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Author: BGAdmin

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Imagine…

Imagine meeting a prospect, and handing him a brochure. Your prospect puts your brochure in his pocket and promises you he will read it later. Later on that night, instead of throwing away your brochure the prospect sets it on his nightstand so that it doesn’t get damaged. In the morning he takes your brochure with him to work, and reads it on his lunch break. He’s not interested immediately, but he puts the brochure back in his briefcase and takes it home with him that evening. He keeps his brochure with him – in his briefcase, on his nightstand, or in his car – every day for six months.

Does that sound too good to be true?

Well, it’s not…if your brochure is in the form of an app!

Did you know that when your prospects download the custom app built for your business that it stays on their phone for an average of six months? If the prospect does not delete your app within the first 24 hours, then your app remains on their phone months after they meet you. That means that your digital brochure travels with your prospect to work, it is kept by their bedside every night, and it’s even shown to the prospects’ friends on occasion.

My company builds custom apps for businesses like yours, and I would love the opportunity to work with you.

Can we set up a meeting? My phone number is 661-946-0888.

I look forward to hearing from you!

– Alex Branning

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Debt Collection with LegalShield

Dear Business Owner,

Are you the owner of a small business that’s in need of debt collection services, but are on the fence about signing up with LegalShield? Did you know that when your small business signs up with LegalShield, they are not just signing up to have an attorney on their side, they are signing up for someone to be in their corner and act as their voice? When you are in need of debt collection, Legalshield can draft collection letters on your business’ behalf, and will assist your business in the actual collection of debts!

LegalShield can assist you in:

  • Creating a uniform payment policy and include it within your company’s contracts and work orders.
  • Keeping a detailed record of customer accounts.
  • Monitoring your records for late payments and help you designate an employee to track late/delinquent accounts.
  • Knowing the proper procedures and etiquette of debt collection, such as taking immediate action, remaining professional and friendly with delinquent customers, and documenting your collection effort.

Whenever you are in doubt or need some assistance pick up the phone and call your LegalShield provider, and they will offer you the assistance, advice, and knowledge you need in a timely and professional matter.

Sign up for LegalShield Today!

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SendOutCards can make your business skyrocket!

Think for a moment about when the last time you opened your mailbox and found among the junk mail and bills an actual letter or card that was hand written and sent to you by someone who took the time to do so. It has probably been awhile right? After all, who sends “snail mail” anymore? Not very many people! But, think again about that last moment you got a thoughtful card from an old friend or a family member, and the smile it brought to your face and the warmth that touched your heart. The seemingly small gesture of sending a card could have a tremendous impact on someone; this is especially true if you are a business or professional dealing with clients.

According to Barb Sibbing, “90% of business owners are missing the BIGGEST opportunities available to them. The easiest and least expensive customers are referrals and repeat business.” One of the easiest ways to get repeat and referral customers is to make your customers feel appreciated. One of the easiest, and least expensive ways to do so is by sending a card to past and recent customers or clients, this could be anything from “Thank you for your business”, “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me on the telephone”, of even a “Happy Birthday Card”! This seemingly small gesture and attention to detail may turn your customer’s bad day into a good one, make them feel honored and appreciated, or perhaps put a smile on their face. Whatever the case, this action of going above and beyond will not be forgotten!

SendOutCards are also a great way to show appreciation to your employees. If you have a business with employees one of the best ways to show appreciation to them and to encourage excellence and job performance is to send out cards thanking them for their hard work. Perhaps you have an ill employee or an employee on maternity leave, sending a get-well card or the like is an excellent way to keep a positive atmosphere. This is one of the most effective ways to hold on to your best employee’s, and as Sibbing writes “not feeling appreciated is one of the top reasons given by valued employees who quit their jobs”.

In a world full of instant gratification, text messaging, Skype, and apps such as snapchat, it may seem as though communication is expanding globally, but, we are becoming more and more impersonal and out of touch with one another. Becoming out of touch with your client is a guaranteed way to lose business.

SendOutCards is a service that allows you to make a custom card right from your app; and then they will print the card, stuff the envelope, stamp the envelope, deliver it to the post office and track it for you!

