Posts Tagged ‘Internet Marketing’

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.

5 Easy ways to Stress Free business blogging

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

Everyone who has a business blog (and whose business is not blogging) has the same issue, content. You got into business to do what you do best not write about it but in order for others to know about it, you need to get them to your site. To get them to your site you need to enhance your SEO. The best way to enhance your SEO is regular content updates and the easiest way to regularly update your content is with your blog. Everyone knows they should be blogging but figuring out what to write about is not only a huge source of stress, but sometimes the bane of an entrepreneur’s existence. But it does not have to be that way. In fact if you look hard enough you will find that half of your work is already done.

So with that in mind I offer you these 5 easy content sources for your business blog (Ginsu Carving knives not included).

  1. Customer questions
    When it comes to content the first and best place to go (which is where most of my most polished gems emanate) is right to your customers. Those questions you answer time and time again with each new client. Those things that you take for granted and just roll off your tongue without a thought. Those are perfect fodder for new posts. And if you play your cards right, you can take one common question and turn it into a series of posts. Just think of all of the great material you have at your finger tips. No, seriously, think about it…NOW….See, there is a lot of stuff in there that you did not realize you had. No mater how run of the mill you think it is, if it is a question you answer regularly or information you routinely provide to new customers, then as Jeff Foxworthy might say “iiiit might be a blog post”.
  2. Competition
    Another great place to look is back to your old school motto, “When in doubt, plagiarise”. OK, well not exactly but stay with me. One of the best sources for information for your blog can be your competition. Yep, you heard me, competition. I know what you are thinking, “I don’t want to copy what they are doing, I am different”. Well true as that may be, they can still be a good source of ideas. Take a look at the information your competitors provide about their products and services and no matter how different you are, it will give you ideas that are all your own. And sometimes you might just find content that could be helpful to your clients on its own. In those cases you don’t actually want to copy what they have but take that idea and create your own version of it that is tailored specifically to your business and your clients. And you don’t have to limit yourself to direct competitors, you can look around the net and see who is doing what in your space and jot down some topics because, “iiit might be a blog post”.
  3. Webinars or other marketing materials
    When sourcing content for your blog you should never overlook existing materials especially things like webinars. Many companies put webinars on a regular basis to keep clients up to speed on products or services and with each new one you do you can be sure to find at least one posts-worth of information. Even if you have already covered the content in a cursory way on your site or in a brochure make sure to look closely because, “iiit might be a blog post”.
  4. Industry changes
    Changes in your industry are another no-brainer for content. When new reports come out that have any bearing on what you do, its time to play telephone and repeat what you’ve heard. You should try not to lose any meaning in the translation but you understand what I mean. First make sure that the information is potentially valuable to your clients and potential clients. Then all you have to do is take the information you have received and put it in your own words and,  “iiit might be a blog post”.
  5. Customer success
    When it comes to blogging, customer success is often overlooked but your blog is a perfect forum for sharing this information with current and potential clients. Think about it. You can keep it simple and just explain how Company X is making use of your product or service. Other clients or potential clients can see that and put themselves into the story. No matter how specific a product or service is, every company that uses it will use it slightly differently. This differentiation opens up the possibilities for existing customers to see new ways of making use of what they already have or why they might need something else from you. So when it comes to customers, no matter what you are doing for them, you can now look at them with fresh eyes and realize that, “iiit might be a blog post”.

There is a virtual plethora of other simple sources out there just waiting to make your life easier. So get out there and let them be discovered because you never know,  “iiit might be a blog post”.

SEO…what’s that about?

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

When you start looking into internet marketing, you start to hear a lot about three little letters…S.E.O. but what do they mean? SEO or Search engine optimization is the process of enhancing website traffic (volume or quality) from search engines through organic (also known as “natural” or un-paid) results.

That’s great, but it sounds complicated, so what can I do about it?

Well, surprisingly enough there is quite a bit you can do to give your site a leg up without spending a ton of money. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a place for the big SEO companies out there. But when you first go online or even if you are just small and want to give your site a boost, there are several things you can do for free to enhance your sites traffic.

First things first, before you even consider starting your SEO, you need to understand your company and your customers. Creating an analog for your ideal customers can help a great deal. Sex, age, geography and socio-economic status are a good place to start. Once you have the basics, it is time to get inside their heads because when you do, you will begin to see your business the way they do and that will help you better communicate and anticipate what they want.

