Do You Have A Great Business Website ?

When building a house, the integrity of the construction is only as good as the strength of its foundation. This is the same with websites. If the design is drab and dated, if the message regarding your products or service does not tie to how it benefits the consumer, then you are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to attract new customers.

In our current economic recession, it has become extremely important for businesses to maintain and expand their customer base through well-designed and effective market strategies. You can’t afford NOT to have an extra edge in your business, if you want to maintain revenue and profitability. In the current “online” age, that extra edge is afforded to you by creating a fresh and relevant professional website for your business. The days when folks browsed through the newspapers and magazines or the yellow pages to locate the businesses that would meet their needs are long gone; online search engines have now taken the place of those age old tools, and are used by people to locate the services required by them.

Obviously in that scenario, your company needs to have a significant professional presence if it hopes to gain a piece of the online market. Think about it.  What is the impression you are giving visitors to your site if it looks drab and dated? Also think about you local competition, do they have a website that is fresh, professional and provides consumer benefits in their messaging?

The site is your foundation, social media starts the buzz

Some might argue that simply creating a Facebook or Twitter profile for your company should suffice in this social media centric age. While that is not a bad idea, simply relying on your company’s social media profile is not going to cut it. Social media presence is meant to complement your online presence; it is not the be all and end all of your online strategy. This article and others to come will discuss some additional pertinent reasons that should prompt you to create a compelling website.

Most users who spend a lot of time on Facebook or Twitter, are not concerned with professional networking, rather they spend time on the social network site to connect with family and friends. Your presence on social media channels alone is not enough for drawing in potential customers; rather your profile’s discovery on Facebook and Twitter should serve as a precursor to encouraging friends to share (provide a small promotion) your website link with others so that they might benefit them from your products or services.

Your company’s brand awareness will then expand by your extended network of prospects. However unless you link your Facebook or Twitter profile to a “best in class” website, your prospects won’t be subjected to a professional and effective company branding strategy.  The value proposition of your product or service will be lost to the visitor, who is now off searching and viewing your competitors’ site.

Content Management Systems for Control and Opportunity

A CMS (Content Management System) allows the business owner full editing control of the text and most of the imagery that resides on the website.  Having your website built with a CMS platform is critical initially, in order for you to create fresh new content needed for optimum SEO results. You need control to edit the content you are positioning to prospects and valued customers so that you able to change it on the fly when there is a need to react to the market, with focused attention on what is working in you marketing efforts.

Possibly, you would also be responding with better promotions, more comprehensive detail to products and services etc. Your website is your primary online brochure; it is the face of the company to the marketplace. Having control of the content on your website is the only way to affordably react with information to an ever changing  market, so make sure when speaking to the company designing and developing your website, you include a CMS platform.

 

Interactive Advertising With Greater ROI

Advertise With Greater Confidence Knowing You’re Maximizing Your Response Rates

“Half my advertising money is wasted. The problem is that I don’t know which half”, said William Lever, founder of Lever Soap Company back in 1886. Sadly, well over a century later, it’s estimated that 50 percent of advertising budgets are still wasted on programs that don’t produce a meaningful response. Yet, marketing executives are being held increasingly accountable to deliver greater, more predictable, and measurable returns on investment from their advertising spend, according to Forrester Research.

While some marketers grow increasingly frustrated with declines in response rates to their traditional print advertising and shifting their focus to digital channels, others have discovered how to “crack the code” and are achieving new highs in response rates and returns on investment through properly integrating the offline and online channels. This guide aims to provide the practical, yet frequently overlooked, tips and critical action steps to dramatically increase the response rates and maximize the returns on investment from print advertisements.

1. With so many distractions today, capturing customers’ attention with an ad has become as much science as art. While a great picture can tell a thousand words, studies show that wondering eyes automatically gravitate more towards pictures than words. Use a relevant, high contrast image that supports your core message. So don’t make your audience “work” – read more than is absolutely necessary. Use a picture whenever possible to enhance your offer. Pictures of people and smiling faces are very  effective.

2. If your image succeeds in capturing your readers’ attention, the rest of your ad copy must gain and keep their interest – that’s where your headline plays a pivotal role. Think of your headline as “an ad for your ad”. Its sole purpose is to captivate your audience and “sell” them on reading the rest of your ad copy. Eyes automatically gravitate towards large, bold text. Therefore, be sure your headline stands out from the rest of the ad copy. Focus on your offer’s key benefits. Most readers are “skimmers” and will make a split-second decision about whether or not to keep reading. A “skimmer” should be able to get the “gist” of what the ad is about by the picture and headline (and subtitles if applicable). Books have been written on the topic of writing effective headlines. Refer to a few and them by your side for creative inspiration.

