Category Archives: small business marketing

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.

Local Marketing Ideas that Put Your Business on the Map

customer paying for product at local businessLocal sales are what every local business owner strives for, but are not always attainable until they hit on the right combination of marketing tactics. To muddy the decision-making process even further, the perfect marketing combination is different for every local business.

Though testing is part of the process, a good marketing strategy minimizes the amount of guesswork. The right strategy can position a brand in front of the right people at the right time. Identifying the “right people” is one of the first steps; a target audience is the key to selecting the right marketing tactics and schedule that increase the bottom line.

Website

Today’s websites are more than online brochures; they are a means to an end, with the end being an online sale or contact. To that end, a website should be created with the ends in mind. The website should be easy to navigate for online users, with content produced for the target audience and easy-to-access contact information and calls to action. A mobile-friendly website used to be a luxury; today, mobile-friendly is a must for any business website. Walk (or run) away from any website design company that suggests otherwise.

Local Optimization

Without promotion, a website is just another page on the internet. Significant effort and planning should be put into website promotion; one of those methods can be done during website creation and continually after it goes live. Optimization is the process of creating content for search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing; if done correctly, an optimized website is listed on the first page of search engine results pages for phrases relevant to the business.

For local businesses, there is an added factor: locality. Local optimization services not only get a business at the top of online users’ search results; they get the website ranked at the top of local search results within a radius around the business. Not all optimization services are created equal; contact a local search optimization firm that can show results and data from other clients—and continually produce the data that proves it works.

Content

Optimized web content is only a part of attracting the attention of search engines and users. Regular, high-quality content added to a website continually earns their attention AND can be used in other promotional tools. Regular blog posts, graphics, and video relevant to the target audience (note-they are the key to successful marketing AGAIN). This content can also be used on social media, snail mailings, and in these other business promotion tactics.

Social Media

A connection with customers that walk in the door is vital to sales; an online connection keeps them walking in and gets them to the door. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are the link. As with every marketing tactic, positioning the business in front of the target audience is the key to success. Before any business blindly dives on social media, some thought should be given to choosing the social media site with the majority of users in the target audience (use this data on social media demographics). No matter what social media site chosen, regular posts get results. Choosing the right social media or sites, and devoting regular efforts to posting, is the formula for a regular connection with customers.

To connect with local customers, post regular content that shows the business is part of the community and takes an interest in local activities. Share news of local events the business is involved in, and pictures of the people in it. With their permission, post photos and videos of employees and customers that are vital to keeping a local business going.

(Snail) Mailings

Mailings to customers and potential customers may not play as vital of a role in modern marketing as in the past, but they are still a solid way (especially when integrated into a marketing campaign) to retain and attract local customers. Always include alternate ways to contact on the mailer, such as a website link and social media address, so customers can communicate on their own schedule and via their preferred means.

E-mail

E-mail is a digital marketing tactic that has one of the highest returns on investment IF sent to e-mail users that want to receive e-mails. Build a strong e-mail list by making in-person and online asks (i.e. via website, social media, etc.). Send relevant e-mails to that list with content valuable to them (not just discounts and offers) on a regular basis. A solid e-mail is relevant, valuable, and creative enough to get users’ attention AND clear call-to-actions that customers can easily use.

Reviews

An online review is more than just a record of a customers’ experience; it’s a marketing tactic that can be utilized to attract customers. Statistics prove that reviews are a valuable marketing tactic. Creating online profiles and ‘owning’ those reviews are an essential part of marketing a local business. Ask for local reviews (use these ideas to get positive reviews) and incorporate them into daily operations. Integrate reviews into your marketing strategy or lean on local marketing pros that have put other businesses on the map.

9 Effective Ways to Reach Your Local Customers

customer buying item after being reached by local marketingIt’s the million dollar question for any local business owner: “how do I reach my local customers?”

