Seven Ways to Nurture Existing Customers to Increase Sales

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ne of the most important assets you have is your current customers. It’s much less expensive to keep your current customers and turn them into repeat customers than it is to go out and find more customers. This is not to say you should not keep marketing to find new customers, but you should do all you can to nurture the existing relationship you have with current customers in order to increase sales. Here are seven ways to achieve that.

  • Offer Early Bird Sales on New Products – When you know that you’re planning the release of a new product, tease your current customers along the way about the launch. Then finally boost sales of the new product by offering early bird sales opportunities to the customers you already have.
  • Keep in Contact with Your Customers – Even if you aren’t planning a new product launch for some undetermined time, it is important to keep in touch with your current customers by sending them links to interesting products you’ve discovered that other people have developed, or articles that you think they might find interesting.
  • Follow Up with Customers Often – Once a customer buys something from you, it’s imperative that you follow up and ask them how they are enjoying their purchase. Do this after allowing enough time for them to try the product or see the results of the product. Use the feedback you get from your questions to make your next product better.
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    Thank Your Customers – Never pass up an opportunity to think your customer and surprise them with unannounced bonuses. These types of bonuses will encourage future purchases because people love feeling as if they got more than they paid for.
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    Invite Current Customers to Special Events – If you are planning a special event that would be appropriate for current customers, never fail to invite them personally to the event. Whether it’s in person or online, they’ll appreciate the gesture and remember you for it.
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    Make Customer Service a Priority – Never skimp on good customer service. Implement a good ticketing system with deadlines on how quickly someone will get back to the customer, whether they have a problem or a compliment.
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    Invite Current Customers to Private Groups – A great way to thank your satisfied customers for their business is to invite them to a private Facebook group or message board for customers only. These people will be invaluable to you moving forward to create new products and services.

Your current customers are far more important to help maintain a long-term business than you may initially think. They can become your biggest fans, recommending your products and services to others. And if you please them, they will become repeat, long-term customers that will stick by you for years.

Five Tips for Creating a Positive First Impression

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hether you work from home or work in an office, sometimes you have to conquer the dreaded business meeting. The best way to do well at any business meeting or event is to focus on creating a positive first impression.

Research the Audience

Every meeting usually has a specific audience that will go to that meeting. If it’s a more universal type meeting, research the people that you want to connect with. Know some facts about them and how they got their start. They’ll be impressed that you took the time to get to know them before meeting them.

Dress Appropriately

Find out what type of clothing people will be wearing to the meeting or event. The more you can fit in due to your mode of dress, the more people will remember you in a positive way. Dress for the position you want is a good refrain, but be careful about the “power” suit or appearing too high above your audience because you want them to remember you, not fear you.

Be First

When it comes time to introduce yourself, the person who puts their hand out first and states their name and gives their 30-second introduction is the person who holds the power in the meeting. You should also be first to introduce the person you just met to others as they approach. This makes you seem very important and people will remember you more due to your kindness.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Most people are a little nervous at events or meetings but if you ask each person you meet open-ended questions about themselves and their business, they will be put at ease. And oddly, the more people get to talk about themselves, the more they will remember you. An open-ended question is one that must be answered with a sentence instead of a yes or no answer.

Listen Actively

As you meet people and ask those questions, truly listen for their answers. Repeat back to them their name and the things they say in your own words, then ask them good follow-up questions. This will make you seem like the most interesting person at the meeting or event because you are actually listening. And as you repeat things back to the person you’re conversing with, it will also help you remember more about each person that you connect with.

One final way to create a positive first impression is by what happens after the meeting. Always follow up with those whom you met. Use the information on the business cards you collected, or find them online, and connect with them in a new way. Send them a thank you card, or cut out an article and send it to them, or find a creative way to connect with them outside of the meeting. This will make you a truly memorable connection for them.

Can Hiring a Business Coach Really Make a Difference?

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hether you’re just starting a business or you’re well into your venture, the idea of hiring a business coach may have come to mind. But you may be wondering if a business coach can really make a difference for you. To answer this question, you need to understand what a business coach does, and how to choose the right one for you.

Business coaching provides a way to interact with a professional who has your best interests at heart and can help you be more effective building your business and balancing your life and your business. Business coaches are a good mixture of accountability partner, sounding board, cheerleader and even emotional support. The business coach specializes in ensuring that all aspects of your life work together with the ultimate focus on ensuring that your business works.

