Protecting Older Adults: Beware of AI-Generated Voice Scams

In today’s digital age, technology has brought about incredible advancements that have made our lives easier and more convenient in many ways. However, along with these benefits comes the risk of exploitation and fraud, especially for older adults who may be less familiar with the latest technological developments. One such emerging threat is AI-generated voice scams, which aim to deceive older adults and their families by mimicking the voices of loved ones. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how these scams work and provide tips on how to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Understanding AI-Generated Voice Scams

AI-generated voice scams, also known as voice synthesis scams, utilize artificial intelligence technology to create lifelike imitations of real voices. Scammers use these voice replicas to impersonate relatives, friends, or even financial institutions in phone calls to deceive unsuspecting victims. The goal of these scams is often to trick older adults into providing personal information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account details, or passwords, or to persuade them to transfer money or make fraudulent purchases.

How to Recognize AI-Generated Voice Scams

Detecting AI-generated voice scams can be challenging, as the synthesized voices can sound remarkably similar to real human voices. However, there are several red flags to watch out for:

  1. Unsolicited Calls: Be cautious of unexpected phone calls, especially if the caller claims to be a relative or friend in distress or a representative from a familiar organization requesting sensitive information or urgent action.
  2. Pressure Tactics: Scammers often use high-pressure tactics to elicit a quick response from their victims, such as claiming that immediate action is needed to resolve an urgent issue or to prevent a supposed disaster.
  3. Inconsistencies in Story: Pay attention to inconsistencies or discrepancies in the caller’s story, such as changes in details or unusual requests that seem out of character for the supposed relative or organization.
  4. Verification: Whenever in doubt, verify the caller’s identity by asking questions that only the real person would know the answers to or by contacting the individual or organization directly using a known, trusted phone number.

Tips for Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones

To protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to AI-generated voice scams, consider the following precautions:

  1. Educate Older Adults: Take the time to educate older adults about the existence of AI-generated voice scams and how to recognize and respond to suspicious phone calls.
  2. Establish Verification Procedures: Establish clear verification procedures for verifying the identity of callers claiming to be relatives or representatives from organizations. Encourage older adults to follow these procedures before providing any personal or financial information over the phone.
  3. Use Caller ID: Take advantage of caller ID features on phones to screen incoming calls and identify unknown numbers. If a call appears suspicious, let it go to voicemail and listen to the message before responding.
  4. Stay Vigilant: Encourage older adults to stay vigilant and trust their instincts. If something feels off or too good to be true, it’s essential to proceed with caution and seek assistance if needed.


AI-generated voice scams pose a significant threat to older adults and their families, as scammers continue to evolve their tactics to deceive unsuspecting victims. By staying informed, remaining vigilant, and following the tips outlined in this blog post, you can help protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to these deceptive schemes. Remember, when in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and verify the caller’s identity before sharing any personal or financial information over the phone.

The IRS wants to tax your side hustle

Do you have a side hustle? Are you a reseller? Do you own a craft business? Are you part of the gig economy? If so, you should ensure you are complying with IRS regulations and reporting all your income.

Side hustles have become more popular and profitable than ever before. From 2020 to 2021 alone, the percentage of side hustlers making over $1,500 per month has doubled. Today, up to 45% of all Americans are side hustlers, with that number reaching as high as 49% for workers under age 34.

The IRS has noticed the uptick in transactions occurring from all this side hustling or “other income” as they call it. Primarily from people selling personal items, arts/crafts, refurbished items, and reselling in general (think found items, thrift store goods, and estate sale finds). Few buyers carry cash and most sellers like to recieve the money up front and electronically (Zelle, PayPal, Square, Stripe, Venmo, Cash App, and others). To track all this money floating around the IRS is requiring these third party settlement companies to file a form 1099K reporting your “earnings”.

From the IRS FAQ published on 12/28/2022:

Q. If I have a holiday craft business, will I receive a Form 1099-K? 

A. You may receive a Form 1099-K depending on the type of transactions.

If you accept payment cards (for example, credit card or debit cards) as a form of payment for goods you sell or services you provide, you will receive a Form 1099-K for the gross amount of the payments made to you through the use of a payment card during the calendar year. This reporting requirement has not changed, and there is no minimum reporting threshold for these payments to trigger a reporting requirement.

Further, for calendar years after 2021, if you accept payments from a third party settlement organization, you may receive Form 1099-K from that organization. A third party settlement organization connects the parties together (for example, an internet sales site). You will receive a Form 1099-K if you accepted payments from a third party settlement organization where,

  • the total number of your transactions exceeded 200, and
  • the aggregate amount of payments you received with respect to any participating payee exceeded $20,000 in the calendar year.

Note: The American Rescue Plan Act lowered the threshold to trigger a reporting requirement on a Form 1099-K from more than $20,000 to more than $600 (regardless of the number of transactions). The IRS issued Notice 2023-10, which temporarily delays the enforcement of the lowered reporting requirement. However, you may receive a Form 1099-K in error at the lower threshold, despite Notice 2023-10.

BOTTOM LINE: Track your sales, track your expenses, and pay Ceaser his due. 

Sources: IRS FAQ published 12/28/2022; Zippia – 19 must-know side hustle statistics


New mileage rate for 2023

Good News: the standard mileage deduction is increasing by 3 cents per mile! 

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2023, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be: 

  • 65.5 cents per mile driven for business use, up 3 cents from the midyear increase setting the rate for the second half of 2022.
  • 22 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes for qualified active-duty members of the Armed Forces, consistent with the increased midyear rate set for the second half of 2022.
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations; the rate is set by statute and remains unchanged from 2022. 


If you haven’t been tracking mileage for your small business, 2023 is a great time to start. 

Top 7 Social Media Tasks to Outsource

Social Media MarketingAre you overwhelmed with the amount of work required to maintain a successful Social Media Marketing Plan?

Don’t worry – you are not alone! Without a strategic implementation plan, and someone to help you execute the plan, your social media efforts aren’t likely to provide the return on investment you are looking for. Here is a list of the top seven social media tasks to outsource:

  1. Social Media Strategy, Planning, Set up
  2. Social Network Research (Finding targeted followers, friends, and a targeted fan base)
  3. Social Media Submission (Informational status updates, events, blog posts, industry trends, etc.)
  4. Social Network Integration (Ex: linking blog to Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter)
  5. Social Media Monitoring & Measurement (ORM, tracking & analytics)
  6. Social Media Optimization (Keeping your message on track with rick keywords!)
  7. Social Networking Site Adoption (vetting new social networks to determine if they are a “good fit” for your business.)

Have questions? Contact me today for a complimentary consultation, 817-922-9077. 

Choosing Images for Your Messages

Images are a powerful part of your messaging but you need to choose wisely.

