An interview with John Suscovich, the FoodCyclist

As I announced in December, once a month, I’ll be sharing a Featured Author post. Through author interviews, I’ll be uncovering ideas from established authors that will help you learn from those who have gone before. As Jim Stovall pointed out in his book, The Millionaire Map, ”Never accept a map from someone who hasn’t been where you want to go.”

John Suscovich - FoodCyclist and Farm Marketing SolutionsToday’s post features John Suscovich, a resourceful young farmer, husband and father, who has created the perfect blend between “the old ways” (organic and sustainable agriculture) and “the modern world” (using the internet to grow his business and support his family).

John is the Founder and Creative Director of FoodCyclist.com and FarmMarketingSolutions.com. His passion lies in the combination of cutting-edge technology and old-school techniques. This is best exemplified in his marriage of sustainable agriculture and internet marketing. When he is not out weeding, seeding or chasing chickens, he is on the web sharing the  pursuit of his passions.

When John told me about his first eBook,  Stress Free Chicken Tractor Plans, which was released in October 2013, all I could think was “now that’s a niche topic if I ever heard of one!”

Despite what you and I might consider limited appeal for his book, he’s earning enough from this one income source to cover his car payments. For any writer, that’s a great thing to achieve! So, I thought you might enjoy learning about how he’s doing it.

[Read more…]

Determining Your Ideal Audience: Who Can Learn the Most from What You Have to Say?

Today’s guest post is from Amy Kirkegaard is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics, including social media, online reputation management, mobile payments and prominent individuals such as Timothy Broas.

When you have a new product or a service to sell, you need to promote it in order to find potential customers. If buyers don’t know about it, they can’t buy it.

As an author or a speaker, you have an enormous audience in front of you. How you approach this group is important. One size does not fit all. You cannot successfully reach everyone at once.

Photo Source: elevator_prozak

Photo Source: elevator_prozak

Before writing or speaking to an audience, it’s critical that you know as much about them as you can. All audiences are not the same. This means you need to tailor your communication to fit your audience. It’ll require a little extra work, but the rewards will be worth it in the end. The success of your brand depends on it.

Write a short description of the audience you are trying to reach. Examples are young couples looking to save money for retirement, or women across the world looking to learn more about self-defense, or retired schoolteachers looking for inexpensive vacation destinations.

Use the questions below to help you determine your audience. [Read more…]

5 Unique Ways to Get Backlinks to Your Website

Today’s guest post is from Sarah Boisvert, who is an author who writes on a wide range of topics from small business to investing to high technology. She also covers social media and has written profiles of Bill Gates, Steve Wynn, and Chuck Hull.
Spider web image for 5 Unique Ways to Get Backlinks to Your Websites

Backlinks help readers find your website in the tangle of the Web! [Photo credit: Tina Phillips via FreeDigitalPhotos.com]

In this Internet age, websites are key to selling every product and service from books to videos and speaking engagements to webinars. But having a website is just the beginning. To get potential customers to find your specific website in the tangle of the Web requires having a high page rank for your keywords in search engines like Google.

Search algorithms increasingly rely upon backlinks to evaluate content strength. The logic goes that if a website is mentioned with a hyperlink to it on another website, then the content must be valuable to readers.

Knowing this, some webmasters went overboard creating links to hundreds of sites. Many of these backlinks also had no relationship to the subject matter or were connected to sites that bordered on spam.

Google responded to these tactics intended to “fool” the system, of course, and now includes relevance of subject matter in their algorithms. Consequently, backlinks of good quality are essential to driving more traffic to your website.

While it takes a little more effort now to get good backlinks, there are many unique ways to be sure your website stays within Google guidelines. Here are some tips to get you started.

Partner with Smaller Vendors

Large vendors like Amazon have established backlink programs for authors and product suppliers, but don’t ignore the smaller outlets. Get a list from your distributor of stores that carry your books and contact the manager or owner about backlinks. Organizations that hire you to speak are also a good source of backlinks. Of course, you’ll need to reciprocate and link back to these vendors on your website, but that is just good business for everyone.

Befriend Bloggers

Bloggers are always searching for new topics for blog posts. By searching for top bloggers in your subject area, you can build a list of potential websites for backlinks.

Perhaps they could include a book or podcast review, an interview before an upcoming book signing or speech, or a general interest story. This provides an opportunity for the blog to link to your website. As before, you need to be a good member of the online community and reciprocate. You can do something simple like create a page of News and Reviews with links and a brief description.