Even the process of hiring a coach can be beneficial to your business. The coach will want to assess where you are right now with your business and find out where you want to go. An effective business coach will help you determine not just the direction you want your business to go, but will also identity actionable steps to take to achieve the goals you and your coach set.

  • Accountability – Checking in with someone else on a regular basis to tell them and show them what you’ve accomplished since the last meeting will give you someone besides yourself to be accountable to. For many people this helps them act in their own best interests and not put off anything, since most people don’t want to disappoint others.
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    Sounding Board – Talking plans and proposals out with a third party who is also well versed in your type of business will help solidify each plan you make so that you’re not going down the wrong roads to start with.
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    Cheerleader – Running a business is hard and some business coaches make excellent support systems and cheerleaders. In this way, you not only have a good plan of action to make your dreams come true but also someone to share your success with who has your best interests at heart.
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    Emotional Support - Many business coaches understand how home life can affect your business life. They can often help you deal with your family and friends when it comes to pushing your business forward.

If you need help identifying holes in your business plan, ways to fill the gaps, and how to create an actionable plan to push your business forward, then a business coach can definitely make a difference. The trick is finding the right business coach for your particular business.

In order to find the right coach for you that fits your business type and personality, ask the right questions of any potential coach. Plus, ask others for referrals before hiring any business coach. Finally, buy some of the coach’s products and services and try working on a short-term project with them first. This can help you ensure that they are the right coach to push your business to the next level.

How to Analyze the Supply and Demand of a Niche

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s a small business owner it is imperative that you study the supply and demand of any particular niche for which you feel you want to be involved. In addition, choosing a smaller niche market can allow your business to avoid competing with huge businesses that can afford to put out less expensive items.

As a smaller business owner you can charge higher prices for specialized and differentiated products or services that you promote to smaller audiences, giving higher profitability. In contrast, a larger business isn’t going to touch the smaller niches because they want to make much larger profits than the smaller niches will allow.

The trick is to learn how to analyze the supply and demand of any particular niche to ensure that you want to enter that market.

  • Define Your Customers - How many customers are there to whom you can market any particular product or service? Knowing how many there are can give you a good idea about what the price point of the product needs to be in order to make it worth your while. Remember, you’re never going to reach every last potential customer so adjust your expectations accordingly.
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    Determine Their Needs – As you look at the customers you want to work with, it’s important that you develop an understanding of their needs so that you can create products or services that are special, differentiated, and that they’re going to be willing to pay a higher premium for than mass-produced products and services that are lower quality.
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    Provide the Right Products or Services – Knowing the customers and their needs will help you get down to work identifying several potential product ideas that you can do more research on by using keyword research, polling of the audience, and other methods to determine the supply and demand of products like yours.
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    Outline a Marketing Plan – Once you’ve figured out the product or service you want to market, you’ll be able to determine marketing strategies and tactics that will help you earn the most from your small niche. Part of profitability is to know how you can market efficiently to your customer.
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    Make a Profit – Finally, doing the research will help you determine if you can make profit. Take the number of people in the market, the average market penetration and your price point, and you can come up with the most likely number of products you’d have to sell each month, week and day to reach your goals.

In order to make all this work together it’s important to:

  • Choose Keywords – Keyword research is somewhat subjective and starts with an understanding of your audience and a few words that you think they’ll use. You can also use tools to help you do keyword research.
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    Research Other Products – Find products that claim to be answers to your audience’s issues and check them out to find out how you can differentiate yours enough to charge the price point you need.
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    Identify the Price Point – Using the information gathered, come up with a price point that works for you.
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    Determine Your Break Even Number – Using all that information, come up with how many products you’d need to sell to make the profit you need to make, and whether it’s even possible considering all the other factors.

Bringing all these points together will ensure that you understand how supply and demand relates to the profitability of your niche. If there aren’t enough customers, or enough demand, and you can’t sell at a price point that fits with your income needs, you can then know it’s time to move on to another idea.

How to Become a Master Delegator

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elegation is an important skill for any business owner to master, but it’s especially important for small business owners who have very little time and extra money to devote to bottlenecks, accidental duplication of efforts, and missed deadlines.

If you learn to delegate well, you’ll have more time to devote your energy to more important tasks, provide employment for another person, and (since it’s likely someone else can do the tasks better than you) make yourself look even more amazing due to the good choices you make.

