Just Keep Your Business Site Updated, Please!

As a way to make sure that I continue to work on larger posts, I will occasionally use this blog to test out segments of new content. Yeah, it’s kind of a cheat, but at least I’m still writing!

small town business
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When looking at all of the ways that a small business owner could invest her time in trying to market a new business, it can quickly become overwhelming. Where should she start? For today, let’s keep it simple.

Keep Your Dates and Your Address Current Online

Depending on how your website is set up, you may or may not have access to update the content or the code yourself.

If you’re of the DIY mindset, it might be worth your time and finances to get the site moved over to a content management system (CMS) to allow the freedom of updating your content whenever you’d like. If you’d much rather not mess with coding or content creation yourself, then you’ll want to have someone on hand who can help with the basics. Minor updates require much less skill than customized programming.

However you’re able to maintain your website, the first thing you’ll need to do is check your content. Of course, if you see any grammar errors, please correct them. The main thing we’re looking for right now is that your content is current. Outdated content on your website reeks of neglect for both your business practices and your customers’ needs. The perception of disinterest only gets worse depending on how outdated your content is. If you forgot to pull yesterday’s event down, then we understand. If you still have last year’s holiday sale info up, then we’re going to know that you checked out some time ago.

But dates aren’t the only thing that the savvy small-business-owner is looking for.

What about your business address? Your phone number? Are those current?

If you’ve moved your business in the last year, you may have missed this info. Even if you haven’t moved in a while, you still need to check to make sure your listing is correct. How heartbreaking it would be to have your phone number off by a single digit and miss all of those opportunities for connecting with your customers?

Are all of your locations listed? If you have only one, this is a pretty simple question. But, you may have a handful of locations in town, and they may not all be represented on your site. Don’t miss out on these easy opportunities to send new business to your locations.

The above suggestions may sound completely obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people get this primary step wrong. People are just busy, and we tend to ignore problems that aren’t obvious and in our faces.

I can’t say it enough. Getting your name, address, and phone number (your “NAP,” as local SEOs call it) correct on your website is of utmost importance for your success both online and off.

Spread Too Thin

Boy, I struggle with this one.

The quantity over quality argument seems to have lost in the business world in so many ways, yet I keep wanting to start another project. If we can just keep as many juggling balls up in the air at once, then we’ll be fine. Right?

toy cars
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If you’re a Walmart or Amazon or some large company, then this might work. There are plenty of companies that can thrive on this mentality, but smaller companies cannot. It’s a battle that the little guy (or lady) is designed not to win. There simply aren’t enough resources to cast at the competition in order to keep up, much less win.

The small company, the solo entrepreneur, the underfunded nonprofit… whichever of these titles apply, these folks have to go in-depth in the field that they can truly excel. It’s not enough to put out something equivalent to the competition. It has to be better. More personal. More customized. Bigger. Smaller. Whatever advantage David has against Goliath, he has to use to his fullest advantage. (Worked out pretty well the first time around!)

How will you excel against the giants?

Saying Goodbye

The closing of this year has brought on more goodbyes than previous years. People moving. People dealing with job transitions.

Life is changing for several people.

Life is not over. We still have the opportunity to connect, online or in person depending on the circumstances. All is not lost, but it is different.

In this time, it’s a perfect moment for gratitude for the relationships that provide us strength. Spend a little extra time with these people (whether they are here or afar). Tell them how much you appreciate them. Celebrate their impact.

Now is the time.

hold hands
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For Every Action…

How often do you find your plans completely changed in response to something else that has happened? I’m not talking about something as simple as taking the state highway home instead of the interstate because of an accident. I’m talking about a major financial decision or an entirely new direction for your career or the amount of time you’ll choose to spend with your family and friends.

Are you choosing your course, or are you reacting to your course?

We all know that there are some events in life that require that we react. You can’t just ignore what’s going on around you.

pushing a vehicle

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But there are other times when we jump to something new because the old way was getting too hard or that one circumstance became the proverbial straw that had it out for camels’ spines.

The real trick of it all is discerning when to stay the course and when to jump ship. The “fail fast” mantra has picked up quite a bit of steam over the years (Facebook’s Zuckerberg is a notable proponent), and I like the intent behind it. Go hard at a new idea and see if it’s worth keeping. If it falls apart, that’s okay. Better to have explored it fully and move on than simply let something languish.

The other side of this mantra is the idea that is working. It may not have paid dividends yet. The ROI may not look good on your reports yet, but there’s something there — something worth the fight.

And then the hardships come. (Remember, life’s more like serialized storytelling than a movie.) Something will come along to knock you on your backside, and you have to make the decision whether to keep going or not.

No one can tell you whether or not you should continue on your way. Sure, plenty will try, but you’re the one that has to make the decision as to whether or not this idea is worth all the trouble.

You act, or you react. Whichever is most appropriate.

You decide.

The point of all this is that you are responsible for what happens next. You have the power to choose. You may not have chosen what came before, or it all may have gone to plan perfectly. In this moment of decision, none of that matters. You have to decide what’s next.

It’s the type of moment that you see in ancient scriptures. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

It’s the choice to fight for freedom like Nelson Mandela.

It’s not an easy decision, but it’s yours to make.

Life’s Not Like the Movies

Big surprise, right?

I’m investing my consuming time in serialized storytelling again after reading The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin. Towards the end, he talks about the artist doesn’t just create that one piece that makes her famous forever. The artist keeps on, day after day.

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It’s the journey. I’m a part of a community that has already been trying to get that into my head, but I was ready to hear it (again) this time.

