Keeping Your Resolutions in Life and in Marketing

30 12 2014

With the new year upon us, it’s time again to consider resolutions for the coming year. Unfortunately, most of us have a far easier time making resolutions than keeping them. Genuine lifestyle changes are difficult to achieve. If you’re planning to make radical shifts in your daily life, consider the following:

Bite off small chunks at a time.

If you haven’t run in over 30 years and are 40 pounds overweight, it’s not reasonable to say you’ll run a marathon by spring. Instead, set a goal of completing a mile a day for a certain number of weeks, then slowly increase your distance. Trying to get too much done too quickly can lead to burnout and discourage you from continuing.

Make the goals reasonable.

A person who’s just learning to cook might never win a “top chef” competition, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to successfully cook a full Thanksgiving dinner. Set goals that are difficult enough to provide motivation and challenge, but make sure they’re also realistic and attainable.

This same advice applies to your small business.

Starting a new business is tough. Countless seminars and classes make it sound as though doing X, Y, and Z will have you raking in millions in just a few months. While there might be a genius entrepreneur somewhere for whom that’s true, for the vast majority of small business owners, it’s not.

Instead, look at the advice given above, and find ways to apply the same philosophy to your business. Like an out-of-shape person starting to run, you need to take it slowly at first. A new business typically cannot expect to clear hundreds of thousands of dollars per month in profit. Instead, your goal might be just to break even the first few months, and then slowly start generating actual profit after that.

Also, give your books and prospects an honest look. Set realistic expectations for the next quarter and year. Creating progressive goals will give you something to celebrate when you attain those milestones and encourage you to keep moving forward, while preventing burnout and keeping your company on track.

Of course, this way of thinking applies to more than just goals. It can be equally useful in other aspects of your business, such as marketing. When you hear about a new type of marketing with great potential, take the time to develop your strategy and grow in stages, rather than jumping in blindly with both feet. This more tempered approach will keep you moving in the right direction without becoming overwhelmed.

We’ve all failed at some point with our New Year’s resolutions. Those who genuinely want to succeed understand they must set reasonable goals to avoid biting off more than they can chew. The same idea applies to running a business. Here’s to a successful 2015 for you and your company.





Taking Your Keywords to the Next Level

19 12 2014

Keywords can be fantastic tools for attracting attention from potential customers. They help search engines ‘tune into’ your content and better match your pages to the queries people enter. Unfortunately, many companies use keywords at a very rudimentary level, failing to capitalize on what this simple optimization technique can do. Here are four ways you can easily improve the keywords you use on your website to bring in more visitors and increase your brand’s visibility.

1. Use the language your customers use.

Select keywords based on the way your customers speak. Often there’s a difference between how customers describe your industry and how you would describe it. Consider the types of jargon you and others in your industry commonly use when describing your products and services. Then compare that to how your customers tend to speak. If you sell a cloud-based service, for example, don’t assume your customers know the latest tech language, especially if you market your products to the average small business. Your keywords, and the language used throughout your site, should be user friendly.

2. Use language based on your buyer personas.

Your buyer personas can offer you considerable insight into your customers’ challenges and needs, so use them to help you optimize your content. As you develop your buyer personas and take a look at what motivates people to buy from you, start thinking about keywords that fit with each of these customer types, too.

3. Use your keywords throughout the page.

Look for ways to weave your keywords naturally into your content. When Google crawls your website, it looks at headlines and URLs, as well, to better ‘understand’ the content. Include your keywords in these spaces to better communicate with the search engines. Add them to your page meta description, too. When a customer sees your page on a list of search results, they’ll see the page title, URL, and meta description. Using your keywords in all of these areas will let search engines know what your pages are all about, while at the same time helping the people who are using those search engines know they’ve found a page that contains the information they seek.

4. Use your keywords naturally.

When it comes to keywords, more is not always better. In fact, more can often be worse. Overusing keywords comes across as forced and leads people to take your pages less seriously. Think about the last time you read something that had keywords placed oddly and used artificially. Chances are, you clicked away quickly. When website copy isn’t cohesive, people lose trust. Focus on providing reliable and valuable information for customers along with occasional, naturally placed keywords. This will help you get found organically and help improve your brand reputation.

