Integrated Marketing: 15 Ways to Connect Your Offline & Online Marketing

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businessman with tablet connecting offline and online marketingIt’s one of the biggest mistakes we see in marketing today: companies treating their online marketing (i.e. website, social media, content marketing, SEO) like it exists in a bubble separate from in-person customer service, radio and billboard advertising (traditional marketing).  Yes, we consider customer service as part of your marketing efforts—and you should too!—because customer service is part of the customer experience and many offline and online marketing tools rely on direct conversations with the customer (read how marketing can’t exist without excellent customer service here).  That doesn’t mean you should “hard sell” during every customer inquiry; if you’ve followed our blog enough, you know we recommend using a more subtle approach and selling when appropriate.

That being said, integrating all your marketing together—print, radio, SEO, content marketing, social media, TV (everything!)—sounds great in theory (doesn’t it?), but it’s hard to imagine how to apply to your business marketing without solid concrete examples of online and offline marketing integration:

  1. Keep the feel of your offline and online materials the same (i.e. colors, logo, text, etc.)
  2. Use your billboard or radio to market a social media contest or campaign (coordinate your efforts through a strategic marketing plan).
  3. Add your social media channel URLs to your print pieces.
  4. Answer customer questions by directing them to the content marketing piece that answers the question.
  5. Offer an incentive to customers that join your email marketing list.
  6. Draft email marketing pieces that bring your customers (and potential customers) into your store.
  7. Answer frequently asked off-line questions from customers in your email and content marketing pieces.
  8. Add pictures & notices of in-store discounts to your social media channels.
  9. Give people a glimpse of the results of your services with pictures and videos in your email and social media marketing.
  10. Use local search engine optimization to reach the attention of local customers.
  11. Build a solid website that is mobile marketing friendly (with all the contact information easy to find) for customers that want to visit your store.
  12. Use similar graphics in a coordinated and customized (for the specific platform) social media and print advertising campaign.
  13. Add QR codes to your print materials connected to strategic URLs for a social media or website page.
  14. Use your website, social media, content and email marketing to promote your offline events.
  15. Post videos and pictures of your store, products, or employees (with their permission!) on YouTube and social media to draw your online customers into your business.

If you need any other ideas, or need help crafting a marketing plan that integrates your offline and online efforts, don’t be afraid to contact a marketing agency (like us!) that can help coordinate your efforts and get you the maximum results for your marketing dollar.

15 GOOD Ways to Build Your Email List (And a Few Ways Not to)

laptop with email icons used for email marketingTrue story: we once knew a business owner (not one of our clients) who told us he purchased a trade association list so he could add all the emails of the members to his email list.  He thought it was a brilliant business move, but it turned into a major goose egg.  Turns out, the people he was emailing didn’t want his emails (why should they, when they never asked for it?).

Email marketing is a powerful tool in your online marketing toolbox with one of the highest return-on-investments (ROIs) and an excellent way to promote your content—if you build your email list the right way.  Building your email list the wrong way (see our list of ways NOT to build your email list below) can land you (and your email server) in the same boat as stealing online images—-in hot water, increase the amount of spam reports against you, and ultimately sabotage your email marketing results. (If you need more information on successful email marketing the right way or a company to help you execute a solid email marketing campaign, you know who to call.)

How to build your email list

  1. On your solidly built website (more about building a solid website here)
  2. On direct mail pieces
  3. On social media
  4. Through a contest
  5. On your blog
  6. Make your emails easy to forward and share with others
  7. With a marketing piece in your packaging
  8. In your email signature
  9. At the end of your video (direct them to a link on your web page)
  10. At tradeshows and events
  11. Through social media ads
  12. With a QR code
  13. At check out
  14. In sales meetings
  15. With a discount

How not to build your email list

  1. Buying email addresses
  2. Adding customers to your list without their permission
  3. Buying lists from another business
  4. By using old lists that were collected in the past (but not with the users’ consent to email)
  5. From membership lists

5 Ways to Use Your AWESOME Content

Businessman sitting at the table with laptop and looking at camera after writing awesome piece of marketing contentIf you’ve decided to take advantage of the many, many benefits of content marketing, you undoubtedly fall into one of two categories:

  • You’ve written an in-depth piece you know your customers can benefit from and have posted it;

OR

  • Your marketing firm wrote an excellent piece based on your feedback and has posted it.

Now what?!

As great as it is that you’ve turned out an AWESOME content marketing piece that’s not going to give your customers a concussion from the constant beating of sell-sell-sell (more about great content here), your job is not done.  You’ll get a whole lot more bang for your marketing buck from that content marketing piece if you let people know it’s there (here’s how to draft an awesome content promotion plan).

Content that isn’t pushed out, just…well…sits.  You’re not getting everything out of that piece that you can.  And after all the work you—or your content marketing firm—put into drafting and creating, you have several options of how you can maximize your investment by promoting your content.

Social Media Marketing

Hopefully, the same people you are writing your content for are the same followers on social media (if you’ve targeted your efforts correctly).  Promote your content on the social media channels with the right followers; make sure you draft a different message for each social media site.  PLEASE don’t draft the same message on Facebook and Twitter or on Pinterest and Twitter.  When you do put your post up, research your hash tags (one of the key ways to build your social media following) and only use the appropriate number for the site (there is such thing as too much)—and only if it’s appropriate to use hashtags on the site (if you don’t know, put your social media efforts in the experts’ hands).