Now that you know yourself and have a better idea of your customers, you are ready to make use of your new found knowledge.

The best way to prepare your site for SEO is to build your pages with keyword density in mind. Even if you plan to hire an SEO company to bring you to the top of the heap, this is where they will start to get the ball rolling so why not beat them to the punch and make them work for the money you plan to spend. Keyword density is a way focusing the content on your site toward using the search terms you know your ideal customers will use when searching for a product or service like yours.

Lets start with your Meta Description and Meta Keywords. These two items are the basis for most everything else you will do. The meta description is a very succinct statement describing your business while the meta key words are a list of the search terms and phrases that you feel will get the most play with your customer base. Meta keywords are widely considered to be useless anymore but entering them here is a good way for you to get everything straight as you develop your content.

Meta descriptions should be no longer than 156 characters including spaces while keywords should be limited to 256 characters including spaces. Google crops anything beyond these amounts so refine your keywords and descriptions accordingly.

Next we will move on to the page title. Make it meaningful to the content on the page and be sure to use the specific search terms or keyword phrases that customers are likely to use related to the information being presented.

From here it gets a bit easier. All you need to do now is write the content for your page keeping your keywords in mind as you do it and making sure that you use keyword rich file naming an descriptions in your included page images.

There are a variety of other things you can do on your own to help the search engines help your business including creating a site map and some simple PR strategies to help increase external links to your site, but I will cove those another time.

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!”.

3 Simple ways to help secure your WordPress site

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Website security is not always a major consideration for small businesses but there are a few simple things that can be done to help prevent becoming another statistic when things pop up like the recent Brute Force attacks against WordPress sites.

Admin Account
If you are currently using the “admin” account on your site, we recommend that you change it but this is easier said than done. Although you cannot change a username to something different on the WordPress system you can create a new username and then delete the “admin” account once you are finished. Also keep in mind that email addresses on the system have to be unique so you will need to change the email address associated with the “admin” account before continuing. To convert your existing “admin” account to something different, follow the instructions below:

  1. Login to your WordPress Admin and go to “Users” in the left menu
  2. Find the “admin” account and click to edit.
  3. Once in the account, go down the the email address field and change it to a different address (assuming you want the same email address associated with the new account)
  4. Click “Update Profile” to save the changes to the “admin” account
  5. Once you are out of the account, go to the top of the page (or the side menu if you prefer) and click the “Add New” button
  6. Fill in the new username (anything you like other than “admin”), email address (if you changed the one associated with the “admin” account you can now use your old email here) and Password.
  7. Set your role as “Administrator” in the drop down list
  8. Click the “Add New User” button
  9. Once the account is created you will need to logout of the WordPress Admin and log back in using your new account
  10. After you log back in you will want to go back to “Users” and delete the “admin” account. Make sure during the process that you do not delete the posts associated with the account. You will want to attribute them to your new account instead so you do not lose any ground during this transition.

Strong Passwords
It is recommended that you update your passwords on a regular basis and more importantly to use very strong passwords. Make sure to use a combination of capital and lower case letters along with special characters like !@#$%^ (don’t worry, that was not an cartoon expletive, those are the characters I meant). Using numbers as well is also helpful. The best case is to create something that is easy to remember but hard to guess using a dictionary type attack. An easy way to do this is using elite speak (substituting numbers and special characters for letters in words you can remember). A better way to do this is to get a password logging program like “LastPass” and allow it to automatically generate super secure passwords for you. You create one secure password for the system and then allow it to generate and remember the secure passwords for you.

Plugins
Better account security can always be augmented with plugins that can be added to your site to limit the number of failed login attempts and some that can even allow you to blacklist IPs that are generating brute force traffic. You can go with a simple plugin like Limit Login Attempts that will allow you to set the number of times a user can attempt to login before they are punished for a period of time. You can also go with something more involved like Wordfence that not only limits login attempts but secures files on your site, and will allow you to scan for anomalies in your core WordPress system files and fix them as well as allowing you to blacklist IP’s. Some sites may experience performance issues while using Wordfence depending on their complexity so you will need to test it before you decide to deploy it for the long term

If you do not feel comfortable making these changes to your site on your own, your web developer will likely be happy to help you integrate whatever you need.

However you do things, taking a little time to make these simple changes now can save you some incredible headaches later and will help keep you ahead of the curve for future cyber attacks.

