Back to Basics #19: Digital Marketing for the Holidays

digital-marketing-for-the-holidays Ahh, you knew something like this was coming up soon. It's October, which means that autumn decorations have been on the shelves since the 4th of July clearance rack cleared out (for Americans, anyway). Soon, you'll see Thanksgiving decorations, and then come the December holidays—it's all going to be Christmas and Hanukkah themes until it's almost 2015. And let's not forget about Black Friday and Cyber Monday...

During these next few months, you're going to see a lot of expensive marketing campaigns from big name companies. You'll see sales events, promotional deals, and all sorts of bundles and shipping specials and limited-time releases that your head might feel like its spinning.

And, as a small business owner, you might feel pressured to come up with some campaigns of your own.

But you don't have millions in your budget. And you don't have a lot of time to put something together. So how can you go about digital marketing for the holidays if you own a small business?

lady-oven

1. Make a charitable donation. This is probably our favorite suggestion because it really helps everyone! You get to help others and draw attention to a great cause, as well as draw positive attention to your business.

Whether you choose to donate a small sum of cash or you volunteer your time at a local charity, these types of gestures speak volumes. Make sure it's something that you can get everyone involved with—your team can come up with great ways to make sure it's an event that won't soon be forgotten. But you also can't forget to let your clients and customers know that you're taking part in this special occasion. Be sure to send out a card or email and let everyone know that you're participating in a special charity event, and that your clients are welcome to participate, too!

2. Decorate your social media sites. Another cheap way to get everyone into the holiday spirit! Change your banners, headers, and color themes to reflect the holiday of your choice. You can even change your logo by adding a little Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween or a cornucopia for Thanksgiving. The best part is that you can reuse these again next year—a great return on your very small investment. And when you're finished? Simply replace the logo with your usual fare and you're good to go.

holiday-store

3. Send out special holiday offers via email. This is one that you'll have to be careful with—you don't want to appear as if you're spamming, after all—but sending out special coupons or offers to customers who subscribe to your newsletter can be particularly effective. Make an announcement on your site. Say something like “only subscribers will receive a special deal via email, and they can look forward to receiving it just in time for the holidays.” The incentive can be whatever you want it to be—whether it's a coupon, a special one-of-a-kind item, or a free service. Whatever you can come up with!

4. Start thinking of gift suggestions. People choose different times to do their holiday shopping. While some wait until the last minute (right now would be a good time to capitalize on the Halloween costumes or decorations!), others do so months ahead of time (these people are already keeping an eye out for Christmas deals). You will want to keep your social media sites and blog updated with all the latest deals that would appeal to these shoppers.

5. Make yourself stand out from the crowd. We mentioned at the beginning of the article that you don't have the budget or resources to compete with the big companies. But you can make up for what you lack in budget with quality services.

For example, you're probably a small, local store. You can offer personalized attention to each and every client. Can a big-name store do that? No, they can't. You can also remind people that when they support your business, they're supporting local businesses and real people who contribute to the community. There are so many people looking to switch to buying local now (and sometimes exclusively), so this is a great way to let them know that you truly appreciate their business. If you have years of experience, highlight that. If you have a positive track record for customer satisfaction, mention it. And if you have a great story about how you came to build your business in your town, people will love to hear it. It's all about aligning yourself with the “big guys” in ways that highlight your strengths—not your lack of financial resources.

small-business-saturday

By thinking a bit on the creative side, you can come up with some great ideas for digital marketing for the holidays—even if you're a small business without much revenue.

Do you have any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments below.

Why Small Business Marketing is Essential in 2014 and Beyond

small-business-marketing-in-2014

small-business-marketing-in-2014 Getting the word out about your business has always been your top priority. As a small business owner, you already understand how important marketing is—whether it's word of mouth, fliers, direct marketing, or running local advertising campaigns, you know that you have to get the word out or your numbers suffer. But what many small business owners don't take into consideration is a marketing plan. And without some type of marketing strategy, you'll likely become frustrated, not knowing whether your efforts are paying off.

This is the primary reason that small business marketing is now non-negotiable. In 2014, we have a number of options to help us determine how and where to market to our clients: social media, blogs, video marketing, online local business listings, Google Places, and more. With all of these tools at our disposal, is there any excuse not to have a marketing plan in place?

No, there isn't. In this article, we'll talk a bit about why small business marketing is essential in 2014 and beyond. When you understand just how effective marketing is for your business, you'll have a better foundation to grasp the concepts of beginning your own marketing campaign.

