Your website is the core of your marketing strategy, or it should be. It can also be an essential part of your sales cycle, and form a part of your operational activities.

So just having a website isn’t enough to keep your business competitive. Coming in at #7, An Ineffective Website can set you on the road to ruin.
Whether you sell online or provide a service or product in-person only, your website needs to be considered and constructed as an integral part of your business model.

Protection Strategies

  • Include your website in a flow chart of your business model: This is one of the best ways to focus the potential of your website with how you do business. Remember that “website” doesn’t just mean a story and sales pitch with a few photos. When you say website, think “internet enabled technologies.” Send internet users to your website for a purpose; give them the opportunity to begin the sales cycles, even if it’s just making an inquiry; and, provide decisive buyers with the ability to provide additional information needed to move to production.
  • Consider how your employees, vendors, and others who are part of your business process, can use internet technologies to improve productivity. Is your inventory online? Can orders be place?
  • Include basic information and keep it up to date: Be sure your public facing content answers the basic questions of who you are, what you offer, when you are open, where you are located, why they should do business with you, and how to contact you. If changes occur, update your website AND do a Google search for ALL other sources to make or request updating.
  • Make sure your site is “mobile responsive:” This means that your website can be navigated and read on any type of device. Most searches are now done on a smartphone, so this is really important.
  • Include all “decision-making criteria” for your products or services: Whether you’re selling sweaters or cleaning services, tell people what they want to know to be able to make a decision. If you’re not sure what those criteria are, ask a few colleagues or friends what they’d want to know before buying.

Contact us for a free evaluation of your website!

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Continued:
Serial Killers of Business #1
Serial Killers of Business #2
Serial Killers of Business #3
Serial Killers of Business #4
Serial Killers of Business #5
Serial Killers of Business #6
Serial Killers of Business #7
Serial Killers of Business #8
Serial Killers of Business #9
Serial Killers of Business #10

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Marcie’s great, isn’t she? She does all the ordering, pays all the bills, fixes the printers, and seems to be the only one who can get that old safe to open.

Then, without warning, Marcie’s gone, and she’s not coming back. That would be #8 on our killer’s list, Loss of a Key Employee.

“Key” has nothing to do with seniority, and may more often refer to someone who doesn’t have a high profile in your company. What they do have is knowledge that you may never be able to replace. And while you’re trying to open the safe to make the deposit to pay the bills, no one is attending to your customers.

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Protection Strategies

  • Create a failsafe system for passwords: No one in a business environment should have sole access to critical systems. Assign someone to maintain a master list of all passwords; and think beyond computers, to include phones, alarm systems, credit card accounts. Ensure that the list is updated regularly and that a copy is passed to a second person.
  • Cross-train employees on business critical systems: Your bookkeeping system is a great example. This is where you create invoices, receive payments, receive invoices and make payments; all of which is critical to staying in business. If the one person who knows how to use the system (or the password!) was gone, how long would it take you to get back on track? If you have any custom built software, be very afraid. So, make sure you have a backup person. Train them on the basics and make sure they can at least access the system if you have to call in a professional.
  • Talk to your bank about low risk contingencies: Basic business banking, like making deposits, is getting more difficult. Cash deposits, in particular, may not be accepted from someone the bank staff is unfamiliar with. Find out if you can add account representatives for deposits and inquiries, without giving them full signing authority. Make sure at least two people do have that authority though.
  • Identify unique knowledge and share it: Marcie probably takes great pride in being the only one who can fix those quirky printers and open the old safe. Be sure to thank her appropriately for her dedication while you learn her secrets. Write them down, even though you hope you never have to use them.

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Continued:
Serial Killers of Business #1
Serial Killers of Business #2
Serial Killers of Business #3
Serial Killers of Business #4
Serial Killers of Business #5
Serial Killers of Business #6
Serial Killers of Business #7
Serial Killers of Business #8
Serial Killers of Business #9
Serial Killers of Business #10

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Patience no longer exists. We live in a world where instant gratification is the expected norm.

If you are going to make your clients wait more than five seconds for anything, you’d better have both an explanation and a strategy. Coming in at #9, Making Customers Wait is a relative newcomer to the list, but one worth worrying about.

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Protection Strategies

  • Focus on your core business and your “unique sales proposition” (USP): If you can’t deliver as quickly as Amazon, you’d better be able to beat them on several other factors, like quality or price.
  • Build contingencies into your supply chain: Whether you are a manufacturer, retailer or service provider, be sure that you know what the essential components are for doing what you do in the time period promised. Consider people, places, and things and have a backup plan.
  • Under promise, over deliver: I don’t know who said that, but it’s a great idea because tolerance is about managing expectations. If you think it will take a week, say 10 days. If you can deliver within the week, you look like a star. If it takes 10 days, well, that’s what they expected anyway.
  • Ensure there are performance minimums in your vendor contracts: Losing a customer when it’s not even your fault is pretty frustrating, but not as frustrating as a customer hearing you say it’s not your fault. Make sure you can count on those who represent you, and if you can’t count on them, replace them.
  • Get rid of your waiting room: If I have an appointment with you at 2pm, I expect to be in your office, not the waiting room, at 2pm. If at 2:45, I’m still in your waiting room with a bunch of other people who are also waiting for you, I will suggest that we all up and leave you for someone who respects us. (That gives you a hint about my age, because a millennial will be expecting to video conference you.)

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Continued:
Serial Killers of Business #1
Serial Killers of Business #2
Serial Killers of Business #3
Serial Killers of Business #4
Serial Killers of Business #5
Serial Killers of Business #6
Serial Killers of Business #7
Serial Killers of Business #8
Serial Killers of Business #9
Serial Killers of Business #10

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While it’s never a good idea to focus too much attention on what not to do in business, analyzing negative outcomes allows us to determine where the missteps occurred so that others can avoid them.

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In this series, we’ll look at our Top 10 Serial Killers of Business – the ones that seem to be repeated over and over again. The take-away is that old adage, “hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”

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#10 Loss of a Key Customer
The highest risk here is to freelancers and smaller businesses, but even the multi-nationals sometimes get caught without ready options. It is admittedly very easy to ride high on a long, profitable project that has no end in sight. You work hard, and you play hard, and you don’t worry about spending. The most common problem with this scenario, is that the end is never in sight. It often happens very suddenly. You’re out. The client has no further need of your services, no matter how vociferously you point out your worth. And, this particular client has no idea when they might need you again. It’s maybe the worst kind of break-up, hurting your feelings as well as your livelihood.

So, you except it up and make a plan to start searching for the next big thing. The problem is, you only now realize that it’s been two years since you’ve had any contact with any of your other big clients; since you’ve attended a networking event; since you’ve done any active marketing at all. You have no leads and no prospects.

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Protection Strategies

Stay in touch with existing clients and contacts: Your goal here is to strengthen or at least maintain, positive relationships. Schedule a half day twice a year to send a personal email or greeting card to your best customers. If you can create a formal Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program that includes all of your contacts, that’s even better.
Continue networking: Make it a priority to attend at least one event each month. Consider assigning a staff member to do the rest, or better yet, seek out some new networking venues.
Continue marketing: It may seem like a waste of money to advertise when you don’t need the work, but it’s not. Let the inquiries continue, and be sure to respond to them promptly. If someone wants to hire you, find out how urgent it is. If you can’t fit it in yourself, bring on a recruit or associate. If you have to say no, tell them you’ll get in touch when you’re available again, creating an opportunity for a future sales call.
Create a “Flying High Fund:” Set aside 10 to 25% of your monthly earnings every month while you’re “Flying High” with this fabulous customer. Consider it the “shock absorber” you’ll need if a break-up occurs.

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Continued:
Serial Killers of Business #1
Serial Killers of Business #2
Serial Killers of Business #3
Serial Killers of Business #4
Serial Killers of Business #5
Serial Killers of Business #6
Serial Killers of Business #7
Serial Killers of Business #8
Serial Killers of Business #9
Serial Killers of Business #10

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Three men walk into a restaurant. Each is seated in a different section with a different waitress. The first man says, “I’ll have the special,” to which his waitress replies, “We don’t have a special.” The man gets up and walks out.

When the second man says, “I’ll have the special,” the waitress replies, “Coming right up!” She orders him the most expensive item on the menu. The man is satisfied enough with the meal, shocked by the bill, and while blaming himself, leaves with a bad taste in his mouth, so to speak.

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The third man says the same thing, “I’ll have the special.” His waitress responds with, “How about some fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy for $12.95?” The man smiles and says, “Great.”

