Annoying, time sucking, distracting – we all hate junk mail; and it’s especially infuriating when it’s email. Yes, there’s always a yin and a yang, but here are five ways to stave off chaos in your inbox.

Just Say No
The truly devious hackers and spammers don’t follow the rules, but chances are that most of the unwanted email you get will have the legally mandated “unsubscribe” link somewhere. Most of the ones I’ve found are in teeny tiny font at the very bottom of the message. Admittedly, it’s a constant battle, but you can save yourself some time and annoyance by unsubscribing whenever you can.

Know When to Folder ‘Em
Do you have friends that insist on emailing you every cute, funny, amazing!!!!!!!! thing they ever see online? You can use folders, filters or rules to send all messages from those folks to a folder and keep them out of your inbox. Here’s how to do it in Outlook:

Right-click on your email address in the left-hand column, then left click.

  • Type in a name for the folder and hit enter.
  • File > Manage Rules and Alerts > New Rule > Move messages from someone to a folder > Next > check “from people or public group”
  • In the bottom box under “Step 2” click on “people or public group” then select the name from your address book or type the email
  • address in the box at the top left, then click OK.
  • Under Step 2 again, click on “specified” click on the folder you set up for this person, then click OK.
  • Click “Finish”

When you do want to spend some time reading these emails, just click on the folder.

Scam the Spammers
There are times when you want to give an email address but just know that it’s going to result in spam – like tradeshows and retailers. The solution here is to set up a special email address to use just for these purposes. Create a folder and set the account up to send all of these emails to a special folder. After the event is over, you can check to see if you won anything, or when you do want to shop for something at a particular store, you can check for recent coupons. You get the benefits without cluttering up your main account inbox.

Chill the Social Media Mania
When you set up social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, the app automatically sends you email notices when any activity occurs. This often means that you see the posts on your phone or tablet and also get an email about the same post. You can stop these email notifications by changing your settings. Here’s the path for the three mentioned:

  • Twitter: Profile & Settings > Email notifications
  • Facebook: Settings > Notifications
  • LinkedIn: Privacy & Settings > Communications > Email frequency

blankGoogle apps for work
Yes, it’s somewhat self-serving since we are official Google for Work Partners, but what can we say? Google is simply amazing. Gmail, which is included in Google for Work has THE BEST spam control EVER. If the amount of spam you get is out of control, this is, hands-down, the best solution. (And yes, we can set it up for you.)

Get ready to be schooled!
We’ll be starting a new series on marketing with our September newsletter. Send us your questions to [email protected]

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blankI had yet another experience last week where the services provided did not live up to the advertising. This time, not only was I disappointed, but the venue rooked itself out of many planned return visits and the revenue that would have gone with those. The visit itself would have been a positive one except for the misconception created by the ads. So as the summer migration begins, and with more locals opting for stay-cations, a few tips to ensure that you profit from the short summer season and boost, rather than ruin, your long-earned reputation.

Google your business
Do it right now. Read your own website. Check any local or regional websites that might have a listing for you or any events you’re hosting. No matter what business you’re in, make sure you can deliver on any promises. Do you advertise being open on weekends? Do you offer 24 hour road service? Whatever it is, make certain that there are no exceptions and that you can live up to your claims. When you do, you’ll have a happy customer. If you don’t, the entire world will be alerted via social media.

Keep it real
Authenticity is the most important aspect of advertising a service or experience. There are customers for every type of activity and you only want those who choose you on a legitimate basis. Don’t promise fine dining and serve canned beans, or vice versa. Advertise what you are offering by describing it in objective terms, including on your website. You are the one who creates customer expectations, so make sure any reasonable person will interpret your description the same way you do.

Ask for feedback
The only way to know if customers are really happy is to ask them, but you have to be prepared to hear and deal with negative comments too. It’s easy to take complaints personally so be on guard because you need to be thinking cost vs. risk, as in what will it cost me to make this customer happy vs. what will it cost me to let them go away angry? Use the conversation to get details too – good and bad – so you can use the good for future advertising and rectify any problems.

Wishing you a safe, happy, and profitable summer!
Can we help? We offer advertising, web auditing and reputation management services. Just give us a call at 604-556-0211.

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blankThe practice of hiring younger personnel for older workmates to learn from is referred to as “reverse mentoring.” While that notion may not sound like a great idea to everyone, reverse mentoring can have incredibly positive results. Even if your target market doesn’t include those under 25, young adult mentors are worth considering. Here’s why…

1. They are connected.
Practically hardwired to their smartphones, the youngins are continuously updated on what’s going on around the world in any field of their interest. If you tell them what you’re interested in, they’ll teach you how to stay up to date too. Ideas: competitive research, hot products, the best social media channels for your customers.

2. They understand generational differences in social morays.
blankIf you segment your primary target market by age, gender, and location (and you should), a youngin can help you understand the differences between these groups, how their language differs, which buying factors are most important to each segment, and how best to get them engaged. Ideas: copyrighting, promotional events, pricing.

3. They learn by doing and problem solving.
If you play any online games, you’ll notice that instructions are few and far between. Youngins are indoctrinated to problem solve by making mistakes and figuring things out as they go. It may be time to ditch the strategic plan and make a few small changes just to see what happens. This kind of thinking can get you out of a corporate rut and spark new motivation in your entire team. Ideas: flash sales, online coupons, new business lines.

4. They have a different perspective on team work and collaboration.
blankThey may not remember the TV how Who Wants to be a Millionaire but youngins never hesitate to “phone a friend” when they need help. They can help you shake things up in marketing, business development, R&D and more, by exploring the possibilities of joining forces with other businesses (even competitors) or a host of independent project professionals. Ideas: cooperative advertising, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding.

5. They don’t know how to use the VCR and that’s a good thing.
They used to, and we’ve all relied on youngins to make technology work for us, but VCRs are old tech now, and they have options you may not even know about to what any show, anytime, anywhere. Similarly, they will know about existing solutions to some of your business issues too. Ideas: internal communications, virtual meetings, collaboration tools.

A few tips to get you started:

  • Match mentors and mentees with personality as the most important criterion. It’s not always easy for a long tenured specialist to take advice from a short stack who looks 12 years old. Set up a trial period to see how the two get along.
  • Ensure that mentors are clear on what is and is not appropriate, respectful, acceptable behavior; and that mentees are serious about learning.
  • Consider bi-directional opportunities. If the two can teach each other, all the better.
  • Provide a neutral third party to facilitate the mentoring process by being available to offer support, or mediation if needed.

With university students already summer job hunting and secondary school break coming up, this is a great time to give reverse mentoring a try. You can register and post a job for free at this UFV site https://ufv-csm.symplicity.com/employers/ or at the Government of Canada’s Job Bank http://www.jobbank.gc.ca/content_pieces-eng.do?cid=7383.

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blankWhen you own your own business, taking time off can be tricky. You want to be the “go to” person for your clients; the one who is always there for them, at the ready to solve whatever problem they may have. You don’t want to miss calls from potential new customers; and announcing that you’re on vacation makes you look like a slacker, even if it’s the first holiday you’ve taken in a decade. The solution? Taking a vacation without anybody knowing you’re taking a vacation. Here’s how:

Plan ahead
Enter your complete vacation itinerary in your calendar – when you’ll be driving, waiting at an airport, or taking snorkeling lessons. If it’s a family vacation, try to book activities in advance for the kids too. Add in time for meals and even when the kids are likely to go to bed.
Start working around the time you’re going to be away now. Add the two weeks to any deadlines you need and delay the start time of any projects until after you’re back, because you now have “a previous commitment” for that time period.

Engage others to cover for you
blankIf you have any employees, get them involved in what you usually take care of yourself a few weeks ahead of your time off. Introduce them to clients noting they are familiar with the client’s account and can take care of things “if you’re ever unavailable.”
If you’re an independent or work in a small office, consider hiring an answering service that can take calls and screen emails, so you’re only contacted with urgencies. (If you use your cell as your main work number, forward that number to the answering service and buy a burner for the service to reach you.)

Use technology
Save documents that you might need for active clients or projects to a cloud-based storage site, so you can access them if something goes awry while you’re away. Google Drive offers 15 GB of free storage to use across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos, where you can also save your vacation photos.
Create an auto-response email simply saying that you will be out of the office with limited access to email over the period and will respond as soon as you’re able. If you have an employee or trusted associate who offers a similar service, you can provide their contact info.
Change your voice mail message to something similar. “I’ll be on the road until July 10th and may not have reliable cell service. Please leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as I can.”

