Year in review: 2021

It was another year for the record books, and our blog contributors helped us navigate our way through it. Check out some of the stand out articles from the blog in 2021.

 

Our Mind Your Business contributors helped us navigate another unpredictable year amidst a global pandemic and uncertain economy. Take a look at 10 of the most impactful articles from the blog in 2021.

BBB business tips: Start your new year off with a plan
 
If 2020-2021 taught us one thing, it's that anything can happen. Be better prepared for whatever 2022 brings your way with these nine tips for creating a business continuity plan from Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland.
 
>> Read more

Make a great impression every time
 
It's been a long couple of years behind screens and masks, but we are slowly making our way back to in-person work events. Eventually, we will be networking face-to-face again.
 
From asking focused questions to offering compliments, here are six tips to making a great impression next time you're invited to a meeting or conference. But rest assured...if Zoom happy hours and sweats are more your thing now, these tips work just as well from the comfort of your home computer.
 
>> Read more

A mental health check-in: Creating a strong workplace environment
 
An important step in strengthening your team and your business is to assess the mental health wellness in your workplace.
 
Our newest Mind Your Business contributor, Jill Windelspecht, founder of Talent Specialists Consulting, provides several tips for establishing a safe and welcoming working environment.
 
>> Read more

How to use employment brand marketing to boost your business
 
When it's time to hire, you want to be sure you are attracting and selecting the perfect addition to your team. Just as you promote your services to your ideal client, employment brand marketing can help you find your ideal employees.
 
From capturing your culture with video to creating employee spotlights, use this employment brand marketing checklist to hire the right employees for your small business.

>> Read more

How to build an effective SEO content strategy in 4 steps
 
If content is king, then an SEO content strategy is your ace-in-the-hole. From identifying your target audience to actually sitting down to create content, check out these four simple steps to creating an effective SEO strategy to get your small business noticed.

>> Read more

So, do I need a strategic plan? Who cares?
 
Is there anything scarier to a business owner than those two words? Strategic plan (*shudders*). 
 
But a strategic plan doesn't have to be overwhelming—or scary. In fact, the end result of a strategic plan should be a more effectively-run business, less stress, and more free time.
 
MYB's very own strategic planning expert can help you get there. Here's a breakdown of the terminology and components of a strategic plan, and guidance on how it can be helpful to your business—and to you.

>> Read more

Employee retention challenges and solutions
 
It's no secret that the key to a great business is great employees. But does your small business struggle to hire or retain top talent? 
 
From recognizing your staff to opening lines of communication, here are nine suggestions to hiring and retaining excellent employees to grow your business.

>> Read more

FAQs with Phil: How can I improve my elevator pitch?
 
In this new series with COSE's own Phil Stella, we take a look at some frequently asked questions from small business owners regarding how to communicate effectively and confidently.
 
We kick off the series with an explanation of how to create an effective elevator pitch using the (soon-to-be-famous) SSCBH approach. So, whether it's during a zoom networking event, or in an actual elevator when life resumes in-person opportunities, learn more about improving your elevator pitch.
 
Hint: It starts with changing the word "pitch" to the word "speech."

>> Read more

Maintaining culture and connection in a virtual world
 
We may be living in a virtual world, but that doesn't mean we can't still feel connected to our colleagues. Here are four tips you can implement today to maintain your company culture and connection with your team, even from a distance.

>> Read more

Why small businesses may be more vulnerable to cyber attacks
 
With more businesses using new technologies and e-commerce options—as well as an increase of employees working remotely—it's even more important than ever before to guard your business against cyber attacks.
 
Find out if your business is susceptible to cyber crime and what you can do about it.

>> Read more

 

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  • Next up: 3 Things to Know: Making Virtual Internships Meaningful

    3 Things to Know: Making Virtual Internships Meaningful

    Just because it's virtual doesn't mean it can't be meaningful. Here are three things you should know about creating virtual internship programs that work for students and for your business.

     

    Many businesses are still working remotely—and some businesses are considering switching to at least part-time remote work permanently.

    So where does that leave internships?

    You can still provide meaningful internship programs for students and for your business even if doing so virtually. Here are three things we think you should know when it comes to virtual internships.

    First thing to know: It’s still important—maybe even more so—for interns to get to know the team.

    You may be staring at each other on a screen instead of gathering around a meeting table, but that doesn’t mean interns can’t develop relationships with the rest of the team. It’s probably more important now than ever that you maintain culture and connection in this digital world—including with internships.

    Think outside the box when it comes to keeping interns engaged and forming connections. Virtual happy hours, trivia games, scavenger hunts, pizza making lunches… we’ve learned that so much can be done online together so use your imagination and take into consideration what interests your team.