Email Marketing

Use your content in emails to your customers (after all, that’s why you drafted it, right?).  Use an image and strong email headline to increase your open rate and a strong call-to-action to inspire your email recipients to act.  That action doesn’t have to be sales (your approach depends on your industry); instead your call-to-action can be a request for more information or an offer for a free product or sample.

Send it to your sales team

An excellent piece of content can be a powerful tool for your sales team, whether to other business managers or in a retail setting. Ask them to integrate the piece into their marketing pieces (i.e. presentations, emails, etc.) and make sure to keep the conversation two-way.  Ask them for their input for future content based on the questions and feedbacks they receive from customers and potential customers. If you are using a marketing firm, pass the feedback from your sales team on to them to guide future online marketing efforts and for a strong marketing plan.

Social Media Ads

If social media advertising is part of your content promotion plan, draft an ad around a very strong piece of content.  Use two different set of criteria to ensure maximum effectiveness:

  • Choose a social media site that has a demographic that fits with the ideal audience you created the piece for.
  • Target your social media ad at the audience you drafted your content for (i.e. text, graphics, location, etc.)

“Shareability”

Since you’ve created such fantastic content, naturally people are going to want to share, right?  That’s why you should make sharing your content easy and convenient for readers so they can pass it on to others—the ultimate goal of your content marketing efforts.

10 Offline & Online Tips to Build Your Social Media Following

counter with numbers that business owners set as goal to grow social media followingIt’s one of the frustrations we hear from businesses new to social media: “Where do I get started? How do I get people to follow my page?”  Interestingly, we hear the same from social media veterans with the goal of trying to grow their social media following.  Here’s our answer to their common social media marketing question (only longer and more in-depth).

Have a plan.

Don’t just tackle social media without a plan.  We’ve given you step-by-step directions on how to draft an online marketing plan in our recent post; for social media, make sure you have a set plan that follows your sales cycle (i.e. what events or products you sell at different times of the year) without bashing your followers over the head with “buy, buy, buy!”  posts.  Instead, ask yourself, what’s going on in my followers lives?  What do they want to know?  What do they want to see in their feed?  From there, draft a customer-centric plan that follows your sales cycle and gives your followers what they want.

Make sure you’re on the right social media site(s).

Don’t think you have to be on every social media site to get results.  Target your efforts at social media sites where your customers are based on their demographics (or what they tell you!).

Make your social media marketing a team effort

If you are a real estate firm, ask your employees to follow your page and share information with their friends. That doesn’t mean they need to share everything, but, as powerful advocates, they can share posts they feel are relevant and expose your business posts to a new audience.

If you (and your managers and employees) don’t have time for social media (you know what we’re talking about you only post every once in awhile or when you have time), consider outsourcing your efforts to experts that keep up with the latest practices and information.  To get best results, schedule regular contacts with your marketing firm so they have insight about your business and customers.

Give your followers a reason to follow you.

The proverbial social media love is not given, it is earned.  Give your followers a reason to want you in their feed with the inside scoop (pictures of workers, problems, and finished products), information, and entertainment (if appropriate).  On occasion, you can add a social media contest to the mix, but make sure you give your followers a reason to share the contest—and your new followers a reason to keep caring about your profiles even after the winner is announced. (More social media contest tips here.)

In addition to posting relevant information, make sure your two-way social media conversations are not one-sided; respond promptly (within 1-2 hours) to all messages, reviews, and comments so your customers know you care about them.  Don’t leave them hanging.  If you do get a negative comment (one of the risks of social media), use these tips to respond to an angry customer.  For comments that require customer service, invite them to send you a private message so you can resolve their issue.

Invite people at the counter, in sales meetings and when you provide customer service.

We know, in the digital world we live in, it seems counter-intuitive that spreading the word via mouth is still one of the best ways to draw people to your social media sites. It’s also one of the easiest. A simple, “Don’t forget to check our Facebook page for discounts” when you check out a customer or ending a client meeting with “We’d really appreciate it if you’d check out our social media sites for more information” is a personal invitation. In today’s world, many of your customers and clients can find the site right there—and continue the connection that you initiated in person.

Integrate your social media and blog into your marketing materials.

Producing a brochure? Add your Twitter profile address. Sending out a direct mail piece? Don’t forget to add a QR code they can scan with their smart phone that takes them straight to your Facebook page.

Use hashtags.

This tip comes with a caveat: make sure that you use hashtags appropriately and on the social media sites where they should be used.  Don’t use too many; usually, 3 to 5 hashtags can be used on Twitter and Instagram to get results.  Too many hashtags can actually sabotage your results and—if used on a social media site where hashtags usually aren’t—make you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

Here’s how to use them right: scout out other users and see how they use hashtags successfully.  Research hashtags before you use them instead of just blindly jumping on the bandwagon.  Don’t try to use a hashtag to promote your product if the hashtag is related to a tragic event.  This tactic can backfire and cause your business to be seen as insensitive.  Feeling like you’re over your head? Hire experts who know the ins and outs of hashtags on social media.

