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Posted by . In topics: Digital Marketing · Marketing

Synopsis: With the ability to build a site or social site within minutes, it’s no longer about getting the most clicks, but building a community. Here are some ways to do that for your online (or offline) business.

With new tools to better access more and more people online, it seems like the idea of getting clicks and traffic back to your website is a ‘set it and forget it,’ opportunity. But unfortunately, it’s not that easy to get new customers to start buying. And the reason is because it’s not about driving clicks to your site. Instead you need to create a community around your product or service.

The reason being are two-fold:

1. You need to be able to build trust around what you do and who you are. With so many bad players out there, you, unfortunately, have to prove that you can add value. And one of the best ways to do that is have other customers sing your praise.
2. Social media has turned the web into a connected world like never before. So we go to the web in order to build friendships and networks. It also allows businesses to be a part of that network.

The great thing about this opportunity is that once you have developed this community, it can allow you to grow simply by selling to the same customers over and over again. They’re your advocates and they want you to succeed. So as long as you continue to provide them with that value and network, then they will make sure you’re taken care of as well.

But that adds the issue of how to grow your network? Here are three tips, to make sure your number of followers grow.

1. Communicate

You will find that you must communicate with customers like never before, if you really want to grow a powerful network. This means you will need presences on social media tools that your customers prefer. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any of the countless other social sites, you will need to provide quality content to your customers on your chosen one or two platforms. But it isn’t just about that one communication platform. It’s about upping the conversation, so you’re chatting with them on Facebook, sending them to your blog, and then offering them something extra from there. It can be a newsletter or daily specials or something. But anything you think they will need to continue talking with you and about you. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Customer Retention · Digital Marketing · Marketing · Technology

There’s a free software tool available to small and medium sized businesses (SMB) today that can quickly transform your business into a savvy, high ROI digital marketing operation.  This tool was originally created to help some of the world’s most sophisticated web marketers and ecommerce sites understand who was using their websites, opening targeted communication, and interacting with different parts of the operation.  It allows these firms to actually track individuals, their interests, and their response to differing marketing exposure  – a web marketer’s dream.

Until recently, this type of solution has only been available to larger companies that had enough electronic marketing and web-based activity to merit the monthly investment.   The good news is that this is no longer the case.

One of the leading providers of lead management software, Loopfuse, is now offering a free version of their solution (it’s called FreeView) to businesses that focus on lead and customer groups of fewer than 2500 people – in other words, the average local business like yours.  Should you give it a try?  Answer these 3 questions to find out: Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Customer Retention · Digital Marketing · Marketing · Social Media

As most of you know, Twitter is a free social media platform.  Its users micro-blog everything from what they ate for lunch to news articles that they’d like others to see and share.  Users express themselves in short 140 character broadcasts to designated groups of “followers” (Tweets), which can be read and passed virally through the Twitter site, mobile devices, and a number of 3rd party applications.  In the last months, The Growthwire has received a lot of questions about the use of Twitter for local businesses.   Most of these questions come from people who clearly see Twitter’s value as a social and a customer-service/relationship tool, but are uncertain about Twitter’s usefulness for customer acquisition.

Our honest answer is that we don’t know the answer yet.

The platform obviously has many evangelists, some of whom say it’s a great acquisition tool.  We’re not entirely convinced that these anecdotes are objective or applicable to the average local business.  Most of the more thoughtful discussions note that even if it does ‘work,’ it’s probably not for everyone.  The most common challenges appear to be: 1) It requires a lot of work and a broader social media strategy to use effectively, 2) Its potential decreases significantly as the geography of its use narrows (i.e. global, virtual companies like Dell will get more ROI than the small brick and mortar/local market computer shop), 3) Despite all the talk and awareness, only about 11% of the US is using the service (compared to 40% for Facebook), and 4) A lot of Twitter activity is now the cultivation of mass-follower lists to facilitate spam advertising.

Maybe we’re jaded – we’ve been through several major cycles of internet hype to date… So instead of trying to tell you what’s going on, we’ll simply ask.  Read on to take our one-question poll and see links where you can learn more about Twitter. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Digital Marketing · Local Search/Google · Marketing

Big companies use PR firms to keep the press up to speed on their latest product announcements, event sponsorships, management changes, and other important information.  All of these announcements inundate the press (i.e. spam) and have actually created a backlash – many journalists now look to blogs in their area of interest for the really interesting stuff.  This is even happening in local press, where reporters eye local blogging content to spot trends and subjects of interest.

What does this have to do with your business?  Blog writers are always searching for fresh meat (trust me) and are often very open to direct communication, comment, and suggestion.  If a local blogger is writing about something that you’re an expert in, or a product/service area that you serve, it’s likely the blogger would welcome your input (much more so than a traditional journalist).  Also, it’s not at all unusual and, under the right conditions, not unethical, for bloggers to accept offers of free products/services to evaluate and comment on.  If the blogger does pick up your idea or input, you can often get a nice little bump in traffic for the effort.  If the local paper cites or follows up on that blog, or if the organizations that compile the “best of” lists in your town pays attention to bloggers (most do now), you could get a significant recognition and months of free publicity.

