How to Humanize Your Brand to Win on Social Media

It doesn’t matter how big your reach is if your audience won’t engage with your content.


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Is your brand putting significant resources into posting every day on Facebook, yet no one’s engaging with your posts? Are you tweeting out links to your website on Twitter, yet no one’s clicking through, even when you offer sales or other incentives? If any of this sounds like challenges you and your brand face, there’s a clear solution: Humanize your brand.

In today’s hectic and crowded social media landscape, companies that want to break through need to focus on forming genuine connections with their audiences by communicating with them like a human, not like a brand. That starts with marketers thinking less like marketers and more like consumers.

Don’t believe me? Consider this: When using social media in your personal life, do you wake up each morning to check what your favorite brand is selling on social media? Or do you open Facebook or Instagram to see what your friends are up to, to be entertained, to learn about what’s going on in the world that day? Consumers don’t want to be sold to, and if your brand is pushing your sales agenda online, you’ll get tuned out. Instead, you need to tune into what matters to your audience and start engaging with them like a human, not like a brand.

Brands need faces

As I explained in my new book, The End of Marketing, being successful on social media now requires being open and real with your audience, like the way DJ Khaled has built up a social media empire by letting people get a closer look at his lifestyle. Any celebrity could theoretically do the same, but DJ Khaled stands out in the social media world by being refreshingly candid in his posts. In other words, he seems human, rather than having every post look like a finely polished PR piece.

Some brands have been able to leverage DJ Khaled’s influence by partnering with him to promote their products in a similarly entertaining, human way, and doing so puts a relatable face to what they’re trying to sell. While most companies don’t have the budget to work with mega-influencers like DJ Khaled, there’s no reason why you can’t put a face to your brand by either working with smaller influencers to show how your products and services affect real people’s lives, or leveraging your own community of customers and employees.

Far too often, brands miss opportunities by not engaging with customers who are already interacting with them online. Instead of always trying to expand your reach, start by responding to the comments others leave on your posts, and search within social media platforms for customers mentioning your brand. When you find with them, engage with them like you would a friend — say thanks, ask them questions about what they’re working on or doing for fun, congratulate them on milestones, etc. If you do that, there’s a good chance you can find customers who want to organically promote your brand on social.

Companies can also recruit their own employees to humanize their brands. Showcase what a day-in-the-life is like at your company in various departments, have different employees take over your social media channels for a day, or have your community manager introduce themselves to your audience and communicate on a more personal level. With my own brand, for instance, I leverage my own social media presence as Carlos Gil, rather than trying to build up a corporate persona under the Gil Media name. Doing so helps me form deeper connections with my clients and partners, which in turn helps me grow my brand.

Entertain or educate

In addition to putting a face to your brand, you also need to change what you post. Rather than being salesy, which would look even more unnatural coming from the real people that comprise your brand, focus on creating content that will either entertain or educate your audience. Not every company can be entertaining like DJ Khaled, but any brand can connect with customers by being educational.

For example, if you’re an accounting company, you can provide tax tips rather than directly pitching your services. If you’re a food company, you can provide recipes. If you’re a pest control company, you can provide home care tips. Whatever you do, there’s a way you can educate your audience in a way that provides value to them and causes them to engage with your posts, rather than scrolling past them.

These are just some of the many ways you can humanize your brand, but the key is to remember that gaining traction on social media today requires giving customers the content they want, not what you think promotes your company in the best light. If you think like a customer instead of a marketer, you’ll have a better chance of figuring out how to make this shift and start forming deeper connections that help grow your brand.

Watch a preview above, or check out the full keynote on Carlos Gil’s YouTube channel here

Watch more videos from Carlos Gil on his YouTube channel hereFollow Carlos Gil on Instagram @CarlosGil83.



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How to Make More Money With Content Marketing

Leverage expert strategies to improve your social media strategy and engagement, plus network with editors from Entrepreneur magazine.


4 min read


There is a fundamental — and critical — disconnect between the way brands try to engage their audience and the way their audience wants to be engaged.

As per a recent Business Wire report:⁣

  • Consumers are 2.4x more likely to say user-generated content (UGC) is more authentic than branded content.⁣
  • ⁣Marketers are 2.1x more likely to say branded content is more authentic than UGC⁣.

See the problem? If we want to make a more genuine connection, marketers need to do a better job of listening to their audience.

To address this issue, Terry Rice, Entrepreneur’s Digital Marketing Expert-in-Residence, created a solution to connecting with a modern online audience. In the wake of Cambridge Analytica and other trust-related issues, consumers have grown weary of the content they’re exposed to online. 

