digital marketing

Q&A with Entrepreneur Alexis Courtney

Courtney Family_preview.jpg

 

After taking her daughter in for a haircut, Alexis Courtney was very excited about Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids. As a mother and teacher, she didn’t know much about owning a business, but she wanted to learn more. She became a multi-unit franchisee of the brand until 2014 when she and her husband acquired the brand. Now, Courtney is the franchisor and COO of Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids, the fastest-growing kids-centric hair salon.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. I received a scholarship to play Water Polo and swim at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. After graduation, I returned to Utah and started my teaching career as a middle school math teacher. After eight years of teaching math, I became a business owner of Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids. From 2006 to 2014, I opened and ran five stores. In 2014, I had the opportunity to purchase the franchise and become the franchisor with my husband, which we did.

What inspired you to start your business?

When I became pregnant with my second child, my husband and I realized the income I was making would go straight to daycare when the new baby was born. I wanted the opportunity to be in charge of my time and income and I started looking into opening a business.

Where is your business based?

My business is in South Jordan, Utah.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

While researching business opportunities I started thinking about my skills and what I could offer. I didn't feel my skills were unique enough to build a profitable business around them. I then started looking at existing businesses I could purchase but didn't find the right fit. My two-year-old daughter was in need of her first haircut and there was a children's hair salon about 20 minutes from my home. By the end of the haircut, I knew I wanted to be a part of the business. As a teacher, I felt confident in my ability to work with people. I researched the company for a few months and decided I would open a Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

When I opened in 2007 word-of-mouth was the most effective way to build my business. I was able to spread the word by being involved in every community event possible. My concept is still community driven and with social media, we are able to build a community online, as well.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Staffing has been our biggest challenge. I have overcome this obstacle by building an atmosphere of teamwork and respect. I hire every stylist who applies and watch to see if our store is a good fit for them. My stylists appreciate a safe work environment where they can grow and feel valued. 

How do you stay focused?

In order to stay focused I play the "sticky note" game created and taught to me by Demir and Carey Bentley from Lifehack Bootcamp. I plan my day in 50-minute blocks. For each block of work, I write the task on a sticky note. While working on the task I do not allow for any distraction. When the task is done I crumple up the sticky note, give myself ten minutes of free time and then start the next task. I play this game for three hours a day and get more accomplished in those three hours than I would all day trying to multitask and being interrupted every 5 minutes. My team knows I get my work done in the mornings and they know to call me the last ten minutes of each hour if they truly need me. 

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

When you own a franchise the only true difference from your competitors are the people. We have worked hard to find people who want to contribute to their community and are willing to be a part of a large partnership of owners across the nation.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

Recently our most effective marketing has been Facebook. We want our content to be educational and helpful for parents. We want our owners to engage and celebrate their clients with before and after pictures. We have been lucky to be a part of many social media posts from our clients who share about their great experience at Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids.

What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

My best piece of advice for new entrepreneurs would be to have a strict morning routine. The first 30 to 60 minutes of your day is crucial, and should not involve devices of any kind. I highly suggest 15-20 minutes of meditation to get your mind in the right place. Waking up and going straight to your phone or your computer will put you in a place where your business owns you instead of you owning your business. 

What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

My favorite book is "The Power of Habit" written by Charles Duhigg. This book allowed me to look at the world in a much different way. Our mind is our strongest muscle and we strengthen this muscle through habit. Not all habits are good for us and therefore we may need to rewire or rework our largest muscle to course correct. The fact that we can course correct and or overcome any obstacle is fascinating to me.

What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

My favorite business tool is Asana which is a project management site. I have been able to build multiple projects and attach the necessary participants through Asana. I'm able to keep in touch with my team outside of emails and I can roll out new initiatives to my franchisees. Asana has an amazing app which makes work easy when I'm not in the office.

Who is your business role model? Why?

I am an avid reader and when asked who my business role model is it would currently be Mel Robbins. Mel is well known for her book "The 5-second rule." She is a firm believer inhabit and the training of your mind. 

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Over the next six months, I will train 20 new franchisees. We recently became the #1 children's hair salon in the country, with the number of salons we have open. In 2018 we anticipate another 40 store openings. I will be traveling to multiple store openings across the United States and Canada. 

How can our readers connect with you?

 I would love to meet and/or speak with any of your readers. Linkedin is the best way to connect with me. https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexiscourtney

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!

25 Ways To Improve Your Content Marketing & Get More Traffic

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.

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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