Smart Marketing for Small Businesses

Smart Marketing for Small Businesses from The Write Effect Unlimited, Inc.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Are You Getting Enough Of It?

You have the greatest small business in the world. But if no one knows you’re there, does it really matter? In order to get your customers’ business, you need to first grab their attention. Fortunately, there are a multitude of ways to make sure your business is getting enough of it.

Today’s vocab focuses on three proven attention-getting methods. We’ll only review them briefly here, but in the weeks ahead, we’ll examine them in-depth to demonstrate how they work and how you can make the most of each one:

Newsletter. Distribute your newsletter to your customer base and fill it with all kinds of information they’ll find useful. That means, no matter how interesting your cat, how cute your kids, or how delicious your Aunt Joan’s eggplant/fig/nacho chip dip is, your audience probably won’t be interested. (That is of course, unless your business has something to do with cats, kids or chip dips.) But if your target market isn’t interested, they won’t read your newsletter. And if they won’t read it, you’ve just wasted a lot of time and money putting it together and distributing it. Instead, send out a low-cost online newsletter filled with the latest info about your industry, upcoming promotions or discounts you’re featuring, the latest breakthroughs or products on the market and more. Remember, your newsletter should provide value to your customers so that when they receive it, they will read it, not delete it.

Optimized. When you optimize your website with carefully chosen keywords, you increase the volume and quality of traffic coming to your site via search engines. Of course, just like a brick and mortar store, once you get your customer through the front door, you exponentially increase the chance that they’ll convert to a paying customer. Optimizing your website is no minor task. It’s hard work, it’s on-going and if you contract the work out to a professional (which I highly recommend you do, because how much do you really know about algorithms?) it can be expensive. However, the payback can be substantial and well worth the investment.

PromotionAccording to the Promotion Marketing Association Coupon Council, almost 80 percent of Americans use coupons. That means there are a whole lot of folks out there looking for a great deal. It’s up to you to give them an offer they can’t refuse. Promotions include everything from temporary discounts to contests to sweepstakes to give-away’s. Spend some time thinking about what you can afford to give away. By offering a promotion to your customers such as a free consultation, a discount or a rebate, you can potentially increase your customer base and your sales, while spending a minimal amount on the actual promotion itself.

Make sure your business gets enough attention by testing one of the methods mentioned above. By applying even one of these strategies to your own biz, you could be getting all the attention your heart (and business) desires.

Photo credit: Federico Stevanin,

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays

From all of us at The Write Effect to all of you...happy holidays and may we all experience an abundant, prosperous new year!!

Photo credit:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Get found!! Key words to help you entice your audience!

A few years ago, a friend and I took a jaunt to downtown Minneapolis to attend a rally where someone we greatly admired was scheduled to speak. In search of refreshments, we separated, agreeing to meet up in ten minutes at a designated spot.

This would have been fine, except that when I arrived at the spot, he wasn’t there. What followed was 90 minutes of me frantically searching for him in a crowd of 92,000. (This was pre-cellphone days, so apart from sending up a flare, I had no way to contact him.) After the event ended we did meet up again at our car, but I had missed the entire rally.

If you’re not applying proven marketing principles—whether online or in direct marketing—you may find that you’re business is going to get lost among the thousands and thousands of others out there. And what a waste of time.

That's why you need to commit these vocab words to memory this week. They are critical to getting you found and arriving at your marketing success:

Keyword marketing—This entails utilizing keywords and key phrases relevant to your business, products, services and customer’s searches in your online marketing. You can research keywords yourself by using free keyword tools online, such as those at or google adwords, but if you have the budget, consider hiring a professional to do it for you. Keyword marketing is a complex, yet critical process and the search engines’ ever-changing rules make it one that requires you stay continuously up-to-date. (Sort of like your accountant and the tax laws.)

Link text—Link text are words contained in a hyperlink upon which your site visitor clicks in order to take them to another web page. Preferably on your own website. Preferably to your order page.

Marketing plan—Your marketing plan outlines your strategy for all the great marketing you’re going to do to sell your product or service to millions of people. It’s one of the most important elements in your business plan and should contain a workable budget as well as realistic action items. Getting asked to appear on Oprah to become a gazillionairre does not qualify as realistic.

