About Sandra McCarty

Founder of SM Business Solutions LLC, offering inbound marketing services that are both innovative and tailored to my clients needs. I use inbound marketing media such as blogging, emails and social media to help independent professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs successfully engage their target markets and increase their revenues. I am passionate about making sure my clients are satisfied and their companies experience tangible gains. A graduate of Martin J Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University, University of the West Indies and of the Royal Institute of Marketing, London. Some of my clients are; Retro Lounge & Grill, The Cybernet Place, Optic Masters, Balance & Power Inc, Long Island Entrepreneurs Meetup Group, Best Buyer's Brokers and Male Ego Ltd.

Discover Your USP and Use It To Power Up Your Sales

Discover your USP & differentiate yourself from the rest

Discover your USP and stand out from the rest

The key to effective selling is what advertising and marketing  professionals call a “unique selling proposition” (USP). Unless you can  pinpoint what makes your business unique and makes you stand out  from your competitors, you cannot target your sales efforts successfully.

 So what is USP?
USP is the reason presented by the seller that a product or service is  different from and better than that of the competition. This is the  benefit that your customer or client receives that makes your business stand out. It’s what makes you different and earns you a special place in the minds of your potential customers.

The point is, differentiating your business is a Good Thing, whether you’re talking about the business itself, your products or your marketing. Think about it from your customer’s point of view. With tens or hundreds of potential options out there, you have to answer the question, “why should I buy from you?” If you don’t answer that question quickly and effectively, your potential customers will move on.

USP Is Not About Being the Best
Having a great product or superb content is probably not enough of a difference to make your business stand out. In most markets, having a great product is just the price of admission.

When you’re small, it’s hard to compete on product or content quality alone. You need to change the conversation. Instead of screaming “hey, look at me, I have great stuff too,” you want to confidently say, “hey, I’m all about X, we do things differently. If you’re into X, we’re the only place you can get it.” The answer is that you don’t compete at all. Instead, you become the best at something no one else is attempting.

Discovering Your Unique Selling Proposition
There are a lot of different approaches you can take to discovering your USP which might end up being a combination of things. There’s no one right answer and depending on what business you are in, even a small amount of differentiation could lead to a much greater shot at success.

Here are a few simple ways to differentiate your business. These aren’t the only ways, but it’s a starting point to get you thinking.

Use Your Personality
If you’re running a very small business or are the primary owner of your business, sometimes your personality alone can be a powerful difference. You have to have a personality that resonates with people to pull this off however. Putting your personal stamp on many aspects of your business will allow you to create something no one can directly compete with.

Explore The Intersection Of Ideas
Interesting things happen at the intersection of ideas. Mix collective buying power with the social web and you get Groupon. Mix retail buying with the web and you get Amazon. Think about the industry your business is in, and what you could add to the mix to make it more interesting and unique. It doesn’t require inventing something new, just combine two things you already know about.

Narrow Your Target Market
You can choose a narrow target market who has never had a business like yours cater specifically to it. For example, become a Financial Advisor just for Registered Nurses (RN), or a CPA just for Restaurants or an Event Planner just for large outdoor events. Think about this from the customer’s standpoint. If you were a RN and need help with financial advice, you would be inclined to choose that person who that specializes in RN.

The other benefit of specializing in a narrow market segment is that promotion becomes much easier. You know where to find your target market  and you will better know what marketing message will be appealing.

Finally, Remember You’re Not Trying to Appeal to Everyone
As you begin to develop your USP it might seem like you are leaving out some potential customers as it is a natural tendency to want to please everybody. But when you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing no one. The goal of your USP is to connect more strongly with some people, and not so much with others. This is what you want because when you connect strongly with a smaller lucrative market your revenues will increase quickly.

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Google Will Downgrade Websites That Are Not Mobile Friendly

 

Your customers are mobile, is your website?

Your customers are mobile, is your website?


