10 Tips for Creating an Engaging Business Blog

Business blogging is a powerful tool which when used correctly, can impact your marketing significantly. Here are 10 recommendations on creating a successful business blog:

  1. Set Goals
    Have complete knowledge about your content marketing, social media and blogging goals. Make sure the goals are specific, measurable and achievable.
  2. Define Your Target Audience
    Defining your target audience personas will help you create valuable content based on their content interests. Be consistent and appeal to their pain points.
  3. Plan with a Content Calendar
    Great blog posts don’t spring up out of the blue without proper planning. An established content calendar helps ensure regular, streamlined content flow through the year.
  4. Create a Content Marketing Plan
    Increase your visibility by creating content. If your content is good, increased visibility will translate into views and leads. Promote your blog through cross promotion initiatives on social media, your website and online paid advertising. Also incorporate social sharing buttons on your blog pages for increased distribution and engagement.
  5. Assign Adequate Resources
    A successful blog needs resources: to generate quality content, for creative work (images, design, formatting etc.), to work on the editing and marketing your content.
  6. Work on Content Optimization
    Your blog is a major contributor to your search rankings. Optimize your content by using relevant non-brand keywords. Integrate your blog’s URL into your company site URL which helps in branding and further search optimization. Also, make it easy for people to access your blog from your website and vice versa. Lastly, structuring your content into short paragraphs will help visitors read your content.
  7. Brand Your Blog
    Ensure your blog is consistent with your brand identity, including brand colors, logo, font etc.
  8. Connect Your Blog to Relevant Product/Service Pages
    Make it easy for blog readers to find your products linking your blog pages to the right products/services with a persuasive call-to-action and hyperlink.
  9. Include visuals
    Balance the presence of text on your blog with adequate visuals including photos, video and presentations.
  10. Measure Performance
    Track your blog’s effectiveness by measuring important performance metrics including the amount of traffic, leads and sales generated. Also measure the extent to which your blog is helping you cut costs in search and customer service.
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15 Tips on How to Create a Successful eCommerce Website

Every website needs visitors and customers. Websites are specifically designed to serve customers. An effectively designed eCommerce website experiences high conversion rate and brings the desired profit for a business. However not all the web designers understand how to make the eCommerce websites conversion-friendly. Below are 15 tips to help you build a successful eCommerce website.

  1. Identify your prospects 
  2. Have simple navigation 
  3. Use high resolution product images (or stock photos)
  4. Include valuable product details
  5. Employ simple, clear and visually engaging call to actions (CTAs)
  6. Feature product and/or service videos 
  7. Have 24/7 visibility into your shopping cart 
  8. Offer free shipping as an option
  9. Avoid distractions 
  10. Leverage landing pages to feature valuable content, products and services  
  11. Offer special discounts or sales clearly
  12. Display your contact information easily and visibly
  13. Consider multiple transaction options
  14. Feature an effective and useful Site Search: Advanced
  15. Keep the site simple, engaging and focused on providing value 

Building an eCommerce website could be a challenging task, but the tips given above offer great help even to a newbie web designer. Try to improve the usability and shop-ability of eCommerce website that you are designing. Keep in mind that building a website is a never-ending process. You’ll need to keep updating your website on a continually ongoing basis.

Marketing: How to Break Through the Noise

The market place – any market place – is noisy and crowded. Marketing has moved towards a content, value-driven strategy where companies are competing (even more so) for market attention. Below are my recommendations on how to cut threw the noise.

  1. Build a marketing strategy

Be sure to include the following elements:

  • Strategy: Start with a business strategy that addresses your target customer, market, technology and business needs
  • Products and services: Have a quality offering that meets customer needs (both stated and unstated) better than the available alternatives
  • Target audience: Understand as much as you can about your prospects and customers – who they are, what they need and want, and how you can best provide value
  • Competitive and market analysis: Understand the market in which you compete, including as much as possible about the industry and competitors
  • Brand: Build a strong brand and reputation in the minds of all key audiences – customers, partners, employees, shareholders, the local community, and others
  • Communication: Effectively communicate the value you provide so as to generate demand
  • Sales and distribution channels: Provide the right tools to enable those who sell and recommend your product to be successful
  • Operations: Deliver, track, and analyze your marketing efforts to understand what’s working and where changes should be made
  1. Think digital

If you’re not thinking digital first, you’re already behind. Be able to develop and deliver targeted digital campaigns that will provide an increased return on investment (ROI). Measure and track your digital marketing and make executable improvements, while focusing on lead generation.

