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Lauren GruetmanIs blogging on your mind? If not, it should be. In today’s internet intense environment, every small business owner is wise to find ways to actively add content to a blog or their website. Each content rich post made is a signal to Google to point potential customers toward your website.

As most everyone knows, blogging is an important marketing tool that helps to grow your online footprint. Sharing your expertise in regular blog posts has long been viewed by Google and other search engines as a powerful tool to establish authority in your industry.

But with recent changes made by Google in search algorithms (the criteria used to help search engines rank your websites), blogging is even more important than ever.

On April 2, WBOC members and guests had a great opportunity to learn how to blog better from top notch blogger and online maven Lauren Greutman of IamTHATlady.com.

In a few short years Lauren, who is mom to four youngsters and recently hired her husband away from his corporate America job to work full time with Iamthatlady.com, has grown a sizable online following by blogging about her love for helping families live within their means through couponing and finding great deals.

Today, Lauren has more than 30,000 followers on her blog and social media sites, and makes regular appearances on local and even national TV to promote ‘enjoying life on a budget’.

Lauren shared ideas for successful blogging by applying these key principals to gain a loyal following:

•Set up your blog on a well known blogging platform: WordPress, Blogger, Blogspot are a few good ones to consider. Squarespace is a popular free blog platform

• Connect the blog to your website for continuity.
• Delegate tasks others can do better. For example: If you don’t have web design skills, hire a graphic designer to give your blog a professional look. Make sure your blog is attractive and mirrors your brand.
• Attract people to your blog with social media posts. A top notch blog will draw viewers into your story, making them want to be a part of your online community.
• Convert viewers to buyers by offering something free. Create an How to….guide, a resource list, or offer Best Tips. The key is to provide your viewers a way to do something better.
• ‘Close’ the deal – whether a phone call, email inquiry or purchase – by acknowledging your viewer with a follow up email thanking them for joining your blog community
• Helping your customers – not selling – is the best way to approach posting content on your blog.

With so much information to cover and a ton of great knowledge to share, the presentation motivated many questions.

To help WBOC members become more familiar with blogging, Lauren has developed a series of Social Media/Blogging packages that review specific website and social media accounts, and will give ideas for how to grow your online presence through blogging. For more information, you can contact Lauren at lauren@iamthatlady.com . Learn more about iamthatlady.com here.

To network or not to network? That is the question.

For those in attendance at the March 5 WBOC meeting “Power Up Your Network”, the question was already answered. You were there, ‘powering up’ to expand your network and learning new ways to intentionally grow your business contacts.Networking

Syracuse Woman Editor Farah Jadran engaged a lively crowd of business owners and ‘business buddies’ in an animated presentation followed by informal gathering for  “Wine Wednesday” cocktails and conversation.

For those who didn’t make the meeting, the answer to the question is simple – networking is an essential tool in every business owner’s toolkit.

If you’re among the many who cringe at the word (think smarmy handshakes, awkward conversations, opportunistic sales types), simply expand your definition of networking and you’ve won the battle.

Making new connections happens each time you walk out the door or pick up the phone. You may not think so, but your very presence in someone elses circle is the first step to networking.

A simple way to network is to extend a planned meeting or conversation by

  • sharing a new idea
  • asking a question
  • reaching out to offer assistance
  • referring to an accomplishment
  • making any kind of positive and unexpected contribution to the conversation or meeting.

Each time you share an ‘other oriented’ comment beyond what is expected, you expand your influence in the mind of a colleague or acquaintance. That unexpected conversation makes you and your services more likely to be remembered when the next opportunity comes up for a business lead.

Networking is a lot of things, but it is never just meeting and greeting activity. Some of us are good at it and enjoy the process, others not so much. When you think of networking as a regular part of your every business day, you will begin to expand your circle and influence naturally, avoiding the stress that makes you avoid the activity.

Whether you join local business groups like WBOC, attend business mixers, sign up for educational seminars, or go to the next Speed Networking event – or whether you don’t - your everyday actions to connect with people in and around your business are a form of networking that will lead to new opportunities.

So, go on out there.  Be fabulous and confident as a networker, however you accomplish it!

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Speaking of networking – there are two great WBOC networking opportunities coming up you will want to attend.

