Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Sales Strategy

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Does Your Content Make the Grade? 6 Keys for A+ Marks

May 21, 2015

If your internet presence isn’t producing leads, it’s time to take a hard look at how well you’re presenting your message.

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Websites, blogs and social media have just one essential goal – getting noticed by visitors. Marketing copy is the appropriate tool for reaching that goal. If you’re not getting the conversion results you need, the problem is probably low-quality content. So delivering a convincing pitch is a must.

Do Internet Visitors Actually Read?
They do, but only if the content they find is worth reading. Every person who lands on your pages is there to solve a problem, get information, or fill a need. If the words on your page meet those goals effectively, you win. If not, your visitor bounces off to look elsewhere. Monitor your bounce rate in Google Analytics for guidance. If it’s over 50 percent on a web page or 70 percent on a blog, it’s time for a change.

These six essentials of outstanding content quality should be your guide:

  • Obvious Relevance at First Glance – If your visitors don’t immediately recognize the content as useful, they’re gone. Page and blog titles should clearly identify the topic and message. Use primary SEO keywords here and Google Todd Martin 052115 image 2will reward you with higher rankings.
  • Attention-Getting Headings and Subheads – Pull readers into your text by highlighting key ideas. Think of these as the PowerPoint slides in your presentation. Punchy wording and targeted SEO work here and also get Google’s attention.
  • Fast Identification with Readers – The first paragraph should lead with an acknowledgment of visitors’ goals. Demonstrate that you get the reason for their visit and let them know that they’ll find what they need in your content. They’ll read on.
  • Compelling Copy that Delivers – Short sentences work. Short paragraphs work. Dense, concise presentation of essential information works. Rambling text that wastes visitors’ time doesn’t work. Include power words and superlative adjectives, but sparingly. Avoid repetition.
  • Error-Free Execution – Flawless spelling, punctuation and grammar matter. Careful proofreading and editing will pay off in increased action. Spend at least as much time reviewing as you did in creating the copy. Bottom line: If your content doesn’t show respect for visitors, you won’t get their respect.
  • Effective Motivation to Action – What do you want readers to do? Tell them and ask for action in your wrap-up Todd Martin 052115 image 3paragraph. Include links in the text and make it easy for readers to take the next step. If they’ve gotten this far, you’re just one step away from success.

Outstanding Results Depend on Top-Quality Content
Here’s a secret that most web designers don’t understand: Everything on a website, blog or social media campaign depends on its content. Without excellent marketing text, nothing else really matters. Even Google recognizes this. Over the past few years, the search engine has increasingly focused its ranking algorithms on content quality. It rewards excellent writing with higher rankings.

Busy visitors, too, are becoming more quality-conscious. To make your online marketing more effective, increase your focus on optimizing your copy, even if that requires professional help.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is There a “Right” Way to Use CRM Software?

May 13, 2015

Kind of. Every sales team is different, but there are some universal guidelines that should make your experience better.

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I’ve written about how customer relationship management (CRM) applications have changed since they first appeared in the 1980s. We’re in the social CRM stage now. Most software products and websites designed to help salespeople improve their relationships with customers are building in ways to incorporate information and insights picked up from social media networks.

I think this is great. Terrific. I applaud the developers who are turning what is a very good idea into smart, user-friendly features.

Stay Focused

But there’s a temptation for both application designers and users to go too far. You can get so caught up in the connections and the interactivity and the coolness that you’re wasting valuable time. Worse, you may be ignoring your regular CRM-related work.

So use it as the tool it was meant to be. If you’re in the process of evaluating CRM systems for possible implementation, know what your needs are ahead of time, and don’t get caught up in unnecessary bells and whistles.

Speaking of which, don’t get carried away with automation. Automated marketing has its place, but also its potential dangers. So when you’re doing your occasional check-ins with customers, make them personal.

Keep Up

Many social CRM applications will help you create exceptionally complex profiles. These are your old contact records on steroids. You can often import email lists and social media posts and other information that lies outside of the confines of your CRM site. But your profiles and calendars and logs still need your input sometimes. So do your darndest to contribute critical information that can only come from your keyboard.

