Maintaining Your Business, Despite the Uncertainty

maintaining your business - working from home on laptop

The current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting small businesses and workers worldwide, stirring fear, uncertainty and sheer panic. Many are losing their jobs, experiencing a cut in hours or simply struggling to focus on their work during these trying times. 

However, it’s important to stay strong and not give up. Here are some tips for maintaining your business and continuing on, despite the uncertainty around you.

1. Accept the circumstances.

Right now, we all must accept what’s happening and focus our energy only on what we can control. If you live in denial of what’s taking place around you, you won’t be prepared for what might come and may lack the critical knowledge to get through it.

This might take time, and that’s okay. It’s difficult to practice acceptance in the face of fear and uncertainty, but doing so will help you eventually find peace and resilience.

2. Create your own stability.

Stability is tough to find in moments like these. You can’t control the state of the world, how others are reacting or the damage it might cause your business; but you can control simple parts of your routine and create your own sense of security.

For instance, you can choose to keep working the same schedule each day. You can choose to eat regular, healthy meals and exercise daily. You can choose to limit your media consumption and increase your communication with your loved ones. While it might not feel like it, you are still free to make these choices.

[Read more tips for managing your mental health while working from home during the pandemic.]

3. Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness won’t solve everything, but it can certainly help you cope. Especially while working, focus only on the current task you’re doing rather than thinking about a million different things at once.

It’s hard to focus when you’re constantly worrying about what might come of your business or whether you’ll be laid off, but obsessing over these thoughts won’t do you any good. Accept them, but continue to invest in your work. Find ways to be present and productive despite the chaos around you. Some days will be tougher than others, but it can be done.

4. Create and pursue goals that excite you.

You likely have a lot more time on your hands now, so why not invest in the goals you’ve been putting off? Whether they’re work-related or not doesn’t matter; simply having goals to work toward will keep you motivated in both your personal and professional life. They give you a sense of purpose and an incentive to keep moving forward. 

Take advantage of your extra free time. Rather than spending it watching the news and spiraling into a panic attack, focus your energy on things that make you happy, whether that’s reading more books or starting a podcast.

5. Stay connected with your community.

You’re not in this alone. If you’re a business owner, connect with other business owners in your network to voice your concerns and gain support. Lean on your team and those in your community when you’re feeling especially anxious or overwhelmed. Now more than ever, people are coming together to help each other through this difficult time in life.

6. Don’t lose yourself in work — remember what’s important.

When your career is suddenly on the line, it can be tempting to turn all your attention toward work, trying to salvage your income. While it’s important to work toward maintaining your business, let this pandemic remind you of what’s most important in life: family, friends, loved ones, freedom, happiness and health.

Stop working at the end of your eight hours and go for a walk with your family. Call a different friend every night to check in on them. Drive around town with the windows down and smile at strangers. Cook healthy meals and get your body moving. Do more of what makes you happy. Let yourself relax and unwind, even if that means spending all weekend on the couch watching Netflix. 

Above all, be easy on yourself. We are all in this together, and we will all be able to embrace each other again someday soon.

5 Tips for Overcoming Self Doubt as an Entrepreneur

'believe in yourself' graffiti on yellow wall

As an entrepreneur, you likely have many dreams and plans to back them. But just because you’re willing to pursue a business idea doesn’t mean you’re 100% confident and free of self doubt — you are human, after all.

It doesn’t help to have multiple people in your ear, explaining what could go wrong (as if it hasn’t occurred to you already). Whether it’s your parents’ warning you of the risk of running a business, your friend’s frustration over your busy schedule, or your partner’s hesitant support of your leap into entrepreneurship — there are many people who will plant seeds of doubt in your mind. And when they begin to sprout, it can be intimidating to continue pursuing your passion.

However, as the quote goes… “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. – Wayne Gretzky” – Michael Scott. Don’t let fear hold you back. Here are five tips to help you overcome self doubt as a new business owner or freelancer.

Take others’ opinions with a grain of salt

Sure, your family and friends only want what’s best for you; but they are not you. You can listen to their concerns and even take them into consideration without completely giving up on your decision. 

For instance, maybe your dad recommends starting your business as a side hustle while working to build your savings, and only diving in once you’re financially stable. This is sound advice that comes from a rational place. However, if he tried to talk you out of pursuing your dreams because of the risk of failure, you can identify that this, instead, comes from a place an emotional place.

