8 BIG Do’s & Don’ts of Marketing Your Business Online

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man laying head on desk confused by online marketingWe get it: online marketing is a dark, mysterious abyss that is new and unknown.  It’s not as satisfying as a sale that is closed in-person.  It’s not as concrete as those in-person interactions that come with a customer that walks in the door of your business.  We’ve heard it all before from our clients.

But online marketing gets customers to your door, both in-person and via the internet.  Online marketing builds trust with your customers before they pick up the phone or walk in—if you take these do’s and don’ts to heart when marketing your business online.

Do invest in a solid website.

A mobile-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and functional website is worth its weight in gold.  A solid website is the foundation of a strong marketing plan with pages full of information that your audience wants to read—and you want to direct them to (more information on the musts of a solid website can be found here).

Don’t create a website and neglect it.

The days of producing a solid website for the sake of having a website is over.  Nowadays, that website needs to work for you.  It needs to have content optimized for search engines so your website shows up at the top of results and on search engine maps.  It needs to have a solid contact page that you can direct your customers to when they have questions.  It needs to have links to your social media pages so potential customers can continue to connect with you.  It needs to have content that answers your customers’ questions and scores points with search engines (more info on regular content here).

Do get the attention of search engines.

Keep two key audiences in mind when you write content for your website: your customers and search engines.  More than 90% of all online searches start with a search engine so it makes cents (pun intended) to optimize your website content and invest in search engine optimization (SEO).  SEO technology gets your website to the top of users’ search engine results within 10, 20, or 50 mile radius (more information on local SEO in this post).

Don’t start marketing without an integrated plan.

The key is integrated.  Your marketing efforts need to be strategic, and an integrated plan that coordinates your online and offline marketing tactics is key (get started with these tips for drafting a marketing plan for your business).  Draft an integrated plan that is flexible enough to bend with the trends and inclusive enough that your brand message is clearly heard in your online (social media, content marketing pieces, etc.) and offline (post cards, ads, etc.) channels.

Do invest in mobile marketing.

Marketing for mobile devices is not just a fade.  It’s not going away.  To the contrary, smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices are a wave of the future that we all need to get used to and cater to.  If you have a website that isn’t mobile friendly, it’s time to contact a website design company to get a new, mobile-friendly website (built with these website must-haves) online.

Don’t think you have to reach everyone.

Stop trying to reach everyone; instead target your communications for a better return on your investment.  Who are your customers? What information do they want? Where are they online? Where are they offline?  How can you reach them? The answers to your questions should guide your targeted marketing efforts.

Do outsource your online marketing efforts if you don’t have time.

Even with the best of intentions, many a business owner or manager has run out of time to carry out even the most well-thought out marketing plan.  The internet is full of blogs and social media sites started by businesses who abandoned them because of lack of time.  If you find you don’t have enough time, don’t hesitate to outsource your efforts to the local experts that can meet your needs and your budget. 

Don’t cheat and copy and paste the same text on all your social media sites.

Sorry, you’re not fooling anyone when you post the same text to Facebook and Instagram.  It’s not effective. People can tell you’re haven’t created information specific to them, and it’s not going to perform as well.  If you feel a little out of your league (knowledge and time-wise) on a social media channel, contact a marketing company that can use the same voice as you already use and get results when you feel you’re in over your head.

7 BIG Reasons Your Website Isn’t Getting Noticed

woman covering her eyes not looking at company websitesTwenty years ago when we were just starting out, just having a website put your business at the head of the class.  It set you apart and gave you automatic status as a leader in your industry.  Ah, the good “old days.”

Now having a business website is about as commonplace as having an internet connection—and expectations for those sites are higher than ever.  Put simply: why create a business to have a business website that doesn’t do anything for you?  That isn’t coming up in potential customers’ search engine listings?  That isn’t giving your customers the information they need and bringing in inquiries?

If your website isn’t meeting any of those expectations mentioned above, and getting you the response you want from customers, you’re in luck.  We’ve compiled a list of the most common reasons why websites don’t get noticed (by customers and search engines).

