Tips for Allocating Your Marketing Budget Dollars in 2018 (Wisely)

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businessman working on drafting marketing budgetA marketing budget is a precious thing; after all, you don’t spend those dollars on marketing tactics without expecting a return on your investment.

When it comes to online marketing investments, it can feel like you are chasing after a runaway train that’s always moving one bend ahead of the station. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of online marketing tips that have a proven track record of getting results (and still gets results) while not busting that precious marketing budget.

Put your efforts into a stellar website.

Mediocre websites are a thing of the past. Put simply, yesterday’s websites won’t get you results today. Today’s websites need to be structurally stronger, faster, and more customer-centric IF you want to convert your visitors to customers. A strong website is the foundation for all your future marketing activities, so don’t be shy about upping the efforts into your website (tips on how to improve your website here) or building a better website for the future (with these website musts).

The race for top search engine results are real.

If you want to get a good ROI from your marketing, use numbers to dictate your future decisions. Studies and statistics have shown that business websites at the top of organic search engine results page get a significant amount of clicks and visits. For 2018, invest in website optimization tactics (sound ones, not shady marketing) that get your website to the top of the list without busting the bank on paid ads. If you’re a local business, take that optimization a step further; search for optimization technology that can get your website in front of local visitors within a 30- or 50-mile radius of your business (the people you want to reach!).

Start a conversation with your customers.

Online conversations with your customer have a strong ROI, but you have to give your customers options. Today’s consumers are used to getting the information they need when they want it; you need to deliver that to them at their door step. Know who your customers are, and invest in channels they use. For a younger demographic, talk to them on the social media apps they are already on (use this social media demographic infographic here). The sky is the limit; be strategic about utilizing e-mail marketing and social media so you don’t get in over your head (your customers do notice).

Be responsive.

Customer service is alive and kicking, but with a new urgency. Studies have shown that today’s customers expect a response within an hour or two. Don’t wait for them to reach you. Be proactive. Designate a staff member you trust to answer your questions, and train them to give prompt answers that don’t leave your customer unimpressed with your company’s customer service. Impress them. Earn their loyalty and use these tips to deliver the same fantastic customer service online and in-person.

Embrace mobile marketing.

If you thought smartphones and tablets were a fad, you were wrong. Fact is, mobile devices are a part of modern American life. Mobile marketing is not optional anymore. For now and in the foreseeable future, embrace it. Keep mobile users in mind in every piece of online marketing you produce: website, videos, blog posts, and every other marketing investment you make in the future.

Provide Excellent Customer Service Without Uttering a Word

Customer female operator in headset giving online customer serviceCustomer service is a powerful thing. It can make or break a business.

Think about it.

The last time you had a problem, what made the problem better? What made everything okay? Who earned your trust and loyalty? It was the business that solved your problem.

And as easy as it would be to just talk to the customer and fix their problem, this is the modern world. People are busy, and they want help with their problem at a time that works for them. They want you to fix their problem, and they’re not always able (or willing) to pick up the phone.

This is a modern trend that we see more and more today—and expect to see more of. People want to find information on their terms when they want it.

The good news: while your business might not have a fleet of customer service representatives that can answer questions 24/7, you can still use modern technology to answer questions, provide customer service, and, ultimately, earn their loyalty.

Be ready.

Don’t leave customer service to chance—as in, chance encounters with no preparation. Prepare you and your staff for any customer inquiries that come in. Train your staff to answer e-mails, social media messages, and in-person interactions so every customer is satisfied.

If there is a significant amount of online and phone customer inquiries, keep a log of the calls and messages to ensure that every customer is followed up with. Make sure you designate certain parties to be in charge of each kind of interaction (i.e. e-mail, social media messages, etc.)

Make sure you’re aware of every social media message.

You’re not going to have a satisfied customer unless you respond—and respond promptly; a study found that almost 42% expect a response within an hour of posting on a company’s social media. Make sure that your social media settings are set so that you are notified of every message that comes in (or make an arrangement with your marketing firm so you are alerted ASAP). Respond to the messages as soon as they come in, even if it’s just to ask for more information.

