Lights, Camera, Action!

Film Strip for VideoI’m going to keep this short this time because I’ve actually got a more in depth article coming out in the next issue of ShelbyvilleToday Magazine. If you’d like to find out more, you’ll just have to wait for that.

The topic though is video. If you have a website, and you haven’t done video yet, you’re missing out. Video increases click rates, time on your site, and even increases the number of closes on online sales.

It’s easy to get into as well. People are not necessarily looking for a polished professional video. A simple webcam can get you into video, and a few hundred dollars can purchase some pretty nice equipment if you’d like to take the next step. Software for post processing the videos is fairly inexpensive as well and can allow you to do “green screen” effects for product videos without paying a big price for professional production.

Be sure and check out the Mar/Apr/May edition of ShelbyvilleToday Magazine for more information. Also check out ShelbyvilleToday’s YouTube Channel and Ustream Channel for some examples of what we’ve done.

Burn Baby Burn!

Flames PhotoSo, are you wondering what to do with the latest batch of phone books you’ve received? I’ve assembled a list of the top 5 ideas to help you make the most of them.

  1. Use them to start fires in your fireplace. The pages burn very well when you tear them out and wad them up. Also great for starting charcoal in a “charcoal chimney” for grilling.
  2. Children can use them as booster seats if you happen to get the Indianapolis books.
  3. Use them as inexpensive wrapping paper.
  4. Wad them up and use them as filler for shipping instead of “packing peanuts”
  5. Use them to polish up your windows after cleaning them. It helps remove any streaks left from cleaning.

Okay, I’m being somewhat facetious here. Advertising in the Yellow pages is not totally out the window, especially in smaller and more rural communities. There is still some validity to advertising in them to reach those that are not fully comfortable with the online world yet.

It is definitely time for you to begin transitioning to more and more online media, however. The sooner you get this started, the more powerful your presence when the printed media becomes totally obsolete. You need to be establishing yourself with a website presence as well as on Google Places, Facebook, Twitter, and online directories. You can get your start by joining the free directory at ShelbyvilleToday.

It’s also very important to understand your target market. If you are marketing toward those 30 and under, it is very likely that your Yellow Pages marketing dollars are being totally wasted. Although I fall outside of that category, I can’t remember the last time I used a Yellow Pages for something other than lighting my grill. I asked my 10 year old son for some creative suggestions on how to use the Yellow Pages, and he said “what’s a Yellow Pages?”.

If you’d like some help getting your presence established in the online world, give Don Current a call at 317-395-3328and I can help get you started.

Helping Your Fellow Man

This tip is something I’ve practiced for a long time. It’s something I do because I believe in doing it, not because of any benefits I get out of it. I have to tell you though, it does return a value as well. What I’m talking about is getting involved with various community services in your area. There’s no doubt that there is at least one that will have a need for something that you have an interest in as well. Get involved in local arts, the senior center, community beautification,  the boys and girls clubs, or a host of other activities.

Your involvement first of all will pay off just in the good feelings it gives to be helping out in your community. You will definitely be appreciated by those you are serving and helping.

You will also make a lot of great community connections. You’ll meet with other business owners who are involved in their community. You’ll be getting your name and face out in the community. You may even get some recognintion in a newsletter or newspaper article about the organization. You’re also likely to gain referrals from those that know of your involvement in the organization.

All of these are great reasons to be involved with community organizations. As I said though, the real payoff comes just from giving something back to the community. There’s definitely something to be said for the satisfaction of a job well done when it’s done for no other reason than the fact that you can and are willing.

Let’s Get Social

Social Media Landscape ChartSo, are you participating in Social Media for your business? It’s a great way to connect and share with potential customers. It’s also very low cost. In most cases, you can start for FREE! All you have to do is go out and sign up for accounts on Twitter, and Facebook, and Google+, and Orkut, and Youtube, and Tumblr, and Google Buzz, and LinkedIn… are you overwhelmed yet? I could keep going.

There are an aweful lot of different places to interact online. The good news however is that there are also tools to help you manage all of these sources. Check out applications such as Hootsuite and Seesmic that allow you to monitor and post to multiple accounts all at one time. Ping.fm is another tool that helps you post to a multitude of accounts with a single click.

If you get into video, there are many places online to share your videos other than just YouTube such as Viddler, Vimeo, and blip.tv. Again, someone has come to the rescue to help you manage all of these. Tubmogul has a resource to help you manage all of those accounts from one place.

Your best course of action is to just jump in and go for it. Create accounts and start checking out what’s going on. You will probably find that your customers prefer certain platforms and you can begin to focus your efforts in those places. These often free tools can help take the complexity out of it and help you to be more effective and efficient.

**Photo courtesy Fred Cavazza

Free Long Distance and More!

