The Art of Persuasion

We’ve all been there. You are about to walk out of the store, empty-handed, when the salesperson suddenly works their charm – turning your skepticism into a sale. Then you get home, look at your purchase and think: how on earth was I convinced so easily?

The art of persuasion might seem like an innate talent for the lucky, but any serious entrepreneur must hone this skill in order to find success, persuading others to invest, to support, to buy. So how do you convince more people to buy online? These three business experts reveal their secrets.

  • Peter Shallard explains there is only one question you have to answer to make a successful pitch: “Why?”
  • Brian Clark of Copyblogger explores some basic strategies to write more persuasively – including using story-telling, repetition, and comparisons.
  • The Six Minutes Blog lists several tips to become a more persuasive speaker, as Andre Dlugan emphasizes the importance of being understood, logical, and real.

Incorporating these techniques into both your website and your everyday life won’t be an overnight solution, but they will challenge you to look at your message through a strategic and more effective lens – no matter the audience.

When are you at your most persuasive? What was the last time someone used these tactics successfully on you?

Expand Your Small Business Reach with Group Discount Sites

grouponDo you wake up every morning and check your inbox to see what the latest online deals are? If so, you’re like me – and I’m starting to think I have a problem.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, then you haven’t yet been exposed to the wonder of the Group Discount Site, such as Groupon, TeamBuy, and LivingSocial just to name a few.

These websites work by offering a city-specific, limited-time deal (typically one a day) which must be purchased by a minimum number of people to make it happen. The deals are delivered by email each day and usually offer more than 50% off a product or service, so they almost always sell enough to push the deal through.

What does this mean for your small business? To put it bluntly – a HUGE influx of customers.

Consider this – your business offer gets delivered directly to the inboxes of thousands of people who are looking for great deals. Not only that, but these deal sites encourage their subscribers to refer their friends and reward them for referrals that purchase deals. You get to capitalize on the social nature of the site to expand your reach even further.

The diversity of the types of businesses using this type of promotion is impressive. Through these sites, I’ve bought everything from diving lessons, to house cleaning, to wine making to dining out.

Bottom line – if you’re looking to grab new customers, a group discount site might be a great option for you. Just make sure that you decide how much business you can handle and set a limit on the number of deals you’ll put up for grabs. Some of these businesses are now backed up for months!

Have you promoted your business on a group discount site? Or, have you signed up for one? What kind of deals appeal to you?

Is Google Changing the Game of Search?

You, our blog readers, have shouted time and again that Search Engine Optimization is a topic you want to learn more about for your small business website. The last year has seen Google (by far the dominant search engine) add social media factors into their search algorithms, and increase the immediacy of real-time results with more frequent search spiders – all affecting front page results. But now they’re at it again!

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Google CEO Eric Schmidt shared his belief that “people don’t want Google to answer their questions… they want Google to tell them what to do next.” As a result, Google is now testing a ‘streaming’ search engine that updates your results, as you type them into the field. (See the video below.)

As you can see, this makes for a more dynamic search page and may help searchers find some unexpected results. How do you think this might change the way you search? What kind of effect could this have on how people find your business?

Top 10: Our Best Small Business Blogposts

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Over the last year we’ve written a few articles on running an online business (hopefully you’ve found some of them to be helpful!). We have also had a few terrific guest bloggers and reviewed some expert speakers. Because our customers often email us with similar questions – about SEO, paid search, and the like, we thought it would be helpful to compile some of this information in one place. You might want to bookmark this post for reference!

#10 How to Boost Holiday Sales

#9 How to Optimize Your Website for Local Search

#8 New Year’s Resolutions for Small Business Success

#7 10 Free Software Apps to Manage your Business and Cut Costs

#6 10 Website Mistakes to Avoid

#5 Thoughts on Customer Service with Shep Hyken

#4 3 Secrets to Getting More Customers

#3 Using Paid Search to Increase Your Traffic

#2 How to Build an Army of Brand Loyalists (guest blog by Jonathan Kay)

And presenting the #1 blogpost of the past year…. *drum roll*

Basics of Search Engine Optimization (John Lyotier of MarketingClinics.com)

**Bonus** 3 Ways to Convert Website Traffic into Customers

How to Build Buzz by Creating a Holiday

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So your business sells widgets. At CityMax.com, we sell easy business websites (but you probably already knew that). The never-ending problem: no matter what we sell, there’s someone out there selling the same thing.

While competing on hard, fixed factors such as price and quality are natural tactics, why not compliment those efforts by exploring a different channel that opens up your market and enhances your positioning?

Creating a holiday is not an original concept – Hallmark wrote the book: whether through creating holidays (which they deny), or supporting existing ones to increase sales and branding. The global size of Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day are often attributed to their efforts. There is even a term, “Hallmark holiday” used to describe it – a sign of global success (despite the slightly negative inflection).

Case Study: At CityMax.com our goal is to help 1 million entrepreneurs succeed online. Our easy website builder is just one of those tools. Last year, in the middle of a discouraging recession, we decided that what small business owners needed was a little pick-me-up. We founded Canada’s first-ever Entrepreneur Spirit Day: A Celebration of Small Business – essentially a holiday for anyone in small business.

We put out an open invite to key influencers  to celebrate Entrepreneur Spirit Day at our headquarters, with an open bar, a live band and DJs. Hundreds of people showed up – CEOs, students, and politicians along with over $250 million worth of business represented. The event was event mentioned in our House of Commons (the Canadian version of the House of Representatives). This was an invaluable branding experience, and the recognition we have received shows it was well worth the small budget spent to put on the event.

