Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality in India

It is the consumer that would be most harmed by net neutrality regulation. Decreased network capability, over time, would deny consumers new bandwidth intensive services, both from operators and those who provide services over the operators’ networks. Additionally, as operators increasingly turn to access charges to support network deployment and management, the charges for that access could increase anywhere from $10 to $55 a month for the average consumer. The price of access would increase to the point where consumers might be unwilling or unable to pay it. This could have the effect of discouraging consumers to connect – an ironic turn of events when the objective is universal broadband access.

Integrated inbound outbound marketing

Integrated Inbound Outbound Marketing

Integrated inbound outbound marketing

There are primarily two forms of marketing to consider while spending your marketing moolah: inbound and outbound marketing. While most businesses can benefit from integrating inbound/outbound marketing campaigns, it’s important to consider the pros/cons of each form. Here’s how these two styles compare.

Approach

Outbound and inbound marketing differ in the approach they use. Inbound marketing’s goal is to bring the customer to you, while Outbound takes your products/services to the customer. Hence, outbound is considered to be a “cold” approach and inbound a “warm” approach.

Customers are “warm” toward your products/services once they find you through the inbound marketing approach because they have already expressed interest in your type of business by performing some type of search. Inbound marketing has a positive RonR (Return on Relationships) which goes beyond revenue.

When buyers actively seek information about a product or look to be educated, their “anti-marketing” shields go down.  This enables you to be more operationally efficient, target your marketing efforts directly to motivated buyers, and build better products/services.

Cost

HubSpot’s 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Report conducted a survey of 972 marketing professionals in January 2012, found that inbound marketing-dominated organizations experience a 61% lower cost per lead. The average cost per lead for outbound-dominated businesses was $346. In comparison, it was $135 for businesses leveraging primarily inbound techniques.  Some aspects of inbound marketing campaign can be easily completed by the business owner or team members.

Time

A successful outbound marketing campaign could procure results right away. Inbound marketing campaign, might take time, reason being, the search engine optimization techniques you use has to increase your site ranking and alert your presence on the Web.

Why Integrate Inbound Outbound Marketing?

Inbound and outbound are not mutually exclusive. A balance must be struck, mainly driven by the cost trade-off of acquiring customers under each strategy.  Integrated marketing, does not limit or confine you to just one operational paradigm.  Function boundlessly in your marketing — drawing on inbound and outbound tactics on a case-by-case basis.

While inbound marketing can be highly effective for most types of prospects, others — like the CEO — can be immune to its charms.  A potent mix of PR, outbound marketing, traditional advertising and high-powered face-to-face networking could offset that.  Not all professional networking happens on LinkedIn…A firm handshake, a killer golf swing, the ability to hold your scotch could not hurt either.  A business should not be confined to genders or inbound/outbound marketing exclusively.

Integrated  inbound outbound marketing promises access to a single view of campaign effectiveness.  Top questions for marketing accountability include: The campaign management pipeline; return on investment (ROI) for campaigns; budget for future for Campaign/offers/channels etc. An integrated inbound/outbound environment will provide more data to start answering these questions.

Integrating inbound outbound marketing capabilities, one inbound outbound-capable dialogue, a common set of analytical tools and a signal-administration for sign-on, can significantly provide effectiveness and efficiency.  Reduction in campaign creation time, execution and reporting, combining inbound and outbound customer data can all allow marketers to make necessary changes to ongoing campaigns based on the real-time response and feedback of customers en route.

Understanding the marketing campaigns targets, the offers of the outbound campaign, the communications from an inbound offer and reconciling the two for consistency are key benefits for inbound outbound integration. Capabilities (such as a common data source, access to an online/offline shared offer and segment library) and connected inbound outbound-capable dialogue will have a substantial impact on a consistent customer experience.  The ability to extend a relevant, planned offer during a spontaneous customer interaction has shown response rates approaching 15 times that of non-targeted outbound campaigns.

When done in unison you can scale quicker and more efficiently. Try and test aggressively with inbound tactics and apply findings to outbound marketing efforts. Test offers and/or messaging first and concentrate on key metrics – conversions instead of clicks. Successful outbound marketing campaigns can be reposted on social media for more exposure. Aligning the two strategies will give your business a consistent brand reputation.

