6 clever ways to make your content super shareable

6.23.15 Making Sharable Content (Blog)

Your content is so sexy.

It’s polished. Dazzling. Useful. Funny. You cracked yourself up writing that last post. You made your videographer cry when you shared that poignant story on camera.

So why is it just sitting there?

There is nothing more frustrating than creating something wonderful, pouring your heart and soul into it, putting it out into the world and hearing….crickets. I know. I’ve been there, believe me. Years ago, I had a fabulous little blog going for many years that delighted me – and no one else for a long time. And don’t get me started on the time I finally, finally, published a very personal and heartfelt essay that had been tucked away for years only to get zero response.

When you create something useful, heartfelt + true, you must do whatever it takes to share it with the world (Tweet This!)

Put down the vase you’re about to throw in anger and wipe away your tears, Buttercup. Here are 6 sensational tips to make your content more shareable.

  1. Create Good Content: Thank you, Captain Obvious. But seriously. This is not the only reason content gets shared (the Internet is littered with great content that went no where) but it’s a start. We don’t care about your cat, or your kid or your fabulous multi-million dollar business unless we get something out of it – even it’s a good laugh. What’s in it for your audience? It’s great to share personal stories and reveal a bit of behind the scenes about your work and life. But always have “Why should I care?” in mind as you create.
  2. Create Good Content, Part Deux: Make sure it looks good. That does not mean it has to cost thousands of dollars to create. It means pay attention to aesthetics and details. Spell check, make sure the photo is clear, ensure the camera is steady and that we can hear you. Whatever your medium of choice, do it well.
  3. Make Sharing Easy-Peasy: The easier your content is to share, the more people will share it. If you make people take multiple steps in order to share your content, they won’t do it. Like you, they are too busy, no matter how much they want to help spread the word. Shorten URL’s or create customer ones with sites like bit.ly. Use Click to Tweet (my personal fave) to pre-write Tweets that they can share with…well, a click. Ensure your blogs or content have Share buttons so people can share on their social media platform of choice. And make sure they work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to share a cool post by clicking one of those icons, only to find it broken or that it auto-creates a post/link that is too long for the platform anyway so it never gets shared.
  4. Use Stream-Stopping Images: This has been a game changer for me, thanks to the wise counsel of Sarah Von Bargen. You’re scrolling along in your feed when you absolutely have to stop and share based on a cool image that stands out. Photos on Facebook generate 53% more likes. Tweets with images get 89% more favorites and 150% more retweets. Make sure you choose an eye-catching image for all your content and size it correctly, as it differs for each platform. Check out this handy guide for social media image sizes. Personally, my VA and I use PicMonkey to resize my images and add a cool caption (like the ones you see on my blog). Where do we find them? Places like Unsplash and Yay Images for starters, but there are lots of royalty-free sites you can use.
  5. Invite People to Share: Marie Forleo is a hugely successful online marketer and coach. She has a massive email list. Her weekly videos get hundreds, if not thousands, of comments each week. She gets a bajillion people signed up for her B-School every year. And yet…at the end of every video, she STILL invites people to like and share her content. You’re never too big to ask folks to do what you want.
  6. Craft Clever Titles and Posts: If you’ve been here a while, you know I try to shake up both my blog post titles and the social media posts promoting that content. Lists work really well (ahem….like 6 ways to…) but so do intriguing titles that invite curiosity. If you follow me on Twitter, (please do!) you can see that I play around with wording to promote the same post. You can use the actual title of your content once or twice, but how about a sexy, cool, funny or intriguing statement instead? This of it like an ad headline. Now, I’m not talking about disgusting Link Bait that dupes you into thinking you’re getting something you are not  – and I despise Link Bait for actual journalism. But for content, you can play around with intriguing variations that draw people in, such as (totally making this up, as it depends on the content itself):

I like Tip #4…what do you think? (LINK)

If you just followed 3 of these tips, you may hit 6 figures this year (LINK)

This baby has the best grandma in the world (LINK)

Why dogs make great yogis

This is as good as chocolate dipped in chocolate, smothered in chocolate with a side of mmmmm…(LINK)

Which of these tips will you put into place right now to make your work more shareable? Do you have any other tips to add? Please share in the Comments below!

What Content Do I Need to Create and How Can I Make a Plan?

6.9.15 ContentMarketingCommittment (blog)

You’re a one-person business owner and you need to be 500 places at once. You’re the accountant, the website admin, the account manager, the marketer, the janitor, IT, and – lest we forget – the person who actually has to do the work your business provides.

Given all of these demands on your time and budget, does the mere mention of “content marketing” make you want to curl up in a ball and sob?

Let’s take a deep breath and exhale together. I’m going to share my journey with you.

Even though I’m a writer and marketing addict, content marketing almost destroyed me.

“Whaaaaaat?! But Maria, you manage to blog almost every week! You, like, live on social media.”

Yes. And this is how my breakdown started. And why I’m making changes. And why I want to help you do the same.

I recently told my entire audience that I was retrenching to work on my content plan.

Creating content brings me joy so I’m going to stop treating it like a one-night stand and make it a long-term commitment. (Tweet This!)

So I took a step back and have been working away, my friend. Seeking counsel from others. Spending time in coffee shops thinking about you and what you need. Marrying that with topics I’m passionate about and thinking about how to structure things.

