Strategizing Your Promotional Marketing Mix

In business or marketing strategy, you have probably heard of the “4 P’s” of marketing (Product, Price, Place and Promotion). The promotional aspect can also be described as the “Promotional Mix” and it determines what actions to take to reach your target audience. If you find yourself asking “How do I know what works?” the answer begins with your target audience. This blog post will help you to strategize your marketing plan and I’ve even included estimated costs.

Marketing Tactics

  1. Business Name

Your business and brand name is crucial to your success. ($1,000 – $8,000)

  1. Logo

Your logo should represent your company and your brand. This is a must-have and quality does count. An affordable solution is 99Designs. If design and creativity isn’t your strong suit then you should invest in an engaging logo. ($500 – $10,000)

  1. Slogan

This may be optional, but this short description can explain your unique value proposition to the market. ($500 – $5,000)

  1. Website

Developing a website can be almost free (e.g. from WordPress or another free online template) or a substantial investment. It all depends on your ability to build a website, develop a strategy, content, etc. It will cost less if you can write it yourself and supply the photography, but if you don’t want to build a website, you should hire someone who does. You can also save money by being involved in the planning and content selection. ($5,000 – $50,000)

  1. Content Marketing Schedule

Unless you’re ready to draft a content marketing plan you should probably enlist some help. Providing valuable content will help move your targets through a track-able process.

  1. Email Marketing

This will help you provide value and disseminate you content. Free templates can be set up with any number of online eNewsletter programs. ($50  – $20,000)

  1. Social Media

Set up your social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) and ensure they are consistent with your branding and messaging. You should be able to do this yourself, but make sure you’re on the right networks – correctly.

  1. Blogging

Writing a blog is free and easy to do once you’ve planned your content strategy. Creating a blog will help you keep your website content fresh.

  1. Signage

Signage will let the market place know that you exist and help people easily you’re your location(s). ($500 – $50,000+)

  1. Directories and Classified Ads

Whether online or in a newspaper, these should be a cost-effective method to list your company in it’s target industry. People searching for specific items can locate your ad by category. ($25+/each)

  1. Community Newsletters

If your goal is to reach a specific community, than community papers may provide you with a cost-effective tactic, however readership varies. ($50 – $500/ad/size)

  1. Outdoor Advertising

This tactic will increase your local presence. Outdoor advertising covers a variety of media, including lawn signs, bus benches (0 – $200/month), shopping mall signs, billboards and building sponsorships. ($5,000 – $50,000+)

  1. Videos

Videos are an extremely important, especially within your content marketing strategy. They can be used in a variety of mediums including both digital and traditional marketing tactics.  ($2,000  – $50,000)

  1. Search Engine Optimization (and Outsourced Content Creation)

Your company and it’s digital assets need to rank highly. Enlisting the services of an expert will save you time, which will allow you to get back to business. ($1,000 – $5,000/month)

  1. Radio

This brand awareness tactic will increase your presence with commuter traffic, especially in rural communities. ($3,000 – $10,000/month)

  1. Television (TV)

Advertising on local (or national) television can greatly increase your brand awareness and increase recognition. (Estimate $1,000 – $10,000/month + production – you need a solid 30 second spot)

  1. Newspapers

Newspaper (local or national) can help build local, immediate attention and over a period of time can increase brand visibility. ($2,000+/month – depending on ad size)

  1. Promotional Products

These are branded items that you send (or give) away to gain (and retain) attention. In Calgary I recommend Level2, however there any many choices in every city.

  1. Direct Mail

Targeted, local direct mail can be effective if there is a valuable offer or create that stands out. This can also be applied to eNewsletters or digital marketing. ($0.5 – $3/ household is consistent depending on the creative you are mailing)

  1. Digital

There are many new online advertising channels to consider. Start with Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which is essentially your online search traffic that should relate to your company, product or service. Then look at display advertising, which is the online version of billboard advertising, layered in with retargeted and behaviour ads. Next think about social media advertising (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). If you’re confused by the above let me know and I can help. While marketing budgets may vary they are also affordable and track-able. ($25/day+)

  1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

A CRM system, emails and phone calls will help you manage current relationships, increase referrals and attract new prospects to be clients. If you don’t have a sales process or strategy you will not generate new business. ($25/month+)

  1. Recommendations, Success Stories and Celebrity Endorsements

Some of these are free or earned and others are not – however all will help you increase credibility within your market place. Always be aware of the risk.

