A Lesson On Core Competency

For those of us who remember the humble beginnings of, we know that Amazon was all about books - and I'm not talking about the digital kind but the printed books you could touch and feel.  In fact, if you were going to order a book online, Amazon was your only option.  Soon thereafter, major retails like Barnes and Noble and Borders added their own online stores to try and stop their rapid decline in market share thanks to Amazon.

Today, Amazon sells everything from replacement grill parts to Halloween costumes.  It's crazy, isn't it?  As a marketer I asked myself how an online book seller could ever become the behemoth we know as Amazon.  Well, the answer is simple - core competency.
A core competency is something you or your business does extremely well, better than anyone else.  At first I thought that Amazon did book sales better than anyone else.  And for a while they did.  They built warehouses, advanced logistics, and marketing that was second to none.  But do you know what they did even better than that? The online customer buying experience.

Once you know your core competency, your options are unlimited.

When thinking about my buying experiences with Amazon over the years, I realized that from day one the buying experience was easy, informational, and thorough.  After buying just a few products from Amazon I was hooked.  Being a purist, I shuttered at the fact that they were selling anything other than books but I can see now they were actually selling a buying experience, not specific products.
It makes perfect sense to me that Amazon has grown into such an amazing online powerhouse.  If you've ever bought from them, you know that the buying experience is nothing short of amazing.  For me, I enjoy ordering via Amazon and getting a box delivered to my front door.

Expand you horizons

Because Amazon was selling a buying experience, it didn't matter what they sold.  From books to lawn chairs, Amazon created a consistent user experience that was, and still is, the best online. innovated new ways to improve the buying experience and has shown no signs of slowing down: ratings, reviews, one-click buying, suggested items, etc.  It's actually quite amazing.

There are many websites and ecommerce operations that have taken a few plays from the Amazon playbook. This is true with any market leader.  However, Amazon continues to innovate and because of their increasingly large market share will likely be the leader for years to come.  Or at least until a disruptive technology comes along that improves the buying experience even more.

Find your core competency

My challenge to you this week is to find your core competency.  What is it?  What is unique about you, your company, your products?  I believe my core competency is around taking complex processes or ideas and making them simple.  That's what led to my "..Made Simple" book series (yes, it's available on where I take complex ideas about; search engine optimization, pay-per-click marketing, article marketing, and even weight loss, and offer simple, practical advice that drives results.

Your core competency can be around a specific tangible item or process.  It can even be about your company culture or user experience.  For example, your restaurant may serve the same food as another restaurant in town but you sell a particular type of experience.  Are you kid friendly?  Do you do desserts better than anyone else?  Do you focus on repeat customers and know each of your patrons personally?
Think about your core competency and then focus on it.  Think about how you can make it better.  By knowing and building on what you do best, you can continue to differentiate yourself and build your business faster, better, and larger, than your closest competitor.


Marketing Forums Provide The Answers You Need

I know it's happened to you. In fact, I'm sure it happens quite often. You're working on a website, blog, or some type of marketing-related issue and you're stumped. You have some friends you can call but before you pick up that phone, you open your browser and start typing.

This is the way most of us looking for information today.  Years ago the phone was the first option, but not anymore.  The web is the answer.  Yesterday a friend mentioned the old "chat room" to me and we spent some time reminiscing about online communities and just how far we've come.  The premise is the same but the technology and depth of conversation has drastically changed.

If you're in marketing, you should really get comfortable with the idea of using Internet marketing forums to get answers to your most pressing marketing questions.  Chances are that many of the search results you've depended on are in the form of a blog or forum post.  This is because blogging and forums are nothing more than questions and answers, issues and responses.  
My suggestion is that you sign up for a forum in your niche and start engaging in the conversation.  Here are some suggestions for getting started:

1.  Google "[niche name] Forum".  For example, if you're in the affiliate niche, search on "affiliate forum" and you'll receive a list of popular forums.  Take a look around and register for the forum that best meets your needs.

2.  Watch the conversation. Before you start posting get a feel for the type of individuals who use the forum, the topics they cover, and how they respond.  You obviously don't want to break any forum rules or seem out of place.

