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On Women: Leading, Mentoring and Changing the Face of Business

March is Women’s History Month. Some 10.1 million firms are owned or co-owned by women, 40 percent of all businesses in the U.S., says the Center for Women’s Business Research. Between 2002 and 2007, women created almost twice as many businesses as men, according to data from the Census Bureau.

There is much written and unwritten about women business leaders, much proposed and assumed, and much left to say. So, I asked eight women business leaders three questions, and I think their answers have a great deal to offer in terms of what this group thinks about being a business owner, and being a woman. (You can find three answers below and answers from Martha Beck, Pam Slim, Nancy Duarte, Carol Roth and Sarah Robinson on AMEX OPENForum)

Lisa Barone is Co-Founder and Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media, Inc. She is widely known for her honest industry observations, her inability to not say exactly what she’s thinking

Who would you list as your primary role models when staring and building your business? And why?

Lisa: Vanessa Fox I didn’t necessarily look to her as a role model in terms of starting a business (though she’s done a fine job of that), but more as an example of how I wanted to conduct myself and be seen in my industry. Vanessa is the brain responsible for building Google Webmaster Central, but since then she’s gone off to start her own consulting firm, is ever-present in search, and is just someone who does things *right*. She does them for the right reasons and with her clients’ best interests in mind. And that’s important to me.  It was also important to have someone in my sights who works just as hard today as she did before she became a success.  She’s kept her head and she’s an expert at what she does.  Who wouldn’t look to someone like that for an example?

Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Executive Editor of Small Business Trends and co-autor of Visual Marketing: 99 Proven Ways for Small Businesses to Market with Images and Design

Do you feel you’ve been able to contribute something unique to your business precisely because you are a woman? If so, please elaborate.

Anita: Usually I try not to dwell on gender, but as I look back I think being a woman made me work all the harder, and not give up.  Whether real or perceived, I felt I needed to strive to be better than men in whatever I took on because I was a woman.  Whether I really HAD to be better than my male counterparts or was in fact being treated differently is not the point.  I felt that way — and it drove me.  So much of our success in business starts in the 6 inches between our ears (i.e., in our own minds) that we become a product of what we believe.  And so, because I believed I had to work harder, I did work harder. While I might never have been the most creative or the most brilliant, I can say that I worked harder than many to build my business.

Known as The Barefoot Executive, Carrie Wilkerson is a mentor/coach/adviser to over 100,000 men and women as the Barefoot Executive through videos, podcasts, masterminding, mentoring and live speaking. She is the author of The Barefoot Executive: The Ultimate Guide for Being Your Own Boss and Achieving Financial Freedom

How would you characterize the differences between male and female business owners?

Carrie: I would say that, for whatever reason, men do seem more driven to keep going while women seem to slow down their growth when they think it is ‘enough.’ Other than that, maybe I’m naive, but I don’t see that many differences. I do get the ‘how do I balance work and life better’ question more from women than men. So either men have that figured out or it’s not top of mind for them.

Wednesday Guest Stars

Here are your guest contributors for Wednesday’s edition of the Duct Tape Marketing Small Business Week iPad Giveaway.

Read each of the five posts that follow and click our entry form link to match the guest star with their post.

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a social media strategist, thinker, speaker and educator. SocialMediaExplorer.com is owned, co-authored and edited by Jason.  He also offers a question-and-answer and learning community at ExploringSocialMedia.com. Social Media Explorer is also the name of Falls’s consulting company which focuses on strategic counsel for medium and large companies in the realm of social media marketing, digital marketing, online communications and public relations.

Lee Odden

Lee Odden is the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in strategic internet marketing consulting, training and implementation services including: Content, Search, Email and Social Media Marketing.  As an active thought leader in the search marketing industry, he’s contributed to top industry publications such as Mashable, iMedia Connection and Yahoo Search Marketing Blog along with publishing TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog.

Shama Kabani

Web and TV personality. Bestselling author. International Speaker. Award winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global digital marketing firm.  Shama is a bestselling author with her book –The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue.  When not working directly with her clients or shooting her show, Shama travels the world speaking on business, entrepreneurship, and technology.

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone is Co-Founder and Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media, Inc and writes for the Outspoken Media Blog. She has been involved in the SEO community since 2006 and is widely known for her honest industry observations, her inability to not say exactly what she’s thinking, and her excessive on-the-clock twittering at @lisabarone.

