Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @MaishaWalker. Maisha Walker, is an award-winning 13 year Internet industry veteran and the President of message medium, a New York firm that works exclusively with entrepreneurs and growing businesses to maximize their digital footprint and drive revenue and sales through Internet marketing. For guidance right now, download her popular (and free)Web Site Checklist and Internet Marketing Checklist. She is also the author of Web Site Fundamentals for Entrepreneurs and a columnist with Inc. Magazine.
SmallBizLady: How has the internet changed how we all do business?
Maisha Walker: The Internet has opened doors for entrepreneurs like never before. The clients that I work with in my Web site and Internet marketing consulting business as well as the businesses I speak to and who read my Inc. content all benefit tremendously from having access to more customers, to the
information and tools they need to find and reach those customers, and even
to the resources they need to service those customers – all at an ever
SmallBizLady: What are the top three things every entrepreneur should do on the internet?
Maisha Walker: 1. Research – make sure you leverage the information available to know your current and past market but also to understand where your industry is going and what the coming opportunities will be.
2. Connect – with your customers. Make your brand one that has presence and
meaning in their lives. We help our clients do this through tools like
their Web site, social networks, email marketing. Entrepreneurs can have
both one way communication as well as two way dialogs with customers and
relevant communities. It is so much easier to do that now and we encourage
our clients and students to take advantage of these tools.
3. Build a Network – I strongly encourage my clients and students alike to
find the people who will become their next partner, sponsor, employee,
mentor, mentee. Know that one of the most powerful things you can do to
grow your business is *build relationships.* Get out of thinking that the
world of business is a “quality of product” meritocracy – business is driven
by human relationships. The Internet is an excellent way to find the
relationships you need and begin to cultivate them.
SmallBizLady: How can small business owners best use the internet for
Maisha Walker: How you use the Internet to generate revenue will largely depend on what industry you’re in but definitely do your competitive research. Find out how other businesses in your industry are generating revenue online and do it better. Also think about how you generate revenue offline and how that
can be translated to the Internet.
SmallBizLady: What are your favorite apps for small business owners?
Maisha Walker: HootSuite for managing your social accounts, Google Docs for sharing information effectively with your team and some sort of customer relationship management software – ZoHo, SalesForce etc.
SmallBizLady: Can any business benefit from using social media?
Maisha Walker: Just about any *industry* can benefit from using social media but not necessarily any business. Especially in the start up or small business
world, which marketing campaigns you will see the best results from is
heavily dependent upon your resources including the skills you have
available. Do you have anyone on your team who is a good writer and can
transform your every-day world into compelling social content? Do you have
a strategy to then transform your social success into profit? Having a
simple social presence is great, but you should not invest a lot of time or
money into social marketing without the right skills and a good
understanding of how to profit from it.
SmallBizLady: I still see some small business owners using flash websites? Is that a good thing?
Maisha Walker: Generally no – flash has always been problematic in terms of poor ability to
get flash sites ranked on search engines. It is also generally far more
expensive to build using flash and once built usually impossible for a small
business owner to maintain and update. Now it has been banned from iPad and
iPhone devices and to make matters worse, in spite of the fact that the
purchase of tablets and smartphones are already outpacing computers and
rapidly becoming the future of computing and Web site interaction, Adobe
just announced that it is completely abandoning further developing Flash for
mobile devices altogether
flash-for-mobile-devices/]. We’ve been warning our Web site development
clients and students about the unseen pitfalls of using Flash for years and
now it’s official. The game is basically over for Flash.
SmallBizLady: More than 50% of small business owners still do not have a website. How is this a detriment to their businesses?
Maisha Walker: This depends a lot on what industry you are in and what your competition is. In some industries not having a Web site can seriously hurt your credibility and hurt your ability to compete. If you have a physical location, it also
prevents you from being found when potential customers do a local search.
While there are many other places where you can create an online presence –
Google places and Facebook for example please remember that you do not *own* those spaces, don’t have any control over the interactions, you don’t own
the connections you make there and in theory you can get shut down at Google
or Facebook’s discretion. We are careful to advise our clients to have a
place where you are in complete control of your online brand. Build your
own Web site – even if it’s a simple one. Our pricing is as low as $750 but
even if your budget is almost $0 you can still use a free tool like
Weebly.com or Apple’s iWeb software to build a great starter site. I’ve
even written a book to help you do it yourself: Web Site Fundamentals for
SmallBizLady: Should everyone be blogging?
Maisha Walker: Definitely not. Blogging is an incredibly powerful tool for building a brand, educating people about what your company does and why you do it, and for getting found on search engines and through other sites linking to your blog posts. However blogging is also incredibly time consuming. There are
many, many ways that you can build brand and get found, don’t blog unless
you have at least 2-3 years you can sink into it when you spend a lot of
time with little or no return. I was able to build my blog for Inc. into
the most popular blog on their site in less than a year but note I had a lot
going for me (marketing skills, writing skills, Inc.’s readers, my own
following of clients and students) when I started. I cover the pros and
cons of blogging in my article “To Blog or Not to Blog”
[http://www.inc.com/maisha-walker/2009/09/to-blog-or-not-to-blog.html] it is
a great way to help figure out if it’s the right tool for you and if so, I
go on in other articles to define the best ways to use it and techniques to
build your following.
SmallBizLady: Social media is just one more in a long list of chores every small business owner must too, if you want to engage help, how can you best outsource your social media marketing?
Maisha Walker: Please, please don’t depend entirely on inexperienced interns for your entire social media strategy and execution. Try to find someone who has some demonstrable track record with driving real results through social
media. Speak to other businesses to find out who they’ve used. Find
experts like myself who write about it for well-respected publications –
those publications have often done a large portion of the vetting process
for you. Also if you’re on a tight budget, we’ve made it affordable for
more businesses to work with by having us as the expert create your social
strategy and then working with your own interns or internal staff to execute
SmallBizLady: How can small business owners use google alerts in their business?
Maisha Walker: Google alerts are a great way to keep track of any piece of information you want updates on. Set up alerts on your name and your companies name so you’ll be alerted when anything is published that mentions you. Consider setting up an alert on your major competitors, industry key phrases, potential investors, potential partners. Get creative – it’s free!
SmallBizLady: Other than having a website, what is the once thing every
entrepreneur should have on the internet?
Maisha Walker: Every small business owner should have an email list. A large email list is much harder to build but it is very inexpensive. I also find in working with our clients, that email has much higher conversion rates than social media and other forms of online marketing. That can mean real dollars in your pocket. I write more in depth about the benefits of email marketing in my article “Online Marketing’s Best Kept Secret”
It will take you quite some time to build your email list so start now!
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/S797e
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine recently named her one of the Top 20 women for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works. (Adams Media 2010)