An integrated inbound outbound marketing implementation takes into account that your potential clients are increasingly busy and resistant to impingement on their time. Advent of white papersindustry analyst reportsemail campaignsbusiness blogswebinarssearch engine optimization, etc., can help you provide prospects information needed to make their own decisions “independently”.  As an added bonus, with strategic integrated marketing campaigns, prospects will be more receptive and informed about your company/solution and thereby it may lead to shortening your sales cycle!

Careful implementation is crucial for the smooth integration of separate marketing campaigns. Inconsistent messages make the integration ineffective. Thus, the positioning strategy of different campaigns needs to be consistent so that prospects are always getting a coherent message. Results should be monitored and integrated marketing campaigns adjusted accordingly. Part of campaign management involves selecting the best marketing tactics. Whether you are better served with an internet marketing campaign or a trade show exhibition, should you opt to invest in search engine optimization or online advertising campaign, it is important to select an approach that matches your offering.

Integrated inbound outbound marketing strategies can bring breakthrough results to a B2B company’s marketing effectiveness.

The marketing strategies of B2B businesses are, in many ways, different from the marketing strategies of a B2C business, simply because their products and targets are dissimilar. B2C strategy is designed to incite desire for a product or service, creating a specific call to bring the customer to action by purchasing the product, while a B2B has a trickier end goal – creating a long-term relationship as they partner with other businesses.

Successful B2B (and B2C for that matter) marketing has and always will be about understanding your customer via research to uncover insights. The focus should be on integrating inbound outbound marketing efforts to gain and use the best results/insights to craft the right marketing mix for your company and brand. Most effective B2B marketing programs today actively manage integrated campaigns and regularly balance tactics and execution, managing and trialing their efforts based on measurable campaign results and pipeline contribution.

iEntrepreneur recommends that businesses integrate their inbound and outbound marketing for better overall results.  Marketing success in today’s highly competitive Communications and Media market requires integrated, real-time communication across all channels and traditional inbound outbound activity. Contact us to find out more.

social recruiting for small business

Social Recruitment For Small Business

The advantage of social recruitment is the ability to reach a significant number of people quickly and easily compared to traditional recruitment process. The interactive aspect of social recruitment is also extremely attractive – most companies have pages on social networking websites where candidates and recruiters converse real-time. One huge plus to social media as a recruitment tool is its low cost, which makes it ideal for a small businesses.

Google+ Local

How To Use Google+ Local To Promote Your Business

Google+ Local

When it comes to social media marketing, especially with enterprise focused campaigns, Google+ has Thus far taken a backseat. But, when it comes to local, Google+ is arguably a more important asset than Facebook or Twitter. Ever since Google connected Places For Business with Plus, to serve a more integrated profile, it has become crucial for business’ to pay importance to their updates and presence on Google+

Today there are more than 500 million Google+ accounts, with an estimated 343 million of those being active. Those stats will only continue to grow, because Google strongly encourages searchers, Gmail users and YouTube subscribers to activate and engage on Google+.

In its effort to get people to adopt the social network, Google integrated many of their most popular and most valuable properties into Google+, guaranteeing that businesses using it would have better outcomes than businesses that didn’t.

If you do business in a finite geographical area, Google+ Local, now rechristened Google My Business  is an online marketing tool your business should be taking advantage of.  Google+ Local pages are displayed prominently in search results for searches containing local search terms. The more active you are on your page, and the more reviews you get, the more often you will appear in the search results. This will increase your visibility and credibility, and give you a leg up on competitors who are not active on Google+ Local.

On a Google+ Local Business Page you will find photos, videos, Zagat scores and summaries (Google bought the review service Zagat in September 2011), a description from the business owner, useful information like the business’ address, phone and hours of operation and of course, social recommendations by customers on Google+. The most important thing about Google+ Local Business Pages is that they are now indexed by Google and shown as pins on a map near the top of the search results for mobile and local searches.

Google+ Local is Google’s version of Yelp. It integrates business information from Google+ Pages with user reviews. All powered by Google+, all very much dependent on good information and geographic proximity to the user. Google+ Local provides a multitude of benefits for people and companies looking to promote their local business and helps better optimize their website for organic search.

20 percent of all computer search is local and 95 percent of mobile search is local. 80 percent of local searchers take action to contact or visit a business they find. Mobile search is booming. When people look for local businesses on their mobile devices, Google provides relevant results with reviews, photos, contact information, directions and a web site link. Small and medium businesses would do well to set up and manage their Google listing to ensure they get found for local searches and that searchers get the information they need, which will increase conversion.

