Why Instagram is Essential for Your Business Marketing Strategy


In 2011, Instagram had fewer than 4.9 million users. In 2014, Instagram now boasts 200 million users. As a small business owner, or a new business owner, the thought of getting the attention of 200 million users might be overwhelming. Here are 4 tips to help you begin on your Instagram marketing strategy.

Hashtag. #Hashtags.
You can use hashtags in every Instagram post you create. Hashtags can be a very effective and efficient way to gain exposure. Unlike Twitter, you are not limited to the 140 characters per post. Include hashtags in your caption to allow your new post to be search accessible. (Don’t go hashtag crazy or you will seem desperate and people will fly over you…)

Make sure you include your business name in SOME of your posts. Example: I own Everlook Studios (Twitter: @EverlookStudios), my hashtags would reflect #EverlookStudios on some of my business posts. This strategy not only distinguishes your business posts, but it allows people to view all of your brand in one hashtag search.

Lastly, use general #hashtags to help people find your content. Example: I just created a new brand logo for a client – I will post it on my Instagram account and hashtag: #EverlookStudios #Logo #Branding

This is a new buzz word in 2014. Every social media marketing strategy guide starts with the simple term – Engage. Go ahead, sit back, relax, and explore the wonderful world of Instagram by searching for #hashtags (see above). Take note of certain #hashtags that your industry businesses are using. Take note of what your customers and competition is using. See what they like, see what they post, take notes.

Find “experts” (Isn’t everyone a Social Media Expert these days???) in your specific industry and follow them. Engage in conversation with them. Like their photos. If your account comes off interesting or your engagement triggers a mutual interest make sure to engage in a conversation.

Use mentions to show appreciation to your followers, customers, friends, etc.

The majority of your posts should be made with your potential customer in mind. Post about your services. Post about what you sell. Post about your process. Make it worthwhile for a potential customer to follow you on Instagram.

Introduce your employees – this process not only gives the employee the recognition they most likely deserve, but it also humanizes your brand.

Post videos – Instagram has the ability to post short 15 second videos.
Post photos – People have a general curiosity of how things are made or a process of which something happens. Satisfy this need by posting photos of your process. Remember to #hashtag.
Show your creative process – Just the fact that you are on Instagram with your business is a start.
Share “behind-the-scenes” content – Use your Instagram account to share pictures of your process – Don’t post these specific pictures on any other social media site. Give the feeling of exclusivity to your followers.

Be true to your brand. Ensure that your photos and videos clearly define one attitude, personality, and vision for your brand.

Instagram Contests.
Use an Instagram Contest to spread the familiarity of your brand and reach a greater following. Instagram contests are popular because they are easy enough for people to participate in plus the reward to win the contest is usually well worth the time. (The prize of a contest is what gives people motivation to enter. It is the most essential part of your contest)


A business will post a picture of their newest product and make the following rules:
1) Repost this picture and tag it @ftwkreations and #ftwkreations
2) Make sure you follow @ftwkreations
3) Winner will be picked on xx/xx/2014

Include contest rules in the caption of your post. Promote your contest in as many Social Media markets as accessible.

The right prize, the right timing, the right time frame (length of contest) and the right market, your contest can go viral overnight!

Remember the ultimate advertisement is to promote your winner on your and your winners’ Instagram page. Give them the fame they deserve.

Bonus Tips.
Use Google Alerts – Monitor your campaign hashtag mentions by using Google Alerts.
Post consistently.
Determine the best times to post.
Constantly engage.
Stick to your brand.
Show your human side.

How do you use Instagram as a part of your Social Media Marketing Strategy? 

4 SECRETS to Building Better Business Relationships

Many believe that building business relationships revolves around collecting business cards, adding contacts on Linkedin, and sending e-mails.  The real relationship in business is building a network of professionals that can share knowledge, learn from each other, and help each other grow professionally.

Before asking for something offer something.
Be patient. Relationships take time to nurture and grow. Take the time to get to know your potential client. Before you march into the office of the owner and offer your services, take the time to learn about the business.

