Your Business Persona

Last week I talked a bit about using personas to make better marketing decisions to reach your target audience. However, there is another side to the coin.

What is your business persona?

Your business persona is the face you put forward to your potential customers. Who are you? What do you value? What makes you unique? Who do you help? How do you help them?

While you need to fulfill your customer’s expectations, do not create a persona you can’t maintain. Marketing is a lot like dating in many respects. You are hoping to fill someone’s needs but if you bluff your way to a date…well, think Cyrano De Bergerac. The truth always comes out in the end. Do not put your integrity at risk.

When you set up your business and prepare your marketing plan, take care with the image you create.

Part of my own business development and growth involves taking part in a strategic marketing think tank. All the experts I have talked with agree; everything about your business should be consistent and relevant not only to the industry but also to your personal and corporate strengths. Your print, online and in person image should match each other and most importantly match your company’s personality.

If you are a small business owner, this is doubly important because your business is YOU. Don’t create expectations you have no hope of filling.

If you read my blogs and view my web site, you will not be surprised when you meet me in person. Just like Popeye said, “I am what I am.” I’m easily recoginable from my photo. My speech pattern reflects my personality. I am easy going, casual, friendly and like to help. Oh yeah, and I have it on good authority I’m pretty smart too.

How many times have you heard a friend talk about finally meeting someone they’d been talking to through a dating service or a mutual friend?

At first they’d been skeptical. Then they saw a picture, sent an email and maybe talked on the phone. Then they started to get excited. Maybe they’d found what they’d been looking for.

The profile said athletic and tall, the picture showed a full head of hair and a flat stomach. Yet the person who walked in was 5’6”, sporting a comb-over and a keg instead of a six-pack.

At that point, it no longer matters how great their personality was or how enjoyable their conversation had been.

The fact they lied screams out until everything else is lost. Which makes you, the datee/potential customer wonder. What else are they lying about? What will they fib about in the future?

I cannot stress this enough, make sure your marketing accurately portrays your business.

More-so than ever before, being in business is all about establishing and nurturing relationships. Be honest and true to yourself when you create your business persona. If you don’t, it will come back to bite you where it hurts (your wallet!)

 

For more tips return to SNB Consulting Services – Web Design 101
or check out our website at http://snbconsultingservices.ca.
Contact us directly at sue@snbconsultingservices.ca or 604 202 4519

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Using Personas

One of the first things most web designers (or any marketing professional) will ask you to do, is describe your customers.

If they don’t, head for the door… fast!

Our customers are why we’re in business. If we don’t have a clear understanding of who they are, what they read, where they read it, how they speak, what else interests them and how computer savvy they are – we’re sunk before we start.

Our customers affect every aspect of our marketing efforts. If we don’t know where they are – we’ll miss them.

If you want to attract teenagers, don’t use muted blues and greys with formal sentence structures. These choices are better suited for an audience of older CEOs. Even if your content is stellar, with critical information, no one will take it seriously if it’s on a background of swirly pink and purple hearts.

It might seem like common sense, but sometimes it’s easy for your customers to get lost during all the decisions that need to be made. The internet moves fast and new applications are always being developed. They may look impressive, but if they confuse your audience, they’ll do your company more harm than good.

The best advice I’ve ever been given for web development is create personas of at least three types of people you have, or hope to have as customers. Describe them as fully as you can. Go beyond just their ages, gender and education. If you’ve been in business for a while ask your customers for their input. Their answers might surprise you.

The more you get to know the people you want to do business with, the more you’ll be able to anticipate their wants and needs, and then you’ll be in a better position to be their provider.

It’s an easy, effective way to get a leg up on your competition.

Important Tip:

Re-visit your personas at least once a year. As your company grows, your audience will grow too. Make sure you stay tuned to their needs or someone else will.

 

For more tips return to SNB Consulting Services – Web Design 101
or check out our website at http://snbconsultingservices.ca.
Contact us directly at sue@snbconsultingservices.ca or 604 202 4519

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Networking for Closet Wallflowers

Networking is a necessary evil for us small business owners. We need to take advantage of every networking opportunity we can and for many of us, this is the most difficult part of growing our business.

I’m a wallflower by nature. Put me in a room full of strangers and I’ll strategically place myself near the food table to watch and listen. I’m fine if someone starts talking to me. I can carry on a decent conversation without embarrassing myself, but as for walking up to a group of people I don’t know and start chatting… well, I’d rather gnaw off my arm.

Sound familiar? What can you do to make networking events less painful and more productive?

I’m a geek. I make no excuses or apologies but I do use this trait to my best advantage.

Thanks to online registration, I can also see who else is going to be at an event. This gives me the opportunity to check out the other attendees. I can look at their website, read their blog follow them on Twitter to learn more about them, see what they do, get an idea of who they are and come up with a few conversation starters.