Contact The Branning Group today and learn strategies to make your business both personal and thriving again. We will teach you the optimum way of sending out real cards to clients and getting return business. Forget making cold calls, instead call us at 661.946.0888 or email us at info@branninggroup.com, and become a send out card pro! We have the tools and strategies you need to help transform your business right before your eyes. We look forward to hearing from you!

Personal Letter from Alex Branning

I have been in the web design business for over ten years now, and I can’t even count the number of clients I have that have been wronged by a past web designer or developer. My heart breaks when I hear stories of deposits lost to thieves, disappearing web design firms, developers who refuse to fix bugs without extra money, the list of stories is long. I am determined to be different from the rest. I treat my clients with respect; I promptly respond to requests for project updates and am quick to do what it takes to make the client happy. To prove that I’m different from the rest, I registered with the Better Business Bureau so that any and all complaints can be registered in a public forum.

THE BEGINNING…

My career in the web design business started in 2000, I started programming web sites as a hobby and was quickly hired by a firm in my home town working on a large medical group web site. I moved up the ranks quickly, which was a blessing and a curse – that was my introduction to unscrupulous activity within the industry. I was disgusted with my bosses’ treatment of their clients, and left the company shortly after being named the manager of the department. The Branning Group was going really well; but I started running out of challenges. I ended up moving from southern California to Chicago to chase a girl I fell in love with at a wedding (who is now my wife, yay!) and got a job with a large e-commerce music equipment reseller. I learned so much in that position, and then when I moved back to California I got hired by Demand Media.

Demand Media hired me to rebuild the core engine of Grab.com (a gaming-based social network) to run faster, use less resources and implement SEO improvements on the site. When I started, the site was running off of nine servers and was constantly running out of resources. When I was done, the site was running off of three servers and was able to handle higher loads of traffic than before.

THE NEXT STEP…

The next stop in my career was with Buzznet (now Buzz Media); they had me work on their core engine and build a publishing platform that would allow their content writers to post once and have their work published across multiple web sites. I also worked on their mobile web site and performing general site maintenance across their web site portfolio.

After my stint at Buzz Media I was itching to be an independent web developer again. I knew that I wanted to build an independent social networking platform that entrepreneurs could use to create their own niche communities. My first social networking client was bluecanvas.com, a social network dedicated to artists and other creative individuals. My portfolio of custom social networks grew quickly to include likezebra.com, jobblehead.com, irocit.com, thisismarilyn.com, and iambiz.com.

THE PAST & THE FUTURE…

The last twelve months have been absolutely incredible! The Branning Group has worked on web sites for Chrysler, Billabong (over a dozen sites and counting!), Gretchen Christine (from the Real Housewives of Orange County), Audrina Patridge and some really exciting start-up companies.

If you are looking for a web developer who is honest, delivers quality work and takes pride in what he does then please consider me and my team – I would love to work with you.

SINCERELY,
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Five contests you can do on Facebook to get more “Likes”

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Five contests you can do on Facebook to get more “Likes”

When you first started using Facebook to get more prospects and leads, did you imaging social media being as helpful of a tool as it is? Many smaller businesses rely on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to grab people’s attention and bring in the customers, now more than ever. In order to keep the leads coming, you probably have moved on to other social networks like Pinterest, Instagram, and the like in addition to keeping up with Facebook. However, some agents, business owners, independent contractors will use Facebook the most due to familiarity or because most of their prospects are Facebook friends.

If you find yourself relying on Facebook the most, we have some ideas to help you expand your presence on that network. Namely, we have a list of different kinds of contests you can host on your profile or business page to draw in the “likes” from your friends and friends of friends. This isn’t to say that these can only be tried on Facebook; it’s just that these are tried and true with regards to Facebook, and some of them might be difficult to adapt for other social networks (but not impossible). With that said, here are five contests that will make your Facebook friends, and their Facebook friends, like your profile.

