7 Essential Elements for Your Small Business Website

small-business-websites

Why does your small business have a website? It may be because you feel like you have no choice. In order to compete in today’s world, your company—no matter its size, scope, or industry—needs to have a presence on the Web, and it’s as simple as that. For this reason, many small companies scramble to erect business websites—but in doing so, they sometimes fail to use website technology for all its worth.

If your small business has a website just to have one, you may be neglecting some of the key website components. Below we’ve got a quick checklist. If you’re missing out on any of the following items, it may be time to call either your Web developer or a content company like Grammar Chic, Inc. to take your small business website to the next level.

  1. A compelling About page. We’ve written before about the importance of a company About Us page. Note that the About section of your website is likely to be one of the most-visited sections of your site, and it’s sure to be where new leads head when they want to know more about what you can offer. Thus, it is important to write About text that is fairly brief, to the point, relatable, human, and—above all—value-focused. Talk about what benefits you can offer your clients and customers, not just your corporate history or company governance.
  2. A blog. One of the keys to a successful website is regularly updating it with fresh and informative content—something Google uses to evaluate and rank your website in search listings, and something that determines whether your readers will keep coming back to the site for more. A business blog is non-negotiable in today’s world, and it’s best if the blog is integrated into your business website.
  3. Logical navigation. Each page of your site should have clear, uncluttered links to the other important pages on the site. If your site is not easy to navigate—if a new user couldn’t find his way from your Services page to the About page, for instance—then it may be time to talk with your Web designer about a new, smoother layout.
  4. Social media buttons.Social media sites are essential for engaging with your customers, clients, and leads—so make sure they’re easy to find! Include social media buttons on your small business website to show that your company is indeed active on social media.
  5. Calls-to-action. You need at least one on every page!
  6. Contact info. This, too, should be on every page of your site; including the phone number and email address on every page is not only helpful for mobile users, but it also helps the search engines to properly categorize your page in local search results.
  7. A Contact page. A final recommendation: Combine these last two elements by creating a Contact Us page on your site, which should offer both full contact details, an email capture form (optional), and a strong, rousing call-to-action.

These elements—combined with consistent messaging, strong Web copy, and appealing visual branding—will ensure that your small business page is helping your company to grow and flourish. To learn more, we invite you to contact us today, either by visiting www.grammarchic.net or calling 803-831-7444803-831-7444.

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Turbocharge Your Content Marketing: 5 Tips for Boosting Efficiency

Turbocharge

If you’ve ever engaged in any kind of content marketing—and we hope that you have—then you probably know how satisfying it can be to see your company represented so well on the Internet. Indeed, solid content can be business enhancing and lead generating, and its merits are, by this point, well documented. The only problem is, content doesn’t just appear out of thin air. Businesses need to invest time and money into generating it, and that can be burdensome—but it doesn’t have to be.

Believe it or not, you can make your in-house content creation more efficient, more effective, and maybe even more fun! The Grammar Chic, Inc. team offers five tips for doing just that, in the paragraphs that follow.

Make It a Priority

Honestly, a big part of efficient content marketing is forcing yourself to prioritize it. Content creation doesn’t offer an immediate benefit, so it can be hard to make room for it in your schedule, but you’ve simply got to buckle down and pencil in a couple of hours for content creation each week. Get into the mindset of thinking content marketing is as important as client meetings and conference calls—which it is!

Do It First Thing

When you’re tired and your brain is sluggish—or when you’ve got a thousand distractions on your mind—you’re just not going to create content that’s any good. That’s why we generally tell business owners to schedule a little time to work on content every morning, or maybe two mornings a week. Do it before checking email and voicemail—which will distract you—and have some coffee while you write!

Push Away Distractions

Don’t try to create content while multitasking. Your content will suffer as a result of it! For the 30 minutes or hour that you spend on content creation, put your phone aside and turn your Skype setting to ‘Away’ or ‘Do Not Disturb.’ By giving yourself time to fire through some content sans distraction, you’ll ultimately get it done a lot faster!

Compile Topics in Advance

Often, content creation is slowed down during the brainstorming process. You may devote an hour to blogging, but spend half of it just trying to come up with a topic. That’s why we recommend using an editorial calendar; each month, or maybe every two weeks, take some time to simply jot down the topics for your next several blogs. Then, when you sit down to write, those topics will be there and ready to go!

Make an Outline

To expedite the writing process, make an outline—just like you did back in school! Jot down the basic structure of each blog you write—the main points you want to make—and use that as your guide, rather than just winging it.

Of course, a final tip is to remember that you can always outsource your content marketing, which will really boost your efficiency! To learn more about this, contact the Grammar Chic team today: Visit www.grammarchic.net, or call 803-831-7444803-831-7444.

