How to Create a Social Media Plan – Part 1

You many have social media accounts for your business, but are you using them to their full potential? Social media for business is meant to connect with your customers and increase your sales. To get the most out of it, you have to have a plan.

Ask yourself the following questions to create a social media plan that will benefit your business best.

  1. What social media is the best fit for your business?

You don’t have to have a presence on every form of social media; you have to have a presence on the ones your target market is using. A great way to find out is to just ask. If you get a lot of traffic on your website, create an online survey or ask them as they leave your store to get the most accurate respone. Entice customers with prizes or other tangible benefit to fill out the survey. Once you know which ones are used more frequently, create accounts if you haven’t already and familiarise yourself.

  1. What are you social media goals?

Now that you’ve determined which social media is the best fit for your business and you’ve created accounts, you need to decide what your purpose is for being there. Do you want to use social media to; increase your referrals or leads, build on your word-of-mouth, increase sales, become known as an expert, provide customer service? Once you decide, set one or two specific goals that can be measured and prioritize them.

  1. How will you measure the success of your social media plan?

This is a step that is often left out. What good is all your effort if you don’t track and measure the success of your social media? Success is measured by the cost and return on investment (ROI), the same as any other marketing efforts. To make measuring return on investment easier, use your social media account to drive your target market to your website then analyse your website statistics. Google Analytics is a great tool that makes it easy to see how your site engagement goals are being met.

To be continued…

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Building your Brand Online

Today online presence is an important part of a successful business. Without it, you are disconnected from a lot of potential customers.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re building your online brand.

  1. Have a vision for your brand.

Think you have a great business idea? Be confident in what you have to offer and have a clear vision and plan for where you want your business to go in the years to come.

  1. Choose a unique brand name.

Choosing a name that is long, hard to pronounce or doesn’t relate to your business is a common mistake. Choose a brand name that will stand out and be memorable.

  1. Get help with your website.

Setting up your business website properly is key to getting your business out to customers. Leave it to the experts, it may seem like an expense, but it will save you time and money in the long run.

  1. Send out a clear message.

It is important to be active on social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but make sure you keep things relevant to your business. Keep your business and personal social media sites separate.

  1. Google yourself.

Google is the most common search engine, so Google yourself and see where you rank. If your website doesn’t show up on the first page, there is a good chance you won’t be seen. This is where SEO and setting up your website properly comes into play.

  1. Proofread your copy.

Don’t underestimate the importance of proofreading your content before publishing. Not only does it make your business look unprofessional, but it also reflects poorly on your brand.

  1. Mention others.

The purpose of social media is to network with others so use it to build a friendly and supportive community where you can share information instead of pushing your product or service.

  1. Mention what you have to offer.

On the other hand, don’t assume people know what you do, especially if you have a unique brand name. Make sure what you have to offer is clear on your website and all social media.

  1. Join the conversation.

Customers like to see a personal side to the business. Engaging in discussions is an effective way to promote your product or service without seeming pushy.

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How to register for a BN and BIN number

There are many steps to complete when opening a small business in Ontario. Two of the steps which solidify your business operation are obtaining a Business Number (BN) and a Business Identification Number (BIN). Depending on a variety of reasons (including your location), registering online for these two numbers may be a more convenient process.

Firstly, you might be thinking “what is the difference between a BN and BIN number?” According to Canada Revenue:

The Business Number (BN) is a 9-digit business identifier used in Canada to which businesses can register program accounts with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The Business Identification Number (BIN) is a 9-digit number used by the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services to identify provincial business accounts and should be used for communications with the Ontario government about your business.

Obtaining a BN Number

A BN number is obtained through Canada Revenue. During business start-up, you will most likely need to register with Canada Revenue for either GST/HST registration, and/or as an employer to hire employees. Canada Revenue Agency maintains an online service to register for this number. You may wish to first complete the online checklist to make sure you have all prepared to register for your BIN number.

Obtaining a BIN number

A BIN number is obtained when you register your business name through Service Ontario. Registering a business name is an important step to complete early on. Service Ontario offers an online search and registration function which individuals registering as a sole proprietor or partnership can utilize. Business Name registration costs $68 (including name search). At this time you will receive a Master Business License (MBL), which will have the BIN number. A BIN number can be used as proof of business registration.

For more information on BN and BIN numbers or to register, please visit Service Ontario

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Starting a Business: The First 90 Days

Once your door is open, the first 90 days of being in business set the foundation for success, make them count!

Here’s what to expect during the first three months of business;

First Customer – You aren’t in business until you have your first customer. This should be a priority during your start-up. Reach out to other business owners, friends, and family for referrals.

Master Selling – Sales are essential for business success. Take time to learn and apply new selling skills, using those new skills to close the deal with customers.

Make a Profit – Without profits your business will fail. Determine when your business will start to make profit and ensure your focus is on making profit.

