Writing Business Articles on Strategic Planning

Not long ago, I was talking with a fellow online article author, she has well over 100 articles on strategic planning advice, articles with case studies, stories, and "how to ideas" to develop a winning business strategy. She also writes a column for her local metro newspaper on business topics. I've been very impressed with her work; in fact it has inspired me to reminisce about my own business career as a Franchisor Founder prior to retirement you see.

Indeed, following her lead I have been considering all the business plans, marketing plans, regional expansion plans, 5-year plans, and growth strategy objectives I had put together over the years. How our Blitz Marketing teams would go in to capture new business of our best market segments, and how we would recruit the best people to ensure we could deliver on our sales and marketing promises. Think about your own business career and what you had to do to succeed, consider that many going into business or perhaps struggling to survive could benefit from your expertise in strategic planning.

Why not put together a few sample plan outlines to help them get it done? Why not offer tips on putting together a strategy team or planning session? Why not explain to them the reasons for constant review and how a business plan is just a picture, but plans change and planning is a process, not something you ever complete or allow to remain static or throw it into a drawer or tuck away some obscure labeled file on your computer never to look at it again?

Using Forum Marketing To Grow Your Business

We are social beings by nature, and forums have become very popular social communities where like minded people gather to share their thoughts, ideas and strategies. Whilst many people join online communities specifically for social benefits, there are also professionals online who see the huge potential in forum marketing.

Personally, I join and interact on forums because it gives me a chance to promote my business through a signature link at the bottom of each valuable post I write. Others use forums just to gain a back-link to their website from their signature, and then there are people who are just starting out in the internet marketing business who are looking for advice and tips on which direction they should be heading in.

Okay, let's take a look why forums are powerful for online business owners...

1) Forum Marketing- Building On Your Existing Knowledge:

Whether you're a seasoned marketer or a newbie, conversing and participating on online forums can be very valuable for the future growth of your business. Well respected forums have a lot of valuable content shared by many different marketers who approach their business from completely different mindsets. I have learned a lot over the years just from reading other posts left by like minded people in the same industry as myself. While this may not be seen as direct forum marketing, it has helped my online business grow immensely through the years.

You can pick up some great little tips & tricks just by browsing through the popular categories of a forum, but be warned, there are also a lot of bad habits you can pick up from internet marketers who have no real clue as to how to run an online business. What I really like about forums is that there are many different viewpoints shared by successful entrepreneurs, and when a conversation erupts into a full blown debate about what are the best strategies to run a business, you will begin to see who are the experts and who are the opportunity seekers very quickly.

Opportunity seekers are the ones who give advice on how to make "quick cash" online, where the seasoned business experts will highlight the importance of creating a long-term business plan that is sustainable over time. You can pick up some great little nuggets of gold from both parties.

When joining a forum with the sole purpose of learning about your industry, I suggest you take a close look at who is doing the posting, what their strategies are, and what their goal of posting is.

Learn to distinguish from the people who actually work to provide value, and weed out the ones who simply post on forums to gain a back-link to their website, or simply just to promote their online services. Marketers who post to provide value are the ones I pay attention to. I don't trust the ones who are just posting to promote their business. This is ineffective forum marketing and I'd much rather ignore what they have to say.

I like to take notes when I go onto popular forums and I also like to write down the names of members who seem to have a strong presence on the forum. I then go through their previous posts to dig a little deeper into their overall business strategies.

You can learn a lot from these people and if you are impressed by their approach to online marketing, you can follow their posts and get to know them a little better each time you visit. Maybe I will even send a private message after a short while asking for specific answers to questions I feel they would have extensive knowledge in. This approach is very valuable and you can build valuable relationships with knowledgeable folk over time.

2) Forum Marketing- Marketing Your Online Business:

Forums are great place to promote your brand, products and services to targeted people within your niche. I use forums for many different reasons but my main reason is for promotional purposes. I have quite a bit of knowledge in the internet marketing industry and I would like to promote what I have to offer to that particular market...what better place than where these people hang out every day?

A simple little signature profile at the bottom of your posts can bring in a lot of traffic over time to your service, providing you give value to the forum that is. I have seen forum posters leave one sentence posts in an attempt to get their signature file on many threads within the forum. This is a complete waste of time and will drive very little, if any, visitors to your web space. Adding little to no value to a forum is a waste of your time, and a waste of the forums capabilities of helping you with your online presence.

If you go to the most popular internet marketing forum that exists on the net today, you will see many well known people adding consistent value to that forum. These marketers know exactly what they are doing and the reap the benefits tenfold.

Tips to Improve Online Sales Conversion

My website is giving me too many leads! Now you are probably thinking 'And this is a problem?". Not if you have a fully automated online business where customers can buy and fulfillment happens with little or no interaction. But what if you have a service business that requires phone calls or quotes to build relationships or close the sale?

This is the problem recently raised by a local business owner who updated and optimized his website. Within weeks, the number of calls and emails exploded - that's the good news. But they were not responding to them in a timely manner - that's the bad news. In the short-term, this hurts your sales conversion rate; in the long-term it may damage your reputation for dependability and responsiveness.

So how do you avoid this? First, remember that your business systems need to change as your business and revenue grows. If you expect growth from a new or improved strategy (and you should), keep this in mind - and prepare for it. In his case, the procedure for handling online leads worked when they trickled in, but didn't when they more than quadrupled.

Next, use technology, anticipate issues and simplify what you do. Here's a few things we did to demonstrate this point:
  • Avoid vague contact forms. You need their name, phone and email, but most website contact forms use a comment box to gather more information. They often leave you wondering what action the prospect wants you to take. Do they want you to call or simply email them information? Add a 'How can we help you' section and list the specific options.
  • Screen leads. Add one or two specific questions to your contact form to help you screen and prioritize. Make them simple and don't over-do it. Those that are truly seeking your service will typically take the time to answer them; tire kickers may not.
  • Make quotes efficient. If someone wants a quote, take them to a separate form and gather most (or all) of the relevant information. Having information before you call makes it more productive so you can spend time asking great, probing questions - the kind that actually help you convert prospects to customers down the road!
  • Make auto-responders count. Most websites have a default 'confirmation' message that goes out when people send a contact form email. Customize yours to begin educating customers - benefits you provide, why you are unique, expectations on return calls. Remember, this is the first direct communication from you - make it count.
  • Use templates. What are the top 5-7 requests, questions or issues you receive via your contact forms? Develop email responses that address them - and use them consistently. Whether you use an auto-responder software program or manually cut and paste, they will save you time and customers will receive consistent, concise information.
  • Publish FAQ's on your website. These provide a simple, easy way to answer common questions prospects have about your products or services - in a well thought-out way. They can help reduce non-essential emails or calls leaving you more time to focus on the important ones. Most businesses have some of these for customer service reps or receptionists to use. Clean them up and put them on your website.