Who Elected You Thought Leader?

What is a Thought Leader?

What-Is-A-Thought-LeaderThe new buzz word is Thought Leader.   Well, that’s one of many new buzz words.  I am starting to see a lot of social media profiles where the user claims to be a thought leader.   What does it mean to be a thought leader, and is that enough?

A thought leader is someone who’s views and opinions on a subject are said to be authoritative.  That means that you are the subject matter expert and people look to you for answers on that subject.  That would seem to eliminate all the self-proclaimed thought leaders right away.  Who made you the authority on a subject, especially something as broad as small business or marketing?  All of the sudden your 17 twitter followers (10% of which are spam) have elected you the thought leader on a subject?  This seems a little pretentious to me.

How does one go about becoming a thought leader?  Is there an election process?  I’d like to throw my hat in the ring, heck I am constantly thinking about stuff.

Just read my other blog posts and you will see I am often rambling about this or that.  This only happens when I have time to put pen to paper so to speak.  In reality, it’s fingers to keyboard but you get the drift.  There is so much more that I don’t blog or write about.  My mind is constantly wandering, thinking of how things could be better in different aspects of my life…and others.

Forbes says that it’s truism that thought leaders tend to be the most successful individuals or firms in their respective fields.   Well if that’s true then I should be the most successful CT Inbound Marketer.  I don’t believe I am..well not yet.  I find it hard to believe that a thought leader with little following is the most successful individual in their respective field.  In fact, to be a leader don’t you have to have followers?

A Thought Leader Among Men/Women

What if I told you I know of a thought leader who was recently hired at a large corporate firm because he was considered a thought leader?  You’d probably say that’s awesome, that just proves Forbes point and we should all strive to be thought leaders.  Well, whatA Thought Leader if I told you that the thought leader was fired months later because he failed to put any of his thoughts into action?  Oh, now I have your attention.

You see being a thought leader is cool, especially if you were not self-appointed but it’s not enough.  You have to act on your thoughts as well.  You have a great idea, a great course of action or steps to improve an existing plan and that’s awesome but it does no good if you’re not putting those thoughts into action.  The best-laid plans are useless unless you are prepared to, and do execute.

It’s kind of the reverse of acting without thinking.  You know what kind of trouble people get into when they act without thinking first.  It’s usually not very pretty.  Occasionally it’s downright ugly.   Well, thinking without action probably won’t become ugly (unless you get fired for it) but it’s essentially the same thing.  At least if you act without thinking you just might accomplish something.  A thought leader who doesn’t act will just portray someone who does nothing.

Do Something

The point of this brief but necessary post can be summed up with two words..Do Something.  I would not say I am the smartest man in business but I believe I can hold my own.  I have made mistakes but isn’t that how we learn?  I know, it’s cliche.  I am constantly thinking, looking for new and interesting solutions.  I love challenges, especially the challenges where everyone tells me it cannot be done.  I thrive on the “impossible”.

I put it all into action.  I do something.  And that’s the point I am trying to make.  Being a thought leader without action is the same thing as doing nothing.  It’s not enough to be a thought leader.

What are your thoughts on this?  Put your thoughts into action and let me read them!

Do Something

 

Is SEO dead?

SEO is DeadI have seen dozens, maybe more, posts claiming SEO is dead.  People tell me all the time they will not invest in SEO because it’s a waste of time or Google doesn’t care if you rank.   Well, I am here to tell you SEO is dead!   I am also here to tell you SEO is not dead.  Confused yet?  Good!

SEO Is Dead

SEO as you probably came to know it is dead.  Gone are the days of getting your site added to every directory known to man.   Forgotten are the web pages stuffed with keywords that made no senses to the human reader.  Left-back is the link farms whose sole purpose was to increase your page rank.  That’s right, the shortcut (black hat) methods of SEO are dead.

In that sense, SEO is in fact dead.  Does that mean you shouldn’t concern yourself with search engine ranking on Google, Yahoo, and Bing?  Absolutely not.

You see from the dust of past SEO black hatters rises a new crop of marketers who have been doing things right all along.  They take on many titles such as Inbound Marketer, Digital Marketer, Internet Marketer, New Media Marketer and some still call themselves SEO Experts.   They all do pretty much the same thing.  At one time marketing a company on the internet involved only what is now considered black-hat SEO methods and email marketing (many times spam).  Today that is not the case.

The fact is SEO should be a part of your overall inbound marketing campaign.

SEO Is Not Dead

Today some of the key components still exist.  You should have keywords in your content, so long as your content makes sense toSEO Is Dead human beings.  You should have authoritative links to and from sites, just not from spammy sites or irrelevant sites.  You should make sure your titles and URLs match keywords whenever possible.  And there are a lot of other considerations when it comes to HTML mark up and related website material.