Bloggers often do a pretty good job of optimizing their sites for Google too.  This means that their work (and potentially your press) might be picked up by a broader audience than just their core followers. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Digital Marketing · Local Search/Google · Marketing

Google is putting their money where their mouth isn’t:  brand marketing via broadcast media.

The internet advertising behemoth has been running broadcast ads since mid-January and invested an estimated $5 million for a single 53-second Super Bowl TV ad.  The spot, an emotion-laden story about life, love and adventure, driven by Google searching, was one of the critic’s favorites this morning.

What most advertising pundits missed was this:  Why does a company that has unlimited ability to advertise and build name recognition across billions of web pages every single day need to advertise on TV?  The answer:  Google is facing real competition today from Microsoft/Bing, and soon probably from Apple.  They realize that they can’t just win with superior algorithms any more.  And they know something that a company learns by driving and analyzing 60% of internet advertising:  internet ads do a lousy job of branding and building desire. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Digital Marketing · Local Search/Google

If Google has its way, its new local search technology will soon be the arbiter of ‘hot’ or ‘not.’  The latest (local) product, Google “Favorites,” is designed to label one business per specific locale the ‘favorite’ for its business category.  This nod will be driven by consumers in a variety of ways involving social and mobile tools that are part of the new product launch.

If you’re one of the small businesses that hasn’t paid much attention to Google and it’s local search, you’d better start before this tech creates a hard-to-crack stratification of haves and have-nots.  If you’re familiar or active with Google Local, use your knowledge to start fighting for this new beach-front real estate today.   Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Digital Marketing · Marketing · Radio

As reported by the Wall Street Journal this week, the board of Zales Corp fired it’s CEO and two other top executives over poor performance, particularly during the 2009 holiday season.  One of the major issues, according to The Journal, was CEO Neal Goldberg’s decision to shift most of it’s broadcast advertising budget to internet marketing.  This strategy clearly backfired as Zales’ prime competitors, heavy users of broadcast media, posted strong results.

Consumers are obviously using the web with increasing frequency as their source of entertainment and social connection.  Marketers should take caution, however, before they assume that this shift in attention equates to a shift in digital marketing effectiveness.

For all its promise, the web has yet do demonstrate an ability to influence desire and intent to purchase.  In fact, most web commerce is dependent on those triggers occurring before Google is searched, a banner is clicked, or a merchant’s site is opened.

The desire and brand choice that drives market share — online and offline — are still being created by effective terrestrial advertising.  This is particularly true for emotion-driven purchases like diamond jewelry, as Zales can now sadly attest.

Bottom line: Make sure that you’ve built the desire for your brand with effective offline advertising before you expect consumers to look for it online.

Posted by . In topics: Customer Retention · Digital Marketing · Local Search/Google · Marketing · Social Media

With recent advances in search technology, your customers’ experiences can now be instantly in the public domain and, in many cases, magnified by the size and nature of social networks.  This adds to the existing risks posed by sites that offer un-moderated ‘ratings’ of local businesses – many of which you may not even know exist.

If you don’t already, its time to start taking steps to manage your brand’s reputation online – at the very least, to find out if there are any reputation-killers lurking in the dark recesses of the web.  For most businesses, this can be as simple as a doing a couple of quick searches each month, or setting up an automated Google Alert to do the searching for you.  Other businesses may need to dedicate more effort to this issue; particularly ones that are active in social media, have high staff turnover, face very aggressive competitors, or who’ve had problems with product quality or customer service.

In this, the first of two posts on Reputation Management, we’ll cover why you should be concerned and how you can take steps to monitor what’s said about you or your business online.  In the second post, we’ll focus on how to use this information, including strategies for remedying bad situations. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Digital Marketing · Marketing · Social Media

According to several recent studies, 75-90% of small businesses get no return on investments in web marketing via social networks.  This, despite the fact that about 50% of small business owners spent over 100 hours last year engaged in social media marketing. In one recent survey conducted by BizLaunch, owners were asked a very general question:  ”What social media platforms have contributed to your sales?”  The answers were pretty dismal:

  • Facebook: 14%
  • Linked-In: 7%
  • Twitter: 5%
  • Blogs: 4%
  • YouTube: 1%

So what’s going on? Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Digital Marketing · Local Search/Google · Marketing

Every month, our team of marketing, operations, and strategy professionals put their heads together to answer a reader’s question about growing his/her small business. You can click here to submit your own question, and please feel free to join this discussion by adding your comments below

Rachel H., Stamford CT

Q: My staff and I put a lot of time into our website – it has a fantastic design, includes video testimonials, detailed pages about all of the services we provide, and have a very good page of Frequently Asked Questions.  It’s so much better than our competitors’ sites that several are even starting to copy us.  I get a lot of positive feedback from customers about the site so I know it does what we want it to do.  The problem is that it doesn’t generate a lot of traffic.  But the traffic it does get results in an email to us about 20% of the time, which I understand is a very high converting level.  I have our www address on our direct mail pieces and very large print in the occasional newspaper ads that we run. I’ve had web programmers offer to do things (that I don’t fully understand) to make it show up more often in Yahoo and Google, but the bids are pretty expensive and I just don’t know if they will work.  What do you recommend? Read more »