At the launch of a New Year, every business (hopefully) pauses just long enough to set goals, establish priorities, and ponder the possibilities that the New Year will be better than expected.

Do you feel that your business is just one significant account, one good month, or just one big break that will propel you to the full success you dream about?  I suspect most of us feel that way or we would have already closed our doors.  While some things are out of your control, certainly you need to take inventory and look at your website and social media presence because using these tools in tandem can provide low-cost (and often FREE) resources to help create the environment for success in 2010.

Below are 4 keys to a great start in 2010:

  • MARKETING FOUNDATION – the first thing you can do is to ensure that your marketing actually has a strategy behind it.  Does yours?  Have you ever identified specific target markets and developing keyword-rich messages that resonate with this segment?  Do you know how this customer segment makes its purchasing decisions?  Do you understand what’s important to them?  These are foundational questions that must be answered before you slap on a few snazzy marketing techniques and tactics.  Take the first quarter of this new year and let marketing coaching ensure you are building on a strong foundation.
  • WEBSITE: Most small businesses nowadays have websites.  If you haven’t invested in one, sites with easy-to-manage content management systems are affordable and offer you a hub of information and activity that you will need for your social media strategy.  Dynamic sites that have regularly-changing content are expected by your customers, so say so long to your static site that never changes.  (If you can’t update your site easily with fresh content without a 3-month delay, then invest in a new website!)  Briefly, ensure these 3 essential elements are included:
  1. Search Engine Optimization – not including pay-per-click or other forms of paid advertising, organic optimization is achieved with highly-targed keywords and meta descriptions, strong backlinks from high traffic or high-value websites, and creating high-value content in the form of keyword-rich articles and effectively tagged presentations, photos, and videos.  A blog is one of the most effective tools to creating dynamic content that can be found by the search engines (more below).
  2. Highly Visible Contact Information – ensure that your customers can easily locate a phone number, address or contact information.  You can lose your customers within 5 seconds if they can’t tell from the home page how to reach you.  Also, for a growing number of customers with smart phones, they need to be able to click on your phone number from your website to launch contact with you.  The same goes for locating your facility – linking your map to Google maps gives customers easy directions to your store while they are driving (well, hopefully there will be another person in the vehicle navigating or at least they will pull off to the side of the road).
  3. Highlight Customer Experiences – one of the easiest ways to make your website dynamic with relevant changing content is to let your customers do this for you.  Whether you solicit reviews online (more below) or via more traditional methods, you can keep your customer testimonial page up-to-date.  Privacy is an issue, so be sure and seek permission from certain customers to post them on your website.  Be diligent in obtaining these reviews and be consistent in posting them to your website.  Date each testimonial to create a historical record of positive customer experiences.  Create a full page on your website where prospects can see all your testimonials in one place.  And finally, use a combination of written, audio and video testimonials (you can see an example on our testimonial page and this page where we provide affordable pre-paid bundled marketing hours).
  • BLOG: As mentioned, one of the most proven tools to assist in organic search engine optimization continues to be the blog.  Whether you title it a “blog”, “resource articles” or “helpful hints”, this is your best tool for creating relevant, keyword-rich, high-value content that not only attracts the attention of the search engines, it showcases your expertise and credibility in writing about a variety of topics.  Whether you author unique articles based on your own level of knowledge, or if you link your readers over to other blogs, you are accomplishing several things in having a preferrably integrated blog:
  1. Search engines love dynamic high-value content!  Blogs are the easiest way to create a historical journal of your expertise
  2. Blogs attract customers to the rest of your site’s offerings, much like promotional sales bring customers into your store.  When they come to read a blog post on a relevant topic, they get exposed to your other seminars, workshops, products, and services.
  3. Blogs should be updated at least once a week and they need to be tweeted or put out on a Facebook status to socialize and circulate such articles so that your current customers and prospects can see it!  If you can’t have an integrated blog on your site, your best options for an external blog are created on sites like and Blogger.
  • MANAGE ONLINE REVIEWS: I already mentioned the importance of soliciting positive customer reviews.  As mentioned, you can repurpose these words on a testimonial page on your website.  These are essential to obtain from your happy customers and satisfied clients.  The challenge is that happy customers have to often be reminded several times to follow-through, but unhappy ones are much quicker to spew their dissatisfaction all over the web!  As prospective customers see these words, it can have a huge impact, especially if there are no contrarian viewpoints.  However, if there are 10 positive reviews and 1 strongly negative, most prospects will tend to blow off the negative comments as obviously the exception to the rule.  But if you’re not proactive with obtaining the positive reviews, you’ll find yourself in a war of words with those rare folks unhappy with your product or service.  Keeping a watch of your online reviews is good reputation management and soliciting them from your satisfied customers may turn some investigating prospects into real sales.