3.  Respond to someone else's post.  Once you've watched the conversation it's time to jump in.  But do so on a topic you know something about.  Responding with a one-liner or information that's not relevant to the conversation can be detrimental.

4.  Post a question.  After making 10 responses to different posts, its time to post your own question or issue.  I like using the rule of ten because someone who's already engaged ten different strings of conversation is usually in a good position to ask a meaningful question.

5.  Become a contributor.  The key with any forum is to use them.  If you post a single question and walk away it's possible that you won't get much from it.  Remember that forums are communities and you want to be seen as a valuable member.  As is true with most things in life you get out of it what you put into it.

Now that you've started engaging with like-minded individuals via forums you'll start to see significant benefit.  Whether you have specific issues that you need answers to or you want to help others, forums are alive with dialog, issues, and opportunities.

Forums have advanced over the years and offer many different types of features.  These features may include premium forums that provide access to a limited number of people or special offers provided my vendors in your niche.  Not all forums are the same.  My recommendation is to choose few that you like and stick with them, experimenting along the way.

I have developed some very meaningful relationships in forums and I hope you do too.  Get started today.  The sooner you do the faster you'll have a growing network of people who can help you grow.

QR Codes: Learning The Basics

Everywhere you look QR codes are making their way into mainstream marketing.  Most recently I was having dinner out at a local restaurant and noticed that the ketchup bottle had a QR code.  Out of curiosity, I took out my smart phone and grabbed it - redirecting me to a URL from Heinz.  The landing page offered additional information and the ability to sign up for special offers.  Can you say direct response?

QR codes made simple

QR codes have appeared in mass thanks to smart phones and digital technology.  Entering a long URL into a web browser on your phone has become easier but still requires typing of multiple characters.  Enter the QR code.  With a simple free app you can click and button and be redirected to a web page.  I guess it's a good thing that we're inherently lazy - its the motivator for a number of technological advances.

In this post I wanted to give you the basics of QR codes to help you get started.  If you haven't run any promotions with QR codes, your goal should be to have one up and running in the next week or so. They are extremely easy to implement.  Here's how:

1.  Develop a QR code strategy.  I like to think of QR codes as the means to an end.  The functionality of a QR code is to get you to a web page.  As a marketer, I always think about the end goal which is to have your prospect complete a transaction of some kind.  This could be to provide you with an email address or make a purchase. 

What's the goal of your QR promotion?  What do you want people to do once they get to your landing page?  What's in it for them?  Why should they take a snapshot of the QR code in the the first place?  One of the best strategies is to offer incentives to people who use the QR code to arrive at your landing page.  Have them sign up for special offers or something of value.  This is one of the more popular strategies that builds your list and grows your business.

2.  Develop your landing page.  Just like any marketing initiative it's important to build and test multiple landing pages for your offers.  You should create a landing page that is consistent with your branding, easy to navigate, and has an offer above the fold.  When users visit your page through the QR code make sure they find what they're expecting.  Ensuring a consistent user experience will improve conversion rates.

3.  Create a QR code.  Creating a code is incredibly simple. There are tons of free sites that allow you to punch in the URL you want prospects to visit and spit out a ready-made QR code.  The one I like to use is available at  My recommendation is search "create QR code" on Google and you'll find plenty of resources.  Once the code is created make sure to include it on your promotional materials.

4.  Promote your QR code.  Once you've developed a strategy, created your landing page, and generated a QR code, the next step is to promote your QR code.  What's so great about your code is that it works in virtually any format.  You can use your QR code on a label, post card, package, in an ad, on your website, email, etc., virtually anywhere an image can appear.  

Think through all of your touch points.  Can you add the QR code in multiple locations to increase the likelihood that someone will use it?  In addition, always use some type of language that encourages your users to access the code.  For example, "Scan this QR code with your smartphone to get access to special offers."  By adding a reason why consumers should click through, you increase conversion rates significantly.

QR codes are here to stay

The technology of QR codes has actually been around, in experimental formats, for quite some time.  They are only now becoming pervasive in all types of marketing from advertisements to packaging.  If you haven't already started using QR codes in your marketing, now is the time to start using them.  As the number of smartphones begin to expand, as well as the comfort level of those who use them, the ability to connect in new ways continues to grow.

