All posts by KD Interactive

How to Get Your Business Found on Local Searches

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woman on smartphone looking for local businessAccording to Google, “fifty percent of local consumers visit a store within a day of a local search” (Search Engine Watch). The statistics demonstrate an ever-growing consumer trend. Potential customers are searching for products and services online. Local businesses are showing up in the search results—or are they?

Those businesses that aren’t showing up in local searches are missing out on a HUGE opportunity. Search Engine Watch went on to note, “Google says these people are ready to buy once they are in a store, as 18 percent of local searches lead to sales, compared to 7 percent for non-local searches.That statistic is even more mind-numbing because Google processes more than 2 trillion internet searches per year.

Fortunately, a lost opportunity doesn’t have to remain that way. Local businesses can step up their local search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and get included in local search listings. In many ways, local SEO is easier now for local businesses than in the past when national brands dominated, however it does take a concerted effort. Here’s what local businesses need to know AND the local SEO steps that turn a missed opportunity into more sales.

Google My Business Profile

Google My Business is used by the search engine giant as an online business directory. Google My Business profiles, especially those confirmed and updated, show up on maps and search results. Specifically, Google My Business listings show up when online viewers search for local products and services. The best part of Google My Business is that claiming a business profile free. There is only caveat; according to their policy, business profiles can only be claimed by the business owner.

How to get started: Follow the process to claim the business’ Google My Business listing; there is a short waiting period involved because Google needs to send a postcard to the business address. Completely fill out as much information as possible, including the address, business service and product information, and hours. Use this article from Search Engine Journal as a guide, or contact experts experienced in optimizing Google my Business listing and knowledgeable in local search engine optimization.

Review Sites

Online reviews are a valuable asset for businesses. Reviews on popular websites like Yelp, Manta, and the Better Business Bureau and social media play a significant role in building customer trust. These sites are also likely to come up during searches, such as when potential customers are researching local businesses. It’s important to note that in a business’ quest for positive reviews, there is some risk involved. Along with positive reviews, customers may also leave negative reviews. When and if this happens, contact a firm with automated software for monitoring websites and follow these steps for responding to negative comments. Negative reviews are actually an opportunity for businesses to showcase their prompt and excellent customer services.

How to get started: Obtaining positive reviews is a two-part effort. Visit popular websites and claim the business listing (or contact an experienced marketing firm to tackle the task). Pay attention to the fine print; some of these websites prohibit asking for reviews on the website. However, companies can develop a multi-channel strategy for asking for reviews. For example, in-person staff can be trained to ask for online reviews. Asks can also be included in customer e-mails and other marketing materials (this list of ideas to incorporate into current operating procedures can help).

Local Directories

Think of local directories as a modern-day phone book. Many of these online phone books are used by online viewers to find local businesses who provide products and services. Search engines, noting this consumer trend, include these online phone books in search results, making them a high priority for businesses wanting to get found in local searches.

How to get started: Don’t take a haphazard approach to listings on local directories; complete and accurate listings are vital for success. Entrust the effort to the experts or research local directories (this article from Search Engine Journal can help). Compile a list of directories that are relevant and valuable to the business, then determine if the business is listed on the sites. If there is no listing, follow directions for completing a business listing.

Website Optimization

A website is the only place where a business can truly tell their story, making it a valuable marketing tool. Businesses should optimize their website during the building process and regularly throughout the life of the website. During website building, the website should be structured for optimal speed and search engines. For local businesses, pages should be added that use local optimization technology. The technology ensures that the website is listed in organic search rankings initiated by online users around a specific location (or locations).

Websites should also be mobile-friendly; this is not an option. Search engines value mobile-friendly websites and regularly added content, both of which are signals that determine the order of listings on search engine results pages. The latter can be achieved through strategic and high-quality content marketing.

How to get started: When building a website, business owners should employ staff or firms knowledgeable in website optimization. For continual optimization, high-quality, optimized content should be added on a regular basis. (Use these tips to produce relevant, quality content.) An experienced staff member can be tasked with compiling a marketing calendar for content—and meeting deadlines—or the task can be outsourced to an experienced content marketing firm.

Effective Online Marketing Tactics that Target Local Customers

local business trying to reach local customers with marketingLocal businesses need to invest their dollars into marketing tactics that target local customers. After all, a customer thousands of miles away isn’t going to travel cross country to buy your product.

And local customers aren’t looking in their phone book anymore. Consider phone books in the same category as the extinct do-do bird.

It’s time to move into the modern age of smartphones and tablets—and use them to target local viewers that can actually buy.

The chance for increasing sales is high. The investment (of time and funds) in the marketing tactic doesn’t have to be (if you choose the right marketing firm that delivers results).

