Have you decided this is the year you're going to make a concerted effort to grow your company's presence on Instagram? Are you tired of listening to other business owners flaunt their Instagram success and ready to get a little piece of that social media pie for your own company? With the huge engagement rate potential of Instagram (as compared to other platforms like Facebook and Twitter), it is no wonder an ever-growing number of companies are flocking to this powerful visual outreach network. If you want to create a loyal following and connect with local customers too, here are five tips you can try to boost your audience interaction rates on Instagram:
Use collage photos to showcase a variety of products your company offers. Give followers a glimpse at your extensive array of products by highlighting multiple items at once. You can even create category collages by filling each collection with similar items from the same category (e.g., a collage of sweaters you sell, a collage of your gluten-free cupcake offerings).
Create a co-branded campaign with other businesses in your area. Choose a specific day, create an Instagram hashtag for your event, and promote your upcoming Instagram event on your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Co-branded campaigns are a great way to encourage a sense of community among local business owners while prompting customers to shop locally.
Connect with local fans on Instagram and turn them into brand ambassadors. Offer loyalty programs to those who share your Instagram posts with their social networks.
Run a hashtag contest with your followers. Choose a popular hashtag (love is the most popular hashtag on Instagram) and get your Instagram followers to tag your company in their photo along with your chosen hashtag. Offer a reward to the best photo submission and watch your engagement rates soar.
Pick an Instagram filter and use that filter for all of your social media posts on a specific day (e.g., use a retro filter for all of your Throwback Thursday posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram). Encourage your followers to use the same filter.
Growing a brand presence on Instagram is easy if you're willing to be thoughtful with your approach to audience engagement. The true power of Instagram is its ability to connect you with fans on a visceral, visual level. If your posts help your followers to feel as well as think, you have a much greater chance of building a loyal following on Instagram. If you focus on your followers while developing a strong brand personality, you can't go wrong with this powerful social media outreach platform.
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Tracking the performance of your digital marketing strategies is critical for the success of your business. Thanks to the wealth of information gathered by any online marketing activity, you'll be able to garner invaluable insights into the activities and habits of your target audience. However, many businesses make the mistake of focusing too much on vanity metrics instead of the key performance indicators that point to far more important factors such as your return on investment and cost per lead. This came to light when we were asked to review a client’s online activities. They had a tremendous number of visitors to the site but they simply weren’t converting. What we have discovered is that is typically happens when you aren’t attracting the RIGHT people to the site and/or you are focusing on the WRONG keywords. Here are four common vanity metrics that you should be wary of as they could mislead you on your REAL online success: 1 - Likes, Follows and Connections Facebook likes, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections and Google +1s are the kind of metrics that many businesses pay far too much attention to. After all, many people assume that the brand with the most followers wins but, in reality, these metrics bear little relevance to actual results. Liking a brand or a post on Facebook, for example, requires nothing more than a single click, and people often do it without giving it a second thought. In other words, just because someone likes your brand page, it doesn't mean that you're actively engaging them. 2 - Ad Impressions The number of impressions is typically a metric used in paid online advertising that refers to the number of people who have seen your ads. In spite of being another metric that many businesses pay attention to, it is largely useless. When compared with the number of clicks your ads get, it can serve as a rough guideline to the reach of your ads, but impressions themselves say nothing about the actual performance of your campaign. For instance you could be getting a lot of impressions for a keyword you have put in that too generic for your product. This leads to lots of impressions but may have very little impact on conversion. Far more important than impressions are click-through rates and consequent conversions, since these are the only results that you should be paying for. 3 - Email Open Rates One of the most lauded metrics for tracking the performance of your email marketing strategy, email open rates refer to the number of times people view your emails. Again, this metric provides very little insight into the actual performance of your email newsletters. People often open emails without actually reading them, and preview panes in popular email clients such as Outlook count as opens as well. In other words, open rate is a very inaccurate metric and, instead, you should focus on key performance indicators such as click-through rates, deliverability and forwards. 4 - Page Views As is the case with email newsletters, a page view means almost nothing in terms of results. You can have thousands of page views per day, but the figure is completely meaningless if you're getting a poor conversion rate. A successful business website is one that targets a specific audience by prioritizing relevancy over the number of visitors alone. What is important is how people are engaging with your content and going on to become leads or conversions. Instead of focusing on page views, pay attention to time spent on page, social shares, signups and conversions. Final Words It's easy to focus too much on vanity metrics at the expense of the real key performance indicators. While the above metrics can provide a general overview of the reach of your digital marketing efforts, they bare little relevance to conversions and return on investment. Instead of putting too much weight in these vanity metrics, focus only on those that actually bring you a return on investment. Ultimately, you're going to want to pay for conversions and not to have bragging rights of having more Facebook followers or page views than your competitors.
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No matter what size of company you are, your marketing budget is likely never as high as you would like it to be. It is this precious commodity; your investment into your own company stock. You need it to perform. You need it to help grow your company. The question is, are you using it effectively? Do you even know if it’s working? In other words, are you needlessly wasting your marketing dollars? Earlier this year Adobe took a closer look at how well companies were doing in measuring the effectiveness of their marketing. It probably comes as no surprise that most of us aren’t doing a great job. Here are couple of staggering statistics Adobe shared: Only 8% of companies say they candetermine ROI from their social media 21 % of companies consider themselveseffective at measuring mobile ROI. 40% or marketing departments think their companies’ marketing is ineffective 50% of B2B companies find it difficult toattribute marketing activity directly to revenue results Do you feel the same way? If so here are some suggestions to help you not only better track the effectiveness of those marketing dollars, but also make a positive impact to your bottom line. Create a Marketing Scorecard One of my favourite quotes is “It’s hard to know if you’ve won the game if you don’t keep score.” Creating a scorecard can be as easy as creating your on Excel Spreadsheet or as an elaborate as using marketing dashboards provided through your CRM or Conversion Software. Here are is the type of data that you should be tracking General Google Analytics statistics – like unique visitors, time on the site, bounce rate, source Ecommerce Statistics - $$ by source, by campaign, by ad Online Goal Statistics – email submissions and downloads by source, by campaign, by ad Phone Tracking software (to track people who are phoning from viewing your site) – by source, by campaign by ad Phone Tracking without software – keeping track of queries and asking not only if they came from your website, but what did they search, did they use Google, Bing, etc, Do they recall if it was an ad or an organic listing. Social Media - # of followers, # following, # of visits to the site from social media Referrals – record the name of the referral not just the word “referral” Offline Marketing Initiatives - if sending to the website, try to use an original url so you can track responsiveness better. If phoning, then see phone tracking above. Newsletter and other Subscribers (like eBook downloads, for example) Summarize - # of leads (subscribers), # of inquiries, # moved