Building and optimizing your website from an amateur’s point of view

Twinnks

By: Rachel Kassinger & Rebecca Britton, co-founders of Twinnks 

When we decided to start Twinnks, we knew it would be primarily sold online. Therefore, our website and online presence were very important. If you’ve seen our previous blog post, you know how we feel about preparing as well as you can before you launch your company. Since a lot of startups don’t have the capital to hire a web developer—at least we certainly did not—we had to turn to good ole fashion learning-and-doing-it-ourselves.

Building your website

Luckily, there are a ton of eCommerce-ready sites designed for beginners. As a full-time Marketing Manager, I’m most familiar with WordPress, so that’s what we used. The platform offers a ton of themes and tutorials to walk you through building your website. There are a few reasons why it's so important to start building a website early:

  1. You can secure your domain. Even if you aren’t ready for the website to launch, you can have at least have the domain in place and use a “draft” site until you’re ready to go for it.

  2. You’ll learn how to navigate the website. The last thing you want is to have a live eCommerce site and no idea how to change text, pictures or products. Don’t add the stress.

  3. You’ll start understanding what you really need out of the site. With WordPress, you’re not stuck with the theme you select. You can change it out if you start working with one and realize it's missing a functionality that you realize you need.

If you’re planning to sell your product primarily online, sites like WordPress and Shopify have a very user-friendly eCommerce integration. However, it may be smart to learn what you can about setting up your online store, then hire a freelance web designer to implement it. If there is one place to spend a little money on your website, I personally think it is on the eCommerce end. You want it to be as secure and customer-friendly as possible and while I’m pretty confident in my WordPress skills, that part makes me a little nervous. 

Optimizing your website

If you’ve done any preliminary research on building websites, you’ve probably seen the term “SEO” 100 times. In the most basic sense, SEO (search engine optimization) is a strategy to get your site to come up on search engines organically, increasing quality and quantity of website traffic. What good is having a website if Google can’t find it?

Below is advice to help your website come up through the ranks.

1.     Research Keywords

What keywords or search phrases best describe the product you’re offering? If someone Googles it, will you come up? The main purpose of SEO is to help those who are looking for you to find you. Therefore, your content needs to match the phrases people are searching for. Tools like Google Keyword Planner, which is free, allow you to type or upload various keywords and they’ll give you the trends based on actual Google searches. They also tell you how competitive the keywords are and give ideas for new ones. The goal is to find keywords that have:

●      High search volumes

●      Low competition

●      Relevance to your product

Depending on your product, it can be difficult to zero in on search terms that offer all three of those factors, especially high search volumes and low competition. If a lot of people are searching for it, chances are competition is high. So start focusing on “long tail” keywords. Long tail keywords are more specific, so they tend to have lower traffic, but collectively give you better results in the long run. For example, Twinnks is a comfortable t-shirt bra that doesn’t show lines under clothes.

When you type in “t-shirt bra” or even “comfortable t-shirt bra”, there are millions of other bra companies that come up. It’s going to be very hard to secure a good spot on Google against so many other options. However, “no bra lines” or “t-shirt bra that doesn’t show lines” is much more specific and even though it’s not a common search phrase, I definitely want those people to find my website because they’ll likely convert.

Great! You’ve identified the key search terms. Now, where do you use them?

2.   Incorporate Keywords

If you have a blog (Which you should. Read our thoughts on that in this post), use those terms and phrases throughout your posts and in your website’s product descriptions. Lastly, install an SEO plugin on your website. If you’re using WordPress, I recommend Yoast. It lets you put in title tags and focus keywords for each page. It also analyzes your content for readability and gives suggestions on how to improve it. They have an extremely helpful blog and SEO courses to help you understand this insane and every-changing optimization nonsense.

3.   Monitor your site

In order to see how your SEO is doing, you’ll need to monitor it. If you haven’t already, get Google Search Console. It’s a free service Google offers that monitors your site for search queries, page rank, impressions, and click-through rate. It also allows you to submit content to be crawled, shows you any errors and how to fix them and much more. It’s a great tool and again, it’s free.

4.   Patience is a Virtue

Once you optimize your site, let it run for a little bit. Don’t expect to incorporate your keywords and immediately see them on Google. As mentioned above, submit your site to be crawled through the Google Search Console and keep an eye on the traffic results, but be mindful that it may take a few months to see the results. Your page rank and queries should start improving within a week or two, but seeing real conversions tend to take a little longer, unfortunately.

5.  Keep Learning

Google also makes minor changes to its SEO algorithm 500-600 times a year, so every once in a while read SEO blogs and articles to make sure you’re all up to date. I recommend the following blogs/courses:

●      Yoast

●      Kissmetrics

●      Moz

As I wrap this up, I can hear a collective groan from website and SEO experts everywhere screaming “there’s more to it!” and they’re right. But from one broke entrepreneur to another, I hope these simple tips help you get ahead of the digital curb without having to pay someone else to do it. Enjoy!

Top Home Office Decluttering Hacks

When was the last time you saw your desktop?

If you're drowning in piles of paper and files, try some of these simple tips to get your home office clean and keep it that way. (Hint: they're easy and not time-consuming).

1). Start from scratch.  If you have mountains of clutter on your desk and placed throughout the rest of your office, set aside at least an hour to clear out everything, and then only add the items that you use and need.

2). It's so easy to get sidetracked and not put things back after you use them throughout the day. But it'll make things a lot easier if you can get into the habit of putting everything in its place after you're done using it or at the end of the day.

3). Schedule reminders for yourself to dust your phone, computer monitor, printer, keyboard, and telephone. You'll also want to keep disinfectant wipes within reach so you can wipe down your workspace regularly.

4). Cut down on paper usage by keeping all of your files on an external hard drive or on the cloud. Scan important business documents and cards.

5). Move all your photos and videos to the cloud. I use Dropbox which is free and is easily accessible from any computer, tablet, or smart phone.