Keywords can be a valuable tool for getting found and attracting the right type of people. Using them appropriately, according the four points above, can help you improve your keywords and see even more results from your marketing efforts.





Marketing Lessons from Shel Silverstein

16 12 2014

Shel Silverstein has taught generations of children lessons about life from his books of fun and goofy poems. People of all ages can appreciate his wit and what he has to say. As adults, it’s easy to forget all those valuable words, but Shel Silverstein also has a number of lessons he can teach us about business and life. Here are four quotes from the famous poet that we should never forget as we begin to build and grow our businesses.

“Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

This lesson can be very hard to remember in daily life. After all, most entrepreneurs have at least one force in their life telling them they’re not going to succeed. Sometimes one of the most important lessons is learning to tune out the naysayers and finding the mental strength to succeed in the face of adversity. Form your dreams, identify your goals, and plot a way to get there.

“If the track is tough and the hill is rough, thinking you can just ain’t enough.”

Forging your personal path is never easy. While most people intellectually understand there will be challenges, all too often, when these problems arise, they give up.

In business, you must accept the fact you’ll face problems and that things won’t always go according to plan. Sometimes the challenges will feel like too much. But if you have goals, you need the perseverance and strength to make it past the hurdles. Believing you can do so and determining the steps needed to succeed will give you the tools you need to continue along the path to your goals.

“If there is a book you want to read but isn’t written yet, write it.”

This quote applies to more than just books. It also applies to industries and businesses. If no one is fulfilling a particular niche and serving customers in a particular way, use that as your window of opportunity. The marketplace is extremely competitive. The companies that succeed are the ones that identify a need, determine a way to fill that hole, and then get their information in front of the necessary audience.

The idea of writing your own book also speaks to the importance of taking initiative. No matter what your position might be, finding ways to anticipate needs and then addressing those issues instead of waiting for someone else to notice the problem is an excellent way to get ahead and find both personal and company-wide success.

“Just ’cause somethin’ ain’t been done don’t mean it can’t be did.”

This quote also speaks to the importance of taking risks and being willing to be the first one to take a chance. This might mean developing a new product or service to fill a certain niche, or taking a conventional industry and finding completely unique ways to deliver your products and services. No matter what might drive you, don’t allow yourself to be limited by what others in the industry have done. Don’t be afraid to blaze your own trail and see where the road takes you.

Shel Silverstein has words of wisdom for all of us. Keep these quotes in mind and use them for the motivation you need to move forward. If you need help developing your marketing plan, contact us. We’ll be happy to offer guidance as you get started.





3 Key Marketing Trends to Add to Your Strategy for the New Year

12 12 2014

Like many business leaders, you realize that digital marketing is here to stay. But you also know the marketing landscape is changing rapidly, which means that 2015 will bring many new ideas and necessities.

As you look back on your past year’s marketing and start developing plans for the year ahead, now is the perfect time to review some of the expected trends for 2015, so you can begin incorporating them into your campaigns. Here are three trends to consider.

The art of personalization

Developing relationships with prospective customers and nudging them closer to conversion is certainly nothing new. We all know that customers appreciate companies who care about them on an individual basis and take the extra time to address their concerns.

In 2015, however, the idea of personalization will go from a ‘nice extra’ to a necessity. Consumers have started realizing they’re in control of more of the buying experience. They’ll continue to seek companies who are willing to give them the more personalized attention they deserve.

Personalization must permeate your entire organization. Customers want to bond with you as individuals, not just as a brand. They appreciate hearing your story, seeing pictures, and learning about the people behind the scenes at your company. While such content shouldn’t consume all of your digital marketing, you should take the time to develop a one-to-one relationship with your customers.

The role of data

This is another area that will quickly move from trend to necessity in the coming year. While many at the forefront have already started collecting hard numbers to measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns, it will become increasingly important for all businesses to follow that trend in the year ahead.