To be clear, you don’t have to be online 24/7; this would be difficult for most companies, especially smaller businesses with less resources. Be very clear about your company hours, and respond promptly within those hours, or as soon as possible the next morning.

Make your responses count.

When messages come in, create a smooth system so you can respond quickly—without having to go through an arduous process of management approval before posting. Managers and owners, make sure you choose a staff member to deliver the customer service you trust; just because your intern is online all the time, doesn’t make them an ideal candidate for handling delicate customer inquiries. If you’re not available, or don’t have the staff on hand to deliver prompt customer service, don’t be afraid to outsource your efforts; a company with experience can deliver the customer service your customers expect—without you having to invest in the training.

Give them an answer (before they ask).

Don’t make your customers wait for a response; many customers would rather find the answer themselves. Give it to them via content marketing, and establish yourself as an expert in the process. Write posts on your blog that answer common questions, and share them on your social media sites. Customers can find your post two different ways: via search engine listings or social media (or a combination of both!).

If you optimize your posts, your blog posts can show up in search engines when customers let their fingers ask the questions. Make sure you write a highly relevant headline, and continue your efforts in your blog post. Include topics that are related to the question in the post. Share your posts in your e-mails and on your social media sites.

Make sure you share these blog posts regularly; customers who follow the social media site see these posts when you post them—and so can anyone who checks the site when researching your company. Make sure your social media sites are easily accessible on your website. Your social media sites can also come up in organic search results when your customers search online.

Handle negative inquiries with care.

Angry inquiries are an unfortunate part of customer service. If a negative inquiry does come in, make sure your designated staff member is trained to deal with negative comments and messages (other tips for dealing with angry customers here). Authorize the staff member to honor any special requests (i.e. discounts, extra trips, etc.) if needed so they can respond promptly with an answer—an answer that builds trust and loyalty.

Marketing that Doesn’t Take Much Effort

businessman with clock who has no time for marketingAny business owner or manager can give you an endless list of tasks they have to tackle every day (sometimes every hour). Marketing the business is just another to-do item on the list, often getting pushed to the bottom of the list. That’s why we’ve compiled a list perfect for you, the business owner who needs effective marketing tools but has a million things to do (and little time).

Marketing that works (with little time)

Website SEO

Optimizing a website may not be the most glamorous marketing task; you won’t see your website on a billboard or the news. However, the results and return-on-investment can be just as effective—and with very little effort.

Optimization is the process of crafting an ideal website for search engines, which gets your website to the top of the search engine listings. If you’re a brick and mortar business, search engine optimization technology can be used to increase your website’s local reach. Put simply, local optimization puts your website in listings of users within 10, 20, and 50 miles of your location.

Optimization takes very little effort on your part. Business owners and managers only need to provide information on their services and products and what sets their business apart. A quality optimization firm can do the rest (and be wary if they don’t ask for information specific to your business), and show you proof of their results.

Social Media

Social media may be free to sign up and post, but standing out from the crowd—and getting results—takes time and effort. If you want to drive sales, you need to put time in selecting the right social media sites, taking and selecting images (social media posts are far more effective with images), posting on a regular basis, scheduling for the future, and crafting a plan for the future.

If you don’t have time to take on an effective social media campaign for your business, contact a marketing firm about an affordable social media marketing plan. To make the plan effective, put aside a small amount of time to send testimonials and images to the marketing firm that give your followers a unique insight into your business, services, and products.

Email Marketing

There are several different reports on the effectiveness of email marketing, with some putting them as high as 400%. Email marketing is the process of building an email list (with the consent of your customers, here’s good ways to build an email list) and sending emails on a consistent basis with news and sales offers.

