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Elder Care and Senior Service Marketers – The Secret Formula For Low Cost High Return Marketing
Most of us are probably not in a position to throw caution to the wind when it comes to our own marketing budget. Most of us want our marketing programs and strategies to work well the FIRST time we try them, and as we know, that’s always a gamble. Postcard mailings aren’t what they used to be. Direct mail doesn’t have the same impact. Seminar and workshops are expensive when food is served, and there’s never a guaranteed ROI on any of it.
Today there are other ways to market to your local community without spending tons of money. I will be the first to say that “in person networking” can never be replaced. The handshake and the ability to look someone in the eye is still just as important as ever. However, with a little web savvy, you can start those conversations a lot sooner, and educate a lot faster than ever before. Your reach has been enhanced by the power of the internet.
I’ve written about this before but the truth of the matter is that this method of marketing is not only the latest trend, but it is one that I expect will last. If you aren’t on this bandwagon yet, get on fast.
The important part of understanding today’s marketing techniques is that total transparency and relationship building with your target market is the key to success. Long gone are the days when we can hide behind our websites.
Transparency does not mean writing on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog about the latest fight you have with your spouse, or what the neighbor’s bad kids are up to. What it does mean is that you are willing to share enough about yourself and your value system to build a level of trust with your local community that is unmatched. The more “accessible” you are online, the more accessible your prospects will be and the more credibility you will gain. Talk about yourself as the owner, add a picture, talk about your personal experiences that lead you to this business, or to want to work with seniors. Be real. Be honest. Depending on who is reading this I would suggest that most seniors have lived longer than you. They have made more important decisions about their lives than you have, and most can spot dishonesty or half-truths a mile away. Transparency means earning the trust of a skeptical customer.
Social media marketing is free, and it works if done correctly. Plain and simple.
More baby-boomers and seniors are on the internet than ever before. Suddenly there are tons of articles out there talking about Grandpa on Facebook and MySpace. You need to be where your target market hangs out!
I’m about to give away my secret formula that will transform your business into a marketing machine. Yes, it takes a little time, sort of like a weekend painting project, but once it’s done, the time you spend updating your information takes just a couple of hours a week. (But you will be addicted to it, so I know you will spend more time than just 2 hours a week!)
The equipment needed for a project like this is minimal- you might want to invest in a good headset with a microphone for your computer so that you can record audio or video if you like. Amazon carries a wide variety of headsets at a reasonable price.
Step 1: (The longest step in the process)
Setting up your online accounts may take a bit of time, but well worth the investment.
Here are the initial accounts I recommend for the fastest and most sustainable results:
· Facebook Personal Account (using your own name, your picture, etc, no logos). Connections on Facebook personal are “friends”.
· Facebook Business Page (this is where you use your logo and other business related items. Connections on your Facebook business page are “fans”.
· Your Blog. Use WordPress to create a fast and easy blog that lets you get the message out about your area of expertise. Be sure to use their tutorials to learn how to use categories and tags to your advantage. Remember that when you post on your blog use titles that identify your location and your product or service. For instance, instead of a title like “April Events”, use “April Reverse Mortgage Seminars in Miami, FL”. See the difference? The search engines will play their hand in your favor with the second title.
· Set up your Twitter account. I know, you aren’t really sure WHY you need twitter, but believe me some amazing deals go down every day because of good Twitter Posts (called tweets). Once you have your account set up, go to twellow and type in a search for people in your area. Start connecting with your local community by “Following” people in your town. They will follow you back.
· LinkedIn is next. This is an important website for professionals because unlike Facebook, Twitter, and other places, LinkedIn is for the true business to business networking. Many connections that you make on LinkedIn will turn into in-person meetings down the road. Use it to your advantage. Be sure you use the “WordPress” feature to add your blog posts directly to your LinkedIn profile instantly. (Automation at it’s finest!)
· Use FriendFeed to link everything together. FriendFeed ties all of your accounts together. Once you connect your accounts to FriendFeed, you will notice that when you make a blog post, it automatically shows up on Facebook, Twitter, Squidoo, and many other sites. This is another great lesson in automation. Once this step is completed your BLOG becomes the center HUB for all of your information that you want to share.
· Squidoo is important because it serves as another “web page” about you and your business. You can link Twitter, Facebook, and your blog to your Squidoo page for extra backlinking and content.
· Scribd is an odd little site that pulls a lot of punch. Turn all of your print marketing material into online material that works in your favor. Anything you have in your marketing arsenal that can be scanned or uploaded to Scribd is worth taking the time to load. When you place a document on Scribd be sure to title it the same way you would a blog post- make sure your business (elder care, home care, etc) and your location (St. Louis, MO) is in the headline or title area.
· MerchantCircle- one of my current favorites! This group has done a really good job of creating a system that gets you noticed by the search engines FAST. Open a free account. They try to upsell you at every turn, but I dare say you can do just as well with a free account. The key to MerchantCircle is to make sure the name of your company portion is filled in with your line of business and your location. So instead of “Tom’s Financial Services and Loans”, a better business listing would be simply, “Reverse Mortgages, Findlay OH”. Another tip on MerchantCircle is to make sure that you put your blog posts on from your main blog right on to your MerchantCircle blog. The more content you have the faster you move up website page ranks.
