Closing out 2010: 10 tips for the everyday business pro

Although my profession allows me to encounter the everyday occurrences to highly complex situations on a daily basis, I still see trends in the marketing-communications arena that my clients have challenges in dealing with.

Below is my 2010 list of the top 10 most frequently asked questions I receive or situations I see clients faced with from time-to-time. Simple, actionable steps you can take now to help your business in 2011.

1. Failure to leverage opportunities – Most businesses overlook the many opportunities they have in leveraging dynamic content/materials they have on hand (news releases, copy writing etc.) into other communication playing fields – websites, social networking sites, blogs and everyday sales materials. Get the most out of your money and leverage these materials to give you the biggest bang for your marketing buck.

2. The personal touch still matters – It will always be considered good form to say “please” and “thank you.” P.S. Handwritten letters will also always be considered good form and are an excellent way to deepen business relationships – always.
3. For the love of … Please manage your online brand! – Media consumption is almost always rooted from Internet stories, social networking, blogs, videos and more nowadays. Please, I encourage you to create a Google Alerts account to help manage your online brand and to keep track of what “other people” are saying about you. Visit Google Alerts, add your first and last name as well as your company name (with quotation marks around your name and company name) and take advantage of this free and easy-to-use alert system. It won’t catch it all, but it’s a start.
4. Plan, plan, plan – Create your 2011 marketing plan now. It will give you focus to accomplish goals, adhere to a timeline and your budget. Just be sure to build in a 20% “cushion” for any “what ifs” that occur along the way. (And they will happen.)
5. Content is still king – Concerned about Google, Bing or Yahoo! search result rankings? It’s likely that old web content is the problem. Marketing pros recommend social networking, blogging, news feeds and more for a reason – not just simply to convince you that you still need them around for advice and support. It’s because dynamic content (i.e. new/relevant information) is key in driving search results and traffic to your website.
6. Follow up– You’d still be surprised to find that 90% of sales people STILL do not consistently follow up on leads and opportunities. (Yes, even in this challenging economy.) Blame it on the economy and us all being busier than we have ever been before. It doesn’t matter. If you’re the one who is following up, when no one else does, guess who gets the work?
7. “The Ask” still works – Don’t think you’re too humble to ask for referrals. In the name of free commerce everywhere, please ask for those business referrals.
8. Keep up-to-date on emerging markets and trends – It’s exhausting and nearly impossible to master every single aspect of your industry in today’s Internet age where information doubles in a matter of hours, minutes … seconds. No matter, you’re still the expert to your clients. If you’re not the guru in digital marketing, or your area of law, banking or retail, you still need to know what’s happening. Keep yourself informed. Then, surround yourself with the people who are hungry for knowledge, who want to (and are willing) to discover these “new frontiers.”
9. Relationships still matter – Customers want the newest, best and fastest product that works and they want to know the person, specifically, that is providing it to them. If it’s not you, then it’s you that needs to introduce your customer to the right provider. Customers will stay with you because they value your relationships since you are the person who brings them business success. BE the resource.
10. Healthy outside starts from a healthy core – Strength in all things in life comes from a strong core (thanks Denise Austin)… including your business. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have twenty minutes … or 20 seconds to spare. It’s absolutely critical to your organization’s success that you find a way to make time for staff development and internal team activities.

Amber Stidham is the director of strategic planning for Imagine Marketing.

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