To be clear, we’re not discounting the significance of in-person customer interactions. Customer service (both online and off) is more important than ever, building relationships and customer loyalty. However, you have to reach customers before you can provide excellent customer service. Far too often, local business owners waste their money on generic marketing tactics that can reach anybody anywhere. Frankly, a flooring store isn’t going to increase sales if their marketing is seen 1,000 miles away.

Website Optimization

An optimized website is built and designed for users and search engines. This is not done blindly. The best websites are built with the right structure for search engines and fast enough for any impatient customer (statistics have shown that online viewers leave websites that take too long).

For the benefit of both search engines and online viewers, website content should be written with information and images relevant to local online viewers. Lastly, contact information for the business should be included on several web pages for search engines and customers. For the latter, include easy-to-use ways to contact the business, such as a contact form and social media.

Optimization Technology

An optimized website is the first step; it shouldn’t be the last. The next step is to continually optimize with content and technology. Search engines credit websites that regularly add high-quality content (i.e. blog posts, infographics, etc.) Online viewers use the content as they research topics that solve their problem. The answer is to regularly add content to the website for both online viewers and search engines. If a staff member isn’t available to do so or doesn’t have expertise, consider outsourcing the effort to the experts.

For brick-and-mortar businesses with one or several locations, optimization technology is the logical next step. Optimization technology specifically targets customers within a specific radius around a business location (or locations). This marketing tactic takes a high level of expertise and understanding of best-use search engine practices; use this guide to choose a marketing firm that offers effective optimization technology that has proven results.

Social Media

Social media is a free marketing tactic that gets results. Unfortunately, those results can be hit-or-miss if some best-use social media practices aren’t followed. Sales-driven posts can also be more in the miss category if these ideas for local social media posts aren’t used.

To build a solid social media following that buys, promote the social media channel on every marketing piece (i.e. website, e-mails, traditional mailers) and during in-person interactions (i.e. register sales, sales meetings, etc.) Get the maximum amount of followers and audience engagement by carefully choosing the social media network that the business target audience is on. Use this helpful social media chart to select the right social media networks and post regularly for maximum effect. Regular posts fit into the “not too often, not often enough” category. The exact schedule should be determined by using statistics, social media insight, and a testing method that determines the best time for customer engagement (i.e. comments, likes, etc.)

Increasing sales on social media does not necessarily mean “only sales” posts. Social media marketing is more of a subtle practice; approximately 60 percent of posts should be sales and 40 percent should be relevant content. To that end, plan a marketing calendar that meets this criterion and showcases the local nature of the business (this list of ideas for social media posts).

E-mail Marketing

E-mail marketing is one of the most effective marketing tactics—especially for local businesses. The first step is to build an e-mail list that is open to communications (use this list of ideas for building an e-mail list). Try to avoid buying e-mail lists which can fill the list with e-mail users that don’t have any interest in the business.

Set a regular schedule of e-mails (i.e. weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) around dates that are relevant to the e-mail recipients. Try to avoid sending e-mails too often (this is a sure-fire way to annoy e-mail recipients). If the schedule starts to feel too arduous, consider outsourcing the effort a marketing firm.

In the e-mails, include content that is relevant to the target audience. Just like social media content, these topics are not always sales-driven. For local businesses, include community events that the e-mail users are interested in and topics that e-mail recipients want to act on. For a maximum return-on-investment, include call-to-actions in the e-mail that are easy-to-use.

7 Ways to Improve EVERY Part of Your Online Marketing

Businessman with binoculars looking into futureYou’re starting to get this whole online marketing thing. You feel like a master of your company’s social media. You’re gaining some traction in your efforts in terms of results, but…

Traditional marketing tactics can grow stagnant. National marketing tactics don’t target local residents that convert into potential customers.

Even the most solid marketing has some room for improvement—or an opportunity to take marketing efforts to the next level.

Make your website search engine friendly.

A company website is the only place where a company can tell their story. This is the only place to highlight products and services that potential customers might be interested in.

But are potential customers seeing it?

If the website is not optimized for search engines, the answer is probably no. Every website—especially websites of businesses trying to reach local customers—should be optimized for search engines. Website content should be written for search engines and the target audience. Websites should include quality images and video that makes it a top pick for search engines and online viewers.

To reach a local audience, take optimization a step further. Employ local optimization technology that can reach potential customers around the company location (or locations). (Use these tips to select a company that can get and demonstrate results.)

Start adding content to your website.

To search engines, regularly added quality content is a signal of a quality website. For customers, well-written content with excellent images is an efficient and easy way to get information to questions. Basically, regular and relevant content helps websites get higher rankings and earn awareness and loyalty with potential customers.

A well-executed content marketing plan can be implemented with some research. Content should be added to a marketing plan with scheduled dates and responsible parties. If the latter is an issue, producing content can be outsourced (affordably) to a marketing firm.