Ready? Go stealth!
blankThe most important thing to remember is that you are actually on vacation. You need time to rest and rejuvenate, and to enjoy the company of your family and friends. You don’t have to answer the phone when it rings or check your email every half hour – if you were busy at work, they’d have to wait a while anyway. Check your messages once during work days and only deal with truly important urgencies. You’ll come back refreshed and maybe even a little disappointed that no one realized you’d been gone!

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blankWe all get complaints. No matter how great our products are, there will be those that are unhappy and eager to tell you about it. More importantly, they will also be eager to tell everyone they know, and that’s why you need to take a strategic approach to dealing with complaints. Here’s a four step plan to converting complainers into promotional advocates for your business.

1. Create a customer satisfaction policy that is focused on long term cost/benefit
What’s the value of a long-term, repeat customer, who also refers others to your company? Compare that to the value of a single lost sale or wholesale cost you paid for the item. The difference between those two numbers should set the tone for your customer satisfaction policy. The easier it is for your customers to feel they’ve been treated fairly, the more value you’ll get from them in the long run.

blank2. Empower every employee who deals with customers to resolve issues
There is nothing more frustrating than being put on hold and bounced from one rep to another, trying to find the person who can actually help you. This just makes things worse. Give every employee who interacts with customers the authority to make things right for the client – and don’t wail on them after the fact. If the customer is happy, you won.

3. De-escalate the situation as quickly as possible
Teach those employees how to deal with angry, demanding clients without taking it personally, and how to calm things down so they can get the information they need to find a solution. Expressing genuine sympathy for the customer’s disappointment is a great way to start. Then let them know that you will fix the problem. “Well, that certainly would be annoying! Let’s take care of that right now. I just need to get a bit of information from you.” When you have the details, discuss options with the customer. Would they like a replacement? Perhaps try a different brand or type of a similar product? Keep the product with a partial refund? Remember that your goal is not to earn a profit from this particular sale. It’s to maintain or even improve your relationship with this customer.

blank4. Keep records
It’s easy to blame complaints on fickle, finicky clients, but those complaints can be of real benefit to you. Keeping detailed records of every complaint can help you identify trends that might not be apparent otherwise. Have you had numerous complaints about the same product or products from the same manufacturer? Did several people misunderstand the details of a promotion? Are assembly or installation instructions a common issue? Analyzing the information you get from complaints can help you improve quality and reduce the number of future issues.

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blankA timely comparison, the March Hare of Alice in Wonderland fame is described as “silly, ill-mannered, and loud;” all of the characteristics you want to avoid in your marketing. While the March Hare demands attention, gimmicks don’t give you the return on investment you can get with a less obtrusive, more logical approach. Here are the three basic steps that will earn the loyalty of your existing customers, and turn them into advocates for your products and services.

Know your customers
Big brand businesses spent a lot of money building detailed profiles of their existing and ideal customers. For the rest of us though, investing a bit of time is really all that’s needed. Think of every customer as a new friend. If you were just introduced to them at a social event, what would you ask them? Take every in-person encounter with your customers to find out something more about them, as well as why they like your products or services. Social media platforms like Facebook give you an opportunity to ask more people more questions, take polls, or show photos of products you’re thinking about carrying to get feedback.

Focus on Content
blankContent Marketing” remains the #1 best strategy for retaining customers and attracting new ones; and it’s the main reason you need that customer insight. Content marketing is about relationships; it’s about aligning your brand with the values and interests of your customers rather than relying on a traditional sales pitch. Again, think of your customers as a friend. What information are they interested in? Let’s say you sell pet food. One thing you know is that your customers are pet people. So the type of content that fits with the “Content Marketing” strategy are things like news items about keeping pets in condos; writing an article about new research in pet nutrition; or sharing an announcement about a new pet clinic in your market area. The basic premise is to provide information that is of interest and value to your customers. They already know that you sell pet food, but so do a lot of other companies. Now you have to show them that you care, that you and they are like-minded, that your brand is the friend that is knowledgeable, concerned, and thoughtful. That’s what builds loyalty.

Find channels to reach them
blankYour website is still going to be at the core of your marketing tactics, but it’s really not enough anymore to let it sit there alone in the digital world. It’s kind of like having a house party and not inviting anyone. So going back to step 1, where do your “new friends” hang out? What’s the best way to reach them? Facebook? Twitter? And don’t forget that hang outs change over time, so keeping in touch is important. One of the truly beautiful things about Internet marketing is that it’s usually pretty ease to track which tactics are working and which ones aren’t, so if you don’t know where to start, a trial and error approach can be quite efficient.

Happy Easter and Happy Hunting! (for customers as well as eggs!)

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Who loves ya, baby?
blankIf you remember the Kojak television series and the detective’s now famous phrase, you’re old enough to also remember a much simpler time in the world of business. As long as your regular customers loved you and your products or services, that’s all that mattered. Well, we’re coming up on Valentine’s Day 2016, and things are a little (a lot?) more complicated. Customers new and old, are comparison shopping online before they ever venture into your shop. And you aren’t just competing with the business across town, you’re now competing in a global marketplace where everything from appliances to zinnias can be delivered.

But when we look at all of the factors now in play to attract new business, there is one that rises to the top of the list – Google. As the most frequently used search engine in the world, what Google knows about you is going to determine who loves ya and who doesn’t. Here’s why.

Google Search
The way Google ranks websites on their results page has changed over the years, and having a good website still weighs heavily; and if you have one, the benefits are much greater than they used to be. This is because Google now tracks where a searcher (or rather the device they are searching with) is located and returns local results on the first page. So if Google likes what it sees on your site, knows what your product or service is, and your address, any searcher in the area will see your business listed with quick links to your website and directions on how to get to you.

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Google Maps
blankThose local results can bring in a lot of potential new customers, but only if the address and the location on Google’s map are correct. This isn’t always as simple as it seems. Google maps are generated from data collected from numerous sources including provincial and municipal maps which used official location descriptions that may or may not be what locals or even the postal service uses. Have you ever tried to find an address in “Langley” with your GPS? You won’t find it if the location is actually in the Township of Langley. So, two things: make sure the address on your website is provided using the proper descriptors; and, look up your business on Google maps, and if necessary, it will let you move the marker to the correct location.

Google My Business – Google Places
Google doesn’t just index websites, it “reads” them; which means that Google has access to all of the information contained on the world wide web. To help its users, Google uses that information to identify “places” that people might want to find, and it creates a page for those places, which means that it may have created a page for your business without you knowing about it. In the red circle on the results page below it says “Claim this business,” indicating that the information presented was found on the web and not generated (or edited) by Hemingway’s. Also note that the information includes your address, phone number and hours of operation. Even if you’ve changed some of this information on your website, it may take a long while for Google to update their place page. So first, look yourself up. Second, if you haven’t already, “claim” your business. Third, make sure all of the information is up to date.

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Google Reviews
Online reviews are the new “word of mouth” and Google displays reviews front and center. Good or bad, it’s certainly best to know what people are saying about your business. (We’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – if you find negative reviews, call us. Don’t do anything else!) Use what you read as input into future marketing plans. For example, if several people have left great reviews about a new product, make it a featured item on your website.

Bottom line, take a few minutes between now and February 14th to look yourself up and see what you can do to improve your relationship with Google.

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blankHappy New Year! Time to get back to work, set new goals, and refresh your marketing. We’ve read the pundits’ predictions for web design trends this year, and found two we’ve held dear for a while now, along with two that were a bit of a surprise. So here they are, as they say on Sesame Street, brought to you by the letter C.

Content First
“Form follows function” is a good credo for designing just about anything, and it’s certainly a huge consideration when designing a website. What is the purpose of your website – is it strictly for promotion or do you want it to have other functions, such as online sales, or operational information for your team? What do potential customers want to know about your company, products, and services before they make a decision? Your website is an essential marketing tool, and this trend is further confirmation that razzle dazzle is not as important as the content. Not sure what your content should be? That’s very common because what customers want to know if usually quite different from what you want to tell them! Give us call, make an appointment, and let us walk you through it.

