Social Networking

22 Simple Actions You Can Take Today To Position Your Business For Breakthrough Growth

There are over 11,000 business books published each year. In all of them there’s one thing missing: ACTION! Without action all the knowledge in the world is useless.

As a business owner you don’t need more ideas, you need focus. Today, I’ve made it easy for you…I’ve listed 22 actions you can take today to position your business for breakthrough growth. Implement them all or implement just one…but implement something!

Each of these actions compounds on the others so you’ll get better results the more you implement.

Action #1: Create a Customer List (60 minutes)

If you do nothing else do this! Your customer list is the only real asset in your business. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in. You may own equipment and real estate and according to your accountant they are assets…but in reality, the only assets you have are the relationships you have with the people who are willing to give you money in return for service. Without that one primary asset, you don’t have a business. So start paying close attention to your customer list…it’s the most valuable thing you own.

If your list is in Quickbooks…get it out. Quickbooks is for accounting. You need a marketing list. I recommend using Highrise if you’re just getting started with your list, or Infusionsoft if you’re ready to leap to the next level. Infusionsoft will automate all of your marketing and fulfillment processes…it’s what I use to power my business.

Action #2: Create a Written Process for Getting Contact Information From Every Customer (20 minutes)

What good’s a list if you don’t have a way to grow it. In my experience businesses divide into two categories—1) The businesses that bill their customers after the fact; 2) Transactional businesses that deliver the goods and get paid at the same time. Businesses that bill customers almost always have a decent customer list…if not, they don’t get paid. Transactional businesses mostly ignore the value of a customer list.

If you’re not collecting customer contact information come up with a reason for needing it (it makes it less creepy when you ask). Here’s a hint…you don’t need a good reason, just a reason. At a minimum collect name and email. Ideally you’ll collect name, email, mailing address, phone (and maybe their Twitter handle).

With your list in hand, and a process for growing it you now have the keys to instant sales…just send a message to the list when you need some extra cash.

Action #3: Make a List of Everything You Can Guarantee (15 minutes)

Most small businesses fear guarantees. Afraid that they’ll be taken advantage of. The reality is that only a very small number of customers ever claim a guarantee. Your risk is small in offering a guarantee…but the perceived risk reduction in the client’s eyes can make selling much easier.

You don’t have to guarantee your product or service or it’s results. It’s best if you can, but you can guarantee anything. Here are a few examples:

  • Guarantee that your phone will be answered by a real, live human.
  • Guarantee that you’ll return customer calls on the same day.
  • Guarantee that you’re service people will arrive when promised.
  • Guarantee that your quoted price will be the final price.
  • Guarantee that a particular item is always in stock.

If you stop to think about it the list is endless. Guarantee satisfaction, and offer money back if possible. But if you’re not comfortable with that, guarantee as many pieces as you can.

Action #4: Sign-up for an Email Marketing Service With an Autoresponder (15 minutes)

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways you can market your business. National studies have shown year after year that email marketing delivers more than a 40:1 return on investment. That’s more than double the next best marketing method. If you’ve completed Actions 1 and 2 and are growing your list, you’re crazy if you don’t have a way to do email marketing.

If you’re thinking, e-newsletter, you’re only half right. I do think e-newsletters, sent weekly or bi-weekly, are an essential part of your marketing mix, but the real power in email marketing is automation. With automation, you can capture a new lead and send them a series of educational messages over time…automatically (even while you sit on the beach sipping a margarita).

If you’re looking for a solid email marketing service, I recommend iContact, Aweber or Infusionsoft.

Action #5: Make a List of Your Clients’ Pains and Your Cures (30 minutes)

Forget about what you do for clients and how you do it for a moment. Think about the biggest complaints and challenges your clients face. Even if it’s outside your domain…those are the things they’d pay to have solved. Then make a list of your cures to each pain. Your clients don’t want your service or product…they want the cure for the pain they feel.

You may find that your current offering doesn’t cure the pain…it only goes halfway. How can you be the whole cure? What would you have to add? What would it be worth to your clients?

Action #6: Start Tracking Lifetime Client Value (20 minutes)

In your client list, start tracking the value of each transaction that your client completes. Keep a running total for each client. Over time you’ll be able to calculate an average value of a client over the life of their interaction with you. Knowing this one number can drive your entire business. If you know what a new client is worth in total it changes how you look at every investment in your business…especially your marketing.