Adding pictures to your email newsletter, blog posts, web pages, and even your Facebook posts is a powerful marketing technique. A great photo will help draw people into your article, explain your message, and sometimes even evoke an emotional response. There are three general types of imagery you can use in your marketing 1) Custom or real imagery (best choice), 2) Stock Photography, 3) Clip art (avoid at all costs).overused-stock-art-guy

Stock images are seen everywhere. But are they good to use? Yes and no. We love them because they are readily available, professional-looking, and inexpensive. Unfortunately, the best photos, and the best looking models, tend to be overused. For example, have you met the most amazing man on the planet? I’m sure you have seen his photo…he is a successful tax accountant, business manager, AND a doctor. I call him Mr. Talented. (more…)

Keyword Research

keyword researchMost people rush into creating website content without doing any keyword research. Unfortunately hoping for the best won’t get you ranked on Google. And if you don’t have rank, chances are people won’t find you. Studies show 90% of the time folks searching online will only click on the listings on the first page of Google AND 60% of those click-throughs come from the first three listings! If you want to rank high on Google, it’s critical you know the right keywords for your business and optimize for them.

However, conducting keyword research alone isn’t enough –
You also need to look at what your competitors and the leaders in your industry are doing. The process of analyzing which online marketing tactics the most successful businesses in your industry are employing will save you countless hours of frustration and a lot of money in ineffective marketing.

Sound overwhelming? Don’t let it be. Call me for a free consultation to see how I can help you with your marketing goals. 817-922-9077

Which social media sites are BEST for your business?

Internet-Marketing-Options-Have you ever asked yourself…

  • Which sites are worth investing time in?
  • Should I learn Pinterest? Instagram? Facebook? What about Twitter? 
  • Would it be better to spend more time on LinkedIn?

Time is a precious commodity and you shouldn’t waste it on a social networking site that isn’t a good fit for your industry or business.

Here are five questions to help you evaluate which sites are going to give you the highest return on investment for your time.

  1. Is this a site my potential clients/customers use?
  2. Are my competitors active here?
  3. Does this platform have a sufficient number of users to be worth my time?
  4. Does this platform do something unique? 
  5. Is this platform a good fit for my personality and lifestyle? 

Example #1:

If both your target audience and your competitors are active on LinkedIn then there is probably a good reason why = it works for your industry, therefore it might work for you too.

Example #2:

Just because Pinterest is the hot new “kid on the block” doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of time there. If you aren’t visually oriented, could care less about pictures, and it isn’t a good match for your business, then take a pass.

The next time someone tells you, “You have to be on [insert social media site du jour here] to be successful!” ask yourself the ROI Top 5, and decide for yourself which sites are going to pay off for you.

12 reasons to love email marketing

Email Marketing ServicesI love email marketing for small business owners, low start-up and maintenance costs, incredibly high return on investment (ROI), and its efficiency. It’s quick, easy to use, conserves time (which always seems to be in short supply) and it gets the message across. Here are my Top 12 Reasons to love email marketing:

  1. Email is a multi-tasker – Once transmitted your messages can be shared, forwarded, answered, printed, or saved.
  2. No middlemen – your message goes directly to your intended recipient. Even busy, powerful people, who won’t ordinarily take or return phone calls will read an email. Plus getting past secretaries, receptionists, and other gatekeepers can be murder.
  3. To the point – Unlike face-to-face or telephone encounters that necessitate time-consuming preliminary “small-talk”, email gets right to the point and encourages brevity.
  4. Clear and precise – You can clearly convey precise information that often gets butchered in telephone messages, such as numbers/formulas, technical terms, URLs, or other links.
  5. Highly targeted – you can laser-focus on potential customers. Unlike print advertising, you can choose who receives your marketing messages.
  6. Ultra cost-effective – the average cost is only .08 cents per email sent without the expense of printing, postage, and design/typesetting fees.
  7. ROI – According to the Direct Mail Association the average ROI is $1 to $46. TV, Radio, Billboards and other forms of traditional marketing can’t even come close to this!
  8. Engagement – Its reply feature encourages recipients to respond with direct questions and comments. While you may not be able to meet with your past, current, and potential clients for coffee each month you can certainly stay in touch via email.
  9. Social Media – It integrates beautifully with Social Media channels. Many email marketing services automatically link to your Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  10. Follow up – Email makes it easy to send short, gentle reminders of your upcoming specials and/or events.
  11. Increased traffic – By linking to content on your website you can drive more traffic to your site.
  12. Photography – A picture is “worth a 1,000 words” and often evokes an emotional response; with email marketing, you can easily add an eye-catching photo to your marketing message.


What is CSS?

WordPress websites are built using Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS as they are more commonly known.

CSS was invented by lazy (bless their brilliant geeky hearts) coders who didn’t want to keep typing the same boring pieces of code over and over. Instead, they write the code once and have it cascade throughout the site.

CSS has many great benefits including:

  • Complete control over the look of your website
  • Site-wide changes by just editing one-sheet
  • Separation of the design and the content of your site

The main benefit when it comes to using CSS on your website is that it allows you to keep its content separate from its structure. This makes for higher content weighting, which helps your site increase its relevance to the search engines.

If you have built your site using a drag-n-drop builder, and it’s not showing up in the search engines this might be why.

Google and the other search engines love CSS because they don’t have to go through everything on your site to access your content…which is the part they most interested in.

If you have an old, out-of-date website that needs updating with the latest technology give me a call. 

Interruption Vs Permission Marketing

Interruption_MarketingThe average person is inundated with over 2,000 marketing interruptions per day!
How are YOU communicating with your customers?

Are you blindly pushing your marketing messages to the masses with old fashioned techniques hoping they resonate with your target audience? Or are you embracing permission marketing (i.e. Inbound Marketing) methods and creating interesting content that your customers want to see?
Here’s a breakdown of the two different marketing strategies:

Interruption Marketing


Permission Marketing

Interrupting someone’s day in order to push product or services on them


Earning people’s interest naturally, without interrupting them

Communication is one-way


Communication is two-way

The marketer’s focus is on
making the sale NOW


The marketer’s focus is on VALUE
through entertaining or educating

< 10% of clicks on the web


90%+ clicks on the web

Powered by budget & repetition


Powered by creativity & effort





Gives quick results


Builds long-term relationships with customers

Easy to measure results (i.e. quick boost in sales)


Your messages are wanted and anticipated




Expensive $


Takes more time ∞



High ROI over the lifetime of a customer

Incites ANXIETY :(


Builds Trust :)





 Telemarketing Calls


Blogging and website content

Direct Mail Campaigns


Public Speaking

Unsolicited Email Marketing


Opt-in Email Marketing

TV & Radio Ads


Word-of-mouth & viral marketing

Pre-roll ads that play before video content


Video Content

Interstitial & transitional online ads that interrupt or delay the user’s selected content


Supporting and or sponsoring

events & Meetups

Throwaway Press Releases


Organic Press & Public Relations



Authoring Books and eBooks


Why You Need to Analyze and Track Your Competition

Competitor Analysis Report Fort WorthAre your competitors more successful that you?

