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Month: April 2018

5 Alternative Ways of Getting to Writing Conferences

Writing conference season has already started, and the big conferences are coming up this spring and into the summer months. If you look around, you will probably find one near you if not in your home town. However, often some of the best conferences are just within driving distance, and place where it really is not practical to fly into.

If you are not going to fly, and you don’t want to drive by yourself, what are some alternate ways to get to a writer’s conference? Here are some real-life subbestions for you.

Take the Bus

The bus? No this is not a flashback to 1995 and that nightmare trip you took across the country. No, this is about the experience of the conference, and often taking a bus will give you more material for your stories.

While traveling by bus is not expensive, doing so may take some additional planning on your part. It takes longer to get somewhere on a bus, and you will need to account for that time on both ends of the trip. If you still work a day job, you will need to take the appropriate time off.

If you have ever watched movies like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, you will understand the value of bus travel as story fodder. You may meet interesting people, and learn some new things.

Also, don’t just stick to your traditional Greyhound bus. There are also tour destination buses, and these can be even more fun, and affordable. Headed to a conference in Vegas? Take one of the gamblers’ tours and hand out with some cool people on the way there and the way home.

Take the Train

Yes, Amtrak still exists, and depending on where you live, you can take the train to a writer’s conference. Much more relaxing than taking the bus, the train will also allow you time to meet interesting people and gather story ideas. However, seats are usually much roomier than those on buses, and you can use dining cars and other common areas as places to get some writing done during your travel.

Like buses, trains usually take more time than driving, but especially if you are going to a conference a long way away, you can save a great deal of money and add some relaxation time to your trip to a conference.

The way home can be a great time to reflect on the things you have learned at the conference and make notes about what you want to do with that information.

Make it a Group Activity

If you have a local writers’ group or critique group, why not take the whole gang? You can split not only transportation, but the cost of hotels, perhaps even meals, and if you are attending the right conference you might even get a discount on your attendance fees.

There are a number of ways you can all ride together, including renting a passenger van. These vans often have seating room for up to 12 passengers along with room for all of your gear. This makes the rental affordable, the gas cheap, and you get the bonus of riding and attending the conference with your friends and fellow writers.

This method does require some planning though. You will need to reserve the van ahead of time and be sure you collect the money or at least a deposit from all of the participants so you are sure that no one backs out of the deal or cancels on you, making it more expensive for everyone else.

Also, you will need to plan lodging accordingly. You will all need to stay the same place or at least close by, so you don’t have to also use the van to go collect everyone. You can, however, use the van as a shuttle to and from the conference and your hotel. This can be very handy as long as you all go and return at the same time each day.

Motorhome It

Does someone you know own a motorhome, or can you rent one of those? This can be a great way to get to the conference and to save on lodging. While gas will be more expensive in a motorhome if you have the right sleeping arrangements you can literally save hundreds over the conference hotel costs.

Many times. even if there is no campground nearby, you can camp in parking lots or near the hotel somewhere anyway. Many megastores like Walmart are quite open to this idea, and there are often a number of motorhomes in the parking area.

Of course, if you are going to stay with those you are traveling with in a small space for a few days, it is a good idea to screen them and make sure they are people you will get along with for that amount of time. Set some group rules and be considerate.

Carpool

Another simple alternative is to carpool—simply split gas and travel costs with another person or two depending on the capacity of your vehicle, and ride together to the conference. This does have the advantage that you do not have to coordinate a larger group, and there is less chance that someone will cancel and you will get stuck with the whole cost of the trip solo.

Depending on the car you drive, this can be a money saver for sure. Also having another driver or just someone to talk to along the way can be a great help, keep you awake, and increase the speed with which you can get to where you are going.

No matter how you choose to get to a writers’ conference, go to at least one this year, more if you can. No matter what your level of experience, you will learn and grow for the experience. To save money and effort or even just to enhance your experience, choose an alternative way to travel and have some fun with it along the way.

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How to Increase Your Sales with Channel Partners

When it comes to increasing the sales and revenue, most businesses focus entirely on their in-house sales team. However, you may not know that it’s even more feasible to attract more customers and increase the sales with the help of channel partners.

By partnering with these companies, you can even target global markets and increase your customer base. However, you can’t make the most of this opportunity unless you carefully choose your channel partners. Here are some factors you should consider to increase your sales and revenue:

Choose the Right Channel Partners

In order to form a partnership, you should pick companies that deal in the same niche market and their customers are likely to show an interest in your products.

For instance, if you sell smartphone cases, you can partner with companies that sell smartphones. Their customers may want to buy cases for the protection of mobile sets. This way, you can increase your sales by selling your products to the customer base of smartphone sellers.

