July 22, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

They’re calling for a heat index of 120 today. Yuck! Sounds like the perfect weather for staying indoors with the AC and catching up on some biz reads. Here are my suggestions:

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November 9, 2010

Lose the Link Farm: 5 Better Ways to Trade Links and Cross Promote

Filed under: SEO — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 5:47 am

If you’re an old timer, you may remember back in the day when indie artisans used to trade links. You’d create a page of links to indie shops and trade links with all your friends who sold online. A zillion years ago, this was an okay thing to do. By today’s standards, this practice is over. Search engines have become wise to these spammy pages and humans don’t have much interest in them. This doesn’t mean you can’t/shouldn’t trade links with other designers. It just means you should change how you do it. Link building is still a very important part of SEO and getting links is a great way to get seen. It’s just important that you make your link building process organic and useful to the humans who visit your website. Below are a few ways to trade links and cross-promote in a modern and more effective way. These techniques carry SEO benefits and have a more natural presence on your website or blog:

1. Guest Posts
If you have a blog for your online business, one thing you can do is allow friends to guest post. You can also write guest posts for them. In the guest post it makes sense to link back to the author’s website. This is better than a plain old link exchange because it’s a more natural way to link off-site and it generates content.

2. Designer Spotlight
Design blogs like Modish and Creature Comforts do almost nothing but spotlight the work of various designers. While your own blog should mainly be about your work or things that interest your readers, there’s no reason you can’t do spotlight features on designers you know or are inspired by. Like guest posting, these posts create content and are a more natural way to spread the word about other designers.

3. Style Guide
When you flip through your favorite magazines, you’ll notice they do inspiration boards that highlight trends. They might do an inspiration board based on gifts under $10 or summer footwear. (See an example here). You can do something similar with your blog. Talk to some other artisans about creating style guides or inspiration boards with themes and then use each other’s products for content. Maybe you’d want to do a gift guide for moms or a spotlight on top winter wear. You can work with designers who sell products that are complimentary but don’t compete with your products.

4. Contests
Co-sponsoring a contest with a fellow designer is a great way for companies to promote each other. Co-sponsored contests can have tons of benefits beyond link love too! You can use them to build your mailing list, attract Facebook fans and Twitter followers. The opportunities are endless. You can double your promotional power by working with a partner and get some link juice flowing in the process.

5. Collaborations
Design collaborations are a great excuse to trade links. If you make bags, you could have an illustrator design screenprint for your bags. If you make scarves, you could have another designer design complimentary gloves. With these types of ventures, it makes sense to trade links on your blogs and product pages. In the end, you score new and improved product offerings, plus new links that people will actually check out.

Further Reading: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Cross-Promotion

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August 17, 2010

Top Tips on Designer Collaborations

Since most of my small biz readers around here are designers, I thought I’d take some time to talk about how to do collaborations with other designers. It’s something you may have been considering, but weren’t sure how to proceed. Since this is something I just recently started doing for my own apparel label, here are my top recommendations.

1. Pick the Right Partners
Choose the designers you collaborate with carefully. Pick someone whose aesthetic sense meshes well with your own. If you’ve established a modern brand that’s all about clean lines and muted colors, you don’t want to partner with an artist whose work looks inspired by a tattoo shop.

You may want to start off by working with artists you know. If you don’t know anyone who’s a good fit, try contacting some designers whose work you feel would be a perfect fit and send them a proposal.

2. Discuss the Division of Labor
Discuss exactly who will do what for the collaboration. If you sell soaps and you’re having another artist do your package design, make sure you decide who exactly will be responsible for taking the final art to the printer and paying them.

If you’re going to be doing marketing, discuss who will be doing what. Will you both be blogging about one anothers’ businesses? Will you be mentioning the project in your company newsletters? Is using a photo depicting collaborative work in advertisements acceptable? Who will actually hold and sell the merchandise?

3. Payment and Notification Policies
Make sure you discuss who gets paid what? Determine when payments will be made and how each partner will be notified of sales.

