Vesta Digital Blog

Archive for November 2010

LinkedInAs social media marketing grows into a tool that is almost mandatory for businesses to use, certain social media sites are getting weeded out and deemed unhelpful. Many people believe that LinkedIn is not that efficient in attracting customers or clients. This isn’t the case; in fact LinkedIn can be a great tool to attract customers as long as you use it the right way.

With over 80 million influential professionals from over 200 countries on LinkedIn, your potential reach is outstanding. Use LinkedIn properly to find anyone from experienced professionals to small business owners to aspiring entrepreneurs.

According to Kristina Jaramillo, a LinkedIn expert who wrote a brief on Focus.com, there are a few reasons why you are not connecting with the amount of people you want on LinkedIn:

Reason #1 – You are waiting for prospects to come to you

Clients who are willing to pay for your products and services will not just fall into your lap. As an entrepreneur you have to make it part of your job to go out and find them. You have to be the one to take charge and find your prospects.

Here are a few ways to easily engage with others on LinkedIn:

  • Update your status message daily.
  • Start a vigorous discussion in various groups that you belong to. This will enable you to prove your expertise in your given area.
  • Answer questions on the Q & A Boards. This will show your experience and help you become a thought leader

Reason #2 -You fail to take advantage of LinkedIn groups

LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups – where you can network, join conversations and show prospects that you have the answers to their problems. Yet, most small business owners and Internet marketers do not actively seek groups that they should belong to.

If they do join groups they make these two mistakes:

  1. They become a member of a group – but they sit there like a lump on the log. How can you expect prospects to come to you if you do not take the time to make yourself heard?
  2. They join groups where there are like members. Let me put it to you this way, do you want to be a member of a group that is full of your competition or do you want to belong to a group that is full of people who could turn out to be your prospects. It sounds pretty obvious to me that you would want to be where your prospects are. But many entrepreneurs fail to think outside the box and strictly join groups based on their field of expertise.

Another way, to take advantage of LinkedIn groups is to create your own group. This is the absolute best way to create your own community of followers. You are the one who is in charge of the type of content that is posted. You can make sure what you have to say is heard and you have the power to control your own group. From my experience, many group members religiously check out what is being discussed in the groups they find the most useful. Why can’t your group be one of them?

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entrepreneur first impressionAs an entrepreneur, it is imperative to retain a good reputation. Making mistakes during a meeting is avoidable. There are techniques you can use to make sure you make a proper first impression every time. It’s as simple as doing an adequate amount of research on the person and the company with whom you are meeting.

Here are a few tips to follow to prepare for any meeting, and make a great first impression:

1. Research who you are meeting

Use the company website to look up any information you can find about the person you are meeting with. Think about basic things you would need to carry on a friendly conversation. Where did the person grow up? How did they start their career? What are their personal interests? What you are looking for is ways to relate to the person. People like people who are like them. It’s very simple, if you can remember someone’s name and some basic facts about them, you already stand out in their mind.

2. Research the company

When you are looking at a company website, avoid scanning. People can always tell when you have simply skimmed through a website and didn’t spend much time there, or focus on the right parts. Know who their featured clients are, read testimonials and comments, read the blogs that the site features. You should know exactly what the company does and why it is different from their competitors. This will not only help your knowledge about their company but will give you conversation topics should you need them.

3. Have a purpose

Make sure you walk into the meeting with clear and indisputable objectives. Have questions that you want answered at the top of your mind. Directness can go a long way in entrepreneurship. You are not using the meeting to flaunt all of the research you’ve done prior, but to accomplish the objectives you had in mind when you scheduled the meeting in the first place.

business newsHow can you make a name for your business? Sure you may have a great product, but your business will never be able to take off if no one knows about it. If you want your business to make headlines and gain the attention of people across the country – you need to bite the bait of media outlets.

If you want the attention of journalists, you need to be very careful. Journalists can be very picky about who and what they publish so use this advice to attract their attention and give them every reason possible to put your business’s name in headlines.