If you’re limping along with an old CRM system but you dread having to decide on a new one and implement it, visit the websites of some state-of-the-art social CRM applications and consider the possibilities. Know when to say good-bye. Many of your competitors are getting a jump on you because they have better tools.

Selection and Implementation

Some things to keep in mind if you’re shopping for a new system or preparing to introduce your sales team to one you’ve chosen:

  • Evaluate each candidate’s ability to integrate with other company functions, like the help desk and accounting. Developers build in safeguards so that each department only sees what it needs to.
  • Look, too, at whether these CRM solutions make use of existing tools. Do they integrate with Microsoft Office, for example, or is there at least some way to connect documents and spreadsheets to the CRM application?  Can you synchronize calendars?
  •  Consider the complexity of data input. Your ideal solution will not have a lot of extra, unnecessary features to confuse users, and its forms should be easy to complete.
  • Determine how much customization you’ll need, and look for it in your CRM candidates.

Finally, get input from your staff about the kinds of features they’d like to see. And once you’ve settled on a CRM system, have mandated training. People may groan, but CRM software – especially if it’s integrated with other company functions – simply must be as current as is possible.

This can’t be like the company football pool, where participation is optional. Get everyone on board from the start, and give them the opportunity to see how the right CRM site can help them create, maintain, and improve the right relationships.

Use Your Words Wisely: 6 Common-Sense Content Marketing Tips

May 4, 2015

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Words matter. Choose them wisely as you compose for your website and blog to improve goodwill, sales, and your image.

All of the content on your website and social media venues has one overriding function. It needs to sell your products or services to visitors. That may seem obvious, but far too much content misses the mark badly in getting this job done. You get very little time to make the sale online, so every word has to count.

Getting and keeping the attention of impatient and fickle visitors isn’t easy, but a few simple psychological tricks can help. Use these strategies and you’ll have a leg up on your competitors:

  •  Focus on Visitors’ Needs – Lead off marketing content by showing that you understand exactly what problem your product or service solves. Identify the need right away and let readers know that you have the solution. You’ll get their attention and lead them into your pitch. Everyone who lands on your page came there with a problem to solve. Tell them how you can help with that.
  • How Can Questions Build Sales?  – Google is seeing more and more searches in the form of questions. Up to 25 Todd Martin 050415 iimage 2percent of all searches today are questions in need of answers. Maximize your SEO with headings that ask those questions (using your target keywords) and you’ll get more visits. Give the answer immediately and you’ll capture more leads.
  • Don’t Beat around the Bush – Once you’ve grabbed a guest’s attention, don’t waste time. Tell them immediately how your service or a product solves their problem. Get right to the point, presenting key features and benefits without wasting their time. You have just seconds to deliver your pitch, so get down to business before your guest bails.
  • Be Brief but Complete – Telegraph your message. Present the necessary information compactly. Focus on the highest-priority features first. Bullet lists work well in presenting details in a form that is immediately understood. Avoid rambling content that wastes time. Make your content marketing work like a slide in a presentation.
  • Sell Value, Not Price – Show your prospects why price isn’t the primary factor. Demonstrate value instead. Fast delivery, quality, durability, expertise or other factors can make the sale in a competitive environment. Tell them why they should choose you. By focusing on these secondary factors, you can conquer bargain-basement offerings elsewhere.
  • Ask for Action – Once you’ve captured attention and sung the praises of your offerings, close the deal. Use time Todd Martin 050415 iimage 3limitations, temporary discounts, bonuses, rebates or other incentives to turn visitors into leads and sales. If they don’t act now, they may never act. On your bottom line, nothing matters unless you convert your potential customers and clients.

Content Marketing Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Psychology.

Selling on the Internet can’t be reduced just to a series of steps that always gets the same result. Unless you understand how your target audience can be attracted, retained and converted, your content won’t have maximum impact on your sales. When limited space and attention span are in play, using time-tested, customer-focused strategies that are proven to work will get the best overall results every time.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

They Said WHAT About Me?

April 22, 2015

Reputation management is more important than ever, thanks to social media. Manage your customer relationships carefully to avoid a public relations crisis.

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You’ve probably heard the horror stories. Someone gets upset about a product or service they received, and they take to Yelp and Twitter and numerous other online venues to try to trash your reputation.