Not sure what content you need to create for your audience or how to create a solid plan? Here is an 11-step plan to determine your content strategy. You should know I am following each and every one of these steps myself right now so I feel you:

  1. Determine Your Goals: Before you create a stich of content, what is your goal with it? Are you trying to walk prospects down the sales funnel? If so, you might need to create 2 or 3 pieces of content to get them hooked. Do you simply want folks to sign up for your email list? Then you’ll need some sort of opt-in freebie or guide. Do you want a regular weekly audience on a global basis and to interview various experts? Perhaps podcasting is the way to go? What are your goals? There is no one right answer for WHAT to create, but the answer gets a lot clearer if you know WHY you need it.
  2. Revisit Your Ideal Customer/Client Profiles: Remember all those times I’ve told you how creating ideal customer profiles is the single most important part of your brand strategy? Here’s Reason #972 as to why. To create the right content, you need to know your audience. What do they need, want, desire, fear, worry about? What type of info do they like to consume? What are their lives like? So dust off those ideal client profiles and update them or flesh them out if need be.
  3. Start With Your Wheelhouse: Good, now you know who you’re talking to. Before we dive into the format of your content, let’s focus on the content topics. You want to cover topics around your area of expertise and what your business provides. Sounds simple, right? But you have to be organized about it. Write down every topic associated you do for people and all associated areas that it touches. Are you an accountant? Those topics would be money management, bookkeeping, tax tips, expense tracking, budgeting, record-keeping. Are you a life coach for women? That would be work/life balance, love, relationships, goal setting, stress management. You get the idea.
  4. Layer in Your Joy: Which topics do you enjoy talking or writing about? Download all the things you love. Now, compare your lists and see if there is any overlap. Can you talk about website design AND wine? Graphic design AND dogs? Career advice and Walking Dead? If you can find ways to weave these passions into your content, you will enjoy creating it more – and people will enjoy engaging with it more.
  5. Bucket Your Topics: I’m going through this exercise right now. Of your laundry list, are any of the topics related? Can they be grouped together or do they overlap? I have advised many clients on this approach but it wasn’t until I consulted with and took a course recently with social marketing expert Amy Schmittauer of Savvy Sexy Social that I finally did this exercise for myself. We are indeed our own worst clients, aren’t we? Create your “channels” or categories or magazine columns or whatever analogy resonates with you to organize this vast list.
  6. Ask Your Tribe: Yes, you will actually have to ask your target community what they would like to hear from you before you go out, guns blazing. Revolutionary, isn’t it? I recently sent a dedicated email to my list asking them to tell me their biggest challenges, obstacles or pain points and I have now turned those responses into a list of content ideas (of which, this post is one!) If you don’t have a huge list, ask former clients or customers or simply contacts that fit your ideal customer profile.
  7. Brainstorm Content Vehicles: Now that you have an idea of your topics and “buckets” you can spend a dreamy afternoon thinking about how to package these up. Do you like blogging? Maybe they are a year’s worth of blog posts. Do some topics lend themselves to demos or lengthy explanations? Make those videos. Are some topics so rich you could write a short eBook or create an ongoing podcast? Don’t think of vehicles that are absolutely painful for you to create – you will never do them. If quick visuals or tweets are your things, then maybe you just create Instagram-worthy images with captions around each topic or craft short tweets on each topic. At this point, you could also ask your audience again how they prefer to consume information, but I bet you’ll get a thousand different answers so may as well stick to what you enjoy creating!
  8. Create Your Calendar: This is the part I struggle with, to be honest with you. I try to make pretty little calendars only to go off-road as soon as my attention wanders. I’m like a dog that sees a squirrel. But it’s a place to start, right? Look out 6 months (or 3 if that’s less scary) and plot out what you can talk about when. This will save you time and energy when you’re not sure what to create or are staring at a blank page. Be ruthlessly realistic here. Don’t say you’ll blog or create a video every day if you won’t. What does a realistic schedule look like for your life and sanity?
  9. Make Space to Create: Of course you need to allot time to create all this great content so be realistic. That first video won’t go live tomorrow. So map the efforts into your personal calendar. And then schedule meeting on your calendar for when you will write/record/design – whatever. Not just 15 minutes but 2 to 3 hours worth of dedicated time each week if that’s what you need.
  10. Gather Your Resources + Outsource: I’m a good writer, but not a designer. If I want to create eBooks, I need to partner with a cool designer. So think ahead about who can help you create each of these content pieces. Do you have a VA who can upload and format your finished blog posts and find a good image to go with each of them? Can you pre-schedule Tweets or posts with Buffer? Do you know a good designer who can help you with all ten of the eBooks or free guides you want to create? Have you priced out a videographer for your video series (or are you simply planning to use your iPhone and send it to an editor – or DIY). Consider all of these once you determine your content plan, get everything lined up and then you can just press play and start cranking out content. Turn to resources like the ones I blogged about last week!
  11. CREATE! Start at the beginning and work your way down. Time to start doing. See your list from #10 above and start assigning out work – to yourself if appropriate or to one of the resources you’ve gathered. If you need to write raw content, can you hire a copywriter to polish your rough drafts? Can you get an intern to write the social media posts? Can someone else conduct the expert interviews for you?

Ready to plan for and create all that killer content without losing your mind? Make sure you’re on the Red Slice email list down below to find out the next time I’m offering  Bring Sexy Back to Your Blog, In this on-day virtual course, we talk about how to bring sexy back to all your content, not just blogging and you’ll leave with an actual plan and sample content piece, plus tons of feedback from me and others.

Image Credit: Matt Biddulph via Flickr

5 un-ignorable reasons why your business needs a blog

A blog is an essential marketing tool for many, many reasons beyond brand building and SEO. (PS: if you are at a loss as to what to blog about or just hate writing, you can find other ways to deliver your valuable content: hire a writer, record a podcast, post photos, craft a Haiku…) Today, my writing partner in crime, Sarah Von Bargen, writer + business consultant and creator of YesandYes.org (a super successful daily lifestyle blog with hundreds of thousands of daily readers) shares her rockstar content marketing advice on why you definitely need to jump start your blog plans.  Enjoy!

Everyone and their sister has told you that you need a blog/twitter/facebook/instagram/everything ever for your business. And while it is, in fact, possible to be a successful business or entrepreneur without those, it sure is nice to have thousands of potential customers and clients interacting with you online, enjoying your cat photos and clever status updates, no?

Need a bit more convincing?  Here are five nearly un-ignorable reasons why you should blog for your business. A blog can be fun and lo, the benefits are huge: (Tweet & share!)

1)  You can establish yourself as an expert
True story time: I once spent a summer writing for a leading women’s magazine.  When we needed experts to weigh in on a topic?  We’d literally Google “relationship expert [city name]” or “interior designers [city name].”  And then we’d paw through their online lives and if they were active online and could string a few grammatically correct sentences together, we’d email them and request a pull quote on our topic. National press coverage = achieved.  Wouldn’t you like to get some national press coverage?