Photo Credit: Simon Howden

Friday, December 17, 2010

Work Gets in the Way of Life

Sometimes work gets in the way of…well…everything...especially at this time of year. I've got more than enough to do shopping, baking, wrapping and pretending I'm enjoying all this, thank you. I don't need something like WORK to get in my way.

Wait. Yes, I do. I mean...if I want to eat and pay bills and stuff, I do.

Juggling is one of the hardest parts about being a solopreneur or small business owner. It’s easy to get sidetracked and lose your focus, which is what’s happened to me these past few days. BUT, a few extra minutes after hours, when the phone has stopped ringing and clients have stopped making perfectly reasonable, albeit time-consuming requests, and I’m back on schedule. So, away we go…

Guerilla Marketing—No, this has nothing to do with Dian Fossey. The term Guerilla Marketing was coined by legendary ad man, Jay Conrad Levinson, to describe a form of marketing and advertising that is inventive, original and aggressive on a small or even non-existent budget. Think unconventional, unusual and inexpensive—exactly what you’re looking for.

Help—While there are a multitude of “H” words we could explore (HTML, Hits, Hypertext, et al) for our purposes, HELP is the best “H” word you can focus on at this point. In other words, ask for it when you need it. Don’t try to go it alone, even if most people spend more at Starbucks on a daily basis than you have in your monthly ad budget. Find online forums, free web sites, info articles, blogs (like this one) and ask for HELP!

Inbound Marketing—The opposite of Outbound Marketing. These days, there are a million ways for your audience to BLOCK your outbound message. Think no call list, spam blockers, TIVO (to fast forward through those annoying commercials), satellite radio, etc., etc. Inbound marketing works on the premise that tools such as Facebook, Twitter, web sites, blogs, free downloadable white papers and e-newsletters bring warm, qualified leads to YOU! More about Inbound Marketing in the weeks ahead.

That’s it for today kids. Keep studying and whatever you do, DON’T GET BEHIND. (In other words, do what I say, not what I do.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Back to School--Back to Work

This is my attempt at recycling and making sure my blog is "green." In other words, I've been busy traveling for business and so am "repurposing" a post from September.

When one is traveling for business, it's as if the Blue Fairy has come along, swept you out of your life and into some alternate reality where there is nothing but overcrowded airports, bad coffee, flight attendants who snap at you like you're five, and hotel rooms with broken thermostats. In the meantime, life...your life, the life that you left behind...goes on without you. And when the traveling is done, and the Blue Fairy drops you on your ass back into your actual reality, you feel a bit disoriented.

Thus is my rationale for recycling this post. It's time to get back to work children. See you next time with something new!

Lately, I’ve found myself lingering in the Back to School department at Target, longing for the days of new lunch boxes and a 64-pack of Crayola crayons, remembering what it was like to get new clothes and shoes and have my mom take my picture clutching my new Big Chief Tablet right before I stepped onto the bus. Just because that was a million years ago (sometime during the Johnson administration as a matter of fact--yes, I am THAT old) doesn’t mean we can’t still focus on learning.

Here’s your next batch of DIY marketing vocab. Take notes. There just might be a pop quiz later:

Direct Marketing—Seems pretty self-explanatory, but can encompass many things, including Direct Mail. In a nutshell, Direct Marketing targets a very specific audience. Instead of taking a shotgun approach and mailing out your brochure to everyone in the United States, you build a profile of your target market (determined by demographics and psychographics) and tailor your message or offer directly to them.

For example, you want to make sure that if you’re selling genuine fur-lined computer monitors, you’re only marketing to those folks who would have a use for that sort of thing. My guess is no one from PETA should be on your list.

Direct Response is much the same as Direct Marketing/Direct Mail, except that your marketing piece includes a means for the potential customer to respond to you, either via coupon, mail back request for additional information, or order form.

Eighty-Twenty Rule—Also known as Pareto’s Principle, the 80/20 rule states that 20% of your customers are responsible for 80% of your revenue. As such, it’s important to identify that 20% and make sure you’re managing those accounts closely. Now that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to treat that other 80% like redheaded stepchildren. On the contrary, all your prospective and existing customers should get as much “love” as you can give them. It’s just that that 20% is likely your bread and butter—treat them well and they’ll continue to keep you in business.