into nurturing stages (proposals, follow up campaigns), # of new sales, # of repeat sales (if tied to marketing and if not these shouldn’t be included in your marketing ROI except to help you determine the long term value of the client). This seems like a lot. But if you invest in setting up your Google analytics properly to track ecommerce conversion, or goals like forms and phone tracking, a lot of the online numbers will be looked after for you. Set time in your calendar or an assistant’s to add these in monthly to your scorecard and review the results. Seeing the numbers month to month, helps you to make changes more quickly and see where the increases are happening. Determine how much you are willing to spend So you have all these great numbers. Now what? Like any budget, they only work if you have set the guidelines. Here are some goals you should be looking to set. Lifetime value of a client. If your business works on long term or repeat customers, marketing should be based on the long term value of the client and not just the first sale. Some people prefer to track gross revenue, instead of (or along with) the lifetime value of the client. Others track Net Revenue (less Cost of Goods sold) or work off Net Income (less expenses). Acquisition Cost of a New Customer – This is THE key number that is often overlooked. How much are you willing to spend to acquire a new customer? Some people will spend the entire amount of the first sale because the lifetime value of the customer is very high. Others will use a percentage of the first sale. There is no right or wrong answer here. You can certainly look at your historic information or industry averages to help you decide. But you NEED to answer this question. It not only helps with measuring ROI but it is extremely helpful in determining a basic marketing budgets (# of new customers in a year X acquisition cost). Cost Per Lead. This is important because it helps to compare the costs of each marketing campaign you are running and whether any of them are getting out of hand. This allows you to make revisions quicker before a marketing initiative has a huge impact on your bottom line in a negative way. Typically this number is determined by taking your acquisition cost of a new customer and dividing it by the average inquiries it takes to close a sale. For example if acquisition cost for a customer is $100 but you believe it takes 3 leads to close a sale, cost per lead could be set between $30 - $35. Marketing Costs. You will need to determine what you are going to include in your marketing costs. Some people only track actual costs of the campaign. Others include longer term investments like website development or graphic design. Still others include staff time or their own time. Make sure your accounting system is set up to track what you want to include in this expense category. Your accountant may be able to help you determine what you should include. Measure your ROI If you want to keep it simple – use an online or Excel version of a marketing roi calculator. But once in a while – either monthly, quarterly or semi-annually, depending on the level of marketing activities and sales for your company – you need to have an in depth look at what is and isn’t producing. Here are some suggestions as to what you should be looking at: Your Marketing Scorecard Are you seeing overall increases as well as specific increases from one area? Are you seeing any anomalies (something has either increased or decreased by a large amount, in which case you’ll want to dig into these)? Are you seeing some progress in soft metrics (by these, I mean activities that could have potential down the road – social media followers, visitors to the site, e-book downloads, email subscribers) Leads Are you seeing an increase in leads? Where are they coming from? Is the cost per lead on track? Are the leads converting? If leads are converting which campaign(s) are converting the best? How many leads is it taking to convert to a sale? If different than what you expected, work out the new cost per lead? Sales Are you seeing an increase in sales? Where are they coming from? Is your acquisition cost on track? Which campaign(s) have been contributing the most in terms of sales? Marketing Costs Are these on track? Have you spent more or less than expected in any area? Where do you want to make changes based on the previous period’s performance? Does this seem overwhelming? That’s because it is to some degree. Of course for smaller companies, it’s easier to answer these questions than it is for larger companies. However, if you want to be as effective as you can be with that precious marketing budget then it’s all worth it. The results might even surprise you!
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Facebook tends to be a very challenging platform for marketers. Think about how competitive the Facebook News Feed is. You're not only competing against other ads for the user's attention, you're also competing against the user's friends and family. Essentially, for your ads to be effective, users have to find them as interesting as the things posted by their own loved ones. Obviously that's no small feat, so to successfully advertise on Facebook you're going to have to get creative. The 20 Percent Rule Facebook has a rule that the overlaid text on News Feed ads can't take up more than 20 percent of the image. If you want to use a quote or a special deal to market your product, most of the words will have to go into the text box above the image. Reserve the image portion of the ad for an intriguing photo and some minimal, eye-catching text. For example, the overlaid text might say "Click for more info" or "Save 50 percent," but you can't use it to explain your product in any detail. You're better off keeping product descriptions and details onsite for search engine optimization. Facebook ads aren't like TV commercials where you have the time to win over customers by conveying all the details of your product. They're more like highway billboards; users are scrolling past at 55 miles per hour, and the purpose of your ad is to grab their attention so they get off on your exit. Get Personal and Grab Their Attention Facebook ads generally perform best when you incorporate a specific call to action with a touch of humor or controversy. For example, imagine you're trying to sell shoes targeted at young women. Your ad's image could be a crossed-out pair of bright rubber clown shoes next to the shoes you're trying to sell. The status box of the ad could say, "FACT: Up to 99 percent of women have ruined an outfit by wearing totally ugly shoes. Check out our selection and be part of the other 1 percent." In flashy letters, the image could be overlaid with the text, "Click here to help end the ugly shoe epidemic." The above example accomplishes a few things. Bright rubber clown shoes are unusual and eye-catching enough that many users would stop scrolling to see what the ad is about. After glancing at the clown shoes their eyes would be naturally drawn to the real product. The text makes a somewhat derogatory statement that the audience can relate to: they've probably seen plenty of their peers (not to mention strangers and celebrities) wearing shoes that they thought were ugly. It uses topical political terms that most young Internet users are familiar with ("the 99 percent" versus "the 1 percent"), and it comically exaggerates the issue of wearing ugly shoes as if it were a national crisis. Users would be compelled to click the ad because they've been humored, plus they'd want to be part of the "cause" that the ad is advocating. In more general terms, your ad has to be unique and eye-catching enough to truly stand out in Facebook's News Feed. Internet users are bombarded with ads on practically every page they visit, so they've been conditioned to filter standard product placements out of their attention. The text portion of your ad has to give users something they can relate to rather than simply stating facts like pricing or product specifications. The call to action has to compel them to react on a personal level. Inspire Discussion and Engagement In addition to generating conversions, compelling ads that inspire an emotional response in your users will also spark discussions. If you make users feel something on a personal level, they'll be much more likely to engage in your sponsored posts. They'll write their feelings in the comments, they'll tag their friends, and they'll share the post on their own timelines. Every time they interact with your post, their friends will see the interactions in their activity feeds, and your ad will be projected to a much larger audience. Famous quotes work well for that reason. Incorporate a well-known quote that represents your brand and users will be much more likely to tag their friends in order to share the quote with them. Another method is to incorporate topical references to pop culture. To continue with the shoe store example above, you might post a picture of Beyoncé from a recent red carpet event with the caption, "We think Beyoncé's dress would go better with our heels. Share if you agree." Even users who don't agree will be compelled to express their disagreement in the comments, and they'll be inadvertently promoting your ad in the process. It definitely takes a bit of trial and error to figure out the best way to engage your brand's unique audience on Facebook. However, you can't simply rely on bland advertisements and product placements if you want your business to go viral. You have to figure out how your customers think and use that knowledge to get your ads inside their head
