Why Facebook Isn’t Always Right for Your Company

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

happy businessman jumping into social media for companyWhen business owners see—or start to hear about—the benefits of social media for business, their first inclination is to jump on board.  It makes sense, especially with all the goals that can be achieved with a solid social media presence.

There is one down side to just jumping in to social media: the step of choosing what social media site is right for the business is completely overlooked.  Instead, most people tend to sign up for the biggest site so they can cast a big net, or the social media site they have a personal profile on.

That’s when you need to just slow down.

Don’t get us wrong: we’re not saying that Facebook is the wrong site for every business (we’re not!).  We’ve achieved great things for many businesses on Facebook.  What we are saying is that when you’re considering signing your business up for social media, your first step should be deciding what site or sites is right for you—and how many sites you can manage well.

Choosing the right social media site(s)

social media sites behind smart phoneMatching your business to the right social media site (or sites) is a match made in heaven, because it allows you to reach the people who like—and want to buy—your products.  They’re your target audience—and should be your social media focus.

That’s the problem with jumping on the biggest site, or the site you have a personal profile on.  If your target audience isn’t on that social media site (more info on social media sites and key demographics in this infographic), you’re not going to engage with the people you want—and want you.

Are you a hair salon or bridal shop? Consider Pinterest, where images and a mostly-female demographic fit with your product. Sports team? Consider Twitter where fans are waiting for your 140-character updates.

Worse for your business is when you jump on that site, or all the major social media sites, and then discover you don’t have time.  An abandoned Facebook page, Twitter profile, or any other business page isn’t going to get you results—and it looks bad to anyone who happens upon your abandoned site.

What makes a solid social media presence

Plan

A good social media plan for your business revolves around two key factors: target audience and business calendar. Knowing your target audience facilitates 1) choosing social media sites; 2) selecting the right tone for your audience; 3) determining what content you create and post to social media that fits your audience.

A good social media marketing plan follows the 80/20 or 70/30 rule. Twenty percent of your posts should be promotional and 80% entertaining (if appropriate), relevant and valuable to your audience.

Scheduling tool

To execute a stellar and efficient social media plan, sign up for a good scheduling tool, such as Hootsuite or Buffer. Don’t schedule your social media posts too far in advance so you can stay on top of trending topics.  When necessary, be flexible when needed.

Hash tags

On certain social media sites, such as Twitter and Instagram, hash tags are not optional —at least not for anyone (or business) who wants to gain traction on social media. Posts with relevant hash tags can expose your post to potential followers interested in your industry or topic. Hash tags are also invaluable when starting a conversation, running a photo contest, promoting an event, or executing a coordinated social media campaign. Create original hash tags without any “online baggage” (i.e. used before with negative connotations, taken from a competitor) and promote them through an integrated marketing campaign that includes online and offline marketing efforts.

Quality images

Social media posts with images have been proven time and again to receive significantly more engagement than posts without. Use this social media image cheat sheet to create images optimal for your social media network, and be very selective about the images you create or choose. Don’t just pull random images off the internet; this can lead to serious legal repercussions (more about image copyright info by Hootsuite here).

If you decide Pinterest or Instagram is right for your business, don’t just worry about size; worry about the quality of your images. These social media networks are visual networks, and you won’t get results unless you have high-quality images and attention-grabbing text.

Regular posts/Time

Your social media plan isn’t going to gain momentum if you’re present for a period and gone for awhile.  Inconsistent social media posts are going to get you nowhere if you take the feast and famine approach.  Put simply, great social media execution requires regular time—and not just when you have the time.

The definition of “regular” depends on the social media site you are on. Whatever site—and the frequency of your posts—you find works for your company, choose quality posts over quantity. Twenty ‘junk’ tweets or posts won’t get you results (except for bogus followers) if your tweets aren’t valuable and relevant. If you don’t have time to produce and find quality posts, outsource your efforts for optimal social media results on the right site for your business.

5 Things You Should Look for in a Content Marketing Firm

business interviewing potential content marketing firmEver since the benefits of content marketing became clear (i.e. increased web traffic, value for your customers, etc.), the internet is crawling with content marketing firms full of promises.  “Choose us!  We get you results!” One of the scariest promises we saw recently was “Fully automated blog gets you to the top!”

