Archive for the 'Marketing' Category

Stop Being the Worst Enemy of your Web Marketing

Out of many values we try to inculcate in our children is the value of keeping a promise. Keeping a commitment is more important regardless of how and in which way it comes in the way of one’s aspirations and desires. To honor a commitment, one can produce a couple of viable (not necessarily easy) options that allow them to keep up with desires and fulfill commitments as well. Unfortunately, there are some individuals who won’t accept an option.

This situation is quite similar to that faced by webmasters with their clients. Once the clients pay for recommendations to enhance Web marketing and even got recommendations, they reject just because something ‘greater’ was promised by another more ‘experienced’ web master!

Most clients would get stuck on the phrase “You do the SEO, we’ll everything else”. By everything else, they mean essentials such as social media, usability, content, conversions etc.

They WANT but WON’T!

Surprisingly, most website owners try to explain that rankings are not what they want them to be. But their aspirations and actions tend to interrupt a webmaster’s way of crafting them a holistic Web marketing campaign. Interestingly, despite these actions, website owners are shocked when they observe significant drop in rankings. This situation is awful for webmasters so much so that they wish to knock their clients with kung-fu skills.

Obviously, every business wants to increase their online exposure. However, they simply don’t focus on what is genuinely required to get there. To be precise, they become their own web marketing’s worst enemy.

Here’s a note on how NOT to be the worst enemy of your web marketing:

Believe your SEO Expert – They Know Better

Why did you hire an SEO expert in the first place? This is because you believed in them. You believed they are intelligent and equipped with skills to help you achieve your goals. So there’s no point you doubt their abilities just because they do things ‘their’ way.

Most often, website owners tend to classify what they consider their SEO knows. This is because they think that the experience of SEO and knowledge only covers a miniature division of the entire web marketing. Perhaps they perceive their SEOs simply as ‘on-page optimizers’ who focus on getting rankings. They also believe everything else can be handled (usability, conversions, social media and content strategy).

Bur if your SEO is suggesting you something else, it is better to halt and pay some attention to their advice. You’ll surely be enlightened!

SEOs don’t really get a high by offending their clients. And they don’t mean ‘insult’ when they say your in-house team is NOT intelligent. But if they tell you this repeatedly and inform you about things that gave been impacting rankings, believe them.

And if you don’t, be prepared to create a hole in your web marketing. So listen to your SEO and save your money from getting into gutter.

Don’t Reject before you Review

Prior to rejecting a specific recommendation from SEO, try and understand why that recommendation was made in the first place. Unfortunately, most of the brilliant SEO recommendations are stifled to death on some ridiculous grounds such as they don’t fit with how the website owner wants the site to appear.

Appearance may be an official reason for assassination of an SEO recommendation. There are many other reasons for SEO recommendation rejection. And for a website owner, everything seems “right”.

However, it is certainly unwise to reject something unless you understand it fully. You may be giving preference to something minor by sacrificing on a significant improvement. You must really evaluate the performance impact of recommendation. Know in detail what you’re rejecting. Rejecting recommendations and then complaining about not getting the results is silly.

Try It

There’s no chance you like a recommendation until you try it. This is precisely how TV commercials work. You need to try them before reaching a decision. There is nothing wrong with implementing SEO’s recommendations. And even if at all, your apprehensions prove right, the SEO will fix the problem.

And you never know if you’re rejecting a big triumph for your website? After all, you hired an SEO because you wished your website to be successful. So listen, understand, and act to develop a successful relationship with your SEO and a successful website marketing campaign. Good Luck!

How To Write A Killer Business Plan That Works

A business plan outlines the objectives of a business and defines the major aspects related to its operations, finances and marketing, all crucial to its success. The business plan has to contain feasible, executable and measurable ideas. It is with the business plan that you will be able to apply for alternative financing, get relevant certification from relevant government authorities and manage your budget. Writing business plan that works can be a bit complex but this article seeks to break down the complexities.

Determining Business Objectives:

Identifying specific business objectives helps you in envisioning where you want your business to be in the next three, five or ten years. When you think of your objectives, you also get the opportunity to decide what kind of growth you want for your business’s future. By identifying specific objectives, business owners get clarity in terms of the path they want to take.

Other than the objectives about the business, you can be more specific and define separate sets of objectives for marketing, finance, management and operations. Aspects like the number of employees, ownership structure, revenues, market share etc. are defined in these objectives. You must appear like you really understand what you are looking for, and know what you really want to achieve

Identifying Customers and Competitors:

For a business plan to be considered as solid, it should identify the customers and competitors in the marketing plan, which is a major part of a business plan. Three of the most important customer-related questions include who the customer is, what products do these customers buy and why they buy them. No business can exist in isolation and hence, it is very important to understand the demographics of the target industry.

Establishing this will involve thorough analysis of the market and the other players, especially the well established potential competitors. The size of the competitors’ business, the customers they target and the strategy they implement are some of the factors a start up needs to take into consideration. If you are a startup trying to make your place in the market, the three ways that can help you win are cutting your costs, offering something unique and focusing on a specific group of customers.

Measurable and Realistic Estimates:

A business plan must be measurable. The timeframe you hope to accomplish specific tasks must be clearly spelt out if you are to attain them. Being over-optimistic in your business plan will only result in disappointments as your targets will not be accomplished. The same applies to profit estimates, don’t think you will make a billion with just a few thousand investments in a year.

