All posts by Jenny

Web Marketing in 2016

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Nickey Hollenback Personal Touch Concierge Services

If you network in the Doylestown, PA area, you have undoubtedly run across Nickey Hollenback.  She is the founder, and business woman extraordinairre of Personal Touch Concierge Service.  She is in the business of helping you run and market your business…virtually.

As a new member of the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, I have joined the Women in Business Committee (run by one of my new favorite networking buddies Catherine Cavella).  And today Nikki was our featured speaker on “Fresh Ideas for the New Year – Web Marketing.”  Here are the highlights of her presentation that can greatly help you in the marketing of your business:

  1. If you have not heard Facebook has rolled out some rather large video initiatives.  You can now live stream and run video ads.  Guess what?  Users love them.
  2. Get an app for your business.  They are the wave of the future.
  3. Wearable technology is the future. We have seen hints of this with Google Glasses and the iWatch.   Apparently Tommy Hillfinger is designing cell phone charging pants.
  4. Do not let your website get out of date.  Your website is the center of your internet presence and should be modern, easy to navigate, and aesthetically pleasing.
  5. Content is king – so keep blogging and building your site.  But the shift will be to longer tail keywords and phrases that users are searching for as they talk into their smart phones to surf the web.  I have often stated you need to write content that your ideal market is looking for – how are you going to help them solve their problem?
  6. Have a social media stream on your webiste – I add to this and say make sure this part of your site is well designed and integrated.  Most of the streams I see are not well done.  I also add make sure you have social connect and share buttons prominently displayed so your visitors can share with you and share your content.
  7. Have a WordPress webiste.  The platform is SEO friendly, easy to use, safe, secure and media friendly.
  8. Do not ever have your webiste privately hosted.  You lose control.  I use GoDaddy, WP-Engine and Blue Host.  Nickey recommends Sucuri (which I will be checking out based on her recommendation).
  9. Mobilegeddon (not sure if she coined that term or not) happened in April – this is when Google started to devalue sites that were not mobile friendly.  What does that mean?  Your site should be mobile friendly.  According to Nickey, 87% of Millennials are never without their phones – mobile is important.
  10. While your website is your most important digital asset, your social media is critical.  Facebook and Pinterest ads should be part of your strategy.  Do not forget about Linkedin and Twitter (the cocktail party of the internet).  And Nickey perfectly described Google+ – that uncle you do not want ot invite to Thanksgiving but have to.  My experience:  Google+ is critical for search and the health of your webiste.

I have known Nikki since I started networking and was actually virtually introduced to her through Denice Whitely, another virtual assistant (talk about a woman who believes there is no competition).  We have occassionally crossed paths at other events and I am thrilled to have an opportunity to see her more at Chamber events.

 

The Employment Law of your Business

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Christine M. Reger Employment Attorney

As it turns out, you absolutely should not just pay someone to do some work for you in your business.  For operations big and small the hiring of any person to do any work should have a well thought-out plan with a keen eye on the law.

I recently listened to Christina Reger, an employment attorney at Bazelon, Less,  and Feldman.  You can connect to Christina on her LinkedIn profile.  

According to Christina – here are the 10 things you should consider when hiring:

  1. What is the job and how is the employee classified?  The Department of Labor mandates that employees be paid for every minute they are working.  Is an employee going to be considered full-time…salaried?  Hourly?  With limited exceptions, employees need to be paid overtime, measured by the week.
  2. Write your job description first.    What specifically are they going to be doing for you in addition to general tasks.
  3. Are you posting your job on your website?  Is your website ADA compliant?
  4. Where else can you post/advertise your job opening? Post in two places – at least – one should be print.
  5. Job application – does it comply with Ban the Box?  Is it an off the shelf application  and has it been checked by a local attorney?
  6. The interview – who gets called in?  How do you choose? Are you weeding out a protected class?  Think about who you are calling in and why – are they all business reasons?
  7. The interview part 2 – ten questions to never ask – this one I’m putting in a separate post it is so good.
  8. Background checks – FCRA requirements – you must inform the applicant of the background check – they must sign acknowledging it will occur – and the applicant should have the opportunity to review it and rebut anything you find. Running them often on your employees – they have to know so it is best to have a company policy.
  9. Social Media checks – you can do them – but you cannot ask applicants for passwords and you cannot stand over their shoulder while they sign into their accounts, and you better do the check on the applicant pool or at least your top 5 candidates.
  10. You’re hired!! Have a handbook, set of policies and clear explanations of hours and benefits.    If you have no handbook, you have no defense against any lawsuit.  For instance, if an employee sues becuase he was sexually harrassed, you best have a formal policy stating that behavior is not tollerated.