While all those promises sound wonderful and we know it can be hard to sift through the smoothest sales talks, there are a five clear signs that can help you weed out the disreputable and find the best content marketing firms (for your business and your budget) that have these commonalities.

Data

A reputable content marketing firm should be able to provide data to back their claims up, both in the benefits of content marketing and what they can do.  If your content marketing firm delivers only promises and not numbers, walk away.  Contact a reputable content marketing firm that can tell you what a content marketing plan can do for your business, and what they have done for other businesses in the past, with real, concrete data.

Experience

Not only can a good content marketing company back up their claims with data, they have the experience to know that it doesn’t happen in a box.  Look for a company that doesn’t just offer content marketing, because the best online marketing plan includes online and offline marketing services that coordinate together for a solid marketing strategy.  Content marketing pieces are no good unless you use have a strategy for promoting the content; a good content marketing firm knows that (or can give you recommendations on how to use your content).

Clients

With all the internet claims and content marketing firms online, testimonials or case studies from a firm’s clients with long-standing relationships can be your godsend—a clear sign your content marketing firm is more than just a robot somewhere pumping out keyword-stuffed text.

Questions

There are many content marketing firms that use a one-size-fits-all approach to content marketing.  They target businesses in the same industry, and produce a slew of articles that fit the industry.  While that sounds wonderful, those generic topics don’t address the specific services your business offers or give your business a face.  If your content marketing firm doesn’t ask you specific questions about your business, your clients, and target audience, it’s time to turn the tables and start asking them questions.

No shadiness

Just as copying off your classmate’s paper landed you in hot water back in school, internet plagiarism comes with some very stiff internet penalties.  If you even suspect a potential content marketing firm of any shady marketing practices, run far, far away—to a reputable content marketing firm that can deliver quality content that gets you results (that they can prove).

4 Shady (Bad) Marketing Tactics You Should Run From (FAST)

businessperson being scared by bad marketing tactics on paperWhen you’re a business owner, it can feel like you have a target on your back.  Everyone wants and knows how to grow your business, and they’re all offering to make it happen—for a cost.  While some of the marketing promises might sound, well, promising, a bit of caution is wise when sifting through the offers for a variety of reasons. Shady marketing firms can take your money and not deliver, or, worse, use shady marketing tactics that lead to penalties and a marketing mess that can take a LONG time to recover from.

Most of these firms aren’t walking around with signs that say, “I’m as shady as the day is long!” so it’s up to you look through the sales pitch and look for whiffs that they might not deliver.  Here are a few shady marketing practices that you should look for, and avoid (as the old adage goes) “like the plague.”

Buying email followers

This is one of those situations where if the promise sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Marketing firms promise to beef up your email list quickly because sending an email to more recipients would (in theory) increase your chance of sales conversions.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  After all, if you throw more darts at a dart board, inevitably several are going to hit the target.  While the claim seems to make sense, an email list that delivers long-term (note, not short-term) results is built over time via in-person contacts, social media, online offers, and advertising (a full list of ideas for building an email list here).  If you want to reap those long-term results, contact companies that give you advice on a comprehensive marketing plan that builds a legitimate email list to recipients who want to receive your emails.

Paid links

Backlinks are important to the SEO of your site, but paid links can do just the opposite.  Google has made it very clear that if they find paid links, they penalize the sites responsible.  If your marketing firm mentions buying backlinks (links back to your blog) or using any dishonest means to ‘get’ backlinks to your blog or website, walk away from their deal.

Instead, look for firms that can deliver the ‘real’ deal: marketing firms that can give you testimonials from clients who have gotten long-term SEO results (local results if you have a local clientele to reach).  They don’t have to deliver their trade secrets, but a good SEO firm should be able to give you information about their service so you know you’re not using black hat SEO that could get you penalized.

Buying social media followers

We are still shocked at the amount of money this multi-million dollar industry generates, and we can certainly understand why people buy into it.  The rationalization is simple: having thousands and thousands of followers gives you a lot of street credibility.  Plus, it’s sure to make other people follow you, and accomplish all those goals you set for social media marketing.

