What’s the Right Integrated Digital Marketing Approach for Your SMB?

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Have you been totally “through the ringer” on this whole digital marketing thing? It gets frustrating at times because there’s so many things you can do. And you might have gotten burned by a not-so-honest company in the past.

Here’s just a short list of tactics you can try:

  1. SEO
  2. Blogging
  3. PPC
  4. Banner advertising
  5. Content marketing
  6. Video marketing
  7. E-mail marketing
  8. Social media marketing
  9. Text/SMS marketing
  10. Podcasts
  11. Webinars
  12. Influencer marketing
  13. Writing press releases

And then new social networks like Instagram, Peach, and Periscope pop up. Which ones make sense? Which should you use? When? And why?

Digital marketing is here to stay. Both consumers and business decision makers turn to it first to do their research before they buy. Not every single one of them, but the overwhelming majority:

This whole “digital marketing” thing works because it gives consumers and business decision makers power to compare. In the past, you had to walk all over the place or drive around to find the best product or service.

That’s hard work. So, you didn’t do as much comparison back in the early 1990s. Now, you can compare 5-8 companies and services in just 30 minutes online.

What Digital Marketing Mix Makes the Most Sense for Your Company?

The answer to this question changes over time. That’s why you hire an agency or have an in-house digital marketing team. It’s too much and changes too fast for one person to deal with.

For most companies, and especially for ones that sell commodity products and services, organic SEO makes sense (think of it as “ranking higher in Google”). Increasingly, it makes sense for niche products and services too because even those buyers are turning online to do research.

After that, you have all kinds of questions and options to consider. There isn’t necessarily a “right” or “perfect.” Only “your” mix. If you have a unique product or service, a video on your home page may make good sense to show it in action. On your about page, you might create a video introducing you and your team in person. That builds relationships much more powerfully than words and images.

If you need revenue fast, PPC makes sense. You can get the ads up and going and start getting contacts within the month. However, PPC’s expensive long-term, so you might add in offline referral marketing to keep those customers coming in.

In almost all cases, e-mail marketing makes sense. In fact, the Direct Marketing Association says it has an ROI of $38 for every $1 spent, or 3800%. However, its returns take time (usually months) to compound because you have to build the relationship slowly over time.

Will You Make Mistakes?

Absolutely. Every company tries things that don’t work. But, as long as you remember there is a successful digital marketing mix that will work for you out there, you’ll find it and do just fine.

How to Frustrate, Confuse, and Scare Away Your Website’s Visitors

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“Customer experience” or “user experience” (“CX” and “UX” as us web geeks call them) is just as important for your digital storefront as your physical one. As a small business owner, you’re used to the traditional physical storefront. So you know how it’s important to have a clean, organized appearance and friendly staff.

With your “digital storefront,” the same ideas apply. It’s just that it works differently. Here’s some common mistakes SMBs make that scare away website visitors – and what you can do to earn their business instead:

  1. Hiding Your Contact Information

You should have a “Contact” page in your main navigation on the upper right of your website. Every user expects that. You should also have your phone number there too, as that’s where most people look first when they visit.

Also, include your phone number and/or e-mail address at the end of the words written on every page. Include both so your visitors can use their preferred contact method.

  1. Focusing Too Much on SEO

Yes, your keywords do need to appear on your website pages. But, today it’s more important that they make sense.

So, nearly incomprehensible language like “Southlake, Texas HVAC Services from Southlake’s Leading AC Repair Company” shouldn’t appear on your page. Get that keyword in the title and a time or two in the body copy.

Google actually prefers that these days.

  1. Slow Page Load Times

Users can’t stand all the bells and whistles of super-fancy websites (in most cases). For some specialty niche businesses, cool effects are appropriate. For example, if you run a website design company. But for commodity services SMBs like you offer, this frustrates and annoys.

You don’t need a repeating video background or sliders. Users simply want to get to know your company and see if you’re the best option to solve their problem.

An image, some text, a nice menu, and maybe a video or two to build the relationship makes sense.

Your web pages should load in less than 3 seconds, and ideally less than 1 on the typical internet connection.

  1. Confusing Navigation

Most websites are laid out similar to this:

  • Home
  • Services
    • Subpages
  • Blog
  • FAQ
  • About
  • Contact

You might have a few other unique ones, such as if you donate to a charity and want to talk about that. Or, you may write different pages to the various market segments you serve (homeowners and businesses for example).

But for the most part that’s what users see at most sites. So, go way “outside the box” and do something different, and you confuse them and lose their business to someone else.

Keep it simple and predictable. And follow the rule of not requiring any more than 3 clicks to get to any single page on your website.

