Automatic Marketing

How to use marketing automation in your local business

When marketing your company online is truly looked at and laid bare, it’s hard to ignore the mountain of tasks that face both you and your staff every day. Feelings of being overwhelmed and the constant suspicion that you’re forgetting something are always present. We all face this. Online marketing is monstrously complex beast, and to tame it you have to employ some varieties of marketing automation to handle the amount of moving parts that marketing in multiple channels necessitates. Not doing so is practically choosing not to compete. Let’s check out some ways we can employ marketing automation.

Tools for marketing automation

There are lots of great tools that you can spend your time and money on, for our purposes here I’m going to consentrate on three areas that can be gigantic time sucks and possess the most potential for return on investment.

Email autoresponder company – This is very likely the most vital piece to automate, for if you’re not using an autoresponder to take care of your email marketing, you may as well not be doing it at all. Loading your autoresponder with personalized content and marketing emails offers your customers and prospects the sense that they are being well cared for. You will find many great email autoresponder companies out there, but some of the best are AWeber, GetResponse, iContact, and MailChimp.

Social Media – Monitoring and running social media campaigns is often a logistical nightmare if you’re not using some sort of tool. There are plenty of good ones out there that enable you to keep track of and post to your social platforms. Have a look at HootSuite, TweetDeck and Buffer.

Automate tasks – As everyone knows there are many small tasks that need attention daily, or the entire house of cards may collapse! A few of the better tools to come down the pike the last few years are the development of task masters like IFTTT and Zapier. These tools, (similar in intent and application) can be lifesavers in the case of automating tasks between two different services. Very handy, indeed!

Be mindful that you’re not automating too many aspects, especially customer service. Specific things require your touch, and this is one. Do yourself and your business a favor and check into automating at least some of your online business today!

Website Tune Up

5 Easy Ways to Spruce Up Your Site

Just like your home, your business website also requires an annual spring-cleaning. It’s easy to let things slip, and the results of that could be a decline in traffic, reputation and consequently sales. This can be a rather insidious way to lose traction with your site, as you don’t necessarily see it occurring. But it’s very real, and will have very real results.

Here are 5 simple things to attend to which will make a huge difference in the way your sites appear, operate and prosper.

  1. How fast do your pages load? – You have less than 10 seconds to load your page or most people will exit and go somewhere else. Some causes of slow loading pages are too many images, pages built mostly with Flash, and errors in your site code. This really is something you want to check on, as Google will punish your site in the search rankings if your pages take too long to load.
  2. Defunct products, programs, and links – Make sure and remove old products, programs and particularly links that are no longer pertinent. Nothing frustrates a user more than going somewhere and finding they can’t get there or the item is unavailable. Dead links and 404 pages will even affect your search rankings, too.
  3. Stale content and old images – Likewise cull out text and images that are no longer topical. All those great pictures from 2007 which feature people no longer working with you can probably be archived, don’t you think? People and search engines are usually after fresh, current content!
  4. Refresh your social media – Make sure that your social media buttons not only link to your current social media sites, but that you are up to date with them.
  5. Fresh content – Nothing will help as much as fresh, updated content, in the form of posts, videos, audios, and images. If you have posts on the first page of your blog that are over the age of a month, you might want to rethink your content strategy.

Break out your virtual broom and start sweeping. Your visitors will thank you!

Green Marketing

Paint your business green!

Earth day is upon us again, and it’s an excellent time to consider how Green Marketing can be a practical way to capture the fancy of environmentally conscious consumers. This is not only a smart way to conserve our precious natural resources, but it has become a hot political and social topic in our communities. The most obvious reason to embrace Green marketing would be to manage our available resources with an eye toward good stewardship. Nonetheless, you would be smart to keep your business’s public image in mind as well, because the image it projects is often a deciding factor for many people these days. Many will opt for an eco-friendly choice over another company that doesn’t practice Green marketing on principle alone.

How can you attract socially conscious consumers?

Don’t be shy about promoting that your business is adopting a green marketing initiative. Using the media is an important way for many companies to emphasize their green practices, while enhancing their public images and generating positive reputation. According to a report by D S Simon Productions, “media initiatives with a corporate social responsibility focus generates 35-50% more positive media coverage on television, radio, web and social media than comparable programs without the CSR hook”. See about developing “green teams” in your company that can get employees fired up to do their part as well. This can help brand your business as one that really cares about conservation and green marketing. Seek out organizations like EarthShare to help with this.

How Arya Cleaners went green and it paid off!

