If you lose your reputation, your business is dead
Your online reputation is probably only second in importance to prominence on the Internet.
People don't buy from you unless they trust you.
There are many advisers, coaches and self-proclaimed gurus on the Internet, and some of them have such a
prominence that their online footprint drowns out the competition. They usually have two things the small
business owner does not have - deep pockets and teams who promote them around the clock.
If your reputation becomes just as prominent as your name, your business will only survive if you have a good
reputation. If you have a bad online reputation, high prominence could kill your business. Many gurus have
prominence but their reputation is difficult to evaluate because they use aggressive promotion to dictate
what is visible on the Internet about them.
The small business owner does not have that luxury which means your reputation becomes more important than
You have little control over your reputation, but there is a way in which to control it. It is easy to define
but difficult to attain, mainly because your reputation is largely dictated by the lowest common
denominator. That dominator is the most negative testimonial available.
People use the worst testimonial to define what is the worst they can expect from your product or service.
Then they use the other testimonials and information to balance the negative. If the balance between
negative and positive views of your business is acceptable, they will do business with you.
Reputation is what the world thinks of you.
It is said that reputation is what people say of you when you are not present.
When you deal with clients or customers, reputation needs to be earned, but is eventually conferred by those
who use your products or services. It means reputation must be earned every day.
Business owners try to manage their reputations by managing what information becomes public. That is an old
attitude that were only effective where even small businesses could manipulate the flow of information by
using advertising budgets and personal connections to influence what the local newspaper wrote about them.
On the Internet, you need to be very large and have very deep pockets to exercise that kind of control. Even
then, success is not guaranteed.
The small business owner benefits more from avoiding the use of tricks, and aiming for delivering a product
or service that makes a good story which clients want to spread. It is in fact the preferred method because
small business owners cannot divest themselves from their business as easily as the owner of a multi
national business. A small business is such an integral part of who the small business owner is, that the
two becomes one. That is why small business owners often experience criticism of their business as personal
Social media marketing tools
There are a range of social media marketing platforms. There are very little, if any, social
The fact that you sold your second hand fridge by posting it on your local Facebook group, does not make
Facebook a social selling platform. A test for a successful platform is whether you can repeatedly act
successfully. In other words, whether you can build a business on it. Some social platforms may be a
to a company's sales, but rarely is it the sole selling platform.
If your small business post a sales message on social media and people go to your website to buy or
makes the social platform a marketing platform, and your website the selling platform.
Social media is a conversation tool. Most people and businesses use it as a broadcast tool. But their
broadcasters are very limited.
If you understand the difference between marketing and sales, and you use social media for what is is,
have business success. Social media grew to what it is because people have a need to communicate, which,
average individuals, mean to be heard. Dale Carnegie proved long ago that people who listen, are
conversationalists, while people who talk are considered boring.
Social media does not consist of audiences. Audiences are passive receivers. Social media consists of
conversations. People who converse are active users. Most businesses fail at social media because they
as a sales tool, not a marketing tool.
Sales is about the exchange of money for your product or service. Marketing is about developing a market
your product within which a sale can take place. Sales is based on the perceived value a product or
for a buyer. Marketing is about the trustworthiness a brand enjoys in the mind of a customer.
If you want to sell, don't use social media platforms, or rather, use them if you want to fool yourself
are doing marketing. If you try to sell where people search for solutions, you will mostly be considered
marketer or a spammer.
If you want to do marketing:
- identify your market,
- identify your probable buyer in that market,
- choose your social media tool or platform where your buyers are,
- observe for what difficulties they seek solutions,
- engage with them,
- entice them to visit your website or other selling platform for solutions to their difficulties,
do business with them.
Social media tools by utility value:
- Facebook - conversation, information
- Twitter - alerts (breaking news), influence, awareness
- Linkedin - the business facebook, blogging, job and employee search
- Youtube - influencing, information, illustration
- Instagram - visual, conversation, influence
- Pinterest - visual, information sharing, search
- Quora - footprint, information
- Blogging - influencing, information, communication, brand awareness
- Email - communication, information
- Google MyBusiness - information, footprint, brand building
- Google Maps - information, footprint
- WhatsApp - communication
- Periscope - information, brand building
- Digg - information, footprint
- Website - product information, contact, brand building
- Hootsuite - organisation
Social media marketing tools is one of the sections in my "Time-saving social media course" as
well as my
advanced social media course for small business owners, "How to learn social media in 15 sprints".