6). Try to avoid saving all of your files to your desktop. Try to keep them filed away in the appropriate folders and backed up on the cloud.

7). Remove all personal items from your desktop except for one or two pictures. Maybe hang a picture over your desk or a cool piece of art to add some decor.

8). It sounds so obvious, but get a filing cabinet for your financial information. Keep bank statements in one folder, receipts in another, etc., so you know where all of your important financial info is.

What are some of your favorite home decluttering hacks? 

Online Reputation Management Tips for Small Business

If you're a small business owner or startup founder, then your venture needs to have an active reputation management strategy. Watch this video to learn how you can start one now for free! 

E-COMMERCE 101: 31 EASY WAYS TO INCREASE SALES ON YOUR WEBSITE

As the owner of a marketing and PR firm, I often hear prospective clients ask, “How can I increase sales on my website? What do you think I should do to get more people to sign up for my email list?” And my response is generally the same every time –

“What are you doing differently than your competition? What makes your brand or boutique so unique?  Why should consumers buy from you over the competition? How do your products or services solve your customers’ problems?”  Many times, they don’t know how to answer me.

To help you eliminate the guesswork, here are some basic steps you can take to improve your sales and generate more email subscribers now.

1). Know why you’re in business. What do you do best? Who wants your products or services? How can you reach more customers? How much are they willing to pay? How much does it cost for you to acquire a customer? If you can’t answer these questions easily, then this is where you need to put your effort first. You need to know why you’re in business.

2). I know it is time-consuming but you should add new content daily to your website for continued growth. If you have a blog, post it as often as you can to keep your website content fresh and up to date. You should also post all of your social media channels daily to increase your overall reach. Pay attention to the time to find out when your audience is most engaged.

3). Create short pieces of content that can be digested easily with video. With consumers’ shrinking attention spans, this means that people have less patience to read long pieces of content. Periscope.com, Facebook.com Live, and Vine allow you to create and post video clips that can be shared easily on social media sites.

4). Make sure your website loads in three seconds or less; otherwise, 57 percent of visitors abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds according to the article5 Tweaks to Your Website That Could Increase Sales 300% on Mashable.com.

5). Reassure your prospective and existing customers’ information is safe and their privacy is respected. Let them know you will never sell their information or send spam. Consumers want to know their personal information is safe.

6). Make sure the copy and design of your website are consistent. If your brand is feminine and fun, make sure the images and colors match. Make sure your brand colors and copy are consistent across of your social media platforms as well so the user has a consistent experience.

7). Offer an easy return policy. Offer a no-questions-asked refund policy (if possible). This helps minimize risk on the consumers’ end.

8). Add product reviews or testimonials to increase social proof. Use the strong testimonials/reviews on the landing page and use product reviews on the product pages. You can include reviews on your email opt-in page as well.

9). I see so many e-commerce websites not include the benefits of their product or service. They only include product or service features, which is important, but it’s even more important to tell prospective buyers exactly how your product or service will solve their problem.

10). If you have calls-to-action, try to put them above the fold to increase conversions. Let your visitors know exactly what you want them to do next – whether it’s subscribing to your email list or reading a blog post. Note-opt-in boxes should be placed prominently on all pages above the fold on all web pages.

11). Focus on clear, action-oriented writing that helps increase sales conversions. Leave the hype out – today’s consumers are too savvy to fall for hyped-up copywriting.

12). Test variations of your call-to-action buttons. “Sign up now,” “Get instant access,” “Buy now” or “Order Now” buttons can perform differently depending on where it’s placed on your site, the color, and how large it is. Test out different variations to see which ones perform the best.

13). This is similar to item 1 - make sure your unique value proposition is on your “About Us” page. Tell prospective customers what’s special about your company, product, or service.

14). If you want to increase conversions, you should offer various payment methods. Not everyone wants to pay with PayPal.com, or just Visa or Mastercard. If I am shopping online and a store does not accept American Express, then I don’t make the purchase.

15). To answer questions or concerns, offer a live chat box for prospective customers.

16). Show the human side of your brand and put a headshot on your website. Consumers like to know the people behind the business.

17). Make sure you have your contact information visible on your website. You should add it to the footer of every page and have a separate “Contact Us” page. Include your name, email, phone numbers, and physical address.

18). Eliminate the registration process in order to buy. To increase conversions, let customers “Check Out as a Guest”. If I have to fill out additional forms to check out, then I won’t. Less is more here. Make it easy as possible for your customers to buy from you.

19). Make sure the layout of your website is clean and easy-to-navigate. Again, less is more here. When consumers are offered too many options, they often get confused and overwhelmed and will not make the purchase at all.

20). Add a guaranteed security seal on your website. This helps build trust with consumers.

21). No one wants to read long text, so add bullets to each product or service description to make your content easy to read. Limit your “About Us” copy to a few paragraphs.

22). Increase engagement and click-through rates with show product videos. Videos give the consumer a sense of what the product looks like, how it can be worn, or demonstrate how it’s used.

23). Try using a pop-up opt-in form. They can help boost email subscriptions. Just make sure to limit the information field to just their email address. The more information you ask for, the less likely people are to sign up for your email list.

24). Offer free shipping and returns. Offer a free gift with when a customer spends a certain amount of money.

25). Here’s my personal favorite: if you have a lengthy check out process, add a progress bar to show what steps they need to take to finish the transaction.  

26). Add an FAQ section to your website to minimize customer inquiries, questions, and/or complaints.

27). Offer a coupon code in exchange for someone’s email address.  

28). Make sure there is a place on each product page where customers can leave reviews/feedback.

29). If your site has been featured in many media, showcase that coverage on a separate press page to enhance credibility and authority.

30). Always check your pages for errors. Make sure all of the links are functioning properly, as well as images and pages load in a timely fashion.

31). While there’s no one magical or one-size-fits-all solution to increase sale conversions, the best way to do is to test every piece of your website from the headline down to the layout. Once you figure out what works the best for your customers, run with it.

What tips will you use to increase your online sales this new year?