How are they perceived by potential customers? Have you searched them on Twitter or read what is being said about them on Facebook? Are they conducting contests? Do they offer web-only discounts? Should they be? Should YOU??

Or perhaps you are looking for a fresh new idea. One of the best ways to get your creative juices flowing is to look at what your competitors are doing and try to improve upon their offerings. Doing will help you identify gaps in the marketplace.

Plus, through the act of observing your competitors you gain a wealth of information that will benefit your business and strengthen your position in the market.

By conducting regular competitor analysis you can compare and contrast the performance of your website and product offerings to the performance of your competitors, thereby helping you determine your strengths and weaknesses.

Not only can Strategic Online Solutions build an effective online competitor report for your business, but we’ll also help you interpret it and identify strategic online solutions designed to grow your business.

Your Competitor Report will include:

  • Identification of your top competitors
  • Analysis of your competitor’s web presence, search engine presence (including keywords!)
  • Analysis of your competitor’s social media activities and their effectiveness
  • Executive Summary with suggestions that can immediately be implemented
  • Telephone consultation to review findings and brainstorm response strategies

How to Recycle Your Email Newsletter Content

Your monthly email marketing message is filled with interesting insights, articles, and valuable offers for your clients and potential clients and you want to make sure it is read by as many people as possible! Here are three great tips to “recycle” that message:

First, utilize Social Media sites – The tool I use for email marketing, automatically pushes your content out to Twitter and Facebook. Plus, LinkedIn can be configured to display your Twitter feed. This way all three of the major social media sites receive your content automatically.

Second, repurpose our content for the web – Most email newsletters have multiple messages, for example, an article, an announcement, and a discount offer. These can be split into individual posts and added to your website or blog. WordPress blog sites make this very easy. Since the content is already written, re-purposing is as simple as cutting and pasting.

Third, maximize for Search Engines – Repurposing email newsletter content to a website not only provides more value to your site visitors but is an important internet marketing strategy when it comes to search engine ranking. The Google “spiders” are hungry critters that love fresh, relevant content fed to them on a regular basis. Google “crawls” individual articles treating them as pages that may rank high for specific searches. The more you write, the more likely you are to have higher rankings and ultimately get noticed by potential clients.

How to start a business in Texas

How to start a business in TexasDo you want to start a business in Texas but you aren’t sure where to start? Here are the 10 steps (in sequential order) I took to start my business way back in 2008.

Should I incorporate my business? While incorporating isn’t required, it does help minimize your personal risk and has other benefits. I recommend meeting with an attorney, and also an accountant, to determine which legal entity is best for you and your unique business.

10 Steps to Start a Business

  1. File for an LLC, preferably through an attorney. (2 – 7 days)
  2. Find out which of your services are taxable by calling the Texas State Comptroller’s office at 800-252-5555. TIP: Take good notes, get the name and email of the person you talked with, then email him/her a summary of your conversation, and ask them for a confirmation…in writing. (1 hour)
  3. Apply for an EIN with the IRS. File online at Or you can call 800-829-4933 to file by phone (1 hour)
  4. Get your NAICS code; look up online here: (1/2 hour)
  5. Apply for a Sales Tax Permit: (1 hour)
  6. File for a DBA (Assumed Name) with the Tarrant County Clerk office. Tip: You can download the form online, but you must pay in person and sign the form in person. (1 hour)
  7. Set up a business bank account. (1 hour)
  8. Set up an accounting system, preferably with the advice of an accountant. I use Quickbooks Online software. (2 hours)
  9. Schedule dates on your calendar to pay your quarterly state and federal taxes. (1/2 hour)
  10. Conduct business, have fun, and make a lot of money


CAN-Spam Act Requirements – are you in compliance?

CAN-SPAM-ACT-REQUIREMENTSThe best way to keep from being labeled a “SPAMMER” is to know the legal requirement of the CAN-SPAM Act and to stay in compliance. 

CAN-SPAM stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing. It is federal legislation signed into law by the 2nd Pres. Bush and describes the legal requirements that must be fulfilled by senders of commercial email. The Penalties are $250 per email, with a cap of $2 million that can be tripled for aggravated violations. But don’t worry, this law is largely unenforced and is so poorly written it’s commonly referred to as the “You-Can-Spam” Act because the bill explicitly legalizes most email! In particular, it does not require e-mailers to get permission before they send marketing messages. Go figure!

Legal Requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003:

  1. Use a legitimate return email address.
  2. Provide a valid physical address.
  3. Clearly label commercial email as advertising.
  4. Use a truthful and relevant subject line.
  5. Provide a  working opt-out link.
  6. Process opt-out requests within 10 business days.

As long as you are compliant with these six legal points, you have not violated the law. The good news is most email marketing services, like Mail Chimp, come with tools that help keep you in compliance.

If you have any questions about email marketing please don’t hesitate to call me at 817-922-9077

In a slump? Revive your business in 5 easy steps.

in a slump?It is inevitable, your networking group will dissolve, a hot new competitor will come along, or your largest client will ditch you without warning. Odds are at some point you’ll find your previously “well-oiled machine” smack in the middle of a slump. You weren’t coasting either, it just happened. And when it does, you’ve got to do something about it. Here are a few tips for reviving your business:

#1. Stop Complaining
When business isn’t going well, it’s a common practice to blame it on someone, something, or the economy. Don’t waste your time; blame won’t get you new projects or clients.

#2. Re-group
Admit that billable hours have declined, but DON’T DWELL on it. Instead, dust off your business plan, analyze your marketing/advertising mix, and evaluate the effectiveness of your sales efforts. What worked in the past that you stopped doing? Look for new avenues to get your message out. For example, Internet Based Radio stations are springing up everywhere, and their talk show hosts are always looking for interesting guests.

#3. Brainstorm for Action Items
Change, even if it isn’t perfect, will modify the dynamic of a situation and help to propel your business out of its slump. Gather with your advisory board/trusted friends/mentors or whoever it is you meet with to discuss business and BRAINSTORM. Make a possibility list – throw any perceived limitations out the window and shoot for the moon. You may not have the budget for a full-page ad in the Fort Worth Business Press, but the discussion of advertising might just spark another idea that is feasible.

#4. Create EXCITING New Goals
Take the best ideas from your brainstorming session, turn them into shiny new goals, then assign a time-line for completion to each one. For example, you might commit to completing a certain number of telephone calls each week to previous clients, telling them about a new offer. Get excited about these goals, take them seriously, and set appropriate rewards for yourself and those assisting you.

#5. Take Action
Sitting around tormenting yourself, whining to your spouse, or stewing with friends, obviously isn’t going to resolve your slump. It’s up to YOU to make things happen. You’ve done it before; there’s no question that you can do it again.

Slumps happen – that’s part of being in business. But if you think smart, stay POSITIVE, and keep your attention focused on satisfying your customers, odds are you’ll rally and overcome your challenges.