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With Google announcing their new algorithm, heavily weighted around Mobile friendliness, many small businesses are stressed. What if you don’t have the time or money right now to re-do your website? Or worse, what if you don’t even know whether your site is mobile friendly or not? This discussion came up yesterday with a peer of mine who has a highly ranked site with thousands and thousands of visitors per month. He knows his site isn’t mobile friendly but to re-do the site will affect his ranking, in the short term anyway. Here is some advice I gave him to get his site mobile friendly in less than hour for free or very little cost.. Hopefully it helps many other small businesses breathe easier as well. 1. TEST YOUR SITE If you have built your website in the last few years, chances are your savvy web developer was smart enough to build it in what is often referred to as a responsive website design. Not only is it important to have a mobile friendly version of your site to maintain or increase your company’s rankings in Google, but it will also increase engagement with your site. These days, it’s not unlikely that your prospect has a computer, tablet and a smart phone. Each of these has a different screen size. A responsive or mobile friendly site will render your site differently depending on these screen sizes. If I can read your site on my phone, I’m more likely to stay on it and learn more about what you have to offer. If I can’t I will give up and move on to the next. So the first thing I recommend is to test your site here 2. GET A QUICK & COST EFFECTIVE MOBILE VERSION OF YOUR SITE You might be surprised to know that you can make your site mobile in less than hour. That’s right. There are tools out there that will create a mobile version of your site. It’s important to note that these applications actually create a second site and don’t convert your site into a responsive site. But Google doesn’t care whether you have a mobile site and a non-mobile site vs one responsive site. It simply cares that you have mobile friendly experience for your users. This means that this quick fix will save your rankings in the short term. You do need to be careful though that you don’t split your rankings between the 2 sites so you when choosing an application you want to make sure that it gives credence to the main website. One such application that I have used for myself and recommended to clients in Dudamobile. If you click here you will see you can actually set up a mobile friendly site in less than an hour for FREE. I don’t recommend the free version because of the ads, so would recommend the paid version for a whopping $10/month. Simply click Go Mobile, enter your URL, make some slight modifications to get it to look to your liking and then plug it in to your site. Click here to see what types of platforms they can’t typically convert. I’m sure there are other applications like Dudamobile, so Google away to make sure you get the best option for you. While these type of applications may not convert certain aspects, they do allow you to make a quick fix for now until you have the time or money to create a better version. 3. WORDPRESS USERS - GET A QUICK RESPONSIVE VERSION OF YOUR SITE Jetpack has an application within it to change your entire site to a responsive site. If you are Wordpress user, click on Jetpack in your dashboard, locate the Mobile Theme and click Configure. While this might require a little more tweaking or a couple of hours of webmaster time, this is another great quick fix. You can get some great how to directions here if you want to try it yourself. We have used it for a couple of clients now and it is working quite well. 4. START PLANNING FOR A LONG TERM SOLUTION While the solutions above are great to alleviate your current situation, at some point you will want to plan a new responsive website for your company. The key here is to make this change when you have the time and money to focus on it. As I was explaining to a client a couple of days ago, websites now are more than just an online brochure. They are the hub of your online marketing system. To maximize your investment, you want to take the time to focus on bringing in the right talent to create it, so that your visitors can easily get to the information they need to make a sale. This means: It needs to be responsive It needs to be optimized properly to rank (this is much more than just keywords on a page) It needs to have ample ways for a visitor to engage with the site It needs to have ample calls to action It needs to stand out from your competitors and truly represent you and your brand Breathe easy knowing you have a quick fix for now and then take the time to create that new website right!
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If you are a small business owner, chances are that marketing is only one of the many hats you wear on a daily basis. This can make it difficult to focus on ALL the great marketing ideas you might want to implement. In fact, you might find yourself consistently attracted to the same marketing activities over and over again. Perhaps this is because you like them more, their easier for you, or they seem to be working. Whatever the case you have become, without realising it, “Marketing Infatuated.” The question is what area or areas are you infatuated with? Let's look at the different stages of marketing. KNOW Its important clients know that you actually exist. So without this stage of marketing you may not be increasing awareness of your company in the marketplace. Activities that often fall in this area include advertising, search engine optimization (SEO), strategic partnerships and PR. Some people really enjoy hanging out in this area because they can see the results more clearly from their actions. For instance if you're spending your time and money on advertising especially on something like Google advertising, you can see very quickly if the activity is working or not. The problem with spending too much time here is you can also be spending too much money without maximizing the ROI of these activities. Infatuation Type: ATTRACTERS LIKE The like stage is what happens after somebody gets to know you. They’re trying to figure out if they like what you offer and if they like you as a company. Some of the activities that you might find here include social media postings, email marketing, new content and tools around your services and your branding. Typically people enjoy hanging out here because it gives them a chance to interact with their audience and build relationships. Unfortunately if too much time is spent here you might find either you don’t have enough followers or that they aren’t converting to sales (or worse, both). Infatuation Type: LOVERS TRUST & CREDIBILITY In this stage prospects are trying to determine if you or your product are going to deliver. People who spend time here look at ways to leverage themselves or their company as experts. Activities that you might focus on here are writing guest posts, speaking, writing e-books, and gathering reviews. The challenge with spending too much time here is you may not be getting those people that you speak and write to, to convert into actual engaged followers or customers Infatuation Type: EXPERTS POINT OF PURCHASE This is the stage, where we are converting a prospect to a sale through good old fashioned sales. Sometimes we have no problems getting enough people into our funnel and moving them through the like and trust stages but we have problems converting. Business owners who spend time here like to focus on the actual conversion numbers and love tweaking elements to increase that conversion. This means they may be looking at changing headlines, wording, optimization of keywords, and calls to action. Too much time spent here instead of other areas could mean that while they convert a lot of sales, there just aren’t enough in the pipeline or worse, they can’t service all the new customers effectively. Infatuation Type: CONVERTERS POST PURCHASE It is easy to get caught up in the marketing, close the sale and then move on. Marketing post purchase focuses on communicating with customers to encourage more sales and referrals. Typical activities in this stage include customer communications, customer events, customer gifts and referral programs. This is a great area to focus on for maximizing the average transaction value of a client. It also helps convert your customers into raving fans. Too much time spent here means less time spent prospecting and that can lead to peaks and valleys in the business cycle and less potential customers in the funnel. Infatuation Type: NURTURERS Diversifying your marketing activities is important to ensure that we get the biggest bang from our precious marketing dollars. Being infatuated is okay, as long as you know you're doing so and if every now and then you take the time to branch out into other marketing stages. What’s your marketing infatuation? Do you have more than one or maybe you’ve thought of a new one? Let me know.