From this, I can make a list of people who I want to meet either because I like what they have to say or I see them as potential clients or business partners. People love hearing, “I read your blog/saw your website. I was really impressed and was hoping to have a chance to chat with you.”

Start conversations before the function. Twitter and Linkedin offer great opportunities to communicate with people. Use them to start discussions and introduce yourself before an event. This increases the number of people who will want to initiate in-person conversations with you.

Non-tech solutions

Arrive on time (or even a few minutes early). For me nothing is more intimidating that walking into a room full of people already engrossed in conversations. If you arrive on-time the host will often have a few minutes to chat and may introduce you to others. People also tend to be more welcoming at the start of an event. They’re looking for new faces. (and if they’ve followed my advice, they could also be closet wallflowers, so you’ve already got that in common)

Wear a name-tag. Most networking events I’ve gone to have name-tags provided, but it never hurts to have one of your own just in case. Most of the conversations I’ve managed to start are, “Oh you’re [insert name here] I was hoping I’d meet you.”

Volunteer. If you help set up an event, you’ll have automatic venue-advantage. By the time attendees start arriving you’re comfortable in your surroundings and you’ll already know several people. If you work the registration desk, you’re automatically introducing yourself to everyone in the room.

Watch your alcohol intake. Unless your company specializes in table dancing or making a fool of yourself, be careful of your alcohol consumption. Having a drink to relax is fine, but know your limit and stay within it.

Oh and wear comfortable (yet presentable) shoes. It’s hard to absorb what others say when your mind is clouded with pain updates from your toes 🙂 A three hour, standing-room-only reception is not the place to break in your new stilettos not matter how stunning they look.

This week I’m going to try something different. I’m officially opening the floor to request your networking tips for wallflowers. Post a comment with your suggestion. I’d love to hear from you!

Have a great week!

 

For more tips return to SNB Consulting Services – Web Design 101
or check out our website at http://snbconsultingservices.ca.
Contact us directly at sue@snbconsultingservices.ca or 604 202 4519

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The Art of Storytelling

Does your website tell a story? In fact, does any of your advertising tell a story?

No? It should!

It’s the latest craze crossing many industries right now and when you stop to think about it, this one actually makes.

Stories make facts interesting and easier to remember.

If you were anything like me you hated history because it was presented as a bunch of uninteresting facts and dates to memorize. Yet, after begrudgingly finishing my history homework I’d flop onto my bed and stay up into the wee hours of the morning to finish the last few chapters of a historical romance. (Romance? I was a teenage girl, what can I say).

If you asked me questions from an exam an hour after I’d written it, I’d have already forgotten the answers. I’d purge the boring details as soon as I could. BUT, if you asked me about a novel I’d read three months ago, I could tell you all the whos, wheres and hows of the story without missing a beat. Even though I’d read several similar novels since then.

Telling stories builds rapport with your audience. It’s a brilliant method to show you understand the needs of your customers, instead of just shoving your product down their throat.

If your advertising message is all about ‘buy now’ or ‘visit us today’, you will be lost in the advertising white noise that we’ve all learned to ignore.

But, if you catch your audience’s interest by telling a story about your corporate values or how your product has helped, people are more likely to remember you exist. How many times have you heard, “Wait a minute, I saw something about that just the other day. What was that company’s name again? You know the one that…?”

Telling stories gives people a reference point, something to remember beyond your company name and URL. Chances are, they won’t need your product or service when they first hear about your company. You have to be memorable so that months from now, when they do need you, they’ll be able to find you again. They’ll use the details of your story in their search to find you.

For example: Let’s say, you’re a tire company who has green disposal of old tires. Talk about it, highlight it in your website, mention it in your other advertising. People are more likely to remember the positive aspect of green tire disposal when it comes time to replace their tires. If they can’t remember your company’s name, they’ll type ‘green tire disposal’ into their favourite search engine and find you that way.

Added Bonus:

If your story is relevant, someone who has never seen your website or advertising could search for a story similar to yours. In our example, they might want to find a green way to dispose of their old tires. They type ‘green tire disposal’ into their search engine and your name tops the list because of your story.

Neat eh?

 

For more tips return to SNB Consulting Services – Web Design 101
or check out our website at http://snbconsultingservices.ca.
Contact us directly at sue@snbconsultingservices.ca or 604 202 4519

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Lead by Navigation

Even though I’m not exactly sure who the ‘experts’ are, they’ve been quoted in every web design course I’ve taken or web instruction manual I’ve read and they all seem to agree.

When a potential customer lands on your website you have eight seconds… or less, to engage their interest before they hit the back button.

8 seconds!

While it may seem an eternity to a bull rider, it’s only a third the duration of most TV commercials. Really, how much can anyone see in eight seconds? Definitely not much of that content you’ve so painstakingly laboured over to get just right.