Small business marketing is the only way to get the word out.

word-of-mouth-marketing

You've heard of companies like Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, and Apple. Why is that? Because they have a massive consumer base and they have massive marketing budgets. Their ads are fed to you frequently to ensure you know what the company is up to, and they make sure that their products stay up-to-date and relevant.

Now, you're probably thinking, “Well, I don't have that kind of money to spend on an advertising campaign!” and you're probably right. Most small business marketing budgets are scant. And that's okay. You don't need a ton of money to start seeing returns on your efforts. As we've discussed in previous articles, you can implement social marketing strategies for very little money, and you can get started with blogging completely free of charge. The best thing about this type of marketing is that you can begin to spend money whenever you like to boost your efforts. Want to place an ad on Facebook? You can spend as little as $5 a day to promote your business. Want to pay for a domain name and host your blog as a website? For less than $20, you can grab a domain name, and hosting can be as low as $3-5 a month. There's no reason you must feel like you are required to spend thousands of dollars just to be seen online.

When you get the word out with small business marketing, you begin to build your audience online. And that's the #1 most important thing.

In 2014, traditional networking is still important.

traditional-marketing

Networking. It sounds like a buzzword, and to some extent, that's what it's become. That aside, you should never underestimate the power of networking. If you go to local business expos, connect with influencers on Twitter and Facebook, and simply ask your customers to refer you to friends and family, then you're already networking. If you're not networking and these activities don't sound like they'll increase your sales, then think of it this way: you're building a strong reputation and a sturdy foundation of support and availability for your clients. And that is absolutely essential.

The easiest way to get started is to simply ask your customers to review you on Yelp and Google. This has the added bonus of sending “relevancy” signals to Google, helping you to rank higher. Many customers would be happy to submit positive reviews when asked, but they often don't bother to go online and leave reviews otherwise.

You can also get started on Facebook and Twitter for free. Place signs around your office or store that tell customers where they can find you online. Ask friends and family to spread the word. None of this will cost you a thing, except maybe an hour or two of your time to craft the signs!

Are press releases outdated? Nope. Not even close.

making-a-list-of-blog-topics

Spread the word about newsworthy business developments: A new product, a sale, or a special event your company is attending or hosting. Try to send out a press release once a month to keep the word about your company relevant and fresh. This can cost money if you choose to promote your company online—you can pay anywhere from $120 to upwards of $250 to have your press release promoted on popular sites. But you don't have to do this. Small business marketing is all about leveraging your local connections. Talk to your local newspaper or ask to be on the news or featured on a radio show. You can talk about your new products or even offer customers a special discount if they mention your interview or article. By doing this regularly, you can easily make a good impression on your local community.

The new way of connecting to customers: Videos.

YouTube logo small business

Many small businesses specialize in a specific, niche service: Plumbing, dog grooming, notary services, etc. Think of how you felt when you first started learning about your industry. You probably felt overwhelmed and looked to professionals for guidance. Or consider how you feel when you want to save money and try to take care of things yourself—fixing a pipe or cleaning your roof, for instance. Many people look up tutorials now on YouTube.

This might seem counter-intuitive to teach your customers learn how to help themselves, but it is actually a great way for your customers and company to share a dialogue. It establishes you as an authority figure and expert in your industry. Plus, taking the time to create a video tutorial for your customers shows that you spend time thinking of their needs—and customers truly appreciate that. Finally, videos on YouTube, when properly optimized, send strong relevancy signals to search engines, and that helps your website rank higher.

And there you have it. Small business marketing is essential in 2014. You need to network to connect with clients. You need to create content to stay relevant on search engines. You need to connect with customers in new and innovative ways. As the internet grows more content-based, your small business will have to keep on top of these trends to ensure your customers are still finding you.

If you need assistance with any small business marketing services, Internet Local Listings is always here to help. Simply contact us here or visit our site for more information. We have a special running right now, too—so act fast and save money while you start bringing in more customers!

Is Word of Mouth Marketing Still Effective?

word-of-mouth-marketing In today’s busy, online-centric world, you hear a lot about how social media is the answer to everything: more traffic to your website, more phone calls to your business, and more customers purchasing your products and services. As a small business owner, you don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on complicated advertising campaigns. While larger businesses have millions to pour into campaigns that they can adjust over time, you have a very limited budget and no excess to tweak your strategy in the future. So you’re probably still relying on word of mouth marketing. But is it still effective? Are you getting the most you possibly can from it?