Rae Hoffman-Dolan

Rae is the Principal of Sugarrae SEO Consulting and does various types of Internet marketing; search engine optimization, viral marketing, affiliate marketing, site auditing, link development road maps and tons of other little nooks and crannies of this business.  She is also the co-founder, co-owner and CEO of MFE Interactive in addition to being the co-owner and SVP of Marketing for Speedy Incorporation.

2 I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 1

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone is Co-Founder and Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media, Inc and writes for the Outspoken Media Blog. She has been involved in the SEO community since 2006 and is widely known for her honest industry observations, her inability to not say exactly what she’s thinking, and her excessive on-the-clock twittering at @lisabarone.

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 1

You should be doing what so many of your competitors are NOT doing – turning your attention toward building excitement around yourself and your brand.

First, begin growing the site’s presence by guest blogging on industry-relevant blogs to build your own authority as an expert, drive eyes to your site and to build those all-important links and relationships. Don’t start out targeting the A-listers, but the up-and-comers and the folks who appear just as hungry as you. Go through the same process on Twitter (you have one of those accounts, right?), using tools like Twitter Search, Twellow, and Tweepz to find like-minded Twitter users that you can follow and connect with. Get involved in Twitter chats, industry podcasts, and community events. The combination of reaching out in the blogosphere, on Twitter, and to your in-store customers will help you lay the groundwork of building a super awesome promotional army that you can push news too.

With your army intact, drive them wild with excitement, simultaneously building your brand karma by hosting or sponsoring a contest or event. It could be as simple as lending your name to something that’s already going on, giving away a product or gadget, hosting a Twitter party or something more old school like sponsoring a Late Night at your store where you stay open late and offer some cool (and URL-branded) giveaways and raffles. Because while having a Web site is great, taking the steps you need to build your promotional army to help you GROW that site is even better. Otherwise, yeah, nice Web site, dude. No one cares.

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 2

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Rae Hoffman-Dolan

Rae is the Principal of Sugarrae SEO Consulting and does various types of Internet marketing; search engine optimization, viral marketing, affiliate marketing, site auditing, link development road maps and tons of other little nooks and crannies of this business. She is also the co-founder, co-owner and CEO of MFE Interactive in addition to being the co-owner and SVP of Marketing for Speedy Incorporation.

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 2

If you’re a local service based business, you may have noticed Google Places listings are steadily becoming a dominant force in the Google results for your most important local terms:

Various guides to optimizing Google Places listings agree that the reviews shown with your Places listing are an important part of getting to the top of those rankings. The reviews shown on your Places listing come from multiple sources across the web including big “local” sites like InsiderPages, Citysearch, Yelp as well as niche sites like Zagat and TripAdvisor and tons more. (Tip: click on your competitors’ listings to see additional sites their reviews are coming from.)

So the question becomes, how do you GET people to leave the reviews needed to rank well in Google for your local terms?

Create a “review page” on your website that links to all of your listing pages that you see being used in the reviews of your Places listing. Explain how you love providing great service and encourage customers to review your service.

Make customers aware of the review page via:

  • Business cards – on the back: “Love our service? Reward us by giving us an awesome review [link]”
  • Generic follow up emails – Check how they liked your service, ask for feedback – if the feedback is positive, suggest they might be interested in leaving a review [drop link]
  • Follow up when people leave positive traditional comment cards – thank them for their feedback and mention they can leave reviews about their experience online [drop link]
  • Add a “tell us how you found us” field to your contact form listing the biggest local review sites as options. Follow up with happy customers who say they found you via Yelp to remind them to leave their own review on the site [drop Yelp listing link]

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here

1 I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 3

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a social media strategist, thinker, speaker and educator. SocialMediaExplorer.com is owned, co-authored and edited by Jason. He also offers a question-and-answer and learning community at ExploringSocialMedia.com. Social Media Explorer is also the name of Falls’s consulting company which focuses on strategic counsel for medium and large companies in the realm of social media marketing, digital marketing, online communications and public relations.

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 3

The web is not a venue where, “if you build it, they will come.” You have to make sure your audience knows your website is there and that it can help them. Spend some time discovering where your customers and people like them are hanging out on the web. (Hint: Assuming you want twice as many of the types of customers you already have, why not ask them?) Do they read blogs? Are they Facebook users? Is Twitter their thing? When you start to see where it is the people you want to attract are, go there, participate in the community on those platforms and provide your insights and expertise (not your catalog) to build trust and attract people to want to know more about you.