Dont worry – it’s navigation to the rescue.

When people search for something on the internet, they have a question. To keep them on your website, they have to see a clear path to find an answer. Navigation has to be obvious and headings relevant to catch their interest as the scan your page.

Easy Rules to follow:

  • Make the navigation easy to find. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but how many websites have you visited where the navigation is playing hide and seek. It’s either tiny, tucked away in the corner or disguised as funky images? Who has time for that? Next!
  • Ask yourself why. Why are people searching for your product or service? Use clear, commonly used wording in your navigation to point them to the answers.
  • Keep it simple and consistent. Don’t force your potential customers to learn a new layout on every page. You can change the images and columns, but keep the navigation in the same place and easy to see.
  • Use headings. Even though they aren’t links, headings orient your visitors within each webpage.

The most effective websites are often the simplest.

 

For more tips return to SNB Consulting Services – Web Design 101
or check out our website at http://snbconsultingservices.ca.
Contact us directly at sue@snbconsultingservices.ca or 604 202 4519

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Online SEO Course for WordPress – hosted by Out-Smarts

Do you use WordPress for your blog? If so – check this out!

Out-Smarts, an innovative Internet marketing company specializing in social media based in Vancouver, BC. is hosting a webinar about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for WordPress ,

The webinar will take place Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 10:00 AM (Pacific Time)

I’ve been to events they’ve hosted and been very impressed and I’m sure this one will be the same high caliber.

From their website:

Learn how easy it is to capitalize on WordPress’s ability to improve your site’s rankings.

If you or your business use WordPress for blogging or as a Content Management System, you’ll want this course.

This course will teach you the basics of SEO and how to implement them with WordPress to skyrocket your site rankings on Google, Yahoo, Bing and the others.

Course Overview

The course has been developed for professionals who have little or no knowledge of SEO and are comfortable using WordPress. In this 90-minute Webinar you will learn the basics of SEO and how to use WordPress to implement them.

You will learn how to use and optimize:

* Keywords discovery and usability
* Titles and Meta tags
* Links structure
* Images optimization
* XML Sitemaps
* Search Engines Webmaster’s Tools
* “Pretty URLS”
* 301 Redirects
* Google Analytics Setup

Learn more about the SEO for WordPress Course.

When: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 10:00 AM (Pacific Time)

Hosted By Out-Smarts – they help others achieve success with social media marketing, search engine optimization, PPC campaign management, email marketing and Internet advertising. Visit them at www.out-smarts.com.

 

For more tips return to SNB Consulting Services – Web Design 101
or check out our website at http://snbconsultingservices.ca.
Contact us directly at sue@snbconsultingservices.ca or 604 202 4519

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What’s all the Twitter about?

Yeah, I know. At first glance it appears to be the most useless, narcissistic concept out there. I’m a recent Twitter convert myself and while I still have concerns about what information to Tweet online, I’m sold on the concept.

What’s a Tweet?

It’s the 140 character piece of information you post on Twitter. I have to admit, I’m finding it very useful.

I’ll pass along to you the best advice I’ve been given regarding Twitter. It was from Rainer Schmoll @ThinkReferrals, “Follow the people you want to follow you” and “let people get to know you.” He should know, he has over 76,000 followers and recently he’s learned just how much strength there is in numbers.

Build your Twitter follower base by following people who share your interests. To that end I’ve created two Twitter profiles. You can follow me @snbconsulting for all things web design or @s_nelsonbuckley about writing and my journey to be a published author.

My follow/follower lists for each profile are completely different. This helps me organize the incoming information more efficiently. For even more efficiency, download software like Tweetdeck for even better control.

And trust me, there is a lot of incoming information. The vibe in Twitter-land is about sharing. There is a constant stream of links to blogs and articles coming into my account, about subjects that interest me, from the people I’ve chosen to follow.

What to post?

When you post to Twitter make your posts interesting. Gary Jones @Bluefur suggests posting trivia, tips, polls, music and videos to make things interesting and to allow your followers to get to know you. He uses Twitter to get people engaged whether he’s losing weight, raising money for charity or simply announcing his song for the day. As a result, he’s also increased his business, without ever advertising directly on Twitter.com.

Why does this work?

Most people, if given the choice will chose to do business with someone they know. Twitter provides an avenue for your potential customers to get to know you and your company before they walk through your doors (or even visit your website). From the information you share and the tone of your Tweets you can build rapport with people online before they ever need your service. You’ll be the first company they think of when they need a product you offer… or will be ready to recommend your company to a friend.

Twitter is a pull marketing technique. You attract people’s attention by what you say. They become interested and want to learn more about you  so they view your profile, read your blog then contact you or visit your website.

