6 Traits of a Great Small Business Leader

Think of the most inspiring leader you know. What makes him or her great? What qualities do you admire in that person? How do they inspire you to excel in your own efforts?
Regardless of industry, profession, or position, there are certain attributes that all great leaders share in common. These 6 traits are characteristic of successful small business leaders:

1. Communicates Effectively

Great leaders know how to communicate with their employees and vendors. They should be able to:

  • Set clear expectations and guidelines
  • Provide helpful and honest feedback
  • Lend an empathetic ear when concerns are raised
  • Praise good work and encourage improvements when needed

2. Brings Perspective

The savviest leaders are always able to keep things in perspective based on what’s already happened, what’s happening now, and what might happen in the future. Seeing the whole picture, rather than focusing on the immediate goal or challenge, is what sets a leader apart from someone who merely manages operations.

3. Inspires Others

Leaders who make a lasting impact are those who inspire others by example. Their passion, drive, and enthusiasm rubs off on the people they work with and motivates them to constantly do better work.

4. Takes Responsibility

Strong leaders aren’t afraid to take responsibility for both successes and failures. They use mistakes as instruments of positive change, rather than denying faults or blaming them on others.

5. Behaves Consistently

Leadership positions require consistency. A leader who has inconsistent expectations, reactions, and needs is bound to frustrate employees.

6. Committed to Excellence

The fate of a small business is closely tied to the quality of its products, services, and operations. It’s only natural that a small business leader should be committed to excellence in all areas, whether its merchandise, staffing, bookkeeping, or marketing. A leader who strives for perfection, even though they know it can never be fully attained, is the kind of leader who inspires greatness in others.

The Bottom Line

As you read this list, you may be thinking that it’s a tall order to be a great leader. But keep in mind that great leaders aren’t born, but created. Consider your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and what you can do to up your game. You may also want to solicit feedback from trusted colleagues and employees to help you make an accurate assessment.

Every small business leader has the potential to be great. With passion, dedication, and a willingness to keep learning, your dream can become a reality.

How to Create and Launch a Blog for Your Small Business

It’s pretty hard for any small business to survive today without a web presence. Beyond a basic website and social media accounts to inform and interact with customers, it’s now becoming more important for small businesses to launch dedicated blogs. While blogs present a tremendous opportunity to reach consumers on a deeper level, they should not be approached from anything but an expert perspective. If you’re considering starting a blog but are unsure how to proceed, read on.

1. Outsource the Technical Tasks Unless you’re an IT pro, your blog’s technical set-up is best left to someone who can put it together with quality and efficiency. However, that’s not to say you need to break the bank in the process. Explore outsourcing websites like Guru, Freelancer, and Elance to find a qualified web developer. Investigate each candidate thoroughly and be sure to ask for references and examples of past projects. I had my blog set-up for $125 by a freelancer, and I was very impressed with the finished product.

2. Commit to Superior Content The most important element of any blog is the quality of its content. Potential customers are going to assume that you’re an expert in your field, and they want that assumption to be validated before they commit to giving you their money. Post high quality articles with informative and relevant advice, showcase your industry knowledge, and provide tips that add real value to your customers’ lives. And don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. It’s not a given that you have to post something every day. Simply decide on a posting schedule, write compelling content, and remain consistent so your readers know what to expect.

3. Market on Newer Social Media Websites Assuming that you already have a Facebook and Twitter presence, you should also look to share your blog posts on some of the newer social media outlets that are quickly gaining popularity. Google+ is rising in significance; Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit, and StumbleUpon are excellent options as well. Not all are suited to blog content, but all can be used to draw web-surfers to your site. The most important thing to remember is that you can’t expect word to get out about your blog on its own. You have to spend just as much time finding avenues of exposure as you do writing copy.

4. Include an About Us Tab By creating an About Us tab on your blog, you give readers the opportunity to get a quick snapshot of your business as a whole. Include pictures of yourself and your senior staff members to personalize the page and give your company a friendly face. Many people are going to click on this tab before looking at your blog, so be sure to devote a good amount of effort to it.

5. Answer All Comments Whenever you get a comment on any of your blog posts, be sure to answer it as quickly as possible. You might simply want to show some gratitude to a reader for taking the time to offer an opinion. If you encounter a provocative or contrarian comment, address it, but always be deferential and respectful of the commenter’s viewpoint. One of the goals of your blog should be to build a community of readers and subscribers by interacting with them. Make them feel valued, and you give potential customers a reason to do business with you.