That’s it! There’s no big mystery here. Find your audience, serve them well. Remind them occasionally you’re there to help when they need you. Provided your website leads people to clear calls-to-action that you’re measuring, do that and you’ll see your needles move.

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 4

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Lee Odden

Lee Odden is the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in strategic internet marketing consulting, training and implementation services including: Content, Search, Email and Social Media Marketing. As an active thought leader in the search marketing industry, he’s contributed to top industry publications such as Mashable, iMedia Connection and Yahoo Search Marketing Blog along with publishing TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog.

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 4

One of the most common forms of online marketing for small businesses is to have a website. The problem is, with today’s increasingly social and mobile web, a web site just isn’t enough.

To help website owners take full advantage of the most important online marketing opportunities, here are 3 things small businesses can do to attract and engage new customers.

Content Publishing & Marketing: Consumers are interacting with multiple content sources before purchase and businesses that provide useful information beyond product features and benefits can attract more traffic and referrals.

Tips, articles, videos and experts interviews provide customers with the information they need to buy and refer to others. Useful content optimized with keywords also attracts more search engine traffic and links.

Social Media & Networking – 90% of marketers say that social media is important for their business according to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Report. Word of mouth, referrals and buzz on social networks can increase awareness, build trust and influence sales.

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube offer useful platforms for small businesses to be helpful and share information with networks far beyond their customer base.

Local & Mobile – By 2014, mobile Internet will take over desktop Internet according to Microsoft Tag Lab. Small business websites can increase page views by offering a mobile friendly version of their website. They can also increase visibility on local search by making sure they’ve claimed their listings on Google Places and Bing Business Listings.

By integrating their web site investment with useful content, social media and local marketing efforts, small businesses can make sure they’re visible wherever their customers are looking and provide great reasons to refer even more new business.

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 5

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Shama Kabani

Web and TV personality. Bestselling author. International Speaker. Award winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global digital marketing firm. Shama is a bestselling author with her book –The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue. When not working directly with her clients or shooting her show, Shama travels the world speaking on business, entrepreneurship, and technology.

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 5

Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step towards dominating the internet. You have a website that is well-designed, well-functioning, and most importantly well converting. (Correct?) Now, let’s look at 3 things that you can do to continue to market online.

1)     Create Compelling Content. There is a lot of noise on the internet. Don’t add to it. That being said, people still turn to the web to research, learn, and buy. It used to be that the loudest merchant in the bazaar won. Today, it’s the merchant that provides the most value and really takes the time to educate the consumers. Don’t let your website sit idle. Continue to create and post content that will provide value to your visitors.

2)     Keep in Touch with ALL Visitors. Well, almost all. If you’ve ever watched the classic “You’ve Got Mail!” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, then you remember the excitement on their faces each time AOL announced “You’ve got mail!”  There can never be a remake of the movie. Why? Because no one is that excited to get email today. Not you, not me, and you guessed it…not your customers. That isn’t to say that email marketing is no longer efficient. But, that you need to give your visitors and prospects options. Perhaps they can join your email list. But, can they also like your page on Facebook? How about follow you on Twitter? Or, subscribe to your blog? Once someone lands on your website, make sure that they have plenty of ways to keep in touch with you. And, most importantly, you with them.

3)     Leverage people as the media. Also known as social media. Every single customer or client has the potential of becoming a champion or a critic. And, you have the power to sway them. Use websites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to build a community around your audience.

Your website is a crucial piece of the web marketing puzzle. But, it is just the start!

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here

14 How To Use Surprise To Generate Word Of Mouth

This post is a special Make a Referral Week guest post featuring education on the subject of referrals and word of mouth marketing and making 1000 referrals to 1000 small businesses – check it out at Make a Referral Week 2010

Your customers live their life in a routine. I mean, we all do. We wake up at the same time; start our day off completing the same rituals; and then take the same route to work, switching on autopilot as soon as we get there. We’re creatures of habit. Our job as marketers is to both use and break these habits, replacing bad ones (not being our customer) with good ones (being our customer). But to do that, we first have to get their attention. We have to find a way to wake our customers from their zombie slumber and make them see us. We have to disrupt their routine.

And that’s where surprise marketing comes in.

Surprise breeds word of mouth by attacking the “been there, done that” mentality of customers and shattering it with something designed to cause a reaction. Because, the only thing to give the person who has everything is something they’ve never seen or thought of before.