Build Trust

Build a strong relationship with your channel partners to gain their trust. If your partners trust your brand, they’re less likely to break their relationship with your business and form a partnership with your competitors.

When you sign a partnership with any company, make sure that the contract offers valuable benefits to their business, or else they won’t be interested in selling your products.

Promote Channel Partner Loyalty

In order to significantly increase your revenue, you ought to achieve the loyalty of your channel partners. The longer they stay associated with your business, the easier it’ll be for you to increase your sales.

You can introduce a reseller and channel partner loyalty program for this purpose. The more products they sell, the more benefits they can claim. It’ll motivate them to prefer your brand over your competitors and convince more customers into buying your products. Click hereto know more about the channel partner program.

Empower Your Channel Partners

Just like you train your in-house sales team on how they can communicate the value of your products to potential customers, you should also arrange training sessions for your channel partners to educate them. It’ll ensure your products are pitched the right way.

Also, provide your channel partners with sales tools and other relevant resources through which they can attract and retain customers. You can also aid them in establishing and maintaining an online presence by developing a website for their company and creating valuable content. This way, not only will you be able to increase your sales, your partners can also increase their existing customer base.

Measure the Impacts

Now that you’ve acquired channel partners for your business, you should also measure the impacts of this relationship. Determine whether your partners are helping you meet your target sales goals and then upgrade your marketing strategy according to the results.

To be precise, channel partners can help you increase your business revenue. But you need to focus on building an honest relationship with your partners to convince them into selling your products.

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Here’s What the Experts Had to Say in “Social Media Marketing: The Movie”

On March 27, I released Social Media Marketing: The Movie. If you haven’t seen the 45-minute flick yet, you should check it out here.

Why did I make that movie? Because I wanted to learn from key experts about the best ways to use social media for business.

I interviewed well-known influencers such as Jay Baer, Michael Stelzner, Brenda Ster, Joel Comm, Mari Smith, Sue Zimmerman, Leslie Samuel, Sunny Lenarduzzi, Viveka von Rosen and Amy Landino. They shared some insights that a lot of marketers might not have heard before.

Here are just a few of the things that the pros had to say in Social Media Marketing: The Movie.

Get Your Priorities Right

“It’s social first, media second, and marketing last.”

That’s what content marketing expert Leslie Samuel told me when I interviewed him.

Samuel says that the biggest problem he sees is that people leave the “social” out of social media marketing. Instead of trying to build relationships, they just try to sell.

That won’t work.

He points out that people go on social media to connect with others and the things they care about. Marketers need to be aware of that when they’re approaching a social strategy.

Samuel tells them to start by asking the following questions: “How can I connect with people? What kinds of stories should I share?”

Then, create a content strategy that’s in line with the answers to those questions.

Samuel also advises strategists to create videos on social media. That’s a great way to stand apart from the competition.

Get Your Priorities Right, Part Deux

I also interviewed Internet entrepreneur Joel Comm. He said that marketers should approach their social media strategy in 4 stages:

  1. Know me
  2. Like me
  3. Trust me
  4. Pay me

Important: they have to go through the stages in that order.

Marketers should start off by using social media as a way to get the word out about their brands. Social media, by and large, is a point of entry at the very top of the sales funnel.

Next, strategists should get people to like them by posting content that others will love and share.

Then, marketers should get people to trust them. How they do that depends on their business models, but social proof and case studies are two great ways to develop trust.

Finally, they should go for the close.

Comm says that once marketers have developed trust, it’s a “very short hop” to land a sale.

Forget About Virality

Comm also had an interesting thing to say about virality.

Whenever people ask him how to produce viral content, Comm said that he shakes his head and tells them that they’re thinking about it the wrong way.

Instead of asking “How can I produce content that will go viral?” people should be asking “What kind of a story can I tell that’s so compelling that people will want to retell it?”

Remember: social media sites are designed for sharing. Most sites have a little button or a link that users can press to share something they enjoy.

So it’s not difficult for people to share content that they want to share.

It’s up to marketers to produce shareable content. Then and only then does that content have the potential to go viral.

Develop a Social Media Content Strategy

“We must stop random acts of Facebook.”

That’s what digital marketing expert Jay Baer told me. He’s spent 25 years in online marketing, wrote 5 books, and now runs a consulting company that helps the biggest companies in the world develop a social strategy.

And what does he mean by “random acts of Facebook”?

He means that marketers need to stop the haphazard practice of just sharing something on social media because they like it.

Instead, he says, they should develop a specific, target-rich social media strategy.

“If you’re trying to succeed,with Facebook for your business, the worst possible way to do that is to add stuff to Facebook when you feel like it about a crazy, random collection of topics,” Baer says. “It simply will not work. You absolutely have to have a set strategy about what you’re putting on Facebook, when, why, and for whom.”

