Monthly Archives: December 2016

5 Areas to Invest Your Marketing Dollars in 2017

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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

Small Business Owners: 4 Marketing Terms You Should Know (& Use!)

business growth chart with people celebrating business growth from online marketingWhen you’re looking to grow your business, there are a lot places you can turn to: fellow business owners, consultants, marketing firms.  All of them can feel like you’re swimming upstream without a paddle and stranded in a sea of marketing jargon.  And the whole time you’re listening all you want to do is run and grow your business.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of marketing terms every small business owner should know and use to grow their business.  Or, more accurately, if you only want to run your business and not worry about marketing, what jargon to look for when you contact marketing firms about these online marketing tactics (otherwise known as jargon).

Website Optimization/SEO

It used to be that all you needed was a beautiful website to grow your business online.  Today a beautifully-designed website is not enough to get your business customers off the web.  Your website just sits without promotion—unless you optimize your website for search engines.

An optimized website starts with a well-built website, structured for search engines.  Your optimized website should have an easy-to-navigate menu system and fast loading speed, both for optimal user experience and search engine credit.  The next step is adding optimized content to your website, written for search engines and customers.  Make sure your contact information is clearly included on your website for customers and search engines to use.  Use compelling images on your website optimized for search engines and to get customers’ attention. Make your website mobile-friendly for the benefit of smart phone and tablet users alike (and a huge turn-off to customers and search engines if your website isn’t mobile-friendly). How can you tell if your current website is optimized well? Ask the pros.

To expand the reach of your optimized website, consider search engine optimization which is everything mentioned above with a technological boost.  SEO technology is offered by specialized companies that keep up with this evolving technology (more information here).  There are several types of SEO technology, but we’ve seen great success for companies that use local SEO to target a local audience.

Local SEO technology targets users that are searching online in your target area. Local SEO gets business websites at the top of search engine listings in towns and cities within a 10, 20, or 50 mile radius.  Think of it as a prominently displayed modern phonebook ad—without looking like an ad.  SEO gets your website in the listings below the ads, which is important when you look at the statistics. Today, 54% of Americans have substituted the Internet and local search for phone books (comScore) and 95% of smartphone users have looked for local information (Source: The Mobile Movement Study, Google/Ipsos OTX MediaCT , Apr 2011). 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search engine results.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the equivalent of an online newsletter article posted online regularly, though it doesn’t always have to be an article.  Content marketing is the strategic producing of videos, images, and articles that give your customers/readers something.  That ‘something’ can be an answer to a problem, entertainment (when appropriate), or information.

All of this content is added to your website on a regular basis (several times a week, once a week, once every two weeks, etc.)  So how does all this good content (find out how to tell if your content is good here) help grow your company? If you plan your content and marketing of that content well, your blog posts can be a valuable asset to your customers and potential customers.  Your content can help them with their problems, build their trust, and entertain them (when appropriate).

Content marketing also has another benefit: it gives your website more credibility in the eyes of search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.  Adding content to your website adds more valuable pages (if you post excellent content) that search engines want to deliver to their users.  This in turn can help boost where your website is listed in search engine results when customers and potential customers search for your business.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is more than just a place to keep up with your friends.  It’s also a valuable place to market your business, so you don’t alienate your personal friends with sales pitches.  More than that, it’s an excellent platform to market your brand.

More than that, social media is an ideal place to connect with your customers even when they don’t need you.  Pictures of your staff (when appropriate) and day-to-day operations, entertaining memes, content that answers their questions—all these types of content give your business a face and a personal connection with potential customers (here’s how to build that social media following).  One note: marketing your business on social media is only effective if you post regularly so your connection is consistent (other signs of a solid social media presence are listed here).

Email Marketing

Sending emails to your customers is one of the most effective ways to grow your business—if you do it right.  Build a solid email list (here’s how to and how not to build an email list).  Write emails with strong headlines and content.  Strong headlines are not always sales pitches, they are creative attention-grabbers.

The content of a successful email is different for every company, but it doesn’t have to include a lot of text.  Give your customers value, like a discount or information that your readers want.  Make it worth their while to open your email—and to click on the links to your optimized website, social media marketing, and content marketing pages.