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Choosing an Online Credit Card Provider Cidnee Stephen As more and more marketing occurs online, small businesses need to find ways to affordably garner those online sales. One question we get quite often is what credit card solution works best online. The answer however isn’t that simple because it really depends on the following factors: 1). Urgency – how fast do you need an online payment provider set up? 2). Monthly Sales – what are your estimated monthly sales? At higher volumes, certain providers can save you a substantial amount in processing fees. 3). Adaptability – do you need a provider that easily works with your existing shopping cart, accounting systems, online forms, etc. Keeping this criteria in mind, let’s look at some possible solutions to help get those online sales rolling. PayPal Urgency – PayP al is great if you’re in need of a quick turnaround to be able to start accepting payments. You simply need to create an account with Pay P al and you’re good to go. This process will usually only take you 10 – 15 minutes. Monthly Sales – T here is no cost to set up PayPal and no monthly fees until you ge t into advanced or pro features. PayP al however does have a n above average transaction fee of 2 .9% + 30 cents per transaction. This makes it a better solution for infrequent sales or low monthly sales. Adaptabilit y – PayPal is a very common way for people to pay and as a result easily syncs with many other website applications. Customers are comfortable with familiarity and most (if not all) online consumers know the PayPal name. Some other considerat i ons PayPal takes on all the security risk meaning y our sales go through a secure site so you are not require d to purchase a secure site (commonly called an SSL Certificate) for your site to take payments . However because the sale takes place on their site, buyers have to leave your site temporarily to complete the payment. This means an extra step in the sales process which could negatively affect your sales convers ion. You always want to minimize the step s and time taken in the sales process. Another small issue you will run into is that money received via PayPal, goes into your PayPal account, NOT your bank account. This requires more bookkeeping as you will need to reconcile your PayPal account and bank account. Stripe Urgency – Faster and easier than PayPal, Stripe can be set up in a few minutes. However, Stripe also wants you to have an SSL ce rtificate for your site, this takes longer depending upon your knowledge of SSL certificates and how to add this to your site. Average Monthly Sales – T here is no cost to set it up, and no monthly fees unlike PayPa l’s more advanced services. I t does have the same higher transaction fee s like PayPal , but once your v olume goes up to $3000 per month you become eligible for price discounts. As mentioned earlier, they want you to have an SSL Certifi cate which usually costs $150 - $200 for a decent one. This makes Stripe a good solution for infrequent sales as there are no monthly fees. It is also goo d for simple sales as they can be set up directly through the merchant account, and therefore don’t re quire a shopping cart function. Stripe is better than PayPal f or higher volume sales due to discounted r ates provided at various points up to around the $10,000 per month mark. Popularity – Stripe is easily becoming as popular as PayPal, and therefore sync s with most other popular website applications. Some Other Considerations Stripe uses a token system to send credit card information online making it a highly secure way to capture and process credit card information. Be cause you have your own SSL Certificate c ustomers don’t need to leave your site during the payment process . This means less steps in the sales process which could help with conversion rates. Stripe also has great data reporting on the backend so you can analyz e sales more effectively. Furthermore payments received through Stripe are deposited directly into your back account which requires more bookkeeping. On the downside , Stripe is a little slow in terms of actually processing payments. P ayments outside the US take 7 days to get deposited into your account, and US customers still have to wait 2 working days to see their money. Your Own Merchant Account Merchants such as Moneris are another option and good for high volume customers and for customers that need access to the funds in the quickest fashion. Urgency – Having your own merchant account definitely takes time. I t is the slowest of the 3 options to set up. You have to apply and abide by the merchant’s online policies b efore your account can go live. They offer plans that require you to have an SSL certificate and others that do not. How long it takes you to get set up will depend on if you choose to buy an SSL certificate or have payments go through a hosted service. Cost – T here are set up fees, a nd monthly fees, but their transaction fees are highly competitive , with average charges coming in at 2% with only 5 cents per transaction. This means after you start averaging $3000 /month, they become competitive with PayPal’s monthly fees . A fter $10,000/ month , they become competitive with Stripe. Remember , you also have to purchase the SSL Ce rtificate which usually costs $150 - $200 per year for a decent one if you don’t go with their hosted option. Popularity – If you looking to go with a merchant account, consider your online shopping cart and your accounting software. They list which credit card providers work well with them, which can help in your decision making process. Moneris , for example is very popular online and works with most popular website applications. Amount of Sales – As they have the lowest per transaction fee, merchant accounts are great for high volume purchases. Merchant accounts also allow a token system for sending information much like Stripe, making them great for secure transactions. If you don’t choose the hosted option, customers will also stay on your site during the entire payment process again helping with conversion. Un like Stripe funds are deposited directl y into your bank account typically within 1 business day . As you can see choosing the right credit card provider really comes down to what’s most important to you. Getting something up and running today? Keeping set up costs down at the moment? Putting the most amount of money to your bottom line at your typical monthly volume? Being compatible with your Shopping Cart software or other important software? But you might also want to consider which option will Maximize conversion by keeping customers on your site, and/or Ensuring maximum security of your customers’ credit card information? I’ve only chosen a few different providers here mostly because of their popularity, so I’d love to hear your successes and thoughts o n various credit card providers as well.
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The Age of Ahhhhh-dvertising Recently our pin below on Pinterest went a bit viral. Sure it’s a cool use of negative space but I’m sure what made it so shareable was the small message by Fiat in the right hand corner. Why? Because when it comes to getting a response on social media these days it’s all about the “ahhhhh” factor. This topic came up when I was having lunch with Greg Plata of WestJet Airlines – Bronze Lions winners at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for their Christmas Miracle video . We were discussing what makes something go viral and he referred to it as “sad”vertising. Maybe it’s my more upbeat nature, but I preferred to think of it as something that gets an emotional response – good or bad. Hence the phrase - “ahhh”dvertising. While I could bore you with statistics to prove this point, you just need to take a look at what your friends are sharing these days on Facebook to get a real time account of this phenomena. So the questions becomes, how can you harness this for your business? While Fiat (in my Pin) and WestJet with their Christmas Miracle can attest that campaigns like these positively impact their brand and therefore their bottom line, can small businesses use these form of advertising cost-effectively too? The answer is, “Absolutely!” You need to keep in mind that like any form of advertising, ahhh-dvertising can’t guarantee your campaign will go viral. But if it’s in-line with your company’s beliefs and values it will increase your likeability factor and most likely increase your followers – 2 attributes that are proven to “warm-up” those leads and move them closer to a sale. So here are 3 “ahhh”deas (sorry I just couldn’t resist) for your next campaign: CUTENESS & HUMOR Ask Petflow.com – a small business start-up about their success with “cuteness.” Their social media campaigns have increase their likes on their Facebook page to over 3 million and sales last year to approx. $65 million. They attribute this success to producing cute, shareable content and then targeting their ads to this engaged audience. So how can you harness cute? Re-think your e-book covers from boring text and corporate pics to a kid or dog in a suit Run a cutest photo, cutest kid, or cutest pet contest. Re-think your social media and website photos to make them more likeable. A CAUSE Do you feel strongly about changing a statistic? FIAT did in our pin, as do companies like Dove with their Real Beauty campaign. So did Australian Metro Trains in Melbourne Australia. They wanted to reduce the number of senseless train accidents and decided to do so in a less than boring public service announcement and with a less than expected marketing budget. The end result was their campaign called Dumb Ways to Die. Of course there is a cuteness factor in this as well, but the end result was getting people to pledge they would be safer around trains. Did they succeed? Not only did they generate over a million pledges from people to be safer around trains, there has been a 20% reduction in rail-related accidents year-on-year. This campaign was also the top advertising campaign in the world in 2013! Encourage people to take an active role in your cause (think Ice Bucket Challenge). Share a story of someone or something that became part of your statistic. Celebrate those that didn’t become a statistic. PROVIDE THE UNEXPECTED There have been so many great success for companies using this technique. Blendtec’s Will It Blend campaign A phenomena for over 8 years now and it’s still going strong. Dorito’s Goats 4 Sale A Super Bowl Sensation And my all-time favourite DollarShaveClub.com Our Blades Are F***ing Great Look at what all your competitors are doing and do something ELSE. If there is a common warped view of your industry, address it. Make your demo’s different – VERY different. You may not be able to afford an advertising agency, but that shouldn’t stop you from striving to have your content be more shareable. It’s a cost effective technique that can end up having a high payoff.
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The Fall is full of opportunities to promote your business in a creative way. With holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas around the corner and even seasonal changes like Fall and Winter, why not look for some creative ways to promote your products or services in the next few months? Before you say you can’t afford to either in time or money, remember online marketing offers some quick and affordable ways to get the word out.
Stating the Obvious…..
Probably the most obvious place online for your seasonal promotions is on your own website.
Leverage your home page by making a special banner or a featured space
Create at least one landing page that entices your audience to take advantage of your promotion
Optimize the content for key search terms
Add some extra blog posts around the theme of your promotion
But don't stop with just your own website:
Look for opportunities to partner with other websites, shopping sites, and relevant directories
Create a special url and mini website for the promotion
If it makes sense pre-arrange for your special to appear on relevant coupon sites
Get Google On It.
Because seasonal promotions are usually short-lived, it's hard to get your website or landing pages ranking on the first page of Google quickly. That means a great place to get the word out is using Google advertising. With a guaranteed a spot on the front page for controlled search terms, you really can’t go wrong. You can even set the cost and the amount of clicks per day to keep this within your budget.
The key to a good Google campaign though is taking the time to prep.
