27 Jun

Make or Break Strategies for Email Marketing

Email marketing may be the holy grail of today’s small business marketing, but the first commandment of email marketing is “Thou shalt not spam.” Never send unsolicited emails to anyone. Even if your message manages to make it through their email program’s spam filter, you’re likely to anger the recipient, and then you’ve just lost an established or potential customer or client.

That said, here are a few strategies to help your email marketing effort succeed.

Get a Sense of Timing
Monday morning at 8:00 is probably not the best time to send out your email. The recipient has probably just arrived at the office and likely has dozens of messages waiting to be read and responded to. Friday afternoon at 4:00 is generally not the right time either, right when they’re getting ready to head out for the weekend. So when is the best time. That will probably require some testing. Maybe you can find out what your competitors are doing. Once you’ve settled on a day and time, be consistent, so people know when to expect it.

Get Personal
Look for opportunities to include more than just the person’s name. This could be the neighborhood they live in or a reference to a previous purchase. Just let them know that they’re important to you by making your content relevant to them. The success of email marketing is founded on a trust between you and the recipient. As some have noted, people will give their Twitter handle out to anyone, but they only share their email address with people they know won’t take advantage of it. So because this is a trusted relationship, extend to them special favors not available to those outside this inner circle.

Get Down with Design
Remember that often people read emails on smartphones or other mobile devices with screens that are much smaller than the standard computer screen. Make sure your email and whatever landing pages you’re linking to are friendly to mobile devices and that recipients and visitors won’t have to resize the message to view your content. Also, make your emails viewable without images enabled. Due to privacy concerns, many email programs disable image downloads unless the user enables them. Make sure that any images you include in your email have a text description.

Get to the Point
A poorly crafted subject line can land your carefully crafted email in the trash before it’s even opened. Try to come up with subject lines that are engaging and simple; avoid using clichés. In the body of your message, too, be succinct. People are busy nowadays. They don’t have time to ready long and wordy newsletters. Figure out what you want to say and do it in a few paragraphs at the most.

Get Feedback
Pay attention to what gets the most clicks in your email campaigns and use that in crafting future ones. In addition, you can get direct feedback from your audience by asking questions or requesting comments.

03 May

Networking As SEO Strategy

Even though the majority of businesses and professionals are using social networking platforms to market their businesses, networking is still very important for business success. Networking must be done both online and offline in order to full maximize your efforts. Why is networking so important?

Contacts: Networking remains the most effective way of meeting and establishing a professional relationship with other people. You will meet people that will need your services. You will also meet people that can refer your services to people that they know. Most importantly, networking keeps you in the habit of talking with others. You can take the relationships that you form offline and have those relationships transfer to online relationships. This actually works both ways. This is why networking on forums and on Facebook is important, along with meeting people at face-to-face events is crucial. A great offline are various professional networking meetings that occur in almost every city.

Links: Once you establish a professional rapport with individuals on and off-line, you can begin to maximize link-building possibilities. People will be more willing to have your links on their site and more willing to have their links on your sites. Link building is one of the best ways to use SEO to increase your search engine rank.

Expert Reputation: Networking will fuel your reputation as an expert in your niche field. By talking, sharing and interacting with others, you are able to share your expertise. Expertise is key for boosting your business. You want to establish yourself as an expert, this must be your brand image both on and offline. Google must consider your site an authority for you to have the rank that will land your site on the first page of search.

Joint Ventures: Offline and online networking is one of the best ways to establish mutually beneficial joint ventures with other professionals. With so many competing companies and with customers having access to an endless list of places that offer services, the task of having your business found online can seem almost impossible. Joint ventures allow you to benefit from another businesses audience. These ventures also allow them to benefit by being exposed to your audience. The key is to find a great fit. For example, if you are a florist, starting a joint venture with a wedding planner is optimal. Both businesses benefit. You, as the florist, will be in introduced to customers who want flowers for their weddings. The wedding planner will benefit because when your customers are getting married, they will want a wedding party.

Networking establishes a connection between your business and a fresh group of potential clients. This engagement, both on and offline, allows opportunities for SEO strategy to be utilised in a maximum fashion. Soon, you will be building links, receiving testimonials, and increasing your fan base. All of these efforts result in a higher website rank, which will give you the search engine visibility that you need to succeed.

