The Online Marketing Code

A strong SEO strategy will almost always lead to good results in the end.

When it comes to online marketing, the purpose and objectives are generally the same as traditional strategies in terms of increasing brand awareness and finding new customers.
Making success happen with smart digital. ted360

[source: Entrepreneur] There are a number of ingredients that go into a successful digital promotion all the way from planning to sales. Perhaps the biggest benefit online marketing has for small businesses is that it enables them to spend each dollar more efficiently to yield a higher ROI.

Here are some ways in which small businesses are making the most out of their online marketing efforts.

Producing strong content

Content marketing is the cornerstone of every online marketing strategy. Producing stellar brand material is a surefire way to create loyal visitors and encourage sharing.

At the end of the day, the most important goal of content creation is to turn visitors into customers. This can start with small objectives like earning a follow on social media, signing up for a newsletter or taking a survey or poll.

Regardless of what type of content you are producing, such as a video, image, blog or social media post, you need to have a clear vision of how your content is going to add value to the life of the reader. Successful small businesses don’t just produce content for the sake of keeping a schedule. Typically, they know exactly what the concerns of their target audience are and they gear their content to address them in a profound, meaningful way.

Everyone benefits from quality content. Consumers get gratifying material and businesses earn better rankings on the SERPS. Small business can take advantage of their tight-knit followers and cater to their precise interests.

Localized SEO strategy

A good SEO strategy is the key to getting noticed in on the SERPS. Local SEO is extremely important for small businesses, especially ones with a physical address.

The end goal of local SEO is to gain high rankings for searches around your geographic location. When users search keywords or phrases in the area, you want your Website to be at the top of the list.

Localized SEO is great (but very competitive) for smaller companies such as dental offices or law firms. For example, a Tennessee injury law practice has used local SEO to dramatically boost their rankings to increase business. With consistent efforts, they’ve ended up ruling Google’s Map packs and local results for keywords like “injury lawyer Nashville TN.”

When someone is in need of legal counsel, they are checking the yellow pages less and less. They turn more to Google. With the help of some great local SEO efforts, a law firm with the right SEO strategy can be one of the first few names that pop up in the search.

Currently, only 17 percent of small businesses are investing in SEO. Now is a great time to jump onboard and find the best ways you can leverage the SERPS to increase your online exposure.

Web site marketing

To compete in the rapidly evolving digital landscape, having a strong Web site is a must for businesses of all sizes. Keep in mind, 51 percent of Web site traffic comes from organic search. Your positioning depends on the reputation of your Web site.

Perhaps one of the most important factors that go into a Web site’s reputation (that influences Google rankings) is speed. Loading time has a huge impact on how users interact with your platform. Page abandonment drastically increases after each second.

A great way to optimize Web site speed is to select a good host for your Web server. A lot small businesses miss the mark in this area because they’ve put together a site using a basic CMS like WordPress, but don’t have a good technical team to support them.

For a small business evaluating a Web site platform, the free trials are typically pointless. Building and marketing a good Web site takes a lot of work and resources. Committing to this task is one of the best investments of time and money you can make for your business.

One of the greatest things about online marketing is that it gives small businesses a chance to compete a relatively level playing field as the bigger enterprises. Success is based on smarter, more efficient strategies rather than total money spent. Having a solid content creation plan and SEO approach is crucial in getting your Web site in front of the eyes of your target audience.


Are you relying on referrals?

Referral marketing is not enough. ted360

Referrals provide, what in the marketing world is called social proof…

which means that others are have used your service and since they are referring you, the referrer must be happy with your services. For you, it’s a warm lead and a warm lead is definitely easier to approach than let’s say a cold prospect.

And let’s be honest, one of the main reasons why we tend to focus on referrals is that we feel uncomfortable approaching new clients.

Referrals are great until they’re not.

While all this is wonderful, focusing solely on referrals as a business development strategy has disadvantages that in our opinion far outweigh the advantages. Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t rely on referrals as the only way to generate business.

Times have changed.
You don’t have to be a Fortune 500 executive to understand that mobile, social media, Google, smartphones and apps have changed the way that people communicate with friends, associates and vendors, research solutions, receive recommendations, and learn about your business (and your competitors).

So while referrals may have worked in the past, the reality is that digital technology has connected more people together giving them many more options than ever.

