Monthly Archives: September 2015

Are you taking advantage of all the digital marketing tools that increase sales?

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search engine optimizationYou know you need to do something about online marketing, but you don’t know what. You’ve heard all the buzz terms: social media, search engine optimization, content marketing, online marketing, email marketing, digital marketing, blog; but you have no idea what they mean, and how to use them for your business. You’re not alone; we talk to business owners and managers every day who are in the same boat. They know their business needs the online exposure. They know it is the wave of the future as statistics repeatedly show that more people are using online to find local businesses—and not the phone book.

Increasingly, we’re finding more and more of our job is to educate business owners about these tools; they know they need them, but they don’t know why or even what they are. We’ve addressed why in past blog posts, but here’s the what of digital tools and, more importantly, how to make them work for your business.

SEO

local seoSearch engine optimization is just what it says—creating an optimal website for search engines to browse and rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). There are three different ways to optimize your website:

  • By creating regular and fresh user-friendly web pages/content users want to read.
  • By using search engine optimization tactics on your website such as writing accurate headlines and excellent content on each page.
  • By hiring a search engine optimization firm to optimize your website and use specialized SEO technology to target your local customers and get to the top of their search engine list.

Local search engine optimization technology can get you in front 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, you need to integrate search engine optimization into your marketing strategy because people are looking for products, services and information online—a lot of people. More than 90% of users turn to search engines for information, and local SEO technology—like KD Interactive’s—can get your business website in organic search engine listings using long-tail keywords your audience searches for.

Content Marketing

content marketingContent marketing is creating and sharing content. One of the most effective content marketing tools we have found is a blog. A blog is a website filled with content, such as written articles, videos, photos, podcasts, infographics—the possibilities are endless. The goal of a blog is two-fold:

  • To give your audience what they want. The #1 rule of marketing is to know your audience. If you are a sports retailer, your audience is going to be different than a spa or wedding venue’s customers. Find out what your audience wants to know and give it to them. How do you figure that out? Ask them. Listen to them on your social media sites. In a way, you’re using a business blog to provide customer service.
  • Build trust. If you give your customers and potential customers what they want: entertainment, answers to their questions, knowledge, you can earn their trust. In the old days, this trust was earned over the phone or in person. Now, customers are using search engines to find information. They’re cruising the web because it’s convenient and easy to find what they need, both in information, services and products. Or they’re clicking on links they receive in their email. A business blog gives them the information they’re looking for on the internet, and gives them links to find more out about products or to contact a business. A second part of this goal is that regular content builds trust with a tool that more than 90% of online users turn to for information: search engines. Top search engines gauge your website’s validity and the strength of your pages based on the content of your website pages. By posting regular blog posts, you are showing search engines that your content is updated, quality and relevant—three criteria they use to rank websites for search engine users.

A business blog is full of content that should be shared via social media sites, emails to your customers, as guest posts on other blogs, even as customer service when a question is asked.

Successful business blogs contain relatable and regular content. What does regular mean? Regular means that you post content once, twice, or three times a week, or twice a month—whatever you can manage—without gaps in content posting. Unfortunately, many business blog writers start out with best of intentions and lose steam. If you don’t have time for a business blog, contact a content marketing company that can keep your blog updated with content specific to your business. We’ve said it before: there’s no shame or blame in outsourcing. Use this list of do’s and don’ts for outsourcing, and remember that you still need to allocate time to give input to get maximum content marketing results.

Social Media Marketing

social media marketingSocial media marketing is using a social media network (or networks) as a way to communicate with your customers and potential customers, and for them to communicate with you through posts, comments, and reviews. This is a two-way street! While you may be on social media networks for sales conversions, this is your chance to listen to what your customers want and give them relevant resources to help solve their problems (and no the answer to their life problems is not always your product or service!). Social media marketing also gives your business other benefits:

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

When choosing what social media network to join, determine where your audience is online. For example, if your audience is predominantly female, choose a social media network with a strong female following. Also factor in the amount of time and commitment you have for the network or networks. Many a business has signed up for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the works because they want to be everywhere and everything, without a thought about the amount of time it takes to properly maintain each social media network. Each network has its own audience and way of doing things. If you’re not playing by the “rules” on each social media network, you’re not going to get the results you signed up for. A solid social media presence has:

  • Regular posts (the definition of regular is dependent upon the social media network)
  • Relevant resources for your customers
  • A customer-centric presence, not a business-centric approach
  • Prompt replies to customers questions and comments (excellent customer service)

If you want to cash in on the benefits and opportunities that come with social media but don’t have the time, outsource your business social media page or profile to experts that can manage your social media network(s). Remember, don’t measure your success on the number of followers, but on the number of engaged followers.

Email Marketing

digital marketingStatistics have repeatedly shown that using emails to communicate with your customers and potential customers gets results. A staggering 66% of online users made a purchase as a result of email marketing. To get started in email marketing, you need emails of interested customers. Note the catch: interested customers, so don’t start buying random email lists. Even worse, if you “steal” emails, such as sending numerous emails to an email account without proper consent; you run the risk of getting your server blacklisted after the email user flags your emails as junk. So what’s the best way to create a valuable list of interested customers?