2) Up Your SEO
Search Engine Optimization (how your site and business ranks in search engines) need not be be the stuff of headaches.  When you write about your area of expertise (and when people link to your posts) you move up the search rankings.  If you just have a static website for your graphic design business in New York, you’ll be buried deep on page 23.  But if you’ve got 25 blog posts about the ins and outs of the graphic design world, you’re much more likely to be closer to the top of the pile. It makes sense, right? The more searchable content there is about you and your business, the more people are going to find you. And then buy your awesome jewelry/services/hand-knitted cat sweaters.

3)  Make new connections
Is it painfully hippie dippie to say that blogging for your business shouldn’t just be about making money and finding new customers?  You can also connect with professional peers, mentors and mentees, companies that can provide you with make-your-life-easier products, vendors and  heaps of new friends.  When you interview people for your blog, interact with people on twitter, link to other bloggers, and host guest posts you’re strengthening your professional network and, really, you’re just being nice.  Which is sort of more important.

4) Create buzz for new products and services
Launching a new line of jewelry?  Spend the month before you launch writing about the process, your inspiration, the resources you used, and posting teaser photos or videos.  Send out promotional samples to bloggers you think would enjoy them.  Easy peasy!

5) Connect with new clients and customers (Dur.)
Well, obviously.  OBVIOUSLY.  When people like your product or brand (or you) they want to know more about it.  And someone who’s reading your blog is about a million times more likely to buy your new products, purchase something on sale, spread the word about your work, and become a repeat buyer.  When you create great, google-able content (“How to wear layers under a dress” for a fashion label or “What to pack for Hawaii” for a travel agency) people who don’t know about you and your products will find you.  And if you’re lucky, they’ll stay around for awhile browsing all your great content.  And then buy something.

Does your business have a blog?  What good things have happened to you because of your blog? Tweet me @redslice and let me know!

 Graphic credit: YesandYes.org. Social media buttons by twenty three oh one

What great stand-up acts have to do with long-form sales letters

Today’s guest post comes from Fel Spahr, a snappy, savvy, sales-focused copywriter who works with entrepreneurs and small businesses. She crossed my orbit a little over a year ago and I adore her. Today she shares how long-form sales letters are like great comedy acts – in your usual brash and brilliant style. Learn more about her at the end and enjoy.

Little known fact about Fel…

I LOVE comedy.

Not in that “Oh, yeah, comedians are funny way.”

But in that “I’ve memorized Louis C.K’s and Family Guy’s best bits and I’m going to recite them to you now” kinda way.

“But who CARES, Fel! What about that enticing headline you wrote, about what comedy has to do with long-form salesletters?”

Glad you asked! Let’s get into it.

First of all, if you should know anything about me, it’s this: I am on the long-form copy team. (Tweet!)

The second thing is, I get excited like a hyper Pomeranian when I find connections between things.

For example:

How similar the principles are between effective public speaking and sales copywriting…

How PR is directly related to how good you are at making friends…

And how juicing a sweet potato is equivalent to that time I told myself I was going to learn how to cook and I was going to do it right, damnit! The first thing I ever made was a batch of pumpkin banana muffins…which almost killed my friend.

But that’s a story for another day.

What I want to tell you I discovered is this:

As I’ve taught sales copywriting around the Bay area, I was always thinking of a different way to teach it to make it fun. Not everyone gets as turned on as sales as I do, so you gotta bring a little entertainment into it, you know?

My first revelation was that a great salesletter has a VERY similar structure to a great song. Back in the day when I was teaching myself how to play guitar, I would study songwriting structure and write my own songs.

6 years later: Lightbulb goes off! Now my students are having fun and they really get the idea of what a ‘hook’ is.

So my next revelation was THIS…

COMEDY ACTS ARE PRACTICALLY EQUIVALENT TO LONG-FORM SALESLETTERS (except the whole buying process is reversed) (Tweet this out!)

Here’s how I came to this conclusion and why it could be crucial to know for your business:

I was watching this video of my favorite comedians sitting in a room together shooting the shit. Louis C.K., Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, and Ricky Gervais are talking about their careers in comedy.

And something Chris Rock said struck me…

He was talking about how newbies in the comedy game go for the quick laugh, and they wonder why their jokes aren’t ‘working’.

And Rock says that it’s because they haven’t set it up right.

There isn’t the right premise.

The joke doesn’t have longevity.

And the lightbulb went off for me.


Throw the structure out the window for a second.

The fact of the matter is that if you cannot explain to your client and help them understand what it is you’re offering…


And it’s the newbies in the copywriting space that get it all wrong, too. They just think you can whip something up willy nilly and have it be like, a paragraph, and that it’s going to sell.

That’s why things ‘aren’t working’. And you know what? I used to be just like that, too. I simply didn’t know enough.

But now that I do, it’s my mission to present fun analogies that make all of this interesting to you.

So back to the comedic geniuses I was referring to…

They work on their acts…sometimes for 10+ YEARS.

They test every single part of their bits. They cut what doesn’t hit. They come up with new stuff, and test that, too.

Salesletters are the same.

It doesn’t mean that they have to be perfect, but you gotta work on your ‘bits’. You gotta test it out. You gotta make sure that the premise is set just right, so your salesletter can live on for years…

…Not just on launch day.

“So Fel, who gives a hoot about these long-form salesletters anyway?”

Well, if you’re an entrepreneur or a business that is selling anything…these concepts are probably of interest to you.

So I have something to tell you about today.

It’s this:


All you need to have is 2 things:

1) A sincere and REAL desire to truly understand people on a very deep level

2) And know exactly what to say…and WHO to say it to…at exactly the right time

That simple. Though easier said than done.

“But Fel! I’ve read every copywriting book under the SUN. Don’t I get better at copywriting by writing out other salesletters by hand?”

