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Is Your Message Fragmented?

I attend a monthly meet-up held at the William & Mary Technology & Business Incubator that is designed as a resource for entrepreneurs to meet potential investors and collaborators, to share ideas and to learn from experienced entrepreneurs, academics and start-up professionals from Richmond to Virginia Beach. I hadn’t gone for a while, but made the commitment to attend the last two meetings. I can say that, aside from the free beer and pizza, what I learned in these two meetings

At the most recent meet-up, the presenter was Todd A. Mooradian, PhD, a professor at the Mason School of Business.  His presentation on business models and marketing strategy was captivating and eye opening. His talk focused largely on how businesses executives don’t spend enough time on their business model and marketing strategy, but spend more time on profit and loss, pleasing investors (and smaller businesses working in their business instead of on their business). I have always tried to find ways to gain perspective by removing myself from the day-to-day and thinking about the big picture, but I understand how hard it is for business leaders to do this.ngs was well worth the time.

After Dr. Mooradian’s presentation, one of the attendees asked him in which area businesses tend to make the most mistakes. As I looked at his model on the screen, I could not think of one particular area that I was aware of and an a clear answer wasn’t given that defined one area over any others as a problem for business executives and their teams.  After the meeting, I had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Mooradian and discussing the model we use at Proximo Marketing to guide our clients to develop a marketing strategy and devise a clear path for executing their strategy. Through our conversation, we were able to pinpoint a good answer to the question of where businesses often struggle the most: delivering a concise and unified message.

To understand how we came to this conclusion, first understand the model we use at Proximo. It is the 21st Century; we believe that a company’s website is likely it’s best and cheapest resource to disseminate information and deliver its message, soour model uses a company’s website as it’s hub or center.  The rest of the model looks like a wheel – the spokes leading to the hub are all of the mediums with which a business advertises or shares information. For instance, a company may buy ad space in a newspaper, airtime on the radio and invest in pay-per-click advertising on the Internet. They likely also network in the business community, volunteer in a civic club and submit pictures or press releases about their business to the media. In all of these cases, there are limited amounts of time and space to get their message across, so it’s wise to encourage the audience to learn more by visiting that company’s website.  Here they can clearly share their message and have a call to action that engages website visitors. The business has a tremendous amount of control over what a visitor sees and how they engage on the site.

Beyond the hub and spokes of the wheel, there is one more critical piece: the rim. In our model, the rim is the integration or the unification of the message across all platforms. In my experience, many businesses will buy an ad in the newspaper with one message, buy time on  the radio with another message and tell people with whom they network something else entirely. While businesses have an interest in sharing as much about their business as possible, having a fragmented message eliminates the ability of a business to have controls that allow for a successful experiment in marketing. By delivering a unified message, a business can achieve several impressions for the same people on multiple platforms, leading to an amplification of their message. But more importantly, they are also able to measure which platform worked the best for that message.

Outside of the benefits of the marketing impact that comes from a unified message, it also introduces efficiencies into the business. The person who is in charge of marketing only needs to craft one message at any given time, not several. Over time, the message will likely change as different promotions are introduced or as the business learns about the response from a particular campaign. Additionally, the media platforms used to communicate various messages will also change based on what is learned from the results of previous campaigns. In all cases, businesses do less work, are better able to track their performance  and will have a greater reach and impact as a result of unifying their message.

Coming from several years of business administration, I know how hard it is to take the 30,000 foot view, especially when you have to serve clients, pay bills, track financial performance and everything else you must to do to keep a business afloat, but don’t underestimate the importance of taking this view. No matter what is going on, take the time to understand and plan. Save time and measure the performance of marketing campaigns better by tying together what you say on your website, on the radio, in email and in the community. My experience tells me that your efforts will pay off.

If you’re interested in learning more about the marketing strategy model that we use at Proximo Marketing Strategies, please contact us here. If you would like more information about the Meet-Up at the Technology and Business Incubator, contact Bill Bean at webean@wm.edu or 757-221-7825.

How Facebook News Feed Changes Affect Your Business

Yesterday Facebook announced changes to the News Feed that have already begun to be introduced to users. Facebook will slowly roll out these changes for web users, followed by similar changes for mobile users.