Start planning your next promotion using a QR code.  Even if you start small, say putting a QR code on your next post card, you'll not only engage your prospects but improve your campaign tracking and results.  The QR code allows you to drive people to an online environment where it's easier to track behavior and outcomes.  Let me know if you're using QR codes in your promotions and what type of results you're getting.  And as always, have fun marketing!

How Do You Publish A Book And Market The Heck Out of It

Ever since last week's post about my third book, Article Marketing Made Simple, and now with the release of Weight Loss Made Simple - the first non-marketing book to be added to my line, I've been getting a lot of questions about self-publishing.  Specifically, I've received over 30 emails asking, "How do you publish a book?"  And once it's published, what can you do to market and promote it?

I'm not a publishing expert, but I can tell you a few things about writing and promoting books.  Not only have I headed up marketing for publishing companies in the past, but I've also published my own informational books, guides and products.

As someone who loves to help others in search of a similar goal I thought I'd dedicate a post to provide helpful strategies based on my experience for packing information and selling as a printed guide or ebook (which includes Google books, Kindle, etc.).

How Do You Publish a Book?

You can start virtually anywhere but I like to start at the beginning.  The end result will be a published book that gets sold but each step must be well thought through in order to be successful.  Whether you are publishing fiction or non-fiction, the process of publishing is virtually the same.

1.  The best place to begin is with an idea.  If you're reading this post, then you probably have a good idea of what you're writing about. In fact, its likely you already have a manuscript in some form.  Maybe it's an idea you started and never finished or a well polished book that just needs a cover!  Before going to the next step, think about your readers and those who would be most interested in your content.

2.  Create a title that sells.   If you know anything about marketing, you understand the importance of a well written headline.  The best headlines are researched and tested.  The best tip I ever received on headline creation was to test multiple headlines using Google Adwords.  I know your space is limited but consider running a small campaign on Adwords for twenty bucks and varying titles and descriptions.  You'll certainly find a winner.

3.  Hook up with a good editor.  A mentor once told me, "there are never good writers, only good editors."  Although I don't agree entirely, I will confess that nothing beats a good editor.  If you are publishing a printed book, then you'll need a resource to print your book.  Many of these resources offer editorial services.  A good edit will likely cost you around $500, but it's money well spent.  You might be able to find cheaper resources through Odesk, eLance, or some type of editorial service.

4.  Use a distributor or go direct.  My first couple of titles are available in both print and digital formats.  For the print version I hooked up with CreateSpace.  This company is owned by Amazon (which is a huge advantage) and takes care of the printing and distribution.  It's amazing.  Someone orders my book off of Amazon and they do the rest.  Based on the relationship with Amazon, CreateSpace offers a great deal of flexibility when it comes to getting your book listed on  Personally, I think this gives you preference in search results but what do I know?   

5.  Get an ISBN.  If your book is going to be available in printed format, you'll need an ISBN.  To buy an ISBN, you simple need to go to  There you'll find everything you need to acquire an ISBN and bar code to add to your book.  Some publishing services will do this for you.  If you were able to request an ISBN through your distributor (from the previous step), then you're all set.  More and more distributors have been offering this service over the last few years.
6.  Design a cover.  Again, another easy thing to do if you're willing to spend $50.  Go to and post a job that provides information about your title and the general look you're after. n fi You cand very talented designers at a low price.  Also, think through the size of your printed book.  Just because it was written on an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper doesn't mean that should be your books size.
7.  Upload and distribute.  Once you've uploaded your title to your distributor or Amazon's direct publishing program (, you'll have a small waiting period before it appears on  Once it's up and running, you can start driving traffic to your newly published book.
8.  Drive sales.  This might be pretty straight-forward but when you're launching a new book, begin with people you know and who know you.  Ask your friends, relatives, colleagues, and acquaintances to purchase or download your book.  And the secret sauce... ask them to buy it over the weekend.  You see, Amazon ranks books based on sales relative to other titles.  As such, you want to sell your books when other books aren't selling.  As someone who's be selling books for quite some time, I know that book sales are slow from Friday night to Sunday.