No. Here’s why: Do you think Hemingway became a great writer because he copied OTHER great writer’s stories? No. He READ other people’s work, maybe copied a few techniques, and through a lot of practice, developed his own style. (It’s called strategic imitation)

It would be like me telling you: “Hey. You wanna be a screenwriter? Why don’t you go copy out by hand the script of The Shining, and then write me an Oscar-winning screenplay?”

There’s no logic. You need the set-up, the strategy, and the psychology much more than you need to copy someone else’s salesletter.

“But Fel! I actually don’t do any sales writing. But I’m curious. Thoughts?”

If you have a business, you should start. (But if you don’t do sales writing, do you have a business?)

If you don’t have a business, go outside and get a tan. Why not? Don’t write salesletters if you don’t have to.

Closing thought:

If you don’t want to write a salesletter today, at least watch a great hour of stand-up! Just as good as an education in there as there is in this post, or any copywriting book you’ll read.

2017 update: Unfortunately, Felicia is no longer doing sales copywriting but this advice is still golden! If you want to find out what she’s up to, you can visit her site right here.

Boost your brand: 3 tips to make blogging easier

Blah, blah, BLOGGING.

If you just sighed in disgust, overwhelm or sheer panic at simply reading the B-word, I’d like to talk to you today. Blogging is, in my opinion, one of the single best ways to grow your business, boost your brand and hustle up some thought leadership street cred. Think of it like you are the editor of your own little magazine: press releases and pitching be darned! You have the ultimate in with the editor of You.com -YOU.

How can blogging help your brand and business?

  • It gives you a forum to promote your expertise and point of view
  • It’s SEO-licious, meaning you can write about your core product or service areas and search engines will develop huge crushes on you
  • It provides your target audience with information, advice, entertainment – all great things to build community and nurture future sales and customer loyalty
  • It offers you content to share in social media (for those days when you’re like, “What the heck should I tweet about?”
  • It gives visitors a reason to keep coming back to your site
  • It provides the press with examples of your expertise in case they are writing a story for which you’d be PERFECT

I could go on and on…. “But I hate writing,Mariiiiiiaaaaaa!” (enter whining) “I don’t have time.” “What should I blog about?” I will admit that I have it a bit easier, as I love writing – it’s my favorite form of expression. But even I have days where I face a blank Word document, with a blinking cursor mocking my lack of creativity. We all do. The muse does not always show up when it’s convenient for us.  (TWEET THIS!) Sometimes she’s out grabbing a caramel macchiato and surfing One Kings Lane for fun household furnishings.

So here are 3 tips for making blogging easier and – hell – more fun:

  1. Jot down every question someone has ever asked you about your line of work: Seriously, the juicy ones, the silly ones, the obvious ones, the annoying ones.  Are you a knitting store? How about “How can I learn to knit?” “Where can I find fashionable patterns?” “Isn’t this something just old women do?” Or are you a personal trainer: “What are the best super foods I should be eating?” “How can I start on Day One if I’m overweight?” “Don’t I need to be wealthy to have a personal trainer?” Perhaps you’re a social media consultant: “How do I start on Twitter?” “Which platforms should I be on?” “When are the best times to post on Facebook?” – or even “What questions should I ask to find a good social media consultant?” Got your list? BOOM. You just came up with 3 months worth of blog post topics.
  2. Rif on trendy topics: The Grammy’s are coming up. Can you relate something about your business back to music, a Grammy winning star or even something controversial that happened at the show? New movies come out all the time. Can you relate some tips about your products or services back to a popular film? These kind of posts are as fun to write as they are to read – and you can take advantage of trending topics when promoting the content on social media. For example, if #Grammys are hot, hot, hot the day after the event, you can use that hashtag to promote your post.
  3. Interview interesting people: Who would your target audience (or you) love to hear from? Are there related experts who complement what you provide that would be valuable for your readers? You don’t have to come up with all the blog post ideas yourself – sometimes the best thing to do is feature another interesting person with juicy nuggets of wisdom to share. Not only will your audience love it, but you create a built-in promotional partner – and you get to be generous and support someone else’s great brand so perhaps later they may support you.

Photo credit: Foxtongue on Flickr

14 Secrets to Selling $4 Million: How to Find Digital Success Using Old-Fashioned Values

I adore today’s guest post from Beth Marbach of Downtown Gal. She spent 12 years building a $4 million designer shoe resale business on eBay. Her story has everything: Scrappy moxie, digital prowess and a health dose of good old -fashioned values that catapulted her to success. Whether your business is online, in an office park or on Main Street, you will devour these 14 secrets which Beth was kind enough to share. Enjoy.

In 2001, I was an executive recruiter, and I wanted out. Desperately.

On the side, I started selling books, CDs and DVDs on eBay. With time I moved onto selling dog jackets. My profits on books were $4 to $6; my profits on canine apparel were $19 per jacket.

It was when I spotted a $49 pair of Coach Boots at DSW, which I bought and sold that very evening for $149 that my whole life changed. Twelve years later I had earned $4 million selling designer shoes online. The lessons I learned along the way were many. I honed relationship, business and marketing skills amongst many others.

Here are 14 such lessons I feel were some of the most critical to the success of my business.

1. Make Study Sheets

The success of my business was critically dependent on the monthly trips I took to various designer shoe outlets around the country. I made these trips to purchase shoes, but I also made them to solidify and grow relationships with store personnel.

See, my revenue was determined on the quantity and quality of shoes I could access, and as I could not be in all places at once, that access was greatly determined by the store personnel who thought to call or email me first (before any other reseller) when new inventory arrived.

To help support me in this, I made laminated spreadsheets which included basic information such as store names, phone numbers and addresses. These spreadsheets also included names of all store personnel (which I had met to date), and any information which would be helpful in both personal and work related conversations.  Prior to going into every store I studied these sheets and directed conservations accordingly.

2. Call Ahead

Spreadsheet studying and traveling across the country all prove to be futile if, when you arrive, your favorite sales person has the day off. To prevent this from happening I always called ahead to make sure when I arrived, they were waiting for me.