Your website content (writing) sucks

We hate to be so frank, but the internet is littered full of websites with terrible, terrible writing.  Writing that isn’t targeted at potential customers (doesn’t include what they want to know), writing full of grammatical errors and typos, writing that isn’t divide up into short, easy-to-read paragraphs and sections.  Even if your website writing just fits one of these categories, your website content isn’t going to perform to its full potential.

If you want to create a better, more readable website that decreases your website bounce rate, hire a professional (or professionals) to create an affordable website with well-organized content that draws website visitors in, gives them (and search engines) what they need to know, and an easy way to contact you if they have any questions or needs.

You haven’t integrated your marketing

It’s amazing how many business owners see their website and their offline communications as completely separate, never to be connected in any way.  However, your in-store and on-phone communications play a key role in promoting your website.  To bring the two together, create signs and cards with your website and social media printed on them (other ideas for integrating your marketing here).  Talk to your staff about promoting your website as they interact with customers.  If you are building an email list, give your customers an incentive to sign up for your email list.

To integrate all your different sales and communications into a solid strategy, create a communications plan that times all your messages (both online and offline) so your customers are getting regular interactions with your brand. (We’ve given you instructions on how to build a solid marketing plan here.)

You’re not using local SEO

Local search engine optimization (SEO) for a local business only makes cents; after all, if you’re trying to reach local customers in local communities around your local business, SEO technology and tactics gets your website at the top of your local customers’ search engine listings.  Local SEO can get you at the top of search engine listings in towns and cities within a 10, 20, or 50 mile radius. Even if you don’t sell products online, or have any interest in e-commerce, integrating search engine optimization is a smart marketing strategy because the internet is where people are searching for products, services and information (and don’t get us started on the effect of mobile devices on search traffic).

Statistics back this trend up; today 54% of Americans have substituted the Internet and local search for phone books (comScore).  Ninety-five percent of smartphone users have looked for local information (Source: The Mobile Movement Study, Google/Ipsos OTX MediaCT , Apr 2011).  The numbers are equally as impressive for businesses that have included local SEO in their marketing strategy.  A local flooring company saw their website traffic double in just four months because of search engine optimization. In 30 days, their unique visits increased 122% and hit an impressive increase of 200%. Website traffic is just a number unless you can convert those visits to customer interest. The flooring company receives form submissions every week from potential customers, with 60% of those visits stemming from their search engine optimization package.

Your website stays static

Your job is not done when you publish your new (and hopefully well-organized, aesthetically beautiful and functional) website.  Your job has just begun.  To continue to feed the fire that’s hopefully erupted by your new website, update your website with information relevant to your audience.  It’s called content marketing, and, if executed properly, can get the attention of both your target audience and search engines.

The goal of content marketing is to build trust with your audience so don’t fill it full of sales pitches.  This isn’t advertising.  It’s a series of well-written content that answers your customers’ questions with timely, relevant topics.  For example, if you’re a travel agent, your blog is going to answer common travelers’ questions and give them information about their next trip.  It sounds easy, but many a business has run out of time when trying to execute a flawless content marketing strategy; be realistic about the time you have available and don’t be afraid to consult the experts.  Pair that with a solid content promotion strategy, and your content marketing is going to be hit with your potential customers.

There is a secondary perk of content marketing.  Search engines scan the web for content relevant to use in users’ searches.  They also gauge your website’s validity and the strength of your pages based on the content you produce. By posting regular content, you are showing search engines that your content is updated, quality and relevant—three criteria they use to rank websites for search engine users.

Your contact page is lacking

This is where knowing your audiences (yes, plural) really pays off: potential customers and search engines.  The perfect contact page makes it simple for your customers to contact you (both in-person, on the phone, and via email) 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 scan the page and include it in their search engine listing. 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.

You aren’t promoting it through social media

Your social media sites (here’s how to determine how many social media sites are right for you) and website should be on speaking terms, both literally and figuratively.  Actively promote your website on your social media channels, and make it easy for users to share your content on social media.  Links to your social media sites should also be conveniently located on your website so potential customers can check out your social media reviews and posts.

