Marketing Tip of the Week: Which Social Media Platform is Right for You? (Part 2)

Last week we began discussing different popular social media platforms and which would be best for your business. The differences between Twitter and Facebook are obvious and both sites have a distinctive flavor different from the other, but what about two social media platforms with a lot more similarities than differences?

Marketing with Photos

  • Pinterest - THE social media platform for Do-It-Yourself, and a great marketing platform for businesses that sell DIY items or are friendly to DIY’ers. For example, a florist may write blogs about DIY decorating tips with flowers. This business would be best served by placing links to those blogs on Pinterest. This would generate interest in their business as well as their industry. With the ability to have different boards used for different topics, they could also have a board dedicated to their best work. This type of approach is perfect for the system that Pinterest has in place.
  • Instagram - There is no better platform for visual businesses. If you create or carry visually striking items, or you enjoy taking photos of everyday items and using photo filters on them, Instagram is for you. That’s not to say the same visuals wouldn’t do well on Pinterest or Facebook or even Twitter, but Instagram is all about the creative picture and digital modification of same. The community there enjoys interesting photos but suffer obvious advertisement poorly. Always work within the community. It’s the hallmark of a good marketing campaign.

Come back next week for a quick look at how best to leverage these sites to your advantage!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Which Social Media Platform is Right for You? (Part 1)

“There are only so many hours in the day.”

You’ve heard that before. It has certainly been said more times than one could count, but it’s lasted so long as a cliche because it’s true. No matter what you have to get done or how badly you want to do everything on your list, you are still limited by the restrictions on your time. And that is never more true than when talking about marketing with social media.

The Social Media Logjam

There are so many viable options in social media, and all of them seem important to the success of your business. They may be, but if you aren’t leveraging them properly, you are probably doing more harm than good. It is far better to master one than perform badly across several. There is only one social media site that any business with an online presence must be using, and that’s Google+. But as for the others, which social media platform is right for you?

Finding the Perfect Fit

Every social media platform has a target audience and an expected tone. The key to understanding where you belong is understanding what those expectations actually are.

  • Facebook – This platform is probably the most popular and the most inclusive. Every business can find an audience, and most of your customers will have an account. Your potential market there is larger than most anywhere else, but with its pay-to-promote system in place, it’s no longer the cheapest and easiest way to market your business online. Also, its popularity acts as both a boon and a curse.Everyone uses Facebook and everyone markets themselves there. That ties into this little issue of the news feed which grows along with Facebook’s popularity. Facebook should definitely be on your list as it is easy to master, but it may not be your best and most lucrative outlet.
  • Twitter – The bird is great if you are a business that likes to be directly involved with your customers. It promotes a level of customer interaction at which other social media sites only take a swipe. Most Twitter conversations take place as discussions around current topics or news items. When something changes or is added to your store or industry, tweet about it and if enough people are interested, you can potentially start a trending topic.This does require a more hands-on approach, but the 140 character limit on post length makes it a quick distraction from your daily duties.

The differences between these two platforms are very obvious, and the audience you will reach while using each is variable. Do neither of these options sound like the ideal fit for your business? Make sure you check back next week when we look at two more social media sites and how they might fit into your business marketing strategy.

Marketing Tip of the Week: Is Your Website Streamlined?

We’ve all been there. The website discovered after following an interesting link that immediately caused a headache. The splash page was nonsensical and didn’t give any idea of what the site was for. It was necessary to click a series of links to get to any merchandise at all, and when something interesting was located, there was no indication as to what to do next!

If you’re like me, you clicked away from that site about 2 steps ago. But it’s true that even though they are becoming more and more rare as websites become easier to use and set up these sites still exist. Whether your page is as bad as the one described above or not, here are 3 ways to ensure your content is accessible and valuable.