The biggest issue in the arena right now is paying people for their time…what happens when an employee takes your call at night, answers emails on the weekend, drives to the airport  to catch a flight for a business trip…that flight is cancelled…they wait in the airport…eeeegadddsss….as you can imagine, I was able to think of lots of scenarios where there are grey lines…and Christina wisely warned us, make sure anything an employee needs to do for work is clearly spelled out in your handbook, job description, and company policies.

Christina is a powerhouse of information.  Her knowledge and expertise in this area is not simply a career.  You can see she has a passion to protect the small business owner and would rather work with you now before you need her to defend you in court.

 

 

 

The Core of Your Financial Health

If your 2016 New Year’s resolution was to improve your financial health, keeping track of your spending and bills will be important.  How can monitor your transactions?  It is time to throw out the shoe box full of receipts and call my buddy Lisa Fry of Core Financial Outsourcing.

As a social media consultant I am constantly networking…talking on the phone, going to luncheons, meeting others for coffee, attending business get-to-gethers.  I am casting a wide net to build my own network of referral partners and get noticed.  Through the various groups I have visited, I am usually amazed at some of the services that people have built.  I had never heard of a public adjustor (not kidding), had no idea you could go through an insurance broker who would find you a policy (you don’t have to call ALL the companies yourself), and most recently had my doors blown off when I found out you can outsource your bookkeeping.

My grandmother was a book keeper for a church on Staten Island, NY.  I knew she paid the bills, balanced the books, but also that she was not an accountant.   She was also on staff – so I always throught this type of position was in house.  As a small business owner you can have this service done for you but do not need to hire a staff member.  Just call Lisa.

As a small business owner you have probably visited the bank and opened up business accounts, talked with an attorney and an accountant…but have you found someone who can help you pay bills or track your financial data on a monthly basis.  This is the gap that Core Financial fills.  Lisa calls it the missing link.

Core Financial pushes into your business on a regular schedule – they can meet at your office or they can do the work in-house .  They take your receipts, bills, statements and balance your books.  Reports are generated which show you cashflow, trends, and your overall financial health.  The work they do can help you package your business for tax time, when trying to attact investors, loans, and partnership meetings.

The benefit to you?  In the same way that I help small business owners with their social media, Core gives you more time to focus on the running of your business…or time with your family or involved in your hobbies.  Your business systems will be handled by an expert so you do not have to learn the rules, you get the 30,000 view and know the important pieces.

Developing a Marketing Plan for 2016

Nothing makes me happier as a social media consultant than when I sit down with a new client and they say “I have a website, the blog can be activated, and I have my messaging, logo and graphics in place.”

I recently had the opportunity to hear Laurel Cavaluzzo of Madison Marketing Communications.  Laurel is an accomplishment marketing consultant who can work with you on a full marketing plan, marketing message, coaching, training, and support.  She steps in to make sure your expertise matches with your goals, message, logo, color,….and just about everything else.

Here are her top tips for

  1. Write things down – you will not remember your great ideas.
  2. Have a marketing roadmap – this should be a cohesive strategy
  3. Who is your audience?  Know your target market and why they need you.
  4. Goals – and goals with no plan are just a wish.  Know your audience and how you are going to attack each one.
  5. “If you try to be all things to all people you wind up to be nothing.”
  6. Know what you do, how you do it, and who can use it.  Then make sure your messaging is clear.  Keep your wording simple.  How do you put your expertise into words?
  7. Messaging is one of the most important parts of your marketing strategy.
  8. Brand to position yourself as an expert.
  9. How will you measure your marketing efforts?
  10. Always be ready to move, shift, and do things a bit differently if you see opportunity to require changes.

