Archive for October, 2009

What Can a Website Do For My Business?

Having a website isn’t just about keeping up with technology; it’s about providing your target market with a place to learn more about your company, giving them multiple ways to reach you and to determine if your company can handle what they require.

There are a number of benefits to having a professional website, including:

  1. Increased Traffic

    A website can generate more traffic to your company or storefront. When you have a website, you have a web presence. If a prospect finds your website and likes what he sees, you may just have a new customer, one you would not have obtained without the website.

  2. Happy Customers

    Customers want to work with professionals. They want to know that your company will provide a valuable service and will handle their needs thoroughly and with care. When you have a well-written website with a nice design, you demonstrate to your customers and prospects that your company is serious about providing the best possible service and keeping your customers coming back for more. A professional website will give your company an advantage over your competitors that either have a poor website or don’t have a website at all.

  3. New Customers

    When prospects want to learn more about your company, there is a good chance they will look to the Internet. If you don’t have a website, they may move on to another company that does. A professional website can provide those prospects with the validation they need to make the next step in deciding to utilize your services.

About the Author: Jody Calkins is a freelance business writer who writes about business development, risk management, security protection, and business standards. Visit for more information and samples.


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The Basics: Why Should You Use Social Networking Sites?

In this day and age, the Internet has become so widely used that if you’re not using it, you’re not maximizing your opportunities for growth. One of the ways to take advantage of this technology is to join social networking sites. There are a number of sites out there like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Plaxo Pulse. My favorites for business are LinkedIn and Twitter.

What Can Social Networking Sites Do For Me?

LinkedIn – LinkedIn allows businesses and business professionals to stay connected and learn more about each other. It also enables members to connect with professionals who are part of their target audience or industry.

Twitter – Twitter is another valuable tool that can help you stay current with your industry’s trends and give you helpful tips in other areas that you may want help or insight in.

What are the Benefits?

Exposure – Social networking can give you more exposure as an expert in your field and can put you a step above competitors who aren’t taking advantage of this new technology.

Validation – Participating in social networking can help validate your business in the eyes of your customers and prospects, giving them another way to reach you and to learn more about you and your business.

Information – There is a fountain of information available to you through social networking. Follow others who provide helpful tips and information and join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your industry or area of service to stay on top of industry trends.

How Much Time is Involved?

Participating in social networking doesn’t require a significant amount of time. You can spend as much or as little time on it as you want, depending on your goals. Define what you want to accomplish from social networking and then develop a plan that will help you achieve that goal.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Social networking should be beneficial to your business and should not be a hindrance or a bridge-burning activity, so always be professional and treat others in a professional manner to maximize your experience with social networking.

Also, it does take consistency and a longer-term plan, so when developing your plan, allow for several months of consistent activity.

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8 Common Problem Areas for Business Growth

Professionalism in business is so important, especially now in this poor economy. Customers want to work with businesses that strive to meet their expectations and they want to know that you have their best interests at heart.

An unprofessional operation, whether it is at the frontdesk or on a job site, is a major turn-off and can cost your company future business. If you removed all professionalism from your operations today but still offered the same service, you would probably find that a lot of your customers would move on to another company. Bad word-of-mouth would then spread like wildfire.

To help ensure your business operates as professionally as possible, consider these common problem areas and determine how your company can improve.

  1. Customer Relations

    Investigate how you and your staff members are handling your company’s customer relations. Do your staff members communicate professionally to your customers? Are your customers satisfied with your level of customer service and how your company talks and works with them? How can this area be improved?

  2. Company/Employee Conduct

    Suspicious activities by either the company or an employee can give your company a bad reputation. Strive to set best practices for company and employee conduct, including behavior outside of the office, to avoid negatively impacting your business.

  3. Vendor Conduct

    Vendors who participate in activities such as bribery or child labor can do much damage to your company’s reputation. When working with other companies, whether locally or overseas, take caution and do your due diligence. Know the laws and do everything in your power to prevent being associated with unethical or illegal practices.

  4. Website

    A poorly written and designed website can do more harm than good. Your website is a place your prospects will go to get more information about your company. You don’t want to scare them away with an unprofessional site.

    Ask a variety of individuals, including a web designer or copywriter, for their honest opinion about your company’s website. Does it look professional? Is it free of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors? Does it explain clearly and effectively what product or service your business provides? Does it offer multiple contact methods? If you have a brick and mortar store or office, does your website supply the location address and hours of operation?

  5. Marketing Materials

    Professional marketing materials are a must for any successful business and should be extensions of your website, not duplicates. Customers and prospects don’t want to read the same text; they want to learn more about your company with each piece of material they read. Are your materials free of errors and typos? Do they convey information clearly and effectively?