Twitter logo used in 5 Unique Ways to Get Backlinks to Your Website

Twitter is filled with media writers and bloggers [Image credit: Twitter]

Social Media

Twitter is a great social media platform for finding writers and bloggers who might be interested in reciprocal links. The Twitterverse is full of media types from national, local and international news agencies as well as bloggers covering everything you can imagine. Search for some keywords from your field and create lists of the writers you find.

There are rules of etiquette that accompany being a good member of the community. First, you’ll need to engage with the writers or bloggers, getting to know them in Cyberspace. Once you’ve established credibility and demonstrated that you’re not a spammer, you can ask for a backlink. Most Tweeters who “know” you are happy to comply.

Trade Associations and Other Organizations

Trade associations or other organizations are always happy to promote members. Often they will publish news about individual members or business and corporate members and include a backlink. This is true for every type of group from your local Chamber of Commerce to the national alumni association of your college alma mater. Get to know the membership director or IT specialist to see what kinds of backlinks they can provide.

Don’t Forget Fans or User Groups

It goes without saying that fans are always willing to help out since they are happy customers who want you to succeed. Reach out through your database or blog, but again, you don’t want to be a spammer! Limit the number of requests and, if possible, offer an incentive such as a small gift card or a promotional item.

Working on backlinks has an additional benefit beyond search engine optimization. You’ll be interacting more with the world, and it’s through being visible that good PR opportunities also arise. Following these five tips, you’ll be sure to increase sales of all your products and services through a variety of channels.

Pinterest 101: How to Use the Site for Your Business

Today’s guest post is from Bev Sninchak, a veteran freelance writer with 16 years of experience producing content for both print and online publications. She is interested in business-related podcasts, and writes about many business-related subjects, from online marketing tips to social media strategies. She lives with her husband, kids, and a menagerie of pets in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Social reciprocation - Aleweb Social Marketing

Multiply your client base by social reciprocation

If you thought Pinterest was a leisure site used primarily for pinning cute decorating photos or images of crafts and hobbies, think again. Pinterest can be a powerful site to get exposure for your brand or to gain new clients.

Not sure how to employ this new online promotion strategy? Read further to discover creative ways to use this unique site to revolutionize how you promote your business online.

Keep It Visual

When using Pinterest, keep in mind you are aiming to interact with others on a visual level. While you’ll still need to use text to include product descriptions and prices, be sure to mix things up by using your boards for company-related videos, charts, graphics, and product photographs.

Remember, pins don’t always have to be static, boring photographs. Upload dynamic videos that show your personal brand in an innovative light, using everything from demonstrations of your latest products to a series of micro-interviews with your CEO. If you use case studies as part of your business’s sales strategy, present those case studies as video presentations to demonstrate how using your services can be beneficial and necessary.

Be Creative

Check out how other businesspeople are using Pinterest, and employ some of their successful strategies. Offer snapshots of your personal brand’s culture, mission statement, and philosophy. Create stunning infographs that not only provide integral information about your products and/or services to customers, but do it in a way that pops with color, style, and creativity.

The key is to get your potential customers excited about the merchandise you bring to the global marketplace. The attention span of the average consumer on the internet is mere seconds, so you’ll need to grab would-be clients and hook them quickly if you plan to capture them for future sales.

Get Social

Not only is Pinterest a visual site, it is a social venue as well. Most pins on Pinterest—an estimated 80 percent—are repins of others’ content, so be sure to produce a variety of visual content from which others can choose. If someone repins content from one of your boards, make sure to extend your appreciation to them.

In addition, build connections and open dialogue with possible customers by following their boards, repinning their pins, commenting on their posts, and liking their content as well. To personalize your interactions, employ hashtags as well. Whenever possible, also incorporate SEO keywords.

Stay Connected

If your business is already on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn (and if it’s not, it should be), your next step is to connect all of those social media platforms back to your new Pinterest account. Integration is key; you want to be sure you have connection and a seamless, organic flow between all your promotional resources.

Link your other social media to Pinterest and install the “Pin” button and “Follow Me” buttons to all your other profiles. Add the “Pin” button to your company’s website and blog, also. If you have an online product catalog, make it easy for shoppers to use the “Pin” button to snag images and information about individual products or collections. The rule of thumb should be this: If you want to promote it, make sure visitors can easily Pin it.