3. Readers are “skimmers”. Avoid long, small-type paragraphs. Instead, bullet out your offer’s benefits whenever possible. Newspapers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are written at an 8th grade level to make the content easier to consume. So present your offer’s benefits in an easy-to-digest manner. Use color and call-outs to deliver the most relevant points.

4. If your ad succeeds at capturing your audience’s attention and interest, be sure to provide a clear, concise call-to-action; tell them what to do next. Don’t leave it up to them to guess what they should do next. If you want them to call a phone number or visit a website, say so. And be sure to include the benefit of doing so. An extra incentive  can instantly increase response rates. For example  by applying an expiration date to your CTA, you can instill a sense of urgency and further increase response. If you’re selling flowers, for example, your CTA might be to visit your website and offer a coupon code with an expiration date.

5. Providing readers multiple options to respond to your ad can not only dramatically increase your overall response rates but also increase the value of your response. A Direct Marketing Association study found that customers who buy from two channels (vs. just one) are between 20 and 60% more valuable, while triple-channel buyers are 60-125% more valuable. Ads that provide readers the option to respond by calling a phone number or by visiting a web page tend to get higher responses than identical ads that offer only a single option.

6. Displaying your main company phone number in your ad is sure-fire way to keep yourself guessing about the performance of your ad. Instead, use unique phone numbers with call tracking. By assigning a unique number to each of your ads, you can accurately test and measure which ads generate the best response. You can view reports to analyze the data and adjust your advertising to increase the overall ROI. This is critically important for new ad campaigns.

7. Most advertisers today already get it. Displaying a website address in a print ad increases response rates. But where many ads fall short is by display the link to their website home page. For better results you can measure and repeat, drive customers to a unique web page, specifically designed to complement your ad, also known as a “landing page” or “micro site” using a personalized URL, or “PURL”. This method is proven to provide a better user experience and increase conversion rates. Sending customers to your home page and making them hunt through your website for the offer they’re interested in is a sure way to aggravate them and lose sales.

8. Studies have shown that the majority of prospects don’t convert into customers the first time they’re exposed to a brand, product or service. Conversions increase over time as prospects are repeatedly exposed to an offer. Since the majority of visitors to your landing page won’t immediately convert, provide an incentive that gains you their contact information.

8. Assuming 5 percent of visitors to your landing page immediately convert and another 10% take advantage of an incentive and share their contact information, you’re building a highly valuable database of prospects and customers. Nurturing those prospects with routine email offers further increases conversions over time – effectively increasing the ROI from your print ad.

9. The saying, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” doesn’t ring more true when it comes to direct response advertising. Create variations of your offer using live A/B tests to determine the best response. You might determine mid-campaign that one version of your landing page is clearly outperforming the other and redirect all traffic to the winner to maximize conversions. To make all this possible you must, of course, properly install and configure a web analytics program and understand how to interpret the data. Using PURLs, you can clearly see how visitors behave; how long they stay, where they click, how many convert, etc.  – providing you the hard data you need to eliminate the guess work.

10. Properly analyzing the data contained in web analytics and performance reports will clearly indicate how visitors respond to a given offer and interact with the content. This valuable insight can then be confidently applied to the design of future print ads to incrementally improve response rates and maximize advertising ROI.

While any one of the above tactics can produce immediate measurable results, you can expect the greatest positive impact from a comprehensive approach. I hope you’ll gain value from these tips and that you’ll advertise with greater confidence.

 

Mobile Marketing Trends in 2013

Over the past few years, large numbers of companies have realized how, ‘responsive websites’ can make a difference to them. This type of development implementation has enhanced the user experience on mobile devices to the extent that larger numbers of consumers are now viewing content on their smart phones. As a result, this shift has opened up a new arena for businesses and marketers to advertise their products. The trend this year seems to be that more and more businesses are focused on mobile marketing. Here’s what can be expected as far as mobile devices are concerned in 2013.

New operating systems

Mobile operating systems play a huge role when it comes to user experience. Currently iOS and Android have been dominating the consumer market. However, with Blackberry releasing the Blackberry 10 OS and a few more other alternatives such as Ubuntu, Sailfish and Firefox all set to come up with their own versions of open source OS’ the world of mobile marketing will definitely change. Marketers would now have to account for all the new operating systems in their strategies.

Mobile e-commerce

One of the most awaited advancements in mobile marketing includes syndication for e-commerce. This is something that will start to take place in 2013 with applications which allow consumers to make purchases directly from their mobile devices. This will not only increase the user experience but also allow consumers to make purchases conveniently from any place. On an overall note, the mobile marketing industry is all set to make a turn for a complete approach towards establishing a PC like experience on mobile devices.