However; to win the marketing game, that is to beat your competitors you need to include some other avenues of marketing.  Just take a look around the site and you will see it is everything that I do!  Oh, you prefer it to be in one nice neat post?  You got it!

Here are some of the other pieces of the inbound marketing puzzle:

Social Media Marketing-Sounds simple but it’s not.  Marketing on Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc..) can be very complex.  For starters you need to know your target audience, then you need to know how to engage them, and eventually convert them.

You also have to consider industry-specific social media platforms or local platforms.  For example, for Real Estate Investors there’s BiggerPockets.com.

Social Media Marketing can also be very time-consuming.  You have to develop a qualified audience (don’t go for those 10,000 followers for $20 deals), engage the audience and work on converting them without coming across as a pushy salesman.   This takes time and lots of energy and patience.  It also takes a thick skin at times.

Email Marketing-Email marketing has been around for some time but has evolved slightly.   Email marketing fell out of the graces of legitimate marketers because of the abundance of spam email.  It’s estimated that around 80% of all email is spam.  Marketers moved away for fear of being labeled as spam or being drowned out by spam.

Today’s inbox is much more intelligent than that of years prior.  Spam is filtered much better now which allows legitimate correspondence to arrive in the audience’s inbox because they have said they want to see this.

Videos-Probably one of the fastest ways to gain traction on Google is through YouTube.   Don’t believe me?  Google “CT Twitter Expert”.  Because YouTube is owned by Google it helps to have videos on their platform.  Probably more important is the fact people prefer audio/video over reading.  I know I do.

Guest Blogging-This is a little bit of a sticky subject right now.  Guest blogging for the sake of building link authority is not a positive route.  Guest blogging on a relevant site because you are the authority on a subject is a great way to build up your web marketing.  Matt Cutt’s of Google has stated that this strategy used for the sole purpose of link building will probably wind up getting your website penalized.

It’s really quite sad that people are not paying attention.  I get requests from people to write a blog post all the time but a little research and due diligence lead me to a negative response.  Why?  Because the person is not relevant to my site and is obviously someone who is attempting to spam their way to the top of Google.  It won’t work!

Pay Per Click-Pay for advertising on Google has been around for a number of years now, and it’s quite effective if done properly.  What a lot of business owners don’t realize is you can do the exact same thing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and soon Instagram.

Traditional Marketing-Direct mail is more effective than it has been in years because people’s mailboxes are empty now.  Years ago we used to get inundated with junk mail but marketers have moved on to the internet to reach new audiences.  As a result, direct mail has a much higher ROI than in years past.

You can also take the traditional route of marketing at events, through traditional media (TV, Radio, Print) but that’s outside of my scope.  I do know some great marketers in those areas if you are shopping for one.

Content Marketing-Blog posts, videos, images and many other forms of content fall into this category.  Are you developing fresh content on a fairly regular basis?   In previous blog posts, I have talked about the importance of having a content marketing program.  It is crucial in today’s internet marketing campaign.  If you’re not developing content you will eventually lose the battle for internet supremacy.

That sounded a bit extreme, I admit it. But it is true now.  I formed this company just over a year ago and I already show up on the first page for many of my desired keywords.  That’s because I invested the time and energy into my content, and plan to do even more soon.  Meanwhile, many other marketers have fallen off the face of Google.  Hmmmm

Local SEO-It’s exactly as it sounds..building an SEO campaign that is oriented to your area.  It’s a lot easier today than it was years ago because the search engines have built some incredible tools for that.  What makes it a little more difficult is submitting to local directories and knowing which ones are going to help versus which ones will hurt.

Stop Buying Into Your Marketer’s Excuses and BS

If your marketer, or even worse, your SEO guy is still living in the past you need to kick them out.  I hate to say it but I still see tons of websites being marketed the old way of SEO.  There are no links from Social Media, no blog posts, random keywords all over the place, no video and that’s just the basics.

There’s so much more that can be done to increase your engagement and conversion rates.  If your marketing team isn’t up on the new way to market it’s time to find a new marketing team.

Get Your Inbound (Web) Marketing Program Audit for Free

 

Free SEO Audit from Scott Gombar

Free SEO Audit from Scott Gombar

 

Instagram Achieves Results For Businesses

Instagram for Business

Instagram for BusinessIt’s not just for teens anymore.   Instagram was originally believed to be targeted at teenagers and young adults but businesses have also joined Instagram in an attempt to market their products or services.

It makes sense if you think about it.  Instagram is owned by Facebook.  In the end, the business not only wants to make money but needs to make money to sustain itself.

It is true that a very high percentage of users on Instagram are younger and as such make less money but many of them also have fewer expenditures.

Brands like Levi’s, Ben & Jerrys and GE have already run successful campaigns on Instagram.  If these large companies can do it then why can’t your small business?