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8 Ways to Make Your Business Emails More Effective

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If you’re a business owner, then you’re also a writer—whether you realize it or not. You may outsource your business blogging and you may have an employee who formulates proposals for you, but, if nothing else, you write emails every day—to potential clients, to current customers, to partners and associates, and to members of your team.

But have you ever paused to think about the craft and strategy of business email writing? When you approach your emails intelligently, you can maximize their impact—in other words, you can boost the odds that those emails will have the effect you intend them to have.

Here are a few tips for doing just that.

Offer Details in the Subject Line

If you want somebody to open and read your email, you’ve got to remember that most people get slammed with way more emails than they could ever hope to read, much less show real interest in. Make yours stand out by communicating specific value in the subject heading. Don’t ever leave the subject line blank; don’t use something like “quick question” (which is vague) or “very important/please read” (because what’s important to you may not be important to your reader). Instead, offer specific value: “Meeting confirmed for 9 a.m. Friday” or “Notes from Monday’s conference call” are both solid.

Keep Your Message Focused

We often tell people that a company blog entry needs to have just one primary argument—with some supporting sub-points, perhaps, but just one focused topic. We advise the same thing with emails. You should stick to one point if at all possible; if you have separate points that are substantial, split them into separate messages. If you do have a number of points to make, indicate in your first sentence how many points there are, and then number them.

Think Before Attaching

Attachments are often necessary, but remember that they can consume bandwidth, carry viruses, and take a lot of time to download and open; additionally, they do not always translate well to different email programs or operating systems. If you really just need someone to look at a paragraph of text, consider copying and pasting it into the message instead of sending an attachment.

Use the URGENT Flag with Care

Most email programs will allow you to flag a message as being urgent/important—but do this as sparingly as possible. In theory, every email you send to a client or co-worker should be important—else, you’re wasting their time and yours. Don’t become the person who flags every single email as important, because people will quickly realize that this really means none of your emails are important.

Identify Yourself

This isn’t text messaging. If you’re emailing someone in your close circles—someone you are in contact with on a daily or weekly basis—that’s one thing. If you’re emailing a prospect “cold,” or following up with someone you have just met, it is important to say who you are and what organization you represent within the first sentence or two.

Don’t Assume Privacy

Whenever you email, think about your own online reputation. Email is not secure, and there is no way to prevent your message from being forwarded or published somewhere. The last thing you want is to say something nasty about a client or a competitor and then have that message leaked somehow. You can deny it, of course, but your reputation will still suffer.

Know When to Be Informal

When you’re emailing a close friend over something not strictly work-related, it is okay to use smiley faces and abbreviations. For anything else, avoid these things!

Proofread

For the sake of clarity, respect for the recipient, and your own professional reputation, take a minute to read through your message before you press ‘send.’ It’s as simple as that.

Looking for additional help crafting a compelling business email? The Grammar Chic, Inc. team stands ready to assist. Contact us today for more info, either by visiting www.grammarchic.net or by calling 803-831-7444803-831-7444.

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How to Use LinkedIn to Find Your Dream Job

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Here’s a question to ask yourself honestly: How many people do you know who found their dream jobs on LinkedIn?

This is one of the most common criticisms leveled against LinkedIn—that for all its focus on career advancement, at the end of the day it’s just not that useful for finding good, quality jobs. Your answer to the above question may well be zero, and if so, you’re hardly alone. It is important to note, however, that this is not necessarily because of some fault with LinkedIn. It may have more to do with the fact that so few people really know how to use the social network to its full potential.

Consider this: There are more than 277 million people on LinkedIn—and many of them are employers or recruiters! There are absolutely good jobs out there, but to get them, you’ve got to stand out from the pack. This means making yourself truly LinkedIn savvy.

Doing Your Research

To begin with, understand how LinkedIn fits into the broader social networking environment. Facebook is for fun and for personal branding; Twitter is for news and entertainment. LinkedIn is 100 percent career focused, and it’s an ideal place to make a connection with people who might offer you a job—plain and simple.

It’s also about doing research. One of the smartest things you can do, when on the job hunt, is to get on LinkedIn and do some checking up on people and companies. Get to know the values of the companies you’re interviewing with. Get a glimpse into the personality of the person who’s going to be interviewing you. Look for some common ground—a shared school or hometown, for instance. Make sure that, for every application you submit and every interview you head into, you’re fully prepared and you’ve thoroughly researched!

Searching Around

Have you ever spent an hour or more sitting with your tablet or laptop, simply drifting from one interesting Wikipedia entry to another? When you’re job hunting, you might do something similar—only, instead of Wikipedia entries, you might drift from one LinkedIn company page to another.

The best way to do this is to use the search feature. More than anything else, LinkedIn is a high-powered search tool—yet many job seekers fail to use it as such. Use the search bar to find open positions for a certain job title or description. Once you find a listing, note that LinkedIn will also offer further jobs with the same company, as well as similar positions at other companies. In other words, once you get started with the LinkedIn search tool, there’s no telling how far it might take you.