If you want
to order these downloadable courses, register
"Professional" - the most misunderstood, misused and abused word
You may be professional, but what do you actually DO that makes you professional? How can people
see you are
If you Google the definition of professional, you find an eclectic mix of definitions, most not
to your understanding of what the term means.
In the accommodation and tourism industry people often define themselves as professional because of how
greet guests, or how they dress, or whether they show respect to their patrons.
Service businesses tend to view themselves as professional if they deliver on time or on the agreed
Product providers call themselves professionals if their products have a low return rate, or a high
satisfaction percentage among users.
If all these were true, most businesses and people would be professional, or professionals.
Surely the general standard of service delivery in any industry cannot be the requirement for being
considered professional? Average can never be professional.
If we could remove the general "watering down" of terms by giving it content based on the minimum
we are comfortable with, many words, including "professional", would not just enrich our language, but
give us a proper structure within which we could evaluate people's contribution to promoting excellence
If your product or service is not outstanding, there is little benefit in misusing language that
the outstanding for describing the average. Your product or service is below average, average or above
average. They cannot all be professional.
A definition of professional I heard long ago but don't see any more, is "professionalism is when you
continuously, without fail, do something above the prevailing standard".
That definition requires you to be on top of your game without fail. The moment you act in a way that is
same as what is already available, or below the available standard, you lose your professionalism. Then
need to start working towards becoming professional again.
In general, professionalism would mean that you do something to a standard that is not prevalent in your
industry, business or area. And you can only be the most professional if you alone act on a certain
standard. Other people can be professional if their actions are above the standard that is generally
available. But everyone who acts to a standard already reached by others, is not above, but on standard.
you act on standard, it may be acceptable, but it cannot claim professionalism.
A service can be professional but I still look for an example of a professional product. It may be
professionally manufactured (on an unequalled standard) but in itself, a product does not seem to me to
the ability to be professional.
It seems to me professionalism can only exist if it can be measured to enable comparison with something
exists. If it can be measured and compared, it can be classified.
Example of professionalism:
we deliver faster than our competition
Example of claimed professionalism (but isn't)
we deliver on time
Professionalism seems more something we strive for, than something we possess.
What has professionalism become?
If you Google "examples of professionalism", you will find something completely different from what I
It seems "professionalism" has become a description for "expected" as in expected dress code, expected
reliability, expected competence, ethics, etiquette, honesty, specialised knowledge and a host of other
descriptions. Professionalism, it seems, has become the new word for "up to standard".
Then the question is: what am I if I constantly act in a way that is above the industry standard?
So, what is the one thing you are going to do to make your service professional?
My course "How to learn social media marketing in 15 sprints walks you through a process which
with a well prepared social and off-line marketing plan.
How to choose social media platforms to promote your business
There is no advantage in indiscriminately using social media platforms if you don't even know who use
the platform. Choose an appropriate platform for a given social media goal by looking at user
Who use your product or service?
- in what way did they first reach out to (communicate with) you? Email, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter,
website contact form?
- what information did they provide? Age, method of payment, where they live?
- what does the info you have, tell you about them? Middle aged or young, internet savvy with eft payment,
or not internet savvy with cheque payment, lives in a retirement complex or a yuppie suburb?
- did they use personal or business email? A business email enables you to research the business - is
client the owner, sales person, bookkeeper, technical staff? (each role indicates the likely type of
- what info does your website's Google Analytics give you?
Google the client's name - all results, images and news
Social media profiles
Social media is where your customer is.
Social media users
Who are the users of each social media platform?
At the time of writing, 30% of South Africans use Facebook - that is 16 million South Africans - with 5 000
000 in Johannesburg.. Fourteen million use Facebook from mobile devices.
There are more than 8 000 000 Twitter users in South Africa. Tweeting activity spikes on Thursdays and all
days between 08:00 and 09:00, with a spike around 18:00.