Realizing and understanding how Google+ integration impacts all three facets of digital media (paid, owned and earned) is now more important than ever.  Discussion around Google+ integration and resource allocation is not a new topic, but one that has been debated since Google+ launched in June 2011.

Google understands the value of localized search, especially when you consider the amount of people who actually buy local products and services as a result of online searches. There are many elements to consider when trying to rank better in Google+ Local, but here are some of the most important factors:

On-Site Factors

These are absolutely crucial if you want even a chance of ranking in Google+ Local. As a business owner expanding online, you have no doubt heard of search engine optimization (SEO). You need to use the same practices for your local online business, but with a few changes.

You need your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) prominently displayed on your website. These need be 100% consistent across all social networks and online directories. If they’re not, Google may get confused and think you have not one, but 2+ businesses online. That seriously hurts your chances of ranking online.

Reviews

You are aware of the  amazing potential of online reviews for your business. Yelp, Yahoo! Local, and even Google+ Local have become the go-to websites for reviewing businesses and getting quality information about local businesses online.

As a business owner you need to get on top of this as soon as possible. We’re not saying you need to create fake reviews, but you need to get your customers reviewing you on these platforms. The key here is QUALITY. Make sure you’re incentivizing your customers to give honest, helpful reviews of your business. Offer a free product for clients that review your product or service, or discounts on future purchases.

Encourage your customers to check in to your local business using Foursquare by giving them discounts when they log in. Foursquare is extremely popular and can also become a strong source of traffic for your site. Get creative and develop a compelling incentive for customers to write a review on your Google+ Local Page. Reviews will help the Google+ Local Pages ranking but more importantly they will boost its visibility on Google’s search engine results and give the business more credibility.

Citations

Citations are to local SEO what links are to SEO. Citations are listings of your NAP on different directories and websites online. These are worth their weight in gold for you and you need to make sure you’re constantly acquiring these as often as possible. There are many creative ways to get them, but the go-to strategy is to use online business directories and niche-related websites that you can reach out to personally.

Google+ Local Ranking Factors

Below is a list of the most important local ranking factors:

1. Physical address match from the searchers city

2. Relevant category

3. How close the address is to the center of searcher’s city

4. Authority of the Website based on inbound links

5. How many structured citations mention the business

6. Mention of the place in the title of the page

7. How many reviews in Google Plus Local

8. Authority of citations

9. Area code is local to the searchers city

10. Owner Verified Place page

11. Links from locally relevant domains

12. How many unstructured citations from sites like blogs or newspaper articles

13. Mention of the product or service in web reviews.

14. Target keyword in the URL

15. City mentioned in reviews to the website.

If we as advertisers and marketers are not fully taking advantage of the integration between Google+ and the other Google platforms, then we are missing out a valuable opportunity.

On June 3, 2014, Google released a feature worldwide that allows a business to transfer the “heart” of its local data (verification, reviews, Map pin, place) from a verified Local Page to an existing Brand Page. While Google+ Local, now “Google My Business”, is meant mostly for small businesses, all page owners have been upgraded to the new view. How do you think this will change your company’s Google+ strategy?

mobile advertising India

State of Mobile advertising in India

State of Mobile Advertising in India

Given mobile’s inherently personal nature, it has quickly grown to become a major social media channel. This willingness of users to engage with mobile social networking, offers real opportunities for brands to create contextually relevant messages for their customers. Return on investment (ROI) is high for advertisers in mobile advertising. The biggest advantage with mobile advertising is that brands can do a state, city and content wise segmentation. And, the cost of ad delivery to the same user on mobile is much cheaper. Also, it is extremely targeted and tailored.

The concept of Mobile Advertising has grown and expanded considerably over the past one year and continues to grow. According to a recent report, this market has grown to $25 million in India with an expected growth of $60-$80 billion globally by 2014, in terms of mobile advertisements and monetization. By 2014 the expected no. of mobile internet users is likely to be 4.5 billion globally with 250 million users in India.

Some interesting facts:

  •  The automobile sector is one huge sector that uses mobile advertising in India. Some of the top brands include: Maruti Suzuki, Honda, and Yamaha.
  • Brands like Coca Cola, Reebok, CricInfo.com, etc. are major advertisers too.
  • India has the world’s second-largest mobile phone user base with over 919 million users as of March 2012.
  • The number of mobile subscribers in India is growing by 20,000,000 every month
  • Penetration of mobile phones in India is more than 50% higher than penetration of TV
  • Number of mobile ads served in India each month exceeds 10 billion
  • 40,000,000 internet users in India access via mobile devices.

