Recently, I was hired by a state-wide law firm to evaluate their marketing efforts and advise them on ways to improve and measure their results. I began by interviewing each of the key attorneys to see if everyone had the same vision for the firm. And as I suspected, each of them had varying opinions about the firm's strengths, the practice areas to market, and how.
This was not a huge surprise based on my previous experience working with clients. Furthermore, companies of all sizes spend tremendous amounts of time and money on advertising and promotions without a communications strategy or marketing plan. Yikes. However, to the law firm's credit, their in-house marketing coordinator had kept a spreadsheet tracking the firm's annual marketing expenses.
That said, based on my interviews and their previous marketing expenses, I decided the best way to help this client was to perform a SWOT analysis, a formal document designed to identify an organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This information is often used as a blueprint for creating a strategic and balanced marketing plan. While most SWOT analysis are administered by marketing consultants and can be costly, you can create your own by following the instructions below.
While the SWOT format can be approached in different ways, for the sake of keeping it simple, start with 4 squares on a piece of paper. Make sure there is enough room to write 5-6 points on each square. Each statement does not have to be detailed, but should be well thought-out to get the most value.
The first row should be your company's internal strengths and weaknesses. Think about your company and things you can control. The second row (opportunities and threats) should include external factors, such as market trends, competition, economic conditions, and other factors that you may be out of your control. Now that you have created the four squares, it's time to add more details.
Identifying your company's strengths is an important part of this exercise, so take your time. For some, writing them down can be challenging, but for others you may end up with a long list. If you fall into the latter category, try to pair your list down to the top 4-6 that "define" your brand. Remember, strengths should be based on your company and internally focused. Each strength should address a single area of your brand. See below for some examples.
Writing down your weaknesses can be difficult, but believe me, you will find this part of the process very revealing. It is essential to understand what your business lacks to help make solid decisions such as: your marketing message, how much to spend on marketing, when to advertise, etc.
Here are some examples of weaknesses:
When considering opportunities, it helpful to review the organization’s strengths. Often times, strengths have the ability to create opportunities. Sometimes the list of opportunities can be lengthy and daunting. Your goal is to only identify opportunities, it is not a to-do-list, so don’t be afraid to think big! Later when you are creating your marketing plan, you can prioritize your opportunities.
Here are some examples of opportunities:
When evaluating threats, look beyond the obvious, like competitors or the economy. This does not mean that you exclude these from your threat list. However, you should expand your thinking to include other threats. For instance, political policies, road construction, material costs, etc.
Here are some examples of threats:
Are you tired of spending thousands of dollars on print, radio or television advertising campaigns with no measurable results? Many start-ups and small business owners get sucked in by slick advertising pitches and great looking ads only to be disappointed when the campaign falls short of their expectations. Why is that?
Marketing doesn't have to be expensive, but it needs to be strategic to provide the best return on investment (ROI). Just because your business is doing well at the moment and has the cash flow to advertise doesn’t mean you should spend it. Instead, consider less expensive ways to promote your business, such as a promotional event or digital marketing. Also, you should not spend money to promote your business unless you have a clear message and know what action you want prospects to take.
Digital marketing has dramatically impacted the way businesses need to market. I am not saying never advertise in print, on radio or on TV. All three mediums have their advantages and disadvantages depending on your target audience and ad message.
However, the fact is digital marketing is making it easier and more affordable for any business owner, big or small, to reach exactly the audience they want 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s the good news. Yet, great online marketing campaigns still require thought and planning ahead.
Before implementing a new marketing plan, conduct an audit of what you're currently spending where. Look for ways to save. You might consider eliminating or reducing your budget on advertising media that you have used continually for two or more years. Caveat, the best marketing campaigns do require commitment and consistency. Your marketing campaign should run a minimum of 13 weeks. By creating a monthly marketing budget, it will help you avoid impulse spending, make it easier to manage, and help you measure the effectiveness of each campaign.
Here are some other ways that online marketing can save you money, improve customer loyalty, and increase your brand awareness.