  • Give them an incentive. Offer your customers a one-time discount if they sign up for your email list.
  • Create a graphic or pop up on your website or blog. Chances are, if the user is interested in your website or blog articles, they want to know to more. This is your chance to deliver with emails that contain valuable information and discounts.
  • Include your ask in your pitch at tradeshows and events. Train every salesman or staff member to incorporate a request for a prospect’s email address in their sales pitch. Take the opportunity to keep the interest of potential customers with valuable information (not just sales pitches) and relevant discounts.
  • Give your customers the option during or after their purchase. Add an opt-in option for customers making on-line purchases. Put a card in your shipments asking customers to keep in touch.
  • Ask your customers for their email addresses on social media. Create a social media contest, and include a request for their email in the contest. Just make sure you are honest about what you are asking; you don’t want to lose your customers’ trust.

Once you’ve got a reliable email list, make sure you don’t just blast out emails with sales offers. Take the same approach you take to your social media marketing and content marketing efforts; be sure to include all the significant parts of a successful email:

  • Create great subject line. All great email headlines speak to your audience. Whether that is through an attention-grabbing headline (e.g. 5 things you’re doing wrong) or a title that speaks to their pain point or entertains them. Don’t produce a headline to get their attention, or uses all the key words that your audience is looking for, and doesn’t deliver any value. Remember, the best way to sell to a customer is to build their trust. Misleading them has the opposite effect.
  • Use different media and visuals. Don’t use a one-size-fits-all mentality when planning and selecting visuals for your digital marketing efforts. Create videos and graphics for every different preference, or purchase them.
  • Craft a strong call-to-action (CTA). The definition of a CTA is not always about a purchase. A call-to-action can be a graphic, asking your audience to contact you with questions (remember you want to build trust) or inviting their input (about a product, a funny picture, anything).
  • Keep testing. Test out what email captures your audience’s attention, keeps it, and drives them to purchase.

Integration

Remember that all these digital marketing tools are most effective as part of a digital marketing tool box. Always make sure that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing; create a schedule to make sure that you are taking full advantage of your digital marketing efforts. If you don’t have time, find an effective marketing company that can; outsourcing can be the solution that guarantees that your business is getting the most out of your digital marketing tools.

Business Blog Ideas to Combat Your Writer’s Block

ideas for blogger's with writer's blockIt’s the bane of any business blogger’s existence: writer’s block. What do I write about today? What’s relevant to my audience? What else is there to write about?

Hopefully, your writer’s block is more than thwarting a whim; it’s an interruption to your content marketing plan, because a strategic content marketing plan is more effective than writing about everything and anything that comes to mind. We’ll give you a prime example: when we took over content marketing efforts, we inherited a company’s business blog. After a quick scroll through the business’ blog, we found that we had to completely start from scratch because the posts were about musings from going on a walk with the writer’s dog and other non-relevant content. Very few of the posts were about the company’s business or their audience’s interests—and who’s going to be driven to a website about if they don’t have any relevant and valuable content that can help them?

A strategic marketing plan also has another benefit; creating a content marketing plan leads to consistent content, the second ingredient in a successful marketing campaign. Unfortunately, creating consistent content also leads to writer’s block, leaving you searching for writing ideas. So how do you come up with new ideas for content?

Talk to your salesperson & business owner

A business blog is not—should not—be a one-person job. That’s not to mean that one person can’t do all the writing to produce content for the blog, but a GOOD business blog requires a village. Talk to your business owner or a salesperson for ideas. You don’t have to take up hours of their time, just have a simple conversation with them. At KD Interactive, we always get the input of a contact from the business, though many of them don’t think they have “blog ideas.” Once we start asking questions, we find they know more than they think. Ask your salesperson, “what are your customers asking about?” “What are the latest industry trends that appeal to your customers?” “What are common problems that your customers encounter?”

Research your industry

What are latest trends and new products? Are there any new solutions that you can make your customers aware of? Remember, one of your top business blog goals is to give value to your audience. Write a blog post that delivers with new solutions or products that resolve their problems, or new trends that they can utilize in their life.

Look at the calendar

What kind of services are your customers looking for this time of year? Are there any national holidays you get inspiration from? How is the calendar affecting your audience’s lives? Make sure you stay ahead of the game (another reason to create a content calendar) so you’re not late to the party. You don’t want your blog post to look like an afterthought.

Create a list

Most likely, you found this post because you’re looking for ideas—you’re not the only one. Give your audience what you want; a list filled with ideas, tips, or topics relevant to them.

Still don’t have any ideas? Or don’t have time to come up with ideas and create consistent, relevant content? If you find that you don’t have the content marketing expertise, time to keep posting content on your blog or that you’re losing steam in your content marketing efforts, outsource your blog to a company experienced in content marketing. Even though you are putting your blog content in an expert’s hands, don’t walk away. Your input is a valuable part of successful content marketing, so use these do’s and don’ts for working with a marketing company. (And be wary of marketing companies that don’t ask for your input).

