Marketing

3 Key Technologies to Help You Network

3 Key Technologies to Help You Network

Heading out to a conference? A chamber breakfast? A meetup? This is your networking time. I know – you’d rather be at home watching SportsCenter or Ellen. But like it or not, networking is a necessary part of your business, so you'd better get out there. And when you do make it off the couch, here’s some good news for you: because it’s 2018, there are lots of good technologies that will help you network more powerfully and most importantly, more quickly.

That means you get more bang for your networking time.

Can Visitors Trust Your Website?

Can Visitors Trust Your Website?

With all the talk and news about protecting your credit card and personal information online, people are hypersensitive about protecting their information when they’re on the internet. Additionally, trust is an important factor when a customer decides whether they want to do business with a company.

Get Found Online with These 3 SEO Tactics

Get Found Online with These 3 SEO Tactics

Search engine optimization (SEO) is more important than ever for getting found online—and getting customers to buy from your business. That’s because online search has become the primary way potential customers find local businesses.

Don’t believe me? A whopping 87% of people used a search engine to find a local product or service in the past month, the Local Search Association reports.

Mastering Instagram for Your Business

Mastering Instagram for Your Business

Instagram boasts over 1 billion highly engaged monthly active users as of June 2018. If your business is not marketing on the Instagram bandwagon, you're missing a tremendous (and FUN) opportunity.

Back in January 2018, I published a blog sharing how small business owners can take advantage of Instagram to extoll the many cool features available.

It’s 2018. How Can You Not Have a Website Yet?

It’s 2018. How Can You Not Have a Website Yet?

As we hurtle through yet another year, there’s still a great divide between two kinds of small business owners: Those who have business websites, and those who don’t.

Fortunately, small businesses are realizing the importance of a business website. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of small business owners in Clutch’s 2018 Small Business Survey have a business website, and 81% of those say their sites are mobile-friendly.

How to Use Social Media to Reach Your Customers

How to Use Social Media to Reach Your Customers

Over the last 12 years, the prevalence of social media prevalence in our society has absolutely exploded. The percentage of adults who use at least one social media site has grown from 11% in 2006 to 69% in 2018. This 58% shift in social media usage is staggering, and businesses large and small have taken notice.

How Cross-Channel Marketing Can Help Your Small Business

by John Bertino
Originally published on July 31, 2018, at SCORE

Cross-channel marketing, also known as omni-channel marketing, means taking all the channels you use to communicate with your customers and creating a seamless, integrated, marketing experience.  

Leveraging a multi-channel strategy helps you to get a better value and thus a better return on your investment of time and money.

Rather than give you yet another piece about how a singular marketing channel works in isolation, let’s talk about a few ways that they work together and how an omni-channel marketing approach to marketing can yield better results. 

SEO Keyword Research Should Guide Your Website Architecture

Keyword research is the starting point for everything in digital marketing and creating a website architecture without first knowing what keywords you want to cover has definite disadvantages. 

To start, Google and the other search engines pay very close attention to the various pages, content and concepts covered throughout your site.  No surprise there!  But realize that this content and these concepts have everything to do with how a search engine will perceive your relevance to the terms you want to rank for.  Thus, they are major search engine ranking factors. 

The way in which you organize site content – aka, the “information architecture” – and the thoroughness and comprehensiveness of how you cover those topics is being scrutinized very closely by search engines.  A lack of an intuitive and logical site structure is not only a missed opportunity but also a signal to search engines that you might not know the best way to organize your thoughts around a concept.  Taking that a step further, the thoroughness and comprehensiveness with which you cover website subject matter demonstrates to search engines your understanding of concepts and how they relate to one another.  You may feel that you are a subject matter expert in your space, but does your site prove that?  In short, the more your website thoroughly and completely covers your core area of expertise, the more you’ll tend to win with search engines.  This is often referred to as optimizing for topics, not keywords, or topic modeling

Note that while having a sound keyword strategy is critical to building web architecture, one’s effort to comingle SEO and architecture should never be at the expense of a visitor’s user experience (or “UX”).  Google and the search engines are also looking at how easy site visitors can navigate your site and how regularly their intent is solved with your content.  There’s more to this than good information architecture.  A clean, seamless design with an effective use of space and an understanding of our visitor’s intent will convert more traffic and make for a better overall experience (always a good thing). 