6. Make Your Blog’s Home Page Easy to Read Some small business owners make the mistake of overwhelming their readers with content on their blog’s home page. That’s definitely a mistake to avoid. There’s nothing wrong with including tabs to other resources in your blog, but keep the body of your home page relatively clean and straightforward. A basic design with some white space will help readers focus on the content you do display there.

Final Thoughts Creating a blog for your small business takes both time and effort, and maintaining it does, too. If you get to the point at which other areas of your business begin to suffer, consider hiring a freelance writer or two with industry experience so you can simply oversee the blog rather than produce all of its content. Saving money is important, but it’s equally important to know when making a minor investment will save you valuable time.

What tips do you have for small business owners who want to launch a blog? Share them in the comments!

Social Media Analytics for Small Business

Once you’ve got your social media program up and running and you’re posting content on a regular basis, you may think you’ve got all of the pieces of the social media puzzle in place. Close, but not quite. The last key piece of your social media program is analytics—data you can use to improve what content you post on which channel and when. Each social media platform provides a different set of analytics, and third party social media management programs often provide their own analytics as well. Here are a few basic metrics that you can use to gauge your effectiveness on every social channel.

Followers

If you’re making it easy for people to follow you on social and posting great content, you should see a continual increase in followers on each of your social accounts over time. If you see a decrease in followers, you may want to rethink your content strategy, as people don’t generally unfollow an account unless they’re annoyed or offended by its content.

Likes

While likes go by different names on different social networks, they all mean the same thing: A follower enjoyed the piece of content you posted. For posts that have an especially high number of likes, make sure to look at when the post went live (day of the week and time of day) and what the content was so you can try to post other content that will be similarly engaging.

Comments

Comments can be an indicator of both positive and negative engagement: Usually people only take the time to comment on something they’re really excited about or really upset about. Some followers may also pose questions to you in comments. This makes it important not only to monitor the number of comments you receive, but also what kind of comments they are and what type of posts generate the most comments.

Shares

Shares are an even better indicator of engagement than likes or comments because they require a user to take an additional action. Shares impact the number of overall impressions a post receives, so the more shares you get, the greater your reach will be.

Clicks

If you’re posting links on your social channels, most platforms will provide a count of how many people clicked on them. If you use a URL shortener such as bit.ly to shorten your links, they’ll also provide analytics for you. Lastly, if you’re linking back to your blog or website, you’ll be able to see which visits came from your social media channels using Google Analytics or other website analytics programs you have in place.

Impressions

Impressions are equivalent to the number of eyes that land on your posts. The more your followers share your content, the more impressions you’ll receive. You can also boost your impressions by experimenting with posting times to see when on average you get the most views.

The Bottom Line

There’s a lot of valuable data available about your social media channels, but you have to actually do something with that data to make it count. By looking at a few key metrics, you can continue to optimize your efforts on social media nd make sure that the effort you’re investing in social pays off for your business.

How to Create Great Social Media Content for Your Small Business

Now that you’re done with all of the hard work of planning your programsetting up your profiles, and building your follower base, you’re ready to get started on the fun part of social media marketing: content!
Most businesses adhere to the 80/20 rule: 80% of the content you post on social should be informational or entertaining, and 20% of content should relate to business promotions, events, and updates. This strategy makes sense: If you share valuable content, your followers will be more willing to engage with your business-related posts than if you only sell, sell, sell to them on a regular basis.

The 20% of business-related content will come easy-but what about the rest? How do you create great social media posts that will engage your followers? The answer depends on a variety of factors. Here are a few to consider as you develop your content plan:

Start with Your Audience

What questions do your customers ask about your industry? What problems do they have that you can help solve? What topics of interest do you share in common with them? Thinking about your audience and what will engage them is the best way to come up with relevant content.

Consider Your Messaging

How can you present information to your audience in a way that’s compelling, appropriate, and reinforces your small business’s vision or mission? The way you convey information is just as important as the content you share. For example, if your small business provides financial services, your messaging will be very different than a small business who sells children’s clothing.

Capitalize on Your Blog Content

If you’re already writing articles for your small business’s blog, social media is a great way to promote that content and drive traffic back to your site.

Make the Most of Timely News Stories

People get excited about trending topics, whether they’re local news or national headlines. When it makes sense, feel free to share news articles with your followers and use them to start a conversation.

Share Articles from Relevant Sites and Blogs

Read an article for education? Watch an entertaining video? The content you find valuable will often be of value to your audience as well. If you’re a hair stylist who finds a great how-to article on a fancy up-do, share it! If you’re a restaurateur who reads an interesting piece on dining trends in the local area, share it! While your patrons may not work in your industry, that doesn’t mean they’re not interested in learning more about it.

