Category Archives: Business Marketing

What Gmail’s New Unsubscribe Feature Means for Your Email Marketing

It seems that Google is extending its well-known crusade against spam to its popular email platform, Gmail. It all started a little under a year ago with Google’s introduction of the tabbed inbox. One of the most notable (and controversial) aspects of the new setup is that it automatically decides what your most important email is and sends it to the “Primary” tab in your inbox, while simultaneously shunting lower-priority messages (ie those from businesses and marketers) into the “Promotions” tab.

gmailAt the time, many email marketers expressed their dismay at the changes, since it seems the new setup lowers email open rates for those who manage a subscriber list.

Now that acceptance has set in, Google is once again shaking the email marketing world with the introduction of a new Gmail unsubscribe tool. Up until this point, Gmail users had to hunt for an unsubscribe link typically found at the bottom of promotional messages. Now, a new button will appear alongside the subject line of these messages. This means that users don’t have to leave Gmail (or even open the message) in order to unsubscribe from the list.

While it’s easy to see how all of these changes can improve the user experience, does it mean the death knell is being sounded for email marketers?

Far from it.

What it means is that any businesses looking to use email marketing to reach their customers must now consider how valuable and desireable their content and messages really are. Because the truth is if your content is interesting to the people you are trying to target, then they will actively wait and look for your emails. But, it means you need to be putting in the necessary time and the effort to connect with these people and understand their wants and needs. In other words, the relationship part of the customer experience is all the more important now- not just in your email marketing, but in all your promotional efforts.

So, in a way, the changes to Gmail represent a great opportunity for email marketers and the businesses behind them, because it practically forces businesses to look at their customers as people and not just email open rates, click throughs, sales conversions, and other such numbers. And, that is a very profitable proposition.

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Offering Personalized Content on Your Business Website May be a Trend to Watch Out For

As the web continues to evolve and expand, it’s hard to ignore that users are getting pretty used to the idea that their web experience should be tailored to their unique tastes, interests, and even the devices that they are using. After all, ads and search results are based on search history, responsive website designs serve up the best format based on the device of the visitor, and online consumers are offered personalized buying recommendations based on what they and their connections have purchased before. The next logical step is that a website’s content itself should be tailored to the individual.

laptop-workThe truth is this is far from a new concept.

Sites like Amazon.com nail it when it comes to personalizing the customer experience and providing content and product recommendations to match the person’s history and profile. But, Amazon is well, Amazon. They’ve got more than enough money to spend on developing and implementing such a system. What about the average small business with a website?

Enter: dynamic website personalization. Dynamic website personalization (DWP) is the ability to dynamically change the content, messaging and offers displayed to a select visitor based on a set of criteria, such as website behavior, actions, the stage of the buying process, and the person’s interests.

Now Hubspot, the popular inbound marketing platform, is one of the first services to offer DWP functionality for the small business market. Users are able to create what Hubspot calls, “SMART Content” and “SMART Call-to-Actions,” which would further work to dynamically change the content based on a set of criteria.

We’re probably looking at a few years before this becomes the mainstream user experience across the web. “Static” web pages will become a thing of the past as users get more comfortable with the idea that various parties and entities are watching their online behavior and deciding what content and messages they see. Chances are pretty good that users will even come to expect the personalization and customized recommendations.

Whether this is good or bad, this is where the web is heading, and business owners would do well to pay attention to it as it happens.

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December 9, 2013

How to Run a Successful Adwords Campaign for Your Small Business

Anyone who is experienced with Internet marketing knows that with the right approach running a Google AdWords campaign can be an excellent way to drive traffic to a website. But, many advertisers make the mistake of thinking that Google will do all the work for them; they also underestimate the level of ad blindness that Internet users have these days. You see, Google Adwords is not as effective as it used to be.

logoSo, how can you avoid the common mistakes and maximize your Adwords campaigns? Here are 7 key points to keep in mind:

Choose and manage your keywords wisely. This is where a lot of advertisers get off track, and there are several things to consider. First, make sure your keywords are targeted to users who are in a place to conduct the desired action you are looking for, whether you are looking for people ready to buy a product or service you sell, or they are looking for the information you are offering and will sign up with their email addresses to get it. You should also pay attention to negative keywords. AdWords lets advertisers choose those keywords they do not want their ads showing up for. When choosing the keywords you want make sure you also consider broad match, phrase match, or exact match keywords. For example, if you run a small business selling handmade soaps, you probably aren’t interested in showing up for searched like “laundry bar soap” or any soap-related queries that don’t directly relate to what you sell. Finally, make sure the ad copy ad copy matches the keyword you are targeting. The more the text matches the keyword, the more likely people will click on it.