Word of Mouth is Still a Reliable Marketing Method

Many small business owners say that they still use word-of-mouth advertising and that it is effective for their marketing efforts. In fact, two in three marketers say that word of mouth marketing is actually more effective than any other traditional marketing tactics they’ve tried. According to a study done by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, 70% of marketers say that their companies will increase social media budgets in the next year, whereas only 29% say that they’ll spend more on offline word-of-mouth marketing. So what does this mean? It means that small businesses rely on word-of-mouth marketing, they find it to be effective, and because of this, they don’t see it as necessary to dump a bunch of money into it. It’s a safe investment for them because they get real results.

Word of Mouth Marketing is More Flexible Than You Think

If you think about it, you can still benefit from word of mouth marketing while utilizing modern social media tactics.

Sites like Angie’s List make it possible for your customers to leave feedback in an online space designed to market your business. Encourage your happy customers to leave you a glowing review to bring in more business. It’s like telling a friend that you really loved a restaurant and then they go and check it out. Someone recommends your site on Angie’s List and that’s a lot of clout.

Yelp  is also a great site to show how awesome your small business is. Again, encourage your happy customers to leave reviews and help spread the word about your business. Yelp is practically a go-to resource for those looking for local businesses.

Facebook is another way you can connect with local customers. When your customers share your statuses or interact with you on your page, they’re more likely to buy from you. In fact, 85% of customers who follow brands on Facebook are likely to recommend it to their friends.

You Can Still Encourage Customers to Spread the Word in Person

While all of these strategies work to spread the word about your company, simply talking to friends and family is still an effective way to bring in new customers. If you are in the business of working directly with clients—say, as a lawyer, doctor, or dentist—you have a lot to gain from this. People are far more likely to take recommendations from friends and family when it comes to important things like finances and health.

Let the experts at Internet Local Listings help you get the word out about your business. We’ll get you listed across all major online directories and we even provide updates for social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. By working together, we can get people talking about your brand—and help you draw in new clientele.

Back to Basics #4: Why Your Company Needs a Digital Marketing Firm

why you need a digital marketing firm It used to be that a company could place an ad in the Yellowpages or the newspaper and almost immediately see their marketing efforts paying off. But those days have drawn to a close. In order to keep up with marketing in 2014 and beyond, you need to get your business online. Websites allow customers to find services and products at any time of day, and it gives you a chance to make a great impression before anyone even walks in your door.

Think about it: TV shows and music can be streamed online. Blogs and social networks deliver relevant, recent news and interesting articles. You can even read your favorite books on electronic devices. And when you search for a product that you need, where do you go first—to the phone book or to your favorite search engine? We bet you go online and search for services. So it makes sense that as a small business owner, you need to be where your customers are—online. But there’s one problem: Once you’ve set up your website, how do you make sure that your customers are finding you online?

That’s where a digital marketing firm comes in. A great digital marketing firm can mean the difference between customers finding your business instead of your competitor when they search online.

A Digital Marketing Firm Can Guide You

At Internet Local Listings, we know a lot about digital marketing. After all, it’s what we do—we work hard to get our clients’ websites visible across the web. We understand the ins and outs of local listings, boosting Google rankings, utilizing social media marketing, and building links. This is something that you, as a small business owner, probably don’t know a lot about. And that’s fine—you’re an expert on running your business, and you need to make sure you stay on top of those responsibilities.

What a digital marketing firm can do is help you run your business more efficiently. We’ll work with you to make sure your business is presented the way you want it to be. We’ll make sure your social media accounts are reflecting your desire to connect with customers. And we’ll be happy to let you participate in whichever way you feel comfortable. That way you can focus on running your company while we channel you passion for your business into a more prominent online presence.

digital marketing diagram

A Digital Marketing Firm Can Save You Money

Have you ever tried to advertise your business online? Maybe you bought ads on Facebook or Google, or maybe you paid to have your website listed somewhere. Whatever the case may be, if you’ve thrown money out the window on failed advertising endeavors, you may be feeling frustrated or even hopeless. But don’t worry. You can still market to your customers and not spend a fortune.