Connect your social media pages to your website.

If a customer is on the verge about buying your product, the “tipping point” that influences their buying decision may be a discount or promotion. But how will they know about it? Add links to your social media sites to your website. Today’s consumers not only research your website, but your social media sites as well—and you need to make it easy for them.

Add the social media addresses to your email signature.

This is one of the simplest—and most overlooked—way to spread the word about your social media sites. You send emails to your customers with quotes, product information and customer service inquiries. Why wouldn’t you want to continue to connect with them after they’ve read your email?

Don’t give up.

Social media is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Set your expectations accordingly.  No matter the results (or lack thereof), don’t abandon your social media efforts.  To the contrary, use the two R’s of social media marketing to grow your follower base: relevancy and regular posts (so they don’t forget about you).  Then, test out different ways to connect with them—and you’ll see your followers start to grow.

CRAZY Bad Internet Marketing Advice You Should Ignore

Shocked man over terrible bad marketing adviceWe apologize if your jaw is injured from hitting the floor, but ready yourself for this: we just saw a tweet from a marketer advocating for buying social media followers.  Once we got over the shock and possible concussion (seriously?!), we started thinking through some of the craziest pieces of marketing advice we can’t believe are still being passed around.  Here’s a list of bad marketing advice we compiled that you should regard with the same level of distrust and NEVER follow.

Buying social media followers & email lists are a GREAT idea

Why this is bad: If you pressure wash a wall, you have a better chance of hitting more surface area.  The more you have the better chance for success, right? Buying email lists is built upon the same premise, but you’re going to find that non-targeted emails and followers are going to fade and can even inhibit your results.  In essence: you can’t buy love, you have to earn their trust—and their email and social media following.

What you can do: Build your followers and email lists organically with relevant information developed for your target audience.  Spread the word about your email and social media offline as well, through coupons, an occasional contest, word of mouth with your customers, email signatures, and these ideas.  If you want to do this strategically, contact a marketing firm that can recommend and execute organic email and social media building tactics.

SEO is dead

Why this is bad: This is a misperception based on the fact that old search engine optimization tactics (keyword stuffing, spammy links, etc.) don’t work in the evolving world of internet marketing.  That doesn’t mean SEO is dead—far from it—it means that optimization has evolved into optimized writing and technology that delivers exactly what the search engines want: relevant, valuable content (on your website, blog via content marketing, social media, etc.).

What you can do: Embrace the new SEO because it gets results!  You can either learn the new and continually evolving art of optimizing your website, blog, and social media with well-researched keywords and topics specifically targeted at your customers or hire the professionals who can (and can keep up with it).  If you are a business with a local audience, you can take that a step farther by utilizing local SEO tactics.

You can use any image for marketing you find online

Why this is bad: There are many reasons this is a bad idea but the main reason is that it is STEALING.  If you don’t pay for the images—or take them yourself—you are taking someone else’s work and using it without their permission.  As such, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of legal action.

What you can do: Create or take your own photos, or hire a professional photographer or marketing firm to manage your images.  You can also buy images from a popular service per graphic or through a long-term plan.

The more social media posts, the better

Why this is bad: This is one case where more is not always better.  It’s more important to have regular posts so you stay in front of your audience than posting 10 times a day and then nothing for a week.  The feast-or-famine approach does nothing to build brand awareness or to encourage consistent conversations.

What you can do: Create an integrated marketing plan that follows your business sales cycle and includes relevant information that your target audience wants to know.  Make sure that your social media posts are a regular part of your plan, then use a service like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule regular posts that coordinate with your website, content marketing, and email marketing efforts.

Automate, automate, automate!

Why this is bad: Scheduling your email and social media is helpful, but automated posts and emails should not be all you do.  If you want to start a conversation with your audience, you need to have some flexibility to respond—and to respond to hot topics and current events that come up.

What you can do: Create a marketing plan and use automation to carry it out.  However, be ready to vary your schedule or add in an email or social media post that fits with the times.

Mobile marketing is optional.

Why this is bad: Next time someone tells you that you don’t need to cater to users with cell phones or tablets, plug your ears and start spouting statistics about the rising amount of mobile devices.  The latest studies show that two-thirds of Americans have smart phones, and that number is only going to increase with time.  Mobile marketing is not optional any more, it’s a MUST.  If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website and marketing tools, your audience is going to be driven away in droves.

What you can do:  Create a mobile-friendly website (or contact a marketing firm that can) so your users don’t have to zoom in to read your text or squint to find your contact page.  Remember, a lot of times they won’t bother, they’ll just hit the ‘back’ button.

Sell, sell, sell!

Why this is bad: This advice most likely comes from someone who views social media and content marketing as the “new” forum for advertising.  While targeted social media advertising does get results, your business page or profile should not be used solely for selling.  Your customers don’t want to be beaten over the head with endless posts and tweets or read content marketing pieces that are just about you.

What you can do: Use the 80/20 rule with 80% useful, entertaining, and interesting information and 20% selling content and posts.  If you don’t know how to tackle this more subtle form of marketing, hire the experts that don’t give you crazy bad marketing advice.