1. Use Social Media
Social channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest cost nothing to sign up for and are easy ways to alert followers about special promotions and company news. You can also use social media to get customer feedback and connect with referral sources.
2. Keep Your Website Up-to-Date
There are many reasons that your website content should be updated, the obvious of course, is for accuracy. If you have moved or an employee is no longer with your company, make sure these changes are addressed (forgive the pun). Also, remove services and products that you no longer offer. It can be frustrated for someone to come to your business for a product that they saw on your website that you no longer carry which could lead to a negative online review.
If you are outsourcing your website management, to save money, you may want to arrange for training to make your own content updates or switch your website to another web platform that you can edit.
3. Think Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
For those not familiar with search engines optimization, it is the number one factor that influences whether your website is on page 1 or page 90 of the search results. To improve your SEO, you need to determine what keywords best relate to your brand and what customers are likely to search for online. Than make sure these keywords are included in your web content. If your website does not have an SEO plug-in, such as Yoast for WordPress, add it. A SEO tool will help guide you towards optimizing your website.
Marketing can be time-consuming, stressful, challenging, and expensive if you let it. Do not make decisions based on either emotions or your likes and dislikes. Always keep in mind the demographics of your prospective client.
Digital marketing is here to stay and offers easy to use tools to measure results. If you are not analyzing your marketing efforts, regardless of where you spend your money, you are probably not maximizing your return on investment. Marketing is like a having a baby, you don’t just leave it alone to survive, you have to constantly nourish it in order for it to thrive.
As the economy shifts, technology advances, and working in a particular physical location becomes less and less a necessity, employers are faced with more hiring choices – such as whether to hire a full-time salary employee, contract labor, or a freelancer.
It’s not only the shift in technology and volatile economics that is behind this cultural phenomenon, the idea of working for one company until retiring is a foreign concept for millennials who on average stay with a company for 4.4 years. At the same time, the internet now provides a way for individuals to telecommute to work. So what does that mean for those hiring?
Ask yourself, does your company have enough work to justify hiring a full-time salaried employee regardless of hours worked, who may also receive benefits including paid vacation, health insurance, 401K, etc.); not to mention your company is paying their tax withholdings. Would the better financial choice be to hire a freelancer or contractor? From personal experience, as the owner of Schoner Communications, we often turn to freelance web designers, illustrators, and web programmers to support our team when we need help on very specific projects.
While the relationship of a freelance or contractor is different from an employee, most often these individuals are highly skilled in one or two areas (for example: computer programming, graphic design, or technical writing). Do you remember the last time you hired an individual based on your company’s specific needs at the time, only to realize your company would benefit from someone with more diverse skills?
The distinction between freelance and contract work can be a bit blurred. Speaking strictly from a financial perspective, freelancers usually work for multiple companies and are required to pay their own tax withholdings and health insurance coverage. Freelancers only get paid for the hours worked which can save a company substantial dollars if the individual’s service is not needed year round (as with the case of our marketing and public relations agency). Furthermore, because freelancers possess “expert” knowledge, they are able to complete task efficiently and accurately while an employee may require countless hours of research and paid instruction to complete the same project.
Independent contractors work like freelancers, with multiple clients on a per-project basis, but generally speaking, they work with one company at a time for an extended and specified period (the “contract”) and are paid by the hour. Similar to freelancers, they may also report their own taxes or they may receive a W-2 from a third-party at the end of the year for hours worked. Completely independent contractors (so called 1099 workers) can be required to show up in an office or work remotely. Independent contractors do not receive employee benefits.
It is fairly common to find individuals with tech and marketing experience working full-time positions while moonlighting as freelancers and contractors in their off-hours.
So the next time your company is looking for additional help, you may want to consider a freelancer or contractor instead. Otherwise, you could pay twice as much for a full-time employee when really a contractor or freelancer is the better investment.
When a potential customer visits your website, they are seeking out information about your business. To convert these prospects into sales, the information on your site needs to build trust in your company and answer their questions about your products or services. Does your website have the content that visitors want to read?
To assist you in developing the kind of compelling information that will boost sales, here are four questions to ask yourself when creating content for your small business website.
