How clean is your online reputation?

How clean is your online reputation?

Our online reputation is something that we should all be monitoring on a regular basis. If you have never checked yours or it’s been a awhile since you checked, the first thing you need to do is an assessment.

Sit down and take a minute to answer the questions below:

  • What do prospects see when they search for you online?
  • Is there information out there about you that could damage your reputation in any way? Are there any pictures on Facebook or Google+ that you wish you’d never agreed to taking?

These are the questions you want to regularly ask yourself to make sure you keep your reputation clean.

To find out exactly what others see when they search for you online, use the techniques below:

Use Google Alerts.

I’ve talked about Google Alerts before because you can use them for lots of reasons. Here you want to create an alert for your name, your company name, and even keywords specific to your business. Once you set up alerts you will receive an e-mail daily or weekly with results (if there are any). This is a great way to monitor if anyone is mentioning you or your business, as well as keep up-to-date with what’s happening in your niche. If you discover someone is talking about you or your company, you can be sure to comment.

Check more than one search engine.

Google may be the most popular search engine but you shouldn’t focus all of your attention in that area. Some people use Bing or Yahoo. Using the keywords you want to rank for, search each engine to find out what others are finding out about you. Do a search for your name and your company name.

Look past the first few pages.

Typically, when we do any type of search online and start reviewing the results, we don’t go past the first 3-4 pages. Search for your business name, product names, your brands, and usernames and dig deeper than you usually would to see what you find. This will give you a clearer picture of what others see when they search as well as let you see the things you’ve posted about yourself that you may want to update or delete. You may find a lot of times that we post about ourselves can be the most damaging to our reputation.

Don’t forget to check social media.

People search social media for information almost as much as search engines, like google. Here you also want to try searching for keywords, your name, company name, product name and more on each social media network. Searching social media on a regular basis is another effective way to keep up with what’s happening in your niche as well as find out if there is any chatter about you and your brand. We all know that social media has become very important when it comes to our reputations. Some employers are even beginning to check applicants social media profiles prior to offering employment. We want to monitor what others say about us, but we also need to be more cognizant of what we’re actually posting about ourselves.

Before consumers spend their cash, they will most likely research the product and company they are buying from (don’t you?). This means you need to make sure your reputation is clean. Delete, bury or update any potentially damaging results.

5 Types of Tools Every Solopreneur Should Master to be Successful

5 Types of Tools Every Solopreneur Should Master to be Successful

As a solopreneur, it’s important that we use our time as efficiently as possible. Times have changed and it’s important to recognize that technology plays a huge role in the success of any business; big or small.

Luckily, this new digital age we’re living in provides a multitude of options to help us simplify our lives as well as run our business smoothly and effectively.

As a result, small business owners are likely to find they have more time to work on projects they have been putting off because they didn’t think they had any more room on their plate.

Master the tools below and learn how today’s technology makes it super simple to share files, communicate and collaborate better with your clients, while also increasing productivity and organization.

Productivity Tools

Those of you who know me know that I really love Evernote. It’s one of my all-time favorite tools for a lot of reasons; one reason being how it works perfectly with other digital tools like IFTTT (stands for ‘if this, then that’) and Zapier (think of Zapier as the older, more sophisticated half-brother of IFTTT).

When you sign up for IFTTT or Zapier, you’ll have access to hundreds of “automation recipes” that you’ll be able to implement right away. This will immediately free up time to work on important projects you’ve been putting off or just give you free time to spend with family and friends.

Have you been trying to spend less time on social media sites like Facebook or Pinterest? Rescue Time may be just what you need. This tool attempts to understand your daily habits so that you can focus and be more productive. Once you download and install the tracker on your computer it will monitor almost everything you do and then provide detailed information based on websites you visited during any particular period of time. One feature I particularly like is the goal setting options for each day. Rescue time lets me know immediately when I reach my goal (example goal: spend a maximum of 2 hours on Facebook daily) or if I miss it. You also have the option to receive a weekly status report via email detailing online activities.