Clean Design
The boxy card format that’s become so popular has increasing tended to end up crowding home pages on what is, in fact, an infinite amount of space. While the trend back to enormously long, one page sites has returned, they can get just too long to easily navigate – the point being that you don’t want to go crazy with huge amounts of white space, but you do want to keep the layout fairly simple. Another trend we noted as continuing into 2016 is the use of bolder colours and fonts, so even with a clean design, we can still add some excitement to your site.

blankCustom Illustrations
This one was a bit of a surprise, but it sure makes sense and we’re all over it now. Custom illustrations, whether computer generated or actually hand drawn are a fabulous way to have truly unique and highly engaging visual graphics. It also allows you to more fully explain your company’s distinctive processes and concepts that set you apart from your competitors. Both our designer Paul and our developer Andrew are amazing artists, so we’re ready to jump on this when you are!

blankCinemagraphs
Cinemagraphs are photographs that have one element of movement – kind of like a video where only one thing in the frame is moving. If you haven’t seen one yet, this link has some nice examples. Cinemagraphs are still fairly new, so they really capture a viewer’s attention. They are also a great way to demonstrate an important element of action in a product without using more expensive and transfer heavy video. We can produce them from photographs or illustrations, and would love to hear your ideas for using them on your website.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

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If it ain’t broken…

TED won the 2015 People’s Voice and Webby Award in the Best Home/Welcome Page category. In addition to a colourful display with lots of topical news options, they had a simple menu: Watch, Read, Attend, Participate, About. Makes perfect sense.

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So why did they immediately change the menu item “Read” to “Discover?” What does “discover” mean? Do I really want to discover something, or do I just want to read some interesting stuff. I’m not sure…

So close to perfection, then bomb
The Design Museum won the 2015 People’s Voice award at the Webbies in the category of Best Navigation/Structure. We really loved the home page with a click-on pull-down menu.

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And, we really loved the large, easy to read fonts on the main menu. But then…

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the sub-menu fonts were so teenie weenie that we could hardly read them.

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Remember the baby boomers are getting older and they (we) don’t like to squint!

Lost in translation
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Global marketing is always a challenge, and when it comes to translation, well, you need to be very, very careful. In Ghana, Shitto is a most appropriate name for this pepper sauce. In English speaking countries, not so much.

Be sure to know how your brand and product names will be interpreted in different languages and dialects.

It’s only funny until you tell one other person (and they should smack you)
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Do we even need to explain why this was considered offensive?
Humour can be used very effectively but this world has become hyper-sensitive about a great number of issues – use extreme caution!

(Thanks to printsome.com for sharing these last three.)

Hashtag hash
All professional writers know the importance of proper spacing and punctuation, so when those features are not permitted, as in hashtags, you’d better be able to see ALL of the different ways your #oneverylongstringofletters could be interpreted.

A few examples from a list of fails at loginradius.com:

#nowthatchersdead – Who’s dead, Thatcher or Cher?

#therapist – Is this discussion about counselling or rapists?

Hashtags are often created on the fly, but when you’re in business, you definitely need to plan ahead and make sure you’ll be creating a buzz for the right reasons.

Here’s to staying off such lists in 2016!

From all of us to you and yours…

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Last month we talked about a few scary Internet issues, so now let’s look at some awesome benefits. From time savers to no excuse fitness programs, here are five ways you can use the web to your advantage.

Buy Groceries
blankSave On Foods and many other grocers are now making it a lot easier and faster to get the shopping done. At Save On, you can order online and pick up the packed groceries for free, or have them delivered to your home for a small fee. Learn more at: https://www.saveonfoods.com/shop-online-how-it-works/

See a Doctor
It is almost impossible to find a family doctor these days and if you’ve been hanging out at walk-in clinics, you know how long the wait can be. Well, problem solved – in most routine situations anyway. You can now make an appointment online and video conference with a BC physician online. They won’t be able to examine you or diagnose that rash over the web, but for prescription renewals, cold and flu symptoms and such, you won’t find an easier way to talk to a doctor. Learn more at: http://clinic.equinoxelifecare.com/

Read Your Child a Bedtime Story from Anywhere
blankVideo chat apps like Facetime and Skype are great for have a quick visit with the kids when you’re away (or stuck at the office), but not so good for reading stories. Enter Caribu. Designed specifically for reading stories from afar, you and your child view the same page at the same time. The app is free, as are a few of the books in their store. Many others are available for a fee that you only have to pay once to keep in your own library. You can also add Uncle Joe, Granny, and other family members to your contacts, which gives them access to your books if they want to take a turn reading to your little one. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an Android version yet, but you can find it for your Apple devices on the App Store.

Find the Location of Team Members
blankWe’re not suggesting you virtually stalk your colleagues or employees, but if you’re in a business where out of office appointments or travel is frequent and situations change rapidly, it might be handy to quickly scan the current location of one or all of your other team members. Check out Locate My Friends! on Google Play or Find My Friends in the Apple App store.

Take a Fitness Class
While exercise videos have been around for a long time, doing the same routine repeatedly can get pretty boring. If you need a little inspiration, personal coaching, or just the motivation of a supportive group to keep you going, a virtual fitness program might be just the thing.

blankWhoooo Hooooo! We’re Moving!
And speaking of fitness, we’ve been getting our exercise moving in to our new office. Our phone number and email addresses won’t change, but if you’re looking for us live and in person, we’re now at #302 – 2722 Allwood Street, Abbotsford, BC, V2T-3R7

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With Halloween just around the corner, we thought it was timely to share a few of the scariest things we’ve heard about in the past few months. BOO!

Beware of Business Directory and Review Sites
blankThere are very valid reasons for wanting your business to have a high profile online – showing up in lots of different listings and directories, especially those that show positive reviews of your products or services. Unfortunately, some of the most popular are run by extortionists. This two minute video on YouTube reveals some tidbits about Yelp, and a Google search for “yelp scam” will give you all the info you need to stay far, far away from this company.

Google, Facebook, and many other platforms and websites also have a habit of creating pages or listings in a business’s name without contacting them first. The pages get set up and people can leave ratings and comments without you ever knowing about it. All business owners need to go on the offensive by regularly searching for their own company and seeing what’s out there. If it’s not good, we can advise you on what to do about it.

Wireless Werewolves
blankWerewolves appear to be normal human beings, right up until they turn into terrifying wolf-like creatures. So too are some of the seemingly wonderful gadgets that appear to make our lives easier and safer. Take, for instance, a baby monitor. It’s great to be able to see and hear the baby when you’re in another part of the house – except, your monitor also let’s other people see and hear your baby, and track when you are and are not in your baby’s room. A recent article from PC Magazine provides some gory details. Any device that uses wireless technology is susceptible, including your car.

Security on the Internet has made great strides, although as regular news casts will tell you, no one is truly safe from hackers. With the recent surge in devices that utilize web, and particularly wireless, technologies, security has not been as big a consideration as it should have been. If you can control a gadget without flipping a switch on the side of it, or can get sound or video without being connected by a cord, the device is using wireless technology. Do thorough research, and bring in a tech security expert technician if need be, to set up appropriate security mechanisms.

Be afraid parents; be very afraid
blankA September CBC News report that looked at reports from the Canadian Privacy Commissioner and a collaboration of enforcement organizations in 21 countries including Canada, revealed some shocking information that should scare any parent. The majority of apps and websites collect personal information including name, birth date, location, phone number, email address, and photographs. Much of that information is available to other users – children and predators alike – and is also sold or traded with third-parties. Popular sites including taylorswift.com, justinbiebermusic.com, and gurl.com, were some of the worst offenders. CBC also found a blog post from the Office of the Canadian Privacy Commission criticising Santasvillage.ca, for getting children to provide their full names and email addresses in order to be added to Santa’s “nice” list.

So, what’s a parent to do? Well, particularly if you have younger children, it’s not enough to just look at the site or topic. Your kids need to tell you about the sites or apps they want to use before they join or download them, so you can review what information is requested; and teach kids never to enter personal information without coming to you first.

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blankAh, September… the morning air is refreshingly crisp; you’re wondering how long you can wait before putting the winter tires on the car; and the kids are heading back to school.

That got us thinking – what do our clients, most of whom are business owners, need to learn more about?