What should be part of your marketing strategy?  Here is the list (I LOVE lists):

  1. Website:  well written articles about your core business areas and a blog to show your personality and highlight news, case studies, and short pieces of advice
  2. Data base and a newsletter
  3. Partnerships with powerpartners
  4. PR:  are you in the news, on the radio, in the paper, available to get links from online publications?
  5. Social Media (click her to learn about a GREAT social media consultant).
  6. Advertising – is it worth it to pay for PPC (Google adwords, Facebook ads…) newspaper ads?
  7. Event Participation and Sponsorship
  8. Networking – and what are you doing for follow-up?
  9. Testimonials are critical

Need to work with an expert like Laurel to get your message out?  Visit her website, give her a buzz at (703) 629-5693, or find her on Twitter at @LaurelinMadison (Oh, and I’m @DrJennyLynn), Linkedin, or like her Facebook Page

Why You Should Have a Blog for Your Business

I recently attended a Coffee Talk, NJ networking event centered around providing information to small business owners.  Connector extraordinaire, Hillary Morris, put together a program including blogger extraordinaire, Reesa Lewandowski.  Based on her experience building Momma Lew, Reesa discussed the benefits and a few details of having a blog for your business.

If you are here on the interent talking about the importance, I would assume that you are in resistance about starting one.  Why?  Well you are established, have a website, and have already been told time and time again that blogging is important.  It helps to continually build your website (which Google loves), shows your clients/customers your personality, and allows you to show expertise in a way that your regular website articles do not.

I provide blogging support to a select group of clients on a weekly basis.  They typically are too busy running their own business, they hate writing, and/or they want an expert researching exactly how to talk to their target audience.  On the other hand, I love to blog and have a knack for writing to reach a core audience.  My clients go to sleep knowing that their website is naturally building and for them, this is marketing money well spent.

Now, you may be wondering what golden nuggets of information I took from Reesa’s presentation.   There were a few:

  1. Let go of your fear.  I have found that most business owners have a fear of putting themselves out there either on social media or in a blog.  They have no idea what they should say and are fearful of getting started.
  2. Make sure there is an easy way for your readers to share your blog on social media sites.  On each blog post your social share buttons should be prominently placed allowing the reader to share no matter where they are in your article.
  3. Twitter is where “it” is at.  Twitter, the cocktail party of the universe, is the hot social media platform.  Build a following on Twitter to help drive traffic to your website.  Connect with me on Twitter.
  4. You want to make Google happy.  Most small business owners are, in some way, looking to rank in Google search.  To do this you need to pay close attention to the important factors of SEO.  Adding new fresh content to your website is the best way to improve the health and SEO of your webiste.

I’m writing this particular blog from a Starbucks in Bucks County, PA.   It is very early on a Saturday morning and I just dropped one of my daughters off at swim practice.  Taking regular time to write is important for me.  Plus, as a swim mom there is lots of coffee here which is good because my kid loves to be under water early in the morning these days.

There are an infintesimal number of articles here on the interent about blogging, seo, best practices, and just getting started.  If you have any questions, give me a call.

The Law of Attraction

Lately, I’ve noticed a swirling around me.  Clearly unalighned, the universe has put people and messages in my path reminding me of the unique intense power I possess in attracting what I want into my life.  And I’ve realized how completely out of alighnment I have been in my thinking vs. what I really want.  It all has reminded me of a little story.

Years ago when my children were much much younger, we arrived at the beach and they told me they wanted to collect shells.  We went to the waves and could not find a thing so we decided to take a little walk to the little lagoon – not a single shell to be found.  And then my middle child suggested we keep going and climb over the sea wall at the other end of the lagoon…to where we have never been.  And I thought to myself:

We have to climb over the wall, is that safe?  Will the girls get hurt climbing?
We have never walked that far.  Can they make it that far?
What if they get tired?  Thirsty?  Hungry?

Before I knew it the perfect middle child was well on her way climbing right over the wall. Perfect path? Safe?  Didn’t matter. She was determined.  My other two daughters and I quickly followed.  And as our toes touched the sand, and we looked to the water we saw…exactly what we were hoping for…more shells that we could have imagined.  And these were the big shells.  We could not have picked them up quick enough or carried them all.  There was an abundance of shells – those big ones – exactly what we had been looking for since we arrived at the beach.

