Saturday, April 16, 2011

Geolocation Based Incentives – What to award for “checking-in”?

I have noticed a lot of blogs and social media posts discussing what is a good incentive for customers “checking in” on Geolocation Services. All of the different Geolocation services (Facebook Places, Gowalla, FourSquare, Google Latitude, Twitter Places, Whrrl and others) have built in awards and badges, however, this has no value to the majority of mobile users.

The main reason I see for using Geolocation services is to connect and attract mobile/smart phone users. Mobile phone use is growing in every area of the internet. For mobile users – the value of geolocation is not clear. A study on consumer geolocation adoption shows that only 6% of people familiar with these apps feel that the benefit to most people is “discounts,” and only 8% believe that the benefit to them personally would be “savings in discounts and merchant rewards.”
So what is the value in geolocation services to these mobile users? The study also states that the most important benefit people will experience is “social connection”. This is why you should have an integrated marketing strategy for geolocation and social media.

At this point – businesses are not offering “value” to those customers that “check in”. There are some issues that precede reward value that must be considered. An issue to consider is security – many mobile users feel it is not safe to share with ‘everyone’ where they are all the time.  This is a valid concern and we will address this issue in another blog post.
To date, the majority of businesses have failed to provide value to mobile users for using geolocation services. Depending upon what business you are in, you need to determine what is of value to your customers and what is of value to you as a business owner. It must be a win-win situation and you should not be giving away the store.

It is obvious in the studies and all the articles recently that a discount is not enough for the mobile users to perceive value in geolocation services. To just give away product is not good business. Then what kind of offers can you make that will benefit both parties?

Group check-in is a great way to reward 3 or more individuals checking in together. Giving something to a group is more cost effective and a bigger bang for your buck than giving away to individuals.
Number of check-ins in a specific time frame with return value. For example – customer must check in 4 times in two weeks to win a t-shirt. Then every time they check-in and make a purchase with the t-shirt on they get a discount or some other small item for free.

Number of check-ins at one event or during a certain period of time at your business. If the number is reached – everyone that checked-in gets a free ______ (you fill in the blank).
These are just a few ways for consumers to receive value along with the businesses not giving away the store. Remember - your geolocation reward program should be integrated in all your marketing initiatives.

Do you have any other ideas for value geolocation service awards?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Must For Local Businesses - Online Directories

Local businesses are always looking for ways to be found on the internet. Especially if they are free. Online directories provide that online presence and more. These online directories will show up in search results on the major internet search engines.

Most of the online directories do more than just list businesses. Most offer a menu of services, which most also come with a price tag. Some of the more common offerings are reviews, ads, optimization and upgrades.

The opportunity for individuals to write a review on the listing page is offered for free and can be a great tool for promoting a local business. You ask your customers to write a recommendation for your business on the directory. Sometime during their buying process, provide them with the web address to write a recommendation on the directories. When reviews are placed on a listing page it is free advertising and word of mouth for your business. You must monitor these pages for any review, because not all reviews will be positive. Don’t get upset, this is an opportunity for you to show your great customer service by responding to the negative review.

All the online directories provide the opportunity for you to advertise on their site. You must evaluate each site and determine if it fits your marketing strategy and budget. Many of these online directories are used as search engines and product review searches.

Just like your website, a business listing needs to be optimized. The larger online directories allow you to include all types of business information along with identifying the type of industry. This optimization is used for internet search engines, so use the same philosophy as website optimization.

These sites must make money and the majority of them offer upgrades. All of the upgrades are different and you should make sure you are getting a real benefit before you pay for the upgrade. Free listings work and upgrades are not required.

If you are not utilizing online directories, your business is missing out on a great opportunity to shape and influence your online reputation. Most online directories are free. There are a few out there that charge to place your listing and you should determine whether your company should list with that directory.  Be sure to place a link to your blog, website and any social media sites on the directory page.

Here are a several free online directories I have found to be beneficial:

Merchant Circle
Google Places
Yahoo Local
Insider Pages

Don’t forget any local directories in your area.

Can you add to this list?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What is on the horizon for local marketing?