Additionally, don’t take them to heart or as a personal hit. People often project their own insecurities or relay their own fears. Just because your mom doesn’t think it’s a good idea to start your business doesn’t mean you shouldn’t persist.

Get involved in a local entrepreneurial community

Entrepreneurship can be an isolating and intimidating career path. While you’re strong and persistent enough to achieve your dreams on your own, it helps to have others who support you.

Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who are — or have been — in the same boat as you will help you gain confidence and feel inspired to chase your goals. By joining your local entrepreneurial community, you’ll also increase your networking and gain access to resources in your area, both of which will make you feel more capable of success. Within your group, consider finding a mentor or a few solid supporters who you can turn to without judgement. They’ll become invaluable as you grow.

Trust yourself

Often, our own doubts about ourselves are derived from the opinions and insecurities of others. If we want to overcome self doubt, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves why we’re so afraid of failing. When we do this, we quickly learn that we tend to view success in the way others view us, which ultimately has everything to do with the way they view themselves.

Instead of listening to the noise around you, turn inward and seek guidance and comfort from yourself, or else you’ll struggle at every level of your business. There will always be decisions to make and trials to work through. Remind yourself why you’re pursuing entrepreneurship: because you’re passionate about your product/service, and you are qualified to be your own boss. If no one else will offer you that support, at least offer it to yourself. 

Understand — and accept — the risks

When you’re trying to overcome self doubt, remind yourself that the only person’s opinion that matters in this equation is your own. Yes, there are risks associated with starting your own business. Once you can admit and accept that, you can move forward rather than allowing it to hold you back.

So what if you fail? So what if you fall short of perfection? Don’t be so hard on yourself, or else you’ll never step out of your comfort zone. There are no mistakes in entrepreneurship — only lessons learned. Wouldn’t you rather take the risk and grow — not only as a person, but also as a business owner — than never know what might have been?

5. Create a thorough plan

Don’t go into your business endeavor without a sense of direction. You want your business to be a (secure) leap of faith, not a shot in the dark.

Mapping out the details and setting realistic goals and deadlines will help you feel more organized and competent. Create a plan that outlines steps to take to create and build your business, like securing funding, creating a website and social media profiles, developing a marketing strategy, etc.

If you want your business — and, in turn, your confidence — to grow, you must focus on targeting a relevant audience and recruiting a loyal following.

Need some marketing support on your entrepreneurial journey? Contact us today and let’s chat about your digital marketing ideas.

What is the Ideal Word Count for My Business Blog?

ideal blog post length | open laptop with blank notebook and pen

Content marketing is a great way to increase your credibility as a business and cultivate brand awareness. By offering consumers information and insight on relative topics, you’re positioning yourself as an expert in your industry while building trust from your audience.

There are many forms of content marketing today, from social media to blogs. If you’re interested in starting a business blog for your company, you’ll want to understand the best practices to drive the results you’re aiming for. One major factor to consider is your word count.

You don’t want to overwhelm your audience with too much text or filler words, but you also don’t want to skimp on them either. To help you, we did some research on the ideal blog post length for certain business goals. Here’s what we found.

Quality vs. quantity

With so many digital distractions today, it can be difficult to hold your audience for more than just a few minutes. That’s why you should aim to make your content as easily digestible — and interesting — as possible.

First and foremost, when drafting a blog post, your priority should be creating insightful and informative content. While its quantity, or length, plays a major role in its success, a blog post will not drive the right results if it’s lacking in quality.

Focus on following a specific structure with subheadings, bullet points, lists and keywords, as well as including links to sources and relative stats. Back your claims with research, but also speak from your own experience in a professional yet conversational tone.

Additionally, make sure you’re answering any questions your readers might have and hitting all the points associated with the topic. You can do this by reading similar articles on the subject and doing SEO research to better target your audience.

Factors to consider for your blog post length

The average blog post length in 2019 was 1,236 words (53% longer than six years ago), with word count slowly increasing each year. But a higher word count doesn’t automatically mean your blog post will be successful or well-read.

Before you can determine your ideal word count, consider your goals for your blog. What do you hope it helps you achieve? Maybe you want to rank high on search engines to widen your reach, or perhaps you’d like to increase your brand awareness or engagement levels.