    Second thing to know: Set clear expectations and communicate often.

    When everyone knows what is expected from them—and what they can expect from others—businesses always run more smoothly. Interns, especially when virtual, need clear and consistent expectations and communication. Ask your interns how they would like to be communicated with and make sure everyone is on the same page. Specifically, let them know if you expect cameras to be turned on at all times, or any other requirement that might be particular to working virtually.

    Another way to increase communication with interns and ensure expectations are clear and being met is by using the buddy system. Assign each intern a regular staff member to check in with about how things are going and set up regular virtual meetings and lunches. This will also give interns a sense of security and increase engagement.

    Third thing to know: Your workforce depends on Gen Z—get to know them.

    You may think you’re only providing internships for students right now—but if you’re looking to grow your workforce and your business, you’ll be depending on Generation Z for a long time. If you’re hoping to ultimately offer your interns positions with your business, it’s crucial that you get to know this up-and-coming generation of workers. Here are 11 things to know and expect from Gen Z, as well as seven must-have characteristics they are looking for in a job.

    Be sure to check out GCP's Internship Central site, full of additional information for planning and managing your summer internship program—even during these uncertain times.

     

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  • Next up: 3 Things to Know: Halfway Through 2021

    3 Things to Know: Halfway Through 2021

    Now that we are halfway though the year, how is it going with the tips and tricks our MYB experts have shared over the past six months? Let us know how your business is fairing so far in 2021.

     

    We’re at the halfway point—six months into 2021—and we thought we’d check in to see how the year is going for your business. Since the start of 2021, our MYB contributors have provided many tips and tools of the trade that can improve your leadership and help your business survive and thrive. So, how’s it going?

    First thing to know: Your website is what makes you accessible.

    With a good website, your current and prospective customers and clients can reach you any time of day. But they have to be able to find you first—and we’ve provided many thoughts on this important topic over the last six months. How’s it going with the 12 effective ways to improve your online presence in 2021? Have you implemented any?

    Our experts have also discussed the importance of an effective digital marketing plan this year. Hopefully, with the digital marketing tactics in 2021 that we provided, you’re well on your way to a solid plan. If not, there’s still plenty of time to check it out and get a plan in place that works for your small business.

    An accessible website means a website that all people can access—including those who are living with physical challenges. MYB contributors have provided several pieces of advice on this topic. Since you now know the reasons why accessibility is important in a website, how is it going ensuring your site is ADA compliant?

    Second thing to know: Delegation is a key to success.

    Have your efforts to delegate improved? As we talked about earlier this year, effective delegation is an essential leadership skill for entrepreneurs. If you didn’t take advantage of it the first six months, understanding why and how to delegate can still help you the second half of the year. Lead your business into even greater success—free up time so you can concentrate on the must-dos on your list and empower other members of your team.

    Third thing to know: Customers deserve five-star treatment.

    If there’s one thing small businesses have learned this past year, it’s that loyal customers are priceless. For those who have stuck with you through COVID, and for those who are new to your scene, great customer service is crucial. So, have you been following our five steps to improving your customer service? Try concentrating these next six months (and beyond) on providing the five-star customer service treatment to everyone who invests in your business—you will be sure to reap many benefits from this approach.

    How is your business fairing so far in 2021? Let us know on twitter.

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  • Next up: 3 Things to Know: Spring Cleaning Your Business

    3 Things to Know: Spring Cleaning Your Business

    Spring cleaning isn't just for your home. It's also a great time of year to tidy up many aspects of your business, including your brand, finances, and important documents.

     

    The sun is shining, the birds are singing—spring has finally sprung in Cleveland. Many of us use this time to accomplish some spring cleaning around the house. But it can also be a good time to clean up your business and get organized. Here are three things we think are important to consider as you work on spring cleaning your business.

    First thing to know: Breathe new life into your brand

    Is your brand about as dusty as your baseboards (*checks baseboards*)? If it’s been a minute since you really sat down to review your brand, there’s no time to waste. Check out these 4 Ways to Refresh Your Brand. If budget is a concern—and isn’t it always?—we come bearing gifts. Here are 13 Tips to get Your Brand Balling on a budget, as well as four free ways to accomplish Branding on a Budget.

    Second thing to know: Freshen up your finances

    Handling your finances is more than just knowing your bottom line—it’s also about understanding how fiscally fit you are. Does your financial future need some invigorating, or do you have everything under control? Find out with this short quiz to Check Your Fiscal Fitness.