1. Caption this photo (you post a photo, your fans post a caption)

A caption contest is probably one of the simplest contests you can host, not only on Facebook but on all social media networks. All you do is find a funny photograph, post it, and announce the contest in the description field. You then let your Facebook friends write captions that go with the photo and enhance its humor. After a while, you pick the funniest comment and reward its writer with some small prize. The contest basically runs itself.

We have actually covered how to run caption contests in another article, which we encourage you to read for more in-depth tips. To summarize, you need to make sure that your photo is both family friendly and funny, and that the description of the photo clearly announces the contest and the reward. After that, you can sit back and watch your profile get a lot of engagement.

2. Quiz (one question, one right answer)

This contest is also pretty easy for Facebook, but the setup can take a little more time than the caption contest. First step is to think of a single question to ask your Facebook friends. The question can have only one right answer. The question cannot be too easy, or else everyone is going to get the right answer, but neither can it be too hard, or else no one is going to win (or want to put in the effort to win). However, if you find yourself having to choose between an easy question and a hard one, err on the side of hard. Google and Bing tend to make everything easier these days, so the hard question might not be too difficult after all.

The next thing you have to do is announce the quiz, prize, and question on a Facebook post. Keep a regular eye on the comments every now and then to see what your friends and friends of friends are saying as answers. The goal is that the first person with the right answer is the winner. However, if everyone is posting answers that are close to, but not quite, what you are looking for, let the contest run for the rest of the day until you cannot keep up with the comments anymore. If no one has the answer by then, you can give the prize to the answer you deem the closest. You should give the prize to someone, however, and also announce the winners in a separate post. Making a game that no one will win is a surefire way to make people not want to participate in your contests.

3. Poll (one question, multiple right answers)

Whereas a quiz has one question with one right answer, a poll has one question and multiple right answers. After you post your question, you let the poll run for a set amount of time without looking at it. Then, when you have the time to do so, tally up the votes for each answer and the total amount of given votes. You then post the results for all of the participants to see.

Posting the results is the key of this game. Unlike other contests that rely on a given prize, the reward for a poll participant is seeing how many people share their opinions. When you post the results, it will be best if you do the extra math and list the results as percentages. When the participant sees that 63% of people also think that blue is the best living room color or that only 32% agree that blue is only good for a home office, they will feel fulfilled from the poll you posted and will want to do another one.

4. Share this (share this post, one winner gets…)

A “share this” contest can be difficult to keep track of, but requires very little setup. In a post, you ask your friends to share the post (which ought to have some other fun content on it to keep the contest entertaining). You then have to keep track of who shares it, how many times they shared it, and how many of their friends shared the post they shared. The winner, who should get some kind of prize, is the person who resulted in the most shares through their sharing and their friends sharing.

As you can see, this contest can be very hard to keep track of when a fairly large amount of people get involved. There is, however, an easier variation of this that works well both on Facebook and Twitter: a hashtag contest. Basically, you post a hashtag instead of a status that your friends must use and spread. The winner will be the person who causes the most widespread proliferation of that hashtag. You can then search for the hashtag’s use in various posts and Twitter feeds, rather than a specific post in a sea of status updates.

5. Bring a Friend (invite a friend to like my page, winner gets…)

This contest is perhaps the most straightforward and easiest to perform. You simply ask your friends to invite their friends to like you page, send you friend requests, etc. Whomever gets the most friends involved wins a prize. Not only is this contest very easy to run, but it also has the potential to advertise your page the most.

These five contests are a great way to draw in a bunch of likes on Facebook. In turn, these likes are an excellent way to advertise your business and generate leads. When looking to enhance your social media presence, give these Facebook contests a try.

Four creative ways to attract buyers

Four creative ways to attract buyers

Pinterest:  Here are six ways for you to increase your business by activities on Pinterest, including engagement tips, ideas for content to pin and how to increase referrals by adding some words to your caption!


One:  Engage your friends, and their friends, on Pinterest. Use Pinterest to make friends! We recommend commenting on your friends’ pins so that they establish a relationship with you: if you just re-pin, that’s too passive to generate real connections. When you make a comment, end it with a hashtag that’s pertinent to you (ex: #yourcustomapp) and don’t be afraid to ask for them to call you in a comment.


