San Diego Home Staging Blog
|Posted on September 6, 2014 at 8:20 AM||comments (256)|
Sep 6 2014
Is SEO optimization really so complex that you need to go out & hire an expert? Maybe not! Is that heresy in today's tech-driven world? Recently, when I was sitting next to a consultant who specializes in SEO optimization & asked that question, he laughed out loud.
Two years ago I didn't have the slightest idea what search engine optimization was. SEO was some technical term that didn't affect my life or business - or so I thought.The first rule of business is that you need to have something of value to offer potential customers. The second rule is that you need to find the best way for your customers to find you.
This is a home we recently staged to help get it sold as quickly as possible for the best price. As a home stager this is what we have to offer our customers - but what could I do to help them find me?It was pretty clear that the first step was looking at how internet searches work.
And if you want your business to come up high on an internet search, you need to know what SEO optimization is & a little bit about how it works.As the owner of a small home staging business in San Diego, I eventually realized that I had to come to terms with learning (yet again) another lesson in technology & that meant getting acquainted with SEO optimization.I am a complete novice.
I love my business, but a background in home staging doesn't lend itself to a high degree of sophistication in mastering the ever-changing challenges of today's technology. And yet to succeed in business, in today's world we don't have much choice but to jump in & see if we can figure out some way to find our potential pool of customers so that we can let them know we have something of value to offer them.
When business was slow this last winter, I decided I would either need to hire an expert to help with my SEO optimization or try to understand a little about it on my own. Out of pure curiosity, I began to read one article after another about search engine optimization & what it means.The goal was to get a higher ranking on Google, Yahoo or any other place where my very specific client base might find me. So far, it's been working pretty well. Shockingly well, in fact.
Is it dumb luck? Or is some of our success a matter of sticking to classic good business practices that have been around for decades - rather than putting our focus on trying to outwit & manipulate this monster of information, the internet.Following best business practices to me means offering the best product & service you can provide, working to be consistent, honest, reliable, informed, current, relevant, & in the end giving them what they want.
Because in the end, that's what it's all about - the ultimate goal for any business is to give the people what they want.How can doing that - just running the best business you can using the best possible classic business principles - help you find your target audience & get new clients to know you & trust you enough to buy what you are selling?
As I searched through articles on how to promote my business on the internet, it occurred to me that most of what they were talking about was raising your standards to try to be the best in the business - offering people answers & giving them something of value.When people do an internet search they have a question they want answered. They are going to type in the search words that they think will most likely bring up websites and articles that can help them answer those questions or provide a product that will.Classic good business practice is about quality, value, content, consistency, solid information & reliability. And sometimes it is about following rules (although sometimes it is about breaking them, but that's another article).
If you are attempting to get a higher ranking on Google, how important is it to take a look at their rules & regulations? Google makes their rules quite clear and available. There's no question what they are looking for.When people type in key search words as they are trying to come up with answers to their questions, Google wants the most relevant, reliable, informed, engaging, quality content that it can weed out of all the detritus on the internet to come up - they are trying to give the people what they want & need.
If you focus on following the rules and creating valuable content on your website or publications, you have far more to offer that person sitting at their computer than someone who is trying to play the game & do whatever they have to do to scam their way to the top of an internet search.Maybe the key is to create customer focused information that answers a need & provides quality content that your target audience is seeking where they are looking for it. And you want to work with the people who can get you there.
If you are starting with Google, look at what they have to offer. You want Google to help you promote your business, why not take a look at what other services & products they have to offer. Is it possible that part of the secret to Google's mysterious algorithm could lie in networking their own products & services? Does it make sense that a company would set out to make their products and services work in concert with others in the same company?
Do you want Google to work for you? Try expanding your knowledge of what they have to offer. I found over 101+ different products & services with a simple search. Google is the most popular search engine on the Web. There is a vast array of great products to discover, from Adsense, Analytics, Places, Maps, Android, Google+, Mail, Docs & my favorite new product, Waze (a great new traffic and navigation tool).
Google+ is catching on slowly but surely. It's a great place to share information. Linking your publications, website & posts on Google+ & actively sharing, can only help with your SEO optimization.My home staging business in San Diego took off when I worked on developing better content on my website, defined our brand & niche market, and became active on social media sites. I began to post on my blog, shared posts, & published articles with original content that I thought would be of interest to our potential clients.
I've shared everything from staging photos to nature photos to gorgeous travel shots, just to lighten things up once in awhile!