  1. What do they do?
  2. Who do they sell to?
  3. Who are their target clients?
  4. What solution do they use now? How can you make it better?
  5. How much are they paying for the services that you offer currently?
  6. Can you save them money?  How quickly?

Once you know the answer to all these, you can begin your marketing strategy. Chances are, the owner won’t be interested in what you can provide until the need is dire. Once the need is dire, it is your time to shine!

(Perfect transition to my next section….)

Be prepared.
The 6-P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

You get one shot at this – make sure you are ready. Time and time again, people in this position have a golden opportunity to make a sales pitch, and they freeze up, or they draw a blank.

Be prepared for this moment. Practice for this moment. Don’t stop practicing when you think you got it right, stop practicing when you CAN’T get it wrong!

Keep your word.
There used to be a marketing campaign all over the media: “Absolutely, Positively there by 11AM” Do you think this company would be ok with a delivery at 11:02AM? If the motto is to get it there by 11AM, then get it there by 11AM. Keep your word so you have a chance to keep it again tomorrow.

Don’t over-commit. Under-commit and over-deliver. It is the easiest and quickest way to gain the trust of your clients.

Don’t fake it. If you don’t know, you will gain more respect by telling them you don’t know vs. trying to be quick on your feet and putting your foot in your mouth.

Trust is the most critical aspect of a business relationship. Trust makes anything possible.

Customer Service.
I recently read a story on another blog (Wish I had saved the blog so I could give her credit…sorry!) about a young lady who would constantly shop at Nordstrom. On her last visit, the associate had a hard time swiping her Nordstrom card because the magnetic strip on the back had worn out. The associate had to manually enter the information and told her that she would need a new card. To her surprise, a shiny new card arrived in the mail within a few days of her shopping experience. Clearly, a sales associate willing to go the extra mile to make sure the customer is satisfied. That’s customer service.

What is your #1 business relationship secret?  What can our readers benefit from your experiences?  

The TOP 7 Tips for Starting Your Own Business

The idea of starting your own business seems attractive at first. You begin the process of thinking, pondering, asking questions, note taking, lining ducks, investigating ideas, and convincing your friends. You spend weeks putting everything together, and then you get busy.

You put your business ideas on hold because….. Well because you are busy! Everyone should understand how busy you really are!!

Really tackle the why. Why do you want to own your own business? Is it because you do not want to work for someone else? Is it because you want to make a difference? Is it because it seems like a good idea? Is it because you want to do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it?  This is the part of the process that I warn you about the time and commitment you would need to invest to make your new business a success.

Where is this business going to take place? In a retail store? In an office? In your living room? On the internet? It is critical to know what direction you are going to go with the business; even more, look ahead and also figure out where you would want to be in 2 years.

SIDE TIP: Get clients first. If you have clients lined up, it’s easier to justify the start of a new business and answer the Why.

With Who?
Who are you doing business with? Identify your partners. Identify your vendors. Identify your clients and shoppers. Identify your industry. Identify everyone who might have even a .01% chance to interact with your business. The more you identify now, the easier the plan becomes. Don’t do it alone.

Double Employment.
Some people will argue this point.  (They are the ones who have investors and financial backing to start a new business)  Start your business while you are still employed. It might takes a few months, a few few months, or a few years until your business actually makes a profit. Maintaining employment while you are starting your new business allows you to make money while you go through the process of becoming a CEO.

Business Plan.
On my first business startup, I didn’t believe in this process. What a waste of time. Who needs a business plan? If you Google business plan, it looks like a 30 page document of your business blues.

Enter second and third startups – business planned.

You need direction. You need deadlines. You need to be able to look at your business from a bird-eye-view. When you write all of the critical stages and your targets down it makes the goal more real. If you look at your notes and find you need to mail out 1,000 post cards by Monday – you might not plan that weekend get-a-way and actually work on Sunday.

SIDE TIP: Most people spend so much time dotting every “I” and crossing every “t” until their business plan is nearly perfect that they never have time to start the business. It all changes anyway – go ahead and jump in!

