Monthly Archives: August 2017

Local Businesses: Get Customers to Your Door (and Keep Them Coming Back)

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customer headed to local business after looking onlineIf you’re a brick-and-mortar business, it’s the million dollar question: how do you increase the amount of customers who walk through the door—and keep them coming back? The answer may not be as tangible as your company’s location (computers and the internet never are), but the results—customers walking in the door, contacting you, coming back time and time again—are real and rewarding as your business grows.

Target local customers (not just everyone!).

It’s hard to look at a crowd and not see dollar signs, but to effectively market you need to thin the crowd. As tempting as it might be to take a “the more the merrier” approach, it makes more cents (pun intended) to target your local customers. Customers residing thousands of miles away aren’t going to be ordering your product or services; you need them to be able to walk in the door.

As such, invest your budget to marketing tactics that targets your local customers: emails, mail marketing pieces, local search engine optimization. All three of these options target local customers in zip codes around your business. Email marketing does require an initial visit—-either in your store or on your website—but has a high return on investment if you deliver valuable information (not only sales information) to them every month. The return on your mail marketing pieces depends on value, whether the method fits your demographic, and—similar to your email—whether your piece delivers some value to your customer.

The third tactic, local search engine optimization, is verified by an important statistic: more than 90% of all customer searches for information start with on a search engine. The rise of mobile marketing has led to larger stakes: more than ¾ of all mobile searches end in an offline sale. Local search engine optimization targets your local customers (in zip codes within miles of your location) so they get the information they’re looking for—and the call-to-actions that lead them to contact your business (either in-person, via email or phone).

Build a solid foundation to your local marketing plan.

A block tower with a heavy top load is going to topple without a strong base. When marketing your business, this means you can promote your website—the base of your marketing—as much as you want; however, if your website isn’t strong, it’s not going to drive customers to you.

A strong website is comprised of a strong structure built for search engines, content targeted at your customers, call-to-actions that produce results, and contact information that makes it easy for your customers to contact you. Once you’ve built a strong website (more information about strong websites here), you can build a marketing plan with strategic promotion (i.e. social media, email marketing, local SEO, etc.)

Make your social media site very local-minded.

If social media is part of your marketing plan, show your customers why they should stop in. This recommendation comes with one disclaimer: you don’t want your customers to feel like you are screaming advertisements at them. Mix photos of your store and personnel, information of upcoming specials and sales, and other relevant tips and information in to your targeted marketing plan. Since you are local, add one other key component to your social media plan: information and pictures from local community events. Show your business is part of your community.

Take customer service to the next level.

There is one factor that can set your business apart from your national competitors, and studies have shown that customers are willing to pay more for it: prompt and excellent customer service. Now it’s your turn to prove it—every way your customers contact you. Respond promptly to e-mails, social media inquiries, phone calls, and in-person requests. Use these tips to respond, and respond quickly; prompt means within hours, or even minutes, of when the question comes in. Don’t shy away from a response if the inquiry is negative. Instead, use the opportunity to showcase your customer service skills. If the request is public (such as on social media), ask the customer to privately message you with details.

Monitor your online reviews.

Online reviews may seem inconsequential to your local business, but the reality is that online reviews can majorly impact your business. Social media and local review sites are full of negative and positive information left by your customers. Your potential customers see that information as they research your business, which is why you need to monitor the reviews and take steps to resolve negative reviews. If you want to make the process easier, contact a marketing firm with an automated system that informs you when reviews come in and gives you time to respond.

Strong Ways to Beef Up Your Mediocre Website

Fit woman showing her muscles ready to optimize websiteWe were going to write an article about how the stakes for today’s websites have been raised exponentionally. It’s not just enough to just have a website; modern websites have to be faster, better organized, optimized, and mobile-friendly.

Why?

Search engines and social media sites rank mobile-friendly sites higher. Online viewers are abandoning websites that don’t load quickly enough. The quality of content is important, both to search engines and customers.

This quest for the perfect website is getting real.