1. Are You Original?
While it is a necessary skill for business, talking about ourselves can be challenging, especially when it comes to written content. But you need to get past your modesty and provide compelling and original content that depicts your business in the best light possible.
You should always avoid copying and pasting from others’ written works, not only because of plagiarism and questionable ethics but to ensure it doesn’t hurt your search engine optimization (SEO). Visitors and search engines like to see businesses write about themselves in an honest, easy to understand and unique voice. Try to steer clear from using clichés and re-hashing overused concepts.
2. Does it Provide Value?
When a potential customer comes across your website, they want to find out specific information and get a feel for what your company is all about. Small business website content should make it simple for visitors to find answers to their questions.
When writing for your website or blog, make sure you provide value—offer useful information without wasting readers’ time with fluff and filler. If you ramble on and on, the reader will lose interest and leave. Does the content provide practical advice and pertinent knowledge about your products and services? Can the customer take away valuable facts or tips from the content? Can the content assist you in the selling process?
3. Is it Organized and to the Point?
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes with this one. As a consumer searching the internet for information about a business, you want to find what you are looking for with no fuss and no hassle. People don’t just want information—they want information fast.
When creating your content, keep it organized and concise. There’s nothing worse than having to click through a disorganized mess of a website just to find basic information about the products and services that are available. At a minimum, you should create organized sections that contain an “about” page, product or service details, and a contact page with all the pertinent information including your business location, hours, phone number, email address, and social media links.
4. Are You Maintaining It?
Although you may have a great sense of accomplishment when you finally launch an optimized website, your work isn’t finished. A website is never a set-it-and-forget-it marketing too—it should always be viewed as a work in progress.
Your website is a crucial part of your overall online marketing strategy to attract and retain customers. Don’t let it collect dust! For SEO purposes, you want to update important pages of your website with fresh information to show search engines (not to mention customers) that you’re an active business.
Digital marketing is constantly evolving. Make sure your website and content strategy evolve with it, so your business does not look outdated.
By Eva Zielinski, Manta Marketing Pro - November 29, 2017
by Jennifer Kyrnin
Updated March 18, 2017
There is a saying in the web design industry that "Content is King." Any web designer working in the industry has undoubtedly heard this phrase, along with the simply truth that web content is the reason why people come to the web pages you develop. It is also the reason why those people would share that site (and the content it contains) with others via social media, links on other websites, or even just good old fashioned word of mouth.
When it comes to a website's success, content really is king.
Despite the importance of quality website content, many web designers and web developers forget this in their rush to create the prettiest page or the most interesting architecture or the best interaction. When it comes right down to it, however, customers are not interested in whether your design has a 3-pixel or a 5-pixel border. They don't care that you've built it in Wordpress, ExpressionEngine, or on some other platform. Yes, they can appreciate a good user interface, but not because it looks great, but moreso because they expect the interactivity to work and not get in the way.
What your customers are coming to your web page for is the content. If your designs, site architectures, and interactivity are all wonderfully executed, but if the site does not offer usual, quality content, your visitors will leave the site and look for another that does offer the content they are seeking.
At the end of the day content is still king, and designers who forget that won't remain in business long.
WHAT IS WEB CONTENT?There are, essentially, two types of Web content:
The best textual web content is that text that has been written for the Web, rather than simply copy-and-pasted from a print source. Textual web content will also have good internal links to help readers get more information and be able to dig deeper into that content should they so desire. Finally, web text will be written for a global audience as even local pages can be read by anyone around the world.
Website text content can be something as commonplace and straightforward as your company's "About Us" text or history. It could be information on your hours or operation or location and directions. Text content can also be pages that are regularly added to and updated, like a blog or press release pages, or information about upcoming events that you are promoting. These can all be text content, and each of them can also include Media Web Content as well.
MEDIA WEB CONTENTThe other type of Web content is media. To put it simply, media or "multimedia" as it was often called in the past is any content that isn't text. It includes:
Images are the most common way to add multimedia to websites. You can use photos or even art you've created yourself using a graphics editor of some kind.
