Choose a Small Business Marketing Guide

I run a small offline business which in recent months has enjoyed a very nice upswing in business thanks to the internet. This was no accident – I’ve been working hard on my marketing for about a year. Much of this effort was spent learning how to market my business online.

During this process of getting it right, I’ve bought some garbage courses and information. But, within the piles of garbage I’ve also bought some real gems that without I’d not be enjoying my recent surge in sales and new customers.

As I look back about what’s were good purchases for learning marketing and which were not useful at all, I’ve come up with the following criteria to look for when choosing a business marketing guide or system.

3 Criteria When Choosing a Small Business Marketing System:

1. Don’t buy a small business marketing system that promises to teach you everything about marketing. What you’ll often get is a lot of fluff and little substance. You’ll probably know most of the information already in the massive “all-in-one” marketing kits.

No marketing author can tell you about print advertising, SEO, social media, referrals, viral marketing, e-mail marketing, direct marketing, TV ads, etc. Each of these topics on their own are self-contained guides or systems.

Instead, know exactly what you wish to learn about or improve, and buy a business marketing guide that caters to your need specifically.

2. Don’t buy from someone who doesn’t have real-life marketing experience. You preferably want to buy from someone who actually runs a small business and does their own marketing.

There are hundreds of people who write about marketing and sell “marketing systems” but have never done it for real.

3. Be prepared to do the work yourself – or at least do some of it so you get a hands-on education so you can properly hire people to implement the marketing activities taught. If you’re not prepared to roll up your sleeves and take action, no business marketing system will work for you.

In my view the best type of business marketing guide to buy is one that teaches you how to hone your online marketing. Focusing my marketing activities on the Internet has by far worked the best for me during the last 6 to 12 months.

 

Choosing the Best Digital Marketing Agency

Advice
It is advisable that you get a local agency for the job which will be based near your business location. This will save you a lot of time and effort in traveling to the agency. Communication will also be quick and easy instead of giving instructions and adding confusion on phone or email.
In today’s age of Internet, it has become crucial that you choose a competent digital marketing agency to leverage inbound marketing. It is important that you list down your goals and key result areas for the agency to work upon. You should shortlist a few good agencies and then call them over for a one-on-one consultation. Conduct a comparison of your marketing goals and budget, against the capabilities and offerings of the digital marketing agency. Only then will you be able to select an agency that will best suit your needs, and will result in lead generation. In most cases, you will look for hiring a firm to provide you social media marketing, SEO, SEM, mobile marketing, creating a blog, etc. As these agencies levy heavy charges, choosing a good digital marketing agency which will provide value for money becomes all the more important.

Get Recommendations
Firsthand information is any day better than relying only on the promotional content on the agency’s website. Ask your friends and colleagues from a similar field for recommendations of digital marketing agencies. They will not only make you aware about the strengths of these agencies, but will also tell you about their weaknesses. You can also ask groups on LinkedIn for references of good agencies.

Experience
It is important that they have a considerable amount of experience in catering to the needs of your business. Look for the digital strategy they have implemented for a company that belongs to an industry similar to yours. For example, if you are a manufacturing company, hiring an agency with vast experience in FMCG will be of little use. Also, look at the quality of their work before finalizing the agency.

Capability of People
Ensure that your work is in capable hands. Look at the experience and qualifications of people in the firm. Ensure that they follow world-class procedures and have hired experts in a particular field to look after your work. If you find that the content expert is also heading the SEO and social media team, it should raise a red flag.

Cost
The charges of the service provided will become a crucial factor in deciding which agency will work best for you. You can hire a firm which will provide maximum services for a certain amount. In most cases, you will have to hire the agency on retainership basis and will have to give them retainer fees. Also, do not forget to ask for an itemized invoice for each service they provide. Decide how much fees they will charge for incorporating changes in the work. Try to negotiate the fees. However, remember that a low amount of fees will not guarantee quality work. So, even if a good agency is slightly costlier, go for it.

Up-to-date with Trends
Ensure that the agency you hire is abreast with the latest trends in the digital marketing industry and has the required expertise to incorporate them for you. Do some research on the relevant current trends and question them when they come for a one-on-one meeting. If they look clueless about the innovative trends or do not have substantial expertise in it, think once again about hiring them.