Social Media Marketing Trends for 2013

Moving into 2013, a lot of changes have taken place. While the world didn’t come to an end as predicted by the Mayans, the mad rush has simply escalated to new levels. Pinterest has become a powerful new social media tool, Google+ has continued to grow at an exponential rate, LinkedIn has a new makeover of its interface and Facebook has acquired Instagram. So then the question that arises at this point of time is what can be expected as we move through 2013 and ensure that our marketing strategies stay ahead of the competition

Content gets a Center Stage

Content has been making waves in the online world for quite some time now. Leading online marketers have already embraced the importance of content in marketing. Now it is the turn of social media. Over this year, we could see content becoming the cornerstone of all marketing efforts on social media. Leading social networks such as Google+ have already begun using the number of +1s for ranking the content. A similar change is also likely to take place on Facebook.

Short is Sweet

The world today is moving at a breakneck speed and nobody has enough time to go through long essays on social networks. Twitter began the trend with its 140 character tweets. This is also what you should be focusing on when trying to put across your marketing message. The challenge for marketers this year would be to keep their marketing messages short and crisp while not losing the element of attractiveness.

 

Permission Marketing – The Future of Online Advertising

Privacy is the most prominent challenge that advertisers have been posed with in recent times. The behavior targeting model of online advertising as it is today has come under great criticism for violating user privacy. As a result a large number of online publishers have been removing third party applications that are involved in data scraping. Even authoritative social media websites such as Facebook has been actively involved in curbing data scraping initiatives that are unauthorized. While many have been heralding the end of online advertising as we know it, others have been pointing towards a new trend where marketers and the consumers work together to derive benefits from better content, data and advertising.

Concept of permission marketing

While permission marketing may be new in the world of online advertising, the concept has existed since 1999 and was introduced by Seth Goldin. Permission marketing ensures that the targeted consumers pay close attention to your marketing messages as you pitch your messages only to certain audiences’ that are interested in your products. Permission marketing helps the marketers as well as the consumers in getting what they want. Today consumers are more comfortable using social media platforms and smartphone applications. Also a vast majority of these consumers are highly willing to provide personal information to brands and businesses in exchange for the value that they can derive from those brands.

Benefits of permission marketing

One of the most popular modes of permission marketing that exists today is perhaps the social sign on. A social sign on is nothing but a consumer signing into a service or an online publisher using any of their social media accounts. In this process, the consumer agrees to share their social information with the publisher and as a result the publisher gets access to the consumer’s personal data. This data can then be used to provide content as per the user’s social preferences providing a high quality user experience to the consumer. The publisher also uses the same data to present relevant ads to the consumer and gains revenue

The Evolution of Permission Marketing

Permission marketing is the latest buzz word in the online advertising industry. With the recent uproar about illegitimate data scraping and other issues, online marketers are now turning towards a new and innovative method of marketing known as permission marketing. Permission marketing is based upon the concept that originated over a decade ago as observations made by Seth Godin and others were introduced, as a necessary path to take with respect to the future of effective online marketing.

Internet and marketing

While this conventional medium had been continuously interrupting audiences with an unending array of advertisements promoting sponsors, the advent of PM heralded a welcome change to the consumers. Online advertising has always continued to remain as a mixed bag of solutions, however there have been a few exceptions such as Google adwords that deliver the marketing message at the right instant without hampering user experience. Interesting enough the internet has continued to exist as the only medium where marketers have not been able to pitch their products against the will of the consumer.

The most you can do when it comes to online marketing is to leave a message to the users. You cannot enforce your marketing message on anyone. Permission marketing sprouted out of this observation. Here instead of trying to win the attention of the consumer, the marketer looks for consumers that are genuinely interested in their products by asking permission from the prospect in order to deliver their marketing message. This is being achieved through several new tools such as social sign on, email, mobile applications, and social media applications.  This paradigm shift in marketing is characterized as ‘Pull’ marketing as opposed to ‘Push’ marketing, which is the traditional method we all recognize.  Creating a true interest in your product or service and engaging your prospects to want you to market to them, creates a whole new way of more effectively communicating with your market.

B2B Strategies for LinkedIn Marketing

LinkedIn Marketing has quickly gained center-stage as large numbers of businesses are realizing the value and potential that LinkedIn has to offer them. With a number of corporate and industry leaders, LinkedIn is gaining prominence as one of the world’s largest social networks. In such a scenario, hesitation to cash in on the opportunity can cost your business valuable leverage when it comes to online marketing.

Brand awareness through LinkedIn

One of the most popular ways LinkedIn is being used is to generate brand awareness. In order to do this, first you need to establish your presence through a company page. You can then use this as a promoting machine where you can market, re-market, target and re-target your brand identity to people across the globe. You can also engage your audience and make sure that they keep returning to your content. When this happens, you will see that the customers will begin to associate your brand with your niche. This is possible because LinkedIn provides highly relevant content to an audience that is interested in your brand.