6 Must Haves of Every Business Website

smartphone with http of a well-built websiteJust cruise the web for a few minutes. So many businesses put the cart before the horse, as the old saying goes.  Business owners and managers want to take advantage of the ‘must haves’ of a solid online marketing plan (email marketing, search engine optimization, social media and content marketing) without a good foundation: a solid website.

While it sounds easy to build an excellent website, but we’ve worked with quite a few business owners terrific at what they do, but challenged when organizing and prioritizing their knowledge into a customer-friendly website. That’s where we come in, helping them organize their thoughts into a website their customers and potential customers want to visit—and a solid foundation for all their online marketing efforts.

So how can you do the same? Well, you can contact us (shameless promotion) or you can use these ‘must haves’ to create a stellar business website. No matter what industry you’re in, the basic formula for an excellent website is the same.

KISS

It’s like a bad movie that plays out again and again: overcrowded websites crammed full of graphics, disjointed text, and “stuff” that leaves potential customers running to the exit.  We can even tell you the rationale behind them: owners, managers, and teams all scrambling to get their customers’ attention about a million different products, services, and promotions with an overwhelming amount of graphics or information.  The result is a home page that challenges even the most focused person.  They don’t know where to look—or where to click.

Use the ‘KIS’ out of the old KISS adage when designing your website: keep it simple.  Have a goal for your website, and keep your home page—and every internal page—simple so your customers and potential customers can focus and know what you want them to do.  Remember your website is there to sell so you have to give them information they need and use, and a very simple mechanism for acting on it.  Help them focus on what you want them to get out of your content and the action you would like them to take. Keep it simple.

Intuitive Navigation

A website with proper organization is a valuable gem, giving your customers an intuitive navigation system (menu and links to related content) that makes it easy for them to find what they are looking for.  This is where you need to step outside your business and look at your company as a customer would look at it.  What topics do they want to know about?  Where would they look for it?

Once you have your answers, draft a chart. Don’t be afraid to use others as a sounding board to get to a finalized menu.  When we say ‘others,’ we mean people who are outside of your company (when we help owners create websites, that’s us) and use your website like a customer would.

User-friendly, Optimized, Quality Content

There are two audiences you are writing for: customers and search engines.  Customers get information from your site and buy from you, and search engines scan your website for information valuable to your customers.  When crafting an optimized website, consider both audiences (or trust your efforts to professionals that can).

To start, you need to step into a new “pair of shoes”: your customer.  Look at your content through their eyes.  Ask yourself (again): what do they want to know?  How can I organize information on the page so it is easy to read? Try to avoid big blocks of text.  Instead, break your information into smaller, easy-to-read short paragraphs.

Now, why should you worry about search engines?  Search engines are going to be one of the top sources of traffic to your site.  More than 90% of users start their search for information with a search engine.  Write accordingly with words that you think your users are going to use—without sounding like you’re trying—and use those words in your headlines.

If you want to add a “cherry on the top” to your website optimization, consider adding search engine optimization technology to your website that targets search engine users in cities and communities within 10, 20, or 50 miles around your company location.  With professionally-written optimized content and technology, local SEO technology can get your well-built company website on the first page of search engine results.  Why is that important?  Because 75% of users never click on the second page of search engine results.

(Easy-to-use) Contact Page

The goal of your website is to get customers to your door, to convert them from potential to paying customers—or to make them returning customers.  Make it easy for them to do so with an accessible contact form that is easy to fill out.  The perfect contact form is a fine line: a form with just enough fields that you can get the contact information you need to contact the customer but not too many fields that your potential customers aren’t intimidated by the form.

In addition, your contact page needs to have a second purpose: to make it easy for search engines to find your business so that customers can find your location.  Statistics have shown that more searches are being done on mobile devices than on desktops, and many of those searches are targeted at finding the location of local companies.  Make sure your hours, phone number, and address are included on the contact page for search engines and customers.

Social Proof

Study after study has shown that social proof is a key factor in customers’ purchasing decisions, making testimonials and reviews an integral part of a good website.  Your potential customers want their decision to use your company confirmed by seeing (video) or reading (text) other people’s reviews.  You can approach this in two ways: 1) by adding customer feedback to your website manually, or 2) by having reviews from your social media site feed into your site.  In addition to adding reviews to your website, make it easy for people to learn about your business (latest updates, specials, etc.) and leave reviews from their experience with your company (more social proof) through your social media channels.

Mobile-friendly

Recent numbers clearly illustrate the reason for a mobile-friendly website: nearly two-thirds of all Americans have a smart phone—and that number is expected to rise. With the increase in mobile devices also comes another important part of marketing plan: responsiveness.  Your customers and potential customers expect faster response times to their website and social media inquiries; don’t disappoint them with slow reaction times or a substandard website.

Step by step: Make SEO, Content, Social Media & Email Work Together for You

puzzle with hand pushing in last piece of digital marketing puzzle We’ve met more than a few business owners who look at digital marketing tools as aliens from foreign planets.  What’s even more common is for them to look at each of these “UFOs” as all from a separate planet (or galaxy!), without putting all the pieces together and recognizing the potential of well-coordinated online marketing plan.