  1. Better Blogging: Better Business WBOC April Meeting,  A WBOC presentation rescheduled from February by professional blogger Lauren Greutman of IAmThatLady.com. Join Lauren and fellow women business owners as she shares how blogging engages the hearts of customers to build loyalty and increase sales.Wed. April 2, 4:30 to 6:00 pm. To register, WBOC Events 
  2.  12th Annual WISE Symposium A full day conference attended by 1000 women featuring seminars and panel discussions offering practical advice covering topics from all aspects of the business world; motivational speeches from local and nationally-known successful women business owners; many networking opportunities; an interactive business expo; and much more. Keynote speakers this year are Stella and Dot founder Jessica Herrin, and Melinda Emerson, creator of Small Biz Lady. To register or for more information. Tuesday, April 8,  9:00 – 5:00 pm.

WBOC member and online marketing strategist Stacey White, of Stacey White Solutions, was the presenter at the January 4th WBOC meeting held at the Genesee Grand Hotel. Stacey shared her perspective on the power of video for business and why business owners and consultants should consider incorporating it into their marketing mix. Here she follows up with the nuts and bolts of how to create your own videos. Be sure to take advantage of Stacey’s free Make Great Video Guide, available by download at the end of the article.

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iphone videoToday’s technology makes it incredibly easy to make online video.  As America’s Funniest Videos and YouTube show, any person with a camera can shoot a video. And today’s cameras, as well as YouTube, make it very easy to share videos with the world.

But video for business is different.

If you want to reap the marketing benefits of video, you must do these things:

  • Make videos that meet the needs of your target audience.
  • Place them on the Internet in a way that will facilitate your target audience will find them.
  • Create videos with a level of quality that reflect the quality of your products and services.

As a business owner, professional or entrepreneur, the videos you present to the world matters: You want people to find your videos, watch them, and then take action. Making your own videos is not hard, but there is a learning curve and few things of which you should be aware.

Here are some tips that you can use to get started.

Equipment There are so many ways to capture video. To discuss equipment you have to decide what video “format” to use. One way to think of video formats is direct-to-camera and “everything else.”

Direct-to-camera means that you or your spokes person is presenting directly to a camera.  Your audience can see you as you share your message.

“Everything Else” is video that does not focus on a person presenting directly to audience on camera.  Screencast video is a popular type of “everything else” video format.  If you’ve ever watched an automated slideshow presentation, or a video demonstration of how to use a piece of software, then you’ve seen a screencast video. Another example are videos that use still photos, words and music to tell a story.  Animation is another type of “not direct-to-camera” video.

So, the KIND of videos you want to make determine the KIND of equipment you will choose.

For direct-to-camera, I recommend:

  • A simple camera that accepts an external microphone
  • An external microphone
  • A tripod
  • A holder that allows you to connect your camera to a tripod if you camera does not have the screw threads on the bottom.

Camera: Keep it simple.  The more complicated your camera is, the more stuff you’ll have to learn in order to make your videos. If you want a hand held camera, consider using your iphone, iPad, or an iPod Touch. Android phones can be used but adding a microphone is tricky because every manufacturer’s phone behaves differently with an external microphone. Two models I recommend are the Kodak zi8 digital camera and Canon Vixia.  Whatever model you choose, be sure it accepts an external microphone.

External Microphone: Use an external microphone with your handheld camera. The microphone focuses on YOUR voice and makes your videos appear more professional.  Without the external microphone, your audio will sound  distant and you will pick up sounds in the area or room, including the hum of any large electrical appliances. You can buy an inexpensive wired lapel mic (lavalier) for under $30 on Amazon. You can also attach a handled boom microphone and place the microphone on a microphone stand.  Stands cost around $30 on Amazon.  Boom microphones cost around $60 on Amazon.

If you are using an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, you need a microphone adapter so  the device will pick up the microphone.  This may also be true for other smart phones: check with the manufacturer to see if an external microphone can be used. I buy my adapter from KVConnection.com.  Here is the direct product link.  I strongly recommend you buy from KVConnection and not try to shop around because you may not get what you think you are getting when you purchase else where. And yes, this one adapter works with all of the Apple mobile devices.

Tripod: Use one! Or your video will be shaky and have that “documentary on the fly” look.  You can get an inexpensive tripod for around $25.  Even if you plan to place the camera on a table and sit in front of it while you shoot, use a tripod.  I like the Joby flexible table top tripod because allows you to bend the legs of the tripod to get the exact angle you want.

Tripod adaptor: You only need this if your mobile device does not have tripod screw threads. Apple products don’t have tripod screw threads, as is true with most smart phones.  A good one is  Square Jellyfishe Smartphone Spring Tripod Mount.What ever you choose to buy, make sure that it does not cover the microphone jack and the power supply connector and will not drop your device.

There is more to consider when making your own videos for your business. I created a downloadable guide to help you get started:  Make Great Video Guide  Good luck!