All things considered, the best design approach is a balanced one; one which marries your core keywords and concepts with a clean and seamless UX. 

Split-Test User Experience to Build an Optimized Design

Immediately we see how intertwined design, SEO and content can be.  Yet paid media or – more specifically the data and findings from a paid media campaigns – can be extremely valuable during the design process as well.  

Split-testing is the process by which one variation of your website or landing page is shown to one segment of your audience, and then a different variation to another. Through analytics, marketers can measure which versions of their designs perform best, thereby using data to make more informed decisions about design. 

Note that it’s often best to test just one element at a time, continuously perfecting the design as you go. And you can split a multitude of factors including: 

  • Colors
  • Layout
  • Copy
  • Call to Action
  • Images
  • Videos

There is no shortage of split-testing tools available to choose from, though options vary greatly depending on your available budget. We recommend: OptimizelyKissmetrics, and Unbounce. If you’re in a pinch, you can use Google Content Experiments, which is included for free as part of Google Analytics. You’re allowed to test up to 10 page versions with different URLs, and you’re able to set and test different objectives.

Leverage PPC Performance Data to Choose SEO Keywords

Using what you learn from a short-term PPC campaign, you can better inform your long-term content and SEO strategies. If you placed bids on certain keywords that you didn’t expect to perform well, but found that they sent surges of qualified traffic, then you know those keywords are ones you should strongly consider building out content around

If keywords you picked didn’t perform as well as you expected, use another short-term PPC campaign to test others.

Social Media for Awareness. Advertising for Conversions.  

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are excellent for spreading top funnel awareness of your brand and mid-funnel awareness of your content – but they’re not nearly as great at converting sales. 

Don’t get me wrong, demographic targeting techniques through social advertising are amazing; as they allow marketers to target based on almost any demographic attribute.  The problem is that when people are on social media, they’re generally looking to be entertained and are less interested in making purchases – or at least purchases of any significant dollar value. 

Therefore, purveyors of products with anything more than a really short sales cycle and a relatively low price point are generally better served limiting the majority of their social efforts to building brand and marketing content.  You want to hook people in social with content that is amusing, helpful or just stimulates interest.  But avoid trying to go right for the jugular, and instead err on the side of nurturing leads through the remarketing tactics that we’ll discuss in a bit. 

The opposite of this scenario is generally true for digital paid advertising, especially paid search advertising.  One of the most amazing things about the invention of search engine ads is that they allow marketers to buy ad space and put their message directly in front of someone who has explicitly told them what they are looking for!  Think about that.  No other form of paid advertising lends itself to intent-based targeting like search advertising.  From TV and Radio to Social Media and Native Ads – while they’re great for behavioral and demographic targeting - none of these methodologies allow you to deduce a person’s intent like search and to then serve them an ad to solve their problems in real-time.  On a search engine, prospective customers explicitly say, “Philadelphia plumber for leaky faucet” or “Italian restaurant near me”. 

The result however, is that PPC advertising on these transactional keyword queries can be very expensive.  As a result, you best bet is to save that search ad budget for your most important keyword queries and leave the content promotion to social media. 

Content to Get’em in the Funnel.  ReMarketing to Pull’em Through

While content is indeed the key to garnering new prospects through search engines and social media, one piece of content rarely does the trick.  Thus, marketers aim to not only capture lead info but to warm those leads through multiple touch points and a commitment to providing value. This is what marketers call lead nurturing, and it really requires ongoing content, a list to market and ideally a CRM for tracking and analytics. 

Essentially, you have three options for reengaging past site website visitors:  email follow up, social media nurturing and retargetting ads.  Note that of the three, only retargetting ads can be shown to people whose information you haven’t previously collected and/or who’s social account you’re not already connected.  And so, it’s generally prudent for businesses without an established following or list to rely more heavily on retargetting ads to stay in front of people as they look to build their list. 

As previously mentioned, any product or service with a significant price tag or longer sales cycle will need to address an elongated buyer’s journey.  Thus, this blend approach of content plus email plus social plus advertising has become the new standard, andconsequently, so has an integrated multi-channel approach.

