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5 Most Popular Guest Posts of 2013

guest postIn 2013 we added a new weekly feature to Duct Tape Marketing – guest posts. Each Thursday we run a marketing small business related post here from content contributors around this globe. Writing and running guest posts is a form of networking that’s essential is this sharing and linking world we find ourselves marketing in.

When you run guest posts you encourage linking and promotion from your guests and when you write and submit guest posts you acquire links and find new audience for your content.

Using a combination of social data, links and traffic analytics I present our five most popular guest content from 2013.

1. Why Every Small Business Needs Great Content – It’s no longer enough for a small business to build a website, Facebook page or twitter profile and hope that people will flock to it, bringing new business. – Natalie Chan Outbrain.

2. X-rated – Surprising Coaching Lessons from the X-Men – How many times have you heard the question “If you could have any single superpower – what would it be?” It’s a tricky decision, but personally I’d go for telepathy. . . just imagine how lucrative that could be in business! – from James T Noble

3. Mobile Copywriting Tips and Four Apps to Assist – With 79 percent of Americans working remotely at least part of the time, it seems the days of copywriters chained to cubicles are far behind us. However, leaving the desk behind can take some getting used to. Read on to discover tips for copywriting in a mobile work environment, and 4 helpful apps to assist you in doing so. – from Teddy Hunt

4. The #1 Reason You Feel Like a Failure and What To Do About It Today – Naturally, every business owner wants their business to grow. When you’re trying to change anything about your business, or your life for that matter—whether you want to gain more customers, increase profits, improve your health, or whatever result you’re looking for—what you’re really trying to do is create a new reality for yourself. – from Noah St. John

5. 8 Tips for Writing White Papers (Hint: Don’t Call It a White Paper) – Ever seen a “white paper” on the web… and figured those are only for the big guys. Think again. A white paper is a 6- to 8-page marketing document that helps a prospective customer understand an issue or solve a problem. from Gordon Graham

Think you would like to write a guest post on Duct Tape Marketing? Reach out here and find out about our requirements and editorial calendar for 2014.

What If You Needed to Fire Yourself?

I had an interesting conversation with one of the most dynamic free agent entrepreneurs I know.

It all started when he wrote to tell me he had taken a job.

A what, a job?

How could that be, I mean, he was living the dream.

scott ginsbergMy friend is the author of over twenty books, speaks to groups all over the world and is a seeming non-stop fountain of ideas.

Oh, and he had built, in my view, one of the strongest personal brands I’ve encountered.

But, you know what else, he was burned out going it alone and had no desire to scale in order to burn out even more, so he a made a decision.

Actually, the first thing he did was take the summer off so he could think about what he wanted to do next.

I think that’s the world we live in going forward. You don’t necessarily need to have a job, a career or a business so much as you need to have a life full of things that keep you motivated.

For some that means a never ending stream of projects, while for others that means remaking themselves every few years in order to pursue something exciting and new.

As I think about my own journey over the last couple of decades, it may be true that I’ve not been employed in the traditional sense, but I’ve also not stayed still hacking away at building my business.

In fact, in the twenty-five or so years I’ve been on my own working as a small business entrepreneur, I’ve recreated my business in pretty significant ways at least four times.

My friend, mentioned above, is Scott Ginsberg, you may know him as “the nametag guy.” I shared Scott’s amazing story in my book The Referral Engine. Scott’s worn a name tag every day since some time in 2000 and built a loyal and rabid following around his constant theme of approachability.

A few months ago Scott went on sabbatical to figure out how to save himself from burnout. He’s still the nametag guy and he still writes and speaks, and by the way sings, but he’s also an idea guy for New York based Makeable creating something he calls thinkmaps.

Yep, in order to stay true to his entrepreneurial spirit, he took a job that lets him continue to expand his journey by day, while holding onto his own unique brand by night.

I think Scott’s approach to how he found the next stone on the path is equally revealing and instructional. Instead of heading over to a job board Scott researched and located a target list of companies that he felt represented the culture and innovative energy he craved.