Remember, content marketing is not an “overnight success” marketing tactic. A quality business blog is a marathon effort, built on relevant and regular content for your audience. If you stay in the marathon (even amidst the writer’s block), you and your customers can reap the rewards of a good, relevant business blog.

6 Rules for Delivering Excellent Customer Service on Social Media

online customer service

Can your company deliver excellent customer service online?

We’ve all done it: while researching local companies delivering x product or service, you click on one of their social media icons on their website to find out what past customers thought of their service. You browse through the complaints, the inquiries, and the glowing reviews to find out if that company was the best at delivering the product or service—and customer service—that you expect. After all, who wants to work with a company that doesn’t respond when you need them—and respond well?

Turns out, we’re not alone; a recent study from BrightLocal found that 92% of consumers read online reviews from local companies (up from 88% in 2014). The advent and evolution of social media gives them the opportunity to check up on you on a neutral platform, and talk back; almost 42% expect a response within an hour of posting on a company’s social media. To be sure, customers have set their expectations high, and there’s a good reason for you to deliver: studies have consistently shown that customers choose a product from a company that delivers good customer service even if the price of the is more than a competitor. The bonus is that they’ll also leave positive ratings about your company because of that service, which other potential customers notice and use to make their purchasing decision.

Is your company ready to meet their high expectations for online customer service? Delivering excellent customer service on social media cannot be delivered flippantly without a plan. How are you going to be notified about your customers’ inquiries? How are you going to respond to positive and negative reviews? Who is going to be in charge of the responses? What kind of training do they need? Every company is going to respond to these questions differently based on company culture and staff expectations; however, you can use these general rules to deliver the service that your customers expect, and deserve.

Respond promptly

You don’t have to be online 24/7; this would be difficult for most companies, especially smaller businesses with less resources. Be very clear about your company hours, and respond promptly within those hours, or as soon as possible the next morning. Make sure you have set your notifications so you know when a customer has posted to your social media sites, and create a smooth system so you can respond quickly—without having to go through an arduous process of management approval before posting. Managers, make sure you choose a staff member to deliver the customer service you trust; just because your intern is online all the time, doesn’t make them an ideal candidate for handling delicate customer inquiries. If you’re not available, or don’t have the staff on hand to deliver prompt customer service, don’t be afraid to outsource your efforts; a company with experience can deliver the customer service your customers expect—without you having to invest in the training.

Don’t ignore the negative

An online brand we follow had a customer who was not happy. His floor was not covered by warranty after it was damaged, and no one at the company was responding to his social media comments. For days afterward, the customer responded to every social media post with a rant. The company did not respond to the long complaints, and the rants grew worse.

The lesson: respond to the negative and positive comments. If you need more information or an in-depth forum to respond to their complaint, don’t be afraid to message the customer or ask them to message you so you can continue the conversation. Don’t assume that every angry comment means that you can’t win; you can still resolve many situations with excellent customer service. Believe it or not, you’ll also win their business again with this strategy.

If the customer inquiry is the fodder for an online crisis (such as a complaint about an employees’ rude or inappropriate comment), make your manager or CEO aware of the problem as soon as possible and involve them in the response process. Develop a plan for a possible crisis in advance; you don’t want to get caught “with your pants down” in a crisis situation.

Can the canned responses

One day when perusing my social media feed, I noticed a friend’s post. He shared a post from a company’s Facebook page written by a customer about a squeezable food product. The customer was unhappy because he found mold in his product (gross!), and he openly put the complaint on the company’s social media page. The company responded, but not before many, many other customers commented that they had the same problem with the product at one time or another. The company responded with a canned response to each complaint: “Please contact us with your issues at…” which fanned the fire; soon customers were commenting back to the company, “Aren’t you going to respond instead of copying and pasting the same reply to our complaint?”

Be human

That brings us to the next part of delivering customer service: type like you talk, and know your company’s voice. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sound professional, but that does mean your customer service response shouldn’t sound like a robot is responding. If your company is a pizza company with a younger audience, and a fun voice on social media, don’t be afraid to respond in that same voice; but don’t make fun of your customer or belittle their complaint. If your company has a B2B clientele, your response should sound more professional, but should still sound like a real, live human is there and ready to help.

Make it easy

Your customer shouldn’t have to work to get a resolution to their issue. Don’t make them jump through significant hoops or even have to pick up a phone. It is okay to ask for details in private messages and to ask for their information if you need to send something to them to resolve the issue; it’s not okay to start bombarding them with sales emails if they don’t ask (or give permission) for them.

Go above and beyond their expectations

Don’t assume that a bad customer experience equates to a lost customer. A few years ago, we ordered roast beef for a birthday party from a local shop. They said the order would be ready on Friday. When we called to make sure our order was ready on Friday, it wasn’t. The owner of the business called the next day with a sincere apology, reassurance that the order was ready for our party, and an offer to bring the order to our home. When he arrived, he brought extra of the order, and made sure we understood the cooking directions. Because he went above and beyond for us, we’d order from him again—and you can create the same favorable experience for your customers, even after a bad experience. Don’t think that because the interaction is online that you can’t deliver the same excellent customer experience; today’s social media is yesterday’s phone for many people, and your key to delivering excellent customer service.