Wrap Up

When it comes to digital marketing, it can be quite difficult to pull new prospects into your funnel without good social media execution or solid keyword rankings.  Yet, simply introducing prospects to your brand through those channels is rarely enough to get sales.  We need to embrace other marketing channels such as email, digital advertising and optimal web design strategy to close them.  Meanwhile, the best site builds stem from keyword research.  And your email marketing is only as effective as the size of your list - which means you need to build one. 

Thus, thinking of marketing channels as independently operating lead generation silos is a myopic, inefficient way to approach the process.  It also leaves money on the table while costing you more long-term.  And while I encourage all small businesses to do something rather than get overwhelmed trying to do everything, bringing a big picture perspective to your marketing endeavors will always pay off long-term.  

Why Authenticity is Underrated in Small Business Marketing

by Gregg Schwartz
Originally published on July 11, 2018, on SCORE.org

As a small business, you might feel like you are at a disadvantage when competing against bigger competitors. However, in today’s authenticity-driven marketing landscape, small businesses actually have a leg-up on big businesses.

Sure, companies with a global footprint, decades of brand awareness, and access to large amounts of capital seem like they have an easy layup to the sales scoreboard. But small-to-mid-size businesses have growing opportunities to build the kinds of relationships and earn respect in their consumers’ minds to compete with any competitor – no matter how big their size or pocketbook.

Online marketing has leveled the playing field for small businesses in many ways – you don’t need the biggest ad budget to succeed anymore, you just need to go deeper and build stronger relationships with the people who care the most about what you offer. Authenticity is a choice.

Here are 4 ways that small businesses can be more authentic in their marketing and use their small size to their advantage.

1. Embrace your small size.

The worst thing you can do while marketing your small business is try to fool people into thinking you are bigger than you are. Most consumers are savvy enough to sniff out a phony, and most prefer to support the small, personable business than the behemoth that is hard to communicate with.

Instead of trying to conceal your size, promote it! Show your followers that you have a small but dedicated team who is responsive – and show real stories of the buyers and users of your product or service. Give behind the scenes glimpses of your company to further demonstrate how your products are made and used.

Don't try to act bigger than you are, with lots of fancy job titles and automated messages and unnecessary layers of management; if your company is small enough that customers can call the CEO directly, that's a competitive advantage! And apply this to little things, like automated messages. How many times have you seen the words “Do Not Reply To This Email” or canned answers to questions or responses that read like a lawyer wrote them? People turn away from impersonal companies because they want to feel like they matter. And they know your closest rival is just one click away.

2.  Be vulnerable.

Let’s face it, to err is human, and companies are not any different, simply because they are run by people. So, what do you do when you make a mistake or a customer’s bad experience teaches you a valuable lesson?

In the old days, disgruntled consumers had limited reach in expressing their disdain for a business. But today, they can write a negative review, post endless comments on your social networks, they may even be best friends with an influencer who has a million followers – and then you could be doomed.

That’s why you need to take the cliché about making lemonade out of lemons to heart. Face your mistakes, and find ways to promote them into lessons for your brand. This can be as easy as an apology and sending out a replacement product, refund, or credit towards your next purchase.

You can also build humility into your overall marketing and content strategy through posts, blogs, and other campaigns that address your lessons learned. Even large companies have done this with success to rebrand their failing products. Think of the Domino’s campaign several years back that confronted the fact their pizza had gone downhill – they were determined to renew their recipes, and improve the customer service experience.  

3. Be human. 

The nice thing about being a small business is the potential for customers to see you as more human and relatable. If you have a team of 10-20 employees, it’s easy to show who those people are on your website. Something as simple as a “Meet the Team” page can show that your team is truly passionate about giving customers a great experience. Even if you don’t have a large office in Silicon Valley decked out with a halfpipe and cafeteria that serves gourmet cuisine, you can show what life is like behind the scenes, warts and all.

Think of the old TV show The Office, and why viewers connected so much with this ragtag paper company that was always on the brink of failing. We loved their characters, their personalities, their quirks, and getting to know them. They were a small, struggling paper business who had large competitors and a constant uphill battle to stay afloat. But there’s a reason why that show wasn’t about a large company with slick executives who always made the sale: we like watching the underdog succeed, because most of us can relate to their struggles in life and in business. 