Knowing Lifetime Client Value will give you clear insight into the value of your list. Think about how you can use this knowledge…Let’s say that you know each client is worth, on average, $10,000 over 5 years. And you know that for every 20 leads you get, one becomes a client. That means each lead is worth $500. That’s pretty good motivation for filling the pipeline with leads don’t you think?

Action #7: Stop Worrying About the Cost of Marketing and Focus on ROI (5 minutes)

I understand that marketing can be expensive…especially in a tough economy. But marketing is an investment, meant to grow your most valuable asset (your client list). The appropriate number to watch is ROI—Return on Investment. Focusing on ROI is a decision more than an action, so just do it, make the decision.

When you do, you’ll find that your marketing will move from being a fuzzy part of your business to a highly tracked and measurable area of focus for you. To get maximum ROI from your marketing, place small bets, keep the winners, cut the losers and let your winning marketing campaigns compound.

Action #8: Signup for a Press Notification Service (5 minutes)

Getting free publicity can be a huge boon to your business. And there’s a little secret most business owners don’t understand…the press needs your story. Yes, it’s true…there’s a reporter out there right now on deadline and she needs you. The trick is finding the reporter.

Here are two services that bring those hungry reporters right to your inbox:

  1. Help A Reporter Out HARO, as it’s called is a free service that reporters use to post requests for experts to interview for their stories. All you’ve got to do is go to the HARO website and create your free account. You’ll get three short emails each day with listings of press opportunities and the contact information for the reporter.
  2. Reporter Connection Reporter Connection works much like HARO. It too is free and will send you one email per day with listings.

Just scan these emails when they come in and when you see an opportunity to provide great information, click and respond.

Action #9: Make a List of E-newsletters, Blogs and Podcasts in Your Niche (30 minutes)

Your search for free publicity shouldn’t end with traditional media. There are millions of websites that publish information on a daily basis. I guarantee there are some publishing in your industry (or in your prospect’s industries). These sites usually have highly targeted audiences. And the owners of these sites need content to keep their readers satisfied. Take a look at the site and the types of articles they publish. Write up your idea for an article and call the owner and pitch the idea. To find blogs use Google Blog Search.

And be sure to look for podcasts on iTunes. These are great places to land an interview. Just remember to provide high quality, educational content and keep the sales pitch subtle.

Don’t think it’ll help…listen to how E-Letter Subscriber and business broker John Kraft leveraged niche media to drive real business…

John said all it took was a short conversation with the marketing manager at TravelHost, a company that sells business opportunities. TravelHost sends a daily video to about 2500 business brokers (they’ve created their own media outlet…more about that in a moment). John is working with laid off mid-level and senior state employees to find them businesses to buy…that’s unique and newsworthy. It’s also the kind of information that other brokers want to know. He made it easy for TravelHost to talk about him…he gave them what they needed.

As a result John says he got 5 calls within a week, landed one new listing and three additional leads in under a month (in case you don’t know, that’s big results in John’s business).

One reason for the big results from a relatively small press opportunity is that niche press is targeted. If John had the same information published in the local paper I’d guess his results wouldn’t be as good…even though the audience is 50 times larger. And it would have been harder to land that newspaper article.

So being observant and understanding the audience + a couple of phone calls = profitable new business (and the side benefit of lots of exposure). Do you think you could spare an hour a month to get some great niche press?

Action #10: Create a 5 Step Follow-up Campaign For New Prospects (90 minutes)

Never let a new prospect fall through the cracks…write 5 short emails to educate and help your prospects move to a buying decision.

  1. Email Day 1: Thanks for dropping in…did we answer all your questions
  2. Email Day 3: Answers to questions (answer 5 frequently asked questions)
  3. Email Day 5: Client testimonials
  4. Email Day 7: Special Offer (I like adding bonuses that expire on Day 10, rather than discounting)
  5. Email Day 10: Last chance…

Action #11: Write a 5 Step New Client Welcome Campaign (90 minutes)

Don’t make the mistake of stopping your marketing when the client buys. Use an automatic welcome campaign to give the client confidence that they made the right choice.

  1. Email Day 1: Congratulations on your purchase (confirm in their minds that they made the right decision…fights buyer’s remorse)
  2. Email Day 3: Important resources – Tell ’em how to best interact with your business and how to get help if they ever need it
  3. Email Day 5: Client success stories – send stories of happy clients who got great results and reassure them that their results are around the corner
  4. Email Day 10: Ask for referrals (introductions to friends, family, co-workers)
  5. Email Day 21: Ask for a testimonial

This sequence does a lot…it helps avert buyer’s remorse, automatically asks for referrals and gathers testimonials.