Identify Blocks to Delegation

One of the first things to do is figure out what causes you to be fearful of delegation. Usually the reasons have to do with perfectionism, self-protection, lack of a workable system in place and being unsure of which tasks to delegate.

Set Up a Fail-Safe System

Before you even start delegating, it’s important to set up a system of some sort - like Basecamp or another online project management system. Keep in mind some of the people you outsource to may have their own system which you can use. This is especially true of online business managers or project managers.

Streamline Your Processes

Go through the processes you use to do the tasks now, and write them down so that you can figure out how to streamline the processes. However, do keep in mind that contractors are mostly concerned with deliverables, so this process is more for your benefit to find out what types of things you can delegate. An example would be repetitive tasks like email management.

Hire the Right People for the Job

When you know what tasks you want to outsource, it’s important to find the right people for the job or task. To get the most bang for your buck, choose someone to do it who likes doing it, wants to do it, and considers it their expertise. In other words, don’t expect to hire someone who can do everything perfectly. Hire several people to do one or two things each perfectly.

Give Clear Instructions

Provide the contractor with the requirements, deadlines, scope of authority, purpose, goals and objectives, potential problems, and tools available to them (if any are needed such as passwords and sign-on information).

Ask for Feedback

Open up the communication by asking the contractor if they have any questions based on your instructions. That way they won’t be worried about asking anything even if it’s "stupid." The worst thing you can do is criticize a contractor for asking a question. And of course, you need to get back to them quickly with your answers.

Focus on Deliverables

In many cases, contractors want you to focus more on deadlines and deliverables than too many details. How they get something done should not be as important as the result of what they got done.

Give Constructive Feedback

As often as is practicable give feedback to your contractors. This is especially true if you would like something done differently than what they turned in but you still want to keep working with the person. Give the feedback by giving compliments on what is good, then what could be better, and finally something good again to help build up the confidence of the contractor.

Allow for Mistakes

The fact is, no one is perfect and contractors will sometimes misunderstand directions. As long as something isn’t blatant such as constant missed deadlines, poor quality of work and so forth, sometimes people make mistakes. If your contractors are afraid of making mistakes, sometimes it will stifle their creativity. So be open to new ideas and potential mistakes, while also being clear on your expectations.

Finally, the best way to become a master delegator is to let go and just do it. Start with something small such as outsourcing your email customer service, eBook writing, report writing, blog post writing, article writing, social media marketing, and graphic design for projects. Write a list of everything that needs to be done to launch one of your products and try to outsource as much of as you can to see how it comes together. The more you do it, the more you’ll want to do it.

How to Write Your Business Vision

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very business needs a vision. A vision is like the big daydream you have in the middle of the afternoon after paying all your bills. It’s about sitting on the balcony of your beach-side resort room watching the sunset while working from your laptop. It’s the fanciful but possible potential of your business dreams. It’s not going to happen today, but if you reach for the stars, and work toward it, it could happen.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your USP? – This is about your products and services now.
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    What is in your mission statement? – This is about what you will do for your customers, how and why.
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    What is your five-year vision – Where you will be, and how you’ll get there.

Use this information to figure out where you’ll be in five years from now or ten years from now. That is your business vision.

Example:

Acme VA Services will be the top grossing, premier virtual administrative providers in North America by providing reliable, consistent and knowledgeable administrative and author services to six-figure e-book authors.

Once you write a business vision, use it to take action, create a strategy, and formulate tactics to actually reach your vision. Use the vision to motivate yourself, employees and contractors. You know how they say to dress for the part you want? Well, it’s the same with your business vision. If you have the vision to be the top-selling Kindle e-book seller, then you need to act like you already are and do the things it takes to make it a reality.

Maybe money isn’t the most important thing to you. Maybe something else is important to you. If that’s the case, this should show up in your business vision as well. What’s right for one business might not be right for another. Perhaps you want to be able to donate millions of dollars to charity by giving away 10 percent of your profit each year. If that’s the case, and your dream, write it down.

Your vision can include dreams about:

  • Finances – This could be about supporting yourself, your family, retirement or supporting employees, contractors, or a community.
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    Reputation – This might be about the business’s reputation with customers, employees, contractors and other interested parties.
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    Quality – Your vision could be to provide the best of whatever it is that you make.
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    Value – You want to give your customers valuable information, products and services.
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    Growth – You may plan to double your business in two years, quadruple in five and so forth.
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    Passion – You show your customers how much you and your employees (contractors) love doing what it is that you do.
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    Charity – You want to be able to donate to and help charities.
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    Sustainability – You care about environmental issues or other long-term issues.
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    Service Oriented – You care about doing service for others.
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    Community Minded – You want to help your community, be it local or within your industry.