Email marketing can be as time-consuming as you choose. Option one is to create your own emails with relevant content and calls-to-action (make sure you send them from a dedicated server so you’re not blacklisted-more info on setting up quality email marketing here). The second option is to contact a marketing firm that can create and send out quality emails on a regular basis—emails your customers want to receive and keep them coming back.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of those “why would I need that?” marketing tools, but content marketing can be an effective way (both return-on-investment and time-wise) to increase the reach of your website and as a foundation for a social media and email marketing campaign. Relevant content posted on a regular basis is a sound part of a website optimization campaign to get your website at the top of local search results (along with local SEO). Quality content can also be used in e-mails and on social media to drive traffic back to your quality website (with these must haves of a valuable website).

Like other marketing tools, quality content marketing pieces can be produced by a marketing firm (tips on how to choose the right content marketing firm here). Be wary of content marketing firms that write one-size-fits-all pieces that are not specific to your business. Instead, choose a marketing firm that answers questions provided by your customers.

What you need to contribute

No matter what marketing tool you choose, or what combination of tools, you, or one of your staff members, need to contribute to make marketing efforts successful. You need to provide information specific to your business that your marketing firm that they can use to market your business (i.e. sales, testimonials, questions from customers).

Images are another valuable part of marketing. Pictures of your staff (with their consent), images of products or services delivered, or “insider” glimpses that intrigue and make your customers want to stay in touch with your business.

You can back up their loyalty by providing prompt and excellent customer service (details for stellar online customer service here). Once a message comes in, follow up with the customer and provide the customer service that your marketing firm has been highlighting online.

Ways to Improve Every Section of Your Next Blog Post

person typing blog post on laptopThe perfect blog post is an art; the proof is in the contrary. The internet is full of (in our opinion) low-quality art that no one wants to read—not readers or search engines. Here’s how to improve every section of your blog post, and produce content that scores well with both audiences.

Headline

Your headline is an integral part of your reader’s decision to click, so don’t underestimate the importance of a strong headline. As an added bonus, a headline is also an essential part of your optimization efforts. What makes a strong headline? A headline evokes an emotional response, answers the reader’s question, or entertains the person. Use that knowledge to write a headline that accomplishes one of those purposes (or hire a content marketing firm that can).

For search engine purposes, include highly relevant keywords in your title. Basically, it’s your job to show the search engines that your content is relevant to internet searches. This advice comes with a buyer beware clause; don’t become so focused on an optimized title that your content title does not grab your reader’s attention.

Introduction

“Attention grabbing” and “relevant” is the two qualities that should fit every one of the introductions of your blog posts. This is your chance to draw your readers in, and make them want to read more.

For optimization, use a similar strategy to your headline. Include relevant keywords and phrases in your introduction. Remember to be smart about your keywords, however; you don’t want to write a blog post that doesn’t make sense or deters your readers from continuing. Don’t stuff your blog post full of keywords; instead write for your readers with optimization in mind.

Images

Blog posts are not just about text; to the contrary, blog posts with images and videos rank better in search engine listings than pages without. Select your images carefully and ALWAYS make sure you have the legal right to use the photo. The image or video selected should be relevant to the topic covered; if people are involved, a photo or video with a person (or persons) is preferred. (More tips on selecting the right image here.)

For optimization, use keywords in your alt text to describe the picture. Search engines use that text to “see” what images are in your blog post and use that information accordingly.

Body

As you write for your readers, avoid long bodies of text that make your reader hit the ‘back’ button. Write in small, easy-to-read paragraphs. Break up your text with headlines. Back up your points with (properly-credited) statistics.

For the search engines, include relevant topics and keywords in your text. Again, don’t go overboard; your text should be search engine and reader-friendly. If you don’t know how to combine the two (or don’t have time), hire an affordable marketing firm that has experience with writing blog posts; all you have to do is give them the topics and information to create the marketing plan. Then sit back and watch the pros create those pieces of art.

Ways to Build Trust with Your Customers Online

two people shaking hands and trusting each otherThere are a million quotes about the value of trust in human relationships, but Ronald Reagan’s few words might be the most in line with what your potential customers want “trust, but verify.”

