Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Kick It Up a Notch!

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

As we begin each year, we turn our attention toward new goals. Unfortunately, no matter how excited we are when those goals are set, most of us have a tendency to lose site of things all too quickly. This loss of focus is a universally accepted practice for personal goals but it can be much more detrimental when we drop the ball on our businesses goals, especially as it relates to marketing.

Although business marketing is often the redheaded step-child of most companies, to truly succeed, it is not something that we can forget to pick up from swim practice just because Alejandro’s evil twin has just came back from the dead on General Hospital and we really want to see how things play out now that he is a woman. We have to endeavor not to make pie-crust promises (easily made – easily broken) regarding our marketing resolutions. We need to make them with care and be sure they always come out golden brown and flaky.

One of the easiest business resolutions to keep can be with your online marketing. And what better place to start than by kicking your website up a notch? There are a variety of ways this can be done from something as simple as changing the images and colors to a content overhaul or total site redesign. No matter where your needs fall, now is the time to assess and make plans for the coming year. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Does your website look like it is caught in a time loop where it is perpetually 1998?
  • Have you made changes to other marketing channels like social media but your website does not quite seem like it has caught up?
  • Is there such a disparity between your current marketing materials and your website that people are not entirely sure they are in the right place when they try to check out your company online?

If any of these scenarios apply to you, your business might be suffering from Mar-ket-tile dysfunction and a website update could be just the little blue pill that your company needs to get to the next level. No matter whether you need a quick menu re-organization or a total “do-over”, a little bit of time spent now can go a long way toward helping you reach your annual sales goals. And, BAM! you will be cooking with gas for the rest of the year!

Mobile Friendly Or Bust

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Does your website look as good and work as well on a mobile device as it does on a computer? It should–especially if you want a higher ranking on Google’s search pages.

As of April 21, 2015, Google’s search algorithm now ranks sites based on how mobile friendly they are. In other words, if you site is not mobile optimized, it will show up farther down in the search page results.

Passing The Test

According to industry experts, the new algorithm will look for sites with responsive design and best practices for mobile devices. This includes:

  • Text that can be read without zooming
  • Content that doesn’t require scrolling or zooming
  • Links that are sized and spaced to allow for easy selection on smaller screens
  • Eliminating the use of Flash since mobile devices don’t generally support it
  • Requiring fewer clicks to perform a specific task

The evaluation is done for each individual page on a site, not the entire site as a whole, so you can start by optimizing the most critical page on your site and going on from there. At the moment, tablets are not part of this new search process, but that’s coming soon.

If you’re not sure how you stand, Google has created a site where you can check your mobile friendliness.

Besides Google Rank, Why This Matters

Perhaps the biggest reason to have a mobile-friendly site is that it will help you keep up with or move ahead of your competition.

Over 60 percent of all web searches are now done on mobile devices, so you stand to lose current and potential customers if they can’t effectively navigate your site on a smart phone or tablet. The better the experience, the more likely they’ll come back to you again and again.

If you’ve been procrastinating on creating a mobile friendly website, it’s now more important than ever that you step up and make the change.

What The Heck Is A Heat Map–And Why Do I Need It?

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Setting up your business website is just the first step in creating a successful business. You also need to know how well your website is working and, more specifically, what things are performing better than others to draw in customers.

One lesser-known but effective way to do this is with a heat map.

How It Works

A heat map uses colors to represent what’s being measured. In medicine, you’ll often see heat maps used to assess brain activity or other physical functions. Red generally represents a great deal of action and blue the least amount, with lots of variations in between.

It works the same way for a website except that colors, not numbers, are used to represent activity such as clicks and views. With just a glance you can see where people are clicking most and least on your website and can then make the right adjustments to optimize your site.

For example, with a heat map you can easily see that clicks on your “Free Trial” link have gone from red to blue in the last month. As a result, you might want to change the link’s design, location or wording to try and improve the click rate.

Creating A Heat Map

Crazy EggClick Heats, and Clicktale are some sites where you can learn more about heat maps. If you’re familiar with coding, you can check out this website for a tutorial on creating your own heat map.

However, your first best option would be to check with your web designer to see if they offer this service or get their recommendation on where to get one created.

For many people (myself included), deciphering lots of numbers is neither easy nor enjoyable, which makes us avoid the important task of evaluating and re-working our website when required. A heat map is a great way to understand and track the effectiveness of your website to help it create the best results for your business.