Sometimes, the individual posting the reviews doesn’t even have an ax to grind. For whatever reason, he or she just wants to tarnish your image.

You’ve spent years — maybe even decades — working hard to maintain the integrity of your brand. It doesn’t seem fair that one person can do so much damage to your good name.

But it happens.

Shut It Down Before It Can Happen

One way to avoid damage to your reputation is by owning your brand online. If you’re just launching a new business, get your company name and profile up on the major social networks. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn aren’t enough anymore. Host your own presence on YouTube, Instagram, and Google+. Maybe even Pinterest and SlideShare.

If you’re a big company with plenty of money and a sterling reputation that must be guarded, hire a reputation management firm. Otherwise, assign one employee to the task of trolling for dirt daily, or split the chore up among multiple staff members.

Here’s what the designated individual(s) should do:

  • Type your company name into the major search engines and see what comes up on the first five pages.Todd Martin 042215 image 2
  • Dp a search for your company name plus words like “complaints” and “reviews.” Misspell it occasionally.
  • Run your brand through the search tools on social media sites.
  • Read your feeds. Nothing should appear in your social media streams that someone on your staff doesn’t see the same day.
  • Set up a Google Alert for your company name — and for common misspellings.
  • Pay Yelp regular visits. It seems to attract naysayers.

Keep Up With Your CRM

Use your customer relationship skills to be in touch with your audience, and sniff out trouble early. Do as much as you can to post news and comments that have a positive slant. Get your customers involved. You could have a contest for the best YouTube video of someone using your product and award a nice prize. Don’t push it, but encourage positive user input. Solicit feedback and respond quickly.

But don’t go overboard on PR. Your content should be focused on your customers. The more you help your customers with how-to’s, troubleshooting guides, Q&A’s, training manuals, etc., the more likely positive comments about you will bubble up.

Todd Martin 042215 image 3If the worst happens and you’re taken to task for something — real or imagined — online, act fast. If it’s on one of your properties, get the appropriate person on it immediately. If it’s legitimate, acknowledge it and find a way to make it right. If it contains profanity, obscenity, threats, or other inappropriate content, delete it if you can. On properties hosted by a third party, you may or may not be able to have it removed.

One last tip: Formalize a complaint procedure. Make it easy for individuals and businesses to lodge a compliant (ideally, this should be a link that goes directly to staff, not a public thread).

Reputation management is a constant battle, so get out in front and lead the charge.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

RIP, Privacy? Not Where Customer Data is Concerned

April 13, 2015

Some folks say privacy is dead. Fere are five ways to avoid that with your critical customer data.

Take a close look at your spam folder. What’s in there, and why don’t you want to see it? How did those email spammers get your address?

Now, think about your contacts, leads and customers. Each of them is concerned about personal information privacy at least as much as you are. Safeguarding information about your prospects and customers is an important obligation. In fact, failing to take care of this essential obligation can destroy your business. You’ve seen the headlines.

Don’t think it can’t happen to you. Ask these questions to see how you’re doing:

  • What is your privacy policy? – Do you have one? You should. Do you share or sell contact information about your prospects and customers? If not, make that clear to everyone. People won’t look for a privacy policy on your website. So tell visitors that their information is confidential wherever you ask for contact details. You’ll inspire confidence and get additional leads. If you do share or sell information, reconsider. Why let others profit from your contacts?
  • Is your customer data secure? – With all of the malware and hacking reported in the news, even the smallest businesses need to focus on data security. You may not store as much customer data as Target, but if that data is compromised, your losses could be huge. Check your firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware software for effectiveness and update regularly. If you store customer data in the cloud, make sure it’s protected by strong encryption.
  • How secure is your social media? – Examine how Facebook, Twitter, and other social media venues handle sharing, likes, and other contacts. Opt out of as many ways your social media contacts are shared as possible. Be careful with your own choices of apps, games, likes and associations on social media. All too often, they grab all of your contacts’ information as soon as you tie yourself to them. Don’t share your valuable contacts accidentally.
  • How careful are you with email? – Pay special attention to replies and email forwarding. If you Reply All, for example, you could be forwarding a list of customer addresses to the recipient. Never send email replies without checking the entire list of addressees. When forwarding emails, you could be sending a long list of email addresses at the same time. Use group email lists carefully, too. Protect your investment in lead-building carefully.
  • Are you using CRM solutions wisely? – If you’re using a state-of-the-art CRM solution, you’ll be able to keep all of your contact details and a wide variety of related social information in one password-protected profile. If you update them regularly, CRM profiles can be a treasure trove of selling ideas.

