You don't build a house without blueprints. Why would you build your business without a plan. Our strategies consider the audience, the message and the method, to ensure optimal success.

Design is more than visual. A picture may speak a thousand words, but intentional design goes beyond the visual, into the purposeful. We want your design to communicate well beyond the seen.

Conversion rates for sites with video are 64% - 84% more likely to buy your product or service. They are also more likely to decide to engage with your brand once they have experienced your video.

The Power of an Editable QR Code

I wrote about QR codes back in March/April 2011.  So what has changed in a year?  Well for one, we built our own hosted QR code application.  What makes this so special?  This proprietary app has the ability to create editable QR codes, meaning we create the code once, and can redirect it to forward to various URL’s as often as well like.

Why is this an advantage?  Consider this…today I could point the code to a blog post, tomorrow it could land you on a YouTube video, then the next day on your Mobile Website “register to win” contest, then…I think you get the point.

So, why does this matter?  For one, it extends the life of your QR code and any printed materials or websites it resides on.  Second, it permits you to expand some of your marketing programs, and third, make it easier to engage your audience with you brand.

We have created some creative uses for these editable QR codes.  So far they have been created for iPad Nano’s to make them wearable by a retails staff, on shirts, caps, pillows, etc.  Some of the uses have been to run contests, treasure hunts, register to win campaigns and improve the delivery of electronic programs, such as newsletters.

A quick recap on QR codes.  QR stands for Quick Response.  You need a QR code generator (ours creates editable codes as stated above) and a QR code reader *reads the code and transports you to the destination the advertiser intended.  Typically they are put on brochures, business cards, flyers, magazines, product packaging and signs.

See the code embedded in this message and feel free to save it as an image on your computer.  Scan it every so often to see how it lands you in different places.  One code with multiple uses.  Now that progressive.  With tools like this, you will learn how to market naturally.

Raking Improvement for Blogs and Web

Most business owners have a website, a blog, or both.  Some have combined them into one.  We are the latter of this example, where our blog is the website.  If you desire to do business on the web, like many of your clients will, you have to understand page ranking and how things are found on the web.

All search engines, like Google.com, use a variety of methods to determine which pages are displayed high (on the first page, top lines) in their results.  Their exact methods (algorithms) are private, but there are things you can do to improve your overall ranking.  This is often referred to as Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.  Utilize as many of these tips as appropriate to move you up the rankings.  We’ll focus on Google in most of our examples, since it is the number one search engine currently.

Links

One of the biggest factors Google looks at is the linking, or what is referred to as hyperlinks.  Google looks at both links to and from your website when it searches your site.  Google also looks at the words you use in links to help determine the content of your page.  To take full advantage of this, use links within web pages as a way to emphasize keywords.  Instead of using the phrase, “click here to learn more about SEO” you could say: “Read more about SEO” (Search Engine Optimization).

Links from other websites to your website are used to determine PageRank as well.  You can use Google Toolbar to check your current PageRank.  You can improve your PageRank by exchanging text links with other relevant websites.  Banner exchanges are not as effective.  You can also improve your PageRank by making sure your website is listed with important directories.  In other words, check the PageRank of the home page of the directory.

Keywords and Key(word) Phrases

You can focus on one word or a short phrase that best describes your product or service If you were searching for your own website, what keyword phrase would you type into Google for each page?  It may be helpful to get a different perspective.  Ask someone else to read your page and suggest what they think your keyword phrase might be.  .  You may want to read about effective Google searches to see how keyword phrases help with searches.

You can also check Google Trends to see if one phrase is starting to gain popularity.  Try to stick to one subject per page, and stick to one keyword phrase per page.  That doesn’t mean you should write unusual text or odd phrases.  Clear, consistent writing is both easier to search and easier to read.

Density or Repeating Information

Another thing Google looks for when it catalogs pages is the density of the keyword usage.  In other words, how often the keyword occurs on that page.  Use natural phrasing as the rule here.  Don’t try to trick the search engine by repeating the same word over and over or making text “invisible.”  It doesn’t help and, in fact, that behavior may get your website banned.  Provide a strong opening paragraph, since Google may not search beyond the first 200 words for keyword density.

Assigning Names to your Pages

This is such an easy process, but many miss it by a mile.  If you do not specify the names of your pages in settings, they will be given a default name by your system.  WordPress, as an example, will use numbers at the end of your page to assign it a specific location.  For example www.mywebsite.com/page=123.

Most experts agree that keywords in the title have a greater weight than keywords in the body text.  It’s only logical that if a page has a title of “baseball teams” that the page is more about MLB than it is about bats or equipment, even though those words may be mentioned more often in the page.  Google does keep track of titles and index them separately, because you can restrict your searches to Web page titles.  It stands to reason that they index titles separately, because they weigh them separately.

Graphics Need to be Search Friendly

Many home pages use Flash on them.  You may enjoy the techie look and feel, but search engines tend to skip over them.  Even if it does not skip it, the ability to read it is limited.  You can use text links instead of flash.  You can also tag your images so they can be read by the search engines as well as your visitors.

Check all available Directories

Some of these sites may be known to you, but you can go to one place (dmoz.org) and search them all for your site, to verify if you are on the directory.  Sites like AltaVista, AOL, Bing, Delicious, Digg, Gigablast, Lycos, and Yahoo, just to name a few.  If you are not found here, then submit it.  Also, consider specialized directories that may represent your industry, as an example.  Don’t get crazy here, just ensure you are where you are supposed to be.

Good luck.  This is just another way to help you Market Naturally.

7 Traits of Leadership

We just held a week long Leadership Conference here in Arizona.  Six straight days of events, five were noon time short programs.  The last was a four hour application session, where we focused on how to apply these newly learned principles.