Digital marketing provides enormous potential for data collection. You can learn about where your page viewers are coming from, what they’re doing on your website, what engages them the most, what common characteristics they share, and how much money you’re spending for every lead and customer. This information will give you the tools you need to refine your campaigns, pinpoint the weak spots, and find ways to improve your efforts, while reducing costs and increasing the number of customers who convert.

Better internal communication

In 2015, efforts at improved communication will play a big part in planning and implementing digital marketing strategies. When you focus on improving communication between departments, two things happen:

  1. Employees have a better idea of what is expected of them and how their job fits into the larger company picture. This increases their work satisfaction and the way they present the brand to the public.
  2. Leads are better managed internally, as everyone has a clearer understanding of the role each team plays in the process. Departments work together in better harmony, and conversion rates improve.




What Politicians Can Teach Us About Audiences

9 12 2014

The midterm elections may have wrapped up just a few weeks ago, but many are already turning their attention to 2016 and who may or may not make a run. In living rooms across America, people are letting out a collective sigh, knowing that when the next political season begins, they’ll be bombarded once again with advertisements trying to convince them that one candidate or another has the experience and ideas necessary to take the country in the right direction.

While it’s easy to grow weary of political advertising, if you ever stop and just focus on the message, instead of the politics involved, political candidates can actually teach us all a few things about marketing.

Politicians understand their audience

Successful politicians are master marketers. They construct narratives, brand stories, and reputations, and they work to inspire loyalty and admiration. But one of their most intriguing campaign techniques is the art of tailoring their message to the audience they’re trying to reach.

Politicians must appeal to a wide variety of voter groups and constituencies. When a politician is speaking with representatives from a certain population, or is developing an advertisement most likely to reach this particular demographic, they’ll use language and cover topics that are more important to this group.

Why? Politicians understand that the best way to influence people’s loyalty is by tailoring their message to what matters most to each voter group. Generally speaking, young people know that Social Security is important, but it doesn’t typically impact their daily life. On the other hand, seniors understand the importance of education and jobs for a thriving economy, but most retirees don’t find these to be pressing concerns for them personally.

The successful politician takes these generalities and develops a message that speaks directly to each respective audience.

Taking the lesson home

If you want to grow your company, you need to do the same thing as these politicians. Take your buyer personas and carefully examine the issues and challenges that impact them the most. Discover what motivates your buyers, where they struggle, and how your products or services can meet their needs. Use this information to tailor your marketing messages, so you can reach your intended audience. Just like different voting groups, your different personas might be motivated by different things.

When you tailor your message and your voice to each potential audience, you’ll greatly enhance your odds of reaching them and converting them to your brand. Rather than tuning out the politicians during the upcoming election cycle, take a lesson and learn how to make your own message speak directly to your particular buyer personas.





5 Tips for Developing Content That Will Resonate With Your Audience

5 12 2014

When developing content for your website and marketing materials, you want to create pieces that will resonate with your audience. This will encourage them to read what you’ve produced, share it on social media and with friends, and — most importantly — remember what you said. Strong content will enhance brand loyalty and improve the success of your entire marketing campaign. Here are five tips to help you create more meaningful content.

Analyze your buyer personas

Buyer personas exist to give you insight into the people you’re trying to reach, so use them to produce the best types of content. Gather information such as:

  • the challenges your customers are facing
  • circumstances that prevent them from buying
  • their budget
  • their goals

This type of information should give you clear guidelines about the kinds of content these people will pay attention to. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, interview your existing customers and take surveys of your target population.

Look at what content gets the best responses

Take a look at your past content to see what people respond to most frequently. If you thought a topic was only mediocre but it managed to generate exceptional traffic and attention, you can feel pretty confident that it resonated with page viewers. Use past site data to plan future content on subjects that garner the most interest to keep visitors engaged. Create videos, experiment with different formats, or dive into hot topics from a completely new angle.

Examine multiple formats of content

Different formats, such as video, are increasingly catching steam. People enjoy watching videos to get up close and personal with the people they do business with at a company. Monitor your video views and see how well customers are responding to your productions. This will give you insight into how often you should work to produce this type of content.