It’s your job to build the trust and provide the verification. No matter what kind of business you market—B2B, B2C—never lose sight of the fact that you need to build trust with humans (even if their paths to you is different, more here). Here are ten ways to verify your customer’s trust so you can earn their business time and time again.

Answer their questions

When your customers have a question, they let their fingers on the keyboard do the talking. Even if you don’t have 24/7 staffing, there are several ways to answer their questions. One way is to have the answer ready before your customers ask the question; add a Frequently Answered Questions page to your website with short answers to the questions and add in-depth answers to your blog (via text and video-if you don’t have time or expertise, contact a firm that can product quality blog posts).

Share the blog posts on your social media, along with other articles and videos that can answer their questions. Give your online audience a chance to get their questions answered and trust you as the expert who gave them the answer.

Be available

A business is missing a key opportunity when they don’t answer an email or social media inquiry from a potential customer. Don’t just respond to inquiries that come in; respond promptly within a few hours of the inquiry (if not faster)—even if the inquiry is negative.

If the customer is angry, don’t ignore the message. Instead, take a deep breath and provide a professional response. Give them an answer to their problem (more tips for handling an angry online customer here).

Be human

Though you can’t see your online audience, be human in all your online marketing efforts. Respond promptly with a human voice; giving an automated robotic response is going to alienate and, in some cases, anger your online audience (more tips for delivering excellent customer service here). Use that same human tone in your email marketing pieces, on your website, and throughout your social media presence.

Have others tell them about you

We already talked about how customers and potential customers are increasingly turning to the web to research companies. One of the biggest factors in their decision is testimonials and reviews. Showcase these reviews in your marketing efforts (with a mixture of other marketing content)—along with the excellent customer service you provide to people who have a problem. Monitor the website for negative reviews (or contact a company who can) and use these tips to protect your online presence. Respond to any comments from your customers, and show you listen; these two components prove to those interested in your company that you are worthy of their trust.

Local Businesses: Get Customers to Your Door (and Keep Them Coming Back)

customer headed to local business after looking onlineIf you’re a brick-and-mortar business, it’s the million dollar question: how do you increase the amount of customers who walk through the door—and keep them coming back? The answer may not be as tangible as your company’s location (computers and the internet never are), but the results—customers walking in the door, contacting you, coming back time and time again—are real and rewarding as your business grows.

Target local customers (not just everyone!).

It’s hard to look at a crowd and not see dollar signs, but to effectively market you need to thin the crowd. As tempting as it might be to take a “the more the merrier” approach, it makes more cents (pun intended) to target your local customers. Customers residing thousands of miles away aren’t going to be ordering your product or services; you need them to be able to walk in the door.

As such, invest your budget to marketing tactics that targets your local customers: emails, mail marketing pieces, local search engine optimization. All three of these options target local customers in zip codes around your business. Email marketing does require an initial visit—-either in your store or on your website—but has a high return on investment if you deliver valuable information (not only sales information) to them every month. The return on your mail marketing pieces depends on value, whether the method fits your demographic, and—similar to your email—whether your piece delivers some value to your customer.

The third tactic, local search engine optimization, is verified by an important statistic: more than 90% of all customer searches for information start with on a search engine. The rise of mobile marketing has led to larger stakes: more than ¾ of all mobile searches end in an offline sale. Local search engine optimization targets your local customers (in zip codes within miles of your location) so they get the information they’re looking for—and the call-to-actions that lead them to contact your business (either in-person, via email or phone).

Build a solid foundation to your local marketing plan.

A block tower with a heavy top load is going to topple without a strong base. When marketing your business, this means you can promote your website—the base of your marketing—as much as you want; however, if your website isn’t strong, it’s not going to drive customers to you.

A strong website is comprised of a strong structure built for search engines, content targeted at your customers, call-to-actions that produce results, and contact information that makes it easy for your customers to contact you. Once you’ve built a strong website (more information about strong websites here), you can build a marketing plan with strategic promotion (i.e. social media, email marketing, local SEO, etc.)