Use GREAT (not just good) images.

Visuals are an important part of any marketing effort. Statistics have shown that both online users and search engines prefer marketing pieces with high-quality images. Head into the next phase of online marketing with the images that meet (and exceed) customer expectations.

Fortunately, high-quality images do not always need to bust the budget. There are several options: in-house production, contracting with an image service, or outsourcing to a marketing agency. There are pros and cons of each option. Customized images are a unique perk of in-house production. However, there are costs (for equipment and staffing) for this option. An online image service is a great resource, though the cost and common images can be a disadvantage. The last option, outsourcing marketing to an agency, may be the most expensive option but comes with professional pieces with high-quality images.

Tap into the power of video.

Videos are a valuable addition to websites and social media, making it an effective marketing strategy. If cost is an issue, consider adding a live video to the marketing schedule. Choose an event worth live-streaming, such as a grand opening or a local community event.

The alternative is purchasing a video with content that won’t change for a time. This kind of content, called evergreen content, can be used on a website or as part of an effective social media marketing campaign.

Be more regular with social media posts.

Effective social media campaigns (that get results) have two commonalities: relevance and regular posts. The concept is that the posts and content are relevant to the target audience, and published on a regular scheduled that increases awareness. Some social media sites even give preference to brands that publish on a regular basis.

The optimal time and frequency for publishing depend on the industry, social media site, and target audience. Use social media insights, data from the experts, and a little experimentation to set an effective schedule; choose the right scheduling tool to make the process more efficient.

Earn more e-mail followers that buy.

E-mail marketing can be an effective marketing tactic IF the recipients are open to the messages. The latter is the key. Building a strong e-mail list isn’t complicated, but it does take a concerted effort. Simple additions, such as a website opt-in and in-person ask (or one of these ideas for building a solid e-mail list), can be the start of building a solid e-mail list.

Start protecting (not just promoting) your brand.

Negative comments and reviews cost businesses significant revenue every day. A recent study proved that potential customers do online research before purchasing; negative reviews tend to drive potential customers away. Instead of pretending that negative reviews don’t exist, take the offensive.

Protecting a company from online negativity isn’t as intimidating as it sounds, especially when using automated software. Because there are numerous sites for online reviews, automated software is a requirement for an efficient brand protection process. Brand protection software monitors for online reviews, allowing businesses to respond to reviews before they are even posted (contact a firm for more information on brand protection software).

8 Simple Ways to Improve Your Website

company manager looking at sales growth because of company websiteA bad company website is more than just an embarrassment, especially when an exceptional website is a key factor in business growth. A website plays a significant role in establishing a favorable first impression, building customer trust, and gaining sales. It is the foundation of all online marketing efforts. A terrible website does more than makes a company look bad. An awful, dysfunctional website costs a company trust—and lost sales.

This is the end of the bad news. The good news is that improving a company website is not as complicated as it may seems—or as expensive (depending on the website, of course). A bad company website is not always a lost cause or a complicated fix.

Add better images

Well-written websites are great. Well-written websites with compelling images and videos are AWESOME. One of the easiest ways to improve a company website is to start using quality images that capture customer attention and want to see more. Fortunately, obtaining quality images isn’t as hard as it used to be; smartphones and tablets can take quality photos and video. Free images can be found on Unsplash and Pexels, or purchased through a quality image site or from a local photographer. (Use these tips to choose the best images for a business website.)

Optimize, optimize, optimize

Optimization is one of the most overlooked aspects of a first-rate website. While the term may sound complicated, the basic principle is not: optimization is the process of making a website optimal for search engines. The simplest form of optimization is writing quality content for search engines and optimizing images (these tips for optimizing website images can help). One of the most effective ways to optimize a website, especially businesses with a local customer base, is to utilize local search engine optimization technology. Local optimization technology can be used to reach customers within 10-50 miles of a business location (or locations). (Use these tips to select the right local optimization technology.)

Write quality content

Search engines use many different signals (Google uses well over 200) to rank websites. One of the signals indicative of website quality is regular and relevant content (here is how content marketing works and benefits websites). Luckily, quality content is not as expensive as expected; custom content (drafted specifically for the company) can be produced in-house or outsourced to the professionals (very affordably). Be leery of marketing firms that sell sub-par content or duplicate content that has already been published.

Include (better) call-to-actions

A good call-to-action is strategically placed and easy for customers. A stellar website is full of excellent call-to-actions that don’t make a visitor feel like they are getting a concussion from “buy, buy, buy!” To meet the needs of a diverse audience, make sure that each call-to-action is linked to a different way that fits the preference of the target audience.