How to Get Started with Email Marketing

Getting Started With Email MarketingIf you have read about the benefits of email marketing but you’re not sure where to begin, a good place to start is by answering some fundamental questions about your business, your customers, and your goals, including:

  • Who is your primary target audience? 
    This is typically the same as for your business, but don’t forget to include your referral partners, suppliers, strategic alliances, and your mom – she likes to brag on your success.
  • What are your goals for email marketing? 
    Increased sales? Increase brand awareness? Drip Marketing? To establish yourself as an expert in your field?
  • What type of content or free offer would entice your target audience to subscribe to your email list?
    Free tips? Exclusive discounts? A special report or white paper?
  • What ongoing messaging can you share with your audience that will be of VALUE to them?
     Information about your industry or field of expertise? Specials? Exclusive access/announcements?
  • Which email marketing program will you use to manage your list and messages? 
    There are multiple options in the marketplace including my personal favorite, MailChimp. 
  • How will you display your sign-up widget? 
    A separate squeeze page? A site-wide opt-in box?
  • How will you measure your success?
    New subscribers? Increased sales conversions?
  • What are your key benchmarks and how often will your measure your success? 
    Example: A 25% increase in site traffic or 15% increase in the number of direct messages from clients and potential clients. How often: after 90 days? Monthly?

Free Offer Ideas

One of the toughest aspects of starting an email marketing program is getting people to opt into your distribution list. A great way to entice them to sign up via your website is to give them something of value. I suggest sitting down with a business associate and brainstorming ideas. Here is a handy “seed” list to kick-start your brainstorming session:

  • Offer a free or discounted consultation
  • Offer an eBook, White Paper, or Special Report
  • Special Discounts or Coupons
  • Have a contest with a valuable prize
  • Write an industry survey and offer to share the results
  • Create a video series or interview series

Relevancy and SEO Defined

Do you ever wonder how relevancy is determined by Google? Why some websites quickly rise in the SERPs (search engine result pages) and others don’t?

How-is-relevancy-determinedThe Google algorithm, which is used to determine relevancy, considers 500 million variables and two billion terms. That’s way too much information for the average small business owner to keep up with. Instead, try focusing on these top five factors influencing SEO:

  1. Content & Keyword Relevancy
  2. Traffic Levels
  3. Quality back-links to your site
  4. Fresh and unique content
  5. Domain age

SEO Defined: “SEO is the process of designing and modifying websites, as well as updating on-site content in order to gain top positions in the Search Engines for specific keyword searches.”

SEO basics include:

  • Adding and improving website content to ensure it is targeting the right audience and keywords.
  • Improving site structure and navigation to make it ‘Google Spider’ friendly.
  • Optimizing the HTML source code
  • Link Building

 Link building defined: “Link Building refers to the process of getting high-quality in-bound (one-way) links to your website in order to improve your search rankings and listings.”

Link building involves: 

  • Creating and distributing relevant content (ie. articles, blog posts, etc.) to press release networks, article banks, social bookmarking sites, and other Social Media channels.
  • Researching and sending link requests to quality, relevant sites. (ie. Blog rolls)
  • Using Social Media and Blogs to ignite search listings and build one-way links back to your site.

How To Create Easy To Remember, Strong Passwords

This method truly is brilliant! I have to give props where they are due: my husband Sam taught me a variation of this method a couple of years ago. :) Basically you use a combination of numbers, symbols, and upper/lower case letters.

What makes a password strong is the combination of different alphanumeric, special characters, and capitalization that you use, and of course the length of the password.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to remember and type an epistle when I fill out a password field. And, ideally, I don’t want to use the same password on many sites, because if one is compromised then my entire life is unlocked.

I want to show you here how to choose very strong passwords for every website that you use, that are different for each website, and are each only 9 characters in length max.

A study found that an 8-character password that’s constructed in the manner I’m going to show you has 7.2 quadrillion different combinations, and will take 83.5 days to crack if the hacker can try 1 billion different passwords per second.

Step 1: Pick 2 Starting Characters
To make it easy to remember, all your passwords are going to start with the same characters. But these are not just any characters. Pick 2 characters from the list of special characters that you see above the numbers on your keyboard and to the left of the Enter key.

These characters are: ~`!@#$%^&*()_-+={}[]:;”‘<>?/|\

Pick any two of them as your password starting characters. To show you an example as you read through the steps, let’s pick $ and % (pick your own two). In my example, all my passwords are going to start with $%.

Step 2: Pick 2 Ending Characters
In exactly the same way as above, pick two different special characters that will be at the end of your passwords. Don’t pick the same characters as your starting characters.

For the purposes of my example, let’s pick * and ^. Hence, all my passwords are going to end with *^.

Step 3: Construct The Middle Part Using The Website Name
This is the fun part. Take the first 6 characters of the website domain name where you want to use the password. If the domain name is shorter than 6 characters, then use the full domain name.

In my example, let’s create a password The first 6 characters of the domain name is “micros”. Now we’re going to substitute some characters and capitalize others. Substitute the following characters: a becomes @, e becomes 3, i becomes 1, o becomes 0, and u becomes ^. Now we have “m1cr0s“.

Now, decide on a standard for yourself regarding which character(s) you’re going to capitalize. For this example, let’s say we’re always going to capitalize the 3rd consonant. So now we have “m1cR0s”. The next step is to drop the last character (“s” in our case), and append the Ending Characters (*^) that you picked in Step 2. Our password is now “m1cR0*^“.

The last step is to add the Starting Characters (Step 1) to the beginning of the password. The final password is “$%m1cR0*^“.

A Few More Examples

  • Domain:, Password: “$%tw1Tt*^”.
  • Domain:, Password: “$%f@c3B*^”.
  • Domain: Password: “$%3b@*^”

Remember Pick your own 2 starting characters and your own 2 ending characters, don’t just use the same ones I used in the example. In addition, make your own capitalization rule (you can capitalize more than 1 character if you want to. You can also use more than the first 6 characters of the domain name if you want to. It just means your passwords will be slightly longer.

Is This Password Strong?
Yes, it is very strong. With this method you’re potentially using any of 30 special characters, 10 numerals, and 26 lower case and 26 uppercase characters. Unless a hacker happens to have a water-cooled supercomputer in his briefcase, he will not be able to crack your password.

Making It Even Stronger
If you’re concerned that some hackers might know about this password construction method, simply pick 3 starting characters and/or 3 ending characters, or as many as you like. Any slight variation of the method makes your passwords even more secure.

This article was written by Dewald Pretorius from

If you have questions or need help picking a strong, easy to remember password please don’t hesitate to give me a call, or shoot me an email. I’m happy to help you with this very important issue.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

How to Organize Your Computer Files

I‘ve been successfully organizing large amounts of data for years and I developed the following method while working at Verizon as a research analyst. I continue to use it and teach it to my clients, today. The key to organizing the files on your computer begins with how you name your files.