Then he contacted the CEOs of these organizations and requested an interview – not a job interview, though. Scott is a publisher, like we all are today, and so he asked to interview the CEO as a journalist and consequently changed the dynamic of what essentially was his introduction to the organization.

From these interviews Scott was able to connect with and engage the organization that he eventually chose to go to work for.

I asked Scott if he ever felt as though he had failed his entrepreneurial dream somehow and his response was – “not at all, failure would have been to continue to do what I was doing without passion, failure would have been to lose my wife over that.”

I guess my main point for so many of my small business entrepreneur readers is that your option for how to create fulfilling work is only limited by your imagination’s ability to create scenarios that excite you.

The definition of work, of career, of what is and is not a business are forever altered and can be molded to fit anything that excites and feeds your soul if you choose to explore it intentionally.

5 SEO Action Steps You Can Take Today

In a recent blog post I wrote about the new realities of SEO. For the most part that post revealed how the shifting form of search into a less content and more context driven world requires site owners and SEO professionals to think differently about how they approach search engine optimization.

Today I want to cover a couple tactics you can quickly employ that should help in each of the areas I addressed in the new realities post.

My goal for this post is to provide you with some action items to check off your list this week – as in right now!

Below are my five favorite SEO action steps you can take today.

Up the +1 and Like

Lots of people use WordPress plugins and Facebook content boxes and such to make sharing their blog posts much easier. I’ve used the Sociable and Digg Digg plug ins on and off for years. However, with the emphasis the search engines are placing on social signals, one way to get even more social juice is to add the native Google +1 button and the native Facebook Like or Share button to the main or secondary header sections of every page on your site.

This way you increase the odds of your homepage and other core pages accumulating more and more social signals over time.

+1 and like button

You can grab the code for +1 button here and Facebook button here.

Embed larger images

Okay, this one’s not technically an SEO play, but it may add to better engagement on social networks, which we’ve already agreed is crucial.

A recent Facebook redesign places a great deal more emphasis on images on pages by displaying them fully across a post – if they meet certain size guidelines. The greatly enlarged images make your post stand out on mobile devices as well as laptops and should be something you include in your content.

The new standards call for images that are 600 to 1200 pixels in width in the open graph image associated with your posts.

facebook larger images

Here’s a painless way to embed larger image in blog posts for social networks without doubling up on work on your site.

  • Install WordPress SEO plugin from Yoast (I’ve written about the SEO benefits of this plugin here but it also handles the open graph elements too)
  • Choose the larger image – 560 x 292 is recommended minimum. – I use PhotoPin for many of my images
  • Add the image to your blog post – the SEO plugin tags it on the default og image
  • Open the WordPress image editor found in visual view and reduce the image size to make it fit your post – I use 240 px left justified images in most posts so I can adjust it here.

That’s it, now when you share your incredible blog post on your Facebook page your stunning image will dominate the page. Which of course may mean you need to give some more thought to your image selection. Look for Google+ to mimic this behavior.

Get after the long tail

The term long tail has been around in the search world for many years now and it’s not going away. The more competitive a search category is the more important it is that you create content meant to compete specifically for those less popular, longer phrases that people use every day.

I could go into lots of detail about how your might get started in this arena, but my best advice is to use software called Long Tail Pro. It’s one of the easiest to use and best priced keyword research tools and can help you identify the best opportunities for keyword phrases you can go to work on with the hope of competing effectively.

With the move by Google towards semantic intent I’ll be producing as much content as possible that narrows in on context as well as content. For my kind of business that’s done by getting as specific as possible about addressing intent. I’ve started a question of the week post where I’ll address one very specific bit of information in response to questions that come up often. When someone poses a question in search the intent is often quite clear.

Should I pay for referrals? Is there any reason to add the meta description attribute? Answering questions related to your industry is a great way to get after the long tail.

Add micro data with rich snippets

For this on I’ll get a little more technical. Micro data is a form of HTML property mark-up used specifically by search engines (plural) to help them identify certain kinds of text like addresses, movie titles and product descriptions.