Financial Planning:

Your business plan must be backed up by the estimates of financial statements. Three of the most common financial statements that your business plan should have are the income statement, balance sheet and the cash flow statement. These three are linked with each other and changes in one affects another statement as well as your business’s financial health. The income statement reflects your business’s financial performance and allows you to see the revenues against the expenses you incur.

Some of the highlights of an income statement include the revenues, cost of goods, operating expenses, gross profit margin, depreciation, interest expenses, taxes and net income. Considering that cash is king in business, your cash flow statement provides you very critical information in the terms of the cash you have and will need to meet your business requirement. For running the operations of a successful business, you should give close attention to cash flow statement. Some of the most important aspects covered in this statement include cash sales, total cash income, cash expenses on marketing, labor, R&D etc., taxes, and the total cash flow, which can be positive or negative.

In the balance sheet, there are three important areas, which are assets, liabilities and equity. If you are planning on obtaining funding for your startup, you will need a personal balance sheet, which is similar to a business’s balance sheet. In a balance sheet, at the top are the assets, which are further, classified into current assets. These include cash, accounts receivable, and inventory.

Next are the long-term assets, including capital and plant, investment, and misc. assets. The liabilities are divided into current and long-term as well. Current liabilities include accounts payable, accrued liabilities, and taxes. In long-term liabilities are bonds payable, mortgage payable, and notes payable. Once you have made the financial statements, you will need to write an analysis for each one. The financials should be in the form of projections

Organizational, operational and Management Planning:

This section of a business plan defines the organizational structure, the levels of management and the characteristics of employees to be hired. Every start up has unique characteristics and hence, is structured differently. The operational and supply chain aspects are important and need to be planned if you want to create a product and sell it successfully.

Conclusion

In a business plan, there are various elements, all of which are paramount for future success and business sustainability in the long-term. Objectives give you a direction and define for you what you are doing and would want to do in the future.

For a strong marketing plan, thoroughly research your potential customers and your competitors. Financials are like the pulse of your business plan and when you approach investors for funding, they will look at your financial figures and statements to determine the actual potential of your business. For the day to day operational control and management decisions, you also need an organizational and operational plan.

Tips On How to Attract Your First Clients

Attracting the very first customers and turning them into loyal and regular clients is a desire for every startup business, but not an easy one to achieve. You need to reserve a place in the market and earn revenues to meet the startup costs that are usually high. You might have the best product or service in the market, but that alone cannot attract customers. There are a few strategies that you can enforce to claim your place in the market and attract the very first batch of clients.

Validating your position

As a new entrant into the industry, you need to attract your potential customers’ attention. According to experts, the best way to achieve this is through special offers and discounts. You can also offer them incentives upon referring their friends. This also gives new businesses the opportunity to gain customer feedback so that you can look at the products and business from the customers’ perspective. This creates room for the improvements in the products and services. Make sure that you convey your gratefulness to the customers and appreciate their time and valued opinion.

Create a Buzz

You must create a buzz and have people talking about the new player in the industry. Positive testimonials will create a desire in potential customers to try out your new products and services. However, try to spread the buzz through mentions you receive from other businesses, or in the press or on the Internet. You can use social networking profiles like Facebook and Twitter to post your connections on what you have been up to.

Be Enthusiastic And Prepared

If you are running a startup, you will need to be highly enthusiastic as well as open minded when it comes to attracting customers. It is all about being creative and attracting people’s attention. You will need to be prepared for any situation and will have to be collaborative because you are your own business’s brand ambassador. Believe in your idea and spread it in any gathering you go to. This will help in networking and will also help you get the first client and then many more. Don’t be afraid to tell all your friend, colleagues at work (if you are working part-time) and families.

Give Free Samples and Offers

When pitching your business or product to a potential customer, conduct it in a way that will make the idea appear valuable so that the customer and irresistible. Many entrepreneurs attracted their first clients by working for almost nothing. This is a step that might sound risky to many, but it helps with building case studies for your business to get mentions and positive word of mouth for your business as well as products and services. Discounts appeal to buyers who find the competing product expensive. Give interested persons offers, promotions and make them favorably compare your products and services over the competitor’s. If the quality is really good, then it won’t take long to receive a stream of orders.

Differentiate Between Value And Price

While price is what a customer pays for your product, value is what they get out of their purchase. That is why the value varies depending on the needs and expectations of different customers. It is the perceived and actual value to the customers that really matters. Every startup struggles in the beginning and has to make some compromises and investments in terms of time and effort for a better future. If something is of value to a potential client, then helping with it is always beneficial for long-term business success even if it does not pay too well in the beginning.

Promotion and Branding

For any new business, the branding efforts are greatly responsible for landing the first client. Startups have limited funds, which makes it difficult for them to do extensive promotion, which costs significantly. Friends and family can play a very significant role in promoting your new business by word of mouth. In addition, you can also offer giveaways and special discounts, which will benefit you through positive testimonials, mentions and referrals. Initially, it is not a good idea to confuse your customers by changing branding strategies. There should be consistency in your business and product names, logo, PR activities and marketing because this is the time when you are trying to draw customers’ attention.