Crock Pot Marketing: A fix to and forget it appraoch to online marketing

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Marketing is the bane of most entrepreneurs existence. On one hand it is necessary to communicate with your potential customer base while on the other hand it can be an incredible time suck taking you away from the business of running your business. It needs to be done and as the business owner you are the ideal person to get potential customers the info they need, so what is the answer? I can name that tune in one note…Automation.

Marketing, Marketing, Will Robinson

Ok, so maybe Robbie the robot is not exactly the type of automation we are talking about here but a factory analogy is not too far off. Think about it, the key to marketing (once you have figured out your message and the best way to present it of course) is messaging consistently over time to your potential customer base. The problem that most entrepreneurs face is the same issue that plagued the manufacturing industry in years past, volume. And how did manufacturers resolve the issue? Automation. So why not apply a similar principle to your marketing efforts? I know I am not making an apples-to-apples comparison here but you get the idea. It is all about having the time to generate the appropriate volume whether it be physical product or marketing content. We have established that the key to marketing is the number of touches (and no, not bad touches) you make with a potential client over time but just because you want to connect with them on an ongoing basis does not mean that you have to come back next week at the same bat-time and same bat-channel to bang out more brilliant insights. It is hard enough for entrepreneurs to get into a marketing frame of mind for their own business (even if that is what they do for others) so why not maximize that time when lightning strikes and begin filling a crock pot with marketing gems so you can set it to cook slowly, releasing your brilliance as it heats over the course of an automated campaign?

Recipes for Success

Ok, now you are sold. You know you can count on one or two good days each quarter when you can not only concentrate on marketing your company but you are actually interested in doing it. You have the ingredients, now all that is left is to find the right appliance to turn your marketing recipe into the culinary masterpiece you know it to be. So what are the Consumer Reports best buys for automated marketing:

Blog
One of the easiest ways to automate your marketing efforts is through Scheduled blog posting.  Blog platforms often allow you to set a date and time for your postings to go live. WordPress is especially good at this. You can hack out 10 blog draft blog postings and then schedule them to go live at the date and time of your choosing. This allows you to sit down on that one day a quarter and get it all out, all of the industry innovations, customer epiphanies and other nuggets of brilliance related to your business that have been building up but you had not been able to release to the wild. Then once you have extracted every last drop of insight, you can go through and set your wisdom to a slow drip so its magic fingers will touch your clients as regularly as possible. So then you can get back to the business of running your business secure in the knowledge that even though you are not even thinking about marketing anymore, your clients are receiving the benefit of your experience. And once your marketing build up reaches a critical level again you can just rinse and repeat to reset the circle of life.

Email
Email can work in much the same way with the added benefit of your appliance restarting itself for each new subscription so each individual feels the magic fingers at the exact same rate and in the exact same order no matter when they turned on the heat. How does this miracle appliance work you ask? The simple answer is “AutoResponder”. Now I know what you are thinking, “hey, wait a minute, that is what I set when I go on vacation, how can that possible fulfill the promise that you have laid out?” But worry not, the name might be the same but the function is drastically different. Email providers like MailChimp, aWeber or even a more involved service like 1ShoppingCart allow you to set up serialized  autoresponders that run as a result of a subscription to a given email list. These autoresponders generally allow you to set up multiple emails as well as a time delay from the initial subscription so that they can be sent in the order you want them received and with the appropriate time delay between each so your touches can trickle out at the proper rate.

Social Media
Social Media content distribution can also be automated  as an additional prong in your email and/or blogging efforts. Most blogging platforms and email providers offer options for direct social media integration so as soon as your blast of radiance hits your blog or email system, the same information can be immediately distributed to your different social media outlets like Facebook, and Twitter allowing you to magnify your audience all while you are focusing your time on servicing existing customer and business needs.

The bottom line is that through small time commitments and simple automation, entrepreneurs can effectively market themselves without sacrificing the business they are trying to build in the process.