Write ad text that is compelling. Bland or boring ad copy simply won’t do it these days. But this doesn’t mean it has to be sensational, either. Work on crafting simple, relevant, calls-to-action, that are closely connected to the keywords being targeted as well as the desired action you want users to make.

Measure and track conversions. One of the keys to success in online marketing is staying on top of your campaign’s effectiveness. This includes things like reach, click-throughs, and conversions. You need to be constantly collecting data, analyzing it, and using that information to determine where you are making mistakes as well as what you are doing right so you can direct your resources to the strategies that are paying off.

Think about the landing page. Another big mistake that advertisers make with AdWords is not directing customers to a well-crafted and tested product or category page. Instead, they direct anyone who clicks on a ad to their main homepage. This is especially important if you are directing people to an ecommerce site with many products and categories.

Don’t overlook the power of remarketing. If you are already getting a significant amount of targeted traffic to your site, then remarketing is definitely something you should be looking into. Remarketing lets you tag the users who visit your site and then gives you the ability to show relevant follow-up adds as they visit other sites, the goal being to get those people to re-visit your site.

Pay attention to what the competition is doing. Another mistake a lot of advertisers make is not paying attention to the ads their competitors are using. You need to know who is competing with you, what keywords they are using and how, what the ad copy is like, and how they have set up their landing pages. In order to get some of this information, you should check out a site called iSpionage, which will give a lot of useful information about the way your competitors are carrying out their Adwords campaigns.

Have reasonable expectations. As I mentioned at the start of this post, an Adwords campaign will only be successful with an investment of a significant amount of time, effort, and money. You have to do your research, test things out, and have a big enough ad budget to tweak things until you get it right.

Running a successful Adwords campaign is a process, but if you are willing to dedicate enough effort and resources into this process, chances are pretty good you’ll come out winning.

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October 24, 2013

The Tale of the Cheap iPhone and Why It’s So Important to Stick to Your Brand

Ever since the passing of Steve Jobs, two years ago, all eyes have been on Apple waiting to see how the tech company will do without it’s iconic leader. If Apple’s latest product release is any indication, then things don’t bode so well, and it may stand as a shining example of why it is so important to stick consistently to your brand.

iphoneFirst there is the release of the iPhone 5C, or the “cheap” iPhone as some are calling it. (Though, even at $100, it’s still pretty expensive.) The new plasticy-covered phones come in a range of bright (borderline-tacky) colors- which by itself is already a departure from the norm. Apple products are known for their sleek colors and look. It adds to the “cool factor” that have made their products so popular in the first place.

But there’s more… the very idea of a cheap iPhone just sounds off, as much as a cheap Armani watch. The problem is that by offering such a product in the first place, by even allowing the word iPhone to be in the same sentence as Walmart, Radio Shack and just $45, it shows that Apple leadership is willing to move far from their brand in order to satisfy the whims of key analysts and investors.

I don’t know if Apple has been able to achieve its goals of penetrating the lower end of the mobile market. But, according to some recent reports, there’s pretty good indication that demand for the devices may be weaker than expected. Not a good sign.

Then there’s the gold iPhone and iPad. While I can at least hear the argument that this product may uphold the theme of exclusivity and trend-setting that fans of Apple have grown accustomed to, by choosing to deck out their device in gold, they’ve left the realm of hip and are walking dangerously close to flashy and cheesy. That’s my opinion, anyway.

At any rate, this recent product release just doesn’t look like Apple, and that’s a problem. It seems as though Apple’s lost it’s mojo. If the company continues to step away from the carefully crafted identity that has been built over the past decade, if it divests itself of its brand, then it won’t be long before it will start to fade away into tech oblivion.

