

Choose one big marketing need – redo your website, write your marketing kit, create a new customer process – and make it the theme for that month – you can even plan out the next 6 months this way and you’ll stand a better chance of actually getting these done. This is a great idea when it comes to getting your entire staff focused on one thing. The problem is that when we try to do it all at once, we go into overwhelm and don’t get anything done. Make it simple, take the long view, and watch what happens.
I’m all for determined do-it-yourself careers. There is something almost awe inspiring about strapping on your boots and thrusting yourself into a competitive career with only your experiences and the world as your teacher. It really takes courage to take a passion and simply say, “I am going to do this for a living.” Unfortunately, far too many aspiring designers get caught up in the dreamy ideals of do-it-yourself career building and try to throw themselves into the design world. They spend thousands of dollars on high-end design software and equipment, thinking that only these tools and their determination (and perhaps a little help from blogs and other internet educational resources) will allow them to stand toe to toe with the design giants of the internet.

For business owners just getting started, a guide to build brand buzz and boost your bottom line.Leveraging the power of content and social media marketing can help elevate your audience and customer base in a dramatic way. But getting started without any previous experience or...

The retired four-star U.S. Army general overhauled communications for troops in Afghanistan. Today, he's a speaker and educator who thinks business leaders have a lot to learn from military management styles. Gen. Stanley McChrystal is best known as the retired four-star U.S. Army general who served as commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. He's credited with the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and is known for speaking his mind—both when other military leaders were reluctant to challenge decisions, and in off-the-cuff political remarks to the press. This tendency toward over-communication may have been the beam that buckled, crumbling Gen. McChrystal's career. However, during his military tenure, bolstering in-force communications was arguably one of his greatest achievements. And in recent years, the skill has helped him build another career as an author, public speaker, and educator (that job may seem counterintuitive, McChrystal joked: "I could have never gotten into Yale; now I'm grading their papers"). McChystal spoke at the Inc. 500 Conference in Washington, D.C., about his leadership style, wide-ranging career, and what leaders in the business world can glean from military management styles. We've broken down the most intruiging lessons the general shared during his speech and an exclusive interview with Inc.com's Christine Lagorio.
"The World According To Steve" is a special section of our blog devoted to leadership faux pas, institutional chaos, and flailing attempts to save sinking ships.  Fueled by reader experiences, we encourage you to submit your own "Steve-isms". Dear Micromanager: Owners of thoroughbreds never stop their horses mid-race, every ten seconds, to remind the horse and jockey how to run, where the finish line is, or that it’d be good to finish first. Why? It would slow them down. Only an idiot would do this. If you’re a manager, you must assume you have thoroughbreds working for you. Your job is to give them what they need to win their respective races, agreeing with them on goals and rewards, but then getting the hell out of the way. Until they start jumping fences or attacking other horses, you must let them run their race. Even if you are 30% better at a task than someone who works for you, the time it takes for you to check on them every few hours, and demand approvals over trivial decisions, costs more in lost morale, passion for work, and destruction of self-respect among your staff than the 30% you think you’re adding.  No one works well if they feel they are being treated like an idiot child. Having two people involved in work that should only require one wastes everyone’s time.
This is part of Startup Advice series from our friends at Both Sides of The Table. Startups are hot again.  I have family members asking if they can “get in on some deals,” every town is launching an incubator (or 3) and the papers are filled with stories of fund raisings, product launches & new innovation. If you’re one of the anointed few who is getting the adoration of the press, investors and employees – enjoy the moment and capitalize on the momentum but stay grounded.

On Kool Aid:

I want to talk about Kool Aid.  Yours.  Don’t drink it.  I know you’re thinking that you have your head on straight but I promise you the experience of finding yourself in this maelstrom will leave any first time entrepreneur spinning.  Fame and adoration corrupts first timers.   And if you’re not careful you might start to believe your own hype.

You are not your target market. This simple sentence is powerful. It is my best advice for recruiting volunteers. And on the plane ride home from BlogWorld, it inspired three more stories. Here's the first one: 1 - Quit hanging around with your own people. Go find...