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Which waitress is the best representation of your company?
Waitress #1 is just going through the motions. You want a widget, you get a widget. You want a screw driver, go somewhere else.

Waitress #2 is all about the money and what she can get out of the current situation. Yes, she sold a big ticket item. Yes, she got a pretty decent tip. But she’s never going to see this guy in the restaurant again. In fact, he may share his story with a friend or two, keeping others away as well.

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Waitress #3 wants her customer to be happy. She asks herself, “why would a person order the special when they don’t know what the special is,” which they don’t because there is no special. She figures this guy is hungry but either doesn’t have the energy or doesn’t have the time to read through all the choices and make a decision. He doesn’t need to hear that there is no special. She doesn’t want to take advantage of a guy having a bad day. She helps him out by making a reasonable suggestion, and make a friend she’ll see again and again right around lunch time.

Before you start setting goals for 2018, take some time to think about your company’s values, and how your employees are taught and reminded to demonstrate those values day to day.

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blankIf your website needs more than the kind of quick fix we talked about last time, consider a makeover featuring some of these emerging trends.

Get Curvy
Since our device screens are straight edged rectangles, we tend to stick to square-ish designs, but unnecessarily. Particularly if you have a female target market, consider rounding the silhouette of your site, as well as the menu and section markers.

Sketch it Out
It’s not a good idea to replace product images with doodles, but illustrations or sketches instead of background or banner images will give your site a very unique look and feel. Consider drawings for flow charts, page headings, and any diagrams.

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Be Bold with Colour
Back in the day, there were eight colours available on the web. Yup, that’s it. Eight. Today, there are more than 16 million shades, and while you don’t want to use too many of them on the same site, do consider shaking things up a bit.

Add a Cinemagraph
Speaking of the olden days, remember those animated gifs we all thought were awesome? Well, start with a photograph instead of an illustration, and you have a cinemagraph. It’s very similar to a “live” photo, but continues on a loop. It’s just that little bit of unexpected movement that captures the viewer’s attention and makes you memorable.

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Put a Chatbot to Work for You
Having a resource available 24/7 to answer customer questions and help them find the items they’re looking for, can really amp up sales. The option to training and staffing all of those shifts is deploying an artificial intelligence technology, known as a chatbot. While training is still required, your chatbot can chat with numerous customers at once, and keep track of each customer’s questions and purchases; great for recommending new items on their next visit.

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blankSpruce up your website for 2018 (and more importantly, for under $1,000!)

‘Twas the season for spending, so Angela’s in bargain hunting mode. She suggested an article on quick and easy (and therefore, cheap) ways to perk up a website that’s a couple of years old. Great idea, so here we go!

Bold typography is an emerging trend for 2018, so we can make your site look very current with a few changes to the font style and colour. If you do this yourself, don’t go crazy, leave the body text plain, and use the same choice for headers consistently throughout the site.

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Change to new, unique photos.

Images are powerful, and even more so when they show you, your customers and your products/services. Whether you’re using stock images now or site visitors have just been looking at the same photos for months, changing things up will give your site a wonderful boost.

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Take something away.

Every aspect of your website should have a purpose. We can go through your site with you page by page and look for anything – a sentence, an image, a background shape – that really doesn’t need to be there. You’ll end up with more white space and more concise text, making the site more focused and easier to navigate.

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blankIn this last article of the series, we look at one of the most important aspects of Web Optimization – performance. Resolving performance issues are best left to the pros, but here are some things to test (after clearing your cache in your browser).

Load Time
The home page or landing page should appear within two seconds of the URL being entered. If nothing happens immediately, or if one band of content appears, then another, etc., the load time is too slow to hold a potential customer’s attention. They’ll either get frustrated and leave, or label your site suspicious and leave. Check for slow loading images, tables or forms as well.

Broken Links
Broken links (clicks that result in no change, a 404 page, or an unexpected page) are annoying for users, and can potentially lead to offensive material. All internal and external links on your site should be checked at least once a month.

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Multiple Browsers
Your website needs to work well with common browsers like Internet Explorer and Chrome, but also with other popular browsers, including Firefox and Safari.

Non-Native Browser Software (or Browser Plug-ins?)
A public facing website should be easily accessible by any user in any browser. Content that requires the use of browser plug-ins or other additional software, will most likely never to be seen.

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User Input Errors
As we mentioned in the last article, providing clear instructions for form completion is a great help to customers, and keeps them on the hook. If your forms are set up to reject certain input (e.g. letters in the phone number field), be sure to provide a detailed error message at the field’s location. That is, don’t wait until the entire form (or order) is completed and submitted to come back with the error message; and for heaven’s sake, do not make someone start over!

User Feedback
Make sure that you have a process in place to capture and review user feedback. All staff that have contact with the public should be aware of that process and understand the importance of writing it down and sending it along for analysis. You can be pretty sure that if you got one complaint about your website, there are many, many more users out there who just didn’t bother. Listening to your site users is the most effective way to keep your site in top condition.

Continued:
Web Optimization – Part 1: The Home Page
Web Optimization – Part 2: Design & Navigation
Web Optimization – Part 3: Features & Functionality
Web Optimization – Part 4: Content
Web Optimization – Part 5: Performance

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blankSo far, in this series on Web Optimization, we’ve talked about the Home Page, Design and Navigation, and Features and Functionality. Today is all about content.

Create your content outline to answer questions. The information you provide on your site should be tailored to answer your target market’s questions about your products or services. Too much information is just as bad as too little, so focus on decision-making criteria. If you sell clothing online, potential buyers are not likely to care about your personal family situation. They want to know what your prices are and if you ship for free. On the other hand, if you’re an accountant who has just established a new firm, the fact that you live with a spouse and children in the local area may well help to build trust.

Tone and Terminology
In Part 3 of our Marketing Series, we talked about Brand Management. Part of that discussion was establishing the character or personality of your brand. The tone of voice and terminology you use on your website should be consistent with that personality. If you’re a hot fashion brand marketing to teens, you’ll want to use the latest lingo and be focused on the look. If you’re a funeral home, a more subdued, compassionate tone, with plain language is more appropriate. If you are branded as the best power tool manufacturer on the planet, industry jargon and specs will help sell the brand and the products.

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Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation
With the exception of brand and market appropriate lingo and jargon, it is absolutely essential to use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation on your website. A few mistakes can undo any traction you’ve gained. In the mind of the site visitor, if the quality of your website is poor, your products and services will be too.

Images
Choosing images for your website is like walking a field of landmines. “The Internet,” as the collective is often referred to, are hyper-sensitive about pretty much everything – politics, religion, gender, race, body image, etc., etc. With that in mind, high quality images of your product in use, with close-ups of important details, are a great selling feature. For service providers, photos of you and your staff should be considered, along with images that convey what you do, as well as the results – physically and emotionally. For example, a roofing company would show a picture of the new roof and the happy, proud home owners.

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Forms
Forms are another tricky item that require considerable thought. Your primary goal is to get the potential customer’s contact information so you can follow up. You may need to ask a few questions if you’re doing a quote or need to choose the right person to make the call back, but make sure the questions are relevant. If you ask too many questions, or get too personal too soon, visitors will balk and may abandon the form entirely. Provide precise instructions using example text if possible, to avoid causing frustration. For example, if the first box is “Name,” the second box should not be “Last Name.” If the phone number field is set to only accept numbers in xxx-xxx-xxxx format, point that out. It’s also helpful to provide options for the time of the callback, i.e. morning, afternoon, or evening, and make sure you call at the time requested.

Continued:
Web Optimization – Part 1: The Home Page
Web Optimization – Part 2: Design & Navigation
Web Optimization – Part 3: Features & Functionality
Web Optimization – Part 4: Content
Web Optimization – Part 5: Performance

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blankIn this web optimization series, we’re looking at methods to increase conversions – the number of site visitors who respond to your call to action to make a purchase, get a quote, or contact you.

When we talk about features and functionality, we’re talking about the options provided for visitors to interact with the site. Each site will use different tactics, depending on what it is you’re selling, so translate the examples to your own business situation.

Features and functionality meet common user goals and objectives. Harkening back to our earlier marketing series, you really have to take the consumers’ perspective to meet user needs. In this case, think about all of the reasons why a visitor might come to your site. Break it down into small steps along the path to a decision. What do they want to accomplish? Perhaps find out if you sell a certain product or provide a particular service. Perhaps comparing prices or level of expertise. If you sell clothing, have you provided a sizing chart? If you’re a hair salon, are you open in the evening? Can a customer book an appointment online? Make as long a list as you can about what that shopper might want to learn or do, and compare that to your current site. Do you need to add a search function? An online appointment booking function? A sizing calculator?