And of course you can contact me at Stacey@StaceyWhiteSolutions.com directly if you have any other questions about making videos.

strong armRight about now, lots of people are running around like proverbial headless chickens thinking they will never get it all done.

End of year is a busy time, no doubt. And small business owners get a double whammy, with the much anticipated yet harrying 20% sales bump during the holidays. Even more if you’re retail oriented.

Despite all the hoopla, you can end the year strong by considering these tips to get you and your business ready to head into 2014 just a little stronger.

Contact Your Customers
The holidays are the naturally festive time to say “Hello” and “Thanks”. Time and time again, research shows that customer service is the make-it-or-break-it factor in business today.

Good customer service begins and ends when you take time to acknowledge your customer. What better way to build a little trust than to call or write your best customers before the year is over?

  • Write a note (yes, handwritten) to your top 3 customers. Say hi. Say thanks. Say anything to make them know you’re thinking of them and you care.
  • Send holiday cards. Don’t underestimate the power of this tried and true communication piece. When was the last time you didn’t open a Christmas card or Holiday email?

Check Up on Your Numbers
You have to get ready for taxes anyway, so you might as well open up that accounting software – QuickBooks, Peachtree or whatever – to see what’s going on with your profits, losses and activity in between. Take a few minutes, or an hour, to review where you can change direction, add a product, or cut costs to profit even more.

If the prospect of looking at all those numbers is daunting, call your bookkeeper, or hire a bookkeeper, to help you get a grip on your financial condition.

Commit to Learning at Least One New Thing in 2014
You are never be too old, too busy, or too smart to learn something new.

Before the calendar turns to 2014, find one or two things you want to get better at, or maybe even master. Then find an online course, buy a book, or hire a coach to make it happen.

I’m taking an online Google Analytics course- Digital Analytics Fundamentals- offered free by Google Analytics Academy. I’ve wanted to get smarter about website statistics for a while now. So, I’m starting my online course right after Christmas. What about you? What do you want to get better at?

Give Your Time & Talents
Cash is cool, and certainly needed by every charity. But you’ll get more bang in your giving, and build your business credibility, when you find a way to get personally involved.

Volunteering gives you regular opportunities to gain visibility, meet people you would otherwise not meet, and have conversations that could become links to your next customers.

There are so many terrific not-for–profits -  the Rescue Mission, Red Cross, Salvation Army  or any number of local charities and organizations, it shouldn’t be hard to find a place to contribute a few hours a month. Or consider offering your specialized services to a professional organization in your your industry. What a great way to get connected to like-minded folks, and help your greater industry at the same time.

Take Time for Yourself
This goes without saying, but you gotta recharge your batteries from time to time. Now is the time.

The pace of life today is fast, and most of us don’t take time to build reserves, fill our tanks, and breathe.

Research shows that people who value the need for sleep (a solid 6+ hours/night and no distractions from TV or electronics) are more productive, more alert, and even more creative than those who don’t. Sleep is just one way to slow the pace. Find your way.

Do yourself a favor and do something for you. Whether that’s going to bed early for a sound night of shut eye, a day off to go see a friend, or just a power nap. Take a break.

Then build that into your routine for 2014. You’ll be glad you did when 2015 rolls around.

WBOC.1Choosing a wireless smart phone is no simple task. Iphone? Droid? Windows? Blackberry????  What’s a small business owner to do?

Thankfully, the November WBOC meeting hosted experts Amy Wyant of Tech Geekery, and Mark Peters, of Premier Technologies, who shared their knowledge and experience in looking at the two most popular phones on the market today: iPhone by Apple and the Android, an operating system developed by Google that runs on many brands of phones.

The first thing to understand is that today’s cell phones are really just a mini-computer. Hence, the term  ‘smart’ phone.

“Most smart phones are under-utilized today,” said Peters who has been providing wireless services to upstate clients since 1992. As a fan of the Droid and its millions of personal and business applications, Peters pointed to the open source environment favored by Google as his primary motivation for using  Droid over iPhone. “Running a business from any location never been easier,” said Peters.

Mark.Peters.Wyant, a self-professAmy Wyant.ed Apple geek, joined the iPhone revolution early, purchasing hers when they were first introduced in late 2007. Amy is a proponent of the simplicity and easy inter-connectivity of the entire Apple product line, but particularly loves her iPhone. She pointed out that Apple is more concerned with how users interact with the product than just the technology behind it. That appeals to her, and obviously millions of other iPhone users, which is in the hundreds of millions world wide.