Offerings
Study the package of services the agencies are offering. Know what all they plan to cover. In most cases, they will provide the website design, online marketing, email and mobile web solutions, social media marketing, SEO, SEM, copy and content writing, etc. Try to hire an agency that will provide complete digital marketing solutions and will be a full-service provider. Understand how the agency plans to combine inbound and outbound marketing for maximizing the impact of marketing.

Study Their Marketing

One of the excellent ways to judge an agency is to actually check how they have implemented their marketing. Study their website, blog, and social media pages. Check if they have an impressive and user-friendly website. See how they engage with the followers on their social media pages, how frequently they post, and what kind of content they put up on their pages. Ensure that their blog is updated and has a considerable number of followers. See what are the creative strategies and innovative marketing tools they have employed for reaching out to their target audience through digital media.

Reputation of the Company
Try to find out about the reputation of the digital marketing firm you are going to hire. Do not hire someone who is relatively new in the business. Try to seek the help of seasoned and established players. You can also have a look at league tables to get a comparison of many digital marketing agencies. This will tell you about the general public opinion of the firm.

Measurable Return On Investment (ROI)
Hire an agency that understands that you are hiring them to get the best ROI. One of the wrong ways to judge this is by calculating the number of followers they will get you for your Facebook page, Twitter page, or blog. You must find an agency that will implement the use of digital marketing analytics to measure the response and keep a track on what is working and what is not. This will enable you to take corrective action ASAP and focus more on strategies that will help you maximize your ROI.

Realistic Implementation
While interviewing them, don’t get overtly impressed by the elaborate Internet marketing strategies they put forward. Understand if it is practical for your product and whether you will be able to tap into your target market. Also, look at the cost factor. Remember to hire an agency that understands your goals and provides viable solutions that can be implemented practically to get results.

Portfolio
It is important that the people send you links to their previous campaigns or carry their online portfolio when they come to meet you. If they send over links of their work, you will be able to go through it and base your questions on them. It is important that the portfolio mentions the strategy, target market, implementation, the positive impact, and returns on the project. This will help you judge the agency in a better way.
Testimonials

Do not forget to read the testimonials written by the other clients of the agency. This will also help you to understand the quality of work and service they offer. However, in most cases, the agency will ask them to write testimonials. Hence, this won’t be a vital yardstick to judge the agency, but it will certainly give you an idea about the level and type of clients they deal with.

Read Online Reviews
One of the most credible ways to know about the agency’s standing in the market is to check their BBB rating. In most cases, an established agency will be registered on BBB and you will also be able to read any kind of complaints about them. Also, try to read the reviews of communication and marketing professionals who have worked with them. These reviews are often found on various professional discussion forums.

Ask Them the Right Questions
When you are interviewing the representatives from these firms, it is important that you ask them the right questions. Tell them about your digital marketing goals. Then ask them how they plan to increase the footfall, website traffic, leads, etc. Understand how they will go about implementing social media to garner the necessary publicity and target market engagement. Know how they will implement SEO for all your websites. Understand the kind of allied services they offer like copywriting, design, graphics, etc. Also, know about the turnaround time for work and incorporation of changes.
Try to visit their office so that you know that they have a facility in place which can support your digital marketing needs. Knowing how to hire the right digital marketing agency will help turn your Internet marketing into a profit-producing tool. Check the awards and accolades won by the agencies as that will speak a lot about their work. Try to test them by giving smaller assignments before making a yearly contract with them.

Using Smart Phones For Business Marketing

download (6)Ever experienced going back home just because you left your mobile phone?

Life has never been easier since the advent of mobile phones. This is not only true for handling personal matters but also for business transactions. Executives can receive calls even though they are not at their office; marketing professionals can contact prospects; and procurement can conveniently communicate with suppliers. These were just some of the convenience brought by mobile phones.

As time goes by, technology advances. This just means more and more features that can be utilized to boost marketing efforts for your UK business.

As of Q1 2011, 48% of mobile phones in the UK are smartphones and sales are increasing too at an insane pace. It is not long before the smartphones will not only dominate traditional mobile phones but even make them obsolete.

What does this trend mean to businesses in UK?

It is very clear that marketing directed towards smartphones would definitely reach and penetrate our target market. The next question would be, “How can this be done?”

Here are some of current features of mobile phones and corresponding advantages for business marketing.

Traditional Call and Text

Since almost everyone if not all brings their mobile phones wherever they go, then the best way to reach someone is through his / her mobile phone. Telemarketing and SMS marketing would definitely be useful to reach mobile phones.

