Back to School! 3 Ways to Prepare for the New Season & Improve Your Bottom Line

September 1, 2015 Sydney Stone

I don’t know about you, but I get excited every time I see the first “Back to School” commercial of the season. It reminds me of that famous scene from “You’ve Got Mail” where Tom Hanks tells Meg Ryan he would send her a freshly sharpened bouquet of pencils. Even though my school days are long gone, this time of year always gives me the desire to learn something new.

If you operate a small business, why not consider learning some new skills that can help you grow?  Here are three subjects you should consider “majoring in” this fall:

Subject #1: Content Development

You’ve heard it a million times before. Content is king. You have to learn to write content that will engage and educate your audience. Provide your readers with helpful tips that will either a) make their lives easier or their businesses profitable, or b) entertain them.

If you own a gym, provide your readers with health and fitness tips. If you own a dog spa, your audience wants to know how they can take better care of their pets. Tailor your content to a specific need, make sure it is well-written, throw in some humor and great graphics, and you’ll have an engaged audience that keeps coming back for more.

Here are a couple of resources that can help you create amazing content:

AnnHandley.com

Ann Handley is a content goddess. She is the author of “Everybody Writes” and the co-author of “Content Rules.” Her website is chock full of helpful tips and advice. Be sure to download her helpful “Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Next Piece of Content” infographic.

ProBlogger.net

If you want to learn how to grow your company’s blog, become a student of Darren Rowse. Darren was one of the first people to start blogging before anyone had ever heard of such of thing. His years of experience and proven tactics will provide you with all the knowledge you need to develop a successful blog.

Subject #2: Email Marketing

Contrary to popular belief, email is not dead. It’s just in a very deep sleep. It’s getting harder and harder to reach potential clients via email. We’ve all got filters and rules and big mean bouncers that stand outside our email door deciding whether or not your message is “worthy” enough to come inside. If you want us to add you to our “guest list” (i.e., opt-in), you’d better make sure your email meets our standards.

Think about how you deal with email on a daily basis. There are certain emails that get deleted immediately. And then there are those that you actually open. Ones with catchy or funny subject lines that piques your interest, or newsletters that you’ve signed up for because the content is specifically targeted to you.

Your assignment for this fall season is to become an email marketing genius. Learn how to create emails that get high open rates and conversions. Find out how to write the perfect subject line, what words and phrases you should avoid, and how to comply with CAN-SPAM laws.

Here are a couple of websites that can act as your email marketing “classrooms.”

The Marketo Email Marketing Blog

Marketo is a top automated marketing solution in the market. The company’s blog features some of the most useful and well-written eBooks and definitive guides available on the internet. Certainly worth a spot on your bookmark bar.

Constant Contact Blog

The Constant Contact blog contains an extensive knowledge-base of useful tips for email marketing. From choosing the right colors and fonts for your email to how to increase your open rates, you’ll find it all here.

Subject #3: Social Media

If you want to be successful in today’s market, you HAVE to embrace social media. It is absolutely the best way to reach your target audience. At the very least, you should have a company Facebook page and Twitter account, although Instagram and Pinterest are the social media outlets of the moment.

Why is social media so important? Because this is where your customers are spending the majority of their time. You have a much better chance of grabbing your audience’s attention with a clever Twitter post or beautiful Instagram photo that you do with an email.

The greatest advantage of social media is that it is basically free. You can certainly consider buying Facebook and Twitter ads in the future, but you should have a thorough understanding of how these channels work prior to launching advertising campaigns.

Here are a few places to learn about social media:

Hootsuite’s Resource Library

Hootsuite is a social media management tool that lets you control all of your social media accounts in one dashboard. You can schedule posts, monitor mentions, and monitor the activity of your competitors as well. The Hootsuite resource library is full of educational content that will make you a social media expert in no time.

Social Media Examiner

Billed as the world’s largest online social media magazine, you’ll find everything you need to know about social media on Social Media Examiner. Sign up for their email list to get helpful tips sent right to your inbox and you’ll receive a free copy of their Social Media Marketing Industry Report.

Strapped for time? Check out these easy and printable, social media cheat sheets for both Facebook and Twitter.

So, are you ready to go back to school now? Are you ready to brush up on the skills that will grow your business? Set aside a little time each day to study these subjects, do your homework, and not only will you be rewarded with smiley faces on your report card, but you’ll also graduate with higher profits.

About the Author

Sydney Stone

Sydney Stone is a freelance writer and editor of the popular fashion blog Stylaphile. She has written several pieces for various startup and B2B technology companies and has published two collections of ten-minute plays by up-and-coming playwrights entitled Stage This! Sydney is also a content marketing specialist with extensive experience managing Marketo and Pardot automated marketing programs.

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