Action #12: Setup a Google Place Page for Your Business (30 minutes)

Google has created millions of free webpages for local businesses all across the country. If you haven’t claimed yours yet you need to, pronto! Google’s Place Pages are one page listings for local businesses hosted by Google. If you’ve ever searched for a local business and seen the map showing business locations, then you’ve seen a local search. If you’re a local business this is your listing in the new phone book.

To claim your Place Page go to Google Local Business Center. You’ll need a free Google account (your Gmail account will work) to log in. Then you can search to see if Google has created a page for you. If not, you can easily create one.

Be sure to add complete information. Your page will serve you better if you’re thorough. Remember to add photos and videos from YouTube, too.

When you’re done, send an email with a link to your shiny new Place Page to your best clients and ask them to write a review for you.

Action #13: Search for Online Reviews of Your Business (20 Minutes)

Your online reputation is more important than ever…and it’s spread all over the web. Go to Google and search for “Your business name reviews” and you’ll get a picture of what’s out there. You’ll also want to go to Yelp.com, Angie’s List (requires a small fee) and your Google Place Page (see Action #12).

I’ve had two clients do this and find some really damaging reviews posted about them (in both cases we suspect the reviews were posted by competitors). Once we found them we were able to combat them by asking happy clients to post their own positive reviews.

A word of caution…as with all things in life, honesty is the best policy. Don’t post fake reviews. Get real reviews from satisfied clients…you’ll get better long-term results.

Action #14: Schedule 1 Day A Week For Client Attraction (30 minutes)

This is a practice I learned from top marketer Fabienne Frederickson and it’s paid dividends ever since. Now, I know what you’re thinking…“I can’t possibly devote a day a week to marketing.” I thought that too..and then I did it. Just make the decision to do it, start blocking off your marketing day (I prefer Monday) two or three weeks out on your calendar. Chances are that you don’t have much scheduled that far out. Once you block it off be sure to defend that time. It’s essential to consistently growing your business.

Can’t do an entire day? No problem. Block off 90-120 minutes first thing every morning. Then fill that time with actions that get more clients.

Action #15: Create a Facebook Page for Your Business (30 minutes)

If you don’t already have a fan page, go ahead, make one. Just login to Facebook under your personal profile. Then go to Facebook’s Pages guide. You’ll need a graphic designer to create a profile photo for your business (if you need a good one, send me an email and I’ll introduce you to mine). Before you invite your friends to “Like” your page, put 3-5 informational posts on the page. You don’t want guests coming to an empty page…they won’t stick around.

Be sure to add 5 photos (in addition to your profile image). These show across the top and give you an opportunity to brand your page or create images that promote a specific product or service.

Now invite all of your friends to “Like” your page. Now the real work begins…creating content so good it’ll spread.

Action #16: Start a Facebook Ad Campaign (25 minutes)

Facebook has one of the easiest advertising platforms around. In just a few minutes you can have an ad campaign up and running driving leads to your Facebook Page or your website. You can target based on a number of demographics, but the most valuable feature is targeting based on what a person “Likes” on Facebook. Using this targeting you can drill down by interest to find people who have already said they are interested in your topic.

With a Facebook ad campaign you can pay-per-click (you pay a small amount each time someone clicks on your ad) or you can pay per 1000 impressions. I recommend starting with pay-per-click.You bid on ad space and I’ve seen bids range from a dime a click to several dollar a click depending on the interests you’re trying to target. You can set your maximum daily spend. Once your campaign hits this amount each day your ads stop running…this is a failsafe to make sure you don’t go broke. I typically set the limit at $10 or $20 dollars to start (during testing).

You create your ad copy…you’ve got a 25 character headline and a 135 character ad body to work with. Keep it right to the point…and make sure to include a call to action. You’ll also want to include a photo. Please, do not use your logo! Use a photo of a human face. My testing shows that photos of people (smiling women to be specific) get a greater response than any other type of picture.

Action #17: Get One Powerful Testimonial (45 minutes)

Great testimonials can do all of the selling for you. Take out a piece of paper and write down the name of your best, happiest client. Get ‘em on the phone and tell them you’re collecting client stories and you’d like to feature theirs on your website (they’ll be flattered). There are two types of testimonials…the first: Feel Good Testimonials do just that, they make you feel good because the client is telling how nice you are and what a pleasure you are to work with. Feel good testimonials may make you feel good, but they leave your bank account empty.

The type of testimonial you want is a Results Testimonial. In a Results Testimonial you want your client to cover 4 things:

  1. The situation they were in before they started working with you.
  2. How they came to find you (what other options did they try, without result first).
  3. The great results they now enjoy after working with you or using your product.
  4. Would they recommend you to others facing the same situation.

