You Need an Online Strategy

If you or your company havent considered creating an online marketing strategy you should. Not only because your competitors are online, but consumers and potential clients are as well.

A recent report from economist Todd Hirsch has pointed out that:

“according to the most recent survey by Statistics Canada, Albertans had one of the highest Internet usage rates in 2012 and outpaced the nation. About 85.3% of those aged 16 and older used the Internet for personal use, up from 83% in 2010. That compares with 83% of Canadians who accessed the Internet for personal use, up from 80% in 2010.”

If this doesn’t convince you to create an online marketing strategy I don’t know what will. Companies will also need to take mobile into account and create a mobile marketing strategy as well since consumers are increasingly accessing the internet from mobile devices.

 

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12 Questions to Inspire your Marketing and Content Creation

Implement these 12 tips when you need fresh marketing and content ideas:

  1. What needs do my customers have?
  2. What are the common pain points of my customers?
  3. How do we add value to our customers?
  4. What service or product examples could be highlighted with case studies or testimonials?
  5. What is currently innovative or trendy?
  6. What makes us different and stand out from our competition?
  7. How can we create a connection with our customers?
  8. Why customers like us and what keeps them coming back?
  9. What company news, information or behind the scenes moments will people find interesting?
  10. How can we maintain and strengthen relationships with our existing customers?
  11. How can we communicate our brand and our values?
  12. What common questions do customers ask us?

Pitching Your Start-up

It doesn’t matter what type of company you are starting, you will need to know how to talk about it. Here are 4 tips to help you pitch your start-up.

1.       Nail your elevator speech

You need to be able to communicate what sets you apart in 10 words or less. It’s best to tackle the problem and solution. When creating your elevator speech, think less about you and more about the benefits your start-up will provide and the philosophy you embrace.

2.       Try a problem-solution lay-out

Start-ups generally exist to solve a need and fill a niche. Your elevator speech should clearly tell what that is. Quantify, and qualify, it before describing your unique solution to the problem or issue.

3.       Storytelling – learn it

Most companies and start-ups don’t know how to tell their story. The media, investors and public want to hear your story from the viewpoint and benefit of the end user.

4.       Describe how you will reach your audience

Describe how your start-up intends to reach those audiences. Will your company leverage online marketing, social-media channels, provide free training, or offer discounts or trials? Whatever tactics you choose to implement will help increase credibility and interest.

Lastly, it’s best to embrace the wonderful world of entrepreneurship. While the road to success may be difficult for entrepreneur you may as well enjoy the trip. Just remember to ask for help along the way. There’s lots of support available for start-ups to take advantage of.  

7 Ingredients for a Valuable Brand

You know your favorite bands. What makes them memorable or valuable? How does using their products or services make you feel? Did they build an emotional connection to make you loyal? Every company should strive to create a compelling brand even before they concentrate on making a sale. Here are 7 key points to consider when creating a brand that people connect with emotionally.

1.       Clarity

Be clear on how users will benefit from your company and its products and services. Use compelling and interesting language and tell them what’s in it for them.

2.       Exceptional Value

Every time you interact with your customers or prospects should provide them with exceptional value. Provide free resources or content marketing is a great example of this.

3.       Emotional Connection

This should be intentional and coordinated. Customers and prospects should know exactly how their experience with you should play out. This is because your company has been intentional about how it interacts with customers at every level.  Ultimately, you need to decide and execute on the type of emotional connection you want customers to resonate with your brand.

4.       Watch for Competition

Keeping an eye on the competition is important for any company. Not all competition is easy to find or keep tabs on. New competitors can pop up at any time – you have been warned. If you have created something brand new, you’ve got to look over your shoulder to protect your first to market advantage. Establishing a valuable brand at this point is critical. Also, be mindful of invisible competition resulting from customers who don’t trust a brand enough to commit to it. Using the proper messaging and communication tactics will help assure people you have what they need.

5.       Relevance

Market research and communication with your brand advocates can definitely assist with this. In addition to making sure your products or services are right for the times, you need to make sure you, your team and your brand continue to grow.

