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 Stephanie Chandler @bizauthor. Stephanie is the author of several books including Own Your Niche: Hype-Free Internet Marketing Tactics to Establish Authority in Your Field and Promote Your Service-Based Business. Stephanie is also founder and CEO of http://AuthorityPublishing.com, a custom publisher of non-fiction books, andhttp://BusinessInfoGuide.com, a directory of resources for entrepreneurs. A frequent speaker at business events and on the radio, she has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, BusinessWeek, Inc.com, and Wired magazine, and she is a blogger for Forbes. Here’s more information on her newest book Own Your Niche http://businessinfoguide.com/own-your-niche/
SmallBizLady: What does it mean to Own Your Niche?
Stephanie Chandler: A lot of business owners make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people or going after a market that is too broad. Life coaches are a great example. This is a wonderful field, but there are a lot of life coaches out there. If you want to stand out, you need to find your niche. Are you a life coach who works with busy moms? Executives? People struggling with relationships? Weight loss? Creativity? Choose your niche and you’ll be better able to connect with your audience.
Now imagine that you want to hire a life coach. You’re a baby boomer and you’re thinking about retirement and life transitioning. Are you going to be more inclined to hire a general life coach or someone who specializes in working with baby boomers?
It’s important to consider your opportunity within a niche market. Whether you’re a financial advisor who specializes in working with people going through divorce or a business consultant for family businesses, choosing a niche can make a dramatic impact on your business.
SmallBizLady: How does someone begin to establish authority in their field?
Stephanie Chandler: Even if you have chosen a niche, you will likely still have some competition. There may be other people who do what you do, but only you have your own unique way of presenting your subject matter–and when you do that, when you bring your own uniqueness and deliver it with authenticity, you stand out from the rest.
So the process starts by understanding what you offer that allows you to stand out. Think about some of the people we see in the media. There are plenty of chefs out there, but Rachel Ray got her start teaching quick and easy cooking. She doesn’t even have any formal chef training and leverages that fact to make her more relatable with her audience. Paula Deen is known for down-home cooking. Curtis Stone is about healthy cooking. Each has a niche (with plenty of competitors), yet they bring their own unique personality which is the foundation for establishing authority in their fields.
So it all starts with knowing what makes you different and capitalizing on that. Everything else is just tactics–stuff we will continue to discuss here.
SmallBizLady: You emphasize target audience and the importance of community. How does that factor into marketing online?
Stephanie Chandler: Your target audience is everything–they are your potential buyers. You need to define who they are, what they do, where they spend their time, and what their wants and needs are. What challenges do they have that you can solve?
So let’s say you’re a consultant whose niche is in working with technology companies. You need to understand who your audience is–it’s not going to be just anyone who works in a tech company, it’s going to be people who make the hiring decisions such as the directors of customer support. Now you need to understand their challenges and how you can help. Next, you need to figure out how to reach them. What forums do they participate in? What magazines do they read? What trade shows do they attend? How can you engage them?
Most importantly, how can you either participate in their existing communities or start one of your own? You might create a website for technology managers, start a group in LinkedIn, host a local group via Meetup.com, or even host your own online conference. A lot of business owners look for ways to capture clients one at a time, but I want to encourage you to think bigger. How can you reach a community of prospects at once?
SmallBizLady: We all want more website traffic. Can you explain search engine optimization in a way that listeners can understand?
Stephanie Chandler: SEO helps tell Google how to find your site. Google uses complex algorithms to determine in what order websites appear in search results. Your goal should be to show up in the top ten results–and it’s not necessarily as hard as you may think. Here are some quick ways to start optimizing your site:
- Identify key words and phrases that your target audience would use to find you, and then assign a key phrase to each page in your site.
- Incorporate that key phrase in the page title, the heading on the page, and within the first paragraph on the page. Also, add the key phrase one or two more times in the text and/or images on the page. Keyword concentration helps Google understand what the page is about so you have a better chance of showing up in search, but be careful not to over-do it. Google could penalize you for keyword “stuffing” so make sure you don’t go overboard.
- Add relevant incoming links (aka backlinks). When a website has lots of other websites linking to it, it tells Google that the site is popular–and therefore Google will give the site higher priority. Look for ways to add links from other sites to yours, especially sites from your industry and high-traffic sites. You can accomplish this by writing articles for sites and including your bio, developing alliances with others, and looking for other opportunities to add your site link in as many places as possible.
