New Business Shows Power of Having a Really Specific Target Market (Watch)

When starting a business, it’s important to have a specific target market in mind. Some businesses target large groups like millennials or women. But others get even more specific.

The Value of a Specific Target Market

Take the case of ExpressionMed. The company, founded by 19-year-old Meghan Sharkus, makes only one type of product — colorful stickers that hold insulin delivery devices in place. The market for this product is small but clear. She’s aiming to help kids with diabetes change the perception around the disease.

Right now, Sharkus makes all of the stickers by hand. But she recently started a Kickstarter campaign in order to get started with machine manufacturing.

So even though her business only offers one type of product targeted at a very specific group of people, it’s doing well enough for her to consider expanding. And since about 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, many of them kids, there’s still a sizeable market for her products.

Other businesses can potentially learn a thing or two from Sharkus. Even though she’s young, she was able to create a product with a very clear purpose and market it to a very specific audience. Whether you sell one product or a hundred, that’s an essential building block of any successful business.

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5 Great Tips on Successful Small Business Branding

5 Small Business Branding Tips

We all understand how important brands can be.  There are brands that signify all over the world.  Nike.  Harley Davidson.  Starbucks.  These are companies that are more than just the products they sell.  They’re lifestyles.  They’re statements, both about the company and the consumers who choose them.

If you think bold, memorable branding is only available to big companies with massive marketing budgets, think again!  No matter your industry, you can cultivate a unique brand that resonates with your clients.  Want to know how to do it?

Small Business Branding Tips

1. Clarify Your Company’s Purpose

For a brand to be meaningful, it must connect to your company’s reason for being (which, incidentally, assumes you have a reason for being above and beyond simply earning an income.)  Why did you start your company?  How do you think you’re making the world a better place?  Without a firm grasp of your purpose, you’ll never be able to communicate what’s unique and important about your company.

2. Enlist Your Employees

Along with clarifying your purpose, you must also ensure that every single member of your staff understands that purpose and knows how and why to communicate that purpose with every customer.  In a perfect world, your purpose isn’t something that’s pounded into your staff.  It’s something you hire for.  When you hire an employee who shares your values, then you’re on the right track.  Effective branding isn’t an afterthought.  It infuses everything you do!

3. Create a Rallying Cry

So for my company, Profit First, our purpose, our rallying cry is “We want to eradicate entrepreneurial poverty!”  We say it, and we mean it.  Every morning huddle (our quickie standing meeting) reiterates our purpose and the steps we’re going to take that day to accomplish it.  Our rallying cry lets us communicate our purpose and values quickly … to anyone and everyone.  That’s our brand.

4. Enlist Your Customers

You know your purpose.  Your staff knows your purpose.  But do your customers know your purpose?  Letting your clients know that they’re buying more than just your goods or services is key to enlisting them in your brand building efforts.  Consider the Life is Good brand.  When people don a t-shirt, they’re making a statement about a lifestyle, rather than just getting dressed.  Folding in what makes you unique and worthwhile is a big part of successful branding.

5. Hire a Pro

Sometimes we think we should be able to do it all, but no matter how talented you are, you need help in the areas that aren’t your strength.  If marketing isn’t your thing, consider hiring a consultant or agency to help you crystallize and evangelize your brand.  Professionals can help you avoid spinning your wheels and wasting money on ineffective tactics.

Your brand is more than just your company name and a slogan.  It’s the expression of your values, your quality, and your unique vision.  Branding done right cements you in the minds of your customers.  It makes it easy for people to understand who you are and what you do.  Branding differentiates you from your competitors, and it speaks to your ideal customer, resonating with the people who will most appreciate your work.

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10 Digital Advertising Trends Important to Small Business

10 Digital Advertising Trends Important to Small Business

We are now nearing the end of Q1 for 2017, and it’s safe to say that numerous advancements have occurred within the digital media world, both good and bad. The accelerated prominence of video has continued, and the mobile phone is still continuing to dominate our lives.

Anyway, it’s a new year which means we can start to develop new digital marketing strategies to propel brands forward in the coming months.

Below are the top 10 trends that will define this year in digital marketing, according to Sean Mulrooney, CEO of NW3 Media:

Digital Advertising Trends

Mobile

Last year was a big one for mobile, and there’s no doubt that we will see the same in 2017. In fact, Zenith predicts that in 2017, mobile advertising will finally reach the critical inflection point and surpass that of desktop.

The prevalence of handheld devices and the fact that desktop traffic is passing into oblivion clearly indicates that mobile is, in fact, the future. If you are not catering your content, ads, and website towards mobile users, then you are missing out on a massive opportunity. Don’t make a few technical tweaks here and there, but honestly examine your online experience to ensure that it’s integrated with a user’s lifestyle that is “on-the-go.”

Native

Business Insider reports that spending on native advertising reached $7.9 billion in 2016, with projections skyrocketing to $21 billion in 2018, and expected to expand across numerous platforms. Digital savvy consumers are now wary of extremely overt advertising, and the increased ability to skip ads or remove banners on browsers means that a more integrated ad experience is more likely to reach its target audience. If it’s done well, native advertising is unobtrusive and seamlessly integrated into the regular content on a platform, providing value to the audience in addition to reaching them with your advertising.