Here’s our top three suggestions

Website Analytics

Analytics are statistics about visitors to your website and can provide you with a wealth of information about your customers and how they interact with your website. Information about visitors includes the number of visitors, how often the same visitors come back, where they’re located, and much, much more. Analytics also capture information about what site they were on just before coming to your site, which pages of your site are most popular, how long visitors stay on the page, which page they visit next, and which page they are most likely to leave your site from. You can use that information in a variety of ways, but here are a few examples:

Geographic profiling – Monitoring the location of your website visitors, and particularly any changes to the percentages from different locations, gives you valuable information about targeting online ads, whether you should have your site in multiple languages, and the type of products they might be interested in.

Timing of sales calls – We’ve all had those days when NO ONE wants to talk to us. You can use analytics to find out what day of the week your website is most frequently visited, which is likely a good day for those calls.

Products and pricing – Sales alone do not tell the whole story about a product’s potential. Analytics can help you gain more insight into what your customers are thinking. For example, if you see a product page that gets a high volume of visitors but very few sales that could be telling you the item is viewed as overpriced rather than undesirable or there is a problem with ordering from the page.

We’re a big fan of Google Analytics and they have some great learning tools available. Check out https://analyticsacademy.withgoogle.com/explorer

How Targeted Advertising Works

One very good reason to get familiar with analytics is that it will save you a lot of money on advertising. Almost all online advertising venues allow you to create a profile of your target market that includes age, gender, and location, and some will also include income and level of education. What that means is that you can set up your ad program so that your ads only appear to those who are truly potential customers. If you sell luxury cars from a storefront in Surrey, there’s not much point spending money to advertise to pre-teens or to people in Newfoundland.

The other great advantage of targeted ads is that if you don’t have a good handle on your target market yet or want to test market a new product, you can do that quite easily.

LinkedIn

blankLinkedIn is an online business networking site. It’s somewhat similar to Facebook, but clearly set up for working professionals in that it’s the people you don’t already know that you want to connect with. LinkedIn has been around for quite a while, but according to this article in Entrepreneur magazine [http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/247988], now is the time to make sure you are actively participating in this forum, particularly if your customers are other businesses.

There’s a free version and a few paid options to subscribe to additional features, which include the ability to send email via the site, so perhaps worth the fee. If you don’t already have an account, start by setting up a free one and get familiar with the site.

Understand that this is a networking site and not an advertising billboard. Play nice, get to know people and help them get to know you and your business.

(And while we’re on the topic of online networking, here’s another good article from Entrepreneur with tips for your Facebook business page.)

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/247490

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#1 – Big companies are stealing your business
Almost all, 91%, of large Canadian companies have a website, and of all companies in Canada who have the ability to sell online, almost 25% of their sales are made via the web. Yet more than half of all Canadian companies don’t even have a website, let alone a good one.

Data from Statistics Canada shows that Canadian business Internet sales grew by $122 billion from 2012 to 2013, and that companies with 100 or more employees accounted for ALL of that growth and for 64% of the total $136 billion in online sales.

What that means is that big business is riding the wave to more sales and more profit, and small business owners are losing out on big opportunities.

#2 – Almost everyone shops online, and now they are buying almost everything online
blankOnline sales continue to grow in volume and expand into new markets. Let’s look at two seemingly unlikely areas.

Car buyers have been comparison shopping online for years, but there is now a groundswell of auto buyers actually making their purchases online and having the vehicle delivered to their door. In just one example, a recent article by Adel Murad reported that Volvo did an experiment offering a limited edition of its new XC90 model for online buyers only. They sold out in less than two days. According to Murad, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz are also testing online sales and the others are likely not far behind.

The professional service sector has also made a big leap into the virtual world. Equinoxe LifeCare now has an online medical clinic in BC. You can show the doctor where it hurts by connecting to a video chat similar to Facetime or Skype.

And even if you provide a service that has to done in the real world, like house cleaning or an oil change, using the Internet to advertise and schedule appointments is going to boost your sales.

#3 – A good website is good business
The Internet is the number one go-to directory for everything from accountants to zip lines. If you don’t have a website, you simple do not exist in the minds of most Canadians. That said, a bad website isn’t going to help, and honestly, the cost difference between a bad website and a good one has decreased significantly so you can’t really argue anymore with the cost/benefit ratio.

A good website can be pretty basic. Answer the questions potential customers have about who you are, what you sell, why they should buy from you, and how to make a purchase. An experienced web development firm will take care of the rest – building a site that has a professional appearance and generates trust.

So, no more excuses. Check the stats for yourself, and you’ll quickly realize that a good website is just good business; and if you want to ratchet up the sales even higher, come and talk to us about how you can use the web to sell, sell, sell!

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blankWe’ve just been notified that we’ve won Gold at the 2015 Summit Creative Awards for the category of Educational Institution Website! The winning website was developed for Kosmetae Academy (kosmetae.com) and was one of 5,000 submissions from 23 countries.

We always strive for excellence and awards like this provide an international benchmark. Receiving an award is great, but more importantly, these competitions give us an assessment of our work from experts all over the world. We’re very proud to be ranked so highly on a global scale.

We’re always excited to win awards (Yay!) but international recognition makes us especially proud. Paul, Andrew, James – way to go team!

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Summer’s coming and we all need a vacation! Save a few bucks for the holidays and get those projects wrapped up faster with these great tools, available free on the web.

Apache Open Office
blankOpen Office offers a suite of office software including word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations that you can download for free. It looks and works very much like Microsoft Office and can load and read MS Office files.

openoffice.org

blankGoogle
Google offers a surprising number of free to use services including:

Gmail – This is a great online email service, particularly if you work from different devices (PC, laptop, phone). If you read an email on your phone, you can reply immediately, flag it or mark it as unread so you can follow up back at the office.

Google Docs – Docs provides online word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. It offers collaboration tools like file sharing to specific individuals who can offer editing suggestions and comments. Files are automatically saved to Google Drive, so you know where to find them later.

Google Drive – Drive gives you up to 15 GB of free storage to share across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google+ Photos. It’s pretty simple to use, gives you anywhere access to the files you might need, and can be set to share files with others. You can save files that you’ve created in Google Docs, or upload files from other programs and set the options to either save the original format or convert it to Google Docs so it can be edited.

If you want to use your own domain email (e.g. [email protected]) or more storage space, there is also a paid subscription service available that we can help you set up.

google.com/about/products

blankGotFreeFax.com
While you may not use faxing very often, when you need one, you need one fast. This site lets you upload and send up to 3 pages, twice a day for free. There are fees for larger documents, but they are very reasonable.

gotfreefax.com

blankXMind
While there is a premium paid version of this software, the free version is pretty great. It doesn’t take much to figure out how to use it, and is pretty versatile for creating simple diagrams. It’s based on a technique called “mind mapping” and while you can certainly use it to take notes at a brainstorming session or capture ideas for a new product or service, you can also use it to map out project plans, create organization charts and much more.

www.xmind.net

blankAsana
This is a project management package that is free for team up to 15 people. It facilitates team communication about a project by keeping everyone’s input visible and organized, so you don’t have to backtrack through a bunch of emails to find out what’s gone on.

asana.com

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blankYou may not pay much attention to the latest fashion trends, but as the core of your online marketing strategy, the look of your website needs to show potential customers that you are up to date with the latest and greatest. So, let’s take a look at what’s “in” for 2015.

LARGE BACKGROUND IMAGES
Great photographs that start telling a story from the first glance are becoming more popular as backdrops. You do need to choose the image carefully though – favoring the one that will generate an emotional response. Our own avant garde design guru Paul has used this technique with some fabulous results. Have a look at these two examples:

http://www.kosmetae.com/

RESPONSIVE SITES
“Responsive” means that the size and shape of the site changes automatically to suit the device, as in big screen or small screen. On April 21st, Google is going to start including mobile friendliness in its search ranking algorithm, so this is now very important. You can see how it works by taking a look at Western Ranchlands site on your PC, then on your smartphone.

http://www.westernranchlands.ca/

blankYou can check to see if Google thinks your site is mobile friendly at this link: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly

TOPIC TILES
The modular tile or card style became quite popular last year and the web design fashionistas say this layout will be around for a while. It is particular well suited to responsive sites.

http://www.abbotsfordpaint.com/

MICROINTERACTIONS
Microinteractions are wee bits of interactivity. In the first example, you click on the problem, then click on the vacuum canister to find the solution. In the second example, well… I’m not going to tell you. Just click on the link and watch the images for about 30 seconds. Microinteractions are highly memorable because of the element of surprise.

http://ekonovac.com/
http://www.noblehousebb.ca/

blankBIG AND BOLD TYPOGRAPHY, AND LONGER PAGES
In our example, these two trends are both in use, but you can certainly use one without the other. Technology isn’t standardized enough to get too crazy with the font types, but as you can see on trampoline.com, the big and colourful text does grab your attention. The longer page length is a good technique for drawing visitors in who might otherwise be “window shopping.”

http://trampoline.com/

GHOST BUTTONS
The use of ghost buttons was on every style list for 2015, maybe because they also include an element of microinteraction. In this example, you’ll notice that the menu buttons blend in with the background (ghosting) but when you hover over the button it changes colour (microinteraction).

http://www.thefireplacecranbrook.com/

Thankfully, web style doesn’t change with the season, but if your site is more than three years old, visitors will start to notice. Particularly if your target market includes the under 40 crowd, you might be due for a makeover.

