Don’t work without project security

There is nothing worse than doing a load of work and not getting paid for it.

Over a year ago I was approached by a man who wanted me to market some books he had published. This project sounded too good to be true (and in fact this was the case, as you will read later).

So I redesigned his website (with the minimum of information), set up a shopping cart and autoresponder, plus a blog and other social networking accounts. I tried so hard to promote his terrible books (learning that you need to have a good product that people actually want to be able to succeed), tried to get them redesigned so that they actually looked nice both inside and out, fielding his awful adverts in expensive magazines that were so bad they were a complete waste of money (not designed by me of course), and coping with a torrent of emails and telephone calls from this persistent and annoying person.

Of course he never paid the invoices I sent him, always coming up with excuse after excuse. I stupidly carried on working for another month, amassing more money owed, until I’d had enough. I downed tools and refused to work any more until I was paid. More excuses, and no payment. Then silence…

The next thing I had was an email from his cousin saying my client had died and since his business was illegal and he had no money, it was highly unlikely I would get my invoices paid. I actually rang up the crematorium the day of his funeral to see if he really had died and had not done a runner. I also heard that all the bailiffs for his other debts had totally stripped his flat, so there was certainly nothing left for me.

The moral? There are several. Draw up a contract at the beginning carefully laying out exactly what you are supposed to do. Calculate a price for the amount of work decided upon, and get at least 50% deposit in advance. No deposit, no work: it shows good will and commitment. Form a strategy for work to be done, including when contact is to be made (don’t tolerate constant interruptions) and confirmation of drafts before the final product is published or produced. And above all, make sure the project you undertake has a possibility of success – go with your gut feeling about quality, consistency and – above all – get a credit check done first to learn the liability of this new project.

And don’t put up with this trash for 3 months, only to land up with nothing at the end. No wonder my business has gone to the dogs…

Don’t let insecurity rule

We all get pangs of insecurity from time to time. Mine have been very frequent of late, which has resulted in abandoning my businesses and taking on a job.

Lots of friends have been very supportive during my decision, and surprisingly once I had accepted my new fate, I received three requests to speak about marketing at various networking groups. Why is it that suddenly I’m seen as an expert after I had decided I wasn’t good enough to continue with my own business?

The main reason I quit being self-employed is because I wasn’t making any money. The recession had hit hard and marketing is (stupidly) one of the areas companies cut down on, and a fast declining bank account does nothing for one’s self-esteem.

Another reason is because my own marketing messages were confused. I had a lot I could offer, yet was unable to untangle them into a coherent presentation. I was just beginning to do this when the job offer came along, so I chickened out and jumped ship.

Another blow was from one particular marketing directory I regularly post into, had managed to attain some respect and become one of the most frequent bloggers. But this particular position was usurped by someone else who posted a huge amount of extremely informative posts and pushed me unceremoniously down the pecking order. Nevertheless, I have picked myself up out of the dust and will continue to post, even though this has severely shattered any notions I had of being a reasonable marketer.

But the title is: don’t let insecurity rule. My new job will give me the opportunity to learn new skills, work within an organisation that is doing well during the recession, and will give me plenty of spare time to think, blog, twitter and unravel my overloaded brain. And this subject will be the fodder for more posts in the future… so watch this space.

How to do marketing for free

This is a good subject for start-ups and very small businesses who don’t have a large budget to work with..

The first free marketing method is networking. Go to as many meetings as possible, particularly the free events or those that don’t require a big entrance fee. But to make these successful you must arm yourself with a good pitch, both 10 and 60 second versions, the first to grab attention to yourself, and the second if you get a chance to address the whole room. If you can create something that is different, easily understandable, poignant and relevant to your listeners’ needs, then you have a head start above many others.

It is important to get yourself as visible as possible in the business world. There are two possibilities: blogging and social networking group pages. It is very easy to create a free blog, and social networking sites allow you to create groups or fanpages which you can devote to your business.  In these you must regularly post up information about your business, and then, as with the blog, use RSS feeds to inform your followers of your new posts, or email through the social networking system to your followers that you have recently contributed new material for them to read.

And then there’s Twitter, equally free, which is an excellent way to promote your business, not forgetting that you can feed your blog to it, and now your posts can be automatically replicated on your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.

Writing articles and publishing them around the net is another way to spread your expertise. Make sure the resource boxes direct the reader back to your website, blog or social networking profile pages, so they can find out more about you.  Take advantage of keywords to improve your search engine optimisation, and careful attention to the headlines and first paragraph will increase the likelihood of a response.

If you do have a website, get as many links back to it as possible from other websites and web directories. The more high profile the link source, the more respect search engines give your website, not to mention providing more portals for the spiders to crawl over your site and report back pages for indexing.

Create a good signature for your emails, to publicise your website, blog and social networking profiles. Don’t forget that the space at the bottom of your communication is just waiting to be filled with promotional written material and links, and everybody you write to will get a chance to see them.

What 3 elements make up SEO?

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the natural or organic method of getting your website placed higher in the search engines, as opposed to paying for online advertising.

As a result it is a task that is never ending, always requiring you to be one step ahead of your competitors, and any successes tend to be short lived, as Google responds to all new material that is posted online, and it is always the latest contributions that are indexed at the top.