Build Your Promotional Marketing Mix

Choose your promotional marketing tactic based on your target audience. This includes the volume, type, and geography of the target customers you are trying to reach. Depending on your marketing strategy (or objectives), choose the method that is the most direct and provides the most value. Your target prospects need to engage with your market for it to be a success. Forecast and plan your marketing budgets to ensure that you allow enough budget to carry your campaign throughout completion. Don’t be afraid to take a chance. Just be sure to measure the results of your marketing.

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How & When to Start Marketing Your Product: 4 Tips

“How and when should I start marketing?” Many companies and new entrepreneurs can easily get hung up on that question. Whether it refers to determining when to start marketing your product or service to customers, or figuring out the correct market in which to launch, the following 4 steps will help guide your through the process.

  1. Product Knowledge

You need to frame the product/technology as it relates to your proposed product timeline and evaluate what stage it currently resides. Doing so defines the timing of when you should go to market and who would be the ideal target within each of the product’s stages.

If you aren’t sure where your product stands, consider the following points:

  • Are the primary features still being developed?
  • Are there enough features to let someone test and give meaningful feedback?
  • Are you ready to present your product and find a first beta tester or even customer?
  • Where does your product reside in the product life cycle? Each of these stages varies in length and directly affects how you market and what your timing is.
    • 1. Development
    • 2. Introduction
    • 3. Growth
    • 4. Maturity
    • 5. Decline

Product knowledge will assist you with your marketing messaging as well as increasing your competitiveness within the market place.

  1. Marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy should plan out the approach you will take to reach potential prospects. Define your target audience and know the best marketing medium, channel and budget for each persona.

Your marketing strategy needs to include the following elements:

  • Product & Consumer
  • Price & Costs
  • Place & Convenience
  • Promotion & Communication

4marketingPsandCs

Also consider these points when building your marketing plan:

  • Who your product or service will serve
  • Where to reach these people
  • How to reach these people
  • How to best do the above given the resources you have
  1. Competitive Landscape

To be successful and truly stand out to your target audience, it is crucial to have a deeper understanding of the competitive landscape. Figure out who the top competitors are, along with their value proposition and core messaging. Can your product or service thrive in the market place? All products, services and companies have competitors so be sure you conduct due diligence. I recommend starting with some web searches then building from there.

  1. Messaging

After you have developed your marketing strategy and understand the positioning of your product in it’s competitive landscape, the final component is to define the messaging. Your messaging is the compilation of the first 3 steps, but positioned in a compelling manner. It must be creative, catchy, engaging, memorable and most of all convert-able (leading to new business). If you are to be successfully noticed by a prospect, your messaging must be timely, relevant, and personalized.

Provide value and think about your unique value proposition. Consider the use of comparative language. Are you faster, bigger, sleeker, or cheaper? Your product knowledge, market strategy and competitive knowledge should help you to create messaging that will engage your target audience.

The 4 steps I’ve outlined will help you determine when or how you should market your new product or concept. It should begin developing an actionable marketing strategy that will allow you to under stand your product/service and it’s target audience. This also includes conducting market and competitor research as well as creating engaging messaging. These tips will allow you to properly plan your strategy and execution, which will be the key to your success.

SME Growth Strategies

Growing and scaling are two very important factors in a company’s development and ultimately their success. After your company successfully navigates the initial phases of product/service development it will need to change focus to increasing your market share and increasing your customer base.

The first stages of product development tend to revolve around customer needs, wants and hopefully a gap in the market. When a company begins to develop a product, data must be collect a market assessment should be completed. The more interaction a company has with with their target market, the better equipped the company will be moving forward.

Unfortunately, some companies tend to be focused internally, which can be harmful to the overall production and growth phases. Ultimately, you must know what the customer wants. While you hypothesize a solution (your product) to a specific problem, data must be collected to help improve your chances of success. A product problem is great for companies that are just beginning to understand the direction the company is going to go. Initially the focus is on building a product or service that is going to be positively received by consumers. Growth and scaling of your business comes later.

After you have an optimal product designed and developed, you need to gather feedback from your target market. Engaging and learning with your customers will ultimately determine how your product evolves. This is the point where companies can and should begin their focus on growth strategies.

Now that you have your initial product, you should be focusing on how to brand, market and increase your market share. By now your product has been analyzed, altered and (hopefully) validated by the market. Next the company needs to develop a firm, but flexible growth strategy that the company commits to follow. If your company needs help in this area you are not alone. Having a stable growth strategy and effective plans to complete your growth goals will be the key to your company’s success, or at least preparing them for success. Luckily, for all companies there is a lot of support for developing effective growth strategies.