A Logo will help distinguish your business (your new brand) from its competition. Be clever.
A Logo will help reach a specific audience and identify your new business. Understand your brand.
A Logo may convey the wrong message by using the wrong color. Color is big.
A Logo may consist of two characters. A word a symbol or both.  Choose wisely.
A Logo will take time to gain popularity. Keep it simple and easy. Recognition will come with time.

Go Get Customers!
Nothing else matters if you can’t do this. You will spend the majority of your time and effort focused on a sale or a sales process. Spend time (After business hours) working on your marketing process. Build your pipeline. Build your lead structure. Convert leads into prospects. Convert prospects into clients.

Create a list of leads that might be interested in your goods or service. This list should have 50-60 names with phone numbers. Start making calls and sell your business.  (I hope you have somewhere to write down the outcome of your calls and your newly formed appointment times)

Avoid the Headache Client. (Bonus Tip) 
Entrepreneur Magazine defines the Law of Discounting: The deeper the discount or the more generous the favor we give, the more unrealistic client’s demands will be. The clients who demand and continue to demand discounts will never be happy with your work. They are not worth the time and aggravation.

What are some tips you would like to share about starting your own business?


5 CRITICAL Business Lessons That College Forgot to Teach Us

We go to college with aspirations of becoming President & CEO of a company.  We study business.  We study marketing.  We just study, and study, and study.  We all have that one economics class that assigns us that group project to go build a company from scratch and watch it grow over the course of the class.  Eventually, we graduate and go into the world of entrepreneurship.  However, we enter that world unprepared.  

I asked 9 of my closest CEO friends to list their top 5 lessons they would teach if they were to teach a course on Small Business Entrepreneurship.  Here are theirs answers:  

1. Budget.
In college, your budget decisions were spun around food, entertainment, and school supplies. If you had extra money, you splurged; if you were low on money you ate fast food for the next three weeks.

A Business won’t be as forgiving.

The ability to read and understand a balance sheet or a profit and loss sheet is critical. You need the ability to plan for the next 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, and 24 months. During that planning, you need payroll, operating expenses, daily expenses, and unforeseen expenses.
A slight change for managing your college budget…..

2. Customer Service.
College students deal with teachers, counselors, deans, teacher aids, and fellow students. In theory, all of these people are there to help you through the process.

A Business won’t be as helping.

The ability to take a beating from a client and continue to find ways to “make it work” are vital for your business to bloom. How do you react to a customer who will always be wrong and be able to pivot the situation to make it appear as though they are always right?

3. Network. Network. Network.
Your engagement with your dorm buddy, drinking buddy, roommate, or test cheating buddy is not the same as your interaction with the world of business. These people were crucial to your success in college, sadly, they won’t matter when you are struggling with your Business.

A Business is not a college reunion.

As much as we love Joe, the former roommate – he is not right for your new Business. Prepare yourself to create meaningful relationships with the right people who can help move you along the corporate walk. Get the right people in your corner, possibilities become endless.

4. Salesperson(ship)
The only thing you ever sold in college was your used textbooks and that one report about your fictitious business plan and how you plan to become the next Business tycoon.

A Business won’t sell itself until you do.

Here is who you sell to: Everyone.

People need to buy into your company mission. People need to buy into your solution. You sell the ideas and vision to your employees. You sell the vision to your clients. You sell the vision to anyone who will listen. Sell. Sell. Sell. Over time, the experience you gain from this process will allow you to read and anticipate client’s needs in order to get them hooked onto your Business.

5. Time Management. Productivity.
In college, you got to pick that 11:15am class to allow you to sleep in. You got to get off school at 2pm so you could make it to your part time afternoon job.

A Business won’t allow you the luxury of a schedule.

Free time will not exist. You work 24x7x365.

You will have those friends who will make fun of you when you are still working at 10pm while they are out at the bar watching the local baseball team drop another game. You will have friends who will disown you because you are ALWAYS working. It will be completely normal to work on a business proposal or finish one more invoice before you call it a night. Welcome to owning a Business and the title of CEO.

What business lesson would you want to see added to a college curriculum?