Enhancing Your Networking (social or otherwise)

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Every entrepreneur needs to network in one  form or another in order to bring in new business. There are many different ways this can be done from local networking groups to online social networking and everywhere in-between. No matter how you you decide to network (and yes I am aware that the way you treat individual networks might vary greatly), the dynamics are universal. So when it comes to networking always remember to SPEW. No, not kind of spew (eww).  I mean S.P.E.W. as in Support, Participate, Engage, Woo. Still not getting it? Maybe this will help:

SupportGoing into any networking situation you should always be willing to give of yourself. No one knows your industry better than you so when questions and/or opportunities arise, it is time to rise to the occasion. Give advice and suggest where people can go for help. This will not only set you up as an authority within your group for your industry but it will stick with the members of your group when they are interacting with others. And when any questions come up in conversation that pertain to your area of expertise, they will think of you and refer you without another thought.
ParticipateGet involved in the conversation. No matter what is being said take the time to listen and offer your perspectives on the topic based on your experience. This will help people get to know you through shared experience and help build the trust needed for business exchange.
EngageBe sociable with people in your networks. Get to know them and help them get to know you on a more personal level. The key to networking is the “Know Me”, “Like Me”, “Trust Me”. Trust is obviously the most important when it comes to getting people to refer others to you for business but that trust has to start somewhere. That starting point can be as simple as a few words about a common interest
WooActively promote your network and the people in it to others. Listen to what your group members say so that when you are interacting with others and questions come up about group members areas of expertise, you can return the referral favor.

If you are serious about your networking or even if you are just dabbling, you defiantly need to SPEW. And once you start to SPEW, you will wonder why you weren’t SPEWing all along. You might even find yourself SPEWing in your daily life just for fun.

So why are you still hanging out here? Get out there and start SPEWing. SPEW in your social Networks, SPEW in your local networks and SPEW everywhere in-between.

2 Easy Ways To Get More From Twitter

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

It seems there are two very distinct camps when it comes to Twitter: the people who love it and the people who know they need to use it. Saying what you want in just 140 characters isn’t easy even for the best of writers, so Twitter has two easy and effective ways to squeeze just a little more out of every post: images and hashtags.

Yes, Images!

According to a recent article on the Small Business Trends website, Twitter has done a little remodeling to make itself more of a visual application. Here are a few suggestions from the article on using images more effectively.

  • Use the new larger header image to better highlight your company name or brand. Add your logo, a quote, product pictures, even employee photos. You can be creative, but be sure to stay consistent with your brand colors and overall design.
  • Click on the camera icon under the Twitter update box to directly add images to Twitter. (Note: The image won’t show up if you do this from Hootsuite or another third-party application.) According to Small Business Trends, image tweets get double the interaction of regular Tweets with links.
  • Create video “shout outs” to your followers. Put the You-Tube link into the update box and Twitter will embed the video.
  • Tag people or companies in your images. It increases the opportunities for re-tweets.

With a little imagination, there are any number of ways that images can be used to draw more attention to your tweets and your business.

Master The Hashtag

Placing a hashtag in front of a particular word or phrase (without spaces) makes your tweet show up when people search on that word or phrase. For example, a hashtag can be your business name or a keyword that people would use to search for your product or service.

If you’re having a sale and want to get noticed, use hashtags such as #sale or #coupon to get your tweet on aggregate websites which list all daily tweets showing that keyword. By using a specific code in your hashtag, you can track your sales and know who found you through your tweet.

Hashtags can be anywhere in the tweet, and you can use an existing hashtag or create one for your particular message.

When using hashtags, there is actually an etiquette you need to follow:

  • Don’t put more than two hashtags in a tweet.
  • Make sure you understand the purpose of any hashtag and use it appropriately.
  • Be sure your hashtags are relevant to the information in your tweet.

A quick Google search can provide more in-depth information on using hashtags effectively.

Whether you can’t wait to tweet daily or have to drag yourself to your keyboard for your regular posts, there’s value in knowing how to get the most of what Twitter has to offer.

What is RSS and why do I care?

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Almost every site you visit these days not only allows you to connect via various social media icons but also has this funny little icon with three arced lines over a dot. It is usually orange (but not always) and many people do not know what it does. What that icon represents is an RSS feed. RSS or Really Simple Syndication has been around since that time in the distant past before the current era of the smartphone when PDA’s (Personal Digital Assistants) ruled the world and most of them did not include an internet connection. At this time you had to synchronize your device in order to update information and while you are at it you could also synchronize information from websites using these feeds so you could read it offline. At that time you only really found RSS feeds available through news sites or other outlets with constantly changing content. Now though you find them everywhere because most sites contain a blog and what is a blog but an updated version of those same old news feeds but now they contain the most up to date info about your business rather than the latest crime statistics or the life and times of your favorite celebrity.

This ain’t your mama’s RSS.