  6. E-mail

    Just like other business materials, business e-mails represent your company. When sending e-mails, make sure they are free of errors and are concise and easy to read. If different topics need to be discussed, send them in separate e-mails with detailed subject lines.

  7. Social Networking Profiles

    Your profiles should demonstrate your professionalism and your expertise in your field. Proofread before and after submitting to ensure your profile is at its best.

  8. Tweets

    Your Twitter account is another haven for errors and a lack of professionalism. When tweeting, review your tweets thoroughly to avoid making errors and be sure they are tasteful and non-offensive.

There are so many areas a company needs to consider in order to ensure professionalism. When your company takes the time to ensure everything is in order, customers will have more confidence in your company and its ability to deliver the services they need.

About the Author: Jody Calkins is a freelance business writer who writes about business development, risk management, security protection, and business standards. Visit for more information and samples.

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12 Ways to Promote Your Business

When you own a business, you want to get your name out there to as many folks as possible. It isn’t always easy to do that and it can be very time consuming. But taking the time to develop a marketing plan and to participate in business promoting activities is your best bet in achieving business success.

There are a number of ways to reach your audience. Explore all options and then decide on a plan of action. Here are twelve ways to get you started.

  1. Social Networking – Offline

    Getting involved in networking events hosted by your local chamber of commerce, BNI chapter, or other organization is a great way to spread the word about your business. See my post on social networking etiquette.

  2. Social Networking – Online

    Join LinkedIn and Twitter and create your profile. This is a great way to stay connected with people you’ve met and to get introduced to other people. See my blog post on how to use Twitter.

  3. Website

    Having a professional website helps your business achieve more credibility and is another way for your customers and target market to find you. Give people multiple ways to contact you and if you have a brick and mortar store, be sure to include your location and hours of business. Also, be sure your website looks professional. If you’re not sure, ask a professional for feedback. It is always better to have NO website than to have an unprofessional one.

  4. Articles

    Write articles that demonstrate your expertise and submit them to online sites like EzineArticles to gain exposure as an expert in your field. If you don’t have time or talent, hire a copywriter to help you.

  5. Blog

    Start a blog and write posts that provide helpful information. If you provide valuable and helpful content on a regular basis, your readers are more likely to come back for more. Be sure to create an informative ‘About’ page that mentions your company and its value to customers.

  6. Community Involvement

    Get involved in the community and offer a service for a good cause to gain more exposure for your business. Write a press release about it, then post it on your website and submit it to your local newspapers.

  7. Case Studies

    Write case studies featuring your customers and their experiences with your product or service. You can then post the case study on your website or use it as a handout to prospects. Be sure your subjects have agreed to an interview before hiring a copywriter to produce the case study.

  8. SEO

    Incorporating relevant keywords into your website copy can improve your ranking with the search engines and thus improve your chances of increased traffic to your site. You want to make sure your text still makes sense, so take caution when adding your keywords to your site.

  9. Marketing Materials

    Produce a professional brochure about your services and have it handy when prospects want more information. Be careful not to use too much of the same text from your website (or vice versa). You want your material to be fresh and new and to complement each other. Send out direct mail if your budget allows it.

  10. Testimonials

    Post real customer testimonials on your website and get recommendations from your connections on LinkedIn to gain credibility with your customers and prospects.

  11. Partnerships

    Visit with your neighboring businesses and see if there is a way you can work together to improve both of your businesses. A referral program may work for you.

  12. Seminars

    Offering seminars on industry-related topics is a great way to gain more exposure for your business and mark you as an expert in your field.

Follow this list and you’ll be well on your way to effectively promoting your business. But remember: always be professional and produce professional materials to improve customer retention and acquisition.

About the Author: Jody Calkins is a freelance business writer who writes about business development, risk management, security protection, and business standards. Visit for more information and samples.

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9 Etiquette Guidelines for Social Networking

Like any business activity, social networking comes with a few guidelines in proper etiquette. Failing to follow these guidelines can burn bridges and cost you future business, not just in the short-term but long-term as well. Word-of-mouth works both ways—good and bad. You can count on bad word-of-mouth impacting your business far more effectively than good word-of-mouth can. When participating in social networking activities, follow the guidelines below to ensure you don’t burn any bridges along the way.

But first, determine what you want to accomplish from social networking. Do you want more business? Do you want to chat and socialize? Do you want to help others? Most people use social networking to get more business or to spread the word about a new product or service. Once you define your goals, you’ll be able to develop a plan to achieve those goals.