3. Know the Best Days of the Week to Shop

I was not a store’s average customer. I did not go in and purchase a few pairs of shoes. I went in and made purchases up to $10,000. To do this, I needed the undivided attention of store personnel which meant I needed to go on the slowest shopping days of the week – Monday and Tuesday. 

4. Inexpensive Branding Can Work

My branding did not come from a high priced design shop but from a few hours of my husband’s time with Photoshop. Likewise, my business name was not derived from expensive brainstorming sessions but was simply borrowed from what was, during my single days, my Match.com handle – Downtowngal. (Editor note: See? Told you building an irresistible brand on any budget was possible!)

5. Hire Effectively by Hiring Creatively

Having 100s of pairs of shoes to photograph, inventory and ship required assistance. I hired super smart high school gals, paid them more than the mall and kept them happy by letting them listen to whatever music they wanted.

6. Consider Office Space Very Carefully

Storing 100s of pairs of shoes in a basement and working for 12 years alongside them might seem less than ideal, but doing so saved me $1000s of dollars annually (or 10s of 1000s of dollars over 12 years).

7. Know there is More than One Way to Get Supplies (and Just about Anything Else You Need)

The price of shipping supplies was always a challenge. As a cost savings work around, I utilized the clean (and in good condition) shipping boxes from my local grocery store and daycare center. I then invested 2 cents per branded sticker and placed one on every box I shipped.

8. Become an Expert

95% of what I sold was shoes, and within that I focused on a small handful of designer brands. Developing my niche allowed me to use my time effectively (which was very important when you have two little kids), provided me focus on the key relationships to develop and provided me the ability to increase revenue in ways that would not be feasible had I attempted a broad product line. (Oh, and it greatly reduced daily insanity, so there is that too.)

9. Please Your Accountant

With the enormous number of fraudulent designer shoes in the marketplace, it was critical for me to keep all receipts in the case the legitimacy of my inventory ever came into question. More often than you might imagine customers asked for proof that shoes they purchased from me were legitimate. It was always good to have that validation readily available.

Keeping all receipts also helped quarterly taxes go quicker, ensured I received maximum tax benefits and made my accountant quite happy. (Happy accountant = Happy business.)

10. Categorize Your Customers

Keeping detailed records on my customers including their gender, designer preference and shoe size allowed me to easily contact people when I received shipments in which they might have interest. Sometimes I could even sell shoes to them before I had to take the time and expense to put them on eBay.

11. Consider Online and Offline Inventory Acquisition Options

The majority of the shoes I purchased were from brick and mortar stores; however there were times where I could buy shoes directly off their website. To make this process efficient, I bookmarked 20 stores, which I knew carried the designer shoes I desired. Every morning I would go through these links, purchase desirable footwear and have it shipped directly to my house.

12. Be Nice to Everyone. No Exceptions.

The sales folks at the designer outlet stores were underpaid, overworked and rarely appreciated. I found the simple act of bringing a goodie along – calling and taking coffee orders before I arrived, buying nice chocolate as gifts or bringing in a fruit basket significantly differentiated me from other resellers who, I might add, were frequently downright ruthless to store personnel.

Who wants to call a jerk to give them the heads up that new inventory has arrived?

No one.

Who wants to call the woman who is nice to them every time she sees them, brings them coffee and gets to know them so well she is invited to their wedding?

Well, that is how I built my business. It is also how I made an enormous number of wonderful friends.

13. Thank People the Old Fashioned Way

When I was growing up my parents made me send handwritten thank you notes when someone extended kindness towards me. When I received a shipment from a reseller who thought to call me first, I did the same. Within that note I included a $25 Starbucks gift card. For one quick note and a small gift of coffee, I was always one of the first resellers they called.

14. And Keep Thanking Them. All of Them.

I certainly wouldn’t have a business without the designer outlet personnel I befriended over the years, but I also wouldn’t have a business if it weren’t for the UPS drivers, the folks at the post office, my staff and of course, my customers. Christmas time at DowntownGal Shoes meant it was “thank you” time.

To my UPS drivers and post office friends I gave wonderful holiday cakes and popcorn tins, the gals I worked with could pick any pair of shoes they wanted, and the sales associates at the designer outlets would receive a  Starbucks gift certificate (with a higher value than the normal $25 cards I gave throughout the year), a card and a photo of my family. And regardless of what time of year it was, I included a free shoe shine kit for my customers with every purchase.

In the end, I found that although we live in a society that drives very hard towards the big things; it is, in fact, the little things that guarantee we get there.

About the author: To learn more about Beth Marbach, and her 12 year saga selling $4 million dollar of designer shoes on eBay go to: http://downtowngal.com/

Photo credit:  geishaboy500

Your Call to Action: Which ONE tip will you put into practice to boost your business this week? Please share in the Comments below!

Your social media lifesavers: 6 people you need to know

Social media. Do those words alone cause a panic attack and drowning sensation? How the heck can one human being possibly keep up with the constant onslaught of blogging, tweeting, posting, Pinning, connecting when you have a freaking business to run?

If you’re like most people, you’re doing one of three things:

1. You’ve doubled-down on a few networks and use them all the time
2. You’re killing yourself trying to be in 50 places at once – and not seeing any ROI
3. You’ve opted out completely because it all just gives you a headache

Building your brand awareness online is vital in today’s marketplace. Why? One, customers expect you to be available online in some way, shape or form (I’m still reeling from a woman with no website because “I don’t want the wrong people finding me. I get enough business through referrals.” Um. Okay. How long will that last?) In fact, I’m dubious of any business these days who doesn’t have any real-time online presence. Makes me think they are fly-by-night.

Two, you need to prove you are relevant and current. That you keep up with trends. And three, there’s just good old fashioned lead generation. You can find and connect with partners and potential clients or customers more easily and cost-effectively if you blog or play in social media.

If you’re trying to keep your head above water when it comes to social media, then grab a lifeline from these 6 people you absolutely need to know to make your life easier.