I am always reading about what is going to be the next big internet marketing idea. Very few have discussed what is happening in local marketing. Most of the big national marketing ideas trickle down to local marketing; however, not all of them. Usually the new ideas are described in a national view and it takes a good marketer to figure out how to adjust things and make it work for their local area. Not all of the internet marketing opportunities out there today, work in all local markets.

Some communities are very resistant to change and can be years behind the rest of the nation.  The local business that is the first to utilize a marketing technique will get the greatest benefit long term. Sometimes it takes a lot of patience by the business owner, to allow the community to embrace the idea, but once they do – the flood gates open and revenue increases.

Now don’t get me wrong, just because you are the first to do something does not mean you will make lots of money. Do your research with an educated marketer and make a sound decision on starting something new. Like I said earlier – not all big national marketing ideas will work locally.

Here are a 4 marketing ideas I believe are about to take off in local markets.

1. Group online coupon buying – Groupon and Living Social are the two big boys playing in the big metropolitan areas. Can it work in a smaller community? Yes, you see it popping up everywhere. Local newspapers, local radio stations and independent entrepreneurs are starting these deal sites in small communities all over. The problem right now is that small businesses are skeptical – REMEMBER – the first to try will benefit the most!!! The local deal sites will be more successful in smaller communities because there is a big push to buy local in these communities.

2. Mobile Loyalty/Reward Programs – Four Square, Gowalla and Google are the big national leaders in this area. The great thing about this service is that it is designed to work anywhere in any community. All businesses should have a loyalty/rewards program and these apps are perfect for small businesses. Mobile use is not confined to the big city; it is just as popular in smaller communities.

3. QR Codes – As mentioned previously, mobile is not confined to the big city and when the smaller communities realize the power of QR codes, you will see them everywhere – just like stop signs!! There are so many marketing applications for so many different industries; I don’t have the time or space to mention them all. There is a marketing application for QR codes for every industry!! The businesses that are creative with the use of QR codes are going to be the most successful.

4. Social Media – I know what you are saying – social media is already a big part of local marketing!! I agree – but it is at the toddler stage and we are about to hit adolescence and the teens – and do you remember how fast you moved at those ages. Google is getting more social (+1) and you know Facebook is going to do everything they can to keep the upper hand. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the big three right now – I believe that the next big social media site has not even been developed. We will see!?

Just like national marketing opportunities are changing on an almost daily basis, local marketing changes at the same rate, but not at the same time.

What new local marketing opportunities do you think are the next big thing?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why Do Small Businesses Outsource Marketing?

Small businesses today have to watch the bottom line closer than ever. Expenses are going up and it is difficult to raise their prices in the current economy. Business owners try to do everything themselves to not have to pay someone else. However, there are many aspects to operating a business and the business owner cannot be great at all of them. A business owner has chosen the industry because they have the education, knowledge and passion for the business. Successful business owners realize their strengths and weaknesses – they use their strengths and outsource to overcome their weaknesses.

All businesses are constantly facing change and it is difficult for the small business owner to keep up with the changes in their respective industry, much less the changes in taxes, marketing, legal system, insurance and other aspects of owning a business. This is why outsourcing can become one of the most important issues a business owner encounters.

Marketing for small businesses is changing on a daily basis. It is next to impossible for small business owners to keep up with the changes and operate their business.

The internet and social media have drastically changed the scope of small business marketing. It has changed from the old traditional marketing of purchasing an ad and letting it go – to internet marketing that is all about interaction and communication. There is a lot more time involved in today’s small business marketing.

Word of mouth is still the strongest marketing tool for small business; however, today’s word of mouth is a lot stronger. I am not sure where I heard this first, but the quote “Social Media is word of mouth on Steroids” is right on!!!

As strong as social media can be to build your business, it can take a business down just as fast. Bad reviews and poor word of mouth is poison for a business. A small business owner must know what is being said about their business on the internet and monitoring the internet takes time. They must respond to good and bad comments in a timely manner, or the bad comments could spread like wild fire on a dry windy day.

So, do small business owners have the time to blog, post on social media, keep up with SEO, monitor social media, monitor online directories and respond to all of this? NO!! The problem is they cannot afford to pay an employee to do all of this. This is where outsourcing the marketing is the most logical solution.

