Marketing is much like a wheel in the sense that your website is the "hub", and all of your other marketing venues are "spokes" pointing back to that hub. So far, we have looked at Social Media as Spoke #1. Today we will be looking at Spoke #3: Networking Efforts.
How many people do you have in your network? Do you know what "good" networking connections look like? How much time should you spend networking a month? How does networking and your website relate to each other? All of these questions together equal a successful networking campaign for your business. Let's examine each question individually:
1. What do "good" networking connections look like?
Just because you paid for a Chamber of Commerce membership, or a spot at the local BNI networking group table, doesn't mean you have a networking campaign in force for your business. There are so many pieces to this puzzle that most don't think about:
A. Is this networking group worth your time?
B. Are their viable "revenue generating" contacts in this group?
C. Is this group known for producing leads, or business?
D. If you send leads to this groups members, can they be trusted? DO they have good reputations?
After you get the answers to these questions, you then need to make a commitment to the group. Showing up twice a year isn't going to develop the kind of relationships that are formed when trust is built. You must develop friends that are also clients. People don't recommend people who they don't trust.
2. How much time should you spend networking per month?
It's usually not good to answer a question with a question, but how much money do you want to make through your networking efforts? The return on investment is proportional to the time invested! You need to be doing some type of networking EVERY week. Chamber of Commerce, The Lion's Club, The Rotary Club...most communities have several options on getting involved and networking with local businesses.
3. How does your networking efforts and your website relate?
If you are going to take the time to build these relationships, you need to have a great "hub" to send people to learn more about you. You might make an EXCELLENT first impression, but at the end of the night, most people are going to look to the web to research you and see what you are all about. A terrible web presence is a terrible second impression. Make certain that as you meet all of these new people, you are giving them a spectacular website to look at, and to send possible leads to. Also, don't neglect networking websites that allow you to cement the relationships you start through face to face networking, like LinkedIn. This site is vital in following up, communicating offers, and in requesting introductions from people who you know who may know other business owners who you may not know.
In the end, you also need to remember that networking is a two way street. You can't expect to gain hundreds of leads, and not give any. Your time invested will pay off not just in revenue generating possibilities, but also life-long contacts and hopefully friends.
Marketing is much like a wheel in the sense that your website is the "hub", and all of your other advertising are "spokes" pointing back to that hub. So far, we have looked at Social Media as Spoke #1. Today we will be looking at Spoke #2: Paid Advertising Campaigns.
Not every business has an advertising strategy. You can usually tell which ones do as they are the ones that you see most often and are likely targeting you. The rule of thumb is you can't buy what you don't see so consistency it critical. So what does paid advertising do to point to your website? Here are 4 things that paid ad campaigns can do to support your website, and to increase your revenue:
1. Focus some of the ad's time on the web address.
I know this seems pretty elementary, but I have seen in my days in radio and TV script writers leave a customer's website out of a spot completely in favor of mentioning a phone number three times. The research is in, and phone number repetition doesn't help consumers remember your phone number...it makes them shut the commercial off when they hear it start the second time. Nobody likes to be beaten over the head with this type of info. You should, in this day and age, spend that same amount of time pushing your website address. When the consumer hears your web address they remember it because it is pertinent to the field that they are in or interested in exploring further. If they are compelled to visit your website that is where you want to present your contact information such as phone # and Social Connections.
2. Tease the website by offering a special in your commercial/print ad that you can only have by visiting the site.
Make it worthwhile, and make it grow as the original viewers tell friends and they visit...you can turn a website browser into a full-fledged evangelist for your product by offering a growing incentive to tell more and more people about your site. Require the user to enter an email address or Facebook Like to get a promotion or discount code.
3. Your website must have your industry spelled out in the domain name.
If you sell flowers and your businesses name is "Sally's", please don't register www.sallys.com. NO ONE will know what your website is, and Google CERTAINLY isn't going to know which category to rank your site in. Try www.flowersbysally.com, or www.sallylovesflowers.com. Make it speak to what you are selling, and you will be certain to not miss customers out of confusion.
4. If your website is a point of sale, it should be on everything your logo is on-including all print/Internet/display ads!