Make your social media site very local-minded.

If social media is part of your marketing plan, show your customers why they should stop in. This recommendation comes with one disclaimer: you don’t want your customers to feel like you are screaming advertisements at them. Mix photos of your store and personnel, information of upcoming specials and sales, and other relevant tips and information in to your targeted marketing plan. Since you are local, add one other key component to your social media plan: information and pictures from local community events. Show your business is part of your community.

Take customer service to the next level.

There is one factor that can set your business apart from your national competitors, and studies have shown that customers are willing to pay more for it: prompt and excellent customer service. Now it’s your turn to prove it—every way your customers contact you. Respond promptly to e-mails, social media inquiries, phone calls, and in-person requests. Use these tips to respond, and respond quickly; prompt means within hours, or even minutes, of when the question comes in. Don’t shy away from a response if the inquiry is negative. Instead, use the opportunity to showcase your customer service skills. If the request is public (such as on social media), ask the customer to privately message you with details.

Monitor your online reviews.

Online reviews may seem inconsequential to your local business, but the reality is that online reviews can majorly impact your business. Social media and local review sites are full of negative and positive information left by your customers. Your potential customers see that information as they research your business, which is why you need to monitor the reviews and take steps to resolve negative reviews. If you want to make the process easier, contact a marketing firm with an automated system that informs you when reviews come in and gives you time to respond.

Strong Ways to Beef Up Your Mediocre Website

Fit woman showing her muscles ready to optimize websiteWe were going to write an article about how the stakes for today’s websites have been raised exponentionally. It’s not just enough to just have a website; modern websites have to be faster, better organized, optimized, and mobile-friendly.

Why?

Search engines and social media sites rank mobile-friendly sites higher. Online viewers are abandoning websites that don’t load quickly enough. The quality of content is important, both to search engines and customers.

This quest for the perfect website is getting real.

Mediocre websites just won’t cut it anymore. Your customers are demanding a well-designed, functional, easy-to-use website. You’re leaving money on the table if you don’t indulge them. Here’s how.

Add quality images and video.

People process images faster than text. Yet, one of the top offenses we see online is websites with sub-par images—or, even worse, no images. That does not mean you should steal images off the internet (repeat: that DOES NOT MEAN YOU SHOULD STEAL IMAGES OFF THE INTERNET). Images online cannot be copied and pasted onto your website; many of those images are property and can leave your business open to legal ramifications.

Instead, create your own images and videos or buy the rights to specific images that you can strategically use in your marketing materials. Choose relevant photos to your content, preferably with people’s faces (here’s why images with faces perform better). Look at the overall design of your design, and choose images with complementary colors.

Make it easier to contact you.

People don’t want to waste their time, and they want to make any action they need to take easy. Include call-to-actions in your content, easy-to-use buttons that catch your eye, and quick ways to contact your company ON EVERY PAGE.

Easy contact methods are not enough. If your potential customers don’t hear from you, they move on to the company that does. Implement a stellar customer service process. Assign the responses to a well-trained staff member, and set the standard for response high. All responses should be within hours, not days of the customer’s inquiry. If you don’t have an immediate answer, let the customer know you have received their inquiry and ask additional questions so you can provide the information they want. Unless the inquiry is off the wall (or spam), respond to every e-mail that comes in. Don’t pass up the opportunity to turn a negative inquiry into a positive customer experience.

Optimize it.

businessman with tablet connecting offline and online marketingMore than 90% of website users start their search for information on search engines. Optimize your website for top search engines, such as Google and Bing—or contact a company that can optimize your website for you. Build a site structure optimal for search engines, include strong headlines with relevant keywords, add images with the correct tags, and write content your users want to read with relevant keywords and topics. Text written for your brochure won’t have this information (though it is a start).