The truth is more disappointing: while buying social media followers may make you look good, it doesn’t give you any more than numbers.  Fake social media followers aren’t an engaged audience that connects with you and drives sales.  Remember, no matter what those Twitter account with the strange font tell you, purchasing followers is not going to get you long-term results.

Plagarism

Very few content marketing firms would walk up to you and blatantly say (and certainly not any reputable marketing firms), “we’re going to steal content from another site and paste it into your blog.”  But you should be concerned if your content creator doesn’t seem to want any input at all for content topics, now or in the future.  To be clear, not every content marketing company is full of plagiarists, and it’s normal to re-purpose old content into a new, in-depth piece.  However, you should be wary of automatic “content generators” that may be “reusing content” from other sites.  It won’t help the SEO of your website, and you’ll be responsible for stolen content.

Your Top SEO Questions Answered by the Pros

question marks painted on a asphalt road surface signifying seo questionsWe’ve noticed a common theme when we talk to clients about search engine optimization (SEO).  The truth is that even though SEO has been around for awhile, and has evolved into an incontrovertible marketing tool, many business owners and managers have the same questions about SEO.  Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we hear about SEO—and the answers we have for business owners who need to decide if SEO is right for their business.

What is SEO? What is website optimization?

If you look in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of optimization is “an act, process, or methodology of making something as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible.”  When applying this to getting your business found online, search engine optimization is the processes and content involved in creating an ideal website for search engines and users.  In the past, SEO was focused solely on search engines. Over the years SEO has evolved into a user-focused marketing tool.

Today’s search engines want to deliver quality information for online users, so modern SEO has evolved into a process of optimizing for two target audiences: search engines and your users (know who they are).  Website optimization is an important part of any marketing plan, along with content marketing (which improves your website’s SEO value), social media, and email marketing.

Why should I consider SEO? Is it black hat marketing?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most misunderstood elements of a solid digital marketing plan. Between the myths and the shady SEO vendors of the past (and present), SEO has earned a bad reputation that it really doesn’t deserve.

That being said, some of the SEO tactics used today (and in the past) are considered black hat, which are tactics that are used to manipulate organic results.  Be wary of SEO firms that mention buying links, directing users to non-relevant links, and writing content full of a keyword that doesn’t make sense (completely different than optimized writing).  Using black hat tactics to market your website can result in brutal search engine penalties that can take years to resolve.

The proof that SEO works (without black hat tactics) is in the data.  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. They also invested in content marketing to keep their site content updated and give their customers value, yielding long-term results; their printing firm has remained at the top of the major search engines since launch. Better search engine results have meant more digital exposure for their business, higher website traffic, and stronger opportunity for online conversions.

Is SEO dead?

SEO has changed, but it is not dead. 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 online 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 (both text and visual on your website, blog via content marketing, social media, etc.).

To get the results that modern SEO can deliver, business owners and managers can either learn the new and continually evolving art of optimizing a 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 specific local SEO technology that targets customers in communities around each business location.

Is SEO going to get me in trouble with Google?

Black hat SEO (i.e. keyword stuffing, cloaking, etc.) can get your business penalized, but modern SEO tactics do not.  Writing optimized content your users want to read for your website and blog, adding pages to your website that deliver value to your customers, building a solid website with optimal structure—all these tactics gain you favor with Google.

What does SEO do for my website? Why should I care about SEO?

Believe it or not, a beautiful, mobile, and user-friendly website is not enough. “There,” you think, “I’ve invested in this website. Customers come and find me!” Unfortunately that’s not how it works—though there are ways to drive traffic to and optimize your website naturally. Customers have a ton of online options, and studies have shown that they make more than 60% of their purchasing decision online.  That’s where local SEO comes in.  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 online is where people today are looking 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:

More and more, American consumers are looking to the internet to find local solutions and information. If you’re not online, you’re not on their radar. With more than 90% of users turning to search engines for information, local SEO technology—like KD Interactive’s (shameless self promotion here)—can get your business website in organic search engine listings using keywords your audience searches for.