Video

If you’ve checked in on any of the popular social media sites lately, you’ll notice that most are dominated by video content. Facebook Live, Snapchat stories, not to mention the already ubiquitous videos shared on Twitter and Youtube. (Video is quickly on its way to becoming the king of content.) Fail to incorporate video content in your advertising, and you may be left in the dust.

The trend goes hand in hand with the growth of mobile. Invodo reports that video viewership on mobile surpassed that of desktop since Q4 of 2015. What makes YouTube such an advertising powerhouse is its ability to reach the Millennial audience, with YouTube reaching more 18-49 years olds during primetime than the top 10 TV shows combined.

Interactive Content

Remember those classic magazine quizzes like “What Lipstick Color Are You” or “What Superhero Are You Most Like?” They are here in the digital space too, and they can also be leveraged for their advertising potential.

Content that users interact with leaves a greater impression than those they only read. It takes the audience from a passive to an active role. Interactive content in ads or on the advertiser’s site, from quizzes, polls and infographics is essential in an age when mere visual and written ads are likely to be lost in a sea of content.

Personalized Content

Consumers are now constantly bombarded with ads every day. This dilutes the effect of most advertising campaigns. Yankelovich President Jay Walker-Smith says the average user is now exposed to over 5,000 ads per day, making it difficult to capture the attention of a distracted audience.

In order to cut through the clog, advertisers must hone in on exactly what specific consumers care about — in other words, personalize the ad experience. Fortunately, with increasing data and the ability to track consumer habits, interests and activity, advertisers have the capacity to segment ads to target specific types of users. While it may mean a bit more work initially, the benefits are certainly worth it.

Influencers

Influencers are like word of mouth on steroids. Few tactics are more effective in the digital advertising age than having a well-followed influencer touting your product. Trust is built in, and reach is instant across multiple platforms.

Influencer advertising is on the rise because people tend to trust recommendations from their favorite social media personality much more than any traditional campaign telling them a product is great. Influencers have a vested interest in maintaining a halo of honesty, which then transfers to their recommendations. With the right influencer partners, advertisers can build rapid followings in little time.

The familiar channels of Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Twitter are of course the prime targets. But also consider niche forums such as Reddit. You can even target B2B industry influencers who blog.

Chatbots

Chatbots have come a long way since the days of Microsoft Clippy.

Google’s Allo was launched in September 2016 and hailed as “the most significant chatbot messaging platform ever” with its ability to read and interpret messages, while recommending appropriate responses in turn. Advertisers quickly jumped on the trend, providing the ease of hands-free, voice-activated and concierge-like service right in the consumer’s home.

Chatbots allow for real-time, 24-hour engagement with customers. AIs provide a personalized experience for customers, without the actual need for a person for every customer. A personal sales associate for anyone that wants to chat is the type of positive consumer experience of many companies’ fever dreams; chatbots are making that happen, with AI and big data providing update and market strategy in real-time that will improve the advertising potential the more chatbots are used.

Live Video

Live video is the new “it girl” to the scene, made evident by Snapchat’s meteoric rise. When Facebook announced Live, the company was so confident in the potential of this content distribution channel that it made multi-million dollar deals with publishers like Buzzfeed to keep the content coming in. The deal is working out wonderfully for all parties. Facebook reported that users watched live videos three times longer that those that weren’t live.

Following in the tradition of vlogs and popular reaction videos, the content is more spontaneous, more intimate and able to visually and emotionally reach viewers immediately, creating a more impactful experience that advertisers continually strive for.

Data, Data, Data!

It’s no longer viable to invest in advertising and content if you don’t pay attention to the data and metrics that go with it. Not only can it be used to determine the success or failure of a campaign, but it also gives valuable insight into the minds of customers. This can help advertisers continually perfect and correct what they are putting out.

Every major platform — from email to Facebook, Google and Instagram — provides metrics and data to advertisers. More content interaction means more ways to source data, and cloud storage and machine learning provide a more accurate and faster way to process this data than ever before. Ignore these assets, and your ads will be left in the dust.

Ad Blocking

More than 400 million mobile web users and 200 million desktop web users are using ad-blocking technology to restrict the banner ads displayed on their devices. However, marketers should stop worrying about it. Yes, you read right, stop worrying about it. It’s a reality, and as frustrating as it is, ad blocking is here to stay. There will be a constant cat and mouse game between advertisers and platforms against developers of ad blockers.

It is better for advertisers to focus their energy on diversifying their media and seeking outlets like native advertising and useful content embedded with advertising that circumvents ad blockers. Traditional online advertising is not well received by consumers, blocked or not, so advertisers should focus on creating content consumers want to see, rather than content they consider to be a nuisance.

Final Thoughts

Growing your business isn’t easy, is it? Increasing your influence and earning more customers is a challenge every company deals with. The key to your marketing success is staying on top of the trends. The last thing that you want is to be left behind. Pay close attention to the development of the trends listed in this article, and you will stay ahead of your competition.