You aren’t linking back to your website in your emails

Email marketing is a tactic with one of the largest return-on-investments in marketing.  Every email should be strategically sprinkled (sprinkled, not overrun) with links to your website.  Don’t just send out an email with your website in the footer; instead show your readers how valuable your website can be to them.  If you are creating new content on your website, tie these two tactics together for a strategy that’s sure to get your business noticed.

8 Marketing Mistakes Local Businesses Make ALL the Time

map of world on laptop for business owner looking to reach local customersIt’s easy to take the “follow the leader” approach to marketing.  After all, if that marketing tactic has worked for other (bigger) businesses, it should work for you, right? However, following the “big dogs” can be the wrong strategy when you’re trying to reach local customers and they are marketing to a much larger, national audience.

We’re not saying you can’t use resources that national suppliers send your way, or use elements of a national strategy in your marketing.  But you should avoid these marketing pitfalls we’ve seen many local businesses make when they use marketing tactics meant for a not-so-local audience.

Not showcasing your community involvement

If you want to reach your local customers, show them you’re in their community—and an active participant.  Share an occasional social media post about an event you sponsor, pictures of a public event you’re involved in (i.e. business trick-or-treating, class your staff gave at a local school or group, etc.), or any other proof that you are a trust-worthy member of your community.

Forgetting to include a solid contact page with your website

This is local business 101: if you want your local customers to contact you and you want search engines to bring up your address in search results, you NEED a contact us page with all your information on your website.  It’s shocking how many businesses don’t include that basic information on their website.

Not investing in local SEO

More than 90% of online users use search engines to find information.  If your business is not listed on the search engine, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to get their attention and their business.  There are many kinds of SEO that businesses use for their website; local SEO gets your business in front of users within a certain radius of your business (and your business locations).  Don’t just take our word on it; research the what, why, and how of local SEO before you invest in this valuable marketing tool (and read about the proof that it works).

Thinking you have to be everywhere

Overreaching is one of the most common mistakes we see local business owners make; they want to reach EVERYONE so bad that they miss out on the opportunity to reach their targeted local audience.  These business owners see the ‘big dogs’ on every social media site, and they follow by signing up for every social media site.  Unfortunately, they can’t keep up with the workload and the result is that they miss out on what they set out to achieve: reaching their local audience (more info on effective tactics to reach a local audience here).

Treating social media like a world-wide connector

Your local business social media strategy should be different than a national business with a wide scope.  One of the biggest (and most common) errors we see is a local business that doesn’t have its contact information on social media.  If your social media goal is aimed at your local customers, carry it out with solid marketing tactics in your social media plan.

Not using email to connect with customers

Email marketing is one of the most valuable tools for small business owners, but one that they often don’t utilize.  We’re not talking about cold-selling emails sent to addresses on an email list bought online.  We’re talking about emails sent to customers who have given you their consent to send them emails (use this info to build your email list)—customers who want to hear from you and have an interest in your business.

Failing to include calls to action in your marketing

What do you want your customers to do?  Surprisingly, one of the biggest mistakes we see local businesses make is not telling their customers what they want them to do.  To be clear, this doesn’t mean always screaming in their face: “CALL US NOW!”  The right call-to-action is somewhere in between; a sentence or graphic that lets your customers know what they can do to find an answer to their problem (you, the local business!).

Not taking advantage of local reviews

Local reviews of your business—positive local reviews—are an important part of marketing to local customers that many business owners fail to utilize.  Ask for local reviews on social media and local review sites, and respond to those customers that indicate they had a less-than-stellar experience.  Showcase your company’s responsiveness and excellent customer service—and enjoy the results of a sound local marketing tactic.

How can I use social media to connect with local customers?

Female customer with plastic cards and shopping bags looking for local businessFacebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat…all the major social media sites have been touted as the ultimate world-wide connector—and for good reason.  On Facebook alone, statistics show that more than one billion people around the world are active users.  As great as that huge statistic is, if you’re a local business owner or manager, it does little toward meeting your goal of using social media to connect with your local customers and, ultimately, increase your sales.  That’s when it’s time to use a more targeted approach to connect with your local customers on social media so they come back—and to attract new customers in the process.

