Posted on January 27, 2009
Filed Under (General, Networking) by jennifer

Ah, Valentine’s Day, a time of hearts and flowers, chocolate and jewelry and opportunity. Even if your  business isn’t in the business of selling chocolate or jewelry or flowers, if you aren’t capitalizing on Valentine’s Day, you could find your heart broken and your e-commerce site or website abandoned.

Fortunately, thanks to the Internet and email, there are more ways than ever to play Cupid — and get customers to fall in love with your site, products, or services all over again or for the first time. All it takes is a little time and creativity.

In need of some Valentine’s Day inspiration and/or tips? Check out my article, “E-Commerce Marketing Tips for Valentine’s Day” on Ecommerce-Guide.com. There you’ll find out how ThinkGeek had a record-breaking Valentine’s Day last year thanks to some help from YouTube; how CCBerries friended Facebook; how Chicago Chocolate Tours is using co-marketing to drive traffic to its site and tours; and may other great ideas, from coupons to contests.

Have a Valentine’s Day e-marketing tip or strategy you’d like to share? Leave me a comment. (Note: Only legitimate, non-pornographic suggestions and links, please. All inappropriate comments will be deleted and/or blocked.)

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According to new research from Guidance, an e-commerce solution provider based in California, people like the websites they regularly visit to provide them with some sort of social interaction, whether it’s customer testimonials, consumer-generated content like product reviews, live chat, or a message board where they can chat or compare notes with fellow visitors/consumers. And social commerce isn’t just good for online shoppers/web surfers, it’s good for business, especially now when market share and distinguishing yourself from the competition is more important than ever.

Over the past few years, larger e-tailers have realized that adding social features to their e-commerce sites, à la the Amazon model, is a good thing — and that not doing so could actually hurt them, and sales. However, smaller e-tailers have been more hesitant to do so, typically because of the perceived cost and uncertainty regarding the return on their investment. But according to research conducted by Guidance (and others) “every business can benefit from having at least some social commerce, or social activities, on their website,” said Guidance CEO Jason Meugniot. And they are often more inexpensive and easier to implement than you think.

To find out how you can easily and inexpensively make your site more social/sociable, check out my new article, “Social Commerce Strategies for Small Online Businesses,” and larger ones too, which was published on Ecommerce-Guide.com, a great resource for all things e-commerce related.

And if you have any additional tips or advice re social commerce, or need some help finding someone to help you make your site more social, leave me a comment or send me an email.

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Posted on January 14, 2009
Filed Under (Advice, General, Networking) by jennifer

Don’t think it matters if you wear a suit or nice outfit to a business meeting, networking event, conference, or trade show? Maybe if you’re Steve Jobs it doesn’t. But for the rest of us, how you present yourself, from your attitude to your attire, makes a huge impression on how others — especially those you are trying to impress and/or get business or money from, such as clients, business prospects, lenders, and investors — see and treat you.

While I have long known the power of a suit and dressing for success (a habit instilled in me at an early age by my mother — thanks Mom!), after I had my daughter and started working from home, especially during the cold winter months, I didn’t always follow this important business rule. And I have no doubt it has cost me important business connections and possibly work.

Not that I attended meetings or networking events looking like a bum. I just didn’t dress the part of the confident business owner, often preferring to go the casual-but-chic route.

But as I found out (again) yesterday, after attending my first Entrepreneurial Woman’s Network luncheon, how you dress and present yourself speaks volumes about you. And in this case, my new black power suit got me a meeting — and necessitated my refilling my business card case as soon as I got back to my home office.

Coincidence? I think not. How do I know this? Because one month ago I attended a similar networking lunch but decided last minute to go the casual-but-chic route (Ralph Lauren jeans, a nice top, expensive cowboy boots) instead of wearing a suit or a dress, figuring “it was just lunch.”

Boy, was I wrong.

No sooner had I stepped out of the elevator and into the conference room than I felt immediately felt out of place. Only one other woman, a photographer, showed up casually dressed. And her friend, a business coach, who had come dressed for success, looked and treated me as though I was in the wrong place.

Fast forward to yesterday, and my new black power suit. I swear just wearing that thing made me feel more confident. And I guess it showed. For no sooner than I had removed my coat in the cloakroom did that very same business coach from the last networking meeting walk in and look right at me. “Jane!” I cheerfully addressed her. “So nice to see you.”

The look on Jane’s face spoke volumes — and she immediately made note of my suit and the fact that when we last met I was “wearing jeans.” Ouch. (Though true.) After exchanging some chit-chat, I confidently strolled into the dining room, made small talk with an EWN member, with whom I exchanged business cards, then took a seat at a table, where I proceeded to tell the other women present about myself and my business, which elicited a half-dozen (or more) requests for my card and, at the end of a lunch, a request for a meeting.

Luck? Maybe. But after my website upgrade, that suit (and another one just like it in midnight blue) may be the best investment I’ve made this month, and possibly this quarter. And you can bet I won’t be showing up to any business events or meetings in jeans (no matter how nice) any time soon.

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Words — choosing and using the right words to convey an idea, sell a product, or promote a concept — are very important to me as a writer and marketing communications pro. But they should be important to every business owner, no matter the size of your business or marketing budget.

So when I was recently asked to contribute a guest post on a great site for entrepreneurs and small and mid-size business owners called The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, run by serial entrepreneur and author Mike Michalowicz, I knew what I had to write about: the importance of good writing in marketing and promoting your business and/or website.

You can find my post, titled “The Five Secrets to Creating Great Copy: How the Right Words Can Increase Traffic and Sales” on The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur’s blog by clicking on the link/title of the post. And while you are there, check out Mike’s other posts, as well as his guest bloggers’ posts, for other great tips and ideas.

And speaking of helpful tips, ideas, and resources for entrepreneurs and small and mid-size business owners, I highly encourage you to check out the following sites and blogs (in addition to this one), which many (most?) of you may not be familiar with, but should be:

Making It Legal: The Small Business Mentor’s Guide to Entrepreneurship and Law, run by attorney and entrepreneur Nina Kaufman, who also runs Ask the Business Lawyer.

The “Betty” Factor, a “Conversation About All Things Marketing Related,” run by marketing guru David Politis.

Ecommerce-Guide.com, a publication near and dear to me (I’m a contributor) and your one-stop shop for all things e-commerce related.

SmallBusinessComputing.com, another great resource for small and mid-size business owners looking for tips, tools, and advice re anything and everything technology related.

Duct Tape Marketing’s blog, run by John Jantsch, which features marketing tips, tools, and advice for small businesses.

While I know there are many — probably thousands — of great sites/blogs aimed at helping entrepreneurs and small and mid-size business owners, I have found these sites particularly helpful and easy to navigate, and I bet you will too.

However, if there is a site or a blog aimed at entrepreneurs and SMBs that is near and dear to you that you think others should know about, let me know via a Comment.

Wishing you all prosperity and success in the new year…

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