So what do the Facebook News Feed changes hope to accomplish? Facebook has realized that its user base isn’t spending as much time on Facebook as it once was. On average, Americans spend 6 hours a month on Facebook on the web compared to 12 hours a month for mobile users.  The design changes are taken from what users currently see on the mobile version of Facebook, but focus more heavily on eliminating clutter and making Facebook more beautiful.

So what do these changes mean for your business? For starters, if Facebook succeeds in getting users to spend more time on the site, then it will mean an opportunity for your brand page to get more exposure to your audience, your audience’s friends and additional users if you engage in Facebook advertising.To see the changes that are being introduced and sign up to be one of the first to get the changes, you can take a look at Facebook’s post here.

For some time, businesses have seen the benefits of Facebook pages to enhance their brand image, get exposure to fans and customers and increase visibility to potential customers. But with these new changes, promoting your business on Facebook the right way is more important than ever.

Here are three areas that the new News Feed will focus on and what you need to do to take advantage of the changes.

1. Bigger Pictures & Video – Have you been posting text-only posts on Facebook? It’s a sure-fire way to get scrolled past by users when they view their News Feed. Now, with Facebook increasing the size of pictures and video, it’s more important now than ever to ensure that you attach large pictures or video to your posts. Wondering about promoted posts? Attract more attention to your new beautiful posts by promoting posts that are important to your brand. Promoted posts get as much as seven times the reach of a non-promoted post and only cost between $5 and $50. You can do this easily by clicking the promote button on the bottom right of a post on your brand page.

2. Categorized Content – Facebook’s old approach to News Feed was an all-in-one approach, meaning all types of content were mixed together.  Now, different types of content will be grouped together.  For instance, all upcoming events will appear together on the News Feed. What can you do to take advantage of this? Make sure you are creating events on Facebook! Before, users might not pay too much attention to your events and event invitations because most users get too many invitations and the events anyway and they are not as visible outside of the News Feed in. Now your events will show for users right on their News Feed, so they are more likely to see what you have going on.

3. More Space for Check-Ins – We have always said that a check-in on Facebook is like an endorsement of your brand.  When someone visits your physical location and checks in on Facebook, they are telling all of their friends that they are at your business and are happy to be a customer.  There are fewer better ways to get a glowing endorsement from customers. Now, Facebook is giving more real estate on the News Feed for users’ check-ins at local businesses. How do you take advantage of this? Find ways to encourage customers to check in when they are at your place of business.  Perhaps you can offer a discount on their purchase, a coupon for their next purchase or a free gift for checking in. Even if you can’t offer a discount, simply reminding people to check in, using a sign, will increase the number of check-ins you get and, in turn, the amount of exposure your brand page will get to your customers’ friends.

We have yet to see all of the changes that Facebook is making to the News Feed, but as these changes are introduced, we’ll be sure to let you know how you can get the best use of your time spent promoting your brand on the social network. Until then, let us know if you would like to discuss a strategy for increasing your fan base and getting Facebook users more involved with your brand online.

Know of another business who might need help with Facebook? We’d love to talk to them.  Have them give us a call at 757-741-8098 or send a message through our contact page.

Great Marketing is All About Great Customer Service

From as far as I can remember, I have worked in the service business. As a child, I raked my neighbors’ leaves; as a teen, I worked as a clerk at several different stores. When I started my career, I was 20 and I knew that offering great service was the key to success. What I know about digital marketing now only makes that understanding all the more important.

I had a conversation with a client the other day about online reputation management. She indicated that she heard commercials for services that help keep bad reviews off of sites like Google and Yelp. While we do not consider ourselves reputation managers, much of what we do in our overall marketing strategy planning is finding ways to enhance a company’s reputation online.

The mistake many people make is working hard to keep the bad reviews off of social sites, but it will be a never-ending battle and a waste of energy. You simply can’t please everyone.  What you can do, is go above and beyond for your customers so that they feel appreciated and have a desire to share their experience with the world.  Take this review for our client, The Inspired Bride, for example:

Susan and Jamie did everything right by the account of the reviewer, Lindsay. The only additional step that is sometimes needed is to simply ask your clients for the review. Throughout our work, we consult with our clients on offering enhanced experiences for their customers, adding value and making people feel warm and fuzzy. Beyond that, it’s up to their customers to spread the word, but if you’ve done your part, they are much more likely to comply.