3 Steps to Streamline Your Website

  1. Brief and to the point - This applies to all the copy on your page, but especially your splash page. When a customer arrives at your page, they should immediately know what you do and how to access what you do.If you sell a certain kind of merchandise, say so and include a call-to-action that tells the customer what they should do next.
  2. With links, less is more - There is only one way to navigate a website, and that’s through clicking links whether they be on the navigation bar or embedded in the text. If you have too many links on your nav bar, the customer can become confused and not know where to go next!
    You don’t want your customer to have to “drill down” through too many steps to get to your product, but your main navigation needs to be simple and uncluttered. If you have more than seven links in your primary navigation, you might want to rethink your categories.
  3. Put Your Most Important Content First - Your call-to-action needs to be front and center on every page. Your customer should never find themselves ignorant of where to go next, and they should always be heading in the direction you want them to go: to your products and services!

Don’t confuse your customers! Make your site accessible and easy to navigate and you are sure to see an uptick in traffic.

Marketing Tip of the Week: Plan Your Content

It’s not easy to create excellent marketing content on a day to day basis. It doesn’t take long before the blank screen and blinking cursor leave you wondering what you could possible write about next. Yet as difficult as consistent content can be, it is not negotiable. If you want to have a valuable online presence, you’ve got to deliver marketing content your audience will want to read. So how do you keep the words flowing? How do you roll from one good idea to the next? Have a plan!

Think Thematically

Everything is easier when you plan ahead, and the easiest way to generate compelling content is by thinking about your topic in advance. You should sit down and choose a weekly or monthly theme, and then write to match. This method not only gives you a broad topic about which to write, it can also help you to focus your writing so that you don’t find yourself wandering off topic.

If your business benefits from holidays, you have ready-made themes being handed to you on a regular basis! Just use the big holiday for the month and structure your content around it. Even if your business is not directly related to holidays, you could still use them in a secondary capacity or farm them for ideas that DO relate to your business.

Promote Yourself

Another great way to generate content is to shape it around what you are creating or highlighting on the business side. Do you sell DIY supplies? Perhaps do a blog explaining how to create something that uses a product you currently have on sale. Do you manufacture goods? Do a series of posts that detail your product and potential uses for it!

Marketing content doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little thought and planning ahead, it might even become enjoyable!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Social Media and the Art of Listening

Last week’s post focused on listening to your customers, but that doesn’t stop at the people who enter your store. You have many customers (and potential customers) in the social media realm that need your time and attention as well. It’s no secret that social media is the future of marketing, and effectively navigating its waters requires attention to your followers and those you want to be your followers.

How to Listen on Social Media

Listening through social media is less about asking direct questions (though you can do that too) and more about reading what your followers have to say.

Companies have long understood that people with similar interests in a particular product or brand often have other similar interests. If they model their marketing campaigns after one of those other interests, they can appeal to a certain demographic. You can easily do the same thing with your own marketing strategies.

By paying attention to the posts of your followers, you will quickly begin to garner a sense of where their interests lie and how best to approach them. It truly is as simple as paying attention.

Focus Your Attention

But what if you believe you’ve fully harvested your current crop of followers? Where then do you turn?

Again, listening to your current followers is the key. If a majority of your followers are also interested in another market, it would stand to reason that people in that market could be interested in your business. Rather than just going out and following a lot of random people on Twitter in the hopes they’ll follow you back, it would be better to focus your attentions and socialize within the group or #hashtag that you see popping up most often among your current followers. By doing this, you could potentially discover an entirely new pool of customers!

Listening is an important part of owning a business, and listening to your customers is always a good idea. The secret is in knowing what to do with what you hear.

Marketing Tip of the Week: Listen to Your Customer

Being the boss isn’t always easy. Success or failure falls squarely on your shoulders, and yet the information needed to achieve that result is not always readily available. It would be nice to believe that we have the answers to every question that arises, but reality is never that simple. That’s why it’s important to get information from the people whose buying decisions can make or break you as a company. It’s important to listen to your customer!

Garnering Customer Information

There are many different ways to solicit feedback from your customer, but all of them boil down to one simple thing, just ask!

