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Are you a small business owner?  If you are, you likely already know that you have to compete with a large number of other businesses, many of which may be larger than your business or have more money to “toss,” around.  While you may think that your size automatically puts you at a disadvantage, it doesn’t have to.  There are a number of ways that you can go about making sure that your small business is a successful, profitable one; ways that actually require little or no work on your part.

One of the simplest, yet most effective ways that you can turn your small business into a success and keep it as one is by smiling.  Yes, smiling. Many people, possibly even you, do not actually realize just how far a smile really goes.  When it comes to buying a product or a service, from both large and small business owners, many customers want to feel appreciated or at least like they are being noticed.  After all, without the customer, you and your small business employees wouldn’t even have jobs.  That is why it is important that you and your employees always smile at your customers and always put on a happy front.

Small talk is another simple, yet effective way to make your small business a success.  Small talk can be something as simple as asking any of your customers if they need help finding anything, if you run a retail store, or asking them about the weather outside.  Small talk makes your customers feel important.  It makes many consumers feel good that there is assistance available if it is needed, as well as the fact that some actually values their opinion or insight, even if it is only about the weather.  That is why you and your employees are always advised to strike up a conversation with your customers.  This conversation is what will likely keep them coming back for more.

As stated above, there are many people who tend to forget how much a smile can brighten up a person’s day.  In addition to smiling, it seems as if some customer service workers have forgotten the importance of a simple thank you.  When running a small business, your customers have the options of shopping with you or with a larger company, a larger company that have more products for sale, at lower prices.  What often sets you and your competitors apart is your customer service.  That is why it is advised that you and all of your employers thank all of your customers for their business and ask them to come again soon.  Your customers do not have to shop at your store, but they do chose to do so; therefore, make sure you thank them for it.

Another way that you can help to ensure that your small business is a successful one, one that consumers love doing business with, is being polite on the phone to all callers. While this may seem like common sense, there are times when it can easily be forgotten.  Sometimes it seems is if potential customers call with questions about store hours or a product at the worst possible time, often a time when you are busy.  Although this may be frustrating to you, you are advised to stay calm, cool, and collective.  If you need to, ask the caller to please hold on for a minute, but try not to keep them on hold for too long.  Your actions or the actions of your employees on the phone will have a significant impact on whether or not the caller decides to become a paying customer later on.
As outlined above, being friendly, patient, and pleasant to deal with are simple, yet effective ways for you and your business to make a name for yourself; a positive name.  That positive name is what may help to keep your business running strong and profitable for years to come.

I was pleased to attend the IVAA Summit once again this year, and managed to come away with new ideas and systems that I cannot wait to put into place. Not only did we have wonderful breakout sessions and a dynamic keynote speaker in Marsha Petrie Sue, but we also had the most fantastic networking opportunities. I was able to connect with some fantastic colleagues that I have only known virtually for many years. It was so wonderful to be able to sit across the table from them and exchange ideas and wisdom.  

I firmly believe in continued education and training, and attending the annual live conference is a great way to do this. Now it is time to ramp up the planning for our fantastic Online Summit http://online.vasummit.org/ which truly complements Live Summit http://live.vasummit.org/  . If you have not had the opportunity to attend both of these, I highly recommend that you work it into your budget for this year if at all possible. You will not regret it.

Another fantastic online conference is the OIVAC http://oivac.com/ which will be held in May 2010. I am very honored and pleased to announce that I have been nominated for the Thomas Leonard Award this year. I can’t express how pleased I am to just be nominated and to be in the company of the other fantastic nominees.  Be sure to check out the website for the Online International Virtual Assistant Convention and the educational program they have in place for this year.

Thomas Leonard Award Nominee

The task of building a list of subscribers for email marketing isn’t too difficult if you already have a website that has engaging content and decent traffic. However, your visitors won’t just decide to sign up just because you give them an option to. There are ways to optimize your site for the purpose of building your subscriber list without compromising its current state and making it look like just another sales page. To help you use your website to build your subscriber list for email marketing, consider the tips discussed below:

1) Make Your Sign-Up Form Visible

  The first step to getting sign ups for email marketing is to let your visitors know that they have an option to subscribe for more information. For this reason, you need to make it easy for them to find your sign-up form. If possible, you should position it in a way that it is visible no matter which part of your site a visitor is viewing.

2) Provide Incentives to Subscribers

 All internet users have become wary of signing up with their email addresses because of the many ways it can be used for activities unfavorable to them. This is why getting them to subscribe to your mailing list can bring up concerns for privacy. To put such privacy concerns to rest, you need to give your website visitors powerful incentives to subscribe. For this reason, statements like “Register to Receive Our Weekly Newsletter” or “Sign Up for More Information” will no longer be enough to gain subscribers for email marketing. You will need to experiment with different statements and incentives in order to find exactly what it is that will work for your specific target audience.

