Tag Cloudadvertising american express amex blog blogging brand branding budget friendly business cards business success commercial printing commerical printing company brand direct mail effective marketing email email marketing facebook globaltech globaltech east inc google graphic design keywords logo mail marketing online online marketing online reputation pay-per-click ads print printing print marketing print myths print rumors reputation sbs seo small business small business saturday social social media twitter website website content
Tag Archives: marketing
If you are building a company that depends on making people feel sexy and sophisticated, it’s probably going to confuse your consumers if you your logo is bright green.
That’s because different colors are associated with different feelings. Green conveys organic growth, the earth, nature, or feelings of caring. Meanwhile, black communicates feelings of sophistication, authority or seduction. Not convinced? Consider the green logo for Starbucks or Greenpeace and the black logos of Chanel or Sony.
Color isn’t the only design element that communicates with your customer about your brand. Font, spacing between letters and shape also tell your brand story in that instant when a first impression is formed.
Have a look at the infographic below, compiled by Canadian plastic-card maker Colourfast, to get a sense of whether your logo is conveying the right message.
Firms that are successful in marketing invariably start with a marketing plan. Large companies have plans with hundreds of pages; small companies can get by with a half-dozen sheets. Put your marketing plan in a three-ring binder. Refer to it at least quarterly, but better yet monthly. Leave a tab for putting in monthly reports on sales/manufacturing; this will allow you to track performance as you follow the plan.
The plan should cover one year. For small companies, this is often the best way to think about marketing. Things change, people leave, markets evolve, customers come and go. Later on we suggest creating a section of your plan that addresses the medium-term future–two to four years down the road. But the bulk of your plan should focus on the coming year.
You should allow yourself a couple of months to write the plan, even if it’s only a few pages long. Developing the plan is the “heavy lifting” of marketing. While executing the plan has its challenges, deciding what to do and how to do it is marketing’s greatest challenge. Most marketing plans kick off with the first of the year or with the opening of your fiscal year if it’s different.
Who should see your plan? All the players in the company. Firms typically keep their marketing plans very, very private for one of two very different reasons: Either they’re too skimpy and management would be embarrassed to have them see the light of day, or they’re solid and packed with information . . . which would make them extremely valuable to the competition.
You can’t do a marketing plan without getting many people involved. No matter what your size, get feedback from all parts of your company: finance, manufacturing, personnel, supply and so on–in addition to marketing itself. This is especially important because it will take all aspects of your company to make your marketing plan work. Your key people can provide realistic input on what’s achievable and how your goals can be reached, and they can share any insights they have on any potential, as-yet-unrealized marketing opportunities, adding another dimension to your plan. If you’re essentially a one-person management operation, you’ll have to wear all your hats at one time–but at least the meetings will be short!
What’s the relationship between your marketing plan and your business plan or vision statement? Your business plan spells out what your business is about–what you do and don’t do, and what your ultimate goals are. It encompasses more than marketing; it can include discussions of locations, staffing, financing, strategic alliances and so on. It includes “the vision thing,” the resounding words that spell out the glorious purpose of your company in stirring language. Your business plan is the U.S. Constitution of your business: If you want to do something that’s outside the business plan, you need to either change your mind or change the plan. Your company’s business plan provides the environment in which your marketing plan must flourish. The two documents must be consistent.
The Benefits of a Marketing Plan
A marketing plan, on the other hand, is plump with meaning. It provides you with several major benefits. Let’s review them.
- Rallying point: Your marketing plan gives your troops something to rally behind. You want them to feel confident that the captain of the vessel has the charts in order, knows how to run the ship, and has a port of destination in mind. Companies often undervalue the impact of a “marketing plan” on their own people, who want to feel part of a team engaged in an exciting and complicated joint endeavor. If you want your employees to feel committed to your company, it’s important to share with them your vision of where the company is headed in the years to come. People don’t always understand financial projections, but they can get excited about a well-written and well-thought-out marketing plan. You should consider releasing your marketing plan–perhaps in an abridged version–companywide. Do it with some fanfare and generate some excitement for the adventures to come. Your workers will appreciate being involved.