  1. Create alignment

Marketing will succeed or fail based on your planning and execution. Alignment along internal and external stakeholders will increase the performance (and results) of your marketing strategies. Even some of the most creative marketing initiatives can fall flat if you don’t have alignment.

Have consultative and collaborate conversations between marketing team members and business stakeholders to create alignment. Review to make sure you have the resources (and budget) available to execute your strategy. Great marketing initiatives fall short if they are not provided sufficient resources. Have you thought about the technology required to execute your strategy? You need to. Exploring opportunities here also aligns with executing a successful digital marketing strategy.

Marketing needs to have a strategy is you want to successfully cut through the noise and have a valuable impact in the market place.

4 Common Mistakes with Retargeting Ads

Retargeted ads offer so much potential. When a consumer goes to look at a brand or publisher’s content, they’re making the first step in developing a relationship with the company. Retargeted ads, when done right, should still create that brand recognition, but it should also go a step further and encourage brand loyalty, advocacy, and community.

Here are 4 common issues with retargeted ads:

1. Being Static

Repetition can either increase or decrease brand awareness and overall result.  You don’t want to be static and repetitive, but rather memorable and engaging. Every time you have someone look at the same image it’s going to lose it’s impact – especially when it’s already a fairly standard-looking image. Today especially, people are used to a constant flow of new information. Each interaction so be valuable.

2. Lacking Amazing Content

People don’t like ads (or content) that don’t provide value or are engaging. The burden for advertisers is to create content that is just as, if not more, interesting as the competing content on the page. This means the content should be unique, visual, and useful to your audience – even if its usefulness is just that it’s entertaining.

3. No Interaction 

Give your audience the chance to get creative in your ad experience, and make sure that that content is shareable on their social channels. Often companies will create these experiences as standalone pages, but there’s no reason why creative content can’t live within ad units around the web.

4. Not Being Human-Focused 

Every ad needs to have a human element – something your audience can see and relate to. Chances are, your audience isn’t going to relate to the model you place on every website. People can relate to their friends though. And they can relate to stories from people that could be their friends. This is where user-generated content comes in. Using retargeting to connect with the users most likely to engage with your company is great. However, you’re not going to promote any kind of longterm relationship or engagement with a boring (and ignorable) ad.

Social Media Marketing 102

Establishing a good social media marketing strategy for your business can help you increase your presence and drive sales. As a follow up to Social Media Marketing 101, read below for the best way to jump into the realm of social media marketing.

Start by creating profiles on sites your audience is likely to use. You should create profiles on Facebook and Twitter and any other site your target audience is using. Take the time to create original designs for your profiles, but make sure you create profiles that can easily be recognized as being affiliated with your brand. Use the name of your brand when registering for a profile and place a logo on your page. You also need to place links to your homepage and product pages in visible locations as well as your contact information. If you join more than one site, add a link to your other profiles on each site.

Post updates on a regular basis. You need to write quality content that your audience will want to read and share with their friends. Posting links to your blog updates or new products is a good idea, but do not hesitate to share news stories and articles from external sites related to your industry. Keep track of the comments you get and of how many people share your updates to find out what your target audience is really interested in.

You should set a goal to establish a real connection with your audience. This can be achieved through your social media accounts. On your site, add links to your social network profiles as an option to contact you with questions, requests or suggestions. You should be very polite and professional in your interactions with people on social networks. If necessary, create a personal profile so you can talk to your friends and family privately. Remember that the social network profile associated with your brand is basically a storefront for your business; it is necessary that you make a good impression. Use your real name to encourage people to trust you but treat them as customers, not as friends.

Make a few changes to your website or blog so that sharing your content becomes easier. You should add social network buttons to your blog posts; most blogging platforms automatically add Facebook, Twitter, Google + or Pinterest buttons to your posts. You can easily get the code for these buttons on social networks if you wish to add them to your site.

To learn more about developing an effective social media strategy read Social Media Marketing 101.

9 Tips to Update Your Facebook Page

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If you haven’t reviewed or updated your Facebook Page recently, it’s time! Reviewing and updating your Facebook Page should be a scheduled re-occurrence. Here are 9 tips to help make sure your Facebook Page is optimized.

1.       Utilize Your Page Cover Image

This prime location provides you with an opportunity to get creative with your cover image. You can display your web address, add a call to action, or add something that draws attention to your tabs. Make sure to take advantage of this. A helpful hint is to not let the text on the cover photo exceed 20% of the cover image area.

2.       Assess Your Profile Image

Your profile image is the first thing a user sees when they look at your company page and your posts. The logo will help reinforce your brand, and be simple, clear and easily identifiable. It should not be a picture of the business owner and if possible a square-designed image should be used.  A helpful hint is that your profile image should be uploaded at a size of 180 x 180 pixels (Facebook downsizes it to 160 x 160 pixels).