 With Customer Privacy, Follow the Golden Rule

You work hard to build leads, acquire customers and create contacts. If you treat their personal information as carefully as you’d like your own information treated, you’ll stay on the right track. Privacy and security for that data is crucial for your long-term success.

Make Your Website Sales Copy Sing — or at Least Whistle a Catchy Tune

March 31, 2015

Your website is a major production, like a concert or Broadway show. Will it be a hit ? Or will it close after one night?

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Your website has to wear a lot of hats, A big one is responsible for attracting visitors and giving them the information they’re looking for.

Making the sale, though, is essential.

Content that sells is like the hit songs people remember long after leaving a venue. Everything else should be designed to put a spotlight on your sales message. Making the sale or getting the lead is the core goal of the production. Sales copy has a unique job and requirements that are different from the rest of your content. Make it sing with these tips:

  • Simple Songs Move People – Unlike informational content, your sales copy and calls to action should be brief, simple and direct. Clarity, simplicity and relevance to visitors’ needs are crucial. Keep the focus on how a product or service benefits visitors, and they’ll dance to your music. Keep sales copy lively and ask for action. You’ll convince people to sing along.
  • Keep Sales Content Upbeat – Always focus on the positive in sales copy. Emphasize a few of the very best features of a product or service. Show visitors why they need it now. Get them up on their feet by using price and time-related incentives to move them from the sidelines to the dance floor. You’ll soon hear the applause.
  • Stay on Pitch and in Tune – No other content on your website is as important as your sales message. Trust your sales copy to the pros and it will never sing a wrong note or miss an entrance. Make every word count, keep the tempo lively and always remember the audience’s preferences. Quality makes the difference between a hit and a flop.
  • Get the Audience Tapping Its Feet – Maintain a constant, steady rhythm in your sales content. Skip complexity and focus on direct language that makes your points without unnecessary words or ornamentation. Simple, conversational sentences get visitors involved and keep them listening to the tune you’re singing.
  • Go for a Big Finish – Everything about your sales copy should lead toward the final chord in your pitch. Once they’ve heard the verses and chorus in your sales melody, pump up the volume and end with a solid, harmonious finishing note. Ask them to take action. If the music moved them, they’ll be motivated to buy the album.

Amp up Your Sales Content for a Sold-out Performance

Every year, dozens of big productions close almost as soon as the curtain rises. If you want your website show to have a long, successful run, make sure that it’s an audience pleaser. In copy that’s designed to close the deal, there’s no room for off-key notes or faulty rhythms. Focus closely on it and the sales curtain will keep rising.

5 Ways Your Website is Scaring Away Sales

March 17, 2015

Whether your website is designed to sell products or services, retention and conversion of visitors are essential.

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Anything that interferes with those crucial goals is certain to send people back to the search results to find your competition. All too often, web designers focus on the wrong priorities and ignore visitor experience. If you’re not seeing increased sales from your Internet presence, take a hard look at your website and other marketing efforts to see if you are making these common mistakes:

  • Incorrect landing page focus – Search engines may send visitors to any page on your site. Search results rankings are based on content relevance and quality. Visitors who don’t immediately find the information they were seeking will leave a landing page in just seconds. Make the first thing they see informative and tied to the SEO focus of that page, and watch your bounce rates drop.
  • Poor navigation design – Some web designers fail to show visitors how to find information. Links hidden in drop-down or hover lists are not immediately obvious, and impatient potential customers won’t hunt for them. Important navigation links should be clear and always visible without scrolling. Don’t forget links in text content, either, and use well-recognized link formatting standards.
  • Inadequate informational content – A popular and disastrous trend in web design is limiting text content length. Template-based web designs and the cost of top-quality content are to blame. Site guests are trying to make a decision. If they don’t find sufficient information, they’ll look elsewhere for it. Conversion is the goal, so give people what they need to make a decision to choose your business.
  • Too many distractions – Fancy widgets, pop-up chat boxes, auto-playing videos, and other web design tricks oftenTodd Martin 031715 image 2 appeal to designers and business owners. They don’t appeal to your guests. Site visitors are on a mission. If they’re distracted or annoyed, their Back button is just a click away. Everything on your pages should focus on answering questions, offering solutions, and motivating guests to act.
  • Device or Browser Incompatibility – Up to 50 percent of your site visitors are using smart phones or tablets. When they land on a page that looks horrible or is impossible to read, they’re gone in a flash. Check your site on as many different platforms as you can and look at it through the eyes of a potential customer. Adaptive or responsive design is essential for success. If your pages don’t look great to everyone, they won’t sell.