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Features and functionality support users desired workflows. One of my pet peeves is a good example here. I’m shopping online for promotional products. I search for drinkware and get several pages of different tumblers, mugs, etc. I click on an item near the end of the page to get more info. It’s not what I’m looking for, so I click to go back. But instead of going back to where I left off, I’m at the top of the page again, and have to scroll down line after line to figure out where I was. On the positive side, my bank now lets me enter several different bills to pay on the same page, so when I click submit, they all get done at once.

Frequently-used tasks are readily available and well supported. Speaking of banks, the industry has actually done a pretty good job of this, particularly with their mobile apps. You can check your balance with one touch on your phone, or login to pay bills, transfer money between accounts, or send money to someone via text or email. If you sell contact lenses, for example, saving the ordering information to allow a simple repeat order, will be appreciated by your customers.

Users are adequately supported according to their level of expertise. Providing functionality without proper instructions is frustrating for users, and therefore works against you. If you don’t want to clutter up the pages for your more savvy buyers, you can use a help icon that opens up a box of info without leaving the page.

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Calls to action are clear, and easy to take. Every call to action should also provide the means to take that action. If you say, “Call us,” provide the phone number. Don’t make site visitors hunt for your contact information or the quote request you’re referring to. Make sure that when they are ready to take the action, they can take it immediately.

How is your website stacking up so far? If you need to make some modifications, just give us a call at 604-556-0211 or toll free at 1-877-999-4427.

Continued:
Web Optimization – Part 1: The Home Page
Web Optimization – Part 2: Design & Navigation
Web Optimization – Part 3: Features & Functionality
Web Optimization – Part 4: Content
Web Optimization – Part 5: Performance

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blankWeb optimization is a process used to maximize the number of visitors who make a purchase online or begin the transaction process by contacting you. In this series, we’re looking at some of the factors involved in optimizing your website.

“Design” includes colours, fonts, shapes, and layout. “Navigation” includes the actual structure of pages and how they are linked together, as well as the presentation to users that allows them to get to the various pages.

While you always want your design to be appealing to your target market, it also needs to be purposeful, and can be helpful in building trust, keeping attention, and aiding in navigation. Let’s look at some specifics.

The design is consistent with the brand and throughout the site. Between hackers and scammers, how’s a person to know if they’ve landed on a legitimate and secure site? It’s definitely getting harder, so the little things count; like putting your logo front and center, and ensuring the colours and other design factors are consistent with your brand. For example, most of us are familiar with the Coca-Cola brand. Now, if you landed on a website that was supposed to be Coca-Cola’s but the main colours on the site were green and yellow, or the iconic font was switched to Times Roman, we’d get pretty suspicious. So, go with what your customers know.

Consistency in design and layout on all pages, assists users to navigate the site (e.g. the menu bar stays put) and provides confirmation that they have not clicked on to an external location.

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The design assists with user navigation and interaction. Underlining links has become passé, but it is helpful to make links noticeable by using a different colour or font. If you have forms, calculators, or similar resources on your site, make it obvious what is intended to be input, and where it goes. Faint font italics that say something like, “Enter your name here,” are one example of how to avoid user frustration.

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The design layout changes for optimal use on any sized device. This is very important these days with the number of people who access the web with their phones; but don’t forget about tablets, mini-tablets, and big screen users. What you want is a design and layout that recognizes each different type of device, and automatically alters itself.

Continued:
Web Optimization – Part 1: The Home Page
Web Optimization – Part 2: Design & Navigation
Web Optimization – Part 3: Features & Functionality
Web Optimization – Part 4: Content
Web Optimization – Part 5: Performance

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blankWeb optimization is a process used to maximize the number of visitor “conversions.” On an ecommerce website, a conversion is a sale, but conversions include any visitor action promoted on the site, such as filling out a Request for Quote form, sending an email or making a phone call to the company.

We have a 38 point evaluation model that examines 9 aspects of a site’s components, and in this new series, we’ll delve into some of the factors we look at to optimize a website.

In most cases, a visitor enters the site on the Home Page. For new visitors, this page is their first introduction to your company and making a good first impression is critical. Web users make decisions at lightning speed, so you only have a few seconds to convince them not to click away to someone else.

Here are a few of the factors we look for:

The company name and services are clearly identified. This may sound obvious, but it’s really important to have the name clearly visible. This allows visitors to confirm that they’ve landed on the site they’re looking for. Next, they want to confirm that you sell what they’re looking for; and third, they want to make sure that you provide services or deliver to their location. Make sure these three bits of information are noticeable at a glance.

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The Home Page provides a clear overview of the content, features and functionality available. Visitors come to your site with a purpose, and the more scenarios you envision, the better able you’ll be to provide the information they need on your Home Page. Let’s say you sell women’s clothing. At a minimum, users want to know if all of your products are shown on the site; and can they buy online. If you’re a service provider, they’ll want to know if they can make an appointment online, or request a quote. If your site has more advanced features, like uploading a photo to “try-on” eye glasses for example, that’s something else that you want to let them know on the Home Page.

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The Home Page effectively directs users to their desired information and tasks. Up to this point, your goal has been to keep users on the Home Page long enough to take the next step towards a conversion. Now, you need to make sure that taking that next step is easy. Continuing with our women’s clothing example, the user wants to buy a red sweater. At this point, they know you sell women’s clothing, and they know that they can make a purchase online; so how to they find the red sweaters? Again, keep in mind that this user may have no loyalty to your company, so they are not going to put much effort into the search – there are plenty of other sweater sellers out there. A search function at the top of the page, or several category boxes (e.g. Dresses, Shirts, Sweaters) are examples of ways to keep visitors on the path to conversion.

Continued:
Web Optimization – Part 1: The Home Page
Web Optimization – Part 2: Design & Navigation
Web Optimization – Part 3: Features & Functionality
Web Optimization – Part 4: Content
Web Optimization – Part 5: Performance

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blankWe’re wrapping up this article series with a few frequently asked questions about Search Engine Optimization, and moving on to another topic. What would you like to learn more about? Send us your questions and suggestions on anything to do with Internet Advertising! Now, FAQs.

Do I need a blog for SEO? No, but a regular blog with relevant content that is valuable to your audience will help your ranking because it is viewed as new, quality content on your site. If you can’t commit though to a specific schedule and consistent high quality info, don’t start a blog.

If I get a high ranking, do I still need to advertise? If you want to attract new customers, yes. Even if you appear on the first page of search results, that only happens when someone searches for one of your keywords. To attract new audiences, find customers for a new product or service, or develop a new market, you need to advertise.

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Do I really need to hire a professional SEO writer? You do need a writer who knows how to produce quality, SEO content. If you have one in-house, that’s great. If you have an employee who is a great writer but has no experience with SEO content, Google has some great resources, but it will take time for them to learn. Also, remember that the text is only one part of the SEO formula. (See previous articles in this series for more.)

Why does SEO work go on and on? Because the internet is ever changing – like every second of the day. Sites you have links to or from may go offline. Updates to browsers can conflict with code on your site. Terminology changes, so user search terms change. New competitors spring up. The popularity of a product or service changes. Maintaining a top ranking is a continuous process.

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nickDo you have more questions? Would you like to know more about our SEO packages?

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Meet Nick!

Give him a call at 604-556-0211 or email [email protected]

Continued:
What you need to know about SEO – Part 1: What is it?
What you need to know about SEO – Part 2: How Search Engines Produce Results
What you need to know about SEO – Part 3: More about Crawling Spiders
What you need to know about SEO – Part 4: More about Indexing
What you need to know about SEO – Part 5: More about Ranking
What you need to know about SEO – Part 6: More about Quality Content
What you need to know about SEO – Part 7: Even More about Quality
What you need to know about SEO – Part 8: Wrap Up

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blankAnother way to think about quality content is creating a site to meet your customers’ needs. While you can’t anticipate what an individual customer might be looking for, you can make it easier to find any specific thing on your site, with these considerations.

Simple Navigation: Creating an appropriate navigation system is like sorting laundry. You look at all the items you want to include, and then sort them in to logical categories. Use plain words to describe each category, avoiding those confounding icons or cutesy sayings that have led you into the wrong restaurant bathroom more than once.

Descriptive Page Names, Titles and Headings: If you have a page for Blue Sweaters, call the page Blue Sweaters, use the title Blue Sweaters, and create content headings using Blue Sweaters; e.g. Blue Sweaters – Cotton. This ensures that the humans and the bots find the Blue Sweaters.