Make sure you have done your keyword research
Separate out ads into campaigns that are relevant to certain keywords
Test ad copy to see which ads get a better click through rate, and
Make sure that your ads go through to effective landing pages to increase conversion
Don't forget to look at putting your ads on the display network as well as normal Google ads. This will place it on other relevant sites and can have an enormous impact to your sales.
Harnessing Social Media
While Google will usually have the biggest audience for people who are actively searching for your services or products, don't forget about social media sites as well. If you tend to be more consumer-based, Facebook is a great place to turn and of course if you're more business to business, have a look at LinkedIn. Both of these sites have advertising opportunities that allow you to hone in on your specific target market again for small advertising dollars.
You can also get creative on your actual social media pages as well. Remember that you can update your banners to promote your new promotion, and you can send out a series of tweets or posts to encourage your connections to share your information and to purchase your offerings at a savings.
Make sure to think out the box here. Pinterest and Instagram are great if you offerings are visual. You Tube or SlideShare works well if you have a mini sales pitch or presentation to explain why they should take advantage of your special. Mix it up. All of these avenues are highly inexpensive to use.
Email marketing has definitely changed over the last couple years. People are craving the quick visual relevant offer. That means email can provide you with a great opportunity to send your promotion to the appropriate segmented lists. Keep it visual and use those big buttons. Email provides a great inexpensive way to get your word out to your biggest fans!
Need Some Inspiration?
Here are some fun samples of holiday promotions
Create your own special event
Great graphics are used to tie-in a product
Can you compare your service to a hot chocolate?
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When you are researching product and services online, do you ever notice how quickly you dismiss some websites because you don’t feel they will deliver? What about your website? Will your potential customers run away in fear? Have a look at this list of website trust factors. If they make you squirm when you see these on other sites, then chances are they are having the same impact with your web visitors too! 1. A Graphic Disaster We are living in the land of templates. A do it yourself logo and clunky template don’t look professional and could give you that impression of a “fly by night” operation. You need consistency in brand and a nice blend of the right colours, images and text. 2. It’s Boring The website feels like you are reading a small novel. Fonts are small, and the site is very text heavy. Images are stock photography that you’ve seen before. Websites should show the reader that they understand clearly and concisely what the reader needs to know. Punch out important text and add some original, creative photography. 3. It’s Old News You can tell that the website hasn’t been updated in ages. They have old resources and the blog hasn’t been updated in months (or years). Websites should be a place for visitors to learn about what’s happening in your industry as well as about your company. Keeping it fresh, and engaging keeps visitors on the site longer. 4. You Can’t Find What You’re Looking For In other words the navigation sucks and there are way too many “clicks” required to get to important information. It’s a common fact that the more clicks required the more you lose visitors. Keep key information like contact info in your footer, header or sidebars so it shows up on all pages. Summarize products or services on one page. In other words make it easy for people to get to the right solution quickly. 5. A Whole Lot Of Hoopla These are sites that over promise and under deliver. The headlines promise one thing in the content and the content is completely different. The testimonials don’t have names or companies attached. Statistics aren’t footnoted with sources. The results seems to too good to be true, which normally means they are too good to be true. You get the picture. Here you find music for $129.95, but the source is “Royalty Free Music Library”. 6. Everything requires an email address So you want to know about our products, fill out this form first. Commonly called “squeeze pages,” these websites give you no other option if you’re interested but to leave your information to take the next step. You can then expect daily emails for weeks trying to get you to buy. 7. It’s a Whole Lot of Nothing When you are searching and visit multiple sites, you soon discover that these sites say exactly the same thing as a handful of other sites you have read. They use the same language. They promise the same results. You might think you want your website to be like your competitors, but that could be the biggest mistake you make. Sites that are all the same can be the biggest reasons people don’t trust you. Be bold and be proud of what makes you different. So now that I’ve shared my list of what sends me packing online, what are your biggest website no-no’s?
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Nothing breaks my heart more than visiting a website that is well laid out and has great content, but has missed the mark in converting visitors into customers through an effective call to action (aka CTA) system. This is like investing all your money in a beautiful store front but keeping the doors locked unless potential customers phone or email you. In other words, a website with little opportunity for engagement is a waste of one of your most effective marketing tools. Creating a solid call to action system takes some forethought and a few great tools, but overall it's not an expensive endeavor to convert visitors into qualified leads and qualified leads into customers. Here is a quick step by step to get you started: 1. Define Your Buyer Personas Most companies have more than one type of person that buys from them. For instance, a jean shop could have a female customer between 18 years and 30 years old and also a male in the same age group. A technology firm might have to attract the Chief Information Officer in a larger company, but also a business owner in a smaller company. Each of t hese individuals approach a purchase in a different way. Your Call to Action (CTA) needs to appeal very specifically to a certain persona. For instance, a CIO might want to download specifics on the technology and know how to justify its investment, whereas a small business owner will be more interested in simply trying the software and understanding if it will fulfill his or her needs. 2. Pick Your Call to Action Type There are so many possibilities to engage a visitor on your site. You want at least some of your CTA's to require an email address or phone number from the prospect. This shows a level of commitment and also allows you to follow up and stay in contact with these individuals. Choose the subject of your CTA by thinking about the buying stage of your persona. For instance, a persona that is at the early stage of purchasing your product is probably in ‘research mode’. Therefore, you should choose subjects that help them better understand their problem and how to solve it. Common forms of research CTA's include eBooks, How-To Webinars, subscriptions to newsletters, blogs or tips. As the prospect becomes more acquainted with solutions, they will want to dig further in to why they should choose you over a competitor. At this stage, a CTA could be an in depth product comparison, a whitepaper, or product specifications or manuals. Closer to the actual sale, a prospect will typically want to try the product if possible. So CTA's at this stage include Special Offers or Free/Low Cost Trials, coupons or incentives, a consultation or an audit. Having ways a visitor can engage at various levels helps you define the level of interest of that prospect. 3. Create Your CTA Landing Page. There are a variety of programs that make creating an effective landing page easy. We use Hubspot because of the level of information it gives us, but other options include Lead Pages and Unbounce. Make sure you spend the time to create compelling copy and have a large visual button to take action. It is also a good idea to split test 2 or 3 landing pages by changing one element like the headline or the button text to see if one page performs better than the others. It's amazing how constantly honing a landing page can double or triple your results. 4. Create a Strong Follow-Up System The whole reason to create CTA's is to build a stronger relationship with a prospect. A follow-up system can easily be a series of emails that are sent at scheduled intervals using "autoresponder" software via tools such as aWeber, Salesforce, or Constant Contact. These emails can help ask for feedback from the prospect, educate the prospect and also offer other helpful resources or deals to that prospect as they move through the buying process. Because Autoresponder Software has detailed reporting, you can measure the effectiveness of the emails and offers provided within them. There is no end to how long these automated email "drip" campaigns can last. We have developed some that go for years. 5. Review, Revise, Re-Implement. It's highly unlikely the first CTA system you create will have the results you are looking for. You need to measure the engagement at every step, look for ways to revise it to be clearer or more compelling and then try it again. One thing is for sure: Installing a CTA system will help convert more prospects and customers, just like not installing one will leave you with sub-par results from your website.