You don’t have to throw a party, but ask yourself what your customer really wants or loves. Do you sell pet products? What about a creating a Dog Lover’s Day? Maybe you knit – why not a National Wool Sweater Day? It doesn’t take much to declare a holiday and tie in your business with a promotion.

You’re only limited by your imagination. With hard work and a bit of luck, your holiday might turn into something bigger.  Our buddies at Grasshopper expanded on the Entrepreneur Spirit Day idea and have ignited a national movement.

Here are a few ideas on how to start creating a holiday. What kinds of holidays could you create around your business? What would it be called?

Who is Ochocinco? Branding Lessons from an NFL Star

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Unless you’re a football fan, chances are you have no idea who Chad Johnson is. However, I can almost guarantee that you have seen Ochocinco grace your TV screen. But what does he have to do with your small business?

Chad Ochocinco (formerly Johnson) is an NFL star for the Cincinnati Bengals. In 2008, he made headlines by legally changing his name to the Spanish translation of his jersey number (Eight and Five, for #85). That’s not all:

–    he was recently a celebrity contestant on Dancing with the Stars (placing in the top four competitors),

–    he appeared on the cover of EA Sports’ NFL Street 3

–    he was featured in R&B singer Monica’s video Everything to Me

–    he has his own iPhone app, and even a reality dating show on VH1

How did Ochocinco get so huge? Early in his career, the former Johnson seemed like just another obnoxious pro athlete with a penchant for entertaining touchdown celebrations and envelope-pushing antics.  However, it appears he had a strategy in place.

In interviews, he repeatedly referred to himself as Ocho Cinco until the moniker stuck. Eventually Johnson realized that the media would go into a frenzy over his unprecedented (if not ridiculous) name change to Ochocinco.

Since then he has leveraged his popularity into multiple TV appearances and is one of the most visible athlete/celebrities in the world. Ochocinco is even dominating the social media space, amassing over 1 million Twitter followers and 528,000+ members of his Facebook Page.

So how did he do it? Here are a few takeaways:

Be entertaining, but not at the cost of being great.

Ochocinco would have never received any attention if he didn’t score touchdowns. Had an average player tried similar antics, he would have been ignored – whereas Johnson/Ochocinco has been one of the best receivers in the NFL, which in turn allowed him to showcase his humorous and creative persona. This, of course, helped his mainstream popularity skyrocket.

Educate others to your brand – and be persistent.

Even before his name change, the former Chad Johnson repeatedly referred to himself in interviews as Ochocinco. Eventually this caught on as a nickname as the media and fans were conditioned to it. Ochocinco is constantly in pursuit of developing his image – announcing recently that he will legally change his name to “Hachi Go” (Eight and Five in Japanese) next season. One can only imagine next year’s spike in jersey sales for Chad Hachi Go.

Be prolific and personable.

Ochocinco seems determined to win over every potential fan by conquering all media platforms out there: he even has an online tv site, and checks in daily. His Facebook page is dominated by personal observations, pictures of his family, friends and team, and engaging questions and comments about the world around him. He responds to fan queries, meets with them to watch movies, and has even posted his personal cell phone number in public.

In a few short years, Chad Ochocinco has become a household name. How? By executing a successful branding strategy. You might not appear on Dancing with the Stars, and you don’t have to copy all of his tactics – but there’s no arguing with the results. By applying some of these principles, hopefully you can get a jump on branding your business too!

What should Sarah Palin learn from the Air Force?

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It seems like you can’t go two seconds now without hearing someone recommend social media marketing for your business website. The friendly side of social media seems straight-forward to any entrepreneur: it’s fun, and you interact with your customers while receiving lovey-dovey feedback on how great your product is.

But what happens when people have some not-so-nice things to say about you online? For example, on Facebook?

You COULD delete negative posts on your Facebook page, but something like this might happen. In this case, Sarah Palin (while probably a little higher profile than most of us) unfortunately ran into an audience motivated to reveal EVERYTHING commentors posted on her page.

To be fair, several of the deleted comments were completely inappropriate – yet many of the deleted comments were simply polite disagreements. John Dickerson of Slate.com explores this in a post-deletion letter from Alfred Petross: “I just wish you would listen to me as a resident of the 3rd Congressional District. All I am doing is voicing my opinion and my posts keep getting deleted….” (These comments were then deleted.) “Having my posts deleted were extremely disappointing,” says Petross, who went on to post his letter to Palin on his Facebook page, “because I was under the impression that Sarah Palin was in fact a political activist who was all about hearing the opinions and voices of the constituents of the United States.”

The Lesson: Deleting everything that doesn’t bring a sparkle to your eye might not be the best strategy.

Instead, take a hint from the United States Air Force – who are surprisingly on top of their social media game. Nancy Lyons and Meghan Wilker of Spin Sucks took a closer look at their tried and tested rules of engaging with responders. The Air Force even released their official flowchart cheat sheet!

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Here are 3 key criteria the Air Force uses any social media response:
1) Transparency – disclose who you are, and your connection to the organization
2) Timeliness – take the time to create a well thought out response
3) Tone – respond in an manner that reflects appropriately on yourself and your business

For businesses, it’s completely normal for the social media honeymoon to end at some point. However, having a response strategy (including a couple of these tips) will hopefully prepare you for that day if it comes. Good luck!