28 Mar

3 New Ways Pinterest Can Help Your Business

Pinterest is trending all over the social media networks. This social media platform has become extremely popular in a very short period of time. As with any new social media platform, there are constant changes and tips on how to utilize it properly for your business. While many use Pinterest for personal reasons, businesses are realizing that they can use Pinterest to engage their fans and increase their visibility. Here are a few new ways that Pinterest can be used for your business.

Trending
Pinterest offers the ability to see real time trending. This is a huge advantage to any business. If your business has visual appeal, such as jewelry or interior design, keeping tabs on what people are “pinning” can tell you exactly what your niche market desires. Pinterest isn’t optimal for all businesses, but business concepts that have a visual appeal can latch on to this social networking platform and stay on top of current trends.

Branding
Pinterest is optimal for defining and advertising your brand. Visually you can express every element that your brand encompasses. What three adjectives best describe your brand? For example, is your brand classy, contemporary or edgy? Pinterest allows you to show a large audience all of these elements that define your brand. Customers and potential customers will easily remember your brand once they have a visual that defines it clearly.

SEO
Believe it or not, even though Pinterest is a visual social networking platform, SEO is indeed possible. Each image that is “pinned” on your “pinboard” can be linked to a site. You can link to your site and drive visitors to other social networking platforms that you use. For example, if you make and sell custom jewelry, it would be advised to “pin” images of the pieces you have created. These images can then be linked to a landing page on your website that offers a description and how to purchase information. You are building SEO into your Pinterest “pinboard” and using it properly.

If you haven’t thought about how Pinterest can help your business, it is worth taking the time to explore this social networking platform. First you have to get an invite, but this should not be too difficult. Simply see which of your Facebook friends are using Pinterest and kindly ask them for an invite. You can also go directly to the site and request an invite. The wait time is not typically that long. Once you receive your invite, create your account and start your custom “pinboards”. Don’t worry about doing everything perfectly the first time around, you can always delete items you have pined or re-arrange your “pinboards”’ to use them more effectively.

Once you become comfortable with how Pinterest works, you can begin to maximize your business efforts on this platform. The key that you must remember is that social networking platforms are “social”. It is crucial to interact with the other members of Pinterest. Offer great content, in the form of images and interact with others by “re-pinning” their images. You will find a wonderful opportunity for positive reciprocal business relationships to develop. Take your time, explore and engage. You will soon see the benefits in your business bottom line.

02 Feb

Produce Content For Humans, Not Search Engines

Search Engine Optimization is not a get rich quick scheme. When done properly, SEO optimization works in favor of a business. When SEO optimization is done poorly, the result can be extremely damaging to your business. Harnessing the power of proper SEO optimization is an extremely effective way of increasing your revenue. How is this achieved?

The key to proper SEO is balance. For a business to have their website, blog and social media platforms work for them, and not against them, there must be a balance between SEO optimization and common sense. SEO helps increase your site visibility and searchability but it will not hold potential customers interest. SEO does not write your web copy for you. The balance of using SEO effectively is to capture the power of both the keywords and the human element that your business revolves around.

Proper SEO copywriting, combined with the human factor, not only ensures that your articles are great quality, but that those articles are search engine and reader friendly as well. This begins with making your copy customer friendly. Are you delivering consistent, well-written web copy that offers your customers value? Potential customers will know that if a business pays attention to details and offers value with their web presence, this will carry over into their product or service delivery. Producing valuable content will only work if you have used SEO correctly. Combine this with engaging and useful copy and the potential customer will find intrinsic value that captures their attention.

SEO provides keywords that enable search engines to find your site easily. When your web copy is optimized, your business becomes more visible and is more likely to be seen in searches conducted by potential customers. Using SEO properly encompasses more than copy and pasting keywords into your web copy in a random fashion. For example, if you are a florist and want to drive more traffic to your site, one of your keywords may be “roses”. When used correctly, the web copy will flow naturally. When used incorrectly, inserting “roses” in every sentence, the web copy will not make any sense to the reader. The result will be a frustrated potential customer who is left with the impression that your shop only wants to sell them and not develop a mutually beneficial business relationship. This is not the impression you want to leave with potential customers. Using the above suggestions will help you avoid this outcome.