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As small business owners, we tend to avoid a deep dive into strategy at the best of times. We are usually too busy fighting the day to day fires, keeping up with communications, and managing the finances. Yet if we really want to grow our business, we need to put down the fire extinguisher long enough to take a hard look at our marketing and HOW we are going to take our businesses to a new level. The marketing process usually begins with scouring over the financials, reviewing actual results against projected goals, and gauging client satisfaction. While data and analysis are sound approaches to strategy, they don’t typically make way for a ton of creative, thinking. THAT’S WHY IT’S TIME TO CUT OUT OF THE BOX….. …..and look for some more creative solutions to better serve our marketplace. Henry Ford once said that if he had asked his customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. Ford certainly wasn't focused on his company data, to find a faster solution to get around, any more than Steve Jobs was trying to create just another phone with the first Apple iPhone. Do you want to be more innovative in your business? Then try this solution-based strategic approach complements of the co-authors of Playing to Win! Create Choices - There is always multiple ways to reach the end goal. Create 2 – 5 completely different ways to get you to the same result. Specify Conditions - Once a list of possibilities has been established, review each one independently as a viable strategy. Ask your team what conditions would need to be in place for that possibility to be successful? Note you aren't asking if these conditions exist already. Identify Barriers - Now that the conditions have been identified, review each one and decide which of these have the highest risk of coming to fruition. Design and Conduct Tests - Look at research, or conduct surveys to see if there are ways to reduce the risk of these identified barriers. This is where data can be very helpful. Make Your Choice - based upon the solution that has the highest chance of succeeding. Maybe you won't be as famous as Henry Ford, but this approach has certainly helped many businesses get out of the rut of status quo and positively impact the direction of their company.
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One of our clients had a great idea for a contest. We decided to use Facebook as the platform for a couple of key reasons: Their page was relatively new and it needed a promotional shove to build the company's brand on Facebook. We knew it was a very inexpensive promotion to run thus reducing the client's risk in giving it a whirl. We ran the photo contest for one month and the results were great. It took their Page Likes from virtually zero to over 325. That may not be huge for some industries but for this niche B2B it gave them the top likes for in their category in Canada. It cost approximately $150 (which included the contest app fees and advertising fees) plus prize costs. They now have over 100 new email addresses to reach out to and possibly add to their newsletter list. Needless to say, running a Facebook contest can be a fun and exciting opportunity for your business, but you need to make sure to keep it relevant to your audience, to set it up properly and to adhere to the contest rules laid out by Facebook. Here's a step-by-step approach to set up your next Facebook contest. Step One - Set Your Objectives Are you trying to increase likes to your page? If so you might want to "Like-Gate" the contest or make Liking part of the contest requirements. Are you trying to increase email addresses? If so then you will need to collect contestant details. Ask for as little contact info as you can, as it will increase your number of entrants. Are you trying to increase brand awareness? In our case we were definitely trying to increase the client’s exposure on Facebook, so we created a voting contest that would require entrants to share the contest with as many of their friends as possible. Step Two - Set Out the Details of the Contest You want to think about the type of contest you want, rules and prizes. In our case, we decided on a photo contest. Contestants could easily post their photo via our client's Facebook page. The winners would be chosen by the number of votes their photo received. We needed to make it easy for contestants to share the photo with their Facebook friends so they could encourage their friends to come and vote for their Photo. We decided that contestants could only enter one photo and could only vote once to keep it fair. A word on prizes..... You want to make sure that the prizes offered make sense to your target audience (assuming these are the people you are trying to attract with your contest). These could even be one of your company's product or service offerings. It's a good idea to have more than one prize in case the first place photo is so far ahead of the second that people give up trying. Step Three - Setting Up The Contest Once you have figured out your event details, rules and prizes it's time to set up the contest page. Start by looking at some Facebook Contest Apps. Luckily there is a myriad of Facebook applications that make setting up the contest a snap. Choose wisely. Because we decided to go with a photo contest - we needed an app that would: Let people upload their photo Share the photo easily with their friends on Facebook Limit them to one vote per person Limit them to one photo per person Allow others to like/vote for photos easily Provide us with reporting on the progress of the contest. We used an app called Woobox and were very happy with its overall functionality. Make sure to start with an eye-catching graphic and then list all the details of the contest (deadlines, rules, prizes and how to enter). You also want to encourage people to share the contest and possibly event leave comments. The more engagement, the better! Make sure to give yourself a good week to set up a contest, especially if it's your first one. That way you have time to learn how to use the app, design any graphics and test the whole experience before launch date. Step Four - Promote Your Contest Congratulations you are ready to launch your contest. Now it's time to promote it. Luckily the type of contest we set out promotes itself through contestants, but you still need to get the ball rolling. Here's some ways to easily get the word out there: Change the main banner of your Facebook page to the contest banner and add the application to your company info section on the left. Set up a Facebook ad campaign Put up a banner on your website and blog Promote through strategic alliance websites and their social media channels Promote through your other social media sites. Promote on "contest" sites Share it with your newsletter and blog subscribers Include it in your company email signatures Step Five – Monitor The Contest Once the contest is up and running, you want to make sure to monitor it closely on a daily basis - especially for the first week. Check comments and posts for questions, concerns or problems that people might be having with signing up or voting. It's important to address any questions or concerns as quickly as possible and be as transparent as you can. Watch for people who are trying to trick the system. Even the best applications can't 100% stop a determined "cheater" so make sure that people aren't breaking your contest rules. Step Six - Have a Strong Post Contest Plan of Action Once the contest is done you want to make sure it is in fact closed down. Change any banners posted via promotions to another company banner and stop any paid advertising if it’s still running. Ensure that you announce the winners on your Facebook page as soon as possible and consider promoting winners via other social media sites, your newsletter and on your website. Let the winners know how to claim their prizes and in the case of a photo contest, get them to sign a photo release form if you intend to use their photos anywhere. When contacting all the other contestants consider: Announcing the winners Offering a special on one of your products or services Getting their permission to add them to an email list Asking for their feedback on the contest Letting them know dates of your next contest Like I said Facebook contests are a great way to enhance your company presence online. Have you ran any Facebook contests lately? How did they work for you? I'd love to hear your lessons learned and other creative tips.
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Let's face it. Developing a marketing budget for a small business is usually not a very big priority. Typically we just don't have enough money to warrant having a formal marketing budget. Sometimes we even ignore doing one because it's depressing. After all if you don't have any money to put towards a marketing budget, what's the point of creating one?
Why bother? The answer is quite simple. If you don't create a marketing budget, chances are you're being reactive with your marketing instead of proactive. In other words you may be choosing what to spend your marketing on in the moment vs. a consistent strategic approach over the year.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if this is ringing true. Chances are what’s stopping you is that you feel you don't have the money to do what you would like to do with your marketing.
So that's why for today's exercise I'd like you to embrace a philosophy I learned over 20 years ago. It was at a time when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. One of the thought leaders at the time talked about taking your limitations out of the picture so that you can clearly see what it is you want to achieve. He suggested that to take out the limitation of finances, you pretend you have a huge amount of money. That way you can focus on your dreams and aspirations instead of limiting yourself by financial constraints.
It's actually this little exercise that I want you to think about applying to your marketing budget today.
By doing so I believe you will arrive at three major benefits:
You will finally formalize a marketing budget for your company.
You will have clarity on what it is you really want to accomplish with your marketing.
You will be more proactive with your marketing instead of reactive.
Allocating Your $100,000 Budget
In order to start our exercise, the first thing you have to do is to think about where you want to apply your imaginary $100,000 (feel free to make this number higher if it makes even more sense) budget. Below I've listed the main components that should be part of any good marketing system. Have a look at the elements below, feel free to tweak it and then allocate your $100,000 in a way that would make some sense for your business over the next year.
Follow Up Steps
Social Media Engagement
Reviews, Testimonials, Case Studies
eBooks & Books
Cross Selling/Upselling Promotions
Making Sense of the Numbers
Now I want you to notice where you weighted the money. These heavily weights areas probably hold more importance to you. So take note of them.