- Chart to success: We all know that plans are imperfect things. How can you possibly know what’s going to happen 12 months or five years from now? Isn’t putting together a marketing plan an exercise in futility . . . a waste of time better spent meeting with customers or fine-tuning production? Yes, possibly but only in the narrowest sense. If you don’t plan, you’re doomed, and an inaccurate plan is far better than no plan at all. To stay with our sea captain analogy, it’s better to be 5 or even 10 degrees off your destination port than to have no destination in mind at all. The point of sailing, after all, is to get somewhere, and without a marketing plan, you’ll wander the seas aimlessly, sometimes finding dry land but more often than not floundering in a vast ocean. Sea captains without a chart are rarely remembered for discovering anything but the ocean floor.
- Company operational instructions: Your child’s first bike and your new VCR came with a set of instructions, and your company is far more complicated to put together and run than either of them. Your marketing plan is a step-by-step guide for your company’s success. It’s more important than a vision statement. To put together a genuine marketing plan, you have to assess your company from top to bottom and make sure all the pieces are working together in the best way. What do you want to do with this enterprise you call the company in the coming year? Consider it a to-do list on a grand scale. It assigns specific tasks for the year.
- Captured thinking: You don’t allow your financial people to keep their numbers in their heads. Financial reports are the lifeblood of the numbers side of any business, no matter what size. It should be no different with marketing. Your written document lays out your game plan. If people leave, if new people arrive, if memories falter, if events bring pressure to alter the givens, the information in the written marketing plan stays intact to remind you of what you’d agreed on.
- Top-level reflection: In the daily hurly-burly of competitive business, it’s hard to turn your attention to the big picture, especially those parts that aren’t directly related to the daily operations. You need to take time periodically to really think about your business–whether it’s providing you and your employees with what you want, whether there aren’t some innovative wrinkles you can add, whether you’re getting all you can out of your products, your sales staff and your markets. Writing your marketing plan is the best time to do this high-level thinking. Some companies send their top marketing people away to a retreat. Others go to the home of a principal. Some do marketing plan development at a local motel, away from phones and fax machines, so they can devote themselves solely to thinking hard and drawing the most accurate sketches they can of the immediate future of the business.
Ideally, after writing marketing plans for a few years, you can sit back and review a series of them, year after year, and check the progress of your company. Of course, sometimes this is hard to make time for (there is that annoying real world to deal with), but it can provide an unparalleled objective view of what you’ve been doing with your business life over a number of years.
By: Chris Foss, Published August 31, 2014
Over the past 18 years, I have written thousands of website proposals – for design, development, hosting, and/or marketing (SEO) – for companies and organizations of every size and (just about) every industry. Some people want a basic brochure website, others might want full online marketing strategies, while others ask for things that are, literally, impossible to develop. Everyone, however, always wants to know:
“How much will this website cost?”
And after 18 years, my answer is still the same. Websites can cost anywhere from free to more than $100 million, it all depends on what you want to actually achieve online.
Let’s discuss the design and build first
To start, ask yourself a few questions.
1. Are you looking to sell products online or include any ecommerce?
2. Do you require backend integration with any internal databases or systems (CRM, AMS, Inventory/warehouse system, accounting)?
3. Is your website primarily a marketing and informational site?
4. How tech savvy is your staff?
5. How established is your brand (i.e. will your web design be creating everything from scratch or do you have established brand guidelines)?
Finally, one of the toughest questions of all: how valuable is this website to your business or organization? If your business is a local Burger King franchise, then a website, while important, is not overly valuable compared to the rest of your marketing and operational needs. However, if your business is an online dating service, where the website IS the business, then obviously the design and build of the website will require much more attention and ongoing development.
Ok, so how much should I budget for my website?
Now that you’ve asked yourself some important questions, let’s get down to at least some budget ranges.
Cost of Basic Websites
For many small businesses, a basic website is a great place to start. These types of websites can range from FREE (but be careful what you sign up for!) to around $5,000. A basic website is typically 3-10 pages and really just focuses on providing basic information about the business – who you are, what you offer, and how to contact you. A website company will typically stylize an existing theme or template and work with clients to build out these sites for $4,000-$5,000.
Cost of Custom Websites
I truly believe that all businesses should eventually have a custom or advanced website. Basic, template websites are fantastic for businesses starting out with a limited budget, but for a website to truly work for you and generate an ROI, you should consider a Web firm to build you a custom design website. After all, look at any successful website that you visit on a regular basis. Are any of them templates? No. And there is a good reason for that.
A firm will work with you to build a custom design website, and the process should start with in-depth discussions about your target audiences, corporate culture, online business goals, and behavior/conversion goals. A custom site should be developed to successfully address all of these points in order to establish a strong, effective website for your business or organization. Custom website designs typically fall anywhere from $9,000 – $20,000; however, depending on the size and requirements of your website, the cost can certainly fall above this range.