A dry cleaning service in Chula Vista Ca, Arya Cleaners took steps like swapping their natural gas burning water heaters with technology that transfers heat from the boiler to the laundry machines, replacing their company vehicle with a fuel efficient clean burning delivery van, and by using wet-cleaning technology that reduced their use of PERC (perchloroethylene), a harmful chemical solvent used by dry cleaners, by 90%.

This lead to Arya Cleaners being named a CoolCalifornia.org Small Business Excellence Award Winner, being a Certified Chula Vista Clean Business, and gaining the Mayor’s award for excellence in 2009 for green friendly business practices. Arya has got it. Branding themselves as an eco-friendly business in a business where there are few who are doing so made a big difference. Take steps to embrace green marketing today, and find out if it doesn’t have a positive impact on your bottom line!

An E-Newsletter – Your own inbox magazine!

To a lot of people, the e-newsletter may seem like a relic of a bygone era, a time when we used painfully slow dial-up Internet services like AOL and “surfed” the net using Netscape. Despite being a little long in the tooth (in Internet years), the e-newsletter is still an exceptionally powerful marketing tool that your business shouldn’t ignore. E-newsletters remain an outstanding medium for engaging customers, building authority and driving sales. The Direct Marketing Association tells us that every $1 spent on email marketing creates $40 in revenue. Aweber informs us that 77 percent of small business owners report that email helps them increase revenue.

Your e-newsletter doesn’t have to be boring!

You may have subscribed to an e-newsletter in the past and been decidedly unimpressed. Been there, done that! However, your e-newsletter doesn’t have to be has as bland and un-sexy as those. Here are some eye-catching examples of E-newsletters that rock! What’s more, every major email autoresponder service has a wonderful array of newsletter templates, if you are afraid or unable to design your own. Be sure to engage your readers by resonating with what interests them. Kayak, for example, isn’t simply attempting to tell you about the latest, greatest travel deals, but goes out of their way to sell the idea of travel.

Quick tips for an engaging e-newsletter

Here are some tips for creating an e-newsletter that gets opened and acted upon!

  • Speak as if to a friend – Everyone likes to hear from a trusted friend!
  • Encourage communication – Give them every chance to respond and specifically request it!
  • Be specific and don’t ramble – Stay on topic, and don’t be boring!
  • Offer useful content – Above all else, offer content that’s fresh, useful and that resonates with your list.
  • Don’t hesitate to use emotion – Writing with emotion is powerful and is very likely to stir others as well, promoting more engagement.

Don’t permit this golden opportunity to reach your list in a more substantive way slip by. Create an e-newsletter today!

Facebook Ads

How to Use Facebook Ads to Gather Leads and Sales

Facebook ads are among the fastest, easiest and most effective do-it-yourself platforms for obtaining traffic to your offers, building prospect lists, and for practically any other purpose imaginable for your website. Ad campaigns are extremely simple to set up, include excellent targeting tools, and can be online within minutes. There is one factor to fully grasp, however, when it comes to receiving the best results and return on investment: That is finding the most effective images available. It has been shown that imagery is 70-89 percent of the success or failure of a Facebook ad campaign. Let’s take a look at some useful tips for obtaining the most from your Facebook ad images.

5 Awesome Tips for Facebook Ad Images

Creating an ad that produces a real impact and statement for your product or services is a matter of standing out from the rest. Listed below are five ways to do just that!

  1. Use very high quality stock images – As your images are going to end up very small, make sure you’re purchasing from a reputable resource. Fotolia and iStockPhoto are two of our most favorite. The XS size of available images is going to be fine, as even these will be cut down to the size of a postage stamp (110×80 pixels).
  2. Crop your photos to deliver maximum impact – Crop your photos closely to focus on the most important aspect of your ad. Cropping faces from the eyes to mouth is the most impactful technique for riveting people images. Also, be sure that your model’s eyes have life. When utilizing product images, get close!
  3. Employ eye-catching colors – Using bright, visually arresting images will do wonders for your clickthrough rates. A lot of people opt to blend in with the pervasive Facebook blue, and thereby consign their ads to a form of “banner blindness”.
  4. Choose attractive images – Unless you are going for a certain statement, choose the most attractive photos you can find. People are attracted to beauty. Period. This is not to say that sometimes beauty can’t be trumped by cute, funny or outrageous.
  5. Employ humor if you can – Everyone enjoys a good laugh. If you have the chance to inject a giggle into your ad, don’t pass it up! It will definitely result in a higher clickthrough rate!

For some really good illustrations of these imagery principles working, check out this great article at Search Engine Watch.