Rule #1 – Name your files and folders: General to Specific

Rule #2 – Start with the full 4-digit year

Rule #3 – Be consistent

Example: I write a series of reports each month for a client called MLC; I’ve been writing these reports for over two years, and since I enjoy this client and project I hope to continue writing these reports for years to come. By using the following file naming method it’s easy to keep my files organized and to quickly retrieve old reports at a moment’s notice. Here are three sample files created for my client “MLC”:

  • 2010_01_MLC_Report_ABCcompany.pdf
  • 2010_01_MLC_Report_AcmeCorp.pdf
  • 2010_02_MLC_Invoice_JanVAservices.pdf

Always start with the four-digit year, followed by the two-digit month, followed by the client, followed by what (report, invoice, etc.), then end with the specific subject of the file.

Once you get used to consistently using this file naming convention, scanning your filing system and retrieving data is much easier and quicker!

Why do internet start-up businesses fail?

The US Small Business Association ( claims >50% of start-ups will not survive their first five years in business. In the internet space, this percentage may be even larger considering the low barriers to entry and low costs of starting an online business.

Don’t be another statistic! Reviews these nine reasons businesses fail and take affirmative action!

  • Saturated Market – Who is your competition? How much competition do you have? Many businesses fail because they do not take the time, or know how to, conduct a   competitor analysis.
  • Lack of Planning and Organization – The cure to this is solid strategic planning, developing systems and processes for ALL your business activities,  and effective marketing planning.
  • Poor Management / Leadership / Team – Are you trying to do everything yourself including the accounting, sales, marketing, management, human resources AND produce products? Are you trying to run a professional business with unskilled, or even unavailable, team members? 
  • Insufficient Capital – Not enough money to sufficiently fund start-up costs or to adequately plan for long-term needs.
  • Location – obviously this applies primarily to local based businesses, but for internet marketers WHERE you market online can also have a huge impact on your success. 
  • Over expansion – Businesses trying to grow too quick. Remember the “dot com bubble” (1995-2000)? Many of those ventures received “angel investor” funding, hired a ton of staff, then discovered they didn’t have sufficient market demand to sustain their payroll expenses. 
  • Poor Products – Does your product meet the needs of your customer? The key here is understanding: What does your customer consider value?
  • Ineffective Marketing and Promotion – Often this is skipped because business owners feel they can’t afford to spend money on advertising. Which is why I study, use, and teach “low-cost to no-cost” internet marketing techniques.
  • Inadequate USP (unique selling proposition) – This is the way you market yourself, the verbiage you use on your site, and your unique branding. It is critical you differentiate yourself from the competition!

The best way to differentiate yourself from your competition is to first conduct a thorough competitor analysis. If you are going to avoid being another generic business, you simply have to answer these questions:

  • What are your competitors doing?
  • How are they marketing themselves?
  • What keywords are they bidding on?
  • Are they utilizing social media channels?

Email Marketing Best Practices

email marketing support servicesList Building – There is an adage: “The money is in the list!” This is especially true for email marketing. The number one, real way, to have consistent and long-term success (i.e. making $$ online) is by building a list and regularly marketing to it. Potential clients/customers are more likely to buy from someone they’ve established a “relationship” with rather than someone who sends unsolicited, or spammy, emails.

I will help you create your winning list. We’ll start by harvesting addresses from your existing tools, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, plus your in-house CRM databases and even that box of business cards you have under your desk. Then we’ll explore tactics to get these valuable contacts to “opt-in” to your email campaign. With opt-in email, you can easily reach more people, more effectively, frequently, and at a very low cost.

Are you ready to try email marketing? Take a free test drive today using Aweber. They have helped over 90,000 businesses like yours raise profits and build customer relationships using their opt-in email marketing software for over 10 years.

High-Impact Content – The quickest and easiest way to keep in touch with existing clients is to “ping” them on a consistent schedule with INTERESTING and valuable content. I help my clients find their “authentic voice” and share solid information that will benefit their target audience.

I help my clients build cost-effective, high-impact, email marketing campaigns using a variety of PROVEN TACTICS including:

  • How to compose killer subject lines
  • The best days of the week to email
  • The best times of the day to email
  • When NOT to email
  • How to stay in compliance with the CAN-SPAM act

3 practical tips to save money on your small business

Consider this: we come home from the store (OR office supply store) with more than we intended, we blow off cooking and head out to a restaurant instead (both at dinner AND at lunch), and us corporate ex-pats have a nasty habit of printing more than we need to.

Sound familiar? I’m guilty of ALL of these, so I’ve been brainstorming ways to save money on my BAU operations. Having developed similar strategies for the management of my personal finances I decided to see which principles could be applied to my small business.

Here are three tips that help me live within my means, which can also be applied to your small business:

  1. Set a limit on the number of times you eat out each month. If you got to network meetings regularly consider attending more breakfast meetings, or happy hours, where food costs are considerably less.
  2. Don’t buy anything until you absolutely need it! Even if it’s on sale – just say “no”. Too often we purchase items for our business anticipating that we’ll use them at a future date; more often than not we don’t. Just like you do for the grocery store, make a shopping list for office supplies then buy only the items on your list.
  3. Think green at work. You’ll save money and be cool. For example, printing costs can be reduced by filling the second drawer of your printer with used paper (turned upside down), then use that drawer to print test runs.

Turns out successful money management isn’t that complicated – all it takes is a bit of mindfulness.

Free Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

6 Tips for using Outbound Links

Outbound LinksDid you know that linking to other sites affects your search engine ranking?

Many different factors go into the search engine algorithms including the outbound links embedded in your site content. However, overuse or misuse of links can be detrimental. Here are several questions to ask yourself when using outbound links.

Does the link enhance the reader’s experience? It’s crucial that the link be relevant to the content and its inclusion adds value to the reader.

Have you included TOO MANY links on your page or post? Overuse can irritate your readers. Also, be careful not to dilute the value of your outbound links; FYI, the value of each link is divided by the total number of outbound links.

Did you use descriptive keyword anchor text when creating your link? Don’t ever use “click here”….its overused and doesn’t help the spiders index your content.

Have you checked out the site you are linking to? Be cautious not to link to sites with shoddy or questionable content. Be absolutely certain that the site isn’t full of spam as some of the search engine algorithms penalize you for the link. If you absolutely have to link to a “less than desirable” site, tag the link as “no follow”.

Have you scheduled time to regularly check for broken links on your site? This is important site maintenance because a broken link is bad juju especially if it stays on your site for a long time.

One last tip – don’t be tempted to create “resource” pages just to have a bunch of outbound links. If you need, or just want, a resources page mark the entire page with “no index” in the code. Consider using the WordPress blogroll widget instead.

In a nutshell: use only relevant outbound links, not too many, and take the time to ensure that your links are accurate and connect to the page that you intend them to connect to.

How to get more testimonials

How to get more testimonialsTestimonials are invaluable for getting new business. It shows potential customers that other business owners, just like them, are satisfied with your work. Plus if you date your testimonials it proves longevity and that you have a consistently good track record.