Small Business SEO: 8 Ways To Rank Higher

It’s no longer enough for companies to simply have a website. Your website should have a strategy and objective. It should provide value and be easy to find. If no one can find you, you’re going to have a problem.

Here are 8 search engine optimization (SEO) tips to boost your website’s position in search results.

1. Think Like Your Customer 

Think about what words  and search terms your customers will use to search and find your customers. Do research and even ask your customers.

 2. Draft 20-50 Keywords

From this list, use these keywords in your static (webpage pages that don’t change) and dynamic (e.g. blogs, videos, etc.) content so you will rank higher when prospective customers search for those terms. You do have to remember that you’re competing against other companies in your industry for these keywords so avoid generic terms and invest in terms and phrases that will differentiate yourself. You can use free keyword tools from Google to help with this as well.

You should also integrate a search engine marketing (SEM) Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign. Create ads that resonate with your defined keyword list and your ads will appear above or beside the free search results including those terms. You will then pay the search engine company each time your link is clicked. Competition is stiff for keywords so if you don’t have a big budget, you will have to focus on your niche.

3. Include Keywords In Your Website 

As mentioned above, start using your keywords in your website content and in your URL, webpage titles, subheaders, descriptions and metatags. Then, use the words in the text on each of the pages, but don’t overuse. You website copy should provide value, not irritate. The priority should be to make the content clear and easy to read. As Google webmaster guidelines state: “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.”

4. Work To Attract Linkbacks

The more sites that carry links to your site the higher you will rank on searches. Ask website owners of related sites to link their site to your site. You can also offer to carry a link to theirs in exchange for a link to yours. A good example of this is to guest author blogs. Focus on the quality of the links. The more popular the website, the more impactful they will be on your website SEO.

5. Publish Lots Of High Quality Content

The more content on your website, the more traffic you will attract from search engines. Publish compelling content—articles, videos and photos—and update it frequently.

6. Be Social 

Social media is a great tool to have in your SEO strategy. Create company pages and link back to your website. Be active in online communities in your industry. Share content on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn or Twitter that brings visitors to your site.

7. Be Patient 

Benchmark your site performance and monitor the results, but don’t expect fast results. It will take months to make significant improvements in your search engine rankings.

8. Measure Results & Work For Page One

Use free services like Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and Moz to track the statistics on the behaviour of your visitors—how they found your site (search engine, referring website, etc.), their geographical location and how long they stayed on each page. This data can help you to improve your online strategy. You need to rank on page 1, no one really looks past it now.

Too Expensive? Here are 10 Affordable Marketing Tactics

Marketing, advertising and promotion are a critical to business success. It is also a crucial link to your customers. Instead of avoiding or cancelling these tactics, you can try and implement some cost saving tactics to increase brand awareness. Here are 10 affordable marketing tactics to consider implementing:

  1.  Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare, etc.)
  2. Content Marketing and Lead Generation (Blogging and Email Marketing/eNewsletters)
  3. Promotional events (Competitions with prizes that media can attend)
  4. Public Relations (Write content about what your business is doing)
  5. Press Release or Article (Submit it with a small ad to local newspapers and media)
  6. Guest Hosting (Contact local radio/TV outlets and offer to do free interviews or consults)
  7. Hijack (Listen to media shows or online conversations and jump in with your comments)
  8. Community Involvement (Volunteer to provide presentations at local community groups)
  9. Be Charitable (Only do this if you believe and want to be involved in a local cause)
  10. Networking (Get out there and mingle!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too Expensive? Here are 10 Affordable Marketing Tactics

6 Steps for a Valuable Business Idea

You have finally thought of an innovative concept and now you’re challenged with translating this idea into something useful and practical. Also, how do you make sure a successful and profitable business results from your idea? Most new business ideas are never completed or implemented since people often don’t understand the process of converting their ideas into a real business. Small businesses often have the chance to provide some practical and smart innovations since smaller organizations typically foster increased creativity. The larger an organization, the more chance a great idea will just get ‘lost’ in translation, or office meeting. But how do you translate your idea into a business? Here are 6 steps to help you navigate the way.

1. Take your Time

Don’t jump the gun. Take time to think about your idea, but you start advertising your game changing idea! The more you think about it, the more concrete the idea will become and the easier it will be for you to communicate it. This is vital to getting acceptance and implementation. Discussing your idea with close colleagues and friends can also help flush out the concept and the practical ways of implementing. They will often become your greatest supporters when you promote the idea.