The Bottom-line

If you are trying to land your first clients, you need to take advantage of excellent branding and promotional activities. It is possible to perform these even with limited budgets. Be innovative and use discounts and complementary products to create the buzz you need to kick-start your business. These are aspects that will get you positive testimonials and mentions. Be proud of your business and present it with enthusiasm to people because you are the best ambassador your business has.

How To Overcome Competition From Established Players

For any new entrant in business, it is hard penetrate and claim a favorable place in the market. This is especially true when there are established players who present serious competition. Through the right strategy, it is entirely possible for startups to overcome competition presented even by reputable companies and brands. Every entrepreneur must craft a marketing plan, which should include market analysis and study of the competitors and their place in the market. This is the time for startups to use that information and devise a plan of action to overcome the competition strategically. With a few tactics, any new player can stand out and defy competition from established industry players.

Developing A Competitive Strategy

When setting your business objectives, ensure that you decide whether you want to move ahead of your competition or remain on the sidelines. If you are looking to capture a big chunk of the market and want business sustainability, it is recommended that you devise your competitive strategy. Conduct a SWOT Analysis of the competitor, in which you will identify the competitor’s strengths and weakness as well as the threats to the competitors and the opportunities you can capitalize on. Compare the same with your own business analysis and single out areas you can improve on. Be reasonable, don’t try to bring down Mt. Everest, spot some hill that you can bring down; because you can!

Identify Your Niche

There is no single business that has flourished in history for trying to be everything to everyone. The concentration ought to be on selling products that are unique. For this, you need to define your own niche based on what you do best. You must single out business or products that you are comfortable serving a particular segment of the market. If you think there is a niche that the bigger market players are not catering for, this is your opportunity to serve that market with your unique offering. From the beginning, be clear about what sets you apart from your competition. Strive to maintain this uniqueness, which will help you win your customers’ hearts. Define what your unique selling proportion is and capitalize on that.

Build your Brand

Even if you have limited marketing budget, make sure that you brand your business well, which is the only way you can outsmart your competitors. Build your brand identity and keep fulfilling your customers’ expectations and your promises. This will bring you closer to your customers and will create a connection at a personalized level. The best way of staying ahead of your competition is through investing your time and effort in your brand and being consistent in quality and fulfillment of your promises. You must however remember that your brand identity and image is pegged on the quality of products and services you offer your customers.

Customer Focus

The one aspect a business should pay most importance is focusing on customers. A loyal customer is an asset for the long-term and will automatically lead to business growth and profits. Once you have chosen your niche, the next step is to identify the segment whose needs your product can meet. While it is important to keep an eye on the competition, businesses should not neglect their customers in the process. While focusing on the customers, you understand their needs and preferences; as a result, you establish an emotional connection between the brand and the customer. This results in loyalty, which can help a business overcome its competition.

Quality and Price

As a business, you should focus on striving for quality in your endeavors. Offering high quality at an affordable price is something customers want and appreciate. Through your continued excellence, you can expect to defeat your competition and make a place in the industry. The more competitive a market is, the more innovative and creative you need to be. It is innovation that distinguishes the market leaders from the followers. Being innovative does not necessarily mean that you have to come up with a huge new idea. Even a small idea, when executed with excellence, can make a lot of difference and set you ahead of your competition.

Conclusion

All of these are aspects that allow you to stand out from your competition and result in better profits and long-term business sustainability. While all these strategies are useful in overcoming competition no matter how intense, you should make sure to keep reviewing your business objectives. These will help you use the above strategies right so that they will work for your business. Considering that every business has unique characteristics, you will need to make your own modifications and tweak these strategies before they work out in your favor. Being patient, enthusiastic and passionate about your business will help you make a difference when you implement the strategies that help in competing with the established players.

The Ultimate Small Business Guide To Branding, Advertising And Promotion

Branding is an important term that is unfortunately often misunderstood and wrongly used alongside marketing and advertising. Understanding branding, advertising, marketing and promotion and how they all fit together is crucial since they all play a significant role in any product’s lifecycle. Researchers have established that companies and business ventures that set out to market their products and/or services with little knowledge of their exclusive brand identity have a high likelihood of failing to realize their expected return on investment.

Branding is “far but close” from marketing, advertising or the closest public relations. It really doesn’t matter how much you spend on your marketing and advertising campaigns, if you lack a properly positioned brand in the market, you risk watching your investment blow up in smoke. You can only raise awareness, through promotion, advertising and marketing after creating a unique and decent brand.

Customer Perception of Your Brand

Branding is more than awareness; it is about reaching out and appealing to your customers in a way that you would like to be perceived. It is making your prospects find you irresistible, like a key that can unlock their specific problems, or a password to a puzzle in their lives. This is however not an easy fete to achieve, but with proper strategies in place and appropriate execution, you can reach out to your customers who will gladly pay more for your services so long as you deliver on your promises, tackle your customers’ needs satisfactorily and connect with them in a way no other player in the industry does.

It is more than your website, or logo or well-designed business cards. It is what everything connected to your business stands for. No one has ever established a brand by running after everything in the industry. It is easier to attain a brand identity if you choose and settle on one or two brand pillars to stand on. It has to be defined by you in the simplest way possible or the customer will find it hard to. If you fail to define your brand, another interested party might just come from nowhere and build around your idea, define the brand for you and before you know it, take over the market in one smart swift that will definitely leave you wondering where the rains started beating you.