7 SIMPLE WAYS TO BOOST YOUR PRODUCTIVITY WHEN WORKING FROM HOME

Working from home can be fun - until the baby spills water on our computer.

For many of us, working from home every once in a while is a great luxury that technology allows us. But which environment actually allows us to be more productive – an official office space or at home?

At a real office environment, our employees can pose the greatest threat to keep us from getting real work done. They write us emails. They drop by our desk. They invite us to lunch. Or more likely, they are bored and just want to chat.

At our home office, however, it's easier to be our own worst enemy. Because we are not surrounded by employees, it's easy to get distracted. There's no one watching us so we don't have to meet deadlines like we would as if we were in our regular office. And we hang around in our sweatpants all day.

Don't be distracted any longer. Stay focused and get more done with these simple tips.

1). Get an early start if possible. When I work from home, I wake up around 6:30 AM, put on a pot of coffee, and sit down at my desk. I start working as soon as I can and will break for breakfast when I get hungry around 8 AM. I'm an early morning person, so this schedule works well for me.

2). Get dressed. I try to pretend like I'm going to my New York City office so that I can actually get work done. More often than not, I will get dressed and put on some makeup so I feel presentable.

3). Get a schedule. I schedule my day as if I would if I was in the office. Keeping a tight schedule to meet deadlines helps me stay focused and get more done throughout the day.

4). Get a dedicated workspace. I try to separate my home life from my work life. I have a home office with a door so no one bothers me.

5). Schedule calls in the morning or afternoon/evening. If you're a morning person, save calls for the afternoon to take advantage of the morning hours to work through the tough projects and meet strict deadlines without distractions and vice versa if you are an afternoon or evening person.

6).  Take scheduled breaks. I try to take a five-minute break every hour on the hour so I can recharge and get some blood flowing to the rest of my body. I also try to eat lunch away from my desk.

7). Pick a time to finish work each day. If you work from home on a full-time basis like I do, it's easy to let your work interfere with your personal life. You need to establish a boundary.

What are some of your best work from home tips? Let us know below. 

HOW EMERGING DESIGNERS CAN USE FASHION BLOGGERS TO GAIN BRAND AWARENESS

Every day, hundreds of emerging designers enter the fashion market due to: 1) low-cost manufacturing options; 2) freeways to reach customers; and 3) affordable e-commerce solutions such as SquareSpace.com and BigCommerce.com.

However, with the growth of social media and the rising popularity of fashion bloggers, the digital ecosphere has become saturated and makes it more difficult for new brands to garner attention.

In the following section, we will discuss the best ways that new fashion brands can generate big PR.

1). Gifting bloggers - If you gift a blogger something and he/she loves what you gave, then he/she will probably cover it in an outfit post. However, it's important to note that most highly trafficked fashion blogs require sponsorships for guaranteed coverage.

Note - before you gift anything to a blogger, contact him/her to gauge his/her interest.

2). Sponsored posts - If you want to get guaranteed coverage on a fashion blog that generates millions of unique page views, then go for a sponsored post. This can help with your SEO and backlinks.

3). Giveaways - Giveaways are some of the best ways to increase awareness for your brand. Offer something with a high perceived value, otherwise, visitors won't take the time to enter. Just be aware that some fashion bloggers do charge a fee to hold a giveaway.

4). Guest posting - Certain fashion bloggers accept guest posts, which can help increase your SEO rankings and backlinks. While there's a time investment in writing the piece, the publicity and exposure are worth it.

5). Social media postings - Similar to giveaways or sponsored posts, social media posts are a great way to build brand awareness; however, you should know that most bloggers will charge for the coverage.

While the number of followers that someone has is important, engagement levels are much more important. Pay attention to the number of "likes" and "comments" each photo/post has. If a blogger has 100,000 followers on Instagram.com but only receives 20 likes or comments on each post, it's safe to say that those followers were bought; they are not real or organic followers.

Need help crafting a social media strategy? Contact Kristin at Kristin@CreativeDevelopmentAgency.com.

Why You Need to Launch ​Your​ ​Brand​ ​Before​ ​Your​ ​Product

By: Rebecca Britton and Rachel Kassinger

In today’s digital age, we dare to say that launching a product is harder now than ever before. Though there are perks to having everything we need at our fingertips—for instance, connecting with customers directly and the ability to reach thousands of people with one click—there are also downfalls.

Attention spans are shorter than ever and information overload has taken its toll on brand loyalty. Gone are the days of finalizing a product, issuing a press release when it's ready, and waiting for orders to come in. Now a launch has to be much more strategic and requires planning months before the product is actually ready.

As a startup in the extremely saturated bra industry, we were determined to build awareness prior to launching. If people get to know you, your brand and the product, they’ll be more inclined to try it once it's ready. Here are the steps we recommend to build hype about your brand.

Market research

You can’t market a product without knowing who your customer is. It’s easy to get trapped in a “my product is for everyone!” mindset, but fight it. If you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll appeal to no one, so it’s crucial to zero in on a demographic. There are a few ways to go about this:

1. Read reviews of similar products to determine what people like and don’t like about your competitors. Another great (and free) tool is social media. Go to your competitor's posts and look at who is commenting. This served two purposes for us: it confirmed that other people saw the problem we were trying to solve and gave us an idea of who our customers are.

2. Online survey - This approach is a little more black and white. Create your own survey using one of the thousands of websites like Survata. It’s quick, easy and straightforward.

Mark your territory

Buy your website domain and create your social media handles so nobody takes them. Domains are incredibly easy to buy and most cost less than $20/year, so it’s worth the small price to secure it. In addition, most business accounts on social media can be hidden until you’re ready to publish them.

Identify your brand and message

We aren’t going to lie, this is the hardest part because it drives every single thing you do from this moment forward (no pressure). Knowing your target market and researching what they’re drawn to help drive this, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of your own personal taste. Don’t base your brand solely on what you think people might like. You have to genuinely like what you’re putting out there, otherwise, people see right through it.