If you can get the testimonial on video, those are always the best, most credible. If you get a written testimonial be sure to include the client’s full name, city they live in, telephone or email (with their permission) and photo. Avoid anonymous testimonials, they’re not credible.

Action #18: Develop One New Idea Your Competitors Wouldn’t Dare Do (90 minutes)

If you sit and think for a little while you’ll stumble upon one (or more) ideas that are considered taboo in your industry. Those ideas are the perfect place to go to separate yourself from your customers. In my last business, we guaranteed response time for our crews…and offered to pay the client 1-hour of our fee if we were late. Guarantees in that industry were unheard of…and we had a number of competitors ask us if we were nuts for offering it. (By the way, if your competitors think one of your marketing ideas is crazy that’s a clue that you’re headed in the right direction.)

That one idea lead to $50,000 in business and we never needed to pay out a dime on the guarantee…not a bad ROI on an idea our competitors wouldn’t dare try.

Action #19: Make a Top 10 List (30 Minutes)

I’m a big believer in the power of networking to grow your business…and to grow personally. But most people go about it haphazardly. If you’re systematic about networking you can get amazing results in no time at all. My secret weapon for getting more clients by networking is my Top 10 List.

I keep the names of the 10 businesses or individuals I’m trying to meet and gain as clients on this list. When I meet with a networking contact I share it and ask if they know anyone on the list. If they do I ask for an introduction…and I almost always get at least one. It is without a doubt the fastest way to expand your network.

Action #20: Read (60 minutes, repeat daily)

A 2007 Washington Post article reports that half of Americans read less than four books a year and an astonishing 27% didn’t read even one book during the study period in 2006. Look around at the successful people you know. If you compare the size of their personal library to the size of their TV, you’ll see the library is (much) bigger. There is a direct correlation between your income and how much and what you read.

Reading four romance novels a week won’t get you any further along, but reading a great business or success book each week (or even just one a month) will get your mind focused on the principles of business and life that lead to success. The value in these books are the principles that they reveal. If you can take the principles and apply them, you’ll move forward.

Dr. Tom Hill taught me a system to read a book a day (I don’t usually hit that number, but I’m probably in the top 5% or 10% of readers based on the Washington Post story)…here’s how it goes:

  1. Read the back cover and the inside of the jacket. Look for the other authors who are recommending the book. They may be authors you’ll want to check out later.
  1. Read the table of contents.
  1. Read the front matter.
  1. Read the first and last chapter in their entirety.
  1. Read the first few pages and last few pages of each chapter in between.
  1. Make notes about the principles revealed in the book.

Here’s Dr. Hill’s thoughts on why this approach is effective:

  • When you read a non-fiction book you usually want to learn the principles the author is using to get some result. That’s the focus.
  • The principles of most books are outlined in the table of contents, the first and last chapters and the beginning and end of each chapter.
  • The middle of most chapters is fluff and stories…you only want the principles.
  • The testimonials and front matter give you a clue into who has influenced the author’s writing and points you to other resources. You will generally get a glimpse of the author’s background and learn how they came to the knowledge they’re sharing.

As Dr. Hill correctly notes: The winners in business and in life are the people who learn and apply the most number of proven principles. Reading is your path to acquiring them.

Here’s my short list of must reads for entrepreneurs:

  1. The Bible (I don’t care what you believe in, but the principles outlined throughout the Bible have proven to be effective in life and business.)
  2. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (I’m currently reading his recently published Outwitting the Devil and it’s worthy of your time as well).
  3. No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs and No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits by Dan Kennedy
  4. Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch
  5. Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
  6. Influence by Robert Cialdini
  7. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

Action 21: Send a Card (10 minutes)

Send someone who you’ve interacted with this week a card or personal note. It shows gratitude and it sets you sets you apart from 99% of business people, who, if they do anything, send an email. I send cards on a regular basis to thank people, to say “nice to meet you” and to generate leads and open doors when I can’t find any other way in.

President George H.W. Bush credits sending a “nice to meet you” card to everyone he ever met as being one of the keys to his success. President Ronald Reagan was known to sit up at night and write “Thank You Grams” every night. I figure if it’s good enough for two men who’ve held the highest office in the land…it’s good enough for me.