Advertising

Another popular marketing technique used mostly by B2B businesses is advertising on LinkedIn. Although the market for advertising on LinkedIn is still in its evolutionary stage, a large number of B2B businesses are leveraging it for job titles, and other marketing initiatives. Advertising on LinkedIn has been proven to be highly effective as it allows you to narrow your targets based on where your potential prospects are likely to spend most of their time on LinkedIn.

Is RSS Still Significant?

With Google announcing the demise of Google Reader recently, a lot of talk is being generated about the move to shut it down. While several enthusiasts express emotions ranging from sadness to outrage over Google’s move. Others think that RSS never had a significant role to play online, and that it was about time Google shut it down. However, RSS is still continues to prevail despite all the turmoil surrounding the Google Reader. Some discussion over RSS as a standard continues.

Can Twitter replace RSS?

A vast majority of people are of the opinion that the micro-blogging platform ‘Twitter’ can act as an effective replacement to RSS. This is far from being true in my opinion, simply because Twitter is a web service, and it is not an open standard. RSS, when compared to Twitter, could be like a webpage where anybody could create and host their own personalized feed allowing anybody to read it. This is not possible in twitter as you do not have any control over your feed, and the service does not allow you to host your own custom feeds. In short, Twitter is a closed standard and as a result, it is an unlikely replacement for Google Reader.

Real-time versus time-shift

There is another major issue when it comes to replacing Google Reader with Twitter. While on the outside, both may seem to perform the same functions, they are quite different in reality. Twitter feeds are usually real-time as opposed to the time-shifted nature of RSS. It’s quite difficult  to follow every single tweet all day. Also, it is hard to access an old tweet using twitter. RSS on the other hand, can provide organized information for easy access, at any given point of time. So, replacing Google Reader with Twitter can be difficult. It is better to look for an open standard as a replacement for RSS, since it is the backbone of sharing information on the web.

Generating Leads Using LinkedIn

Social media is a significant part of our lives today. While Facebook and Twitter serve as excellent platforms to network with friends and share thoughts, LinkedIn is something that is completely different. It is a social platform where business gets carried out. People generally consider LinkedIn as a platform to look for prospective job opportunities. While this is true to a great extent, LinkedIn is not just about job searches. It is also an excellent platform to express your thoughts, leadership and expertise in your chosen field while also promoting your business to help in gaining leads.

While everything else in the platform is generally straight forward, the only area you may have to better understand is how your business can gain valuable leads through LinkedIn?

Research

One of the most important things you need to do when it comes to gaining leads though LinkedIn is researching to find prospective buyers. One idea is to use Google analytics or any other tool to find out who is visiting your website. By analyzing this data, you may be able to identify some prospective buyers. Once you have shortlisted the buyers, you can then approach the top executives through an InMail or even a call directly.

LinkedIn groups

A LinkedIn group is one of the best places to demonstrate your leadership thoughts and ideas and also to connect with the right people in different organizations. However joining a LinkedIn group is not enough, in order to make the most out of groups; you need to join only those groups with plenty of activity rather than large number of members. Also, make sure that you respond to the posts with valuable content instead of a pitch. Your goal in the group is to engage as many users as possible and convert them to followers and leads.

Benefits of Permission Email Marketing

Email marketing is an essential online marketing tool and is also the oldest online marketing tool available today. However, the image that email marketing has among consumers is not a healthy one. This is because of the extensive use of emails by a handful of marketers who send unsolicited mail to large groups of people. The rise of spammers indicates that email marketing has lost its touch and getting a tainted image with consumers. However, the reign of email marketing is not close to an end. Marketers today are making use of the guidelines set forth by officials and governments to market their messages in what is known as -Permission based email marketing.  Permission marketing is really your ability to market to an audience that appreciates your product or service. This audience sees the value and wants to have a conversation with your company.  This shift in marketing is what is called ‘pull marketing’.  The consumer is pulling/inviting you in. Push marketing (print media junk mail) is the traditional way of communicating, and is loosing ground every year.

Permission email marketing is legal

Permission email marketing is a legal way of spreading your marketing message. Marketers seek permission from prospects to send them marketing through email. If the prospect agrees (opt in) to the proposal, then these emails are considered as ethical and legal. Also, permission email marketing ensures that your emails are read and reach only those prospects that are interested in your products.

More interaction

One of the great benefits of permission based email marketing is the increased user interaction. It will not only boost the image of your company in the eyes of your consumers but ensures your messages are read. Your message will be targeted and received, only by those that are genuinely interested in your product. This can also mean increased sales and revenue for your business. If you are not collecting email addresses from your customers today start to do so and if you have not started an email campaign to gain addresses from prospects in your market or geographic area, you may want to start thinking about it?