To keep abreast of the latest developments on how to effectively use Pinterest for your business, bookmark the Pinterest for Business page and visit it often. Once you get familiar with Pinterest and how you can use it as a resource for your personal brand, you will never look at online marketing and sales promotion the same way again.

How are you using Pinterest for your brand?

2013 – The Year of Social Selling

Today’s post is a guest post from Kurt Shaver, a former VP of Sales turned Social Selling speaker/trainer, and founder of The Sales Foundry.

If you want to guest post on this blog, contact us for our submission guidelines.

Social Selling Boot Camp 2013Often, major shifts in business occur when a confluence of factors combine to change the status quo. Think about the impact that affordable cars and trucks plus the interstate highway system had on the railroads. More recently, consider the impact that the Internet plus mobile devices are making on the newspaper industry. Old-fashioned selling techniques may soon begin to fade away, too, due to the influence of multiple Social Selling factors in 2013.

Consider these factors:

The Rising Awareness of Social Selling: The term Social Selling is yet another spin-off of the Social Media mother ship (i.e. Social Business, Social Enterprise,…). Individual consumers starting embraced social applications 7-8 years ago. As audiences grew, corporate Marketing Departments and Customer Service jumped in a few years ago. Now, corporate Sales Departments are realizing that they cannot manage the bottoms-up social activities of select salespeople. Instead, they are developing top-down social strategies so they can standardize and manage these activities.

Big Changes at LinkedIn: As the 800-lb gorilla of B2B Social Selling, LinkedIn experienced some significant milestones is 2012:

  • 1-year anniversary of IPO (think “cash to innovate”)
  • 185M members and counting
  • Launch of Sales Navigator, a dedicated version for salespeople.
  • Biggest redesign of the Profile format in company history

Taking Center Stage: Thought-leaders started using the term Social Selling about a year ago and a few conferences held break-out session on the topic.  Now dedicated Social Selling conferences and seminars are appearing on the 2013 calendar.  These events combine the proven principles of sales prospecting (rapport/trust/credibility) with new tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, and others. The fact that organizers can draw both attendees and exhibitors is evidence of the growing popularity of Social Selling.

So, as you plan your 2013 goals and strategies, consider how to take advantage of the growing power of Social Selling tools and techniques.

Want to learn the latest Social Selling techniques? Attend a free introductory webinar, “New Ways to Grow Sales with Social Selling,” this Wednesday, January 16, from noon- 1:00 PM ET, or jump right in and  join the Social Selling Boot Camp, a 30-day virtual training program beginning February 7. Save $200 with Coupon Code: 200BCA. See full program information here.

Has Self-Publishing Come of Age?

Many people think of self-publishing as a new phenomenon, being resorted to by frustrated authors who haven’t been able to land a contract with a traditional publisher. However, as I point out in my eBook, autographed paperback, self-publishing is not just for unknown writers and it’s not something new.

Self-publishing is a viable option for many, and presents a variety of new marketing and publishing options that writers didn’t have access to before. While you’ll forgo the advance that traditional publishers may give you, you’ll see a greater share of the royalties. Instead of a 10-15% advance (and potentially nothing more after that), you’ll see an on-going 30-70% of royalties from a self-published book.

But, keep in mind, that as a self-publisher, you are responsible for everything related to the book. That includes, at a minimum, cover design, editing, formatting, layout, proofing, publishing, marketing and publicity.

On December 9, 2012, CBS Sunday Morning ran the following video segment about self-publishing.

Given how accessible self-publishing options are these days, how do you decide which way to go or if you should publish at all?

  1. If you want a traditional publisher, know your reasons why. I was talking about this with a friend recently who reminded me that no one ever makes a purchasing decision for a book based on who published it. So, why do you want to use a traditional publisher? You may have a very good reason, but be clear about what it is.
  2. If you are considering self-publishing, do you have what it takes to manage all the pieces that go into it? In other words, are you up for managing a large project? You’re going to have to coordinate a variety of skill-sets or provide the talent yourself in order to put out a quality book. Self-publishing is more than just writing the book and uploading it to a distribution site. There is an art to cover design that makes a book attractive to a prospective reader. And, once the book is open, you want to ensure that typos and grammatical errors don’t detract from the reader’s experience. Then, there’s ensuring that people even know the book exists. Your friends and family are only going to buy so many copies. So, how else will you get the word out about it?
  3. If you are self-publishing in the hopes of picking up a traditional publisher later, have you worked out a plan that ensures you’ll sell a minimum of 10,000 copies in the first year? The ISBN of a book enables publishers to see the sales history of a book, which they consider as part of their purchasing decisions. If you self-publish and sell only a few copies, you have made your journey to traditional publishing that much more difficult because you have, in essence, proven that you don’t have a viable audience.
  4. Whether self-publishing or going with a traditional publisher, have you spent the necessary time to build your platform (the audience who is aware of you and your work)? Major publishers want to see that you have a ready-made audience. One industry expert shared a few quick gauges she uses for this. Do you have a Klout score of 70 or higher, an available mailing list of 20,000 or more (yours or someone else’s), and at least 20 speaking engagements a year at $5K or more per engagement (or that you are already a celebrity in some other way)? If you don’t have these things, consider them as benchmarks you want to achieve as you build your audience. The bigger the platform you have, the greater success you’ll realize with your self-published material.