Full Position—This is really a newspaper term, (“What? What’s a newspaper?”) but can still be applicable if you’re utilizing ad space online or even in your local shopper, small town news or a newsletter in which you’ve purchased ad space. Essentially, it’s the most effective placement for your ad because your ad is completely surrounded by an actual news article, making it highly likely that the reader will peruse your message while they’re busily reading the surrounding article.

That’s all for today kids, this being the first day of school and all. Be prepared for more info to come! Class dismissed.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

Julie Andrew’s singing “Doe a Deer” in The Sound of Music keeps echoing in my head. I wish it would stop. But, I think there’s a good reason for it. When you’re starting your own venture into DIY marketing, you need the primer, the Dick and Jane early reader, the ABC’s, if you will.

So let’s begin:

Advertising—Both verb and’s the act of promoting your business and the final result of your marketing campaign. It’s what you’re going to do for now until you’re so incredibly successful that you can afford to hire a big Madison Ave Agency to do it for you. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Brand—Who are you? Or rather, who is your business? If you’re a consumer (and who isn’t) you know more about brand than you realize. Once you establish your brand identity (which we’ll do in the weeks ahead) you’ll know exactly what your brand stands for--your brand message and what it promises. Then all your advertising will grow organically from there. (Ooooh, that sounds so Oprah, doesn’t it?)

Competition—Who are you up against? Huge multinational corporations or the mom and pop shop on the corner? This is an important factor in your marketing, so don’t think it doesn’t matter. Start looking at your competitors ads and websites. What are they promising? How is your business different, and most importantly, better?

This is just the start of course, and it’s enough to keep you busy for now. (C’mon now—just be patient. You didn’t start reading Tolstoy the minute you learned the alphabet did you?)

Photo Credit: jscreationzs:

Friday, October 22, 2010

I Don't Feel Like It.

I admit it…I’m lazy.

If I can find an easier, faster, cheaper way to do something (preferably where I don’t have move away from the couch) then I’m all over it.

Unfortunately, that’s not a formula for success. It’s a recipe for muscle atrophy.

And since I don’t really aspire to be an undifferentiated blob, lounging around all day is pretty much not an option. However, I’m not naturally like the Martha Stewarts and Rachel Rays of the world…I don’t get up at dawn and fashion tea cozies out old underwear or have a burning desire to create homemade sachets and potpourri from rotted oak leaves, grass clippings and dog hair clumps I’ve pulled out of the vacuum cleaner.

So somehow, I must find the motivation to “go to work” every day. And whether it’s because I fear that if I don’t, I’ll have to call a Lady Kenmore Washing Machine box “home,” or just the fact that I’m virtually unemployable since besides writing, the only other skill I possess is with Nunchucks, and they don’t transfer well to other professions.

How about you? What drives you to drive your business forward?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Funny Business Friday--You Stink!

Though my work from home attire will probably someday land me on TLC's “What Not to Wear,” I’ve always made a point of dressing and presenting myself in a professional manner for client meetings. It communicates that I take the client, their business and my job seriously.

So it was with this commitment to professionalism that I approached one such meeting with a particularly “earthy” client a few years ago, even though I knew their apparel might be something less than Armani business casual. They were literally ditch diggers, hauling in heavy equipment to bore trenches for underground cable, lines, pipes and more. Not folks that one would assume would be particularly delicate in their sensibilities.

I joined the agency team (with whom I was working at the time) for the meeting in the expansive, airy conference room. Upon their arrival, the clients shuffled in, two men and a woman who, with all due respect, looked well-suited for their professions. The woman took five steps into the room, stopped dead in her tracks and announced in a snarky, holding-my-nose-I-smell-horse-turds-voice, “I CANNOT stay in here. I’ll DIE!”

She then promptly turned on her heel and stormed out. The agency director hurriedly followed her.

Her co-workers shifted uncomfortably.

“Is she okay?” I asked.

They cleared their throats, “Sure,” one of them said. “She’s just…sensitive.”

Several moments of awkward silence passed until the agency director returned. He dialed a number on the conference phone at the center of the table, switched on the speaker and the woman’s voice answered. The meeting commenced with her disembodied voice contributing from somewhere in the bowels of the agency.