A well-optimized web site is key to having a positive online image. By taking the time to optimize your web copy in the right way, your business will save time and money. Remember that your customers are human beings, not search engines. Create a balance of SEO and great content and you will have potential customers seeing your business in a positive light. When potential customers have a great first impression, the likelihood of them purchasing your services is greatly increased. This results with a happy customer and a successful business.

21 Dec

3 Ways to Effectively Leverage Social Media for Online Marketing Success

It has almost become something of a cliché to say that the future of advertising in social media. However, there is a bit of truth at the heart of every cliché, and this one is no exception. The statistics tell the same story. Spending on social media advertising is expected to increase nearly tenfold over five years, from $350 million in 2007 to $2.7 billion in 2012. This is a market opportunity if there ever was one.

Here are 3 excellent ways to leverage the increasing power and popularity of social media in order to increase the visibility of your company and attract new customers.

Work the Relationship Side
The ancient Chinese philosopher Sunzi stated in his classic The Art of War that if you know your enemy and you know yourself, then 100 wars will be 100 victories. In a more modern context, this means that if you know your customers, then you will be much more likely to properly understand them, and to understand what they are looking for.
The rise of social media presents an unprecedented opportunity to know your customers, and to know exactly what they are looking for. Take advantage of this opportunity to create an open dialogue with your customers. Provide them with the relevant content that they are looking for, and maintain this dialogue so that it is open 24 hours per day.
With social media marketing, your immediate goal need not be to push products on customers. Instead, you can think about a social media campaign as akin to having an office emails system. It facilitates communication with your customers, and allows them to reach out to you.

By keeping these channels in place and open, you will ultimately see increased traffic levels, and increased business levels.

Social Media Is Not a Stand-Alone Goal
As an ever-changing beast, it is hard to even define exactly what social media is, nonetheless how you can effectively leverage it for success. However, social media is definitely dynamic. This means that your thinking about social media needs to go beyond simply making a Facebook fan page to drive traffic to your website to drive an increase in sales.
Instead, just try to link all aspects of your social media campaign together. So when you write a new blog post, include buttons to make it easier for people to share it via Facebook and twitter. Likewise, create some of your blog posts as videos, and share them on YouTube. By sharing across more channels, you create additional exposure.

Create Great Content (and Know How to Share it)
As it always seems to be, the final takeaway is that great content is king. And as social media is all about sharing, whether you will be successful in your social media campaign depends on whether you create content that is share-worthy, and share-able.

This is all about adding value for your customers. Look at it from their point of view. Don’t just talk about yourself or your business. Make a video or an article that your customers will like, and they will want to share with their friends, and you’ll get all the free promotion you could ever want.

17 Nov

Get in on the Video Marketing Craze

Video marketing has always been a fabulous way to engage consumers, but the price of television advertising has made it something that many small business owners can not afford. The Internet has brought video marketing down to a price that anyone can afford: Free. It is now possible to make video advertisements for a fraction of the cost of television advertising. Online hosting is completely free on your own website or using sites like YouTube, so the only cost is on video production. Many small business owners have mistaken ideas about the costs of online video production. They think that if the video is not professionally produced it will not have the correct response in consumers. This is simply not true.

• Consumers respond better to a video than any other type of marketing. Even when the video is not a professional production, the ability to put a face with a company is crucial to business success. Consumers are more likely to purchase from businesses with which they feel an emotional connection. The key to building customer loyalty is in building long term relationships. When consumers feel like they get to know the people behind the corporate façade, they are much more engaged.

• Professional production is not required. All that you need to create a successful online advertisement or marketing video is a web cam and time. Even a script is not a necessity. You can simply determine the information you want to cover ahead of time and then speak slowly and clearly to the camera. The point is to give consumers a face to go with the information. Of course, more professional productions may get more views, but millions of views do not translate into millions of sales. Focus on providing niche specific information, and you will enjoy increased sales figures as a direct result of your video campaign.

• Free hosting makes it all possible. The ability to put your video up with no cost is what makes this such a successful aspect of online marketing. Since you are not spending anything on the posting, if you want to work with a production company or professional videographer, you may be able to find the budget. The combined cost of production and display spots are what make television so expensive. The low resolution online format allows you to minimize your costs and maximize your return.

