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.
One of the most common complaints I hear from business owners is that they are not getting traffic from their website despite investing thousands of dollars with a “professional” web company. My response is usually two fold. “Are there any analytics to show the amount of traffic to your site and where is the traffic coming from?” My second response is “who wrote the web copy?”
Unlike print copy, writing for the web requires resisting the temptation to write “fluff.” Those searching the web are looking for answers to questions and want value and Google search algorithm rewards those with relevant, current and interesting content.
The most successful websites include useful content, such as articles or “blogs” that provide the reader information and a reason to come back to the website.
The way the Web works is very different from print and the content of your website needs to reflect that.
Keep Individual Page Content Short
The Web is not a good place to write a novel. Keep the content short. The shorter it is, the more likely your readers will read it. List can also be effective web content. If you have technical information consider an infographic as opposed to a full page of copy or add a blog on the topic to your website.
Write SEO-Friendly Copy
Google is watching. If you haven’t yet heard about SEO (search engine optimization) yet, is important to note that an SEO content friendly site will rank higher online than one that is not. WThus, when writing copy for your website, it is important to include keywords and phrases in your content. You need to use the phrase enough so that it's recognized as the topic but not so much that your readers notice.
Video and Audio
Internet marketing also known as digital marketing is constantly evolving. One of the latest trends is to incorporate video and audio on websites. If you plan to do this, consult a web specialist as there are some technical issues you should know before investing your time and money into adding a video or audio to your site.
Rules are Meant to be Broken
All of these rules can be broken. Know your audience and know why you're breaking the rule before you do so. Don’t be afraid to show your personality in your writing, just keep in mind the audience you are trying to inform or serve.
By Ian Mills
The fact is if you aren’t optimized for mobile you’re ultimately losing sales. Research shows that 57 percent of mobile users will abandon your website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load and 30 percent will abandon a purchase transaction if the shopping cart isn’t optimized for mobile devices.
Considering how important a website can be for any small business it seems only natural to take the extra care to ensure the website is mobile friendly. It’s amazing to me how so many websites are still not optimized for a mobile experience.
Here are five reasons small businesses must have a mobile optimized website:
1. Mobile Users are Different
Mobile users have different objectives than desktop users and typically this means they want information in quick, easily digestible bites. Customers report that their mobile purchases are often impulse buys and some statistics show that mobile users spend more money per purchase than customers do on desktop websites.
This underscores the importance of optimizing your mobile experience to match a visitor’s needs and behaviors in the context of how they will most likely be browsing your website. By making the path to purchase or enquiry simple and intuitive you’ll align more precisely with mobile users who need information rapidly to make decisions on the fly.
2. Mobile Gets Traffic
With one-quarter of global web searches conducted on a mobile device by over a billion users worldwide, mobile websites are just as important, if not more so, than desktop versions. Multiple sources report that smartphone users are engaging with mobile websites and apps while watching TV, commuting to work, and simultaneously while using a computer.
As Google made clear with last year’s Hummingbird update the future of search is mobile and websites that aren’t usable on handheld devices will see their search rank suffer for it.
3. Better Brand Engagement
People like your brand more when you offer a satisfying mobile experience and they’re more likely to return to your website later on a desktop. 90 percent of people report moving between devices, or “multi-screening”, to accomplish a task. When your mobile experience is optimized for functionality and consistency it fosters trust and affinity with users.
On the other hand if your mobile website is difficult to navigate customers are more likely to go to the competition than to visit you on a desktop computer. If you can’t provide what they need when they need it you will have lost the opportunity for the sale and risk losing a customer permanently to a competitor.
4. Increased Conversions
Desktop websites in mobile browsers are ineffective at converting visitors into buyers. Calls to action (CTAs) are often obscured, links are difficult to click and contact pages are buried in awkward menus. Mobile shoppers have little patience for an unwieldy website and one-third of them will leave a transaction if the site isn’t optimized for mobile.
To make the most of mobile, CTAs should be clear and easy to click and contact information should be one of the first things visitors see. 80 percent of shoppers admit that mobile purchases are impulse-driven and that they’re more likely to purchase from and interact with a brand that offers an engaging mobile experience.
5. Reduce Your Bounce Rate
Content that looks great on a desktop might be unreadable on a mobile device. Visitors won’t stay on your site if they have to pinch and zoom or squint at illegible type, or worse yet if it runs flash or anything that requires add-ons to display in a browser. If your website isn’t optimized professionally for mobile your bounce rate on mobile devices is going to be extremely high. By providing mobile visitors with an appropriate and intuitive user experience you will obviously engage visitors longer and drive more of them to purchase or enquire.
Mobile Health Check: Pick up your smartphone and go to your website. Ask yourself these questions:
• Does it load in less than three seconds?