2. Evaluate the Idea

This is critical for success. Many businesses have an assessment or evaluation process for new ideas. Making sure that there is a need or that your idea provides a solution is important. Be objective in your evaluation(s) and it will pay off in the future.

3. Know the Benefits

All businesses are interested in increasing their profit line, but your idea may also provide other benefits. Other examples include raising employee morale or the public image of the company. You should prepare a list of potential benefits that can arise from the implementing your idea.

4. Know How to Implement

You need to realistically and practically consider how your idea can be implemented into the company’s processes or procedures. Knowing how to best ease companies and the market into accepting change can be a challenge. Making this transition as easy and as positive as possible will greatly increase your chances for success. Be sure to discuss the idea with the people who will actually be implementing and using your idea. Remember to compile feedback on the impact of the idea and if they have any helpful suggestions.

5. Find and Keep Support

Discussing your idea with your colleagues, acquaintances, family, friends, business contacts, etc. will help to you find support for your idea. Remember to give credit where credit is due and acknowledge those who have given you suggestions to make your idea a practical reality. This will also increase credibility. Sharing your idea with several people in various industries before you formally launch and sell the idea should help increase acceptance. It also allows you to prepare you for your initial launch and sale. Keeping support by providing updates and asking for feedback or advise will also keep you idea top of mind.

6. Sell It

Be sure to focus on your idea’s unique value proposition, what benefits it will provide and what marketplace need it will fill or solve. Sell your idea in a positive way that reflects what is most important. Conducting market research can greatly increase success in step 6.

Lastly, don’t waste a great idea! Creativity and innovative solutions can give careers, businesses, markets and economies successful boosts.  Good luck on creating the next big thing! 

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! 

10 Small Business Apps

The world has gone mobile and so should small businesses. Embrace it.  Small business owners can benefit greatly from many apps that are available today. Just to let you know I swear by the 1st two apps.

Below are 10 apps that will help make your small business grow:

1.       Dropbox

The best way to store and backup your files. You place your most important files in a directory on your computer and can then directly access them with your laptop, tablet and phone. The file is actually located in your device, so you don’t need an Internet connection to work on it.

You can upload files to the cloud and edit them from any device (Mac, PCs, tablets and smartphones). You can control access to the uploaded documents and can undelete files you’ve removed accidentally. Users can view, download and upload your files securely from any web browser as well as dragging, dropping and sharing items directly from your computer. Free Dropbox comes with 2 GB, but you can earn additional storage (up to 18 GB) through Dropbox’s referral program or upgrade to 100GB ($9.99/month) or 500 GB ($49.99/month).

2.       Evernote

You can save all the information you want on Evernote. This includes webpages (text, images and links), written documents, photos, voice instructions, audio and much more. You can also organize and access it on all your devices (both Windows and Mac iOS).

Like Dropbox, Evernote is free to users, but you can upgrade to a Premium account for $5 a month. Multi-person businesses can also use Evernote ($10/month for each user), which allows co-workers to share and access information easily across the company, while maintaining ownership over who has access to what. Personally, I use Evernote for both personal and business use and will easily become part of your everyday syncing life.

3.       Kingsoft Office

Users can open, edit and save your Word, Excel and PowerPoint files all for the best price – FREE. It also integrates with your email and provides access to Google Drive and Dropbox. 

4.       Mint.com

Need access to all your accounting files on your smartphone? Mint has you covered. It also allows you to enter your expenses after you make your purchase. 

5.       Cisco WebEx Go-To-Meeting

Enjoy meetings from the comfort of anywhere. You can discuss, draw diagrams, exchange documents and screen share with participants anywhere (internet exists).

6.       Bump

Bumping is fun and convenient. You simple open Bump, select a file and then lightly bump your phone against your or friend/colleague’s phone. Automatic file transfer is definitely helpful when transferring business cards, contacts, documents, photos, etc. 

7.       Square Register

Need to accept payments on the go? Use Square Register to accept credit card payments at only 2.75% per transaction. This means you don’t need to have an account with a credit card provider (VISA, MasterCard, etc.) and you will always have your cash register with you.

8.       FreshBooks 

FreshBooks allows entrepreneurs to spend less time billing and more time working. The app offers mobile and online accounting software where users can track their time, send invoices, receive payments and create accounting reports. Also, you can brand your reports, see when invoices have been viewed by clients and set recurring invoices and automatic payments. After the 30 day free trial users can upgrade to a variety of accounts and features (ranging from $19.95-$39.95/month and 25-unlimited clients).

Happy App-ing!

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. 

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.