How does SEO help a company with multiple locations?

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 online is where people today are looking for products, services and information (and don’t even get us started on the effect of mobile devices).

Want proof that local SEO works? One of our clients, a flooring company with multiple locations, 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. If you want to tap into that same local search engine technology to get results for your company, read our blog post about SEO terminology or see it in action.

When should I worry about my website’s optimization? 

Ideally, you should optimize your website before a redesign (along with these other elements of your website) or when launching a new website.  However, it’s never too late to use SEO tactics to improve traffic to your website and online conversions.

What should I look for in a SEO company?

We’re not going to lie to you:  there are a lot of SEO providers who make promises they can’t back up.  A quality SEO provider has:

Years of experience in technology

A good SEO company has years of experience in technology and keeps up-to-date with information about search engine ranking signals, such as page loading speed, links, etc.  SEO is always evolving, and a quality company isn’t stuck in yesterday’s technology.

Doesn’t use black hat SEO

If you hear words during the sales pitch—or in subsequent conversations—like, “cloaking” or “keyword stuffing,”—or they talk in generic topics about buying links or using content from other sites—alarm bells should go off in your head.  Black hat SEO tactics can get your website penalized so stay away from any company that even suggests it.

Provides data to prove their work

Because search engines are always striving to personalize search results, you can’t just go to your computer and see the results of your SEO efforts.  Ask for data that backs up their assurances of a quality job, and shy away from companies that decline to show you proof.  Choose a company that can give you reports detailing your local SEO results.

Can make recommendations about your online presence

A good SEO company can make online marketing recommendations beyond optimizing your website, such as content marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing.

Social Media Ideas Your Audience Actually Wants to See

A group of five students looking at an awesome social media postA recent study gave us insight into our social media audience’s psyche from the flip side of the coin, by telling us the top reason people unfollow brands.  Not surprisingly, the top reason was too many promotions (in clear language: too much selling!).  Don’t misunderstand the results: you can still sell on social media BUT you have to take a much more subtle approach.  Sell them with your excellent customer service skills.  Sell them with valuable information that solves their problems (content marketing!). Entertain them when appropriate.  Give them what they want.

Which leads us to the question: what do your social media users want to see?  What not only captures their interest, but keeps it?  What makes them follow your brand and come to you first when it’s time to buy?

Insider photos

As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  On social media, a fantastic quality image is worth likes, retweets, and comments.  That image can be from a camera, phone, or online photo service.  What it shouldn’t be from is a random copyrighted photo from the internet.  Nothing can get you in legal hot water faster than using random photos from the internet (we know, we’ve seen it). Use this article from Hootsuite to understand the basics of internet images and copyrights, and proceed with caution.

What can get you more likes, retweets, and comments than any stock image off the internet are “insider photos.”  These are photos that give your audience insight into your business, services, and products.  They are photos of what you’ve done, the people delivering the services (with their written permission), and all the small things that happen along the way.  You know what we’re talking about, because you’ve probably seen other businesses post them: pictures of their work, photos congratulating an employee on their anniversary, photos of their product being used…there are a million possibilities (many in your daily operations).  If you need help identifying those opportunities, it’s time to contact the pros.

Videos

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million clicks.  After all, that is what made YouTube the second biggest channel in social media today.  Use professional videos, amateur photos edited at the office, and a short video (really short-60 seconds max for Instagram) from your mobile devices to build anticipation for an event, give your audience insight into your daily operations, and show them how they can use your products to help them.  Your videos don’t have to be long; remember, you need to capture your user’s short attention spans and you only have a short time to do so (and a whole bunch of other media in their social media feed to compete against).

Memes

When used correctly, a good social media meme can be a valuable part of any social media plan.  One disclaimer: be careful when choosing your memes and the timing of your memes.  Don’t post anything that offend or cause backlash against your business.  If you have any concerns about the appropriateness or timing (such as after a tragedy), don’t post it.