The small business owner will pay for what they get – they don’t have all the HR expenses of an employee – they have an expert providing a professional service – and they can spend time on running their business.

The key is to find a local marketing expert that has experience in successful small business ownership. These individuals understand small business ownership and will partner with a small business to grow with them and create a successful team.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

How Should B2B Businesses Use Facebook?

For the longest time, social media marketers said that B2B businesses will not benefit from being on Facebook. In a short period of time, the tides have turned and Facebook can be profitable for B2B businesses when utilized properly. How should B2B businesses utilize Facebook to get the maximum benefit?

The most common approach is to provide valuable information to your target market. Post research, benefits, updates, articles or general information about the products/services, but ‘Do not sell’ was the main message. That can be very boring. You can try to spice it up, but anyway you put it –it gets old and boring.

Another approach was to treat it just like B2C and offer deals and sale, sale, sale!! This does not work in B2B marketing. You will not keep very many true customers as fans on Facebook if you approach it this way. B2B customers are looking for answers to their problems – not deals and pushy sales pitches.

Just ‘socialize’ and have conversations with your B2B customers. The B2B customers don’t want to be your buddy and discuss weekend plans with you on Facebook. It is a business relationship that has a very clear line that most customers do not want to cross.

I have found the most effective way for B2B businesses to utilize Facebook is to create a personality and help center. What do you mean personality and help center?

Personality – depending on if you are a sole proprietor or a larger company – you will start conversations about current events in areas of interest to the owner or company. For example – the owner of the company is a big sports fan – start conversations about his favorite team that is in season. Ask questions and make it fun, not competitive. The company supports a certain charity - keep people up to date on the charity and things related to the charity.

Help Center – I stated earlier that B2B customers are wanting answers/solutions to their problems – provide the answer/solution. Post the most current news about the products and services you offer. Report how a customer used your products and services to solve a problem. Ask the question of how they would solve a specific problem. Keep it industry related, however, not always about your products and services.

By providing personality and a help center – you make your B2B business fan page both valuable and fun!!

Do you have any other ideas of how to be successful with a B2B business page?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Types of Businesses Benefit From Social Media Marketing?

The debate on the internet about what type of businesses will benefit from social media marketing is plentiful. Both sides of the argument have some good points – the problem is that social media is always changing and growing. New social media sites are being developed daily and the established sites are constantly changing and adding features. What worked yesterday may not work today.

When debating the social media marketing questions they are usually discussing 2 types of businesses – business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C). The old school or traditional way of thinking in B2B must be face to face and salesperson driven and B2C is getting your name out to the masses.

I believe that everyone can agree that B2C companies will benefit from social media marketing. If you believe that there is a B2C company that exists that cannot benefit from social media – you are in a very very small minority. You have to realize that there are so many different types of social media today, that there is definitely at least one that will benefit all B2C businesses.

The obvious social media networks for B2C are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace. It seems like new social media networks and social media types are popping up daily. Not literally, however, new social media ideas are being developed rapidly. FourSquare and QR codes are a couple of new tools in social media. Mobile loyalty/reward programs and coding online messages for your customers – just a few years ago who would have thought these would be in existence and successful.

Each of these social media outlets offers different benefits for businesses. It is important for business owners to understand the benefit, identify which one or ones will benefit their business and develop a plan. Do not just sign up and go – you will waste a lot of time and money and more than likely fail.

The traditional B2B marketing is still successful in many industries, however, is that the only way to do business? Are the customers in B2B starting to look for providers instead of waiting for them to come to their door? This is where the internet has changed B2B the most. First it was having a website to provide information about the company and that was sufficient 10 years ago. Now, the B2B customer is wanting to know more about the B2B provider. This is where social media is changing the landscape of B2B marketing. It is not the daily Facebook and Twitter posts that work in B2B, but the over 100 million member LinkedIn network.

Just having a profile and business listing on LinkedIn is just like having a website. Participating in groups, Q&A, recommendations and growing you network will give your potential clients the information they are looking for that will set you apart from the competition. Your potential clients want to know more about you and your business and they don’t want to ask you – so make it available to them and others.