Action #22: Take Massive Action (all day, every day)

I admit this isn’t a quick action, but it’s the difference between being wildly successful in your business and being mediocre. So don’t read this article and set it aside. Don’t read and do one thing. Figure out how to do 10 or 15 or all of these things. That’s taking massive action and it works. It’s getting the odds in your favor. Not everything you try will give you all of the results that you want, but in total, by acting on many fronts and at many levels you’ll get everything you want and more.

So go get after it!

What would you add to the list? I’d like you to share just one quick action in the comments that you do that make a big difference in your business.

Thanks to Corbett Barr of Think Traffic for the inspiration for this article.

Referrals - The 3 Step Plan Every Business Owner Needs to Know

Referral Engine Marketing Next to selling more to your current clients, referral marketing is the easiest sale of all. But most small business owners approach it as though it’s rain falling from the sky—they have no control over referrals, they just hope it comes when they need it.

Hope is not a strategy…

If you want more referrals, the good news is that they are just 3 simple steps away…

Step 1. Ask for referrals!

Ok, I know that seems a little simplistic (and it is…we’ll talk about how to ask in a moment) but seriously, if you want more referrals, ASK!

The trick is in knowing how to ask. For most of the business owners I work with there are four barriers to getting more referrals.

The Barriers to Getting Referrals

1. You’re uncomfortable asking for referrals (for some people it not discomfort…it’s downright fear). It’s OK. In fact it’s totally normal to be uncomfortable…even afraid to ask for referrals.

You don’t want to offend your client by begging for more business after you’ve already taken their money, right? I mean, really…it’s like saying you’re just not enough for me, I need more.

If you feel that way about asking for referrals you are far from alone. But your fears are unfounded. In his latest book Referral Engine, John Jantsch shares research that proves we humans are “wired to refer.”

If you think about it, sending someone you care about to a great resource makes YOU feel good and makes you valuable to the other person. It’s a win-win. So your clients need to refer you.

By referring you to others your clients confirm their decision to use you in their own minds. You can actually increase client satisfaction by asking for referrals.

2. You don’t know how to ask. The words you use when you ask for a referral matter greatly. Use the wrong words and you sound selfish, sleezy or worse…desperate.

As I coach business owners to get more referrals, the easiest way I’ve found is to simply ask your clients for introductions.

And be specific about who you want to be introduced to…name names if you can. (I’ll talk about the importance of being specific in a moment.)

3. You don’t know when to ask. Timing is everything. Should you ask at the moment the ink dries on the contract, at the end of the project or somewhere in between?

One of my clients makes a habit of asking anytime a client thanks him for his work. It goes something like this:

Client: “Thank you so much for taking care of this for me…”

You: “You’re welcome. I’m glad you feel good about our work together. Tell me, do you know just one friend or colleague who might need my help too?”

Client: “Yes…my friend Mary.”

You: “I’d love to help Mary if I can. Would you please introduce us?”

Client: “Absolutely!”

Simple…and not at all sleezy.

In my experience there is no one best time to ask for referrals. Ask when the ink dries, because a referral here can boost client retention and stave off buyer’s remorse.

Ask again whenever the client praises you (if they’re praising you daily don’t ask daily…but you could certainly ask monthly without being a pest, if you do it the right way).

4. You don’t have a system for asking for referrals. This is where most businesses fail in referral marketing. They just sit back and expect referrals to show up. Some will, but you’re leaving big heaping piles of cash on the table if you’re not stimulating referrals.

You’ve got to create a system to get referrals, to track referrals, to reward clients who refer and to follow-up with the referrals you receive.

Step 2. Be Specific When You Ask For Introductions

I don’t know Someone or Anyone and neither do your clients. Most of the time when I ask business owners to tell me who would be a good lead for them (and I ask it of just about everyone I meet) I get an answer like this…

“Anyone who has a home really…” or

“Everyone with a car is a prospect for me…” or

“Someone looking to be healthy…”

Sounds absurd when you read it. And it makes it almost impossible for me to refer to you. You have now put the work of identifying your prospects onto me. I hate to tell you, but I’ve got enough to do and I’m not doing your work.

You must make it easy for clients to refer you. Do all of the leg work for them. Then use them to do the one thing you really need…introduce you.

Here’s what I use…

The Top 10 List

My friend and mentor Greta Schulz taught me this trick. I keep a list of the Top 10 people, companies or professions I want to meet. I list them on a one-pager and include my contact information and a short sentence or two about how to introduce me.

You can download a copy of my Top 10 List Networking Template and use it for yourself.

When I meet with strategic alliances or when I ask clients for introductions I simply ask if I can share a list of people I’m looking to get introduced to.