You can pro-actively market your business by either cold calling prospects or calling sales leads from marketing companies specializing in lead generation. If you opt for cold calling, you would need a marketing list or marketing database for your target market. There are marketing companies which also offer these databases at low prices.

On the other hand, you might prefer calling leads that are already pre-qualified, interested to know more about your product or service, or interested to avail your products right away. Lead generation companies can help you with sales leads that would suit your ideal target market.

SMS marketing is one cost effective option that can be utilized even by small businesses. At a very minimal cost you can let your market know about the existence of your business, promotional offers that you have, and have continued trade from existing customers. You can either do this in-house or have it outsourced to a marketing company. Doing this in-house would still require you to have marketing lists, SMS marketing system, and a set of personnels that would pull everything together. Another option is to have it outsourced and just sit back while the hot leads roll in from the SMS marketing campaign.

Internet Connectivity

This is one significant revolution in mobile phones. Your target market can now access your site anywhere they are. Features that used to be confined on computers are now literally available at the fingertip. It’s just a click away from any smartphone. This just means that investing on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Email blast would now yield higher return of investment for the business.

In the a generation where almost everything could be found through search engines like Google, it is very important to have your business listed online and see to it that your website appears on top of your competitors’. This is where SEO comes in. With SEO, you could increase traffic to your website and therefore, making your presence known to those who are looking for your products or services.

On the other hand, why just wait for customers to look for you if you can initiate customer relation by regularly sending something through their email? With features nowadays which integrate email to smartphones, your emails would reach your target market faster and more effectively.

Generally speaking, one of the marketing strategies mentioned above can make a lot of difference for the growth and prosperity of your business but implementing them side-by-side would yield better results because their results reinforce each other.

There’s also two (2) ways on how you can implement them. You may choose to gather all necessary resources and implement them on your own or have them done by businesses specializing in marketing. There is no clear answer to which would be a better choice. This would depend on the expertise of your personnel (both on marketing and management), financial limitations, and available resources.

 

Improving Your Local Business Marketing

Do you know that local business marketing is not only meant for businesses that are using the internet and other technological tools to develop their universal path? Local marketing for a business is also sometimes referred to as local SEO. Generally, it is concentrated on the geographical places where you are running your business. It is considered as one of the best means to search businesses or people within your locality who are already trying to find your product or services.

Local marketing makes use of very similar techniques of any form of internet marketing. The only difference is that it includes a geographical component to its marketing strategies. This serves as the best way to make sure that your business is able to drive higher traffic and leads from customers and clients that are within the area in which you are operating your business. It is a form of business strategy in which you narrow down the focus of your internet marketing campaign. As a result, you are able to focus more on your specific target market and business prospects. But the question is how you will be able to do that. Well, there are many ways on how you can improve your local business marketing.

These are the top four strategies on how you can make your local business marketing even more effective:

1. Website – Some local businesses tend to take no notice of their sales assets. Do you know that your website is one of your greatest sales assets? It is said to be the only local business marketing tool that can greatly generate leads and profits to your business 24/7. A website is known to be a very effective way to boost up your sales and marketing campaign. Because of this, you must create a website that is especially designed based on your business. Remember that you want to grab the attention of your customers and prospects through your website.

2. Google Places – This is a vital requirement for any business that is just starting out its local business marketing campaign. The best part about Google Places is that it is easy and economical to use. Above all, it is a surefire means to make sure that your business finds its exact target prospects in the area where you are actually operating your business. If you wish to be on top of your competitors in your local market, then, you should take advantage of Google Places and use it to attract customers and improve your ranking in the local business marketing industry.

3. Business Directory Listings – This is also a crucial element in the success of any local business marketing campaign. There are numerous local business directory listings that are available. These internet directories are usually categorized geographically, specifically by state, province, or country. Using the business directory listing is a good way to obtain links from local sites, thereby improving not only your internet marketing strategy, but also your presence on the local business industry.

4. Building Backlinks to Your Website – It is undeniable that link building plays a great role in the success of any website. But sometimes link building can be a difficult task to some website owners and business operators. But if you will learn the tricks to successful link building, you will definitely enjoy the experience in the long run. Local business marketing can be successful by building backlinks to your website. In fact, it is considered as the easiest, cheapest and guaranteed way to build your local presence in your area. There are many tips and advice that are available on the internet regarding how you can effectively build backlinks to your website. Make sure you check out all these tips and advice to make sure that you get the competitive edge that you want in your local business marketing campaign.