1. What Makes You, You?

The first thing you need to make obvious is what sets you apart from other businesses. Take a pen and paper and write down three attributes that come to your mind that make you unique. What are your selling points? Why should people buy from you and not someone else?

2. Perfect Your Pitch

Your pitch should be concise and to the point. It should be built based upon the three selling points you decided on earlier. Your pitch should stay under 30 seconds (generally 2 sentences). That’s about all you’ll be allowed to gain a journalist’s attention.

3. Be Adaptable

No matter what media outlet you choose to target, they all have different audiences. If you conduct a proper amount of research, you can tailor your pitch and your idea to fit what that audience wants to hear.

4. Have Enough Information

There’s nothing more peevish to a journalist than being forced to dig for more information after taking on your idea, especially with tight deadlines. Be sure to have additional information available in advance. If a journalist does choose to feature your story, have screenshots, videos, or images readily available.

5. Keep Your Submissions Focused

Take a great effort to personalize your submission to the editor you send it to, don’t spam to dozens of editors, choose significant contacts and spend time tailoring your material to those specific people.

find good employeesAs a smaller business owner, you have a clear understanding of how difficult it is to find effective employees. As cautious as you try to be, you always end up with at least one employee that isn’t motivated, doesn’t work to full capacity, or simply doesn’t get it.

In addition, it costs you personally to commit to an employee’s salary and benefits. It’s frankly a waste of money to invest in an employee that doesn’t work to full capacity and it sends a poor message to your customers. The first problems to address are who to hire, when and where to find suitable candidates.

Hiring the right person

The most important aspect of hiring the right person depends on your product. You need a staff that can get the product or service to the market. Generally, high-level executives (like a vice president of marketing or sales) aren’t hired until the company has seen growth.

Also, only hire someone if you absolutely need the help. If you can outsource that position to a free-lancer for example, it would be extremely beneficial to you. If you can intelligently delegate work to the right people, you’re already on your way to having an efficient staff.

Focus on hiring flexible candidates that can function and thrive in a small environment. The best candidate only needs a few instructions and can apply their skills to various areas. Small businesses need these kinds of candidates because there aren’t necessarily set positions and everyone needs to take on a certain amount of work in different areas.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal guide to small business:

“An entrepreneur’s best bet for finding employees usually is networking. Ask for referrals from your friends, industry colleagues and advisers, such as your accountant, attorney, board members and organization members. If one of your advisers or colleagues recommends somebody, they’ve done some of your employee screening work already. Start-ups typically find their first 10 or 15 employees this way.”

Use any resources you can to find the right candidates. Having employees and staff members that add value to your business is crucial for you success as a business owner

business mistakes entrpreneurAlthough there are plenty of stories out there that describe the overnight success stories of several entrepreneurs and small businesses, the likelihood of that is just minute. You need to be able to make the correct choices a long the way – and the way is long.

David Bakke, wrote a great post for Money Crashers about small business mistakes and the reasons why entrepreneurs fail. Listen to the mistakes that I found most helpful from his posts. Read them, study them, and avoid them. If you feel you are weak in any of these areas, fix it immediately because it could cost you your dream of being a successful small business owner.

1. Lack of Focus

I’ve seen a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs fail simply because they were “all over the place” with what they actually wanted to do. They tried so many different businesses in their first few years that they never got anything off the ground. A lot of this needs to be weeded out in your “pre-launch” process. That goes for both internet businesses and brick and mortar businesses. If you know you want to sell things on the Internet, do your research first as to exactly what you want to sell and how you want to sell it. Launching a website and then constantly changing the focus from selling cupcakes to selling screwdrivers to selling women’s lingerie is a sure way to be “finished” before you’ve even started.

2. Veering Away From Your Passion or Talent

You should really stick with what you are good at or what you love to do. Can you be successful being involved in something that you are not great at or feel strongly about? Absolutely, 100%. But, how dedicated are you going to be to that concept in the beginning? How likely are you going to still feel motivated after doing it for six months? How much easier would it be if you had chosen something you are great at or passionate about?