Share posts and tweets about local events.

If your company is an active part of your community, show it.  Share posts and tweets about local events in your area.  This tactic has a two-fold benefit: 1) it shows you are involved in your local community 2) it gives your customers information they want to see.  This strategy comes with a note of caution, however: be smart about how much you share local events.  You don’t want to push your followers away because they are sick of the same old posts about the same events over and over again.  Share a post or tweet every once in awhile to showcase the event, or to make your customers aware of a need in the community (and a chance to help).

Use social ads.

There is value in using social ads to reach your local customers.  Make sure your ads are targeted locally and relevant (if you don’t know how, outsource your efforts).  Don’t pound your audience over the head with endless advertisements; use ads strategically to boost relevant events or information you know your customers want to see (but can’t because of the decrease in organic business page reach).

Embrace local reviews.

A positive review of your product is worth its weight in gold—especially in the eyes of potential customers looking for a local service or product that can fix their problem.  Enjoy every positive local review, and ask for more.  Make an in-person ask or a sign requesting your customers leave reviews after you’ve helped them, and respond to their reviews and requests as soon as possible (good customer service and interactions spur more!).

Make your live video feeds and videos local news-worthy.

Video is the wave of the future, so use it to your advantage.  Produce videos that catch your audience’s attention about local going-ons and information they care about.  If you have an event, involve your participants in your video for a fun interaction.  If you don’t have the time or the know-how to make that happen, contract your efforts out to the marketing experts that do.

Integrate social media with other local marketing efforts.

One of the most effective ways to use social media to reach your local customers is to integrate it with your other local marketing efforts (we’ve given you a full list of ways to reach your local customers).  One idea: use your social media channels to drive people to the gallery on your website or use your social media to showcase your content marketing efforts (which optimizes your website for search engines).  Here’s how to craft a strategic integrated marketing plan that accomplishes your local goal. Social media helps you connect the dots—between your marketing efforts and you and your local customers.

9 Effective Ways to Reach Your Local Customers

customer buying item after being reached by local marketingIt’s the million dollar question for any local business owner: “how do I reach my local customers?”

Website

If you want to reach local customers, you need to have a solid foundation: a well-built business website.  A solid website has all the information your customers and potential customers could need or want, and a convenient way to contact you.  Though you can’t use the website to overtly reach your customers, your business should have a website that you can direct your customers to when they find your website on search engines, social media, through a content marketing piece, or from email.

We’ve written about the important elements of a solid website before; don’t just open your brochure and start haphazardly putting the text into a website.  Instead, organize the information that your customers want in a format they can easily navigate (or hire the pros to create a website) and that you can easily direct people to from email, social media, and direct mail pieces.

Search engines

Think of SEO technology as a website amplifier.  SEO optimizes your website for search engines, making major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo take note and list your website at the top of search engine results pages.  Not just any SEO technology can do this effectively, so choose your SEO provider carefully.

If you want to use SEO to reach local customers, contact a company that provides local SEO.  Local SEO gets your business at the top of the searches (not ad listings-important!) that pertain to your business by people within 10, 20, and 50 miles of your business.

Social Media

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the major social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat.  If you want to reach your local customers, you need to harness the power of these sites for your business.  Choose the right social media sites that your target audience is on, and make sure you don’t take on more social media marketing than you have time for.  Start by using these tips to grow your social media followings, and be careful not to oversell on your pages.

Even though your goal is to use social media to grow your business, focus on connecting with your audience instead of selling to them.  No one wants to listen to a business that continually broadcasts advertisements at them.  Instead, use humor (when appropriate), excellent customer service (please answer their messages!), relevant information, tips, community information, and anything else your customers want to hear to build trust.

Review Sites

Local review websites don’t help you directly reach out to your customers, but they do help build trust when customers are trying to find you.  When they do, 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

Content marketing is exactly what it says: producing content for marketing.  Basically, you write about topics that your audience wants to know about (i.e. tips, advice, checklists, etc.) and use different methods to promote it.  For example, if you are a pet store, you would write about choosing the right food for your cat.  The article would be posted to a blog, then sent out in an email to your customers with pet food specials and scheduled to post to social media.  If you don’t know what to write about, or don’t have the time to write new content, use these tips to select a content marketing firm that can. 