Benefits of getting testimonials:

  • You might find a great tagline – a local branding expert received a testimonial from a client who dubbed him the “brand whisperer”. The tag stuck and now his is known as The Brand Whisperer.
  • Helps build credibility – Social proof makes a difference: if you have a choice of two businesses, with no clear differentiator, and the first one has several glowing recommendations and the second one has none, chances are you will pick the first business.
  • It’s good for your customers too – Don’t forget to remind your customers that giving a testimonial can help them increase their own visibility because you will post their testimonial on your website with a backlink to their site.

Rules for asking:

  • Timing. Ask for endorsements during the first 30-60 days of you working together, or as soon as the project is complete.
  • Keep it short. Remind them the testimonial doesn’t need to be very long;  one to two paragraphs are sufficient.
  • Disclosure. Be sure to tell your customers you plan to use the testimonial on your website or other promotional material.

What to ask for:

It’s okay to give your customer-specific guidance, in fact, it makes the task of writing the testimonial easier. Help them out by asking your customer to:

  • Talk about the quality of your work
  • State how much they enjoy working with you
  • If you do a variety of things, ask them to describe the benefits of a particular offering
  • Talk about what they like best about your product/service
  • Describe why they do business with you instead of your competitors

If your customer is comfortable using internet tools, ask them to post your testimonial on either your LinkedIn page or your Google places page (be sure to give them the link); from there you can copy and paste it onto your website. If they are less techy then ask for a testimonial written on their letterhead.

Get into the habit of asking for testimonials; if you are uncomfortable doing this, practice asking for a recommendation in the mirror. If you want to ask via email write your request out and have a friend proof it for tone and style.

Remember the best way to get a testimonial is to give a testimonial! Be sure to check out my post on How to write a testimonial.

How to write a testimonial

How to write a testimonialPeriodically service providers will ask you to write a testimonial for them. Before you groan at the thought of having to write (horrors!), be creative, or come up with something unique, consider this: giving a testimonial is a great way to get free publicity for your business!

If you write the testimonial on a service provider’s LinkedIn profile or a business owner’s Google Places listing, your name and business will be displayed online thereby increasing your online exposure. If they post your recommendation on their website ask them to give you a back-link to your website or blog (a great tactic for boosting your Google PageRank®)

More good news – your testimonial doesn’t need to be very long to get the job done – three to six sentences are enough. Follow my proven formula for writing recommendations and you will be amazed at how quickly you can crank out a sincere and valuable testimonial for your favorite businesses.


Feel free to start the testimonial with a sentence about yourself and why you hired them or purchased from them. For example, “I’ve been in the tree trimming and removal business for over 10 years and desperately needed a website. I hired another company do my first Web site, and they did a terrible job and charged me a fortune. Then I tried XYZ Company….”


To make the task of writing the testimonial easier, try answering two or more of these questions.

  • Talk about the quality of their work
  • State how much you enjoy working with them
  • Describe the benefits of their product or service
  • State what you like best about their product/service
  • Describe why you do business with them instead of their competitors
  • State how long you have known or worked with the company


A great closing for the testimonial is to say who you would recommend them to and why. For example, “I highly recommend XYZ Company to other small business owners who need a new website because they really listen to your needs and always do what they say they are going to do.”

Get into the habit of giving testimonials to businesses you value. Remember, the more testimonials your give (especially on LinkedIn) the more you’ll receive in return. Why? Because people enjoy reciprocity.


How to get more testimonials

How to profile your perfect client

Profiling your ideal clientInstead of trying to “be everything to everybody” why not target clients and customers that are perfect for you? By taking the time to get really clear in your own mind on who you are best positioned to assist you will end up giving better service.

Some of the questions I ask when “profiling” clients/customers are:

  1. What does my potential client do for a living? Can they afford to outsource?
  2. What industry(s) do they work in or serve?
  3. What are their strengths? And weaknesses? Do my strengths and weaknesses complement theirs?
  4. What do they require? What skills do they lack, that they need to succeed?
  5. Where are they located?
  6. Can they plan ahead and delegate?

Not every potential client who contacts you will be right for your business. It’s important to take the time to logically analyze the characteristics of your “perfect client”. By knowing what you are looking for you will be in a better position to market to those clients.

Hard Bounce Vs. Soft Bounce

What is a soft bounce?In email marketing, a “bounce” means the email didn’t arrive, for any of a number of reasons. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean the email address is bad.

Good addresses can bounce if the mailbox is full, the server is having temporary issues, or if it gets blocked or put in junk folders.  This is called a soft bounce and is considered a temporary error, most commonly “Mailbox Full.” So, this does not necessarily mean the email address is bad; RatePoint will keep trying and will not automatically remove this address from your contacts list.

hard bounce typically means the email address itself is bad.
In general, a SOFT BOUNCE = Temporary error and a HARD BOUNCE = permanent error.

Google is a Fickle Lover

After months of reading SEO books, listening to podcasts by SEO professionals, and reading dozens of blogs on the subject I’ve learned the following:

1) Google is a fickle* and sometimes cruel lover, therefore we should focus less on trying to please Google and more time romancing our site visitors.

2) People drive themselves insane** obsessing over Google algorithm variations when their time (think ROI and the dollar value of YOUR time) would be better spent focusing on the basics like writing helpful and compelling content, link building, and good clean presentation.

*Google does not disclose their algorithms (although they occasionally issue partial information that is subject to change) and apparently parts of the algorithm are only triggered in some situations.

**Website developers and SEO experts freak out every time Google issues a statement even though they know the information is designed to discourage folks from manipulating the system.

So what’s the take away for small business owners and their websites? Don’t waste your time trying to manipulate the system, and instead focus your attention on pleasing your potential customers.

The Right Way to Unsubscribe a Contact

How to unsubscribe a contactI manage several email marketing campaigns for clients and occasionally their subscribers request an email address be removed from the distribution list.

There are two ways to handle this: REMOVE and DO NOT MAIL.

Always use the DO NOT MAIL option, because if your client accidentally resubmits their name to be added to the database you have used the REMOVE option then they will be reinstated.

For example, the client hands you a big stack of business cards to add to the database of people she met at a networking event. In the stack is the card of a person that has previously asked to be removed from the list. Had you used the DO NOT MAIL option to remove them in the first place, then that person would not be added back into the database.

Remember – all e-mail distribution lists must be permission-based

The 4 Major Aspects of SEO for Ranking

SEO for RankingThe primary purpose of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to increase how high up your site is displayed on a search engine query. As a WordPress specialist, my job is to help your site reach that coveted #1 spot so your sales will soar through the roof.

There are many different primary, secondary, and targeted search engines on the Internet today busily crawling, cataloging, and indexing the billions (soon to be trillions?) of websites out there. Google, and the other search engines (SEs), rank these sites based on a combination of the following:

Click-throughs – aka, how popular your site is in comparison to similar sites. SEs monitor the number of clicks each search result receives. Yes, kiddos, it’s just like high school: jocks get picked for the team based on their ability to deliver the ball. Similarly, websites that deliver the goods get picked more often and subsequently rise in the rankings.

