Collecting emails is really pretty easy in today’s world. Last week, I asked a restaurant owner if he took advantage of seasonal opportunities to sell gift certificates online. Of course, Black Friday and Cyber Monday had already passed us by, and both were opportunities that should not be missed by any C2C business. One of the easiest ways to capitalize on this opportunities is through email marketing. Despite rumors to the contrary, email marketing is alive and well. We decided to start a drawing for a free $100 gift certificate. Enrolling was easy – a fish bowl was placed at the entrance to the restaurant. Visitors simply had to drop a business card or an email address into the bowl. Likewise, a pop-up link was added to the website urging visitors to sign up for a chance to win a $100 gift card. The links were simultaneously posted on Facebook and Instagram. VOILA – The restaurants email list multiplied threefold within the first hour. With any luck, we will be able to launch a profitable email marketing campaign by Valentine Day, one of the busiest days of the year in the restaurant industry.
Many business owners find themselves in a quandary over which platform to use for their business website. There is no shortage of options on the market, from Squarespace and Wix to newcomers like Simvoly and uKit. And then of course, there is the almighty open source platform, WordPress. While all of the above bill themselves as easy to use CMS (Content Management Systems), no two platforms are created equal. While today’s site builders do not necessarily require tech wizardry, there is a learning curve to each platform and some are more flexible and intuitive then others.
Here’s three simple reasons why WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world.
- WordPress is a free platform that comes with no strings attached. You can take your website and go home if you aren’t happy with the web hosting customer service. With all of the other choice you will have to start from scratch with a company change.
- The WordPress developer knowledge breadth is vast. Whether you are searching for a DYI tutorial or seeking a developer to do the work, all one needs to do is ask Siri.
- The design flexibility and plugin functionality available to WordPress is endless. Whatever the need, be it a login protected area, a bidding platform or registration functionality, WordPress has a plugin to accomplish it all.
With Amazon bulldozing its way through the marketplace in nearly every industry, small business owners are fearful of being left behind in the rubble. Those who are selling products online, that are also available by large retailers, are at a competitive disadvantage and should find a way to set themselves apart from the super stores, perhaps by selling items not available on the likes of Amazon. But what about businesses who are selling their own product line? Should they join forces with the enemy by selling their product through the Amazon marketplace?
Absolutely! Even if the profit margin is reduced, it is best to sell goods in as many different marketplaces as possible. While the profit margin may be less, the volume of sales will likely be higher, making it well worth the effort. The Amazon ecommerce platform is powerful and small businesses would otherwise not be able to gain such broad market exposure.
Should small retailers abandon their online store? Heck no. They should keep doing what they do best, being an authority on their product line and play big. A small retailer’s website should filled with valuable compelling content such as “How To” videos and blogs that offer consumer’s insight into the product. The Amazon shopping cart is a marketing workhorse but it can’t offer the same personalized, interactive experience that the business owner can to woo customers. They might onsider offering an incentive to purchase directly from the manufacturer such as a money back guarantee. Remember that Amazon is only another marketplace and everyone has their favorite places to shop.
Marketing often gets placed on a back burner by many small business owners who are overwhelmed by the day to day administrative tasks that they have to do just to keep their business running. However, creating a brand that is cohesive and recognizable is important for all businesses regardless of their size.
While branding often begins with a name and logo, the two along do not define a brand. Branding runs far deeper. It tells a story about a company, it is the voice that speaks to the core values of the business. The benefits that a business will reap through strong branding are multifold with the most obvious being industry recognition, trust and credibility with consumers, financial return, and vested employees who understand the goals of the company.
Does your brand tell your story accurately? Is the message you want to send being told consistently across all platforms? Although some of the rules of branding may seem tedious to the untrained eye, establishing brand personality will have a positive impact on the bottom line of a company.
Keeping your clients happy is easy – it involves employing your social and networking skills.
- Be willing to share and give free advice without always watching the clock. Take the time to talk to your clients and build a relationship without launching into a sales pitch. It’s all about the “Givers Gain” philosophy that is based on the law of reciprocity.
- Make introductions between people who would benefit from knowing each other.
- Become an ambassador for your clients brand. Show them that you share their passion for their own brand and be willing to spread the good word on your own social media pages.
- Give regular progess updates while in the midst of a project. My goal has always been to reach out to my clients before they ask me about the progress of a particular project.This is particularly important during a crisis – people feel more comfortable when they are kept “in the loop”.
- Give honest quotes and stick by them. It doesn’t do any good to under-cut a project and then come in over budget.
- Respect deadlines and go out of your way to meet them.
- Be a good listener. Ask lots of questions to gain a good understanding of their business the finished professional product will be that much more sensational.
- Be prepared to accept blame when it is due.
That means, do you come up above the fold of a web page, on the first page of a keyword search for someone in your line of business? Here are a few tips to help to boost your ranking into the top ten.
- Be consistent with your company name. It should look the same way each and every time it is written or displayed. Ensure that your logo meets the four characteristics of a good logo (memorable, timeless, unique and relevant) and establish guidelines as to how the logo and name with be displayed and used.