Add easy ways to continue the conversation

Social media is one of the most effective ways to communicate with potential customers and build the loyalty that retains existing customers (if managed correctly, use these tips for a successful social media strategy). Add links to existing company social media accounts throughout the website; commonly, businesses add these links to the Contact Us page, in the header and footer of each page, and on the Home page. Links to social media pages can also be added in the text.

Improve website speed

Google recently wrote that a one second delay while loading a mobile website can decrease conversions by up to 20%. Customers don’t want to wait, and page loading speed is another factor when search engines rank websites. Literally, it makes cents (pun intended) to decrease page loading times. The exact way to speed up the website depends on the construction; contact a marketing firm for ways to improve page loading times or ask for a quote to build a new (and better) website.

Fix dead end pages

Customers love an easy-to-navigate website, which is way website pages with errors can be so frustrating. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to end up with dead ends and errors, especially with websites with a lot of pages. Websites with errors can also be a black eye to search engines; spending time clearing errors or hiring the professionals to find and fix bad website pages can be worth the time and funds.

Be mobile-friendly

A mobile-friendly website is not just an option any more. According to Google, the amount of searches on mobile devices surpassed searches on desktops. Desktop websites do not always function properly on mobile devices, causing frustration and loss of sales.

Not Enough Time? 4 Marketing Tasks to Outsource (Affordably)

company owner getting marketing resultsAs a business owner and manager, marketing can feel like a tug-of-war. You know you need to execute regular marketing tasks because it grows your business, but you feel pulled to complete all the tasks that make day-to-day operations run smoothly. When the tug-of-war starts to feel like a constant battle, it may be time to consider the possibility of outsourcing marketing to the professionals.

There are definite pros and cons of outsourcing marketing, with saving time being one of the biggest benefits. Contrary to popular belief, outsourcing marketing still requires some time and effort. Companies are still responsible for providing input that can be used for effective strategy development. Depending on the details of the contract, companies may also be responsible for providing images (more information on choosing the right image for marketing here) and video.

Obviously, the con of marketing is handing over the proverbial marketing reigns. This can be considered a pro for some companies, especially when the staff member charged with marketing feels overwhelmed by the evolving marketing industry and underwhelmed with expertise. The other con can be the expense, though in some cases marketing can be more cost-effective than anticipated (contact a marketing firm for a quote).

Another benefit of outsourcing is the ability to tap into professionals keeping up with the evolving world of marketing. Marketing is like a freight train, always changing to meet audience needs and trends. A marketing firm needs to be up-to-date on the latest trends and the tactics that provide the best return-on-investment. (Professional tip: never contract with a marketing firm that can’t provide reports that detail results.)

When budget is a factor, the cost can be minimized by outsourcing certain tactics to a marketing firm. There are four obvious candidates, though the answer is different for every company. Here is a quick breakdown of four marketing tasks that can be outsourced affordably, and time-saving tips that can make the marketing process more efficient while still achieving results.

Social Media

There is no doubt that social media is an effective way to reach customers (including local customers with these marketing ideas). To achieve results, social media posts should be done regularly with relevant content valuable to the target audience.

Time-saving tip: Automate your social media marketing with programs like Buffer and Hootsuite. In the most basic sense, these programs can be used to schedule posts and tweets for times when the targeted audience is online. Don’t over-automate the process; posts can lack the company voice and sabotage results.

Outsourcing tip: Plan on providing information on a regular basis to the marketing firm for the best return-on-investment. Depending on the marketing contract, plan on giving sales cycle information, frequently asked questions from clients, examples of other marketing pieces, and images.

Website Optimization

An optimized website is a valuable marketing asset, optimal for search engines and customers. Optimizing websites can earn the business coveted positions in search engine results when customers and potential customers turn to the web for information and solutions. Effective website optimization ensures that the website is found in relevant search engine results.

Outsourcing tip: Choose an optimization company that has achieved results and can prove it with reports and data. If the company is marketing to a local audience, select a marketing firm that specializes in local website optimization (read more about local optimization here).

Content

Adding content to a website is a smart move, both for drawing in potential customers and for conversing with current customers. Quality content can be used to attract search engines like Google, who credit websites who add fresh and relevant content. This credit can gain websites higher positions in search listings initiated by users looking for information. Good content can also be shared on social media to entertain and engage followers.

Outsourcing tip: Select a marketing firm who produces quality content aimed at the target audience and optimized for search engines (use these tips). Be leery of firms that use the same content for many different companies.

Review Monitoring

There are a number of online review sites, all of which can damage a company’s reputation and decrease the chance of sales. Research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land).  A significant amount of sales are lost due to negative reviews—and monitoring and responding to those reviews can take a significant amount of time.

Outsourcing tip: Online monitoring services can save companies a substantial amount of time and lost revenue. Contact a company that can offer the service, as well as other marketing tasks for a well-rounded and efficient marketing process.