I’ve been a bigger fan of movies in the past for the exact reason that they have a tidy ending. They conclude. They might confound you or frustrate you or leave you satisfied, but there’s always a spot where the story comes to a close. (Sequels notwithstanding…)

But TV, comic books, serialized novels… these stories just keep going and going. For years, artists continue to contribute engaging characters and fascinating settings. We plug in to these things again and again to the point where they almost become real.

And they don’t have a tidy ending. Just when the characters finally seem settled at the end of the season, something has to go terribly wrong to get us anxiously waiting for the next season.

There’s conflict that continues. Even if one issue has been settled, the next one is just around the corner.

Kinda like… real life.

Watching too many stories with nice, tidy finales can cause you to expect life to turn out the same way. If only this or that issue would finally settle down, then we could be happy. Right?

But no, that’s not life. That’s not serialized storytelling. That’s not the ongoing journey that we are living.

I’m not swearing off movies forever, but I’m ready to re-align my perceptions a bit more.

Starting a New Year

The funny thing about starting a new year is how many new habits sound attractive. They all seem like such a great ideas. “I could be such a great [fill in your blank here] in 2014!”

There Is No Progress If You Don't Start And then time comes to get the project done, and something else is already in the way. Maybe not on January 1st or even January 17th… but on the 18th, ooh boy. Those excuses start sounding really good.

I’m going to write. Probably more about small businesses since that’s where my work’s been over the past couple of years.

What about you? What sounds good for 2014?

Image courtesy of workisnotajob.

Evergreen: Content, Ideas, and Ways of Living that Continue to Appeal

In content marketing, website owners decide to communicate with their audiences a few different ways, but “evergreen” content and the news are two especially popular methods.

You’re already quite familiar with the news, of course. Each industry, genre, niche, and group has its own set of news that keeps its participants occupied, and rightfully so. The world is changing at astonishing speed these days, and you can’t afford to not pay attention. (Yes, I realize that’s a double negative. That’s how important it is to keep up.) Whether you’re keeping up with world news or your industry news, you need to be aware.

The other side of the coin is evergreen content. It’s the type of material that will continue to be relevant even after the latest Google development or celebrity divorce or whatever else is incredibly important has blown over. This is the stuff like “the beginner’s guides to deep-frying pizza,” or slightly more relevant versions to your particular niche. If you read it today or three weeks from now, it will still matter.

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For the evergreen content that performs well in terms of pageviews, site owners will continue to drop in updates over the coming months to make the material continually relevant.

Both types of content are hard. Evergreen requires a significant amount of research upfront and ongoing maintenance.

But, the news is expensive. Consider the beat reporter who’s getting ready to go out for the night when a major story breaks. If he wants to keep his job, he’ll get on it right away and forget any socializing. Or perhaps, consider the cost of keeping up with all of the product reviews that need to be completed. Even if a reporter knows she’ll be reimbursed, that could be a lot of cost upfront.

It’s not that evergreen content is free. Time and money have to go in to researching the subject matter, but – when done right – the longterm benefits pay off for new sources of business and accompanying clout in the industry.

The news has value, but it’s continually on the line. News venues can drop from grace at any moment.

Now, Expand the Concept to the Rest of Life

This is the Christmas season, after all, and shopping is in full effect at the moment. What should our money go to? The newest, shiniest item on the shelf? The item with the highest average review score? Or, is the item that we already have at home the evergreen that does not require further investment.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve already spent money this holiday season – both on gifts and on some deals for myself that were too good to pass up. But this thought has been on my mind a lot the last few days. Am I just spending because I can, or am I picking up something of lasting value?

I get that true lasting value doesn’t come from stuff. I really do. I also know that I’ve been caught up in good deals to the point that I ended up with junk I didn’t want to keep for a moment longer than I had to in order to save face.

This really isn’t a rant on commercialism because the idea goes beyond stuff. It filters down to relationships, too. Are we building value in our friendships or just doing enough to keep our Facebook count high? Sometimes building longterm value means having hard conversations and challenging the status quo in order to get to a healthier place further down the road. Are we willing to take those risks? I’m not always willing. I want to be a good enough friend, but sometimes it’s just so easy to play it safe.

Evergreen. It takes work. It’s not a set it and forget it kind of life, but the investments are worth it.

What do you think?

The Opposite of Keeping Your Head Down

What would the opposite of keeping your head down be? Keeping your head up? Seems to have a different connotation.

Keeping your head down is what you do when you want to hide from whatever consequences may be lurking out there. In a professional environment, that means making sure that the boss doesn’t notice you too much – enough to know that you’re getting stuff done but not enough to see that you might think differently than others in your company. Having original ideas only leads to more work or perhaps even having to defend your position!

Depending on your work environment, the idea of hiding may be more or less appealing, but the responsibility does not rest solely on the environment. You have the choice where you’re at to stand out with a new idea. Surely you have an idea of how something could be better at your job.

The real question is whether or not it’s worth the cost of standing up. Are you willing to take a chance to contribute your ideas?

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Picking the Right Fight

It’s not enough to be contrarian. People get tired of someone who disagrees simply for kicks. Instead of just saying that something won’t work, you have to be ready with a possible solution.

And, of course, there’s a way to go about disagreeing and suggesting that will make your audience much more receptive, but that’s a topic for another day.

No Going Back

Here’s the tricky part of standing up for something. People don’t forget that you tried something new. You might sometimes hope that a bad idea will fade from the team’s collective memory, but people will remember that you volunteered new information. You’ll be an “ideas” person.

What if someone disagrees with you idea? Then you’ll have to stand by your suggestion.

The discourse may help to reveal ways that your idea can be improved. Or, maybe the discussion will only serve as a test to strengthen your mettle.

But it’s worth it. The risks. The disagreements. They’re worth the opportunity to stand up and make yourself heard. Because you have ideas that will help those around you, you should be a part of the discussion. You should offer that piece of insight that only you possess.

We need you.