A couple of things you can do to enhance your reputation online are as follows:

  • Ask clients when you complete a transaction to write a review on Google, Yelp, Bing or Facebook. Give them a reminder card and let them know the sites you are looking for reviews on.
  • Hand pick a few clients who you know have had a good customer service experience.  Call them or send them an email and offer them something nice for taking a few minutes to write an honest review about your business.  Perhaps you can give them a discount on their next purchase or offer them a small coffeehouse gift card.
  • Send an email to your entire client base asking them to take a few minutes to tell others what they think. You won’t get 100% participation, but a few will oblige and that’s all you need.

Better reviews are noticed by people searching the Internet and many times, having a great review can help your business to rise to the top of results.  Lastly, keep in mind how important it is to have your business listed on Yelp because Siri, the personal assistant on the iPhone, uses Yelp for it’s local business information.

If you have questions about managing your online listings or building your reputation online, give us a call or contact us online. 757-741-8098

Our Mobile World – The Importance of Mobile Advertising

We had a meeting with a potential client yesterday and I was trying to explain how important a company’s website is to its overall marketing success. I tried hard to explain just how important it is to invest in building a great website BEFORE they spent big money on other marketing efforts. The big point here is that we are always connected; we bring our smartphones everywhere and many of us bring our tablets as well.

I opened my email this morning to find this insightful report from Google about just how much we use our smartphones in America. Did you know that 57% of people search on their smartphones every day? The survey also shows how important it is for a brand to have a presence on social media, citing 80% of respondents who said they access social networks on their smartphone every day.

I could go on spouting out statistics from the survey, or I could just let you read it for yourself. You can access the report here:

Enjoy.

For more information about mobile advertising or about marketing your business online, contact us through our website or give us a call. We’re happy to provide you with a free consultation and digital marketing education session.

Money Bags Magazine – Search Engine Marketing for Small Businesses

Most magazines offer the same sort of advertising solution: buy ads and hope their readers are qualified leads who are ready to buy. Use creative content to attract the lead and provide a call to action to get them to call.

While there are still a ton of magazines that do very well with this offering and businesses who still obtain returns on their investment of running ads in those magazines, there is a problem with this advertising medium: not all readers in the magazine are qualified leads and only a portion of the qualified leads are ready to buy. Moreover, it’s likely that some of the qualified leads who are ready to buy won’t even see the ad.

So what is Money Bags Magazine? Money Bags Magazine has readers who are qualified leads for your business who are also shopping for what you sell when they are reading the magazine. In fact, 100% of its readers fit this description.

Search Engine Marketing, SEM, Search Engine Advertising, Pay-Per-Click

Money Bags Magazine is not a real publication, but there is an advertising solution that allows you to get your message and call to action in front of qualified leads at the precise moment that they are shopping for what you offer.  The solution is called pay-per-click advertising or search engine marketing (SEM). It allows you to place ads on search engines and other sites at the precise moment that someone is searching for or reading about your industry and what you sell.

Pay-per-click advertising is so powerful that advertisers see a 7:1 return on their investment! They key to their success is in the technology and the advertisers strategy. Here is a scenario that depicts the absolute best strategy using PPC ads:

  1. A potential customer searches Google for Italian Restaurants in Richmond, VA.
  2. When viewing the results, they see and ad that looks something like this:The Best Italian In Town
    Award Winning Veal Parmesan.
    Buy One Get One 1/2 Off. Print Coupons.
    BestItalianRestaurant.com/BuonAppetito
  3. The shopper likes what they see and click on the ad.
  4. The landing page on the website they are taken to when they click on the ad has a big picture of a steaming plate of veal parmesan. On top of the picture is a big headline that says “Buy One Entree, Get the Second 1/2 Off! Limited Time Offer!”
  5. Next to the picture is a button to print coupons. Perhaps there is even a box for an email address that has a button that says “Email My Coupons.”