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5 Small Business Marketing Schemes That Will Waste Your Money

5 Small Business Marketing Schemes That Waste Money

Marketing is no easy task. Whole businesses exist devoted to marketing other businesses. Some companies have their own marketing departments. Small businesses often rely on the DIY approach to marketing. When developing your own marketing strategy, take care to avoid wasting your time and money.

Marketing Schemes That Waste Money

Mistake 1: Too Many Social Channels

Judging by some of the marketing advice you’ll come across on the web, you may think you need to be everywhere, all the time.

What a colossal waste.

When it comes to marketing via social networks, the most important thing is for you to be where your target audience is already spending their time. Do your customers spend lots of time on Instagram? Then don’t waste your time Tweeting.

Focus your marketing and engagement efforts on Instagram. This frees up your time to engage directly with your customers even more on their favorite channels. You can find out which social networks your customers prefer by simply asking, or by using a CRM with social media integration built in.

Mistake 2: Creating New Content

You’ve heard you need fresh content all the time. New blog post every day, right? Nope.

Your customers want a relationship with your business. They want to know you value them. They don’t want to get buried in your posts. Trying to create new content about your business or related to your business gets old fast — for you and your customers.

Try a better approach. Use some of your marketing budget to hire a content developer to create high quality content optimized for your business. Remember quality over quantity.

An interesting, professionally crafted infographic will get you much more customer engagement than a rambling post on your biz blog about industry minutiae.

Sharing content is important for engagement and variety. Choose carefully. Share only things that your audience will find value in. Save those 50 cat memes for your personal accounts.

Mistake 3: Casting a Wide Net

Your marketing efforts will work better if you target your audience effectively. Casting a wide net may seem like a simpler method, especially for DIYers, but you’ll end up wasting time and money marketing to the wrong people in the wrong places.

Ask current customers where they spend time online, what encourages them to make a purchase, and how they found you.

Create a Buyer Persona, this is a sort of bio of your ideal customer. Use the persona and any data you collect from customers to identify where best to apply your marketing efforts.

Mistake 4: Influencer Marketing

Everywhere you look, someone is advising you to find influencers to promote your business. This trend in marketing is taking off.

First, decide whether it’s right for your business. If you’re in an obscure industry or create products for a small niche market, influencers are probably not going to be much help to you.

If you decide this is the right path for you, be sure you have compelling things for an influencer to share about you in the first place. An interesting narrative can make all the difference. It’s imperative you identify key influencers in your industry with whom to build relationships.

Avoid wasting your time and money on a low impact influencer or one in the wrong industry.

Mistake 5: Video Marketing

Before you shell out beaucoup bucks hiring a video production company to create the perfect marketing video, consider a few important things. Chances are very good that your customers are watching video online, but where?

It’s important to know what platform your videos would be viewed on before you create one. Marketing videos on Instagram will be consumed a bit differently than on Facebook, for example. What kind of value will video give your customers?

A boring product demo is probably not going to inspire much engagement. A sneak peek of a new product that leaves some features to the imagination can be exciting. Video that makes an emotional impact inspires engagement well.

Before hitching your wagon to a new marketing technique, be sure it’s right for your business. It must be a way to provide your customers something of value. It must be shared where they are most likely to engage. Develop a detailed strategy with clear goals. Always measure your results, so you can make adjustments as necessary.

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How to Run an Email Marketing Campaign That Doesn’t Annoy Recipients

How to Avoid Annoying Your Email List

Email marketing is a core facet of online marketing. No matter how a customer or potential customer landed on your email list, it is important to use the opportunity to build a deeper relationship while avoiding falling into the “annoying” or “spam” categories.

If you want to retain email followers and turn them into customers, follow these basic guidelines to ensure they remain a happy subscriber for years to come.

How to Avoid Annoying Your Email List

Don’t Start with a Hard Sell

People sign up for your email list for a variety of reasons. The most popular methods to build lists today revolve around giveaways and freebies. If someone signs up for your list to get a free eBook, the first thing you do shouldn’t be asking for money.

It is okay to sell to your email list. In fact, that is the biggest reason to have an email list for most brands, but it takes time to build the trust for someone to want to spend money on your product or service. Instead of starting with a sale, start by thanking them for being a part of your list and giving them the free giveaway they asked for.

Focus on Being Helpful

If you are helpful, users will start to trust and enjoy hearing from you. Always try to be as helpful as possible each time you send a message to a subscriber. Either include something useful for your target audience in the email text or point readers to another resource on the web, maybe something new on your blog, that will help them succeed.

If you help your subscribers regularly, they are sure to come back for more. The more helpful you are, the more loyal they will be. If you really change the game for someone, they might even become an online evangelist helping spread the word about your business.

Mix Up Your Emails to Stay Interesting

If you use the same template again and again and again and again and again and again and again, you will see more and more readers clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of your emails. Don’t be repetitive and boring, be useful and fun.