As a small business owner, don’t ever forget that your brand has a very real value. It’s an asset, even if it may be hard to put a number on it. When you work long and hard to build a certain image, don’t just go and change it, unless you’ve got some really compelling reasons for doing so. The more you stay true to your key competencies instead of trying to be something you’re not, the more you will invest in your business some real staying power, and that’s no tall tale.

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Words That Sell…The Weasel Hears the Hawk

What we say is often less important than the words we use to express what we want to communicate. Saying the wrong thing is easy – we’ve all been there – but how do we say the right thing? Are there words with universal appeal that will help you grow your business? Yes! These are affectionately referred to as weasel words.

 

According to Psychology Today, “Words cannot change reality, but they can change how people perceive reality”. Every astute business owner knows that perception is everything and can make or break a sale. Weasel words are designed to give the appearance of truth without boasting or claiming something you might later cause a lawsuit. They are common in advertising and marketing, where the goal is to attract people (without asking them to think too deeply). A great example is, “leaves dishes virtually spotless.” They don’t promise it will leave your dishes spotless but you are left with the perception that they will be. So what are the words that will convince a customer to put down their hard-earned cash for our service or product?

 

The number one word of all = YOU

Yes, it really is all about you (meaning them – your customers). By personalizing your content with the word, you are creating a relationship with your customer. There is then a certain aura of trust a client gives when they believe that you have their individual interest at heart.

 

Get Excited

You’re introducing/announcing your breakthrough/surprising product and the client is welcome to take advantage of this unique opportunity. It’s recommended by experts and astounding! Not only that, but for a limited time your customer can get this special offer exclusively from your business.

 

Timing is Everything

Discover an amazing opportunity for a new product or service now. Ordering is fast and easy. It’s urgent your clients take advantage and act now before this opportunity passes by.

 

Reassure & Care

You can use these easy words, that are proven and guaranteed to give your clients the reassurance they need. It’s simple. Show them you care about their family, children and health. Studies show/indicate/reveal…

 

It’s All About Saving

Make sure your customers know they will save with the reduced prices, bonus and discounts you offer. You want to help them save their money and offer free samples and gifts for repeat customers. Up to 50%…more than 50%…

 

Now that you’re armed with a basic weasel word vocabulary, act now! As much as we may laugh and mock the ads we see everyday, they do have an influence on us whether we realize it or not. This is especially true as we are exposed to the material more than once. If everywhere you go you see and hear how important it is to have fresh breath it’s only natural to ask yourself if you do. Even if you don’t, chewing gum is recommended by dentists after meals for oral health and to help fight cavities. AND the new breath freshening flavor is sugar free, so why now grab that pack while you’re in line now?

 

By the way, if you have been wondering why they are called weasel words we won’t leave you guessing. Weasels have a rep for being sneaky, clever little creatures. That’s because they eat bird eggs by making a small hole and sucking out the contents, leaving the egg appearing intact. They also excel at getting in and out of a tight spot. All of that is all fine and well until they are spotted by a hawk. If you want your marketing campaigns to succeed, be a weasel.

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Why Do People Spend Money? The Good News

Spending money is a complicated subject in the minds of many Americans. Everywhere on the Internet you’ll find articles by wannabe pop psychologists explaining why people spend the way they do and how they could and should spend less … or differently … or something. Guilt, shame and entitlement are the used watchwords. Poppycock. It’s really quite simple. While the majority of consumers do give in to an occasional bout of retail therapy, only about 5% of the population can be labeled compulsive spenders, according to the Journal of Psychiatry.

Most consumer spending is done for very healthy reasons, such as need, want and investment. When customers receive a high level of perceived value for their spending, their relationship with the retailer or service provider will be enhanced.

Need
John Lennon used to sing “All you need is love.” (Of course he had a fortune worth $800 million.) However, the average Joe or Jane can’t live on love alone but needs to spend money for life’s necessities. Food, clothing and shelter are considered basic needs in Western society, although the quality, amount and price tag attached to these items will vary widely depending on the individual doing the purchasing.