Branding for Start-Ups and SMEs

It is much easier to climb to the top in any market niche, but it takes effort to maintain that for long. It is not easy to attract and retain loyal customers as a single slip in your business processes could result in loss of customers overnight. It takes nine times more effort to attract a new customer than to lose one. Even though small businesses find it hard to venture into new markets where some already established businesses command a loyal following, it is much easier to attract new clients if your brand identity is clear and appeals to your customers. Some basic brand identity components for new businesses and small scale businesses include the following;

1. Do You Have a Website?

It is very unwise to run any business today without an official corporate website. It doesn’t matter which line of business you are into; security consultancy, software development, gift distribution, real estate, marketing, writing, design or even civil engineering, a website is critical. Most people turn to the internet whenever they need to learn about something, make a purchase, compare prices of one or more products and services or just lazy around visiting one site after another. People will perceive your business from the way your website is designed; they can get attracted and desire to find out more, or choose to leave and never come back. Stay professional and have your message clear.

2. Logo:

It really doesn’t make any economic sense to spend a fortune designing a logo. Many entrepreneurs concentrate so much on their logo design in an effort to position their brand in the market. However for small business what really matters is the communicativeness and uniqueness of the logo that has also to appeal to your customers. You must be able to create an image in the mind of the customers.

3. Motto:

This is rather obvious, what do you really stand for? What makes you unique from everyone else in the industry? You might be offering similar services or products, but how you appeal to the human nature in your motto will trigger sales and differentiate your business from the competition. A motto has to be simple, memorable, concise and appropriate. This way, everyone can identify with the products and services and realize some conversions at the end of the day.

4. Personnel:

Your staff plays a crucial role in branding, advertising and promotion of your business. If you run a litter collection business, for example, and you have poised your brand identity on a greener environment platform, but one of your employees is spotted throwing litter from a car’s window, then you are likely to flop miserably. Your employees are the ambassadors of your brand, and they must be trained on the importance of observing and protecting the brand either at work or away from work.

5. Keeping the Promise:

Words without action are as good as dead. So many businesses advertise and send very convincing messages to their targets. However, they usually fail in achieving the intended excitement because their products and services don’t match the unique and convincing pitches. You risk being branded a cheat if the message contained in your advertisements and promotions are not complemented by equally flowery quality products. You must be honest with your customers, if you are to establish some brand loyalty.

6. Appropriate Medium:

Should you use the internet to communicate your brand, advertising or promo messages? Well, the internet could be the cheapest alternative, but for broader specific geographical coverage, you might want to use some conventional media like newspaper spaces or radio and TV airtime. Other alternatives include billboards, fliers, and distribution of business cards, printing of t-shirts and even the use of word of mouth. The choice here depends on your budget, target audience and nature of products and services.

Conclusion

One significant consideration on your branding, marketing, advertising or promotional campaigns is consistency. Don’t be a chameleon as your risk confusing your customers. Craft a realistic and achievable brand promise for your business and you can sell anything to any interested party at any reasonable price. It takes a lot of market research, time and strategy to create a stable brand, but the end result would be more response to your marketing, advertising and promo messages, high conversion rates and more profits.

Reasons Why You Must Diversify Your Business To New and Emerging Marketing

Starting and running a business successfully involves a line of activities, forethought, research, analysis, superior quality products and services, skilled workforce, strategic location…the list goes on and on. Of the many factors that trigger success in business, the customer, the products and quality of customer services are the three key components. To some businesses, it is not always hard to find customers who embrace their products and services, especially if the quality is good enough. That doesn’t however guarantee success in your line of business-at least not for a long time.

Why you must diversify:

You might be an innovator, the brain behind an idea, a unique business model or even the only product and service in a specific geographical location. As a result, you can automatically attract a flock of loyal customers. It is easy to assume that you are an automatic market leader, and so long as you maintain the high standards, you can sit back and rake in profits. Unfortunately, the only constant thing in business is competition. Ever heard of keeping all your eggs in a single bucket? Well, that is the danger of majoring in only one line of business. Anything can happen, anytime and skew the market like a wave. It is for this reason that any business that fails to diversify literally beckons trouble.

Business diversification doesn’t just happen in an impulse. It calls for consistent business analysis covering areas like market segments where a business’s products and services perform better than the prevailing competition. There are three key options one can turn to; introduce new products, services and processes, tap into the new and emerging markets or both.

Market Diversification:

The only thing that differentiates a successful marketer from the rest is the nose for fresh markets to lunge into. Most marketers target their immediate areas to attract customers, and with time, expand to far regions, Market diversification in this case might involve moving from a state, to a country or taking your products and services to international markets. This is the only way you will expand not only the business operations but boost the overall turnover.

Diversifying to New and Emerging Marketing:

To successfully command (and maintain) a huge chunk of the market, a business must learn to constantly shift with the customer demands and preferences.  This is usually every entrepreneur’s idea, but unfortunately, it is usually left on paper by many marketers. It is actually not easy to enter new markets, say a software developer decides to try the hardware manufacturing industry. This is because in every segment you might be interested in, there is an established business already that will make your entry rough. This doesn’t make it impossible, especially if you analytically consider the market demand. With some research, you might be able to understand what the market leaders in different segments offer, what they don’t, what their customers are happy and sad with or what they wish could be added

Attracting and retaining new markets through diversification is a considerable step towards a path of success so long as you adhere to a number of factors.