Depending on your objectives, you might experiment with different word counts and see which post lengths perform best. For example, if you’re trying to improve your SEO rankings, you’ll want to aim higher (upwards of 2000 words) than you would if you were focusing merely on engagement (max 600 words).

To rank in search engines, keywords are a must; and the more words you have, the more opportunities there are to hit the recommended keywords. However, if you’re going to write lengthy posts, your content will have to maintain its quality throughout the piece. Writing aimlessly simply to reach word count will not bode well.

If your main mission is to engage and connect with your readers, such as by encouraging comments and discussions, you’ll want to keep the piece short, simple and to-the-point — typically no more than 600 words.

For generating social shares and cultivating brand awareness, on the other hand, try to find a middle ground. You don’t need to reach 2,000 words, but you should have at least 600 under your belt, with the sweet spot somewhere between the two.

Best practices for your business blog

Now that you’ve mapped out your priorities and assessed your goals, you can consider the general best practices of business blogging. Here a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Write at least 300 words. Your blog post is highly unlikely to even be ranked by search engines if it doesn’t reach this amount. Also, if you’re keeping it this short, you may be missing some important key points. Think outside the box to bulk up your content with quality information, like stats, firsthand anecdotes or even expert interviews.
  • Aim for at least 1,000 words for better SEO. You’ll have a much greater chance of ranking if a blog post is at least 1000 words. Again, your word count depends on your goals for the post/your blog, but good SEO will help you better reach your consumers in the first place.
  • Break up your content. Use subheadings, lists, bullet points, etc. This will help keep your readers’ attention. They’re more likely to lose focus if they’re reading chunks of long-form writing than if they’re consuming short, digestible bits at a time.
  • Include keywords. Your readers won’t find your posts if you don’t include important keywords. Do your research to learn which keywords are best in relation to your topic.
  • Focus on your readers. While SEO is important, you should never lose sight of your audience. Keep their needs in mind while you’re writing, and cater your posts to them. What do they want to know? What is something only you can offer them? Don’t be afraid to ask them directly before writing your post, and try to allow comments on your blog to encourage feedback/further engagement.
  • Experiment with different lengths. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different post lengths. See what works best for your company and its objectives, and take note of the specific benefits each mark has.
  • Be consistent with posting schedule. Don’t just post whenever you have a new idea; make sure you’re consistent. You can achieve this by creating a content calendar that manages your blog posts topics/posting schedules, as well as its respective social posts for increased engagement.
  • Outsource your blog to experts. Company blogs have the potential to really ramp up your marketing strategy; but as a business owner, it can be difficult to give yours the attention it needs. If you’re unable to dedicate the right amount of time and effort to your blog, look to an agency that offers its expert services, so you can focus on the work you’re best at — without missing out on content marketing’s potential. 

Need help creating great blog content for your audience? Lightning Media Partners offers content marketing packages to help you meet your business goals. Contact us for more information.

How to Choose the Right Social Media Platforms for Your Business

laptop with social media icons

Social media marketing is one of the most popular and effective forms of marketing today. Most consumers tend to hang out online and even do their research on brands by browsing their social media accounts. 

As a business, establishing a social media presence is crucial to attracting and retaining customers. However, you’ll want to ensure you’re investing in the right channels.

Below, we explore some of today’s most popular social media platforms and some key facts than can help you determine which ones are best for your brand.

Instagram

Instagram is a hotspot for young consumers, with its biggest demographic group being males between 18 to 24 years old. Additionally, 75% of all users are aged between 18 and 24.

Businesses of all sorts are leveraging Instagram for marketing purposes, but the platform is best suited for trendy, urban brands like fashion companies or tech business. To engage your audience, you’ll want to post creative photos and short videos, and try to maintain a theme. Stick to a specific color scheme, build your brand’s voice, and interact with other users on a regular basis. 

Also, be sure to keep up with trends and best engagement practices, from IGTV to Instagram stories. Get creative and remain active!

Facebook

Most Americans use Facebook, the demographics being

  • 51% of those ages 13 to 17
  • 81% of those ages 18 to 29
  • 78% of those ages 30 to 49
  • 65% of those ages 50 to 64
  • 41% of those ages 65 and older

The sweet spot for age of users is between 25 and 34. If your target consumers fall into this range, you’ll want to prioritize Facebook above all else. Share regular updates, statuses, photos of products, behind-the-scenes shots, event info and more. Also, remember these points: videos earn the highest rate of engagement, as well as posts published on Thursday and Friday.