Give Guests What They Want, and You’ll Get What You Want

Well-designed, informative websites and other Internet marketing strategies aren’t just a good idea; they’re essential. Focusing on visitor retention and conversion is the only strategy that makes sense.

The bottom line: Every Google search is a quest for information. Provide relevant, high-quality information, and your marketing is a winner. Make design and content mistakes that interfere with the visitor experience, and your competition wins.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Good Google Placement Eluding You? How to Improve Your Odds

March 8, 2015

Unless your website or blog turns up in the first three pages of Google results (for searches people actually use), you’re not getting the visits you need. 

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That’s the sad truth that stymies sales performance for most online marketing efforts. Getting those top rankings is the job of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but unless your SEO is based on an understanding of how Google ranks sites and pages, it won’t deliver.

There are no tricks or magic formulas for success. Great SEO requires hard, detailed work in today’s hyper-competitive internet marketplace. By following the same strategies the experts use, you can boost performance. Try these five proven techniques:

  • Expand your keyword list – Primary keywords and phrases are important, but heavy competition makes achieving top rankings for them difficult. By focusing equally on secondary keywords and longer phrases, you’ll get higher rankings overall. Keyword suggestion websites can help, but your own intuitive choices may work even better.
  • Focus on location – Every Google search is a localized search, since Google knows where every searcher is. Associate your keywords and phrases closely with location keywords for improved results, but avoid awkward word associations. Hint: Also include alternative names for your target locations, like “Twin Cities” or “Manhattan.” Searchers use those frequently.

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  • Place keywords strategically – Put keywords and phrases in page titles, headings, bullet lists, and even in the page’s URL for maximum impact. Don’t overdo keyword frequency in page content. Include multiple key phrases on every page to expose additional search terms for ranking. Both Google and your visitors value readability, so focus on that.
  • Outstanding content is essential – Google’s recent Penguin and Panda algorithm updates verified that the search engine is ranking by the quality and relevance of page content. Relevant, informative, readable content improves SEO results. Visitors will stay and convert, too if it’s worth reading. Useful information, not hard sales pitches, wins the rankings battle.
  • A great visitor experience is the goal – Exactly how Google’s ranking methods work is a trade secret, but it’s no secret that Google watches visitor behavior. High bounce rates, stale or limited content, and unoriginal, copied text damage rankings. Work to keep visitors on your site for maximum SEO effectiveness and better conversion. You’ll win all around.

Great SEO Strategies Do More than Just Attract Visitors

Google has just one goal: giving its users search results that lead them to the most relevant, useful information for every search. That’s why it focuses heavily on ample, high-quality content in its ranking algorithms.

By making sure your website, blogs, and social media efforts provide what Google is looking for, you also give your own visitors what they need to make the decision to choose you.

Success in Google’s organic results rankings isn’t easy, but great results on Google will increase your chances of excellent returns on your bottom line. Focus on what Google wants, and you’ll be more likely to hit the mark with your potential customers.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Be in Two – Actually, Way More than That – Places at Once

February 26, 2015

Do you know what people are saying about your company at any given time? Perch can help.

The internet and its countless social networks provide you with tremendous opportunities – and formidable challenges.
You can be as visible as you want, at very low cost. You can say what you want to say about your company and its products or services.

Todd Martin 022615 image 1But so can everyone else. And therein, as they say, lies the problem. How in the world do you know when someone mentions you or your business? You can set up Google Alerts, spend a lot of time combing through sites where your industry peers hang out, or pay someone (at great cost) to do it for you.