The free plan is packed with features but the pro-plan takes it a step further by offering the ability to block certain sites and the ability to track off-line activity by logging it manually.

One of the most important tools that a solopreneur can use to increase their productivity is an online calendar and appointment system. Most people use the calendars that come pre-installed on their computer systems or a calendar that is widely available such as Google Calendar or Outlook. When it comes to scheduling systems, there are several free or low cost options available for you to choose from. Google calendar use to offer a feature called “Appointments” that gave you the option of publishing your availability and allowing others to schedule time with you. To my knowledge, that feature is no longer available. The best scheduling system will be web based and integrate with your main calendar so that you can easily see your schedule at a glance on any of your devices (cell phone, tablet, etc.). The system should allow you to block out times of availability so that there is no back and forward when trying to schedule a meeting with a client whether online, in person or over the phone.  I chose Time Trade. I’ve been perfectly satisfied with the free plan which is fully automated and also includes a scheduling tab for your Facebook page. When someone requests an appointment, I receive an email with all the details and then I decide to accept or not. There is also a business plan that comes with a few more features.

A few other options include Appointy and Acuity Scheduling, both of which offer free and premium plans to choose from.

17Hats is another great tool I discovered a few months ago. At first, I had a hard time deciding which section to add this tool to, but the more I think about it, I think it’s definitely a productivity tool. Actually, it’s an “all-in-one” business system for entrepreneurs. 17Hats manages the entire client booking process, including sending quotes and invoices, scheduling appointments and managing projects.

Project Management Tools

Every solopreneur, should have a solid strategy in place to keep track of client projects, as well as, monitor your progress toward reaching your goals. For a long time, small-business owners had very few options when it came to project management software. Now that anything and everything can be saved to the cloud, small business owners have lots of great options to choose from. Project management tools will help you keep track of all your projects including client deliverables, important milestones, and documents, as well as keep track of your daily tasks.

Project management software like Basecamp and Teamwork offer extra ‘perks’ like discussion boards, detailed reports, tracking of file uploads and more. These tools make it easy to stay on point with deadlines and keep track of who does what with your project.

Screencasting is not something everyone is familiar with but lately I’ve discovered that it can be a very useful project management tool when used correctly. Basically, a screencast is the recording of your computer screen usually with voice narration. Record formal presentations, tutorials for your client or assistant, walk your client through an idea, or prepare a video status update on your project so that everybody is on the same page.

There are lots of options available to choose from. From the free, easy to use Screencast-o-matic to the fancy, well known Camtasia. Lots of great options in between. The all have their pros and cons, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Social Media and Blogging Tools

There are several tools available to help you manage your blog as well as your social media profiles. This feature is especially useful to solopreneurs who don’t have a marketing department to back them and follow-up with leads.

If you have been reading my blog or you are/were a client of mine, you know I am a die-hard fan of automation tools. I don’t think everything needs to be automated, of course, but I do believe routine social media updates could be scheduled using tools like Buffer, HootSuite or Gremln which would free up more time for you to focus on other critical aspects of your business. You could also outsource this task to a virtual assistant (VA’s) who specializes in social media marketing.

Marketing automation is a type of technology used to automate and measure marketing tasks. Marketing automation is becoming more and more prevalent among email marketing services such as MailChimp or Convert Kit. Automated emails can deliver specific information to your subscriber right when they need it. One way solopreneurs can use this type of automation is when creating eCourses.

Automation can also help you with maintaining your blog. Install the free editorial calendar plug-in and once installed, using the ‘drag n drop’ feature you can easily schedule your blog posts any way you choose and forget about it. The plug-in takes care of the rest.

With the right tools, you can make sure your content always stays in front of your target audience. By installing the free, Revive Old Post plug-in you can create custom schedules for all of your posts. Your posts are continuously recycled so that your older posts stay in the spotlight just as much as your newer ones. Include a personalized hashtag on your posts to make it even easier to track. You have the option to choose time between posts, choose the max number of posts and more. The Pro version of this plug-in offers even more functionality.