Micro data is crucial for straight ecommerce sites and it’s use will increase over time for just about every type of business.

Adding name, address and phone (NAP) rich snippets to every page, for example, is a solid bit of advice for any local business.

In my realities blog post I wrote about in depth articles becoming more important in search. Google has released a set of micro data properties that specifically addresses in depth articles so there’s a good chance there will be more on this front to come.

You won’t have to look any further than this MOZ study on the kind of content that draws the most links to see the need for more in depth content.

Structured mark up has already entered in many ways. For example breadcrumb mark up produces a more structured appearance of indexed content. (See the example below produced with breadcrumbs enabled in the SEO plugin from Yoast) – this mark up shows up in the HTML on the page to help with navigation and in the way Google indexes and shows the results.

structured mark up

You can add the in depth article micro data plugin to WordPress to avoid learning the specifics of coding with micro data.

And by all means add the Google Authorship markup if you have not – you can find my advice on Google Authorship here.

Want to get overwhelmed by this topic? Visit schema.org to really dig in.

Build authority relationships

Networking for link relationships has taken on a bit of a popularity feel due to Google’s emphasis on authority when it comes to content.

Links from sites that Google ranked highly have always been important, but now individuals inside of Google+ carry a great deal of weight as well.

It’s important to build relationships in your industry with those authors that Google already thinks highly of. I’m not talking about stalking, I’m talking about discovering the most valuable relationships and finding ways to build value within them.

Reverse Google image look up reveals list of places where this author contributes.

Find those authors in your industry that appear with an author box in common searches with your industry and do a Google reverse image look up to find where they contribute content currently.

  • Find an author whose image shows next to highly indexed content
  • Navigate to their Google+ profile, right click their profile image and copy the image URL
  • Paste the image URL into a Google “search by image” box
  • Scan the results to find a great deal about their contributed content landscape
  • Create a plan to build relationships based on value

This way you’ll turn up some great guest post opportunity possibilities for yourself as well as gain some insight into ways you can connect with authors of authority.

So, that should keep your plate full for a few action packed days!

Customer Reviews the Hidden Local SEO Gem

Free ebook – Marketer’s Guide to Customer Reviews

Content, content, content – that’s the message that marketers have been sending over the last few years and with good reason – customers expect to find it and search engines look to serve the best of it up.

Social media participation has certainly made its way onto the SEO road map as an integral element of the optimization puzzle as well.

The area in my view that doesn’t get enough talk however is reviews – particularly when it comes to local businesses.

Reviews are one of the more important ranking factors for local businesses because they are a) content (customer generated no less, even better!), b) often social and c) a trust and authority signal for both search engines and readers alike.

Customer reviewsLike most things SEO related, people have tried to game the review system, but also like most things related to SEO, there’s a perfectly natural way to build links, reviews and authority.

I teamed up with the folks at Grade.us to bring you The Marketer’s Guide to Customer Reviews – a free eBook that teaches you how to turn How to turn Google+, Yelp and other review sites into a new marketing channel.

Download the free ebook here

Grade.us is also a great tool for automating the review generation process and making it as easy as possible to add this source of content and SEO to the mix. You can see a Duct Tape Marketing review page in action here.

You Get All the Ideal Clients You Create

Recently, I conducted an all day workshop in the West Texas town of Coleman. The event was organized by the town’s Economic Development folks and championed by a long time Duct Tape reader Greg Martin.

During then event I outlined the Duct Tape Marketing System in great detail.

ideal client

photo credit: mallix via photopin cc

As any long time reader here knows one of the first steps in my system is to narrowly define who makes an ideal customer for your business. The endpoint involved in this step can be best summed by this statement – How would I spot your ideal customer?

The path to this endpoint involves lots of study focused on your most profitable customers that already refer – the maim reason to start here is that profitable client are usually profitable because they have the right problem or are the type we can serve well. Because of that fit they usually have the kind of experience that leads them to refer.

The trick of course is to understand why that is. Understand why they are profitable, why they are such a good fit, why they work so well, why they don’t come for low price, why they let us show them how to get value.