How Surprise Breeds Worth Of Mouth

It’s said a lot that if you want people to talk about your business that you need to give them something to talk about. Well, that’s pretty much what surprise marketing does. It breaks up your customer’s every day and it gives them something new – tangible or not – to remember and hold on to. It ties you to an experience. As a small business owner, surprise marketing is perfectly suited for your business because it requires that you really know the people that you’re targeting. No one knows their audience as well as someone who lives in it every day. And once you know what they’re expecting, it’s your job to give them what they’re not.

Oprah utilized surprise marketing when she gave away 276 Pontiac G6s and offered Pontiac “immediate recognition as the feel-good automaker”. But in the real world (as opposed to Oprah-vision), surprise marketing doesn’t have to mean big dollars. It means creativity.

Surprise marketing works by giving someone something they needed at a time they weren’t expecting it. It’s chilled milk and cookies after a long day at Disney. It’s a person hiding in the Coke machine to hand deliver you and your friends a soda. It’s the bottle of water you’re handed by the hotel when you come back from a run.

It’s about creating experiences that people are going to want to share with their friends.

How To Surprise Your Customers

You surprise customers when you create something that is both personal and valuable to them. Decide what feeling you’re trying to inspire (awe, joy, excitement, disbelief, horror, etc) and then get creative about how you can deliver that. And when you’re doing it, think small. Don’t go for the elaborate plan. Go as small as you can with it, because it’s the little things done better than someone would ever expect that create the biggest buzz. That’s how you get people talking about you and inspire someone to make that referral – you tie an emotional response to what you’re doing.

How can a small business owner incorporate surprise marketing to inspire referrals from customers?

Show Up Where They Don’t Expert: When you drove to work today, there were certain things you expected to encounter– traffic, the usual landmarks, your same parking spot. You weren’t expecting to see, say, a 27-foot-long hot dog parked outside your building. And if you did, it would take a pack of wild dogs to stop you from talking about it. . And that’s exactly why Oscar Mayer created the Wienermobile and why they park it in random cities across the country. Because while you may have heard about it, you’d never expect it to show up in your hometown. And when it does, you talk about it.

Go Further Than You Have To: Go that extra step to create a WOW moment. Zappos does this by offering surprise overnight shipping so that customers unexpectedly receive their order just hours after they placed it. It creates an experience of “awe” when exactly what they wanted shows up when they weren’t expected it. Virgin America created its own WOW moment, rescuing 15 Chihuahuas from California. They did more than was required or expected and people talked.

Give Them Something Different: Lots of businesses offer free gifts along with a purchase. It’s the coupon slipped into the bag at the register, the free makeup brush someone gets with their purchase, a trial of a new scent, etc. What about giving them something they wouldn’t expect you to? Like chocolate-covered grasshoppers, perhaps. You don’t have to get pricey to surprise someone, you just have to deliver something they weren’t expecting.

Listen When They Think You’re Not: A young woman was sitting in a P.F. Chang twittering about how much she loves P.F.Chang’s chicken lettuce wraps – a pretty normal occurrence in today’s social media-heavy world, right? What she didn’t know was that an employee in the P.F. Chang’s Corporate Office saw the tweet, figured out what restaurant the customer was at and tracked her down to her specific table with the help of onsite staff. P.F. Chang’s then purchased the woman’s dinner for her and bought her dessert to say “thanks for visiting”. The Twitterer was shocked that the restaurant was listening so closely to customers and the story is now legend. Pretty cool, and not that difficult to pull off.

Make The Little Things, Big Things: Disneyworld left milk and cookies in Scott Stratten’s hotel room when he was there with his son so they could have a snack to enjoy together. The Westin Long Beach hands out water bottles to guests who walk into the hotel after a run. By getting those tiny, personal gestures correct you set up those moments that your customers will take home and want to brag about later. You create an experience and a memory by making the little things big things in your organization.

Obviously there are many other ways to surprise and capture the attention of your audience, but those will help get you started. Perhaps it’s the child in me, but I love using surprise marketing as a way to spread word of mouth and bring in referrals. It challenges you to look inward to change the course of someone’s day in a way that they’ll remember and positively associate with your brand. Not every profession is in the habit of creating memories. It’s the power of the unexpected and it doesn’t get much better than that.

Lisa Barone is Co-Founder and Chief Branding Officer at Outspoken Media, Inc., an Internet marketing company that specializes in providing clients with online reputation management, social media services and other Internet services. When she’s not blogging daily over at the Outspoken Media blog, you can find her guestposting on popular blogs like Search Engine Land, BlogWorldExpo, Sugarrae and a host of others.