You can include any number of other issues that you find important within your business vision. Not everyone is in business only to make money. After all, this is about a vision that you have and it’s personal to you about your path in the world and with your business.

How to Stop Overcomplicating Things and Letting Your Assistant Handle It

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any business owners have a really hard time letting their assistant handle various tasks. This is because many business owners have the feeling that if they let their assistant do things they will lose control. Additionally, they feel like no one can do “it,” whatever “it” is, as well as they can. But, most of the time the truth is if you’ve hired the right assistant they can do it as well as or even better than you can if you let them.

  • Define the Tasks – Be clear about the tasks that you want done and the results you expect up front so that your assistant doesn’t have to ask you too many questions throughout each day. They need to be able to make some decisions on their own or else there is no point in having an assistant.
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    Focus on Deliverables – Instead of worrying about the process and how someone does something, create checklists based off deliverables for every project that you’re involved in so that you can provide some guidance without micromanaging.
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    Hire the Right Assistant – Interview assistants based the type of projects you do so that you will know up front what you want them to do. That will help you hire people with the right expertise so you’ll feel confident turning over things to your assistant.
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    Use a Project Management System – There are many different project management systems such as Basecamp.com, Asana.com and others. It’s imperative that you and your assistant use something like that and not rely on email to keep track of the things that are to be done each day, week and month.
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    Set Milestones and Deadlines – Within the project management system and in concert with your assistant, set milestones and deadlines based on the expectations of what you want them to do. If you turn over work to your assistant that they automatically do each month without too much input for you, so much the better.
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    Check in Regularly – You don’t want to bother each other too often but you can check in for five minutes each morning or once a week; whatever works for you. It will make you feel better and make your assistant more confident to have regular contact with you so that they know what is going on.
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    Provide Adequate Support – Whether it’s a budget to work with, or access to software that makes their job easier, it’s important to provide them with what they need. If you want someone to be your true assistant, they’ll need access to the things you have access to in order to better help you.
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    Motivate and Reward – Provide feedback on a regular basis to your assistant, including positive feedback. That is a good way to motivate and reward him or her. The happier an assistant is, and the more secure they feel within their position with your business, the harder they’ll work on your behalf.

Finally, it’s important to let go of perfection and allow people who are experts in what they do, do what it is that they do. You can’t do everything. No successful CEO does. In fact, most successful CEOs mostly do nothing but delegate tasks to the smart, capable experts that they hired.

Why Create a Digital Magazine?

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efore you create a digital magazine it’s important to understand why you are creating it. A digital magazine is good for some businesses but not for everyone. There are a few reasons to create a magazine and you’ll need to choose which reason – or maybe you’ll have more than one reason.

  • To Increase Ad Revenue – Magazines are a great way to get more advertising revenue. Brands love putting ads in beautiful digital magazines because their advertisements can be interactive and more than just visual. They can also track their results easily due to the nature of how a digital magazine works.
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    To Increase Brand Awareness – You can offer a free magazine to your audience, ask them to share it with people they know, then market it online in a variety of ways such as offering it as a free gift to your audience for signing up for your email list. This kills two birds with one stone. You can market to them via the magazine and via the list.
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    To Create a New Income Stream – Earning money via subscription is a good new income stream. Even if your distribution is low, say about 1000 people, if you charge just 99 cents for the magazine subscription you’ll increase your revenue by almost $1000 a month with one publication. For small business this is a great additional income stream.

These three points are excellent reasons to go through the trouble of creating a new digital magazine. Your reasons might even be a combination of all of the above because you can charge a subscription, make ad revenue and expand brand awareness all at the same time through creating a new digital magazine.

As well as this, there are other reasons to create a magazine for your audience:

  • People Love Magazines – They are visually beautiful, and with digital magazines come the potential to become interactive and even more visually beautiful.
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    Most People Read Magazines – According to MRIGlobal's report, more than 80 percent of people read magazines regularly.
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    High Profit Margins – Even though it’s a lot of work putting together a beautiful magazine and it may take a team of experts to help you, the profit potential is very high.
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    You Have Information to Disseminate – If you have enough content to distribute and information to distribute in a new way, you may want to send it to your subscribers in magazine form.