6.       Confidence

Confidence is a key element in success. It’s very important as a professional brand to demonstrate and exude a sense of control and power until it becomes really organic and integral (e.g. think Coca-Cola).

7.       Be Philanthropic

This is how you brand can demonstrate its personality and make a difference. Your brand can get involved in a charity/not-for-profit that compliments your business and brand. Dawn, Tide and Target are great examples of brands being philanthropic.

Ultimately, your brand reputation is all you’ve got – use it. 

Traditional vs. Social Media Marketing

Technology has changed how people interact and influence each other. Marketing is no different. For marketing, it’s more than implementing the same old tactics, but about adopting and testing new tools. Marketing simply is the business of promoting and selling products or services. Traditional marketing focuses on promoting and selling products or service. It utilizes strategies such as direct sales, TV, radio, mail, print advertising (magazines, coupon books, billboards) and printed promotional materials (catalogs or brochures).

Traditional Marketing techniques have been tried and proven for years.  However, the over use and abuse of some methods could compromise your marketing campaign and its success.  Knowing when to use traditional Marketing techniques will determine the success or failure of your overall campaign. This is where measuring engagement and ROI comes in. While traditional marketing techniques still have a place in most marketing campaigns, the extent of how many and which techniques will depend on how well supported they are by modern marketing techniques. Remember, each dollar you spend should have a valuable return on investment (ROI).

Social Media Marketing is an important part of your marketing mix, but not the only one.

Historically, the best a company could do to retain a customer was to provide exceptional customer service. Luckily online and social media marketing have changed the game. Online or eMarketing can be an inexpensive, effective and measurable marketing tactic to drive customer traffic and improve your overall business. It is recommended that businesses follow the 80:20 rule when allocating funds between online:traditional marketing. Social media marketing is about recognizing that your existing customers are your best assets and allows you to influence customer behavior before and after the ‘sale’. Now you can engage your existing customers and remind them to return and support your brand.

 

It is important to note that social media marketing is not a replacement, but can be a critical tactic in your marketing mix. In fact, social media marketing works best when combined with other marketing tactics (e.g email) outline in your marketing strategy.

7 Google Tools for Small Businesses

This just in… Google Ad Planner is out and Google Display Planner is in!

7 Google Tools for Small Businesses

While a Google AdWords campaign may not be necessary for all small businesses, having an account provides you with online marketing insights and can help drive SEO. Utilizing the tools above companies can find and analyze ranking data to help drive online results.

Happy Google-ing! 

Social Media and Your Business

A recent Fortune article made an interesting point about the social media efforts of most companies: 

“Most companies’ early efforts with social [media] have been the equivalent of ‘brochureware’ (just as they were on the internet back in the 1990s). And although levels of sophistication are growing…most social commerce experiments have a long way to go.”

Your social media goal should be to engage and communicate with your customers, not to advertise ‘brochureware.’ This strategy should already be implemented on you website (hopefully) and in order to be competitive (and effective) on social media, you need to stop selling and start engaging.

1. Knowledge is power

This isn’t new and shouldn’t be a surprise. Learn about the various platforms and their uses.

Popular platforms social media include:

  • Facebook: Currently the largest social network on the internet with approximately  1+ Billion monthly active users and utilizes friend-to-friend connections.
  • Twitter: Real-time, short status updates and broadcasts (up to 140 characters) to followers with approximately 200+ million active users. A great tool to network and build relationships.
  • LinkedIn: An online business and networking community with approximately 200+ million active professional users.
  • Pinterest: With 20+ million monthly active users, users organize and share photos they find on the web on pinboards.
  • Google+: Google meets Facebook where users can share content and connect with approximately 343+ million active users.
  • Blog: A content driven site where individuals or groups read, subscribe and comment on content. If you are confused, you’re reading a blog right now. 

Using social media for your business will broaden your audience and increase the exposure of your communication. More importantly, it gives you another avenue to engage and communicate with your customers.  Social media is giving the world the ability to connect and communicate with each other in ways that were never possible before.