Want
In theory Betty Sue may only need one winter coat, but if she lives in a sophisticated urban area and/or works in the fashion or entertainment industry, she may find herself jonesing for another stylish wrap or two. Many purchases, from an upgrade to the latest smartphone to an exotic vacation, are made due to want, and if there are funds in the household budget for such splurges, “Why not?” tends to be the operative phrase governing such decisions.

Investment
Investment spending means laying out money now to obtain future value. This is the motivation for a wide variety of purchases (and the psychology behind customer loyalty programs) such as:

  • ordering pizza for supper to save time for an important project
  • putting down a large sum for a fine quality sofa which will have a longer lifetime than a less expensive piece
  • paying for a more efficient HVAC system in order to improve quality of life and save on utility bills
  • buying high ticket items like jewelry or real estate as a means of building up wealth – either to use during retirement or to pass on to one’s heirs eventually.

Perceived Value for Money
Whatever the item or service, financial savvy folks are reluctant to spend in ways they see as wasteful or “not worth it.” They are however, ready and willing to lay out hard-earned cash to receive perceived value, goods or services that deliver a real bang for one’s buck. Even the decision about which beverage to start the morning with is made on the basis of perceived value; a pricy designer coffee may give the caffeine addict more pleasure per dollar than the local diner’s brew. And if the barista gets your cappuccino to you in record time with a pleasant smile, that extra service will make the purchase even more satisfying.

 

Canny marketers know that the perception of value determines not only which of two items Carl Consumer will buy, but also his attitude and loyalty toward the seller. (See the 2008 study Perceived value, customer attitude and loyalty in retailing” by Ruiz-Molina and Gil-Saura, published in the Journal of Retail and Leisure Property.) A more germane question for small businesspeople might be “Why Do People Spend Money on Particular Items and at Particular Enterprises?” This will encourage raising the perceived value of products and services, thereby increasing customer satisfaction and retention.

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Seasonal Marketing…Ready for Summer?

When we think of seasonal marketing, we typically think of the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, businesses need customers throughout the year so it’s important to understand how seasons effect your customers and therefore your sales.

It’s important to follow the advice of Business Coach and Think Productive Productivity Ninja Grace Marshall and her friend Carrie Wilkerson that seasonal marketing involves far more than the traditional gift-giving holidays. It also involves the seasons of the year, client anniversaries, causes of particular importance to you and your particular product cycle. They particularly recommend that you think of the seasons as a cycle, rather than dates on a calendar.

Specifically, marketing for summer should be built around the idea that most people associate summer with recreation, vacations and fun. Your summer displays should be built around bright colors and the long hours of daylight and activity that make summer different for other seasons. Stay open later, if you can, to accommodate evening shoppers, and offer discounts for rainy days, when people are likely to change their plans for outdoor activities.

You should put your summer goods on sale at the beginning of summer and promote sales of summer goods together. For example, sell steaks for grilling together or alongside grills, charcoal, lighter fluid, barbeque sauce. You can discount summer goods if people buy them together: buy sunscreen and a swimsuit together and take 10% of both.

It’s important to remember that traditional gift-giving holidays also fall in summer, including graduation and Father’s Day. Some fathers may be thrilled with a book on night fishing for trout and others, with a new rosebush for the gardens they carefully tend, while graduates may be thrilled with some brilliant sheets or towels for their college dorm or apartment.

When preparing for seasonal marketing, work backwards from your known busy times so you can order inventory and printed material. Plan your budget and consider hiring creative freelancers during the off season to help you plan your campaign. Then hire extra staff during the busy season itself. Allbusiness.com recommends that whenever possible, piggyback your marketing campaigns onto each other and continue to advertise on a reduced scale through your slow season so that your brand is in people’s minds when they are ready to buy.

When, exactly, should you begin planning your summer marketing? It depends on what your business and industry. If you own a local deli or grocery store, it probably won’t make sense to advertise summer specials early in the spring, but you should probably be planning your summer advertising. If you are a local winery or bed-and-breakfast, summer campground or resort, many of your customers plan months in advance. They need to know you exist before and while they are planning their vacations, rather than when they are on them. John Alexander, Co-Director of Training at Search Engine Workshops, recommends that your on-line content should be researched and visited by the search robots at least one month before your busy season. He cites a particular case of beginning Halloween promotions for a costume store in July, rather than the traditional September since by September traffic was spiking by 50 to 60% each week. Certainly, once you stop planning for one particular selling season, you should begin planning the next.