25+ Ways to Get Facebook Page Likes

facebook icon on smartphone as user clicks on facebook business pageFacebook pages can feel like the proverbial island, completely isolated and cut off from customers and business associates. It can especially feel like that when you’re trying to increase the follows of your business Facebook page. There are three key ways to increase the following of a Facebook business page—and to keep them after they hit the ‘like’ button.

Post relevant content followers want to read. The exact content is different for every page, but should be content that the target audience wants to read. Avoid posting the same kind of content, such as blog posts. Instead, post a combination of content that is relevant and valuable for followers, such as videos, graphics, and blog posts. Don’t hesitate to share content from other pages, as long as the content isn’t from a competitor.

Post content with images and video. Images are a powerful way to capture followers’ attention, as statistics have repeatedly proven again and again. Visual content is processed 60,000x faster than text (from eclincher.com). “Engagement rate on Facebook for photos averages 0.37% where text only is 0.27% (this translates to a 37% higher level of engagement for photos over text)” (from jeffbullas.com). Use this guide to choose images that get results, and stockpile original and stock images that meet followers’ expectations.

Post regularly on Facebook. The Facebook algorithm gives preference to pages that post regularly and get engagements (likes, shares, content). The exact definition of “regular” depends on the business; businesses should experiment with an exact schedule that fits the target audience’s preference. Posting too often is one of the key reasons that Facebook users stop following a business. If a regular schedule is not plausible, don’t hesitate to outsource the task to a quality marketing firm.

Of course, maintaining a Facebook business page can feel useless without a group of Facebook users that see the posts. Remember that gaining a solid Facebook following is a marathon, not a sprint. Page administrators should make every effort to get Facebook page likes that want to engage with the page; these Facebook users are typically the group that are open to purchases. Note that this leaves buying followers out; this bad social media practice builds numbers, not engagements and conversions.

Instead, use these solid ways to increase a Facebook business page following and sales:

  1. Get a custom Facebook page URL
  2. Add the Facebook link to the header, footer, or contact us page on a company website
  3. Include the link on the company blog (Here’s why your business should have a blog.)
  4. Draft a call-to-action for blog posts with the Facebook page link
  5. Ask for Facebook likes at the cash register
  6. Print a post card to include in product boxes or bags
  7. Ask satisfied customers for Facebook reviews
  8. Request Facebook likes in a follow-up e-mail with a customer
  9. Include the link in e-mail correspondences when potential customers inquire
  10. Add the Facebook link to e-mail newsletters
  11. Include the link in staff e-mail signatures
  12. Ask staff members to share the Facebook page
  13. Have salesman ‘sell’ the Facebook page at meetings
  14. Ask for Facebook likes at trainings and seminars
  15. Include the line “to see Facebook-only discounts, follow our Facebook page” on post cards and marketing materials
  16. Add a QR code to the Facebook page (with a call-to-action) on printed marketing materials
  17. Create Facebook posts that are shared and generate likes
  18. Draft a target Facebook ad that intrigues potential customers
  19. Encourage customer referrals via social media
  20. Include a Facebook ask for likes in videos published online, such as on YouTube
  21. Make fellow brands aware of the company Facebook page
  22. Ask other vendors to mention your brand in Facebook posts when collaborating
  23. Include a Facebook call-to-action in the thank you message after a sale
  24. Ask for Facebook likes on other company social media sites
  25. Don’t oversell on Facebook (one of the top reasons users unfollow a Facebook page)
  26. Include the Facebook call-to-action in slideshows used in company and at company events
  27. Ask for Facebook likes at tradeshows and marketing events
  28. Include the Facebook feed on the company website

 

7 Cheap Ways to Promote Your Website

potential customer on bed with laptop searching for company websiteA company website is the one place—-one and only—to tell your company’s story. Social media is a close second; however, with algorithms that dictate how often and if your posts are visible to customers, you still can’t guarantee that customers are hearing your story or even getting your updates.

Digitally, the website is it. It’s the place for a company to tell their story, use call-to-actions to spur sales, and to generate customer responses. A well-built website is mobile-friendly, user-friendly, and optimized for search engines.

No matter how well-built, however, your website is not the only proverbial game in town. This is the digital age; the internet is full of websites—including your competitors. You can’t just expect customers to come find your website. You have to promote it. You have to utilize tactics that put your website in front of potential customers.

Note the last part of the equation: potential customers. Especially for local brick-and-mortar businesses, your website has to be promoted at a target audience within your service area. Views by a nationwide audience don’t equal sales.

The good news is that effective tactics don’t have to be expensive. Some of the best tactics with a high return-on-investment are surprisingly affordable for small and large businesses.