Content Marketing

Conquer Content Marketing and You Win!

The buzz for 2013 has focused on the need for content marketing to become a critical element in your online marketing efforts moving forward. This may well be a term you’ve heard yet not understand specifically what it means. Content marketing is the practice of creating, collecting, and publishing fresh content for your visitors. This manifests in a variety of forms, from relatively simple blog posts, to articles, reports, whitepapers, videos, audio podcasts, ebooks, and more. We live in a society that craves information, and the more of it you can provide visitors to your sites, the more authority you will earn in not just their eyes, but also the search engines as well. They can then reward you with higher rankings, more traffic, links, and sales.

Content marketing is getting more and more popular

According to BusinessBolts.com, this year some 74 percent of businesses intend to do an increased level of content marketing. Only 4 percent are not. There are many reasons for this, including cost-effectiveness, near-instant results and control over the medium. With content marketing you can shape your message, control the flow, and utilize a variety of mediums to get your content to your market. For instance, an article or blog post could be written, posted on your site, excerpted in social media, made into a video or audio and social bookmarked across the web. Repurposing your content for various platforms is the order of the day. Furthermore, this can easily happen quite often, and an entire content marketing campaign can be realized quite quickly.

A real-world illustration of how content marketing can rock your sales

The New York Times profiled a Northern Virginia company, River Pools and Spas, which was watching as their sales plummeted as a result of the housing recession of 2008. Incoming orders (average $50,000 per order) withered from around six a month to less than two! Their past advertising budget of $250,000 yearly on radio, TV and pay per click advertising had to go. Owner Marcus Sheridan launched an impressive content marketing campaign consisting primarily of blog posts and videos, and within a relatively short period of time, had not just regained what was lost but beat pre-recessions sales figures.

There’s little question that content marketing can provide results, and that it really should have a place in your online marketing strategy for 2013.

All About Infographics

Using infographics in your business yet?

So why use infographics? Infographics have taken our world by storm, as we are more and more inclined these days to process data visually than through the written word. Neuroscience explains why: based on research from 3M (maker of Post-its, among other things), 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text! So some smart person somewhere invented infographics (probably Al Gore) to help us tell our stories. Now, smart businesses are utilizing these visually pleasing, data-rich illustrations to educate and engage new customers. Here’s a great example of how one online marketer is utilizing infographics to build his business.

There are a number of great reasons why you should think about using infographics in your business. Here’s a few:

  • They are visually impactful and easily scannable, both aspects that match up with today’s web user
  • They present information easily and in an organized manner
  • They help establish you as an authority on the subject
  • They can go viral, which can result in traffic and search engine ranking benefits
  • As images, they are easily shared, which offers a number of benefits (as stated by research conducted by social media expert Dan Zarrella, images get more shares and likes on Facebook than any other post type—even video)

So to show you some of the magic of infographics, check out this infographic from MarketingTechBlog.com.

How to make your own infographics

If you would like to make your own infographics, there are sites and tools that enable you to jump in and create breathtaking infographics. At the basic level you could make them in PowerPoint, which is not as tough as you may assume. If you’re wanting a bit more advanced or polished option, you might look into a tool like Visual.ly, where you could customize existing templates to your needs, or perhaps use a service like PiktoChart or Infogram.

What if you can’t design a whit?

Outsource it! We often don’t have the time, inclination or skills to get this sort of work done, particularly if you’ve never really done any work with images before. Don’t worry, as there are great designers out there just dying to create your infographics. Some of the places that can assist you in this regard, and in most cases for a reasonable fee, include 99Designs, Elance, Odesk, Fiverr, and Freelancer.com. Make sure you see samples, set parameters and expectations, and are able to communicate your vision clearly with your outsourcer, so there are no surprises!

How To Get More Clients

How to get more client referrals

Most businesses are always looking for ways to obtain more client referrals. However as outlined by GrowThink.com some 58.6% of us don’t even bother to ask for them! This isn’t something that happens automagically, but rather is the offspring of a straightforward, focused approach used persistently. So that you can catch the idea listed below are seven easy methods for getting more client referrals, faster and easier than you may have believed possible!