    Let’s not forget about financial planning. There are steps you can take during each of your Financial Stages of Life that will help you build, and then maintain, your personal financial security. And be sure you understand the Importance of Business Succession Planning and what steps you need to take for a secure future.

    Third thing to know: How’s your handbook (and other documents)?

    Does your business have its own employee handbook? No business is too small for this important document. If you don’t have one, now is a good time to get started putting one together. If you do already have an employee handbook, we bet it’s probably due for refreshening.

    From at-will information to disciplinary actions, you should ask yourself, Do You Have These 10 Things in Your Employee Handbook? A good employee handbook will make sure your entire team is on the same page when it comes to understanding the expectations and policies of your business.

    Why stop there? Your business has many important documents that need regular sprucing up. Check out these other resources:

    5 Must-Have Items for Your Staffing Toolkit

    7 Tools You Need in Your Legal Toolkit

    9 Things You Should Include in an Offer Letter

     

    Check out more articles in our 3 Things to Know series.

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  • Next up: How to Set Up an Effective SEO Content Strategy in 4 Steps

    How to Set Up an Effective SEO Content Strategy in 4 Steps

    If content is king, then an SEO content strategy is your ace-in-the-hole. Check out these four simple steps to creating an effective strategy to get your small business noticed.

     

    The saying “content is king” has become a cliché in marketing circles—but it still holds true.

    To attract customers to your business, you need to first attract them to your website. And to attract them to your website, you must first have some valuable content in place. Developing an SEO content strategy streamlines the entire process of content creation and optimization.

    So the question is: How can you create great content on a regular basis? While there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, there are certain steps you can take to make sure that your content is driven by SEO best practices, and delights your users at the same time. Let’s dig into some of the details.

    Here are four basic steps to creating an effective SEO content strategy.

    Step No. 1: Identify Your Target Audience
    First and foremost, you need to clearly identify your target audience. In other words, for whom you are writing.

    Of course, you may say, “We are writing for everyone who needs our product!”—which is true. But the more details you can uncover about your “ideal customer,” the more effective your SEO content strategy will be.

    This is where a buyer persona really comes in handy. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional profile of your ideal customer. It’s based on attributes like age range, gender, education level, income level, occupation, and so forth. But you can expand your buyer persona to answer questions like:

    What are my ideal customers’ goals, interests, and concerns?
    What pain points are they dealing with?
    How can our product solve those pain points?
    Why would customers buy from us, instead of our competitors?

    As you flesh out your buyer persona, you’ll be able to create content that resonates with your target audience. As a result, you’ll gain new visitors to your site—and you’ll keep existing customers coming back for more.

    Keep in mind; your buyer personas will evolve as your business does.

    Assumptions you may have made initially about who would benefit from your products or services may not have been in your business’s best interests. For example, you realize that the initial version of your personas can’t afford or aren’t willing to spend for the value you bring to the table.

    It is therefore imperative to regularly validate and update your buyer personas to make sure your content is hitting its mark and resonating with the right audience.

    Customer persona validation doesn’t have to be a tedious or expensive process. In-person interviews and online surveys (using tools like SurveyMonkey and Typeform) are powerful ways to get real-time and actionable data to help you understand your customer and hone your content.

    Here’s a great video highlighting some key points to keep in mind.

    Step No. 2: Develop Topic Clusters or Content Themes
    The topic cluster model is an SEO strategy that focuses on addressing topics rather than just keyword phrases. It’s important to remember that Google and other search engines have been focusing more on user intent rather than just strictly keywords.

    By creating content themes or topic clusters, you cast a wider but more focused net to attract and capture the attention of potential clients. By adopting a topic cluster model, you improve your site architecture; you make it easy for users and search engines to find related content, ultimately improving your site visibility and rankings. It does this by creating a semantic relationship between your related content and demonstrating that you are an authority in the subject matter worthy of attention and rank.

    This model works as follows:
    --You create pillar content for each broader concept and create supporting content with specific long-tail keywords to flesh out each sub-topic or aspect.
    --The pillar links out to each cluster page, and each cluster page links back to the pillar content using the same anchor text/keyword phrase.
    --That way, when any piece of content in the cluster does well, the entire cluster gets a boost.

    Here is a short Hubspot video that explains the model.

    Step No. 3: Determine Which Keywords to Use
    Once you’ve clearly identified your target audience and developed your content buckets, the next step is to identify which keywords to incorporate in your content.

    Remember, when it comes to SEO content, you’re actually writing for two audiences: your human customers, and the search engines they use. You want to develop your content so that it’s relevant to your customers’ search queries, but also ranks as high as possible on Google.