In my email series for new subscribers at Personal Profitability, I have some short emails and some long emails. Some focus on a specific tool that can help people save time and money, while others focus on “homework” readers can participate in to level up their finances. By mixing things up and keeping it interesting, I have seen my email open rates increase and my list size grow.

Be Genuine and Honest

My email subscribers trust me because I am honest, transparent and genuine. In fact, I go so far as to publish how much money I earn each month on my website. While that may seem crazy in a world where money talk is still a faux pas, by sharing my successes and failures, I am showing readers my true colors, further building trust.

Sharing my online income reports each month also gives subscribers a reason to come back to my site each month. I give a unique, personal update via email and share the details on the blog.

Make Your Emails Something People Look Forward To

I have unsubscribed from hundreds of newsletters, but there are a few that I have stuck with over time. One example is Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income email list. Pat is an online entrepreneurship rock star, and his emails and blog posts give amazing, free information that helps me and thousands of others improve their online business.

I always look forward to Pat’s emails because he is genuine, friendly and incredibly helpful. His free guides are packed with actionable steps and tips that anyone with a business can use to improve online performance. While I know an email from Pat will likely lead to me doing more work, I look forward to it because his advice almost always comes with a great payoff.

Be Clear About Your Goals

Passive aggressiveness is horribly annoying in real life, subtle hints online are not even tolerable to most people. When you are trying to be helpful, be clear that your goal with that email is being helpful. If you are trying to get affiliate signups, be clear and present your readers with one thing to do in that email, signing up for the affiliate.

When it comes to product sales, you shouldn’t sell with every single email, but it is okay to make a direct sale every once in a while. In my old website development business, emails one to four were solely designed to be helpful. Number five was a soft sell. Six through eight were also freebies packed with useful information. The final email in the signup series, email nine, was a hard sell. In the selling emails, I made it very clear that my goals were to sell a service.

Put Yourself in the Subscriber’s Position

How do you feel when you signup for email lists? Why do you choose to signup and what keeps you on the list with so many demands for your attention? Learn from your favorite email lists and mimic, without directly copying, what your favorite email lists provide.

If you can synthesize what you enjoy and put your own original twist on it, you are sure to retain subscribers for the long-term. And long-term subscribers are the most likely to become fans and customers. If you can avoid being annoying and always focus on providing great value, you will be on track for great success with your list.

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How to Acquire Higher Quality Backlinks

How to Acquire Higher Quality Backlinks

Google stated that there are three top factors that go into their search ranking algorithm: RankBrain, their artificial intelligence system, content and links. They also then clarified that the top two factors were content and links. Not trying to put words in Google’s mouth, but I would venture to say that links are the most important and powerful part of SEO.

Links are how search engines determine what a site is, how relevant the site is, how pages are related, etc. They show search engines how to rank your page, so you want to make sure that you have a strong link building strategy as part of your SEO plan. Links are one of your most powerful assets, and they take time and dedication. Below are four tips to help you acquire higher quality backlinks for your site.

Sources of Higher Quality Backlinks

Trustworthy Sites

Not all links are created equal. Some sites provide better SEO juice than others. Think about it this way. Lets say that you are up for a promotion at work. You would rather have your manager or direct supervisor tell your boss how good of an employee you are instead of the intern who has been there two days. Why? Because a manager or supervisor has more authority than the intern. That’s not to say that the intern is useless or unwanted. It’s just their opinion is probably going to hold less weight in the eyes of your boss.

Same goes for SEO. A link from a site that has been deemed authoritative on its topic, like the Wall Street Journal, is going to give you better results than a link from a newspaper source that has been around for two months. These high-quality sites are more trust worthy to search engines and will give you more of an increase in the SERPs. Reach out to newspaper sites, education sites, .gov sites and .org sites to see if they would take your content, which will give you a backlink.

Guest Posting

Guest posting or guest blogging is when you offer to write content for another site in order to get yourself in front of their audience and then get a link back to your site. Guest posting is perhaps the best way to generate high-quality, lasting inbound links. You get more control over the links and URLs and over the content in general. However, this takes a little more effort than some other techniques.

Make sure you find well-known and trusted blogs to send your content to. Write a relevant, and quality piece of content and send it to these publishing sites. If it works for their audience, they will post it and you get your name in front of people you never otherwise would have and you get a backlink pointed at your own site. Also, guest posting helps you to build relationships with other sites and their readers. 

Competitor’s Links

One great way to increase your link building strategy is to analyze your competitor’s links. This will give you ideas of sources that you should be using for links for your own site. You can use Monitor Backlinks to examine their links.

After seeing what links your competitors have, make a list of those sites and try to get links from those sites or similar ones. Maybe take a piece of content they have on another site and rewrite it to make it better, and then send it out and try to get a link back.

Social Media

Even though many social media sites use no follow tags, I still believe that social media can definitely help you acquire better links for your overall strategy. Social media links might not increase your placement in the SERPs, but they are still links that are pointed to you that search engines can crawl, and as search engines continue to get better about using social sites to rank websites, it is something you want to use to your advantage.

However, one piece of advice. Make sure that you use the links on your social profile wisely. You want to send your viewers back to your website. That’s the end game.

