Monthly Archives: March 2016

20 Things You Can Learn from Our 20 Years of Marketing

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20 Target Showing Anniversary of our Experienced Marketing CompanyCue drum roll.

We’re been around for 20 years. That’s right, we’ve provided 20 years of marketing services. In those 20 years, we’ve learned a thing or two (or three or 20 or…).  We could write a novel about how marketing (and online marketing) has evolved over the years, but everyone loves a list (it is one of the most popular content marketing ideas). We’ve found that one of the most important services we can provide is educating our clients…so here it goes: 20 concepts about search engine optimization, email marketing, social media and content marketing you can use in your online marketing efforts.

  1. Online marketing ALWAYS changes.
  2. Knowing your audience has, and always will be, the #1 rule of marketing. It’s also the key to success.
  3. Small businesses can achieve BIG results on an affordable budget. Don’t assume an online marketing company is too expensive.
  4. There’s no shame or blame in outsourcing your company’s marketing. Many a marketing effort has, and will, fail because of a manager or owner with good intentions.
  5. There are do’s and don’ts of outsourcing that every company manager or owner should understand if they want to get marketing results.
  6. The best inspiration for your marketing can be found with the people who interact with your customers.
  7. Search engine optimization is always evolving (it’s not dead, just evolving). This is one SEO myth that drives us crazy—among others.
  8. Not all search engine optimization technology is created equal.
  9. Design your website for your audience (see #2) and optimize your site for search engines and your customers.
  10. Integrate ALL your marketing tools for optimal results.
  11. ALWAYS remember you are marketing to humans. Don’t focus too much on search engines; you are writing for real people (if you need assistance, outsource—see #4).
  12. Content marketing is not advertising. Stop yelling at your customers! Instead, ask this question.
  13. Headlines matter…in the “old” days on mail pieces, and today in email and content marketing.
  14. Every content marketing plan needs to be accompanied by a solid promotion plan.
  15. You don’t have to be on every social media site (here’s how to target your efforts).
  16. Marketing doesn’t work without excellent customer service to back it up.
  17. Be smart with the ways you cut corners in your social marketing efforts—it can backfire.
  18. Don’t jump into social media without everything you need to achieve results—and don’t be intimidated by the list of social media must-haves. Small businesses can achieve results on a small budget (see #4).
  19. You have to commit to online marketing, and stick to it. This is just one of two R’s to use in online marketing.
  20. There is so much more to learn, and continue to learn, about online marketing (see #1). Follow marketing blogs and publications for information, or outsource to a company that keeps up with the latest information and trends.

6 Ways to Win Over Your Online Audience

A happy online audience: group of happy people looking at a tablet computerYour email recipients, social media followers, or website visitors may not be as tangible as a customer who walks into your business, but you can still win over your online audience in your email marketing, social media, search engine optimization pages, and content marketing pieces.  Remember, these are people you are reaching; believe it or not a fair number of marketers have lost touch with that fact—and these best practices of online marketing.

Be relevant.

You’re not going to win over your online audience if they don’t feel you can relate to them. Plan accordingly: what does your audience care about? What entertains them? What do they want to know? Choose subjects for your emails, social media posts, articles, and website pages that provide value and fit the pain points and voice of your audience. Pair those online marketing efforts with clickable headlines and you create a win-win situation for you and your audience.

Don’t ignore them.

This is one of the most common mistakes we see, and it comes in two forms: 1) by not answering emails and social media messages and 2) by ignoring negative responses and comments. If you receive an email off of your website, respond promptly. If you don’t have a full response immediately, let the customer know that you are collecting information and will get back to them—then follow-up as soon as you can. Not responding to customers with negative feedback can also back fire in another way, leading to a social media page full of negative reviews and angry comments.

Stop trying to trick them.

frustrated womanSensational email subject lines, click baiting headlines, misleading social media posts…they give us shivers just thinking about all the different ways companies and agencies try to trick their customers. DON’T do it. You’re not going to build trust with your customers, and your time and efforts are a waste. Unless it’s April Fool’s Day and the trick is for fun, don’t destroy the relationship you built with your audience with underhanded tactics.

Provide excellent customer service.

Stop thinking of online customer service as different than in-person customer service. If a potential customer calls you on the phone, or walks into your office, they expect to talk to someone. An email from your website or a message (other than solicitation emails) through one of your social media channels deserves the same prompt customer service response. Respond quickly, and follow these other rules for excellent online customer service to reap the rewards. Remember, customers appreciate your efforts, and studies have shown they do choose a company that provides excellent customer service over another competitor—even when the product or service costs more.