· Ideamarketers is a website where you can post articles about your niche. There is no waiting time for approval. Keep the same rules in mind- article titles should reference your location and your line of business.
· GoArticles is a similar story. Post your articles, make sure they are over 500 words. Check for spelling errors etc.
· The Senior List- This website is well optimized, and is going to be a much bigger player over the next 2 years. Get your free listing, or upgrade to paid. I recommend paid in this case, because it’s so cheap!
· Finally, type in the words that you would use to search for a Reverse Mortgage provider in your area on Google. Who comes up first? What websites are showing on the first page and can you get listed on those? If so, go for it.
Step 2: This step is super important.
I’ve written about this before. If your website is homegrown, old, outdated, and has no “call to action”, then you will never have good lead conversion results. Spend the money or the time to update your website.
· What is a “call to action”? A call to action means giving the viewer of your webpage one simple task that he or she must complete in order to get free information from you. “Enter Your Name and Email Address HERE to Access our Free Video Series on Elder Care Issues”
· What free information? Free information like a short video series on Reverse Mortgages, a free report, a free DVD, a free audio CD, or downloadable MP3. Anything tangible will work. Eliminate FREE CONSULTATION from your vocabulary online and offline. Everyone gives a free consultation, this is not an attention grabber.
· Look at your keywords, descriptions, and meta tags on your website. Make sure they reflect what you do and what you provide. If your website’s home page is labeled “Home” in your web browser, it’s not a wonder that your website isn’t getting any traffic. If this information seems like a foreign language, hire someone to help you. You need “SEO” for your website. (Search Engine Optimization) Without it, your website sucks.
· Take off links to other websites that have nothing to do with you and links that don’t make you any money. Link to your own blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Placing a link to a local Senior Center is thoughtful, but ultimately stuff like this is cluttery and strips you of Page Rank. Link to your own ads, your own pages, and your own content. Don’t link to places that don’t make you money!
Step 3: Content: How often, How much?
All of your sites need to be updated with some amount of regularity. The question becomes, how often, and how much? Where do I find content?
· Where to find content. You probably have some of your own content to begin with- look at your brochures, flyers, booklets etc. Plenty of content to get you started! However, most of us need to “borrow” content from someone else from time to time. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you follow some basic rules.
. Copying and pasting an article from the NYT or WSJ is illegal. You can’t just put other people’s copyright protected content on your website without their permissions. Getting permission can take forever and can be very expensive. So, the work-around for that is this: Post some thoughts on your blog about an article that you read online. Maybe you thought it was very timely and you want to share it with your community. Put some personal thoughts about it in your blog post and then copy and paste a LINK to that article. That way, readers will be directed straight to the NYT or WSJ website to read more. Posting your opinion is fine, and then a link. Posting the article itself is not ok. (unless you have permission)
. Another strategy is to use other authors’ content legally. On websites like EzineArticles their terms of service state that you can use any article on their website as long as you don’t change it, and always credit the author the way they do. The only restriction is that you can’t take a bunch of articles, put them in an eBook or free report and try to SELL that as a product.
. Other places to find content ideas are alltop.com and topsites.com
· How often should you update? I would recommend updating your blog no less than once a week. Articles can be written once a month or once every two months. Search engines like fresh content, and so do consumers, so keep it current and relevant. Places like Scribd, Squidoo, and other websites can be updated every few months. In the past I have posted an article on Scribd with great keywords in the title, and it shows up for over a year on the first page of Google for my keyword selection.
· How much content? Most article submission sites require that an article be at least 400 words, and although that’s not a requirement for your blog, you certainly don’t want your posts to be too short either. 400 words is often the length of a long paragraph. You can do it.
· What kind of content? In the elder care industry the best type of content is on elder care issues, but that can get old. Mix it up. Talk about Medicare, retirement issues, senior living, senior housing, prescription drug costs, traveling to visit grandkids, economic issues effecting seniors and more. You get the point. Be a good steward of your informational resources and share that content with purpose.
· Tell Stories. Seniors like stories that explain how other people in their situation or their age group made a decision that changed their lives for the better. If you have stories that meet that criteria, tell them! If you have testimonials, show them off! If you have “evangelists”( Evangelists are people who believe in you, and talk about how wonderful you are.) out there who love your work, ask them to participate on your blog, or on Facebook. Interview them and use the audio or video to your advantage (with permission of course). Get the word out and let other people toot your horn. No one knows the trouble you have seen in and client’s eyes, only to have them smile on the day of closing, knowing that their problems are solved. You owe it to your community to tell stories like that. Who knows how many other people you might help along the way!
In summary, now is the time. Actually the time was a year ago, but it’s not too late to start building an online presence. Moving forward, this cost effective form of marketing will save you thousands in hard marketing costs. Companies that don’t have a Social Media Strategy or roadmap in place now, will most likely fall behind by Q3 or Q4 of this year. I can think of few things more expensive than having to play catch-up, especially in the social media category. You can’t “buy” relationships on the social web.
I have two favorite quotes that might help some of you understand the value of investing your time and energy in to building a following online.
1. “I work extremely hard doing what I love, mainly to ensure that I don’t have to work extremely hard doing what I hate.” – Hugh Mcleod
2. “Impact is not created by big budgets, impact is created by great marketing strategies that last have a lasting result.” – Valerie
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