Conclusion

Links are one of the top three factors that Google considers when deciding ranking, therefore, it is imperative that you have quality backlinks pointing to your site. If you work hard on your links, you should see real improvement to your rankings and your overall SEO.

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7 Questions to Ask When Brainstorming Content Ideas for Marketing

7 Questions to Ask When Brainstorming Content Ideas for Marketing

One of the requirements for a sustainable content marketing campaign is the aptitude for generating topic ideas. It may sound easy, but at some point, you’ll realize that this can be harder than producing the content itself — whether it’s a blog post, podcast or any form of visual content.

Smart marketers capitalize on tools that randomly generate titles based on keywords. There are also content research tools like BuzzSumo that can help you identify what’s trending in your niche. While these can help you obtain rough ideas on what your next piece will be about, they rarely provide you with usable titles that are worth publishing.

Brainstorming Content Ideas

Take note that you need a strategic approach when generating topic ideas. But before you finalize and start working on any title, be sure to ask yourself the following questions first:

1. Have You Done Anything Similar Before?

Some content marketers are guilty of reusing the same idea for multiple content pieces, especially if they contribute to different publications. If you’re really struggling to come up with something new, then you may revert back to old topic ideas.

Reusing a previous title idea can be advantageous as long as you’re doing it knowingly. Otherwise, you may disappoint subscribers who religiously follow your blog.

The first thing you can do is to explore the topic from a different angle or furnish it with a new set of actionable steps. If possible, you can also present it using a different format to appeal to new audiences. Old data-rich posts, for example, can be repurposed into infographics, which garner three times more engagement on social media.

2. Are There Sufficient Resources Online?

If you answered “no” to the previous question, then you probably lack comprehensive knowledge on the topic you chose. Sure, diligent content producers can relate to anything with extensive research, but it’s very difficult to instill value to new content if there aren’t enough information sources online.

Unless you have firsthand experience on a subject, make sure there are abundant research materials available before you get started. To establish yourself as a credible, authoritative brand, you should only provide 100 percent accurate information that’s validated by studies and other resources. And if you really need to delve into a topic, then be prepared to purchase reports and studies from certified research firms.

Additionally, make sure you only reference the most recent sources available. A simple trick is to filter results through search engines and content research tools by date instead of relevance.

3. Is There Similar Content Elsewhere?

Let’s face it — all content marketers have at least considered copying ideas or “borrowing inspiration” from other content producers. With millions of websites publishing content every second, it’s hard to come up with something that’s truly unique.

Although it’s fine if you don’t have first dibs on a new content idea, you should aim to make your version better in every single way. This is doable if you can update old data, add more information, or incorporate additional visual elements. But if you can’t do any of these, then you should ditch the topic and start anew. This involves getting links from authoritative websites that linked to the original content, making the technique highly beneficial for SEO.

4. Can You Offer Original Views and Add Value?

Take note that content marketing is now much more difficult than ever. If you keep on repeating everything that other publishers already shared, it’ll be impossible to cut through the content noise and make your brand stand out.

In addition to making your content better, assess if you can offer your original views to elevate its value. You can apply the information yourself to gain deeper insights and expound actionable steps. Finally, the content should also align with your brand’s voice — something that fosters familiarity between you and the online audience.

5. Can You Be More Specific?

Another way to be more unique is to dissect a topic into smaller pieces and focus on those individually. For example, if you initially wanted to cover influencer marketing, you can shift your focus on subtopics such as researching potential influencers, writing your outreach email and tracking relationships with brand advocates.

Every topic can be narrowed down with a little creativity and resourcefulness. Apart from finding subtopics, you can also tailor your new content to a different audience type. Play around with demographics such as age groups, employment status, income level, and location. This can unlock new topic possibilities with the same set of ideas.

6. Do You Have the Best Content Type in Mind?

In an interview with Mention, Rand Fishkin of Moz says that content marketers should explore new content types if they want to stay relevant.

“Content marketers are going to have to be more unique with the types of content they create,” says Fishkin. “They’re going to have more niche — serving smaller and smaller interest groups, but doing a better job of serving each of those.”

The good news is, brands don’t need a huge amount of capital to start diversifying their content arsenal. For example, simple visual content like infographics, quote cards and data visualizations can be created with a tool like Canva. It is a drag-and-drop platform that offers templates, icons and other features that can help you create shareable images within minutes.

Most modern smartphones are also capable of recording short video clips for social media. According to Cisco, videos will account for 80 percent of all online traffic by the year 2019. So rather than planning another blog post, consider writing an explainer video script instead.

7. Will It Come with a Catchy Headline?

The final touches of a topic idea involve crafting a captivating headline that’s searchable, audience-oriented, and compelling. After answering all the previous questions, make sure you can wrap everything up in as few words as possible.

According to Kissmetrics, the perfect headline is only six words long because readers tend to focus on the first and last three words. But since this is nearly impossible to pull off consistently, aim for anywhere from eight to twelve words. Ideally, you should use numbers and power words to make the headline more interesting.

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The Most Important Steps To Establishing Your Brand Online  

The Most Important Steps To Online Branding

It’s hard isn’t it?