Is your website mobile friendly?
 On April 21st Google rolled out a new change to its search algorithms which factor in a website’s “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking signal – meaning that those sites which weren’t optimized for smartphones’ smaller screens would see their ranks downgraded as a result.  Google explains that in order for a site to be considered mobile-friendly, its text has to be readable without tapping and zooming, its tap targets need to be spaced out appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling. In other words, the site simply needs to be easily usable from a mobile device. Google also clarifies that the changes will only affect a site’s search ranking on mobile devices – and it only applies to individual pages, not entire websites. It also only impacts searches done on smartphones, not tablets.

Use this Google tool to determine if your website is mobile friendly”. 

The shift to mobile cannot be ignored any longer. According to eMarketer, the number of smartphone users worldwide will surpass 2 billion in 2016, and will come close to hitting that mark this year. In 2015, the firm said there will be over 1.91 billion smartphone users across the globe. And by 2018, over one-third of consumers worldwide will use smartphones.

That rapid shift to mobile has impacted all businesses, Google included. The company’s bottom line is affected by how many mobile users turn to its search engine to explore the web, which allows Google to display ads with the search results. Popular mobile properties like Facebook have been cutting into Google’s ad business. eMarketer noted that Google owned half of the mobile ad market in 2013, but that would decline to 46.8 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, Facebook’s share of the market grew from 5.4 percent of global ad spending in 2012 to 21.7 percent in 2014, the firm said.

Google’s decision to force website owners to make their sites work better on mobile devices is about making sure that Google can retain its position as a useful service in the age of mobile.

The advantages to making a site mobile-friendly is also good for business owners.  According to a study of 100 top mobile properties by Branding Brand, search accounted for nearly half of all smartphone traffic (43 percent) in Q1 2015, up 5 percent from the prior quarter. In addition, organic search produced 25 percent of all revenue on smartphone-optimized sites. And mobile traffic continues to grow – smartphone visits grew 35 percent year-over-year as of Q1, the study noted. Apple devices accounted for 59 percent of all smartphone visits in the quarter, during which time 28 percent of all online revenue was generated by mobile devices.

Google warns that if a site is determined to not be mobile-friendly, that “there may be a significant decrease in mobile traffic from Google Search.” But once the changes are made, Google will automatically re-process the site’s pages. Google’s crawling can take anywhere from a few hours to over 72 hours – but site owners can expedite the process by using Fetch as Google with Submit to Index. Then pages can be treated as mobile-friendly in ranking, Google says.

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Top Social Media Trends Impacting Marketing Decisions for 2015

Social Media trends in 2015 for Marketers

Social Media trends impacting marketing in 2015


1. Social Media Marketing has become essential to content marketing

Marketing practitioners now understands that social media is key to content marketing since it is one of the best ways to amplify content. The two most important aspects of content marketing is publication and distribution with social media been recognized as the most effective method of expanding the reach and visibility of of published content.

2. Facebook ad pricing will  increase significantly increase

The reach of Facebook posts have been decreased significantly in 2014, which is a serious problem for business owners who are using this platform for marketing purposes. This steady decline in reach is what has been coined the Filtered Feed Problem.

As Facebook continues to limit the number of posts page fans actually see, the demand for promoted posts and ads will continue to increase. This increase in demand will drive up the pricing. According to an Ad Week article earlier this year, 2014 Q1 Facebook ad pricing was up 10% over 2013 Q4 pricing. This trend is likely to continue into 2015 as organic post reach continues to fall.

 3. There will sharp increase in users on Twitter’s new business advertising model. 

Twitter is now offering businesses more choices and flexibility in how they create their ads and what they pay for. The new fee structure allows businesses to pay for certain performance-based actions rather than just retweets or clicks. Check out Twitter’s advertsing platform here.

These objective-based campaigns, which are still currently in beta, will offer more flexibility including tweet engagements (retweets, replies, etc.), website clicks or conversions, app installs, new followers and leads. These campaigns will be particularly appealing to small business owners who want to pay for results, not just for brand visibility.