 

Simple Ways to increase your site traffic

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Everyone wants to bring more traffic to their website but the $64,000 question on every business owners mind can be summed up in a single word – How? Unfortunately when it comes to website traffic there are no perfect answers but outside of your standard search engine optimization (SEO) and link submission there are 3 easy ways to help increase traffic to your website.

  1. Blogging – I have advocated business blogging for years for this very reason. One of the fundamental parts of search engine algorithms revolves around the freshness of content. And the way the spiders work is that the more often your content is updated, the more often they will come back to reindex your site. If you and your competition are on equal footing from a search engine placement standpoint then the site that is updated more often is going to reap the rewards of higher placement simply by natural attrition. With this in mind it is important to update your site as often as possible and the easiest way to do that is through blogging because it allows you to diverge from your normal marketing content and dive deeper into tertiary subjects related to your business or product offerings. And this divergence not only opens up a myriad of content topics but also adds another level of depth to your SEO footprint.
  2. Email – Email marketing is another way to drive new traffic to your site while also being a catalyst for reengaging existing customers. Sending out regular updates such as a monthly newsletter keeps them coming back and offers opportunities to increase your reach through secondary exposure to your emails. To increase your numbers just add an opt-in form to your site (with the appropriate free gift to woo them into providing info). There are a number of programs available for sending mass emails as well as online services that can all help deal with email setup, sending and list management. I personally prefer MailChimp because of its outstanding Forever Free account that allows you to send to a list of up to 2000 subscribers, sending up to 12000 email a month at no change. This is a perfect solutions for entrepreneurs trying to build a list because it does not cost anything while you get it off the ground and once your list hits the tipping point you can stick with all of the tools you are used to and just pay as you go to keep the party going.
  3. Social Media – Whether you are using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any of the hundreds of other social media outlets to connect with clients and potential clients, they can all be used to drive traffic back to your site. You can even use the blogging and email marketing mentioned above to reinforce your social media activities. By making sure that you are posting often in your social media accounts with links back to your site or even if it is just to pass along a helpful article form a third party, it will increase your companies SEO footprint and ultimately drive people back to your site.

Other ways that you can increase traffic are through more old school means like print work (business cards and collateral materials that include your website). And when you absolutely positively need traffic overnight, you can always go with options like PPC (pay per click), paid blogging, banner placement and other paid services.

Putting in a little sweat equity with some of these easy steps (or actual capital in the case of the paid options) can go a long way toward building the kind of traffic your clearly awesome site deserves.

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.

Spicing up your boring website text

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Differentiation is always at the forefront of marketers minds but until recently the only way that could be done on the web (outside of stellar content that everyone wants to read) was through the use of flashy designs and creating graphics for all of the headings you wanted to use your logo font. Sure the @font-face CSS tag was added to the CSS2 spec back in the late 90’s but only in the last few years have all of the major browsers begun supporting it.

So what does that mean exactly, you ask? It means that you might finally be able to escape the same old boring Times, Arial, Georgia, Helvetica loop you have been stuck in since 1993 without having a degree in graphic design. Or if you are happy with your existing San-Serif choice, perhaps you will just be freed up to bring some Holiday Cheer to your otherwise dreary website.

There are a great many ways to achieve this new level of style but for the purposes of this post I will stick with the two easiest:

@font-face

As I stated above, this CSS tag has been available since the late 90’s and is the most basic implementation. All you do is upload the necessary font files to your web server and then link to them using the appropriate CSS code. But don’t go wild and upload all of the fonts on your system thinking that you will make a tapestry of crazy on your site because most fonts are NOT licensed for this type of public distribution. As time goes on, more and more will open up but be very careful before implementing this method.

So how do you know what fonts you can use? Well, to be safe, stick to sites like this one when looking to trick out your site using this method..

 

Google Web Fonts

Like with everything else you need on the web, Google is there for you again with their Web Fonts API. With hundreds of fonts to choose from and simple search features Google does it for you with probably the easiest method for implementing this new found font freedom on your boring site. They even go so far as to give you the code you need to simply copy and paste into your style sheets and pages. What could be simpler?

Don’t believe me? Check it out for your self.

As with everything there are pros and cons to any method you choose. Most methods for spicing up your fonts differ slightly in the pros but the main con is the same for them all: limited selection. But don’t let that dampen your creativity! As long as you have a little time and some patience, chances are you will find either the exact font you want or something close enough for government work to get the intended result.