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: 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.

Find Your Audience

February 2014
Little Merry Fellows
Find Your Audience

I’ve talked about how to make your content as accessible as possible for readers and how to make it easily sharable, but now I’d like to talk about how you find those readers in the first place. It takes a little more leg-work if the goal is to get your content into as many hands as possible.

How to Find an Audience

Yes, the people who follow you on social media are an audience, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for more. Here are two ideas you might want to consider:

1. Find a Niche Community – What is a niche community? It’s a community dedicated to your particular niche. Are you a florist? Find a flower lovers Facebook group or an online forum. Whatever your business, there are people online who love it and talk about it. Find them.

2. Guest Bloggers – Nothing spices up a blog more than a guest blogger. It helps if this is a recognizable name from your industry, but even if it’s just another shop owner with some good info to share, it will do wonders for your site views.

Extra effort can be difficult to find when you’ve exhausted yourself with the customers you do have, but more customers equals more success and more success will allow you to hire more help!

In The News

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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.

Marketing Tip of the Week: Don’t Just Take Time, Make Time

Marketing isn’t something you do when you get around to it or have some spare time to work on it. It’s something you must schedule time to accomplish, and it’s imperative that you do so.

The Importance of Making Time

As a small business owner, you wear a lot of hats. You’re the executive team, the financial department and yes, marketing as well. You probably do your share, if not more, of work on the sales floor and spend countless hours just trying to keep everything together. That’s all important and necessary, but if you don’t schedule time for your marketing strategy and implementation, what is all that other work for?

If you don’t successfully advertise, you’re like a hamster on a wheel. You’re working yourself to death but making little progress.

Work Smarter Not Harder

Yes, I know the heading is a cliché, but it’s popularity speaks to the truth contained therein. It doesn’t take long to devise and implement a marketing plan. A few hours a week is all you have to squeeze out in order to make your hard work yield ever greater results. Being good at what you do and carrying good products alone just isn’t enough.

The cacophony of voices vying for your customer’s attention is too loud. If you aren’t also actively seeking their attention, you will be passed over. You have to let people know you’re there. You have to have a marketing plan, and you have to implement that plan. Then you will see all the hard work you’ve been doing finally start to yield ever greater results.

Marketing is a tool and like any tool must be wielded to be useful. If you allow it to languish, it cannot do its job.

Marketing Tip of the Week: The Devil is in the Details

You’ve done it all. You write excellent and engaging content on your website, and you use Twitter and Facebook like a pro, but you’re still not seeing the traffic numbers you expect. What’s wrong?

Quite possibly, nothing at all. You may be doing absolutely everything right and still not seeing the returns you want. What is there left to do? Short of revising your strategy or lowering your expectations, the easiest potential solution is to simply revisit your methods. See if there are ways you can streamline various aspects to make it easier for customers to find you. As with anything in life, the devil is in the details.

Check Your Signature

There are so many places online where you have the opportunity to customize a signature. Be it comments on a blog, forum or just your own email, you should never squander an opportunity to advertise your page. Place a link in any signature you have the chance to use, but don’t just leave it sitting there all by itself. Add a line or two that requests viewers to visit your page. Maybe a line that explains why they’d want to do so.

Successful marketing is always about enticing your potential customer. Slapping a link in a signature line just isn’t going to get it done. You have to give it context, meaning. It should not only be arresting but informative.

FAQ’s

Having an FAQ page on your site is an often overlooked but surprisingly useful tool. You are undoubtedly an expert in your field, and it is easy to write content that may be just above the average consumer’s head. That can cause them to give up on your page without ever giving it, or you, a chance.

My first suggestion would be to put more explanation in your content, but sometimes that is too difficult to accomplish in the space you are using. An FAQ page is the perfect place to break things down to a more “elementary” understanding of your subject. Do you use industry terminology? Do you have separate logins for standard and wholesale customers? Use the FAQ to explain these and any other things you feel customers may need a bit more help with.

The difference between success and failure can often be the simplest, smallest of things. Look back over your strategy, analyze your site for ease-of-use and make sure you are using every opportunity available to get your name out there! You can do it!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Find Your Audience!

I’ve talked about how to make your content as accessible as possible for readers and how to make it easily sharable, but now I’d like to talk about how you find those readers in the first place. I know what you’re thinking, “You mean I can’t just share it on Facebook or Twitter and expect it to be seen by thousands?” The answer is no, not exactly. It takes a little more leg-work if the goal is to get your content into as many hands as possible.

Why Social Media Alone Isn’t the Only Answer

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting down social media as a marketing tool. It’s excellent and if leveraged properly it can be amazing. But it’s not all you need when promoting your business. You may have thousands of followers, but when you post a link, how many of them click it? 10%? 5%? 1%? Of course every click matters, but if you are looking for ways to maximize that exposure, to get your business in the minds of as many people as possible, you may have to put in a little more effort.

How to Find an Audience

Yes, the people who follow you on social media are an audience, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for more. Here are two ideas you might want to consider:

1. Find a Niche Community - What is a niche community? It’s a community dedicated to your particular niche. Are you a florist? Find a flower lovers Facebook group or an online forum. Whatever your business, there are people online who love it and talk about it. Find them. When you do, talk to them. Engage them. Don’t just spam your material and walk away, become a member of the community and be what you are, an expert in the field. Then you won’t have to spam your material, they will come to you.

2. Guest Bloggers - Nothing spices up a blog more than a guest blogger. It helps if this is a recognizable name from your industry, but even if it’s just another shop owner with some good info to share, it will do wonders for your site views. If possible, work out a trade so that you guest on their blog at the same time. That way, you both get more exposure and an opportunity to get more followers.

Extra effort can be difficult to find when you’ve exhausted yourself with the customers you do have, but more customers equals more success and more success will allow you to hire more help! Marketing is worth the time you put into it. Don’t be satisfied with close enough, strive for excellence!