  1. Ask your best clients – These can be your best business evangelists. People who are already in love with what you do won’t need much coaxing to sing your praises.
  2. Offer incentives – Special discounts, free stuff, upgrades or any other incentives appropriate for your business are a great way to get people to give client referrals.
  3. Over-deliver on first-time customers – When you get a new customer, a great way to get them talking to their circle of contacts is to over-deliver on them. This can come in many ways, but make sure they view your business as a cut above the rest.
  4. Engage your customers – Find innovative ways to engage your clients and possibly discover a way you can benefit one another. The secret is to get them talking, and being open to ideas. Create an online community for your customers, such as a blog or Facebook group.
  5. Be well mannered and a giver – Make saying “Thank You” a part of your daily lexicon, and generous when it comes to offering perks. Laying a surprise gift card or thank you note on a client can be very beneficial.
  6. Enlist your staff – Getting your staff in the game can multiply your efforts. You will usually have to create some way to reward results, but it can be very much worth it!
  7. Create a loyalty program – A customer loyalty program, preferably online, can help you create excitement and engagement. Reward interaction as well as purchases, because this can lead to more and more people becoming involved.

Consistently working a client referral plan takes some perseverance, but at the end of the day can create great results with a minimal outlay. 

Ask Your Customer

If You’re Not Surveying Customers, You’re Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

Do you truly know how well you’re doing with your customers and clients? Do you have problem areas or holes in your customer support you’re unaware of? Want to find out what they really think? There’s only one way to get this information—ask them! A well-crafted customer survey can be a great tool to help you learn the answers to these and several other items you might not even have known were issues for your customers.

So why ask questions at all?

The main incentive for a customer survey is to head off problems before they become part of your reputation, and find ways to improve your service or products. Most of the time, we never learn about a dissatisfied customer: they’ll simply look elsewhere. CustomerThink.com has discovered that more than half of consumers have had issues and complaints with the goods and services they’ve purchased. Creating a survey helps you find and rectify mistakes that can be the difference between holding onto a client or not.

What sort of questions work best?

Make sure you have a clear goal to your surveys, and you pose questions that require  more than ticking a box, or assigning a number to your query. Avoid “Yes” or “No” questions. Let them expand on their experiences and feelings. (This can end up being a great way to collect testimonials!)

How exactly should you hold the survey?

There are many ways to conduct a survey. However, if possible, the best way seems to be via an online survey, thus giving the respondent a good chance to think about and form well thought-out answers, something which may not take place via a phone call or personal contact. Look at offering a bonus for filling out your survey, and try to be timely as to when you send it. If you are new to this, consider using a company that specializes in this type of data collection, such as SurveyMonkey. However you accomplish it, getting a read on how your customers view your business is invaluable data to possess.

Using LinkedIn

Hey Small Business Owners: You’re Using LinkedIn, Right?

LinkedIn is the Rodney Dangerfield of social media: despite having 200 million highly influential users, it gets no respect. Even though it is consistently ranked among the social giants Facebook and Twitter, it doesn’t manage to get as much hype in the mainstream media. But as a tool for marketing your small business, it has a huge edge over its more popular peers. Because unlike Facebook and Twitter, which often trade in cat photos, inane one-liners and political rants from crazy uncles, LinkedIn is all business.

How businesses are leveraging LinkedIn

There are 1.3 million small-business owners on the network. How are they using it? What sort of benefits do they see? Here are just a few:

  1. Sharing wins: Promoting your successes is just good marketing. It will make you look good to prospective customers. With 2 million C-level executives utilizing the site, you may find yourself with a few influential new friends.
  2. Getting referrals: LinkedIn removes a lot of the friction and awkwardness of giving and getting endorsements for the work you do. Best part? When someone gives you props on LinkedIn, everyone inside your network will notice in their activity feed.
  3. Finding new talent: If your business keeps growing, you’ll definitely need to hire new employees. LinkedIn is a fantastic place—scratch that, it’s the BEST place—to find new players to add to your team.
  4. Promoting events: LinkedIn’s event feature is a game changer! It has never been easier to spread the word and drum up excitement about upcoming events, sales and get togethers. You can even use their service directory to find professional event planners to help you.
  5. Boosting website traffic: A little-known secret about LinkedIn is that it’s very influential with Google; if you have a presence on LinkedIn, you’re likely to see a jump in search engine visibility, too. More clicks = more customers!
  6. Getting answers: LinkedIn is a goldmine for advice on running a successful business. You can uncover great advice from a number of the savviest business minds in the world in LinkedIn Answers and Groups. You will discover over 2000 groups focused on small-business-related topics.
  7. Finding investors, vendors and partners: It’s a networker’s paradise. Whether you require some capital, a new accounting firm, or a business partner, you’re not going to find a better resource than LinkedIn. Anywhere.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, folks. Visit LinkedIn make up a page for your small business. Trust me; IT’S WORTH YOUR TIME.