In addition to the Revive Old Post plug-in, use your accounts at HootSuite, Gremln and at IFTTT to make it super easy to announce new posts on all your social media profiles simultaneously. If you haven’t signed up for your free IFTTT account, make that your next priority. IFTTT is an amazing tool that deserves its own post. Click here to read my post on using IFTTT. Then hurry on over to get your free account.

File Sharing and Communication Tools

You will need a reliable and secure way to easily share files with your assistant and/or your clients.

You have a few options to choose from, including Drop Box, One Drive, Box or Google Drive. Each of these tools are free and comes with at least 5 gigabytes of free storage “in the cloud”. If you have an Evernote account, you can also share one or more of your notebooks with your assistant, as well clients. Create individual notebooks for each client and easily share the content by sending a simple URL. This process for sharing is pretty similar for any other cloud storage you choose.

You also need a reliable way to communicate with your assistant and clients. There’s no shortage of chat plugins available – Skype, Google Hangouts, Slack, to name a few. I’ve tried several tools and they each have their pros and cons. If you choose to use Google Hangouts for your client meetings, or meetings with your assistant, you will have a few unique options like sharing your screen and interactive content along with a few more bells & whistles. You should experiment with each option to determine what works best for you and your clients.

Outsourcing Tools

I’m all for outsourcing. It’s no longer just for big corporations. Almost any business could probably benefit from outsourcing at one time or another. My advice is to clearly identify your goals and expectations before you decide on a candidate. It’s possible to hire an assistant for as low as $3/per hour. However, some virtual assistants charge as much as $100/per hour or higher. The more ‘specialized’ the duties you need help with, the more you’ll pay. Upwork is a popular site for finding virtual assistants. You can also check out the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA).

Look at it this way: if you need help with simple tasks like internet research or mass mailings – try using the overseas option (cheap). For the more complex tasks, like helping you launch a new product or service, you should definitely consider a VA with specialized experience in that area.

Sometimes a VA isn’t exactly what you need. Maybe you need someone local to handle personal tasks like picking up your dry cleaning from the cleaner or standing in line to get those Beyonce tickets.

There’s an app for that! If you have a smart phone or iPad or anything that connects to the Internet, you can hire someone who can get you what you need. Start off by trying TaskRabbit to find someone locally to handle your ‘chores’.

Some new business owners try to ‘wear all the hats’ in their business in an attempt to save money. Taking that route usually results in disappointment.

I’ve had a several clients who realized in the long run that hiring a VA to handle their email campaigns or a professional to create their website, may not have been a bad idea after all.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

How to Sell Your Products and Services While You Sleep

How to Sell Your Products and Services While You Sleep

As a solopreneur, I’m sure there have been times when you wish you had the support of an entire sales and marketing team who would be able to communicate regularly with your prospects to guide them in making the decision to buy. Solopreneurs are often forced to wear several different “hats” just to keep their business running smoothly, especially when just starting out.  Luckily, there are systems and processes you can put into place to help keep your products and services fresh in your prospects minds. These systems could increase your profits greatly and allow you to do it all hands-free. It just takes a bit of planning on your part.

The most important tool for this task will be a good quality autoresponder. Your email marketing service (MailChimp, aWeber, etc.) can offer you auto responders and help you get them set up. The main function of the autoresponder is to engage your potential customers and clients and draw them into your sales funnel.

The average autoresponder series consists of a minimum of three messages. Add a subscriber box to all pages of your website for best results. Be sure to clearly identify what they will receive in exchange for their precious email address. It could be a subscription to your weekly newsletter or weekly tips on productivity or whatever your specialty is. In addition, you will have better luck obtaining subscribers if you also offer a special incentive for signing up. This could be a free e-book, an eCourse or a simple checklist. There are lots of options for incentives. Just make sure the incentive is something that will be relevant and useful to your subscribers. If you have taken the time to research your target market, you shouldn’t have any problem creating something. When they are added to your subscriber list, the autoresponder series you created will be triggered. Each of the email messages in the series should have a clearly identified call to action (CTA) that pushes them closer and closer to making a purchase from you.