Accurate Product/Service Descriptions: Returns and unsatisfied customers are the bane of every business and can massively harm your reputation. Provide all necessary descriptors accurately. Remember that sizes are useless without a sizing chart, and these can differ by brand.

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Consistent Information: This seems like a no-brainer, but far too many websites confuse customers by saying one thing on one page, and something seemingly different on the next. This can happen inadvertently when you are updating content, so always be sure to review the entire site again, even if you only change one page.

Appropriate Jargon: Use terminology suited to your target audience. If they understand the industry jargon, use it. If they don’t, but it’s important, explain it. If they don’t know or care, use plain language.

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You can create quality content for your own website, but it can be hard to swivel your brain to the outsider’s perspective. Hiring a professional is well worth it, and we happen to have one our team! Give us a call for more information.

Continued:
What you need to know about SEO – Part 1: What is it?
What you need to know about SEO – Part 2: How Search Engines Produce Results
What you need to know about SEO – Part 3: More about Crawling Spiders
What you need to know about SEO – Part 4: More about Indexing
What you need to know about SEO – Part 5: More about Ranking
What you need to know about SEO – Part 6: More about Quality Content
What you need to know about SEO – Part 7: Even More about Quality
What you need to know about SEO – Part 8: Wrap Up

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blankQuality content is important for a number of reasons, including search engine optimization. But what exactly is it? Here are x of the main factors that will result in quality content.

Expected Basics: The 5 W’s are the place to start. Who are you? What do you sell or provide? When are you reachable? Where are you located? Why should I contact you? Your potential customers need this information to know if you can help them, and it helps to builds credibility.

Relevant and Concise: The user’s perspective is critical here. What does a potential customer really want to know? If you are a professional service provider, they may want to know your credentials. They don’t likely want to read through your entire life history to find that info.

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Informative: Your website is a great place to educate your target market, but don’t turn it into one of those late-night infomercials. Share knowledge of your products or services. Provide tips relevant to your industry. Go deep into particular aspects, materials, or jargon. Basically, be a resource for those who want to learn more. Keep this content separate though, in articles or a blog, so those who are looking for just the basics can find that easily.

Original: If you think you’re getting a deal paying a pittance for content for your website, think again. The reason you’re paying such a low price is that the same content, and often the exact same wording, is being sold over and over again. Originality counts in SEO ranking and to your site viewers. Make sure it is tailored to your brand voice, to your target audience, and to your products or services.

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Flawless: Make sure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors; that the narrative flows in a logical manner; that image captions are correct; and that all links are active and go to the proper place.

Continued:
What you need to know about SEO – Part 1: What is it?
What you need to know about SEO – Part 2: How Search Engines Produce Results
What you need to know about SEO – Part 3: More about Crawling Spiders
What you need to know about SEO – Part 4: More about Indexing
What you need to know about SEO – Part 5: More about Ranking
What you need to know about SEO – Part 6: More about Quality Content
What you need to know about SEO – Part 7: Even More about Quality
What you need to know about SEO – Part 8: Wrap Up

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blankIf you’ve done any research on search engine optimization, you’ve no doubt seen the word “algorithm” as part of an explanation about how search engines prioritize or rank results. So what is an algorithm?

It can take many forms, but an algorithm is basically a formula or step by step process. For example, a mathematical algorithm tells you how to solve a mathematical problem. It tells you what action to do first, what to next, etc. until you have the answer. A cooking recipe is also an algorithm. It tells you what actions to take to result in a batch of muffins.

Google uses not one, but many algorithms to determine the ranking of web sites in response to a search, deciding which one is at the top of the first page, and all the way to page 10 and beyond. While no one knows exactly what those algorithms are, we can give you a fictitious and simplistic example just for understanding’s sake.

You type in “dog walkers” in hope of finding an experienced and reputable person to go into your apartment mid-day and take Fido out for a walk and bathroom break.

Google searches its index and finds all the web pages with “dog” and all the web pages with “walkers.”

Algorithm #1 knocks out all the pages that have “dog” but not “walker” and vice versa. Its job is to get you the right information, not just match the two words, giving you a confusing list of results about dog breeding and devices to help seniors walk without tripping.

Algorithm #2 looks at where the phrase “dog walker” appears on the shorter list of web pages. Is it part of the URL, as in www.abbotsforddogwalker.com? Is it in a page title, like “Our Dog Walkers’ Qualifications?” Does it appear only in the text? Let’s say this narrows the list down to only pages where the term appears in all three locations.

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Algorithm #3 takes a different perspective all together, and looks at information it has about the searcher. It knows that the searcher is in Vancouver, and likely knows the neighbourhood too. It also knows that yesterday, the searcher was looking for rain gear for large dogs. Since our list has 125 pages for dog walker in Vancouver, it drops all the rest. Of those 125, four specifically mention large dogs. Those go to the top of list.

And on it goes, looking at hundreds of factors, identifying and dropping spamming sites, raising the ranking of sites with high quality content (more on that next time), and the ones that are linked from other relevant and quality web sites (e.g. a local dog association or the SPCA).

All of that to say, you can’t get to the top of the results list with words alone.

Continued:
What you need to know about SEO – Part 1: What is it?
What you need to know about SEO – Part 2: How Search Engines Produce Results
What you need to know about SEO – Part 3: More about Crawling Spiders
What you need to know about SEO – Part 4: More about Indexing
What you need to know about SEO – Part 5: More about Ranking
What you need to know about SEO – Part 6: More about Quality Content
What you need to know about SEO – Part 7: Even More about Quality
What you need to know about SEO – Part 8: Wrap Up

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blankIf you go to the back pages of a reference book, you’ll find a list of key words and which page of the book those key words are on. This is called an index, and while tremendously more sophisticated, Google’s index is a digital version of this concept.

The crawlers (see Part 3) look at the words on a webpage and send them to the Google index, along with other data, such as where the word is on the page, whether the word is part of a title, or in the description of an image (called “alternative text” or an “alt tag”).

The index of words is obviously important in matching a web page to the word or phrase that is being searched, but it is only one of many factors considered in the ranking. For example, if you type in “plumbers” in the search box, Google goes to the index to find all of the web pages that have the word “plumbers.” So, if you have that word on your web page, Google knows it’s a match. But how good a match?

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Google understands that you are not actually looking for the word plumbers, but rather, are looking for a plumber, in a specific location, that you can call to repair a broken water pipe or install a new bathroom sink. So in that indexing process, Google is also looking for words or phrases related to “plumbers,” like “broken water pipe” or “new bathroom sink.” They are also looking for a web page that has a location, a phone number, and maybe a paragraph about what to do if a water pipe breaks.

The bottom line is that while words are important, it’s never one specific word no matter how many times you repeat it that is going to get you on the first page of search results.

Continued:
What you need to know about SEO – Part 1: What is it?
What you need to know about SEO – Part 2: How Search Engines Produce Results
What you need to know about SEO – Part 3: More about Crawling Spiders
What you need to know about SEO – Part 4: More about Indexing
What you need to know about SEO – Part 5: More about Ranking
What you need to know about SEO – Part 6: More about Quality Content
What you need to know about SEO – Part 7: Even More about Quality
What you need to know about SEO – Part 8: Wrap Up

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SpiderFirst, a little lingo lesson. A “bot” is a computer program that, once put into action, runs automatically. The internet is often referred to as “the web” because it functions much like a spider’s web, with many different ways to connect between two specific points.

Google uses a bot (aptly named “Googlebot”) to crawl the web. This type of bot, also used by other search engines, are also referred to as spiders. Got it?

Googlebot crawls through the web looking for things that have changed. It wants to find new pages, new links, as well as deleted content and dead links. Links in and out of web pages are particularly important to search engines, so dead links are a sign that something is wrong, and therefore is going to be a problem for users – and therefore, this info will ultimately weight negatively when compiling search results. Maintaining logical links (like within a site) as well as high quality incoming links (like from reputable directories) is a key process in SEO.

Since search engines are text based, Googlebot and other spiders can only read text based content. That means that they do not know what images represent unless they are appropriately described in what is called “alt text.” This also makes it particularly important to use a text based navigation system rather than something fancier, however visually appealing.

SEO Search

Spider accessibility is also determined by the speed with which the site is deployed by the hosting server when requested. Googlebot won’t hang around waiting (and neither will your potential customers).

Keeping your website clean, readable, and readily available to those spiders is essential to getting your site’s content indexed and presented in results.