We’ve written about the ‘what’ of these online marketing tools: search engine optimization, content marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing, and how they are a must of any business marketing plan. Now we’re going to give you a general idea of how you can make them work together as an integrated marketing plan (think of it as a coordinated universe if we want to stick with space analogy), saving you time and effort in the process—and increasing your business bottom line, if executed correctly.

Start with a solid foundation: your website

What good is a stellar email marketing campaign if you don’t have solid website pages to send your audience back to?  What kind of sales numbers are you going to achieve if you entertain your audience on social media, but don’t have any more business info to give them?  Start with a well-built website (or hire experts to do it for you) with all the ‘must haves:’ optimized information about all your products or services, your business, and a way for people to reach you.  Optimize the content on your pages for search engines and your audience (use these tips), and use SEO to attract local customers searching for products and services pertinent to your business (see how this is all starting to come together?).   

Use your sales cycle to plan

Your efforts to market your website should follow your sales cycle.  For example, if you are a caterer, look back at your sales for the past year to dictate your marketing plan for next year.  Your sales team or customer service representatives would be an excellent source for this information; after all, they are interacting with your potential and existing customers on a regular basis.  An example would look like:

December-March Booking weddings (because of high engagement rate)

April-June Booking company picnics

July-August Booking weddings

September-November Booking holiday parties

This calendar is very simplified, but you can see how your sales cycle would drive your online marketing calendar.  Based on this basic example, the content you produce would match what your sales team is seeing from customers so your entire team can use the materials you produce to reach your targeted audience.

Use strategy to dictate content creation

Remember just because you’re following your sales calendar doesn’t mean you need to produce content that is entirely about selling your business.  You are trying to provide value to your customer, and you’re not going to attract new customers if you’re screaming “buy, buy, buy!” in their face.  It’s the wrong first impression.

What you should do is compile a list of subjects related to your calendar.  These subjects can stem from customers’ frequently asked questions or topics that your sales team feels would entertain your customers and draw potential customers (more ideas for content topics here).  If you outsource your content creation, make sure you connect with your marketing team on a regular basis.  Make sure you integrate big events into your calendar as well, such as a trade show or open house.  Use video, quality images, and other media as part of your plan—remember not everyone is driven to text alone.  Make sure you post content to a blog (this is a very common and effective content marketing tool, more info here) on a regular basis (this is very important), both to keep your audience’s and search engine’s attention (search engine optimization).

Don’t forget that your content is being produced to convert your customers; include links back to your website, search-optimized pages, and social media channels so your customers have an easy way to buy and ask questions.

Draft a strategic distribution plan (and stick to it)

Businessman sitting at table and screaming in megaphone on laptop while content marketingQuality content without a distribution plan is like a really good secret no one hears.  Add another dimension to your content calendar with ways you are going to share your content, such as social media and email marketing.  When adding this layer to your online marketing, keep the word ‘manageable’ in mind.  A good distribution plan is no good if you can’t execute it.  Remember, you don’t have to be on every social media channel out there, only the social media sites that fit your audience (we found a useful information on social media channels and demographics here).

Share your content as much as possible and make your content shareable so your customers can share it.  Make sure your sales team pushes it out as well.  Ask them to share it on their professional social media channels (if applicable) and via email.  Start building an email list of customers and potential customers, with the customers’ permission.  Use your content in emails, and drive the customer back to your blog, website, and social media channels so they have a variety of ways to contact you and buy your product or get a quote.

In addition to sharing content, don’t be afraid to share interesting articles and videos, notices with upcoming events (i.e. grand openings, trade shows, open houses, etc.), faces of your business, and interesting things you see on the job.  Keep everything you share somewhat professional; you don’t want to give your business a black eye by making one of these social media marketing mistakes.

How to make it ALL work for you

We wish we could give you a hard-and-fast plan with every online marketing tool integrated into an effective plan for your business (and we haven’t even touched out to add traditional marketing to the mix), but the truth is that every business and industry is different.  Plan accordingly, and be flexible.  Test out what works and doesn’t work, and outsource to the experts if you feel overwhelmed by “space age” online marketing.

12 Reasons You’re Not Getting Results on Social Media

Frustrated businessman in eyeglasses touching his head because he doesn't have any followers on social media“Why am I am not getting results on social media?”  “Why don’t I have any followers?”  Why doesn’t my business page get likes?” “Why don’t people like my posts?”  “How come my tweets don’t get retweeted?” “How can I get people to engage?”

There’s about a million different versions of these questions we hear from companies, usually accompanied by a healthy level of frustration.  If you’ve thought some of the same things—or vocalized them—this is the post for you.  While we can’t give you a specific reason social media isn’t working for you, (not without looking at your specific profiles, just ask us) we can give you some of the most common reasons businesses are not getting the results they set out to achieve on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, and Pinterest.

You’re not where they are

One of the most common mistakes we see is from company owners and managers that choose a social media channel that they have personal profiles on—but not their customers.  Or they try to choose the biggest fish in social media, so they can try to reach as many people as possible; in reality, very few people in their target audience is on that social media site.  The result is a social media page targeted at customers but followed by friends and colleagues with minimal engagement.

The resolution: know who you want to reach, and research social media sites to find out what social media site has the demographics that fit with your target audience.