• Does it draw your eye to your key selling points or message?
• Is the content easy to read?
• Is it easy to navigate?
• Is it easy to recognize and activate the call to action?
• Does it provide a good user experience?
• Is it a website you would spend time on if it was not your own?
If you mostly answered “no”, then it’s time to optimize your mobile site and capture the traffic and sales you’ve been missing out on. In our definitive report, The 11 Essentials of a Successful Website Design, mobile optimization has been ranked as number 8.
Ian MillsCo-Founder and CEO, Magicdust
There is an old adage that says “you have to spend money to make money.” However, this is easier said than done for many small business owners faced with uncertain revenue projections, operational challenges, and little flexibility between revenue and expenses. So how do you balance the need to invest in your business without over spending on marketing? Below are four proven strategies
to keep more money in your pocket and still get your company’s message out:
1. Take advantage of the internet.
If you already have a website, be sure to promote the address on all your sales materials, on social media, and in your email signature to drive traffic to your site. If you don’t already have a website, invest in a basic website so you can promote your business 24/7. If you want to build it yourself, there are several inexpensive or free web builders online or you might be able to hire a college student to build one for a few hundred dollars, cheaper than a full page ad in the daily newspaper. Also, take advantage of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These are all free.
Attend networking events where you can gain free marketing and business advice from other professionals as well as build business relationships. If you ask any successful entrepreneur how they started their business, they will likely tell you through hard work and networking.
3. Keep It Simple.
Don’t try to advertise everywhere at the same time. This is a classic and expensive mistake made by first time marketers. If your marketing budget is a concern, limit your spending by focusing only on one campaign at a time. Be sure your message is clear and reaching your target audience. Not only will this save money, it will also help you better evaluate the effectiveness of your campaign.
4. Be Consistent.
Most advertisers get bored with their advertising well before their audience. If the ad is working, stick with it. The more a potential customer sees your ad, the more likely they will act when they want what you are selling. Also by using the same ad, you reduce your “creative” costs.
Do you have tips for saving money on marketing while still reaping the rewards?
If so, please share them in the comments area.
You’ve heard it before: it’s not what you know but who you know.
That’s why it is important for anyone starting a business or responsible for sales to engage in networking. Although, not everyone enjoys meeting new people or finds networking as simple as turning on a light switch. In fact, the idea of networking may make you break out in a cold sweat.
As an entrepreneur and marketing consultant, I know to succeed in business it is essential to overcome fear which often leads to paralysis and failure.
So for those who dread networking, I hope the following three tips will help you conquer your fear and make networking a part of your overall marketing plan.
Does PR Work? That’s a common question for companies faced with the prospect of investing in public relations.
True, the benefits of PR can be more difficult to track as compared to other marketing tactics like advertising or trade shows. But that doesn’t mean you should skip PR completely. In fact, you may find that a well-planned PR campaign can achieve a tremendous return on investment.
Walker Sands, an integrating PR and digital marketing, recently wrote an article containing the following helpful 7 Ways To Measure Its Impact.
Social proof is a phenomenon where people observe others doing something and start doing it too. They copy someone else’s behavior because it seems like the right thing to do in that situation. It’s a special kind of conformity, like clapping when you hear someone else start to clap or buying a TV because the reviews are good online.
Now, conformity gets a bad rap, but social proof is actually pretty cool. Let’s say your business does good work and some people really like you. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone else liked you too? Testimonials are signals to your website visitors that it’s worth their time and money to join the crowd. Here’s four ways to display these stories on your website.
Short Sidebar/Footer Feature
Most web designs have an area to the side of the main content or below it to display a short chunk of information. You might call this a sidebar, or if it’s below the content, a footer. This is where many websites put their calls to action, additional menu items and other info to support the main content. A short testimonial, about two sentences, is perfect for the sidebar. Whatever content management system you use, all you have to do is type in the testimonial content. Add a picture to dress it up a little.
What if you have more than one great story? If you’re on WordPress, there are tons of plugins to dynamically display several testimonials in one space. Try a slideshow style that shows one testimonial and then transitions to another. Or show a randomly selected testimonial for every visitor.
No time for configuring sidebars and plugins? Get your testimonial collection up in a hurry and just put them all one one page. I don’t think this is the most effective use of your social proof content, but it’s the simplest and most common format for small business websites. If you do it this way, pick ten of your best testimonials and edit them so each one is about four sentences. Put these ten on a page together and add the page to your website’s primary navigation menu.
Businesses that specialize in a redesigns and remodels often have great stories. And if they’ve been taking pictures all along, they frequently have cool before and after pictures. When you have a longer story, with five or more pictures and dramatic results, consider writing a short case study.