Google Voice Logo

- This article was originally published in the August 2011 issue of the ShelbyBizConnect Newsletter

In this day and age, the phone is an indespensible tool in doing business. People expect you to be easily accessible by phone and to promptly return their calls if they can’t speak to you immediately. Google has a free tool that can help you make yourself more easy to access and to help you make decisions about what calls are priority.

Google Voice (GV) was developed a couple of years ago and is now out of Beta and accessible without invitation. Just go to http://www.google.com/voice and create an account. The account has to be associated with a specific email address and a specific phone number. You cannot setup multiple GV accounts with the same email or phone.

One great thing about available you can create a local phone number for any area you choose. Enter the area code you would like a number for, and it will provide you with a list of numbers available for that area code. You can also do searches for specific letter combinations also to see if they are availalble. For instance if you wanted the number to include “available you could type that in, and see if the number that equals those letters is available.

Once you have chosen your number, the fun begins. When you log into your account, you have many options availalble for setting up the account. You can also text right from there.

One of the cool features of Google Voice is the ability to have the phone number ring to any phone you want. You can even have it ring multiple phones at once. There are also lots of options for Voicemail. You can even have it transcribe your voicemails and email them to you. Now, don’t expect it to be perfectly transcribed because it is all automated. You can usually get the gist of the call though so you can decide after reading the email whether it is necessary to follow up immediately or later on. With certain options set, you can even listen to the voicemail right from your Gmail account.

Another option useful if you have a website is the acrosset. You can set this widget up so that someone on your website can click on it and enter their phone number. It will then call their phone number and then your phone number and connect the two of you for free. This allows people accross the country to call you without being charged a dime. You can set the widget up to roll directly into your Voicemail if you don’t want someone in California calling you at midnight in your local time.

There are so many other features available that I can only briefly touch on. You can set up call rules so that certain phone numbers get handled differently than other’s. Unknown numbers can go directly to your voicemail while your best group of friends get their own personalized voicemail greeting.

If you use Gmail for your email account, many options are opened up for you. You can listen to your voicemail right from the transcribed email just by clicking play. You can also make phone calls from your email inbox if you install a small piece of software on your computer. This way you can actually send and receive phone calls right from your computer using a mic and the speakers.

If you have a smart phone, Android, Blackberry, and iPhone all have apps that you can install that allow you to use your Google Voice number from your cell phone. You can then also access the settings for your GV account such as setting what phones ring when the number is called, or even setting it in “Do Not Disturb” mode so that all calls go immediately to Voicemail.

As I said, I am only scratching the surface of what is available with Google Voice. Set up an account and explore the features for yourself. Feel free to contact me at my GV number if you need some help – 317-395-DEBT (3328).

Measure, Adjust, Repeat

Money Measurement Image

Photo courtesy Brooks Elliot

This article was originally published in the July issue of the ShelbyBizConnect newsletter -

Do you track your advertising for effectiveness? The best way of knowing if your advertising dollars are being spent wisely is by tracking it. There are many ways of doing this, especially with all of the new technologies that are available these days.

One of the easiest ways is to put some sort of special offer in the ad. If the customer brings in the coupon or refers to a specific code word in the ad, then you know which ad they saw. Use a different coupon or code word for each ad campaign and advertising source.

Another way is to direct the user to a specific page on your website, then you can look at the statistics for that page and see how many people got to your website from that page. For instance you could direct them to http://mywebsite.com/August_Sale. That page would then show them some specific information about the deal that they could then take action on.

QR codes are another great tracking method. The potential customer snaps a picture of the QR code (similar to a barcode) and their smartphone takes them to a specific website or offer. You can then track how many people used that QR code by checking the stats for it online. You can find out more about QR codes in the Jun/Jul/Aug issue of ShelbyvilleToday magazine by signing up to download it here. Short codes generated at goo.gl are also trackable, so that can be another online method of tracking.

Special phone numbers or extensions are another great tracking method. In each ad, direct the consumer to a different phone number or extension. You’ll know where they saw the ad based on what number they call. You can check out Google Voice to get free additional local phone numbers to do this with.

It’s always best to track your advertising so that you can find out what works best. Advertising is often a large part of business’ budget, so make sure you’re getting the best value for your money. See what kind of creative ways you can come up with to track you advertising dollars.

Blogging for Business

Keyboarding image

Photo courtesy lapideo

This article was originally published in the June issue of the ShelbyBizConnect newsletter -

A great way to promote your business without paying for advertising is through writing articles. You’ve probably heard about blogging and figured it was just for people to talk on and on about their grandkids or to rant about their favorite political issue.

The reality is, it is a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your field. By providing helpful advice to people about your area of expertise, they will begin to see you as the expert in the field and will seek out your assistance when they need your services.

Often times, you can even tell people how to do a job themselves and still get business from it. Sure, some “do-it-yourselfers” will do exactly that, but others will see you are helpful and knowledgeable on the topic. When it comes time for them to get the job done, they’ll call you because they don’t really want to do it themselves.  Let me give you an example so you can see what I mean.