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blankThe World Wide Web traps everything that hits it, and you aren’t the only one publishing information about your company. There are directory sites that collect and compile information, customer review sites open to public commenting, social media sites and search engines that create pages in organization names, and many more ways for others to create confusion and mistrust about your business.

At least once a year, you need to take the time to have a good look at what others might be seeing when they come looking for you.

YOUR WEBSITE
Start with your own website. Does it still accurately describe your products or services? Scan each page for phone numbers, addresses and other contact information. Look in the footer (very bottom of the page) and throughout the text, as well as on the contact page. Send a test message to email addresses given, and through the contact form, to make sure they are getting to the right people.

SUPPLIER, CERTIFICATION, AND GOVERNANCE WEBSITES
Bigger brands and certification and governance agencies for professionals often list businesses and people who offer their products or services. Check any sites you’re associated with to make sure they are providing the correct contact information.

SOCIAL MEDIA
Even if you don’t use social media for your business, log in to your personal account or ask someone else to search Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and other social media venues to search for your business name. Facebook and Google+ both make a habit of creating pages automatically that you may not be aware of. You may also find reviews and comments about your business.

blankGOOGLE SEARCH
As a final check, do a Google search for your business name (as well as the former names of your business and names of any businesses you used to be associated with) and check every result that comes up. You may be very surprised by what you find.

HOW TO CORRECT PROBLEMS
Fixing inaccurate information is not always easy, but there are ways. Many websites will let you “claim” the page they’ve created or correct the information by setting up an account. Once you’ve gained control, you can change the information yourself.

For other sites, a method of contact will be shown somewhere, although you may have to hunt for it. Send them an email with what you want changed, and follow up in a week to make sure the information has been corrected.

If you have any difficulties and want us to help, copy the page address(es) into an email and send the list to us.

Alternatively, if you’d rather just have us take care of spring cleaning for you, give us a call.

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blankIs it time to update your look? Marketing and innovation play a critical role in sharpening your competitive edge. Businesses that stay the same and never change get left in the dust. Updating your brand is a natural part of moving forward. Here are a few helpful tips for captivating attention and increasing sales.

1. HAVE A CLEAR IDEA OF WHAT YOU DO AND WANT TO CONVEY.
If you build a house you have to start with a good foundation. The same goes for your brand. Be clear about what you do. “I do this primarily, but I also do this and this.” What’s your one best quality? Are you dependable or quick and cheap? Do you provide a high level of service or good deals? Giving your graphic designer a clear direction will not only save you time and money but give you a far better end product.

2. HAVE SOME ELEMENTS OF YOUR OLD BRAND TO MAINTAIN RECOGNITION.
You don’t want to lose any of your current customers in order to attract new ones. If you’re new logo has some elements of your old look people will make the connection. You want your audience to see that this is not a new business but the same one revitalized.

3. YOUR COLOUR PALLET SHOULD REFLECT YOUR BUSINESS.
Colours reflect different emotions. Blue is dependable, green is peaceful, and red represents excitement for example. I personally like to use three colours, a main colour, a shade of the main colour and an accent to make them pop. That said; don’t get too caught up in colour rules. The most important thing is that it gets attention and conveys the emotions you want to reflect.

blank4. WHERE AND HOW WILL THE LOGO BE USED?
Where are you going to put this logo? What kind of space will it have to fit into? What colours will your logo placed next to? Will it look attractive on both a business card and your storefront? Considering these things beforehand will help give your brand eminence.

5. KEEP AN EYE ON CURRENT DESIGN TRENDS.
You want a logo that’s fresh and new. You can be retro without looking like a refugee from the 70’s. You also need to be careful about last year’s design trends, or else your logo will be washed out by everyone else’s. Google your profession and see what logos repeat over and over again to avoid clichés. All eyes are on the forerunners.

6. DON’T OVERTHINK IT.
Sometimes your first instincts are right. Sometimes the simplest ideas are often the best. Don’t think yourself into a corner.

7. KEEP YOUR SLOGANS AND CATCH PHRASES SIMPLE.
A slogan should be short and meaningful. Three to five words is about where you should be. Seven words is the max. Any more and you’ve lost your audience.
Avoid using the tactics of a company that’s a household name because they don’t have to say what they do. You do. Your slogan needs to covey what you do and how it benefits your customers in the blink of an eye.

blank8. IMAGES NEED TO BE POWERFUL AND PERTINENT.
The photos and images on your website and print media will also have a major impact on how people perceive you. Some companies have that one picture, that money shot that goes on all their media to make a memorable impression.
Ask about stock photography. You may want to hire a professional photographer to take portraits or product shots. Be sure to take outdoor photos in the weather and time of year that is appropriate for you. Take storefront photos when leaves are on the trees and the sky is vividly blue. Look professional, grab attention and keep it.

9. BE CONSISTENT
Make sure that everything has the same look across the board. Your audience should make the connection from your website, to your business card, to your store front, to your brochure, and so on. That consistency will give a strong impression of professionalism.

10. IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT, BUT WHAT CHARMS CUSTOMERS.
I admire Harry Gordon Selfridge. Modern retail is based on his ideas. He coined the phrase, “The customer is always right.” It doesn’t mean you let a customer walk all over you. What Harry meant was you’re not the target audience, your customers are. In the end it’s about selling goods and services. Your logo, slogan, images, website, brochures, business cards and whatever else you have, need to appeal to your customers and clients first and foremost.

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blankIT’S TIME TO ADD SOME SIZZLE TO YOUR SUMMER!
It may not be beach weather yet, but it is definitely time to start planning your summer marketing program. Whether the warmer months are usually peaks or pits in business volume, you need to take advantage of the lighter hearted, spend-friendly mood that comes with the summer sun.

IF SUMMER IS PEAK SEASON FOR YOUR SERVICES
If you’re a service provider and summer is usually a busy time for you, staying organized is the best way to bring in as much revenue as possible. That means having the extra staff hired, supplies on hand, and knowing how long each job will take so you can fill the schedule to the brim.

A great way to get started is to offer advance booking discounts, particularly on package deals and pre-payments. Offer the best discounts to last year’s clients, and then advertise to fill in the gaps.

IF SUMMER IS PEAK SEASON FOR YOUR PRODUCTS
Selling out is great, but selling more is better. Planning early-season shopping events is a great way to find out what items will be the most popular, giving you a chance to bring in extra stock. Here are a few ideas to get your creativity flowing:

TRY-ON PARTIES
Host girls’ night events for small groups of friends to come and try on your newest summer fashions. Make it a bikini party or a “#WhatTheHellAmIGoingToWear to that wedding?” party. Offer discounts on immediate sales and interest free lay-aways.

blankADVENTURE PHOTOS
If you sell camping gear, mountain bikes or similar outdoor adventure items, bring in a suitable backdrop and set up scenes that customers can appear in while you take photos on their phones. Sell it as the family vacation try out or the “#FakeYourVacation” session. Discounts and lay-away plans will also help make the sale.

VIRTUAL PREVIEWS
If your customers are on social media, take advantage of the opportunity to get feedback on photos of your products. You can track “likes” on Facebook and Instagram, as well as re-tweets on Twitter, so you’ll know what’s going to be a hot item. If you already have a social media following, use that to offer early season flash sales or 1 + 1 sales, combining a winter item with a new item to get rid of older stock.