Frequency – How often a keyword appears on a page affects ranking. HOWEVER, don’t be greedy and think you can type your keyword a dozen times in tiny print at the bottom of the site. The spiders can, and will, discover your deception and ban your site. In fact, they have given this practice a name: keyword spamming. The goal, as always, is to write relevant and interesting content for your target audience.

Links – This includes links into your site from related sites, relevant outgoing links, links within your site. Once again, the key is relevancy.

Location – I’m not talking about your web address, “”, but the physical location of keywords and phrases on the page. Don’t forget to put your most important keyword in the title, and use those keywords and phrases in the first few sentences if possible.

Just a closing word of caution here – do not try and out-think the search engine spiders and algorithms. Google and the other SEs hire very smart engineers to combat fraud, and the consequences of trying to procure undeserved gain won’t serve your business goals any more than being a petty thief will make you rich.

Choosing the right mix for your business

Online Marketing MixWhen it comes to marketing your business online, a lot of business owners say the same thing, “I’d love to, but I just don’t have the time.”

Unfortunately, saying you don’t have time to do any online marketing is like saying, “I don’t have time to save a ton of money on advertising.” While saying you don’t have time for social media says, “I don’t have time to listen to what any of my customers have to say.”

Online marketing and social media are some of the greatest tools to come along for small business in decades. But just like the other business tools available, you need to choose the right mix for your industry and business.

Foursquare, for example, is a fun FREE tool for business owners who want to encourage loyalty and repeat business. It’s tailor-made for restaurants and many retail outlets, but a poor choice law-firms or oncologists.

Some of the online tools YOU might want to consider are:

  • Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (a.k.a “The Big Three”)
  • Email Marketing (with an avg. ROI of $46 for every $1 spent you can’t beat it for cost and efficiency)
  • Foursquare, Yelp, Groupon, Google Places (good choices for location-based businesses)
  • Blogging and Article Marketing (to establish credibility in your niche and increase your search engine ranking)
  • Banner Advertising & Pay Per Click Marketing (via Google OR Facebook)
  • Web-Based Events
  • Video Marketing

…and the list just keeps on growing in the wild and wonderful world of online marketing.

But how do you choose the right mix for your business? Before you can answer this question you first have to:

1) Know your USP (unique selling proposition). What makes your business special and what “messages” would you like your potential customers to hear from you?

2) Know your Customers. Where do they “hang out” online? Where do they go for information and what do they consider valuable?

3) Know your Competition. Who are they? What promotions are they running? Is there an unfulfilled need in the marketplace you can meet?

4) Know your Keywords. Spending the time to do keyword research for your business will help you target the right customers and rank well on Google.

By defining these four items FIRST, you will learn:

  1. What you should be talking about online with your potential clients
  2. Which online mediums your clients use to find businesses like yours
  3. Which social media outlets your competition are utilizing
  4. Which keywords potential clients use to find businesses like yours & which keywords your competition is trying to rank for.

As a certified social media specialist & certified internet marketing specialist I develop online and social media marketing strategies that integrate with your offline marketing world and help you to achieve your marketing goals. I show you how to measure your success and track results in terms that matter to your company.

Do QR codes work in email marketing

A client recently emailed me the following question:

“These square bar codes are popping up everywhere. What are they, how do I get one, and should I put one on my online marketing and in my email newsletter?”

QR 101

First, in case you don’t already know, QR stands for Quick Response and is a 2D bar code that can only be read by scanning software on a SMART camera phone. (Think iPhone or Android). To make it work you need to download an app to scan the codes; search “QR Scanner” in the iTunes or Android app store. (more…)

Why its better to ask permission, not forgiveness!

What to do with all those business cards…

Have you ever attended a networking event and came home with a handful of business cards; most from people, which you only briefly met? You might ask yourself: “Is it okay to add these people to my database?”

No. Unless they explicitly give you permission to add them to your distribution list, DON’T DO IT! People are much more likely to mark your email as SPAM if they didn’t give you permission, and if you receive too many SPAM notices the ISPs will block your email because of it.

Studies show PERMISSION based email is much more effective than non-permission based email campaigns. So don’t just add those business cards to your database – ask permission first! Not only is this the right thing to do, but it’s also a terrific opportunity to follow-up in a meaningful way with your prospect; and if you forget to ask permission when you meet them, try sending a personal follow-up email instead. Sample Follow-up Email:

Dear ___,
I enjoyed meeting you at the mixer yesterday. I would like to learn more about your business – are you free for coffee next week?
In the meantime, I write a monthly email newsletter about XYZ. Please don’t feel obligated, but if you think you might find value in my newsletter you can subscribe here: [insert you subscribe link here]
Again, it was great meeting you and I wish you success in your business.

Use this opportunity to:

  • strengthen the connection you made,
  • ask for a follow-up 1-on-1 meeting, or
  • advance the relationship in some other fashion.

5 tips for scheduling email newsletters

5 tips for scheduling email newslettersSmall business owners often tell me they can’t find the time to send email newsletters. Fortunately creating a schedule is a great way to save time, make sure you don’t miss sales opportunities, and build relationships with your clients and potential clients. Here are 5 tips for scheduling an email marketing newsletter:

  1. When considering how often to send your newsletters, pick a schedule that is comfortable to you. Consider sending one a month – twice a month max. This will not only help you consistently send email newsletters but more importantly, your customers will begin expecting them from you.
  2. Don’t be too aggressive with your schedule. Your clients and potential clients don’t need to hear from you every day. In fact, they may get irritated if you email them too frequently.
  3. Create an ANNUAL MARKETING CALENDAR and include other marketing activities that you have going on including speaking events, special offers, open house events, holiday parties, etc. These are easy sources of filler content and information that your recipients are interested in. By merging your calendar with your other activities, you can make it much easier to write the content and have something interesting to talk about.
  4. Don’t re-invent the wheel for email, take the same content you are publishing on your website/blog, and your Facebook page and plug it in!
  5. Don’t send email newsletters with dull or uninteresting content. Just because you’re on a schedule doesn’t mean you have to send an email. It’s better to skip it or adjust the schedule as opposed to turning your customers off with a sloppy newsletter.

Most email marketing services give you the ability to send an email automatically at a scheduled time and date. This way you don’t have to do everything in the last minute and you know your campaign will go out at the exact time you expect!

Don’t neglect your sign up form – jazz it up!

If you collect subscribers via a “sign up widget” like this one, be sure to maximize this important touch-point with the following:

1)  Ask for a name and email addresses only –
Keep it simple! Folks are more likely to fill out a quick and easy sign-up form. Ask for other information (i.e. location, interests, etc.) after you earn their confidence via follow-up emails, surveys, or offline methods.

2)  List the benefits –
Add bullet points describing the type of emails you send and how they benefit your subscribers.

