It’s Election Day. You Won’t Read this Post.

I VotedExcept you might read my post now that I’ve included a shameless mention of Election Day.

When your customers are universally interested in an event or holiday, don’t change the subject. Work with it. Although cycles of celebration may not correspond with your business cycle, customers will disregard marketing communications that don’t fit with their interests or current needs.

Small business marketing requires strategic use of resources that earn a high level of engagement from customers. We can’t waste time and money on efforts that will be ignored.

Here are some ways I help my clients address the ebbs and flows of the calendar:

  • One B2B client accepts that her clients’ attention is distracted during certain times of the year, including Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We focus our marketing efforts on other times of year and don’t waste resources trying to “cut through the clutter.”
  • Another B2B client tackles the New Year with challenges for his clients to plan for success in the coming months.
  • To tie-in with Thanksgiving, I’m helping one veterinary client promote pet safety during the holiday, for instance with this Fido Friendly Thanksgiving Infographic.
  • With another veterinary client, we typically run seasonally-themed Facebook photo contests for clients to brag about their pets. Last year, we sponsored a Winter Wonderland contest.
  • A landscape services company knows that pre-Thanksgiving is a popular time for customers to install landscape lighting, so we run promotions during that period.
  • This summer, another landscape services client earned customer attention when we suggested ways to create an herb container garden to enhance their outdoor kitchens and barbecues.

So, after you go vote and before the results start coming in, spend some time today considering how to make your marketing communications more seasonally relevant to your customers. It will certainly be more productive than nervously biting your nails as you wait to learn who our next President will be.

 

LinkedIn Publishing Platform Yields Lackluster Results

LinkedIn Pulse Publishing Yields Lackluster ResultsLinkedIn is a critical social media tool for networking, while adding significant value to B2B marketing and sales. I recommend that every individual stay active on the network, along with regularly updating your profile. Many businesses should have a LinkedIn strategy, too.

When LinkedIn launched its publishing platform, I was excited to try it out for my clients. Here are the benefits I was hoping would result from publishing on Pulse:

  • Providing content directly to a member’s network would promote more interaction from relevant audiences.
  • Articles would get an SEO boost from being on LinkedIn.

Several months later, and tests of Pulse have yielded lackluster results. Articles of similar theme and content perform better on my clients’ other platforms than on Pulse.

The Drawbacks of Marketing Your Small Business with LinkedIn Pulse

  • Articles from small business seem to be effective only if your subject matter surrounds networking, career advancement or recruiting.
  • Posts are published live. Without the ability to schedule posts, it’s difficult to publish at optimal times for your audience.
  • SEO appears to be less effective on Pulse than other networks.
  • Only three tags can be assigned to any one article.
  • Image size and placement customization are very limited.

LinkedIn Pulse could become a useful platform for marketing your small business. But first it needs to mature by adding features and giving authors more publicity.

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

Precise language is one of my joys. It’s exhilarating to find exactly the right word that communicates in the best way possible.

Which is why it pains me to admit that accuracy isn’t all that important if it’s boring. For marketing communications, you must be interesting first and precise second. To catch a customer’s attention, it’s best to spark their curiosity with memorable content.

Words become boring through overuse. When a word is ubiquitous in the culture, customers start to overlook it, like static in the background. Sometimes, these words are useful descriptors of what your company does, but it doesn’t matter if customers have grown accustomed to ignoring them.

Instead, choose words that are easily understood but unique in the context of your business. Compare these two marketing campaign approaches from Mosquito Joe and JH Mosquito Control Services. Mosquito Joe takes a friendly approach that is much more interesting and memorable than JH’s technical description of its service special.

Mosquito Joe – Outside is fun again.

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

JH Mosquito Control Services – Mosquito Control Special!

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

Some Terms that Might be Accurate, but are Terribly Boring:

  • Solutions
  • Collaborative
  • Communication
  • Service
  • Special
  • Alignment
  • Outside the box
  • Cutting edge
  • Turnkey
  • Innovative
  • Expert

Perfection is Illusive, but Keep Working on It!

True marketing magic happens when you find precisely the right words that also perfectly describe what you do and why customers should buy from you. I advocate striving for that goal!