IF SUMMER IS YOUR SLOW SEASON
Sure you can just take the summer off, OR you can use this time to build your brand and customer relationships. Remember that people still need things to do and are still plugged in to social media (including business sites like LinkedIn) during the summer. Want some ideas?

SPONSOR A COMMUNITY EVENT
Get your name out there and collect information. Events that require registration will often provide that list to sponsors, or set up a booth to collect email addresses with the promise of sending a discount coupon just prior to your fall or winter sales season.

blankHOLD A “VIRTUAL PREVIEW” EVENT BEFORE YOU ORDER NEXT SEASON’S STOCK
It’s the same idea as the Virtual Preview above, but post photos from your suppliers to find out which items customers like most before you place your order.

DO RESEARCH
The more you know about your customers the easier it is to reel to them in with advertising. Offer a discount coupon or prize entry for completing a survey or ask a series of questions on social media. Pour over your website’s analytics to find out what keywords are bringing customers to your site and what devices and platforms they are using so you can tweak your search marketing. Think about products or services that are related to what you offer and approach other businesses about cross-market promotions.

REMEMBER THAT WE’RE HERE TO HELP WITH ANY OF YOUR MARKETING NEEDS! JUST CALL 1-877-999-4427

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blankShow them some love! Valentine’s Day is a great reminder to think about ways you can show your customers how much you value them. A little appreciation goes a long way in building solid, long term relationships which means repeat business and word of mouth referrals. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

FLASH SALES
Flash sales are deep discounts on an item for a short period of time – usually a day, but sometimes less. If you’re overstocked on a particular product or you’re a service provider and want to generate more business quickly, a flash sale is ideal. Since the deal is usually announced through social media, it’s also a great way to get more followers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and similar platforms. Goal Setting Discounts In last month’s newsletter we talked about customers wanting to get involved and the importance of going mobile. This strategy combines both of those with an appreciation discount. Ask your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram followers to help you reach a new goal. Set a deadline and offer a “team” incentive. So for example, “Help us reach our goal of 5,000 likes on Facebook by February 28th and we’ll give all of our Facebook fans 20% off during the month of March.”

FREE STUFF
Every demographic on the planet loves free stuff! Find a product you can put your logo and website address on and send them to your top 100 clients.

UNADVERTISED DISCOUNTS
If you send invoices to entrepreneurs or small businesses, pick one customer a month and give them a discount on something they’ve already purchased at the regular price. Add a personal note saying how much you appreciate their business.

CREATIVE SALES
Quite a few restaurants offer a free meal on your birthday, and you can do something similar, or hold a special sale on the birthday of one of your staff. “George in accounting is turning 50 on Friday. If you drop by to wish him a Happy Birthday, we’ll give you $50 off your next purchase of $200 or more.” You could also have customers email a birthday wish and reply back with a coupon. This strategy hits a few different aspects of relationship building, and gives customers the feeling that they are part of the family.

blankOLD SCHOOL THANK YOU CARDS
When was the last time you got a Thank You card in the mail – I mean the old fashioned, Canada Post, stamp on an envelope? It will cost you a couple of bucks, but will make a big impression. So, here’s our offer of appreciation! Send us your promotion to add to our newsletter. Write up to 200 words promoting your products and services, then email in to [email protected] along with your logo and some high quality photos. Please put “offer of appreciation” in the subject of your email so we can look for it. We’ll add your business to our March newsletter. We like to hear from you and we love to promote you.

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The tech wizards and marketing gurus have made their predictions for 2015. Here’s our summary of how to find new customers and keep the existing ones coming back over the coming year.

GET REAL
We’ve said this ourselves before, but the pundits have put a fine point on it now; customers want to know who you really are, how to do what you do, and what it means for them to use your products or services.

You can’t just say that your company is ethical, socially responsible, and kind to the environment. They want details; in photos and videos that demonstrate your authenticity.

blankThey want to be involved. They want to interact with you and they don’t expect that to be in person. What we’re talking about here is how you and your brand are portrayed online. Sure, it carries over into the real world – remember authentic – but relationships are now built and maintained via websites, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube; and if you’re in the business to business market, you need to be active on LinkedIn.

“Visual storytelling” is all the rage right now, and is expected to continue growing rapidly, and it’s just a buzz phrase for telling stories about your business in photographs and videos.

What does all this really mean? A greater effort in dynamic marketing and public relations (which are quickly becoming one in the same); figuring out how to share your world with others on a day to day basis. Start by getting into the habit of making note of how you spend your day, who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about. Are you excited about a new piece of equipment coming in? A new partner joining the firm? Are you thinking about creating a new product, or offering a new service? What values guide your decision making? Is one of your employees coming up on a 10 year anniversary in their position? Yes, customers really do care about this stuff.

Marketing isn’t about what you sell anymore. The expectation is that your products and services are top notch, period. Anything less, and you’re off the buyers radar anyway. The differentiator now is you, your branblankd, your employees, your values and character. And if you can tell people more about those things, you’ll be on your way to a prosperous new year.

GET PERSONAL
Personalized, on-demand, micro-niche marketing is growing for all types of businesses, and particularly in consumer products. The more you know about your customers, the more segments you can create, and the more offerings you can make at a more personal level.

You know those annoying phone calls you get asking crazy questions, like do you have that in fluorescent green? Well, the real crazies are the one who ignore those questions. If one person wants it, chances are there are others. If you don’t have the consumer data to know if it’s worth it to create a batch in bright green, it’s time to gather more data.

If there is any way that you can personalize further, like printing a name or customer generated label on an item, that’s even better. Use your website to let prospects interact with your products. Ad speciality companies and hair colour brands often have sites that let you see the t-shirt with your design on it, or upload your photo to see what you’d look like with a different hair colour. This is the type of engagement that has customer’s texting their friends to get their opinion or try the virtual proof for themselves.

Marketing these “limited edition” production runs also means communicating with your niche markets in appropriate ways. If you’re targeting the younger set, you need to be advertising on social media and mobile platforms, both to get attention and to make sharing with others easy.

GET MOBILE
blankDesktop computers are disappearing, and some say laptop use is also declining more rapidly than most of us think. Tablets with keyboards and SmartPhones are the go-to devices for most consumers, and a growing number of business users as well.

So not only do consumers want to shop online, they also want to make payments quickly and easily, and they want immediate access to their product or service. Think iTunes – you can find the song, pay for it, and have it on your phone in less than a minute.

This is where professional service providers can really step it up. Is it essential that your clients come to your office or shop? Medical services are being provided online, so why not legal services or advice from an accountant in a video chat? Or how about being able to pay the tow truck driver with a phone to phone tap?

With the increase in mobile device use and the ability to target niche markets more precisely, mobile advertising is predicted to grow by 48% in 2015. Just making noise isn’t going to cut through the clutter, so you need to integrate “getting real” and “getting personal” into your mobile marketing strategy.

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It is standard for all companies and businesses to create press releases as part of their information and marketing campaigns. With the advent of social networking sites and the type of marketing specifically targeted to social media users, it is important for businesses to know how to adapt their press releases to this new technology.

I offer basic guidelines for business PRs in the time of social.

Aim for virality

blankOne of the main benefits of going social is to be able to reach as many people as possible with content. In fact, researchers have found that business-related content is more effective when recommended by people who the target customers personally know. This is true for press releases as well.

When making a press release for any social media, one must think whether it is easy to share, or if it has the potential to go viral, reaching a wide variety of audiences. Viral content is usually concise, witty, entertaining, or controversial, appealing to a vast number of people.

Go visual

Pictures are worth a thousand words. This is true for press releases, and even more so in the time of social media. Pictures and graphics always catch the attention of people better. They are more memorable.

I like the 20 percent rule for social media graphics. That means text, if any, only takes up 20 percent of the entire area of the photo. Even better, press releases best take the form of a photo about an event or a product with a brief caption to provide important details. Colourful visuals are also a good way to catch the attention of social media users. If it is necessary that the press release be in the form of a text, this should always be accompanied by one or two interesting photos, captioned accordingly.

Less is more

Everything that is shared on social media sites must come in simple, concise chunks because people on social media only scroll through and usually do not have time to linger over any one piece content.

This means that photos and graphics must be as uncluttered as possible (see 20 percent rule above). Story press releases must be kept short and simple, with the most important details on the first three paragraphs.