In addition to building trust with your audience, content marketing has another benefit.  Adding relevant content to your website can gain the attention of search engines and improve your ranking in search engine listing.

Email Marketing

Connect with your local customers through their inbox—with their consent of course.  Use these tips to build a quality email list (please don’t buy lists) and add sending emails with strong attention-getting headlines and strong call-to-actions to your to-do list.  Make sure your emails are relevant and relatable, and that you give your email subscribers the chance to ‘unsubscribe’ when they want (it’s the law).

Direct Mail

Contrary to the obnoxious naysayers, direct mail as a marketing tactic is not dead.  However, the days of sending direct mail after direct mail pieces out is.  Instead, integrate direct mail into your marketing plan as a targeted effort.  Target customers with services that you know they are going to want to know about, such as an accessory sale for a product they had bought.  In addition to direct mail, use other marketing tactics to spread the word about your sale (i.e. content marketing pieces about product maintenance, social media posts with memes, etc.).    

Advertisements

Whether online or traditional, there is value in advertising.  The key to a successful advertisement (and any marketing tactic, really) is to know who your customers are and advertise in media where they go for information.  If your customer base is younger, look into advertising on search engines or social media.  Make sure you target local customers in online advertisements; if you don’t have the opportunity to target your online ads, you’re not going to reach the potential customers you want.

Marketing Plan

We know a marketing plan is not technically a marketing tactic, but it is an important element of reaching your local customers.  Instead of randomly employing these tactics to drive sales whenever you hit a lull, use a marketing plan to strategically promote your business all year round (here’s how to draft a solid marketing plan for local customers).  If you don’t have the time or expertise, contact a company that can draft a marketing plan and help you reach your local customers.

10 Reasons Your Content Marketing Is a Fail

frustrated young business man irritated that content marketing isn't working“Why isn’t my content marketing getting results?” might be one of the most asked questions out there.  (Right behind, “what is content marketing?” and “why isn’t my social media posts getting any attention?” but those are posts from another day.)  Fact is, many a business manager and owner know enough about content marketing to be dangerous but not effective. Here are some of the most common reasons why your content marketing is stalling out.

You don’t know who you’re writing for

All your content should revolve around your audience.  If you don’t know who that is, you’re not going to write content that they want to read.  Take a second look at identifying your audience, and tweak your efforts accordingly.

You’re not posting regularly

The internet is full of blogs started with good intentions—and good posts—but lacking follow-through.  Content marketing takes commitment.  You’re not going to get continual credit from your online audience and search engines if you don’t continually produce quality content.  If you can’t keep up with your ambitious plan, outsource your efforts to a marketing firm that delivers.

You don’t have a plan

Random posts randomly shared yields random results.  Worst yet, it yields sporadic results that aren’t going to stick with your audience and give long-term results.  Before you start publishing content, create a content publishing calendar that coordinates with your other marketing efforts (both online and offline).  A marketing company can also help you draft a calendar and give you unbiased expertise that makes the calendar effective.

Your content just sits

As satisfying as it might be to hit the ‘post’ button on your blog, content on a blog is static.  Your audience isn’t going to find your content unless you have a strategic promotion plan.  If you want your content to be useful, use it in emails, on social media, on mail pieces, and on other media.

Too many typos

If you want your audience to click away from your content, don’t proof it.  Nothing repels a reader faster than an article full of typos and grammatical errors.  Double check your content before and after posting, and make sure your emails are full of content your teacher would be proud of.  If that task is beyond daunting (and time-consuming), contract your content to company that produces quality content.

Your content just sells, sells, sells

Business owners just want to scream to the world, “buy, buy, buy!”  Your content shouldn’t.  The goal of content is to build trust.  Content that sounds like a walking advertisement is going to do the opposite: make your audience quick to hit the ‘back’ button.  Quality content should have a call to action, but shouldn’t scream at your audience.