There are more than 6 000 000 Linkedin users in the country while Instagram has around 4 million users.
Statistics by Worldwideworx
If your potential clients use something else than social media platforms, you may need to reach them via
email or WhatsApp.
Where you meet your potential customer is dictated by them, not you.
Once you have a good idea who your potential clients are, you will be able to use the best social media
platforms to reach them.
Then it is important to use social media correctly so you will attract potential business and not deter them
from communicating with you.
To use social media most effectively, you need to understand the difference between marketing and sales as well
as the needs which social media fills.
SEO that excites Google
(Based upon Google webmaster best
When you need to find information on the Internet, you search.
People ask questions in search which your brand can answerThe information you receive is provided by
search engines which index all the information they can find on the Internet, and provide it as search
results based on the search query you provided.
Google is the main search engine and "to google information" is a description of the search activity. We
talk about Google when referring to search in general.
Keywords related to search engines include:
- index(n) - all the web pages collected by the search engine is stored in an index.
The index entry
for a page describes the content and URL (Uniform Resource Locator or web address) of that page. To
"index" (v) means the search engine finds the page, reads it and adds the page to the index.
- crawl - the search engine process of finding new or updated web pages. Google finds
URLs by crawling
the Internet, by following links from already indexed websites, by a webmaster submitting a Sitemap
of a website and a variety of other methods.
- crawler - automated software that crawls the Internet, finds web pages and indexes
- Googlebot - the name of Google's crawler which constantly crawls the Internet.
- SEO (search engine optimization) - the process of preparing (optimizing) a website
to make it
discoverable to search engine crawlers. SEO (n), or SEO Specialist, is a person who optimizes web
pages for a living.
- Search query - the question, or information, you enter in a search engine to find
satisfy your information need.
- SERPS (search engine result pages) - the pages a search engine offers in response
to your search
- Sitemap - a file on your website that explains the page structure of your site to
Help search engines find your content
Google offers webmaster guidelines which web designers can use to create search-friendly websites.
The first step is to ensure that your website can be found by Googlebot. You make your website "findable"
- submitting a Sitemap to Google
- having related websites link to your site
- having the most pages you can with the widest range of topics related to what you offer
- having information on your website that answers the questions people have about your product or
- having properly optimised content on all your website pages
When you evaluate the potential of your web content, keep in mind that your information should fill a
that someone may have. It is best to offer your information in a format that serves as an answer to a
question people ask about your product or service.
Which pages should search engines not index (crawl)
It is wise to include a robots.txt file on your website if there are pages you don't want search engines
index such as internal search pages. Most small business websites are small enough so that there are no
pages to exclude from the SERPS.
Do not use a robots.txt file for sensitive information because a robot created with bad intent will not
honour the instruction. Rather use sign-in with user names and passwords for information you don't want
the public domain.
Help users and search engines understand your website content
When Googlebot crawls a page in your website, it is important that it sees exactly what a human visitor
the user experience. Search engines are becoming ever more effective in interpreting JS and CSS in order
understand better what humans see when they visit a web page. It contributes to better indexing and
search results, which makes it easier for Google to return the best answer for your potential client's
Create unique and accurate page titles. Every page on your website should have a unique "title" tag of
page's html code. It is best if the title tag reflects the question the page content addresses.
could use the content of the "title" tag in the search results, which will give your page a better
chance of being noticed by searchers.
Use a description meta tag in the "head" element of your HTML code to give search engines a summary of
what the page is about. Google
often uses that as a snippet in the search results. Every page on your website should have its own
meta tag which concisely describes the content of that page.
You can add structured data to the pages of your website to describe to search engines what the page
Structured data is usually used on product pages, marking up opening hours, business location, videos,
events listings, recipes, a company logo and many more. Due to cost,
time and small numbers of pages, small business websites often do not use structured markup.
How you appear in search results
Use separate URLs (names) to enable search engines to show your pages or products as separate results,
thereby increasing your online footprint.
Search engines use URLs is a certain way and your website designer should keep that in mind when naming
pages, images or products in a shop.