Fix any broken links or pages with errors, a major no-go for optimized websites. The major advantage to this process is that not only do your optimization efforts make your websites more appealing to search engines, but also to your online viewers.

If you are a business with local customers, make your contact information incredibly prominent and consider investing in local search engine optimization technology. Local SEO technology optimizes your website so it is ranked highly in searches run by your target audience, your local customers.

Make it faster.

Long website page loads are more than just an inconvenience; they cost you page views and sales. As this article from KISS Metrics states:

According to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with web site performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again and around 44% of them would tell a friend if they had a poor experience shopping online.”

But the stakes have gotten higher with the rise of mobile devices; not only are smart phone and tablet users looking for a fast load, they are also looking—no demanding—mobile-friendly sites (as these statistics on Social Media Today show). Choose a website design company that includes a mobile-friendly website; this is a must of the modern era, not a maybe.

Add content.

Content is more than a luxury; it’s a must for any company that wants to improve their ranking with search engines and their target audience. Adding content to a website indicates to search engines that your business is relevant to users, and shows users that you want to answer their questions. In essence, high-quality content builds trust with two vital audiences.

Notice the disclaimer: high-quality. High-quality content is grammatically correct, relevant to your audience, complete, and keyword-optimized (if you don’t know how to write it, contact a writer who has the expertise to produce high-quality content for your website). Low-quality content contains typos, sales-focused information, and poor optimization. Content can also be used to drive traffic to your website from emails and social media.

Business Owners: All Your Marketing Questions Answered

man roaring into a megaphone trying to spread the word about business with lots of marketing questionsMarketing your business can be HARD.

We hear you, and we hear your questions. We hear them from our clients, our fellow business owners, our marketing associates.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of answers to the questions we hear. While we can’t give any hard-and-fast rules (post this, do this, etc.) that automatically go viral, we can give you marketing guidelines that you can apply to your business (and to your targeted audience).

Why am I not getting any more followers and likes on social media?

Many a business owner has jumped out of social media expecting immediate results. They don’t understand why their customers don’t like their posts, message them with questions, or come in to buy.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for these business owners, but there is a list of reasons why they may not be getting results from their social media presence:

  • Business is not on the social media platform where target audience is;
  • There is no strategy behind the social media posts;
  • The business does not have “personal” content that sets them apart;
  • The social media posts are irregularly posted;
  • The business only posts advertising and sales-heavy content;
  • The content posted is irrelevant to the target audience;
  • The business bought followers;
  • The social media posts don’t contain images (or really bad images-here’s how to choose relevant images);
  • The business posts at times when their audience is not online;
  • There are unrealistic expectations;
  • The business does not respond to messages in a timely manner;
  • The business alienates the audience with angry or controversial posts.

If you want to know more, read our post with more details about these common problems—and how to fix them. 

How do I increase the reach of my website?

After you invest all your time, funds, and effort into a website, it’s the logical next step: figuring out how to make your investment work for you. How do you let people know it’s out there? Or, even better, get your website in front of your local customers without much work?

  • Send an email to your customers (build a email list with these tips) as part of your marketing plan with a clear call-to-action;
  • Use website optimization to get to the top search engine listings (ask us how);
  • Announce your new website on social media and keep including your website in your social media posts;
  • Write quality content with links back to your website (this also is a ranking signal of a quality website with top search engines);
  • Fill out profiles with your website on relevant review sites.

Find out more about promoting your website after it’s built—and continually promoting it as part of a solid marketing plan.

What should I post to social media?

This is one of the most common questions we hear from business owners. Our answer is usually pre-empted by a question, “Who are your followers? Who is your target audience?” Once you have an idea of you are communicating with (note, not talking to, you should always view social media as a two-way conversation), build a plan with:

Exclusive discounts. Make your customers feel appreciated and like they are getting a deal just for them because they follow you on social media.

Entertainment. If appropriate for your business and chosen tone, give your followers entertaining graphics and information that makes them want more.

Resources. Build trust with your audience by giving them helpful articles and videos.