If you’re leveraging the same tactics from 2018 that you did in 2019, you’re in trouble. And things aren’t looking any better for 2020 either. 

So what can we do? During this workshop, we’ll address the critical questions that must be answered in order for your audience to trust and engage with you. Leveraging best practices from design thinking, and insights gained from numerous interviews with top-performing brands, you’ll walk away with a launch plan that will revolutionize your online marketing activities. You’ll also discover best practices for audience research, which can be leveraged for marketing as well as product innovation. 

This is a limited engagement event open to 20 attendees. 

Date: Friday, October 11th 
Location: Club 75 at Convene, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY
Time: Workshop: 2:00 – 5:00pm, Networking: 5:00 – 6:00pm
Cost: $349

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Consultants/freelancers
  • Small to mid-size businesses

Key Takeaways:

  • 10 Content Marketing ideas, addressing the critical questions that must be answered in order for your audience to trust and engage with you
  • Develop an impactful and measurable approach for presenting and distributing this content to your target audience
  • Understand how to encourage and leverage user-generated content to reach a larger audience  
  • Discover or develop your true Unique Differentiator, setting you apart from the competition or similar organizations
  • Learn how to conduct valuable audience research for little or no cost
  • Participate in hands-on exercises with feedback from Terry Rice

This event will be followed by a networking session featuring Jason Feifer, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine and Dan Bova, editorial director. Refreshments will be provided. 

Instructor Bio:

Terry Rice believes all businesses, no matter how large or small, should have access to the critical resources and information needed to grow. His professional experience includes client-facing roles at organizations including Facebook and Adobe. Today, he serves as a conduit to make these best practices available to a larger audience. As the Marketing Expert-in-Residence at Entrepreneur Media, he provides need to know information as both a VIP contributor and through workshops. Terry has also taught thousands of adult learners as an instructor at New York University and General Assembly.

What people are saying:

In an industry where so many people hide behind acronyms and fluff, Terry is the real deal. I’d recommend him to any business or individual looking for both big picture and tactic level Digital Marketing guidance. He avoids jargon, focuses on providing input you can use to achieve your business goals, and checks to make sure everything makes sense. His sense of humor and real-world examples make even the most technical processes understandable. – Therese Maher / Director, Large Enterprise Marketing, PayPal

I had the pleasure of taking Terry’s Digital Marketing intensive and couldn’t recommend him more highly, as both an instructor and ongoing mentor. The course itself covered a number of complex topics and detailed information, but it was presented in a way that made it easy to understand and actionable in my daily work. – Hanna Boyd / Project Manager, REI

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8 Creative Ways to Get More Customers

growth tips small business

You’ve successfully launched your business, and built up a solid—if small—customer base. Starting small has its benefits; after all, it allowed you the opportunity to cultivate a loyal relationship with your customers. By now, you’ve had time to work out any kinks, and you’re confident that your product or service is truly the best your business can offer.

Now, you’re eager to expand and grow your business. But, growing your customer base is much easier said than done. How do you get more customers for your business? I asked the Young Entrepreneur Council for their input, as well as Tim Shoemaker, who headed up channel sales at here Palo Alto Software. From marketing tactics to better networking, try these tips and watch your customer base grow quickly.

8 ideas to help you grow your customer base:

1. When it comes to your pitch, get out of your comfort zone

If you’re having trouble expanding your customer base, you may be inadvertently narrowing your focus—and with that, missing the mark with potential new customers. If you’re pitching your business in the same way that you always have, it’s no surprise that you’re having trouble reaching new customers.

“Go against the grain and defy expectations,” recommends Wesley Mathews of High Level Marketing. “Selling is the transfer of trust, so instead of relying on a sales pitch you’re comfortable with, focus first on building a relationship with the potential customer.”

Building trust, says Mathews, is one of the key ways to reach new customers. “Once you’ve earned their trust, you’ve also earned their ear,” he says. “At that point, you can begin to educate them on recognizing the superior value of your product.”

2. Leverage your existing network

Your existing network may be the best place to reach out to, as their good word of mouth will help grow your customer base.

“I’d recommend that the business develop a core group of customers that can make referrals; referrals are strong leads,” says Tim Shoemaker. “I’d recommend that they network as much as possible within their target market. For example, if they’re a bike shop, then they should try to join as many cycling-related groups as possible.”

Entrepreneur Darrah Brustein agrees: “Tap into your immediate network and determine who might be a good fit for your product or service,” she says. “It’s best to focus on the lowest hanging fruit in the beginning, and to boot, they’re also more likely to recommend your company to their networks. You already have established trust with your network, so leverage that.”