A few questions to ask yourself to get the ball rolling:

1. How do you want your brand perceived? If you need help, make a list of other brands you’re drawn to and why (it can be unrelated to your industry). This will determine the standard you set for other companies and clarify how you want your own brand to be positioned.

2. What is your voice or tone? This question can be intimidating but it’s to determine
your brand’s personality, which will likely be a reflection of your own.

3. Who is your community? This doesn't only include your customer but you’re entire
audience (potential partners, other brands you associate with). Think of the type of
people you want following you on Instagram, for example.

Again, it’s easy to fall on the “anyone and everyone” mindset but the same rule applies to business as it does in life: you are who you associate with so find like-minded people and develop a strategy to attract them.

Next, determine your aesthetic and visual identity. Make a good and bad mood board.
Instagram and Pinterest are great tools for this. Find posts that inspire you and make a brand book.

We were emotionally attached to the color mint (see blog post), hence our logo, and
initially thought our aesthetic should incorporate other pastels. However, individually we are more drawn to neutral (almost drab) colors which became very evident after making our brand-book. The”positive” mood board consisted a lot of grays, blacks, and whites with an accent of mint but overall it was very minimal; and our “negative” mood board was Lily Pulitzer. Throughout this process, your answers to the above questions and the brand identity may change a little and that’s OK (the joy of being in the “development stage”).

Start building content

One of the benefits (and frustrations) of pre-launch is it can be a waiting game so use the free time to your advantage and start building content. Now that you know your brand, constantly look for social media opportunities. You should also make your website live and begin blogging.

Not only is this a great way to let potential customers get to know you and learn about your product, but it also puts you ahead of the SEO game, so Google can find your site. Make sure to use resources like Google Keyword Planner to find good, searchable terms and incorporate them into your blog. Your homepage should have a short form to capture e-mail addresses from those who want to be kept up to date on your launch. You’ll hear time and time again how important building an e-mail list is, and some services, like MailChimp, have a free option for up to 2000 contacts.

Toast Champagne and GO!

Bottom line: pre-launch is the time for preparation but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it right immediately. You’re in the beginning, and let's be honest, nobody knows who you are yet so if it changes over time, no big deal. Put yourself out there and roll with the punches.

Have fun and CONGRATS!

How to Write Compelling Website Copy that Converts

How to Write Compelling Website Copy

You can’t afford to be too modest when you are marketing and selling your products on your website because you only have 3 seconds or less to grab the attention of potential customers. Just think about how many other wellness, lifestyle, fashion, or beauty brands are you competing with every day.

If you want to increase your sales, then your copy must stand from the rest of the clutter. Here are some top tips to help you write copy that sizzles:

1). Though obvious, build an emotional connection with your customers. Imagine if they walked into your physical store and you're selling them face-to-face, how would you speak to them? How would you build an emotional connection?  It's all about enhancing the customer experience.

2). Remember you're not writing a novel or the world's great piece of nonfiction. Write like you speak and avoid using jargon. Be authentic and concise.

3). Keep your product titles unique yet, short and concise. Make sure your product descriptions match the tone of your personality. NastyGal.com does an excellent job of communicating it's simple and sassy yet fun personality.

4). Product descriptions should be fewer than 200 words, contain bullets, and show a lot of white space to make them easy to scan. Make sure they are unique, too so Google doesn't penalize your site for duplicate content.

5). Focus on the benefits of what you're selling. Help your customer envision how he/she would feel and look wearing that garment or pair of shoes.

6). Use language that helps explain the product since the customer can't feel it. How does it look and feel? What's the material and texture? What styling tips can you offer?

7). Stay apprised of new trends so you can incorporate seasonal copy into your website.

Some of the other best fashion and beauty brands and retailers that nail their voice in their web copy are ShopSurell.comBloomingdales.com, Sephora.com, and Modcloth.com. Check them out if you need inspiration.

What are some of your best copy conversion tips and and tricks?

How to Build a Media Kit that Generates Results for Your Business

In today's highly-digital marketing environment, it’s easy to forget about traditional media relations materials like the "media kit".  

So in this article, I want to take a step back and review the items to include in your media kit as well as tell you how this promotional material can help get your brand more media coverage and build your authority as an expert within your industry.

What is a media kit?

A media kit (or press kit) is a comprehensive package of promotional materials about you and your company, products, or services. It's usually sent out to members of the media when they request more information about your company.

What does it contain?

·      A press release on your company or latest collection/products/services (no more than 500 words or two pages including the boilerplate)

·      A bio of the company founder(s) (no more than 300 words)

·      A company backgrounder and fact sheet (one page)

·      High-resolution images, logo, and headshot(s)

·      Previous press coverage including articles, interviews, quotes, and other features (from the last year)

·      Testimonials from customers, press, or celebrities

·      Social media links

·      Contact information

A few tips to remember:

·      You might not need all of the components above.

·      Be comprehensive yet concise with all of the materials.

·      Keep it digital (unless a media outlet or buyer requests a hard copy).

·      Have one page on your website labeled "Media Kit" and make it downloadable.

If you need more information on what to include in your creative press kit or simply need a template, click here

5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Email Marketing

Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all solution to email marketing since it can vary by industry significantly. What works for an e-commerce fashion brand probably isn't going to work for a beauty retail company.

But by following these five easy steps, you can increase the number of people that open your emails, click through to your site, and make purchases.

1). Although it sounds like a no-brainer, many small business owners and entrepreneurs I've worked with throughout the years don't know how to craft a compelling subject line.  They'd use the same old "Spring Sale: 25% Off." Not only is that subject line boring, there's no call to action.

Try asking a question: "You lost! Will 15% off make it better?" This subject line worked out well for Urban Outfitters several years ago.  Or try something like Victoria's Secret did during the launch of the "Naked" collection: "Get Naked: Tomorrow at Victoria's Secret."