A digital marketing firm like Internet Local Listings can help you spend your marketing budget in the right way. There’s no need to pay for expensive advertisements that aren’t guaranteed to work. With packages starting at just $199 a month, Internet Local Listings has some of the best prices available on top-quality digital marketing services. Packages are customizable and you can get involved to any extent you feel comfortable. Want to send us pictures to use on your social media? Go ahead. Want to write your own content for a custom website? We’ll be happy to assist you (it’ll still need to be optimized!). Just let us know and we will be happy to work with you.

By working with a digital marketing firm, you’ll see real results. Putting ads up on Facebook or Google is a short-term solution to drive curious people to your website. But getting your website in front of your audience organically is much more worthwhile and a wiser investment in the long run, because it costs less and has a much wider impact.

A Digital Marketing Firm Can Connect You to Your Community

Small businesses are generally not concerned with appealing to customers all over the world. Small business owners tend to sell to local customers. From word of mouth advertising to old-fashioned window displays, local companies have different methods of capturing the attention of their customers. That is great—but to get a leg up on your competitors, you’re going to want to be on the front page of popular search engines as well.

That’s where a digital marketing firm comes in. We can get you listed all across the internet and help you rank higher in search engine results so that you can connect with your customers. Even better, you’ll rank organically in local searches. That means that when people in your town (or nearby towns) search for a service that you provide, your name will pop up. They’ll be able to find your store address and hours, and that makes it easy for them to contact you or to drop by to shop.

Why not cover all your advertising bases with digital marketing services? Increase website traffic and your web presence, and you’re well on your way to being found instead of your competitors. Call or visit Internet Local Listings today to speak with our digital marketing firm about your small business advertising needs.

 

3 Easy Google Ranking Factors to Implement on Your Website

Google Ranking Factors, Google Logo Learning to market your own website can seem like an extremely daunting task, particularly if you’re new to being online. But there’s no need to worry. All it takes is learning a few easy tricks and you’ll start seeing improvement on your site’s ranking. So what’s the easiest way to improve your site’s ranking without spending a fortune? By learning a bit about content creation. Content creation is one of the top ways you can improve your site’s rankings because Google places a lot of value on websites with valuable content. This means that the successful sites update often with helpful posts. Google also particularly likes posts with pictures and great formatting that includes using bolding and italics. In this post, we’ll go over the top 3 easiest Google ranking factors to start implementing on your site—once you’re armed with this information, you’ll be ahead of the game!

Update frequently.

Google is constantly caching new data. As such, it’s important that your site stays up to date by posting fresh content frequently. This doesn’t mean that you need to update every hour, or even every day—but at least once a week should help. Easy topics include posting about what your company is up to, any specials you’re running, or events that are on the horizon. But don’t just promote yourself—always find ways to connect with your customers and engage them in a conversation. If you find yourself running low on post ideas, try thinking outside the box a bit. What would your customers like to learn about? What are some related interests that your readers might find useful? For example, let’s say you run a dog grooming studio. You might try writing about:

  • The best hairstyles of the Westminster Dog Show
  • The top foods to feed your dog to keep his or her coat healthy
  • Little-known facts about dog breeds throughout history

Your clients would find all of these posts fun, entertaining, and useful, and they’ll surely enjoy coming back to check out your site to see your new content. You can use these posts as a way to pitch your business as well—just include links to relevant products and services at the end of the posts!

Use images in your posts.

Not only does this make your post look better, but it is actually one of the easiest Google ranking factors to understand and implement. Most blogs allow you to set a “featured image” before you publish a post. You’ll need to upload a relevant picture and name it something descriptive. For example, the title “dog grooming scissors” is better than just “scissors”. Set this phrase as the image’s name and as well as the “alt” text. Why? Because images on-page deliver strong relevancy data through their file name, alt text, title, description and caption. Plus, when others share your post on Facebook or Twitter, the picture will show up with the text. People are much more likely—in fact, 42% more likely—to click on links with photos, so it’s a win-win all around! Here are a few key things to remember:

  • You’ll find the file name, alt text, title, description, and caption in your blog’s image editor. Wordpress makes it very simple and intuitive. You can do it all from an organized “dashboard” while you’re crafting your post.
  • If you’re having trouble understanding how to use an image in a post, here is a great tutorial at ManageWP Blog. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing this already!

Use title tags and repetition.