Those are the don’ts of using memes in your social media plan, these are the do’s.  Post memes that fit with your marketing plan.  Remember, the study mentioned at the beginning of this article: don’t over promote.  Memes are meant to be entertaining, so entertain your audience; you should know who they are, so target the humor directly at them.

Value

Everyone’s got problems.  Give them answers.  If you own or manage a pet food business, help your pet owners with training tips for their puppies and grooming tips for their cats.  Use content marketing to optimize your website and for relevant articles for your social media followers (more ways to use this content here).

Along with your content, share other content as well.  The digital world is full of information that can help your social media audience.  Find those articles and share them (along with other video and visual content) with your followers.  If your followers ask a question, answer them promptly (within hours of their comment or message)—and keep giving them what they want on social media so you can get more questions, comments, and engagement.

8 Things to Consider BEFORE Your Website Redesign

smartphone with URL address of a website redesignWe can’t emphasize the importance of a stellar website enough.  PEOPLE, it’s important.  Not important like that math project you didn’t want to do as a kid, but was told you would always use when you grew up—and never used again.  IMPORTANT.

A well-designed and functional website is like the foundation of a house.  If well done, it’s a solid support.  If your foundation isn’t strong, the rest of your marketing efforts are going to be ineffective.  After all, you can spend all your time trying to drive traffic to your website, but what good are your efforts if you can’t convert because of a poorly designed and built website?

We can attest to it. We’ve seen it: a great social media presence with all the essential elements, a blog full of excellent optimized content, marketing strategy that integrates it all—all based on a sub-par website that leaves visitors confused—and not buying. That’s why we’ve put these tips together to help you get through the website design process (either on your own or by relying on the experts) without feeling like you wasted your time and efforts.

KISS

We can’t stress this enough; usually business owners come to the initial website redesign planning meeting with a list of what they want—and everything in “an easy-to-find spot.”  To be clear: there’s no crime in having a wish list for your new website, but an overcrowded home page is incredibly ineffective—and can actually sabotage goals you’re trying to achieve with your new website.

Use the ‘KIS’ from the KISS adage when designing your website: keep it simple.  Have a goal for your website, and keep your website home page—and every internal page—simple and strategic so your customers and potential customers can focus on call-to-actions.  Website call-to-actions can include buttons, video, or text options: (i.e. for more information, get a free quote, download, etc.)

Content

Website content should be more than a block of text copied from a company brochure; it should be drafted specifically for your targeted online audience and search engines.  The first step is to identify your target audience and information that needs to be included (you may need to ask customers outside of your company for this information).  Once you start drafting content, keep the target audience and your secondary audience, search engines, in mind as you write your content.  Note that search engines are a secondary audience; you don’t want to write so much for the search engines that potential customers are driven away.  While this approach may result in improve search engine rankings, your bounce rate is going to increase and your conversion rate decrease.  If this sounds like a lot of gibberish, it may be wise to contact a website redesign professional about their optimized website writing services.

Media

PLEASE, please, please don’t invest the time and energy in a new website and not include any images or videos.  Images and videos are an opportunity; they are a chance to grab your reader’s attention, and keep it with interactive videos.  When choosing your images and videos, don’t settle for any less than high-quality relevant photos and videos on your new website—without landing in legal hot water.  As nice as it is to find images and videos on the internet, know your legal rights to use the photos and videos you use.  Using copyrighted images can open your company to serious (and expensive) legal repercussions (here’s more information on image rights and legalities).

Choose images for your website wisely and note the ‘relevant’ part of the right image. As much as you may love roman columns, a website for a pet grooming business full of roman columns is not a good fit.

Function & Navigation

A properly-organized website with intuitive navigation is more than a work of art; its part of an excellent user experience that converts users to customers. Approach your website redesign organization not as a business owner, but as a potential customer.  What do they want to know?  Where would they look?  Once you have a proposed organization of your website, use a sounding board to perfect your website navigation—and don’t stop.  Part of the website redesign process is testing and retesting until your final live deadline (and even after).