The reason to go to this amount of work dissecting and narrowing our focus is two fold. First off, we want to do what we can to attract more of those ideal folks. But, it’s just as important in terms of figuring out how to train, educate and work with every client in a way that makes them ideal.

When you better grasp what makes a great client great, you’re more equipped to create the intentional processes that can turn a not so ideal client into one that behaves like one.

The net effect of all of our marketing is that we get the clients we deserve or create based on how and what we communicate before, during and after the sale. Understanding that gives you complete control of the outcome.

Shortly after the Texas event I received the email below from event organizer Martin and I’ve reprinted it here as he sums this idea up as well as I could have.

I had an interesting discussion with one of our fellow Small Biz Workshop attendees a few days ago.  During our conversation, we got on the topic of the Ideal Customer.  He said something that started me thinking, and it was likely something that most of us are struggling with as we consider the ideas we heard in the Workshop.

“The Ideal Customer is a nice concept and I wish we could focus on just the best customers.  But, truth is, in our market, we have to pay attention to all of our customers.  In our world, our Ideal Customer is the next one to walk through that door.”

I knew that he was somehow not grasping the point John was trying to make.  I also knew that I didn’t have a better answer for him in that moment.  But, later that evening, I had an epiphany…

The Ideal Client is a concept worth considering and worth pursuing.  And, here’s why.  There is little doubt that the gentleman I was talking to could go over his client list and quickly point out the “great” clients or customers.  He knows exactly who they are, simply because he lives and breathes this business every day.  It’s quite likely that he could pick 4 or 5 and say “If I had 100 or 1000 customers just like this group, my business would run more smoothly, we would grow, and we would be more profitable.”

Here comes the epiphany part…

The probable reason those 4 or 5 are “Ideal” is because they pay on time, they are NOT especially price sensitive, they come in regularly instead of waiting until there is an “urgent” need, and because they refer others.  But, and here’s the big “but”…

The question to ask once you have identified this small group is; “Why do they pay on time, why are they not terribly concerned about price, why do they come in regularly, why do they refer your business to others, what do they say when the refer your business to others?”

For example, they may not be price sensitive because they Trust you and because they Value the service you provide.  Even if you are selling a retail product, there is still a service component in the way it’s delivered to you, the experience you have in the store, the availability you provide, the comfort level you have that you weren’t “sold” something you didn’t need, etc.  Same for the other aspects that make them great clients.  They understand the value you are providing.

And now, the “a-ha” moment.  Yes, you are in a limited market.  So, you DO need all the customers, not just the Ideal ones.  But,….  By understanding what makes your Ideal Client tick, you now have the opportunity to educate the “other” clients and move them along the path to becoming Ideal Clients.

Your clients that are less than ideal are not that way because they choose to be.  They just don’t know what your great clients know.  It’s possible that your great clients learned what they know from someone besides you and you are now reaping the benefits.  Maybe they did get the information from you, but it was by accident or it was because you have a closer “relationship” with those clients.

The point is, finding out “why” they behave in an Ideal Client manner is fantastic info for you.  Once you have that information, you can systematically begin making sure that all of your clients know as much about how to be good clients as that small group of Ideal Clients knows already.

Just my two cents.
Greg Martin

So, with this in mind let me ask you this – what kind of client do you deserve?

How to Develop With Instead of For Your Customers

Some of the biggest flops in my career began and ended in the laboratory of my mind.

It starts with a spark of brilliance, then a rush of enthusiasm, followed by product creation and finally ends with “I don’t get it, that should have been a game changer, why didn’t it sell?”

Most product and service disasters occur when we create things people “should” want rather than what they do want.

Increasingly, the secret to success is collaboration – creating new offerings with our customer rather than for our customers.

Launch and learn is the new order.

In order to take advantage of the incredible insight available from a market you’ve got to be brave enough to face your customers or prospects with something that may be little more than an idea and a willingness to learn.

Now that doesn’t mean you simply build the inevitable “Frankenstein” that a customer committee might concoct, but it does mean that you must be prepared to alter, customize and personalize your original vision based on actual live feedback.