Perch is another alternative. It’s a free app available for both iOS and Android smartphones. It’s not brand new; in fact, it’s been around long enough to have won an Appy Award for Best Business App in 2013.

I don’t usually use this space to promote just one product. There are many that are worthy, but I figure you do a lot of investigating on your own.

This one is worth it. It tracks reviews, social posts, and promotions where you’re mentioned, on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Google+, Instagram, Foursquare, Groupon, and Living Social.

It couldn’t be simpler to use. Once you’ve downloaded and installed it, you simply type your company name and its city into the Search fields. If you’re already in the system, Perch will present you with a streaming feed of related mentions going back 14 days. You can, of course, click on an entry to view it in its entirety.

If your company name isn’t found, you can do one of two things (or both). Perch uses the Foursquare database of businesses. If you know you’re not listed there, you can go there to add yourself. You can also click on a link to send an email to Perch and ask that you be included.

Todd Martin 022615 image 2Perch will send you an email digest on a daily or weekly basis – your choice – providing a recap of activity. In between those roundups, just open the app to check on your stream.

You’ve probably caught on to another powerful use of Perch by now: You can enter the names of your competitors and see who’s talking about them – what reviews they’re getting on Yelp and what pictures are being posted on Instagram and where they’re being mentioned (as well as what they’re saying about themselves) on Facebook and Twitter.

And why wouldn’t you?

Perch is a surprisingly simple but potentially very effective way to watch how your company’s name and products are being treated by the social networks. It’s free. It’s simple. It’s a tremendous time-saver. And it meets a need that every company doing business on the internet has. Try it.

Stock image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tired of the Sound of Your Own Voice?

February 22, 2015

If you just can’t write one more tweet or LinkedIn update or blog post, try some alternatives.

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We’ve all experienced it. Writer’s block. We just cannot for the life of us come up with any content to share on our blogs and social networks. That dog won’t hunt. Everything we try to write sounds trite or repetitive or dull or otherwise unpalatable.

At times like these, don’t force it. There are other options. Not only do these lighten the load on you, but they also give you a chance to introduce your visitors to other voices besides yours.

Just as some of your own content is more appropriate for Facebook than LinkedIn, or Twitter than your blog, these suggestions should make their way onto your most appropriate piece of online real estate.

Retweet others’ tweets.

There is some research that says retweets actually get noticed more than original tweets. This makes sense. Anytime someone reacts to something positively enough to retweet it – rather than listening to the sound of his or her own voice – it’s likely to have some merit.

Curate content.

You know what curators of museums or art galleries do. They “own” the collections on exhibit there – not literally, of course, but in the sense that they are often responsible for acquisitions and for making the pieces accessible to visitors.

This means that they must be very familiar with everything that is put on display. So, too, should you be if you curate content on your blog or other social site. Read each piece completely and thoroughly to make sure that you want all of its messages to be passed along to your readers.

Museum curators don’t display absolutely every piece from any one source, and you don’t have to reproduce an entire article from an original site, especially if it’s lengthy. You can pull out the best parts and comment on them, adding your own particular view.

Todd Martin 022215 image 2Curating is easier than starting from scratch, but it still requires work on your part. You must include the author’s name and the title of the original work (you will, of course, introduce this material by coming up with your own title for the entire post, which will include the desired excerpts, your commentary and calling out of critical points, and your request that readers join in on the conversation). Include a link to the site where you found the content.

Get a guest blogger.

This goes on a lot. It gives bloggers a break and gives readers exposure to another perspective. You may want to simply ask someone whose work you admire to contribute a post (they may want some kind of payment, which you may or may not be willing to do). Bloggers frequently swap spaces; they each write for the other’s blog.

Dust off your greatest hits.

If you’ve been active on your blog and social networks for 18 months or more, there’s no shame in re-posting something you’ve done before that got a good response. Readers will come and go, and you probably have a new set of visitors who haven’t reached back into your archives. Certainly update the original, and improve on it if you can.

Whatever you do, don’t let your social properties go dark. Use outside resources when you’re running dry. This injection of fresh content may give you the shot in the arm you need to move on.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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