Those rules are simple, easy, and straightforward. But, so many SMBs break them. Follow them yourself, and you’ll more, and happier, customers.

4 Apps to Boost Your SMB’s ROI in 2016

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Regardless of the scale at which you work in your business, whether local, statewide, national, or global, apps have changed how small businesses work. What’s the difference between an “app” and “software?”

Theoretically, apps have a narrower functional focus. For example, they only focus on videoconferencing. Software, on the other hand, comes with many more features and a wider range of functionality. Think of QuickBooks.

While many apps add value to your business by saving time or money or organizing things, it takes a lot of time to find the ones worth using. You have so many competitors and clones that it can take more hours than you have in the day just to use your apps.

That doesn’t make any sense. But reading this list of suggestions takes a lot of the effort out of the search. Check these apps out, and see if they don’t save you time or money, or at least inspire you to find other apps that do:

  1. Keep All Your Messages in One Place with Pushover

If you’re the well-connected type who loves to network, you need Pushover. It sends you push messages any time you get a message on any of your devices. And it’s low-cost too.

After a 7-day trial, you pay a one-time purchase fee of $4.99 for lifetime use.

  1. Have a Lot of Business Travel Expenses?

Expensify may be just the solution you’ve been looking for. You can track your expenses either of two ways:

  1. By linking your credit or debit card to your Expensify account
  2. Take pictures of your receipts while Expensify automatically takes the relevant info out

Best of all, Expensify is inexpensive – just $5 to $10 per active account.

  1. Take Care of Payroll, Benefits, Time, and Compliance with Zenefits

Okay, so we lied a little. This isn’t an app. But this software’s so stinkin’ good that it’s a crime not to mention it.

Zenefits lets you track and streamline all the HR functions mentioned above – free. You can also administer paystubs, employee handbooks, contracts, job offer letters, and tax withholding forms. And it’ll likely stay free forever. The benefits providers that use Zenefits pay for the right to do so.

And you don’t have to pay anything at all!

  1. Lots of Employees to Manage? Try KanbanFlow

With this slick app, you can assign tasks to your colleagues, upload documents, and schedule due dates. You’ll get a visual representation of your workflow and simplified communication too.

You can get the basic version free on iPhone and Android. And the premium version costs just $5 per month.

“There’s an App for That!”

If you’ve heard this cliché before, it’s true. Whatever business problem takes most of your time, you can reduce that with an app. Just start searching for your problem and you will find the solution.

And hopefully, you’ll get a ton of value out of these free and low-cost apps.

Should YouTube Videos Be a Part of Your Marketing Strategy?

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For some time, online marketers have typically thought of YouTube as an “awareness driver.” That means, in their minds, that it’s more effective at helping customers learn about products and services versus actually closing the sale. That in turn means it’s still important in the purchase process.

But, new data from Google suggests YouTube may not only be helpful for awareness, but may help boost purchase intent too.

YouTube’s TrueView Does Drive Purchasing Behavior

Do you know what TrueView is? It gives video viewers the option to skip an advertisement after 5 seconds. It also offers four different kinds of ads:

  1. In-stream, which lets viewers skip the video after 5 seconds. You only pay for ads that have been viewed at least 30 seconds.
  2. In-slate ads choose from several ads or to opt for commercial breaks in videos at least 10 minutes long.
  3. In-search ads show up in YouTube’s search results as searchers look for various keywords. You pay for all ads the viewer starts to watch.
  4. In-display ads appear in YouTube’s promoted videos overlay. You only pay when viewers choose to watch an ad.

According to Google, these “TrueView” ads, which give users the power of choice, resulted in their consideration being 45% higher, favorability of 14% higher, and purchase intent 19% higher than a control group with no power of choice.

Creative Choices Google Advises You Make to Get the Best ROI from Your Videos

Video does have a science to it. That science is evolving, so don’t consider anything set in stone. But as of now, Google advises this much for sure:

  1. Using funny ads or celebrities to hold attention (although not necessarily to close the sale)
  2. Viewers respond better to your logo when it’s attached to a product versus a free-floating logo
  3. People don’t watch videos as long when the focus emotion is sadness, fear, or calm. Focusing on humor always lead to the best results. For example, can you think of anything funny about trains? No one can. But Metro Trains Melbourne created a “Dumb Ways to Die” video that made train safety fun.
  4. How music impacts ads is unclear. Some brands have found not using music in the first 5 seconds leads to better engagement. And in terms of emotion, funny won out over any other when music was used. However, you’ll need to test your own video for best results.

Should you use video in your digital marketing strategy? You’ll have to be the judge of that.

However, it beats television when analyzed just about any way. In fact, the average return on ad spend for YouTube TrueView is about seven times that of TV.