Your audience doesn’t care

Why would your audience click if you don’t give them a topic they care about?  Relevance is the name of the game in content marketing—and the way to get clicks and engagement.  Your audience isn’t going to click on your headline if you don’t give them a topic they care about and that’s relevant to their life.

You’re not allocating enough time

As easy as content marketing sounds, it does require a significant amount of time and effort.  Many of our clients have delved into content marketing thinking they have the time, but quickly realize they don’t.  A few paragraphs aren’t going to do; you’re going to have to have the necessary time to produce quality, in-depth content.

You aren’t using quality images in your plan

Notice the caveat: quality images.  The combination of images and text in your content marketing plan serves as a draw for everyone in your audience.  Text-only articles without images or social media posts minus a quality image just isn’t going to get your audience’s attention.

You expect the moon now

Online marketing is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  If you want to build a quality following that makes all your content marketing efforts worthwhile,  prepare for the long haul OR contact a marketing company that can achieve long-term results (here are tips for choosing the right content marketing company).  There’s no shame or blame when outsourcing your content marketing efforts—only the satisfaction of an effective well-executed content marketing plan.

3 Social Media Ideas that Set Your Business Apart

one lit light bulb that is like business that stands out on social mediaWe humans are creatures of habit. We find something that works and we stick to it, like that morning coffee routine or that muffin you pick up at the corner store every morning.  For the most parts routines are great, but they do get to be a problem when business owners and managers stick to the same thing over and over on social media. It gets stagnant. The same posts (and kind of posts) get boring in the ever-evolving—and crowded—world of social media.

So how can your business stand out among the crowd?  You don’t have to get rid of what works for your business (please don’t!), but you can start to mix some “new age” posts into your social media plan.

Over-the-top images

Three sixty photos, striking images, relevant memes, infographics—all these visuals set your business apart on social media.  They catch people’s eye and can create a connection with their relevancy.  If you want to make your business stand out on social media, up the ante of your social media images.

One note of caution: make sure your images are relevant to your business, and not just random images.  Use the same tone with the images so you create a consistent business voice that drives your customers to a sale—and aren’t just a bunch of random images.  If you don’t know how to tie all the pieces together into a clear, relevant social media campaign, trust your efforts to someone who can. 

Videos

There is some great news in the world of social media videos: you don’t have to be a professional to shoot them anymore with professional editing equipment.  While those videos still have a place in your marketing plan, short videos from your tablet or phone can make your post stand out correctly (if part of a plan and played out correctly).  Your videos don’t have to be very long, but they need to be relevant and interesting.  Not all your posts should be video, but an occasional video can make you stand out in the feed.

Go live

If you want to take videos a step further, it’s time to go live on social media.  Don’t overdo it; many a business or user has lost a good chunk of social media followers because they are sick of getting constant notifications about your live video.

Instead, be strategic.  Go live before an event or when something BIG happens.  Don’t sell in your videos: entertain or deliver value without banging your followers over the head with annoying advertisements.  Use your live video to broadcast advice from and expert about tiling their bathroom or how to fix their bicycle.  Or give your followers the “inside scoop” and broadcast one of your employees (with their permission) participating in a community event—a post that’s sure to make you stand out.

5 Areas to Invest Your Marketing Dollars in 2017

Businessman with binoculars looking to future of marketingA progressive small business owner or manager always looks ahead, whether it’s to the next service your customers want, the methods of delivery, or the next way to be part of the community.  The same goes for marketing.  If you want to stay ahead in marketing your business, the end of the year (both fiscal and calendar) is a great time to look for the “next big thing” to invest your marketing budget.

To be clear, we’re not talking about fads.  Fad marketing comes and goes, making your investment a short-term investment.  No, we’re talking about long-term strategies that keep delivering dividends well into the future and you can integrate with your tried-and-true strategies (direct mail, advertising, etc.)

Optimized Website

If a new website is on your list of business marketing tasks for the New Year, add optimization to your list of considerations for the new site (in additional to functional and aesthetics).  An optimized site is built for the search engines, both in terms of structure and content.  An optimized website is built for an optimal user experience (both on desktop and mobile) with speed, relevance, images, and content playing a key role.