You don’t have a strategy

Too many companies jump on social media without a goal.  They’re on social media because everyone else is, or because it’s free.  The result is a mishmash of posts, little engagement, and a generic tone that doesn’t sound real and authentic.

The resolution: before you jump on social media, or as you make an evaluation of your marketing efforts, set a goal for your efforts and define the audience you want to reach.  You can set different goals for each of your social media channels and sub-goals for each of your marketing campaigns.  If you’re outsourcing your social media efforts, give input so you and your marketing team is all on the same page.

You don’t communicate with your social media marketing team

“There,” you think, “They can take care of my social media.  They know it better than me.  I don’t have to do anything!”  You’re partially correct; an expert social media team can manage your social media page and use their expertise to reach your audience.  However, they can’t do so without a key ingredient: personalization.  That’s what’s going to make your business stand out among all the choices they have to make.

The resolution: make an effort to meet or communicate with your in-house or outsourced social media marketing team on a regular basis.  Connect them with your sales or retail team so they understand what your customers want to know (frequently asked questions), the solutions to those problems, and your sales cycle.

You take the feast-or-famine approach

This issue is pretty easy to diagnose.  Look at your social media activity.  Do you post whenever you have time?  Is there regular activity on your social media account, followed by weeks of nothing?  Or do you post on one social media channel, while your other social media sites are a barren wasteland?

The resolution: when you set your strategy, select a manageable amount of social media sites.  You don’t have to be on every social media site to get results; choose the sites that fit the demographic of the audience you’re trying to reach.  Create a calendar of regular social media posts and content marketing that fit with your sales cycle—and stick to it.  The key to a solid social media strategy is regular and relevant posts.

You’re overselling

One of the biggest turn-offs of a business social media page is overselling.  Every post, every tweet, every interaction is about you, your products, and how they should buy from you.  Would you want a salesman screaming “buy, buy, buy!” at you over and over again?

The resolution: your business name may be on the social media page, but the page should not be about you.  Focus on your audience.  What do they want to know?  What makes them laugh (when appropriate)?  What can you do to help them?  If you need assistance with creating a customer-focused social media page, consult with social media experts who can help you decide who your target audience is, how you can attract them to your page, what kind of content they are interested in, and what times is best for posting.  Then, use the 80/20 rule as a guideline: 80% relevant content, 20% selling content.

You’re posting “stuff” they don’t care about

Blah, blah, blah.  If you’re posting boring content on your social media page, your followers are going to find someone else who posts what they want.  Know your audience, and what interests them.  One way to find this out is to listen to customers when they come in the store—or to talk to employees who interact with them on a regular basis.

The resolution: before you post, ask yourself, “does this content matter to me, or to my audience?”  Find relevant content that matters to your audience, and watch your pages to find out what resonates with your audience—and what doesn’t it.  Or create it by including content marketing as part of your online marketing plan.

You’re using sub-par images

Grainy images.  Boring pictures.  Social media is full of sub-par images that don’t resonate with their audience.  At the same time, statistics have shown that posts and tweets with images repeatedly get more engagement.

The resolution: find someone on your staff that can take excellent photos with their camera or mobile device (tablet, phone, etc.) or buy stock images that coordinate with your posts.  Another option is to outsource your efforts to an online marketing agency that has a wide variety of photos just for that purpose.

You bought followers

This is the equivalent of a ‘get rich quick’ scheme on social media, and a ploy that a lot of businesses fall for.  Just buy social media followers, and suddenly you have a huge social media following!  Poof! You’re set for the long-run.

The resolution: buying followers is a short-term effort that won’t help you reach your marketing goal.  Instead, try to build a strong targeted social media audience by spreading the word about your social media efforts through in-person and electronic interactions with customers (i.e. e-mails, e-newsletters, sales interactions, phone calls, etc.)

You’re not posting when they’re on

You post whenever you think of it, or whenever you have time.

The resolution: don’t just know what social media site your customers are on, but when they are on.  You can use insights on Facebook, measurement tools that monitor your followers’ activity, and testing on your own to determine when they are on and engaging with your brand.  If you don’t have the time to post when your followers are on, use scheduling tools like Hootsuite and Buffer.

You have unrealistic expectations

Everyone wants to get on social media and BOOM! one of your posts goes viral.  The heavens pour down with followers willing to buy your product and services.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  That’s what most business owners and managers seem to expect from marketing on social media.  Unfortunately, that’s not how social media works (most of the time)—and often the followers you get are not interested in purchasing.

The resolution: take every measure possible to get results, but understand that social media is a marathon—not a sprint.  Set realistic goals for social media, such as messages that result in sales or a reasonable growth pattern that is in line with brand awareness.

You’re not responsive

Unanswered messages.  Comments with no response.  Every comment, message, tweet….it’s all an opportunity to engage with your customers and colleagues.  Don’t pass up these missed opportunities to build customer loyalty and show you care.  Your customers expect you to respond, and respond quickly.

The resolution: social media is supposed to be about conversations, so make sure you converse with your colleagues and customers.  Take our advice on dealing with negativity, and respond to every message and comment with a real voice so they know they are talking to a real person.  Even if you outsource your social media marketing, make sure you pay attention and respond quickly to inquiries (find more rules for excellent online customer service).