Yes, I’m talking about establishing your brand online. As you have probably learned, you can’t just throw up a cool-looking website and then expect thousands of visitors to come flocking to it.

It doesn’t work that way. And it’s pretty frustrating, right? You’ve probably dabbled in social media. You may have even written a few blog posts.

But nobody comes to visit. And you’re probably about to lose your mind.

To add salt to the wound, you have probably seen many business owners make it look easy. How do they get so many visitors and subscribers?

Here’s reality: it’s not easy at all. Building a strong online presence takes a lot of time and hard work. But that’s not all. It also requires you to make sure you’re taking the right steps. After all, you don’t want to waste time working hard on something that isn’t going to get you anywhere, do you?

Online Branding Steps

That’s what this post is about. In this post, I’m going to give you some basic pointers that will set you on the path to building a thriving online presence. You will learn the steps you need to take to begin earning more traffic, getting more subscribers, and converting customers.

Start Your Blog

If you have done any reading on online marketing, you’ve already learned why blogging is important for business owners. Blogs remain one of the most powerful tools for expanding your influence, building credibility, and getting more exposure for your business.

Businesses who blog earn tons more leads than those that don’t.

Here are some of the benefits of blogging:

  • Blogging improves your search engine rankings, making it easier for prospective clients to find your business online.
  • It increases the likelihood that prospects will become paying clients.
  • Blogs are a great way to build your email list.

So why don’t more entrepreneurs blog? Well, one of the reasons is because they believe it’s too hard to build and maintain one.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. There are steps you can follow to establish a high-quality blog.

Start Creating Content

After you have chosen your platform and web host, and your blog is completely set up, you need to start creating content. This is the part you’ve been waiting for, right?

Not so fast.

Before you start writing content you need to have a plan. You don’t want to just start writing whatever you feel like writing. You need to know what type of content you need to write.

Fortunately, this isn’t too hard. You just need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What type of information does my audience need? What questions are they asking?
  • What types of blog posts would work the best for my readers?
  • What have others in my industry written about? How can I take a unique approach?

Here’s the thing: you’re not just writing content for the sake of writing content. Each blog post you write needs to have one objective: to benefit your readers as much as possible.

People don’t read content that isn’t helpful. Chances are, if they came to your blog it’s because they believe you’re providing information that they need. You need to deliver the goods!

Create Your Social Media Strategy

Creating a blog is an important step, but it’s pretty much useless if nobody reads it, right? That’s where social media comes in.

Social media is the best way to promote your content and your business. It’s the tool you will use to attract visitors to your blog and your website. An effective social media strategy can get your website more exposure and enable you to interact with your audience.

Use The Right Social Media Platform

Before implementing a social media strategy, you need to know which platforms to use. Otherwise, you might be wasting a lot of time posting on platforms that your audience doesn’t use.

The key is to find out which services your target market is using the most. You have to understand the demographics that make up your audience. Fortunately, you may already know this if you’re familiar with your industry.

Social Media Marketing Is About Being Helpful

Just like writing content, your main objective when using social media should be to help as many people as you can. It’s not about just promoting your products and services. Social media should be used to share your content and engage with your prospective clients.

Now, I’m not saying that you should never use social media to promote your products and services. It’s a great way to create awareness of what your business offers. However, you don’t want to overdo it.

One effective method for sharing on social media is to use the 30/60/10 rule. Here’s how this works:

You don’t have to stick hard and fast to that ratio. You might find that tweaking it a bit will work better for your business. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Find out what’s most effective for you.

Build Your Email List

When you start earning more traffic from your content marketing and social media efforts, it’s time to start converting these visitors into subscribers. This is how you will build your online audience and keep in touch with your followers.

Not only is email marketing great for building and nurturing your audience, it’s a highly effective way to get more customers. Email marketing is 40 times more effective than using only social media to attract business.

Give A Compelling Offer

How many times have you visited a website and been offered something cool for free? No doubt you’ve probably downloaded at least a few ebooks, checklists, and other types of content from sites that had valuable information to share.

Chances are, you only had to type in your email address, then download the goods, right?

So why does this work? Well it’s a little thing called the “reciprocity principle.” It simply means that if you give something valuable to another person, they will be more willing to give you something that you want.

In order to get subscribers, you have to offer something valuable. You can’t expect your visitors to give you their highly-prized email address if they’re not going to get anything out of it.

The great thing about this is that it’s not too difficult. You just have to think of what types of information would be the most valuable to your visitors.

Here are a few examples of free offers you can give to your readers:

  • Ebooks
  • Cheat sheets
  • Checklists
  • White papers
  • A free consultation
  • A video teaching

Not too hard right? But here’s the key: it has to be something that goes deeper than the value you’re already providing on your blog. You have to give them a reason to want it.

Engage With Your Audience

After you have gained permission to contact your visitors, you need to engage with them. This is where you will develop your email marketing campaigns.

When email your list, you don’t want to send only promotional materials. Similar to social media campaigns, email marketing should be used to provide value to your readers. Otherwise, they will stop opening your emails. They may even unsubscribe.

