Category Archives: online marketing tips

businessman celebration successful market plan execution

Effective Marketing Plan Tips & Ideas that Get Incredible Results

Most business owners would agree that they want to reach more customers, but very few know how to craft a marketing plan that reaches potential customers. A marketing plan captures all those business growth ideas and gives a business a clear execution plan that achieves results. A marketing plan includes:

  • Summary of the business’ current situation (including product or service, current effective marketing tactics, challenges, etc.)
  • Target audience (including demographic specifics)
  • Future goals (makes these goals specific, such as social media engagement goals, website traffic, etc.)
  • Budget
  • Tactics used in future marketing efforts (i.e. social media, content marketing, advertising, etc.)
  • Marketing schedule (with party responsible for execution and clear deadlines)

Benefits of a Marketing Plan

  • A marketing plan provides focus so the targeted audience is reached.
  • Planning ahead allows for adequate planning and preparation (and avoids charges for rushed projects).
  • A marketing plan puts ideas into a document, so the business can regularly revisit the plan and make sure work is being done.
  • It allows a business to track results—and refine future marketing.

Tips for an Incredibly Effective Marketing Plan

Effective marketing plans are built, not given. The best marketing plan sets clear goals and outlines tactics that coordinate together to achieve those goals. As such, there are some clear marketing plan tips that businesses should use to create a coordinated and target effort that provides the best return-on-investment for the marketing budget.

Identify a target audience.

A target audience is an important part of effective marketing because it guides the selection and tone of future marketing. Instead of saying “everyone,” a marketing plan should specify the location (especially true for local businesses) and demographics of the target audience. A clearly defined audience can dictate the right social media channels that are used by the demographic. (The demographics of social media are outlined in this Sprout Social report.) If the target audience location is key, a marketing plan can demonstrate the need for solid local SEO services.

Set reachable goals.

Most businesses want to growth their business. The most effective marketing plans aim for growth, but do so with a set of annual attainable goals. As nice as it would be to gain thousands of social media followers, a marketing plan breaks the effort into step-by-step goals that get hundreds of customers in the target audience ever year.

Remember, that effective marketing is all about quality over quantity. For local businesses, reaching thousands of customers hundreds of miles away that can’t buy is a waste of marketing funds. Instead, it makes cents (pun intended) for local businesses to invest in marketing tactics that reach local customers that are in a position to purchase the business’ goods and services. A hundred local customers that can or may buy are more valuable than thousands of national customers.

Be realistic.

The crux of a well-executed marketing plan is to be realistic about the amount of staff available to carry it out. If a business wants to keep the effort in-house, the responsible staff member should be chosen carefully (with the right skills and expertise) and have the time available to devote to regular marketing efforts. All marketing passwords should be stored at the business. User profiles should be set up for the business, not the individual.

When there are not staff members available (or not enough time in the day), it may be time to outsource efforts. Just as when hiring a new staff member, a marketing firm should be chosen carefully. The marketing firm should be screened carefully and should be able to provide firm data that demonstrates the return-on-investment of every marketing tactic. For local businesses, the marketing firm should especially be able to demonstrate a clear expertise and have a track record of getting targeted results for local businesses.

Strategically choose tactics that fit with goals.

Targeted marketing requires targeted marketing tactics. This is especially true for small businesses who don’t have the staffing, time, or budget for large-scale marketing. Instead, businesses should choose marketing tactics that reach the target audience and provide the best return-on-investment.

Marketing Plan Ideas

An effective marketing plan utilizes marketing tactics that reach the target audience, though the combination of those tactics is different for every business. This list includes marketing tactics that build trust with an online audience and provide a solid return-on-investment.

Local SEO

Local SEO services set up a business online so that it shows up in searches by local customers. This marketing tactic involves multiple steps, such as claiming listings on online directories, building an optimized website, and creating and promoting quality content. The whole effort is a series of one-time and ongoing tasks that build trust with search engines and online customers. Because it is an ongoing process, it often pays off to outsource this effort to a local SEO service.

It’s also a marketing tactic backed by statistics. Another study published in Search Engine Land found that 78% of all local mobile searches result in offline purchases. Local SEO gets a business found in local searches, and builds continual trust with brand reputation management. Again, the latter is based off of online user behaviors. According to Search Engine Land, research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision.

Content

Quality content attracts customers in two ways: through listing in search engines and via email and social media. Well-written content with well-chosen images establish a company as a local industry expert and the answer to customers’ problems.

The key is to produce optimized content that positions the content in relevant customer searches and results in clicks on social media and in emails. For the effort to be successful, the content needs to be regularly posted and relevant to the target audience. Content creation should also involve keyword and search intent research and end with a promotion strategy that reaches the target audience. For regular and strategic content creation, a calendar with topics, deadlines, and responsible parties (either in-house or by a quality content firm) should be crafted and maintained.

Social Media

Social media is a marketing tactic that requires strategic planning and execution. The effort starts with selecting the right social media channels based on the target audience and continues with regular posts relevant to the industry and audience.

This marketing tactic is about more than just selling products. Social media also gives businesses the chance to showcase their involvement in local causes, showcase projects and achievements, talk to their customers (with excellent online customer service), and gain positive reviews that show up in online searches.