3. Build a “relationship map”

Tamara Nell of The Leading Niche recommends building a “relationship map,” which will match your strongest relationships with the areas where there is the greatest need for your product or service. This map will help point you in the direction of who you need to reach out to, in order to tap into potential customer bases.

“When I first started my company, I created [a relationship map] and found a partner who had the introduction to the client but not the resources to do the work,” she says. “We partnered, and The Leading Niche was founded. To this day, I continuously update my relationship map, which leads to new opportunities.”
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4. Continue expanding your network

While relying on your existing network to expand your customer base is great, you may eventually wind up out of new leads. When you find yourself in this situation, you may need to look to expanding your network.

“You can have a great idea and a great business structure, but if you do not have contacts that might be interested in helping you, it’s impossible to succeed,” says Alfredo Atanacio of Uassist.ME.

How do you go about growing your network? “Attend networking events, join organizations, form partnerships, and watch your network grow,” he says. We’ll get into that a bit more next.

5. Speak at an event or host an industry gathering

You have plenty of expertise in your field—why not get involved in the community? By sharing your experience and getting involved in your industry at a local level, you’ll have the opportunity to grow your connections, as well as your reputation as a thought leader in your industry.

“My first clients came from offering to speak for free or hosting a workshop at business events that I knew my ideal clients would be attending,” says Natalie MacNeil of She Takes on the World. “I started off on a local level, and then I was given bigger opportunities that got me in front of more people. That’s how I got my budding business off the ground.”

6. Add calls to action

On a smaller, more immediately actionable level, there are plenty of strategies you can take with your marketing that can potentially draw in new customers. Add a call to action for every piece of marketing you send out—whether that be an Instagram post, a weekly newsletter, or one of your offline marketing strategies.

“After establishing a marketing plan, you will begin to execute multiple strategies each day,” says Nicole Munoz of Start Ranking Now. “It is not enough to just write a blog. After it’s written, you must add in a call to action that clearly states how clients can work with you (i.e. ‘Sign up for my…’). Make this a part of all your speeches and networking actions as well.”

Calls to action don’t have to be elaborate or ask much from your customers; often, the goal is as simple as increasing engagement. Ask them their opinions, suggest that they tag you with a certain hashtag, or provide a link so that they can sign up for your email updates.

7. Try offering free trials to new customers

Another practical tactic for acquiring new customers? Offer them a free trial of your product. “Free trials are a great way to market, since they attract new customers and garner good reviews and testimonials,” says entrepreneur Souny West. “They also allow you to get more feedback on new products and then make improvements where needed.”

Okay, that sounds great, but how do you turn them into actual return customers? “By offering free trials, you can show them the value of what you have to offer and convert them into paying returning customers later,” says Souny.

Instill in this potential customer the value of your product, and make it clear that your product or service is truly exemplary. Do this, offer great service, and you’ll likely be able to convert them into a loyal customer.

8. Provide your service for free in exchange for a case study or in-depth testimonial

If you are a service-based business, offering your service for free, in exchange for the client serving as a “case study” or providing a detailed account of the benefits of your service can be a great way to get new clients.

“Getting a great case study is one of the best ways to drive lots of new business, since it assumes that your service works and that you have happy customers,” says Obinna Ekezie of Wakanow. “In addition, exchanging value—service for case study—is a great way to build trust and get solid feedback from a customer.”

For example, say you offer personal training services. Try to partner up with a prominent member of the fitness community, and offer them a free service, in exchange for a blog post reviewing your service on their highly trafficked blog. This has the effect of increasing brand exposure, building trust and credibility within your field, and, hopefully, will drive plenty of new clients in your direction. Learn more about how to solicit valuable customer feedback in this article.

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Briana Morgaine

Briana is the content marketing specialist for Bplans. She enjoys discussing marketing, social media, and the pros and cons of the Oxford comma. Bri is a resident of Portland, Oregon, and can be found working remotely from a variety of local coffee shops. She can also be found, infrequently, on Twitter.



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Learn How to Get Positive Press That Will Help Your Business

Discover how to think like a journalist from Entrepreneur Editor-in-Chief Jason Feifer.


2 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.


They say any press is good press, right? Well, that may not be an exact science but getting positive press can be a huge boon for your business, especially when you’re just starting out. Everyone wants positive press, but how do you get it? In How to Get Media Coverage, you’ll learn how to make your company stand out from someone who knows a little something about the media industry: Entrepreneur Editor-in-Chief Jason Feifer.

In this course, Jason Feifer will show you how to think like a journalist so you’ll know how to present your business in a way that makes the media want to cover you. Feifer will dig into his career (and inbox) to provide a blueprint to what journalists are looking for and show you how to develop a press strategy that works. You may think what your company is doing is revolutionary and cool but simply emailing a reporter and saying your company is revolutionary and cool might not cut it. Feifer will show you how to write better pitch emails that frame your story in a way that’s compelling to both the reporter and his or her audience. From there, he’ll help you strategize the media attention that will be the most valuable for you and your company.