We heard from five different voices in as many leadership disciplines.  The schedule was as follows:

Self Leadership – Karen Gridley

Group/Team Leadership – John Elson

Knowledge Leadership – Steve Meisenheimer

Technology Leadership – Cliff Jones

Becoming the Champion in your Business – Frank Agin

I will share what I learned as the weeks after the conference roll by, but today, I feel compelled to list the seven traits of leaders shared by John.  He gleaned these from the myriad of leadership books he has read in his lifetime.  This list is as follows, and is self-explanatory:

  1. Self-motivated
  2. Tenacious, especially as it relates to achievement
  3. Hard working
  4. Organized
  5. Practice obstacle management
  6. Solid decision makers
  7. Good time managers

While they may not master all of these, they practice them with the intent of continual improvement.  As small business owners, we should do the same.  We can’t control those around us, but we can control the one who looks back at us in the mirror.  Improve your leadership skills and you will motivate and inspire those around you to do the same.  An organization can only raise to the level and competence of its leaders.  Don’t be the reason your company fails to grow, but rather, be the catalyst that propels it to new heights.  Market Naturally.

Why Leadership is so Important to your Business

What is lacking in business today?  It is the absence of true leadership.  The vision caster, not the task master.  The cheerleader, not the crowd pleaser.  Too often leaders are known for their intimidation, manipulation and lying.  These  traits breed contempt, not trust.  If we are going to right the wrongs and turn this economy around, we better get this under control and start doing the right thing.  Success in the future depends on people, and in order to achieve success, people depend on leaders.  What we need in all walks of life and all endeavors is leadership.

Robert H. Rosen, in his book, “Leading People,” has identified eight principles of successful leaders.  When integrated together, they form wisdom in action.

  1. Vision: Leaders need to develop the vision for the enterprise and articulate it to the entire organization.  This creates a common purpose with everyone working toward a common goal.  This communication needs to be face-to-face, not videos, publications or large meetings. For front-line employees this means their supervisors, not the CEO or the executive team.
  2. Trust: Without trust, vision becomes an empty slogan.  Asking employees to take risk, be entrepreneurial and give up the known for the unknown requires a strong foundation of trust.   Managers and employees view change differently. Senior managers consistently misjudge the effect of this misunderstanding, and do not understand the effort required to instigate change.  Nordstrom Inc. issues its workers just one instruction: “Use your good judgment in all situations.” For employees to trust their leaders, their leaders must walk the talk.  To talk about change without any visible change in the behavior of the leaders is like shoveling sand against the tide.
  3. Participation: The leader’s challenge is to unleash the intellectual capacity of the organization – getting everyone involved.  That makes each employee responsible for the success or failure of the company.
  4. Learning: Studies show that companies that train workers and give them a stake in the business are more profitable than those who do not. Paying attention to what many analysts term the soft side of business – developing skills in management leadership and interpersonal areas of communication – is the real key to a successful change in management strategy.  Make a decision to become a superior learning organization and apply this knowledge to create real customer value.
  5. Diversity: Today’s leader has a deep appreciation for people’s differences.  His definition goes beyond age, gender and ethnicity, and includes differences in lifestyle, religious beliefs, working habits and personalities.  The best leaders are not threatened by individuality. As a result, people who retain things that are important to them make far more committed employees.  Different people require different forms of leadership. And, what’s the most important thing in diversity? Having a culture of respect.  The leader understands that people who feel equal and respected are likely to deliver superior performance.
  6. Creativity: In today’s fast-paced world, creativity is essential.  The best leaders focus on the strengths of a company’s employees and helps them manage their weaknesses.  The greatest contribution a leader can make to an employee is to help him discover his talents and how those talents relate to the job at hand.  Create the environment for people to experiment, take risks and fulfill their creative potential. The secret is to discover what people do well and ask them to do more of it.
  7. Integrity: Today’s leader is a person of authenticity, honesty and integrity.  He stands for something.  Companies with ethical reputations attract the best employees.  They also attract and retain loyal customers.  Most leaders, I believe, want to be ethical; but in business there is a constant challenge involving conflicts and compromises and doing the right thing isn’t always easy.  So when it comes to ethics, the leader must show people the way.  Leaders never sacrifice their long-term benefit for some immediate short-term gain by compromising their ethics.
  8. Community: Today’s leader does not just measure success in terms of profitability of the enterprise or individual earnings.  He measures his success by what he does for others. Leaders, by caring beyond themselves, find a deeper sense of self-fulfillment and gratification by the contribution they make to their community and the world at large. Leaders and their companies receive incalculable returns by engaging with their communities.

Our nation is starved for true leaders.  Our politicians are not leaders.  I’m not sure they ever were, but if they were, they would be able to make the tough decisions with ease.  Based on what is right, not on what gets them re-elected.  Willing to cast the tough vote, not leave the state and refuse to return until certain demands were met.  Seriously?

Our pastors, priests and religious figures are not true leaders.  If they were there would be less scandals in the church today.  The same applies for schools and teachers.  Those in authority spend more time covering things up, not dealing with the underlying issues.  The easy road is the road most traveled.  And what about our athletes and celebrities?  They are leading in some areas, just look at the divorce rate, drug use and other habits plaguing their industries.

With all this dysfunction, where should we turn for true leaders?  How about the mirror.  Leadership is a choice, not a pedigree.  Leaders are made, not born.  Leaders are people who are not afraid of failure, but rather, they are more afraid not to try.

Want to make a difference in your business and family this year?  Make YOU the difference in your business and family life this year.  Market Naturally.