They always say yes…then I give them a copy of my Top 10 List and ask if they know anyone on the list.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll get introduced to the 10 people on your list. Then you add another 10 and off you go.

I used this technique when I moved to Tallahassee, Florida in 2007. I knew 2 people in the business community. In just 12 months I was “plugged in” and all of the key people I needed to meet were in my network.

And the best part is that you’ll look like a networking rock star when you use this one little tool. People will ask if they can copy it (and you’ll always say “Of course!”)

One little ninja trick: Ask the other person for their Top 10 List so you can help them get introduced to people you may know.

They’ll fall all over themselves thanking you. Unfortunately, only 1 in 100 will ever send you anything.

So make your list today!

Do Some “Reverse Prospecting”

This is a master technique, that’s so simple, but no one does it. Call one of your closest allies (someone who you have a solid relationship with) and invite them to lunch. Let them know that you want to refer more business back and forth.

Then ask them to bring their client and prospect lists. You take yours.

When you get to lunch swap lists. You check their list for prospects and they check yours. Then agree to make the introductions within a week of your lunch.

Sometimes that’s all you need to create a flood of referrals.

Step 3. Follow-up Quickly

Referrals get stale faster than a carton of milk from the gas-station convenience store.

Commit to following up immediately with every referral. It shows respect for the person who gave you the referral and it serves the person you’re being referred to.

I like phone calls better than emails. They’re more personal and your goal is to build a relationship.

Send a thank you note to the person who referred you.

If you end up doing business, send the referrer a gift. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but sending something will go a long way towards getting more referrals from that person.

Here’s your assignment:

1. Decide how and when you are going to ask for referrals. Write down your plan in 2-3 sentences. Having it on paper will help you stick to it. Write out the words you’re going to use to ask for introductions. Then practice with a friend, you spouse or your dog. The point is to get comfortable with the words you’ll use before you’re in front of a client. Once you’ve decided when to ask. Add it to your checklist at that part of your sales process.

2. Make Your Top 10 List. Download my Networking Top 10 List template and edit it to be your own. This one step will take you less than an hour and will set you apart from every other business in your area. Just do it.

3. Write your follow-up system. Write down the steps you’ll take to follow-up with each and every referral. Make a checklist and don’t forget to take care of the people who refer you.

Do you need more referrals and don’t know where to start? That’s why I created the Get More Clients System. To help business owners and entrepreneurs get all the clients they need to sleep like a baby every night…without worrying about how to make payroll next week. To learn more, request a Get Acquainted Session.

To your success!

Small Business Marketing Consultant Steve Gordon

How to Keep Facebook From Sucking the Life Out of You

We've now taught hundreds of business owners how to grow their businesses with Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the other social media tools. With total confidence I can tell you that the #1 gripe we hear from these entrepreneurs is "But I don't have time..." And, frankly, they're right. (You thought I was going to say..."but you can't afford not to be on Facebook, etc.) They don't have time and you don't have time to use these tools the way "normal", low-achieving people use them.

So let's talk about smart strategies for automating, delegating and putting boundaries around social media.

First, all of the tools--Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your blog, Plaxo, FriendFeed (and 1000 others)--can be linked to the big boys: Facebook, Twitter and your blog. So instead of updating all of the services you're on, you should really only be actively updating 2 or 3 sites.

Second, Most "normal" people decide what to post when they sit down in front of the computer with Facebook's piercing question "Steve is ________________" staring them in the face. Smart social media marketers approach social media as they do all other forms of media. They plan campaigns.

To do this, block off 30-minutes to 1-hour per week to plan your social media marketing messages for the week.

If you're really cool, you'll include your assistant, the teenager you're paying $10 per hour or some bright, young, hip person on your staff. You tell them what the messages will be and THEY are responsible for making it happen throughout the week.

You can use tools like SocialOomph.com to schedule Twitter posts in advance or Ping.fm to update all of your sites at once (or even better use them together).

Finally, depending on the type of personality your company has, you may want have direct contact with your social media followers. We encourage it.

But you don't need to do all of the posting. Automate you're marketing messages like we've described, and then pop-in to Twitter or Facebook to answer questions and join conversations. This is great filler for that 2-minutes when your between meetings.

Social media should not suck all of your time. It's just one of many forms of media that you should be using in your business. Give it the time it deserves, and no more.