Continued:
What you need to know about SEO – Part 1: What is it?
What you need to know about SEO – Part 2: How Search Engines Produce Results
What you need to know about SEO – Part 3: More about Crawling Spiders
What you need to know about SEO – Part 4: More about Indexing
What you need to know about SEO – Part 5: More about Ranking
What you need to know about SEO – Part 6: More about Quality Content
What you need to know about SEO – Part 7: Even More about Quality
What you need to know about SEO – Part 8: Wrap Up

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blankGoogle is the most popular search engine out there and they offer great resources for developers and marketers, so we’re going to use Google as our search engine example.

Google uses a three step process to figure out what your website is all about, how to categorize it, and how to match it. Google has an army of computers that visit every page on the internet on a regular basis. They call this “crawling” the web. By comparing what they (the computers) found the last time they completed a round a visits to their current round, they know which pages are new, which have disappeared, and which have changed.

The words found by the crawlers are then “indexed” by page address and location on the page.

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When a user types a word or phrase, the Google computers look at all of the content in the index, and using more than 200 factors, determines which pages are the most relevant and valuable to the user. The exact nature of those factors and how they weight in the calculations are known only to Google. What we do know, and what Google stresses to web developers and site owners, is that what they care about most is providing authentic, helpful information to site visitors.

Continued:
What you need to know about SEO – Part 1: What is it?
What you need to know about SEO – Part 2: How Search Engines Produce Results
What you need to know about SEO – Part 3: More about Crawling Spiders
What you need to know about SEO – Part 4: More about Indexing
What you need to know about SEO – Part 5: More about Ranking
What you need to know about SEO – Part 6: More about Quality Content
What you need to know about SEO – Part 7: Even More about Quality
What you need to know about SEO – Part 8: Wrap Up

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blankWelcome to our new article series. Don’t worry, this one is information only – no homework! Well, that is true if you actually did do your homework last time and wrote your marketing plan. Why? Because a great SEO program needs a lot of the information you complied in your plan.

That said, in this series, we’re going to share some knowledge so you can really understand the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), how it fits in with other marketing activities, and how to keep yourself away from the digital version of the proverbial “snake oil salesmen.” So let’s get started!

Search Engine Optimization means modifying your website to allow search engines to make the best possible matches between what you sell and searchers who want what you sell. If you’re surprised that we didn’t say anything about ranking number one, you’re not alone, and you’re not entirely wrong if you think ranking is important. But here’s the thing – the internet is like a huge library. Imagine going into a Costco sized building with rows and rows of books on every shelf. You want a book about decorating cakes for a kid’s birthday party. You don’t really care what the most popular book in the library is. You don’t really care what the most popular book about cooking is. You don’t even care about the most popular book about baking cakes. What you want is exactly what you said you want – a book about decorating cakes for a kid’s birthday party.

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When we put this example into virtual space, where there are more than four billion web pages, IF your website (or a page within it) is about decorating cakes for a kid’s birthday party, THEN yes, you want to rank #1. If your site is about anything else, it doesn’t really matter where you rank, because the person searching doesn’t care.

So, how do search engines like Google determine what makes a good match? That’s what this series will be all about. Stay tuned!

Continued:
What you need to know about SEO – Part 1: What is it?
What you need to know about SEO – Part 2: How Search Engines Produce Results
What you need to know about SEO – Part 3: More about Crawling Spiders
What you need to know about SEO – Part 4: More about Indexing
What you need to know about SEO – Part 5: More about Ranking
What you need to know about SEO – Part 6: More about Quality Content
What you need to know about SEO – Part 7: Even More about Quality
What you need to know about SEO – Part 8: Wrap Up

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blankWelcome to the final edition of our Marketing series. Over these past months, we’ve dedicated each newsletter to one component of a Marketing Plan, and how you can do the research and strategizing needed to develop a plan for your company. In this last installment, we’ll summarize some highlights and provide links to the related article for each component.

The most common theme throughout the development of a Marketing Plan is knowing everything you can dig up about your customers. That information helps you think the way they think, so you can meet their expectations in every facet of your business operations.

In the article Your Products, Services, and Target Markets we provided a worksheet to get you started, with a particular focus on matching what you have to sell with customers who want buy.

The next article was about Brand Management and used the analogy that the brand of your company has the same meaning to consumers that your character or personality has to your family and friends. Managing your brand means consumers are interacting with the same “character” at all touch points.

Then, we talked about Reputation Management and ensuring that your brand’s reputation is considered in all policies and procedures, and that all staff know what to do and how to maintain and promote your good name.

We offered three main strategies for maintaining good Customer Relations;

  • Helping customers make the right purchase;
  • Exceeding (or at least meeting) their expectations; and,
  • Following up in a friendly manner.

View your customers as friends. That means listening as well as talking, being fair, staying in touch, living up to your good reputation, and not taking advantage.

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In the article Public Relations we gave some examples of ways that your company could demonstrate that you care about more than just profits. Good PR is pro-active and consistent, not something you only think about in a crisis.

In March, we talked about Marketing Strategy – setting well-researched and considered objectives that support your business goals; setting a feasible budget with the mindset that it is an investment; and devising tactics premised on the characteristics of your target market segments.

Last month, we focused on the three objectives for Effective Advertising:

  • Getting the ad in front of your target market;
  • Garnering the attention of your target market; and,
  • Making a persuasive call to action.

We also stressed that ads only start the sales process, and that you need a great e-commerce website or top notch sales team to actually bring in the money.

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So there you have it! The seven major components of a Marketing Plan. If you don’t have time to develop a plan yourself, we can help.

Continued:
Marketing Series Part 1 – What “Marketing” Means
Marketing Series Part 2 – Your Products, Services & Target Markets
Marketing Series Part 3 – Brand Management
Marketing Series Part 4 – Reputation Management
Marketing Series Part 5 – Customer Relations
Marketing Series Part 6 – Public Relations
Marketing Series Part 7 – Marketing Strategy
Marketing Series Part 8 – Advertising
Marketing Series Part 9 – The Components of Your Marketing Plan

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blankGenerally speaking, advertising is any form of promotion where you pay to display content at a particular venue. In this article, we’ll discuss the different kinds of advertising and the best methods to use for different types of companies, products, services and audiences.

Effective advertising has three objectives:

  1. Getting the ad in front of your target market;
  2. Garnering the attention of your target market; and,
  3. Making a persuasive call to action.

Let’s look first at each of these separately.

Getting the ad in front of your target market

This used to be a lot more complicated and costly than it is today, since a very large proportion of every target market is online. With a few exceptions, digital formats are the most effective. Here are some examples of those exceptions:

  • Older seniors who remain more apt to read the local newspaper in print. Sales ads, coupons, and special events will likely get more traction for this group on the first few pages of a printed, community newspaper.
  • Sensitive personal ads. Every noticed the ads on the back of the bathroom stall door in bars and restaurants? They’re hard to miss, particularly for women, so a great spot to advertise personal hygiene, sexual health, or other products that may offend or embarrass in public venues.
  • Geographic specificity. If you’ve just opened a new coffee shop adjacent to a transit exchange, posters in the bus shelter, train station or transit car can be very effective.
  • Free anything. If the best way to advertise your product or service is with a freebie, go for it, BUT, make sure it’s really the best way. If your product or service isn’t unique or totally special, you won’t get the results you’re looking for.
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blankIf your target market or message are an exception, think about their characteristics, what their day to day lives entail, and where your ad will most likely be seen by them. For all other advertising, you need to answer similar questions, but your best options are online. Here’s a brief overview of alternatives:

  • Search Engine Marketing, Content Marketing, and Directory Listings are applicable to all audiences, products and services.
  • Social Media Marketing is also applicable to all audiences, however, there are differences between platforms.
  • LinkedIn or other industry specific sharing sites are best for Business to Business advertising. Twitter and Instagram can also be used, but only with a defined strategy.
  • Facebook advertising is great for middle-aged to younger seniors. Teens and younger adults have moved on to Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat.
  • News Sites are great for business to consumer advertising, but business associations and industry news sites are best for business to business ads.

Garnering the attention of your target market

Actually creating ads is best left to professionals, but the information you provide is critical to success. Creatives need to know as much as you can tell them about your target market and about your products or service.

Making a persuasive call to action

Again, professional ad creators are best to do the wordsmithing, but you need to be thoughtful about what you want a prospective customer to do next. Don’t use “Call Now” if you don’t have someone to answer to phone during the hours the ad might be seen, or you’ve wasted your money. Review your sales process to make sure that your call to action can quickly and easily end in an actual sale or appointment.