3) Minimize Required Fields

Although getting as much information as you can from your subscribers will allow you to fully customize your email marketing campaign for each of them, it may not be a good idea to ask for too much information right away. If your subscription form requires too many fields, potential subscribers may easily be turned off and refuse to fill it up. Generally, all you really need to ask for is the subscriber’s name and email address.

4) Send an Email at Once

To manage expectations, immediately send emails to all those that subscribe. These emails should contain everything new subscribers can expect from your newsletter. The same email should contain instructions that will allow new subscribers to confirm their email addresses. This will help you make sure that all the email addresses in your mailing list are valid and all those who subscribed are actually interested in what you have to offer. Doing this will help you avoid statistical nightmares when tracking the results of your email marketing campaign.

Always remember that visitors won’t subscribe to your newsletters just because a sign up form is available on your site. You need to woo them with incentives, entice them with proper communication strategies, and make it easy for them to sign up for your newsletter. As long as you keep all these in mind, you can make good use of your website to gain subscribers for email marketing.

The battle to stay on top of search engine result pages requires a website owner to continually improve page content. Although Bing and Yahoo use HTML tag structures, Google optimization is trickier. The search engine giant separates the affiliate pages and ad sites from domains that provide unique, relevant content. Because of Google’s stricter requirements and guidelines, website owners need to optimize pages to improve Google index rank.

Keywords and Phrases

Keywords and phrases are main content components of a website’s text. Google evaluates the content of a site and places relevance factors on keyword phrases that correspond to popular search terms. For instance, if a website’s focus is on “boat repair,” the keyword phrase should naturally display in several places within the content pages. Focus on full phrases rather than one keyword. Full phrases are more specific and reduce the amount of competition for search engine rank.  Avoid keyword stuffed content, meaning unnatural text flow that inflates the frequency of the keywords. Keyword stuffed content is detected by Google and lowers the website’s index rank.

The Title Tag

The title is coded within the title tag of each individual page. The text within the title tag is displayed in the web browser’s title bar at the top of the user’s window. This tag is also used by Googlebot to determine the content of the page. Although the title tag is not the sole element used by Google’s rank calculations, it plays a major role in search engine optimization. Web page titles should be different for all pages across the domain.  A common method used to reduce title duplication is to dynamically create web page titles using unique introduction text and appending the website business name.

Anchor Text

Anchor text is the content inserted within link tags. Using terms in anchor tags like “click here” or “read this link” make it difficult for Googlebot to detect the relevant keyword phrases for important links on the web page. If generic phrases are used, Google is unable to detect the relevancy of a website for certain keyword phrases. When creating links on your site, focus on the keyword terms that correspond with the website’s content. Use these phrases as anchor text for better optimization. Additionally, Google’s guideline’s state that no more than 100 links should be present on a web page.

Header Tags

Header tags are web page elements such as “<h1>” that provide a bold block of large text. The header tags are used by Google’s algorithm to detect the main focus of individual web pages within the domain. While a title tag is used as an indication of overall website purpose, the header tag is specific to the page.  For instance, if the website’s purpose is “dog food,” an example of a web page header tag text is “organic dog food comparisons.”  Only one “<h1>” tag should be present on each page.

Unique, Compelling Content

Being added to Google’s index is easy; maintaining a high index rank is where the real work begins. Google’s mission is to provide the best user experience for its clients. Search engine users are Google’s main customers, and Googlebot is designed to find the best web pages for a customer’s query. Creating unique content that focuses on the website’s business is the best way to increase index rank. Plagiarized material devalues the site and lowers the index rank. For repeat offenders, Google removes the domain from its search results entirely, so avoid any duplicate content issues.

Although variations in index rank are typical, these five tips help optimize your website while complying with Google’s guidelines. Continue to add unique content to the site, and Google will even crawl the pages more frequently. Google guidelines state that webmasters should focus on designing a website with the reader in mind. Continue optimization on the website with honest practices, and the domain’s index rank will steadily climb.

Collegeville, PA Native Designs Landscaping, Inc. a landscape design company headquartered in Collegeville Pennsylvania collaborated with Murphy Assistants (MA) to create a website that not only displays their astounding talent in creating outdoor living spaces but also provides information on creating such spaces that respect and enhance the natural beauty of the location while maintaining the integrity of the surroundings.

Native plantings are specially acclimated to the regional climate and potential predators, and don’t require much in the way of alterations. Once your native plants are landscaped and flourishing, they require less tender love and care than non-native ones. The benefits to the consumer includes: limit climate impact; waste reduction; water conservation; reduction to carbon footprint; and energy savings. 

When it came time to establishing their online presence, Native Design Landscaping sought the graphic design expertise of Murphy Assistants, a full-service company of virtual assistants (VAs). 