Navigation, usually reflected in your site's menu is not a big problem for smaller sites, but gets more
important as the number of sections and pages increase. Navigation is based on your home or root page.
and extends into sub-sections e.g. home page >> related topic >> specific
topic. It should create a natural flow through your website.
"Breadcrumbs" is a row of internal links that shows previous sections. It is usually omitted in small
Show 404 pages when content does not exist - a user followed a broken link or typed in the wrong URL. A
404 page usually directs visitors back to the home page.
All content on your website (pages, images and documents) should have proper names to ensure
Optimize website content
Quality content that serve users' needs, will benefit your website because it entices visitors to return
and share your content. Good content assists in word-of-mouth spreading of your information. Answering
questions that people may have about your product or service makes for good content if well-written.
Use Google Keyword planner to assist in discovering keyword variations and keyword search volumes.
Google says content should be easy to read, topically organised, fresh and unique and optimized for users
(which means it is automatically optimized for search engines).
Use descriptive link text to link to information on other pages or outside sources. It should tell users
what they can expect on the page linked to. Use "nofollow" attributes in your link code if you do not
want pages linked to, to gain from the reputation of your site (discuss the concept of inbound linking
with your web designer or learn more by researching it)
Optimize website images
Images are optimized by using the "alt" attribute in the HTML of your website page. Alt text is shown
when an image cannot be shown for any reason. It is also used by search bots to know what the image is
Make your website mobile
Most Google searches are done on mobile devices and Google gives preference to mobile enabled sites in
the SERPS. There are a number of ways to make a website responsive but the most popular is responsive
web design, which is automatically enabled in most web software.
Promote your website
Promote your website by including social share buttons on all content. Promote it off-line by including
it on all your business printing. Add your business to Google MyBusiness which ensures that your
business appears on Google Maps and in search.
Analyze web statistics (analytics)
Search engines provide tools to analyse your website. Google offers Google Search Console. It evaluates
your site and provides feedback on issues that may burden your site's performance and appearance.
Google Analytics provides insights into the use of your site by analysing user behaviour, popular
content, the impact of optimization and how visitors interact with your content.
My course How to learn social media
marketing in 15 sprints walks you through a process which
leaves you with a well prepared social and off-line marketing plan.
Blog posts go to my newsletter
subscribers about two weeks before it appears on my blog.
How to increase traffic to your website
You're a small business owner.
You started your business because you had experience in a specific industry. Or you started it because
you stumbled on the idea or the opportunity, or you were looking for, but couldn't find, a job.
If you didn't start your business because it was something you love doing, you probably learned to enjoy
Most people sort of "drifted" into whatever they are doing for a living. One responsibility, which is
probably not the reason they started the business, is to manage.
As a small business owner, "management" probably means doing everything. You are the bookkeeper, bill
payer, rep and janitor. Somewhere in-between everything you must be the marketing officer and, find time
to do what you started the company for.
One day you realise that you have a business website, but that it does not make your life easier. It is
not the effective silent salesperson the web designer promised you. So, you promise yourself that you
will find time to do something about it. You can't "cancel the website" because everyone has a website.
When you eventually find the time to Google it or ask your IT guy - because you don't realise that IT
people are machine people, not design or SEO people - you hear the phrase "search engine optimisation"
You ask a web designer and is told that it has to do with using the right keywords so people will find
your website on Google. Your web designer changes the website text to include your keyword on all pages
and you wait for the orders to start flooding in.
One day you look at the books and start panicking.
You post your website address on Facebook and every other platform you can think of. You send emails to
your contact list and ask them to visit your website. You hear about Facebook Messenger or SMS marketing
and spam everyone you can find.
Eventually your business runs in the red and you find an SEO consultant to do your search engine
It is too late because SEO takes time to show results. You close your business.
You could have evaded all this trauma if you had acted in time.
SEO starts with the design or redesign of your website.
SEO is not part of how beautiful your site appears.
SEO is part of the technical design and content of your website. It has little to do with what you like,
and everything to do with how people search for a solution to a need they have.
With your next endeavour - you will try again because you are an entrepreneur - make sure you understand
what SEO is about. It will enable you to defend yourself against "consultants" and web designers who do
SEO because it looks easy.