To start using Twitter to build your business reputation today set up your free, yes free, account at http://twitter.com.

 

For more tips return to SNB Consulting Services – Web Design 101
or check out our website at http://snbconsultingservices.ca.
Contact us directly at sue@snbconsultingservices.ca or 604 202 4519

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Accessibility – What does it mean?

Why should we bother to make out websites and blogs accessible? Surely it will take too much time and trouble and be hardly worth the effort… right?

To quote Glenda Watson Hyatt, blogger extraordinaire, 18% of the population has a disability. Their spending power is twice that of teenagers and almost 20% that of tweens. Her stats are in American but the percentages are undoubtedly similar here in Canada.

Are you willing to ignore that big a chunk of potential customers?

I’ve always been an advocate of building websites to be accessible. It’s truly a no-brainer. An accessible website will rank higher with search engines because the content, navigation and images have been formatted correctly – imagine that!

So what do you have to do to make your website, and your blog, accessible?

Well, it’s a lot cheaper and easier than building a ramp or changing the panel in your elevator to include Braille characters.

Most of it is already done for you if you’re using a reputable web designer. (like me 🙂 ). But to really give you some great tips and go download the free e-book, from Glenda Watson Hyatt How POUR is your Blog, Tips for Increasing your Blog’s Accessibility. It’s a quick read, a 35 page PDF file filled with invaluable information. Even though she’s speaking about blogs in the e-book, the information is even more relevant for building accessible websites.

Go to Glenda Watson Hyatt’s website to learn more about her and I highly recommend downloading Glenda’s e-book. She spoke at a Word Press seminar I attended over the weekend. She is absolutely amazing and completely blew me away!

 

For more tips return to SNB Consulting Services – Web Design 101
or check out our website at http://snbconsultingservices.ca.
Contact us directly at sue@snbconsultingservices.ca or 604 202 4519

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WHOA – Back up

And I mean that literally.

For everyone, small business owners, grandmas and grandpas, grad students and grade school scholars make sure you back-up your computers.

Make a recovery CD or DVD when you first buy a new computer. Your computer will prompt you to do this and the step by step instructions make this a very simple process – block out an hour or so to do it though as it does take a while.

Then get into a habit or routinely doing a back-up of your information. It’s amazing how much we do on our computers without realizing it.

Why a blog about backing up your computer systems?

This past week I had just about the worst heart-attack a small business owner could ever have. Well aside from a real heart-attack that is. I was merrily typing away on my keyboard when all of a sudden the screen went black. Not the pretty yet annoying blue-screen-of-death, but black – completely dead.

The first few minutes were spent trying to coax my electronic baby back to life, followed by a few more of heart wrenching realizations of what could be lost if the problem turned out to be a fatal issue with my hard-drive (memory-central).

Then I remembered… I’ve done my back-ups. Worst case scenario I would lose only a few days worth of editing on my novel. WHEW!

Don’t let this happen to you.

Maintain your computers and regularly back up your data to ensure you don’t lose those amazing photos of the guy across the street feeding a baby skunk or your new design for the most awesome widget ever.

 

For more tips return to SNB Consulting Services – Web Design 101
or check out our website at http://snbconsultingservices.ca.
Contact us directly at sue@snbconsultingservices.ca or 604 202 4519

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The buzz about keywords.

Keywords are the commonly used words used to describe your product or services.

Let’s say you need to know about project management consultants in Vancouver. You type Project Management Consultant, Vancouver into the search field. These are your keywords. Keywords don’t need to be industry jargon, in fact the most effective ones usually aren’t.

Inserting keywords into the meta-data, non-visible information provided to the search engine, code part of your website used to be the best way to get your website to display when someone typed those words into a search. These days with thousands of websites devoted to any given topic, meta-data keywords have lost their effectiveness.

Spammers, never ones to waste an opportunity, made the situation even worse by flooding their websites with unrelated keywords to divert traffic from legitimate websites. Remember typing in something like Sesame Street and seeing websites listed that the Children’s Television Workshop would never have approved?

To make their searches more effective and combat abuse, Google and the other companies have developed complex algorithms to ensure the websites that display are the most relevant to the search criteria typed in. It sounds complicated but Google has an easy-to-read list of webmaster guidelines to follow. Most of them are very sensible and will help you create an easy to navigate and content rich website.

How to make the most of keywords:

The best way to utilize keywords without employing and questionable tricks is to plan your website well before you start. Use your keywords to name categories and sections. Use them in your headings and throughout your text to really show your knowledge and expertise.

 

For more tips return to SNB Consulting Services – Web Design 101
or check out our website at http://snbconsultingservices.ca.
Contact us directly at sue@snbconsultingservices.ca or 604 202 4519

Posted in Search Engine Optimization | Tagged , | 10 Comments