Even though it’s a lot of work, producing a magazine is also a lot of fun. You can put content together in a beautiful way that you audience thoroughly enjoys and make it available to new potential members of your audience via the Google Play Store, Apple's App Store and for download through a link you can send via email to subscribers.

What to Do and Things to Consider before Publishing

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hen you decide to publish a digital magazine it’s important to do your due diligence about what’s involved before you spend the time and money doing it. It can take a lot of resources, time and effort to produce a digital magazine – almost as much as it takes to produce a paper magazine. Therefore, it’s important to study what it takes to create a professional-level magazine that your audience will enjoy.

  • Survey Your Audience – What does your audience want to see in a magazine you publish? Ask them. Use your email list to send out a questionnaire about your proposed magazine and let them help you decide whether or not you’ll publish it and what will be in it.
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    Decide Which Software to Use – Knowing how you will create the magazine and what platform you’ll use to publish is important. Perhaps you’ll decide to hire an expert to help you publish the magazine to save time and reduce your learning curve.
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    Choose Which Topic You’ll Cover – Your magazine should encompass a niche and cover a specific subject with 8 to 10 categories and sections to fill with content.
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    Identify Potential Contributors – You likely already know people who may want to contribute in exchange for ad space or payment of some kind. You may even want to place a “tip” jar inside each bio so that authors can earn that way.
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    Identify Potential Advertisers - Who might want to advertise in your new digital magazine? You should be able to make a list of 20 to 40 potential advertisers so that you can contact them to offer them an advertisement.
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    Create a System to Organize Content – You’ll need a lot of content to put into your digital magazine. The way you collect content and upload content to your publishing platform needs to be streamlined to avoid a time suck from occurring.
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    Create Accounts Where You Plan to Publish – Many digital publishing platforms will submit your magazine for you, but it’ll end up being submitted under their platform instead of under your name. Ensure that you bypass this situation and publish on various digital publishing platforms under your name.
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    Consider the Format of Your Magazine – A lot of publishing platforms allow uploading PDFs to start, they then transfer them to HTML5 before publishing to various apps. The reason is that PDFs are not really a good form of digital publishing due to how big they are and the fact that they’re not really interactive.

 If you do the work you need to do in order to publish a good magazine for your audience, you’ll be successful in your endeavors. It’s important to cover all bases before you get started. This helps avoid mistakes that can be frustrating when you want to create a new digital magazine to spread awareness of your brand or to start a new income stream.

What’s the Difference in Owned, Paid, and Earned Marketing Strategy?

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hen you are choosing different marketing strategies to implement when marketing your business, it’s important to understand the choices you have and how they differ. You essentially have three choices when it comes to marketing, namely “owned,” “paid” and “earned” media. You’ll more than likely use a combination of all strategies for the very best results.

Owned Media

This consists of your own website, blog posts, social media accounts, and articles you write and own.

Owned media is very important for business owners because it is something that you can control and use the easiest. Your content on your website needs to be top-notch, taking into consideration search engine optimization. Your content on your blog needs to be updated often with relevant content directed toward your audience. Engage often on your social media accounts.

Paid Media

This consists of promoted posts, PPC campaigns and anything that you pay for play.

One good use of paid media is to engage in a remarketing campaign. For instance, if someone has come to your website to view a page and then leave, you can use remarketing (also known as retargeting) to bring the viewer back to your website.

Sponsored articles, advertisements, email marketing, paid search, promoted video are all examples of paid media. This is another important element for most marketers and it’s important for you to use these opportunities. Start small with using promoted posts on Facebook.

Earned Media

This consists of information about your business that is owned by a third party and not controlled by you.

Whether you want earned media or not, you’re going to have it. It can be both good and bad, and it’s still earned media if a third party put it out there without your permission and without payment from you. You can have some measure of control over earned media by providing the best customer service you can, having top-notch products and services, and keeping your ear to the ground to make the most of any positive third party earned media.

Sometimes there can be cross-overs with owned and paid media, as well as owned and earned media. For example, if you own a blog post and you pay to promote it. Or if you created a video that happened to go viral that is both owned and earned -because once it goes viral you essentially lose control of it and what is said about it. Take advantage of those opportunities when you can.

All business owners should use a combination of all three forms of media in their marketing efforts for the very best results. With today’s crowded marketplace, the old ways of just relying on search engine optimization and your own social media promotions are over. You need to find a way to stand out from the crowd to become a force to be reckoned with.

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