Check out How to Get Media Coverage, available now for just $19.

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4 Ways to Turn Cold LinkedIn Connections Into Clients (Without Being Sales-y or Spammy)

Try these tactics to turn LinkedIn into a client generator.


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


With over 645 million global users (including over 150 million in the United States alone), LinkedIn has become one of the most important digital tools for making connections in the business world. While many use this to grow their network or to find new job opportunities, others are able to use it to grow their own client base.

Just like with phone calls or email, a “cold” LinkedIn connection can help you land new clients — but only when done right. By using a few best practices to avoid coming off as spammy or overly sales-y, you can have better success at turning these potential connections into revenue-generating clients.

1. Use LinkedIn to research.

According to information gathered by 99firms, LinkedIn has over 90 million senior-level influencers and 63 million decision-makers using the platform. This represents a key opportunity for B2B marketers who can get these individuals to adopt their product or services.

Just like in other marketing options, researching your sales prospects before you attempt to contact them is an absolute must. Learning more about the company and the individual you’re targeting will make it easier to identify common interests and potential pain points.

Related: The Biggest Mistake You’re Making on LinkedIn and What You Should Do Instead

Look at what the sales prospect talks about on LinkedIn to find conversation points. This will make it easier to reach out in a way that allows you to present yourself as a problem-solver so you can better illustrate your value to the prospect. Better yet, it will help you customize your messaging in a way that will encourage a positive response to your connection request.

2. Personalize each communication.

A generic LinkedIn connection request will rarely lead to the results you want. Instead, you should use your research efforts to personalize each message to encourage action. Mention something that you find interesting about the person (besides the fact that they are a potential client). Cite something specific from their profile or shared content.

Doing so greatly increases the chances that a potential connection will accept your request. But perhaps even more importantly, it will keep them from clicking “I don’t know this person.”

As Melonie Dodaro, author of LinkedIn Unlocked and founder of Top Dog Social Media warns in a blog post, “It takes only five people clicking the ‘I don’t know this person’ link in response to your invitation to land you in LinkedIn jail. As a result, LinkedIn will restrict your account, requiring you to know the email address of the person you want to send a connection request to. This will be the end of your LinkedIn lead gen and social selling efforts!”

Personalization won’t just increase your chances of starting off on the right foot with potential clients. It will also ensure that you won’t lose future connection opportunities.

3. Add value through content sharing.

Effective LinkedIn prospecting often requires that you don’t immediately jump into the sales pitch after someone accepts your connection request. Rather, you should provide value by consistently sharing content on your own profile that reflects your industry and the interests and needs of your prospects.

For best results, you should share relevant news articles, statistics or insights from your own work experiences. Don’t be afraid to share case studies about how your products or services have helped other clients! This information can be highly influential, as a LinkedIn survey found that 91 percent of marketing executives view the platform as the best place to find high-quality content.

Doing things this way provides prospective clients or buyers on LinkedIn with a more distanced, relaxed way to learn more about what it is that you offer. Furthermore, depending on the kind of content you create and share on the platform, it gives your audience a chance to — on their own terms, mind you — get to know you better. The end result? If things are done correctly, a heightened sense of trust and a more sales-centric conversation down the line about your core offering.

Related: 12 Ways to Make More Money Through LinkedIn

Don’t annoy your prospect by constantly messaging them with your content. Share the content on your own profile so they can browse through it at their own pace. Track engagement to see who is showing the most interest. Only send content-related messages when it is highly relevant and you can personalize it to the individual.

4. Plan to move the connection offline.

While LinkedIn can be a solid platform for reaching out to new prospects, it isn’t where you are going to finalize the sale. As such, you should always consider how your nurturing efforts are preparing a prospect to engage with you offline.

Depending on your sales methods and what would work best for your prospect, this means setting up a phone call, video chat or possibly even an in-person meeting. 

Avoid the temptation to make this request immediately after they connect with you on LinkedIn. Instead, nurture the lead over time, allowing at least a week (or even a few months) before soliciting a more sales-oriented offline meeting. By taking your time and providing value initially, you will be more likely to get a positive response.

Related: How to Get Thousands of Views on Your LinkedIn Content

Cold contacting a potential client on LinkedIn can be ineffective, or it can be one of your best methods of gaining new sales and leads. By undertaking these efforts to “warm-up” the connection and form a more personalized link, you will be better positioned to use your LinkedIn profile to fuel future sales success.