This is doubly important for the small business who may only get one shot at getting something right. If you wait to perfect it you may simply create something that people perfectly have no interest in.

There are many ways to execute this kind of customer discovery. I often poll a handful of customers based on the outline of an idea and then grab a group to beta test something more fully developed. Participants test things out for little or no money and I learn what works and what doesn’t.

Research giant Nielsen recently launched an app aimed at pushing out interesting trending data to consumers based on their research on things like movies, books, television shows and music.

Nielsen TOPTEN

In an effort to create some uptake for the app and increase brand awareness Nielsen took the app on the road to a number of university campuses. They rolled out a bus loaded a with college student focused tech, music and graphics and stopped by ten campuses hosting a social media infused party event that included downloading and trialing the app. (You can see some of the tour event photos on the TOPTEN Facebook page)

The app, named TOPTEN, is likely a potent new way for Nielsen to supplement its data with the highly mobile consumer, but according to Nielsen staffers the tour was eye opening in terms of developing an even better experience.

By getting direct, face to face, user experience with the app, they were able to understand not only what users wanted, but how they wanted it, what didn’t seem as intuitive at it should and what they liked best.

Okay, so you don’t have the budget for t-shirts, DJs and a brand wrapped tour bus? This kind of “prospect” tour can be done by any size business and can turn up invaluable data while helping a brand bond with its customers. Invite a handful of customers to lunch, do a Google+Hangout or partner with a non profit to host a meaningful local event.

I have no idea what Nielsen will end up doing with what they learned, but my guess is that the app will undergo some informed revisions based on meaningful customer input.

Experience tells me that any organization that puts collaboration front and center in the product and service development phases will discover innovations that far outstrip anything that can be created in the meeting room.

So, how can you put on your own tour, gather customers for informal launch and learns or create beta innovation groups? How do you collaborate?

FYI: Daughter #3 works for Nielsen and provided me with some background for this example.

5 Basic Tips for Greater eCommerce Conversion

This post is sponsored by Community Merchants USA.
CMUSA_logo_color

 

 

Buying online is huge business. For many it’s become such a convenient way to shop that even staple, every day items such as contact solution and toothpaste are acquired by turning to a trusted eCommerce vendor.

overview-hero-foregroundWith sites like Amazon blazing innovations like same day shipping it’s only a matter of time before we buy most everything this way.

Whether you sell products or services of any kind offering them online is essential, but there are some practices that customers have come to expect from the online shopping experience.

Even if you have no designs on becoming the next big online super store you would be wise to adopt the following tips.

Social proof

People know that Target is legit, but they may not know much about your business. Make sure that you offer lots of proof that you do what you promise.

Add plenty of testimonials, industry awards and memberships, product reviews and social network follower counts to offer proof that others trust you. If you’ve received coverage in 3rd party publication make a big deal out of the “as seen in” notices.

Internal search

Few things are more frustrating to someone with the intent of buying something than not being able to find it.

Put a search box at the top of every page using Google Custom Search Engine or via your shopping cart tool and make sure you constantly analyze the search queries to see what people can’t find and perhaps what else they would like to find.

Payment options

Give people lot of payment options.

Obviously you need to accept credit cards of all makes, but don’t forget to offer eCheck payments, PayPal, Google Wallet and Amazon Payments.

Assurances

When someone is shopping online there are many things that can spook them. Make sure you answer some of the obvious questions every shopper has.

Things like how secure the transaction is (of course that means you need to make sure that it actually is secure.), when they should expect to receive their purchase and how, what your return policy is, what your guarantee is and your privacy and promotional policy going forward.

Abandonment issues

Forrester study found that 89% of consumers had abandoned a shopping cart at least once.

There are many reasons for this and you need to understand a fix as many as possible.

Think about your own shopping – why do you stop short of purchasing at the shopping cart?

Some of the more common reasons are:

  • The site is too slow
  • Forms to clunky
  • Ask for too much data
  • Lingering questions

There are two practices that can help fix shopping cart abandonment.

Add live chat so that people making a purchase can get extra information and assurances about their transaction.