Among publisher categories, social category took the lead in mobile ad traffic volume in terms of ad impressions, while Music, Video & Media sites and apps retained the top spot in terms of ad revenue generation. Business, Finance & Investing category still produces the highest revenue per impression. As opposed to 2012, FMCG saw a high uptake in the last two quarters of 2013, as five major advertisers including ITC, Reckitt Benckiser, HUL, Mondelez and Nestle ran more than 30 campaigns at a reasonably good scale. The improving networks and rapid surge in uptake of data hungry smartphones are driving demand for online content, which is now being satiated through applications by various content providers. Also, gradually, the price sensitive Indian market is observing an increased consideration from users to pay for content, which is also opening up business opportunities for various stakeholders.

The advertising scenario in India is rapidly changing and each brand has either opted for digital media or is considering going for it. Now enterprises and brands are opting for mobile advertising to promote their products and services and to reach out to customers in a cheaper and more targeted way. According to a report by Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), the Indian mobile advertising market would cross ₹ 2,800 crore, while revenues from paid mobile applications would touch ₹ 2,000 crore by the year 2016. Even during recent times of economic slowdown, mobile advertising is emerging as the major tool for brands to advertise in a cost-effective way. The mobile advertising segment is seeing 20-30 percent growth and 2014 would be a major year for mobile advertising in the country. There are multi modes of advertising within the mobile domain, including in-app, rich media, video and banner. Anyone can use these modes to advertise their services and products with a local approach.

There are three categories of advertisers: 1) The first group is the conventional brands, who opt for mainstream media first to advertise. 2) The second category is online first customers, such as e-commerce players and OTA services. These companies are getting most of their traffic from mobile, but they are now trying to increase the number of transactions that happen via the platform. For most of the players in this category, only 15% of the transactions happen on the mobile and the rest are still from a computer. It is worth noting that Snapdeal had announced that 50% of its transactions came from mobile. 3) The third category consists of mobile first advertisers, who have carrier billing services and in-app purchases enabled.

For these companies, the only way to attract customers is through advertising, since carriers are not doing it for them any longer. Earlier the discovery part was managed by the carriers who used to charge a higher commission per transaction, but this has changed since the TRAI regulation.

Video: Main Tool For Mobile Advertising

While all these modes are growing significantly, mobile advertising through videos has emerged as a major tool for brands. The main reason behind this trend is that TV advertising is becoming a pricey affair for brands and slots are limited there. Additionally, the change in consumer preferences, such as opting for smartphones and tablets to consume content instead of linear broadcasting is also another reason behind brands switching toward the digital mode. Mobile advertising offers targeted reach to consumers and offers a variety of advertising formats. TV content is being reproduced for mobiles as well, given the demand in the market. Mobile advertising also has a unique differentiation over other platforms like TV — that it allows brands to do very deep segmentation by target audience and therefore feed them with most relevant and engaging content, something that a mass, linear platform like TV can’t achieve, and certainly not at a cost that mobile makes possible. However, TV advertising will continue to have its own set of relevance and impact. For marketers, mobile advertising is becoming a powerful ad channel outperforming online advertising by about 3 times across a variety of metrics such as ad awareness, message association, & purchase intent.

Role Of Telcos

In the mobile advertising space, Indian telecom service providers are also playing a pivotal role. Last year, Bharti Airtel and Sistema Shyam TeleServices launched their respective mobile advertising platforms to help leading brands connect with their customers in a personalized manner. Telcos are forging revenue sharing models with advertising content providers to augment their revenue streams. With the advent of 3G and 4G, operators can no longer ignore the potential of this new advertising medium, and given that they have a good understanding of the behavior and patterns of their customers, it can make a big business case for them in the years to come. An operator can offer its subscribers incentives for agreeing to receive advertising, thereby increasing the attractiveness of the medium and user responsiveness. With the help of right profiling, end-users will receive meaningful ads (and not spam) in a controlled environment, such as, say, up to four ads a day.

The challenges

Experts believe that despite an increasing smartphone and 3G adoption in India, mobile advertising is still not on par with the western world, hence rural community is the primary target of mobile advertisers. Since majority of our country resides in rural areas, there lies a huge untapped opportunity and we at iEntrepreneur believe the next cycle of growth will come from tier 2 and tier 3 cities.