Evaluate Pricing – During the first three months in business your assumption about prices to charge and expected profit will be challenged with reality. Take a good look at your price strategy. Don’t make the common mistake of offering the lowest price.

Set Quarterly Goals – It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day. Set short term goals to keep your business on track. Attaining these goals can mean the difference between failure and survival.

Reward Yourself – Recognise the energy and time spent to get your business off the ground and reward yourself. Taking time away from your business will recharge your motivation and ensure success for the next 90 days.

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4 Ways to Promote your Website for Free

Nothing is ever truly free. If you aren’t spending money promoting your website, you’re spending time. So if you’re willing to give up some time, these free website promotion techniques will reward you with increased traffic to your site and profit for your business.

Work on your website SEO.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the best for promoting your website. It’s easy to learn and apply to your website. Working on your SEO will improve your page ranking and drive more traffic to your website.

Get reciprocal linking.

Having other people link their website to yours is a great way to get free website promotion. Keep in mind that the quality of the links matter. Focus on finding quality, relevant websites to link to yours and vice versa.

Drive traffic using social media.

Social media is another great place to promote your website/ business for free. Keep in mind you shouldn’t just use social media to promote, but also share valuable information with your followers that keeps them coming back for more.

Create and present quality content.

These promotion techniques won’t find you success unless you have quality content on your website. Don’t drive your target market to a poor website, create content that your audience wants to read and learn more about.

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Content Marketing for your Small Business

Social media is valuable to business owners; it’s a way to generate trust and openness with customers. Aside from your time, social media marketing requires little investment and opens up the lines of communication with your target audience.

Creating good, valuable content is often forgotten when it comes to social media marketing. Here are five types of content you can easily create and share to get your business in front of the right people.

Blogs – Having a small business blog will become integral to your content marketing strategy. There are many types of blog posts you can write; from editorial to tutorial, to compilation blogs. Also including guest posts here and there can incorporate external voices that could draw in new audiences.

Videos – Like blogs, there are many different formats for videos. You can share quick tips, conduct interviews, or let your customers know what’s new with your business. Get creative and share valuable information with your followers.

Podcasts – Podcasts are a great way to connect with your audience in a one-on-one way. This is a form of content that can be shared and consumed easily on a smartphone or audio playing device anywhere, anytime. Convert your quick tips, tutorials, and interviews to audio.

Infographics – Infographics are great for business because they take data and break it down into an easy-to-digest visual tool. Infographics are also one of the most-shared types of content, so they are worth the time it takes to create them.

Images – You can create visual content without infographics by using images that can be quickly shared on sites like Instagram and Pinterest. Include a statistic with an eye-catching photo, an inspiring quote, or even a promotional message that leads followers to your website.

In the words of Jay Baer of Convince and Convert, “Content is fire. Social media is gasoline. Use social to drive awareness of your content more so than awareness of your company.”

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The Most Common Business Plan Mistakes

Creating a business plan before diving into your new business head first will give you a much better chance of success. Here are some of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make.

  1. Not writing a business plan

Not bothering to write a business plan is the most common mistake. Entrepreneurs tend to get too excited about their business idea and miss this important step in start-up. Maybe you are familiar with the saying, “He who fails to plan plans to fail.” Failure is the fate of almost every business someone starts without a business plan. You don’t need a full-scale formal business plan, but it is important that you have one.

  1. Not being clear about the purpose of your business plan

A business plan is your solution to the problem being how you are going to turn your business into a reality. Ask yourself why you are preparing a business plan. Is it to persuade a potential lender for a loan? To attract investors or to figure out if your idea could be a viable business? Or is your plan a blueprint for your start-up? The purpose of your plan will affect everything from the amount of research you do to what the finished plan will look like.

  1. Not doing enough research

Your business plan is only going to be as good as the research you put into it. You have to answer questions like; what are the trends in the industry? How will you counter what your competitors are doing? The more complete the answer is, the better prepared you will be. Every section of your business plan will involve research, which in most cases can be found online.

  1. Ignoring market realities

You can have the best product or service in the world but it’s not going to sell if there is no market for it. It is very important to market test your product or service. If you have a product, try selling at local venues or give out free samples to gather feedback. If you have a service, surveys and focus groups are effective ways you research your target market. Also examine what your competition is doing and explain how you are going to counter to win market share.

5. Not doing a thorough preparation of financials

There are two common mistakes people make when writing the financial section of their business plan. The first is not being realistic about expenses, people often underestimate costs. The second is being overly optimistic about your business prospects. Never let your optimism lead you to create an overly rosy cash flow. Meticulous research will prevent this mistake.

Perseverance and determination are great traits for entrepreneurs to possess, until those traits keep you from accomplishing what you should. That may be the worst business plan mistake of all.

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