Add shopping cart abandonment campaigns. Using your shopping cart’s abandonment tool or 3rd party add on such as Rejoiner you can immediately reach out to shoppers who abandoned their purchase and potentially save the sale.

Obviously you need to analyze, test and tweak every element ongoing, but also make sure you add some live user testing so you can see how people actually interact with your eCommerce site.

This post is sponsored by Community Merchants USACommunity Merchants USA is a complete online resource for navigating the world of payment card acceptance. Our site will provide educational resources and tools that will help you get the best value for your business.

Why Landing Pages Are a Must

September 19th I’m hosting a free webinar titled - “How to Quickly Grow Your Email List, Dramatically Increase Your Conversions and Skyrocket your Sales and Profits.” with LeadPages founder Clay Collins (Sign up at the bottom of this post.)

Landing Pages

photo credit: AHMED… via photopin cc

Prospects today are abused, confused and rarely amused by the shear amount of options they turn up when searching for a solution to a challenge. I know that rhyme was corny, but that’s how bad it’s gotten. If you want to be part of the solution think about employing a landing page the next time you want a prospect to take action.

Online marketers have used the term “landing page” for many years to describe a sales tactic focused on getting people to take one, specific action. Today, landing pages have simply become a required element in the marketing toolbox for every imaginable business, including local brick and mortar types.

A landing page is just the page someone “lands on” when an ad or email directs them to take a specific action such as sign up for a free webinar, subscribe to a newsletter, download free videos or buy a new product. The landing page is used instead a site’s homepage.

Effective landing pages make it very clear what a visitor is going to get from a page and how to get it. That’s it plain and simple. They don’t have links to other pages or any other distractions.

There are many great articles on how to create better landing pages including this one from Unbounce but today I want to focus on some reason I think every business needs to create and use landing pages as a core online tool.

Local content

One of the best ways to get your site to rank higher when people search locally and on mobile devices is to have lots of local content. Creating landing pages that feature very localized, down to the neighborhood perhaps, content is a great way to start building the local content and link necessary to have your pages move up in the search index for local search.

Social content

Sending your LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook connections to landing pages that are personalized to each network is a great way to deepen the connection. By running Twitter and Facebook feeds on these pages and acknowledging the connection with those that come from those networks you will also find a much higher degree of engagement in those networks.

Smart content

By creating landing pages that address the specific market segments, product segments or key content segments for your business you can begin to better funnel people to the specific types of content they desire. Using a tool like Survey Funnel in conjunction with your landing pages could allow a visitor to tell you what they are looking for and be directed to specific content based on their choices.

Lead capture

Landing pages are your lead capture workhorse. If you have a great eBook or free workshop to promote you may want to create signup forms for most of your web pages, but your signups will soar when you create a page that details, sells and demonstrates the benefits of acquiring your free report. A landing page with video, audio, images, descriptions and very intuitive call to action is a must for lead capture campaigns.

Advertising conversion

Any form of advertising will be much more effective if it is targeted to a page that contains nothing but content that supports the message in your ads. The more relevant the page to the ad, the more effective. Smart marketers constantly experiment with ad and landing page combinations, including creating keyword optimized pages for specific groups of PPC ads.

Use a powerful tool

There are many resources geared towards helping you create landing pages, but my favorite at the moment is called LeadPages. I run my entire website on WordPress and LeadPages comes with a WordPress landing page plugin that gives me total flexibility in the creation and deployment of landing pages. The tool includes predesigned configurations for sales pages and opt-in pages and is very easy to configure and style. A tool like LeadPages is a must if you plan to take today’s advice to heart.

In fact, on September 19th I’m hosting a free webinar titled - “How to Quickly Grow Your Email List, Dramatically Increase Your Conversions and Skyrocket your Sales and Profits.” with LeadPages founder Clay Collins. Clay and I will go over the exact science behind landing pages that convert and the simple tested tips and tricks they use every day to double and triple response.

Sign up for the free webinar today and I’ll be sure to send you reminders when we get closer.

Sign Up Today