We collected as many as we could carry (remembering we had to get over the wall and had a long trek back to our stuff). More just kept coming in with the surf.  We turned our coverups into shell carriers and brought our booty down the beach.  And just as we passed that lagoon  another mom with her kids was walking up the beach. They saw our shells and asked where we had found them all.

I was so excited to tell her that they are right on the other side of the wall.  I explained that all that they had to do was climb the rocks over.  Her response to me…

That is too dangerous.  We can do it.
They could get hurt or tired.
And she turned and walked back.

It was amazing to hear the exact same limiting beliefs come from her that I had in my own head before my daughter blazed ahead with unending belief that we would find the shells we were seeking.

Even with this profound story behind me (and btw, I did do this with $10,000 at one point, but I know you will think I am NUTSO if I tell you that one) – you would think I would have turned a point and just started living my life from the law of attraction. But the truth is, I have not always. I am grateful this series of events has brought me back, reminded me of this fabulous little story, and will propel my life not only back on track, but to the moon.

She let go….

I am not enough…I will not be succesfull…what if it all falls apart?  What if I can not keep it together…if it never sells…if they are not happy…if it all gets too expensive?  What if they leave…what if others indefinitely stay?  Not enough time…too many ideas…where to find balance.  What if they really never come back…how will I deal with that pain…of not being enough.  A vicious cycle of fears and what ifs….

And then one day I just let it go.  I stood up from the sofa and knew it was time to step into my power as a mom, a partner,  a business owner…a woman, heck and as a person.  I had just heard a “She Let Go” poem read by Petra Kolber at a conference.  It was a good one for sure, but I knew mine had to be a bit more personalized.

Here is my “She Let Go…”

  • There was no post or tweet
  • No texting a friend before or once it was done
  • No french martini in hand to toast the departure
  • Without the validation of an academic degree or new url
  • No picture taken to record the moment
  • No journaling done
  • Life coach was not present or consulted
  • There was no podium…or microphone…applause…or handout
  • No advice given and no wise counsel
  • No  overanalysis of studies on the subject
  • Without caring what others thought
  • Didn’t read a book or a blog
  • No plan..or calendar…or google alert to remind me
  • There was no struggle…

I stood up from that couch in charge of my world….and let go of the anxiety and fear…the struggle and the past.  Those who had exited I did not need…I let go of my need for perfection and fear of the mistakes  – of wanting more – of not being enough – of “when” it might all come together.

The beautiful and wonderous circus that is my life was finally accepted

We could mark the moment as when:

She let go of being anyone’s anything
and became her own everything

She started to live in the now – build for the future.  No longer wonder but to create.  She even committed in her own special way to start adulting all areas that needed adulting – no matter how much she hated that.

This happened after a rollercoaster of a week – and a bigger rollercoaster of a weekend….and a morning – and a minute.  They each were filled with great disappointment and incredible highs.  She saw disappointment in someone’s eyes about her actions and realized it had nothing to do with her – this was her life to live…to share with those who cherished and fed her soul – as unusual and spectacular as it might be.  To the right person she would be enough…and most imporantly to herself she was more than she could handle.

The IP of Your Business

Should I get a trademark…or a copyright…or a patent?

If you have asked yourself that question recently then it is probably time to sit with an attorney who specializes in intellectual property. Today I had the good fortune of sitting with Catherine Cavella of IP Works located in Doylestown, PA.  Catherine is an Intellectual Property attorney who helps business owners protect their logos, ideas, color schemes, website layouts and trade secrets.

You see, I have established and continue to build a business which helps small business owners position on Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.  As Your Social Media Expert my work sends clients to the first page of Google search,  has their office phones ringing off the hook, and causes them to hire more staff to handle a boom in business.

My business is scalable and I have lots of ideas in the hopper…with that growth comes many questions and concerns regarding protecting my look, my logos,  message, and processes I use to achieve success for my clients.  What can I trademark and how do I protect what I build is all very important.

As part of my push to turn my passions into a profit, I have learned that it is always wise to sit with experts when you have questions.  From accounting and paying estimated quarterly income taxes  to incorporating your busines without piercing the corporate veil, paying for consultations is always a good idea.