Mediocre websites just won’t cut it anymore. Your customers are demanding a well-designed, functional, easy-to-use website. You’re leaving money on the table if you don’t indulge them. Here’s how.

Add quality images and video.

People process images faster than text. Yet, one of the top offenses we see online is websites with sub-par images—or, even worse, no images. That does not mean you should steal images off the internet (repeat: that DOES NOT MEAN YOU SHOULD STEAL IMAGES OFF THE INTERNET). Images online cannot be copied and pasted onto your website; many of those images are property and can leave your business open to legal ramifications.

Instead, create your own images and videos or buy the rights to specific images that you can strategically use in your marketing materials. Choose relevant photos to your content, preferably with people’s faces (here’s why images with faces perform better). Look at the overall design of your design, and choose images with complementary colors.

Make it easier to contact you.

People don’t want to waste their time, and they want to make any action they need to take easy. Include call-to-actions in your content, easy-to-use buttons that catch your eye, and quick ways to contact your company ON EVERY PAGE.

Easy contact methods are not enough. If your potential customers don’t hear from you, they move on to the company that does. Implement a stellar customer service process. Assign the responses to a well-trained staff member, and set the standard for response high. All responses should be within hours, not days of the customer’s inquiry. If you don’t have an immediate answer, let the customer know you have received their inquiry and ask additional questions so you can provide the information they want. Unless the inquiry is off the wall (or spam), respond to every e-mail that comes in. Don’t pass up the opportunity to turn a negative inquiry into a positive customer experience.

Optimize it.

businessman with tablet connecting offline and online marketingMore than 90% of website users start their search for information on search engines. Optimize your website for top search engines, such as Google and Bing—or contact a company that can optimize your website for you. Build a site structure optimal for search engines, include strong headlines with relevant keywords, add images with the correct tags, and write content your users want to read with relevant keywords and topics. Text written for your brochure won’t have this information (though it is a start).

Fix any broken links or pages with errors, a major no-go for optimized websites. The major advantage to this process is that not only do your optimization efforts make your websites more appealing to search engines, but also to your online viewers.

If you are a business with local customers, make your contact information incredibly prominent and consider investing in local search engine optimization technology. Local SEO technology optimizes your website so it is ranked highly in searches run by your target audience, your local customers.

Make it faster.

Long website page loads are more than just an inconvenience; they cost you page views and sales. As this article from KISS Metrics states:

According to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with web site performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again and around 44% of them would tell a friend if they had a poor experience shopping online.”

But the stakes have gotten higher with the rise of mobile devices; not only are smart phone and tablet users looking for a fast load, they are also looking—no demanding—mobile-friendly sites (as these statistics on Social Media Today show). Choose a website design company that includes a mobile-friendly website; this is a must of the modern era, not a maybe.

Add content.

Content is more than a luxury; it’s a must for any company that wants to improve their ranking with search engines and their target audience. Adding content to a website indicates to search engines that your business is relevant to users, and shows users that you want to answer their questions. In essence, high-quality content builds trust with two vital audiences.

Notice the disclaimer: high-quality. High-quality content is grammatically correct, relevant to your audience, complete, and keyword-optimized (if you don’t know how to write it, contact a writer who has the expertise to produce high-quality content for your website). Low-quality content contains typos, sales-focused information, and poor optimization. Content can also be used to drive traffic to your website from emails and social media.

Business Owners: All Your Marketing Questions Answered

man roaring into a megaphone trying to spread the word about business with lots of marketing questionsMarketing your business can be HARD.

We hear you, and we hear your questions. We hear them from our clients, our fellow business owners, our marketing associates.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of answers to the questions we hear. While we can’t give any hard-and-fast rules (post this, do this, etc.) that automatically go viral, we can give you marketing guidelines that you can apply to your business (and to your targeted audience).

Why am I not getting any more followers and likes on social media?