But it is a process that should not be ignored. Even if your website or latest blog post reaches its desired placing for a short time, it has got there, and who knows will look at it or read it while it resides in its lofty position. The more times you manage to attain this prize, the higher the chances of recognition, acknowledgement and conversion through response.

To explain simply, SEO work on three main elements: new content, links and keywords. I know all SEO experts out there will be saying ‘Oh, but you’ve forgotten this element’, and of course they’re right, as experts they should have many tricks up their sleeves to attain the final goal: get as high as you can in Google. But if you understand these three elements, there is no reason why anybody can’t give it a try.

New Content: search engines rely on their spiders: mathematically driven robots that ‘crawl’ the net looking for new material that has been posted. Once found, they feed greedily on it before passing it onto their master, the search engine, to be indexed. If your website or blog, especially the blog, has regularly published new content, it stands a better chance of being placed higher than any old material from your competitors.

Links: spiders need to have a method of entering and leaving your website or blog. Think of links being the doors or portals spiders use to find new content. Incoming links allow spiders to enter and feed, and outgoing links (especially if they are relevant to the content and final destination) will enable them to leave and visit other suitable sites, giving you brownie points as they do so.

Keywords: relevance is vital for spiders to work effectively. Keywords should be relevant to the content, destinations of links, and popularity of searches, eg what people are searching for at that moment. It would be wise therefore to properly research suitable keywords that are not only popular but truly reflect your new material and business. It’s simply like a game of snap, and the best results are attained through correct recognition of a match!

Now that you know these three elements, take them into consideration next time you post up something new on the net.

Learn how to link in to LinkedIn

Here’s just a small visual e-course I quickly compiled to demonstrate how easy it is to submit articles into groups in LinkedIn:

http://www.designyourmarketing.co.uk/How to create submissions in the BinB LinkedIn group.pdf

Let me know if it helps to make it easier to contribute. The more activity there is in these groups, the more there is to read, the more promotion members can make, the more new material there is for the internet spiders, and the more interaction from members also contributes to search engine optimisation.

So how about it – go on, give it a go!

How can my letter get read first?

This all depends on what caught your eye out of the usual selection of brown or white envelopes.

OK, to get your publication noticed above all the others, it needs to stand out. It needs to be different, crying out “I’m what you’ve been looking for!” and entice you to pull it first out of the pile.

To do this you will need: colour, quality and individuality.

What’s wrong with a different coloured envelope? A bright green or ferocious orange will certain draw attention to itself. Having a peculiar or out of the ordinary size won’t cut the chase, and it usually ends up requiring higher postage, but if you had an image or a bright flash of colour, of course reflecting your corporate branding, then this inevitably catches the reader’s eye.

But if you want to be conventional, use a high-quality envelope, beautifully written in calligraphy script using a real ink pen. This shows you care, have taken pains regarding presentation, and the reader isn’t just another one on a list.

And you don’t want your beautifully produced brochure to be overlooked just because it was sent in a rubbish package.

And sometimes you don’t even need to have an envelope! Postcards are ideal because your message is more likely to be read immediately because there is nothing to open up first.  Just think – your carefully composed and compelling headline hits the reader between the eyes even before he has thought about opening the post. The well thought-through image will capture the interest it deserves by stimulating the reader’s desire to find out more or understand its meaning.

And of course the remainder of the postcard will spread its magic powers through appropriate bullet points and a poignant and relevant call to action. After all, the main reason for the postcard would be to drive traffic to a squeeze page on your website leading to capturing potential customers’ details for more communication at a later date, all in exchange for a free special report. Or perhaps you have some other intention in mind…?

Internet spiders and how they help websites

An internet spider is a robot that crawls around the world wide web. They are also sometimes called crawlers. They use an algorithmic programme that follows links throughout the net searching for new content. This then fetches the new webpages and adds them to the search engine indexes. Google is a crawler-based search engine, as it relies on spiders to automatically create its listings.

Some spiders have even been given names, such as Mozilla for Netscape, Scooter for Alta Vista and Slurp for Hotbot. They leave evidence of their visits just like human surfers in analytics, code and stats.

Spiders enter and leave websites through links, which act as portals throughout the net. That’s why it’s important to have lots of incoming links to your website to encourage spider activity. If you provide lots of new content for spiders to feed on, they will remember to visit your site more frequently.

Spiders only see text on the webpages, therefore pictures and Flash programmes are invisible to them. You can add alt tags to your pictures which are written descriptions behind them, enabling spiders to understand your images.

Spiders are programmed to look for new content with links, tags and keywords. They particularly relish appropriately selected keywords combined with extremely relevant links and their destinations.  They don’t like hidden or invisible keywords, as they think they’re being fooled. If your site’s navigation is complete, spiders will visit every page, indexing anything that’s new. If you treat spiders well, they are more likely to return.

Spider top tips

• provide lots of new content for spiders to feed on
• remember to put alt tags behind your pictures
• gather as many relevant inbound links as you can for spiders to enter
• remember to add your tags within your blog posts
• create contextual links (linked key-phrases) for maximum effect
• make sure your links go to relevant destinations
• blogs are visited hourly by spiders, unlike websites who may not be visited for several weeks