You don’t want that, right?

Figure out ways you can give your readers more of what they want: helpful information. Here are some suggestions:

  • Send updates on your latest blog posts.
  • Give content that only your email list gets to see.
  • Ask for some feedback from your audience. It’s a great way to gain a deeper understanding of your subscribers.
  • Give your readers a “behind the scenes” look at what your business is doing.

When you’re focused on providing more value with your email marketing, your readers will be more likely to spend their money with you. You don’t want to send a ton of sales emails if you’re not also providing a benefit to your readers.

Conclusion

Building an online footprint isn’t easy. It does take time. You will need to work hard to promote your website and build a healthy following. Most businesses don’t get instant results.

But if you’re consistent, you will be able to build an engaged audience. It does require perseverance, but when you finally start getting more clients, the hard work will pay off.

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This article, “The Most Important Steps To Establishing Your Brand Online  ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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4 Reasons Your Small Business Needs Content Marketing

Think your company doesn't need a blog strategy? Lots of small businesses could benefit from these ways to use content marketing.

Small businesses today are competing with a lot of noise.  Consumers are plowing through the clutter as they use DVRs to skip through commercials, install ad-blockers to browse the websites they love without ads interrupting, and customize what shows up in their social media news feeds.

This makes it imperative to find ways to make sure your small business isn’t ignored. Write messages that your target audience will want to see and read.  Whether you are looking for topics for social media post inspiration or ideas to use to make your blog posts draw customers in, it’s essential to reevaluate the way you communicate with customers. Replace the sales pitch with helpful information and the consumers will start to open their eyes and ears.  Market with the goal to make buyers see your brand as a valued information provider — not an interruption.

This type of marketing is called content marketing. Content marketing focuses on communicating with the customer and creating and distributing information with the intent to engage a target audience and promote brand awareness. Information needs to be relevant and value-packed to help your small business attract and retain customers.  Take a look at these 4 ways content marketing can drive results and increase your bottom line.

Ways to Use Content Marketing

Bolster Brand Awareness

One key to a successful content marketing strategy is consistency.  Publish fresh content regularly to create multiple opportunities for your target market to see your company’s name. This is one of many ways to stand out from your competition, plus repetition makes your brand more familiar. Stay in the forefront of consumer’s minds so the next time they want or need the products or services you offer, they support you.

Build a Reputation as an Industry Leader

If there are eight electricians in town and only one provides helpful information to people in the community, this is the brand that will stand apart as the trusted expert. Take the necessary actions to demonstrate your expertise so prospective customers don’t question or research your skills. The small business that helps consumers, especially when they aren’t getting paid, will also earn a reputation of being trustworthy.

Reel People In With Shareable Content

Create a steady flow of new information on various topics to open doors and drive traffic to your website.  You want to bring people in through search, traditional media, social media, and more.  Marketing tactics such as pay-per-click advertising and  digital banner ads don’t work as well if there is no content to promote. These vehicles need something to discuss and a place to link to. Publish relevant and current content so people have a reason to click and to encourage repeat visitors. These types of content also boost search engine ranking and increase the chances that potential customers will find your small business before they find your competition.

Keep Your Website Fresh

Today’s consumer relies heavily on the web to find the information needed to make decisions. A website is often a consumer’s first impression of that business, so it’s crucial to make it a good one. A stale website will not impress your customers and gives off an unprofessional vibe. Consumers who are on the fence may look at a website or a social media page multiple times, so make sure to have new information to see to make their experience a better one.

Content marketing is one of the most low-cost and effective ways you can drive traffic and build awareness for your small business.  Work to create content that attracts, acquires and engages your target audience.  It may take some time to see the results, but don’t give up.  Stick with your content marketing strategy and continue to refine it and it will lead your small business to great success.

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This article, “4 Reasons Your Small Business Needs Content Marketing” was first published on Small Business Trends

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The Best Ways For eCommerce Businesses To Use Online Advertising

There are many options for spending advertising dollars to promote your ecommerce business. Here are 3 types of online ecommerce advertising to consider.

You’ve finally done it.

You’ve bought your domain. You’ve set up your website. You’ve even created some social media accounts. And you’ve set up your online store.

It’s time to start selling!

But there’s one problem … nobody’s coming to your website. Nobody’s buying your product. As a matter of fact, nobody even knows you exist!

That sucks, right?

But don’t worry. Every eCommerce business owner runs into this problem. Fortunately, there are ways you can attract more web traffic and get your eCommerce business started.

For most eCommerce businesses, online advertising is the best way to get more people to your website. In this post, I’m going to give you some helpful tips to maximize your online advertising efforts. When you use these tips, you will see how much easier it can be to get more traffic to your website and earn more business.

You’re welcome.

Google Adwords

Google Adwords is one of the most common online advertising platforms. It’s also one of the most effective. If you’re going to use paid advertising, you should try out Google’s platform.

Here are some of the benefits of using Adwords:

  • It’s highly flexible. You can target many different types of customers
  • It’s a huge source of traffic. Google is the most popular search engine. 67.5 percent of search engine users use Google to find the information they need.
  • You get transparent results. You can easily see how your ad campaign is doing at any time.