One thing that most people don't like is extra work. They don't want to have to Google you if they can know the address from the beginning. If you are investing in a website advertisement, don't just link the ad to your site; put the website address in text form on the ad as well. Get your website out to as many people as possible by putting it on business cards, social media sites, print ads and radio/TV ads. Every form of advertising should have your web address. You should also incorporate it in your elevator speech and in any public speaking that you do.
Bottom line, if you are going to spend money on advertising, make it easy for those who hear your advertising to spend money with you. Give them a hook/offer, create urgency, and link it back to your website. When they land on your website make sure you are attempting to get additional information from them such as an email address or Social Media connection. This will allow you to connect with them for future advertising campaigns.
Marketing is much like a wheel, in the sense that, you have a hub: which is your website, and all of the other forms of advertising/marketing point in to that hub as "spokes". The first spoke in the marketing wheel we are going to discuss is social media.
For so long now, social media has been thought of as a way to market your new business or service for free. The problem with this idea is you generally get what you pay for in marketing, and "free" monetarily will generally involve expenses paid in other forms, such as time investments. "Free" social media marketing is usually for those with tremendous patience, who have time to see a slower growth in likes/pins/reposts, and who don't mind taking time out of their day to build this column of the advertising structure up to a point where it becomes a revenue producer. A far better approach is to build some sort of a budget for social media, and to adhere strictly to the following three social media posting guidelines:
1. If you don't have time to follow a plan, be consistent, and follow through on what you say you are going to do, DO NOT start advertising through social media, or at least consider hiring someone with the time to be able to do it for you the RIGHT way. Social media is often the first opportunity you will have to build trust with prospective customers, and NOT following through on what you say you will do, will NEVER be a point for your business in the customer's "trust" column.
2. Don't be a "jack of all" social media's if you don't have the time to invest. It's better to do a few social media's really well, than to do dozens poorly.
3. EVERY post should include: some type of visual aid (picture, graph, cartoon), and a contact point (website, phone number, email, etc.) EVERY post should NOT contain a hard sell. People want to have information, and to be able to make decisions on their own to purchase a good/service. While it isn't bad to provide information that proves the worth of your product, and how it can save them time/money/troubles, if every post you make is an "order now!" post, they will either block you, ignore you, or worst yet...delete you.
In the end, your social media should point back to your website and encourage those reading your social media information about why you are the best choice for them to invest their hard earned money in. If you aren't pointing back to your site, and you aren't gaining new customers or at least connections that can lead to increased sales, then social media isn't a business tool for you, it's a hobby.
Those who follow technology can remember it was just a short time ago when businesses didn’t feel the need to ensure consumers the ability to view their websites on mobile devices. It wasn’t an issue, because Smartphone’s were few and far between, and more laptops were viewing their website than tablets. This is no longer the case, and the following stats might be just what you need to see to help you decide to make your website a “responsive” one.
A “responsive” website is one that changes its structure to fit optimally fit the viewing screen (see Sony's website images in the two pictures included in this blog). Images can shrink, sections can be removed, and structure of paragraphs and other text all can be rearranged through programming of your site, to fit the screen size. The great news about this? It doesn’t affect your SEO…at all. Google indexes you’re your entire sites’ content, and if a particular section is not viewable on a Smartphone, the content is still there, and is still being counted for your Google ranking. In other words, there is NO down side to converting your website to a responsive design. If all this doesn’t convince you, take a look at the following stats (taken from mobithinking.com):
- There were 1.7 billion mobile phones sold in 2012, which was similar to the number sold in 2011.
- Gartner (February 2013): predicts mobile device sales will grow to reach 1.9 billion units in 2013. Smartphone sales are expected to hit 1 billion units in 2013, which means that for the first time Smartphone’s will outsell feature phones.
- Worldwide media tablet sales to end users was 128 million units in 2012, a 78.4 percent increase from 2011 according to the IDC.