This scenario depicts an advertiser who arranged for her ad to appear when someone typed in “Italian Restaurants.” The content of the ad that appeared had three elements: compelling text, a clear offer and a call to action.  Next, instead of taking the shopper to her homepage, the restauranteur chose to take shopper to a page that clearly depicted the offer and provided an opportunity to buy in.

With pay-per-click advertising, any advertiser harnesses the power to place messages in front of qualified buyers who are shopping for what their business offers. With a little finess, the advertiser can guide a shopper through a pre-planned experience that was designed to achieve maximum results.

Would you like to place an ad in Money Bags Magazine? You’re probably wondering how much it costs – I know I was when I first heard about it. The reality is, you can spend as little or as much as you choose to with pay-per-click advertising. You have the control to turn on and turn off your ads any time you would like and you aren’t committed to a contract that says you have to run ads for a year. The price for someone to click on the ad in any scenario depends on many things: who else is advertising in the same space, how relevant is the content on your competition’s landing page (and yours) and how much did you and the competition bid to appear when a person searches for something.I know that may sound confusing and doesn’t tell you anything about how much is cost.  The reality is, you’d need to see the market factors in place to know for sure, but it likely cost between $1.15 and $2.50.  Anytime you use PPC ads, you should test many different strategies, but always be sure that the price you are willing to pay and the offer you provide a customer leads to a positive ROI. I bet you anything Best Italian Restaurant has a few appetizers that the shopper is interested in, a nice selection of wine and perhaps a cannoli that no one can seem to turn down when they see it.

If you are interested in knowing more about pay-per-click advertising, give us a call (757-741-8098) or contact us through our website. We’ll be glad to show it to you in action and tell you about some of our client success stories; like one who saw 59% growth in revenue in one year or another who tripled new patient visits from the Internet in less than a month.

Is Blogging Really That Important?

As we approach yet another year of technological advancements and further change in the digital marketing world, the attention we pay to the content in our website is more important than ever.  Blogs have been around for years and many have taken to the stage to become “experts” in their field by blogging. But it’s not just those who are seeking the limelight who benefit from the task.

For businesses, having a blog as a part of your website is critical for many reasons. Let’s take a look at some ways that blogging can help your business and then we’ll look at some strategies to save time and generate more content.
  1. Content Development & SEO – Search engine optimization, or the methods used to push a website to the top of search results on Google, Yahoo!, Bing and other search engines, is done through various strategies, but generating fresh content is a great place to start. Blogging creates an opportunity for companies to publish new content that is rich with keywords that are relevant to their business.  The more content and keywords, the better.  This will pay off as you will see your position start to rise in search engines in short order.
  2. Be the Expert – Blogs are a platform to show your customers and potential customers that you actually know what you are doing.  We don’t always have time to educate our audience one-on-one, so filling a blog with relevant articles that are chocked full of educational information is a great way to get your ideas across. However, don’t think you can’t use your blog for more lighthearted posting that shows some personality.
  3. Content for Social & Email – As we engage in social media and email marketing, it can be difficult to find content for your networks and subscribers.  Content from your blog is great content for your email newsletters and your social media sites.  Share a snippet of your post and follow it with a link back to your blog that says “read more.”  Not only will you content to push to your followers, but you will increase the traffic to your website as well.
Now, for how to blog more, while spending less time actually creating content.
  1. Spread Out the Work – Blogs allow for multiple individuals to publish content.  This is good because a company is often times comprised of many people.  By allowing multiple team members to post to your company blog, you give each one exposure to your audience and it gives your company more personality.
  2. Find Other Relevant Blog Posts – There are many people out there who are blogging who have already created content that is relevant to your audience.  Sharing blog posts from others is a good way to keep your audience informed without having to always think of new things to write about.  Infographics are also a great way to share previously written content with your followers.
  3. Seek Out Guest Bloggers – There are other people in business who compliment what you do.  For instance, in the real estate world, mortgage brokers, surveyors, real estate attorneys and other professionals offer services that your customers need.  The professionals in those industries would love to get in front of your customers. See if you can find some who will produce content on a regular basis for your blog and allow them to share content from yours on their blog as well. Be sure to provide the guest blogger with a list of keywords that you would like for them to include in their piece.
To learn more about this topic or any other topics on digital marketing, click here to contact us and schedule a free consultation.