Secondary to the topic of which phone to choose is favorite apps, or mobile applications, which help a smart phone owner to be more productive, stay in touch on the go, and just about anything you want or need to do in a normal work day.  Wyant and Peters shared their lists of favorite apps, in addition to offering training services via their respective companies.   Wyant recommends Finding New Apps for Business to learn more about iPhone apps. Premier Technologies, an AT&T affiliate, offers customized training for groups and individuals.

Here is a partial list of business app picks for the iPhone and Droid operation systems.

Iphone:

  • Touch CMA and Trulia for Real Estate agents
  • Insurance Journal News and Kelly Blue Book for Insurance agents
  • Base CRM and Sales Tracking for contact management and sales tracking
  • Office Time for expense tracking
  • CNN Money for mobile access to stocks and funds
  • Shop Keep for point of sale (subscription required)

Droid:

  • Expensify for tracking expenses, mileage, receipts and reporting.
  • Evernote for note taking and storing PDF files that can be easily searched on your phone.
  • Real Estate Agent ON GO for real estate agents to manage clients, property records. Etc.
  • Google Maps for navigation and trip planning. Interior functions available for malls and airports.
  • Plume – a Twitter client for Android systems making Twitter easy to access and interact with on the go.

Join us at the next WBOC meeting, the Annual WBOC Holiday Party and Auction, Wednesday December 4, 4:30 PM – 8:00 PM at the Greenwood Winery in E. Syracuse. Register Here

“80% of success is showing up.” – Woody AllenImage

Investment adviser Tamela Fabiano learned how true that famous quote is when she began attending WBOC meetings and events after launching her business in 2011.

With 20 years in teaching and office administration, Tamela took steps toward gaining confidence as a business women when she attended her first WBOC meeting after being Invited by a friend. Tamela found the crowd that night open and helpful from the start.

She had such a good time, she decided to attend a Connections lunch at Turtle Landing Retreat (owned by WBOC member Jamie Virkler). “In that smaller, more personal setting, with conversation guided by the hostess, I knew I was in the right place,” said Tamela about her experience. Soon she was meeting other WBOC newbies at a New Members Breakfast and On the Town events, and soon became a WBOC member.

Tamela learned that you can expand your circle of contacts by just  ‘showing up’.

“In a short time, I was regularly meeting new women who connected me to others. My circle grew, I gained confidence, and in time, my name and business have become known to a wider group of contacts than I could have done without WBOC.”

Tamela is the New Member Breakfast hostess where she introduces women at all stages of business who are new to WBOC, helping them to get to know each other and become resources for one another. “The true strength of WBOC is in being focused on others,” said Tamela.  “How I can help and connect others is what really excites me about being a part of WBOC. ”

Each month, WBOC offers at least three regular opportunities to connect with other women.

  1. Monthly General Meetings, held the first Wednesday of the month at 4:30-6:00 pm;education and networking; between 25-50 people attend.
  2. New Member Breakfasts, held each month from 8:00- 9:30 am, A smaller settings with 6-10 people at the Regional  Market Diner in the Syracuse Regional Market .
  3. Connections Lunches, a ‘dutch treat’ lunch hosted by a WBOC member, held each month, attended by six women whose business cards are drawn at the monthly meeting.

Larger events, like the annual WBOC Christmas party and On the Town mixers,  give additional opportunities to socialize, share business challenges, and develop connections.

Once you’ve decided to attend a WBOC event, or any other networking opportunity, you can make the most of your effort with these easy preparation tips.

Be your own brand ambassador.  No one represents your product or service better than you.  Be prepared to share what you do, where you do it, and why you love what you do.  Have both a  ‘15 second elevator speech’ and a longer version of your business story ready when someone asks what you what you do. Practicing ahead of time will grow your comfort and confidence with telling others about your business.

Be ‘Other Oriented’ There’s no better way to reduce the anxiety of networking than to focus on someone else. Be first to reach out by asking that other woman about her business before the awkward moment sets in. Start with these questions: Why did you start your business? What is the most rewarding thing about owning your own business? What is your biggest challenge in business right now?

Accept that building relationships takes time. While coming to your first WBOC meeting is a great step, reality is it takes awhile for your network to grow. Business relationships grow strong over time. But the seeds of those strong relationships will be planted each time you attend a networking event.

Plan to attend 4-6 networking events in the course of a year and you will soon find yourself in a wide circle of people who become great resources to help you build your business.

Contact Tamela or anyone at WBOC about your next networking event. Well see you there!

Tamela Fabiano, tamela.fabiano@gmail.com, Financial Advisor, Primerica Financial Advising.  (315) 295-0642

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