Optimization

If your site is well optimized, online searches should be one of the top sources of website traffic.  Local website traffic is essential for retail and businesses that rely on local users who need a quote or want to buy their products; think of the user looking for a service who picks up their smart phone asks Google for a list of local businesses that can solve their problem. Website optimization technology targets search engine users in cities and communities within 10, 20, or 50 miles from your location (or locations).  With professionally-written optimized content and technology, local optimization can get your well-built website redesign on the first page of search engine results.

Speed

Online users are tired of waiting for slow websites, and Google has taken note.  You should too (or the pros you hire to build your website) because faster websites gain you favor with Google and your online users.  If you don’t believe Google, look at the statistics: a recent study by KISSmetrics, 40% of users leave a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load.  As you build your new website, use this statistic when you look at page loading, image and video selection, and all other aspects of the final website product.

Mobile-friendly

It was a momentous day when Google announced the amount of mobile searches had surpassed the amount of desktop searches. Since that day, it’s also been clear that this is more than a passing trend—and another reason to design a new mobile-friendly website.  What does that mean? A mobile-friendly website is easy-to-read on mobile devices, has large buttons, a comprehensive contact us page, and a mobile-friendly structure.  If you approach a company or individual about a website redesign and there is no mention of a mobile website (not a separate one but a capability of your site), move on to your next website redesign option.  It’s that important.

Marketing Strategy

A website is the foundation of a solid marketing strategy, so keep your overall marketing goals in mind as you redesign your website.  If content marketing and social media are part of your plan, draft a website that is a valuable part of your marketing puzzle (or contact marketing pros that can fit all the pieces together).

5 Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Sales

Dollar Bills from solid business social media presence With The Word CashThere are a lot of reasons why business owners and managers jump into social media, but one of the most recurring motivations is the incredibly general, “we’re here to increase sales.”  While you may have more concrete goals in your marketing plan, that motivation is the underlying justification that rationalizes all the time invested in posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms (choose carefully).  Here are some ways to turn that motivation into actionable social media tactics when you set your company’s online marketing plan.

Include sales in your social media plan

Hopefully, every social media update you post is done with your audience in mind and answers the question, “what do they want to know?” Combine that with the business goals and a clear voice and you’ve got a winner of a marketing plan.

Undoubtedly, one area your audience is interested in is saving money. If you’re running a sale that helps them with that, include it in your list of planned posts and tweets.  To be clear: that doesn’t mean you should fill up your plan with only information about your latest sale, but it does mean that you should post sales ads AND informational posts in line with your sale goals (think 80% info/20% sales posts).  For example, if you’re running a sale on dog leashes, schedule posts and tweets about the sale AND posts that help your audience with dog training and aids (like leashes!). If you can’t wrap your mind around that kind of plan—-or you don’t have the time—consider hiring a marketing company to set a marketing plan and get results (here’s why).

Make it easy for your audience to ask for quotes.

The path to a sale is not always clear cut, especially if you need to provide a quote or estimate before the sale.  Make getting that quote or estimate easy for your potential customers: answer comments and messages that come through social media quickly, add a contact button to your Facebook page, and include your contact information to your profile picture (or hire experts that can).

Your customers expect you to answer them within a few hours of their message, so be ready to answer and use these customer service tips to complete the transaction.  If your customer is sending you a message via social media, don’t make them work hard to get information; try to answer them on their chosen form of communication, social media, and give them the option to call if needed.

Create clear call-to-actions in your content

If you’re taking advantage of all the benefits of a solid content marketing effort (and you should be), include a clear call-to-action in your content.  Your call-to-action doesn’t always have to be a hard-sell to get results (sales), use subtle call-to-actions as well (i.e. for more information, to find out more, etc.) Make sure your content is sharable as well, so your potential customers can share it easily.

Of course, you can’t get customers to click on your content unless you’re producing regular, relevant, and high-quality content. (More about the essential elements of high-quality content here.)  Use strong headlines and images to make your content stand out and, ultimately, catch your customers’ attention.

Use strategic videos.

Video is becoming a powerful tool in the business marketing tool box, especially when it comes to social media.  Social media platform after platform is giving organizations more options for posting videos.  Take advantage of it; produce videos that entertain and inform with a clear call-to-action.  Remember, that not every video has to be professionally produced.  When appropriate, videos from a mobile device can serve as a personal “insider view” into your business (and products and services).