I know what you are thinking, we are no loner in that distant past, we are in the now and the age of the smartphone is here so who cares about RSS feeds anymore, right? Well, you should if you have a website. The age of the smartphone is upon us but there are still a significant number of less intelligent calling devices still in operation and many of those have the ability to access RSS feeds with their basic mobile browsing. Not only that but RSS feeds have a myriad of other uses including the ability to be integrated into other websites just by using the links. All that aside, the single best reason for you to have an RSS feed available for your content is because it is the easiest way for clients and potential clients to subscribe to your content. Like the PDA apps back in the day (which was a Wednesday as I recall..) there are apps available on the web, for smartphones and for desktop computers known as RSS Aggregators (A.K.A. “RSS Readers” or depending on how old you are, “News Readers”) that allow you to subscribe to content from your favorite sites and then be notified when updates are made. When site owners use web based apps like Google’s Feed Burner, it makes the process even easier for end users. These apps allow the site owner to connect their RSS feed to the apps notification system and then the end user is notified by email when updates are made to the site. It is like giving your clients and potential clients a sales rep to put in their pocket. Whenever the site is updated, that sales rep pops up and lets them know about all of the exciting and new things going on with your company.

So now that you know what RSS is all about and how it can benefit your company, you now realize that RSS feeds are like a Moving Buddy in the movie Toy Story – “If you don’t have one, GET ONE!”.

Just because you build it, does not mean they will come

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Business owners often think that the mere act of building a website will bring in the droves of adoring fans that they want to make their business thrive but sadly this is not the case. A website is a tool and like other tools, it requires guidance in order to accomplish the task for which it was designed. Your website was not previously an Iowa corn field so you still have some work to do now that your obviously well thought out and impeccably designed site is complete.

You may not realize this but this but it is no longer 1993. Just getting your site listed in a search engine is no longer enough. There are millions of sites out there competing for the traffic you want and a whole industry has built up around it. If you do not have the thousands of dollars a month required to really make a go of it with the big boys you will need to do the leg work yourself to try and even out the playing filed. Now I am not taking about spending all of your waking hours on SEO but what I am talking about is putting your best foot forward. You need to make sure that your little corner of brilliance is doing its job by making sure you are not leaving anything on the table.

Think of the building of your website like the trip to see your friend Andy Dufresne. You have made your way to the obscure field in Buxton and found the box under the volcanic glass that has no business being there. Now all you have to do to realize your dreams is to be willing to go a little further. Your website’s Zihuatanejo lies just over the border, you just have to be willing to buy the bus ticket to get you there. And that ticket can be had with three words – Research, Optimize and Update.

  • Research
    The most important step of any site launch is to make sure that you do your research, in this case I am talking about researching search engine keywords (although hopefully at this point you have done some other research as well). I am not talking about the general terms related to your field that everyone uses but well thought out keyword phrases that not only make sense to your potential clients but ones that you can potentially own. What I am talking about is the SEO Sweet Spot. That nice warm area nestled snugly between number of searches per month and the competition for given keywords. Don’t get me wrong, it will take a little work on your part but there are tools out there to help you along (including some good free tools from Google). If you know your competition it makes things a bit easier because it gives you a great place to start.
  • Optimize
    Once you have put in your time on the research, it is time to rethink some of the content that makes you so proud. Go through your site and optimize the pages to make sure you are making use of your new best friends – your drippingly sweet keywords. Pick a hand full of the most high profile pages on your site (home page, product pages, etc) and optimize them using your new keywords. Makes sure to use them in the page title, the main heading and in the body text where it makes sense. Doing this will increase the keyword density on these pages and thus increase their rankability when the pages are re-indexed. Don’t get crazy, optimize each of the special few with only a few keywords so as not to dilute what you are trying to accomplish.
  • Update
    Once the pages are optimized then it is time to turn your site into a labor of love and update. Update early and update often. The best way to bring the search engine spiders back to your site is with regular updates. Any page will do but the easiest way to keep the coming back for more is to start a blog. These days a blog on a business site is like a moving buddy in Toy Story – if you don’t have one, get one! Many business owners do not see the value of a blog but what they do not understand is that blogs are not used simply for discussing your wife’s new hair style or what happened at the Bar-B-Que last week. Business blogs are the perfect forum to talk at length about specific aspects of your products and services, to help keep your customers up to date on new developments in your industry that might affect them or even just to toot your companies horn about community involvement. It is the easiest thing in the world to keep your site updated because there are so many different topics that you can pull from when developing the continent.