My apparel label gives guest artists 50% of net sales and we’ve programmed our site to notify our guest artists each time a sale comes in that involves their collaboration. We have our site calculate commissions at the end of each month and then we pay our partners.

4. Legalese and Other Logistics
Make sure you save all emails exchanged for legal reasons. You may also want to have a collaboration agreement that you ask partners to sign. At the very least, make sure you have clear stated terms on the rules of your collaborative project. Also discuss whether the relationship will be ongoing, have a limited edition of product attached to it, be canceled after a certain date, etc.

Make sure you also discuss matters like coupons or cost increases that may affect the commission you can offer your partners.

Lastly, if your products are branded, and I hope they are, discuss this with your partner. Will they object to having your brand’s name on the final product? Will you be listing two brand names on the final product? How and where will you be giving credit to your collaboration partner?

The most important thing is clear and detailed communication. Make sure you both feel that all questions have been answered in a satisfactory manner before any collaborative work begins.

Have you done a collaboration? What tips would you give?

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April 19, 2010

The Best Thing I Did For My Business Part 5: Success by Association

Filed under: Case Studies — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 11:11 am

Canoodling Owls by barkingbirdart

Getting an endorsement from a well-respected source can lead to a huge growth in your business. While many brands think of celebrity endorsements as the holy grail, you need not limit your search for endorsement prospects to the rich and famous.

PlaySportsTV.com, an online retailer of coaching videos for parents, teachers, and other volunteers, has partnered with numerous organizations to grow their brand. They’ve secured a partnership with the National Council of Youth Sports, offered discounted rates on their products to city athletic leagues and participated in a giveaway with 11 Burger Kings in Erie, PA.

PlaySportsTV may not have NFL pros promoting their wares, but they have well-respected organizations in their corner; organizations with direct connections to the brand’s target market.

Do It Yourself:
Make a list of other business or organizations you could partner with to reach your customers. Do you sell baby clothing? Why not partner with a company that sells maternity products. If you sell custom wedding invitations consider trying to form alliances with wedding planners.

Start by making a list of all the organizations that have relationships with your target market. Then try to think of how you’d like to approach them and what you have to offer them in exchange for their help. Will you offer their audience discounts? Will you make a charitable donation? Will you offer products for a sweepstakes?

Send queries to the groups you’d like to partner with, proposing a mutually beneficial relationship.

Tried This Tactic?
Have you formed a valuable alliance with another organization? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

<< Read Part 1: Self-Promotion
<< Read Part 2: Twitter
<< Read Part 3: Giving Customers VIP Deals
<< Read Part 4: Expanding Your Line
Read Part 6: Well-Timed Campaigns >>
Read Part 7: Stimulating the Senses >>
Read Part 8: Harnessing the Press >>

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April 2, 2010

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Every day I check out the 100s of subscriptions in my RSS feed about marketing, PR, advertising, branding, social media, and a host of other topics of interest to small businesses that sell online. Most of what gets posted isn’t earth shattering but I reserve Fridays for the best reads of the week. So here you have it, the most valuable things I read in the business blogosphere this week:

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October 8, 2009

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Cross-Promotion (but were afraid to ask)

Filed under: Branding,Promotions — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 11:39 am

Imagine you have a company newsletter with 300 subscribers. Your website gets 3000 visitors each month and you’ve managed to amass 100 fans on Facebook. You’re using these channels to promote special sales and discount codes and seeing a trickle of a response from customers. Now imagine you could let two or three times as many people know about your current promotions without spending a dime. How is such a thing possible? With cross-promotion!

Cross-promotion is marketing activity that is mutually beneficial for two or more businesses. You may already engage in some of this now by having a friend in business insert your promotional flyers into orders she ships to customers. Big businesses do this type of marketing too. You’ve probably seen the Geico commercials featuring Mrs. Butterworth syrup, for example. There are lots of ways to engage in cross-promotional activities but before we explore some examples, first you need to know how to pick the right partner…

Read the rest of this article on Modish Biztips, where I posted it as a guest contributor >>

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