Social Media Posts

Social media is free for businesses, but it’s also incredibly crowded. The “trick” to using social media to get sales is to choose a social media site (or sites) that your customers use (this chart of social media demographics can help), post at times when they are online, and provide valuable content. Valuable content is anything relevant and helpful to customers, such as website links, articles, graphics, and (when appropriate) humor. If social media marketing is intimidating, consider outsourcing the effort to an experienced marketing company that fits the budget.

Search Engine Optimization

Website optimization is a must of every website promotion plan. Not only should a website be built for search engines and customers, it should also be enhanced with search engine optimization technology. For local brick-and-mortar companies, local optimization technology is the right fit. Local optimization targets online users searching online with a 10-,20-, or 50-mile radius around the company location (use these tips to choose the right optimization firm).

Email Newslettter

E-mail marketing is a marketing tactic with one of the highest return-on-investments. There are some best-use practices that lead to success. Build a strong e-mail list (use this list of ways to build an e-mail list) and draft e-mails with relevant content and clear calls-to-action.

Customer Interactions

Word-of-mouth marketing is still an effective way to promote a business. When interacting with customers, drive them to your website. Give them incentives to check the website, such as web-only discounts (“make sure you check our specials on our website”). Include the website address on business cards and coupons that are passed out at the register or included in product shipments.

Social Media Ads

As mentioned, social media sites have become incredibly crowded, making social media advertising a necessity. Social media ads are usually fairly affordable, but should be done on a strategic basis to maximize the return-on-investment. For the best results, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced online marketing firm for assistance with drafting effective social media ads.

Blog posts

Blogging is a marketing tactic that assists with website promotion in two ways. Regular, high-quality content can show up in search engine rankings. Content posted to a blog can also be promoted on social media, driving users to the website (especially when strong call-to-actions are included). Blogging only reaps rewards, however, with well-written, optimized content and images. To reap the rewards of content marketing, contact a marketing firm with experience in optimization.

Online Communities

Online communities, especially on social media sites, can be an effective tactic. Think of an online community as a conversation area among local residents or users with a common interest. When their conversation turns to an ask for a referral, make sure that your company website is the answer. These online communities can be on social media sites or on other websites; wherever their location, they can be an excellent source of customer referrals.

Affordable & Effective Marketing Strategies that Generates Sales

customer paying for product from effective marketing strategyWhen business owners hear the term “effective marketing strategies,” they tend to see dollar signs flying out the window. The reality is that the most effective marketing strategies generate dollars IF executed with the correct expertise and tactic that targets the business audience.

If all that wording takes on a “blah, blah, blah” feel, it’s time to approach the marketing process by asking a few simple questions:

  • Who are the majority of the customers that contact the business (i.e. age, urban or suburban, gender, etc.?
  • Where are customers located?
  • How do customers communicate (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, E-mail, etc.)?
  • Is the target audience business or individuals? (B2B vs. B2C)
  • What makes the target audience choose a business (i.e. location, quality, green factor, etc.)?
  • What staffing is available for marketing? (Include online customer service in this decision because the two are related.)
  • What is the marketing budget?

The answers provide direction for generating ideas and choosing marketing strategies that are effective and budget-friendly. The specific combination of effective marketing strategies differ among businesses; however, this list of marketing ideas and steps for implementation can produce a marketing plan that generates sales efficiently and effectively.

Targeting local customers

The most effective marketing strategies are targeted and efficient. Local search engine optimization fits both criteria. This technology optimizes websites for search engines and a target audience, ensuring that the website shows up in searches done by local residents. Local optimization services can connect with customers in a 10, 20, or 50-mile radius from a specific business location.

How to implement: Simple optimization of a website is the first step (use these tips for easy optimization). For top-quality, effective optimization, contact a firm that specializes in optimizing businesses and can provide hard data that proves the effectiveness of the technology.

Building solid email marketing campaigns

Social media is not the “new kid on the block” anymore; social media marketing is a proven, effective marketing strategy. The key to getting a high return-on-investment from this marketing strategy is choosing the correct social media site and posting regularly. Most social media sites algorithms favor pages that post content on a regular basis.

How to implement: Decide which social media sites fit the target audience. Use this chart to choose the right social site or determine the site where customers visit through a testing process. Make regular posting (use this chart to set a schedule of regular social media posts) and responding to customer messages a priority (use this guide for providing excellent online customer service). To build a social media following, offer incentives and valuable content that inspires engagement by social media users. If the process is beyond current staffing capabilities, outsource the effort to an affordable marketing firm.

Offering (more) value

The businesses that reap the rewards of marketing are those that offer value time and time again. The term “value” in this case does not exclusively mean sales (though discounts are also a draw and should be included in an effective marketing strategy). Customers value information; this is an edge that’s surprisingly easy to offer with stellar customer service skills and a promoted marketing medium.