- Update your site often. Google gives higher priority to sites that update content frequently, so the more often you add new content, the better your chances of showing up in search. Also keep in mind that new content gives Google more reasons to find you. If you’re a dog trainer and you write an article about dog parks in Denver, there’s a darn good chance your article is going to appear when users search for a related phrase–especially if your site is optimized and you’re adding content frequently.
SmallBizLady: How can blogging benefit a business?
Stephanie Chandler: Well when it comes to search engine optimization, one of the smartest things you can do is add a blog to your website. A blog makes it easy to add new content on a regular basis, and Google will notice that. It’s also a fabulous tool for connecting with your audience.
Your blog also becomes the foundation of your social media strategy. For each new post that you write, you can share it with your social networks and drive traffic back to your site, and then engage with your audience through comments. Plus, your audience will share it with their networks and it all begins to snowball into some fabulous exposure.
SmallBizLady: What is “content marketing” and how can listeners use it to promote their businesses?
Stephanie Chandler: There are many ways to market content online. You can start by writing and distributing articles to websites that reach your target audience–many websites accept article submissions. You can also distribute articles with sites like ezinearticles.com, ideamarketers.com, and scribd.com.
You can also create podcasts and videos for promotion purposes. YouTube in particular is a great place to build an audience. If you search for just about any “how-to” phrase, like how to bake a pie, Google almost always returns a YouTube video in the top ten results. Why not make that your video?
Also consider search engine-optimized press releases, which can give an increase in traffic for a period of time and may even attract some media attention. You can also write guest blog posts for other sites, distribute reports or ebooks for other sites to use as give-aways, or create podcasts and distribute them via iTunes and other outlets. The whole purpose is to distribute content online and attract the attention of your target audience.
SmallBizLady: Can you talk a bit about information products like ebooks, reports, podcasts, etc.? How can business owners use these in their businesses?
Stephanie Chandler: I am a big fan of compiling information products for both marketing purposes and for sale. It starts by giving away a free report or recording or ebook as incentive for people to sign up for your mailing list. Then you can also create products that your target audience wants to buy.
Years ago when my son was diagnosed with food allergies, I searched online for a list of dairy-free and gluten-free foods. I came across a nutritionist’s website where she sold a comprehensive spreadsheet via immediate download and I happy plunked down $25 for the information. This is the kind of thing you can create for your audience–information that solves a problem for them, while earning revenue for you.
SmallBizLady: What about books? Is it beneficial for entrepreneurs to write a book?
Stephanie Chandler: Absolutely! A book is one of the best ways to establish yourself as an authority in your field, dazzle clients, attract media opportunities, get speaking engagements, and so much more. If you’ve been thinking about this, don’t put it off. It’s one of the most powerful things you can do for your business.
SmallBizLady: Are electronic newsletters still relevant for small business?
Stephanie Chandler: Indeed, e-newsletters remain a powerful marketing tool for businesses. The challenge today is to get people to sign up when we’re all so busy and inundated with email. This means that you have to do two things: give incentive to sign up and then deliver dazzling content. If your newsletter doesn’t provide value, arrives too often, or is all about the sale, your subscribers will disappear rapidly. But if you can make it interesting and valuable, that mailing list can be golden.
SmallBizLady: With so much buzz about social media, where should I focus my time–on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?
Stephanie Chandler: If you’re overwhelmed, start with one. Facebook is a good starting point for getting comfortable with social media and learning how it works. Create a personal profile and start connecting with friends and family. Next, create a company page. Facebook is especially powerful for retail businesses and service providers that offer value to their audience, such as interesting blog posts and tips.
Twitter moves at lightning speed, but it’s also a powerful option for building an audience. LinkedIn is ideal for consultants and service-based businesses because users often search for people to hire there. And if you spend time on LinkedIn, be sure to check out the groups because that is where the action really begins to happen and you can easily reach your target audience.
SmallBizLady: Social media is so time-consuming. How do you make it manageable?
Stephanie Chandler: Use tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite to monitor your networks and to pre-schedule some of your posts. You also have to learn how to manage your time. I’ll hop on and check Twitter when I have a few minutes between calls, but then I’m right back out. If you’re really focused, social media can be effective in 30 minutes per day.
SmallBizLady: Given everything we discussed here, what are the top three strategies you suggest our listeners focus on?
Stephanie Chandler: Figure out your niche and what makes you different than your competition. Optimize your site. Have a keyword strategy on each page and start increasing back links. Add a blog to your existing website and start adding content a minimum of two to three times each week.
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
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