Cost of Advanced Websites
Advanced websites are really any project that goes beyond a marketing/informational website. These are websites that include ecommerce, highly interactive features, backend integration, and custom programming. Projects like these are spec’d out on a case-by-case basis and can cost anywhere from $20,000 to several million dollars.
As you can imagine, marketing costs can also vary greatly simply because there are a wide range of marketing services that we can apply to any website. Typical engagements with a firm include SEO services, social media campaigns, email marketing efforts, and consulting with online advertising. Marketing costs are usually centered around ongoing efforts and measurable marketing goals that we establish directly with you. Based on these efforts and deliverables, marketing costs typically range from $500/mo to $5,000/mo, again, depending on how involved, and how aggressive, you want your web firm to be.
As you finalize your budget, keep in mind some of these additional costs as well.
1. Purchasing a domain name ($10-$20/year)
2. Hosting (usually $20-$100/mo depending on hosting needs)
3. Ongoing Maintenance – Don’t forget about this one. Despite how perfect the website might be at launch, within a few months, you can already start making upgrades. Platforms and plugins need upgraded and new functionality/new designs can always improve your site. You should plan to evolve your website on a regular basis, and this is usually provided on either an “as needed” basis or through a maintenance retainer.
4. Security Certificate for forms with private information or ecommerce ($200/yr)
5. Stock Photography ($20-$100 per image) or Professional Photography if needed
6. Video production if needed
In a rush to acquire customers through Twitter and Facebook, email marketing is often dismissed as outdated and out fashioned. Why craft an email when you can engage on social media?
But don’t dismiss the ancient act of sending emails so quickly; Tweeting and “liking” may be flashier, but a recent McKinsey & Co. survey states that email is vastly more effective way to acquire customers. How much more effective? Nearly 40 times more than Facebook and Twitter combined.
All marketing emails, of course, aren’t created equal. It’s all in the subject line – whether or not a customer decides to open your email or trash it rests entirely on its clickability. Luckily, a new study uncovers the attributes needed to create an effective subject line. Retention Science analyzed 267 million emails sent across 543 campaigns over the past six months. If you want to reach customers through email, consider these tips when crafting your next subject line.
Keep it between six to 10 words. Subject lines with six to 10 words perform best, generating a 21 percent open rate, well above industry standard. Those with subject lines containing five or fewer words ranked second with a 16 percent open rate, and those with 11–15 words returned a minimal 14 percent open rate. Despite this, the majority of emails sent (52 percent) had subject lines in the 11-15 word range.
Consider the device it will be read on. Thirty-five percent of emails are opened on mobile devices. Given that most smart phones only display five or six words of a subject line, being brief and concise is even more critical for mobile marketing.
Take a personalized approach. It’s shown to help re-engage and retain customers. Of the email campaigns studied, those with the recipient’s first name in the subject line delivered a 2.6 percent increase in open rates compared to those without a name.
Consider referencing a movie or a song. A separate Retention Science study analyzed 3.7 million emails and 22 campaigns where movie names or song lyrics were referenced in the subject line and found they were opened 26 percent of the time, while emails with more traditional subject lines were opened 16 percent of the time. Again, this allows you to take a more personal approach, and target certain customer segments.
Reconsider flash sale campaign. Nearly 80 percent of flash-sale email campaigns had subject lines in excess of 20 words; unsurprisingly, they consistently underperformed compared to campaigns with shorter subject lines. Their bad performance record may also be blamed on the frequency at which they’re sent — flash sale brands tend to email customers four to eight times a week compared to the industry standard of two to four times a week.
Many of the world’s best business leaders were born out of failed businesses. Knowing that there is a chance that the company you work for or own right now could someday fail, you need a strategy that can ensure your personal success no matter what cards your business is dealt. Let’s have a conversation about your personal brand.
As a 20-year entrepreneurial veteran, I have learned a few things about branding. The most important lesson of all is that I am my own brand, and so are you. That’s not to say that my businesses are not brands in and of themselves. However, you, as your personal brand, is a living, breathing, money-making, sales-churning, customer-serving human being.
Every entrepreneur is their own personal brand. If you don’t believe that’s true about you, then you are in for some trouble. If you own or work for a franchise and your pitch to prospective clients, employees and partners is all about the value it brings to the table, then what happens when another franchise opens two doors down? If you believe you are not a brand, then does that mean that when the company you work for fails, you do too?