The ready availability of self-publishing options is attractive to many, and it’s certainly easier to get your material out there than pursuing a major publisher. But before you take the leap, recognize that self-publishing is a business, not an outlet. It’s not a magic wand to fame and fortune.

Make sure that you have laid out a solid plan to achieve your goals and have the necessary resources of time, money, connections (it doesn’t have to be costly) to implement the plan. If you don’t, you’ll be disappointed with the results.

If you need help getting started with a plan, consider buying a copy of The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books in either .pdf or Kindle format. It will get you pointed in the right direction.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in self-publishing your books?

On the Art of Becoming “Someone” on Twitter

Twitter engagement http://alewebsocial.comA friend asked recently:

My boss is interested in generating interest via twitter. I’ve “searched” his name and character’s name and “followed” people who are tweeting good stuff about him. How do you get people to follow you? How do you become “someone” on twitter? Thanks for any help you can offer.

Do you have similar questions? You’ve created a Twitter account, tweeted a few times, followed some interesting folks, but still haven’t figured out how to gain a following.

The easy answer is “engage them.” But that probably doesn’t really answer your question. “Engage who? And how?” you might ask.

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a fan of real, authentic engagement. So, you won’t find me “buying” followers, auto-responding, etc. While some of the links I share are pre-scheduled, they are created by me. Responses you get, you’re getting from me.

Now, I could sit in my office and wait for people to pass by (in my Twitter feed), and say “hi” as they march along. But that would become redundant and unfulfilling over time. Instead, I proactively strive to be useful to my followers. I go to where they are, rather than waiting passively for them to find me.

I once had a boss whom I loved. He didn’t just have an open door policy… He took it upon himself to take periodic breaks throughout his very long day and “wander among us.” He’d stick his head in at my door and ask how my day was going, if there was anything I needed to move forward on a project, etc. He wasn’t micro-managing. He was showing a genuine interest in me as a person and the work I was doing. As a result, he created a bond of loyalty that’s almost impossible to create in any other way.

So, how does this apply to building a Twitter following? Effectively using social media means applying the best leadership skills available; those that recognize people as individuals with unique interests, needs and skills. It means not only responding to people when you’re spoken to, but being willing to start conversations yourself and join conversations that are in progress already (if you have anything useful to add).

There are tools and techniques I use to make it easier to find those I want to build stronger bonds with, whether they are following me already or not. Here are just a few of them:

  • Participate in Tweetchats that catch your interest. Wouldn’t it be valuable to connect with others who share that interest? If you’re not familiar with Tweetchats, they are conversations that take place on Twitter, often at a specific time, using a given hashtag. (To learn more about hashtags, check out Hashtags Demystified.) Some of my favorites include #LeadChange, #LeadFromWithin, #BookPro, #SocMed and #SlumberParty.
  • Find the tools that work for you in filtering the information firehose that is Twitter. With over 2,000tps (tweets per second) going out on Twitter any given day, there’s just no way to take it all in. There are many tools out there to help you work your way through the fluff to the gems. A few of my favorites are Hootsuite, Bottlenose and InboxQ.
    • Hootsuite allows me to create Twitter streams filtered by those I follow or specific hashtags and keywords I’m interested in, as well as allowing me to post content to my own profiles immediately or on a schedule.
    • Bottlenose allows me to see which conversations my connections are currently engaged in. (It has a really neat sonar interface!)
    • InboxQ allows me to watch for people who are posting questions that I can answer. Thereby, allowing me to engage in conversations that may not even have gotten started yet!
  • Share relevant content with those that follow you. There are a few ways to find good content. You don’t have to create it all yourself. I use paper.li as a great way to curate relevant content from others, Twylah to share my own great content, and the bufferapp browser extension to share what I’m reading.
  • Use Twitter directories both to share about who you are, and to find people you may be interested in getting to know more. Some of the more popular are Twellow, WeFollow and TweetFind.