4. Google+ is changing to bring more value to marketers

With the failure of Google’s Authorship experiment, it was felt by some that Google + did not bring a unique value to the social landscape and after the highly publicized departure of Google+ chief evangelist Vic Gundotra earlier this year  Tech Crunch felt the platform was quickly making the descent into obscurity. Having read Google CEO Larry Page in his statement about Gundotra’s departure and the fact that there a number of newly release features convinced me Google will not kill off Google +. The social network and user data infrastructure of Google is not going away.

The Google+ team has released new features such as Google+ polls and Google My Business.  Google+ polls allows you to poll other people on Google+ and learn what they think about a particular product, service or topic . Google My Business connects you directly with your customers, whether they’re looking for you on Search, Maps or Google+. Google My Business also puts your business info on Search, Maps and Google+ so that your customers can find you, no matter what device they’re using.

5. Instagram will become essential for image-based social media marketing

With over 200 million monthly users, Instagram is the network for image-based social media marketing.  According to the Social Media Marketing Industry report, 42% of marketers are planning to increase their use of the platform this year, compared to 38% in 2013. Instagram will also continue to grow in the micro-video space. With both Vine and Instagram vying for billing as the top video networking site, the platforms have continued to differentiate themselves from the other offering different features, video lengths and editing capabilities. However, I believe we’ll see Instagram begin to outpace Vine as we enter 2015.

And with the recent emergence of Instagram’s in-feed video advertising, marketers will now have the option of paying to target their 15-second videos to users based on age, gender and country. While some have called the new video ads incongruous, the new feature is a welcome addition for marketers looking to promote their wares to Instagram’s young, affluent user base.

6. LinkedIn will widen the gap as “the” B2B social network
LinkedIn has been the top network of choice for the B2B crowd for years already, and I believe we’ll see the gap between LinkedIn and other networks continue to widen in 2015. According to the 2014 Social Media Examiner survey, 88% of B2B marketers are using LinkedIn, compared to 89% for Facebook and 86% for Twitter. I believe 2015 is the year LinkedIn will surpass Facebook for B2B marketing.

Conclusion

As 2015 progresses, it will be rather interesting to see how marketing professionals take advantage of these trends to build brand awareness, increase customer loyalty and drive sales. Do tell us what is working for you or share with our readers what other trends you have identified for 2015.

 

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Improve Your Search Ranking With Citations or Business Profiles

Citations or business profiles are becoming more and more important to Penguin, Google’s newest algorithm update. Since Penguin now gives more value to business profile /citation they have become very important in improving your website and company ranking with the search engines. Citations or business profiles are also valuable for referring potential clients or customers to your website because these profiles show up in Google searches and help your business’s Google+ and map listings rank higher. Citations/business profiles are essential for branding as well. The more mentions you have of your business across the web on quality sites the better.

What is a Citation Listing/Business Profile?
This is a business listing that includes your business name, address, and phone number. Some citation listings include even more details like a link to your website, photos of business or products, videos, business category, description, products and services, and social profiles. They are essential if you want to rank locally in search engine results because they create trust for your business name and reputation. Basically they’re like the old phone book listings, but online.

How to Find Local Business Citation Opportunities
First, make sure you’ve got the big listings covered: Google+, Yahoo, & Bing Local. Then you can start creating or claiming the big name local citation listings online: City Search, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Info USA Listings, Super Pages, Brown Book, and Map Quest. If you get stuck you can always head over to White Spark or Bright Local (mentioned below) and do a citation search for your business. Alternatively, you can Google competitors’ phone numbers that are ranking well locally to see where they’re listed. Make sure you perform searches of their phone numbers with brackets, dashes, and with just the number because they will all yield slightly different search results.