Unlike on Snapchat, even if your target audience doesn’t use Facebook, you’ll still want to at least exist on the platform. At a minimum, you should create a page with important information (e.g. business address and contact info) to establish your presence and credibility.

Twitter

Hootsuite reported that 22% of adults and 44% of 18- to 24-year-olds use Twitter. The median age of US users, however, is 40.

Twitter is a great way to spread brand awareness, especially since tweets can be retweeted, thus shared with larger audiences. It’s also the perfect platform for business owners and those in the media/arts, like writers and PR reps, to connect with others in the industry. Use Twitter to network and share your thoughts or links to articles/websites/etc.

LinkedIn

Majority of LinkedIn users are between ages 25 and 34, and exist across various industries. The platform helps professionals connect with other professionals. However, while it’s more of an online resume for workers, it can also be used as a marketing tactic for businesses.

Every business should have a LinkedIn account to establish their credibility and digital presence. You can also use LinkedIn to share business updates, event information/coverage, job openings and more.

Pinterest

According to Hootsuite, Pinterest reaches 83% of women aged 25 to 54. However, more than half of this exposure is from Google image search. If you’re using Pinterest for your business, you’ll be able to reach both users and non-users. 

Pinterest is also unique because it’s less a social site and more of a self-discovery platform. When users log into their profiles, they’re not looking to interact with others; instead, they’re looking for information, inspiration and products. However, most companies overlook the channel and its potential.

Any company can benefit from having a Pinterest account, as the platform offers various types of content in the form of “pins.” These pins can range from photos of outfits to quotes from articles, linking to external sources. For instance, if you own a PR agency and run a blog on your site, you can link to certain posts in your pins; or, if you’re a clothing boutique, you can share photos of your hottest items with links to your shop.

Snapchat

At the end of 2018, Snapchat had approximately 186 million daily active users. The number dropped slightly from the beginning of 2018 and previous years. 

According to the Pew Research Center, the most active Snapchat users are between the ages of 18 and 24. While this platform isn’t as commonly used for marketing as others (like Instagram and Facebook), If your audience mostly consists of millennials or Gen Z, you might consider using Snapchat to engage them even further.

You can create unique behind-the-scenes videos, share photos of your products and link to relevant articles your customers would appreciate. However, keep in mind: Snapchat typically performs better for well-known, large businesses.

YouTube

According to Oberlo, YouTube is the second most popular social media platform. In fact, 79% of Internet users have an account on the website/application.

YouTube is a great place to share video content with consumers. And since video is becoming a more popular and engaging form of content, businesses of all sorts can find success on the platform. Write articles for your company blog? Translate it into a short informative video. Run a local bakery? Record a how-to baking video while plugging your favorite treats. The options are endless!

TikTok

This up-and-coming social media platform isn’t on many businesses’ radars yet, but experts predict it’s the “next big thing” in social media. This platform allows users to share short, music-focused video clips (9 to 15 seconds long), and the community values authentic, creative content over highly polished, professional-looking videos.

Business News Daily reports that more than 40% of the app’s 500 million monthly users are between the ages of 10 and 19, so if your brand is marketing to pre-teens and teenagers, TikTok is the place to be. At present, businesses have four primary options for using TikTok: in-feed native content, brand takeovers, hashtag challenges, and branded lenses.

Like any new social media platform, it may be best to wait and see what bigger brands are doing on TikTok before diving in and potentially harming your brand image. 

Which social media platforms are right for your brand?

Social media is a great way to connect with and engage consumers, but many business owners fail to invest in these platforms due to time restraint. Since you’re likely swamped with other business development tasks, it might make more sense to outsource your social media marketing efforts to experts. 

Check out our social media management packages or contact us to learn more about how Lightning Media Partners can help you.

PPC Management: What You Need to Know About Pay-Per-Click Campaigns

ppc management analytics dashboard screen

PPC, or pay-per-click, is a form of digital marketing that involves buying visits to your site. This is achieved in the form of small fees paid each time your ad is clicked.

For example, if a publisher works with your business by allowing your ads on their site, you’ll pay them a fee every time someone clicks your ad and is brought to your page. These PPC ads can be found on blogs, search engines, social media sites, etc. to attract consumers to a business’s website.

