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Every year I have a little flirtation with New Year’s resolutions. Some years I hedge my bets by calling them commitments–for some reason, this takes the power out of them, but they’re still resolutions that I generally blow off in a couple of weeks.

Topping off my list is the perennial promise to lose ten pounds. Do I keep this? Are you kidding? That’s why I don’t make New Year’s resolutions!

This year, I’m trying to make resolutions that I know I can keep. These are things that I’ve been thinking about, things that I know I am motivated to achieve:

1. Include Calls to Action on my communications. If you want something, don’t be afraid to ask for it!

2. Launch my new website. I’m making this in WordPress so that I can upload new marketing tips, archive my newsletters and link to my blogs. Sorry. Just like groceries, your website has a shelf life.

3. Follow up with potential clients on a regular basis. There really is something called a sales cycle and a quarterly call keeps you in mind. Ask potential clients when would be a good time to call back.

4. Write more, publish more and get the most out of everything I produce. I repurpose my blog posts to my newsletters and extract excerpts to social media. But there’s more: I want to start publishing these articles to ezines such as articlesbase, articlepool, tumblr, posturous, articlesnare.

Finding as many outlets as possible for your writing contributes to your SEO–get your name and your keywords out there. Ask your colleagues and clients about guest-blogging gigs–they’d probably be relieved to have someone fill a column from time to time!

5. Sex up my subject lines. Time to get creative here–and this goes for myself as well as for my clients. It really doesn’t matter how earnest or well-intentioned your message. If you don’t catch someone’s immediate attention, he/she is not going to read further.

So here I am with five resolutions. Can I keep these? This year I can because I’ve already begun embracing these business goals for 2013. If there’s anything scarier than resolutions for me, it’s goals. What a year this promises to be . . .

Ask me about capturing your clients’ attention with smart, strategic writing. It’s what we do at Top of Mind Marketing.

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I met with a new client yesterday and I asked her what they’re doing to market themselves. They’re two women attorneys who’ve been in business for ten years, and they’ve successfully weathered several economies. They belong to several legal organizations and sit on a few BODs. They’d do more networking, but frankly, both have two small children under 4, and they’re stretched pretty thin. Also, let’s not forget (ladies) that women are always the primary caregivers.

They have an intake form on their website, which generates a fair number of inquiries, but only a few of these turn out to be valid clients.

This brings me to my own realization. I have a fair number of 5-star ratings on Yelp, and over the last few months I have received quite a few calls from potential clients. I call these people back, discuss their requirements, prepare a proposal and schedule follow-up call to discuss their projects.

All of these efforts have been a waste of time because none of these people has been ready to spend any money on marketing. They all have unrealistic expectations about the time it takes to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy, create a newsletter, a blog or website. One person wanted me to develop and execute a very labor-intensive social media campaign, assuming that he could pay me once his business got off the ground. Is he crazy?

Another thing these people have in common–none of them understands that networking and word of mouth are the most important ways to build a business. Every single one of these people expected a website, blog, newsletter or social media to bring clients storming through his/her doors.

Get a grip. Successful business owners know that networking and word of mouth are essential to business growth. Most of all, it takes considerable time and effort to develop and nurture the relationships that generate new business. Savvy business owners know that we don’t have choices about how we market ourselves–we have to be doing it all.

Ask me about how to make the most of your marketing dollars–it’s what we do at Top of Mind Marketing!

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Small business owners have a few very important things in common: too many roles and too little time. We should probably also factor in too little money and too few clients. We need to be COO, CFO, Marketing Director and Sales Manager. We also need to do our client work if we expect to get paid and grow our businesses.

One of my clients adds yet another few roles to her repertoire–she is a trainer who travels more than she would like, and she is dealing with aging parent syndrome. We were talking about prioritizing her marketing-related activities, and she told me that she is agonizing over her blog. Blog? Is she crazy?

She thinks that she has to generate unique content for her blog, website, newsletter and social media. She can’t, I can’t and you probably can’t either. Instead, practice content economies– your blog can be posted to your social media sites. It can also be featured in your newsletter, and you can increase your visibility and SEO by publishing your blog posts as articles to online magazines.  Pull ideas from these articles to fuel your social media posts.

Sustainability: Identify what you can successfully manage, then let go of the rest.

When it comes to social media, if you can’t keep this lively and updated with interesting content, links and images, you shouldn’t be in this space. Think about it–if your last Facebook post was in January and someone visits your page six months later, he/she’s going to see a person who doesn’t have any imagination or ability to follow through.