Sarah Von Bargen: Sarah is a brilliant copywriter and master blogger. We partner on many of my SLICE sessions and part of what she delivers is practical advice on your content marketing strategy. Read her small business blog (or her very fun personal blog which gets over 11,000 readers a day!) and consider one of her sessions to get your blog working for you, not against you. She’ll even share ideas for how to promote your posts effectively in other channels to get more readers. Check out this recent post on avoiding social media overwhelm. Brilliant.  Follow her: @yesandyes

Amy Schmittauer: I’m loving the fresh, practical advice this “Savvy Sexy Social” gal is dishing up, especially when it comes to using video effectively. Sign up for her weekly videos where she gives you entertaining and practical advice on all things social media, whether it’s Google +, Twitter or her sweet spot, creating videos. Amy makes everything seem doable and easy and doesn’t overcomplicate. Love that. Check out this recent post on how to make cheap awesome videos. Follow her: @savvysexysocial

Amy Porterfield: This social media strategist is the queen of cracking the Facebook nut, and she’s charming, approachable and knowledgeable to boot. I took one of her digital programs and, while normally a skeptic . I got so much value out of it, I couldn’t believe she didn’t  charge more. She comments on many other social media channels, but Facebook seems to be her sweet spot. Check out her extremely useful Resources page if you’ve ever wondered, “Is there an online solution that will help me do x?” Follow her: @amyporterfield

Sandy Jones-Kaminski: Sandy is a networking queen who – literally – wrote the book on it. She has mastered how to use social media  – and LinkedIn in particular – not just for effective networking but for more sales, more business opportunities and more leads. I’ve seen her literally work on someone’s LinkedIn profile and that person received two fresh leads the next day. No joke. She offers everything from workshops, to consulting to spot-audits of your profile. Follow her: @sandyjk

Karen Rosenzweig: Karen is a personal friend and a social media colleague, who specializes in restaurants, food businesses and hospitality – but she consults with any solopreneur or small biz to assess, create and/or manage their social channels more effectively for more customers, more sales and more buzz. I actually consulted with Karen when my book, Branding Basics, was published and she helped me use Twitter effectively to reach the right influencers and build buzz for the book when I had no clue how to use what is now my favorite channel. She also does group trainings. Follow her @karenrosenzweig

Tracy Warren: Tracy’s specialty is handling the day-to-day social media efforts of the business, acting as a ghost writer/marketer.  She offers coaching and page creation – as well as ongoing management (hurrah!) for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Biznik.  Her focus is primarily on small businesses, solopreneurs and other organizations who just want someone to take things over and get it done, including non-profits, events, and even brick and mortar businesses.  What I love about her blog is her clear, easy, uncomplicated advice for your social media efforts. Follow her @readysetgrow

Photo credit: Pipistrula on Flickr

Now it’s your turn! Which social media gurus make your life easier with practical help and advice (not just theory)? Please post your suggestions and a link in the Comments below. And also, let us know your greatest tip for managing social media overwhelm.

How to use video and social media to boost your brand: A chat with Amy Schmittauer

Today’s digital economy has introduced us to countless people I like to call “artsy-techies.” They geek out on things like hosting options, social media network features and today’s audio/video/web technologies but they are a far cry from the A/V Club nerd of yesteryear. With their savvy style, easy wit and delightful charm, they crank out more creative innovation before lunch than I do all year. It’s truly their time to shine: and what’s great is they love to teach us mere mortals how to easily put our art, story, value, services and products out into the world, too.

I’m not quite sure how or when Amy Schmittauer, the President of Vlog Boss Studios entered my orbit – most likely via Twitter! Vlog Boss Studios is a creative digital marketing agency that specializes in video content marketing. And as the Founder and Face of Savvy Sexy Social, she walks her talk and produces videos of her own. Hilarious videos (like this recent one about how you’re probably using Twitter the wrong way). Little snippets of video love that make you laugh out loud even as she’s teaching you how to use the latest social networks the right way so you can connect, promote, and attract rabid fans.

How does she describe herself? “I’m a social media frenzy!”

Today, Amy drops some mad advice on us about using video to build your brand, how to produce and host those videos in a snap and the fact that many of us are using social networks in the wrong way (one size fits all….not). Enjoy!

RS: Welcome Amy! Tell us, why should we be using video for brand building and social networking?AS: Plain and simple: People don’t build relationships with brands. They build relationships with people. (Tweet!) Video is the unbeaten opportunity to truly let your personality shine through and give your audience the opportunity to really understand and get to know you. Let them see how something is done. Let them see your expressions. Your opinions. That direct connection is huge for making relationships that count and make social media worth your time.

RS: But isn’t this stuff hard? What are my main options for creating/hosting videos?
AS: YouTube is the second most popular search engine only to Google. So it’s kind of a no-brainer to have a presence there if you’re creating video content. The visual learners go there to learn so that’s a great opportunity to tap into. But creating videos is easier every single day. You can record all the footage you need with a smartphone and edit with apps. Even YouTube has a built in editor. Don’t assume the tools are out of reach because that’s an impossible thing to say anymore. (Tweet!) My advice for new creators is to look into strong digital cameras like the Canon Powershot. It takes flawless HD video and the price point is perfect for budgetary restrictions.

RS: OK, truth time. Most of us don’t have enough hours in the day and are simply posting the same things on all our social media sites. But should we be leveraging each social media profile differently?

AS: Abso-friggin-lutely. Platforms are different for a reason and you need to respect the audiences that use each so you can customize your content to their liking. Do not auto-post between social networks. Facebook updates are not being read on Twitter. And your tweets are getting pushed down by the news feed algorithm. Saving time just means you’re making any time spent worthless. (Tweet!) Take the extra steps and watch engagement increase. One thing is for sure and that’s that people don’t like to read. Keep it close to 140 characters no matter which platforms you’re using for best chance of increased engagement.

Want more Amy in your life? Get the social action plan you’re looking for and pick her brain.

Are you using video in your social media efforts? Want to but not sure where to start? Fire away your Q’s for Amy in the Comments below!

How to do SEO in 5 minutes (really)

Guest post today by digital marketing veteran Linda Rubright

If it is any solace to small business owners, bloggers or online entrepreneurial dreamers, please know the big companies are just as confused about SEO as you are. In my 15 years in helping companies from the extremely big ones to the one-person-shop-small-ones the single commonality amongst all in regards to SEO is – confusion – confusion in regards to the best SEO approach, best SEO tools and whose advice to trust – this week.