  1. Be polite and courteous to everyone. You never know who other people know. That one person you ignored, rejected, or offended just might know the owner of the company you want to win business from. Also, be friendly to those you’ve met before. First impressions are important, but so are future ones.
  2. Don’t judge or discriminate. Appearances don’t tell the whole story, and tying in with the first guideline, be nice. Getting to know everyone maximizes your social networking experience.
  3. Avoid the sales pitch. It’s okay to give your elevator pitch and talk about what you do, but don’t try to convince someone that your product is perfect for her, unless she wants to hear it. Know your elevator pitch and be prepared to answer questions.
  4. Establish relationships. Building rapport with others will be more effective in growing your business than giving them a sales pitch. Focus on establishing relationships with others to build trust, and the business will follow.
  5. Mingle. Don’t just hang out with the people you know. Talk with new people and learn about what they do. If you can, help them achieve their goals or point them in the right direction.
  6. Ask questions. By asking questions, you show your new acquaintance that you are interested in learning more about what he does. It also gives you a better idea of how you can help him, either by referring him to someone you know or keeping him in mind for future reference.
  7. Exchange business cards. If you are networking to get more business, always exchange business cards. You never know when it might pay off. Someday you may receive a call from someone you exchanged cards with a year ago asking you for a quote. It can happen!
  8. Send follow-up e-mails. Everyone enjoys receiving personal letters and e-mails. Sending a quick ‘it was nice to meet you’ e-mail to the people you met at a networking event is a nice gesture. And when you receive one first, send a quick note back. It doesn’t have to consume your day. Just write a brief e-mail, save it as a template, and personalize each message you send out.
  9. Don’t add to your mailing list. It is tacky when someone puts you on a mailing list, especially when you didn’t ask for it. Find other ways to increase your mailing list, such as including instructions to sign up for your mailings in your e-mail signature or adding a sign-up page to your website.

Remember, social networking is about interacting with and getting to know others. You won’t learn everything you need to know about a person during your first meeting, or even the first few. Continue to interact and get to know people and you will develop important relationships with people who are eager to help you grow your business.

About the Author: Jody Calkins is a freelance business writer who writes about business development, risk management, security protection, and business standards. Visit for more information and samples.

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The Why and How of Twitter

Since Twitter’s inception, there has been a great deal of talk about the value and purpose of Twitter. While it is true that many individuals use Twitter to tell followers what they had to eat or what they did the night before, many folks (business professionals included) use Twitter for useful reasons. What useful reasons could there possibly be, you ask. Those who gain value from using such an interesting tool

  • stay connected with their target audience;
  • follow others in their industry;
  • learn valuable information they probably would not have been exposed to otherwise; and
  • gain exposure for their business.

Here are some tips on how to use Twitter:

  • Develop a plan. Decide how you want to use Twitter. Do you want to get to know your followers, provide valuable tips and information to help others, use it primarily as a marketing tool? Will you plan your tweets?
  • Decide on a username. Keep your username short and easy to remember. By keeping it short, you’ll increase your retweetability.
  • Create a profile. Write a biography that explains what you do. Make the most of those 160 characters and use keywords that clearly describe your business. These keywords will help with your search engine ranking.
  • Upload a photo or a company logo, depending on your Twitter plans.
  • Tweet. Communicate with others. Post tips, links to useful information, and other content that you think might be valuable to your readers. Let everyone know about new blog posts, news about your company, appearances in articles, etc.
  • Recommend others. Friday is well-known to Twitter folks as FollowFriday when people recommend that followers follow certain individuals. Recommend one person or company at a time and mention why people should follow them.
  • Respond to replies and mentions. It is a nice gesture to thank someone for retweeting or including you in a FollowFriday mention.
  • Tweet on a regular basis. You want your audience to remember you, so tweet a few times throughout the day.

The nuts and bolts of tweeting:

  • Be sure to use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation when tweeting. Be professional and proofread before sending your tweet to the twittersphere. A bad tweet can haunt you for life as it gets indexed with the search engines.
  • Be tasteful. Again, you don’t want to post anything unprofessional or inappropriate, so take your message into consideration before submitting.
  • Avoid political statements. Politics should be avoided when it comes to business. You don’t want to offend your current or potential customers.
  • Keep your tweets to 120 characters or less to improve their retweetability. If your tweets are too long, people either won’t retweet them or they’ll butcher your tweet and you’ll risk appearing unprofessional.
  • Use a URL shortener to keep your links short and retweetable.
  • Provide valuable information. You want to earn respect and appreciation from your followers, so give them content they can benefit from. For example, if you own a fireplace store, you might offer tips on selecting the right fireplace, how to make the most of your stove, or how to save money on heating.

About the Author: Jody Calkins is a freelance business writer who writes about business development, risk management, security protection, and business standards. Visit for more information and samples.

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