A huge hurdle cited by mobile advertising firms is the lack of uniform technology among the operators. This makes it difficult to target consumers consistently across multi-channels like SMS, Outbound Dialing, Multimedia services, etc. However, the condition is likely to change as operators are realizing the potential of engaging aggressively with their subscribers to offer them more customized offerings and not bulk advertisements which often lead to irate customers.

IAMAI also predicts that by the end of the ongoing fiscal year, the mobile advertising industry in the country will touch ₹ 1.4 billion ($27.7 million), a sign of slow but consistent growth. Mobile internet is the next big opportunity for the domestic telecom players. Of the total internet subscriber base of 21 crore at the end of September 2013, over 90% accessed the net through a mobile handset. This has catapulted mobile advertising in India. According to Mobile Marketing Association, mobile advertising grew by 60% to ₹ 300 crore in FY13. It is expected to grow by another 43% in 2014 to ₹ 430 crore.

future of consulting

The Future Of Consulting

I was thinking about the history and the future of consulting.  I put together this piece almost to serve my research needs…perhaps someone else can also benefit.

Consulting is a diverse industry. Best known are the élite strategy consultancies such as McKinsey & Co, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Bain. A second class comprises the consulting units of the Big Four accounting firms—PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young. All but Deloitte shed their consulting units in the early 2000s, amid post-Enron fears of conflict of-interest, but have since grown new ones. A third group consists of technology firms with big consulting businesses, such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard, which focus on installing and integrating computer systems. Finally, some consultants are hard to distinguish from pure outsourcing firms.

Although conventional thinking about how consulting firms are structured has focused on the continuum from generalist to specialist, a more complex picture is emerging in which mode of delivery matters as much as skills base.

No one would deny that the long-term evolution of the consulting industry has taken it towards ever deeper specialization – a trend reinforced by procurement processes and the rise of internal consultancies and/or consultant-managers.

Consulting Disrupted

The consulting world has changed in the last two decades.  The changes have been brought on primarily by the internet and Analytics.

The firm is really just an intermediary, a way for clients to find the right person for the right job. There is probably an opening for a professional intermediary between clients and consultants, sort of an independent contractor to connect people together correctly. That would be kind of like a worldwide network of consultants.

The “content” work that  junior consulting staff used to do is now being done by predictive models and software. Analytics has become a major industry in itself. Companies have their own Analytic engines to gather data and compile it.  The demand for  data apes has collapsed.

The specialty of Benchmarking is a good example of how things have changed. Not long ago armies of junior consultants put together data on industry costs, executive salaries, profit, etc. Often it was done for a CEO who wanted to show his/her board how well things were going or how uncompetitive his compensation package was. Now any CEO or HR executive with a laptop and a credit card can benchmark just about anything in an hour or less — globally.

Management consulting has been and still is an industry that capitalizes on the study of macroeconomic, technological and social change then creating labels  for new management theories they’ve discovered from their infinite wisdom.  Also known as factories of new knowledge for sale, you can only get the knowledge from their books, their anointed apostles who’ve been trained in the practices or you can get it from a copycat at cheaper prices.

The future of consulting is changing as more companies are demanding to know what the consultant is doing, i.e., what process are they using? And further,  they will want to learn how to use the process themselves.

What Clients Want

Clients want greater specialization and a clearer view of what consultants do. It’s also a result of changes to the intellectual value chain that is consulting: consultants continually have to reinvent where they add value and what kind of knowledge they create.

Clients are concerned that the consulting firm as an entity is much more motivated to sell consulting services than to act in the client’s best interest. In an environment of shrinking markets and greater competition, these concerns move up even higher on the agenda.

Clients worry that consultants are trying to sell them things they really don’t need. the more sales oriented consulting firms become, the less comfortable clients are with the nature of the services they are buying. This applies equally to large and small firms.

The word “consult” means to ask advice or opinion of or to deliberate together. We are living in a knowledge driven economy that is heavily influenced by collaborative forces sharing intangible and tangible assets to create new value.  The internet has accelerated collaboration and people are learning from the interactions.

The internet will be disrupting the management consulting industry’s business and mental models because more and more people are seeking wisdom while many consulting firms are still trying to sell knowledge. Knowledge has become a commodity because of digitization. Wisdom comes from transforming knowledge into a skill that changes your results.  Now there are tools to help the transformation.