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blankKeep in mind…

  • Your website is the core of your online marketing. If your call to action is to go to your site, make sure it’s up to the task of making the sale.
  • Use all necessary materials as ad materials. Think facility signage, invoices, fleet vehicles, etc.
  • You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Business card magnets that stick to the fridge are still a great idea for routine services like chiropractic care or oil changes.

You can download our Advertising Worksheet here. Use a separate sheet for each segment of your target market. Then, give us a call. We’ll be happy to learn more about your business and recommend a tailor-made advertising program for you.

Continued:
Marketing Series Part 1 – What “Marketing” Means
Marketing Series Part 2 – Your Products, Services & Target Markets
Marketing Series Part 3 – Brand Management
Marketing Series Part 4 – Reputation Management
Marketing Series Part 5 – Customer Relations
Marketing Series Part 6 – Public Relations
Marketing Series Part 7 – Marketing Strategy
Marketing Series Part 8 – Advertising
Marketing Series Part 9 – The Components of Your Marketing Plan

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blankOver the past months, we’ve looked at six different marketing topics that will become components of your Marketing Plan. This month, we’re going to talk about the steps in devising your marketing strategy.As you’ve no doubt gathered by now in this series, the differences between different areas of marketing can be rather subtle. So, perhaps the best way to explain how Public Relations differs from Reputation Management or Customer Relations, is with some examples.

Setting Objectives

Setting objectives for your marketing plan is all about math. Considering your business model, overall business objectives, and customer purchasing data, think about what you need to accomplish with your marketing. If 50% of your existing customers spent an additional $10 a month, would you reach your business objectives? Would a 25% increase in your customer base be sufficient, or do you need to double it? Is there a sufficient population of your target market in the geographic area you currently serve or do you need to expand? When you’ve done your research and calculated the various options, your objectives should be stated as precisely as possible, and in measureable terms. For example:

  • Over the next three years, we will increase our customer base by 25%, bringing in 500 new customers.
  • In each of the next three years, we will increase the average sales per customer, per month by 10% to a total of $60.
  • By June 2019, 20% of our customers will be in the United States.

Setting a Budget

blankEstablishing a feasible marketing budget can be difficult, particularly when you view it only as an expense. The fact is though, that marketing is an investment on which you expect a return. That is, for every dollar you spend, you should earn at least a dollar back. If you earn one dollar and five cents on each dollar spent, your “return on investment” (ROI) is five percent.

The easiest way to set an actual number is to start at 10% of gross revenue, and then add to that.

Consider your current position in the marketplace. If you’re facing stiff competition, you’ll need to invest more to maintain your market share – and even more if you’re looking to pull customers away from an established brand. (Think Coke vs. Pepsi.)

Consider your objectives. Moving into new territories is going to cost more than upselling to your current customers.

Also consider your business plan and objectives. Are you planning to launch a new product or business line? Are you rebranding or feeling the need to better distinguish your brand from your competitors?

If that 10% plus number seems out of reach, think about what other expenses you could decrease to bolster your marketing budget – remembering that you will measure your return on investment from each strategy and tactic, adjusting these as needed to ensure the expected increase in sales.

blankSetting Parameters

Before you get the creative minds involved, review your brand character, company values, and other factors that make your company appealing to your customers. Set ground rules to ensure that your marketing strategy and tactics are enhancing your brand. (Review last month’s article for examples.)

Devising Strategies

The key to devising effective marketing strategies is to remember that marketing is much more than advertising. It includes loyalty programs, free samples, all of the PR areas discussed last month, trade shows, etc.

Think about the characteristics of your target market segments (see Part 2 article) and how you can use what comes naturally to them to meet your objectives. For example, if one of your segments is active on social media, a deep discount flash sale or digital coupon that can be easily shared, might go a long way in attracting new customers. If you have a segment that wants the latest and greatest, regardless of price, a personalized exclusive offer could help you increase the average sales figure.

blankSince we’re going to delve into advertising in next month’s installment, make your focus for this month’s worksheet strategies that take advantage of what you know about your target market.

For more ideas on ways to follow up, have a look at our Marketing Strategy Worksheet.

Continued:
Marketing Series Part 1 – What “Marketing” Means
Marketing Series Part 2 – Your Products, Services & Target Markets
Marketing Series Part 3 – Brand Management
Marketing Series Part 4 – Reputation Management
Marketing Series Part 5 – Customer Relations
Marketing Series Part 6 – Public Relations
Marketing Series Part 7 – Marketing Strategy
Marketing Series Part 8 – Advertising
Marketing Series Part 9 – The Components of Your Marketing Plan

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In the digital world, public relations has become more important than ever before. Why? Because even if your customers are happy, upsetting the “Internet” or the “Twitterverse” can have devastating repercussions. Making your brand and good reputation known well beyond your customer group can help protect you from the trolls, as well as increasing awareness to grow your customer base.

As you’ve no doubt gathered by now in this series, the differences between different areas of marketing can be rather subtle. So, perhaps the best way to explain how Public Relations differs from Reputation Management or Customer Relations, is with some examples.

Sponsorships: Sponsorship is not charity. A sponsorship agreement is an exchange of cash, products, or effort for advertising. This can include TV, radio, and newspaper ads, website displays, and printed materials like banners, programmes, or even your logo on the event ticket. When you sponsor an event, your target market is the event participants and the general public, rather than your customer base, although those may not be mutually exclusive. The key thing is to choose events carefully to ensure that what goes on there will be consistent with your brand values, and that the event will be managed professionally to avoid tarnishing your brand. For example, if you sell premium organic products targeting the supremely health conscious, sponsoring a rib fest beer garden is not in your best interests. Sponsoring a marathon, where you can also hand out product samples, is a much better fit.

blank Charitable Donations: Making a significant donation to a charitable cause will get you in the news, but the benefits are usually restricted to a small group and short lived. You are better off aligning your brand with a cause over the long term and working your support into your marketing and advertising. The “pink” campaigns supporting breast cancer is a great example of this, and consumers have come to learn that purchasing pink items means a donation will be made on their behalf. Again though, choose your cause carefully. We are living in a time of super sensitivity. Look for a charity that has broad support and aligns in other ways with your brand.

Environmental Responsibility: In marketing lingo, a competitive analysis is all about differentiation – what makes your company, products, or services different from your competitors’. Your policies and action around environmental responsibility can be one of those differentiators that gets you chosen by customers. If you’re in manufacturing, it might be your recycling program or remediation of waste water, but as TD has shown, anyone can get involved. Banks aren’t usually your first thought when you think about poor environmental practices, but TD’s Friends of the Environment Foundation has positioned the financial institution as caring about people through demonstrated action like planting trees. They collect donations, cover the administration costs, and get their staff out there in the dirt along with community members.

blankSocial Responsibility: Integrating something for the greater good into your everyday operations is another wonderful way to make a good impression while also making a contribution to others. If you can also find a way for it to make a positive impact on your business, as Fry’s Food Stores in Arizona has, all the better. The Fry’s store in Fountain Hills works with Scottsdale Training and Rehabilitation Services to provide coaching and jobs for people with disabilities, and I’ve never seen a happier bunch of grocery packers! It certainly put a smile on my face, and if I lived in the area, I’d shop there every day.

Community Enrichment and Volunteerism: There are plenty of great opportunities that don’t require giving money. While these are a wonderful option for small, local companies, larger firms can get involved at the local level in the communities they serve. The Shaw Pumpkin Patrol is a good example, with their staff helping to keep kids safe on Halloween. Look for projects or needs that have been initiated in the community and get out there in your branded T-shirts to lend a hand.

In summary: Public Relations is about relating to the general public in a meaningful and authentic way. It’s about demonstrating that you, your company, your brand, care about more than just profits. The more the public knows about your good character, the more likely they are to support you – in good times and bad. Use our PR Worksheet to generate and assess ideas.

Download our Public Relations Worksheet

Continued:
Marketing Series Part 1 – What “Marketing” Means
Marketing Series Part 2 – Your Products, Services & Target Markets
Marketing Series Part 3 – Brand Management
Marketing Series Part 4 – Reputation Management
Marketing Series Part 5 – Customer Relations
Marketing Series Part 6 – Public Relations
Marketing Series Part 7 – Marketing Strategy
Marketing Series Part 8 – Advertising
Marketing Series Part 9 – The Components of Your Marketing Plan

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blankThe term “Customer Relations” pretty much says what it means – it’s how you interact with your customers and the quality of the relationship that forms as a result. The secret here is viewing your customers as friends. That means listening as well as talking, being fair, staying in touch, living up to your good reputation, and not taking advantage. If you are good to them, your friends will support you, and not just in terms of sales. Here are three principles to guide your Customer Relations policies and procedures.