- According to Apple, 58.31 million iPads were sold in 2012
Couple these stats with the IDC stat of 2012 smart connected device number of over 1.2 billion units shipped, and you are starting to see the trend...people are viewing your site on a mobile device, MOST of the time. Your device should respond to their viewing patterns, not yours, and not what you want them to be. Don't be fooled into thinking that these numbers will level off anytime soon either. Most new technology being tested and developed is for the mobile user. Things like computer integrated wristwatches and the popular (and controversial) "Google Glass" are all based on users wanting to access info on the go, and in the same ways that they used to access it sitting at the computer desk in their home.
Digital Hill is a full service web design and application development company. We serve the web design needs of clients in South Bend, Chicago, Indianapolis and nationwide. Visit our website at www.digitalhill.com to find out how fulfill you web design needs.
Sony's website as viewed on a Tablet computer
Using Email Marketing to Acquire New Customers
Email is the "old faithful" of the digital technology world. It is a universally used tool that everyone sits down to check at work or home. Even as technology has advanced, email has remained. With the growth of Smartphone's, email has only grown in use.
From a business perspective, email marketing, can be a key asset in delivering timely and focused information to customers and potential customers. At a minimum businesses should be collecting email addresses from existing customers as a means to be able to continue to stay in contact with them and keep them updated on new products and services.
As well, email acquisition from website landing pages and more can be a key tool in expanding a customer base. Below are key elements to a email marketing strategy.
Email Marketing Services
First, and foremost, to send bulk email to a large volume of email addresses, a business must use a email marketing software. This is critical because these type of software tools comply with anti-spam laws and they give valuable information on what happens per email recipient when a email is sent to a large list. Email software refers to online services such as Constant Contact, MailChimp, Delivra, AWeber and iContact. There are numerous services to choose from.
Typically email marketing software services are subscription based. They house your information online. All employ mechanisms to allow tracking of a email campaigns you send so that you can see how many open the email and what links in the email they click on, and most importantly they comply with anti-spam laws by having a "email unsubscribe" or "opt-out" feature within them.
Be Sure to Avoid!
A company should never use Microsoft's Outlook, Outlook Express, or similar desktop computer software to send bulk email. These services are not setup to handle marketing email deployment to hundreds or thousands of email addresses nor do they comply with requirements of U.S. Can-Spam Act rules. As well, businesses should never buy lists of email addresses to try and send email to in hopes that some recipients may be interested in your product or service. This is a great way to get all your company email blocked!
Ways to Grow and Use Email Lists
Since a business does not want to buy a email list, it must be "grown". Below are online methods that a business can build their email list.
Add a Form to your Website - Do not simply add a Contact Form to your website, but connect that form to a email service and add the ability for users to submit their question on your website and opt into your email list. This adds them to your list so that you can send email marketing messages to them in the future.
Add a Sign-up Box to your Blog - Blogs are great ways to inform, educate, and showcase your company products and services. Most blogs can offer a simple sign-up form opt-in that allows users to be added to a list to inform them of when a new blog post has been created. They've come to your site to read your blog, so make it easy for them to get your latest blog posts right in their inbox. This offers your business a way to cultivate a connection with the person from simply a interested party, to a regular leader, and finally to a paying customer.
Facebook Page Tab with Email Sign-up - As shown in the picture, another location to add a Email sign-up is on your company Facebook Page. As you post news and engage your community on Facebook, you can also direct them to a tab where you can have your e-mail sign-up form. Again, these forms like the Constant Contact one shown add those who enter to a specific email list in your account.
Email marketing offers powerful capabilities. It offers ability to send a email to hundreds or thousands with the ability to then see per address if they open the email and what links to specific products in the email they clicked on, email marketing allows businesses to reach their customers and warm leads, and to see what interests them. Businesses have an opportunity to add forms on their website, blog, and places like their Facebook Page to grow their list and capture important demographic information via unique form fields . While social media and mobile apps are the newest innovative tools, they can be combined with the old faithful email marketing to create powerful business marketing opportunities.
Mike Gingerich leads the Social Application division of web design company, Digital Hill Multimedia (http://www.DigitalHill.com). He is a co-founder of TabSite.com, a leader in Facebook fan page tools for businesses. TabSite offers brands the power to boost Facebook marketing with contests and promotions. For more information on TabSite, please visit www.tabsite.com.