2). Create an irresistible offer. I know this sounds obvious, too but so many fashion designers and small business owners I've worked with throughout the years don't understand what makes an offer irresistible. Simply put, it's something that's going to hit a pain point or an emotional hot button. The offer ultimately needs to fix a problem or satisfy a deep desire.

3). Make sure the days and times you send out emails are consistent from week-to-week. If you send emails on Thursdays at 3 pm ET, make sure you follow that schedule (if it's working).

4). As a marketer, one of my favorite things to do is run split tests. It allows me to segment my email lists and send each segment a variation of an email to see which message/design resonates the most with that target audience. You should do the same. Also, note it's usually best to send your emails from a personal name, not just a brand name. This helps increase response rates.

5). With the rise in consumers shopping on their tablets and smartphones, it's critical your emails are mobile friendly. Additionally, if the links in your email link back to a site that isn't mobile-friendly, then that's a sure way to lose subscribers and potential sales.

What are some of your favorite email marketing tips? Let us know below. 

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SnapChat 101 for Startups and Small Businesses

Although the SnapChat app is generally thought to be a social platform made for fleeting moments, humor and irrelevant banter, this mobile app offers several marketing benefits for e-commerce brands, especially those in the fashion and beauty industry.  SnapChat can be used to interact with consumers in a creative, fun and unique way and the app’s instantaneous, in-the-moment features allow content to stay fresh and relevant. The following tips further elaborate on the advantage of utilizing SnapChat for marketing purposes.

1. The perks of a live feed. On SnapChat, users have the option of sending a normal “Snap,” or posting a “Snap Story,” both of which are captured in real time. A normal snap is a picture or video that is shared with one or more friends and can be viewed for up to 10 seconds before it disappears. Snap stories can be viewed by everyone, regardless of whether they are a user’s added friend or not, just the user’s friends, or a customized group of friends. Stories also last for 24 hours before they are automatically deleted.

One main perk of this live feed is that it provides followers with first-hand updates and news regarding the brand. This feature is particularly useful when a brand wants to create anticipation for product launches, collaborations or events. Consumers love getting an exclusive first look at what a brand has in store for them, especially in regards to fashion and beauty where trends and styles are changing frequently.

2. Keep it candid. One aspect of SnapChat that sets it apart from other social media platforms is that the content posted is meant to be candid or spur of the moment. Since users are unable to post Snaps of pictures or videos that are already stored in their phones, content shared on SnapChat is completely impromptu and authentic.

This kind of communication works because it makes followers feel as though they are getting a “behind the scenes,” look at the brand. It steers away from the formal, corporate content, which consumers are frequently given, and instead creates a very personable, conversational connection between the brand and its consumers.

3. Be creative. SnapChat offers a number of tools that allow users to really show off their creativity. With a selection of filters and features such as the “draw tool,” and the “sticker tool,” users have the ability to add unique, fun details to their Snaps. Brands can utilize these tools to differentiate themselves from other brands and make their content stand out.

4. Encourage engagement. SnapChat is one of the best platforms for establishing two-way communication between a brand and its consumers. Brands can encourage followers to send them Snaps for a chance to win discounts, contests, giveaways or other perks. Not only will this tactic keep followers engaged, but measuring the level of activity and participation can also provide insight into how well a campaign is going.

6 PR Trends to Dominate 2018 (Infographic)

Public relations is one of those fields that is always changing, especially with the rise in social media platforms like Instagram and SnapChat.

When I first started in the industry more than a decade ago (in 2005), email pitching was just starting to become an acceptable form of media outreach - using the telephone or even a fax machine were still the primary ways of reaching out. Oh, the horror!

But today things have changed a lot. Not only is email the primary way to reach out to the media, social media has become an acceptable medium as well. In fact, many journalists prefer to be contacted via social media (i.e., Twitter.com or Instagram.com).

So, today, I want to show you some of the largest PR trends we here at FemFounder.co expect to see in 2018! We've included a downloadable infographic for you below. 

6 PR Trends to Dominate 2018 (Infographic)

Thinking About Starting a Business? Ask Yourself these Questions First

It doesn’t matter if you’re launching an online store, a footwear collection, or a new beauty blog, you need to have a marketing plan. Your marketing plan will serve as a blueprint for your business and help navigate those tough times.

Here are the top questions I ask when I put together a marketing plan for a client or one of my own businesses.

1). Determine what makes your company or brand unique. Why should someone pay attention to your business when you are competing with thousands of other businesses? How will you differentiate your business?

2). Figure out what you want to achieve. Is it to get into retail stores? Grow your email list? Increase website traffic? Attract media attention or investors?

3). Define your targets. Who are your audiences? Why should they care? What do you want to tell them?

4). Where do your audiences hang out and how will you reach them? Publicity, social media, email marketing, Facebook advertising, television advertisements, etc.?

5). How much money can you spend to achieve your goal?  How will you measure the return on investment?

6). How do you plan to measure the success of your marketing efforts? What tools do you need?

Want more PR tips and tricks? Join our community of entrepreneurs today!

7 Ways to Enhance the Online Customer Experience

Before the internet, email marketing, and social media, brands, and companies had the ability to build personal relationships with customers and stakeholders offline and in person. Yet today, brands and companies must use social media platforms, video, email, and live chat sessions to build relationships and engage with customers and stakeholders, which isn’t always easy.

However, I put together are seven simple ways to build strong relationships in today’s highly-digital age.

1). Surveys - Christina Crawford, CEO of e-commerce beauty brand BubblePopBeauty.com says she likes to survey her customers to find out what they want instead of trying to guess what they want. Not only is this a cost-effective way to find out what your customers want, it’s also a way to show that you’re listening to them. She conducts her surveys through email and SurveyMonkey.com.

2). Pinterest - Boston-based psychotherapist, Angela Ficken of ProgressWellness.com uses Pinterest as a way to build relationships with her audience.  When she publishes a new blog post or newsletter, she pins it to all of the relevant pin boards on her profile, which links back to her newsletter opt-in on her website. This enables her to have a two-way dialogue with her readers.