 

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8 Examples of Brilliant Instagram Marketing

These high-profile accounts demonstrate how to capitalize on your target audience.


6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Since Instagram’s inception, the platform has redfined social-media engagement. It is now the ultimate territory marketers set out to conquer, meaning competition is fierce and success has become increasingly elusive. But the good news is that thriving with Instagram marketing isn’t about burning millions of dollars or hiring the most prominent influencer to share your posts. Rather, it requires more of a more nuanced approach to making an impression on the right target audience. 

To learn from those who have mastered this craft to perfection, here are eight cases of Instagram marketing success that any of us could gain tremendous insight from.

Kylie Jenner

The world’s most famous social-media family has its latest star in the form of young billionaire Kylie Jenner. While the 22-year-old was born into advantageous circumstances, it’s to her credit that Kylie Cosmetics blazed through a crowded market and boosted her rise to 10-figure status in a span of just three years. Part of that success was in how Kylie nailed Instagram with a heady mix of stories and live and interactive posts with a personal touch.

Lego

Remember last year’s royal wedding? It was one of the most followed global events back in May 2018. But what on Earth did Lego have to do with it? After all, it’s just a brand that sells toy blocks, right?  Wrong, and that’s because the company has always been at the forefront of reimagining important events. Seizing on the trending hashtag #RoyalWedding, Lego shared a video depicting the ceremony, as rendered with its signature blocks

With more than 150,000 views of the video to this point, it’s safe to say Lego struck marketing gold. The lesson for others is to piggyback on an already trending world event by making it your own with accompanying visuals on Instagram. 

Related: 10 Instagram Accounts Every Entrepreneur Should Follow

Rent the Runway

Product updates are always boring to users, especially if you are a fashion brand. But informing customers about them is necessary, so how can you fit them into your timeline in a way that’s filled with visually appealing images? Popular fashion-rental brand Rent the Runway has done exactly by grabbing and prominently posting user comments to highlight updates and providing more product details via the caption section in a brief, engaging and witty manner. This is a great example of how you can turn mundane info into an engaging visual if you use it wisely. 

Jonathan Jadali 

With more than 8,000 followers, Jonathan Jadali carries one of the few personal Insta-brands that not only boasts enough acolytes to earn the title of “influencer,” but backs it up with expertise and intelligence. A 22-year-old, self-employed stock trader, Jadali made a fortune worth millions by investing in Bitcoin in the initial crypto boom and later selling all his crypto assets. Jadali and a lot of other micro-influencers like him are all the rage right now, but anyone with aspirations to follow Jadali’s route needs to do more than just follow their passion. They also need to learn how to showcase their craft to the Insta-world. In other words, illustrate how your strategies have led to concrete results and shareable content in your day-to-day life.

Tesla Motors

What’s better than driving a gamified version of your otherworldly car? Tesla Motors did exactly that by partnering up with developers Vector Unit to integrate Tesla cars into their game, Beach Buggy Racing 2. The promotional video uploaded on Tesla’s Instagram has garnered neartly two million views. The lesson here is clear: Find niche partnerships that allow you to easily identify and target an alternative, captive audience. 

Airbnb

Most marketers wrongly hold the perception that going viral and garnering millions of views on a single post is what you should be after. While that strategy does bring dividends, you also need to learn from those who maintain steady, relevant influence. Airbnb is one such innovative company, and its Instagram timeline keeps us living the dream of global exploration day in and out. The brand continually sources user-generated content from different Airbnb locations around the world, thereby conjuring striking images that are bound to leave you yearning for more. Its timeline is beautiful and therapeutic, but it also generates a steady stream of engagement for every single post, which is a far better strategy for service-based brands than aiming for one-hit wonders. 

Nike

Few companies make a more popular sneaker than Nike, that’s for sure, but can the same be said about its Insta-prowess? The answer is a definitive yes. The company recently came up with a brilliant strategy to spike interest in its upcoming new React shoe. The lauded campaign featured a React that was placed on top of pillows, springs and sponges, a unique way of conveying its universal comfort. Nike hit the sweet spot with this one, reaching seven million views once a complementary product-launch video was uploaded, and it was ultimately their most-watched post of 2018. Again, the biggest takeaway here is to understand the importance of buildups and relevant associations. 

Related: Is the Era of Social-Media Marketing Declining?

International Cricket Council (ICC)

This year’s Cricket World Cup (CWC) recently took place in England, and while the action on the field was edge-of-your-seat stuff, do you know what lightened up ICC’s lukewarm Insta profile? A photo of Indian batting sensation Virat Kohli with an aged fan on the sidelines of the tournament. Garnering more than 1.7 million likes, the picture is surely the star performer from ICC’s CWC Insta-highlights. The lesson here is remember to value the power of emotions and how they can cut across boundaries.