The only insurance you have against extinction is building your brand. Here’s how to build your own personal brand in conjunction with or separate from your business brand:
Find your personal value proposition. You have a very specific value proposition that you bring to the table as an entrepreneur. Perhaps you’ve worked in your industry for 50 years, have a Harvard education or have lived through an experience that makes you better at your job than most. Whatever value you bring to the client, the employees of your company and to the organization as a whole should be spelled out regularly.
Work your value proposition into every presentation you give. Let your clients know the unique value you bring to the table to help them accomplish their goals. If you are the CEO or president of your company, create a blog where you write regularly to your employees, stockholders and customers. The more you speak to them, the more you establish yourself as the face of the organization.
When you become a brand within the company brand, you insure longevity for yourself, separate from the organizational brand. Zappos is an amazing brand, but so is Tony Hsieh.
Capture your brand “logo.” You are a brand and your logo is your photo. Your photo should be on everything and you should work with a photographer who can capture the essence of who you are. Let your business personality shine through in that photo. People can relate to a human being more so than they can relate to an inanimate figure. It’s OK to use your company logo, but certainly also include your personal photo. When the client, employee or stockholder thinks of you, wouldn’t it be nice if they pictured you as a human being and not some vector image?
Distinguish both brands. Building a company brand takes hard work. The best way to distinguish between your personal brand and your company brand is to explain and distinguish the two whenever possible.
Building a business is like creating a living, breathing, entity that will someday live all on its own — at least that’s the goal for many entrepreneurs. The inherent risk in building this type of entity is that many do end up going extinct. That doesn’t mean you should too. Certainly Walt Disney and Steve Jobs never worried about their employability nor their ability to build new and better business entities. They didn’t worry because they were, as human beings, strong brands too.
Build your own personal brand simultaneously to your business brand and you’ll have no problem plucking yourself away from your current entity someday. Be well poised to start your next venture way ahead of the curve because you bring your brand to the table.
Last fall, Google rolled out one of its largest changes of the past decade – an entirely new search algorithm, nicknamed “Hummingbird.” In contrast to the past updates, Panda and Penguin, which modified existing search algorithms and affected roughly 2 to 5 percent of search queries, Hummingbird is believed to have affected nearly 90 percent of all queries and dramatically changed the way the engine processes user requests.
The impetus behind Hummingbird comes down to context. In the past, Google’s algorithms processed user queries according to each individual word in the query string. As an example, a past search for the keyword phrase “hotels in Chicago” would require Google to parse through its index and find the best matches containing the words “hotels,” “in” and “Chicago.”
But now that users are more likely to enter complete questions — for example, “what is the best hotel in Chicago?” — into the engine, Google wants to understand the context behind the query in order to serve up the best possible results. Did you mean the best hotel in terms of price point or luxury level? Are you on the move in Chicago and looking for the best hotel nearest to your location? Hummingbird attempts to determine the context for your question, although it isn’t immediately clear whether it does so successfully in all cases.
What is clear, though, is that there are some tweaks you’ll want to make to your SEO strategy in response to this update — especially if you’re still using “old school” techniques. Here are a few of the strategies you’ll want to incorporate into your day-to-day SEO routine:
Don’t do keyword research — do market research. As Google continues to evolve, it’s clear that traditional keyword research — as in, the measurement of volume and competition metrics for individual, granular search queries — is on its way out. Google now cares less about whether you’ve optimized each individual page on your site to a particular keyword and more about whether your page’s content answers the question presented by the search user.
So instead of spending a ton of time trying to find the magical combination of keyword metrics that’ll guarantee you natural search traffic, brainstorm the questions your users are asking about your industry and brand. Then, make sure your website’s content clearly answers these questions in a way that’s easily understood by the search engines and provides extra value to your visitors.
Incorporate questions into your content. As you begin to incorporate the questions you’ve come up with into your site’s content, there are a few new guidelines you’ll want to keep in mind:
• Unless your content is poorly written (and at risk of suffering from a future Panda penalty), there’s no need to go back and rewrite every page you’ve ever created to target user questions instead of keywords. Add on extra content if you need to, but don’t risk messing with content that’s already performing successfully.
• There’s no need to follow a “one page, one question” rule, as many page managers used to do with traditional keywords. Pages can answer multiple questions, as long as the search engines can make sense of your content and each question is answered fully for your visitors.