3.       Review Your Tab Thumbnails

Your tab thumbnails appear below your cover image and lead to the apps on your Page. Optimize your tab thumbnails to capture your visitor’s attention. Do this by using simple fonts and use a shorten call to action.

4.       Use Facebook Apps

Facebook apps are a great ways to boost engagement on your Page. Apps offer your visitors incentives and an interactive platform, which can boost your engagement rates. They are mostly used for running contests and offering deals and should have a sign up list for eNewsletters. Helpful hint: be sure your contest and deal meets Facebook’s promotion guidelines.  

5.       Maximize Your About Short Description

Your Facebook Page utilizes a brief description of approximately 155 characters that displays below the cover image and the profile image at the top of your Page. Maximize your short description by providing a concise, informative statement, with your website URL.

6.       Complete The Entire About Section

Be sure to complete the Company Overview, Description, General Information and Mission sections. The About area(s) are indexed by search engines and should contain relevant keywords. Also, be sure to include your address in the General Information to optimize for local search.

7.       Categorize Your Business Correctly

If you’re a local business with a physical brick-and-mortar location, this is very important. You want customers to come and visit your place, so be sure to optimize your category and Check-in option.

8.       Check Your Notification Settings

It is recommended that companies and Page managers review your settings, managers and notification settings occasionally. Responding to comments, posts and messages I recommend keeping all notifications on. This is the key to good online customer service. If your community is engaging with you, be sure you respond to them!

9.       Activate Replies to Comments

This is a helpful hint as it’s a new Facebook feature (released in March 2013). When this feature is enabled, it allows Pages to offer their community the ability to reply to a specific comment in a thread resulting in better interaction around a comment.

10 Reasons Your Company Needs an Online & Social Media Strategy

1. Your competitors have a website and social media program 

If this doesn’t get you motivated I don’t know what will. Either way who doesn’t love some good ole’ fashion business competition.

2. Make your website the stronghold of your entire online marketing strategy

If you don’t think your website is ready to compete, update it now. What is the first thing people search for online? Your website.

3. Your business is open 24/7
Even though your open light may not be open 24/7, your website and online campaigns are – make it count.

4. Think of it as an online brochure
Updating content online is cheaper, quicker and easier than with print material. It also provides you with the ability to provide more comprehensive information and will save your on expensive printing and distribution costs.

5. Extend your reach to new global markets
Through the use of the internet (and an online strategy) you can be a global player and potentially increase your reach.

6. Provide improved customer service
Easily achieve this by providing answers to questions on your website, FAQ’s, online forms and documents. My personal favorite is when companies offer customer service via social media. Being available around the clock will help you increase accessibility, visibility and customer service as a result.

7. Be sure to present a professional image

A professional website and campaign, can help a small business build credibility, instill confidence and look bigger than you might actually be. Having a professional online look can also help you drive boost online sales and conversions.

8. Sell your products online
Selling your products through your website or social media accounts can be an affordable alternative to renting a traditional bricks-n-mortar business and can be a great way to start a business. Be sure to provide secure online purchasing (e.g. PayPal)

9. Generate leads
Gather customer information by using forms and surveys and let the leads come to you. I recommend building a marketing content strategy to complement this tip as well.

10. Create a 2-way discussion
Nothing beats social media, when trying to establish an interactive dialogue with your customers. People are busy and don’t like to wait for a response. There are many different social media platforms in use today. For help selecting the right one, read my previous blog post by clicking here.

Selecting the Right Social Network for your Small Business

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We know that as a small business you have to manage a limited, tight budget. All promotional and performance boosting initiatives, must be a calculated and strategic move and need to help drive growth. Online marketing, and social media, can help small business cut costs and the ability to showcase themselves. Both big brands and small businesses are now realizing that social media sites are invaluable marketing platforms. With millions of users online, it’s important for your company to choose the right social media channel. In an article by Emily Maltby and Shira Ovide (of the Wall Street Journal), not all social media tools can help your company grow. Here are 2 helpful and essential tips to help you choose the appropriate social media platform.

1.       Consider more than just site popularity

While Facebook is still considered to be the number one social network (over a billion monthly active users and over 600 million mobile users),  Twitter comes in second, with over 500 million registered users and 200 million active tweeters. YouTube has over a billion users and more than four billion views per day, but it is not considered to be a social media network by everyone. While LinkedIn only boasts approximately 200 million users it is also a preferred option to network professionally worldwide. It may be easy for business owners (and marketers) to select the top 2 (Facebook and Twitter), but it is important to consider many different social media a platforms as they all provide differing benefits. A few examples include: Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare, and Google+.