The Road Ahead

I think we’re in a period of profound change, which will continue for the next 20 to 30 years. There are five megatrends that are converging to great effect. The first shift is the re-rise of Asia and Africa’s emergence: 2.2 billion people will join the middle class in Asia and Africa in the next 15 to 20 years – half from China alone. The second shift is disruptive technology: this is changing three times faster than management and presents both an opportunity and a challenge. The third shift is resource scarcity. With so many new consumers wanting to live and consume like a ‘regular’ middle class person, food, energy and water are going to be under severe constraints.

The fourth major shift is population ageing around the world (even though some countries, like India and Nigeria are ‘young’.) And last but not least is the struggle that governments are facing to deal with all of this. They have become increasingly short-term in their thinking and as a result, they are gridlocked and face significant fiscal challenges.

The combination of these five things all happening at once has major implications for all organisations. Whenever there is volatility or disruptive change, there is a strong demand for objective perspectives and analysis. Alongside all of this, the churn rate of companies has gone up significantly. In 1935, the average lifetime for an S&P 500 company was 90 years; today, it’s about 18 years. There is a growing need at the moment to innovate and to make bolder choices, as well as to focus on risk management tools. These are just some of the reasons why consulting is so in demand these days.

In the next few years, consulting could be driven more by collaboration than competition. That is, more cross working between different consulting firms, which hopefully will result in a better product for the client. The smaller consulting firms will need to offer more value for the same price. For over two decades, that pendulum has swung heavily in favor of the firm and the firm structure. The future may see the pendulum being pushed back towards the individual consultant and not the collective firm.

The future actually looks pretty rosy for the smaller consultancies, because clients like specialist skills; they like being able to understand exactly who consultants are and what they do.

There isn’t enough information about what consultants do, and not enough open, honest evaluation of projects that worked really well and ones that didn’t. That is driven partly by consulting firms who want to win work, but also by clients who don’t want their decisions open to scrutiny. Clients want an easy life: if a consultant offers a panacea, however unrealistic, there’s a temptation to say, fine, we will buy that.

So, the firms that differentiate themselves will be the ones that find a way of articulating and perhaps even quantifying the value that people talk so much about. Clients would really like for the consulting industry  to have a rating system to help them make more informed decisions, to allow them to compare different consultants in a meaningful way. Clients would like to have a way to measure return on consulting investment.

small business blogging

Small Business Blogging

It is surprising when many business owners and entrepreneurs question, “Do I really need a blog, when I already have a website?”

If you are running a business website without a blog, you are missing out on some big opportunities to engage your prospects and increase website traffic.  In today’s social media-driven world where engagement with your customers is expected online, blogs are essential to marketing your business.

For some small businesses, their blog has become the de facto public relations department. For B-to-B companies, blogs are solving a big problem: bridging the feedback loops between end customers and channels. A blog allows more people in the loop.

Businesses that blog regularly get 55% more web traffic and 70% more leads.

Let’s say you own a consulting business. Consider what happens when prospects visit your static website. They can review some information about your services and perhaps read a few yawn-inducing testimonials. There’s not much to set you apart or convince a prospect to take action.

But when they click over to the blog, they discover a wealth of information. They gain a better understanding of what you’re about and who you are. They can post comments and immediately engage with you. No yawns here, just a follow-up phone call to schedule a meeting with you!

Not only does blogging provide a way to engage your site visitors, it also brings more traffic to your website. Google likes blogs because content is updated often. While there are millions of websites that remain unchanged each day, blogs offer up fresh new information—and Google recognizes that by giving that content higher placement when users search for related topics. In fact, blogging is the most natural way to optimize your site for search engines.

Google Authorship

Google Authorship gives a real advantage to small businesses that continuously create fresh, high quality content online. Businesses that are continuously creating valuable content that’s getting social engagement from fans and followers are going to have an advantage when it comes to getting discovered online.

Authorship really levels the playing field for small businesses, in the sense that now it’s not as much about gaming the system by generating links to your website. Instead, it’s now really about putting a face behind who’s creating that content and that will help bring your business up in the search rankings.

And that means it’s really about the quality of your content and the stuff that you’re creating and less about the links. Inbound links are still going to play into it but it also helps break away from those content farms that are just trying to churn stuff up and build links.

small business blogging

small business blogging

Choose Your Niche

Decide what are you going to blog about and the frequency you’re going to do it. That is really as simple as figuring out what questions your customers are asking, answering those questions, and staying conversational.