In the meantime, though, you have to keep marketing and selling. “Don’t let perfection become the enemy of good,” is a powerful business adage. As you move forward, infuse more interesting and unique language into your marketing. You’ll attract customers’ attention, and they will allow you more time to explain accurately what you do.

Data Disaster: 24% Never Back Up!

Someone arbitrarily decided that June is Backup Awareness month. Let’s celebrate with this pie chart from Backblaze:

Backup Frequency Chart

It’s hard to believe that almost half of computer owners never back up or only back up once a year. These users are headed for a data disaster because storage media always fail. On average, here’s the lifespan of common storage media:

  • 5-10 years: flash drives
  • 3-5 years: hard drives
  • 2-5 years: CDs and DVDs

I’m in the 8% that backup my files daily, and just last year I added secondary remote backups to my routine. I simply can’t afford to lose my clients’ valuable files and data.

As a small business, it’s critical you develop a backup routine. Losing even a month’s worth of files can significantly harm your productivity and success. Consider losing the last month’s billing cycle, the new spreadsheets you spent hours on, the countless emails exchanged and all the minute changes made to your documents.

Backup utilities automate the process of backing up. Once you configure the system, you’ll hardly have to think about it again– until you need the backup!

Blogging is Not Dead. It’s a Vital Marketing Tool.

Blogs increase traffic 77%Blogging has been around since the 1990’s, and the practice has been fairly universally panned ever since. In the early days, detractors sneered that no one wants to read what bloggers ate for lunch (before the rise of foodie blogs proved them wrong). Today, blog belittlers insist that businesses should stop blogging and focus solely on social media.

But the truth is that blogs remain a vital small business marketing tool.

Why Blogs are Great for Marketing Your Small Business

  1. When you write with focused keywords, blogs are great for SEO. Search engines value websites that are regularly updated.
  2. Interesting blog posts provide content for your social media campaigns, while directing customers to pages that promote your brand in the best way.
  3. Packaging one or two interesting blog posts with your promotional emails increase open rates and customer engagement.

HubSpot published a helpful article last year, “21 Essential Strategies for Growing Your Business with Inbound Marketing.” Included is helpful research showing how blogs increase your small business marketing effectiveness, such as:

92% of all online experiences begin with a search engine 61% of people say they prefer content

If you’ve been neglecting your blog, start it up again! Try posting one interesting piece of content each week, including posts, videos or pictures. To keep on schedule, follow my tips for creating an editorial calendar.

Overcoming Blog Writer’s Block

Overcoming Blog Writer's BlockHaving a regularly-updated blog is an important part of your small business marketing strategy. Well-written blog posts help your organic SEO rankings and give customers a reason to explore your site. These articles can also be used in your email marketing and social media efforts. Conceptually, almost every small business understands the value.

But then you actually have to write the posts, develop the videos and create the graphics! Publishing a blog requires creativity, imagination and… time.

Here are some tips for overcoming writer’s block and keeping your blog up-to-date.

  • Schedule a brainstorming session. Take 30 minutes to an hour to write out ideas and create skeleton blog post drafts. When you’re stumped, you can rely on your previous creativity.
  • Need a blog post right now, but don’t have any drafts? Let your mind wander over the last week. What problems have you solved? Have customers been asking any particular questions? Did you complete a successful project that customer’s will find meaningful? Usually, by answering these questions, you’ll find a topic just waiting to be discovered.
  • Beyond your actual business, is there anything in your personal life that relates to your business and customer interests? For instance, sometimes I will share effective or ineffective marketing executions I’ve seen.
  • Get creative with using your SEO keywords. Craft a compelling SEO headline and let the story flow from there.

Sometimes, though, small business owners are simply too busy to publish their blog and other marketing content on a regular basis. If that sounds like you, give me a call. I help many businesses with content creation and would love to learn more about your business.

The Critical Last Step to Launching Your New Website (That Most Small Businesses Forget)

Finishing a significant small business marketing initiative like a website redesign is an exciting time! After possibly months of work and waiting, your new website is ready to be launched and revealed to customers.

Or is it?

