Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Two Years Later – I’ve Learned to "Mind" My Business!

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since Sunny Belle opened its virtual doors to the world and started offering fun hand painted gifts for every occasion.  If that sounded like a tagline, it kinda' was.  I can’t help it.  For two years, I’ve been in cyber mode, learning so very much (but not nearly enough) about setting up websites, creating blogs, improving Facebook pages and learning how to make Twitter and even Pinterest work in my favor.  I am obsessed with making things look pretty, yet professional.  I may not have completely succeeded with all of my efforts, but I think I’m on the right track.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is to trust my instincts as a consumer – not a business owner – as to what works and what doesn’t.  I need to think like my customers and my followers to make them happy and keep them coming for more.
So in my limited time on the internet scene as a small business, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way… 

1.     Create a website that looks professional, but follows the theme of your business.   There is no bigger turnoff to me than a lackluster or unorganized website.  I will literally close it out if I don’t like the way it flows.  If your website is not as top notch as it could be, then one may assume (however unfair) that your business is not top notch either.  Your website is a first impression to the buying community.  Make it count.
2.      Pick a theme that will set the desired mood when viewers find you.  If it’s an upscale photography business, be serious and don’t litter your website with polka dots and cutesy fonts.  If it’s a quirky gift shop, bring on those polka dots and cutesy fonts and showcase your creativity.  Make sure your website is easy to navigate; don’t frustrate people by making them search three pages to figure out how to start perusing your products.  Also, if you don’t have a mobile version of your website, MAKE SURE YOUR BUTTONS ARE LARGE ENOUGH FOR PEOPLE TO NAVIGATE EASILY ON TABLETS AND SMARTPHONES!  Likewise, even on a desktop version, make sure all your tabs and links are large and easy to spot.

3.       If you know HTML and CSS, then by all means, knock yourself out and design your own website.  However, if you’re like me and would LOVE to know HTML and more about web design, but don’t have it down pat yet, do yourself a favor and purchase a template and hosting plan to get your business launched, and study how to design a website on the side.  If, in a year, you’ve learned enough to do it yourself, then take it from there.  There are many wonderful website templates and hosting companies out there that frequently run specials that allow you to start an online business without cashing in body parts.  My personal favorite hosting company is Bizzy Mama Hosting.

4.       Domains – For as little as $5 per year, they are cheap enough that you should jump on every version of your primary domain name.  If possible, grab the .com, .org, .net, .info, etc.  The more you have under your belt, the less chance of a look-alike domain stealing your thunder.

5.     Always be sure to add social buttons on your website. Encourage your viewers to follow you everywhere!

6.   Set up a "Testimonial" page to allow others to see rave reviews about your products or services.  Word of mouth is golden!

1.       I am NO expert blogger.  Yet.  My blog is slooowly getting better, but I have LOTS to learn!  Design-wise, the good news is that many of your website template designers also offer blog packages to match your web theme.  There are also lots of online DIY blog courses out there that will give you tips on what works and what doesn’t, and tons of blogging books you can purchase that have a wealth of information on what attracts followers, etc.

2.     Choose a rather simple and aesthetically pleasing design.

3.     My favorite thing about a blog – the discovery of OTHER cool blogs!  I've found some of the most amazing blogs by clicking on the list of "blogs I follow" often featured on the sidebars of my favorite blogs.  If you love one blog, you tend to respect their choice of favorite blogs.  So line 'em up.  (Make sure to feature blogs that are similar to your taste and have a gazillion followers). I said "blog" eight times in that paragraph.  Now nine.

4.      Choose catchy blog post titles.  I have to work on that with mine, but I do find that a catchy title is what attracts me to other blogs.  For example, “Redesigning with Mirrors” is not nearly as much fun as “It’s All Smoke and Mirrors!” or “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall”.  If you're stuck, choose three titles and ask a friend or colleague to pick the best one.

5.   Give readers options for ways to follow.  Google Reader is my personal favorite way to have all of my blog posts delivered to me.

6.     Use lots of tags and labels in your posts.  That way our dear friend, Google, will find those followers for you!

1.      DO NOT...  I repeat… DO NOT post a picture of an item for sale with no price.  There is nothing more annoying than having to dig around for the price on a different page or ask someone in a message or post how much the item is.  If it’s for sale, state the price up front. Period.  If I am in a brick and mortar store and I see an item with no price, I will literally pass it up in lieu of having to track down a sales clerk to find it.  Time is money and the price shouldn’t be a secret. (Ditto with garage sales. HA)

2.     Check out cool apps that will attract followers.  Woobox is amazing and they have great apps that allow you to add tabs like Pinterest, Twitter, etc.   You can also entice people to like your page with coupons!  Like our Facebook page and receive 15% off your next order!  (It worked for me!)  The more people can peruse your entire social profile, the more interested they are and the more they get to see what you’re about. (Yes, Rachael, I did end this sentence with a preposition.  Carry on…)

3.     To avoid having to post the exact same pictures of products on your Facebook page that you have on your website (and with hundreds of items, trust me that can become an onerous task), have a tab designed that will bring the follower directly to your shop.  They can peruse the pics there and it will make it easier for them to purchase!

4.      Always make sure to have your website information in your “About” section on your Facebook page.

5.      Make your profile and cover images reflect the theme of your business, and if at all possible, match your website design.
1.       If you have a Twitter account for your business, link them to your Facebook page so that what you tweet gets posted on Facebook or vice versa.  The more exposure the better.

2.       Be creative and make sure your tweet packs punch.  Don’t think being limited to 140 characters is a bad thing.  You’d be surprised what you can accomplish in a single tweet. Post pics on Twitter; add links to your website to redirect your followers; add hash-tags in hopes that your tweets become wrapped up in a trend!  (See an earlier blog post that showcases an article recently written on hash-tags).  Good stuff, I tell ya!

1.     Create a Pinterest board specifically for certain products; when you add a price, it now creates a price banner over that picture!  How cool is that?  I’m late in the game and I’m just discovering this little tidbit.

2.      Always make sure you credit your business ( in your pins and boards.  Not much point in showing off your product if they can’t figure out where to go to buy it, right?  And while we’re on the subject, remember pin etiquette and be sure to credit anyone whose picture you post.  Fair is fair.

3.       If you’re combining both personal and business on your Pinterest page, be mindful of the personal boards you post.  Sorry, but the fact of the matter is, people will decide what kind of business owner you are by viewing other things that you find pleasing.  If you’re a baby clothing store, you might not want to create a board on your favorite 50 foreign beers. Just saying.  Check out The Mom Creative for 10 tips on using Pinterest well. 

Well that is all I have today and let me add, I would LOVE suggestions on how to make my blog, my website, my Facebook and my Twitter page better for my followers.  So please feel free to contact me at if there’s something that’s driving you nuts or something you’d like to see added.  I hope this helped you "mind your business" just a tiny bit!  Until next time, happy surfing, posting, tweeting and pinning!

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