If you've ever investigated SEO optimization you've probably come across the concept of content marketing. If you are familiar with the term, you might have noticed that all of the descriptions I used earlier on classic good business practices (providing a quality product, information that is valuable, relevant, consistent, reliable, customer-focused, and original), also fall into the most common definition of content marketing.
A lightbulb went off when I finally realized what "content marketing" was all about! When you focus on providing a quality product backed by quality information that is focused on your potential customer's needs and answers their questions, those are the things that a search engine wants to come up when someone sits down at their computer & asks a question. They don't want a bunch of empty content, blatant advertisements, spam, high-pressure sales techniques or inaccurate information.
It seems to be working.
The irony is that while it works today, things change so quickly in our technology-driven world that this could all be obsolete tomorrow & our ranking could crash and burn - and if that's the case, it means it's time to hang it all up & book that vacation to the Seychelles!
|Posted on April 18, 2014 at 1:11 AM||comments (127)|
LEARNING TO BE FLEXIBLE!
Building your home staging business
Do you want to increase profits? It’s all about being flexible and keeping an open mind:
Flexibility & the ability to adapt & make changes is key when it comes to running a business & seeing a profit.
I am in the business of home staging. We have a business plan and model that we are constantly revising to adapt to changing circumstances & things we are learning. I am constantly challenged, even with two decades of owning my own businesses.
Today’s business owners need to be savvy on multiple fronts: internet marketing, social media marketing & continual changes to the sites we are all learning to use. This is a different business world than the one I first met two decades ago.
But the overall principles for success in business have not really changed. The underlying tenets to creating a successful business are the same, but how we go about it & the tools we need to master are different.
THINK LIKE AN ENTREPRENEUR!
Thinking like an entrepreneur requires a basic skill set. You can find dozens of articles on what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur. Almost every list includes having a passion for your business, tenacity, vision, the ability to take risks, break rules & learn from setbacks.
What does it take to move from that basic skill set and turn an idea into a successful business? Of all the traits I have seen listed, I believe flexibility and adaptability are the most important. It is the same for the survival of any organism.
Success in business is founded on adaptability and the ability to assess where you are & make necessary changes. That takes an open mind. It means being able to make an honest appraisal of what is working and what is not.
You may need to consider questioning the belief that you are ever finished with creating your business model. There is a fine line between finding what works and staying with that & being able to see when circumstances have changed & when you need to adapt to move on.
Successful business owners are committed to constantly looking at their business model and being brutally honest about what is working and what is not. They are open to a constant flow of new ideas and changes in the marketplace and how we are being challenged to market with changes in technology.
That social media site that gave you 90% of your business in 2010? Well, it may not be much of a player in 2015. We all know how fast things change today.
Entrepreneurs know the value of rule-breaking at times and the ability to look ahead and defy convention when we see a new open road. People who are able to spot trends in the early stages have a huge advantage.
get your ducks in a row to get your home staging business goingGet your ducks looking like this…
TRY SOMETHING NEW!
A step beyond recognizing & moving with trends is the entrepreneur who is able to break with convention and actuallycreate change. The freethinkers of yesterday who defied convention became the innovators who broke through outdated models in their field. They were the ones who had the courage to break out of the norm & come up with new ideas that changed the world.
Many of the world’s great innovators, from great artists to literary geniuses to business giants, were mocked when they first came out with ideas that defied conventional thinking. Think: Frank Lloyd Wright, Pablo Picasso, Steve Jobs & Larry Page. They were all freethinkers who were unafraid of taking risks and creating something new.
Flexibility and adaptability show up in many small ways in the way we think and act. The words we think and speak reflect our attitudes about how the world works and can show us just how open-minded we really are when we take a hard look.
THINK SOMETHING NEW!
If we accept that mastering the art of being flexible and adaptable can translate into a more successful business – which in the long run means greater profits - how do we do make that change?
First look at a couple of definitions. “Open-minded” is defined as being “willing to consider different ideas or opinions”. “Flexibility” is defined as “the ability to recognize & adapt to fluctuating situations.”
What could be more fluctuating than the rapidly changing world of technology today where we are trying to do business?
It all comes back to how we think. If you accept that you have the power to direct your thinking, then you realize you can change your thinking habits to become more open-minded and flexible. We have the power to re-frame the way we think and train ourselves to become less rigid in our thinking.
Rather than sticking with an opinion that is unwavering, we can chose to step back, reserve judgment and consider new options.
A FORMULA FOR SUCCESS: A.L.C.