For now, we’ll leave you with that fascinating statistic to consider.

E-mail Lists: The Secret Weapon Your SMB Needs to Skyrocket Growth

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Ever wonder what the single most effective method is for growing your ROI online?

It’s not SEO. Nope, not social media. And it’s not even YouTube videos.

They’re all effective. And you need good SEO before you can use this tactic because it gets traffic going to your website in the first place.

But, ultimately, you want to use this tactic because it gives you the best ROI bar none. In fact, you get $38 for every $1 spent, or a 3800% ROI, according to the Direct Marketing Association’s 2015 Client E-mail Report.

How do you get such an astonishingly good ROI from this tactic?

It’s because people who let you use this tactic on them love you. That’s the only reason they do it. They really want what you have. And so they give you, not any of your competitors, their information.

So what’s the tactic?

We won’t make you suffer in suspense any longer. It’s e-mail marketing.

How Do You Get E-mail Marketing Working For You?

Building an e-mail list is simple. But it isn’t easy. It takes time and hard work.

And to start, you need to get traffic to your website via SEO, and take advantage of the ways in which you currently interact with customers.

Here’s a basic process to start your e-mail list’s growth:

  1. Get Sign-Up Forms on Your Website

Your sign-up forms need to indicate what your customers can get when they subscribe to your newsletter. That could be “Free Money-Saving AC Maintenance” tips, for example. They’d like that because who doesn’t like to save money?

At the small business level, not all companies use “lead magnets.” These are free content that subscribers get right away in exchange for subscribing. It helps you get more sign-ups, versus not using one. However, it does increase your costs.

But, you don’t need an elaborate or expensive lead magnet. It could be a simple 2-3 minute smartphone video of doing a basic check of an air conditioner for example.

The sign-up form itself should go in multiple places on your website: the upper right is best because that’s where people’s eyes go first. On your blog, it should go in the sidebar and at the end of the post.

  1. Consistency is Key

Think of marketing by e-mail like when you dated your spouse. You didn’t call them just once, and then again every few months or so. Instead, you called regularly – a few times per week, maybe every day.

With your list, you don’t need to be super-frequent like that (although you can if you want to). But you should send out a newsletter at least once per month. Then, when you want to offer a special, people have an existing relationship and are more likely to buy.

Contact them out of the blue two or three times a year, and they think,”Who’s this?” And your sales suffer as a result.

If you’re serious about succeeding online, you should build an e-mail list. It secures your long-term success.

Google: Mobile Makes Up Nearly 88% of All “Near Me” Searches

ThinkstockPhotos-517470080Do you know what a “micro-moment” is?

Google’s been coining the phrase over at their blog, which highlights their latest search data.

What’s their latest finding?

Just how prevalent “near me” searches (the “micro-moments”) have become. In fact, they’ve increased 146% year over year.

And it makes sense that mobile is where most of these searches happen.

But the real question is: are you ready to market to possible customers that do “near me” searches?

  1. First, More Data

Will consumers do “near me” searches for your business? According to Google research, these searches happen across every type of business.

Some examples they give include:

  • Hotels
  • Car rental outfits
  • Nail salons
  • Shoe stores
  • Pizza parlors
  • Banks

Basically, Google concludes, if you have a physical location, consumers will use “near me” searches for products or services your business offers.

So How Do You Make Yourself “Ready” for These Kinds of Searches?

We’ve covered the SEO part of this. By now, you know enough about SEO that we don’t have to explain all the ins and outs of how that works.

What we really want to emphasize: a responsive design.

SEO helps people find your site instead of your competitor’s. An attractive responsive design keeps them glued to your website so they’re more likely to buy from you than anyone else. And a useful design closes the sale.

Your digital “storefront” is more important than your physical storefront. While it’s important to have an attractive design, it’s more important that consumers can get what they want in as few clicks as possible.

Have you ever heard of the “3-click” rule? It means that most consumers will click on your website about 3 pages deep. They’ll click your main navigation, click again on the next page, and once more.

But, for most consumers, that’s about it.

Take a Look at an Example

So let’s say you run one of those stores Google mentioned people search for – a shoe store. In fact, you have a specialty shoe store that uses advanced video technology to analyze people’s feet and give them the perfect shoe for their needs and foot shape.

To engage them immediately, you may want a video on your home page showing exactly how your process works. Then, as they scroll down, they learn more about your business. By the way, this type of website is called a “parallax scrolling” website.

Here’s a screenshot of, and a link to, a website that shows parallax scrolling in action:

 

And it makes perfect sense for mobile users. You’ll also notice it follows the “3 click” rule.

By the way, you can learn more about i5ww’s responsive design and SEO services when you follow those links.