- Actively seek reviews and testimonials from valued customers. They do make a difference. How often you have read reviews prior to making a purchase or selecting a restaurant? Claim your listings on YELP, Google, YAHOO and other search engines and then encourage customers to write a review even if you have to reward them with a glass of Prosecco in exchange for their effort!
- Don’t be a wallflower – it’s important to be active on social media. That doesn’t mean that you have to jump on every Sm platform out there, but make an effort to establish a social presence somewhere and then … post, share and like often enough that they know you care.
- Try advertising your services on Google AdWords or Facebook boosts. Both can helpful and boosts can be very specifically targeted. While advertising is not directly linked to organic rankings, more visibility with help brand recognition and, in turn, drive more traffic to the website.
- BLOG. Share valuable content and build a reputation as an authority in your field. The next time someone is searching for a topic relevant to your line of business, your blog post may provide the answer and, before you know it, you will be the go-to source.
As a freelance design and brand specialist, I am passionate about my craft and proud of my work. Like every small business owner, I too must effectively market my business in order to grow. There are many talented designers vying for the same clients and it’s important to find a way to stand out in the crowd.
In addition to devoting time to network and blog it would helpful if I was given the honor of being listed among the top 3% in the UX Designers Community. How might that happen? The American freelance company Toptal is an exclusive network comprised of the top software developers and designers in the world. Global companies hire talent from Toptal and, the freelancers themselves, give glowing reviews of the company reporting that they are well paid and well protected. Not only would it be an honor to have a like opportunity but, it would help to grow my business.
There is a wealth of information that can be gathered from the data provided by Google Analytics. Making heads or tails of that information can be daunting for those who are unfamiliar with the analytics dashboard. To keep it simple, there are three key statistics to track that will help you to stay in touch with the source of your website traffic, the pages that are attracting visitors and the value of that content.
How are visitors getting to your website?
The “Source/Medium” (Acquisition/All Traffic/Source/Medium) window reveals a breakdown of the source of the traffic. From paid advertising to social media to backlinks from referral sites, the information will provide insight as to which marketing efforts are working for you and where you should invest marketing dollars.
What pages are attracting visitors?
The “All Pages” window (Behavior/Site Content/All Pages) tells which pages are the most popular on your website. The results my surprise you. Armed with this information you will be able to better tailor your content according to the preferences of the target audience.
How much time was spent on a page and did the visitor take action?
These stats are known as “Time on Page” and “Bounce Rate” (Behavior/Site Content/All Pages). They are two different statistics but are inherently related. The first tells how long a visitor stayed on the page while the other tells whether they left without taking action. The more time a visitors stays on a page the more likely they are to be converted. On the other hand, a high bounce rate is indicative of a missed opportunity.
There is obviously much more informative data that can be gathered from the analytics dashboard. Whatever time that is spent analyzing data from Google Analytics is well spent and will be helpful in more effective marketing.
The snow is slowing melting away but winter has left an indelible mark on the landscape. It is likely that your company website is also looking a little tired and could use a pick-me-up. Here’s a few tips to freshen things up.
- Jazz up the content with fresh seasonal material. If you have a blog this is the perfect vehicle to use use. Nearly every business has a subject matter that is more pertinent at once time of the year than another. Take advantage of seasonal opportunities by freshening content and images so that visitors have something new to engage them when they visit your website.
- Is your SEO working for you? It’s easy to fall behind in Google standings. Did your competition pass by you in search results when you weren’t paying attention? Perhaps it’s time to mix up your keyword phrases and page titles so they better target your local market niche.
- Get Chatty. Don’t be a wallflower on social media platforms – be an engaging conversationalist who adds value to the discussion. Be sure to include social media links on your website and blog posts. It will help you to building trusting relationships with customers.
- Mobile Compatibility. No more excuses – websites MUST be mobile responsive. If you don’t have a mobile responsive website it is akin to have a flip phone. Google punishes businesses whose websites are not mobile responsive you will lose money.
- Credibility. If old holiday ads are still on your home page it is time to tuck them away for next year. Outdated material, misspellings and bad links are a turn off for visitors and your competitor is only a click away.
Once you’ve completed the spring dusting and cleaning your analytics report should perk up a bit.
Every small business owner would benefit from a blog. Why?
- Blogging drives website traffic: Blogging provides you with an opportunity to create content that is relevant to your customers which, when shared on social media platforms, will drive traffic to your website. It is a simple marketing tactic that works like charm.
- Blogging Increases SEO: By regularly posting fresh, keyword peppered content on your website that is relevant to your business, Google will reward you by boosting your search ranking.
- Becoming a Brand Leader: By demonstrating your knowledge and marketing skills through blogging, you will emerge as any authority in your field for others to follow. Blogging is a marketing opportunity that should not be overlooked.
- Develop customer relationships: As you become a familiar face on the web you will build stronger relationships with potential and existing clients. We all know that building relationships is at the core of networking.