Google is one of the most popular online advertising platforms. If you use it the right way, you can get tons of traffic to your website.

Know Who You Want To Target

Yes, I know this sounds obvious, but it’s really not. Many business owners fail to target their ads effectively. Their ads end up targeting people that aren’t interested in what they have to offer.

It’s important to know what your prospects are searching for online. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great tool that can help you figure this out. And it’s free!

When you’re writing your ads, you need to make sure you’re addressing the actual needs of your prospects. Don’t just tell your prospects what you offer. Tell them what problems you will solve. That’s what they’re looking for.

Make sure you have a clear call to action. Let them know what you want them to do, and why. This is the best way to make sure you get more click-throughs.

Use Negative Keywords

So what are negative keywords? It’s simple. These are keywords that you don’t want your ad to show up for. It keeps you from wasting time and money showing your ad to people who aren’t a good fit for your offer.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say you’re an attorney who specializes in estate planning law. Your ads cater to prospects that need to draft a last will and testament. In this case, you don’t want your ad showing up for people who are looking for a personal injury attorney. So “personal injury” would be a negative keyword for you.

You need to create a list of keywords that you don’t want your ads to show up for. This is how you maximize the effectiveness of your ads. You can make sure your ads aren’t showing to people who wouldn’t be interested in what you’re offering. If you learn how to use negative keywords, you will get more of the right traffic.

Facebook Advertising

Facebook is a great advertising platform if you want to gain more exposure for your business. It’s the most popular social media platform, which means that you have a higher likelihood of reaching your target audience. It’s the best online advertising platform for eCommerce businesses.

Here are some of the benefits to using Facebook ads:

  • You can target your ads more effectively. Facebook allows you to use demographics to target your prospects. You can be pretty precise in the type of person you want to see your ad.
  • There’s a HUGE pool of people to target. Facebook has 1.28 billion users. Over 800 million of these users are active on a daily basis.
  • Using it gives you an edge over your competitors. Many businesses are not taking advantage of the benefits that Facebook offers.

If you use Facebook ads correctly, you can greatly increase the amount of visitors to your website.

Rotate Your Ads

Don’t just use the same ad over and over again, even if it seems to be working. You want to rotate your ads on a regular basis.

Why?

Because you don’t want people to get tired of seeing your ad. If you use the same ad over and over again, people will stop clicking on it. If you get less clicks, your cost per click (CPC) will go up and your campaign will become more expensive.

Don’t make that mistake.

Develop an ad schedule for your campaign. Create a few different types of ads. Use different pictures. Change the ad copy. You need as much variety as possible. Not only will this keep people from becoming tired of your ads, it gives you a chance to see which types of ads work the best.

Use Landing Pages

This may sound counterintuitive, but you don’t want to send your visitors straight to your website when they click on an ad. You want to send them to a landing page first.

Landing pages allow you to make the most of the visitors who click on your ads. With a landing page, you can educate your customers before trying to pitch your product. You can give them more direction on what you want them to do.

If you connect your ad to your home page or a product page, your visitor won’t know what to do once they get to your website. That’s why it’s best for them to see a landing page first.

Your landing page will give your visitor a clear idea of what you want them to do, and why they should do it. If you’re paying for the ad, you might as well make sure that you increase the odds of getting actual customers from it, right?

LinkedIn Ads

Using LinkedIn for advertising is one of the best decisions you can make for your eCommerce business. This is especially true if you have a B2B company.

Here are some of the benefits to using LinkedIn ads:

  • It allows you to target actual professionals in any industry.
  • You get more variety in the type of ads you want to create.
  • LinkedIn ads offer a higher conversion rate.

LinkedIn gives you access to tons of professionals around the world. It’s one of the best ways to reach major decision makers in the companies you target.

Choose The Right Ad Format

LinkedIn offers two different types of ad formats:

  • Sponsored Content.
  • Text and Image Ads

Both of these types have their own pros and cons. You’ll need to figure out which type works best for your business.

Sponsored content is an update that appears on your company LinkedIn page. These posts are targeted to a specific type of audience. They will show on your homepage feed. It’s best for advertising promotions that are happening for a short period of time.

Text and image ads include a headline, description and image. These types of ads are meant to be more long-term. You can target these ads to a specific type of prospect. You can target many different types of professionals in many different types of industries.

Make Them Valuable

Make sure you’re emphasizing the value of what you’re offering. You need to communicate what your prospect will get when they click on your ad.

On LinkedIn, the best way to create an ad is to speak to a specific problem or goal that your prospect might have. You want to show them how you can help. It’s about making their lives easier.

Final Thoughts

Using online advertising isn’t easy. It takes time to master. Creating the right types of ads requires a lot of trial and error. But, if you keep at it, you will earn a lot more traffic and get more customers. When you use the tips given in this article, it will become easier to get more people to buy your product.

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This article, “The Best Ways For eCommerce Businesses To Use Online Advertising” was first published on Small Business Trends

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