Stats Don’t Lie

Here are usage statistics from Instagram

There are 200 million active users, 35% of those are in the United States.  Over 20 billion photos have been shared, that’s 60 million a day, and there are 1.6 billion likes daily.   While Instagram is clearly not one of the top dogs in Social Media it is rapidly Instagram for Businessgrowing and should not be ignored especially if your business is one that can benefit greatly from photos and short video clips.  Here are just a few examples of businesses I have personally worked with and marketed on Instagram:

  • Shoe Store
  • Groupon Type Site, mostly restaurant deals
  • A Small Business who’s offering is mainly B2B.
  • Restaurants
  • Realtors

As you can see there are a lot of opportunities for small businesses to market on Instagram, and I only named a few types.  Let your brain do some work and you will probably come up with dozens that can market successfully on Instagram.

6 Tips for Businesses on Instagram

1.  Complete Profile with URL

I cannot stress this enough, and this holds true for all social media platforms.  If your profile is incomplete people will not be able to find you as easily.  Your profile should include what you do, your profile image and your web address.

2.  Use Video

Instagram allows you to record 15 second videos.  Videos can be anything, and ARE often anything but I have seen videos used very well to show off products and services.  15 seconds may not seem like a long time but it is definitely long enough to get your message across and tease your audience a little.  You can leave more info in the description part of your post.

Today I saw a video from a peer in Australia who was promoting an Instagram for Business Class.  That was part of my motivation to write this post.  Simply done, it was her standing on the shore telling everyone about the training.  I kept waiting for her message to cut off because of the 15 second limit but she was successful in delivering the full message.

3.  Hashtags

Hashtag

Hashtag

We’ve seen them on Twitter, Facebook and most likely on Google+.  Some of us like them, some of us hate them but if you’re in business you need them.  Hashtags serve two purposes really.  The first is people who are not following you may still find your post when they search for a hashtag you used.  For example, if I am marketing a restaurant in Connecticut I would use #Connecticut #ItalianFood #Restaurant or other related hashtags.  Instagram users often search for hashtags of interest to them, and you will find that you get likes from people not following you if done right.  As I advocated in previous posts, and on my Twitter Ask the Expert Call, the hashtag should be conversational.

Secondly, you will want to use the search option to find potential clients.  Using the same scenario, if I was that Italian Restaurant in Connecticut I would search for users who use those same hashtags and start following them.  They will likely follow you back and now they will see what you post every-time if they are active.

One of the nice things about Instagram is it does not filter outposts like Facebook does.  You will see everything that was posted to the public.

4.  Search

As I mentioned earlier you can search for users based on hashtags and/or user info.  When you first start your Instagram account you will be asked to import people from Facebook and other resources but you are already interacting with these people most likely.  Your ultimate goal is likely to reach a new audience.  This is going to require a bit of effort on your part (or your inbound marketer).  Searching through relevant hashtags and users is a little time consuming but well worth the effort if you can gain new clients.  Once you start building a following you will find more and more users are following you because someone they know follows you.

Another method is to find similar profiles, businesses or brands and follow their followers.  While some may not like this idea keep in mind marketing is the act of attaining new clients.  It’s up to the business to retain those clients after the marketing efforts.

5.  Apps

Without naming apps there are tons of apps out there that can help with your Instagram account.  I personally have apps that help me develop my client’s followings, help me edit photos to fit Instagram’s platform, and help me create quotes as images and share them….just to name a few.

There are also apps that help with your marketing and management of Instagram.  I can’t say for sure but I do believe that Instagram may have more apps than most of the social media platforms in existence today.  Ask around to see what apps work best for what you need.  I may create another blog post for that purpose later but in the interest of keeping this blog post somewhat short, it won’t be here.

6.  Share on other social media platforms

Cross posting from Instagram to Facebook & Twitter (and others) is very easy.  In fact, you have probably seen other people post something to Facebook from Instagram.  This is encouraged as part of your social media marketing plan.   I recently posted a family picture that generated more engagement from Facebook than it did on Instagram.  Without cross-posting, I may not have interacted with all the extra people.  Even though it was a family picture it still drew interest back to my Instagram account, and hopefully to my website.

In Conclusion-Beyond the 6 Tips for Business on Instagram

As evidenced by tip 6 I do believe in sharing some personal stuff as part of a small business’ marketing plan.  People don’t want to work with big evil corporations anymore.  They want to work with a personality, a face, someone they can trust.  I tell all my clients it’s OK to blend some of your personality with your business, after all, that’s what you do when you network face to face, isn’t it?

When you’re using Instagram mix in some humor, a few personal photos, motivational quotes and posts that require engagement.  I do post trivia from time to time; or thought-provoking quotes.  It’s important to have fun.