Many a business owner has jumped out of social media expecting immediate results. They don’t understand why their customers don’t like their posts, message them with questions, or come in to buy.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for these business owners, but there is a list of reasons why they may not be getting results from their social media presence:

  • Business is not on the social media platform where target audience is;
  • There is no strategy behind the social media posts;
  • The business does not have “personal” content that sets them apart;
  • The social media posts are irregularly posted;
  • The business only posts advertising and sales-heavy content;
  • The content posted is irrelevant to the target audience;
  • The business bought followers;
  • The social media posts don’t contain images (or really bad images-here’s how to choose relevant images);
  • The business posts at times when their audience is not online;
  • There are unrealistic expectations;
  • The business does not respond to messages in a timely manner;
  • The business alienates the audience with angry or controversial posts.

If you want to know more, read our post with more details about these common problems—and how to fix them. 

How do I increase the reach of my website?

After you invest all your time, funds, and effort into a website, it’s the logical next step: figuring out how to make your investment work for you. How do you let people know it’s out there? Or, even better, get your website in front of your local customers without much work?

  • Send an email to your customers (build a email list with these tips) as part of your marketing plan with a clear call-to-action;
  • Use website optimization to get to the top search engine listings (ask us how);
  • Announce your new website on social media and keep including your website in your social media posts;
  • Write quality content with links back to your website (this also is a ranking signal of a quality website with top search engines);
  • Fill out profiles with your website on relevant review sites.

Find out more about promoting your website after it’s built—and continually promoting it as part of a solid marketing plan.

What should I post to social media?

This is one of the most common questions we hear from business owners. Our answer is usually pre-empted by a question, “Who are your followers? Who is your target audience?” Once you have an idea of you are communicating with (note, not talking to, you should always view social media as a two-way conversation), build a plan with:

Exclusive discounts. Make your customers feel appreciated and like they are getting a deal just for them because they follow you on social media.

Entertainment. If appropriate for your business and chosen tone, give your followers entertaining graphics and information that makes them want more.

Resources. Build trust with your audience by giving them helpful articles and videos.

(Occasional) giveaways. Give your audience an incentive to take part in an occasional guessing contest.

Want a more concrete list of social media ideas? Here are a few ideas for your next post; find a more extensive list of ideas to post to social media here.

  • Photos with a request for an appropriate caption
  • Inside photos of your facility or employees (with their consent)
  • How-to videos
  • Share news from your community (especially photos of your business involvement)
  • Guessing contest
  • Photos of the history of your business
  • Memes (when appropriate)
  • Photo or video that gives followers a sneak peak
  • Helpful articles with tips
  • Photos and videos that highlight your succeses
  • Motivational quotes
  • Photos relevant to your business on a National Day
  • Upcoming sales and offer graphics

When should I post to social media?

If you speak to an empty room, would you expect to get heard? That’s what exactly is happening when a business owner or marketer posts when no one is online. Unfortunately, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for when to post that guarantees success, and every industry is different.

To figure out when is the optimal time for social media posts, use these guidelines:

Know your audience. If your target audience is a “more experienced” demographic, post earlier in the evening to reach the optimal amount of followers. Do the same for a younger audience, business-to-business audience, or whomever follows your brand.

Use statistics. Social media sites and scheduling tools often offer analytics that can help you track when your audience is online and when to post.

Relate to your industry. Industry norms can help guide your social media plan (and this article from Social Media today can help with that information).

What the heck is a blog?

We admit that this isn’t a common question, but it is our favorite—and we have heard many versions of this inquiry. “What is content marketing?” “What is a blog?” “What does a blog do for my website?”

The simple answer: content marketing is the process of providing content targeted at your audience.  One of the most successful content marketing tools we’ve found is a blog. A blog filled with content, such as written articles, videos, photos, podcasts, and infographics, can 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. As a bonus, search engines use new, quality content as a ranking signal, giving your blog posts and website a higher ranking in search engine results.

To be successful, new content needs to contain strategic content (in line with your marketing and optimization plan) published on a regular basis; if you need assistance, contact a marketing firm that can meet your needs and has the expertise to answer all your questions.