1. Choose the Nature of Diversification:

As earlier discussed, you must analyze and choose between diversifying the variety of services or products for your customers and/or seek to penetrate fresh markets. Going for both options can be ideal, only that it is more costly but considering the outcome, the best.

2. Drop Some Products and Services:

Successful marketing is not about trying to market products and services to uninterested customers, but rather bringing forth products and services that appeal to them. When diversifying, you might find it necessary to drop some of the less profitable services and products to avoid unnecessary consumption of overheads, cash flow and workforce.

3. Effect of Diversification on Overheads and Cash Flow:

How will diversification affect your stock, employees, customer contact and satisfaction, operation costs, profits, among others? You risk causing a business uncertainty if you fail to mirror on these factors when you choose to diversify blindly. Of great importance are your current customers who can opt to migrate to your competition. It is therefore decisive that you communicate with your customers on your planned moves and find out what they think. As much as diversification is for the good of the business, it must also take into account the welfare of the current customers.

4. Evaluate the Workforce:

Whether you will be broadening your product and services portfolio or your market, you must ensure that you have competent people to effectively execute the plan as expected. You may have the most appropriate strategy in place, but you risk flopping if you choose to move with the current team. Acquire new employees to handle the new products, services and markets effectively.

5. Understand the Market Gap:

It is easy to assume that you are the very first to introduce a product or service to the market. But, this might be false as any gap in the market or markets in the gap exists for some reason, say no one is actually interested in the market because of security or risk factor, are you willing to take the risk? As much as risk and investment go hand in hand, there are some risks that are not worthy taking. It is therefore advisable to stay cautious on your diversification path.

6. Invest to Realize any Positive Change:

Success in business has never been automatic, it takes time. You can have the most appealing diversification strategy in place, but it takes more than that to penetrate new markets or introduce new products to the market. Over-optimistic forecasting of your expected cash flow and turnover might only result in disappointments. To realize the expected results, be ready to invest, advertise, immensely market the products and offer high quality customer care.

The Bottom Line

Many companies usually resort to diversification whenever they are faced by competition. However, this shouldn’t be the case as it must be considered as part of continuous stability of a business. A diversified business enjoys general market security but has to be undertaken with caution lest it threatens the current market segments. Business processes, products and services must only be introduced if they can be sustained by the business or risk losses. Diversification is a continuous paramount strategic business practice that must be embraced by any sound business frequently according to the market shifts.

How to Promote Your Brand on Social Media Effectively

Social media networking sites are not only the most successful medium of communication among friends and families, but also serve as the perfect platforms for businesses, small or large, to promote their products and services online. Marketers are today outdoing each other on Facebook trying to attract as many likes as possible or Twitter seriously attempting to draw as many followers as possible or on Pinterest and YouTube. It really doesn’t matter whether it is a multimillion international corporation or a simple start-up company. Social media marketing is far more efficient than other online brand promotion, marketing and advertising alternatives like banner ads or even pay per click (PPC).

Social Media Statistical Facts

  • Facebook has over nine million registered active users, while Twitter boasts of over 500 million active users who send out 340 million tweets daily.
  • 53% of small businesses are using social media with 88% believing the exposure is the biggest benefit.
  • Social commerce sales are expected to hit $9.2 billion by the end of 2012 and $30 billion in 2015
  • 40% of Twitter users regularly search for new and existing products from the website.
  • 65% of the world’s large corporations have Twitter accounts.
  • 90% of marketers use social media channels to attract new customers
  • Facebook is the most common social marketing tool as it is used by 92% users, followed by Twitter (84%), LinkedIn (71%) and blogs (68%)

There are some crazy research figures in circulation that only points at one thing; businesses are taking social media networks seriously to advance their brand identities, attract new customers and respond to connect with their customers. However, very few realize their goals due to poor strategies. Some are creating Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter pages or turning to YouTube simply because everyone else is doing it. After a few months of fruitless attempts, such accounts are left dormant and even closed, to the disappointment of the already established connections. The main question is how do you get it right with social media for your business and achieve set goals? Here are a few tips;

i. Establish a Social Media Strategy

Success when using social media for business takes more than creating an account and expecting people to link with you. A social media strategy must be drafted to guide the execution process of the social media branding and marketing campaign. It has however to be realistic and measurable as possible. The following considerations must be taken into account;

ii. Choose Platform:

Just the same way you weigh and consider traditional marketing and advertising platforms; you have to decide which social media networking sites would you like to embrace for your brand promotion campaign. The key players in the industry are Facebook which has over 900 million followers, Twitter with its more than 500 million users or the video sharing You Tube. To make the most appropriate choice, you have to establish which of the social networking sites is used by most of your users. Most start-ups usually find Facebook, with its millions of users’ ideal for a start, but embracing more than two could be ideal, only if you successfully manage them successfully.

iii. Establish a Budget:

Just because social media is free doesn’t mean that users don’t have to spend. If you are really serious in your plans, you might have to hire a social media manager to take care of your connections, or even redesign the default social networking pages to reflect your brand identity, say as per the business’s website, with matching colors, graphics, logos and any other details that will help in the brand positioning of your business online. If you are on a limited budget, you can choose to outsource most of the temporary services like design and manage the content on your own.

iv. Define Your Objectives:

What do you intend to achieve on the social networking website? Is it to increase the number of subscribers or followers or boost your online sales? Is it to respond to your customers’ enquiries promptly or promote a new product and services? The objectives of the social networking must be clearly defined before the commencement of any social media campaign.

v. Execution & Measurability:

It is one thing to lay down an objective, but a different thing to achieve the said objectives. Measurability in this case should involve the ability of weighing the progress made in the campaign towards the achievement of the set goals against time. For proper brand promotion using social media, the campaign has to be incorporated into the company’s annual plan.

vi. Evaluation:

It is prudent to constantly review the original strategy and see if your intended objectives have been achieved. Say you intended to attract ten thousand Facebook followers in the first six months, how close did you come to realizing that? If the goals are not attained as expected, where might you have gone wrong? If you were to attract traffic to your business’s website, to what extend did you achieve this? This is very important if you are to make better use of social media for your start up or small scale business.

Maximizing Social Networking Sites in Branding

It calls for creativity, time and professionalism to interact and illicit intended reactions and actions from your social network connections. There are a few strategies that if embraced, could result in improved results from social media campaigns.

i. Establish a Relationship with Users:

You might have a million Twitter followers, but if you don’t connect with them, expect nothing in return. In fact, some might choose to leave social media network the moment they realize that you are out of touch. Anything you share must be worth sharing and will not provoke your connection. Present your brand image as a unique idea that will prompt your connections to find out more about what your brand. Simple rule, don’t be boring!

ii. Content is King:

The market trends are always changing and you must adjust to the prevailing market environment. Content is king and the more important relevant content you post on your website about your products and services then share on social media with your connections, the more the customers will feel engaged and interested. Please, never copy paste other people’s content as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and other networks’ users are not dim-witted; it will be detected, go viral for the wrong reasons.

iii. Promptly Respond to Enquiries:

Customer care departments of many corporations use social media sites to address customer enquiries. You must however note that social networking users might not be so patient. Make it a habit to check your pages as frequently as possible and responding to any questions, clarifying pertinent issues and share ideas.

iv. Customize the Pages:

Branding doesn’t end with your product’s packaging, or website or employees. If you choose to promote your brand, market or advertise using social media, you must customize the pages to reflect your brand identity. This way, you attain a competitive edge over your competitors and also reach out to more targets.

v. It is Not Always About You:

You might be desperate to promote your brand name using social media, but it is criminal to overdo it. It should never be always about what you have to offer, the master problem-solver! It pays to show concern about other issues affecting the society, say a disaster has occurred, and you might want to marshal your followers to support the victims. This way, you connect with the users at a more personal level than bombarding them with marketing and advertising messages all through.

Conclusion

The most important thing that start-ups and small scale businesses have to understand when promoting their brands online using social media is that, they have to identify with and connect with their connections in a way that makes it possible to interact. It is through the interaction that other desirable objectives can be realized. This shouldn’t be so hard to realize with a defined social media marketing strategy in place. If well executed, this might be the cheapest and most efficient way to promote your brand online via the social media networks.

Increasing Your Online Holiday Sales

Many businesses rake in huge profits as a result of improved sales during holiday seasons. The sales made during the festive seasons for many businesses make up the largest revenue for a whole year. With high sales targets, marketers are usually exceedingly stressed during this period as any slip in the holiday sales, especially to small scale businesses could result into bankruptcy.

1. Optimize your Website for Search Engines

Online businesses rely on websites to reach out to their customers. To realize maximum sales during holidays, you have to first make the website search engines friendly. It however takes time, expertise and patience to record favorable search engines ranking. With SEO, it doesn’t really matter how magnificent your website design is, but how the keywords of what you have to offer are ranked by search engines. To start off, review your keyword data for the previous year, work out the search volume, performance and conversion then craft a plan on how to improve on it on the current year.

Some of the basic things that can work out well for the search engines include updating the titles of your page, meta tags and clear and concise descriptions of your products and services. Thereafter, turn to serious link building with major anchor texts and ensure that the links are authentic, pages are fast on all devices and browsers and they are relevant. Search engines optimization is not easy and might not be everyone’s cup of tea. If your budget can allow it, invest in an SEO company to carry out the campaign for you months before the holiday.

2. Simplify the Buying Process:

Being ranked favorably by the search engines is one thing, converting the traffic to buying customers is a whole different story. How user-friendly is your website? How easy is it for the customers to place an order and have the sale processed? How long does it take? It is crucial that you make it very easy for your customers to add your products to “wish list” or share them on social networking sites, introduce additional payment options or even “bill me later.” In short, make your website’s user interface friendly to the user, failure to which might result in not only loss of traffic, but lost sales. The web content must also be up-to-date like the “About us and FAQs” pages.

3. PR Is Key

Just because you run an online business doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot take advantage of offline marketing and advertising platforms. Review the most appropriate television and radio shows, blogs and magazines that you could use to advertise your products. Work out a favorable pitch for each platform and craft the most appropriate stories. Are you introducing a new product or service in a market or running a promotion? There are so many credible online PR sites that accept press releases that major media outlets use to source for stories. PR is the surest way to attain publicity without having to spend a lot.