A highly competitive landscape
The interconnectedness of today’s marketplace has perhaps been a boon for your audience but it’s a double edge sword for your business. Today, you have hungry competitors both from the traditional sources as well as new competitors who act different, provide more complete solutions and who are savvy at marketing, and who employ more strategies than just referral marketing.

They are using social media to connect with new clients and customers. They are using content marketing to share their expertise, which assists potential clients and customers in researching various solutions. They use marketing automation to follow up and nurture clients and customers. This may seem overwhelming but it’s not. These same tools are available to all businesses.

Be prepared for ups & downs
This last and most important reason for not relying solely on referrals to generate business is that it’s just bad business. While working your existing clients and network to refer you new business feels great when times are good, it also puts an inordinate amount of control over to someone else for your lead generation. So, what happens in bad economic times? What happens when your network has no referrals to send you? What happens in months when referrals are just low or non-existent?

Now don’t get us wrong, there are people out there who are exceptions to the rule when it comes to how many referrals they receive each month, but more often than not, the ugly truth is that slow growth and inconsistent cash flow are the most common problems we hear from people who rely solely on referrals. Unfortunately, by the time people realize that this sole focus in a bad business idea, it is usually too late.

As business development method, having a referral strategy as part of your marketing mix is a sound tactic. However, putting all your marketing eggs in one strategy, whether its referrals or something else is just asking for trouble. Do yourself a favor and avoid the pitfalls mentioned above and remember, referrals are great, until they are not.


Essential Featrures for any Small Business Website

Your Website is the face of your business and an effective tool for generating leads.

It will help consumers discover your products and services, philosophy, and vision.

A poorly designed Website can result in a number of negative consequences, the most negative being a lack of business and sales. In fact, your Website can actually make the difference between your customers converting and moving forward or seeking alternatives, like reaching out to your competition.

With your Website carrying so much importance, the mere thought of building a new Website or re-designing your existing one can be intimidating. In addition to design considerations there are content needs and technical aspects that need to be well thought-out. The following infographic will help you address these considerations so that you can create an effective, efficient Website which will enable you to build your small business in the online marketplace.

Web design for small business. ted360

Engagement Marketing to Attract Customers

Today’s marketers must become stewards of the customer journey, building strong relationships with customers… wherever they are.

Build strong relationships with relevant experiences. - ted360
Unlike traditional approaches to marketing where you specifically target prospects with direct response offers, engagement marketing allows your audience and potential customers to interact with you and shape how they would like to communicate with you. Engagement marketing begins when an interested person takes an action to begin an interaction with you.

Engagement means someone is interested in listening to you, and you must engage that person in order to achieve your business objective while fulfilling their interest. As a commercial entity you will implement engagement marketing to drive your interested audience toward one of the following two key business objectives:

  1. Cultivate the individual as an advocate of your thought leadership and market image. Advocates will recommend your products and services enthusiastically to their network of friends and business colleagues.
  2. Encourage a dialogue with the individual to help them to make a purchase decision. An engaged customer is likely to become a loyal repeat customer.

Here are a few tips on engagement marketing to attract customers:

  • Develop an engagement strategy – To be successful you must prepare a clear plan and approach for your engagement marketing. Your plan will have to include how you will reach out to your listeners and how you will be able to respond and interact with your engaged participants.
  • Integrate with your marketing mix – All aspects of your marketing communications mix should include a ‘call to action’ for engagement from simply requesting comments or postings at your blogs or forums to encouraging reviews on your products and services.
  • Focus on content and relationship – Focus on relevant and interesting content as the key to engaging with your audience. Understand that building genuine relationships with content that is important to the individual is the best way to achieving the two key business objectives for engagement marketing.
  • Promote subscriptions – Use permission based techniques to encourage subscriptions with optimised web forms, RSS registrations, refer to a friend and social network sharing.
  • Invite listeners to interact with your Blog – Establish a culture and enthusiasm for engagement by encouraging your listeners to contribute with comments, suggestions and even as guest writers to broaden the points of view and resources available to your connected community.
  • Conduct surveys and polls – Run frequent surveys to give opportunities to initiate engagement while learning from and about your listening community. Use a surveys or web polls to start the dialogue that is relevant to the individual.
  • Engage with social networking – If you have not heard of Facebook, SnapChat or Twitter that are behind the social networking phenomena, you must not waste anymore time, go straight to these sites and understand how these sites that are capturing literally millions of people who are actively engaging on these sites every day. These sites work because social networking communities need to share and want to know what their circle of friends and relatives are up to. Find out how you can leverage the engagement and sharing of your content using these social networks.