So now onto the presonal note – we all have those huge moments in our professional lives – your first large speaking gig or that moment when biz coach lets you buy him breakfast because you have met a specific goal (not a joke, that actually happened).  And I can add my meeting today with Catherine to that list. As a seasoned professional who herself is a small business owner (and has seen the inner workings of many small businesses) she told me I really do have something substantial to build and that I have a growth mindset.  I was honored to hear that from someone so successful.

As I go through these next stages of growth I am glad Catherine will be on my team reminding me of imporant legal tasks that need to be handled.

 

Mom Management

I just dropped my youngest off at a birthday party…on the other side of town…and we had to pick-up gifts on the way.  She had forgotten to pick-up gifts the night before (when she was out with her sister and my credit card) so that was annoying.  But ya know what?  For a 13 year old who is still learning the ways of the world she handled the entire situation beautifully.   As we talked about how well she did, we decided she has mastered Mom management.

Sure the party was on the other side of town, before my workday ended, we had no gifts and had to make an extra stop.  How did she avoid a lecture and some mom crazy?  Read on:

  1. Know thy schedule and make sure it is on my calendar.  She did this weeks ago when the invitation arrived.
  2. Provide a pleasant reminder at the beginning of the day.
  3. Give me a pleasant 5 minute warning and ask if there is anything you can do to help.  For me this includes finding my car keys.
  4. Be pleasant when we are on our way.  Ask me how my day was and more importantly tell me about yours.
  5. If you need something (like a gift) ask “is it ok if we leave early to pick-up…?”  Best if you can make your sister do it the night before – oh, you forgot, “mom, sorry I forgot to get it while I was out.”
  6. If you leave gifts to the last minute, you should have a plan to conveniently pick them up.  My daughter thought this out and got her friends gift cards to Starbucks at Acme.  Practical, easy, and very very useful.  She asked if we could pick up three total since she had two other parties to attend and we should pick them all up at once.

Brilliant!   After all, the Mom in our house is running a business, preparing a household to move, and helped you earn your spot on the JV cheer team at your new school.  I am juggling quite a lot and am not a big fan of being treated like a taxi service. My daughter realizes her attending these parties is not a right and I have no responsibility to drive her.

My children are very well aware my responsibilities to them only include food, shelter and clothes.  They know that extras are my gift to them.   Sure, I provide far more than the basics but they best be appreciative, help out around the house, and manage me when they need to.

Cell Phone Bill of Rights

Over the last two years our cell phone plan data component has, from time to time, been an issue of great concern.  By great concern, I mean my children have chewed through record breaking amounts of data in short amounts of time causing overage charges.  So the great concern is for my wallet.

This first hit my radar screen when I was getting a daily overage charge for an extra gig of data – cost me $10 per day after the first 1/2 of every month.  I would wake up and there would be a text message from AT&T that they had loaded another gig onto my plan.  Trips to the store, calls to customer service…lots of research – and I could not figure out the problem.   Then I learned my older daughter was playing Pandora radio on her phone every single night.  Since we had horrible internet service (thank you Comcast) our wifi would often turn off and she was running music all night off of our data plan.  So I was paying for her to listen to music while she was asleep.  I hit the roof.

Since that time I have started discussing costs to run a household with my children.  They understand mortgages, insurance, and how much food costs.  I also told them it is their responsibility to help me save money.  If the cell phone bill is out of control and I am concerned use your brain and think about it.  We have had the “I am responsible for providing you with food, clothing and educational support until you are 18, anything else is a luxury.”

Now, when there is a problem, and I they are approaching their data limit, I simply turn off their data access. I have an app on my phone where I can view usage and shut off at will.   Call Dyfus?  Alert the media?  No, I am the parent, I own the cell phone and pay the bill.

So I thought it was time for me to put some rules and regulations down for other parents to use when setting limits for their children.