You can choose to sponsor a local event, introduce a promo aimed at helping a charity organizations and other corporate social responsibility that will attract free publicity. You can also resort to attending events in corporate t-shirts; give attendees some free merchandise, fliers and having your presence felt.

4. Make Good Use of Social Media

Initially, people used to turn to social media networking sites to gossip and share the hottest rumors in town. Things have since changed and the smart ones are using the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, among others to advance their business ideas. Start off by building a network of followers and friends, and then gradually share your products and services. In fact, you can realize huge sales through the social media alone without spending a dime with well coordinated campaigns.

You can also choose to use social networking sites for research purposes and find out what your customers really think about your products and services, satisfaction rates, prices and what needs to be improved on. If well executed, any online business can realize not only record reasonable holiday sales, but also the overall year after year sales.

5. Start with Your Current Customers

Contact lists are very important for any marketing campaign. To realize the best results, you must start with your current and past customers. It is more favorable to start off your holiday sales campaign early enough, say July for Christmas sales but ensure that the content is relevant and interesting.

One more thing, it is not always about your products and services, but also about what the customers can find useful like holiday and shopping tips, giveaways and even contests. It is also very likely that your targets will receive similar emails from your competitors. Ensure therefore that the message is well crafted and stands out from the rest; it starts with the subject, then the main body.

6. Holiday-Specific Content Marketing

Unique content like articles, guest blog posts, videos and others are crucial not only for attracting traffic to your site but also for high quality links to your site. You must however come up with a content marketing plan ahead of time to ensure optimum results. On-site holiday related content is also crucial. The design of your website matters as well, some holiday decorations on the homepage, easy web navigation for gift shoppers and even including a Christmas countdown can boost your conversion rate.

7. Pay for Clicks

Many start ups and small scale businesses operate on limited budgets and would rather go for the above mentioned strategies than spend the little they make from their business on marketing and advertising. It is however crucial that you create some Google Adwork campaigns or Microsoft Adcenter to increase conversions. With pay per click campaigns, you attract new traffic, while at the same time increase sales. They are perfect for late or undecided shoppers. You must however craft your adverts uniquely and determine the most appropriate budget for the PPC campaign.

Conclusion

Holidays are the most perfect periods to realize massive sales for any business, only to those who plan beforehand and execute their strategies with utmost creativity. One important practice that is often overlooked by many online entrepreneurs is sending the customers some happy holiday messages. It can be as simple as a well crafted non-promotional email, a gift or a holiday card as a sign of appreciation. Customers who feel appreciated will definitely stick with you, and if you have any after-holiday sales, they sure will come back to you.

5 great traffic sources other than the Search Engines

If you’re establishing a site nowadays, one of the first things you’ll want to think about is how you will get traffic to it – after all, the more visitors your site has, the more popular it is, and without them, there’s no reason to invest time and hard work into the site, either.

Search engines are by far the biggest source of traffic you can find online – most people search for something on Google, Bing or Yahoo (which is also powered by Bing, by the way), and if your site contains that information, it will appear on the front page and the user will click on the link and visit your site. But that’s not the only way to get traffic online – thanks to the rise in popularity of Web 2.0 properties, site owners and marketers now have other options at their disposal, which do not depend on Google or Bing alone. Here are 5 major traffic sources that can complement or even replace (if you get banned, for example) search engine traffic:

Forums

Forums are one of the oldest types of Web properties, and as a consequence, there are millions of them around, with hundreds of millions of users – in fact, there are more forum users than Google users, which is pretty impressive. If you have a site, you can get traffic by creating accounts at relevant forums and posting there – it’s as simple as that. Of course, you must post useful information and have a link to your site (in the signature, for example) so people can go to it for more information on the topic – and a lot of them do, with great conversion rates, as well.

Social Networks.

Facebook and Twitter are only 2 of the best examples of new age Web properties, and the potential for getting traffic to your website from them is huge. With hundreds of millions of users (over 600 million for those two combined, actually), you can have quite a nice chunk on your site in no time if you do everything right. It’s pretty easy to build up a good fan page and Twitter account, and you can always just buy ads and paid tweets for immediate traffic (we’re talking hundreds or even thousands of people for about $15) – if you haven’t tried it yet, you should do so now.

Video sites

Video sites are the second most popular type of sites after social networks, and a lot of people are making a living from them alone. YouTube, Metacafe, DailyMotion – all of these sites can bring you a lot of traffic, too. The hard part is posting a good video, but most of the times, something about a new trend will work just fine and get you thousands of views and hundreds of visitors – however, the video must be at least somewhat informational and/or funny, so that people don’t just click “back” and go to one of the other two dozen videos on the results page.

eBooks

While eBooks are most often seen as a source on income, they can be a great source of traffic, as well. You can set up your revenue model so that you give away a book for free, encourage the readers to do the same and, for example, insert links to relevant articles on your site in every chapter of the book, making people click through for more information. Then it’s a matter of using affiliate links and ads for monetization – brilliant and simple!