 2.       Find one that works

Benchmark, test and review – it’s that simple. The most important factor to consider when choosing what social media tool should be selected and used by a small business is its effectiveness. The company must consider how to tool will reflect the brand, the interests of the company and the products and the services provided.

Online and most importantly social media marketing can give your small business a personalized and affordable option to increase your exposure and to compete with your competitors. With professional social media profiles your company will look credible and engaging. Your SEO will also increase, which is an added bonus as well.

If you need help selecting the appropriate social media networks, please feel free to reach out to me directly – I’m fairly active on my various social media accounts. 

5 Tips to Improve Your Email Marketing Campaign

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Email marketing is a very effective and popular tool to help promote your company, brand and everything associated. Here are 5 quick tips to quickly help improve your email marketing campaign.

1.  Use Consistent Fonts for Headlines & Paragraph Text

Simply put this is branding 101. Consistency is the ultimate key to your brand recognition and to its success. By using consistent font sizes and colors you can achieve a clean and professional look for your newsletters, while also making them easier to read. There should also be a noticeable size difference between article headlines and your text.

2.  Integrate your Marketing Campaigns

This will help increase your reach and drive results. Cross-promotion between your networks is essential. Utilize all your channels including Social Media, which can be easily integrated into your email marketing campaigns. Also, be sure to use URL’s to link your eNewsletters to valuable online content. Credibility is king and that makes content the queen.

3.  Include your Brand, Logo & Colors

All of your marketing, including your eNewsletters, should be consistent (tip #1) and this includes your brand and logo colors. Your eNewsletter’s colors should resemble your company and should always contain your logo. This step can help ensure that your recipients recognize your company as soon as they open the email. Don’t worry though, different colors can still be used, just use them sparingly.

4.  Use Images & Videos

As with all marketing endeavors (both on and off-line) photos and videos foster engagement and can help make your content go viral. Use them well.

5.  Watch the length

“How long should an email be?” It’s best to use your own discretion, but you should be mindful of the page fold (e.g. any content that you must scroll to read). Also, the longer the newsletter the greater the chance of your content not being read. If your emails and articles are ending up very lengthy, I recommend using a teaser or a lead-in with a read more link to a website (or a document). This can help you reduce the length of your eNewsletters and will also help you gauge engagement through click-through reports.

Want to know more than 5 tips? Ready to get started? Contact me at Marketing Directions for more information and for personalized assistance. 

Content Marketing 101

Local small and medium sized Canadian businesses need to have an active online marketing strategy. This means creating content and driving engagement online. Ultimately you have to beat your local competition. Content Marketing is an effective strategy that your company can use to reach your target audience and potential customers. It can also help you built a strong relationship with your prospects and ideally create raving fans and brand ambassadors. As content marketing become more popular, small and medium sized businesses must jump on board and utilize this effective local marketing tool.

Why? It builds trust, credibility and authority.

This is exactly what your target audience has ordered. The content you provide should be trustworthy and valuable, which will help you (hopefully), become a business with local credibility and authority. It will also increase your local search engine optimization (SEO). Increased local SEO can give you valuable return on investment (ROI), which can be achieved (and driven) by creating quality content. 

How? Use 3 common content marketing tactics:

1.     Blogs

Blogs are a great tool for your company to use to target your local prospects and connect with people. Losing that corporate tone and creating personable content can go a long way when building credibility. Many businesses have already realized this and are engaging their consumers through their blogs. Blogs can also promote sales, events, new product and/or services or anything that can help build your brand. 

 2.     Social Media

Social media platforms (and applications) are a very common tool used by businesses to publish content. According to Aimée Morrison, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo, “(Social Media) is becoming a mainstream part of how we get the business of life accomplished and you’re at a disadvantage increasingly if you don’t do it.”

A new report by the Media Technology Monitor suggests that 1/3 anglophone Canadians won’t let a single day go by without checking their social media feeds. Approximately 63% of social media users surveyed said that they read Facebook posts, tweets and/or LinkedIn updates every single day. You can also read the full report here

Social media is reaching a tipping point and plays a huge role in your online marketing and content strategies and is influencing business SEO as well.

3.     Videos

YouTube is a behemoth of a platform that companies need to embrace. Creating a brief online video is becoming easier and cheaper and all companies should jump on board, as videos are a great way to personalize your brand and provide engaging information and content. Even within a 2 minute video, business can provide invaluable information to viewers and help drive consumer engagement and ROI.