You craft the autoresponder messages once and if done correctly, they could bring in continuous profits even when your business is closed. Both MailChimp and aWeber are well known email marketing providers and both offer reasonably priced autoresponder services with your pro package plans. If you need to outsource this task, you should have no problem finding VA’s who are familiar with either of these services and will be able to help you if needed.

Before you decide how many emails you’d like to include in your series, you need to clearly identify the goal of the series and decide exactly what content you plan to share. As I said above, you could create a 5 to 7 day eCourse by repurposing a few of your most popular blog posts. These posts will provide important information to your subscribers and should be an easy upsell to similar products and services you offer.

Another option that could be incredibly valuable to your subscribers is a compilation of questions you receive most often from visitors. Increase your credibility by identifying questions that are popping up within your social networks that you can respond to. This data could prove to be invaluable and help you tremendously in building a compelling autoresponder series that your subscribers will actually look forward to reading. If you have their attention consistently it may not be long before they’ll make a purchase.

If you use a more sophisticated email marketing platform such as Infusionsoft or Ontraport, for example, you have the option of easily moving subscribers between autoresponder series based on various actions they’ve taken after reading the messages. This way they always receive messages with offers they are truly interested in and nothing more. This feature helps to make email marketing easy and almost completely automated.

 

5 Ways Solopreneurs Can Profit Big Time This Holiday Season

5 Ways Solopreneurs Can Profit Big Time This Holiday Season

The holidays are upon us and even the today’s solopreneur can cash in and with special offers and discounts that will attract new customers and make your current clients love your business even more.

Your potential customers are most likely hitting the Internet pretty hard right now trying to find unique gifts for family and friends. In order to grab their attention, you’ll need to use creative and unique promotion strategies to make your products and services standout. Here are five ways to help you bring in more profit this holiday season, even if your business consists of just you:

Create a special holiday promotions page. Even though the items you will sell on this page may be outrageously inexpensive, you should still go all out when you create it as if you are promoting your most expensive products or services. Install a free plugin like the free Holiday Decorations plugin to add some holiday cheer to your blog. Make the promotions page eye-catching and fun! If you don’t take the time to make it stand out, you may not get the page views and it may not seem worth it to your visitors to check it out.  The folks over at The Modern Entrepreneur have created an awesome advent-style promotions calendar that allows you to easily set up an advent calendar style page in any month with daily offers to grow your email marketing list.

Implement a deadline on the special sale prices and stick to it. Create a feeling of urgency by making the sales “time sensitive”, for example – “this price only available until 5 PM on cyber Monday”. Consider installing a plugin like the Expiring Content plugin . Set up the plugin to activate the promotion at a specific time and automatically end at a specific time. Completely hands free. You could also send a special note to the loyal subscribers you already have with a holiday discount code that’s only active for a limited time. Let them know that the code they are receiving has only been made available to them as loyal subscribers. This will make them feel special and could influence their buying decision.

Make the sales promotions seem too good to be true. Create a special code for your products that make the prices too good to pass up. This will be easy if most of your products are in digital format. You shouldn’t feel as though you are losing money because you’ve spent all the money you plan to spend to create these digital products.

Touch their emotions. Use words they can relate to that describes issues they may be dealing with during this time of year. Let them know you understand how hectic their lives must be right now. If you’re not specifically offering gifts they can purchase for others, consider promoting your products and services as gifts they can purchase for themselves. Is there a way you can offer your product as part of some type of “new year – new you” promotion? This will appeal to their sense of self improvement and the low price will make them feel good about making the purchase.

Connect your holiday promotion to a charity. This time of year lots of folks are looking for nice charity to support. Choose a charity that’s non-political and is widely known to be helpful to others. The better you know your target market, the easier it will be to identify a charity they will be most interested in donating to.