Great sites to upload business citations and profiles

Great sites to upload business citations and profiles

Best Third Party Business Listing Sites
If you don’t have time to submit your business to business profile citation sites there are a few quality and affordable listing submission sites to consider: Localeze, Yext, and City Grid.

Citation/Business Profile Submission Tips
While it’s important to have a consistent name, address, and phone number across multiple sites, make sure you use unique descriptions when you can. Also, be sure to have your business’s logo, product, and other images saved to your computer. Once they’re saved right click on each image and select properties, then details. Then you can add a title, subject, tags, and copyright information for each image. Also make sure you have a word document or spreadsheet saved with the following information ready to cut and paste:

1. Business Name
2. Address
3. Phone Number
4. Website
5. Description
6. Business Email Address
7. Link Building Email, Username, & Password
8. Social Profile Links: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ & Maps
9. Business Categories
10. Business Tags

 Make Sure Your Business is Not Already Listed
Check to see if your business is already listed on the site to avoid duplicate listing issues. You can do this by using some easy search operators on Google: (inurl:listingsitehere “your business name”). So if you want to see if SM Business Solutions was listed on Super Pages you would type the following in a Google search: (“inurl:superpages “SM Business Solutions”). Another way to search for your business on a specific website is conducting a search using your phone number and the site name. If you’re not familiar with search operators you can learn more about them from Google here.

If you find an existing profile with inaccurate information, just claim it and update the information. If your listing has already been claimed you can usually contact the listing company and make a request for them to release the listing so you can claim it. Other times they will simply delete the incorrect listing information and you can create a whole new one.

Start Creating Business Profiles
Now you’re ready to start submitting your business profile listings. Just remember to track the progress of each listing and be sure to safe your login details should you ever need to update your listings.  Let me know if I missed any good citation building sites in the comments or if you have any local listing questions.

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How Can Local Search Marketing Help Your Business in Long Island New York?

This is the first in a series of posts that focuses on how Local Search Marketing can help your business in Long Island New York. This post looks at  what is Local Search Marketing and what business can benefit from using it.

It is conservatively estimated that 30 to 40 percent of all online search is made with local intent. The fact that at any given second of any day, people are searching online for information to help them in their every day life makes Local Search Marketing extremely important in helping you reach your prospective customers and clients.

Top Local Search Marketing Tools

Top Local Search Marketing Tools

What is Local Search Marketing?
Local search is the use of specialized Internet search engines like Google Maps, Yahoo Local and Bing Places for Business that allow users to submit geographically constrained searches against a database of local business listings. Local search is any search aimed at finding something within a specific geographic area. Example: “Caribbean restaurant in Baldwin new York.” Local search is seeking information online with the intention of making a transaction offline. Example: “atm Rockville Center.” Anything that you would traditionally look for in the printed yellow pages becomes a local search when it is conducted online. Example: “immigration attorney on Sunrise Highway.”

Who can benefit from Local Search Marketing?
If you want your customers and clients to find your place of business you can benefit from Local Search Marketing.
1. HyperLocal Business – If you are a hyperlocal business that only draw customers from within a specific service area. Some examples are restaurants, barbers, manicurists, dry cleaners, delicatessens, and sandwich shops. It’s a given that if someone is searching for these types of products or services, they intend to purchase them from a location nearby.

2. Location Specific Business –  If your business is location-specific, but the people searching for them are most likely elsewhere. While potential customers might not currently be in your immediate area, they hope to be some time in the future. Examples are cruise lines, ski resorts, car rental agencies, campgrounds, and convention centers.

3. Non-Location Specific Business – Some business draw clients from both nearby and far away. Examples of these are immigration attorneys, financial advisers real estate brokers, regional hospitals, household movers, and mortgage companies

As you can see, just about anyone who conducts any business offline can be impacted by local search. Have you started to use Local Search Marketing? How is it working for you? We look forward to your comments. Do feel free to contact me at sandra @smbizsol.com if you need help with your Local Search Marketing.

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