2. Create a plan

Social media is very attractive, as there is typically no cost to sign-up and get started. It can become very time consuming, but this can be avoided by creating a plan, time limit, goals and objectives. Planning your content carefully will help you to be consistent and professional.

3. Do not rely solely on social media

Social media should not replace all of your current marketing tools and campaigns, but should complement and enhance them. Social media can dramatically increase your potential audience, but it is not the only marketing medium available. Be sure to be consistent across all of your marketing channels. Social media provides your customers with another avenue to research your company, which can help build trust and awareness. 

4. Be decisive

You don’t need to be on every social media site (trust me there are too many). Be selective not only with what you choose to post, but also with what platforms you choose to use. For example, don’t create a Pinterest account unless you will actively use it. Decide if the platform will positively influence your online marketing goals. Ultimately, an inactive page reflects poorly on your company.

5. Engagement is key

Use and track your social media engagement through a system such as Hootsuite. This system helps your business save time because you can schedule posts and monitor multiple social media accounts from one platform.

Have fun with social media and be sure to showcase your brand’s personality. Happy social media-ing!

6 Principles of Epic Content Marketing

I stumbled upon a great content marketing article the other day and decided to share. In principles of epic content marketing, Pulizzi lists 6 ways that CMOs can step up their content marketing engine:

  1. Epic content fills a need with your audience (and hopefully industry)
  2. Communicate consistently (not only for campaigns)
  3. Find and use your unique and human voice (easy right?)
  4. Express a valuable point of view (
  5. Avoid sales speak (and increase educational content)
  6. Be recognized as the best in class (or industry/niche)

“The problem right now is that most marketers are looking at metrics as objectives [for example, counting followers or looking at Web traffic]. What we want to focus on is Return on Objective (ROO).” Ultimately, you need to create and follow a content marketing plan.

LinkedIn Recommendations

1.       Update your photo

LinkedIn is increasing focus on you profile photo. This means you need to have a photo, and a professional, likable one at that.  

2.       Refresh your summary

The summary section is the place to discuss your biggest accomplishments. It is also important to note that the summary section is much more prominent. If you haven’t filled out a summary yet, write one. If you wrote one last year, update it. Because of the reduced size of the top box, your summary is now above the fold; thus more important, especially the first few sentences.

3.       Work on your headline

Because the amount of information in your top box has been reduced, the remaining information is more important than ever, including your headline. The 120-character headline is one of the best spots on your profile to explain you and your brand. If the job title is relevant, include it in the headline.

4.       Eliminate the 2012/2011 ‘buzzwords’

According to LinkedIn they are: creative, organizational, effective, extensive experience, track record, motivated, innovative, problem solving, communication skills, dynamic. Also avoid: results oriented, team player, self-starter, multitasking.

5.       Showcase your latest volunteering experience

Demonstrate and document your personal side. What you do out of the office says a lot and employers or work connections can get a sense of you as a person by reading about how you spend your time. Update your volunteer info with new information.

6.       Strengthen your skills list

The Skills section is new and one of the great ways to provide on overview of the skills you poses. These can be professional and directly related to your current job, or from volunteering positions.

7.       Try an endorsement

To go along with Skills, LinkedIn has added a new feature called Endorsements. Give some endorsements and see who’s endorsed you (those faces by your skills).

8.       List all your jobs and skills

One of the ways you are found is through searches on company names or schools.  If you are only listing your current company and/or not even displaying your college, you are missing out on potentially being found.  For every job listed, you definitely need a job description.  Job descriptions provide you with the opportunity to describe your work experience and add keywords.

9.       Get a new recommendation

Lists of recommendations that span months or even years are impressive. A recommendation from executives in your industry or at your company is the best.

10.   Treat “contact information” like a business card

All your contact information is now summarized, nicely, in the top box and opens after a person clicks the Contact Info tab right next to the picture of the index card. Be sure to include all the ways you want people to contact you by: websites, Twitter, email, phone, IM, and your address.  