The latter two elements of social media are often overlooked by businesses. Prompt and excellent customer service is an interaction that can result in sales and loyalty, though it needs to be delivered promptly. For this reason, businesses should select experienced staff members for the responses and establish a system for response and follow-up.

On social media and online review sites, positive reviews are earned; however, businesses are passing up on a chance to earn more customers by not asking for them. There are many opportunities for businesses to remind customers to leave reviews, which is why businesses should incorporate the asks into existing marketing pieces and customer interactions. The effort should be a comprehensive business effort with every staff member trained to deliver during service delivery.

Website Optimization

A well-built, easy-to-use website is worth its weight in gold, both in the eyes of customers and search engines. The website is a business’ chance to tell their story and provide an optimal customer experience that builds customer trust.

Statistics prove that a mobile-friendly, fast website is worth the effort. A study in Search Engine Land found that nearly 60 percent of all searches are done on a mobile device. According to Google, when the time for a website page to load goes from one to three seconds, the chance of an online user leaving the website increases by 32%. That number almost triples, to 90%, when page loading speed goes from one to five seconds. The number increases to 106% when loading from one to six seconds. From one to 10 seconds, the chances of a bounce are a whopping 123%.

In addition to these important parts of the customer experience, captivating images, website content, and an easy-to-navigate website all play a significant part in converting visitors to customers.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing tactics IF executed correctly. Email marketing starts with a list of recipients interested in the business services or products. If the recipients are not interested, the email is going to go to the trash; this is a key reason why buying email lists is not an effective way to build an email list.

Instead, businesses should ask for e-mail addresses with incentives or during interactions with customers. Businesses can ask for email addresses on the website, during the buying process, or at meetings. To continue to grow the list and maintain interest, all emails should be drafted with a subject line that gets noticed, content that is valuable to the customer, and high-quality media that connects with the recipient. For best results, email content should be coordinated with other marketing tactics in a coordinated marketing calendar.

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.

8 BIG Do’s & Don’ts of Marketing Your Business Online

man laying head on desk confused by online marketingWe get it: online marketing is a dark, mysterious abyss that is new and unknown.  It’s not as satisfying as a sale that is closed in-person.  It’s not as concrete as those in-person interactions that come with a customer that walks in the door of your business.  We’ve heard it all before from our clients.

But online marketing gets customers to your door, both in-person and via the internet.  Online marketing builds trust with your customers before they pick up the phone or walk in—if you take these do’s and don’ts to heart when marketing your business online.

Do invest in a solid website.

A mobile-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and functional website is worth its weight in gold.  A solid website is the foundation of a strong marketing plan with pages full of information that your audience wants to read—and you want to direct them to (more information on the musts of a solid website can be found here).

Don’t create a website and neglect it.

The days of producing a solid website for the sake of having a website is over.  Nowadays, that website needs to work for you.  It needs to have content optimized for search engines so your website shows up at the top of results and on search engine maps.  It needs to have a solid contact page that you can direct your customers to when they have questions.  It needs to have links to your social media pages so potential customers can continue to connect with you.  It needs to have content that answers your customers’ questions and scores points with search engines (more info on regular content here).

Do get the attention of search engines.

Keep two key audiences in mind when you write content for your website: your customers and search engines.  More than 90% of all online searches start with a search engine so it makes cents (pun intended) to optimize your website content and invest in search engine optimization (SEO).  SEO technology gets your website to the top of users’ search engine results within 10, 20, or 50 mile radius (more information on local SEO in this post).

Don’t start marketing without an integrated plan.

The key is integrated.  Your marketing efforts need to be strategic, and an integrated plan that coordinates your online and offline marketing tactics is key (get started with these tips for drafting a marketing plan for your business).  Draft an integrated plan that is flexible enough to bend with the trends and inclusive enough that your brand message is clearly heard in your online (social media, content marketing pieces, etc.) and offline (post cards, ads, etc.) channels.

Do invest in mobile marketing.

Marketing for mobile devices is not just a fade.  It’s not going away.  To the contrary, smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices are a wave of the future that we all need to get used to and cater to.  If you have a website that isn’t mobile friendly, it’s time to contact a website design company to get a new, mobile-friendly website (built with these website must-haves) online.

Don’t think you have to reach everyone.

Stop trying to reach everyone; instead target your communications for a better return on your investment.  Who are your customers? What information do they want? Where are they online? Where are they offline?  How can you reach them? The answers to your questions should guide your targeted marketing efforts.

Do outsource your online marketing efforts if you don’t have time.

Even with the best of intentions, many a business owner or manager has run out of time to carry out even the most well-thought out marketing plan.  The internet is full of blogs and social media sites started by businesses who abandoned them because of lack of time.  If you find you don’t have enough time, don’t hesitate to outsource your efforts to the local experts that can meet your needs and your budget. 

Don’t cheat and copy and paste the same text on all your social media sites.

Sorry, you’re not fooling anyone when you post the same text to Facebook and Instagram.  It’s not effective. People can tell you’re haven’t created information specific to them, and it’s not going to perform as well.  If you feel a little out of your league (knowledge and time-wise) on a social media channel, contact a marketing company that can use the same voice as you already use and get results when you feel you’re in over your head.