Use social media reviews as social proof.

Today’s customers find you through online searches, and choose your business through online research—including your social media channels.  Since your business is consistently striving to provide excellent customer service, now it’s time to be rewarded for it.  Use those excellent social media reviews (from your excellent customer service) as social proof, one of the top reasons customers give as a deciding factor in choosing a business.

If you get a negative review, go out of your way to reach out to the customer (invite them to discuss details through a private message) and resolve the customer’s issue (more tips on online customer service here).  Showcase your responsiveness and excellent customer service—two key factors that’ll bring new customers in the door.

5 Elements of GREAT Content Marketing that Stands Out From the Crowd

content marketing pro trying to make her content stand out in a crowd

Make your content stand out in the crowd

There are so many benefits of content marketing, and it seems almost every business—small and large—is pumping out content, both visual and text, both good and bad.  If you’re one of those businesses, or want to be, one of the biggest challenges is to make your content stand out from the crowd—to produce good content that is as good, or better, than the best.

So how do you produce quality content?  What qualifies as “good” content marketing that people want to click on, and search engines want to deliver on the search engine results page (SERP)?  While you can find dozens of articles with complex explanations, here is the recipe for a solid content marketing strategy in straightforward terms that you can use to produce solid content.

Plan

You wouldn’t go on a road trip without a GPS or map, would you?  Use that same attitude when approaching your content marketing trip.  Before you start, plan out your trip: who you’re writing to, what they want, and how you can drive them to your goal.

This is where a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work (and an approach that too many businesses take).  Instead, customize your content, in the voice you use, choice of headlines, and the topics you cover, to your audience for optimal results.

Research

This comes in two forms: relevancy for your target audience (who you’re writing for) and the search engines.  What does your audience want?  What problems do they need to solve?  What entertains them?  Remember you’re trying to reach your audience and not turn them off, so try to avoid creating content that sounds like a blaring radio advertisement (at least not all them time).  If you can reach the first group with good content, the secondary audience (search engines) follows—if you write about relevant topics and use significant keywords and images.

Don’t get us wrong; we’re not telling you to stuff your content full of keywords.  Keyword stuffing can get your website penalized.  Instead, ask yourself what your audience wants to know and what relevant keywords your audience would use.  This is a fine art (writing relevant, optimized content); you can’t write so much for search engines that you turn off your primary audience and vice versa.  There’s no shame or blame in outsourcing this skill to the pros; companies often use marketing agencies for all their content or supplementary content that complements their marketing efforts.

Timing

A strong content marketing plan is built with relevant content published on a regular basis.  This is where many content writers go wrong; they plan an ambitious calendar of posts but don’t keep up with regular, relevant content.  You can find evidence of this on company blogs throughout the internet: blogs started with regular content, then abandoned because of a lack of time and knowledge (if the latter is true, it’s time to consider outsourcing your content marketing).

We’ve seen this firsthand as well; some of our clients started blogs with good intentions, but couldn’t keep up or wrote sales-focused posts that didn’t yield results.  At a loss for time and expertise, they contacted us to continue their content marketing efforts.  Now, they contact us on a regular basis with information about their customers, business, and sales cycle—and reap the benefits of regular, relevant content.

Images

Content marketing without an image or video is only half a full content marketing effort; statistics have consistently shown that content marketing promotion without images and video perform worse than blog and social media posts with.  Simply put, you’re not putting all the ammunition in your content marketing cannon.

To clarify, your video and images don’t always need to be taken by a professional photographer; when appropriate, a video taken on your phone or a candid snapshot can give your content marketing an advantage.  These images (again, if appropriate for your brand) can give you the opportunity to tell a story and establish yourself as an authority/professional in your field.

Promotion

Good content that isn’t promoted is like a really good secret that no one can hear—and is not going to get your company results.  Ensure that your content is sharable, mobile-friendly, and part of a good content promotion plan.  The last step of any solid content marketing plan is to promote your content (more about content promotion here), coordinate it into your digital marketing plan, and integrate your online and offline marketing.

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

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