Get Active

The Grammar Chic, Inc. team has already shared ample insight into making yourself more marketable on LinkedIn; if you have not yet read up on how to optimize your profile, do so now! We will offer one additional insight, however, which is to get active in sharing positive experiences—not just in your profile, but also as status updates. Ensure that any recruiter or employer who glances at your page sees you as an active and engaged member of your industry. Highlight achievements such as seminar and conference attendance, or simply offer expertise in your field, perhaps linking to pertinent industry articles or blogs.

Status updates are not the only way to get active, by the way: Joining groups and adding something substantive to them—not just sales pitches but insightful comments or interesting articles—is another important way to build a name for yourself.

Send Messages

A final tip: Remember that you can send direct messages to anyone in your network. There are many ways to use this feature constructively, but the best approach might be to send introductory messages to anyone you are applying for work with—simply letting them know who you are and that you’re interested in the open position. In a way, this message might be a bit like an abbreviated cover letter.

You can bet that these tips will help you land a great job—yes, perhaps even your dream job—through LinkedIn; to learn more, please reach out to the Grammar Chic team today! Visit www.grammarchic.net or call 803-831-7444803-831-7444.

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Three Content Marketing Lessons We Learned from ‘Mad Men’

mad_men_season_7_poster

“Advertising is different now,” you’ll hear people say. “It’s not the way it was in Mad Men.” That may well be true—certainly, advertising and marketing have changed considerably since the 1960s—but nevertheless: There is much that we can learn about digital-age content marketing by watching the beloved AMC program. And since Mad Men is poised to return in just a week’s time, there’s no time like now to think through some of the show’s most resonant content marketing primers.

You’ve Got to Pull Some Heartstrings

In one of the show’s most famous Don Draper pitches, our favorite ad man is tasked with creating an advertising campaign for the latest slideshow projector. He tells the Kodak executives that one of the most powerful concepts in advertising is “new,” but that there is something else even more potent—not sentimentality, exactly, but a kind of emotional pull toward a life that once was. He proceeds to exhibit the slideshow technology by showing a series of photos from his own life, including loving shots of Don with his wife and their children.

The Kodak executives are a little bewildered by it, admittedly, but among those of us watching at home, there’s not a dry eye to be found. The lesson is simple: Don has captured our attention—and created an emotional attachment to his product—by pulling at the heartstrings. He understands that, more than humor and more than gimmicks, people respond to earnest emotion.

This is something that research has confirmed time and time again: The ads that get the most traction, and the Facebook posts that get the most shares, are the ones that are emotional, not necessarily snarky or comical. That’s something you can take with you to your content marketing campaign: Creating a strong, nakedly emotional pull is important.

You Can Turn Weaknesses into Strengths

At one point in the Mad Men saga, Don Draper and his fellow ad men are faced with a perilous challenge: How can they continue to market cigarettes following a dire warning from the Surgeon General, telling consumers that cigarettes are pure poison? Here Don has one of his most inspiring ideas. Every other ad agency is going to be looking for ways to minimize the Surgeon General warning, he says—but he plans to play it up. Rather than mount a half-hearted argument that cigarettes are healthy, he instead markets his client’s brand—Lucky Strike—as dangerous and rugged, risky in a romantic sort of way.

This is great insight for content marketers: You can take your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Instead of shying away from them, embrace them. You may be timid to tell people that your business is a small or a new one, but don’t be. Play up your youthfulness and enthusiasm, your new perspective and the personal attention you can give to clients. Take the things that might define you in a negative way and present them in a more positive light.

You Can Flip the Script

Finally, who can forget one of Don’s most beloved advertising mantras: If you don’t like what they’re saying, then change the conversation.

He illustrates this principle too many times for us to count them, so we’ll simply note that you, too, can change the conversation about your brand. The first thing is to know what people are saying, of course—which requires some social listening—and from there, you can create content that effectively recasts the conversation. Does your industry suffer from a bad reputation? Create helpful content that shows the value you can offer to consumers. Would you like your company to be known for its green initiatives, its customer service, or its short lead times? Create content that’ll tell that story.

The bottom line is that there is much you can do through content marketing to recast the way people see your brand. To learn more, we invite you to contact the Grammar Chic, Inc. team today! Visit www.grammarchic.net, or call 803-831-7444803-831-7444.

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Spring Clean Your Content Marketing

spring-cleaning-2012

Clean out your gutters, sweep the garage, sort through your closets—oh yeah: And while you’re at it, make sure your content marketing efforts are all working at tip-top shape. ‘Tis the season, we mean to say, for spring cleaning—and that includes not just your home and office, but the various online platforms you’re using to boost your company’s image.