So, ALL businesses can benefit from some type of social media marketing!!  Social Media is an ever changing market and the top site in 2015 probably is not even active today. I just read a blog today that used A.B.L. (Always Be Listening) as one of the ways to build a social selling machine. I agree ALWAYS BE LISTENING!!

Where do you listen?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Does Good Old Fashion Networking Still Work?

Networking has always been the number one way for businesses to grow and increase revenue. Whether you are a B2B or B2C company, networking has never been more important than it is today for business growth. You are in one of two camps in what you view as networking – 1) face to face, shaking hands, group networking or 2) social media networking.

The first, face to face, shaking hands, group networking is the way it has been done for a long time. It works great for local businesses and B2B business owners will tell you this is still the strongest way to network. There are groups of professionals being formed in all areas that are networking to help each other in generating leads. Some groups are open and allow as many people as can attend and some groups are closed to just one individual per industry. The open groups allow you to meet a lot of people. The closed groups have more success generating leads. Typically you are not allowed to remain in the closed group unless you are providing leads to others in the group.  Both have their pros and cons and you must choose which is the best for you and your business.

The second, social media networking is taking the previous view of networking and multiplying it times 1,000,000. LinkedIn is the social media network for professionals that has done the best job in creating a place and environment for business networking. On LinkedIn I have a connection (individuals that you have a contact in common) to almost 2,000,000 individuals. All of my contacts (contacts are like friends on Facebook) are people I know and so I had these connections prior to LinkedIn. The big difference now is that I can see those connections. You can identify an individual you would like to meet for business, determine if you have a common contact, send a message to the contact in common and ask to be introduced. This is an incredible database that shows you how to meet other business leaders that will help your business grow.

B2B businesses have more success on LinkedIn than B2C companies. B2C companies have more success on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and others. These social sites are for the general population and are where individuals communicate about where they are and what they are doing. The numbers are larger on these sites for B2C companies to network with their potential customers. It works the same way as it did many years ago; you just have access to a much larger number of people. Communicate information and interact on your social media pages just like you would if networking face to face.

So, things have really not changed in how we do business, just where we do business.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Is Website Optimization Necessary for Local Internet Marketing Success?

The answer is……Let’s talk about what are the components of a successful local internet marketing plan. As I have mentioned in the previous blog, there are certain components that are part of a successful local marketing plan. However, after attending a very good webinar on How to become a Local Marketing Expert presented by Hubspot, I have added a few new techniques.

Prior to this informative event, I would not have considered these ideas as being necessary or even effective in local internet marketing. However, when you integrate all of the different tools, you have a very successful local internet marketing plan that will allow a small businesses to compete with big business!!

Here is the list from the previous blog. If you want more information on these, see Local Marketing – Are You Sure?

1. Local Opportunities
2. Email Marketing
3. Long Tail Keywords
4. On-line Directories
5. Google and Bing Places
6. Social Media
7. Blog

Here are the additions:

1. Add Yahoo Places – this is another search engine I inadvertently omitted. Also in places, some businesses will want to consider tags and advertising. It will make your places listing stand out with a special tag on Google and get you placed higher in Yahoo. You are also able to offer special deals through the tags and upgrades. Monitoring is key with places and all other online directories.

2. Facebook Places – You still need the business page, however, every business should have a places page. The page allows you to show up in certain location searches on Facebook and allows customers to check-in to your business on Facebook, sharing it with all their friends. FREE advertising.

3. Foursquare – I have not been a fan of Foursquare up until now. I still do not think it is for all businesses. Businesses that have a lot of walk-in traffic and potential repeat customers, should use Foursquare. There are 6 million users on Foursquare. It reaches out to mobile users, makes visiting your business fun and builds brand loyalty.

4. Online group buying – Here is another marketing tool that I was not a fan until now. I still don’t think it is wise for a local small business to partner with a national company such as Groupon. However, if there is a local online group buying company that fits your demographics, then I encourage you to consider this tool. Be sure you offer a great deal, but don’t offer a deal that has the potential to harm your business.

You take all of the components listed above and any local small business can compete with big business.

So my answer is – NO – website optimization is not necessary to have a successful local internet marketing plan.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Local Marketing - Are You Sure?