Remember, once you have an interested community engaging with you, make sure you keep the lines of communication going, learn and adjust your strategy to ensure your engagement marketing will delivery bottom-line results to your business by increasing your customer base and repeat sales from your engaged customers.

Five mistakes on your Website

Your Website is your company’s virtual storefront.

Digital & mobile solutions for small business. ted360
At its best, it presents your business to current and potential customers, showcases your products and services, and influences – or even facilitates – purchasing decisions.

[source: Tavanberg] But poor information architecture and content strategy can turn clients away. Here are five mistakes you might be making on your Website, and how to fix them.

1. Burying key information

A restaurant’s mission statement and glamour shots of the food might seem like the top priority. But most of the time, people are landing on such sites to find out one of four things: hours, menu, location and contact information. At best, it’s annoying to customers to have to click through several pages to find out if you serve lunch or take reservations. At worst, it might make them give up and go elsewhere.

Fix it: When planning what goes where on your Website, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and imagine the top things they’ll be looking for. This information should go in a prominent place: the home page or even a footer that appears everywhere on your site. (The CN Tower, for instance, has a very basic landing page that gives the majority of visitors exactly what they’re looking for – and lets those who want more click through and explore.) And don’t forget a place to post updates such as holiday hours or seasonal promotions, even if it’s simply a Twitter feed embedded into your site.

2. Forgetting SEO

Search engine optimization, or SEO, isn’t some dark-magic alchemy that requires a highly paid specialist. At its most basic, it’s simply a matter of having a Website that loads quickly and includes all keywords relevant to your business. If you don’t come up near the top in Google when people search for your company name (and city, if the name isn’t unique enough), you have a problem.

Fix it: There are two key things to think about here: first, ensuring people can find you when they’re specifically searching for you; and second, working toward your site coming up in search results related to your business. Make two corresponding lists of all keyword phrases someone might type into Google to find your business. For instance, if you’re a florist in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, the first list would include your business name together with words such as “hours” and “address,” and the second might include phrases like “Mount Pleasant florist delivery.” Ensure these keywords are included in your site copy in an organic way – i.e., not so it feels like a bot wrote them.

3. Letting information go stale

If you used to be open seven days a week and you’re now closed on Mondays, you’ll have some angry customers venting on social media if they show up to a locked door. And if your site updates are so infrequent that Halloween lasts until the end of November, visitors might wonder if you take your business seriously. As for broken links, they can make for a frustrating online experience.

Fix it: Ideally, have your site built with an easy-to-use content management system, so that a designated member of your staff can quickly update text and photos without having to depend on tech support. And whether you keep yourself organized with a paper calendar or a Web-based task management system, set regular reminders to review the site to ensure that it’s up to date.

4. Favouring flash over function

Auto-play music, animated splash pages and intro videos might have been cute in 2001. But this far into the Internet age, they’re just a distraction keeping people from efficiently finding the information they’re looking for. As for layout, we’re long past the time when the goal was to be mobile-friendly. Nowadays, it’s mobile-first, and if, say, your e-commerce site is clunky on iPhones, you’re likely to be missing out on sales.

Fix it: You don’t have to kill that fancy video – just don’t put it at centre stage, and make sure it works on mobile. Similarly, ensure that your whole site is at least readable on smartphones, and ideally uses a responsive design that sizes itself to browser windows automatically. (In most cases, a separate mobile site with limited information is a bad idea.) And kill anything that auto-plays. No one needs surprise audio blasting from their cubicle at an inopportune time.

5. Being uninformative

A bare-bones site is fine for launch, but at some point, it needs to be filled out with content to draw in customers and help them assess your business. After all, not everyone will take the extra step to contact you with questions. And for companies that might want media exposure, excluding facts such as the city in which they’re based and full names and bios of founders – not to mention, for some kinds of businesses, easy-to-download photos, logos and other resources – might mean getting left out of stories.

Fix it: Build up your site with informative content, be it FAQ pages, behind-the-scenes stories and photos, or profiles of staff. Give potential customers multiple reasons to do business with you, and encourage current customers to stay engaged with meaningful articles that help them feel part of your community.