You’ve mixed business and anger

You’re angry about a customer reaction, so you post on social media how peeved you are.  A political situation leaves you seething, and all your social media followers know—and don’t like it.  Knee-jerk reactions may make you feel better, but a rash reaction to a comment or current event is not going to gain you followers on social media.

The resolution: there are two R’s to follow in social media marketing, and ranting is not one of them.  Be professional and real (you can be both) in all your social media interactions, and think through everything you post or comment BEFORE you take action.  Respond quickly, however, as customers respond a fast reaction.  If you have any questions, consult with the professionals before you post.

6 Ways to Get Your Local Business Found Online

come in we are open sign hanging on a window door outside a local business trying to drive online customers inDriving traffic to your local business is a marketing animal all its own.  It’s true: If you’re a brick-and-mortar business that needs customers to walk in the door, or contact you for a quote, the nuts and bolts of your online marketing plan should be geared differently than an e-commerce website; after all, you are trying to drive people to your door—literally.

Website Optimization

If you look in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of optimization is “an act, process, or methodology of making something (as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible.”  When applying this to getting your business found online, optimization is the process of making your website as friendly for search engines as possible so you get to the top of search engine results.

An optimized website starts with a well-built website, structured for search engines.  Ensure that your website has an easy-to-navigate menu system and adequate loading speed, both for optimal user experience and search engine credit.  The next step is adding optimized content, written for search engines and customers.  Make sure your contact information is clearly included on your website for customers and search engines to use.  Use compelling images on your website optimized for search engines and to get customers’ attention.  If this all sounds good, but you have no idea where to start, entrust your website creation to a good web design business.

SEO Technology

Search engine optimization (SEO) technology, provided by a reputable SEO firm, is one of the most effective online marketing tools for businesses looking to attract local customers. One of our clients, a local print company, was positioned at the top of search engines just a week after utilizing our SEO technology. Their results were localized, with their company showing up in cities and towns search results within 30 miles of their location, including a major metropolitan area. Better search engine results have meant more digital exposure for their business, and stronger opportunity for online conversions.

Mobile Marketing

The amount of mobile devices is steadily increasing (and isn’t going to slow down any time soon), and it’s time for every business to take notice (search engines do).  No matter what the demographic of your targeted audience, build a website that is mobile-friendly with an easy-to-read format and navigation system.  Since your aim is to drive customers to your store, make it easy for customers to call, email, or find your address on your mobile site.

Social Media

Social media has four key advantages for any business trying to get customers to the door:

  • A business’ social media page is often listed in search engine results;
  • A solid social media page gets your audience’s attention and gets them in the door with specials, examples of your work, reviews, and information (without overselling);
  • A social media page full of positive reviews can reinforce your potential customers’ review of you.
  • Social media gives your customers an easy and convenient way to start a conversation with you or contact you.

To ensure that your social media site is geared toward driving customers to you or your website, create a complete social media profile with your website address and contact information.  Respond to their messages and inquiries promptly.  Don’t delete negative comments or questions; instead turn it into an opportunity to showcase your stellar customer service skills. To learn more about creating a solid social media page, use these social media tips to get started.

Review sites

Use common internet review sites like Yelp or Angie’s List to your advantage.  Fill out a complete profile on top review sites and ask your customers to post feedback after their experience with your company.  If you have multiple locations, you may have to create numerous profiles.

Content Marketing

Search engines look for fresh, updated website pages with relevant content.  Customers search for entertainment and answers to their questions.  Successful content marketing fulfills both. One of the most effective content marketing tools is a blog. A blog is a website filled with content, such as written articles, videos, photos, podcasts, infographics—the possibilities are endless.  A business blog is full of content that should be shared via social media sites, emails to your customers, as guest posts on other blogs, even as customer service when a question is asked.

Successful business blogs contain relatable and regular content. The latter term means you add content to the blog on a consistent basis—without gaps in posting. Unfortunately, many business blog writers start out with best of intentions and lose steam. If you don’t have time for a business blog, contact a content marketing company that can keep your blog updated with content specific to your business—and get you found online and on a road map.

5 Must Haves of Every Online Marketing Plan

Puzzle Squares On Smartphone Shows Pieces of Online MarketingWhen we were coming up with a title for this post, the logical choice was ‘5 essential elements of an internet marketing plan.’ Though logical, that title didn’t strike us as strong enough—not nearly strong enough to emphasize how much owners and managers need these must-haves to achieve online marketing results.  No one is going to find out about your website just from its mere existence (called the ‘if we build it, they will come’ phenomena).  Your business MUST have a solid internet marketing plan with all the essential elements that drives customers to your online presence—and converts them to paying customers.

Solid website

A solid website seems like a given; after visiting thousands of sub-par websites, we’re here to tell you that isn’t true.  Your online marketing efforts should revolve around your customers (not what you want them to know, but what they want to know) to drive traffic to your website.  Without a solid website for customers to land on and use, all your online marketing efforts are going to result in a big goose egg.  A solid website includes:

  • Text your English teacher would approve (i.e. no spelling errors, typos, grammatically correct),
  • Excellent user experience (clear call-to-actions, user-friendly navigation, etc.),
  • Design targeted toward your primary audience,
  • Mobile-friendly features and option,
  • Easy-to-read content written specifically for your audience,
  • Loading speed,
  • Quality images,
  • Contact information.