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Internet Marketing IS For Every Business… Even Yours

Have you spent a tremendous amount of time, effort, or money (or all of the above) trying to make Internet marketing work for your small business, but have nothing to show for it? Do you look at the web and scratch your head wondering what all the fuss is about? Do you have an “unsexy” business (are you a plumber, an electrician, a tree trimmer, etc) and think that Internet marketing is just not for your kind of company?

If you fit any of these descriptions, then this post is for you.

I know that there is a lot of frustration, confusion, and skepticism floating around among business owners when it comes to all things Internet marketing. At best, you see Internet marketing as a needless distraction, at worst, a bottomless money pit.

I really don’t blame any of you. There are a lot of conflicting messages, changing trends, technology, and platforms to sift through. And, hey, at the end of the day, you’ve got a business to run. Shouldn’t that be your priority?

I hear you.

But realize, you may be making a very big mistake by not including the Internet in the way you market your business and communicate with your customers, and this mistake can be costing you a lot of potential sales.

Why?

Because the way people are making purchasing decisions has changed, and it has really changed for just about any kind of purchase a person could make- whether it’s a product or a service, a big ticket item or a small accessory. 

Are Your Customers are Leading Connected Lives?

Even if you personally don’t spend much time online, it’s hard to deny the increasing prevalence and reliance of the Internet. How many people almost instinctively turn to the Internet for an answer they have simply forgotten, or asked for directions, or gotten a review for a product or service?

But, people aren’t just looking for information or entertainment, they are literally uploading their lives one picture and video at a time. They are also using the web for their sensitive data (think: online banking), their work-related documents and files, and their music collections.

I know all these examples may seem random and unrelated. But that’s my point. It’s the ubiquity that small businesses owners of all stripes cannot afford to ignore. Because most importantly, consumers are using the Internet and relying on their social networks in various ways to decide what to buy, when, and from whom.

You have to be where your customers are so that they can find you. That’s just common sense. It’s Marketing 101. If you don’t make yourself accessible in this medium, at least in the most basic ways, then you can’t expect your connected customers to even know you exist. 

What Are the Essentials In Internet Marketing for a Small Business?

That said, I know that many businesses have looked into Internet marketing but then walked away either because they couldn’t “figure it out,” and/or they couldn’t afford to pay people to help them with their campaigns. So, I’m going to go through the most basic elements that any small business will need for their online marketing:

1. Local Search. If you run a brick and mortar business, make sure you are listed with the local online search directories and that the information listed there is accurate and current. Here’s a post with some good local search resources. Just make sure that your local search includes a Google+ account.

2. Put Up a Decent Website. I’m not going to go into the essential elements of a good business website. Here’s a post that does a pretty good job with that. Just, please realize that in almost every case, you do need your own site (it really doesn’t cost a lot of money to set up and maintain. We’re talking about $50 to $60 a year). Try to stay away from the free website services. It just makes your business look cheap. Also, don’t rely on social networking platforms, such as Facebook and Google+, to be your blog. If you do something they don’t like or if they make a major platform change, you could end up loosing everything.

3. Pick ONE or TWO Social Media Platforms. Don’t buy into the hype surrounding all the social media platforms out there. You really don’t have to be on all of them or even several of them. BUT, you should pick one or two places where you feel comfortable AND where you can likely reach your customers. Don’t just jump into a platform, either. Take some time to look around and figure out what will be the most appropriate for you and your business, and  start building up a following.

I know that this is a very short list. I’ve left out things like content marketing, other forms of online advertising, such as PPC, email marketing or building up an engaged subscriber list. But, before you can even get to these things the three elements mentioned above have to be in place. You can, and in many cases, should expand your Internet marketing strategies beyond these three areas. They are initial stepping stones to give you some foundation as you branch out. Internet marketing is for every business, but you have to approach it correctly to get the results.

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Facebook Advertising or Google AdWords: Do You Know Which One is Better for Your Business?