If your marketing plan contains more than you can accomplish, it won’t work for you, so shorten it. Figure out how much time you can devote to marketing every week; if you have two hours, strategize about how to make those two hours the best possible investment of your marketing time and add one more role to your growing list–that of magician.

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I recently met with a new client and we began by taking an inventory of her marketing activity.

  • She was doing a pretty good job of networking and had built some good strategic alliances.

  • She was limping along with social media–no regular posts, no dialoging with her community. Her personal page had only a fleeting reference to her business–a big missed opportunity

  • No newsletter or blog

  • Website okay and tells a nice story, though could use some editing

  • SEO: she showed up in a meet-up, but was otherwise unremarkable

We talked about market sectors, target audience and how to reach them. I asked her if she was doing any cold calling. She looked at me like I was crazy. I looked back at her because I thought she was even crazier.

I suggested we create a list and start contacting her ideal clients. I also suggested that she go back through her client list and contact those people who might be interested in her services again or be able to refer her to a colleague or friend.

This is what it takes to build a business. You need to be doing it all–social media, cold calls, endless follow-up and networking. This is a full-time job, but wait–you still have to be doing the client work that pays your bills.

Okay. Time for some stats:

  • 2% of sales are made on the first contact. This is pathetic.

  •  3% of sales are made on the second contact

  • 5% of sales are made on the third contact

  • 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact

  • A whopping 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

These stats tell the story. If you want business, you have to ask for it. Make a commitment to spend a couple of hours/week on cold calls and follow-up. Most important: give yourself a big reward–you’ve earned it.

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I have a new client for whom we’re building a simple website. She is obsessed with this site, thinking that once this is launched, she will have more business than she can handle. She’s actually thinking about having hiring new staff, meeting a payroll, new facilities, etc. I’m trying to let her down easily, but, as we all learn, a website is hardly a marketing solution in itself. Rather, it is just one of many channels that we have to be using to reach our clients.

For this client, I have suggested that she start attending networking events, working on a newsletter and developing a social media presence–efforts that can be either no or low cost. She’s afraid that if she meets or talks to someone and they see that she doesn’t have a website, she will lose potential business.

Get a grip. People go to our websites to see if they’re well written, thoughtful and organized, if there are good graphics and some case studies to show how we work with our clients. They may or may not ever generate any real ROI.

We live in a time when we have all of these exciting new ways to market ourselves, but this can be both a benefit and a burden. The reality is that it takes a lot of effort to learn how to use these channels, and we already have our day jobs which is the work we do for our clients.

Ask us about our hands-on workshops helping small business owners develop marketing strategies that help them learn how to use all of this great new media.

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On my to-do list this week is updating my website. Generating new content for my website tends to take a back seat these days, but I’m committing to reviewing this and updating it once/quarter because my business doesn’t remain as stagnant as my website can become. Instead, it keeps evolving.

SEO experts tell you that you should be adding new content daily because it increases your SEO rankings. Get serious. Who has time these days to be updating content on their websites on a daily basis? Like many of my colleagues and clients, I have a lot of roles. I am Founder and CEO. I am a lowly admin and the Chief Marketing Officer responsible for branding, advertising, public relations and social media. Oh–did I mention that I need to get my client work finished or I don’t get paid? I’m also responsible for business development, which can take many forms, but in its most fundamental application it translates to cold calls, lots of follow-up and a huge investment of time.

One thing I do for myself and my clients is to use social media and newsletters to highlight expertise. This is a great solution for those who can’t find the time to be rewriting the content on their websites. It’s easy to update social media on the fly, and I love newsletters and blogs as ways to stay in front of your clients on a regular basis.

But don’t forget about your website because I’m betting that your products, services and business model have evolved since the last time you described them on your website. Remember that whatever’s out there in the online environment reflects on you.

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I just talked to another potential client who is thinks he needs a new website. Great. I do that and it’s a good project for my team and me. But what he wants is more flash elements. He thinks he needs to emulate his competitors who are enamored with multiple moving parts.

Is he crazy? It’s very simple: these sites don’t load. People go to your site to get contact information because they want to talk to you about doing some business, but they lose interest while your site is loading and find someone else. This is a tragedy. There’s a lot of competition out there in a really crappy economy. Don’t sabotage yourself. Stick with clear, illustrative images that synchronize with your content. They do not need to move.

I did some googling for this guy’s site, and he doesn’t show up in search engines, so what he really needs is some comprehensive SEO work. (his old site shows up and it’s really bad. This puppy needs to be disabled.) He could also use a rewrite on the site’s content. Way too dense. It could benefit from breaking down information into bullet points to make them more visually accessible. A few crisp case studies would go a long way towards telling his story as well.

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