Behind the story: Startup City

Startup CityPhoenix is well known for a lot of things, but technology startups is not one of them.

The idea for this story came when I attended an Arizona Storytellers event at downtown Phoenix’s Co+Hoots, a coworking space where small business owners rent desks in a shared office. During each Arizona Storytellers, people go on stage and tell short stories about their lives, usually revolving around that night’s theme.

At Co+Hoots that night, energetic entrepreneurs ascended the stage one by one and shared their struggles of building a business amidst doubt, fear and setback. Each story ended on a note that soared so high, I couldn’t help but feel energized and in disbelief that these people lived in my city. Their striving and big goals seemed so separate from my life, and the lives of everybody else I know.

Until that point, I wasn’t aware that such an energetic entrepreneur scene existed in the Valley. Walmart ranks as the state’s largest employer, and although we have a lot of small businesses, they’re mostly construction or landscaping oriented. To find all these bright, passionate people hustling in the heart of Phoenix was intriguing, and I suspected others would be interested to learn about it, too.

So I pitched the article to Phoenix magazine, and spent a month interviewing entrepreneurs all over the Valley. I interviewed novices, not-so-novices, people starting technology firms, service firms, and even restaurants, although that didn’t make it into the story.

As I spoke with people, it became clear that those working in coworking spaces — the heart of this emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem — were creating something really special. What is an entrepreneurial ecosystem? So think of a natural ecosystem with trees, birds and bugs; they all feed off each other and help each other survive.

An entrepreneurial ecosystem is similar. Successful ones, like Silicon Valley, feature such characteristics as density, which helps people share ideas, readily available capital, for funding new ventures, and successful businesspeople willing to share the lessons they learned along the way.

Startup City, published in the January 2014 edition of Phoenix Magazine, talks about how Phoenix is developing its own entrepreneurial ecosystem. The city’s coworking spaces substitute for density in a city of sprawl, and various public and public-private organizations are helping to create policies spurring entrepreneurial growth. They include tax incentives for angel investors and big money prizes for promising ventures.

And many of Phoenix’s emerging companies are technology companies.

Click here to read about the entrepreneurs working to make it big in the Sonoran Desert.

 

5 easy ways to boost your SEO

SEOIf Google can’t find your website, it may as well not exist. That may seem harsh, but let’s face it — just about every purchasing decision begins with an internet search. If your prospects aren’t learning about you during their research, they’re learning about your competitor.

For prospects to find you, you’ve got to be on the first page of search results. People rarely click through to the second page. And even if prospects look that far, they might not consider your page credible if it’s not top-ranking. To rank high in search results, your web content must be search-engine optimized (SEO).

The good news is you don’t need to hire an SEO specialist to boost your ranking. You don’t even need to hire a freelance writer, though I’m more than happy to help if you need it.

Try these five easy ways to boost your SEO:

1. Start a blog. Select a few top keywords you want to rank high for and create posts around those keywords. Make sure the content is top-notch. Google’s new algorithms change all the time, and each new rendition favors high-quality content even more. Gone are the days when you could throw up spammy blog posts and score a top ranking. These days, you’ve got to earn it. And anyway, don’t you want your blog content to reflect the high quality of your business?

2. Install an SEO plugin for your website. If you use WordPress, this is super easy. All you have to do is download the plugin, and then go through the settings to incorporate the appropriate tags. The free plugin does all the rest.

3. Add meta tags to your web pages and posts. The SEO plugin doesn’t automatically do this, and it’s relatively easy. A meta tag is comprised of words added to your web code that doesn’t appear on the page, but that a search engine will read to determine the content of your pages. Click here to read about meta tags and to score an easy, copy and paste example you can customize and incorporate into your site.

4. Add more pages to your website. One easy way to do this is to add pages for each of the services you offer. Or, you might add an About Us page if you don’t already have one. Each page provides an additional opportunity to list the appropriate keywords and also gives your prospective customers more information to peruse through.

Make sure your new and existing pages contain the targeted keywords. This sounds obvious, but many times content doesn’t include the keywords, even if you think they do. Look over the content with an eye toward identifying search phrases. Make sure they appear just a few times throughout the page — not too much. Including SEO keywords too frequently, a practice called keyword stuffing, will make Google downgrade your site.

5. Add keywords into your URL. For example, on my website, the URL for my marketing portfolio page is http://suzanneheyn.com/phoenix-freelance-writer-marketing-communications-portfolio/.

It used to say suzanneheyn.com/portfolio, but I added the keywords “Phoenix freelance writer” and “marketing communications” after the domain to rank higher in the search engines. Little tricks like that can dramatically boost your ranking. This site used to be on the fourth page of search results for “Phoenix freelance writer,” but it’s been ranking consistently on the first page since making a few key changes.

If you’re looking for someone to tweak your web site and create stellar content marketing to boost your search rankings and generate more sales leads, contact me today.

What have you found effective to increase your SEO?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What is working with a freelance writer like?

Tips for working with a freelance writerIf you’ve never worked with a freelance writer before, you may have questions about the process and the nature of the client/freelancer relationship.

You may feel nervous about outsourcing important projects, wondering if the quality will suffer or if the relationship will impact deadlines.

When starting something new, it’s natural to be concerned. That’s why it’s important to hire someone experienced, with a track record of excellence, who will give your project top treatment.