It’s important to note that you need all of these elements when building a solid website.  We’ve all seen websites that have some of these elements but not other key parts; we’d strongly recommend you go down this checklist and make sure your website checks off all the boxes.  If it doesn’t, find a company that can build a solid, customized website for your company—and provide all the services that go into a high-quality website (professional writing, design, security, etc.)

SEO

SEO Optimize Keywords Links Signpost Showing Website Marketing Optimization road sign for local seoSearch engine optimization is creating an optimal website and content for search engines to rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). There are many different ways to optimize your website, but here are some of general, basic ways:

  • Adding regular and fresh user-friendly web pages/content targeted for your primary audience
  • Using search engine optimization tactics such as writing strong, accurate headlines and building an optimized website structure
  • Hiring a search engine optimization firm to optimize your website and use specialized SEO technology to target your local customers and get to the top of their search engine list.

Local search engine optimization technology can get you at the top of organic search engine listings in local towns and cities. Even if you don’t sell products online, or have any interest in e-commerce, integrating search engine optimization technology is an essential part of reaching local customers searching for information and services. More than 90% of users turn to search engines for information, and local SEO technology—like KD Interactive’s—can get your business website at the top of local organic search engine listings using long-tail keywords your audience searches for.

Content Marketing

blog at center of targetContent marketing is creating and sharing content relevant to your customers. One of the most effective content marketing tools we have found is a blog. A blog is a website filled with content, such as written articles, videos, photos, podcasts, infographics—the possibilities are endless.

The goal of content marketing is to build trust. In the past, this trust was earned over the phone or in person. Now, customers are using search engines to find information. Excellent content marketing delivers the information your customers are searching for on the internet (on search engines and on social media), and gives them links to find more out about products, and to contact your business. A second part of this goal is that regular content builds trust with search engines. By posting regular blog posts, you are showing search engines that your content is updated, quality and relevant—three criteria they use to rank websites for search engine users.  If you don’t have time to maintain a regular content marketing schedule, contact a company that can produce professional content specific to your business and targeted at your customers. We’ve said it before: there’s no shame or blame in outsourcing. Remember that you still need to allocate time to give input.

Content should be shared via social media, email marketing, as guest posts on other blogs, even as customer service when a question is asked.

Social Media Marketing

social media sites behind smart phoneSocial media marketing is using a social media network (or networks) as a way to communicate with your customers and potential customers, and for them to communicate with you through posts, comments, and reviews. Social media marketing gives your business these benefits:

  • Ability to provide excellent and prompt customer service. Studies show that customers expect a response within two hours, and that number is dropping. Respond promptly, because studies also repeatedly show that customers come back to businesses who have delivered quality customer service in the past—even if their product or service costs more than competitors.
  • Unsolicited testimonials. Customers can leave reviews or comments about your products on your social media sites. Obviously, these reviews can go both ways, but you can also turn those negative comments into a positive. Start by not deleting negative comments or reviews. Instead, embrace the opportunity to show your business can provide excellent customer service. If the reviewer is particularly angry, use these tips to defuse the situation.
  • Chance to sell your products and services. We’ve seen businesses where customers messaged to set up appointments. We’ve seen other customers comment on pictures on social media and tag their friends because they really like the product.

When choosing what social media network to join, determine what networks your customers are on. Factor in the amount of time and commitment you have for social media.  Automation tools can help with this process, but don’t overuse social media automation.   Be real on social media and avoid the common social media marketing ‘traps’ that some businesses fall in.  A solid social media presence consists of regular posts (the definition of regular is dependent upon the social media network), relevant resources, and prompt replies to customers questions and comments (excellent customer service).  To check all those criteria off your list, designate a staff member (or company) adequate time to devote to your efforts.

Email Marketing  

Statistics have repeatedly shown that using emails to communicate with your customers and potential customers gets results. A staggering 66% of online users made a purchase as a result of email marketing. To get started in email marketing, you need emails of interested customers and good email marketing program.  Don’t send out thousands of emails from your company server.

To get the best results out of your email marketing, don’t buy random email lists.  Spam emails are a sure turn-off for customers and potential customers. Instead, compile a strong email list by:

  • Offer your customers a one-time discount if they sign up for your email list.
  • Train every salesman or staff member to incorporate a request for a prospect’s email address in their sales pitch in-store or at tradeshows.
  • Add an opt-in option for customers making on-line purchases.
  • Create a social media contest, and include an honest request for their email in the contest.

Craft emails with all the elements of a essential email marketing piece:

  • Truthful, eye-catching email subject line.
  • Strong media, videos, and visuals.
  • Craft a strong call-to-action (CTA).

Online Marketing Diagram Shows Blogs Websites Social Media And Email ListsIntegration

For optimal results, integrate all your online marketing efforts into a regular, coordinated internet marketing plan.  Start with a strong, optimized website with search engine optimization, and create a blog with topics that drive traffic back to your website.  Finally, create a schedule in-line with your business cycle that promotes your content (email marketing, social media marketing) and your website. Test out what email captures your audience’s attention, keeps it, and drives them to purchase.