You can’t get an optimized website built by just anyone, so be selective about the individual or company you hire to build your website.  Some companies can give you a website that is beautiful, but difficult for search engines to index. One of our clients had first-hand experience with this phenomenon.  When it came time for them to build a new website, a friend promised to build them a beautiful and cheap site.  They took this friend up on their offer, and the result was disastrous. The website was beautiful, but the content and structure was so poor that they dropped in search engine results like a stone.  Take their story to heart; invest your dollars into an optimized website that search engines and your target audience notices.

SEO

Getting indexed by search engines is only half the battle.  If you want to get to the top of search engine results, it’s time to add search engine optimization to your list of marketing tools.  Specifically, we’ve seen businesses get excellent marketing results from local SEO which targets customers within a 10, 20, or 50 mile radius from their location (or locations).  Local SEO also works within a short amount of time.

One of our clients in southeastern Wisconsin saw their website traffic double in just four months because of search engine optimization. In 30 days, their unique visits increased 122% and hit an impressive increase of 200%. Remember that website traffic is just a number unless you can convert those visits to customer interest. Our client receives significantly more form submissions every week from potential customers thanks to SEO, with 60% of those visits stemming from their search engine optimization package.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a marketing win on two different fronts: for your audience and search engines.  Content marketing is the process of creating content to your website.  We’ve seen significant results for businesses that use a blog for this purpose.  With a strategic plan and regular posts, content marketing creates more pages to be indexed by search engines.  More pages equals better search engine results, and higher rankings on search engine results pages.

More importantly, content marketing delivers value to your customers and potential customers—if you promote it (i.e. on social media, in emails, more ideas here).  Relevant and regular content answers your customers’ questions and assists them with their problems, building trust and driving them toward a sale.

If you’re considering content marketing, start with a calendar and a plan.  Regularly posted content is important to achieve results, so make sure your calendar is ‘doable’ or enlist the help of a content marketing firm that can execute—or hire a company to take on the planning and execution with your input (here’s how to weed out a quality candidate).

Social Media Marketing

Social media is all the rage, but it’s a marketing tool that’s not going away any time soon.  With the number of social media users steadily increasing, social media is a unique opportunity to connect with your customers and potential customers—and to drive sales.  Like content marketing, social media is an opportunity for your business to build trust.

You can do that by choosing a social media site (or sites) that fits the demographic of the audience you want to reach, and adding social media posts to your list marketing calendar.  Remember, that social media is not a billboard; it’s a way to connect.  To that end, post content that builds trust and sells—with a majority of it aimed at entertaining (when appropriate) and building trust. (More ‘must haves’ of a solid social media presence here.)

Social media takes time, so make sure you don’t get in over your head on multiple social media sites that you don’t have time for (automated sites like Hootsuite and Buffer can help).  Tailor your posts to each individual social media site for best results; social media users can see when you don’t know what you’re doing.  If you don’t feel like you know what you’re doing, trust your social media marketing to experts that do.

Email Marketing

Email marketing sounds so simple; get a list of emails and send out an email asking your customers to buy your products.  In reality, email marketing is a marathon of regular, relevant emails —and a marathon that yields long-term results.  Include your emails strategically in your marketing plan, and make sure you send your emails to recipients who want to receive it.

Email marketing drives your customers back to your website (which should be built for an awesome experience), to your social media pages, or to your content to build trust.  Emails can be automated and sent out by automated programs, or you can trust your emails to marketing firms that have the experience and expertise to draft attention-grabbing emails.  We’ve seen statistics that say the return on investment can be as high as 400% with email marketing, making email marketing one of the premiere areas to invest your budget dollars.

Step by Step: How to Get Your Business Up & Selling on Social Media

popular social media icons on tablet screen ready for business ready to useYou just sign up your business up for social media and….

And WHAT?

The fact that you’re reading this post means you’re looking for the answer to that question.  The answer isn’t always a million followers and a zillion sales for your business—unless you take a more strategic jump into the world of social media.

Make a plan with a goal.

Too many businesses wander into social media, and keep wandering because they have no goal.  Social media should not feel like you’re trying to find your way through a dark room with a blindfold on.  Crafting a plan with a goal eliminates that, and gives you guidance as you choose the right social media posts and create content for social media.