Help Customers Make the Right Purchase
If you think of every sales opportunity as an opportunity to get to know your friend better, you’ll be helping them as well as yourself. In a store (or office or home, if you provide a service), this means having staff to ask questions, explain options, and ensure that the purchase is an exact match to what the customer wants.

While many websites now offer live chat services to help customers in a similar manner, that’s not necessary if you provide a good search tool and sufficient information about your products or services. The decision process for purchasing includes the evaluation of alternatives, and this is where you need to ensure that the information you provide addresses the evaluation criteria. These criteria vary based on the product or service, but will include things like price, delivery time, and features. There’s a more complete list on the Customer Relations Worksheet.

Now remember, whether selling online or in person, you are selling to a friend. If you try to deceive them, charge a ridiculously high price, or pressure them into buying something that isn’t what they really want, they are going to avoid you in the future.

Exceed (or at least meet) Their Expectations
A sale is an agreement, and between friends that’s taken at face value. If you make a deal with a friend, and then squirm out of it with “fine print,” they aren’t likely to make another deal with you.

Customer Relations 4If you were completely honest at the time of the sale, and the item or service was delivered on time and as promised, you’ve made a good start at meeting their expectations, but you can’t stop there. One of the most frequently overlooked and poorly executed deliverable with a product or service is instructions. The highest quality item can turn quickly into a return if the customer can’t assemble or use it in the way they wanted. In fact, the quality of the instructions is equally important to the quality of the item. While printed instructions are appreciated, all you really need to do these days is provide a website address where text in different languages, images, and videos can be accessed.

Learn more on the Worksheet.

Friendly Follow Up
Following up after a sale is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to foster future sales. There are four key messages you want to include. First, a thank you. Second, an incentive for a subsequent purchase. Third, a request for feedback; and finally, an invitation to stay in touch.

The “thank you” note is an effective way to reinforce your brand. The incentive can be a discount coupon or invitation to join an exclusive group that’s notified of special sales. This also reinforces your brand and encourages customers to follow you in some manner so they can take advantage of the discount.

The request for feedback is important because you want to be the first to hear if the customer is unhappy. Provide a phone number or email address, as well as a form on your website, and resolve the problem quickly and to the complete satisfaction of the customer.

If the feedback is positive, you can ask to use it in your marketing efforts.

Be sure to acknowledge, and pay attention, to any suggestions your customers make. Maybe they’re not unhappy, but simply want to share an idea they think is helpful. This free advice should not be overlooked, and warrants another thank you.

The invitation to stay in touch should offer active and passive options. An active option is one that you control, such as sending an email. A passive option is one that the customer controls, such as following you on Twitter. In either case, don’t abuse this opportunity. Set a theme, such as new items, and a reasonable frequency – weekly at most – and only vary from that on rare occasion, like a super discount sale.

For more ideas on ways to follow up, have a look at our Customer Relations Worksheet.

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Continued:
Marketing Series Part 1 – What “Marketing” Means
Marketing Series Part 2 – Your Products, Services & Target Markets
Marketing Series Part 3 – Brand Management
Marketing Series Part 4 – Reputation Management
Marketing Series Part 5 – Customer Relations
Marketing Series Part 6 – Public Relations
Marketing Series Part 7 – Marketing Strategy
Marketing Series Part 8 – Advertising
Marketing Series Part 9 – The Components of Your Marketing Plan

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While your brand is something that you create, your reputation is what others really think of you, and “others” are fickle creatures ready to pounce in cat-like fashion. Your company’s good reputation is essential to success and can be ripped from you in the most unexpected of ways. Remember the guy who kicked the dog in the elevator and lost his job as CEO? Or the Olympic swimmer who exaggerated a drunken encounter with a police officer in Rio? He lost four sponsorship deals.

The power of the internet is a double edged sword that can make you or break you. As the examples of poor research, poor behaviour, poor customer service, etc. explode, pundits are cautioning that reputation management needs to become reputation development and reputation marketing because one of the best strategies is to grow your business with reviews.

DO

  • Consider your brand’s reputation in a review of all policies and procedures, as well as executive and employee contracts. Behavior on and off the job are important.
  • Ensure that ALL employees understand your customer service policies and procedures.
  • Facilitate feedback and reviews by asking for them and making it easy, not just on your own platforms, but on all relevant platforms. Third-party reviews are the most influential, so be sure to monitor these as well. Use positive comments in your marketing. Make sure that customers can contact you directly with a problem, which they’ll likely do before going public. Deal with any negative comments quickly, and exceed the customer’s expectations. Follow up to ensure similar issues are resolved for the future.
  • Do your research before signing off on any marketing ads or materials. Coca-Cola launched an ad campaign with a long outdated map of Russia. Not cool.
  • If you want your brand to be associated with quality, test, test, test. Samsung fire phones – also not cool.
  • Be VERY sensitive to any references to gender, race, religion, etc.

DON’T

  • Don’t try to be clever IF ANYONE, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, might think it’s offensive. Match.com used the word “imperfections” with a photo of a freckled face. The US State Department warned spring break travelers going overseas that if they weren’t considered a “10” at home, they weren’t a “10” anywhere else; i.e. if someone is offering to buy you a drink, they’re just disarming you for a robbery.
  • Don’t use tragedies as a marketing ploy. A twin towers sale on the anniversary of 9/11 didn’t go over so well.
  • Don’t overreact to criticism and don’t dismiss suggestions. Investigate and follow up. Your goal is to improve your reputation, so apologize, fix it, and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Consider suggestions as free advice, because that’s what it is! So analyze them, and see what’s feasible.
  • Don’t minimize one unhappy customer’s experience. My daughter had an issue with Starbucks over the past couple of weeks. Two managers didn’t call her back as promised. The guy who answered the 800 customer service line was rude and had no intention of helping. What these three didn’t know was that she is a social media maven and influential with upwards of 300,000 other people. Fortunately for Starbucks, she’s also addicted to their Caramel Macchiato and made one final attempt by email to get what she needed to give up her boycott. The recipient was a model of good reputation management and it ended up a win-win.

If you’d like some ideas on how to review your current situation, download our Reputation Review worksheet here.

Continued:
Marketing Series Part 1 – What “Marketing” Means
Marketing Series Part 2 – Your Products, Services & Target Markets
Marketing Series Part 3 – Brand Management
Marketing Series Part 4 – Reputation Management
Marketing Series Part 5 – Customer Relations
Marketing Series Part 6 – Public Relations
Marketing Series Part 7 – Marketing Strategy
Marketing Series Part 8 – Advertising
Marketing Series Part 9 – The Components of Your Marketing Plan

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The brand of your company has the same meaning to consumers that your character or personality has to your family and friends. Your logo is like your face. When someone sees your face, they recognize who you are, and they expect you to behave in the way that you always have before. Odd or uncharacteristic behaviour will be surprising and potentially off-putting or even offensive. That’s when your friends start to avoid you. In similar fashion, if your brand doesn’t live up to expectations, you’re going to lose customers.

So although your brand is much more than a logo, your “visual identity” is an important aspect. Most visual identities are comprised of either:

  1. an icon and stylized name presentation, such as Heidi Klein;
  2. a stylized name presentation only, such as the one we created for Lori Johnson Photography; or,
  3. an integrated icon and stylized presentation, like the one we did for Western Locksmith Supply.

The type of logo or wordmark you choose will depend on a number of different factors discussed below, as well as where you envision the logo being used. Many organizations have several versions of their logo to facilitate different uses. For example, if a big part of your Marketing Plan includes give-aways at trade shows, you’ll want a logo that can be applied to pens or tape
measures, etc.

Your logo should be designed to reflect your brand which needs to appeal, in whole, to your target market. So, what is the foundation of your brand? What are your values? How would you describe your character? How do your customer service polices align with both of those?

So pull up the spreadsheet…
Open the spreadsheet you completed last month about your products and target markets. Here’s the example we used for Internet Advertising.

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  • We learned that Internet Advertising’s primary target market is men aged 36-49.
  • We know that most of our customers are businesses in Western Canada. We always have some sort of direct contact with them, as opposed to them making a purchase from our website, (as will be the case for most service suppliers).
  • We know that price is a factor, but we also know that they come to us for the quality of our work and the resulting outcome. They want their website or marketing plan to produce results, not just look pretty, and they want their website and marketing materials to be unique, even if it takes a bit longer to produce.