Endangered Species: Business Owners Who Skip Facebook

I remember when I first entered the technology industry, I talked to business owners who would say, “What do I need a website for? All of my business is done right here in my shop!” But long gone are the days when I hear business owners say that. For the most part, they’ve not only conceded to the fact that they need a website, but they understand that they need an attractive website that actually does something for their business. Today, not having a website means that customers who are looking for products or services you offer likely won’t find your business in the first place because a vast majority of consumers search the Internet for providers before making a purchasing decision.

More importantly, the growth that we saw with consumer adoption of Internet use was grossly overshadowed by the rapid growth in consumer adoption of social media. While the growth rate of Facebook users has slowed in the U.S., there were 158 million Facebook users as of April 2012 according to a comScore report. That’s over 51% of the entire population and over 66% of the total online population. Moreover, 1 in 6 minutes spent online is spent on social networking sites and the average U.S. Facebook user spends 6.3 hours on the site each month.

So what does this mean for your brand online? The short of it is this: if you’re business doesn’t have a brand presence on Facebook, you’re likely failing to reach a large portion of the population.

I recently saw several news stories, like this one, about how some U.S. companies have decided against spending ad dollars on Facebook ads. This news spread like wildfire and I’ve even heard business people using this as a reason to avoid having a presence, but if they understood the social network even just a little bit, they would understand how flawed their decision is.  In my opinion, there are right and wrong ways to advertise on Facebook, but you don’t have to spend advertising dollars to get the benefits from having a brand presence and a following.

Here are a few examples of how Facebook can help enhance your brand and introduce you to new customers:

  1. Each Like is a Subscriber – Facebook users have no reason not to like your brand on Facebook unless they simply don’t like your brand. Unlike email newsletter subscriptions, your posts don’t feel like spam when they appear in a fan’s news feed. However, if your post is seen, it’s a free impression and an opportunity to remind them that you’re there if they have a need. By simply liking your brand on Facebook, consumers are more likely to buy your product over the competition.
  2. Fan Engagement = Endorsements – People tend to be followers and they pay attention to what their friends are doing. When someone likes your brand on Facebook, checks in at your business or shares something that you post to the social network, they are essentially endorsing you because they know that the activity will appear publicly for their friends to see. The friends who see that activity are likely to follow suit if they too can relate to your brand or feel compelled to engage based on the content that is being posted.
  3. Fans Can Serve as a Marketing Army – Once you’ve amassed a following on Facebook, your posts have the potential to reach a much larger audience. When a fan likes something, comments on a post or engages in any way with your brand on Facebook, it generates a “story” that is visible to the friends of your fan. A post that I selected to demonstrate this point had 168 views on Facebook; 143 fans viewed the post and the other 28 were friends of theirs, but the post only received 8 likes. It’s should serve as proof that even a small amount of fan engagement expands the reach that you have.
  4. Page Enhancements Mean Bigger Opportunities – There are a plethora of apps that are available for fan pages that maximize the opportunity to engage new and existing fans. From apps that allow you to sell products from your online store to sweepstakes, Twitter feeds and coupon apps, their features allow you to block participation until the potential fans like your page. This is called fan-gating. Generating curiosity is often all it will take to get someone to click the like button.
I could list four more examples of how you can promote your brand using Facebook, but if I did I might be out of a job! My point is, you’re business is missing a big piece of the pie if you stand still while your competition moves forward with a Facebook fan page.
I know what you’re thinking – “Well Jane in the office does all of our Facebook stuff. She’s fresh out of college and knows all that social media stuff better than I do.” I have to give you credit – at least you’re on Facebook. So why is it so important that you know how to use it too? I’ve read too many bloggers write about this topic to go into too much detail, but the short answer is: your brand is exposed on Facebook and to it’s users much the same way your business is exposed to the media in the event of a business disaster and in the event of very positive news. Do you really think leaving that in the hands of someone fresh out of college is the best decision?
Because your brand is exposed and because of the viral nature of Facebook, good news is amplified, but so is bad. Having your thumb on every situation is important so that you can be there for crisis management and so you can listen to the feedback of your customers to understand when theyreally like something. The former is an opportunity to correct a potentially devastating situation and the latter is an opportunity to capitalize on marketing events that you may not have known exist. In making this point, I want to emphasize that Facebook negatives aren’t very likely unless your business is having some serious problems, so don’t let that exposure deter you. The benefits seriously outweigh the potential risks.
Perhaps you’ve moved on from this idea and are making a valiant attempt at creating a great brand presence online. Maybe you’ve even hired and expert like me to coach you, develop a social media strategy or manage your brand on Facebook. If you are, congratulations, but you’ve got more learning to do. My advice is to spend a little bit of time on Facebook every day. Spend time using it as a Facebook user and spend time looking at the contents of your fan page and its associated admin panel. You won’t learn it overnight, but you’ll get there. Lastly, if you’re looking for a little jump start on your fan base, read this article, it turns out Facebook ads aren’t as bad as some have made them out to be.
Will Melton is a digital marketing consultant based in Williamsburg, VA. He owns Proximo Marketing Strategies and helps companies and organizations with social media, Internet marketing and marketing integration.