Images on web pages should be optimized, so that they download fast. They are a great way to add interest to your pages, and many designers use them to decorate every article they write.
Sound is embedded in a web page so that readers hear it when they enter the site or when they click a link to turn it on. Keep in mind that sound on Web pages can be controversial, especially if you turn it on automatically and don't provide a way to turn it off easily.In truth, adding sound to a website is more of a relic of past web design practices and not something you see done much today.
Video is incredibly popular on web pages. But it can be challenging to add a video so that it works reliably across different browsers.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to upload the video to a service like YouTube or Vimeo and to then use the "embed" code from those sites to add it to your page. This will create an iFrame on your site with that video content embedded. It is the easiest and more reliable way to add video onto a webpage.
Original article by Jennifer Krynin. Edited by Jeremy Girard on 3/15/17
by Carie Ferg, Manta Contributor, September 2017
Unless you’re an expert on search engine optimization (SEO), it’s easy to get lost in the lingo and technical complexities. But if you don’t pay attention to search because it’s too confusing, you could be leaving important dollars on the table that could help drive your small business’ success.
When thinking about getting search engine traffic to your website, it’s important to understand the difference between the two search categories: paid and organic. According to Julie Howell, director of SEO at Postali, paid search and organic search operate completely independent of each other.
While paid search such as Google AdWords is a paid advertising opportunity, “Organic search results are determined by a propriety algorithm that you cannot pay your way into,” said Howell. “Running a paid search campaign will have no effect on your organic rankings, positive or negative.”
But just because the two search categories don’t directly impact each other doesn’t mean that you should dismiss either one. SEO is a slower marketing channel; it can take months to see your ranking climb. In the meantime, you could see instant results for your paid search campaigns.
it’s also important to provide users with both options to cast a wide net for potential customers. “Some users prefer to only click on organic results, while others will click on an ad. You want to try to appeal to both,” said Howell.
Having a presence in both organic SEO and paid search channels increases the overall exposure of your small business, thus increasing clicks and conversions. “Think of a search engine results page (SERP) as multi-faceted real estate,” Howell said. “Paid search is a bigger investment but has the ability to drive faster results.”
Reposted courtesy www.manta.com
Investing in a logo for your company is time and money well spent yet many businesses simply skimp on this important brand identity piece. A well thought-out logo will enhance potential customers and partners’ crucial first impression of your business and can build loyalty between your business and your customers.
A logo is more than images and words, it should tell a story about your company – who you are, and what you do, and what you stand for. Think of the McDonalds golden arches, the Nike swoosh or Target bulls-eye. These images represent these companies well and are easily recognizable around the world.
I know what you are probably thinking: you do not have the financial resources of a giant corporation like Nike to create a logo and design is not your forte. True, a professionally designed logo can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000 to develop. However, there are thousands of independent designers and small ad agencies who charge way less for entrepreneurs on a tight budget. But before you contact one of them, you need to think long and hard about what you want your logo to say about your business.
Below is some important information to help you create the ideal logo:
There are basically three kinds of logo types. Font-based logos consist primarily of a type. For example: IBM, Microsoft and Sony, use type treatments with a twist that makes them distinctive. Then there are logos that literally illustrate what a company does, such as a paint brush for a house-painting company or a house with a for sale sign for a realtor. And finally, there are abstract graphic symbols-such as the CBS eye or NBC peacock.
“Such a symbol is meaningless until your company can communicate to consumers what its underlying associations are,” says Americus Reed II, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, who’s conducted research on the triggers that lead consumers to identify with and become loyal to a brand. But building that mental bridge takes time and money. The Nike swoosh has no inherent meaning outside of what’s been created over the years through savvy marketing efforts that have transformed the logo into an “identity cue” for an athletic lifestyle.
Avoid putting your logo design ideas down on paper until you have determined its’ primary function. Such as:
Whether you are designing your logo in-house or hiring a professional graphic designer,
you need to articulate the message you want your logo to convey. Try writing a one-sentence image and mission statement to help focus your efforts. Stay true to this statement while creating your logo.