One way to look at it is to try the formula: ALC: “Act”, “Learn”, “Change”. In life we are always going to need to “Act” in order to put an idea into motion. Once we do that, if we have an analytical approach with an open mind we can assess how that idea worked, “Learn” from its successes and failures, then “Change” - that is what adaptation is all about. Do that once, then do it again & keep on doing it. The process never stops.
Try it – make a decision about something you want to try with your business. Let’s take advertising. You make the decision to “Act” and take an ad out on FaceBook. You watch the analytics and you see how the ad is doing. It’s not performing the way you had projected.
Begin to research how other people are doing the same thing and see what kind of results they are getting. Figure out what they are doing differently. “Learn” from that analysis. Then “Change” the things that are not working. Then start over and do it again.
ALLOW THE WORDS YOU USE TO CREATE WEALTH!
How we think is reflected in what we say and do. If you’ve made a decision to be more flexible and adaptable, try tracking how you are putting that into action as you interact with others. What you ‘put out there’ can indeed affect where you end up.
Here is a small example of how this works in my business. I see a lot of discussions about my field in articles and on social media sites. There is always some discussion on best business practices. One such community for business owners is LinkedIn.
LinkedIn has some great opportunities for business networking and sharing ideas through discussions that offer support to business owners. The group discussions allow people to post questions and answers to a wide range of topics. It is a great place to learn.
One of the most interesting things I have learned from that site, is that there is a tendency for many participants to have firm, uncompromising, even judgmental, beliefs about just about everything - from basic rules for how a home should be staged (should you use table settings in kitchens or trays on beds, silk vs. real plants, air mattresses, leave business cards at homes you’ve staged), to the best business model (should you rent furniture or own your own), or the best way to use internet marketing – the list goes on & on.
The discussions can get heated and sometimes the participants are downright insulting to one another. You hear “I would NEVER do XYZ…” or “anyone who does XYZ is ….” – not the model for an open and supportive discussion and the free flow of ideas. You’re not learning when you head is filled with judgments.
Reserving judgment and thinking before you speak may not only be a kinder alternative, it can help you train yourself to keep an open mind. Doing that allows you to explore the possibility that someone else might have a better idea.
Even if you still don’t agree 100%, by keeping an open mind you may find that there is some small lesson that you would otherwise have overlooked had you not indulged yourself with that “AHA, I would never do that”- moment. That small lesson could result in a slight ‘tweak’ you make to your own business model that ends up making a difference. Sometimes those ‘small’ ideas create breakthrough moments for your business.
AN OPEN MIND WILL ADD TO YOUR BANK ACCOUNT!
For me the answer is that there is no one right way to do any of these things. There is no ‘one size fits all’. It depends on the situation: your geographic location, your client, the current market, availability of resources, budget constraints, local tastes and trends. For home stagers, if the home is at the beach an ocean-themed décor plan may be perfect year-round – in Ohio in the dead of winter, that’s not going to work.
If you step back and reserve judgment, listen and learn, you may decide that your opinion that inventory purchased at the local discount store is tasteless is unfounded - it might be the perfect solution for someone else in a different area with a different budget. It might even work for you someday. And rudely expressing that judgment has just shutdown someone in the discussion. When we don’t keep an open mind we are at a standstill.
It is the free-flow of ideas that is at the heart of being flexible and adaptable. If we learn to check our egos at the door and step back from making broad judgments about how other people run their businesses, we might just learn something. And that little thing we learn might be just the thing we need to know to succeed & grow profits.
While the examples here might seem silly to those outside the field of home staging, the basic issue – being flexible & adaptable when it comes to how you approach your business model - is critical to seeing your company grow. Inflexibility can show up in the many tiny ways we interact every day.
In order to live things need to grow and change. Being open to that change, not set in old, narrow ways of thinking, can be your greatest tool to creating a successful business & seeing greater profits.
May you all succeed doing the thing you love most!
|Posted on March 21, 2014 at 10:34 PM||comments (156)|
Every so often I decide to update my business plan to make sure I’m heading in the right direction. I
usually have music on in the background or a comedy tape.
Yesterday, as I was working on the update, one of Steve Martin’s standup comedy routines from back in the ‘70’s came on from “Let’s Get Small” (along with some terrific banjo music). To quote in part…
“I like to get small…very dangerous for kids though, because they get really small. I know I shouldn't get small when I'm drivin', but, uh, I was drivin' around the other day, you know [whistles tunefully] and a cop pulls me over. And he goes, 'Hey, are you small?' I said, 'No, I'm tall, I'm tall.' He said, 'Well, I'm gonna have to measure you.' They've got a little test they give you; it's a balloon, and if you can get inside of it, they know... you're small. And they can't put you in a regular cell either, because you walk right out.”