• Try to provide your readers with as much information as possible. Plenty of SEO managers are concerned about the potential of Google’s new information card feature — which displays answers to questions posed directly in the sidebar of the results page — to steal away traffic that would otherwise arrive from search clickthroughs. While this feature is currently only available in Chrome browsers, there’s no reason to think it won’t be rolled out more widely in the future. To prevent possible traffic poaching, give your pages so much substance that it’s worth your readers’ time to take the extra step of visiting your site.
The more content, the better. Posting new content to your site on a regular schedule has been an SEO recommendation for some time, but with Google Hummingbird in place, this tweak becomes even more important. The more content you have, the more questions your site answers — and the more likely it is to appear in the contextual search results. For maximum impact, focus on adding new content that explicitly answers user questions — including “how to” posts, FAQs, process tutorials and other similar pieces.
Beyond these few tweaks, keep following the SEO best practices that have been put in place for this post-Panda, post-Penguin era. Build great content that accumulates high quality, relevant backlinks naturally on its own. Use a responsive design that makes it easy for readers to find information from you wherever they are. And above all, stop trying to outright manipulate the search rankings. Think long term about the direction Google appears to be going and make your site as attractive as possible by playing by the rules and being a good webmaster.
In order to successfully grow your business, you’ll need to attract and then work to retain a large base of satisfied customers. Marketing emphasizes the value of the customer to the business, and has two guiding principles:
1. All company policies and activities should be directed toward satisfying customer needs.
2. Profitable sales volume is more important than maximum sales volume.
To best use these principles, a small business should:
• Determine the needs of their customers through market research • Analyze their competitive advantages to develop a market strategy • Select specific markets to serve by target marketing
• Determine how to satisfy customer needs by identifying a market mix
Marketing programs, though widely varied, are all aimed at convincing people to try out or keep using particular products or services. Business owners should carefully plan their marketing strategies and performance to keep their market presence strong.
Conducting Market Research
Successful marketing requires timely and relevant market information. An inexpensive research program, based on questionnaires given to current or prospective customers, can often uncover dissatisfaction or possible new products or services.
Market research will also identify trends that affect sales and profitability. Population shifts, legal developments, and the local economic situation should be monitored to quickly identify problems and opportunities. It is also important to keep up with competitors’ market strategies.
Creating a Marketing Strategy
A marketing strategy identifies customer groups which a particular business can better serve than its target competitors, and tailors product offerings, prices, distribution, promotional efforts and services toward those segments. Ideally, the strategy should address unmet customer needs that offer adequate potential profitability. A good strategy helps a business focus on the target markets it can serve best.
Most small businesses don’t have unlimited resources to devote to marketing; however, the SBA wants you to know that you can still see excellent returns while sticking to your budget if you focus on target marketing. By concentrating your efforts on one or a few key market segments, you’ll reap the most from small investments. There are two methods used to segment a market:
1. Geographical segmentation: Specializing in serving the needs of customers in a particular geographical area.
2. Customer segmentation: Identifying those people most likely to buy the product or service and targeting those groups.
Managing the Market Mix
Every marketing program contains four key components:
1. Products and Services: Product strategies include concentrating on a narrow product line, developing a highly specialized product or service or providing a product-service package containing unusually high-quality service.
2. Promotion: Promotion strategies focus on advertising and direct customer interaction. Good salesmanship is essential for small businesses because of their limited advertising budgets. Online marketing is a cheap, quick, and easy way to ensure that your business and product receive high visibility.
3. Price: When it comes to maximizing total revenue, the right price is crucial. Generally, higher prices mean lower volume and vice-versa; however, small businesses can often command higher prices because of their personalized service.
4. Distribution: The manufacturer and wholesaler must decide how to distribute their products. Working through established distributors or manufacturers’ agents is generally easiest for small manufacturers. Small retailers should consider cost and traffic flow in site selection, especially since advertising and rent can be reciprocal: a low-cost, low-traffic location means spending more on advertising to build traffic.
The aforementioned steps combine to form a holistic marketing program.
The nature of the product or service is also important in citing decisions. If purchases are based largely on impulse, then high-traffic and visibility are critical. On the other hand, location is less of a concern for products or services that customers are willing to go out of their way to find. The Internet makes it easy for people to obtain goods from anywhere in the world, so if you’re worried about reaching a certain market, selling your product online may do wonders for your business.