Video marketing is not just a great way to build consumer loyalty. It also helps your website with search engine optimization. Video is becoming a more and more popular search result, which means that it is more likely to be ranked higher on SERPs. Because you can create online videos in minutes, with just a bit of editing to make them publish ready, no business can afford to ignore the benefits of online video marketing. Start filming your own video today, and track the responses. You will need to ensure that it is tagged properly so that it is easily found, but watch as the view numbers climb rapidly and you get increased web traffic.

26 Oct

Custom Apps for Your Business!

For companies that want to stay ahead of the competition, now is the time to streamline departments and open up the lines of communication between employees. Formerly, this would be dependent on computer and internet access, expensive programs, and other pieces of costly, unitasking technology. Now, there are Dell IT solutions in the pocket of nearly every employee, the smartphone. These devices are not just for texting and calls, they offer companies a chance to utilize custom apps to take profits, efficiency, brand awareness, and a company's identity to a whole new level.

App markets for the Droid and iPhone are astonishingly large, with hundreds of thousands of options for everything from streaming videos to planning business trips. Companies now have the option to utilize preexisting apps, alter current apps, or create custom apps specifically for their business. One of the key sectors that apps have revolutionized is the accounting department. Mail, taxes, faxing, payroll, and other
financial programs have all gone mobile. Apps such as Intacct and LessAccounting integrate with cloud memory systems to keep track of taxes, expense reports, inventory, and purchasing. Management can regulate employees with tiered access to data, ensuring that sensitive information reaches those that need it and no one else.

Whether companies are offering goods and services around the world or are focusing on a local demographic, real-time information is the key to success. When it comes to customer transactions, most businesses have been relegated to desktop programs, dedicated cashiers, or outsourcing the work to off-site partners. With a smartphone and a handful of apps, companies will be able to do away with these extra costs and boost productivity.

Nearly every financial institution offers ready-made or custom apps for smartphone
owners. Employees that are working off-site will be able to print out an > estimate, order required parts, and even scan the client's check or credit card. All of this information can then be sent to the transportation department, management, human resources, or any other party that needs the information.

Offering company smartphones to employees has taken on a whole new meaning. Management will find themselves with secure information any time they need it. Employees will have access to the programs they need anywhere they go. Best of all, these customized or preexisting apps cost just a fraction of their desktop counterparts and were built with the competitive company in mind.

04 Oct

SEO for the Small Fish: Keep it Local

With Internet marketing, you open your business to the world. You are no longer a big fish in a small pond, or even a small fish in a small pond, but instead, you are a speck in the ocean. The trick is to reduce the ocean to a series of small ponds. Small businesses can not compete with Internet giants for page rankings, so the best method of search engine optimization (SEO) for them is Local Optimization. Instead of competing for an infinitesimal slice of the world pie, put your business in the position of owning the entire local pie. By placing your company at the forefront of local options you expand your markets considerable without the expenses of trying to compete with retail giants like Amazon.

Local search optimization is all about improving your online visibility through local business listings and Google maps. By posting complete profiles on local listing sites, you generate additional traffic through those avenues. Consider, how many times have you visited Google to search for something local and had results that were international? It is a very common phenomenon. Search engine users are becoming more careful in their search terminology. Where once, they may have used the term “pizza and subs” now, they use “pizza and subs in Atlanta”. Some even use more location specific terms that reference a particular neighbourhood. By ensuring that your business is listed locally with Google, you improve your ability to target customers in the immediate area.

Without local optimization for your website, that includes a complete profile including address, your business is unlikely to appear in the top five for any search result. By including local terms and keywords that are specific to your area, you improve your chances of a first page result dramatically. Google is not including maps on search results, so if you business is listed it can show on unrelated searches as well. When a person uses Google maps to find a location, Google automatically generates other places of interest in the area. If they are seeking restaurants, even though yours was not specifically targeted, it may still show in the associated results. The same is true for retail stores, government buildings, entertainment options and much more.

Local optimization allows you to maximize your presence in a highly specific area. By using the Internet to strategically advertise your business, you find a niche that is perfect for your company. SEO is all about finding a niche to market successfully. Niche markets are traditionally under represented in traditional stores. For example, the man who wears a size 15 shoe or the women who needs extra petite in clothing may have difficulty finding items in regular stores. The Internet is designed to bring those niche customers to the appropriate niche retailer. On the Internet, local stores are a niche. Because the business model has swung toward globalization, local markets have been left out of the loop. A business should exploit all local listing opportunities to increase their local market penetration.