(Occasional) giveaways. Give your audience an incentive to take part in an occasional guessing contest.

Want a more concrete list of social media ideas? Here are a few ideas for your next post; find a more extensive list of ideas to post to social media here.

  • Photos with a request for an appropriate caption
  • Inside photos of your facility or employees (with their consent)
  • How-to videos
  • Share news from your community (especially photos of your business involvement)
  • Guessing contest
  • Photos of the history of your business
  • Memes (when appropriate)
  • Photo or video that gives followers a sneak peak
  • Helpful articles with tips
  • Photos and videos that highlight your succeses
  • Motivational quotes
  • Photos relevant to your business on a National Day
  • Upcoming sales and offer graphics

When should I post to social media?

If you speak to an empty room, would you expect to get heard? That’s what exactly is happening when a business owner or marketer posts when no one is online. Unfortunately, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for when to post that guarantees success, and every industry is different.

To figure out when is the optimal time for social media posts, use these guidelines:

Know your audience. If your target audience is a “more experienced” demographic, post earlier in the evening to reach the optimal amount of followers. Do the same for a younger audience, business-to-business audience, or whomever follows your brand.

Use statistics. Social media sites and scheduling tools often offer analytics that can help you track when your audience is online and when to post.

Relate to your industry. Industry norms can help guide your social media plan (and this article from Social Media today can help with that information).

What the heck is a blog?

We admit that this isn’t a common question, but it is our favorite—and we have heard many versions of this inquiry. “What is content marketing?” “What is a blog?” “What does a blog do for my website?”

The simple answer: content marketing is the process of providing content targeted at your audience.  One of the most successful content marketing tools we’ve found is a blog. A blog filled with content, such as written articles, videos, photos, podcasts, and infographics, can 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. As a bonus, search engines use new, quality content as a ranking signal, giving your blog posts and website a higher ranking in search engine results.

To be successful, new content needs to contain strategic content (in line with your marketing and optimization plan) published on a regular basis; if you need assistance, contact a marketing firm that can meet your needs and has the expertise to answer all your questions.

5 Things Your Online Audience Wish You Knew

customer with megaphone screaming out what she wantsYou may not see your social media followers. You may not know who your website visitors are. But those visitors should be the center of your online marketing strategy. From the second you figure out who your online audience is, it’s time to start crafting content for them. Here’s what they wish you knew—and what you should take to heart when marketing to them.

We LOVE images and videos

Would you believe that there are still businesses and organizations that are posting on social media and content marketing pieces without images? But the numbers say otherwise; statistics have repeatedly shown that posts perform significantly better with images and videos. Use these tips for choosing the best images for your social media and content marketing, and use them frequently (or outsource to a marketing firm that can produce quality images for your marketing).

We are not looking for your website

Unless they need you, the average customer is not surfing the web looking up random websites; instead they visit business websites when they want or need them. When they have a problem, they look for businesses or content that can help fix their problem. The takeaway? Don’t expect that customers are looking for you; instead you need to take steps to get your website at the top of the list and noticed. Contact a local optimization firm to optimize your website and get it listed at the top of searches by local customers. Create a rigorous social media, content, and email marketing plan to reach your audience with relevant and timely information so they notice you—and search for you when the time is right.

We don’t want to be yelled at (all the time)

While your customers understand that you’re trying to make money, they don’t want to be screamed at. They don’t want social media to be like listening to series of obnoxious radio ads. Instead, they want relevant and regular (and sometimes entertaining) content and social media posts. Don’t fill your social media and content marketing posts with “buy, buy, buy!” content. Instead, use the 80-20 rule for social media: 80% non-sales content and 20% sales pitches. Follow a regular calendar of social media posts  and content marketing pieces (or outsource your efforts to a marketing company that can keep up) for maximum results.