As you interact with people online that you like, follow them! If they enjoyed the conversation, they may follow you back. Keep in mind, as you strive to “be someone” on Twitter, that to be someone, you have to be real and authentic. Focus on growing relationships rather than making sales. As you do, you’ll find that sales come naturally as a result.

 

What are your favorite methods of growing your Twitter following? Please share them below!

Book Review: The Micro-Script Rules

The Micro-Script RulesI met author Bill Schley at the eMarketing Association’s Power of eMarketing conference in October this year, where we were both presenting. When he found out that I’m a blogger and sometimes do book reviews on my site, he gladly offered me a copy of his book, The Micro-Script Rules, in exchange for a review. The one catch? Well, he signed my copy with “Remember! You must blog or no Santa!”

I had every intention of reading and reviewing the book in November, as I’d originally told Bill. So I must start my review with an apology to the author… It’s Christmas week, and I’m still hoping that Santa will come! So, please accept this review and my apologies; unexpected life events side-tracked me for a time, which caused a backlog on my writing calendar.

That aside, let me tell you the key point of this book.

 It’s not what people hear.

It’s what they repeat…

Having told you that, you may think that there’s no reason to read the book now. Even the author suggests, after the first page, that all you really need to know is that the right 5 words always beats 5,000. He acknowledges that stories are more important to tell than ever, but that you need to know how to tell them in one line or less. That’s pretty much the central topic of the book.

If you already know that and have mastered the art of storytelling in one line or less, there’s no need for you to read the rest of the book. But for those of us who aren’t master storytellers yet, Bill offers the remaining 150+ pages that serve two great purposes. First, they use descriptive text and examples to identify what a micro-script is, how it’s used, and why it’s important. Then, the book goes on to help you develop the micro-scripts you need for your own purposes.

The clarity of the instruction and easy writing style of the author makes it a simple read, but a valuable addition to anyone’s book shelf whether you’re in business, or wanting to attract attention for other reasons. (I can see this being a great resource for teachers!)

So, if you’re looking to improve your storytelling skills in 2012 or to create great micro-scripts, based on your dominant selling idea, that people will want to share, this is the book that will help you to do just that. It’s one that I am definitely happy to have added to my bookshelf.

Following the author’s guidance enabled me to generate a new title my forth-coming eBook that is highly memorable as well as shareable. So, instead of telling my readers to be on the look-out for “How to Launch Your New Book Online” (boring!), I can tell them that they need to pounce on “The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books” as soon as they see it! Which title would you prefer sharing?

5 Tips on How You Can “Warm Your Leads”

There are three types of leads we all deal with in our businesses. Hot leads are those folks who are ready to buy NOW. Warm leads are those who will be ready to buy soon, but aren’t quite there yet, often due to time or money constraints. And Cold leads are those individuals who are never going to buy from you, no matter what you do.

While it’s easy to “cherry pick” the Hot leads (and you should definitely do that), the majority of our business is in converting our Warm leads into Hot leads. So, how do you “warm your leads?”

Here are 5 simple ways to do just that:

  1. Offer prospects relevant, valuable information on a scheduled, recurring basis.
     
  2. Communicate to prospects efficiently, aside from the normal, time-consuming, one-on-one methods.
     
  3. Log all communications between your office and the prospect in an organized fashion.
     
  4. Arm yourself and your sales reps with an arsenal of specific information that can be given to prospects upon request.
     
  5. Track the progress of each lead through the sales pipeline, so you always know where every lead stands.

Some would say that before you start you should filter your list of Warm leads and remove anyone who doesn’t need your product or service or who can’t afford your product or service. While there’s merit to targeting your list, in most cases, you don’t know who your prospect knows and you don’t know what they have in their bank account. Therefore, give your prospect the opportunity to let you know their needs! You can only do this by being in touch with them, getting to know their needs and interests, and building a relationship with them.

To avoid the time-drain that warming leads can create, you must have efficient systems and processes in place that enable you to gauge the interest level of your leads, and make note of when that level shifts. The goal here is to raise the temperature from warm to hot!

Aleweb Social Marketing has solutions for each of these techniques. If you’re interested in converting more of your Warm leads into Hot leads, contact us and we’ll help you get started!