11.   Consider that website addresses are harder to find

The websites included on your profile (you can list up to three) have been moved to the Contact Info section and as a result you may want to mention your website(s) in your summary and/or job descriptions. Creating a company LinkedIn page can also help.  LinkedIn gives you the ability to list three websites on your profile – take advantage of this. Do you have a Twitter profile or another social media profile that you want to advertise, a company website, or a blog?

12.   Own and run a company? Start a LinkedIn company page

Company pages are a great way to promote your business and reach out to the professional networks on LinkedIn. Learn more here.

13.   Clean out your old groups and add new ones

Groups can be one of the best ways to expand your network. Having a group in common gives you a good way to break the ice with helpful professional contacts.

14.   Follow companies

LinkedIn rolled out company pages in 2012 and you can follow you favorite companies now. When you follow a company on LinkedIn, you can learn about job openings and become seen by commenting on news in the company’s activity stream.

15.   Want to advertise to professionals? LinkedIn Ads may be for you!

LinkedIn also offers various online advertising through LinkedIn. Benefit from targeting a specific audience, controlling your spend and reaching professionals. Click here for more information.

Social Media Marketing 101

As with all marketing plans and campaigns, strategy is the first place to start. Whether you are a multinational company or a local business you need a sound marketing strategy to be successful and competitive.

Your company can strategically benefit from social media in the following 6 functional areas:

  • Marketing
  • Public Relations
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Technical Support
  • Business Development
  • Human Resources

To create a sound social media marketing strategy your company must address these 6 points:

1.       Discover Needs

Access what the company objectives and goals:

  • Prepare the launch of a new product?
  • Promote the current services the company offers?
  • Get more people engaged with the brand online?
  • Assist the customer support department in responding to client queries?
  • Generate new leads and sales?
  • Recruit young talents? 

2.       Identify Your Audience

Having a clearly defined market and audience is essential to marketing. Complete a market assessment to discover who your customers are and where they spend time online. Don’t invest your time or resources if you don’t know who you are targeting. For example, LinkedIn can help companies target specific industries and professionals. Be sure to match your business objectives to your channel selections.

3.       Select the Right Channel

There are many social media to choose from: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, GooglePlus, Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare, Blogs, etc. It’s best to complete a comparative advantage to access, which platform is best for your company and your overall social media marketing strategy. It’s important to understand what value each channel adds and how the platform can strategically work for your business.

You can create multiple accounts within each social media platform as well. Be sure to create consistency not only with your branding, but with your strategy objectives and target audience.

4.       Connect to Solutions

Each social media network provides a unique service offering and solution for its users (both business and personal). Most social media platforms are free to use. Examples include:

  • Facebook: create a company page, post articles/videos/pictures, run campaigns and contests and connect with fans
  • Twitter: create an account, follow users, tweet, retweet and share content
  • LinkedIn: create a company page with your business information and share content
  • Google Plus: create a company page with your business information, post content, create events and host hangouts

Business can also incorporate paid content and ads into their social media strategy. Each platform offers its own customized ad platforms:

  • Facebook: sponsored stories and ads
  • Twitter: promoted accounts and tweets
  • LinkedIn: targeted advertising, talent solutions and sales navigator
  • Google Plus: Google AdWords (be sure to link your Google+ page with your AdWords campaign)

 5.       Allocate Resources

Plan to have a community manager or team that will handle and implement your social media strategy and plan. Creating one, cohesive strategy will allow your social media manager or team to work on all the social media platforms you have selected.

Make sure that your objectives are clearly defined and target your audience accordingly. Involve your team in learning and understanding the strategy. This will help them to create and post better content that will drive your results. Also, have your team customize the content according to each platform.

6.       Measure Return On Investment (ROI)

While you plan your business objectives, clearly define your measurable goals (e.g. increasing website visits, social shares, etc.). Analyse the results on a monthly and campaign basis and adjust accordingly. Calculating ROI is extremely important in justifying time and money spent on marketing.

Social media analytics will help you understand your audience, interact with your audience better and learn what content they prefer to read and share. By investing time in analytics, you’ll be able to create and share increasingly valuable content and as a result a higher ROI.