Offer genuine value

Some companies get hesitant about producing real value for their readers. They imagine that if they give away all their ‘secrets’ no one will need to hire them. No blog, however well-written, ever made anyone a complete expert on a new industry.

Instead of worrying about revealing too much, work to offer real value to your readers so they can see the expertise you have to offer. It’s this kind of genuine value — not wishy-washy, bland content that teaches people nothing — that will turn readers into followers and followers into customers. The more value you can offer readers, the more they’ll come back to read your posts again. Don’t be afraid to take a stand, form opinions on subjects in your industry, and produce content that’s worth reading.

Understand your customers’ current situations

When your company appears on top of the issues facing your customers and sensitive to their problems, people will naturally gravitate toward what you have to say. If you acknowledge and address news in your industry, your customers will appreciate that you’re keeping them informed. Look for ways to keep the timing of your blog posts relevant. For example, in the winter, a plumber might write blog posts about how to keep pipes from freezing, what to do if they do freeze, and similar bits of information that show an understanding of the struggles customers are facing right now.

Producing meaningful content is key to keeping your website visitors engaged and continually returning to your blog. These five ideas will give you the tools you need to produce posts and information that will resonate with your readers and inform them, which can improve your conversion rates and the success of your marketing campaigns.





What We Can Learn From Children Learning to Play Together

2 12 2014

Imagine a preschool classroom filled with three- and four-year-old kids, each eager to play with a certain toy firetruck. The disagreements over whose turn it is quickly draw the attention of the teacher, who is immediately inundated with different versions of the story. According to one student, it’s her turn because one of the little boys in the class has been playing with it “all afternoon.” The little boy counters with, “No, I haven’t! And besides, you’ll just break it anyway!”

The teacher sits down and attempts for the hundredth time to teach her students about the virtues of sharing. She explains that by sharing the toys, the children will be able to develop much more elaborate games and have a lot more fun. Playing together will give them a chance to explore new ideas, create new characters, and have all sorts of adventures with the firetruck. She is only partly successful.

In an effort to maintain the peace in the small classroom and reinforce her lesson, the teacher creates a behavior chart for playing with the favorite toy of the day. The chart describes, in preschool language, how the toy will be played with and when it needs to be passed to another student.

The students quickly learn that the teacher is right. When they share the toy together, they end up having much more fun. On those days when the students neglect their newly-found sharing skills, however, the chart provides a handy reference to help them get back on track.

How does this lesson in sharing apply to marketing?

Take the warring students and replace them with the sales and marketing departments at some companies. An estimated 87 percent of the words used by marketing and sales departments to describe each other are negative, yet when these two teams are aligned, they can accomplish so much more. Just like the more elaborate games of childhood, aligned sales and marketing teams can produce up to 20 percent more profit! When the teams are well-aligned, they maximize their lead cultivation and achieve a much higher conversion rate.

Using a written agreement to help align your teams

The teacher in our story discovered that while meetings and lessons helped to encourage the students to play together, the behavior chart gave them something to look back on as a reference when things went wrong. A similar chart (though more elaborate, of course) can help sales and marketing teams coexist more peacefully, too. Such a chart should define terms, behavior, and the steps each team will take in cultivating and contacting leads.

Clearly defining the roles and expectations of sales and marketing teams will help each understand better what role the other plays in generating leads. The teams will also stay on the same page about when a lead is sales ready and when information should be passed along. When the marketing team finds leads, they’ll do a better job of passing along lead intelligence to the sales team, so the sales professionals know what contact the company has already had with this particular person. When salespeople receive a lead, they’ll have clearly defined expectations of the type and amount of contact they should have with the lead.

Working together will enhance communication, improve understanding, and make it easier to stay on the same page. Enforcing this agreement with regular meetings to judge progress can ensure everyone remains satisfied.

Aligning sales and marketing teams can be a fantastic way to improve profits and brand representation. Just like children learning to share, showing employees the value of working together, while also having a common agreement to back up the lesson, can help improve performance for everyone.