  1. When it comes to your cell phone, you have no rights.
  2. If you have any problems with this document, please feel free to get your own cell phone plan and a job to pay the bill (including the overage charges you incur when you run out of data.)
  3. When I refer to “your phone” please do not take this to mean it is actually your phone.  It is my phone.
  4. When I refer to “our data plan” please do not take this to mean it is actually your data plan.  It is my data plan.
  5. We have a 10 G of data and 5 phones.  Everyone gets to use about 2 G.
  6. If you start to approach your 2 G limit your data plan will be turned off for the remainder of the month.
  7. If you start using an exorbitant amount of data, I will not launch an investigation digging through our online account information.  I will not go to the store and complain.  I will just turn off your data.
  8. If you believe there is something wrong with your phone then you are welcome to try to fix it yourself.  I am sure there is a Youtube video on it.
  9. You spend a majority of your time at home and school.  In both places you should be connected to wifi.
  10. You are not allowed to have your cell phone in your room…ever.

Mean right?  Not to me – this list is all about parenting.  In today’s world parents want to be friends with their kids, I want to raise responsible children.  I want my kids to have what they need, a few fun extras in life, lots of fun, but really the ability to get out there and grab the brass ring on the carousel for themselves.

See you in the Cayman Islands…

So that was short lived….I recently posted about the thrill of making my first quarterly income tax payment.  And now I just made my second (due June 15th).  Honestly, this time around it was once again a thrill…but reality crashed a bit harder and the fun was very short lived.  While it is awesome to be building a business that is already turning a profit, it quickly hit me I do not like paying taxes on it.

Welcome to the party sister.

Over the years I have always heard jokes about how to hide money – Swiss bank accounts – closets in the Caymen Island (remember The Firm?).  So, during April, I set my sights on finding legal ways to stash cash.  TG and I marched around getting advice from financial advisers, an accountant, tax accountant, and a large financial institution.   Our goal is to find someone who resonates with us, we understand, appreciates where we are in our own financial relationship and my growing business.  It isn’t easy, especially since we, both as individuals and a couple, need a whole lot of explaining.

Anyone who works with us also has to have ALL the answers and know every nook and cranny of any financial vehicle we may read about on the web.  We like to know all options, analyze all angles, and we do not like making mistakes.  Hence the research and the meetings.

Here are a few realizations:

  1. You have to pay taxes.  At first I was under the grand delusion that I could sock away up to $50k (ish)  per year into a SEP or Individual 401k regardless of how much money I was making.  That sum would then significantly reduce my tax exposure.  But this leads to point #2:
  2. You have to pay yourself a reasonable wage.  You can only stash 20% of your income up to $50k (ish).  So, if you are making $100,000 you can only save about $20k per year.  Not chump change, but significantly less than what I originally thought.
  3. To be clearer, you can not sock all your money into a retirement account.  If you have limited living expenses (and live well below your means – imagine that), you might have extra money sitting around.  You can not just put it into a retirement account and then not pay taxes.
  4. Why… and this brings us full circle…because you have to pay some tax.  A point that sucks and keeps smacking me in the face.
  5. And then on a recent Google searching expedition, I found another article stating I could sock away 20% + and additional $17k.  Back to the experts I go I guess.

All of this is…well, very exciting.  To be at a stage in my business where I am able to think about saving a bit and to have a partner who wants to sit next to me and hold my hand as I figure it out is all very exciting.

If you are sitting in my shoes and want to know what to do with your own money, I highly recommend starting to read and then start talking to experts…many of them.  You will want to have a very clear picture of your financials right now and your projected tax exposure for this year.  As they say, any small business owner needs to know their numbers inside and out.

Oh, and yes, as a joke during one of the meetings I did ask about the Cayman’s, after all in the movie The Firm it didn’t look all that difficult to stash money in a closet in a condo.  Given the birth of the internet it has become a bit more difficult…turns out they can track you a little better.  And honestly, that would make me a bit nervous and all.

 

Fuel, Lens, Anchor

This is a post that belongs in all categories of this blog and my life.  I recently had the honor and good fortune of working with Sue Guiher  of Thrive for Success.   In just one hour she helped me make sense of some very confusing parts of my life.  Before I knew I didn’t quite understand them and tried to reach clarity in other ways.  Sometimes you have to wait for the solution to appear, and for me it did with Sue.  Ok Jen, let’s get to what happened.

Continue reading Fuel, Lens, Anchor