4. Work with Influencers.

Once you have defined the human side of your brand and company, it’s time to reach out to the influencers who are the best fit to promote your products. Remember in the old days, how word-of-mouth could make or break a local restaurant or business? It’s like that in the world of online marketing – times a million.

If you can get social love from a brand influencer with a million followers, that can be more effective for sales and authenticity than spending a million dollars on paid ads. After all, if someone who has the trust of thousands of people is willing to put their name behind your brand, customers will see your business as more real and human. It’s much more believable that you have a quality product when others are willing to vouch for your brand, rather than you telling people how awesome you are. This is why testimonials have always been thought of as essential components of marketing a business, product or service.

Authenticity is not a magic formula or a list of tactics; it has to be real, and it has to come from inside the “heart” and culture of your company. Authenticity helps you be more relatable in an increasingly competitive landscape that demands it, and it requires creative thinking and brave choices at every point of customer contact with your brand. Think of how to revamp your website, social media campaigns and even your traditional marketing materials to re-introduce your brand to customers in a more authentic way.

Simple Social Media Guide for Small Businesses

by Ijeoma S. Nwatu
Originally published on June 29, 2016, on SBA.GOV

It’s hard to escape the interest, activity and advantages of social media. Platforms are either constantly evolving. With the changing dynamics of the digital communication space, it’s important to get back to the basics. The key is to remember that social media is at its core a dialogue and conversation. Small businesses can leverage different platforms for a variety of reasons to either expand visibility, increase sales, or inform their audience.

Whether you’ve been active or considering a brand refresh, focus on a few best practices when approaching social media.

Sometimes, less is more. Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest. The list goes on. Managing social media – from the content to the execution–takes effort and time. If you do not have the resources to managing multiple accounts, think wisely in which ones you will invest in. Depending on the size, location and industry of your business you might focus on more visual platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. Get creative in showcasing behind-the-scenes snaps of your restaurant or interview clips with the craftsman building your next project. If your business relies heavily on sales and is in a very professional line of work, using LinkedIn would be appropriate.

Timing matters. In 2012, Oreo got it right during the National Football League’s biggest game when it aptly time tweeted, “you can still dunk in the dark”. Earlier this year, when Beyoncé released a new song and video with a mention of Red Lobster, the brand wasn’t as timely.  These social media cases are incidents of timing and how you a business, big or small, has to be ready to respond. Staying ahead of the curveball means knowing what type of content and stories to react to, maintaining a social media plan in the event of a communications crisis or an opportune moment and having a staff person and/or software to monitor social activity. You never know when opportunity strikes–timing is everything.

Check the numbers. Social media is a two-way street and therefore social marketing is not simply broadcasting products and services. When testing new marketing ideas and campaigns, review platform analytics. Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics, to name a few, have built-in data to show you information such as the audience demographics and the highest engaging content. Cross reference your tactics and plan with analytics and adjust accordingly. If you decide to incorporate paid posts or other advertising, it will be essential to determine and analyze your benchmarks, metrics and outcomes.

Get organized by developing an editorial calendar. Make note of important holidays like Thanksgiving or seasonal changes like the first day of summer and have content ready to share with your audiences. You could have a contest, free merchandise to giveaway or a special announcement to share if you’ve planned a coordinated effort in advance. Additionally, you can pitch stories to outlets and magazines about your upcoming events and promotions if it ties into their brand and editorial themes for the year.

Social media does not have to be complicated. Keep it simple by investing in a few platforms that aim to engage your audience and customers while positively representing your brand. Remember that timing, engagement and an organized process of developing and sharing content is important. Lastly, don’t take yourself too seriously, have a little fun!

 

About the Author(s)

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Ijeoma S. Nwatu

Ijeoma S. Nwatu is a digital strategy and communications consultant. She is the Communications Manager for ColorComm, an organization that aims to uplift women of color in the communications field. When not working with clients, Ijeoma can be found speaking about career transitioning and social media marketing. Follow her on Twitter: @ijeomasnwatu.