How to implement: Use social media or a blog to offer value to customers and potential customers. Add valuable tips through graphics and blog posts; if graphic design and blogs are beyond staffing capabilities, outsource the effort to an affordable marketing firm. Don’t hesitate to share content from other trusted sources as well.

Using online reviews to build loyalty

Potential customers trust online reviews; statistics show that they play a key role when consumers make the decision to purchase. Unfortunately, not enough businesses are harnessing the power of positive reviews AND turning a negative review into a positive customer experience.

How to implement: Monitor the internet for reviews, both positive and negative. There are quite a few websites that offer customers the chance to review businesses; when time is short, contact a marketing firm that offers an automated monitoring service. Businesses should respond to the reviews (even the negative ones) to ensure that every customer interaction is a favorable one (use these tips for effective online reputation management). When positive reviews come in, share them as testimonials to build trust with potential customers.

Prioritizing online customer service

Responding to customer e-mails and social media messages should take precedence in daily operations. This is not the case in many businesses; often businesses respond to messages “when they can” or “when we get around to it.” Customers expect a response; if a business doesn’t respond, they do move on to a business that can provide speedy information.

How to implement: Connect an e-mail to every social media site and monitor customer messages closely. Avoid responding to messages with a canned, one-size-fits-all response which can frustrate customers. Use these tips for providing excellent online service. When appropriate, respond to customer’s public messages privately; these can be situations where the situation is complex or deals with customer private information.

Quick Guide to Holiday Online Customer Service

hands of business manager typing online customer serviceIt only takes one bad online interaction to put a damper on the next holiday sale. On the flip side, it takes one fantastic social media message or comment to make the holiday season merrier for the customer and the company. According to a list of holiday shopping statistics posted by Constant Contact, the numbers of online purchases and online searches leading to in-store visits are increasing. The stakes are higher than ever for creating an exceptional overall online experience for customers—including customer service.

Reaching the goal of 100% customer satisfaction during the holiday season can seam surreal. It’s the busiest time of the year for many companies. Staff members are stretched thin, both in terms of time and budget.

With all that being said, it’s not unrealistic to provide excellent customer service that boosts sales and brand loyalty. Use these tips to effectively deliver the online customer service that makes the holidays more festive for everyone.

Monitor social media messages.

The biggest mistakes companies make is a lack of awareness about the messages themselves and the importance of responses. On Facebook, one of the most popular social media sites, companies can get badges for quick response times. Beyond social media sites, customers value—even expect—-a quick response.

To meet those expectations, monitor social media messages closely (or contact a marketing firm that can assist with monitoring). Use an e-mail (that is attached to the social media account) or social media monitoring program to promptly and efficiently monitor messages. Whenever possible, add accurate location hours so customers know when to expect a response. If it is not possible to get the information at the time of the message, let the customer know when to expect an answer to their question.

Choose the customer service provider wisely.

Online customer service is not a task that should be assigned to just any staff member. An error in judgment can cost any company sales, both on individual transactions and in negative reviews. Negative reviews can play a significant role in customers’ purchasing decisions. According to Search Engine Land, research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision.

As such, responding to e-mails and social media messages should not be delegated to any staff member or intern. The responsible party should be available to answer customer inquiries and knowledgeable in customer service. If there is a lack of available staff, consider outsourcing social media marketing to the experts.

Respond promptly.

Online customer service should not be a task that should be tackled once a day or irregularly. Customers expect a prompt response. On social media, statistics say most customers expect companies to respond within 24 hours on social media in general (and faster on some social media sites). For that reason, online messages and comments should be monitored closely. If the answer to the inquiry is not immediately available, let the customer know that their message has been received and the timeline for a resolution.

Ditch the canned responses.

Nothing can kill the holiday spirit like a canned customer service response. If a customer comments on a social media post, answer like a real human and don’t hesitate to ask them to communicate privately. Canned responses to every comment, such as a repeated “thank you for your comment, blah, blah, blah…” can backfire, especially when the initial customer comment is negative. This approach can anger the customer, making the customer experience a negative one.

Offer an easy solution.

The holidays are a busy season. Make the customer’s experience positive by making the resolution easy and expedient. Unless the resolution requires an in-depth conversation, avoid making the customer call; try as much as possible to communicate with the customer through their preferred method of communication (i.e. social media, e-mail, text message, etc.) A positive customer experience over the holidays can leave a favorable impression that lasts long after the festivities are over.

12 Digital Marketing Practices that Annoy Your Customers

guy mad at annoying online marketing tacticsAny business owner or manager would be hard-pressed to find “annoy customers” or “drive customers away” on the list of business marketing goals. And yet, companies push customers away almost on a daily basis by utilizing digital marketing practices that make customers leave websites, unfollow social media sites, and unsubscribe from e-mail lists.