When the meeting ended, I literally ran into her in the hallway.

“Are you okay?” I asked, genuinely concerned.

“Sure,” she responded. “As long as I steer clear of you.” Then she stormed off.

The agency director phoned me later that afternoon, explaining that the client had “an extreme sensitivity to certain aromas, perfumes and the like.”

Now I’ve never been one to marinate in flowery scents, and I DO bathe on a regular basis, so I couldn’t fathom how this woman could have been so violently affected by my “aroma.” The only thing I’d done that morning before arriving at the agency was to use a small amount of lightly scented hand lotion. And while I don’t discount some folk’s sensitivity, her rude behavior made me wish wholeheartedly that I’d indulged in a garlic/onion pizza and Cuban cigar right before attending our meeting.

Have you ever encountered a rude client or business associate? If so, how did you respond?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Double Up and Double Your Business !

If you Google “partners,” you’ll get quite a lengthy list…Batman and Robin, Barnes & Noble, Nancy Kerrigan & Tonya Harding (since when does setting up your rival for a good knee clubbing qualify as partnership?)

The term “partner” elicits images of shared risk along with shared benefits. But if you’re a freelancer or solo entrepreneur just launching your biz, bringing on a partner in the traditional sense may not be in the cards right now…if ever.

HOWEVER, you can still “partner” with other pros and actually double your business in the process.

But I Don’t WANT a Partner

Now I’ve never been one who thrived on the buddy system. When I was an 8-year-old Girl Scout my “buddy” accidently separated from me in the woods (aka, ditched me). Since then I’ve found it incredibly difficult to depend on others. Like many entrepreneurs in general and writers in particular, I LIKE working alone. Sure, I have to take on all the responsibility…but I also get all the accolades (not to mention all the money).

That being said, I’m smart enough to know that there are times I have to burst out of my narcissistic bubble and cast about for a partner. And truth be told, it’s worked out well.

Which brings us to a definition, because by defining this other person, this fellow participant, I can clearly establish boundaries about expectations, responsibilities and so on. And so:

Partner—Another person with whom I work to achieve a common goal.

Eh. That seems right, but something’s missing.

Perhaps “accomplice” might be more apropos…but that dredges up images of fingerprinting and police lineups and things I just don’t want to go into right here and now.

In the end, when I say “partner” I mean the verb, not the noun.

For example, I “partner” with quite a few graphic and web designers, both individual freelancers and big marketing firms. And it really works out well.

There’s no money exchanged between us; no wrangling over a percentage of the profits, referral fees or scorecards kept on who owes who. It’s all strictly quid pro quo.

If one of us has a client with whom we’re working on a project and said client is searching for the service that the other one provides, we make a referral.

I know. It’s not quantum physics. So why am I taking up space and wasting your time with something so obvious?

Because, if you do it right and if you do it often, you can more than double your business.

How the Buddy System Doubled My Business

When I began freelancing thirteen years ago, I had a small stable of steady clients for which I was grateful, but it wasn’t nearly enough to keep me busy full time, let alone keep me in caviar and champagne. I really struggled to find new business.

Then I got a call from a designer I’d recently met. One of her clients had a need for a writer, would I consider helping her out? I jumped at the chance.

It was then I realized that there must be hundreds (thousands?) of designers in the same position as my friend. After all, we were in the same industry targeting the same market, but there were just some things (like web content, brochure copy, ad headlines and more) that she just did not provide. Why let those clients go looking elsewhere for a copywriter, when she knew a perfectly good one? (Ahem…that would be me.)

From that day forward, I added designers and design and marketing firms to my list of contacts. After approaching several of them, I was delighted to find that my business doubled in just a matter of a few short months.

Five Steps to Making Partnership Work for You

Finding partners is not as difficult as you might think.