3). Proximity, Kindness, and Time - Former Hollywood actress-turned-entrepreneur, Michelle Lewis of VisibilityVixen.com says that "Proximity part is easy because we’re online entrepreneurs, so we can pretty much get in touch with whoever we’d like to easily.

Kindness is all about authentic compliments mixed with personal experience. Whether it’s a specific social media post, course or class, if it meant something to you, let that person know.

And, if you want something from someone (like to get them on your podcast or to collaborate on a project), it’s time to dig into what they will receive in return. Make it a better deal for them than for you.

When their benefit is your focus, you will continue to build lasting relationships online that lead to partnerships, collaborations and most importantly, friendships.”

4). Customer Service - “Be responsive to all inquiries whether it’s through email, social media, or live chat,” says Mike Coughlin owner of the lifestyle apparel website, Blue Ocean Life. “As an e-commerce website, customer service is paramount so I strive to respond to all inquiries within 48 hours.”

5). Privacy Policies - With today’s privacy and spam laws, we have a responsibility to protect our readers’ and customers’ privacy.  At FemFounder.co we’re transparent on how we intend to use all of our readers’ personal information. We also provide a contact for questions or inquiries.  

6). Early Access Promotions and Events - Tayelor Kennedy, celebrity makeup artist and the Editor-in-chief of the women’s online magazine TheHauteRebel.com, builds relationships with her “readers and customers by offering access to VIP events and sales via email. They appreciate it when we provide early access to exclusive promotions before we offer it publicly. We also send our best customers little gifts on their birthdays. A little goes a long way.”

7). Blogging - Cindy Georghiou, owner of Los Angeles-based skincare brand JaquaBathandBody.com likes to use her blog to build relationships and stay in touch with customers. She strives to publish educational and promotional blog posts twice a month. Not only does blogging help with search engine optimization, it also helps her collect emails and build her list.

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How to Get Your Products Endorsed by a Celeb or on Television or Film

Have you ever noticed your favorite products used in films or on a television show?   They aren't there by accident! This process is commonly known as product placement.

Usually placing a product in a movie or TV show is done in exchange for a significant payment, or commitment to finance a portion of the movie or TV show.  However, there is another way to get your products featured without paying a huge price.

Very often, celebrities and publicists will agree to use, review, or endorse a product through nothing more than providing a free sample or a gift. 

The key to success is finding the right people to contact.  You can find the right celebrity manager, agent, and publicist contacts by subscribing toWhoRepresents.com or IMDB.com for a small monthly fee.

Blogger Placement

If you’re in the fashion, beauty, health/wellness or another related industry, bloggers can be more influential than magazine editors and celebrities, which is good for you.

Bloggers are generally more approachable and accessible than magazine editors and celebrities.

If you approach a blogger and they like what you offer, then they will probably share your products with their readers and followers. You'll probably just have to send a sample. And if you connect with the right blogger, they could send a huge amount of traffic to your site and bring you instant sales. 

25 Ways To Improve Your Content Marketing & Get More Traffic

How effective is your content marketing strategy? Which of the following tips do you implement regularly?  Strive to write blog posts that are 1,000 words or longer and interview industry leaders for maximum impact.

Content marketing has become a huge part of attracting the right audiences online, which means that most brands (small and large) are doing it and it's harder to stand out than ever before.

But to help you produce enticing and compelling content that resonates with your target audience, follow these top content marketing tips.

Blog Post Length: Start with your blog posts.  Instead of writing five 500-word blog posts per week, try to write three blog posts and make each one 1,000 words or longer (although you should strive for 2,000 words or more) to help with search engine rankings and generate more traffic. The more value your blog posts provide, the more your target audiences will be engaged and the higher your content will rank.

2). Guest Blogging: I know you've heard it time and again, but guest blogging is one of the best ways to reach more audiences and build your website's authority. Pick five to 10 blogs or websites that you'd like to write for, find the right contact person (usually under the "Contact" or "Submission" page), and send a short intro with two or three topics you'd like to write about. If you don't hear back right away, send a follow-up email or two a few days after you sent your initial email.

3). Headlines: Make your blog post headlines short and powerful. Choose headlines that are searched for often (like this blog post headline).

4). Keywords: Incorporate the right keywords into your content marketing to help with search engine optimization. However, make sure your content is top quality.

5). Recycle Old Content: It can difficult to come up with new blog posts three or four days a week, so recycle old content by updating statistics or adding new trends. After you've written four or five blog posts, add them to your email marketing strategy. In fact, I've taken five of my older blog posts and turned them into an email course which has helped grow my list significantly over the last month or so.

6). Social Media Marketing: Post your content to the right social media networks. Remember, your target audience isn't on every platform. Pick one or two social media sites to post your content.

7). Visuals: Today, text marketing just isn't enough any longer. If you want your content to stick out, then add a visual element to your blog posts or social media content. Video seems to yield the highest levels of engagement right now. If you can't afford to add video to your content marketing, then pick beautiful stock photos to add to your posts.

8). Buying Cycle: Have your content meet the needs of your visitors at every phase of your sales funnels to increase email conversions and sales.

9). Lead Magnets: Create compelling lead magnets for each one of your blog posts to increase email opt-ins. Lead magnets can be checklists, a video tutorial, or some other type of free offer that makes visitors sign up for your email list.

10). Editorial Calendar: Develop an editorial calendar for your blog so you know what you're going to write about weekly. Not only will it help you stay focused, but it will help you create content regularly.

 

11). Social Media Advertising: If you want to reach more audiences, then try Facebook.com advertising or promoted pins on Pinterest.

12). Shareable Content: Make sure all of your content is shareable. Add social share buttons to your website. You can do this free by signing up for SumoMe.com.

13). Infographics: You don't need to hire a graphic designer to create an infographic because you can use a service like Canva.com or Venngage.com.

14). Call to Action: Make sure every blog post and social media update has a strong call to action.