These annoying digital marketing practices incite every adverse reaction and diminish the return on the marketing investment. For that reason, avoid these annoying digital marketing habits at all costs or outsource to a firm that doesn’t employ these irritating online tactics.

Website

Playing (unintentional) keep-away

In this era of instant digital gratification, customers (and potential customers) want convenience. They want to research the problem, find options, and move on to the resolution. It is the business’ responsibility to deliver. Every website should be optimized for search engines; for businesses with a service area, search engine technology should also be utilized to get to the top of search engine listings of customers within a 10, 20, or 50-mile radius around the business location. Those efforts should be backed up with regularly-posted and relevant content that answers customer questions and drives online customers to the website.

Having a hard-to-navigate website

Website visitors want to find what they need—and move on. When visitors can’t find what they want, website bounce rates increase, as well as the chance for an e-mail, phone number, and sale. When working on website navigation, organize content from a customer perspective or hire the professionals who can contribute their expert and unbiased opinion.

Slow loading speeds

A one second delay makes a difference. No, that wasn’t a typo. Google recently wrote that a one second delay while loading a mobile website can decrease conversions by up to 20%. This research highlights an obvious truth: website visitors don’t want to wait. A slow website is a major annoyance for website visitors, and a significant reason why they won’t contact or buy from a company. For that reason, contact a professional website design company that can build an optimized website that loads promptly.

Not mobile-friendly

A mobile website used to be a luxury. Today, a mobile website is a requirement for every business. An article published by the Pew Research Center states that 77% of Americans own a smartphone. This statistic is indicative of a change in lifestyle, instead of a fallible trend. Mobile devices have changed the way Americans search for answers to their problems, including in the search for much-needed products and services. Companies shouldn’t ignore that fact; instead they should cater to their customers’ (and potential customers’) needs.

Low quality content

There are a number of criteria that can qualify the content on a website as low-quality. The text could be full of typos, out-of-date, or written poorly. For search purposes, the website should also be optimized for search engines. An optimized website is another essential of the modern age, backed up by statistics that prove that a large amount of Americans use search engines to find information. Companies should make every effort to get their website in the search engine results pages (and utilize local website optimization to get found by local customers).

Online Reviews

Reading negative reviews

Negative reviews are a mutual annoyance for businesses and customers, costing businesses vital sales and driving potential customers away from a company. An article on Business2Community put the number as high as 4 out of 5 customers who won’t buy from a company with a bad review.

Bitter responses

Most review sites give business owners the chance to respond to negative reviews; this can either be an opportunity or a chance to make a costly error. Company managers that respond with an angry response (“how dare you say such a thing?”) not only annoy the customer who leave the review, but every visitor who sees the response. An angry response is an error that has a lasting impact; instead, company owners and managers should take a deep breath and showcase their excellent customer service. 

Social Media

Not answering messages

Customers expect prompt responses from companies. Studies have repeatedly shown this, and companies need to be able to deliver. Customers want the information they ask for now, or they move on to competitors that do respond. This fact should dictate the way companies organize their staff; a dependable staff member with excellent customer service skills should be assigned to respond to social media messages.

Posting too much

Regular social media posts are an essential part of every company marketing strategy; posting too much is a surefire way to sabotage those results. Company owners and managers should know the recommended amount of social media posts per day or experiment to find out what frequency is right for the target audience. If the ever-evolving world of digital marketing is overwhelming, companies should outsource the task to a knowledgeable and trusted professional.

Over selling

One of the chief reasons customers stop following a company is because all the posts are about the company and their promotions. Put simply, customers don’t want to be yelled at when they follow companies on social media. Some customers want to be entertained or informed. They don’t want to follow brands that put up a continual stream of posts about products and sales. Instead, companies should strive to post relevant content that applies to their target audience; to do so, this requires a knowledge of who their followers are and what they want to see.

Emails

Unsolicited mailings

Any potential customer can tell you that receiving unsolicited e-mails is a major annoyance. Companies need to be mindful of this when building an e-mail list. Avoid buying e-mail lists or adding potential customers to the list without their opt-in. Company owners and managers should build e-mail lists by offering an item of value, such as a discount, or simply by asking on social media or in-person.

Sending too often

Crowded inboxes are a valuable asset; studies have continually shown that e-mail marketing has one of the highest return-on-investments of any marketing tactic. However, companies look to take advantage of e-mail marketing need to be mindful of over-using e-mail marketing. When planning and scheduling an e-mail campaign, be mindful of the target audience. To determine the right schedule, utilize data on the best time and frequency of e-mails. Regularly review statics like the e-mail open rate to determine what dates, times, and frequency yields the strongest results and return-on-investment.