So, a time sensitive, too-good-to-be-true offer that also supports a worthwhile charity could attract serious buyers and customers and help you, the solopreneur, cash in this holiday season.

Which of these tips do you plan to implement this holiday season? Share your comments below.

How to Network Like a Ninja in the New Digital Age

How to Network Like a Ninja in the New Digital Age

I would say I’m 60% introvert and 40% extrovert, but my friends and family would tell you it’s the other way around. For me, these numbers really come into play when it comes to business networking. My “60/40 rating” could be why I have such a hard time initiating conversations with new people when I’m attending business networking events, but once I’ve made contact and learn a few things about them, you’ll want to pay me to stop talking! (..OK, I’m not that bad but close). For a lot of solopreneurs, especially introverts, networking is something that’s dreaded but, unfortunately, very necessary.

The truth is networking is important to build a reputable and well known business. It’s important no matter the type of business you have, the size of your business or how long you’ve owned it.

So why is it so few business owners/professionals have a solid networking strategy in place?

In the “good old days” (before social media and online resumes), we put on our happy face and attended the networking events we were expected to attend. We slapped on our name tag, checked to make sure we had enough business cards and then we’re off. At the end of the event, all we had was a pocket full of business cards from people we already can’t remember.

The good news for introverts is that today’s technology has made business networking more simple and less terrifying. With the right planning and tools, those networking tasks you hate can be easily streamlined and, in some instances, put on autopilot.

Here are my tips for networking in today’s digital world:

  1. The first thing you have to do is set aside time to research who the big wigs and thought leaders are in your niche. Also research 10 possible joint venture (JV) partners and affiliates.
  2. After you have identified your “targets”, use Google or another search engine to find out as much as possible about them, including where they hang out online and what types of things they post most often on their social media profiles. As this step can be very time consuming, you may wish to outsource the task to a VA.
  3. After you’ve done your research, it’s time to make contact. What I like to do is create a simple email template that I use when I send out initial contact requests. The template would need to be personalized for each person, of course, but I find it’s a lot easier when I use the template, rather than creating an entirely new message each time. If you use gmail, take advantage of a free extension like Boomerang to make sure you or your VA follow up with no response targets automatically, after a certain amount of time.
  4. Attending a business conference in the near future? Consider installing the MailChimp Subscribe app. This app makes it super simple to collect email addresses from new contacts, even when you’re not online. The app can be installed on your smartphone or iPad. This could be useful for expos where you have a booth or even during your regular networking sessions.
  5. No matter how you collect the email addresses, you’ll want to have a series of “welcome messages” set up via your autoresponder beforehand. 3 to 5 messages should be sufficient but feel free to send more. Use your own judgement. Make sure any email you send is useful and relevant. Use the welcome messages to provide info on an issue that’s hot within your niche right now leading up to a solution you can provide or over a four-week period, subtly provide info on your services, including webinars, podcasts, etc. The key to building a popular brand is repetition. Meaning the more you communicate with your subscribers, the more familiar you become and more likely they are to trust your recommendations.
  6. The final step – let’s say you’re contacted via email by someone you connected with on Google+ recently. They’re interested in collaborating with you on a project. This would be another step where an email template could be useful. When you respond, thank them and if it sounds like something you’d like to be involved in, tell them how much you are looking forward to learning more about the project.

If you’d like to take the process a step further, include the details on how they can schedule a quick meeting to discuss the project in more detail.  TimeTrade is a free scheduling tool that allows you to embed a calendar showing your availability directly on your website or blog. Your contact views your availability, submits an appointment request and other details, and you receive the request for review and approval. Once approved, the contact receives a confirmation via email and the meeting is automatically added to your calendar. No more going back and forward trying to find just the right time to meet. Your calendar is always up to date.

You won’t be able to implement these changes overnight but once the system is in place, you’ll feel better about networking while also freeing up time to work on other aspects of your business you enjoy more. I will admit that networking is not my favorite, but if done properly, could yield new friends as well as new clients.

 

Share your networking tips! Please leave your comments below.

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