Stuffy is out

Get creative. Social media is young and playful, so its users embrace creative content. Thus, press releases for social media should not be too formal. Its tone should be conversational, as though it is confiding in a close friend.

Stuffy, stiff press releases in social media will do no good for any business, because they will just be ignored or even derided by social media users. Avoid press releases that seem too businesslike because they will not win any goodwill among your followers, and worse, it can drive away some of your followers, doing more damage than good.

Always remember, business PR for social should still follow the basics of good writing, but it is modified to ensure that it can be effective in being seen and appreciated by social media users.

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Whether offline or online, marketers like you face a variety of challenges. In the online world, many marketers worry of not getting enough reach or traffic to their sites, or not being able to profit from their target market.

What are some of the top Internet marketing challenges, and what are ways how to solve them?

Getting more people to be aware of their website and driving traffic

blankThis is probably one of the primary worries Internet marketers have: how to have a big enough volume of people who are interested in their products and services. Others on the other hand have no idea at all which Internet channels they should concentrate their efforts on to achieve the highest returns.

One way of solving this is to ask first yourself if you are on the right social media networks where you can tap your potential target market. For example, you may be focusing too much content on LinkedIn and Google+, but most of your target customers are on Twitter and Facebook. This may seem pretty obvious—finding where your target customers are online—but in a lot of cases, Internet marketers sometimes focus on areas online where they have little or no target customers. Try to use analytics to find out which social media networks will work best for your products and services, and then focus on how to translate your interaction and engagement with them to website traffic.

Do you provide useful and educational content for your readers and potential customers? If your website does not provide information other than advertisements or advertorials that peddle your products and services, then readers might move elsewhere. Providing informative content on your website along with your products and services might give off a positive perception among your readers that your website is a good and valuable resource of information and possibly, useful products and services. Providing useful and educational content also reinforces your reputation online—someone who is very knowledgeable about a certain topic and therefore someone can be trusted for product recommendations.

An outstanding website

Perhaps you should even look back and ask yourself: Is my website valuable enough to the visitors? Is it functional enough? Is it designed well so that people won’t have a hard time navigating its features and content?

You may have found your potential market online, but if your website is poorly designed and does not provide enough content, then you will have a serious problem. Do not expect people to go through the difficulties of checking your website and finding the product or service that they want when there are dozens of other websites by competitors that offer easy-to-use navigation, user-friendly features, and outstanding design, among others. Remember that your website is your online identity—how people perceive your website has a large impact on what they think about your business. It is your online storefront so everything about it—functionality, content, aesthetics—is central to your marketing success online.

Content that stands out

There are hundreds of businesses out there online that sell similar products and services, so how do you stand out? By providing outstanding content for people to see your edge in the business. Do not just peddle products and services online; make sure you provide them with content that is helpful to them.

Content includes photos, videos, and infographics which can help you engage your potential target market.

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The simple answer to this question is NO; search engine optimization is not spam.

Here is a great video from Matt Cutts talking about search engine optimization and how it can be helpful for search engines and website owners.

The long answer is that if done improperly search engine optimization can become spam. There are many industry standards and acceptable practices that should be used to make sure your website is optimized for search engine but there are also many companies who are either inexperienced or negligent in performing optimization and use techniques that are designed to trick or unfairly manipulate search engine results.

In the SEO industry the terms white hat and black hat are often used to differentiate the different types search engine optimization companies and methodologies.

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Generally the term white hat refers to SEO specialists that perform keyword research, technical analysis, copy-writing, a/b testing and conversion analysis to improve your overall traffic and website conversions. Companies that use white hat methods are much more successful over the long term.

The term black hat is often a negative reference to point out SEO techniques generally frowned upon by search engines and many respected SEO specialists in the industry. Quite often techniques may include keyword stuffing; hidden text, unnatural link building and any other activity which may unfairly manipulate the search engines rankings.

From a website owner point of view it is important that you understand the difference. An inexperienced or unethical SEO company can do a lot of damage to your website rankings which can be difficult to recover from.

There is no question that good SEO brings a lot of value to a website so it is important that you look for a reputable company to perform these tasks for you. When you are looking for a company make sure they can show you some long term clients with long term results. Make sure they can give you references and show you examples of their work. If they start off saying we will add some keywords in your meta-tags and provide links from tons of blog sites this is a clue you may be talking to a black hat or very inexperienced optimizer. If the SEO company is talking about keyword research, copy-writing, website structure and conversion analysis then you are likely working with a white hat that has some experience. It is good to know the difference.

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When you ask this question more than 10 years ago: “Does your company have a website?” you would not be surprised when you meet a few people saying they don’t have a website for their companies. Some would even ask: “Why would I even need a website? My company is doing well in its sales, thank you very much.”

But today, with practically all the businesses, institutions, and individuals have online presence, you cannot be one of those technology dinosaurs left behind. Here are some reasons:

  • In today’s wired world, going online is a matter of survival for any business. If you don’t, you will be left by a very vast market of potential customers who are already online and searching for products and services that your company may have been offering.
  • If your company is not accessible online or do not market their products and services on the Internet, chances are, your competitors might be grabbing their attention—and purse.

If your company is still of those companies that have yet to embrace the online world, here are some things that you can do to start your presence on the online world and begin your Internet marketing.

Begin with a website that is good and valuable

blankA good website will signal a message to your customers—existing and potential ones—that you are already online and you are ready to conduct your business. A valuable website should serve as your online gateway of information between you and your target market. You want people that when they search for a product or service online or look for your business name, your company website should be the one appearing (or at least among those appearing) in the Internet search results. With a good website that provides comprehensive and relevant information about your services and products, you will be tapping a potential target market who might be interested in buying what you sell—with just a few clicks and which can be done right in the comfort of their own homes.

Make sure your website contains updated information about your company and the products and services you are offering. Show to your online customers that you accessible, so your website should carry contact details, whether phone, email or real-time assistance.

Promote your website as much as possible

Try to promote your website as much as possible. Put it in your brochure, flyers, business cards, and your other offline marketing tools.

Use social media as a means of directing your potential customers to your website. Social media sites such as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter can help you reach for potential customers who are on the social media but do not know or may not have enough time to go to your website and browse its pages.

Why not build a good email list?

You may also want to start your Internet marketing by building a good email list of people who may be interested in getting updates from your company. You may want to offer website visitors a sign-up form to receive news and information about your website. In that way, people who are checking their email will receive updates about your products and services and may be interested in checking them out.

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Nowadays, when you want to promote your website, you cannot ignore the power of social media. Millions of people worldwide are into social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. You can therefore tap the potential customers in social media to be aware of your products and services and might be interested in purchasing them.

Here are some tips how you can make your brand be more memorable on social media.

Do something in social media so that people can remember

blankWhen done right, social media can help build credibility and trust between your company and followers/friends. Offer something that is valuable and memorable to your friends or followers. For example, why not hold a contest regularly to your Facebook and Twitter followers? In that way, you are building a long-term relationship with your potential market. At the same time, you are helping create awareness for your products and services.

You might also want to evaluate how you are using the social media tools to promote your product. For example, you may not want your brand’s Twitter and Facebook to have the same content all the time. Sure, it may be easier (especially with the use of social media tools that enable you to simultaneously post content in various social media platforms at the same time), but what good will it bring? A Twitter follower, for example, will not follow you on Facebook if he or she sees that your Twitter account provides the same content as your Facebook page.

Why not provide a specific role for your social media account. Why not make your Twitter account as your conversation spot (where you can answer questions or comment on any issue) and Facebook as your billboard spot (your brand is offering discounts this week)?

Be Proactive

Do not wait for someone to tweet your account or post on your Facebook wall. As much as possible, provide content that is informational to your readers. Interact with your followers or friends about the product or service you are offering them—whether you are showing gratitude for using a product or service or addressing a concern.

Engage your followers and friends. Try to strike a conversation with them. For example, if your website sells the latest mobile phones, why not ask your Twitter and Facebook followers what they are looking for a mobile phone? In that way, you are engaging them on their thoughts about mobile phones and at the same time, promoting the mobile phones that you sell.

Use photos and videos

In social media, photos and videos are among the forms of content that are easily shared in various networks. They are easy to understand, user-friendly, and does not need readers to understand mountains of text. As much as possible, include photos, infographics, and video on your website. Provide social media sharing buttons so that people can easily and immediately share them on their own networks. Good photos and videos can be viral; it is a great way for you to gain awareness and recognition online.