PPC management is a great way for businesses to drive traffic and gain customers. If you’re interested in utilizing this tactic for your brand, look no further. Here’s a basic overview of what you need to know about PPC management.

What is PPC management, anyway?

PPC management can be a full-time job, and it is for many. That’s why many small businesses opt to hire an expert or team of experts to take care of PPC tasks.

PPC management requires taking charge of the following:

  • Targeting the right audience
  • Identifying the best channels
  • Researching appropriate keywords 
  • Analyzing competitors
  • Launching campaigns 
  • Optimizing strategies

Many small businesses lack the resources to hire a PPC manager. Instead, they might choose to outsource the work to a team of experts who can handle the research, setup, tracking and overall management of the campaign.

The best PPC networks for small businesses

There are many PPC management services small businesses can utilize. A few of our favorites include:

  • Google Ads: Google Ads is perfect for local businesses trying to cultivate awareness around their brand. Using this network, you can ensure your business shows up when consumers search for related businesses on Google Search and Maps. Google Ads is also great for small businesses who provide niche services. When someone searches for a business that offers the same products/services you offer, you’ll be listed as an option.
  • Microsoft Advertising: Microsoft Advertising allows you to connect with customers in your area and coordinate social media campaigns. Using this network, you can also import other campaigns into Microsoft Advertising.
  • Display networks: Using display networks places your display ads on various sites across the internet, such as YouTube, Gmail and more. These networks typically benefit e-commerce brands with large audiences.
  • Facebook Ads: While Facebook might be known as the social media platform that connects old friends and family members, it can be used for business as well. Facebook Ads offer DIY-ads that let you choose your objective, select your audience, decide where to run your ad (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Audience Network or all), set your budget and pick a format. Once your Facebook Ad is up and running, you can also measure its performance and make any adjustments accordingly.
  • LinkedIn Marketing Solutions (or LinkedIn Advertising): Best for B2B businesses, LinkedIn Advertising helps you create efficient ads in minutes that target your specific audience. These ads will be sent across devices, from desktop to mobile, and can even be delivered directly to LinkedIn inboxes. You can also control your spending with flexible pricing options, like starting with a small budget or stopping your ads whenever needed.

7 PPC Management Tips for Successful Campaigns

If you want to launch a successful PPC management campaign, follow these tips:

1. Research your audience (and know which platforms they use)

Before you invest in PPC advertising, you’ll want to better understand your target market. No matter how strong your PPC campaign might be otherwise, if you are targeting the wrong consumers, you won’t drive the results you want. 

Rather than forcing your business on specific consumers, let your audience define itself organically. Turn to your data to understand purchasing trends, then create your PPC management campaign based on those results.

2. Set realistic goals

It’s great to be dream big and be motivated, but reaching too high too soon will only set you up for failure. Instead, set small, realistic goals. Some examples include:

  • Creating brand awareness
  • Generating leads
  • Increasing sales

Building a solid foundation is key to ensuring your campaign doesn’t burn out too soon or fall flat. Once you achieve these stepping stones, you can aspire to those larger goals.

3. Know the right metrics

Before running your PPC campaign, you’ll want to review the right data and metrics to measure the health of your business. According to Jeffalytics, you can do so through these numbers:

4. Set aside a realistic budget

Similar to setting goals, you’ll want to set a realistic PPC budget, ensuring you don’t overspend or underspend. The metrics mentioned above will help you determine a budget that works best for your business. Keep in mind, however, that you might need to sacrifice more of your budget in the beginning of your campaign to drive future results.

5. Test and optimize frequently

According to Jeffalytics, “The most consistently successful PPC advertisers test every component of their advertisements.” You won’t know what works off-the-bat; to better understand what will drive real results for your business, you’ll need to get granular.

6. Adjust your sales funnel

Based on your findings from step five, you’ll want to adjust your sales funnel to generate better results. Some ways to optimize, offered by Jefflaytics, include:

  • Refining your keywords’ list
  • Reviewing query reports for more keywords
  • Incorporating negative keywords and long tail keywords
  • Using ad testing to determine best-performing ads
  • Making landing page relevant to top-performing ads

7. Check in regularly

PPC management is an ongoing process that you’ll want to keep up with regularly. Continuously redefine your goals, revisit your budget, review your metrics, test your ads, and optimize, optimize, optimize!

Interested in launching a PPC campaign but don’t know where to start? Check out our paid marketing services or contact us for a custom quote!