  1. Take some time to reflect on businesses that complement your own. Who else might be approaching the same client base as you? For example, if you’re a landscape designer, local nurseries might be willing to send referrals your way. If you’re an interior designer who understands the importance of “home staging,” why not give some local realtors a call? If you’re a handyman, the neighborhood hardware store might just be willing to hand out your business card.
  2. Approach your potential partner with a proposition that will benefit you both, e.g. an agreement that you’ll pass on one another’s business card to potential clients or a reciprocal link on each others websites.
  3. Keep in steady contact with your partner via emails or an occasional phone call in order to build a relationship. Bring them some bagels some morning or take them to lunch some afternoon. (Most folks are more willing to refer a friend they know, than a total stranger.)
  4. Consider exchanging products or services with your new partner. In this way they can experience the quality of what you provide and know how you work, enabling them to recommend you to their clients based on their first-hand experience.
  5. Make sure you clearly define the parameters of your business relationship. Do you want to be exclusive, meaning you’ll only refer potential business to them and vice versa? Do you want to offer one another a small “finder’s fee” or even a percentage of fees for every referral? Will you need a contract outlining your agreement or will a handshake do?

A new partner or two may be just the thing you need to really boost your business. After all, where would Batman have been if Robin hadn’t been there climbing the outside of buildings right behind him (and potentially cushioning the fall if the rope broke?)

Can you think of a partnership opportunity that might boost your biz?

Birds of a feather…partner with similar solopreneurs who will refer you to their clients.
Photo Credit: Liz Noffsinger,

Monday, August 23, 2010

How to Clear Up the Confusion

As a native Midwesterner, I was brought up speaking what's often called "Fargo-speak."

In my sheltered Minn-ie-SODA neighborhood, "Wal, ya no"was the preamble to every thought, and "yah" and "shure" liberally punctuated the end of sentences like periods.

So it was with great confusion that as a teen working atMcDonalds one summer evening in 1976, I made the acquaintance of a genuine Cajun-speaking customer.

"Yew be shure nuf perty lil gerl," he drawled, the words droppingout his mouth like slurry.

"Pardon?" I asked.

"Eye say yew, yew be shure nuf perty, lil gerl," he repeated.

"Excuse me?"

"Waz wrong wit chew? Yew hawd no hee-in or sumpin?" he snarled, irritated.

Scarlet-cheeked, I called my manager up to the front counter to interpret for me. It was humiliating to realize that as a relatively intelligent young woman, I was unable to understand someone who was speaking my native tongue, albeit sloppily...but still.

Sometimes business-speak can sound like that, especially if your particular business is not marketing or advertising, but something completely foreign to those industries, like landscaping, window washing, metal sculpting or scrapbooking.

Someone talking to you about "frequency" or "touch", "SEO" or "landing page conversions" can sound just like my Cajun man—"Waz wrong witchew? Yew hawd no hee-in or sumpin?"

What terminology confuses you? What marketing-speak have you heard, but have been too embarrassed to ask someone to define? Now's your chance. Send on your questions and I'll post a response that will help cut through the slurry and clear things up!

Photo Credit: Simon Howden

Friday, August 20, 2010

Funny Business Friday--Reply All?

Business is funny. So is technology. When the two collide, there's often great opportunity for hilarity. Also humiliation. I've experienced more than my fair share of both.

Take today for example.

I'd intended to write about funny moments that have occurred in the course of operating my business. Apparently, this was a call to the universe to create some fresh material.

You see, I've received some nice messages from fans of this new page, to which I've responded. Now those who know me realize that I have a tendency toward, shall we say, exaggeration.

And so, my answer to these kind messages contained my typical brand of hyperbole, with a dash of snarkiness thrown in. (I know. It's all part of my enduring charm.)

Then a friend sent me a message. "You do realize that everything you write on here is being sent to every one of your fans, don't you?"


First, if you received these emails, I apologize. Second, like everyone else, I'm seeing the effects of this economy. However, I am currently not donating plasma or cashing in recycling to make ends meet.

Email blunders...who hasn't made one?

Fortunately, there's comfort in the company we keep. According to a poll conducted by The Creative Group in 2009, 78% of ad and marketing execs admitted to sending an e-mail by mistake, with embarrassing and sometimes serious consequences.