Website

If you want to reach local customers, you need to have a solid foundation: a well-built business website.  A solid website has all the information your customers and potential customers could need or want, and a convenient way to contact you.  Though you can’t use the website to overtly reach your customers, your business should have a website that you can direct your customers to when they find your website on search engines, social media, through a content marketing piece, or from email.

We’ve written about the important elements of a solid website before; don’t just open your brochure and start haphazardly putting the text into a website.  Instead, organize the information that your customers want in a format they can easily navigate (or hire the pros to create a website) and that you can easily direct people to from email, social media, and direct mail pieces.

Search engines

Think of SEO technology as a website amplifier.  SEO optimizes your website for search engines, making major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo take note and list your website at the top of search engine results pages.  Not just any SEO technology can do this effectively, so choose your SEO provider carefully.

If you want to use SEO to reach local customers, contact a company that provides local SEO.  Local SEO gets your business at the top of the searches (not ad listings-important!) that pertain to your business by people within 10, 20, and 50 miles of your business.

Social Media

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the major social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat.  If you want to reach your local customers, you need to harness the power of these sites for your business.  Choose the right social media sites that your target audience is on, and make sure you don’t take on more social media marketing than you have time for.  Start by using these tips to grow your social media followings, and be careful not to oversell on your pages.

Even though your goal is to use social media to grow your business, focus on connecting with your audience instead of selling to them.  No one wants to listen to a business that continually broadcasts advertisements at them.  Instead, use humor (when appropriate), excellent customer service (please answer their messages!), relevant information, tips, community information, and anything else your customers want to hear to build trust.

Review Sites

Local review websites don’t help you directly reach out to your customers, but they do help build trust when customers are trying to find you.  When they do, use common internet review sites like Yelp or Angie’s List to your advantage.  Fill out a complete profile on top review sites and ask your customers to post feedback after their experience with your company.  If you have multiple locations, you may have to create numerous profiles.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is exactly what it says: producing content for marketing.  Basically, you write about topics that your audience wants to know about (i.e. tips, advice, checklists, etc.) and use different methods to promote it.  For example, if you are a pet store, you would write about choosing the right food for your cat.  The article would be posted to a blog, then sent out in an email to your customers with pet food specials and scheduled to post to social media.  If you don’t know what to write about, or don’t have the time to write new content, use these tips to select a content marketing firm that can. 

In addition to building trust with your audience, content marketing has another benefit.  Adding relevant content to your website can gain the attention of search engines and improve your ranking in search engine listing.

Email Marketing

Connect with your local customers through their inbox—with their consent of course.  Use these tips to build a quality email list (please don’t buy lists) and add sending emails with strong attention-getting headlines and strong call-to-actions to your to-do list.  Make sure your emails are relevant and relatable, and that you give your email subscribers the chance to ‘unsubscribe’ when they want (it’s the law).

Direct Mail

Contrary to the obnoxious naysayers, direct mail as a marketing tactic is not dead.  However, the days of sending direct mail after direct mail pieces out is.  Instead, integrate direct mail into your marketing plan as a targeted effort.  Target customers with services that you know they are going to want to know about, such as an accessory sale for a product they had bought.  In addition to direct mail, use other marketing tactics to spread the word about your sale (i.e. content marketing pieces about product maintenance, social media posts with memes, etc.).    

Advertisements

Whether online or traditional, there is value in advertising.  The key to a successful advertisement (and any marketing tactic, really) is to know who your customers are and advertise in media where they go for information.  If your customer base is younger, look into advertising on search engines or social media.  Make sure you target local customers in online advertisements; if you don’t have the opportunity to target your online ads, you’re not going to reach the potential customers you want.

Marketing Plan

We know a marketing plan is not technically a marketing tactic, but it is an important element of reaching your local customers.  Instead of randomly employing these tactics to drive sales whenever you hit a lull, use a marketing plan to strategically promote your business all year round (here’s how to draft a solid marketing plan for local customers).  If you don’t have the time or expertise, contact a company that can draft a marketing plan and help you reach your local customers.