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Small Business Marketing From Finish to Start

“Maybe the start line was supposed to be your finish line. Don’t be afraid to walk backwards.” Author:Tablo

Normally whenever we think of taking on a project, we lay out the plan and define the tasks necessary to accomplish the goal. Consider something as basic as building a house. The builder and the buyer agree on the basics – number and size of bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen layout – the eventual “footprint” of the house. It then becomes the responsibility of the architect to develop blueprints which will be submitted to the town or local authority for approval. Once approved, the builder will assign a project manager to move through the steps to completion.

Here’s where small business marketing works best, when the parties work in reverse order. The client (the internal marketing manager or the external business decision maker) needs to embrace the idea of where they want to end up. And unlike the house building example, there are many different choices to define success.

For example, success could simply be defined as a growth in revenue from an existing run-rate to a run-rate with a higher number. For example, lets say the business has been growing 10% a year for the last 5 years, and the goal and purpose of marketing is to improve that growth rate to 20% a year over a reasonable period of time.

Success can be the launch of a new product, a new service, a new solution with a return on investment higher than other launches of the past.

Now to achieve those goals, marketing begins to work, for lack of a better word – backwards. The marketing professional starts at the finish line, incorporating one or more goals that need to be achieved. Marketing looks holistically at the various components that can be engaged in order to handle those project steps similar to the building project manager. However, since marketing activities (also known as the marketing mix) can have varying costs, and different choices require more or less time to check it off as complete.

Here’s an example of a small business marketing process and plan.

Let’s begin with a goal: Grow the revenue by 20 percent over the next 18-24 months.

Why not a firm date? It’s foolish in an ever shifting set of marketing tools and popular formats to set a hard date. Imagine building a plan before Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn took off. Odds are good that the completion date would be considerably impacted by these “new” mediums of communicating with buyers and influencers.

In this author’s opinion, the center of the marketing universe is a good website. A great website is better, but should be a living tool that adapts to changes in the way people choose to search for information. So a good website will suffice as long as it provides slightly more than basics about the company, the product, the brand, the solution, and a place for visitors to go for information.

Landing Pages must be Clean and Simple (and Device Agnostic)

Inside the website is our landing page(s). A landing page is where, when someone does a search, and finds your ad (more about that later), clicking the ad link brings them to a specific page directly. Thus, they should not have to plow through the history of the principals, the location of offices, awards, past downloadable PDFs, webinar replays, etc., etc., etc. by bringing them to the home page.

Instead, they should go directly to the page on the website that speaks to the topic via keyword(s) that they searched for, and the “bait” used in an ad to get them to click the ad. Most people are smart enough to roam around the website on their own, to learn more about the company if they are interested. But the goal of that landing page is to respond to the SPECIFIC need, and the SPECIFIC solution, which brought them there to begin with.

OK. Let’s assume we’ve got that solid landing page (quite likely several for each of the solutions, products or campaign being run). How did people get there? In a world of literally MILLIONS of pages, how did they find yours?

The magic word is CONTENT.

Content should not be confused with advertising. In fact, advertising posing as content is quickly discovered as such, and harms the brand deeply. Content is education. It is sharing opinions, experiences, thoughts, ideas, successes, and without an obvious goal of getting something in return beyond an acknowledgement that the author is a subject matter expert, and is willing to provide information without a hidden agenda. The altruistic motivation is what buyers crave far more than clever jingles, surveys, puzzles, or quizzes.

Think about your Competitors

Now we move back some more. Who are your competitors and what do they know, do, offer, profess or otherwise claim that whether real or not, is intent in casting their goods in a more favorable light then your own. Often these claims (real or otherwise) are unchallenged, simply because they are crafted by expensive marketing research companies, whose lipstick is more attractive that the pig that’s wearing it.