  1.  Customer Questionnaire – A questionnaire may seem overly complicated and for many customers it will be. Chances are you will only receive back a fraction of the forms you send out, but the replies you receive should be very helpful. Why? In order for a customer to feel it’s worth their time to fill it out, they must first be interested or passionate about some aspect of your business. These can often have a negative tone, but if you can look past the first instinct to defend your business and look at each one objectively, you will be guaranteed to find some very good information within. 
  2. Phone Interview - Contacting customers shortly after a visit (with their permission of course) is an excellent way to get information. If there was anything about the transaction that stood out to them, it should still be fresh in their minds, and letting your customer speak is always easier than filling out a form so you are more likely to get a larger pool of respondents.
  3. Ask at the Counter - This method has it’s positives and negatives, but it’s still a fantastic way to get customer feedback. On the negative side, if a customer has a poor interaction with your employee, they may be hesitant to say so in front of them. That may skew your results a bit, but not enough to offset the positives. With a face-to-face, your customer has the opportunity to not only answer your questions but offer their opinions about things that you may never have thought to ask. By speaking to them immediately, the entire experience is fresh in their minds, and they are far less likely to forget an important detail.

Customers are the backbone of your business. Without them, you couldn’t run! Don’t ignore the people that buy your products and use your services. If you want your business to grow, you need to listen to your customer!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Vital Technology for 2014

More and more, customers are letting shop owners know that the future is now. Mobile is quickly becoming a viable format for online browsing and sales while video is quickly replacing copy as a way for business owners to connect to their customers. It is no longer merely optional to include these two technologies in your marketing and business strategies, it’s becoming necessary.

The Importance of Mobile

Mobile platforms are increasing in popularity every day. According to IBM, mobile accounted for more than one third of all online traffic in the fourth quarter of 2013. What’s more, mobile accounted for 17% of all online transactions during the holiday season. 17% may not sound like such a significant number by itself, but couple it with the fact that it shows a 46% increase over the number from last year and you begin to see the impact that mobile is beginning to make.

If that percentage increase holds true this year, mobile will account for 25% of all online purchases during the upcoming holiday season. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, that can have a huge impact on your online sales! It’s also another reason to make having a way to communicate with your customers through a mobile platform a priority. Social media is perfect for this as Facebook, Twitter and other sites are intended to be used primarily on mobile devices.

Video as A Dominant Medium

Video is quickly taking the place of those long text posts on many business websites and blogs. Why? Because consumers prefer them. Many people are intimidated by a wall of text, and a video feels (whether true or not depends on the individual reader/video) like a much less time-intensive way to get the same information. But more importantly, it allows the business owner to infuse some personality into the delivery that may be lacking in written text.

Regardless of why customers prefer videos, there is no debate that they do. With that in mind, you should definitely look to add a video or two to your site in the near future. This doesn’t have to be an extremely elaborate project. There’s no need to run out and drop thousands of dollars on a high-end digital camera. You can make videos almost as good with a low-end rig that will only cost a few hundred. You probably shouldn’t use your cell-phone, but if you have no other options it would be better than nothing at all.

Technology is providing a big impact on businesses of every size in 2014. Do you have your strategy in place?

Marketing Tip of the Week: Enduring Or Timely Posts?

You have a blog on your website to increase traffic. More traffic translates into more sales. And more sales equals more money for your business. But are you using your blog correctly?

The Usefulness of Timely Posts

When big things happen in your industry, it’s natural to blog about it. After all, an exploration of the newest industry developments is interesting for both you and your readers. But these posts have a drawback: they lose steam very quickly.

Yes, you may get a large influx of readers to that post when it’s initially written, but if it falls off the search radar in a few days, weeks or months as the events that prompted it are resolved, what good is it doing you? After that primary spurt of viewers, none at all. But that’s not to say that such posts have no value because they can provide that large influx of readers.

New people come to the site to read about this newest development, and this is your opportunity to hook them, so that they will return to your site again and again.

The Secret to Enduring Posts

An enduring post is one that has lasting value. It isn’t time sensitive and rarely follows the events of the day. Instead, this post will be something that adds value to readers for a long time. Unlike the timely post, this one has no expiration date. The information provided is long-term. The value here is in having content that will have time to build reputation for you and your site. People will always be searching for the information you’re providing.