How to Use Twitter's Vine to Promote Your Business
Vine is a new mobile video app created by Twitter. Launched in January of this year, Vine lets users record short, 6 second videos on your iPhone or iPad and post them to Vine, Twitter, and Facebook.
With the massive growth of mobile, vine is a handy app to have in your pocket, enabling businesses to capture quick video snippets and publish them on the go.
Just as Twitter transformed blogging and social media with its social micro-blogging platform, Twitter wants Vine to transform online video and integrate into social media marketing mainstream. If a picture is worth a thousand words, is a video snippet potentially worth 10,000 words?
The value of Vine for businesses is the simplicity in creating and publishing quick videos to Facebook and Twitter that can inform, educate, inspire, and direct customers. It's another method of getting creatively in front of potential customers and making a connection that can ultimately lead to sales and customer loyalty.
How do you Create a Vine Video?
After downloading the app from the iTunes store, there is a quick account setup process and then you're ready to record! The app integrates with your mobile or tablet video function and a user simply presses the screen and holds to record. The green bar shows the video recorded length within the 6 second maximum. Lifting your thumb stops recording. Pressing again starts recording again at that location. Once the 6 seconds is reached, a preview of the video is shown. Upon clicking "Next" the user can create a 140 character maximum length message and choose to post the video to Vine as well as a connected Twitter and/or Facebook account.
Users of Vine can follow other brands and users and view their activity in the corresponding "Activity Feed", •and if your company publishes to Twitter, for instance, all of your Twitter followers could see the video.
How Can Businesses Make the Most of Vine?
As it only takes a few seconds to create a Vine video, companies can start using Vine right away to engage their Twitter followers and extend their reach to Facebook. Vine videos can also be embedded on websites and blogs. Here are ideas on how Vine could be used for business:
Show What You Do. Business can show their latest completed project, or a "before, during, and after" sequence to showcase your progress on a project.
Demo New Products. Companies can use the 6 seconds to quickly showcase a new product. A car dealer, for example, can capture the car exterior, interior, and describe a few features to encourage viewers to stop in and see it.
Outline a Special. Drive traffic to your store by recording your special and talking about it a bit. Getting ready for a spring sale at your Garden Center? Record a few clips in one video while describing the on-sale items and dates!
Businesses have an opportunity to use simple mobile apps like Vine to creatively offer an insider and fresh view of their company, products, and special offers. While a 6 second video is quite basic, it allows businesses the opportunity to stop and capture information that can capture new customers.
Mike Gingerich leads the Social Application division of Digital Hill Multimedia (http://www.DigitalHill.com). He is a co-founder of TabSite.com, a leader in Facebook fan page tools for businesses. TabSite offers brands the power to boost Facebook marketing with contests and promotions. For more information on TabSite, please visit www.tabsite.com.
It will happen to all of us. Your computer is working as it is supposed to, and all of a sudden, it's not.
If you are having an issue with your computer, try the following three things before you go the route of picking up the phone, and your credit card.
1. Hard refresh
Today's computers are made for speed. In fact, if you have frequently visited websites, your computer stores a loaded version of it in your "cache". This allows you to visit the site and have the pictures and some of the other elements from the site to skip "loading" and go straight to the stored site. The problem with this is that, often time, if changes are made, they will not be reflected right away as your machine will revert to that stored version of the website. To fix this, simply push and hold the shift button and use the mouse to click the refresh button on your browser bar. This will clear that cache of previously loaded sites and allow your computer to load the most recent version of the site that you are on.
2. Shutdown and restart
Shutting down and restarting a machine that is acting goofy is a great way to give your machine a chance to reset itself, and often times, especially with Internet connectivity issues, will solve your problem. You want to make sure and do it the correct way by going through the appropriate button sequence within your start menu. Do not push the power off button unless you have absolutely no other way to shut your machine off due to the screen freezing. After it shuts down, give it 30 seconds and restart your machine. This allows the computer to go through its "wake up routine" and boot up. Any issues that were causing problems will usually be taken care of during this process.