    Using the right keywords is essential. For some companies, broad keywords are the best option. For instance, if you type in “iPad,” which corporation do you think will pop up first in Google’s results? However, smaller businesses often find that geo-specific search phrases (like “pizza near me,” for example) or long-tail keywords (search phrases with three or more words) work better. These keywords often come with less competition from companies in the same industry—and are usually more relevant to your target audience anyway.

    RELATED: Effective SEO trends for your small business in 2021

    How can you identify the best keywords to use? There are several keyword research tools on the Internet, and some of them are free. Others charge a monthly rate for their services. These tools can help you to determine which keywords have the highest volume of search traffic, and which ones come with the stiffest competition.

    Once you determine which keywords to use in your content, you’ll be ready for the next step of your SEO content strategy, which is…

    Step No. 4: Create the Content!
    Now it’s time to actually write that blog post (or have someone else do it for you if that’s not your jam).

    You have your target audience and the topic clusters in mind, and you have the keywords to build around. Here are some other elements to keep in mind:

    Brand voice: You want the “voice” and “tone” of your content to reflect the sensibilities of your ideal customer. For instance, if you are targeting conservative housewives who don’t like aggressive language, then leading off your content with: “ARE YOU READY TO CRUSH YOUR DAY?!” may not be the best strategy.

    Linking: There are two basic linking tactics you can employ—back-linking and internal linking. Back-links are links you include in your content that redirect the user to another website. These are great ways to back up your claims with authoritative data—but only if you link back to trustworthy sites!

    Internal links, on the other hand, are links to other pages on your site—and ideally to those pages in your topic cluster. Think of these links as a way to gradually build up your own credibility as far as Google’s algorithm is concerned.

    Metadata: It’s a good idea to incorporate metadata into your content (i.e., data that’s visible to search engines, but not necessarily to users).
    Metadata like tags and descriptions for your content can help search engines to more effectively categorize your web pages, and return more relevant search results for your target audience.

    Of course, some metadata is visible to users, as well. For instance, a page’s meta description on Google Search acts as a brief summary of what the content includes and can drive traffic to your site.

    Content delivery schedule: It’s important to post content to your site on a consistent basis. You don’t want to confuse or frustrate your followers by posting 10 new articles in one week, but only two in the next.

    With that in mind, make sure you have your content strategy planned out several months in advance. Create a workable schedule with some built-in flexibility in case you need to make an adjustment “on-the-fly.

    Also, schedule out when to update your content—outdated content is not only a no-no for SEO purposes, but it doesn’t reflect well on your brand, either.

    *Pro Tip! Convert your written work into video content as well to leverage the incredible power of video marketing!

    RELATED: Read more by Nachum Langsner

    Of course, there’s much more to creating content than what we’ve mentioned above (like SEO copywriting for example). But if you follow these basic steps, you’ll be in a much better position to deploy your SEO content strategy in an effective way.

    Partner With Experienced SEO Content Strategy Experts
    The good news is, you don’t have to develop and implement your strategy all by yourself.

    Many local businesses have partnered with an experienced digital marketing agency to form a sound SEO content strategy and generate high-performing content.

    In today’s highly competitive market, working with experts is the best way to capture more leads, convert more customers, and keep existing clients coming back.

    If you’d like to discuss how we can help you set up and implement an effective SEO content strategy, reach out to us today to start the conversation.

    Nachum Langsner is the Co-Founder & CMO of LocalBizGuru, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Cleveland, OH. He has over 10+ years of experience in the SEO industry and is a frequent presenter and instructor of digital marketing and SEO seminars for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Greater Cleveland area for organizations such as COSE, Jumpstart, the Better Business Bureau, Score and the Ohio SBDC at CSU. 

     
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  • Next up: 5 Corporate Philanthropy Benefits (and How You Can Achieve Them)

    5 Corporate Philanthropy Benefits (and How You Can Achieve Them)

    Watch our recent webinar about the benefits of corporate philanthropy.

    Corporate philanthropy benefits not only the community but your company and your employees as well. And while that’s always been true, it’s even truer today. As society shifts toward more prominent social, environmental, and economic responsibility, the importance of corporate philanthropy has increased as well. It’s become essential to business success, bringing more benefits with a greater impact on performance.

    In a recent webinar sponsored by Koinonia, we discussed:

    • How to use corporate philanthropy to boost engagement and productivity
    • How to use corporate philanthropy to improve brand perception
    • How to use corporate philanthropy to attract and retain talent
    • How to use corporate philanthropy to Increase Sales
    • How to use corporate philanthropy for tax benefits

     

    Watch the recording now:

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