3)  Include a link to your email archives –
This serves two purposes: first, they can check out your content to see if it is going to be of value to them, and second, they will learn more about you and your business in the process.

4)  Include a link to your privacy policy –
Odds are very few will read it, but simply having it available will reassure the person signing up that you are not a creepy spammer.

Follow these best practices and you are sure to increase your email subscription rate! And don’t forget – if you use RatePoint to manage your email marketing campaigns they make it easy for you to customize your subscription page AND confirmation emails – you can even add your logo!

I think you are Pinteresting

When new social media sites pop up I do two things 1) I create an account because I like to secure my name, and 2) stubbornly ignore it. This is exactly what I did with Pinterest. I created an account, pinned a few things, then never went back. However, several things have happened in the past month that has made Pinterest, well, Pinteresting…

First of all, what is Pinterest? Pinterest is a “Virtual Pinboard” that allows you to organize and share interesting things you find on the web. A pinboard is a bulletin board where you can “pin” items.

What can you do with Pinterest? (more…)

Offer your unsubscribers the Opt-down option

If you send a monthly eNewsletter or run an email marketing campaign, pay close attention to the messages you send your unsubscribers.

This is an opportunity to salvage the connection and improve your online reputation. Consider offering them an option to receive FEWER emails or more TARGETED emails.For more great ideas, read this wonderful article published by Ed Henrich, on ClickZ:

Marketers Unsubscribe Practices: Good, but not Great – ClickZ.

The unsubscribe function in commercial e-mail is too often treated like the black sheep at the family reunion: they have a right to be there, but nobody wants to deal with them.

That represents a major loss of opportunity. The unsubscribe can provide a wealth of knowledge for marketers, who can use what they learn to improve their e-mail marketing programs’ efficiency and productivity, as measured by better deliverability, higher ROI (define), and lower list churn. Besides that, getting unsubscribe right, like communing with the family black sheep, is just the right thing to do.

…click the link above to read the full article…

Business Owner Optimism Increasing

According to a report by Marketing Charts small business owner optimism surged 24 points in Nov. 2010!

This from the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, which is a measure of small-business owners’ perceptions of their operating environments (revenue, cash flow, capital expenditures, and hiring). This is a sharp improvement from last summer and expectations regarding their future financial situations are also on an uptrend. 

This is great news as the Small Business Index has been an accurate indicator of future economic activity for the past six years.

Woo Hoo – Go Small Business Owners!

Inside Your Search Engine

Search Engine SpidersHere are two core concepts regarding Search Engines, which need to be understood before developing a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plan.

Spiders and Bots – Spiders, robots, and crawlers are programs that scour the web and catalog information about each URL they visit and store that data in massive, interconnected databases. How this data is arranged and ranked is based on proprietary search engine algorithms.

Search Algorithms – the procedure(s) the search engine uses to retrieve and produce the information cataloged by the spiders. Retrieval and ranking of data are part of the search algorithm. There are many types of algorithms including list search, tree search, SQL search, etc…

Keep these two simple concepts in mind while writing your content and remember that while innuendos, colloquialisms, and slang are entertaining they may just confuse the spiders and reduce your page ranking. For example, if you are targeting 1970′s Barbie Dolls, make sure you call them 1970′s Barbie Dolls at least once and not just “those little darlings from my childhood”. Happy blogging!

Stop trying to dazzle your customers and just fix their problems

Trying to constantly dazzle clients does not build loyalty; reducing the amount of time, money, and effort, aka the work they must do to get their problems solved, does!

Growing up in the corporate world I was taught to always “exceed expectations”. But a recent article from Harvard Business Review points out that this only marginally increases customer loyalty. Too often we “spin our wheels” unnecessarily in our efforts to delight when simply focusing on meeting our customer’s needs with practical, low-cost, and efficient solutions for their problems is a better strategy.

The truth is we are in a hellish recession/depression and clients aren’t interested in buying circus acts; instead, try to anticipate your client’s future needs:

  • Give them a free tutorial
  • Documents the processes you do for them in case there is an emergency and you are unable to complete ongoing assignments
  • Suggest logical next steps for your clients that will increase their business

Acting deliberately on these insights will increase customer loyalty and decrease client churn.


Blog Post Checklist

Do you ever wonder if you are including everything you should in your blog posts?

To maximize the effectiveness of your  posts make sure you include most, if not all, of the following:

  1. Write a paragraph or two on a topic that is of interest to your site visitors.
  2. Where appropriate include the keywords you are targeting on your site.
  3. Include a photo that is relevant to the topic and also eye-catching.
  4. Tag your photo with your target keywords. This is easy to do in WordPress in the “edit image” customization box.
  5. Write a catchy, but also a specific title for your post.
  6. Link to related posts and pages within your site.
  7. Link to websites related to your post.
  8. Don’t forget to include a killer “call to action”. (aka asking for the sale)
  9. Pick appropriate post category and tags.
  10. Push your blog post out to your email distribution list, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

As a Certified Social Media and Internet Marketing Specialist, I teach my clients how to HAVE FUN writing content and to maximize their Social Media Marketing efforts. If this is something you would like to incorporate into your marketing plan give me a call today so I can help you. 817-919-3423

Blogging for Business

Blogging with WordPressBlogging about your business generates leads that convert to sales! Read this fantastic excerpt from Marketing Research article you should read then take a few minutes today to write a blog post about your business.

Business blogs begin generating significantly more leads when they have a median of 24 or more articles posted, according to research by internet marketing firm Hubspot. Businesses with blog article numbers above this critical threshold are likely to have enough content to make a significant impact on search engines through additional indexed pages and new keywords with which to associate. In addition, other sites are more likely to link to a blog that offers a steady stream of content. Businesses with blogs of 24-plus articles are more likely to be committed to updating their blog frequently and, thus, are likely to generate more traffic from referring sites.

Not sure what to write about? How about any advice have you given clients this week (check your sent mailbox for inspiration!). Share relevant information about your industry or your company. Your potential clients want to know that you know your stuff! Then don’t forget to push out that post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and most importantly your email marketing distribution list.

Sound overwhelming? Don’t let it be. I’m happy to assist you. Give me a call at 817-922-9077 to discuss how I can help you meet your goals. 

Using Email to Build Customer Loyalty

A well thought out email marketing campaign can be a huge asset to your business. Staying connected to and communicating with your customers helps build loyal lasting relationships.

E-mail marketing makes it easy for you to:
1) connect with customers
2) build customer loyalty to improve consumer confidence and increase sales
3) and most importantly encourage repeat business

Regular communication with your clients and potential clients is an opportunity to position yourself as an expert in your field which helps people feel more comfortable spending money with you.

I use Aweber for my newsletter because they have hundreds of good-looking templates that allow me to quickly build and send great-looking surveys, e-mail newsletters, promotions, and requests for reviews. Plus they are inexpensive and give you free unlimited photos!

If you are interested in trying email marketing for your business give me a call at 817-922-9077