Most locally owned small businesses think they are focusing on local marketing. Here are 7 things you must do to have a successful local marketing plan.

1. Local opportunities – Every community is different in what marketing opportunities are available for small businesses. Most communities have a Chamber of Commerce, local newspaper, local radio, billboards, etc. Business owners should research each local opportunity and gather the demographic information for each, before making a decision on where to spend their money. Remember - inbound marketing is more successful than outbound marketing. Make choices wisely.

2. Email Marketing – Every local business can be successful with email marketing. The type of email marketing will depend on the industry. A properly planned email marketing program will grow the business and build a loyal customer base.

3. Long Tail Keywords – One of the most effective ways to target locally when performing SEO, is to use long tail keyword phrases with the name of the location targeting. Some examples – ‘seafood Destin FL’ or ‘residential painter in Atlanta’.

4. On-line directories – This is another way for your business to be seen in internet searches. These directories are also used for customer comments. Not only should you be listed in these directories, you should be monitoring the directories for positive and negative comments. Respond to all comments in public. Some of the top online directories are Merchant Circle, Yelp, Manta and There are others you may need to consider depending on your industry.

5. Google and Bing Places – Reserve your name and place on the major search engines. When someone types in a city to search for a specific business, the search engines will give you a map with the locations highlighted for your search results. A must for all businesses!!

6. Social Media – This has become known as “Word of Mouth on Steroids” and the foundation for most locally owned businesses marketing is word of mouth. Facebook has become the most powerful social media tool on the internet today. Start a business page and begin connecting and communicating with your customers and others. Offering deals, posting interesting information, commenting on local events, etc. will have people to ‘Like’ your page to see what you have to offer.

7. Blog – The latest statistic I heard about blogging was – businesses with an active blog receive 55% more traffic to their website than those that do not blog – this coming from Hubspot. Blogging adds new content to your website, pages to your website, increases traffic to your website and increases links to your website – all of these will increase your ranking with search engines.

Do you have anything to add to the list?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Social Media - The New Customer Service?

Social media is intended to be two way communications. Too many times, businesses use social media as a one way communication tool. These companies usually have very little success or no success with social media. In a two way communication model, the customers have an opportunity and are asked to participate in a conversation. This is very scary for many businesses because they are afraid of what the customers may say about their business.

Let me tell those businesses – if you have unhappy customers – they are telling somebody about the bad experience and you just don’t hear it. Wouldn’t you rather give the customer a venue and opportunity to voice their dislike where you can respond and turn that angry customer into a ‘fan’? There is no doubt if you care about growing your business, you will choose to have the opportunity to respond.

Customer service is to create a memorable experience for the customers so they will come back and make another purchase. If customer service did not succeed the first time, they must get a second chance to win that customer. Social media has become a great place to make that first impression and to get that second chance. This will significantly add to the bottom line. A 5% increase in retention yields profit increases of 25 to 100 percent. Repeat customers spend, on average, 67 percent more than new customers. Source: Bain and Company

I am sure you can see where I am headed with social media being the new customer service. According to industry research carried out by customer experience research consultancy Technical Assistance Research Programs Inc., customers that complain to you, and then see the problem solved, are up to 8% more loyal than those who didn't even have a problem in the first place. (Increasing Customer Satisfaction, U.S. Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, CO, 1986)

If you do not have a loyal customer base that continues to come back and purchase from you, then you are spending a lot more money in generating new customers than it costs to maintain customers. Customer service plays a big role in this, so if you are having problems getting customers to purchase from you more than once, evaluate your customer service policies. “The cost of acquiring a new customer can be as much as 5 times the cost of keeping an old one.” (Source: Peppers and Rogers)

By having conversations with your customers and potential customers, it gives them a level of comfort to post comments without feeling in the spotlight. It takes time and effort to build that environment on a social media page. The worst thing a business can do is not respond to a comment on their social media page. That is just as bad as ignoring a customer in your physical store. Bad customer service.