We want it easy

Don’t make your customers work; make your website and any call-to-actions easy to fulfill. Your website should be easy to navigate, contacting your company off of social media should be a walk in the park, and finding contact information on your next email should be extremely simple. One disclaimer: don’t make it too easy; you don’t want to get inundated by spam emails. Your time, and your audience’s, is valuable. Treat it like gold whenever you design a website, social media page, content marketing or email marketing piece.

We want to be answered

Marketing and customer service should go hand in hand. Don’t go to all the effort marketing your business without answering the inquiries PROMPTLY. The term “promptly” has taken on new meaning as well; today, customers expect a reply within two hours or less. Don’t leave them hanging; they’ll just move on to the next business. Assign a staff member to respond to every inquiry that comes in from social media, the website, or email marketing. Train them to respond correctly and promptly (more than once a day), and show what great customer service your business offers—even for those with negative feedback.

How do customers find your business website?

people looking at computer and tablet finding business websiteShocking fact of the day: people are not looking for your website. Unless they have a good reason to search for your website, unless they know it’s out there, your website is just another of the millions of websites out there.

So how can you get that perfectly designed, easy-to-navigate, branded website in front of the people who matter: your customers and customers-to-be? To get the answer, you need to look at the process through the eyes of the very people you want to reach. How do they find out about businesses? What channels do they use to find information?

Answering these questions comes with a somewhat annoying disclaimer: every customer is different and goes through the process differently. Customize your marketing to the channels that your target audience uses to find information.

Search engine listings

When people have a problem, they turn to the modern phone book: the internet. Indeed, statistics show that more than 90% of online experiences start with a search. If you want your website found online, and you want customers to use your website, you need to invest in two vital marketing tools.

Optimization is the process of optimizing your website for the search engines your audience uses to find you (i.e. Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). We’ve given you a few tips to get you started as you write the content for your website; the next step is to use optimization technology so your website shows up in search engine results pages of local users. To stay at the top of the listings, write and produce regular high-quality content (information on what makes content high-quality here) so your website is recognized as a source of fresh, user-friendly content.

Once your website is at the top of the listings, it’s time to keep on them on your website with mobile marketing. Mobile marketing is more than just a new age fad; it’s a necessity when research shows that more than three-quarters of Americans have a smartphone. Your website needs (note, NEEDS) to be mobile-friendly for search engines, who use mobile websites as a factor in the rating process, and users who click on your website. They aren’t going to stay on the website if they can’t browse it on their smartphone easily.

Email

Using email to contact customers is a marketing tool with one of the highest rates of return. There is a caveat; you’re not going to get those returns unless your email recipients want to hear from you. Don’t buy e-mail addresses. Build a solid e-mail list by asking for e-mail addresses at the counter, in your content marketing, on social media, through contests, or by offering a discount (other ideas to build your e-mail list here).

When you produce an e-mail, use solid content (to save time, recycle content you’ve produced for your website) and strong call-to-actions to make your recipients want to visit your website. Include strong headlines, images, and videos to capture their attention and keep it.

Social Media

Social media can be useful in two ways: to connect with customers on social media and as an unbiased third-party review of your company. First, social media can be a powerful way to regularly post relevant content that makes customers follow your company—even when they are not contacting you for a sale. Choose your social media platform carefully; it’s more important to create a stellar social media presence on one channel than to be mediocre on many different social media channels. To drive traffic from social media to your website, include posts with your website link in your marketing plan. If you create fresh, high-quality content marketing pieces, add that to the plan.

A solid social media presence can be useful for driving traffic in another way. Include your website in your social media profile and pin a post to the top of the profile with your website link. Users often use your social media page as a way to research your company, and see what past customers think of your business.

Review sites

Research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land). Powerful statistics like this show how important it is to have a solid profile on a review site. Include as much information about your business as is feasible, including your website. Monitor the sites for negative reviews, and use the reviews to showcase your excellent customer service. If you are concerned about the amount of time it takes to monitor the sites, contact a marketing firm that has the tools that can help you efficiently monitor your company’s profiles on the review sites for any negative reviews. Your website and business are going to benefit in the long-term.