Promote Annual Events With Facebook Pages

Last fall I had the pleasure of teaching a series of workshops for Network Williamsburg called Facebook for Nonprofits. In the one of the sessions, I discussed using a Facebook Page to promote annual events as opposed to just creating a Facebook Event. A page will allow you to do many things that you cannot do with a simple Facebook Event. Here some of the ways a Page can help organizations who hold annual events:

  1. Photo Albums: Go back and collect photos from previous years and put them into separate albums, by year, on the new Event Page. In the photos that you upload, be sure to attach a date, a description for the photo and Tag the people in the photos! (You’ll only be able to tag people that you are friends with, but see if other people in your organization can Tag people too.) This will give your event exposure to the friends of the people you’re tagging – a very FREE and effective way to get in from of potential attendees. Additionally, staffers, volunteers and attendees can post pictures of their own on the Page.
  2. Cover Photos: You get a large amount of space on the page to convey the event concept with a large banner-sized photo. Pull out all the stops to impress them here. Make it look good.
  3. Check-Ins: If when creating the new Page for your event you choose “Local Businesses & Places” for the Category, it will allow people to “Check In” at your event, telling everyone on their friend’s list that they are there. This is GREAT advertising as it seems as if, by other, these people have endorsed you by attending.
  4. Fan Accumulation: If you create a page, you can build on your fan base year after year. Encourage people to ‘Like’ the Page, EVEN AT YOUR EVENT! Use traditional and creative methods of telling them to get involved on Facebook. The more fans you collect this year, the easier things will get next year. Eventually it will have legs.
  5. Event Creation: You can create Facebook Events from within a Page. This is great because you get to invite a ton of people to your event and it is very likely they will ‘Like’ the page in the process as well. Creating an Event on behalf of the page will also put the event on their calendar. Today, many people are syncing their mobile devices with their Facebook Calendar.
  6. Promotional Tabs: There are many different ways to engage fans whether you are selling tickets or promoting sponsors, by using the Tabs that are given to Pages in Facebook. Sweepstakes can be used, sign-up forms, coupons, partner pages, and many more. These are a bit more work than the simple steps that could be taken above, and may require outside help.
  7. Army-Mentality: Put your staffers, volunteers and Fans to work! Ask them to help you promote your page. Give them clear instruction on how they can help make this page successful. They are likely to be willing to help because it is what many people do on Facebook all day anyway. It takes seconds with the right instructions.
I’ve recently created a page for the Williamsburg Kiwanis Shrimp Feast that is a spot-on example for what I have detailed above. I think you will find value in the system as the page started August 1, 2012 with three likes and 10 hours later it had 55 likes. Here is a link to the page: https://www.facebook.com/KiwanisShrimpFeast.
By creating a page, you’ll create something that will remain a part of your attendees lives, and the lives of those who would like to attend, forever. They will feel engaged and it will warm their hearts and you will be front and center next year when you hold your event again.  These steps could help your organization see greater and greater attendance with each consecutive year.
I wish you the best of luck in promoting your event on Facebook. If you have questions about making this work for you, feel free to chat with me on Facebook, email me at will@proximomarketing.com or call me at 757-741-8098.