Just like in traditional customer service, you may not always make the customer happy; however, you always make a very strong attempt to resolve the issue. One thing to remember, always ask what will resolve this problem. Then as a business, you must determine if you can meet the request. Be honest and open, in the worst scenarios, others will many times see the customer is being unrealistic and you are trying to make it right. This will go a long way for those watching the conversation.

Create an environment on your social media business pages that encourages others to comment (good and bad) and you respond openly and honestly. You will then have taken your customer service to a new level on social media.

What experiences have you had with customer service in social media?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What are the keys to Facebook success?

Business owners are always asking what they need to do on Facebook. You need to set goals and have a plan, to just post randomly will not produce the best results. Take opportunities to test different things and monitor the results and repeat what produces the best results.

Here are six things for businesses that are the basics to success on Facebook:

1. Daily posts – you have to post something everyday to keep information flowing and keep your name in front of your fans. How many a day? If you have something to post about, post it. It could be once a day or sometimes 5 times in a day.

2. Variety of types of posts – don’t post about the same thing every day. Don’t post the same type of post every day. Questions, current events, articles, quotes, videos, special deals, contests and product/service features are just a few different types of posts.

3. Shock’em every once in a while – post something off the wall or outside the box. Do something to get their attention and have your fans wonder why did you post that. Be careful and do not do anything too controversial and offend your fans – but shock’em.

4. Create discussions – don’t just post information. Ask for information and create a forum for your fans to ask questions and get answers concerning your products and services. The best way is to ask open ended questions that will require at least a one sentence response.

5. Continue discussions – always respond to a comment on one of your posts. Treat it like you are having a discussion with that individual – you would not ignore that person if they were standing in front of you. Don’t be afraid to respond to a negative comment – those need a response more than the positive comments.

6. Perseverance – be patient. It will take time and effort to meet your goals. You cannot be successful on Facebook in a few weeks. Keep working and test several different ideas and see which one gets the results you want.

Facebook should be an important part of your total marketing plan. It should fit with what you are doing and link to all other marketing strategies. Set goals, work hard and test different strategies with your posts.

What do you do on Facebook that you have found to be successful?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Email Marketing – Is it taking a back seat to Social Media?

Not with my clients!! They are realizing the strength in a well planned email marketing program. Social Media and email marketing should work together to reach the goals of the business. Properly used, they can both complement each other and make the other more effective. If you are seeing a drop in your email marketing numbers, you should evaluate your plan, because you are doing something wrong.

To ensure that your email marketing program will be a success, you must first determine who is the audience. Segment your email list into different categories – i.e.: if you are a clothing store – you would want to segment your list at least by gender and age. If you have the capability of tracking purchase habits – this is another very effective segmentation. You are able to get more valuable information in an email to that individual by segmenting. This also enables you to target market throughout the year depending on the time of year. For instance – before Mother’s Day – you would send an email for women’s clothing to all the males and those under age 20 – these are the groups shopping for Mother’s Day gifts.

After segmenting your lists, you must then determine what is considered valuable information to these individuals. Retailers are sending sales, specials and new product arrivals. B2B is sending information that is of value to their customers and potential customers. The information should be different for customers and potential customers. You do not try to sale to your customers – just provide them information about updates, upgrades, how to, new products, etc. This will give them information of value to them to improve efficiency and productivity with the products/services they have already purchased from you. For potential customers, you are selling a little. Don’t go overboard like retailers, but you need to let them know when you have special deals. It is still about educating and providing value so you are seen as the expert. Then when they are ready to purchase, they come to the expert.

Another effective use of email is to provide information and/or deals to your email customers only. This will help in building your email list and gives the members a sense of being a part of an exclusive group of customers. Everyone wants to be a member of an exclusive group.

Integrating all of your different marketing tools is a must. You should have links to your website, social media, landing pages and blog on all of your emails. Vice versa – all of these mediums should publish your email when it is sent. By integrating all of these tools, they all become stronger together and provide a seamless stream of leads and new customers.

Any small business that is not participating in an email marketing campaign is missing out on generating leads and building a loyal customer base.

Is your email campaign generating leads and providing new customers?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Social Media for Local Small Businesses - Does it work?