Look back at who your competitors were not so long ago. Have they truly created something far better than yours, or have they simply done a better job of convincing buyers that you are yesterday’s news. Having been in the IT sales and marketing business for more than 25 years, there are some companies that come to mind that seemed to never be knocked from their throne – WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, Wang, Digital Equipment, and many other – gone or just consumed by other companies. So while others were innovating these companies rested on their laurels eventually being a footnote in the early days of PCs. And one need not go back 20 years to think about MySpace, the Zune, even Napster.

Take the time to evaluate your competitors and create a simple but honest SWOT analysis (S=Strengths, W=Weaknesses, O=Opportunities, T-Threats) so you the marketing efforts can identify the weak spots and attack them.

Putting it all together

The singular most important foundation a business has for marketing is its database. The database (whether in a sophisticated CRM tool, or an excel spreadsheet). In addition to current and/or former clients, it needs to be constantly fed, updated, parsed, and managed or every other dollar or hour spent will be sub-optimized. The database provides not only the contacts, but a history of business/client experiences – both good and bad. And it is the starting point to uncover any real or perceived “warts” potential clients might find, and an opportunity to address them before going live with campaigns.

Now we have all the parts, we need to converge all the actions to drive buyers and influencers to the landing page(s), where we can generate the dialogue and begin to turn clicks into customers. Addressing all of the nuances of email marketing, snail mail marketing, content marketing through blogs, and distribution through social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and (especially) Google+. Tie in a moderate budget to generate visits by using Google AdWords and follow up with participation in industry events where subject matter experts are sought out for their knowledge and ideas.

Summary: There are specific steps for small businesses that don’t require an excessive budget or an onboard staff. Instead, a marketing professional whose personality matches your business, with expertise in driving measurement results, can add value, improve business results, and help act as a virtual partner in achieving both short and long term goals.

5 Essential Tips for a Successful SEO Strategy for Your Business

Large cities are fast paced and busy. Sometimes your can spend hours stranded in traffic while travelling very short distances during peak hours. This makes visiting clients very time-consuming for sales reps on the road.

In a world where time is money, more and more business owners are turning to the internet to generate new customers and grow their company revenue. But achieving success online is not as easy as it once was.

With more and more companies jumping online the competition is getting fierce. Regardless, SEO still provides one of the best returns for marketing investment. With more and more people using Google to conduct research before making a purchase, it is essential that your business can be found on Google.

However, if you are like most business owners I talk with you don’t have the time to market your own business online. After all staying up to date with the latest search engine guidelines and rules is a fulltime job.

It makes sense that most business owners would rather pay an SEO agency, company or individual to complete this work for them. If this is you then make sure you follow these 5 essential tips to achieve a successful SEO strategy for your business.

Tip #1 – Choose a Local Provider: The internet and advancements in communication technology now allows us to connect with someone on the other side of the world in realtime. With this technology you may be tempted to find anyone in the world to provide your SEO services.

However, the internet has also allowed many doors to open up for scam and fraud artists. For this reason it is always best to be able to meet your future SEO provider in person.

By finding a local SEO expert, agency or SEO company to carry out your search engine optimisation campaign, you have the flexibility of being able to catch up with them in person. You can get a lot out of meeting someone in the flesh as opposed to only meeting them via email, texts or even a phone call. Also when dealing with large amounts of money over the internet I am always cautious until I have a good understanding of who I am doing business with.

Create a strong relationship between you and your SEO provider by meeting in person, to ensure a strong result from your campaign.

Tip #2 – No Overseas Outsourcing: Once you have found a local SEO provider ask them if they outsource any of their SEO work overseas. If they do then you might as well work with someone overseas directly. But of course this is going against the first tip!

By outsourcing SEO work overseas, SEO companies can often charge higher amounts in-line with local prices and then get the work done overseas for a fraction of the cost. Meanwhile an overseas SEO provider may have poor English and not fully understand the location they are creating content for. Also they may use automation techniques for their copy writing and link building strategies which can lead to Google penalties. Unfortunately this is a common practice for SEO providers from third world countries.