If you’re considering hiring a freelance writer, here’s what you should know:

1. Freelancers free your time. If you’re a marketing or public relations director and are constantly writing to-do projects on your list, but then wistfully dropping them down in priority when urgent needs arise, you definitely need a freelance writer. I’ve been in your shoes and know how frustrating it is to constantly postpone your pet projects because of things that keep coming up.

Give me the work you need to do, but don’t really want to do. The monthly newsletter, the new web content, white paper or annual report. That frees up your time to get those pet projects done — the ones that will really make a difference in your career and job satisfaction.

2. Freelancers offer the same quality as in-house staff. While in-house staff sometimes becomes complacent, freelancers know that every job must reach high standards. We don’t have the security of an employer and so every project we complete resets the standard for we are known. Clients are the lifeblood of my business, and I don’t ever want to disappoint someone by turning in work that isn’t my best effort.

Freelance writers have significant previous staff writing experience. My own personal experience comes from newspapers and a stint in the marketing communications department of a consulting and law group. Because of that experience, you can expect that freelancers have much expertise to offer when developing content or building strategy to reach your target demographic.

3. Freelancers offer that critical outside perspective. When you’re developing website content, a new brochure or updated marketing materials, sometimes it helps to have an outside perspective. Someone who looks at your product, services or industry positioning with a fresh set of eyes.

When you work on something every day, you become entrenched. The little things you do that make you different fade into the blanket of your everyday existence, and you forget how special they are. Or, you might have trouble identifying that unique value proposition in the first place. When you’re trying to stand out and build your business, that can’t happen. You need to be on top of your game, and an independent freelance content writer can make that happen.

4. Hiring a freelancer costs less than hiring an employee. Although on an hourly basis, freelancers generally cost more, you’re not employing them for a solid 40 hours a week. You pay only for what you use. As costs rise and profit margins tighten, many companies find that trimming budgets with freelancers is an excellent way to operate.

At the same time, you have that flexibility. Most freelancers’ schedules fluctuate dramatically depending upon client projects. That means you have flexibility with the work you need completed. If, for instance, you have a big project coming up, working with a freelance writer allows you to quickly ramp up production and then slow it down once the work ends. Still, you know you always have on-call a professional writer to quickly turn around work.

5. Freelancers give quick turnaround times. Because freelancers aren’t spending time in meetings or important discussions about business operations, they have time to quickly turn around work, getting you what you need fast. When starting work with a freelance writer, it’s always best to inquire about how busy that person is, and specify how quickly you would like the work done.

Once you find a responsible, professional freelance writer — like me! — you’ll know you can simply assign the project and not think about it again until you receive it, on time and meeting all your expectations.

If you’re interested in learning more about working with a professional freelance writer, contact me at suzanneheyn (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Does email marketing still work?

Businesswoman Checking Her Bank Account OnlineMarketing gets fancier by the day, doesn’t it? New social media platforms attract buzz, Google revamps its search algorithm yet again, a new electronic device demands new marketing methods — what’s a business owner to do?

Sometimes, people get so caught up in what’s new, bright and shiny, that they abandon tried-and-true methods for no reason.

One of those still effective, tried-and-true marketing techniques is email marketing. Email marketing involves sending messages, such as promotions, company and industry news, to your list of email subscribers. The intention is to keep your company top-of-mind with your customers and build loyalty.

Email marketing is cheap, effective, and garners a relatively high response rate — ranking third behind organic search and cost-per-click advertising campaigns, according to a 2013 study from Custora, an e-commerce marketing company.

Here’s how to market through email: Continue reading

4 ways to market equity crowdfunding campaigns

Keyboard with Crowd Funding Button.As early as 2014, private companies will be able to announce capital-raising campaigns through social media, advertising and the internet, and then sell ownership shares or debt on crowdfunding sites.

Small businesses often don’t qualify for bank loans, making it difficult to find capital to expand. Crowdfunding, the online platform that allow creatives and entrepreneurs to raise small sums of money from a large number of people, have been hugely successful. However, federal securities laws have prohibited contributors from earning interest on money, limiting the platform’s potential.

New Securities and Exchange Commission rules from 2012′s JOBS Act (Jumpstart our Business Startups) have changed that. On Sept. 23, for the first time in 80 years, private companies will be able to publicly announce they’re raising capital. Other rules loosening investment restrictions are expected to pass in 2014, which means companies’ opportunities for finding money will greatly expand. This new way of raising money is called equity-based crowdfunding.

So, how do you take advantage of this opportunity? Continue reading

5 ways a blog builds your business


Why blog for business

How will you stand out from the competition?

You know having a website matters. After all, how else will people find you and learn about your services? But a blog? Most blogs you’ve seen probably don’t even have people commenting or tweeting. How can that help?

Blogs work on both visible and invisible planes, helping to attract customers to you even while you sleep. Prominent blogs may have tons of tweets and comments, but even if yours is a little quieter, the posts are still hard at work increasing your brand’s visibility, which ultimately builds your business.

Here’s how: Continue reading

How to be more productive

girl on computerAs a dedicated list writer, self-improvement blog reader and switch-things-uper, I never tire of trying to find reasons why I’m not as productive as I would like to be.

No matter how many tricks, tips, apps or methods you try in the pursuit of getting more done, there’s one key method that never receives the props it deserves:  Continue reading