For example: if you’re a flowers shop, you might post any number of Do-It-Yourself posts where you show consumers how to use flowers to best effect. This material will come up again and again when people search for DIY posts and flowers. This will maintain a steady stream of traffic to your site.

The Best Blog Strategy

So what does this mean? It means that the best blog strategy will incorporate a combination of these two styles. The timely posts will bring in a large volume of visitors over the short-term, but the enduring posts will eventually give you a larger number of views over the long-term. Both posts have the potential to bring customers back again. Customers keeping up with the industry will return to get your take when the next big event happens, while those looking for helpful tips will return the next time they need information.

Don’t pigeon-hole yourself with one type of post or the other. Mix it up and watch your views soar!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Question Your Marketing Strategy

The best marketing strategy is a flexible marketing strategy. It’s great to have a tried and true methodology, (such an approach makes a wonderful jumping off point for your strategy) but on a dynamic marketing landscape, a truly successful strategy will be able to roll with the punches. The saying goes, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten,” (thanks Tony Robbins) but that’s only true if the circumstances around you haven’t changed.

With marketing, as with business, the circumstances are always changing.

Change is Good

Look at each aspect of your marketing strategy and ask yourself:

  1. Does this still work? – Things that were successful last year may go over like a lead balloon this year. Be mindful of how your strategies are received and the results you see from them. 
  2. How can I make this work better? – Sometimes it’s not necessary to scrap an entire idea. Perhaps a little tweaking is all that’s needed.
  3. Would a different option be a better option? – And then there are those times when you can’t find anything salvageable in an old idea. But don’t just throw it out! Hang onto it. After all, just because it didn’t work this year doesn’t mean it won’t work next year!

Failure is Your Friend

This seems counter intuitive, but it’s true! It’s impossible to know what’s going to work in your market without first trying, and failing, at many different things. The failures are not wholly negative. Yes, they neglected to meet your expectations, but what can you learn from them? What aspects of it worked and which ones didn’t? Why or why not? It’s these questions which will lead you to the successful strategy you want, and the best strategy can only be achieved through such trial and error.

C.S. Lewis said, “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” Or, if you prefer someone more timely, Colin Powell said, “Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.” Failure is an important stepping stone toward success. Don’t bemoan its presence. Instead rejoice that you have the opportunity to do better.

Marketing is about appealing to the masses, and as such there is no definitively right or wrong way to do it. The best advice you can get is not to be afraid to break out of your routine and try new things. If you always say the same things to the same people, they will eventually tune out your message. Change it up to keep it fresh.

Marketing Tip of the Week: Understand Your Competition

This space has seen a lot of articles detailing how to build a marketing strategy and how to execute that strategy to greatest effect. That’s all excellent material and very important to achieving success with your business, but before you can devise a marketing strategy, you first have to understand your competition.

Defining the Competition

Who is your competition? If you don’t have a definitive answer to this question, you need to take some time to figure it out. The key to being successful in any market is finding your niche in that market. Are you going to have the lowest prices? Are you going to carry the most unique items? In order to find the answers to these questions, you first have to know your competition and which roles they fill. If you are going to try to push someone out of a specific niche, you need to at least be aware of who all is filling that niche.

How Competitive Are They?

Once you’ve identified your competition, you need to determine how competitive they really are. Do they only carry a handful of items similar to yours? Do your inventories match almost exactly? These questions will help you better understand how to find an unoccupied niche, or how best to approach attacking and usurping an existing niche.

Evaluate Strengths and Weaknesses

Once you’ve determined the niche you’re going to shove your way into, you need to evaluate your and your competition’s strengths and weaknesses. You don’t want to challenge their strength with your weakness. You want to challenge their weakness with your strength. You also want to shore up any weaknesses you may have so that you can stand up to someone else trying to carve a share out of your niche.

Marketing begins with knowing your competition. It’s about knowing who they are, how they operate, and how best to strategize around them. If you are ignoring your competition, you’re not capitalizing on your earning potential.