Bring Your Business to Life with Photos and Videos

Reality shows are evidence that people love behind-the-scenes glimpses into other peoples’ lives. So why not share the inner workings of your business’s life? Photos and videos that give followers a better sense of your staff, your process, and your inspirations are great content to share—especially Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and other visually-oriented social channels.

Showcase Customer Quotes and Accolades

Social networks are the new forum for word-of-mouth recommendations. If you’re getting great customer feedback via email, online review sites, or in person, you can highlight these comments on social media (if your customers aren’t sharing their feedback there already). You can also brag about awards and accolades you receive from other organizations; tagging those organizations in your posts gives you the opportunity to be reshared as well, which can get your business even more exposure.

The Bottom Line

The possibilities for social media content are endless. Just make sure to keep your audience in mind as you create and curate posts, and you’ll see your engagement metrics improve in no time!

[News] Mobile to Drive 50% of Google Ad Clicks by 2015

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Advertising News] Mobile to Drive 50% of Google Ad Clicks by 2015

Source: Search Engine Land

A new report from Marin Software projects that Google’s mobile search advertising revenue will increase 30% over the next 3 years, rising from 19%of its total ad revenue in 2013 to 50% by the end of 2015. Last year, paid search clicks from mobile devices almost doubled between January and December, indicating a big shift in consumer behavior toward mobile search.

The report also projected that mobile budget share will rise to more than 1/3 of paid search budgets by the end of 2014 as mobile begins to overtake desktop as the dominant search marketing channel.

While cost-per-click (CPC) remained lower for mobile advertising than desktop in 2013, it rose 20.8% over the course of the year. Conversion rates are still lower on smartphones (4.4%) than desktops (5.3%) or tablets (5.5%), but that percentage is increasing at a higher rate than desktop: Smartphone conversions grew 57.1% year-over-year and tablets grew 66.7% compared to 35.9% growth on desktops.

Key Takeaway: Consumers are increasingly turning to to mobile to perform searches, and advertising behaviors are shifting as a result. If you’re planning to run paid search campaigns in the future, you would be wise to include mobile searches in your ad plan; otherwise, you may be missing out on a valuable consumer segment that tends to act more quickly on searches than desktop users.

[Social Media] Sevenly Wins Most Social Small Business Award

News Source: Mashable

Media news site Mashable recently ran a contest to select America’s Most Social Business in America. Out of 32 socially-savvy small businesses, they deemed cause-oriented apparel company Sevenly to be the winner.

Sevenly took the top title based on a number of factors, including:

  • Activity on social: The company maintains active accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and Tumblr.
  • Audience involvement: Sevenly has involved customers in its brands processes from the beginning, creating a culture of transparency that has remained during the brand’s growth.
  • Company mission: From day 1, Sevenly has made social causes a part of their company mission. They’ve been able to share with customers on social the impact that their $3 million of donations have had on over 1 million people around the world. Inspiring stuff!
  • Community building: The brand hasn’t just built a community of fans—they’ve been able to curate a global community of followers who believe in their mantra, “People Matter”.

Key Takeaway: Sevenly’s story reminds us that social success isn’t about selling a product, or about growing your follower base just to add numbers. Great companies bring like-minded people together around a shared interest or cause, and help them engage in meaningful conversations. 

[Technology News] Mobile Devices Help Brick & Mortar Stores Bridge the Customer Data Gap 

Source: The Next Web

Small businesses know that certain in-store techniques such as promotions, events, and free samples drive sales. To date, it’s been difficult to quantify the impact of these offline tactics. However, a new study from Millward Brown predicts that “the notion of online and offline marketing will cease to be meaningful in 2014.”

Mobile devices are contributing to 3 improvements that will help small businesses bridge the gap between offline actions and online data, making it easier to improve in-store experience and drive repeat business:

1. Real-time feedback: Apps such as OwnerListens allow customers to provide in-store comments to business owners so that problems can be addressed immediately. This prevents irritated consumers from posting negative reviews later on or missing out on valuable feedback that can help improve operations instantaneously.

2. Cross-platform connections: Mobile device usage will allow small business owners to sync up offline behaviors and online behaviors, gleaning new trends about what their customers want.

3. Profit maximization: POS systems like ShopKeep allow businesses to track consumer behaviors and preferences as they happen so that staff members can make on-the-fly recommendations that will increase profits.