 

Two:   Make a pin for each house that you list (if you sell real estate), hairstyle that’s up-and-coming (if you’re a hairstylist), a unique destination (if you’re a travel agent) – etc. It’s creative, unique, and your friends will see it on their Home Screen when they login. If they didn’t already know what industry you were in – they do now!


 

Three:  Re-pin topics that are relevant to buyers and sellers. You can use Pinterest to build your brand, establish credibility and build relationships by starting conversations that are relevant to people looking for help in your industry.


 

Four: Make a Contest Board! A great way to drive traffic to your blog is to post engaging, interactive content on it. Run contests directly on your blog. Then Pin it to your contest specific Board on Pinterest. When you host a contest on your blog, your goal is to drive traffic directly to your website. Promote it on your Pinterest site to garner more participation. Contests are very engaging, and will drive a lot of traffic to your blog. Make a contest PinBoard, and Pin your blog-hosted contests on it.


 

Five:  Include a “Pin it” Button on your web site – this is a must!


 

Six:   Include “call to actions” in your captions. You know all the powerful marketing strategies that you are using in other areas of your business? Yeah, they probably work on Pinterest too. Did you know that featuring a “call to action” increases the engagement (repins, comments, likes) of a pin by 80% [Source: Pinerly]? Time to start including “click here,” “comment below” or “repin this” in every caption. You could even include a CTA in the actual image of your pin. Don’t wait and see if your followers can figure out what you want them to do. Just tell them!


1. Facebook  “Caption This” Contests: A Facebook Contest is an easy way to engage Facebook likes and convert them into email signups by enticing them with a prize. There are many different types of Facebook Contests from the most basic “random draw” Facebook Sweepstakes to highly involved contests with specific requirements and point totals. You are looking to build your brand online, so you will want “quick win” contests that keep you on the top of mind.

You can do this easily by starting a weekly “Caption This” contest where you give away a $5.00 Starbucks gift card (as an example, doesn’t have to be that). They’re so easy to do:

Pick a photo online (the sillier the better for most people, but find a photo that fits your audience)

When posting your photo, use a caption like this: “Wow, this picture is hilarious! Let’s do something fun; enter a funny caption as a comment. I will pick a comment below and send you a $5.00 Starbucks gift card. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!”

Then watch your photo get a lot of engagement…who doesn’t want a free gift?

2. Engage with your friends:  Take every opportunity you can to engage with people when you can exert your knowledge about your industry. It could be something as simple as someone posting about a broken dishwasher (“Hey I know a guy, he was working on a house I sold earlier this year”) to interior decorating advice (“One of my clients did this to the home she bought, and she loved it”). The more active you are, the more activity you’ll get in return. The more activity that surrounds you, the bigger your brand is online. Don’t make it all about you all the time, but do not shy away from letting people know what you represent

3. “Shout out” local businesses and people of influence:  If you want people to know who you are, call out local businesses and other people of power for some spontaneous praise. This “out of the blue” shout out will score you huge points with the business/person you highlighted and all of their friends. This is a win-win-win, due to the fact it also subconsciously lets your friends know that you are a positive person who gets around the community.

Make Your Web Site Work for YOU

Make Your Web Site Work for YOU

  • Content Marketing: Content will drive traffic to your business. EX: “We are giving away one article on our web site today, and if you join our mailing list we will send you all five.”
  • Brand yourself: People are buying from YOU – they are not buying from your broker office, your salon or your insurance company. Make sure your web site sells YOU!
  • Transparency is Huge: Many of your potential buyers have uncles/cousins/ex-roommates that may be in the same industry, and they are thinking of using them because they feel ‘closer’ to them. How can you overcome that obstacle? You can overcome the “My uncle also sells cars” problem by opening yourself up so that they know you and feel like you are their friend.
  • I am the Expert: One of the easiest ways to be seen as the expert in your industry is to post articles that are related news and offer your comments on the article. For example, if you share an article posted in the NY Times about rising property values, make sure to add a personal touch like, “I am seeing this on the west side, not so much by downtown”. That shows that you are:

    -Keeping up with the latest market trends
    -Staying connected to the community
    -You know what you’re talking about
    -BONUS: If your friends in a similar industry comment on your posts, you are establishing yourself as an authority that other people in the industry follow!