Next notice where you allocate the least amount of money. It would make sense that these areas hold either the least amount of importance or you feel that you can tackle these areas on your own with little or no cost.
Finally remove the areas where you have allocated nothing because they either don’t apply or they aren’t a priority in the next year.
What’s Your REAL Number?
It should now be clear where you would focus your dollars if you had the budget. Now let’s take our marketing budget down to reality. To start, I want you to come up with a figure that you feel you can reasonably spend within the year. If you're having trouble discovering what this number should be here's a few realistic (vs theoretical) ways to calculate your marketing budget.
The simplest way is to take a percentage of your net sales or net profit – a percentage you feel you can afford to put towards marketing.
Another approach is to look at what you spent last year on your marketing and determine whether or not you could afford to spend the same amount or perhaps a little bit more this year.
A third technique is to look at what your monthly sales are and then to allocate an amount that you feel you can affordably handle month to month, knowing that some months are busier than others during the year.
Finding a budget for a small business usually means some sacrifice. It could come from nixing the cliché “daily latte,” skimming from other outgoing costs, reducing your income or borrowing. Just make sure the sacrifice doesn’t cause you to lose sleep at night!
Remember that investing in your marketing budget is like investing in a company’s stock. The difference is you have insight into this business.
Defining Your Real Budget
Now that you have your number. I want to go back and look at your budget. Let’s say your annual budget is $10,000 vs $100,000. Can you reduce each number to 10% or are some now ridiculously too small? Are the areas that you identified as important still weighted more heavily? Can you reduce the least important areas to gain more budget in other areas?
In reordering your budget you probably discovered some areas that you can do yourself to save money. Be very careful that these elements don't end up putting so much on your plate that there's just no way you could actually get around to doing them all without jeopardizing other elements of your business.
Review your new to-do list. Now prioritize it by importance as well as your skill level. If they aren’t important and you don’t have skill with them, can you put them on hold for now?
You still may find you need to take some things off of your marketing budget for now. Keep a “parking lot” budget document and review it when you have more money to spend. It will give you new ideas to implement going forward and a budget number to strive for.
Have a look at what you've created! Do you find that you now have a clear idea on where you want to go with your marketing? Do you feel like you have created an affordable, realistic marketing budget? Are you excited about doing something a little different now with your marketing?
Having a formal marketing budget gives you an important guideline to measure your marketing activity. It will help you grow your business and give you sound advice on where to focus your marketing activity.
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Facebook announced a couple of interesting new features last week. First they are beginning to test Video Ads on Facebook. This is definitely in the very early stages so stay tuned. The second announcement affects those with existing business pages on Facebook. If you haven’t already seen some changes to your Facebook business page, a new format will be rolling out in the next few weeks. Facebook made the changes to streamline the look, making the desktop version more user friendly for followers and admins alike. It may make you rethink a few things, like apps, your business category, photos and competitors pages. Here’s why. Page Posts Move to Right Hand One Column Format Pro’s: Page posts will move from their old two column format to a cleaner looking one column display. This new style is going to lend itself even more to a more photo-friendly style of posting. So if you aren’t already, make sure to capture more attention and engagement by including an eye catching, relevant visual. This look is definitely cleaner and allows your followers to view most recent posts. Con’s: Fewer posts are getting more exposure and there appears to be no way to search an older post if you wanted to come back and revisit it. While this is definitely not a “deal breaker,” it does seriously reduce the longevity of older posts. Business Feature Area Expanded This is my favorite part of the new look. The left hand column allows you to highlight everything you want about your company. But you may want to re-think now what “category of business you are in.” If you’re a business with a brick-and-mortar location (i.e. category “local business”) the left side column will show a map, phone number, hours of business, likes and visits, information about your business, apps (if relevant), photos, videos, reviews, posts to your Page, and the Pages Your Page likes. For businesses that operate primarily online (i.e most other categories), the left-side column will not show: a map, phone number, hours of business, or reviews. If any of these features are important to you, consider editing your category accordingly. I do like the addition of the apps on the left hand column. Old apps will still appear along the top under the “more” button as well. In the old version, you were limited as to how many of your apps actually were visible. With the new left hand column, the apps have way more real estate, though it’s hard to tell if there will still be limits to the number of apps visible here. I don’t see many cons to the left hand column….yet. What I do see is a ton of opportunity to elevate different elements of your company and again – much, much more visual appeal. Easier Access to Admin Tools Key statistics will now show up for admins no matter where you are on the page and the new navigation along the top means the Admin Panel no longer takes up ½ the page. Pages to Watch Some of you may already have had access to this cool little feature. It’s one I highly recommend you pay attention to. You can add other pages that you would like to compare performance with. This is a great way to keep your eye on competitors or on pages that you would like to emulate. When you click on the new Overview tab as an admin it will share key stats of the page you are watching. Under the post tab you can see their most engaging posts for the past week. On the flip side of this, you will also be notified if your page is added to someone else’s page to watch list, though the name of the Page that has added you is not disclosed. I’m finding mixed reactions to these changes. Some are finding it frustrating to have to update their business pages yet again. Others are already looking for ways to leverage the new look. I’m interested to hear what your experiences are – good and bad
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As the New Year approaches, many small business owners will be taking time to reflect on their marketing strategies for the New Year. This year their timing couldn’t be more perfect. With the changes to Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm settling in, companies need to look at a fresh new approach to their online strategies. Gone are the days of using services that either create or provide shoddy content and link that content to substandard, irrelevant sites. Gone are the days of just focusing on keywords. Gone are the days to ignore the importance of content and online marketing. This is good news to those of you that feel you are good at what you do and should be recognized in Google rankings for providing quality information to your target market. Now the key question becomes where should you focus in 2014? After spending considerable time reviewing suggestions from today’s top though leaders, I’ve compiled a list of what I believe to be the Top 5 Online Marketing Tactics to Focus on in 2014. These tactics to me, go beyond just the benefit of increasing your SEO Rankings in 2014. They are solid tactics that will more importantly help to: position you and/or your company as experts in your identified niche provide valuable content to your target market, and attract more qualified prospects to your company It’s important to note before we get started, that tactics only work effectively if you can clearly answer these strategic questions: Who is my ideal client? What makes my company/products/services different and unique? What type of information is my market seeking online? What type of content can my company provide to our market that showcases our strengths, personality and values? 1. Keep Your Website Relevant While keywords may have lost some value, both Google and your market still need to know what your site is about. Today that means relevant rich content. You will want to make sure your Page Title, H1 tags and content explain what your site is about, but in 2014 you want to make sure that the keywords aren’t overused (spammy), are unique and relevant to the page and that you pay more attention to other long-tail phrases your market might use. In other words, use a more conversational tone. Eric Enge summarized a lot of the “New School” ways to optimize your site in this great diagram. Use it as a guideline to keep your website relevant. 2. Keep Your Website Fresh With New Content It’s a no brainer that you need to ensure your website pages are current and up to date, but more importantly, you want to make sure you have a vehicle to continuously add great content. This vehicle is your blog and adding engaging content to it regularly is key in 2014. This can be a mixture between great content that you have created, along with curated content (content from other writers and sources out there on the web). What’s interesting about the content you create is the evolution of the blog post itself. Whereas years ago the average was around 500 words, today the average is over 1000. In fact studies show that longer blog posts are read more and shared more. Other elements such as engaging photos and videos also increase readers and engagement. That doesn’t mean everything you create needs to be lengthy however. The increase of smartphones, dictates that some posts still need to be more digestible and therefore shorter. Long story short, the average length of your content needs to be longer (1000 words) and you should include pictures, videos and Infographics for better engagement. 3. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile & Share Friendly If you website is not yet “responsive” or you don’t have some sort of plugin like DudaMobile that helps make it mobile and tablet friendly, then make it a priority for 2014. I have seen this very simple change increase traffic to a website by up to 30%. Mobile also plays nicely into Google’s new algorithm. For example, when someone has activated their current location and searches for a “hairstylist nearby,” Google will respond with possible locations. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, you can lose a possible customer. Just like ensuring your site is mobile friendly, you need to also make sure it can be shared. Part of your online credibility comes from others sharing your information. This is hard to do if you don’t make it easy for the reader to do so. I’m astounded how often these are missing, especially on blog posts. This is going to be even more heavily weighted in 2014, so make sure you have this feature added to your website, if you don’t already. 4. Engage on Multiple Social Sites Social media sites certainly have mixed reviews. Since 2012-2013 we have definitely seen the shift from “should I be on Social media” to “which sites should I focus on.” Generally business owners have gravitated to maybe one or two sites. In 2014, you will want to expand your social media presence, as social engagement plays a more important role in not only Google rankings, but also how people interact online. If you are wondering where else to focus beyond Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – take a closer look at Google+. More specifically: fully create your Google Profile for your business encourage people to add Google reviews look for ways to have readers +1 your content start engaging on your Google+ channels 5. Add Credible Links Last but not least, look for ways to add rich, relevant links back to your website. This means sites like junky article submission or blog posting sites should no longer be part of your strategy. Instead you want to look for credible guest blogging opportunities and other credible PR opportunities. Chuck Price created a great Quick Start Guide to Guest Posting that outlines a great approach to take to start increasing your reach and relevance online. If you are wondering if online PR submission is still worthwhile, I would say yes. However you need to change your approach to a more conversational tone and watch your formatting. In other words don’t jam pack your press release full of a keyword and have the anchor text go to an irrelevant link on your website. Your press releases and links need to be newsworthy and helpful. You should also pay more attention to the authority of the PR Site you are using. A good rule of thumb is to look more at sites like PRWeb that require a fee to submit a release. Typically they rank better in authority and not surprisingly, could get you actual media exposure. I’m sure as 2014 unfolds, more and more online marketing tactics will continue to present themselves. To keep things in perspective and to not become overwhelmed, remember - Google is trying to ensure that people just like you and me get good quality results when we search solutions online. So if you provide quality, helpful content to your audience, regularly and in an authentic conversational tone, you will continue to survive and thrive in Google’s online world.
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2008 may not even seem that long ago to some of you. But so much has changed in marketing since then that quite frankly a website even developed in 2010 can seem – well – “old school.” According to Pew Internet & American Life Project back around 2008, only about ½ the North American population even used online devices and a mere 8% were deep users of the web. Today North American internet users have climbed to 79% (US Census Bureau) with a whopping 90% of these users claiming they use the web to help them make purchasing decisions (Fleishman Hillard 2012 Digital Influence Index). So it’s no wonder that a website that acts like a static brochure of your company is now a dinosaur in the digital world. Here are some criteria to help see if you’re website is hip and happening or pathetic and passé? Do you have user friendly navigation and quality content? There is so much that can be said here and they say a picture can say a thousand words. This wonderful infographic is a must when deciding on effective web design. Are you coming up on Google (at the very least locally) for key search terms? To have a site that no one can find is devastating. While it’s great to have a nice looking site, if it’s not being found it’s useless from a marketing perspective. You need to focus on your Title Tags and Headers Tags and ensure they have the right keyword search terms (keyword research here is a MUST). You need these keywords in your content, you need new and fresh content with your keywords in them, you need links to your site from other credible sites, you need to make sure your pictures use the keywords in their alt tags, you need to be registered on Google Places, you need a sitemap, and this is just the beginning! If you want to see how you are doing, try many of the free website grading tools available online, then start making the necessary changes. Do you have Google Analytics installed and do you monitor your traffic at least once a week? To have a website and not know how it’s performing is like investing a ton of money into an ad campaign and not caring if it provides you with results. The good news is that Google Analytics are still free and luckily most web developers can easily add the proper code to the pages on your site and even set up a report to arrive in your inbox once a week. I like to look at the following at least weekly and then deep dive twice a month in to other areas: How many unique visitors am I getting? How long are they staying on the site? What is my bounce rate? Where is the traffic coming from, including referring sites, what are the most common search terms, and what pages are the most popular? Do you have multiple forms of media (video, photos, audio)? To assume that everybody is going to read the content on your site is a bit naïve in today’s market. I recall a leader in web trends saying that before long websites will become mostly video in format instead of text. Why not start preparing, by climbing on the YouTube express and even creating a few Infographics of your own. Not only do multiple mediums appeal to different tastes, but they can then be strategically used on other online sites like YouTube, Pinterest, Slideshare and more. This again gives you more online exposure as well as valuable links back to your site. Do you treat your website as just the hub to your entire online presence? John Jantsch the fearless leader of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network of which I’m a part introduced me to this great concept of the hub and spoke model of your online presence. It’s important you claim your online real estate and then post various forms of content to these other sites, encouraging them to visit your website. According to Universal McCann’s Wave 6 study, company websites are losing ground to social media sites in terms of credibility and popularity. These other sites, are places people will be seeking valuable information and engaging with your brand (see below) coming then to your website to show them how you can help them solve a problem or achieve a desired result. Implementing the hub and spoke model increases you online presence tenfold if not substantially more! Are you allowing prospects/customers to ENGAGE with you? Websites used to be a one way street. You shared information with readers and that was it. Not in today’s world. Now people want the ability to communicate back. Your website should encourage conversations by including a place for people to comment, share ideas and become part of a community. You should promote downloads of quality information via eBooks, Subscriptions to your newsletter, Surveys or Forms that help visitors find answers to their problems. Finally you website should definitely include some calls to action. Can you easily change the content on your site and are you? Needless to say, if Google relies on content to help with their search engine results, you better be adding to and updating it on a weekly or (at a bare minimum) monthly basis. This means you need to be able to change your own content and not rely on an outside source. Did you know that according to HubSpot, sites that blog at least 20 times per month generate 5 times more traffic than those that blog only a few times per month? Content is king in today’s online marketing world – it’s time to claim your throne if you aren’t already. Is your site mobile and tablet friendly? Just like landlines are giving way to mobile phones, so are PC’s losing ground to tablets and smart phones. In fact Fleishman-Hillard found in their global 2012 Digital Influence Index that 2 of the 3 consumers they surveyed, use a mobile/smartphone to gain information on a brand, product or destination at least 3 – 4 days a week. That makes it a no brainer that your site better pull up quickly and be easy to navigate on these devices. To be clear, this doesn’t just mean your site comes up on a mobile device. It means that instead of a tiny, tiny, miniscule version of your site, there are nice big buttons that allow me to get what I need easily and even call you in one easy click of a button. If you want to see an example of what your site should look like – go to Dudamobile.com and type in your URL. That’s why today’s websites are now built with what is called a responsive theme that automatically adjusts the site to different sized devices. If you want to get a quick idea how your site is fairing on some of the above elements, check out HubSpot’s free Marketing Grader. It’s a great quick snapshot of your current website’s performance. So how do you feel you did? Hip and Happening Better than I thought Retro and proud of it, or Definitely time for a new site
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