No matter Instagram’s new additions, uniqueness is a trend valued above all else on the platform, as exemplied in these eight cases. So remember to understand your audience and be creative in your pursuits. Engagement is defined not by numbers, but by how much it compels a user’s attention. 

 



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Learn How to Create a Marketing Plan That Works

This one-hour course will show you how to convert prospects into lifetime customers.


2 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.


Any business that wants to scale efficiently needs to have a marketing plan. Marketing plans are tools used to lay out the strategy for your marketing activities, from concept to execution. If you want to connect with audiences en masse without pulling your hair out from hitting dead ends, you need to have a firm strategy in line. In How to Create a Compact Marketing Plan, you’ll learn how to develop just that.

In this course from Entrepreneur, you’ll learn how to outline your business’ target market, craft your message to that market, and identify how you’ll turn them from prospects to customers. From there, you’ll outline your lead capture system and develop a surefire lead conversion strategy before delving into customer retention strategies like delivering exceptional customer service and asking for referrals. It’s a comprehensive education broken into bite-sized, digestible chunks so you can immediately apply your learning to your business. Instructor Charlene Walters is an executive who leads a Digital Entrepreneurship MBA program so you know you’re in good hands.

Improve your marketing strategy today and start seeing results tomorrow. You can enroll in How to Create a Compact Marketing Plan for $19 now.

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The Keys to Driving More Traffic to Your Website

Get more eyeballs on your website by following a few of these marketing tips.


2 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Eric Siu discusses how to drive more traffic to your website.

Spend time on search engine optimization and content marketing when driving traffic. When posting, make sure that you are posting consistently, and when strategizing your content, aim to differentiate it by choosing a unique angle that makes your content stand out. 

Next, hire freelance writers and bloggers to create content. A wise decision before picking these writers is to vet them beforehand. Have these prospective writers show you some of their work beforehand, and keep your eye out for those writers who rise above the rest. After, Siu recommends going through all your content to see which articles you can update. 

Click the video to hear more traffic-driving tips.

Related: How to Get Your Business Noticed on a Budget

Entrepreneur Network is a premium video network providing entertainment, education and inspiration from successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders. We provide expertise and opportunities to accelerate brand growth and effectively monetize video and audio content distributed across all digital platforms for the business genre.

EN is partnered with hundreds of top YouTube channels in the business vertical. Watch video from our network partners on demand on Amazon FireRokuApple TV and the Entrepreneur App available on iOS and Android devices.

Click here to become a part of this growing video network.

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Top 5 Not-So-Obvious Social Media Marketing Mistakes You Must Avoid

Social media marketing done right can win you customers for life. Done wrong, it can cost you dearly.


8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Before you even read this, make sure you aren’t making either of the classic, obvious, social media mistakes — having a private profile or still using a personal account when you should switch to a business account.

OK, cool. Now that that’s handled, let’s get into some of the less-obvious, yet highly critical mistakes that I see most brands make in their social media marketing efforts. Are you making these mistakes too?

1. Posting just to post

Social media is meant to be an ongoing and engaging conversation, so if you don’t have anything important to say — don’t say it! If you don’t feel inspired to share something — don’t share it. Period. Content that is forced usually feels fake and unauthentic. With the mass of content production happening right now, more and more social media users are becoming excellent B.S. detectors and have stronger filters than ever.

Related: What All High-Performing Social Media Marketing Plans Have in Common

Plus, posting just to post does the opposite of what you hope it will do. A lot of people feel like they have to post constantly just to stay relevant. In reality, you tarnish your brand and dampen your engagement rates when you post low-quality content. If users are not engaging with your content, Instagram will stop showing your content to them.

Key takeaway: Be intentional with every piece of content you post and operate from a well-thought-out strategy. Plan your content ahead of time so you’re not having to rely on daily spurts of authentic inspiration to post. Create a content calendar and always ask yourself if you’d actually stop scrolling through your feed to watch/see/read what you’re about to post.

2. Rigidly sticking to your “agenda”

You could easily take the point I made above and go overboard. I’ve done this myself, and I see many people doing it now.

Are you one of those people who uses an inspirational quote on every third Instagram post so that there is a pretty, organized column of identical-looking tiles on your Instagram feed? Do you do this even though these types of posts don’t have the greatest engagement?

This is a perfect example of what I mean by going overboard with a social media marketing strategy. I’ve seen many people get so rigidly stuck to an idea they have that even if the results clearly show it’s not engaging to their audience, they still do it because they want to “stick to their plan.”