This time, let’s say you run a salon, and you want to make sure that the search engines know that you have the best salon hair products. You’ve uploaded your image appropriately, and now you’re set to write your content. So how do you make sure your content stands out among the competition? There are two main things to consider. You don’t need to understand a lot about marketing to do this—it’s simple and easy. The first is to include the keyword in the title. This makes sense. If you’re writing about salon hair produts, be sure to put that in your post’s title. It’s that simple! Ideally, you should put the keyword toward the beginning rather than close to the end, but this doesn’t really make that much difference. To illustrate, an example would be:

  • Salon Hair Products: Worth the Price Tag?
  • Why Everyone Should Invest in Salon Hair Products

The first title would be better simply because “salon hair products” appears at the beginning of the title. However, both utilize the keyword, so they’re both good choices.

Keyword Repetition

One of the most important Google ranking factors to this day is the repetition of the keyword or key phrase. When Google scans your content, it will pick up on phrases that have been repeated. It will see this as relevant, and thus, you’ll rank higher for that keyword or key phrase. This is all well and good, but it’s also been one of the most heavily-abused ranking practices. You must be sure that when you write your content, your keywords fit in without being referenced too often. There is no magic number to aim for, but use it a few times in a natural way and you should be fine.

More About Google Ranking Factors

There’s so much more to ranking on Google than what was discussed in this article. But the information you’ve received here should help you learn the basics of blogging for search engine optimization! Now, as a small business owner, you can certainly take the time to craft your own posts according to these rules. However, unless you become an expert in the content marketing industry, you won't be able to match the results you'd get by hiring professional writers.  This is also a time-consuming endeavor--you must update frequently to see results. So if you find yourself strapped for time and want to get the best services available, you can always give Internet Local Listings the chance to create great content for you! Simply call us or fill out our form here and we’ll be happy to talk to you about how we can put all the important Google ranking factors to work for your business.

5 Ways to Try New Marketing Strategies this Summer

Why not try new marketing strategies this summer! 2014 is already almost half over. We’re quickly heading into summer, and with that change come a different set of goals and priorities for business owners. Whether you own a contracting business or a salon, your summer advertising is going to have to change to better accommodate your clients and customers!

For many small businesses, the budget available for advertising and marketing purposes is scant, and that makes the prospect of shifting gears for your marketing campaigns rather frightening, to say the least. But changing your focus doesn’t mean you need to shell out tons of money. Here, we’ll look at 5 ways you can try out new marketing strategies this summer without breaking the bank and changing up everything you’ve put in place already.

  1. Shift Marketing Strategies to Include More Social Media Engagement. You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again here: social media is imperative to your marketing success. If you’ve been lax on updating Facebook or sending out tweets, now is the time to brush up on it. Connect with your customers and clients in a meaningful way while they have lazier days at home over the summer months.
  2. Redesign Your Website. Is your website looking a little outdated or neglected? Now’s the time to revamp it. Invest in a little extra cash for a great designer and make sure that your site is attractive, informative, and easy to navigate. By doing this, you’ll make sure you put your best face forward for the summer, and you’ll be able to update your current events and seasonal specials while you’re at it.
  3. Hold a contest. It doesn’t have to be an in-depth or complicated endeavor. You can do a number of things easily and affordably through your own website or social media pages! For example, you can post a funny photo related to your industry, and ask people to come up with a caption for it. The best one gets a coupon or a free service. You could also have people vote on something, such as the best new product, or ask them for assistance in coming up with a new special. People love getting involved!
  4. Take a look at your keywords. Have you been ranking consistently under one keyword but just can’t seem to get a foothold on Google with any other keywords? It may be time to let them go and choose different ones. Use free tools such as the Google Keyword Planner or just do a simple search to see what kinds of results you get. Then plan accordingly.
  5. Start a blog. If you haven’t jumped on the blogging bandwagon yet, now’s a great time. Sign up for a free blog from a site such as Wordpress.com and begin updating regularly. Talk about company news, plans, specials, and events. Let your clients and customers know what’s going on with you! Not only does this help keep them informed, but you’ll be noticed more by search engines when you’re continually providing your site with fresh content.

Shifting marketing strategies doesn’t have to be scary. Most of these can be done in-house for very little money. However, you should understand that it can be time consuming to blog regularly, manage keywords, update social media, and redesign your site. If you’re thinking of switching up your approach to marketing but don’t have the skills or resources to do it all on your own, just contact the internet marketing experts at Internet Local Listings. We’d be happy to walk you through the process and assist you in any way possible! Good luck with all your new marketing strategies!