3. Impatience

You’ve got to make sure you do your due diligence and do the proper amount of research before starting. This goes back to my first point on focus. I’ve seen people dive in head first to areas that they knew little to nothing about, and the huge mistakes they made in the beginning were just too costly to overcome. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that mistakes are going to be made along the way, especially in the beginning. Take these mistakes and learn from them. But, you need to be prepared enough so that you can avoid the huge, expensive mistakes that sometimes can sink your idea before it even has a chance to take off.

4. Too Hesitant

As mentioned in the prior section, before you start a new business, even if it is a passion of yours, there needs to be a certain amount of research that goes into it before taking the plunge. You won’t just wake up one day and boom, decide to start a business. This just wouldn’t be smart. There is always going to be a certain amount of risk and uncertainty in any new business that you forge. If you are not willing to assume that risk or simply don’t have the stomach for it, you’ll never succeed. 

social media customer serviceSocial media can give a small business owner control of their branding. With the power to distribute your information on your terms, to the people you target, however often you want, at almost no cost, it’s like having a miniature marketing department right at the tips of your fingers.

Social media can give you as a small business owner much more than just sales leads. You can use the power of social media for various purposes like researching your target market, enhancing your level of customer service, and ultimately defining your brand identity.

The power of research

If you post a question on your Facebook status, chances are, someone is going to answer it. Now, imagine having a Facebook page for your business, say you own a coffee shop, and posting a question like “Do lines in coffee shops drive you crazy? What do you think a coffee shop can do to cut down lines and speed up service? Any ideas?” Just looking at the feedback you get can help you better understand what your consumer base wants, and can give you an idea of what direction you need to take your business in.

Customer service

In addition to learning about the opinions and thoughts of your customers, you can use the power of social media to better serve your customers. Assuming you already have a solid product and effective infrastructure in place, you probably already have some sort of customer service method. However, Facebook can just get you that much closer to your customer.

For example, a customer has ordered one of your custom tee-shirts that you sell, but something came up during the shipment and it’s now on back order. You can just mosey on over to their Facebook page and leave a message saying “your order is on back order and we’ll let you know as soon as we get it, we apologize for the inconvenience.” It’s more intimate than a cookie-cutter email, and your customer now sees that you truly care about their satisfaction. Also, unlike emails, they have the option to message you back – the ultimate intimate feedback you need to improve your services.

Ytrademark businessou have thought long and hard about your company name. Now that you’ve finally come up with one that suits you and your business, you should get it trademarked so that other businesses won’t register under the same name. Getting your small business name trademarked is a pretty simple process.

Many small businesses can even file an application online through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Web site. The whole process can take up to two hours, but you won’t even need help from a lawyer. You should receive a response to your application within about six months after filing.

Searching for trademarks

Before you begin the application process, try out the web site’s Trademark Electronic Search System database to see if the name you chose has been taken by any other company. Protection is granted to the first entity to use a trademark in the geographic region where it operates (it doesn’t matter if the mark is registered or not). If your mark uses a design element, you will need to use a design code to search for it. The web site has a Design Search Code Manual to help you with this process.

Fees and other information

Registering for an online trademark can cost between $275 and $325. You will need to provide very specific information such as:

  • The categories of goods and services you’re using the trademark for
  • Whether or not you have a design element included
  • The date of the trademark’s first use in commerce

For online businesses, avoid registering your name with your web extension (.com or .net) unless you additionally register the domain name by itself. The reason for this is that it makes it very easy for other companies to register the same name simply with a different extension.

Types of Trademarks

There are two possible trademark formats:

  1. Standard character format; or
  2. Stylized or design format.

The standard character format should be used to register words, letters, numbers or any combination of these elements. This format does not make any claim to any particular font style, size, or color, and does not include a design element. If you register for a mark in the standard character format, you will get broad rights for use in any form of presentation of your trademark.

The stylized or design format, on the other hand, is appropriate if you wish to register a mark with a design element and/or words and letters that have a particular stylized appearance that you wish to protect.

The two types of mark formats cannot be mixed in one mark; do not submit a representation of a mark that attempts to combine a standard character format and a stylized or design format.