If you get people to purchase during these days, you'll improve your Amazon ranking.

In future posts, I'll share some additional ideas on how to promote and sell your titles.  Whether you put together a promotion (ex: donate proceeds to charity) or offer a free excerpt, there are a number of creative ways to promote your title.  Don't be afraid to share you accomplishments via social media and reach out to others who can help you promote your title.
Best of luck if you're entering the publishing world for fun or profit.  It's a great way to share your expertise and help others achieve their goals.

Making Money Online: It's Possible

This morning I was listening to the news and it was depressing:unemployment, protests, war – it’s no wonder why I avoid the news.  But for Internet marketers, this is one ofthe best times in history to make money online. Thanks to Internet enabled devices and a hunger for online products,information, and expertise, the market has never been better for making aliving online.    

I can tell you that most of us who are marketing today didn’t have a lot tostart with.  In fact, many of today’s“super affiliates” are young guys in their 20’s and 30’s who started fromscratch.

Personally speaking, I’ve had to deal with many of the same obstacles when Ifirst started promoting products and services online as newbies facetoday.  But with some experience and agood deal of trial and error, you can make small distinctions that candramatically improve results. I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t be anexpert at everything.  As such, I’veworked hard to build my network or mentors and resources to learn what worksand what doesn’t.  Whether you’reconnecting with people via an Internet marketing forum, global success club, ormentor network, it’s easier than ever to find people who can help you overcomemany of the obstacles associated with being an Internet marketer.  

Generating Profitable Campaigns

If you’re doing any online advertising, it’s incredibly important that youfocus on Return On Investment (ROI). I’ve learned that maximizing ROI is as much about managing expenses asit is generating revenue.  Working with amentor or someone who’s already running profitable online campaigns can helpyou improve your results.  This is especiallyimportant when you’re just getting started. If you’re barely managing to breakeven on your campaigns, the best way to turn it around is to model those whoare marketing profitably.  The best, andfastest way to do this, is to find a mentor or network of like-minded peoplewho are already getting results.

One of the techniques that I’ve used to generate profitable campaigns is tofocus on small niche markets.  A popularmistake that Internet marketers make is trying to be all things to all people.  If you think you’re going to strike it richwith an info product your first time out, you’re mistaken.  I’m not saying it’s possible, but the oddsare certainly against you.  There’s amuch better chance of earning a profit if you build a house list around aspecific topic (ex: piano repair) and have a specific unique offer.  Your mind should naturally be focused oncornering small markets if you want to succeed.  

Another example would be if you’re looking to promote an information productabout dating on a small budget.  Firstyou need to make yourself familiar with the niche markets where it would bepossible to generate some profit with hifhly targeted and low volume,campaign.  Those niche markets might be “SingleParent Dating”, “Dating 40+”, etc. …these are all great distinctions that youshould be making before you jump the gun and invest countless hours without anypositive return.

Learn From Others

Networking with or leveraging the lessons of heavyweight affiliates is the primarykey to success for those who are just starting out in online marketing.  If you can’t compete with their large budgets,compete on a smaller scale.  Don’t try toattract the entire market, focus on a small market niche. Focus on the details!  Many of the top-earning marketers don’t havetime to focus on these small markets, meaning there is still money to bemade.  This is your opportunity to own asmall territory that others aren’t able to cover.

It’s important to make every penny count while you’re still dealing with asmall budget.  Look for ways to partnerwith influencers in your niche through products, interviews, and other contentthat might add value to their websites or blogs.  In my opinion, it’s really no longer possibleto fill your boots with overnight riches by going straight for the kill in hugemainstream markets. You need to operate on the borders, obtain profit where themarkets aren’t so flooded, and dig deeper to grow your business.  

Not only is it important to grow your business but growing yourself as aperson and Internet marketer will ultimately reap huge benefits for yourbusiness.  From my personal experience learningfrom others has helped a great deal.   Iencourage you to work with others to improve your knowledge and mindset.  Learn more about entrepreneurial networks at Global Success.