 Or better yet..hire me to do it!

Some of the information provided as part of this post is from http://business.instagram.com/

It Takes a Tribe to Raise a Small Business

Raising a Small Business

Raising a Small BusinessI remember hearing often throughout the years that it takes a tribe to raise a child.  It has been a long time since I have heard that but I do believe it is true to some degree today.  I have four children.  My wife and I are not the only disciplinarians, coaches, teachers, nutritionists and schedulers.  We rely on family to contribute to our children’s upbringing.  Sometimes our children are with friends, neighbors or teachers who we also rely on to build a solid foundation for our children to become productive members of society.

Well shouldn’t the same hold true for a small business?  Isn’t it time that we support the economy ourselves and stop relying on the government?  Shouldn’t we stop assuming that just because someone has a store front and a website they are OK financially?  Aren’t all small businesses in need of some type of help?

It Never Ends

I have been running a small business in some shape or form for over 8 years.  Before that I worked for small business owners who often could only afford to pay minimum wage with no benefits.  Last year over 3 million people lost their jobs because of small business failures and closings.   I can tell you from my own experiences that it is not easy running a small business on your own.  Here’s a list of just some of the things I have had to do while running these businesses.  One was an IT Support company which I had for about 7 years, the other is this one which is a little over a year old.

  • Marketing/Advertising
  • Bookkeeping
  • Taxes
  • Answering the phone
  • Accounts Payable/Receivable
  • Hiring contractors
  • Making sure contractors signed all paperwork including NDA
  • Paying contractors
  • Networking
  • LLC Paperwork
  • Ordering
  • Develop Website
  • Maintain Vendor Relationships
  • Maintain Client Relationships
  • Vehicle Maintenance

I am sure I am forgetting some things.  If you have employees there is quite a bit more to deal with.  I purposely hired contractors with the IT company to avoid the extra work of hiring employees.  That’s a lot of work, and that does not include actually doing what the business is supposed to be doing, like writing this blog post or managing a clients inbound marketing.

What’s a small business to do?

In my area I have networked with a lot of small business owners, even some of my competitors, over the last year.  One thing I learned while running the IT business is face to face networking is almost essential to your small business survival.  What networking has done for me (besides grow my client list) is allowed me a resource to bounce my small business problems off of other owners/managers.  In turn I can help with problems they might be having.

Small Business NetworkingGet on Meetup and Facebook.  You will find tons of networking groups, some specialized in areas where you might need the most help.  Join a chamber or BNI group.  Both are great resources for meeting different business owners who specialize in accounting, taxes, legal, HR, insurance and so much more.  Many business owners are more than willing to give free advice to other business owners.  I know I do it all the time.  Heck I do it on this site and on social media.

Just today I attended a relationship building group in New Haven called Our Breakfast Club.  After the meeting another attendee asked questions about uploading video to their website.  We tried to work through solutions but were not immediately able to find one.  I did however tell her I would look into it further.

Isn’t that every small business owners responsibility?  Shouldn’t we all be accountable for our peers success?  All too often small business owners are worried about their competition taking business away from them, but I am not aware of any business category that doesn’t have enough potential clients to go around.  The truth is small businesses make up over 99% of all employer firms.  That’s a large number!  If we truly want the US economy to turn around for good then we need to support each other.

Why Am I Bringing This Up Now?

Today I had an argument of sorts on Twitter.  Another small business owner who is doing quite well took it personally when I tweeted shame on small business owners who don’t support other small businesses.  It’s part of a campaign I am currently running for another business.  We went back and forth for a few tweets before he decided to just block me.  It seems if you don’t agree completely with some people then they don’t want to acknowledge you.  Either way the point I was trying to make was that we owe to each other, and ourselves to pay it forward.  I do help other small businesses out with advice, by purchasing from them rather than the corporate giants, by telling others about their business.  I am a raving fan of some area small businesses.

Small Businesses Can Get Along Like Cats & Dogs CanIt’s obvious to me that I struck a nerve with this gentleman.  And to be painfully honest he kind of pissed me off.  Don’t get me wrong, I kept it professional.  I do have a knack for calling you an ass professionally.  I learned this from all my years in the corporate world.  I do believe the small business community is responsible for helping each other out, just as I believe we are all responsible for paying it forward every chance we get by helping others who need help.

It is time that we stop taking food out of each other’s mouth and step up to help other small business owners.  I have always had a soft spot for small businesses, solopreneurs and self employed.  It’s hard work to be on your own but we don’t have to be on our own.  Stop being selfish and start working with other business owners.

To the business owners who don’t get out to network..I would strongly encourage you to do so.  We can’t help you if you’re not there.

What do you think?  Was I wrong using a tweet that was somewhat confrontational?  Am I wrong about small businesses supporting each other?  I would love to hear your comments.