In all of this I see countless companies and individuals throw their hands up and decide to rely on other online and offline website traffic driving strategies instead of attempting to decipher the seemingly indecipherable SEO world.

But, I would highly encourage you not to do this.

And here is why: regardless of what the SEO industry would like you to think and what their constantly changing often contradictory information may make you think – SEO is not difficult. It is not even close to difficult. There are a few (seven to be exact) easy (I swear) things to do which when you get in the practice of doing can make enormous differences in getting traffic to your site. AND the bonuses of this? It take five minutes to do and from my experience those who do it typically reap great SEO rewards very quickly!

7 Steps on How to Do SEO in Five Minutes:

1. The first step is the most important one and it does not require any tools (hurrah!).

Before writing a new post think about the two or three keyword phrases which most accurately describe what you are going to write.

As an example, let’s imagine you are writing a post on the best Mexican restaurants in Denver. The two or three keyword phrases that would perhaps best characterize the content of your post (and would also be realistic terms people would use when looking for great Mexican restaurants in Denver) could be:

“Denver’s best Mexican food”
“best Mexican restaurants in Denver”
“top rated Mexican restaurants in Denver.”

It is important that you are as specific as possible. You do not want to pick “best restaurants in Denver” for your post because you are then placing yourself in competition with every other post online that discusses the best restaurants in Denver, Mexican or otherwise.

Likewise you do not want to select “best Mexican restaurants” because then you are competing with every post that was ever written about Mexican restaurants (in Denver, Dallas, Dusseldorf and beyond).

However, when you select keyword phrases such as “best Mexican restaurants in Denver” or “top rated Mexican restaurants in Denver” these are keyword phrases which both describe exactly what your post is about and likely reflect phrases people would actually enter in Google, Yahoo and Bing when looking for information on great Mexican restaurants in Denver.

As our keyword phrases are a bit long, we will select two of the three to optimize our post:  “best Mexican restaurants in Denver” and “top rated Mexican restaurants in Denver.”

2. Put selected keywords in the headline of your post 

The headline, also sometimes called the H1 in the SEO world, is the actual title of the post. The headline is the first great place to look for opportunities to include your keywords.

A great SEO headline for our piece could be, “The 10 Best Mexican Restaurants in Denver”. This is a great choice for a headline because it includes one of our keyword phrases and it let’s potential readers easily understand what the post is about. A win-win!

How to do SEO headlines (also called the H1)

3.  Put your selected keywords in the URL

With most blog and website tools, the URL will default to a version of the title of the post. If you are using Wordpress you can change this default to be able to enter your own specific URL by going to:

Settings > Permalinks > Custom Structure and enter /%category%/%postname%/

URLs are another great place to include your keywords! As we used one of our keyword phrases “best Mexican restaurants in Denver” in our headline we will use our other selected keyword phrase in the URL as follows: www.mywebsite.com/top-rated-mexican-restaurants-in-denver.html. The ‘-‘ between each keyword is critical as this indicates to search engines where one word stops and another begins.

How to optimize URLs for SEO

4. Get the selected keywords in the content of your blog 

Your keyword phrases should be in approximately 2 to 5 percent of the total content. As an example, if your post is 500 words you should mention your keyword phrases in about 12 or so of these 500 words.

Please note, the keyword phrase “best Mexican restaurants in Denver” is five words. As you already mentioned this keyword phrase in your headline you only have seven more words to include to meet your keyword quota. If you were to mention “top rated Mexican restaurants in Denver” once and perhaps “best Mexican restaurants in Denver” another time somewhere in your post you have more than met your keyword phrase quota!

5.  Name your images with your selected keyword phrases 

Imagery is a great way to make your post appear a bit more interesting (and appetizing). It is also a great way to include selected keyword phrases in your post.

For example, let’s say you had a picture of a veggie burrito from one of the mentioned restaurants in your post. Typically this picture’s default name would be something like dsc1010.jpg, which does not help in terms of SEO.

However, you could name the photo: veggie-burrito-from-one-of-the-best-mexican-restaurants-in-denver.jpg and this would be a good boost for SEO. It is a bit more work but a great way to help include your keywords in your post, support your SEO efforts and even have a chance for showing up when in image searches!

Further, you can include your keywords in the ALT image text and the caption. The ALT image text is the content that is displayed if the image does not appear due to slow Internet or other technical issues. It is also the text that appears if you rollover the image. Great SEO content for the ALT image tag and the caption could be, “Veggie burrito one of the best Mexican restaurants in Denver.” (The ALT Image text and the caption can be the same.)

How to name images for SEO

6. Include your selected keywords in your page title 

The page title is the clickable link that shows up in Google searches.

Example of how page titles and meta descriptions appear in search results.

It also shows up at the very top of your post.

Where page titles appear on your post or page

The Page Title is considered the most important SEO element and as such it is very important for you to include your selected keyword phrases in it. Using our example you would name your page title:

Top 10 Best Mexican Restaurants in Denver | Top Rated Mexican Restaurants in Denver

Efforts should be given to make each page title approximately 70 characters. Each keyword phrase can be separated by a ‘|’ or a comma.

Many people make the mistake of giving their business name precedence in the page title. Remember, it is very likely that if you Google your business name you will show up on the first page (likely at the very top). SEO is about ranking for keywords you do not rank for; it is not about ranking for keywords in which you already rank, so it is likely not necessary to include your business name in page titles and other SEO data.

If you do not have SEO features (page title, meta description) already built into your post functionality and if you are using Wordpress, I recommend the Yoast SEO plugin.

7.  Add your selected keywords into your meta description

This is the few sentences that appear in search results below the page title which describe the content of the post. It is a great feature to help people understand what your page is about and as such it is a great place to also include your keywords. Meta descriptions should be approximately 140 characters.

A good meta description for this post could be: “Get the local knowledge on the best Mexican restaurants in Denver and see which restaurants in Denver are considered the best by the locals.”