Get Started

If your site doesn’t yet have a blog, start by talking with your website designer or web hosting provider to see if there’s an easy way to install a blog on your existing site. Options include WordPress.org,Typepad.com, or Blogger.com. Ideally your blog should be hosted on your current domain. If you set up your blog under a different domain your main website won’t benefit from the added traffic.

For many businesses, getting started is really the hardest part. Blogging often seems like this distant thing that requires you to be tech-savvy to do. But it really isn’t the truth.

Start thinking about the things you may want to be talking about and who your audience will be. That’s going to guide a lot of your decisions going forward. Once you understand who you’re speaking to — you can develop content that speaks to them. Consider providing helpful tips, industry research, before and after photos, video demonstrations, client success stories, and how-to guides. Your blog should also reflect the culture of your company and should be infused with personality.

Writing about the topics that matter within your industry and answering the relevant questions your customers have will help you to get people to know, like, and trust you before they have made a phone call or clicked a button to buy something.

As we know, people buy from people they know, like, and trust. And in addition to helping people get to know you, having a blog lets you show your expertise and your thought leadership, and gives people another way to really understand who you are before making a purchase decision.

When you share great blog content, site visitors will notice. They will be able to post comments, which opens up an important two-way conversation where you have the chance to carry on dialog and even set up a rapport.

Blogging should also be at the heart of your social media strategy. Each time you publish a new post, share the title and a link to the post with your social networks. This drives traffic back to your site and creates a snowball effect as readers then share your content with their social networks. As you share more content on a regular basis, you will inevitably watch your website traffic numbers increase as a result.

Integrate Social Media and SEO

It’s no longer enough to have a popular website with good content. If you want better search results for your business, it’s time to look at how social media influences those results.

It used to be that SEO revolved around two things: using the right keywords, and the number of authoritative sites that linked back to your content via inbound links.

Then social media came along and changed everything.

The fact that social media is critical to your online presence (and your search engine rankings) is often a tough pill for small business owners to swallow. It can be a difficult marketing strategy to measure, and it can seem like a strange way to grow their business.

But the days of easily measuring your SEO strategy are long gone. It’s no longer about building X amount of links and creating Y amount of optimized content pages on your website. These old approaches to getting search engine attention are very static. The new strategy is about being dynamic, engaged, and interactive within your marketplace. Social media is the only place you can make that happen.

A major shift has taken place that alters the way you’re doing business online — and offline. It has to do with social media and SEO. Ignoring their impact on your marketing is suicidal. Weaving them into your strategy can be transformational.

For most small businesses, a blog is at once a powerful yet under-used customer connection tool. Small business owners must appreciate the power of these three facts:

  1. Small business owners are experts on what they sell, how it’s used, the industry, etc.
  2. Customers want access to what experts know.
  3. Increasingly, customers expect a closer connection to experts.

Small business blogging will deliver all of this, and more.

Social Commerce

In the summer of ’99 a thousand i-entrepreneurs bloomed. Fabmart and Firstandsecond.com wanted to be Amazon — the giant retail store — of India. Rediff was selling knick-knacks on its e-commerce channel. Sify too joined the bandwagon. Apnaloan was promising to ‘sell’ loans online. Shaadi.com wanted to find your dream “other”. And then on April 4, 2000,  Nasdaq crashed.

The Second Coming

Digital technology has changed many things; the way we communicate, the way we work, the way we buy things. Today’s young netizens do many amazing things like buying pizzas to selling shares, doing banking, buying tickets, planning holidays and paying bills online.  Clubbed with it that we are moving slowly but surely towards a capitalist economy means the consumerists are taking over.

Retailers and merchants venturing into e-commerce are leaving no stones unturned to make sure that the consumers have a great experience. Most of the e-commerce ventures now offer you a choice of Payment Gateways as well as the flexibility to pay cash on delivery.

The success of ecommerce in India is inevitable. Physical stocking costs money and real estate is not cheap. And even if it is, getting footfalls in the wake of poor infrastructure, more and more traffic and lack of time is going to become a significant challenge.

The essence is and will continue to be customer experience. The key for retailers here is to create a Blue ocean – carve out a new market – a market yet untapped! Make people aware of the fact that there are sellers who are willing to get stuff you like to your doorstep. And they are willing to take it back too, if you don’t like it. In addition, they give you substantial discounts too. Make them used to making online purchases.