One thing you need to be careful of as you explore color options is cost. Your five-color logo may be gorgeous, but once it comes time to produce it on a promotional piece, the price won’t be so attractive. Nor will it work in mediums that only allow one or two colors. Try not to exceed three colors unless you decide it’s absolutely necessary.
Your logo can appear on a variety of media: signage, advertising, stationery, delivery vehicles and packaging, to name just a few. Remember that some of those applications have production limitations. Make sure you do a color study. Look at your logo in one-, two- and three-color versions.
Using and Protecting Your Logo
Once you’ve produced a logo that embodies your company’s mission at a glance, make sure you trademark it to protect it from use by other companies. You can apply for a trademark at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site.
Then, once it’s protected, use it everywhere you can-on business cards, stationery, letterhead, brochures, ads, your Web site and any other place where you mention your company name. This will help build your image, raise your company’s visibility and, ideally, lead to more business.
Portions of this article written by David Cotriss, Kim T. Gordon and Steve Nubie, and previously published on Entrepreneur.com.
You think you know all about writing a professional press release. So, why aren’t you hearing from any of those reporters on your mailing list? The answer is simple. Your press release is competing not only against other companies trying to get their story in print or on the air but with actual news events. Yes, actual news trumps your story. So what can be done to increase the odds that your press release won’t end up in the trash?
1. First and foremost, your press release should be timely. Don’t send a reporter a press release about an event that has already happened. This is old news. They are looking for fresh stories to tell their respective audiences. Do send them a story about a future event and be sure to include the date and location in the subject line of your email or press release. Remember, if you want to get a story in a monthly publication, you will need to send your release at least eight weeks before the event to meet publication deadlines.
2. Send your press release to the right people. If you are sending a story about opening a new business in your area, your release should be addressed to the city and/or business editor. Similarly, if you are promoting a community health fair, you’ll want to send your press release to the health editor, and so on and so on.
3. Don’t expect to hear back from everyone who receives your press release. Chances are, unless your story is the next cure for cancer you may not get a single response. Don’t let this stop you from getting results. Instead, pick up the phone and call the individual recipients. In some cases, you will find that they have not read your release yet. Use the call as an opportunity not only to pitch your ‘current news story’ but to establish a relationship with the reporter or editor for future releases.
4. Remember that print, broadcast, radio, and the internet are all different mediums. If your story does not have much visual appeal, it is less likely to turn a broadcast journalist head. Think about it, why do so many five and six-car crash pile ups end up on TV newscast.
5. Make your releases look professional and if necessary ask someone else to proof it. There should be no mistakes, typos, etc. in a professional press release. Make sure your contact information is at the top and your headline tells exactly what your press release is about.
Have you ever found yourself struggling to make a decision regarding marketing your business? This happens to all of us. The trick is to identify your message, set goals, and a strategy to achieve them (commonly known as a marketing plan). You wouldn’t take a vacation without knowing when, where, and how. Would you?
Think of your marketing plan as a road map. Only instead of knowing your starting point and final destination, you should know what you want to say, to whom, and how your message will reach your target audience.
In my last blog, the focus was on SWOT analysis. If you have performed your SWOT analysis, chances are you have identified the four ‘P’s” of marketing: product, price, place and promotion. Each P has several components and thus each should be dealt with in detail in your marketing plan.
In addition to the 4 P's, your marketing plan should also include who will be responsible in your organization for carrying out each task. In some cases, it may be wise to hire an outside professional.
One of the biggest challenges I have discovered among small business owners is that they have big marketing ideas and small budgets. Further hindered by the lack of staff required to effectively follow through on marketing.
Speaking of budgets, a well-formulated marketing plan will include an evaluation of the costs of each item in your marketing plan. Not just out-of-pocket expenses (such as advertising dollars or printing feeds) but how much time will be needed to achieve your goal.
Keep in mind how these costs will impact your profit margins and cash flow. Recently, I worked with a retail client who had a great promotional idea. After doing a budget for the promo, the idea was scratched because the costs outweighed the likely return on investment.