7 Strategies For Effective No Cost Marketing

I've been having a lot of discussions lately about no cost marketing. With so many small businesses and people trying to make it on their own, the idea of no-cost marketing is pretty appealing to me and I'm sure it is to you as well. 

In this post, I'm going to provide you with 7 of my most effective strategies for promoting your business, website, or blog with little or no money. Here we go. 

1. Guest Blog Post. If you have some expertise in a given field, I recommend reaching out to a number of different blogs in your niche and offering to write a guest post. Online marketers are busy and are always looking for good content. Do the research, find a blog that you can write for, and offer up a 100% original guest post. This will save the blog owner time, provide something of value to his audience, and give you exposure. 

2. Focus on Organic Search Rankings. Get a good book on SEO (ex: SEO Made Simple) and learn how to optimize your website or blog. If your site comes up organically for a variety of different keyword searches, you'll start to receive quality traffic that can fill your funnel. Organic traffic costs little or nothing to generate - just sweat equity. 

3. Leverage social media. Integrate social media icons on your website. I know this is simple but there are tons of direct to consumer and b-to-b sites who haven't taken the time to add TweeMeMe buttons, Google +1, or Facebook Likes. Each time someone redistributes your message, you access their network as well as your own. 

4. Build a list. One of the most effective marketing practices is building a house list. There are many ways you can do this but one of the best is offering something of value in exchange for a valid email. Use an email form to capture email from website visitors in exchange for a free download. House lists are the most responsive and you can engage your audience on a regular basis. 

5. Press releases. Distributing a press release is a fabulous way to spread the word about your company, product, service, or website. Writing a press release is easy to do and it can be about virtually anything new regarding your business. Once you have your release, search for free press release distribution sites instead of paying hundreds of dollars for PRweb or other established services. 

6. Blog commenting. Where do you get your news? What blogs are influential in your niche? Start reading and commenting on blogs. Over time, as you build an online reputation through commenting, you can start to integrate information about resources you offer. This takes some time but can help divert traffic from well known sources. 

7. Forums. Start visiting and contributing on forums. Whether you ask forum members for advice or feedback, building a reputation on forums can lead to valuable inbound links to your website as well traffic.Whether you have a large marketing budget or none at all, there are a number of options to promote your business that wont cost you a dime. 

Think through the opportunities you have to leverage your current web assets and information you have to attract new users to your business or website. The key is to always try new lead generation methods and build on your successes.If you have additional no-cost or low-cost marketing tips, be sure to comment!

Aweber Auto Responder and Other Ways To Build A List

I Heart
Building a list is one of the most important things you can do to effectively market your products and services online. But how many people are proactively building a list using their current website or blog? After spending a number of years developing lists of different kinds, I have to say the fastest and easiest way to build your list is with an "auto-responder".
If you're not familiar with auto-responders, the concept is simple.  Add a short form to your website.  When a user enters their information in exchange for something of value - a newsletter sign up, special discounts, or download, they receive a confirmation page and series of pre-programed emails.  What's the big deal you ask?  Well, until now, adding a form to your website and programming a bunch of follow up messages to be sent automatically has been difficult.  That is, unless you're a programmer.

Aweber Auto-responder Tool
There are a number of low-cost tools out there that can make the implementation of a form on your site incredibly simple.  I've used a variety of tools in the past for both the form itself as well as email marketing.  Combined, these two aspects of online marketing provide a powerful punch.  the tool that I use to manage all of my forms and follow up messages is Aweber.  This service removes the challenge associated with programming your own forms and manually distributing follow up emails.

The key to an effective auto-responder is not only the functionality of the form and follow up messages provided by the service, but the ability to manage your sign-ups and opt-ins automatically.  When someone completes your form, the service you're using to manage your email campaign verifies the name (by sending a confirmation email that requires acceptance/activation) and adds the individual to your database.  When follow up messages are sent out, the tool also tracks individuals who opt-outs.  Users simply need to click the unsubscribe option included in your email and the tool removes the name from the database, making your messages CAN-SPAM compliant.  See how Aweber supports these helpful functions...