Key Takeaway: Figuring out what motivates customers and what they like and dislike is a challenge, especially offline. Mobile devices are primed to help small businesses bridge the gap so that they have a clear understanding of consumer behavior both online and in person. This will help business owners adapt more quickly to meet their customers’ needs and make better use of real-time tactics and recommendations that contribute to increased profits.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

How to Build Your Audience on Social Networks

Now that you have your social media profiles set up and ready to go, it’s time to start building your audience of followers. But how, exactly, does this happen, and what does it entail for you as a business owner?
In this article, we’ll cover a few different ways you can attract new followers to your social media profiles so that you can stay in touch and encourage first-time and repeat business.

Link to Your Social Accounts from Your Online Properties

The easiest way to gain followers is to make sure visitors to your online properties know you’re on social. Make sure to include links on your website, blog, and online listings pages. For consumers who already know and love you, all it takes is a visual reminder that you’re on social to prompt them to connect with you.

Include Your Social Handles and Links in Every Email You Send

Whether you’re sending an email to a business vendor or a current customer, you should be including links to your social media profiles. Most businesses include these links in the header or footer of their email templates.

Ask Customers During a Transaction

If someone has made a purchase, you know they’re interested in what you do and would likely be interested in what you have to say. You can verbally ask people to follow you on social during a transaction, or put a reminder card in their bag or on their receipt.

Post Great Content on a Regular Schedule

The more content you post, and the more valuable people find your content, the more likely you’ll be to gain new followers. This happens in two ways: current followers can share your posts with others, or social network engines can recommend your posts to other users based on your content (hashtags often contribute to this discovery method on networks like Twitter, Instagram, and Google+).

Engage in Conversation

In addition to posting your own great content, it’s important to take time to engage with your followers and comment on other peoples’ posts. The more you interact with others, the more meaningful your presence will be—and with shared activity on networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, the conversations you have with your followers may be promoted to other non-followers, giving you the opportunity to gain new likes and follows.

Run Contests and Sweepstakes

Social advertising comes in a variety of formats and flavors, but contests and sweepstakes tend to be a more effective type of promotion to run because readers have the chance to get something in return for their follow. While there’s always a chance that some people will follow you just for the chance to win something, the majority of online users won’t like or follow a page unless they’re interested in what you do.

The Bottom Line

Making sure that it’s easy for potential followers to discover your social channels—and making sure you provide relevant, interesting content once they get there—will ensure that your follower count keeps growing month over month. Engaging in real conversations with your followers will help them stay engaged once they become part of your network.

How to Set up Your Small Business Social Media Profiles

Once you’ve done the hard work of deciding which social networks to join and nailing down your social media plan, your next step is to set up your profile on each platform. Again, it may seem pretty straightforward to enter your business information and choose a cover photo—but there are actually a few important things you might overlook when setting up profiles for the first time. Here are a few tips to help you get you off on the right foot:

1. Use a Consistent Business Name

Make sure the business name you use on all your social profiles is consistent and matches the name on your business website. The same goes for your handle or custom page URL: Choosing names that are as similar as possible is important to avoid confusing consumers and negatively impact your search rankings.

2. Choose Appropriate Categories

If you have the ability to select a business type or category, make sure you choose as many relevant categories as possible for your business type. If you can only choose one primary category, consider how your target audience will be searching for businesses like yours. For example, if you own a diner that also has takeout baked goods, you would probably want to select “diner” as your primary category rather than “bakery”.

3. Write Detailed Descriptions

Your description is your chance to tell current and prospective patrons your business’s story. How and why did you begin? What’s your mission? Who do you serve? Where are you located? Think of this section as your virtual company elevator pitch to online consumers. You’ve got a limited amount of space to words to work with, so make them count!

4. Select Your Photos Wisely

Your profile photo and cover photo should illustrate your business at a glance. Most businesses use their company logo as their profile image; you may need to modify your logo if it doesn’t work in the square dimensions that most social networks use.

Your cover photo gives you additional space to convey something about your brand, products & services, or customers. Be creative, and choose an image that works with the given dimensions.

Here’s a handy cheat sheet to help you size your profile and cover photos appropriately across the major social networks.

5. Include Your Menu or List of Products and Services

In addition to finding your basic business information, people want to leran about your individual products or services. When possible, make sure to include your menu or product/service list on your social media profiles to make it easy for consumers to make a decision then and there. (Hint: SinglePlatform makes this process super easy!)

6. Include Links to Your Online Channels

If you can, be sure to provide links back to your website, business blog, and other social media channels so that people can find you everywhere you happen to be online.

The Bottom Line

The more consistent and thorough your social media profiles are, the more information consumers will be able to get of them—and the more likely they’ll be to become followers.

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