After Googling "email blunders" (which netted 1.5 million results), I have to say that I'm not quite as embarrassed as I was earlier. The following example was a definite stand-out:

"Headmaster Patrick Hazlewood and his school's bursar BarryWorth jointly received an emailed complaint from local pensioner, Mary Kelly, about some misbehavior by their pupils. 'Tell her to get stuffed,' typed Hazlewood, thinking his response was only going to his colleague. Alas, he hit 'ReplyAll.'" (


Now it's your turn. What's the funniest (or most embarrassing) email blunder you've made? (You can even tell me about a techno blunder made by "a friend" if you prefer.)

Have a funny Friday, and a great weekend!

Photo Credit: Salvatore Vuono

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Taking Your Biz to Infinity and Beyond...

Mega-hit "Toy Story 3" is the highest grossing animated film in history, now approaching the $1 billion mark. But did you know that Pixar's treasure trove of full-length animated films (Toy Story 1 & 2, A Bug's Life, Monster's Inc., Finding Nemo, et al) almost didn't get made?

Disney nearly pulled the plug on the first "Toy Story" movie because they thought the storyline stunk. Frantic revisions on the part of the Pixar team turned it into a cultural phenom, and the rest of course, is history. Just something to remember when you're facing the inevitable challenges that go hand in hand with your own business venture.

Photo credit: renjith krishnan's:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Make Your Small Biz Stand Out in a Big Way!

Our neighbors recently chose to replace the existing muddy brown cedar siding on their house with a taupe-colored vinyl. This made it the 2000th house in our neighborhood to be blanketed in one of the following electric colors--cream, ecru, sand, tan, fawn, mushroom, camel, beige or buff. The capacity for mediocrity here is dazzling.

Now don’t get me wrong. I haven’t got it in for earth tones. It’s just that when there’s a whole spectrum of colors from which to choose, why do people deliberately pick one that so clearly defines them as having all the zing of oatmeal?

Because everyone else is doing it, that’s why.

So what does any of this have to do with marketing a small business? Plenty.

Mom was Right. You Really ARE Special.

As a small business owner, you are a far cry from mediocre.

To be a solopreneur requires creativity, courage, vision, endurance, commitment, discipline and a lot of other heavy-duty adjectives that sound like something you’d place in want ad for a super hero.

And because you’re unique, talented and a visionary, shouldn’t your marketing be as well?

But alas, as we all know (despite our mother’s insistence to the contrary) we’re not really geniuses when it comes to EVERYTHING.

And unless the dethroned Prince of Nairobi really has transferred the millions he’s promised into your bank account, you’re probably looking for ways to market your small business on a shoe string.

What Makes Me Think I’m So Smart?

Thirteen years ago I started up my own little business venture doing the only thing I’ve ever really known how to do—write. I’d spent the seventeen years preceding that working for various agencies as a copywriter, pounding out ad copy for catalog companies, educational publishers, and credit card firms.

I know. Exciting stuff.

Then, in 1997, I decided to take control of my own life and embrace the freedom and creative challenge of freelancing on my own.

I switched on my computer, scooched my chair up to my desk…and waited.

[Insert the sound of crickets here.]

Of course, it wasn’t quite that simple. I had to market, e.g. buy ad space, make cold calls (ugh), network, mail out brochures, print up business cards, design a website, yada, yada, yada.

And it STILL wasn’t easy.

Pay Attention! Here Comes the Big Reveal...

What I wish I’d had (and what I should have sought) was a mentor--someone who’d cleared the path and hacked away at the underbrush of business on his or her own already.

Instead, I lumbered ahead on my own. And I learned a ton—from mistakes, from blunders, from embarrassing screw ups, and finally, from successes.

And then I began meeting other solopreneurs. And they started asking me questions: Should I spend money on direct mail? How do I even begin to put up a website? Do cold calls really work? Should I send out a newsletter? How can I get more business? Who invented cheese?

With the exception of that last question, it seems that I've managed to discover some answers. And that’s what brings us here today.

As a fellow solopreneur and small business owner, I want you to know the way and know how to do your own marketing, or at the very least, to be informed enough to know what to expect when you hire someone else to do it for you.

I hope you’ll sound off in the days ahead, tell me what you think, tell me what you want to know, tell me I’m full of crap…I don’t care. Just tell me. Let’s get the marketing portion of your biz up and running…and then let’s watch your business grow.

Questions? Email me at
Want more info on my writing and marketing services? Email me at
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