As you go about allocating your online marketing dollars, you may wonder at some point if you should be pouring money into a Google AdWords campaign, or trying your luck with Facebook advertising. Though Facebook gets a lot of negative press- especially among smaller businesses looking for ROI on their Facebook presence- there are plenty of signals that the social network is aiming to be a significant player in the online marketing space. In short, you may not want to pass over it so quickly. So, if your marketing budget is tight where should you focus your funds and your efforts? The answer is that it really depends on the setup and goals of your business.

While AdWords is better for targeting people and receiving click-throughs, the whole idea behind Facebook marketing is actually participating in the social experience and building a recognizable brand. In fact, the two networks fulfill two very different goals. Both Adwords and Facebook give advertisers the ability to target their ads to a specific geographic location and include other variables, such as demographic data. But, that is where the similarities end.

If your main goal is to get your ads in front of online users who may already be looking for the kinds of products you offer, or something related, then Google AdWords is your best option. AdWords ads are targeted to people online based on data that’s been collected from their online profile, searches, and browsing history- details that speak volumes about their interests. Moreover, if someone has visited your website before, you can create ads to target those people as they browse through other, similar websites- a process known as “retargeting.”

With Adwords, when people are looking for specific solutions and/or specific information online, your job is meet that demand by bidding on the right keywords, creating compelling ad copy, and setting up an effective landing page.

With Facebook, on the other hand, the data provided in members’ profiles and activity across the network is used to help target ads. Over the past year or so, Facebook has been introducing a series of easy-to-use apps and features, such as Promoted Posts, Sponsored Stories, analytics capabilities, and hyper targeting that can greatly enhance a small business’ marketing return. Another attractive benefit to using Facebook advertising is that it’s a lot lighter on the budget since most of the marketing can be handled organically- you just have to factor in the added time to engage with others on the platform.

If you are primarily looking to increase your brand awareness and online visibility, Facebook may be the way to go. Brand awareness is built by establishing lasting relationships, and one of the best places to do this is in social networks like Facebook.

So the bottom line here is: If you’re selling a specific product or service that enough people are searching for online and you are looking to simply pay some money for advertising and essentially walk away from it, then Google may be for you. On the other hand, if you want to expand your branding efforts and build relationships with your customers, then Facebook may actually beat out Google as your platform of choice.

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Should You Bring Multiple Authors into Your Business Blog?

If your online business marketing strategy includes a business blog, then you may want to consider bringing in multiple authors for your content. Now, here I’m not talking about having the occasional guest poster, though there are definitely many benefits to such a setup. What I’m referring to is a team of writers, who may or may not be directly affiliated with your business, but they possess some expertise or knowledge that compliments your content production. They may offer multiple posts and even become regular contributors.

I recently came across this video at Social Media Examiner that describes several aspects of running a multi-author blog. It’s definitely a model of contant creation and management that some small business owners should consider.

Perhaps you don’t see the need for multiple authorship, or you may be reluctant to give away a part of your platform so that others can come and take away the spotlight. But if your business relies heavily on your online branding and marketing efforts, then you may want to think again. There are many benefits to running a multi-author blog:

  • Writers will be more invested in your site (and your business) and will readily share content with their own followers and circles to both promote your business and their contributions.
  • Having multiple authors creates a greater sense of community. They and their followers will be more invested in your site. There’s a sense of ownership because they have contributed towards it. This means not only more social sharing, but also more visits and quality commenting.
  • Multi author blogs also come with some serious SEO benefits. If you have an active, contributing community then it ensures that your website is constantly being refreshed. These days, any known expert in search engine optimization will tell you that constantly producing quality, fresh content will give your website a leg up in the search results.
  • By bringing in other writers it means you will be able to offer your readers and customers insight and expertise that you may be lacking. Outside writers also bring a different writing style and perspective which can give your content some balance and freshness.
  • You will also have more time to run your business. Aside from having to look over posts that have been submitted for review, most of the process of having contributing authors upload content can be automated. With blogging platforms, such as WordPress, setting up a multi-author blog is relatively secure and easy to set-up and manage. Even an initial, automated screening process can be put in place.

In short, there are many compelling reasons to consider opening up your business blog to outside authors. If it is not something that would benefit your particular site, then consider hosting a forum or encouraging comments from your readers. Either way, your goal is to build an engaged community who will also be engaged with your business.

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