Use the SMART acronym to choose your goal.  The S in SMART is for specific; be as specific as possible about what you hope to achieve.  M is measurable; your goal should be something you are able to measure so your have a clear idea of how far/close you’ve come to reaching it.  The latter sentiment takes us to the next letter in our acronym, attainable.  As much as you want to reach 1 million followers, remember that social media is a marathon effort not a sprint.  Set a goal you can reach.  R is for relevant; your goal should be in line with your business goals.  T is for timely.  When do you want to reach your goal?

Write your goals down, and create a calendar with tactics that help you reach your goal.  Be flexible as you follow your calendar; the best brands on social media (wisely) choose content that is relevant to their audience’s “right now.”

Do your research.

Who do you want to reach?  Who is your audience?  Instead of jumping on board every social media channel you don’t have time for, be more strategic.  Think about who your audience is, and choose the social media channel with the demographic that helps you reach that audience.

As you do your research, don’t buy into the one-size-fits-all notion that you can simply link two social media channels to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone.  Each social media channel is different, and you’re going to achieve your goals if you cater your posts to that specific channel.  If you feel like you don’t know how to make that happen, contact the experts who can.  There’s no shame or blame in outsourcing your efforts to a company who has the expertise about the specifics of each channel and can help you reach your social media goals.

Follow through.

This sounds simple enough, but “following through” on social media is the one challenge that we see businesses repeatedly have problems with.  (That’s usually why they contact us.)  Most businesses start with good intentions, filling their social media channels with posts…until they don’t.  Suddenly their social media channels go silent, and they’re not achieving the goals they set out to achieve.

To help (but not replace) with regular social media posts, use automation to your advantage.  Use services like Hootsuite or Buffer to automate your posts so you can post regularly and get the results you signed up to achieve (or contact someone who can).

If you want to achieve results, don’t just sell on social media (more tips for solid social media presence here). While you set out to sell your products on social media, you have to post relevant and regular content that your audience cares about—and leads you to your ultimate social media goal.

20 Ways to Spice Up Your Holiday Marketing Campaign

muffins, tea, and holiday drink filled with holiday cheer from marketing campaignIt’s never too late, or too early, to spice up your holiday marketing campaign. Fact is, the holidays are a great time to relate to your audience in your content marketing, on social media, and in emails to your customers. 

That doesn’t mean you should abandon your planned marketing campaign and just post random holiday “stuff.”  It does mean that you should add some holiday cheer into your plan that your target audience wants to see (if you don’t have time, give yourself the gift of a marketing firm that can keep your social media posts regular).  Here are a few ideas that’ll spice up your holiday marketing campaign—and your followers’ interest.

  1. Pictures of how your office or store is “decking the halls”
  2. Social media post about business involvement in community
  3. Video of holiday cheer (i.e. slideshow of photos of décor, company service in community, etc.)
  4. Ask on social media for photos of holiday cheer from followers (i.e. their pictures of elf on the shelf, favorite cookie design, favorite gift, etc.)
  5. Offer social media only discounts and incentives to buy (make sure you don’t only post sales info)
  6. Email with ways to help them with holiday gifts (i.e. free shipping, ideas, etc.)
  7. Content that helps with holiday to-do list
  8. Story about retro holiday favorite that ties into business or industry (content or social media)
  9. Holiday fun memes (relatable to your industry)
  10. Content with last-minute tips about getting ready for the holidays
  11. Testimonials from clients about how product or service made holidays better
  12. Content with relatable holiday stories
  13. Holiday countdown graphics
  14. Social media contest asking for pictures with special holiday prize for winner
  15. Run a poll (i.e. does our tree look best with this tree topper, what holiday coffee flavor is best, etc.)
  16. Run trivia question about holidays on social media
  17. Create a hashtag (if you are on a social media channel that uses them) that relates to the holiday (i.e. #soooonotreadyforholidays, #holidayfailx2, etc.-make sure you do your research before using)
  18. Content about New Year’s resolutions
  19. Memes about the New Year
  20. Content with New Year’s predictions related to your industry