3. Switch from Internet Explorer to a different browser such as Firefox or Chrome.
I am not saying to never use Internet Explorer. IE has been around a long time and many people use it without issue. However, IE is also known for being particularly "buggy", and if an issue does arise, before I would panic or call anyone, I would try to do the same thing in FireFox and Chrome and see what your results are there. Not everyone knows that IE has many versions out there, and is updated with newer versions periodically that allow it to keep up with changing technology. If you have an older version of IE (8 or below) a good chunk of the new technology in website development may not show up accurately on your computer. Think about it this way...what if you tried to run a PlayStation 3 game on a PlayStation 2? The PlayStation 2 doesn't have the same technology as the 3 and it wouldn't understand what the game was saying and thus would fail to load. IE is similar in the fact that it needs to have these periodic updates to help it stay up with new, faster, and more efficient programming and design tools.
When you look at a typical, ordinary wheel, there are several parts. None of them are special or even functional on their own. If you look at the focal point of a wheel, everything leads back to one central point...the hub. The central point from which everything emanates is that center circle. All of the spokes come out of this point and the entire wheel itself is supported by this core structure. Your marketing plan is much the same way.
In the next 6 entries, we will discuss the 6 central points of a marketing wheel. Today we will talk about the point at which all of your "marketing spokes" must point back to---the "hub"-- your website.
In the next several weeks we will look at the 5 "spokes" that all point back to your website. Your social media, your paid advertising campaigns, your networking efforts, your public relations/press releases, and your customer experience level. If you don't have your website reflecting your core passion as a business owner, both in aesthetics and in functionality, you will lose potential customers even if your 5 spokes are all functioning appropriately.
Let's take a look at 4 things you must be sure your website includes:
1. Your blog, or, a link to your blog
If the "hub" to your marketing wheel is your website, the "hub" of your website is your REGULARLY UPDATED blog. A blog that is filled with accurate, fresh, regularly changing information about your industry, or business, is vital to keep your website relevant in Google's rating algorithm. In a past life as a marketing director for a local mom and pop service business, I met with several web design companies to redo our website. After meeting with five different possible vendors, I was intrigued by one who happened to be a friend from years prior. I looked into his website and, guess what...not only did he not make Google's first page, he didn't make the top 5 pages! A blog that had relevant fresh info might have made the difference in not only us choosing him to do our site, but in any other potential customers who didn't go past page 1 (over 90% of Google users don't!).
2. A functional, easy to use user interface
Everyone has been at the point of breaking their computer when a website simply won't do, or go where you need it to. Often times, this is a programming issue and could have been resolved by paying a few extra dollars and not going with the cheapest bid on your website. While dollar amount is important, equally important should be the references that your web sales person provides and the quality of work in their portfolio.
3. Correct information
Populating a website with current, correct information isn't always what you want to spend time doing, but it is vitally important to your initial credibility with potential customers. If you do to a website to look at used cars, and the price on the website it $1000 less than what it ends up being when you visit the car lot, I am going to venture to say you won't be purchasing from that car lot. Accuracy in pricing, hours, locations and even personnel changes is vital in obtaining and keeping your credibility with current and potential customers.
4. An eye catching deign vs. an eye sore
Content can be accurate on your site and impossible to read due to bad design or font color "camouflage". If you have as good eye for what looks good, then use your judgment. If you don't get help from a web design company...it will be money well spent and will reap rewards down the line as more and m ore people contact you through your website, partly because they could read your contact phone number, or didn't get a headache looking at a crazy, off the wall design scheme.
Your website is your silent sales person. It can get in front of people at a rate that you simply don't have enough hours in the day to accomplish, and it can do it at your biggest prospects home, while they are on their couch, at 11:30 PM at night. If this "hub" is functioning properly, then you are ready to add spokes to point people to your website and hopefully start affecting your bottom line.
Mobile Site versus Mobile App: Which is best for your Business?
The big headline from Microsoft Tag's Mobile Marketing Infographic notes that by 2014, mobile Internet is set to overtake fixed Internet access. With the rise of smartphone use, businesses are needing to evaluate when and how to have a mobile presence so that potential customers trying to learn about the company while on a mobile device can have a quality experience.