It’s one of the toughest, but most important, truths of content marketing: The process is never really finished, and you’re never going to get things just perfect. There are always going to be tweaks you could make, ways to improve your processes. Now is as good a time as any to go through your entire content marketing plan and make sure things are neat, clean, and organized.

There are plenty of ways to spruce up your content marketing, and our list is by no means meant to be exhaustive—yet we’d say the following items will give you a strong starting point for your content marketing spring cleaning:

  • Read over your buyer personas. Hopefully, you have some personas sketched out, indicting the audience you’re trying to appeal to. If you don’t, now is the time to make them! If you have them but haven’t looked at them in a while, take some time to read through them, make sure they are still in line with your vision, and make whatever changes you might think are necessary.
  • Whip your editorial calendar into shape. Do you have an editorial calendar that you’ve long fallen out of sync with? Or does your editorial calendar only take you a couple of days into the future? Now may be a good time to start with a clean slate, planning your blogging and social media activity at least two weeks in advance—and really sticking with it!
  • Generate some press. When’s the last time you sent out a press release, announcing company news? If it’s been more than six months, start brainstorming some recent or upcoming events that you could publicize.
  • Makeover your social media profiles. If your Facebook cover photo and Google+ graphics have been stagnant for the last year, you may wish to give your social media platforms a makeover, switching out the images for some newer ones.
  • Connect on LinkedIn. Do you tend to be pretty lazy on LinkedIn? Many of us do, but if you haven’t formed any professional connections in a while, take the time to make some today.
  • Send out an e-mail blast. If you’ve got a list of client e-mail addresses—and surely you do—then you should be taking advantage of that, sending out e-mail newsletters or promotions every month or so. If you have not done this in a while, sign up for Constant Contact and do so today!
  • Update your blog. And plan topics for the next two or three updates, at least. The blog is the cornerstone of your content marketing campaign, and you can’t afford to let it languish!

Again, there is plenty that can be done, and these steps are merely suggestions—but by following them, you can ensure that your content marketing campaign is pointed in the right direction as the busy spring and summer seasons begin. For more tips, contact the Grammar Chic, Inc. team: Visit www.grammarchic.net, or call 803-831-7444803-831-7444.

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How Your Business Can Use LinkedIn to Attract Stellar Job Candidates

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Don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn: While it’s easy to poke fun at the social network for its narrow focus on professionalism—to think of it as an alternate-universe Facebook where everyone is always on their best behavior—the truth is, LinkedIn has considerable power. Previously, Grammar Chic, Inc. has commented on how job seekers can optimize LinkedIn to get themselves noticed, and on how companies can embrace LinkedIn-driven content marketing to better appeal to consumers.

Yet there is a third way in which LinkedIn can prove useful: Companies can harness its power not just to appeal to consumers, but also to potential job candidates. That’s right: Your business can actually use LinkedIn to attract the best, most desirable job candidates.

Notice that we specify the best, most desirable applicants. Chances are, the mere act of starting a company LinkedIn page will land you a few messages from people who want to know whether or not you’re hiring. To ensure that your LinkedIn page is actually drawing really top-shelf job applicants, though, our team has a few tips to offer.

Be Complete

We’ve said many times before how important it is for companies to have completely filled out LinkedIn profiles, but it needs saying again. This is an important part of reaching desirable job applicants, as it provides them with a clear view of what your company is all about. Make sure that your LinkedIn page correctly categorizes your company within a specific industry; that it provides an accurate reflection of the total number of employees; and that it gives some form of a mission or value statement, letting job seekers know what your company really stands for.

By the way, it is also important to ensure that job listings themselves are completely filled out. Make sure to be as detailed and as specific as possible here, offering a substantive job description—not something so nebulous that anyone and everyone will want to apply for it.

Be Active

Filling out your company’s LinkedIn profile is important, but it’s not enough. Think of this as the first step—and once it’s completed, hunker down for some ongoing content marketing endeavors! You should be posting all of your company blogs and press releases to LinkedIn—and ultimately updating your status at least once a day.

Why is this? Because the top talents are going to want to work for a company that’s active, thriving, progressing. If your company’s LinkedIn page is dead, it might lend the impression that the company itself is stagnant, or even out of business!

Be Cultured

Finally, remember that a LinkedIn page tells more than what industry your company is in, what services you offer, and how many employees you have. A LinkedIn page can also reveal much about your company culture. You can include awards that you’ve won, nonprofits that you support—you can even post the occasional status about a team party or retreat, showing that your place of work can be fun. The bottom line is that reflecting your corporate culture can go a long way toward winning the attention of the top job applicants.

In other words, your company direly needs to embrace the merits of LinkedIn, engaging with it on an ongoing basis. To learn more, please contact Grammar Chic, Inc. today! Call 803-831-7444803-831-7444 or visit www.grammarchic.net.

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