You've probably heard about blogs, search engine optimization and e-commerce. Does you business need one, use it or need it? Read on to find some of the answers, and read further to expand your knowledge in this area.

The globalized, interconnected world of the 21st century offers a bewildering array of high tech tools for communications in the knowledge or information age. Lucky for you most are inexpensive, and promise far reaching results for your business and efficient mechanism for communications with your customers, suppliers, employees and communities.

While the terminology may be like a new language to you - do not despair! The age-old way of doing business has not changed at all. Business is still about relationships: business to business, business to customer, manager to employee and corporation to community relationships.

Leveraging contacts through the use of internets, intranets, net meeting or shopping carts (and more) allows a business to grow beyond its local store front - even if your main store front is your primary place of business.

The key for all communications related to your business can be summed up in four simple steps:

  • Know your audience.
  • Know your competition.
  • Examine the giants in your industry to see what you can adapt for your business.
  • Know your message.

Any form of marketing or advertising - otherwise known as communications in the 21st century - is about starting, maintaining and growing the two-way conversation with your customers on a seemingly "one-to-one" basis. Websites, email, permission e-newsletters, blogs enable two-way conversations with a larger crowd than a telephone conversation. Collaborative mediums of the 21st century largely trump the traditional (one-way) sales pitch.

This section of the website is a broad introduction to current terminology for communications as it applies to SME business management and ownership.

Communications Tools Defined

Advertising (Traditional Advertising)
One of the main difficulties faced by any entrepreneur is that advertising has changed and evolved over the last few years. It now includes visual, audio and electronic media. So is traditional advertising - which includes billboards, radio, television, newspaper and magazine - dead? The trick with any advertising campaign is to know your customer and to make strategic use of traditional and non-traditional mediums to support the ever-evolving conversation with your customer, and to keep them engaged.

Blog or Weblog
A blog (short for weblog) is a user-generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in reverse chronological order. Most blogs are primarily textual although some focus on photographs (photoblog), sketchblog, videos (vlog), or audio (podcasting), and are part of a wider network of social media. Blogs require a concerted, daily effort to update and keep it "alive" - if you don't have that kind of time, consider blogging (commenting) on other blogs in your area of expertise.

Email
An email address is of equal importance to a telephone number in this era of business. It is also an advantage to have a memorable email address that matches your business name and domain name. Having your own unique email address (me@MyBusiness.ca or president@MyCorporation.com) is part of a hosting package (called "email aliases") and can be directed to your service providers address (e.g. smith@phonecompany.net).

Google
Google is an US public corporation specializing in internet searching and online advertising. Google has become a verb, and in everyday language means "to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the Internet."

Host
Not the party host, but your internet host. This is the home for your website domain (i.e. www.YourBusiness.com) where you store the page files, image files and other related documents that your users access from the world wide web (Internet).

Internet/Website
Very few businesses, agencies, organizations, charities or sports groups can afford to be without an Internet website. A professionally designed web site (even a simple one with 4-5 pages) provides:

  • critical product or service information that can be accessed at the customer's convenience
  • availability of information 365/24/7
  • contact information and/or office hours of operation
  • email addresses so that customers can contact you at their convenience
  • links to your industry accreditations, guarantees, and other assurances of quality
  • a personal edge/your unique business edge in the marketplace

Search engine/directory
Search engines operate algorithmically to index web pages. Web directories are maintained by human editors. Examples of search engines are Google, Yahoo! Search and Windows Live Search. Examples of directories are the Open Directory Project and World Wide Web Virtual Library. Understanding the three modes used by search engines (crawling, indexing, searching) leads to better website design, and consequently better search engine rankings.

Snail mail
Still a powerful form of communications to mail a holiday card, say happy birthday or send out an invoice. This is especially true if your customer segment is seniors or are in communities under-served by the Internet.

Teach or Share Your Skills
Teaching is the gift that keeps on giving. Share your knowledge and skills through your local community college program offerings or as a keynote speaker at an annual general meeting for a volunteer group.

Trade Shows
Trade shows are still a vehicle to see and be seen, and to network in your community, for example: the festive atmosphere allows you to reach new, old and potential customers; you can acquire competitive intelligence; you can be generous with information and product samples to gain future market share; you can introduce yourself to a business owner of a complementary service that can collaborate with you on future projects.

YouTube
YouTube is a popular (non-copyrighted) video sharing website where users can upload, view and share video clips.

Wiki
A wiki is a website that allows a visitor to add, remove, edit and change content, typically without the need for registration. it also allows the linking among any number of pages.


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