How to add in page titles and meta descriptions with Wordpress Yoast SEO plugin


Linda Rubright

Linda Rubright is a veteran of the digital marketing arena with over 15 years in the space. She has worked with companies from major Fortune 5s  to small start-ups in the US and around the world. She also is the founder of The Delicious Day, a blog on living and working well. She can be reached at linda@thedeliciousday.com.

Top 3 tips for a better website + how to integrate social media

It’s third quarter for most of us. How’s your year shaping up? I always encourage clients to revisit their brand strategy once per quarter – and this includes your all-important website. For most businesses, your website is the crown jewel of your marketing efforts, your storefront, your showpiece. But often we spend so much time putting it up and then seem to forget about it.

If your website strategy is off, you could be missing out on sales and customer connections. So today, we’re getting priceless tips for a better website from one of the best in the biz.

Norma Maxwell is one of my favorite people and partners. She’s a designer, interactive strategist, and founder of Connect Interactive. Norma and her team help clients create an online presence that not only connects with people, but resonates long after they have made their first contact.

Today, she shares three tips for great sales pages, how to incorporate all your social media channels, and how to layout your page for maximum pop.

RS: Welcome Norma! Everyone struggles with setting up great sales and landing pages.  Do you have three top tips for doing this right and achieving your sales goals?


  1. Understand who will be visiting your page.  This informs every single decision you will make relating to your visual layout/design, your written content, and your calls-to-action (prompts that “call” your visitor to do something when they get to your page).
  2. Create a compelling message (visually and through your copy).  This is where the importance of knowing your brand and your messaging will come in.  If someone has taken the time to visit your page, make sure they find consistency, professionalism, credibility  when they get there.  This is the foundation of a lasting conversion.
  3. Capture your visitors information so you can stay in touch.  Give them a good reason to opt-in to you list.  You can offer a free download, sample chapter of your book, or access to a webinar—just make sure it is something that provides real value for your visitors.  And think about how you will manage your list when people do show enough interest to opt-in.  Make sure you are sending the right messages to your audience.  Create value so that they will want to hear from you in their already overcrowded inbox. Some people will just want to see what you have to say from time to time; they don’t want to forget about you (which is why they opted-in), but they are not going to buy anytime soon.  Others are very interested in what you have to offer, and if you follow up in the right way, with the right email messages, they will convert to customers quickly.

RS: How the heck can businesses integrate social media strategies effectively to drive visitors to their website? Should your website be your primary destination vs. Facebook, etc?

NM: Your social media efforts will be the most effective when you provide value and remain consistent.  This is challenging, especially for solopreneurs, but if you will take a few hours each month to plan, it is much less time consuming and painful. Once you have a plan in place, you can hire someone to help you keep the plan implemented for just a few hours each week.

At a minimum your business should have a Facebook and Twitter presence.  A LinkedIn presence is also important and increasingly so with the advent of Company pages.  If you can take advantage of more social media sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest, etc. definitely go for it!  The more pathways you have that lead others to your website (your home base), the better.  It all comes down to what you can manage with the resources you have available to you.

Your website is the destination where you will house all of your most important information in one place—think of it as your physical business location (office, storefront, etc.), whereas your social media satellite spots are wonderful tools for building buzz and driving people to your website where they will become a lasting part of your online community or better yet, a new customer or client.

RS: Can you give us 3 tips to consider when laying out your web page? Does it differ by industry? Are there hard and fast rules for what should go “above the fold” or how you should entice people to sign up for your email list?


  1. This is the same as #1 above.  The first consideration when laying out your webpage is who will be visiting you there.  What kind of personality do they have?  What are their needs and wants?  What will you say to them visually and through your copy? What is it that that particular person needs to see and hear in order to want to stay in touch with you, or do business with you?
  2. Make sure your message is clear (and your message is conveyed through your visuals—the colors you choose, your brand mark or logo if you have one, any other graphics that are present; your copy—the name of your company, the headlines you use, the verbiage you choose for your newsletter sign-up box, the messaging you have on your home page to let visitors know what you’re all about and why they are in the right place), because your message lets them know that you GET them!
  3. What will be above the fold.  There is a section of your website that will be visible without visitors having to scroll down.  This is called “above the fold.”  This is prime real estate on you website because if someone is just clicking through looking for something, this is the place you will either capture or lose their attention.  You really want to maximize this space by making sure it is visually captivating, makes it crystal clear where they are and why they should care, and invites them to stay in contact with you—because maybe you are not what they happened to be looking for right now, and yet, you have piqued their interest enough that they do not want to forget about you.  If they are really in a hurry, the difference between suggesting to them “what they should do” and not, is the difference between a lost visitor or a new contact.  You don’t have to do everything possible to capture them (because the possibilities are numerous and that’s another article!), but a few that are worth considering include:

– Suggest they “Bookmark” your site.  If you do, they probably will (which makes is much easier for them to find you again).  If you don’t, they may or may not.

– Suggest they “Sign Up” for your newsletter.  You can use some of the ideas mentioned above to make it worth their time and effort and to in effect “thank them” for letting you visit them in their inbox from time to time.

– Call them to “Join” your community if you are a membership website, or “Join” you on Facebook where you can foster a community around your brand.

– Make sure icons to all of your social media locations are placed above the fold—those that want to learn more about you are going to want to find those places, so keep it easy for them.

– Call them to “Read” your latest blog post (and beyond that, at the end, go ahead and Ask them to comment, or ask a question so they will comment with an answer—you will be amazed at how simply asking/prompting your visitors in the direction you want them to go will make a difference.

– Call them to “Register” for a webinar or conference

– Ask them to “Buy” your book or product

You get the idea—obviously you can’t do all of this above the fold (without creating a sense of clutter—which I wouldn’t recommend), so choose the things that are most important to you (and to your visitor) and put them higher up on your home page.  I always advise clients to keep their opt-in list above the fold because it is an opportunity to connect regularly and on a deeper level with visitors that is difficult to match.

Which tip will you put into practice today to engage customers on your website and turn browsers into buyers? Please share in the Comments!