This content expands on the customer’s testimonial with additional writing to explain the problem or challenge and illustrates the results with pictures and even a chart or two if you’re fancy. A testimonial-based case study should still be short, just a couple of paragraphs and a photo gallery. Once you create this content, it’s reusable in a number of different ways on your site. Collect a bunch of case studies and make a portfolio. Better yet, make them blog posts.
When you have a great story to tell, write a blog post. The best place for your testimonial case studies to live is your company blog. Make a new “Case Studies” blog post category and include them in your editorial calendar. Over time, that Case Studies category will fill up with useful information that proves how awesome you are. You might even add this category to your primary navigation menu so website visitors can browse the case studies filtered out of the regular blog stream.
Publishing bite-sized case studies with your blog integrates them with your existing inbound marketing. Blog posts are the bread and butter of content necessary for sharing on social media and powering your email newsletter. Adding social proof to your mix supports claims made in other posts and the unique post format keeps things interesting.
You can tell customers how good you are. But a movie review by the movie’s director isn’t worth much. Testimonials are the stories of customers who’ve already tried out your business and want to recommend it to the world. These stories don’t just prove your claims, they get potential customers clapping before they’ve even seen the show.
- Reprint of article written by Peter Wolfgram from Roundpeg digital marketing company.
Over two decades ago I published a newsletter called Marketability for small businesses. At the time, the Internet was in its infancy stage and more baby boomers than ever, like myself, were working from home. While a lot has changed due to the rise of the internet and social media, the basic principles of marketing remain the same…commitment, consistency, and investment.
Successful marketers create a strategic plan before they spend a single dollar on advertising. This plan includes committing to a specific advertising message, deciding where and when to advertise, and how much they will spend over the course of a year. Creating an ad budget and a realistic assessment of the rate of return on investment (ROI) should dictate the where, when, how and why you advertise.
For businesses with a modest marketing budget, the Internet has leveled the advertising field. You can create a basic website (or electronic brochure) for as little as $500 that can be seen by a worldwide audience 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Furthermore, unlike a brochure, you do not have to wait weeks to get more printed if you run out or need to make updates such as a change of location, adding a product line, or introducing a new service. These changes can be made in a single day on your website.
After the initial investment of developing and launching a website, the cost to maintain your online presence can be as little as $10 per month. You probably spend more than that on morning coffee for the week. What about print ads in your local paper, or paying for radio or television ads. If you are very lucky you may get one week of advertising for the same $500, if you are in a very small market.
While a basic website can be very affordable to launch, you will still need to promote your new website before you can reap the rewards. If your website is being developed by a professional, ask them about SEO. SEO stands for search engine optimization and if done properly can organically raise your websites ranking on the search engines so your website is found easily by prospective customers in search of what you offer. Having your site search engine optimized can range from $500 - $2000 but if done properly, the investment will pay for itself in a short period of time. Do not hire a SEO expert unless you get references. There are many companies advertising this service online and only a few that truly deliver results.
If you are just getting started on the web, you can save some dough on SEO and promote your new web address on your business cards, stationery, and other marketing and advertising materials. This is the most cost-effective way to drive business to your website.
When it comes to developing a website, the first thing that comes to my mind is “there is more than one way to skin a cat”. This proverb dates as far back as 1678 when it first appeared in a collection of English proverbs as “there are more ways to kill a dog than hanging.” I for one am grateful the saying has evolved. However, its’ meaning that there is more than one way to get something done is certainly true when it comes to website creation.
Just look online and you will find dozens of companies claiming to offer the holy grail of website designs so easy a monkey can do it. Well, I’m not sure about a monkey, but, truth be told, some website design templates are great to. My personal favorite is WordPress.com. Not to be confused with WordPress.org.
WordPress is a free, Web-based software program that a “non-techie” can use to build and maintain a website or blog. It was originally intended as an easy way to set up a blog. But, thanks to the efforts of a large “open source” community of WordPress programmers working to extend and improve its capabilities, WordPress has become much more than just a tool for bloggers
Similar to WordPress is another open-source program called Weebly. While my experience using this program is extremely limited, I found it fairly easy to make content updates though I have not tried to build a website from the beginning on Weebly. According to their website, they currently have six million customers.
Other popular web development tools you may have heard of include Drupal, Dreamweaver, Expression Engine, and Joomla. Most of the programmers that work with my company are moving away from Joomla and completely custom built websites to more contemporary and flexible tools like WordPress. The beauty of most WordPress templates and similar programs is they offer extensive customization if you want a really distinctive look and have the budget to hire a web programmer, or the option of doing it yourself (DYI) if you are adventurous, comfortable with computers, and on a tight budget.