What I like about auto-responders is the ease of set up.  Many, like the tool above, have pre-defined templates that allow you to complete some simple information and copy a snippet of code.  You drop the code into your website or blog and you're off to the races.  The number, variety, and flexibility of forms over the last year have really expanded giving you the flexibility you need to create a seamless form that fits perfectly with your site.

Aweber Follow Up Messages
Automation tools have really made the development and management of follow up messages very easy to implement.  When I create a new form, I always make sure to enter at least a few follow up messages.  A great example would be a form that gives users access to a special report you've developed.  Once an individual enters their contact information and presses the "submit" button, they receive the first of your messages.
The first message is a confirmation messages that says something like, "Thank you for submitting your information.  You will receive a confirmation shortly.  Please click on the link provided to verify that you wish to receive our download."  This is called a double opt-in and ensures that users really want to receive your information making them highly qualified.

After passing through the first hurdle, the next step is distribution of your follow up messages.  These messages are entered when you set up your campaign. At the same time, you can prescribe when you'd like the follow up messages to be sent (ex: one day later, two days, three days, etc.).  This gives you the power to pace your follow up emails based on when an individual user has signed up.  That's really helpful as you'll be adding individuals to your list on a daily basis and they'll each be on different communication cycles.

Getting Started with Aweber
As I noted earlier, the tool that I use (because it's cheap and powerful) is  Aweber.  They run a variety of promotions including a $1 trial of the service.  If you've never used auto responders in the past or are ready for a switch, I suggest to check out their service.

Getting started takes about 5 minutes and you'll be amazed at what having your own list can do for you.  I've offered promotions on the marketing blog in the past using this very same tool and have grown my list into the thousands.  Not only can you offer special promotions to your list but you can also engage with your list for feedback, product review, and much more. Start building your list today!

Article Marketing Made Simple

A lot has changed in Internet marketing.  And each time a change happens, the pendulum seems to swing entirely in the other direction.  As an experienced marketer, I have seen this happen time and again.  So when my inner circle asked me why I was publishing another book, this time focused on article marketing, I couldn't help but shout emphatically, "Article marketing is NOT dead."  In fact, those who seize the moment will find themselves ahead of the pack when it comes to this powerful form of Internet marketing.

Article Marketing Made Simple
After publishing my first book, SEO Made Simple (now in it's second edition), I received tons of inquiries about the powerful search engine optimization methods I reveal in the guide.  As such, I felt compelled to start a series of publications that take a deep dive - showing exactly how I use my preferred SEO techniques for achieving number one Google Rankings.  My first book in the series is Article Marketing Made SimpleInstead of going old-school, this series will be available in digital format only.

With recent changes to the google algorithm, article marketing websites and directories have become less valuable in the Internet marketing space, or have they?  The reality is that Google still loves original content.  You just need to be more discerning in terms of where the content is placed and how it gets distributed.

What You'll Learn
In this 'tell all' guide, I show you step-by-step, how to use original content to improve your website rankings and earn an affiliate income.  Through the proper mix of keyword rich content and effective article marketing techniques, you can have top rankings for your website and blogs while earning commissions for selling online products and services.

The key to effective article marketing really has to do with unique content.  You should always strive to have your content be at least 40% unique and claim it before distributing to other sites.  I reveal some very effective techniques for getting your content on other blogs and websites, driving quality inbound links to a web property of your choosing.

One of the best aspects of article marketing is the level of authority you can create for your personal brand and digital assets. Whether you are trying to improve the rankings of your videos, squeeze pages, or search results associated with your name, article marketing can get you there.

Don't Believe the Hype
There's no doubt in my mind that you are going to hear people saying, "Article marketing is dead" or "article marketing doesn't work."  Well, just because it didn't work for them is really poor justification for dismissing the subject of article marketing.  In fact, I know plenty of Internet marketers who are using original content daily to deliver a large stream of affiliate revenue to their bank accounts and deliver top rankings.  I happen to be one of them!  Top 10 lists, product reviews, and blog posts are all elements of an effective article marketing strategy and I'll show you how to leverage these techniques for meaningful results.

Download a copy of Article Marketing Made Simple today and start building authority to your website or blog.  You'll also discover my top affiliate marketing strategies using articles and other informational techniques.  