15). Slideshows: Turn your most popular blog posts into slide shows and upload to SlideShare.net to generate targeted traffic to your website.

16). Types of Content: Create roundup stories, trend stories, interviews/Q&A's, top 10 tips, checklists, mistakes to avoid, etc., for your blog.

17). Guest Bloggers: In the beginning it might be difficult to attract guest bloggers if you have low traffic levels, so why not target newer bloggers and entrepreneurs who are looking to get exposure for their brand or website? It's a win-win for both of you.

18). Case Studies: Highlight a case study that features one of your customers who used your product or service.

19). Challenge: Create a 5-day challenge to keep attract new followers and keep existing ones engaged.

20). Recycle Social Media Content: Recycle your social media posts. If you write a blog post on Top Marketing Hacks for Bloggers, post it to Twitter and Facebook several times throughout the week. Just be sure to change up the language to keep followers engaged.

21). Podcasting: Although I don't consider podcasting to be "traditional" content marketing (I think of it more as publicity), these unique interviews can help with your search engine rankings because you'll receive backlinks to your website.

22).  Voice and Tonality: Make sure your brand voice is consistent throughout all of your content including your blog, website, press materials, and social media platforms.

23). Goal Setting: I probably should have included this higher up the list, but it's so important to know your goals. What do you want to achieve with your content marketing campaign? Do you want more traffic, enhance brand awareness, increase sales, or generate more email subscribers?

24). Optimized Content: Make sure your content is optimized properly with the right titles, headings, tags, and alt text on all of your images.

25). Social Media Automation: Use a social media scheduler like HootSuite for Twitter and Facebook and BoardBooster for Pinterest to streamline your workflow.  

Keep in mind that nothing worthwhile happens overnight. Content marketing - just like all other forms of marketing - takes time to develop, but the more consistent and thoughtful you are with your content, the more traffic and authority your website, blog, or brand will earn.

What content marketing tactics have worked for your small business or blog? Describe your experiences in the comment section below.

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WHY YOUR CREATIVE VENTURE NEEDS A BUSINESS PLAN TO LAUNCH AND THRIVE

Did you create a business plan for your creative venture? If so, how long did you take you? What does it entail? If not, don't fret! You still have time to create one before the new year is here!

Your business plan doesn't need to be a formal 75-page document, but rather a one-pager that outlines how your business operates and plans for future growth.

If you're like most creative entrepreneurs, putting together a business plan can seem overwhelming and (even unnecessary in some cases). However, if you want to have a successful business this new year, then you need to have a plan of action.  

Be sure to ask yourself these questions before writing your next business or marketing plan! 

To help make the task less tedious, I'm going to show you how to create a simple yet complete business plan that you can create in an hour or less.

First, let's look at what business plan is and why you need one.  

A business plan is an overview of your business and generally, contains the following sections (each of these sections can be summed up in a paragraph or less). And you primarily need one because it serves as a roadmap for your business's future.

Business Overview and Value Proposition

Describe your business in one sentence. What makes your business different from all of your competitors? Remember, your business doesn't have to be completely innovative to be different, but it does need to be unique in some way.

Problem and Solution

What problem does your business solve or what gap does it fill? Why is there a need for your business? Explain the problem and solution in a paragraph or less.

Products and/or Services

What products or services does your business offer? What is the price range? How will your products/services be different from all of the competition? 

Target Markets

Who is your core customer? Include age, gender, occupation, household income, location, hobbies, and lifestyle (and whatever else is necessary to define your core customer).

Marketing Activities

How will you market your business? Will you use digital advertising, influencer marketing, public relations, social media marketing, SEO, blogging, guest blogging, podcasts, etc? 

Sales Distribution

How will you sell your products? What channels do you plan to use? Will you sell online or in retail? 

Management

Who is the boss? What are this person's qualifications? Who are the rest of the managers?

Financial Projections

How much money do you need to start your business? What will your salary be? What are the operating expenses?

Did you create a business plan for your creative venture? How long did it take? Share your comments in the section below.

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Sign up below to find out the six critical questions you need to ask yourself before launching your business.

How to Get Featured on the HuffingtonPost.com

As we all know, publicity can help catapult our businesses to stardom (if we're just launching) or achieve significant growth (if we've been around for a while).

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to land a feature on the HuffingtonPost.com on the "5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Business" column. You can read all about it here

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristin Marquet. Kristin is the owner of the PR firm CreativeDevelopmentAgency.com, the design studio FemFounder.co, and the women’s lifestyle magazine TheHauteRebel.com. She also holds a master’s degree in Marketing from New York University and has written the book, Squash Your Competition and Dominate Your Marketplace 55 Easy Tips to Generate Big Publicity for Your Startup or Small Business Today.

If you've been struggling to get yourself and/or your business featured on a major website or in a major magazine, don't fret! I teach you everything you need to know about how to land media coverage for yourself/business in the free DIY PR program, Cut Through the Clutter. Grab a spot today. 

100 Free PR Tips to Make Your Business Soar

To help make it easier for you, I've put together this shortlist of the best 100 PR tips you can use to start building brand awareness now FREE.

1). Pick five to ten media outlets where you'd like to be featured, conduct a Google search to find the right media professional's name, and add his or her name to a spreadsheet.

2). Research what the media professional covers. Know his or her beat. Read a few articles so you know his or her writing style. Be sure to follow him or her on social media as well.

3). Create a press kit and make it downloadable on your website. Make sure to include your bio, company fact sheet, product/service sheet, previous press clippings, and your headshot.

4). Look for media opportunities by subscribing to the free PR resource: Helpareporter.com. You'll receive emails daily with inquiries from the media looking for experts and non-experts. You can also look at ProfNet for media opportunities.

5). When you're ready to start writing your pitch, begin with the headline or subject line. Ask a question or make a provocative statement to pique the media professional's interest. Limit it to 10 words.

6). The body of your pitch should be between 200-300 words with a 200-word boilerplate or bio.  Be sure to include five to seven bullet or talking points. And most importantly, include your contact information.