He thinks of social networks as TV shows. By that he means that TV shows come on at the same time every week, they show predetermined content, and they appeal to a specific audience.

Marketers should produce one or more Facebook “shows.” They should share video, customer profiles, and other types of content on schedule. Each of those shares should appeal to a specific market segment.

Wrapping It Up

Of course, the experts had a lot more to say about social media marketing than what I’ve mentioned here. If you’d like to learn more, feel free to check out Social Media Marketing: The Movie.

 

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How to Choose the Right Data Plan for Your Lifestyle

It is the year 2018 and the world runs on data. With LTE, 4G or 3.9G internet speed, the world is literally at your fingertips.

Nevertheless, even with today’s technological tools and capabilities, how much data you use can still be a mystery (even to you). As such, you will always wonder why your phone bills are consistently high, with the costs of the data you used often being the largest percentage of the total amount you must pay.

Selecting the appropriate data plan can help you avoid or cut down the huge costs that you keep getting with data usage. And you can pick the best data plan by paying close attention to your lifestyle first.

Here is how to choose the right data plan for your lifestyle.

1. Figure out where you use data

First and foremost, you want to figure out where you are using your current data. The initial step is to assess your current spending. You may want to check if your carrier offers a bill reviewfeature or service to get accurate month-by-month figures.

Then, over the course of a couple of months (one month isn’t enough time for proper observation as every month will be different), track how much data you are using and for what purpose. These patterns will be different for every person, which is why it is necessary to discern the correlation between your usage and your plan on a personal level.

You must track data used forbrowsing the web, social media, streaming music and videos, app updates and downloads. Also, be realistic with yourself about how much of this data usage could be reduced and performed while on Wi-Fi (see #3).

For example, you might find out that you regularly talk on the phone for hours but don’t often use data at home or at the office. In this instance, you would want to be on a plan which offers plenty of calling time but limits data.

On the other hand, if you tend to use your smartphone as a game console or for regular high-quality video streaming, you will want to choose a larger or even an unlimited data plan.

2. Discern whether you need an unlimited plan

For many people, an unlimited plan is unnecessary as you may find you are paying for far more than you need.

You probably don’t need an unlimited plan if you:

  • Only use mobile data for basic web browsing and email
  • Use the majority of your cell phone data while connected to Wi-Fi (at home or the office)
  • Are not a heavy data user (less than 4GB a month)

You probably do need an unlimited plan if you:

  • Stream lots of high-quality music or video
  • Routinely want to tether your phone’s connection to your laptop
  • Are a heavy data user (more than 4GB a month)
  • Use the majority of your cell phone data while not connected to Wi-Fi

Unlimited plans tend to be much more expensive than those with a monthly data cap. However, exceeding your monthly data cap will most likely lead to added fees. So, if you find yourself frequently exceeding your monthly cap, contemplate upgrading to a more substantial data plan or to an unlimited plan.

3. See where you can make changes

If you find that you are using too much data, before you switch plans, see where you can make smart changes. The most intelligent reform will be embracing Wi-Fias your best friend. Any data you use while connected to Wi-Fi will not touch your monthly data allocation from your carrier.

Using data for web browsing, chats, emails and accessing the basic version of Facebookwon’t cause your monthly bill to double or triple. But if you keep using it for data-intensive applications such as gaming and streaming music, movies and podcasts, expect your bill to be really high.

An easy way to combat this is to commit to only watching or listening to media that you’ve previously downloaded directly on your device while still on Wi-Fi.  Many apps allow you to download their content to your device, ensuring you won’t require a data connection to watch them later.

Some other ways to reduce data usage: disable autoplay for videos in Facebook and Twitter, enable travel modes for apps, and use the data saver mode in Google Chrome.

4. Understand your deal-breakers

Once you have analyzed your data patterns, do some research. Find out what the different plans offer and take note of their deal breakers.

For example, if you have a large family, you will want a plan that enables several people to stay connected at a budget-friendly rate. If you often travel internationally, you most likely want a plan with free or budget international roaming. If you know that you always stream music on the way to work, a plan that only offers 1GB a month is going to be a deal-breaker.

Again, deal-breakers are going to vary from person to person. As such, be honest with yourself about what you need from your smartphone.

However, any smartphone is rendered useless if you are unable to get a connection consistently. So, while you are choosing the right data plan for your lifestyle, keep in mind that excellent, far-reaching coverage should be an essential priority.

For most people, the idea of switching your phone plan can seem laborious and annoying. But, if you don’t look for new options, you could be missing out on data plans that offer far better value for your lifestyle.

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