Here’s how our brand reflects what our customers expect of us:

Our Values are quality, innovation, collaboration and integrity. Our customers know that we value quality as much as they do. They know that our dedication to innovation will produce unique look for their brand. They know that they can get in touch with us to ask questions,

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provide input and get advice; and they know that they can trust us to provide all of that for a reasonable price. Our Character is friendly but
professional. We are open, honest, and accountable for the work we produce and the way we go about it. We’re available for you to call us and we’ll be happy to talk to you, but we’re not going to eat up your time in idle chit chat (that you later get billed for). Our Customer Service Policies reflect our values and character. We’ll honestly tell you what we can produce within your budget. If you don’t like the direction we’re going with your project, we’ll explain why we did what we did, and if you still want it changed, we’ll change it. If we make a mistake, we
own up to it and fix it.

That’s us in a nutshell.

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So, our logo uses a unique colour that is often associated with royalty. Our icon represents you at the head of the pack, as well as our penchant for collaboration. The font is plain and easy to read, representing our efficiency and professionalism.

Our tag line reflects the positive results we foster for your business by providing Internet based marketing services.

BUT – our logo and tag line have absolutely no worth if our reputation doesn’t live up to the rest of the expectations created by our brand.

In other words…

Your brand must be authentic. Everyone who represents your organization has to live and breathe your values and character, and your customer service polices need to be aligned with that brand personality. If that doesn’t happen… well, I’m sure you’ve read about the Lululemon fiasco, among many others that have had devastating results.

Are you ready to take stock on your business’s brand? You can download your Brand Worksheet here.

Keep an eye out for our December newsletter: Reputation Management – establishing policies and procedures to protect your brand and your company.

Continued:
Marketing Series Part 1 – What “Marketing” Means
Marketing Series Part 2 – Your Products, Services & Target Markets
Marketing Series Part 3 – Brand Management
Marketing Series Part 4 – Reputation Management
Marketing Series Part 5 – Customer Relations
Marketing Series Part 6 – Public Relations
Marketing Series Part 7 – Marketing Strategy
Marketing Series Part 8 – Advertising
Marketing Series Part 9 – The Components of Your Marketing Plan

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blankYou already know what you have to sell, but do you understand what your customers are buying? Do you know who they are, why they want what you have, how they make the decision to buy from you?

One of the most basic premises of marketing is matching – matching what you have to sell with customers who want buy. That means that you have to understand your customer base, and the segments within it, so you can tailor your marketing plan to find new customers like them, appeal to them, and convince them to buy from you.

Let’s look at a few basic demographics first. You can download your own worksheet here. In the first column, list your products or services. You can add up to 20, so group items together if that makes sense. For example, if you sell auto parts, you’re not going to list each individual part, so use groups like engine parts, wipers and exterior products, etc.

Then, for each item or group, put an x in the column that best represents the age groups of customers who purchase that item, and in the last column, enter an m or f to show whether more buyers are male or female. If you really have no sense of your customers’ ages or gender, best to figure out a way to find out. Could you take a guess based on names in your database? Ask your front line staff what they think? Keep track for a few weeks and estimate on that info?

Here’s an example based on our business.

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The spreadsheet is set up to automatically total the number of x’s in each column. For the gender column, the result is the percentage of male buyers. So our example shows that our primary target market is men aged 36-49. What else do we know about them?

On the second tab of your spreadsheet, fill in the Majority column describing the situation for most of your clients. Here’s our example:

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We know that most of our customers are businesses in Western Canada. We always have some sort of direct contact with them, as opposed to them making a purchase from our website, (as will be the case for most service suppliers).

We know that price is a factor, but we also know that they come to us for the quality of our work and the resulting outcome. They want their website or marketing plan to produce results, not just look pretty, and they want their website and marketing materials to be unique, even if it takes a bit longer to produce.

Combining the information from both tabs of the spreadsheet, we now have a pretty good picture of our target market. This information allows you to focus all aspects of your marketing. You’ll use it for branding purposes (coming up next month), as well as in the development of ads and in determining where those ads are best placed.

Continued:
Marketing Series Part 1 – What “Marketing” Means
Marketing Series Part 2 – Your Products, Services & Target Markets
Marketing Series Part 3 – Brand Management
Marketing Series Part 4 – Reputation Management
Marketing Series Part 5 – Customer Relations
Marketing Series Part 6 – Public Relations
Marketing Series Part 7 – Marketing Strategy
Marketing Series Part 8 – Advertising
Marketing Series Part 9 – The Components of Your Marketing Plan

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blankWelcome to the first edition of our Marketing series. Our intent is to share our knowledge of the timeless basics of marketing and business development, and how these translate into the current sales environment. Our hope is to give you greater insight into the consumer perspective and show you how to use this information to grow your business. You’ll have the option to just read and learn, or to put the information to use to create your own Marketing Plan. So, the first order of business is to talk about what Marketing means in today’s world.

Basically, with the proliferation of digital communications, advertising, public relations, customer relationship management, reputation management, brand management and any form of promotion, have now all been smooshed together into one big heap we call Marketing.

That said, you still want to have policies and plans covering each of these aspects of Marketing, so we’ll be discussing each of these different but equally important perspectives as we work through the planning process. Here’s the lineup:

blankOctober: Your Products, Services, and Target Markets – understanding who your customers are, why they want what you have to offer, and why they’ll make the decision to buy from you.

November: Brand Management – what branding really means and how to manage your brand through all aspects of your business operations.

December: Reputation Management – establishing policies and procedures to protect your brand and your company.

January: Customer Relations – living up to your brand character, keeping customers engaged, and creating advocates for your company.

blankFebruary: Public Relations – increasing awareness, recognition and recall to grow your customer base, and protecting your company from bad publicity.

March: Marketing Strategy – setting objectives, parameters, and a feasible budget.

April: Advertising – finding the best mix of ad types and venues to promote your products and services.

May: Your Marketing Plan – putting all the pieces together to create your own Marketing Plan.

Don’t tell your kids, but if you’d rather pay then do the work yourself, we’re here to help. Just give us a call: 604-556-0211.

FYI: We are launching a new coupon page on Abbotsford.net. Only one company per industry, so if you are looking for new customers in Abbotsford, give us a call now.

Continued:
Marketing Series Part 1 – What “Marketing” Means
Marketing Series Part 2 – Your Products, Services & Target Markets
Marketing Series Part 3 – Brand Management
Marketing Series Part 4 – Reputation Management
Marketing Series Part 5 – Customer Relations
Marketing Series Part 6 – Public Relations
Marketing Series Part 7 – Marketing Strategy
Marketing Series Part 8 – Advertising
Marketing Series Part 9 – The Components of Your Marketing Plan

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Video is a powerful marketing tool for any business. Sometimes words and images just aren’t enough. It’s never been easier and cheaper to produce and promote video. A lot of small companies are using video to showcase their products and services. But some videos seem to get more traction than others. Here are a few simple tips on how to make a great video and get it out there.

blank1. Consistent, creative quality content.
Give the people what they want! Make videos people want to see not what you want them to see. I hate to break this to you, but viewers initially may not care about your new product. They want to be entertained, learn and solve problems. Take one of those elements and use it to promote your product. Do it right and watch the views role in.

2. Ranking
YouTube ranks videos by the amount of seconds people spend on a video, the number of comments, the number of likes, the number of times your video is shared on social media and the number of times your video is displayed on a website. So make sure your video is well connected and worth watching.

3. Social media
blankLeveraging social media will get your videos out there. Setting up social media pages on multiple platforms will connect your videos to a larger and broader audience. By posting those videos on social media, you also bolster your social media pages.

4. Community
Setup a YouTube page and connect with the people that are into what you do. If you sell sewing machines, than connect with sewing and quilting clubs. If you build houses, than connect with realtors and decorators. If you make videos that other people want to post and collaborate with your work will be that much more viral.

5. Naming & Thumbnail Image
blankMake a title that is simple, to the point and gives people something they want. If you monetize your YouTube account you can make your own thumbnail images. (You can still turn off monetization on all but one of your individual videos.) Making an attractive thumbnail will create more views.

If you have a smartphone or a new SLR camera, you can make a great marketing video. A simple one-minute video showcasing the things that make your company unique could become your best customer acquisition tool. With the latest tools available you’d be surprised how easy it is.

If you need any help or advice on making a video give us a call at: 604-556-0211.