Tips-n-Tricks: How to Seperate Business and Personal Posts, Pictures and Friends' Comments on Facebook

What if you don't want your business friends to see the pictures from your family Bar-B-Q, or you have a crazy friend that posts to your wall?  What can you do?  In the past people have setup two profiles, one for business and one for personal.  Personally, I just think that is too much work.  Also, it is inevitable that one of your business contacts will find your personal profile or visa-versa.  Why complicate your online presence? Now, you don't have to worry about mixing business and pleasure.  Within Facebook, there are settings that will allow you to utilize Facebook for both worlds without concern for who sees what.  Isn't that exciting!  So let's show you how to control who sees what.

First, you will have to log into Facebook. Next,  you will create friend lists.  To group your friends, click "friends" at the top of your screen.  From there, you will see a menu on the left side of the screen, look for "lists" and then click on friends.  You will know you have found the right option when a screen opens and you see a list of all your friends with their profile pictures.  At the very top of the list, there is a button that says, "Create New List," click that that.

You are almost there!  Now think of the first name you want to group your friends by.  You could use work, family, relatives, best friends or distant relatives.  Type the name in the box at the top.  Then click on each person that fits within your new description.  Once you have selected the friends that fit within your new "list", click create list.  You will know your list was  created successfully when it appears under "List" on the left hand menu.  Create as many list as you like, but simplicity is best.

Keep in mind, you will be selecting settings based on the lists.  That means if you want to limit your business contacts from viewing your pictures, you have to make sure all your business contacts are within your "work" list.

Now that you have your lists, you can start locking and hiding things from certain lists.  Now, click on "settings."  This option is in the top right of the screen, the wording is white within the blue Facebook box at the top of the screen.  Then, click "manage" on the privacy settings line (second from the bottom).  Once you click manage, you will have four choices (Profile, Search, News Wall & Feed and Applications), click on Profile.

The good news is you can limit certain friends from seeing certain things on Facebook.  The bad news is not all of the settings allow you to limit certain groups of friends.  The following Facebook features can be limited by "lists" of friends: photos tagged of you, videos tagged of you, wall posts, education info and work info.  So how do you lock down things like pictures?

Within the privacy settings above, such as videos tagged of you, select customize from the drop down menu.  Next, select "some friends" within the screen that opens.  I box will appear, this is where you indicate which "list" of friends can view the information.  Enter the name of the list that you want to be able to see your videos.  You can also select individual names (maybe from your business contacts).  Once you save these settings, only the lists indicated will be able to view your videos.

Continue to go through each setting designating what lists can see different items within your profile.  Now you have a profile suitable for business and personal use.

Getting Started with LinkedIn - Top 12 Strategies

If you are like most business people, you have probably been sent an invitation to a site called LinkedIn. Then, if you are like the majority of us, we delete the link thinking, "Oh no not another site that I have to sign-up on." So, you are probably reading this right now, going yep...that is me. Why should I register on the site, normally sites like that just send me junk and fill my inbox with worthless email? I can tell you from firsthand experience, there are plenty of sites out there that want you to register and then send you spam 50 times a week. LinkedIn is not one of them. LinkedIn is a powerful networking site, creeping up on popular social networks like MySpace and Facebook. The benefit about LinkedIn is that it is entirely business focused. So, are you interested yet?

What Can LinkedIn Do for Me?

I have been asked the above question more times than I can probably count. My answer to everyone is always, "LinkedIn is a great way to find people. We all go through life never really knowing everything about our work colleagues (sometimes even our friends). LinkedIn has allowed me to read someone's business history in a single screen. The site also helps me understand who they know and network with."

Some interesting facts you probably did not know about LinkedIn:

* The average number of LinkedIn connections for people who work at Google is forty-seven. * The average number for Harvard Business School grads is fifty-eight, so you could skip the MBA, work at Google, and probably get most of the connections you need. Later, you can hire Harvard MBAs to prepare your income taxes. * People with more than twenty connections are thirty-four times more likely to be approached with a job opportunity than people with less than five. * All 500 of the Fortune 500 are represented in LinkedIn. In fact, 499 of them are represented by director-level and above employees.(blog.guykawasaki.com/2007/01/ten_ways_to_use.html)

Top Reasons to Use LinkedIn

1. Building your Reputation. LinkedIn is a great tool for people to outline their experience, accomplishment, organizations and network. Too often I have seen incomplete profiles. A crucial element to get LinkedIn to work for you is to make sure your profile is 100% complete. Include all your previous employers, groups you belong to, your "advertisement", websites and other important information. LinkedIn is also becoming a place where employers find candidates, so if you are job hunting, this may be the place for you.