  • Friend you see every day: Your web site needs to make people connect to you, post photos of yourself around town buying coffee, attending PTAs, staying involved with local businesses and communities, etc.
  • Tools, Tools, Tools: Your potential clients need to know that your web site has the tools they need. Make sure your web site has an easily identified “search” and an easy way to contact you if they have questions.
  • Stay social: Also mentioned in the Power Prospecting article, if someone finds you then you want to hang on to those leads! Make sure that your visitors know how to find you online:
    -Facebook
    -Pinterest (SEE 4 Creative Ways to Attract Prospects)
    -Twitter/Vine
    -Instagram
    -Etc

SEO: 9 Key Factors Google Uses to Test Your Web Site

SEO:
9 Key Factors Google Uses to Test Your Web Site

Search engine optimization, or SEO for short, is the list of methods websites employ to become one of the first results on search engines like Google and Bing. When your business’ website was created, the people who helped you build it were probably focused on some of the proven SEO techniques, like keywords and article length. However, Google has begun to focus on some additional key factors for their search engine, and these factors are tied around one common theme: value of the visitors. Each of these nine tests Google uses are supposed to measure how valuable a website makes its visitors feel when visiting; if the tried-and-true SEO techniques and social media presence are not helping as much as you thought they would, look at these nine factors to see how your website holds up to Google’s new standards.

1.  Loading Speed

The “loading time” is that period between when a visitor clicks on the link to your website and when your website actually appears onscreen. The internet has made its users an impatient lot; longer loading times means a lower likelihood of people staying to enjoy your website, which in turn tells Google that your website is not popular enough for the first page of results. Loading speed can be a difficult thing to account for because several factors can act together to influence it. However, a good rule of thumb to follow is that, whenever a page of your website is loading, a part of that page needs to appear onscreen within one second. When Google sees this response, they will recognize your business’ website as one that likes to improve the customer service experience.

2.  Bounce Rate

A “bounce” is a situation where someone visits a website and then leaves that website without seeing anything other than that one page. If your website has a high bounce rate, then your website will be seen as unfriendly to its visitors. To lower your bounce rate, look at the pages that you commonly link to (the homepage, a favorite article, etc.) and try to find its weaknesses. Does the text on the page encourage people to continue reading? Are the links to the website’s other pages in a place that is easy to access or see? Keep these and similar questions in mind when updating your website, and your bounce rate should drop significantly.

3.  Engagement

Engagement is when a visitor feels so invested in your website that they do some of your marketing for you. They post your articles on Facebook, they pin your business’ products on Pinterest, and they link to your homepage whenever the opportunity arises. How many visitors of your business’ website are involved in that level of engagement? While updating your website to drop your bounce rate, you should also keep an eye out for how well you encourage people to invest and engage with your site. Increase this encouragement for engagement, and Google will give your website a higher search result.

4.  Pages Visited

When establishing which results will pop up on their searches, Google is also going to consider how many of your business website’s pages are visited by its visitors. If a lot of your visitors are looking at a lot of your website’s pages, Google is going to think your website contains valuable information for those who visit it. Does your website have the information needed to keep people on it? Be sure that your articles have the raw information, as well as the entertainment value, to hold your visitor’s attention and make them want to learn more. This will make it more likely for your visitors to read your other pages, which will get your site on Google’s good side.

5.  Return Visits

Just like the amount of pages that were visited, Google also looks at the number of return visitors as a sign of valuable information. After all, if you only offered the same boring content over and over again, your website would not have as many people coming back to it. You need to make sure that your content is always changing and new. This will also help you reduce your bounce rate; people are more likely to stay and read if you have something new for them to read on return visits.