There are two reasons why this is a huge mistake. First, you are crippling your creativity. What if you get one of those hits of inspiration about something timely that you want to share but then realize, “oh wait, my next post has to be a quote so I have to wait to share this.” This takes from the magic of real-time sharing on social media, interrupts the creative flow and restricts your content distribution. Secondly, this means you aren’t paying attention to what actually matters — your audience! Make decisions based on your results, and always testing new and different ways to engage your audience so they get bored and fall off.

Key takeaway: Focus on what actually matters to your audience, not you. Test, measure, learn, repeat. Let go of your rigid agenda and give your people what they want. 

3. Too much product promotion, not enough social media marketing

Going off of my previous point, it’s true that sometimes your audience doesn’t always know what they want — and they could totally want your product or service. However, you are going to completely turn them off if you’re constantly promoting and selling to them.

I really love the way Gary Vaynerchuk talks about this. He actually explains it perfectly in his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. The point is to focus on building a relationship with your audience first. Now, how do you build the relationship you ask? Just the same as you would build any relationship — by creating trust. SurveyMonkey reported last year that 68 percent of U.S. adults say trust in a brand has a “great deal” or “a lot” of influence on their decision when making a big purchase.

Related: 8 Simple Ways to Make Social Media Marketing Work For Your Business

There are two ways you can cultivate trust with your audience. First, let them in. Let them see the real, human parts of your brand. Be transparent and share your raw, authentic self with them. This will build a connection, and connection creates trust. Secondly, give first without expectation. Before you even think about asking anything of them, focus on what you can give to them and then give, give, give. A good gauging question of whether or not your creating value would be, would they pay for what I’m giving to them for free? If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track, my friend.

Key takeaway: Your ratio of product promotion to value-driven content should be something like 1:4, so for every four pieces of entertaining, valuable content, you have one post promoting your product or service.

4. Lack of brand consistency

What is your unique brand essence? Does it shine through all of your content? Is there consistency in all of your content? If you want to build and sustain a powerful brand, you must focus on brand consistency.

Let me be clear. Consistency does not mean monotony.  Don’t put out the same piece of content over and over. It’s still important to switch it up, maintain variety, and test different formats. At the same time, all of it should be consistent with your brand mission, tone of voice and overall look and feel — fonts, color palettes, etc.

Don’t make the big mistake of copying the format and style of other brands. If you don’t own and execute your unique brand essence in every piece of social media marketing content you create, you are commoditizing yourself and your brand. 

Consistency also means to consistently put out content and keep your promises. For example, if you say that there will be a new IGTV episode every week, there better be a new IGTV episode released every week. This creates trust and credibility with your audience and lets them know they can count on you to deliver.

Key takeaway: Be consistent in your social media marketing efforts because consistency compounds and creates powerful, sustainable brands. 

Related: How a Dentist Used Social Media Marketing to Reach 7 Figures in Revenue

5. Using LinkTree as your Instagram bio link

You get one link in your bio, and you’re using LinkTree. Really? Well, it’s actually not so surprising to me because this is one of the most common, yet less-obvious social media marketing mistakes that brands make on Instagram. Here’s why using Linktree is a mistake:

  • You are depending on a third-party app and have zero control. If it goes down, so do you.

  • You sacrifice your branding because you have to work within their themes and parameters. Remember we talked about brand commoditization earlier? Well, I hate to break it to you, but your Linktree page basically looks just like everyone else’s.

  • No analytics with the free version and limited analytics with the paid version. Plus, all of your data belongs to them.

  • Not optimized for conversion. It’s just a bunch of basic buttons with text on them stacked on top of each other. What is compelling about that?

So what do you use instead? Your website! There is absolutely no reason why the homepage of your website should not be directing its viewers where you want them to go. If your website is not set up with the top actions you want users to take, fixing that ASAP should be your priority.

Key takeaway: Stop using Linktree, and invest in your website.

Social media cheat sheet

To recap, the five less-obvious social media marketing mistakes you must avoid at all costs are:

  1. Posting just to post without a real intention or strategy behind it.

  2. Rigidly sticking to your agenda and not being flexible with your social media strategies.

  3. Over-promoting your product or service. Stick with a 4:1 value-driven to promotional/sales content ratio.

  4. Not having brand consistency and commoditizing yourself because you become just like everyone else.

  5. Using Linktree in your Instagram bio.

If this article was valuable to you, please share it on your social media or with a friend who you want to save from making these less-obvious social media marketing mistakes. Cheers!

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How to Write About Sourcing and Fulfillment in Your Business Plan

sourcing and fulfillment in your business plan

Whether you’re developing a traditional business plan or just a Lean Business Plan, remember that direct costs matter.