 Native Designs Landscaping

http://www.nativedesignslandscaping.com

Murphy Assistants

http://www.murphyassistants.com

From Thomas Wolfgang, President and Owner of Native Designs Landscaping, Inc.: “We take complete pride in presenting a professional drafting of the outdoor space to be created, which we create based on personal interviews of the client and on-site evaluations.  Being in the ‘Green Industry’ is serious business to us that we go the extra mile to provide such services to not only provide beautiful surroundings but do it in the most ecological way.”

Murphy Assistants is a one-stop business support team of VAs offering administrative assistance with office management, event planning and desktop publishing. Native Designs Landscaping is a full service landscaping company located in Collegeville Pennsylvania .

Many an aspirant writer has toyed with the idea of writing a blog and many millions get going. After a slow start in the late 1990s, blogs caught on – but today they are no longer the simple online diary or weblog of old. 

 

The terrain of the blogosphere has changed radically. Blogs are now a focus of social media marketing and sales pitches. Microblogging via Twitter the current big thing. For some the blog has lost its innocence and with it much of its charm. For others, blogging presents all sorts of opportunities, from democratizing journalism to flogging goods. Anyone contemplating starting a blog today would do well to get a grip on how different – and how difficult – successful blogging is now.

 

Beginner bloggers may have started out on one of the many free blog-hosting websites (such as Blogger, WordPress and similar), lovingly crafted their post and sat back, only to realize that no-one has read it. Some give up. Others investigate, only to discover that for their blog to reach a readership they will have to divert time away from writing and put it into search engine optimization, link-building, directory listings and other methods of self-promotion.

 

Obviously those with the time, energy and motivation have the edge. The sad thing about the blogosphere is that those people are often those with something to sell. They will be skilled in putting their blogs forward, while Joe Bloggs languishes in obscurity at the bottom of the rankings, swamped by professional competition.

 

 

Blogs can be still be worthwhile for amateur bloggers. A blog designed for the entertainment of your circle of friends and family is still a great way to keep in touch. If the writing is good enough, it may pick up a following beyond that, through word of mouth. Quality still rises to the top amongst in the ocean of trashy content that the internet can, with some justification, be described as.

 

There are some simple strategies for those who aren’t overly ambitious to improve their profile. The biggest mistake beginner bloggers make is to define their blog too broadly. A targeted blog, focusing on niche subject matter (cats, cars, political commentary or whatever) has the best chance of floating.

 

The online journal is no longer a novelty and average lives aren’t of interest unless your life has something special to convey. If so, your blog could catch on. Think of Nightjack, a British police officer who won awards for his blog about his experiences in law enforcement – for a while (see below).

 

A little bit of SEO (search engine optimization) isn’t too arduous. Choosing a few keywords and attending to tags doesn’t take much time. Listing with directories and indexes (Technorati is a well-known name) can’t hurt. Joining a blogging community can help – after all, if you don’t read and respond to other people’s blogs, why should they bother with yours? But the fact remains that to gain a wide readership you either have to have something reasonably spectacular to offer or a lot of time to spend on promotion.

Blogging gets people into all sorts of trouble. Oppressive regimes persecute bloggers. Blogging about work regularly opens the door to disaster. The award-winning police blogger known as Nightjack was outed by the press and subjected to disciplinary proceedings. In a recent case, insults about a model led to the disclosure of the blogger’s identity and a lawyer’s banquet. Exposing your personal life can be dangerous, even if you remain anonymous.

If you’re prepared to walk the walk as well as talk the talk, blogging can make your career or be a vastly satisfying pastime. As a business tool, blogging has become a serious option, in tandem with the trend of using social networking sites to promote your products or views. A blog is a chance to show the human face of your business and keep up your search engine ranking with a regular injection of the fresh content that the search engines value highly.

 A hundred million people can’t be wrong about the power of the blog. Some blogs are today’s literature, and show history in the making. The blogosphere may not be the land it was, but it’s still worth trying your hand at it, as long as you know what you’re in for. A blog on one of the major providers’ sites gives you a platform to express yourself that is almost as versatile as a website, but needn’t cost a cent.

Too often I see commercials for my local telephone provider offering discounts if I sign up to use them over their competitor. What’s frustrating is when I sign up for that great deal, eventually it expires, and my rates start going up. Why do we not offer promos to existing clients, not because we are afraid of losing them, but to show them that we value their business? 

Great customer service has always been important. There is no doubt that you are more likely to visit a store with warm and friendly staff, and sometimes you may even be willing to pay a little bit more for that experience. 

But what happens when your business becomes a given? You are a regular, and you start to feel that the staff is not as outgoing as they once were because they know you’re coming back. 

How does a company ensure that every interaction, whether with a prospect or a long term client, remains as fresh as the first time? What can you do to make a difference? 

Take care of the regular customers you have, offer them promos for staying on-board, perhaps an anniversary discount, or even just to say thank you for their continued patronage. 

Never forget that your clients have options, and although it may be easier to stay with you, they may be willing to deal with the inconvenience of transition to feel appreciated.

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