When your SEO campaign is completed overseas you often receive a very poor standard of work. This can portray an unprofessional image for your business and can even lead to your website getting penalised. So avoid this at all costs.

Tip #3 – Get a Customised SEO Strategy: Achieving a successful SEO strategy requires complex analysis and planning. There are no one-size-fits-all approaches when it comes to SEO. And for that reason you should not choose an SEO package off the shelf and expect to achieve awesome results.

All reputable SEO providers offer a search engine optimisation service that is custom designed for each business they partner with. Reason being is that every business is different in terms of their market, products and services, and business goals.

A successful SEO strategy must take all of this into account and needs to be tailored to the individual business to meet their exact needs.

Tip #4 – Get Progress Reports: Another vital tip is to ensure that your local SEO provider provides progress reports.

Most common is to have a monthly report showing what work was done and how your website rank is tracking. If you are not getting this data then your SEO agency could be doing nothing while taking your money.

Make sure you review this report each time you get it and ensure progress is being made on your business goals.

Tip #5 – Play Safe: At the end of the day choosing who to partner with to provide your SEO services is not an easy task.

Even the most successful SEO strategies take time to blossom into a positive outcome. This is how scam artists get away with ripping people off in the online marketing world. They convey hope to their clients that the benefits will be coming, meanwhile they are simply pocketing your monthly investment each month.

Above all else beware of extremely low prices offered from an SEO provider. Quality SEO services normally costs anywhere in the range of $750-$5000 per month. If you are paying any less than this the SEO company may be using dodgy tactics which may result in a penalty once Google catches on.

Choose Wisely

No-one said choosing an SEO provider would be easy. However, by following these 5 essential tips you will have a much better chance at success.

Do your research and take your time in your decision for choosing who to partner with for your SEO strategy. And also be aware that SEO does take time. But when all the quality work starts to gain momentum your SEO strategy will cause your business to steamroll ahead. Best of luck.

Importance of a Website for Your Business

Having a business website is extremely important whether you are just starting your business or you are already running a company for some time. In modern time, people expect that any reasonable company must have its own website. Not having a website will not only miss several sales, but it also gives a negative impression about your company.

Always keep in mind that your competitors have an online presence and they are expanding their business by using the power of the internet. Therefore, to compete and to maximize your business share, having a high-quality business website is mandatory.

Online presence is not essential only for large businesses, even small firms should have their website to survive and grow. Millions of users surf the web daily to get their desired products or services. Too many people buy online and if you don’t have a website, you’ll surely miss several valuable clients. There are web surfers who want to get more information about your company, the products and services you are offering, your office timings and so on. You can consider your website as an online sales representative, which is available seven days a week, round the clock. The website never goes on vacation and it always remains available constantly advertising your business.

The company website is a customer service representative, which keeps on answering various questions about your business, promoting your new offers and providing the necessary details to your clients. As a result, you receive fewer phone calls in your office because your website is regularly answering various questions related to your business. This allows your staff to focus on other valuable issues.

Make sure your website is properly communicating the image or business message you want to convey. Try to keep it easy to navigate so that the visitors can easily get their required information. Your website is such a useful tool, which increases your sales and decreases cost. The number of online shoppers is regularly increasing, therefore it’s really important to have a website available so that people can buy directly from your website. Make sure that a shopping cart is available to give convenient and smooth online shopping experience.

Your website enables you to get clients from all over the world. The single website promotes your business throughout the world and you can get unlimited customers if you have a well-managed website. You can add the contact form to your website, which generates countless useful leads. Additionally, site visitors can subscribe to your company newsletter. This allows you to send your message to millions of subscribers within minutes.

You can post any news, messages or information related to your business on your website and all this stuff is available to all the valuable clients, vendors and site visitors immediately after posting. Adding the address of your website to your business cards and email signatures will help a lot in constantly promoting your website and your business.

In short, your business website is a tremendous tool, which promotes your business, respond to queries and generate sales. It is extremely helpful and brings fruitful results.