Promotions are just one aspect of marketing to consider. Promotion is the actual presentation of your business and its products/services to the public. Every business should strive to present a professional, consistent image, targeted to a specific market. In other words, the image you create should provide you with a unique identity and set you apart from your competitors. This is often achieved through logo design and branding.
Advertising. This is where most new businesses fail. It is easy to get swept up into a great sales pitch. Stop! Ask yourself these important questions before you sign on the dotted line. Who is going to see the ad? How many times will they see it and over what period of time? Am I selling the right product or service to this audience? Do I have the money in my marketing budget?
If you had a marketing plan you would be able to decide ahead of time which advertising sales pitches you are interested in hearing and skip those that don’t meet your goals. Remember, there are no short cuts to marketing and advertising. You must be consistent with your message, placement, and committed to a period of time to achieve maximum results.
Lastly, the internet is playing a major role in marketing businesses of all sizes. When crafting your marketing plan, look for ways to leverage your website and social media.
While it may take sometime now to plan your marketing strategy, the time you invest should save you time and money in the long run, and help make those tough marketing decisions a lot easier.
Recently I was hired by an established law firm to evaluate their marketing efforts and advise them on how the could achieve better results. I sat down to interview each of the key attorneys to see if everyone had the same vision for the firm and as I suspected, each attorney had varying opinions about what practice areas were in the best interest of the firm and how they needed to market themselves to achieve success.
This is not unusual for any business, regardless of age or size. Often times organizations spend time and money on advertising and marketing without a communications strategy or marketing plan. To the credit of the law firm, their former in-house marketing director had a marketing budget and spreadsheet tracking their expenses.
As a seasoned (older) marketer, I still believe in “Marketing 101.” More specifically, creating a balanced marketing plan based on a SWOT Analysis.
The SWOT Analysis is a great way to identify your organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Thus, providing a blueprint for creating a strategic and balanced marketing plan.
SWOT Analysis Format
The SWOT format can be approached in different ways. However, for the sake of this exercise, start with 4 squares on a piece of paper with enough room to write 5-6 points under each. These don’t have to be detailed, but they should be well thought-out to get the most value. Note the diagram above for reference.
The first row should be internal strengths and weaknesses. Think about your company and things you can control. The second row (opportunities and threats) should include external factors, such as market trends, other companies, competition, and other factors that you may not fully control.
Now that you have created your square, let’s delve into more detail.
Strengths - SWOT Analysis
Defining your strengths is an important part of this exercise. For some, writing down strengths can be uncomfortable, but for others they may end up with a long list. If you fall into the latter category, try to pair your list down to the 4-6 strengths that define your brand. This helps to prioritize your strengths. Remember, strengths should be based on your company and should be internally focused.
Each strength should focus on a single area of your brand. See below for some examples.
Writing down your weaknesses can be difficult, but believe me, you will find this part of the process very revealing. It is essential to understand what your business lacks to help you make sound marketing and business decisions about things such as: your marketing message, target audience, workflow, staff and other resource needs.
Here are a few examples of weaknesses:
When considering opportunities, I find it helpful to review the organization’s strengths. Often times, the strengths help me to brainstorm opportunities. Sometimes the list of opportunities can be lengthy and daunting. Your goal is only to identify opportunities, it is not a to-do-list, so don’t be afraid to think big! Later when you are creating your marketing plan, you can prioritize your opportunities.
Here are examples of opportunities:
It is important when evaluating threats that you look beyond the obvious, such as competitors or economy. This does not mean that you exclude these from your threat list. However, you should expand thinking to include other threats, such as changes in political policies and new traffic patterns that may affect your businesses location.
Here are a few more examples:
· Internet. Provides potential clients with free access to marketing advice and
low cost graphic design and print resources.
· Profit Margins. Lower rates to remain competitively priced due to increase competition from local marketing businesses and online services.
· Facebook. Small businesses and start-ups are using Facebook to promote their services as opposed to hiring an agency to build their website.
Having a clear understanding of both internal and external factors is essential for any business to survive in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world. Whether you use the above
4-square format, or simply type your list of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, or threats, on a single paper, you are on your way toward a more efficient marketing plan.