Category Archives: small business marketing tips

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).

Local Businesses: 20 Marketing Ideas that Connect with Customers

local customer with smart phoneAs local business owners, another sale may be the ultimate goal, but a connection with a customer is what gets those sales in the door. With in-person and digital options available, local business owners and managers need to select the right (and most efficient) marketing ideas that form those invaluable connections with local customers.

What is the goal of a customer connection?

A connection with a local customer is more than just a means to another sale—and it’s different for a local business versus a huge national corporation. A local business owner should choose tactics that inspire actions from a customer, such as (but not limited to) a referral, brand awareness, positive reviews, or in-person contact. The desired action should play a key factor in deciding on the type of tactic selected to reach business goals. A marketing professional can also offer advice on the specific tactics right for a local business.

It’s also important to realize that many marketing tactics are more than just a part of a plan; they are an integral part of operations that should be implemented via customer service employees who are the face of the business. This means that local business owners and managers should develop standard operating procedures that are a daily part of business and a standard part of employee trainings.

When its time to outsource local marketing efforts, take that team approach a step further. A marketing firm is an extension of your business’ efforts; contact them regularly with updates and information that can be used for a cohesive execution of all local marketing tactics.

How can I get more connections with my customers?

In-person

  1. Ask customers during customer interactions to follow business on social media
  2. Provide a card or flyer during customer interactions with social media options
  3. Ask customers during customer interactions to sign up for email list
  4. Provide a card with deals and contact information to be included in local community event goodie bags
  5. Ask satisfied customers for online reviews
  6. Give customers a mobile device for payment and for leaving an online review (when service is completed)

Website

  1. Optimize your website so you appear in search engine rankings
  2. Include clear call-to-actions (graphic & text) that ask for social media follows and email list sign-ups
  3. Post content with local news, tips, and information helpful for customers

Social Media

  1. Post pictures of employees doing work or on special occasions (with their approval)
  2. Drive traffic to a specific website page from social media
  3. Share website content relevant to customers’ lives
  4. Respond promptly to messages from customers with helpful advice
  5. Share posts from other local businesses and events
  6. Social media advertisements that target local users

E-mails

  1. Send out personalized e-mails with relevant information
  2. Showcase community involvement and local news pertinent to the community and business

Print

  1. Send out flyers or printed materials to local prospects
  2. Ask other local business owners to carry printed materials

Online Review Sites

  1. Take ownership of business profiles on review sites
  2. Contact a company with brand reputation software that manages positive and negative reviews from all online review sites
  3. Respond to all online reviews (negative and positive)
  4. Provide excellent customer service to customers who leave negative reviews (i.e. assist with resolving issue, offer to help)

Marketing that Can Be Done in an Hour (or Less)

company manager with an hour for marketing businessGot a few minutes to spare? Use the time and these ideas to market your business and improve your bottom line. But like all great ideas, they come with a disclaimer: marketing your business is more than just a one-time effort.

Effective marketing needs to be continually fueled and maintained. But we won’t waste any more of your time with a lecture; time is precious, especially when your business to-do list keeps growing. We can give you a list of marketing tactics that take an hour to get started AND a continual effort to keep getting results.

Optimizing your website

Get started: Build or update your website with optimized content. Add optimized headlines, images and videos with optimized alt tags, and content that search engines and your audience appreciate; don’t “over-optimize” and make it unattractive to your audience—all that does is increase your website bounce rate and decrease conversions. If all of these terms sound like a foreign language, contact an optimization company that gets results for other businesses—and can provide solid data to demonstrate results. Optimization can be especially valuable for companies that want to reach local customers in local communities around a headquarters or retail location.

Keep it going: Add optimized content to your website through a blog. Regularly produce content, videos, and images that follow your sales calendar. Remember just because you’re following your sales calendar doesn’t mean you need to produce content that is entirely about selling your business. Write about topics that provide value to your current and potential customers. Use this list of content marketing ideas for inspiration. Don’t forget that your content is being produced to convert your customers; include links back to your website, search-optimized pages, and social media channels so your customers have an easy way to buy and ask questions. Publish your content on a regular basis (or assign the task to a content marketing agency or staff member). Fresh content is a major factor in how your website performs on search engines; use the content on social media and in future e-mails as well.

Social media

Get started: Don’t jump onto any random social media site (or even just choose your favorite). Take a few minutes to decide who your target audience is and research social media sites to decide what site (or sites) is right for your business (use this graphic with key statistics about the top social media sites to start). Don’t get in over your head. Regular social media posting is a must to get results; don’t choose too many social media sites that you don’t have time to maintain. Once you’ve made your final decision about the right social media site and number of sites you have time for, use this article to set up a social media profile for your business.