How To Compete and Win Against Today's #1 Brands

This week we hear fromDanny Iny, someone I highly respect in the area of Internet marketing and smallbusiness communication.  He has been anentrepreneur for most of his life, quitting school when he was fifteen to starthis first successful business, and has been doing it ever since.  Danny has worked with companies of all sizes,from the very huge (Nokia, Google) to small businesses and entrepreneurs whoare just getting started.

These days, he is aprolific blogger and educator in the Firepole Marketing training program, andworks one-on-one with client businesses to improve their marketing and helpthem make more money.  He’s also a fellowauthor;  Danny’s book about effectivecommunication in writing is a must have, and he’s co-authoring two othertitles that are about to bereleased with co-authors that you may have heard of, like Guy Kawasaki,Brian Clark, Mitch Joel, and many others! Danny, thanks for sharing your thoughts with all of us on The MarketingBlog.

1.   HiDanny.  You’ve been working with smallbusinesses for many years.  What are someof the unique challenges small business owners are facing today?
I think the core challenges that small businesses face today are thesame challenges that they’ve faced in the past; too much to do, too little timein which to do it, and not enough expertise to drive it all, because they can’tbe experts in everything, and have too much on their plates. I see thisparticularly in the areas of marketing, and it is even worse because marketingis one of those fields where anyone who’s read a book or taken a course thinksthey really get it, even though in many cases they really don’t.

2.   How has social media impacted the smallbusiness owner?
Social media has impacted the small business owner by opening a newchannel through which they can connect with their audience. It’s not justanother channel, either, because it is qualitatively different from what waspreviously available, both in terms of the cost structures (it’s a lot cheaper,and is often free), and in terms of the bi-directionality (prospects andcustomers can talk to you and about you as easily as you can talk to them –more easily, in fact).

3.   What type of online marketing are yourecommending to the businesses you consult for?
That really depends on the client, and you’ve actually hit on one ofthe biggest mistakes that I see most small businesses making, which is assumingthat there is one “best” way to do online marketing, whether that be SEO, orPPC, or Twitter, or Facebook, or whatever. The truth is that the only waytactics will work for you (unless you just happen to get lucky) is byunderstanding who your customer is, where they hang out, and what drives theirbehavior. In other words, even if you can get very cheap clicks on a certainmedium, it doesn’t mean anything if those clicks aren’t the people you’retrying to reach, or they’re not in the right head-space to receive yourmessage.

4.   How can business owners grow their referralnetworks online and offline?
There are two parts to this; the first is having something that peoplewant to talk about – that includes just having a great offering, of course, butalso making it “buzz-worthy”. There are things that people like to tell theirfriends, and things that they don’t. You need to be great at what you do, butyou also need to find some remarkable way to shine through the clutter (likeBlendTec’s Will It BlendYouTube videos). Then the next step is to make it easy for people to tell theirfriends about you – for example, with easily embedded buttons that let peopleshare with a single click.

5.   How can small businesses use the web tocompete against larger, more prominent brands in their niche?
Well, first of all, don’t try to beat big companies at their own game;if David tries to beat Goliath by fighting like Gnliath, then David gets hisbutt kicked. Instead, focus on what value you can bring to the table that yourbig competitors can’t – for example, since you’re smaller and more agile, you canprobably offer more personalized service to your customers, or service a marketsegment that desperately needs your offering, but is too small for the bigcompetitor to justify investing the resources. Don’t focus on the competitor,but rather on what can make your relationship with your customer as special aspossible.

6.   Is there any other advice you can giveregarding effective online marketing and communications for the small businessowners reading this post? 
      What makes online marketing effective is thesame thing that makes offline marketing effective – understand your audience aswell as you possibly can, because that’s the information that you need in orderto differentiate yourself and really stand out in their minds. The “online”part of online marketing is mostly tactical, and not that complicated orimportant. Focus on knowing your customer, and serving them as well as youpossibly can – the rest can almost take care of itself.

      Special thanks to Danny Iny for his contributions to The Marketing Blog.  I encourage all of my readers to follow Danny and visit Firepole Marketing for GREAT marketing insights and information.  Once you start reading his blog you'll be hooked!