Stop yelling at them.

Businessman sitting at table and screaming in megaphone on laptop while content marketingNo one likes an obnoxious jerk; that’s true for in-person and online marketing. Stop screaming only advertisements and start building trust. Give your customers, and potential customers, information that can help them (you get more points if you optimize your content for customers and search engines—here’s how here) and include strong calls to action. That doesn’t mean you should stop advertising, but it does mean that you are going to sabotage your efforts if your social media page is full of “buy this!” “buy that!” The same goes for your emails and content marketing. Win your audience over the same way you win a spouse over: with time and trust. Very few people are going to say “yes” to an obnoxious proposal on the first date.

Be present.

Studies have shown that regular marketing gets regular results—if your marketing efforts offer value to your customers. Online marketing is a marathon. Create a marketing plan with regular touches (content marketing articles, social media posts, mail pieces, emails, etc.) and stick to it. If you can’t keep up with your marketing plan, partner with a company that can produce optimized, customized marketing pieces specific to your business on a regular schedule that reaches your audience—all the elements of a marketing plan that wins over your audience.

6 Must Haves for a Solid Business Social Media Strategy

business social media marketing plan factors: phone with people and social media network logosWe could go on and on and on and on about executing a successful social media strategy for your business. There’s so much to know, and social media tactics are always evolving. But when you really break down a social media strategy, there are a very short list of bare bone elements, or must haves, to make social media work for your business. It’s up to you to use your knowledge and experience to turn those must haves into a successful and unique social media strategy for your business (or to choose a company that can).

Good Plan

A good social media plan uses knowledge of two key factors: your audience and business calendar (i.e. what products sell during what seasons, what events book during certain times of the year, etc.). We cannot emphasize how much the first factor is essential to social media success. Knowing your target audience facilitates 1) choosing what social media networks to utilize so you don’t waste your efforts on social media networks where your target audience is not; 2) determining your tone so you are speaking to your target audience; 3) dictating the content you create and post that suits your audience.

Another sign of a good social media plan is a strategic hybrid of promotional and relevant content, of pre-planned and flexible posts that reflect current events. Today’s customers don’t want to be barraged by advertisements and sales pitches. Use the 80/20 guide. Try to schedule 20% promotional and 80% posts that are entertaining (if appropriate), relevant and valuable to your customers.

Scheduling tool

To execute a stellar social media plan and efficiently use your time, select a good scheduling tool, such as Hootsuite and Buffer that can save you time by scheduling quality posts. Don’t schedule too far ahead of time so you can stay on top of trending topics, and be flexible with your plan when needed. Share relevant content from other sources, and mix posts with links to your original content in to your social media plan.

Hash tags

On select social media channels, such as Twitter and Instagram, hash tags are not optional —at least not for anyone looking for results. Posts with relevant hash tags can expose your post to potential followers interested in your industry or topic. To be honest, sometimes we wonder why people aren’t using hash tags; they are an essential part of any marketing strategy. With hash tags comes a very strong word of caution, though: don’t go overboard. Using more than four hash tags can sabotage your results.

Hash tags are also invaluable when starting a conversation, running a photo contest, promoting an event, or executing a social media campaign. Select original hash tags without any “online baggage” (i.e. used before with negative connotations or feedback, taken from a competitor) and promote them through an integrated marketing campaign that includes online and offline marketing efforts.

URL Shortener

Even if you use channels that don’t count characters, a URL shortening tool such as bitly or ow.ly gives your social media posts focus—so your audience isn’t distracted by your long, long website link URL. Most social media management tools include a URL shortener that you can use when you schedule posts.

Great images

Statistic after statistic has shown that social media posts with images receive significantly more engagement than posts without. If you use images, note the ‘great’ in our headline; amateur-looking, mediocre or blurry photos or videos won’t cut it. Use this handy cheat sheet to create images optimal for your social media network, and be very selective about the images you create or choose.

If you utilize Pinterest or Instagram, 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.

Time

Executing a successful social media plan does not just happen; a well-thought out social media plan requires a great deal of time. Statistics have repeatedly shown that companies have higher levels of engagement if they regularly post to social media. What is the definition of “regular”? The answer depends on the social media network you use, and your target audience; on some social media networks, such as Facebook, your efforts can actually backfire if you post too much. On the other hand, on Twitter, the more you tweet, the more opportunities you create because of the short life span of the average tweet. Whatever schedule you find works for your company and social media strategy, choose quality over quantity. Twenty ‘junk’ tweets 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 to the experts for optimal social media results.