Keep it going: Make a concerted effort to take photos and videos that your audience responds to. In addition to sharing your content, don’t be afraid to share interesting articles and videos, notices of upcoming events (i.e. grand openings, tradeshows, open houses, etc.), pictures of your employees providing service (with their permission), and interesting things you see on the job.  Keep everything you share somewhat professional; you don’t want to give your business a black eye by making one of these social media marketing mistakes. Respond immediately to any questions that come in through social media. If you don’t have time to post every day, use social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to automatically schedule posts at times when your audience is online.

Send out e-mails

Get started: Start building an email list of customers and potential customers, with their permission. Ask for e-mail addresses at every opportunity: during in-person contacts, on your website and blog, and on social media (other ideas for building an e-mail list here). Use an e-mail service (i.e. Constant Contact or Mail Chimp) to create an e-mail template that has the same look as other marketing materials. Include content and discounts that your audience wants to read. Make your customers want to open the e-mail by creating an attention-grabbing headline.

Keep it going: Send out e-mails on a regular basis; don’t send out too many e-mails so you annoy your customers and they unsubscribe. To save on time, use content produced for your blog and automatically schedule the e-mails so you don’t have to be available to hit the send button. Include links to your social media profiles, website, and blog for future engagement opportunities. If you find yourself squeezed for time, contact a marketing company and provide them with information for the e-mail so you don’t miss an opportunity.

To maintain your marketing momentum, create a written marketing plan that can help you efficiently and strategically execute these marketing tactics. Write down your goal and target audience, and keep it in mind as you draft a marketing plan that follows your business sales cycle. For example, if you are a caterer, look back at your sales for the past year to dictate your marketing plan for next year.  Your sales team or customer service representatives would be an excellent source for this information; after all, they are interacting with your potential and existing customers on a regular basis.  An example would look like:

December-March Booking weddings (because of high engagement rate)

April-June Booking company picnics

July-August Booking weddings

September-November Booking holiday parties

This calendar is very simplified, but you can see how your sales cycle would drive your marketing plan.  Next, list the specific tactics you plan to use (i.e. once a month customer email, weekly blog post, daily social media post, etc.), deadline, and party responsible to execute the tactic. Be flexible with your plan and honest about your time demands. When time gets tight, don’t hesitate to bring in the experts and reallocate your hour (every week or month) to give them direction (i.e. images, customer questions, etc.) and get the results.

How can I use social media to connect with local customers?

Female customer with plastic cards and shopping bags looking for local businessFacebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat…all the major social media sites have been touted as the ultimate world-wide connector—and for good reason.  On Facebook alone, statistics show that more than one billion people around the world are active users.  As great as that huge statistic is, if you’re a local business owner or manager, it does little toward meeting your goal of using social media to connect with your local customers and, ultimately, increase your sales.  That’s when it’s time to use a more targeted approach to connect with your local customers on social media so they come back—and to attract new customers in the process.

Share posts and tweets about local events.

If your company is an active part of your community, show it.  Share posts and tweets about local events in your area.  This tactic has a two-fold benefit: 1) it shows you are involved in your local community 2) it gives your customers information they want to see.  This strategy comes with a note of caution, however: be smart about how much you share local events.  You don’t want to push your followers away because they are sick of the same old posts about the same events over and over again.  Share a post or tweet every once in awhile to showcase the event, or to make your customers aware of a need in the community (and a chance to help).

Use social ads.

There is value in using social ads to reach your local customers.  Make sure your ads are targeted locally and relevant (if you don’t know how, outsource your efforts).  Don’t pound your audience over the head with endless advertisements; use ads strategically to boost relevant events or information you know your customers want to see (but can’t because of the decrease in organic business page reach).

Embrace local reviews.

A positive review of your product is worth its weight in gold—especially in the eyes of potential customers looking for a local service or product that can fix their problem.  Enjoy every positive local review, and ask for more.  Make an in-person ask or a sign requesting your customers leave reviews after you’ve helped them, and respond to their reviews and requests as soon as possible (good customer service and interactions spur more!).

Make your live video feeds and videos local news-worthy.

Video is the wave of the future, so use it to your advantage.  Produce videos that catch your audience’s attention about local going-ons and information they care about.  If you have an event, involve your participants in your video for a fun interaction.  If you don’t have the time or the know-how to make that happen, contract your efforts out to the marketing experts that do.

Integrate social media with other local marketing efforts.

One of the most effective ways to use social media to reach your local customers is to integrate it with your other local marketing efforts (we’ve given you a full list of ways to reach your local customers).  One idea: use your social media channels to drive people to the gallery on your website or use your social media to showcase your content marketing efforts (which optimizes your website for search engines).  Here’s how to craft a strategic integrated marketing plan that accomplishes your local goal. Social media helps you connect the dots—between your marketing efforts and you and your local customers.