YES - when used properly. Everyone can spend a lot of time on social media accounts with no results. Many local small businesses don't believe their customers use social media. Others don't want to 'bother' people on social media sites with their sales tactics. Some are scared to use social media. Once you have answered all their questions - which is easy to do - now figure out what strategy is appropriate for their business. I have two different social media strategies I recommend for my clients: 1) Sales and Deals and 2) Help and Education.

Sales and Deals is for mainly retailers that have walk-in and/or ecommerce traffic. The  main objective is to attract customers to come into the store and make a purchase. This can be obtained by offering sales, deals, contests and events. To determine what gets the greatest response - test different offers and track what customers saw it on the social network. This enables you to improve your effectiveness of each post.

Help and Education is for businesses that require a sales force - usually B2B - however - it can be some B2C. The main objective is to provide meaningful information to your prospective and current customers that will assist them in making a decision about your products/services or helps them improve their business. Do not sale your products and services - provide solutions for your customers issues. This can be in the form of tips, articles, research, etc. Remember you are helping and educating - not selling.

One other use of social media is to utilize a local social media page to post your sales/deals or just advertise your business. Sites such as Hall County Hot Spot on Facebook is a great example.

Social media is a great inexpensive tool for small businesses. How are you using social media for your business?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What is the most important marketing tool in your proposal?

Every time I present a marketing strategy proposal, I get the question 'which one of these marketing tools is the most important?'  I know that you are not suppose to answer a question with a question - however - my response is 'what are your goals?'.  I cannot answer their question without knowing what is their most important goal for their business.  Adding new customers? Bringing back old customers? Increasing sales to existing customers? Just increase the bottom line?

I was actually asked that exact question today during a presentation today.  My answer for this particular company was a new website and SEO.  The website is the foundation to all their marketing strategies.  It has the greatest potential for generating leads and providing the most information for potential customers.  If you are an ecommerce site - then I don't have to explain that one.

I know what many of you thought when you saw SEO. I am not talking about just keyword phrases. I include inbound marketing and blogging in my SEO package. You cannot provide a successful SEO program without including inbound marketing and blogging. Call-to-actions, landing pages, links and social media are all a part of an inbound marketing plan. Blogging can increase traffic to your site by up to 50%.

Don't get me wrong - other traditional advertising, email marketing, internet marketing and traditional media can all be important components of a successful marketing plan. However, small businesses many times need to start slow and a little at a time. Know what a small businesses goals are and match the appropriate marketing strategies to their goals.

What are your goals for your business in 2011 and does your marketing plan match those goals?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Is Your Website Generating Leads?

Many SEO or internet marketing companies wow businesses by how much traffic they will bring to their website.  Great!!!  The bad news - traffic does not always mean more customers.  What are you doing to capture the traffic?  Do you have a call-to-action on the website?  What is a call-to-action?

The best way to capture leads from website traffic is to have a call-to-action on the home page an other appropriate pages.  The call-to-action must be viewed as something of value to the visitor.  There are two different types of offers for call-to-actions: 1) 'Just Shopping' and 2) 'Buyers.

'Just Shopping' are those visitors that are gathering general information on the products or services you offer.  They are not convinced to even by the product or service whether it is from you or someone else.  Offer them a whitepaper on the benefits of the product or service.  This is not to sell your product or service, this is to give the basic benefits that they offer.  You can mention some of the added benefits your product or service offers, however, this is not the main point.  General information to show them they need the product or service.

'Buyers' are those visitors that are going to purchase the products or services you offer and you need to convince them to purchase from you.  It could be an article from a third party showing your products and services are rated higher than the competition - or - it could be a live demonstration - or - a video showing the superiority of your product or service.

How do the visitors receive these offers?  Landing pages are the most effective.  When the visitor clicks on the call-to-action, it sends them to a landing page that has the following: 1) picture - related to offer; 2) general points about the offer; 3) form - to acquire visitors information prior to receiving the offer; and 4) links to all social media, blog, and email list sign-up.

Here is an example of one of my customers landing pages:

Once they submit the request for the offer - do not forget to say thank you.  You have given this visitor some valuable information to assist them in making a decision and now that visitor is a LEAD!!!

Let me know of any other ways you capture visitors to websites.  I know there are more - let's see what you got!!!