You don't have to be an SEO (a person who does search engine optimisation), but you need to understand
what it is about, just as you must understand other rules of business to be successful.
What you must know about SEO
- what SEO is
- how search impacts on SEO
- SEO terms
Next time we'll discuss what SEO is, and the different types of searches people do.
My course "How to learn social media
marketing in 15 sprints" walks you through a process which leaves you with a well prepared
social and off-line marketing plan.
Blog posts go to my newsletter
subscribers about two weeks before it appears on my blog.
Karen Roos, Karma Foods Centurion
Karin Roos owns Karma Food and Services in Centurion and as can be gathered from the name, she is
in the business of providing food, catering and cakes to the people of Tshwane.
She is a well-known figure in the community and her business has a well-followed Facebook Page.
One of the main challenges Karin experiences in her line of business, is people who decide on very short
notice that they need catering. Food needs preparation and preparation takes time. This poses a
but Karma Food is known for being able to deliver, as long as it is possible.
Businesses with which Karma Food and Services integrate well, are
- event planners
- guest houses
- self catering venues and
Karin prides herself in her ability to garnish every event with exceptional dedication.
Karma Food caters for every taste and preference, not only in food, but in event. Whether it’s indoors or
out, a big corporate lunch or an intimate private dinner, whether it’s boerewors or caviar, whatever
needs, Karma Food promises to exceed your expectations. Karen handles every detail to ensure the
the occasion is what you deserve. That may be why so much of her business comes from returning clients.
Recent Karma events include an exclusive Moroccan garden celebration, a lekker Shebeen party and a
Murder Mystery event.
In the case of event planning, Karma Food and Services visit the client, to ensure attention to detail
At Karma Food and Services they pride themselves in offering a variety of choices to suit all clients.
is why all of their menu can be adapted to suit personal requirements.
As Karin says: "We can help you make any event a success, from Inception to Completion.”
At Karma they have dedication and a passion for great ideas, and they are equipped for hire for any
big or small. They supply a large variety of decor, tables, chairs, cutlery and crockery, as well as a
variety of related services including photographers, venues, entertainment and music.
You can reach Karma Food and Services via their Facebook page or their website
Don't try to be unique, just be different
In the city where I live there is a landlord that has quite a large office portfolio.
When a business moves into one of his offices, their fibre-optic cables are already installed and
and Internet services are available within 24 hours. If you need a wall plug moved, it happens within
hours. You don't need to get an electrician to come and do it for you. All vacated offices are
He has nearly 300 businesses in his
parks and an Intranet to which all tenants are connected. If a business moves into any of the office
it immediately has a potential market of nearly 300 other businesses and a few thousand individuals.
then he also offers a few other add-ons.
Is this landlord unique? Possibly. Possibly not.
Does he offer something different in his area? You bet.
Is his business model flawless? Probably not.
Is his business faultless? No.
Is it good enough? You bet it's better than anything else that is available.
Does he have something to market? For sure.
Business owners are often urged to find something in which their business can be unique. I question that
Finding something in your business that makes it unique, is quite easy. Finding something unique that
matters, is another story.
Every business has at least one aspect in which it is unique. Probably the most basic unique
of a business is where it is located - its physical address. It is not often that one finds two
in the same office and you will have to look hard to find two competing businesses in the same office.
If we accept that the word "unique" means "one of a kind" or "unlike anything else", you can start
your business' unique characteristics by writing down your address.
Your location can be unique and can be less or more important, depending on what people expect.
Examples of when location can be important (not unique):
- office buildings with easy access to main routes or public transport;
- business accommodation near popular business districts;
- a restaurant in a densely populated area;
- guest houses near the beach;
- a coffee shop with free wireless Internet in an area with many offices.
Quality of service
Fresh ingredients in restaurant dishes are not unique. It is a requirement.
Quality of service is rarely unique and if it is, it rarely stays unique for long because success is
Less 10% on the price is not unique and in fact not even a convincing sales tool. Less 70% may be!
Areas in which you may be different:
a dish on your menu
the way in which you deal with clients
where you source your products from
Forget the unique hype. Rather just find or create something that makes you different.