The Critical Last Step to Launching Your New Website - TestingThere’s a critical last step to launching your new website that small businesses often overlook: Testing. Before introducing your website redesign to customers, test each and every functionality to make sure it’s behaving as it should. Click every link, fill out every form, watch every video and inspect every picture. Ideally, perform these tests on a variety of devices and web browsers.

Embarrassing mistakes and typos can be avoided simply by taking a fresh look at your completed site. Recently, I found that a client’s social media links were switched. Clicking on LinkedIn took you to YouTube, and clicking on Pinterest took you to Twitter. During a website review for another new client, I found their Google AdWords landing page wasn’t loading, wasting hundreds of dollars in advertising. Attention to detail matters for delivering optimal customer experiences and spending your marketing resources efficiently.

Even if your website isn’t new, take a few minutes this week and check it over. It’s better for you to find any errors than to leave them for your customers.

Facebook Marketing Tips

Facebook marketing is becoming increasingly important for certain kinds of businesses. These include locally owned businesses, brands with exceptional personality and organizations that inspire great loyalty in their customers.  Sixty-one percent of Internet users visit social networking sites, like Facebook. Chances are, a percentage of your customers visit Facebook every single day (or multiple times a day!).

The basic building blocks of marketing on Facebook are to develop a page for your business, regularly update that page and advertise to get customers to ‘like’ your page. Once a customer ‘likes’ your page, your updates will display on their wall; their friends will be able to see that they ‘like’ you, and they will have a chance to interact with your business on Facebook.

If you do a great job marketing on Facebook, customers will engage with you, recommend you to their friends and stay interested in all of your updates. Your page will be a great marketing tool that your customers will enjoy. If you do a bad job with Facebook marketing, customers will ‘hide’ your posts, and your efforts will be useless. If you do a really bad job, customers will ‘unlike’ your page and tell their friends about their bad experiences.

To help you do a great job with Facebook marketing, I’ve put together some Facebook marketing tips. To illustrate my tips, I’m using posts from the Cincinnati Zoo’s Facebook page. With 60,000 ‘likes’ and 2,500 check-ins, this marketing effort is extraordinarily successful. A quick glance at the page shows why their Facebook marketing works– the Cincinnati Zoo has implemented marketing strategies that attract interest and interaction from its customer base.

1. Post interesting content on Facebook.

Content is king. Content keeps your customers interested and keeps your business top-of-mind. Like this video post from the Cincinnati Zoo:

Not every business can post a video of a baby bearcat, but you must develop content that will be interesting to your customers. Try to post many different types of media like pictures, videos and blog posts. Strike a balance between entertaining, informational and promotional content.

2. Motivate your customers to interact on your Facebook page.

One way Facebook marketing is different from email marketing is that the customers can talk back to you. Inspiring interaction is a great way to get customers more involved with your business. The Cincinnati Zoo has a contest every Friday, soliciting photo captions, like the one below:

This particular contest received 346 comments, 149 likes and many voters on the individual comments. That kind of participation is well worth the prize given away. Other ways to encourage participation would be to have a poll, ask for picture and video submissions or simply asking an intriguing question.

3. Respond to your customers’ questions.

Before a joint event with the Zoo and the Cincinnati Reds, I posted a question on the Zoo’s Facebook posting. Someone answered my question in under an hour. By responding to questions quickly, you teach your customers that your Facebook page is a resource they should keep returning to.

4. Be subtle with your sales.

Facebook users are on the site to get updates on their friends, share about themselves, be entertained and learn interesting facts. They aren’t on Facebook to see advertisements on their walls. Here’s a subtle way the Cincinnati Zoo promoted their summer camp:

The Facebook poster shared a child’s experience and asked others to share their children’s experiences. It started a nice dialogue, but the real goal was to educate customers about the existence of a summer camp. It’s fine to occasionally post informational updates about a new product or your annual sale, but do it in a way that will interest your customers. Just posting a picture and a price isn’t enough.

These are just four tips to help your Facebook marketing, and following them is crucial to building a successful presence. There’s lots more to learn to become a Facebook marketing expert, though. If you have specific questions about your business’s unique situation or offerings, feel free to email me: amanda@zooinajungle.com