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I believe that we are currently experiencing the most social the world has ever seen, with hordes of social networking sites proliferating in the Internet, with new ones being introduced everyday. Despite this smorgasbord of social networking platforms for my online marketing needs, I have decided to focus the bulk of my efforts on two sites in particular—Facebook and Twitter.

Here are the three reasons why I signed my business up for Facebook and Twitter.

Wide network

blankIt is undeniable that Facebook and Twitter are the two hottest social networking platforms. If I want to reach as many people as I can with the least amount of effort, and if I want to bring my company, products, and marketing efforts to as wide a network as possible, then it only makes sense to join the platforms with the most number of dedicated, engaged users—Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook, with its hundreds of millions of users, has penetrated all of the United States, as well as most of the world (with the exception of China, wherein it is banned). Twitter, with its ease of use, also has millions tweeting and twittering 24/7. Signing up my company for those two lets it become part of that globalized network, and brings it that much closer to a personal (if virtual) relationship with its target market.

Treasure trove of market information

When Facebook held its successful initial public offering, which raised $16 billion, the world got to be awestruck over how much a bunch of profiles cost. And yet, for me, that also was the one of the biggest formalized acknowledgment of the valuation of the information that can be mined from social networking sites. It was also the first time such a publicized actual payout for a social networking site happened. This is testament to how much information are really worth.

I understand that information is power and wealth—I need to have data to understand my target market and to market my products. Both Facebook and Twitter offer me a treasure trove of the information that I need. I don’t believe in buying information about my target customers from a third party source. But everyday, users of those networks voluntarily post interesting and personal facts about themselves, and if my research team is doing their work right, then those posts only make it easier for me to tailor the company’s products and services to them.

The market research can even be done in as personal a manner as simply asking my followers and their networks: “Do you like this new product? What service do you want from us? Are you satisfied with our service? Where do you want us to set up a new branch?” Facebook’s comments and Twitter’s hashtags are also very useful tools in getting market information.

Power of connections

Of course, as a businessman, I want to cover all (or as much as possible) of my bases and I eventually signed up my company in some other social networking sites, mostly with niche followers, such as Instagram and Pinterest. And what do you know, Facebook and Twitter also both gave me a way to connect to those other sites and update them by just logging in to either Facebook or Twitter. This allows me to position my company so that it is wherever my target customers are, making my online marketing efforts pervasive and consistent.

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One of the best ways to promote your products and services online is using search engine optimization (SEO). After you have finished creating your website, including the design and content, make sure that you devise and implement a good SEO strategy in order for your website to appear high on search results in Google and other top search engines, and thus ensuring that the information about your products as well as services gets spread.

Here are some guidelines how you can promote your content online with the help of a sound SEO strategy.

Keywords in the title

blankFirst, do not forget to provide sound and appropriate keywords in the title of your posts or content. Select which keywords people are most likely to look for when they search online for websites like yours. Make sure that at least one keyword (the more keywords, the better) to appear in your website titles and pages. Do not forget to also include the keywords in the headings as well as in the text.

Of course, this means that you should try and use the keywords where appropriate. Do not use keywords to the point that your website’s content sounds like spam to the readers. Use the keywords wisely.

Meta tags

Do not forget to add meta tags, which are keywords that you add in the Web page’s Head section—right between the tagsand .

Register your website with the search engines

Do not wait for search engines such as Google to find about your wonderful website. Register your site with these search engines. Add your website to the database of Google as well as other top search engines such as Yahoo and Bing.

Link, link, link

Try to provide as many links as possible in your contents. For example, does your post refer to something that you have written before? Provide readers with the link to that post. How about a popular study you cited in another entry? Why not provide a link to that study. As much as possible, link your content to old posts or to other popular sites. The more links your entries have, the better search results you will get.

Update your website

It is also important to SEO that you update your web site regularly. Search engines like also Google check how regularly a website gets updated. It won’t help you in your SEO strategy if you update your website too few and far between. Come to think of it: If readers or potential buyers see that you do not update your website regularly, then why would they need to check your website from time to time?

Thus, you should need to have your site growing with content as possible. The more frequent you update matters to your SEO strategy, as well as for your immediate readers and potential target market.

Social media is your friend

While you are at it, why not tap the social media networks to help increase awareness about your website? A lot of readers and possible customers are on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Turn that social media traffic into your website.

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So you want to Internet marketing, but you don’t know where to start? Internet marketing may be hard to understand for a number of people, but you should not be among them.

Here’s a cheat guide for all those who are grappling with Internet marketing.

Do social media marketing

blankThere is a wide array of social media marketing tools out there that you can use for your Internet marketing. Among social media marketing tools, those that stand out include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. Why not use some of these social media tools to do some social media marketing? Convert your social market reach to something that is productive to your Internet marketing purposes.

For example, in Twitter, why not create a Twitter account for your company or your product or your service? Why not claim your brand on Twitter and start tweeting to promote your brand according to your brand’s identity and style?

On Facebook, for why not make a page that promotes your product or service? You can connect your website or blog to your Facebook account and try to raise your website traffic from your Facebook friends or followers. Who knows? They may buy something from your website or share the news to his or her friends or network.

Do email marketing

Email marketing can bring a lot of the Internet marketing that you need. Find people who are interested in your products or services and who might be interested in purchasing. In your website, offer a sign-up form who might be interested in getting updates from your company.

Try to regularly send out emails to your subscribers—usually in the form of a newsletter. It does not have to be a daily newsletter for you, unless there are really daily updates about your products or services on your website. For example, why not make sure that every Monday, subscribers can expect to receive an email from you.

You might also want to check out affordable professional email marketing services to help you with your Internet marketing campaign.

Write an e-book

If you think you are an expert to a topic or idea about your company, then why not do an e-book about this? Show to the public your ideas or opinions. If the readers find that you are extremely knowledgeable about a certain topic, they will follow your advice and recommendations, including purchasing the product or service you are marketing online. E-books are a great way of raising traffic and awareness about your website, as well as gaining reputation in the field.

Post instructional videos for your visitors

Online video is another helpful tool for people who want to promote their business. Try to upload videos regularly on your website that tell people about your product or service and why they should buy or purchase it.

You do not necessarily have to tap a professional video production company; the video can be simply created and edited using your basic video editing software programs. Just make sure that the videos do not look amateurish.

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So you are thinking of devising and implementing a sound search engine optimization (SEO) strategy for your website. Here are some very nine helpful tips to get you started. Many of these tips are so easy, that even a non-techie person like your mother would love.

  1. blankThe rule “content is king” applies in online. Make sure that your content is good, unique, and well written. Make sure that you use primary keywords in your content so that your website will appear higher in search engine results in Google and other top search engines. Do not just post content that will advertise the products and services that you sell. Provide readers with something that is really helpful for them.
  2. If content is king, then no doubt that links are queen. As much as possible, provide quality links to your content. The more links you have on your website posts, the better chance your website will appear high in search engine results. Do not be stingy with links.
  3. Update your website content as much as possible. Remember, your rankings on the search engine will be higher when you have fresh and updated content. As much as possible, provide new and updated content because that it will increase your website’s relevance to the search engines.
  4. Make sure that the website is user-friendly. If your website is easy to use, this may influence the popularity and link building ability of your website. In short, your ranking in search engines.
  5. There’s nothing wrong with asking influential websites and bloggers who might be interested in using or linking your content to them. It is also a good idea to ask if you can be a guest blogger to their sites. This will translate to additional reach and traffic to your website, not to mention added reputation online.
  6. You should also tap social marketing. It is very much part of SEO. Why not use sites such as Facebook, Digg, Twitter, and the like? This will help improve your website in terms of web search rankings.
  7. Do not hesitate in using images and videos. After all, a lot of people want to see photos and watch videos rather than read text. They are also easy to share in social media. Why not add other components, such as podcast or contests in social media? Not only will it make your Internet strategy more exciting, it will also entice and engage your readers and possible customers to know more about your products and services.
  8. Since we are talking about social media and sharing, why not put viral components to the website or blog? Why not allow visitors to post comments or reviews, or share the content in their networks?
  9. If you are not doing any email marketing, then now is the time to do it. It is the among the primary used form of online marketing, it is also one of the top ways that people can get to know more about your products and services, or get updates from your website.