Sourcing and fulfillment (which are direct costs) are the other side of the “what do you sell” question: How do you build that product? How do you fulfill that service? What does it cost you? Where do you buy the components? They’re critical factors for any business. 

In a Lean Plan, sourcing and fulfillment costs might be merely implied in the direct costs section of the forecast, or in a few bullet points in tactics, or operations. In a full formal plan, it might be included in the section on the operations. If you’re using LivePlan, you’d add sourcing and fulfillment as a topic within the operations section in the Execution chapter of your plan. Keep in mind, not every business will need a sourcing and fulfillment section in their plan, so only include it if you need it. 

What are sourcing and fulfillment?

Sourcing or fulfillment are descriptions of where you get the products you sell (sourcing); how you fulfill the services you sell (fulfillment); or how you package, assemble, and ship products you sell online (fulfillment).

For products, sourcing commonly covers how you purchase from distributors, vendors of raw materials, suppliers, and so forth. For services, fulfillment commonly includes how you work with subcontractors, drivers, analysts, research sources, and so on. Fulfillment also applies to assembly, packaging, and shipping for online product businesses.

However, whether or not you include a section on sourcing and fulfillment in your business plan depends of course on the exact nature of your business.

Sourcing is important for most product businesses, but maybe not for the craftsperson selling handmade goods or hand-painted greeting cards at a local flea market. Fulfillment is important for most service businesses, but maybe not for the self-employed management consultant who does the work alone. It’s important for some product businesses—those that take orders and ship, or those that assemble products, might have both sourcing and fulfillment.

Use your common sense as you decide what works for your plan. If you are developing a more traditional plan, then the title of that section is normally “Sourcing” for products, “Fulfillment” for services, and “Sourcing and Fulfillment” if you sell products and services, or if the products you sell need to be assembled and shipped, or if you need to deal with packaging and shipping for online orders.

None of this is an exact science or strictly required. Use your common sense to decide whether or not this section applies to your business and your business plan.
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Manufacturing businesses

Sourcing is likely to be important to a manufacturing company. Your vendors determine your standard costs and hold the keys to continued operation. Analyze your standard costs and the materials or services you purchase as part of your manufacturing operation. Include spreadsheet lists, bills of materials, and standard cost breakdowns. Include unit economics.

You may have additional documentation you can copy and attach as appendices, perhaps even contracts with important suppliers, standard cost breakdowns, bills of materials, and other information.

Where materials are particularly vital to your manufacturing, you might discuss whether second sources or alternative sources are available, and whether or not you use them or maintain relationships with them. This is also a good time to look at your sourcing strategy, and whether or not you can improve your business by improving your product sourcing.

Product sales, retail, distribution, resale

The bookstore needs to buy books. The restaurant needs to buy raw foods. The hardware store needs to buy everything it sells to have the goods on the shelves. So, resellers should explain how they work with distributors if they do.

They can also call out the most important distributors, and explain the discounts and margins involved.

Fulfillment for products includes assembly, packing, and shipping

Some product businesses include a fulfillment function related to assembly, packing, and shipping.

For example, one of the early strategic decisions we took at Palo Alto Software was not to assemble physical products and pack and ship from our offices. Instead, we used an outside vendor, called a fulfillment house, that stored components (disks, boxes, packing materials) and did assembly and shipping on-demand, for a fee. That allowed us to focus on the software without having to manage those fulfillment functions.

The per-unit costs were higher, but we didn’t have to worry about capital costs for shrink wrapping equipment or fixed costs of employees and managers.

Services have sourcing and fulfillment too

Sourcing is not just for product-based companies. For example, a professional service company, such as an accounting practice, medical practice, law practice, management consulting firm, or graphic design firm, is normally going to provide the service by employing professionals. In this case, the cost is mainly the salaries of those professionals.

Other service businesses are quite different. The travel agency provides a service through a combination of knowledge, rights, and infrastructure, including computer systems and databases. A restaurant is a service business whose costs are a combination of salaries (for kitchen and table waiting) and food costs.

How to include sourcing and fulfillment in your plan

For a traditional business plan, “Sourcing,” “Fulfillment,” or “Sourcing and Fulfillment” will be a section in the product description. Include details, such as bill or materials, or distributor or vendor relationships, as needed to serve your business plan purpose.

For a Lean Business Plan, you might have sourcing and fulfillment metrics and milestones included in your metrics and milestones lists. Important decisions and tradeoffs related to sourcing and fulfillment might be included as bullet points in the list of tactics, or even in some cases in which your decisions in this area might be included in milestones and metrics or tactics.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2016. It was updated in 2019. 

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