And right then and there, I realized that the problem with my business plan was that I wanted to do the unthinkable – I wanted to “Get Small”! And I wanted to stay small.
Well, that goes against everything they ever teach you in business school. It challenges the basic core of the bulk of today’s marketing plans! It is outrageous, blasphemous, un-heard of! To purposefully stay small? To frame your entire business plan upon a goal that would make you “small” and keep you “small” – that’s heretical!
And yet there it was, plain as day, written out in fast and furious, mis-spelled-so-I-could-get-it-out-authentically-text – I want my business to stay small.
I want it to be manageable. I want it to be fun. I want it to be hands-on and something I do because I love it. I want every single room I stage to be a reflection of what I intended this business to reflect: a picture-perfect vision of what this room should look like to attract buyers to get this home sold.
It should be beautiful. It should be detailed. It should enhance the features of this particular home based upon attention to the architecture, geographic location & the demographic of potential buyers that this unique home brings to the market. In order to do that, I work best when I am allowed to take the time to get those details right.
I have had businesses large and small for over 25 years, many of them highly successful. That was then and this is now – those businesses were intended to grow, to have employees and to maximize profit.
This business is different. This business is now: at a time when I want to do the work I love and do it well, and still have time left over to enjoy life. And that’s the way I wrote the current business plan.
We will do a maximum number of staging jobs per month. They will all be vacant properties or model homes for builders. I will not rush or take less than the job is worth. I will provide the highest quality service, professionalism, the right amount of detail & stay true to the standards we have set for our business for quality. I will refer out all other jobs to professional stagers I have worked with and whose work I can recommend and admire.
Someone said to me when I sent her the draft for this article, that it sounded like I was looking down on other business owners who want to “go big”, as if there was some moral pejorative involved in my decision – that somehow I was making the point that “small” was “better” or of a higher quality. Or that it ignored the basic premise that to be in business we should all strive to maximize profits wherever possible. She thought it sounded snooty that I avoided the obvious issue of “how much money do I need to make”, and that by saying I would be satisfied making less, it seemed dismissive to those who need to maximize profits based upon the economic needs of their family.
That’s not the point at all. For me, “smaller” equates to less pressure, more enjoyment and a chance to do the work I love in a working environment where I am most comfortable and thrive best.
Most of all being “small” means that for the first time in my work life, I have some time – time to take better care of myself and my health, time to meet friends, or read a book without feeling guilty. I can turn off the computer and go outside, take up a new sport and begin taking the time to sit down for a healthy meal that I make, now that there is time to shop. And for once, I won’t be rushing my friends to get off the phone because “I’m busy now” (left unsaid but implied by the impatience in my voice).
Right after I post this, I’m going to write the first real letter I’ve written in years and I’m going to have to go find a real stamp to post it! I think my friend will get a kick out of getting something in the mail beside bills and advertisements.
I wish everyone who starts their own business the very best of luck in attaining whatever they are seeking – whether it is expansion, profits, innovation, a big brand name or recognition in their field. May you all have phenomenal success.
Success for me will be doing a “small” job with no pressure, leaving work and going home to find that, for once, I have plenty of time to do whatever I want. And for that I have my favorite comedian, Steve Martin, to thank!
|Posted on February 21, 2014 at 4:53 PM||comments (180)|
Using Pinterest to Market Your Business
These are the things I wish I'd known before I started on Pinterest. One of the things I've noticed about most articles on Pinterest is that you don't find a lot of direction for how to Pin most effectively using their website & all it offers. Most of the people who are teaching about Pinterest have great ideas about general marketing but the intricacies of "how to" are generally not addressed - like how & when to use hashtags and what words you want to highlight & why - how to get more followers from your targeted market - how to use Group boards & invite people to Pin - how to create boards that attract attention - best time of day to Pin (2-4 p.m & 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.) & how to not flood your Pinning (spacing them out over time) - how to use their Analytics section to see what's working for you (arrange your boards so your most popular boards are at the top) - making sure each board you create includes a "category" - how to use their Search bar - making sure your website is in your Profile (& your social networks so they're connected) & MOST IMPORTANTLY inserting your website into every Pin you pin and upload, being sure to give credit if it's not your photo - adding a "map" to your Pin when it helps (very important on Pins for properties) - adding a "Pin It" button you can download on your computer and embedding the Pinterest widget in your website so people can go directly to your boards from the website - lots more, but all things I wish I'd known when I first started out! Here’s the link to our boards – I would love to follow others boards if you comment! http://www.pinterest.com/judithburzell/