Let’s say you are a window washer. You could write an article all about how to clean up windows that have been etched over time by harsh chemicals. You could detail what materials to use and how you would go about it. Most likely, a busy store owner is not going to have time to do it themselves, but when they see that you seem knowledgeable on the subject, they’ll give you a call to come and take care of their problem for them.

There are other reasons to blog also. When you have a website, you need people to actually find that website. Some of that will come through local advertising and through personal contacts. You also want to show up when people search for services in your area though. Search engines such as Google rate different aspects of a website and determine how high to rank it in the search. One of those items is key words. If you are a plumber, you’re going to want the words plumber, plumbing, etc. to show up lots of times in your website so that Google ranks it high. By writing lots of articles about plumbing, you will accomplish this as well as getting lots of other plumbing related key words into your website.

Another ranking measure that search engines use is the freshness of the content. If your website hasn’t been touched in years, it’s not going to rank very high. If you are regularly writing articles though, your website will constantly be getting new and fresh content which will result in higher search engine rankings.

Writing articles for other websites also will help establish your credibility. Work together with business owners in related businesses and write articles for each other’s websites. Submit articles to the newspaper whether that be a column or an editorial page item. The more areas your name appears around the web, the higher your credibility and your ranking. That’s one of the reasons ShelbyvilleToday.com got started, so don’t forget about that resource for our area as well!

Websites such as Problogger.net and ChrisBrogan.com are great resources to help you learn to blog better. One of the best platforms for blogging is WordPress. You can develop an entire website using WordPress with all of the bells and whistles, and you can publish your articles on it as well.

The best tip though is to just get started. Your skills will grow as you do it more and more. Don’t be afraid to just jump in.

Do You Have A Facebook Page for Business?

Photo courtesy Sean MacEntee

This article was originally published in the May issue of the ShelbyBizConnect newsletter –

Does your business have a Facebook page? “But I’ve already got a website,” you may be saying. Well, that’s good, but you’re missing out on a great way to spread your message. Website’s are not that easy to share among friends. You’ve got to copy the URL and put it in an email, and then decide who in your address book you want to send it to. Too much hassle for most people.

On Facebook, it becomes very easy to share your favorite page though. When you click “Like” it automatically goes on your own page’s stream and friends that are following your activities will see that in their updates. Also, it’s very easy to share a favorite page with other friends through multiple other messaging methods on Facebook.

Facebook’s latest feature automatically creates a link to a person or page when you type their name in your status. This makes it show up in their feed as well as yours. So if I have “Liked” their page, and I type a status update that says, “I just had a great cup ‘o joe at Carl’s Coffee Connection,” then it automatically shows up on their page’s feed and mine.  This means all of my friends see it as well. Then hopefully they’re going to go check out that page, and then click through to the website, and eventually show up at the store. And all of this is with no effort at all on the owner’s part other than creating the page in the first place.

Setting up a page is very easy. Just scroll all the way to the bottom of your Facebook page and click on ‘Create a Page’. From there you’ll just need to answer a few questions about the business and enter the basic information. Now just start telling people about it, and watch the message spread.

If you have any trouble with this, or have any other questions about it, catch me after the meeting and we can talk about it.

Next Meeting – July 13th, 2011

Please invite at least one other person to the event.

What: 

When: 9:30am, Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Who: Business Owners who are in Shelby County or serve Shelby County.

Where: The Shelbyville-Shelby County Public Library Annex Conference  Room. (Old Keifer’s Building) Use the entrance facing the library toward the back of the building.

Why: An informal networking meeting where we each share a specific business challenge or need and then provide each other with  specific connections or assistance to meet that need.  The focus is on connecting with each other to provide solutions that will help our businesses grow in Shelby County and surrounding.

Water and coffee will be provided. Please feel free to bring something to donate to the cause. We’ll be sure and give you proper credit at the meeting, in the newsletter and on the website. Thank you!

Business Counseling for Shelbyville Area Entrepreneurs

Indiana Small Business Development Center LogoShelby County Development CorporationBusiness Counseling for Shelbyville Area EntrepreneursThe Central Indiana Small Business Development Center is offering counseling to business owners and managers on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at the Shelby County Development Corporation office, 16 Public Square, Shelbyville. There is no charge for this service and all counseling is confidential.
If you currently own or manage a small business and are looking for ways to improve and grow your business, or if you have an idea for a business venture and want to know whether to proceed and/or how to get started, you may want to take advantage of this service. You’ll be able to talk with a business counselor who will answer your questions and provide recommendations.
The individual appointments of up to an hour and fifteen minutes will be scheduled from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (start times). Please call the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce at (317) 398-6647 by April 18 to make an appointment. Space is limited and appointments are made on a first-call, first-served basis.
This event is co-sponsored by the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, the Shelby County Development Corporation, and the Central Indiana Small Business Development Center .