Ecommerce in India has evolved over the past decade in terms of size. Indian e-commerce market will gallop at an impressive growth rate of 47% to over ₹ 46,000 crore in the 2011 calendar year (US$ 10.6 billion).

Indian netizens have emerged as the third biggest credit card users globally (84%) for online purchasing, next only to the Turkish (91%) and Irish e-shoppers (86%).

India has over 3,311 e-commerce hubs from all 28 States and 7 Union Territories. The Top 5 States with the most transactions are Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

There are over 1,267 rural hubs online with 1 out of every 10 purchases from rural India as well as 1 out of every 20 sales from rural India.

The journey of online spending that started with an increasing number of buyers of travel and holiday plans in the last decade has now extended to an increase in spends on household appliances and luxury products. While segments like apparel and luxury products have registered unprecedented growth in 2011, jewelry, electronic appliances and hardware products have shown promising growth trends as well. Indian consumers are showing greater appetite to transact online, fueling the e-commerce boom.

Social Commerce

With e-commerce acquiring greater social media clout, social media platforms are becoming the anchors that are triggering the onset of greater social commerce across categories. For instance, deals on e-commerce site gets shared and re-tweeted on social media. This generates a lot of buzz for these brands.

Even travel websites depend on their social media fans to further reach out to the online target consumers. Then there’s the organized brick and mortar retail brands like Shoppers Stop jostling for space online alongside pure play e-tailers. E-commerce sites will acquire more social ‘skin’ and social sites are extending into the ecommerce space to use the power of personal influence and micro-networks.

New e-commerce sites are popping up all over the place in India, and they’re being funded pretty quickly too. Some pundits assert that it is a bubble but for the time being, there is money in that bubble.

We have also seen the growing fondness towards Facebook, so a gradual evolution of e-commerce to social commerce seems like a logical next step. We have already seen lot of e-commerce brands such as Fashion and You, Flipkart, Fetise, and MyGrahak, doing an amazing job on social media.

However brands will also have to understand that social commerce means far more than creating a Facebook fan page. They will have to offer fans with a positive experience, keeping the social aspect in focus, evolving from just liking and commenting on products.

Social media facilitates a Zero Moment of Truth

The principal role of social media in commerce and marketing is ‘social utility’ – helping people shop smarter with their social intelligence and profit from social situations. In other words, don’t offer campaigns – offer social utility; your social strategy should be about using social to help people discover and decide smarter; i.e. Assistive Consumer Technology.

Social media facilitates a Zero Moment of Truth (pronounced zee-mot), which is the ‘borrowed experience’ of someones’s second moment of truth when shared; i.e. product experience shared online. Zmot is essentially the familiar ‘word of mouth reality check’ humans have used since they first started talking; a wise man learns from the experience of others – a fool by his own.

Zmot acts as first reality-check in the consumer journey, it is the gate-keeper and agenda-setter for customer acquisition. 25% of Dell’s new customers are the result of a positive Zmot. That in turn means that your advertising should line up with the product experience – since a shared experience is what links advertising to personal experience. Start with the smile of product experience, and work back.

ORM becomes important

With more and more brands opting for social, brands will need to become more careful about their online reputation. 2011 saw Vodafone fail in this area. Having witnessed such catastrophes, other companies will be trying to avoid these kinds of mistakes in 2012.

Challenges ahead

This growth story is albeit not devoid of challenges that the industry is confronted with, both global and local. As more global players enter the e-commerce space, lack of common taxation rules can hinder growth in future. In the online shopping industry, especially, the need of the hour is a uniform goods and services tax (GST) across the country. Currently, inter-state movements of products often pose a problem, given the different taxation rates. This would need to be resolved in order to extend the reach and improve the e-commerce experience.

On the local front, online shopping predominantly remains a practice of urban and middle class consumers. Though consumers in small towns have started using Internet actively, conversion from visitors to shoppers would take some time. Then there is logistical and supply constraint for retailers. While online shopping is expected to find some share in smaller Indian towns too, increasing supply of products and lack of logistics like warehouses can be a challenge for retailers.

“Indian e-shoppers will have a good time getting great deals and services online, online retailing will explode in 2012 and beyond. More users will use the Internet through smart phones, tablets, net books, etc. With this, there will also be an explosion in usage of mobile applications”, says Anurag Gupta, Managing Director, DGM India Internet Marketing Pvt Ltd.