2. Find Qualified Candidates. Ever struggled looking for an employee? If you are like me, it is a love hate relationship. I want to find the best candidate because it will benefit the company, but weeding through all the applicants can be exhausting. Well, how about using your network to find employees? For my last two positions, I hired individuals that came recommended, yes I said recommended, from my network on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has a great job posting board, which is also very inexpensive. Even if you don't want to field unknown candidates, you can send out an email to all your connections.

3. Find New Connections. Have you ever felt like sometimes you see the same people at the networking events? Would you like to meet new people? Use LinkedIn and do a search. For example, let's say I want to meet Architects. I just go to LinkedIn and type in Architects in the search box. LinkedIn will search my contact's contacts and return the results. The best part is it shows me how I am connected to the person, which can then be used for introductions. I ask Joe Smith to introduce me to his friend the Architect. LinkedIn also provides results of what they call 3rd degree friends. Essentially, your contact has a contact that knows the architect. It seems complicated, but it is a great way to expand your network and your friend's network. Try a search, see what happens. LinkedIn also has introductions, a tool they offer to give you an introduction to a person you want to meet.

4. Increase your Google Ranking. Ever wondered how people's names come up so high up on Google searches? I do not have the secret Google formula, but I can tell you a well written LinkedIn profile earns a high rank on the page. The not so lucky are the people with common names, like Joe Smith, but, the more you have information like LinkedIn (or Blog articles), the better your Google ranking.

5. Make your meeting go smoother. I was once introduced to a contact who knew all about me before I ever met him. He even went on to tell me who we knew in common....talk about ice breaker. All he did was search for me on LinkedIn and viola....all my history and information. I have to admit, from a bird's eye perspective it sounds a bit creepy, but sitting in the meeting it was not. I was actually relieved to have something in common with the person. He, of course, told me he had viewed my LinkedIn profile, which took all the creepiness away. I thought after that meeting, what a great way to learn about someone, search for them on LinkedIn.

6. Ask for or Give Advice. In the question and answer section of LinkedIn, users can post questions and answer questions. For example, if you are a computer hardware expert, you would scroll through and try to answer questions relating to your specialty. What does this do? Well, it builds your credibility as an expert in your field. On the other hand, have a question you want some peer advice on? Ask the LinkedIn users. I have scrolled through the Answers section many times and I am always pleased with the responses I have read, always very professional.

7. Scope out Competition, Customers, Partners. I, like most people, use Google or another search engine to see what information I can find out about my market. The market includes your customers, competitors and partners. LinkedIn is a great tool for research. I especially like it because you can usually see where a person worked previous to their current position. Knowing that information provides a much more in-depth picture about the person or company. Another key advantage is to see what groups your customers or potential customers belong to.

8. Groups. LinkedIn just added a new tool to search groups. The groups range from networking groups to Alumni groups to Company groups. Groups can be a great tool for networking. For instance, I am a member of the Alumni group where I went to college. The group is quite large, but I can search within the group for prospective clients, partners or competitors. I use the group as a common thread when trying to talk to or meet with people. For example, "Joe I see that you are a member of XYZ Alumni group, so am I, what did you study?" There are many different ways to use the groups and their members as leads into conversations. As a plus, when you join a group you can show the group on your profile. The benefit could be others see the group and find they have a common thread with you.

9. Recommendations. LinkedIn has created a system where your contacts can recommend you. I think it is a wonderful tool. Now, when I am searching for a product or service or even a new connection, I can read what other people have to say. I know and you know, we can talk about how great we are till we are blue in the face, but when someone else confirms it......you may have struck gold. Leverage the power of LinkedIn to get recommendations and be sure to give them as well.

10. Help Others. The saying is Give and You Shall Receive. Use LinkedIn to introduce people you think would be a good match. You can easily do introductions to the people with LinkedIn's inMail. The nice thing about giving a contact more connections on LinkedIn is that no one wants to be the person with the least contacts....so help out a friend and send them a contact or two that makes sense for them. Part of helping others can be helping them use LinkedIn. Most of the people I have met have done very little research on how to use LinkedIn to its full potential.

11. Use it on the go. LinkedIn is configured to be able to use it on your handheld device. While you waiting at the airport, doctor's office or another waiting area, log into LinkedIn and network from anywhere. Just go to linkedin.com.  Now you can just browse to the apps on your iPhone or Blackberry.

12. Setup a company page.  While this is still "technically" in beta, it is a good place to get more exposure online for your business.  Setup your company profile information and at the minimum, as people view your profile, they can get more company info if they choose.

I hope you start getting more from LinkedIn! And while you're at it, drop me a line at http://www.linkedin.com/in/kimalbritton