7). Make sure your pitch is newsworthy and timely. Tie your story to something that's happening in the news at that moment. Examples include: how to get your best beach body by summer, the Oscars, Christmas, etc.

8). State all of the important information in the first paragraph. Be sure to answer the "who", "what", "where", "when", "why", and "how".

9). Pitch a story idea or segment idea, not your company, product, or service. You'll never get a response if you do.

10). Follow up a few days after your initial pitch by email (never call). If you don't hear back after your follow up, you can follow up one more time before moving forward.

11). Include a call to action at the end of your pitch. Ask if the media professional would like to receive more information, do a demo, or receive a sample.

12). Don't use the shotgun approach where you send one pitch to 1,000 different media outlets at once. (Only send one of the same pitch to five or 10 media contacts at once when you're announcing a new product or service).

Send customize pitches that will provide real value to the media professional and his or her readers.

13). Although I'm sure you hear it time and again, build relationships with the media. Take the time to send a thank you note after an interview or story run.

14). Make it easy for the media professional to get additional information or samples.

15). Be ready for interviews at any time especially if you plan to do radio interviews.

16). Understand that the media works on short schedules that change consistently so it's important that you're flexible and realistic with your expectations.

Don't tout your media coverage to others until it comes out.  There's nothing worse than telling everyone you're in a story in a magazine only to find out that the story was cut due to space limitations at the last minute.

17). Never ask a media professional if he or she received your email and when your story is going to go to print.

18). Follow local reporters and journalists on social media so you know what beats they cover.

19). Don't discount the importance of pitching your story to bloggers. Depending on your industry, some bloggers can be more influential and help grow your brand more effectively than magazines and other online media outlets.

20). Pitch podcasts for interviews. Again, some podcasts reach more listeners than traditional radio outlets.

21).  Write clearly and concisely since you only have three seconds to capture a media professional's attention.

22). Always offer and make yourself available for interviews.

23). If you're looking to gain more visibility online, answer questions on Quora.com and other question websites. Many of experts do.

24). Always keep in mind when pitching a journalist or blogger, what are some of the best ways you can help with a story?

25). Include your hobbies and other interesting facts into your bio.

26). Include your company website, blog URL, and social media handles in your pitches., and many other Entrepreneur.com, HuffingtonPost.com

27). Offer to guest blog for blogs and online websites relevant to your niche. The top tier outlets accept articles from experts.

28). Offer your story as an exclusive to an outlet where you want to be featured.

29). If you're holding an event, offer pre-event coverage to help drive sales, attendance, and reach more audiences.

30). Publicity does not happen overnight, so you will need to be patient as you grow your media relationships.  

31). Avoid including the words: "premium", "leading", "innovative", and "superior" in your pitches, or they will end up in the trash.

32). Tailor your messages to meet the tone and style of the outlet you're pitching.

33). Address the media professional by the right name. Don't address him or her by "Hi there" or "To whom it may concern" unless you want your pitch to end up in the trash.

34). Stay away from generic email addresses like: Contact@Magazinename.com. There's a pretty good chance no one checks them.

35). Team up with a local charity to reach more audiences. Local media love covering cause-related marketing and partnerships.

36). Send your press release over the free wires. PR.com and PRLog.com are the best and offer the best reach free.

37). Make sure to include a link to images via Dropbox.com or on a website within your pitch. Never send attachments because the media doesn't open them.

38). Add a "Press" or "News" section to your website.

39). Make sure to include "For Immediate Release" on any press release to distribute (unless it's under embargo).

40). Nothing is ever off the record when it comes to doing interviews so always be careful of what you're going to say.

41). Become a reliable resource for the media professional. The more value you can provide, the more likely that media professional will be to call on you when he or she has a relevant story for your expertise.

42). Schedule meetings with editors so they can get to know you.

43). Don't pester the media to find out when your story will run. Rather, set up Google Alerts and monitor social media for any mentions of your brand, company, or name.

44). If you're going to do a radio or television interview, make sure you have down your sound bites. Remember to talk slowly too.

45). In today's digital age, be prepared to discuss certain aspects of your personal life.

46). Always be prepared to answer intimate or challenging questions. You can only prepare yourself so much before interviews.

47). If you happen to call a journalist or producer, always ask if he or she is on a deadline. If so, offer to call back at another time.

48). Repurpose old articles and submit to other relevant websites and blogs to gain more backlinks to your website.

49). It doesn't matter how much publicity you've received in the past, you're never too big to do an interview (unless you reach the same level of fame as the Kardashian clan).

50). Make time for publicity outreach weekly.

51). Keep in touch with the media by asking what a specific editor or journalist is working on.

52). If you want to make an announcement to mass media, try sending a press release over a paid wire service such as PRWeb.com or PRNewswire.com.

53). Make sure you have a dedicated email address for the media. You can use yours as well - just make sure you monitor it.

54). Make sure you pitch the right media professional as there are several that may cover similar or the same beat.

55). The secret sauce to getting media coverage has two elements: 1) the relationship you have with an editor; and 2) how you package your pitch. It's so important for you to develop relationships with the media if you plan to do your own PR.

56). If you send out a press release, make sure it follows the appropriate format which is AP Style. You can find out more about the appropriate style in my PR book here.

57). Be prepared for rejection. You're probably not going to hear back from 75 percent of the journalists you pitch, but don't give up. There's just a pretty good chance that your story is not relevant to what an editor or journalist is covering at that time.

58). If you received a celebrity endorsement, pitch it to the media to see if there's any interest.

59). If you don't have funds for blog sponsorships, then offer a gift. Often times, a blogger will be willing to write a review or a post about your product/service in exchange for your product (especially if it is a high-ticket item).

60). Don't discount the value of freelance writers. Often times, freelancers don't have as many deadlines to meet as staff writers, so I always urge my clients to connect with the right ones. You can find freelancers in your industry on LinkedIn.com or the contributor section of a magazine.

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