You have to be able to differentiate your business by communicating the capabilities that make you
different. That makes it possible for potential customers to compare you favourably with the other
How do you find something that makes you different?
The real question is "What do I have to offer to let my business stand out in the minds of potential
Know your customer:
Make sure that you have a crystal clear image of your potential customer in your mind. Don't be too
concerned to have a large number of potential customers. Be happy with less customers who spend
Articulate what you can do to solve the potential client's challenge:
- Formulate and practise an elevator pitch about your business. (Your business and how it solves your
potential client's problems in 70 words.) Read my blog post about the elevator pitch.
- Make it measurable: "Give better service" is meaningless. "Your washing will be ready in two hours"
- Make it memorable: Think of the nicest thing a client said about your business. How can you build
that? Anything that already exists in your industry cannot make you memorable.
- Make it different: If you deliver the same services or products as everyone else, make the
how you deliver it, or find out from your customers what will make a difference to them. ( A good
to start is to listen what people complain about in your industry)
- Make it easy: Make it more convenient to do business with you than with someone else.
- Become an expert in your business: Know more than your competition about the area in which you do
business, your products, your services and developments in your industry.
- Tell the right people: Promote your business to a well-defined target audience. Remember that you
promote your business as widely as you would like, most people in the world will never hear about
My course "How to learn social media marketing in 15 sprints walks you through a process which
you with a well prepared social and off-line marketing plan.
Blog posts go to my newsletter
subscribers about two weeks before it appears on my blog.
People who complain about your business, don't complain about your business
You just bought a box of cereal with bold letters on the outside promising "freshness guaranteed!". You
the box and the airtight bag, and find pebble-hard corn flakes inside.
You know it's not a problem to exchange the box of cereal because the retailer and manufacturer will
their guarantee and exchange goods that are not what it should be. You dive into the dustbin where you
discarded the till slip, find your proof of purchase, get into your car, drive to the retailer, report
desk manager, wait for them to process a refund, find another box, and drive home.
While driving home you notice a slightly bitter taste in your mouth. That is the taste of a promise not
(and the absence of the after-taste of coffee you are conditioned to experience at this time of day).
The promise part of the brand promise was not kept although the legal part were kept by exchanging the
But, the legal part is not an emotional experience, the promise part is.
For a few weeks you buy another product. You may even buy at another shop and tell your friends about
experience. If you are an involved consumer, you go on the manufacturer's or the retailer’s Google
post a testimonial.
What exactly is it that creates the negative feeling against the product or brand?
It's not the taste - you hardly tasted anything
It's not the shop - although you are frustrated with the shop
It's not the brand - you have been using this brand without trouble before
What angers or frustrates you is that you did not experience what you expected.
You expected a trouble-free experience from opening the box to finishing your breakfast. So you direct
frustration against the easiest target - usually the shop employee (who had nothing to do with the
People who complain about the treatment they received from a business do not complain about the
complain because their expectations were not met.
It is difficult, but, as a business owner, you should try and keep in mind that it is never personal.
about you or your employees. It is about what people did or didn't do which led to your customer's
not being met.
The dissatisfied customer will complain about a lack of service, or about products that were
these reasons for complaints relate to only one thing: the customer did not receive what she expected.
Many business owners advertise their products or services in the most glowing terms with their minds
getting potential customers to do business with them. What they forget is that they must meet the
That is one reason why testimonials or reviews can be a powerful marketing tool. It is not you who
expectations, it is the people who did business with you before. Their testimonials create an image in
of other consumers about what they could expect from your products or services.
Testimonials on your website or Facebook Page is a good idea, but testimonials on Google itself, is
valuable. Register your business with a free business profile on Google. You can do it here
So, what people read about you on the Internet or hear from other people, help them decide whether they
buy your product or service. What they read or hear about you is based on other people's experience of
business. That experience has little to do with facts, or with you, and everything to do with how their
expectations were met.
Take time to define for yourself what exactly the experience is you want to create for customers and,
memory is that you want them to have of your business, products or services.
Then create your action plan of how you will attain that result.
My social media training courses deal with reputation, brand and social media platforms. You can get it
Blog posts go to my newsletter subscribers about two weeks before it appears on my blog.