15 Sep

Do Deep Discounts Through Social Buying Sites Really Help a Business?

Consumers are constantly on the prowl for the best price on the top of the line items they are looking for. Sites like Groupon and Living Social offer an opportunity for businesses to connect with thousands of local customers, and possibly gain a new following.

What are Social Buying Sites? Groupon and Living Social are both good examples of social buying sites. They contact local businesses, or local businesses contact them, and provide incredible discounts on sought after services. Restaurants might offer a fifty percent off coupon through one of these sites, or local spas might offer a day of beauty for a fraction of the regular price. But the question remains: does offering these incredible bargains actually help the business?

Coupons are a Risk, but the Math Works! Businesses are often reluctant to offer the deep discounts required by sites like Groupon and Living Social, because they will lose money on those offers. However, both of those sites allow the business to place strict limitations on the number of coupons to be sold, and in many cases they offer the opportunity for a runner-up offer. For example, a person goes to buy the sixty percent off coupon being sold on Groupon, but only five hundred were offered. They are already sold out, so instead the social buying site offers a free or very inexpensive coupon that gives twenty percent off. While the second coupon is not as great a discount as the first, a business can offer more of them without worrying about losing money. The offer also lets small businesses market directly to a local audience for practically free. The startup cost is negligible and the social buying site only takes a percentage of the sales for the coupon.

What Not to Do to Customers that Use Social Buying Coupons The first thing to remember is to never treat them differently from full paying customers. The only way you can show them how great your business truly is, is to treat them like a regular customer. Yes, the business may lose money on the five hundred coupons they sold. However, some of those coupons will never be redeemed, and some of the people that use them may become regular customers. If a business manages to generate repeat business from only five percent of the coupons sold, over time the promotion will pay for itself. Yes, the business experiences a temporary loss, but in the long run it is good for business. It brings a small business to the attention of people that had never tried it before. Stand by your product or service and don’t be afraid to offer it at a loss occasionally.

When you have a solid product, getting people to try it is the hardest part. Once you have the opportunity to show consumers how great you are, repeat business is just around the corner. Don’t offer coupons constantly, but strategic offers designed to bring customers in during an otherwise slow season can be a great way to open new revenue streams and help with cash flow.

18 Aug

Top SEO Techniques to Drive Web Traffic

The top three methods for driving traffic to a website are the same as they have always been, utilize on-page optimization for search engines; don’t depend solely on the search engines for traffic; one way back links from quality sites do wonders. Although they are not new, many developers and marketers have a difficult time properly implementing these strategies. Here is a basic guide to implementation.

On Page Optimization
Ensure that your page is optimized by incorporating keywords in both the content on each page and in the titles, headers, Meta tags and Meta description. If you use carefully researched keywords appropriately throughout your site it will help increase your page rankings and help potential customers find your website. Many designers fail to focus on only one or two keywords per page on a website, but that is what is required to create an optimized site. Don’t use the keyword in every sentence; that will not read well and can actually drive people away from your site.

Other Traffic Sources
Search engines are a great way to drive traffic to a site, but they are hardly the only method. There are many listing services that will allow you to post a free business listing. Including your web address in your signature is always a good idea, particularly if you are active on social media sites and in forums. Starting a blog can help increase web traffic. Starting a fan page on Facebook can increase traffic. Search engines can help drive traffic, but you should never put all of your effort into only one method and any marketing option that doesn’t have additional cost beyond time should be explored. Of course, the best thing about using other methods to increase page views, is that it will also increase your search engine ranking.

Quality Link Backs
Not only do link backs drive traffic to your website all on their own, but the number of link backs to your site is one of the things Google uses to determine your page rank. Each link is a sort of vote in favor of your page. Not every page is a good one to provide a link back though. In order to actually reap the benefits the page on which your link is posted should have 30 links or less. It is best if the websites with your backlinks are in some way industry related. The best of all worlds is when you can obtain those backlinks for free.

There are as many methods for advertising a website as there are for advertising a traditional store. The great thing about internet marketing is that so much of it is available free or at a very low cost. While television and radio ads are still a possibility, the cost to purchase spots on those types of media is very high. A well planned online marketing campaign can provide the same level of exposure, without all the upfront cost. In fact, for most internet marketing the largest cost is time.