Email lists

This one will work only if you do have an email list. In most cases, you could make money directly off the list by sending a few room emails, but to keep people subscribed, you can also send them interesting links and useful stuff like discounts and free reports about the niche. The click through is usually high, especially when it’s only for reading an article that the user will actually find useful.

While search engines might’ve held the monopoly in traffic five years ago, that certainly is not the case anymore, and you can easily support a site and your income using any of the above methods or even better, a combination of them. If you get slapped by Google’s unpredictable algorithm, you shouldn’t despair, but work on establishing a traffic stream from these sources instead.

Questions to Ask

When you talk to a business owner some questions will work better than others at breaking the ice and at getting the information you need to be of genuine service.

Here are some questions you’ll find helpful:

  • “How long have you been running this business?”
  • “How did you get started in this business?”

These are both rapport building questions. When you ask a question like this
LISTEN to the answers.

Be genuinely interested in the business owner you’re talking to.

Remember you’re gathering information about his marketing but also about him.

If he’s dishonest and you listen closely you’re likely to pick up and that and you can make your exit.

If he’s scrupulously honest and goes to church every Sunday you’ll pick up on that too and act accordingly (no jokes about nuns for example).

The safest way to build rapport is to keep the other guy talking. And there is one more HUGE secret that will multiply the speed your build rapport at.

Listen closely for anything you have in common and point it out.

  • “You worked in Denver? Wow! I was born in Denver and grew up there!”
  • “You were a car salesman. I sold cars too for a year in Oregon.”

When you find a common point of reference and you point it out that builds rapport almost instantly.

And it gives your business owner a reason to believe you might be interested in helping him.

Let me explain how he might have a conversation with his wife when he gets home.

Wife: “Anything interesting happen today dear?”

Business Owner: “This guy came into the shop today. Would you believe we both lived in the same suburb in Denver. Anyway it turns out he’s an expert on online marketing and he’s gonna see if he can help me make some more money with a “direct response” website.”

Wife: “What’s a direct response website?”

Business Owner: “I can’t explain it properly but it means you make more money. He seemed like a nice honest guy anyway.”

Wife: “Well we can always use more money. Maybe I could get a new car. And you both lived in the same suburb in Denver. That is amazing.”

If you understand human nature you can see what’s going on here.

It’s a bit of a stretch for someone to believe you’ll walk in off the street and help them completely overhaul their business.

That’s something they’d only expect from someone they’re paying a fortune to or a true friend.

By finding that common point of reference “I lived in Denver too” you’ve put yourself in the “possible friend” category.

It’s just enough for a business owner to partially suspend his skepticism.

And that gives you just enough room to see if you can genuinely help him.

Keep in mind this is NOT theory. I’ve used this method for nearly 20 years. It is powerfully effective.

Also remember you don’t have to be in a hurry with this process.

You might have several visits to a business to build some genuine rapport and trust.

If you visit a business a few times and just talk to the owner about ANYTHING it’s highly likely he will ask you what you do then you can just tell him “I help businesses increase their profits with website marketing” or something similar.

But don’t jump all over a business owner as soon as he asks.

Be cool. It’s like fishing. Let him come to you.

Let him ask the questions.

And if you’re in that phase, one of the best ways to answer questions is by telling stories.

You: “I help businesses increase their profits with website marketing”

Business Owner: “How do you do that?”

You: “Well for example the tire service center on the west side of town. They didn’t have a website at all so I put one together for them, got them listed in Google and now they get at least 2 new customers calling them off their website every day ready to buy tires off them.”

“The whole website skill thing can be pretty complex but once you’ve got that it’s pretty fast getting a site up and running so it makes real money for a business.”

“Do you have a website…?”

Business Owner: “No but it sounds like I might need one. How much does it cost to set one up?”

You: “Well before I tell you that I’d have to take a proper look at your business and see if it would be worthwhile for you to have a website at all. It has to make you a profit after all.”

And be low key.

No selling. Just telling stories and asking questions.

Once you’ve found a common point of reference and built some rapport you can move on to more key business questions like:

  • “Do you have a website?”
  • “Is it making you many sales?”
  • “Is it getting any visitors?”
  • “If I search in Google will I find you there?”

These days many businesses have an internet connection in their office.

These questions are a great excuse for you to go sit next to the business owner behind his computer in his office and take a look at how he’s doing.

That in itself is huge.

You’ve gained entry to the inner sanctum and you’re in the perfect friend position to build rapport (sitting side by side).

Now all you have to do is deliver some exciting information and you can become a trusted advisor.

Here are a few more questions:

  • “Are you collecting the email addresses of your customers?”
  • “Do you use your website to follow up with your customers?”
  • “Did you know you can send special offers by email to bring in more business?”

Here I have a chance to sell the business owner on the fantastic value of an email
autoresponder.

You’ll also want to know how they’re making their sales offline right now. What their sales process is like:

  • “Where do the majority of your sales come from now?”
  • “What’s the key reason people choose to buy from you? What makes your business unique?”

And another question you might ask at some stage:

“Are you the full owner of the business or do you have a partner?”

I ask this so I can find out if I’m talking to the decision maker.

If you get a weird answer (you will occasionally often for quite legitimate reasons) you can ask a straight question like “Who has the final say and writes the checks?”

After asking these questions you’ll move into the stage where you’re offering a few suggestions and knocking around ideas…