Once you get the basics in place then just rinse and repeat as needed (mostly just content updates but keep in mind that as your site evolves you may have to go back to the well with some new research and optimization as well) and you will soon see that uptick in traffic you were hoping for out of the box.

Making the Most of Your Social Media Contest

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Social media is all the rage right now and you are on the cutting edge right there with it. You have your Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In accounts setup (possibly among others). You are updating your accounts regularly and you are beginning to get some traction? So now what? You wonder how can you take things to the next level? Then it hits you, POW (right in the kisser)! A Contest.  All of the cool kids are having them and they seem to be doing pretty well. So you come up with an idea but that is where you falter. That brilliant idea that just hit you in the face has circled around and has now Gibbs slapped you in the back of the head as you realize you don’t know what to do next. So what do you do? That is easy, you turn your attention back to the 3P’s of Social Media (or in this case the 3P’s of Social Media Contests): Planning, Promotion and Participation.

3P’s of social media contests

  1. Planning – Like everything else you do in marketing, there is always some degree of planning required if you want to be successful. The key to any social media endeavor is figuring out your goals for measuring success before you start. Whether it is increased audience (likes, followers, etc), increased interaction or a specific behavior, knowing the goal going in will help keep you on the path as you begin to execute the promotion. Once you have decided the method of determining success just make sure that you also have the tools you need to gather that information or you may find yourself Gibbs slapped once again.
  2. Promotion – Now that you have your idea and know how to determine the ROI, it is time to promote. Depending on your offering and you audience, you will have many options form which to choose. No matter which ever elements you choose, make sure to cross promote your contest with other social media networks as well as on your website and in email. Each platform has its own unique set of tools for promotion, use them ALL. And keep timing in the back of your mind while you are at it. Like email, each social network has its own climate when it comes to the best times to promote each day/week so when in doubt just remember: Promote Early and Promote Often!
  3. Participation – Here is where we revert back to childhood and once again remember K.I.S.S., Keep It Simple Stupid! To maximize participation, make it as simple as possible. Simple is always  better, especially when dealing with the widely divergent audience that the internet provides. Simple also helps increase participation. If you make it too clever or crazy, people will drop out no matter what is up for grabs in your Amazing contest! And depending on what you are doing there are bound to be great tools already available to help you in this endeavor like Facebook’s quick survey options or even something as easy as having someone leave a comment on a photo. It dos not have to be expensive make use of the tools available on each given network to maximize participation.

With your little piece of marketing brilliance, coupled with a liberal slathering of the 3P’s, the real winner of your social media contest will be you!

The best things in life are FREE…Now including publicity

Friday, November 30th, 2012

You’ve all heard the song and it is true that the best things in life are FREE but now that old adage has been updated to include publicity. Yep, you heard me right, publicity. How much time do you spend each year trying to get exposure for your company or products using regular marketing channels just to get lost in the minutiae that is the internet? How would you like to get some of that much needed exposure, possibly even in national media like ABC and AP? Well…wait for it…NOW YOU CAN!

You may not be the inventor of the exciting new Miracle Wrench that tightens bolts, loosens bolts and even takes bolts all the way off. And in all likelihood you will not get your very own nuclear submarine absolutely FREE so that you can be the first person on your block to Level Cleveland. What you can do though is Help A Reporter Out and possibly help yourself out at the same time. So how can you make those kind of connections, you ask? Easy! All you need to do is become a  HARO Hero.

So what exactly is HARO and how do you become a hero? HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out and it is the easiest way to FREE publicity. HARO is a new type of social media service that helps pair reporters with sources for their stories and it is free for everyone involved. All you have to do is follow these three steps:

  1. Visit HARO’s site and register to become a source.
  2. Watch for emails for PR opportunities that are sent out three times a day.
  3. Respond to inquiries that you feel will benefit from your insights on the subject.

If your response fits the need you will be contacted by the reporter to follow up and you could find yourself with anything from some additional search engine links for contribution to a bloggers post all the way up to some national exposure for your expertise on a certain subject. You could be one of many sources on a subject or you could find yourself as the subject of the article altogether like our sister company Virtual Technique did when it responded to questions about hiring a bookkeeper.

You may have heard that “The Truth is Out There”, you just may not have realized that you could be the source. So put your knowledge to work to Help a Reporter Out and who knows you may find yourself with a whole new pool of potential clients.