6.  Time on Website

Google has also begun to measure just how much time is spent on your website. A bounce rate with a high time rating indicates that visitors at least bother to read your website before deciding you had nothing for them; a low time rating claims that nothing on your site could hold their attention. You need to rework your content to include attention-holding things, such as great pictures when applicable, exciting article titles, and the like. A higher time rating is also going to help bolster the number of pages visited, so be sure to put in a little extra effort on this one.

7.  Responsiveness

Responsiveness does not simply mean that a website will pop up on a Google search via computer (any website can do that); it means that your website will work on a mobile phone, tablet, and other mobile devices just as easily as it would on a computer. Google has begun to drop the SEO ratings of websites that are not responsive, with websites that lack any mobile compatibility getting the harshest treatment. Don’t let this rating drop happen to you. Make sure your business website can interact on mobile devices, whether through a phone-friendly version of the site itself or an app for the site.

8.  Robots and robot.txt Files

With regards to search engines like Google, “robots” are indexing programs that find, index, and store website URLs for the engine to then include in search results. How noticeable you are to robots can influence how close to the front page of a search result you get; don’t just wait around for the robots to find you. Instead, become more noticeable by creating a robot.txt file for your website.

This tool is simple in its construction (a “user-agent” URL for the robot to list on engines and “disallow” URLs for the robot to ignore) and acts as a signal flare for robots. By taking advantage of robots with these files, you basically let Google do your SEO work for you.

9.  W3 Standards

One of the things that Google has started looking for as well is if your business’ website adheres to the standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium—W3C for short—and how well you follow them. W3C is a group of organizations, businesses, and individual members work together to create a common set of standards for the Internet. Some of these standards include: accessibility for all users, regardless of physical or mental ability; increased interaction between Internet users; improve the ways users can develop trust with each other. While the exact rules and standards are still being established, following W3C’s general goals are the main thing that Google likes to see in a website.

This might sound like a more difficult element to account for than it actually is. You might wonder how to adhere to rules that are still being written. However, by making adjustments to the website that follows W3C’s goals—or even becoming a member of the group—you are able to improve your standing with Google. For example, changes to your website that improves the experience for those who are hard of hearing or sight shows that you believe in the goal of accessibility for all, a key focus of W3C. Changes like this are invaluable to improving your SEO rating.

Google’s standards have changed, and your strategies should change to match these new SEO requirements. You cannot merely stick to whatever SEO tactics worked yesterday; you have to adapt for the challenges of today. It may sound like a time-consuming task, but it is much easier and a greater investment of time than you may think. By adding these nine tactics to your current list of strategies, you can use these changes to your advantage and rise through the search engine results.

Three ways to supercharge your “offline” prospecting efforts with “online” follow-up

Power Prospecting
Three ways to supercharge your “offline” prospecting efforts with “online” follow-up

 

  • Make sure that if people Google you, they find you: This cannot be said enough- if you have just met someone they will try and find you online. You must come up on a name search. Fair or not, if you do not have a web site (or have one that can’t be found, which has the same effect as not having a web site) then you lose credibility.
    Do not be frightened away by high-priced consultants; there are some easy things you can do to improve your own search engine rankings that we will explore in a future gift.
  • Encourage your prospects to connect with you NOW:
    If you are talking to them and getting along with your prospect, take your phone out of your pocket and find them on Facebook that second. You want to make that connection with them immediately- if you wait then you may lose them. A business card only goes so far, find them online right then and “friend” them!


BONUS TIP: Make sure that your online profile is complete with an updated picture of yourself, your web site address and your other social media profiles (Pinterest, Twitter, etc).
SECOND BONUS TIP: Send them a quick $5.00 gift card to Starbucks on Facebook as a way of saying, “Thank you for your time.” They will not forget that gift, and by the Law of Reciprocity they feel like they owe you something (a referral, maybe?).

 

  • “Download My App”: Everyone has a smart phone nowadays, and if they have a smart phone, they use apps. Encourage them to download your app, and then you’ll always be on their phone. If you don’t have an app, sign up today! Your app will be up in a week on both the Google Play and iTunes App Stores!
  • Click here to view apps created by Alex Branning!