A key question for those considering a mobile solution is whether to go with a mobile website or a mobile application that would be downloaded and used on a smartphone. Each type of solution can look quite similar but there are key differences to take into consideration for a business moving into the mobile arena.
What's the Difference Between a Mobile Website and an App?
A mobile website is similar to any other website in that it consists of browser-based web pages that are accessed over the Internet, typically by Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G networks at a URL location such as http://m.da-lite.com. The characteristic that distinguishes a mobile website from a standard website is the fact that it is designed for the much smaller phone display and touch-screen interface. With a mobile website, any mobile phone user with a browser can go to a specific web URL and see the mobile site.
An app, on the other hand, is an actual software application downloaded from online stores such as Apple's iTunes app store, Google play for Android phone apps, or Blackberry's App World. Like a mobile website, an app can display text, images, and video. Since it is not limited to being used in a browser, it can offer even more interactive features. An app also offers additional features such as being able to be accessed while offline and it can use the features of the phone itself such as geo-location, the phone camera, and push notifications. This gives a app power to offer more tools. On the flip side, the app must meet the requirements of each of the stores noted to be accessible in that marketplace and there can be costs involved in the submission and approval process, as well as the fact that it is only accessible by those that download it.
So, as can be seen there are pro's, con's, and differences of each. Mobile sites, since it is not necessary to download them, have higher volume of use and views of their pages. However, for time spent using per person, mobile apps nearly always win.
So what's right for your Business?
There's no one answer that fits every business. It depends on your goals, needs, and audience. If your mobile solution needs the following, here's the best fit for each item:
Makes it easy for any mobile user to view online?
Ability for persons to use it while offline?
Offer e-commerce option to purchase products from?
Needs Geo-Location, Notifications, or Camera Tools?
Both mobile sites and apps continue to grow in demand.
While each option has its merits, the direction your business should go comes down to identifying what functions the intended users must have access to for your business to accomplish the goals desired. If your aim is to be informative and establish a broad mobile presence that can be easily shared and found on search engines, then the a mobile website is the logical choice. On the other hand, if your goal is interactive engagement with users, or to provide an experience that is more customized, then an app is probably going to be the best fit.
Mike Gingerich leads the Social App division at Goshen web design firm Digital Hill. He is a co-founder of TabSite.com, a industry leader in Facebook Page management software. TabSite offers businesses the power to increase Facebook Marketing via easy-to-use tools to offer coupons, deals, and other promotions on Facebook.
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Businesses Must Not Ignore Changes in Tech Use in 2013 Marketing Plans
In the Internet world, things change quickly.
What worked three years ago is now old and may no longer be relevant in today's business climate. Savvy businesses wanting to gain market-share and position themselves well for the future should take time now to look ahead to 2013 and be aware of current trends and patterns that will impact their business moving forward.
Below are three key trends that businesses should evaluate their business on that have gained tremendous momentum in 2012 and are positioned to grow even larger in 2013.
1. Mobile and Tablet use continues to rise dramatically
Consumers and customers are opting for smaller, portable digital devices that can handle the vast majority of their daily online needs.
2. E-Commerce Spending Continues to Grow
More people shop online. Increasingly, e-commerce adoption for purchases by consumers continues to gain steam. Is your business e-commerce ready and offering products and services for purchase online?
3. Social Media Use Expands
The fastest growing segment in social media use is not teenagers, but adults ages 45-54. Social Media is where a significant amount of consumers are spending time, so it is a critical place for businesses to be represented. From Facebook, to Twitter and Pinterest, consumers are using social media daily and significantly. Reach them where they are!
Together, these three digital tech trends are critical for businesses to be aware of as 2013 nears and marketing plans for the coming months are put in place. Is your business represented well in each of these areas?
For a more complete run down on each of these points, view the original article on iMediaConnection.com.
Mike Gingerich leads the Social App division at Goshen web design firm Digital Hill Multimedia. He is a co-founder of TabSite.com, the industry leader in Facebook fan page management. TabSite offers businesses the power to boost Facebook marketing. This innovative software for Facebook Pages offers tools that help businesses market across social media platforms from Facebook. For more information on Tabsite, please visit www.tabsite.com.