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Agog in Cyberspace



Drive profitable customer action


The internet has opened an opportunity to reach virtually every American consumer. The Pew Research Center, in a survey conducted last year, found that 87% of adults (18 and older) use the internet and 80% of American homes have internet access. Are you doing all the right things to access these consumers? 

Today's leading marketing strategy revolves around the generic concept of 'Content Marketing'. The premise is that chances are your competitor also has a website, so what is it that sets you apart from the rest? Enter Content Marketing - content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

The three important elements of writing content that sells: content, connecting and converting. It's important to learn and understand practical useful techniques to help you write clear, concise messages from the readers' point of view. By organizing your copy logically and communicating benefits in a conversational and persuasive tone, you will generate more sales and connect with your target audience. The general outline I use to produce the content to promote my clients online:

Content
• Writing for Your Audience
• The Headline
• Making It About Them
• How Your Copy Looks
Connecting
• Your Selling Points
• Writing About Benefits
• Using Simple Words and Short Sentences
• Conversational, Informal Tone
• Sell, Sell, Sell – but Do It Softly
Converting
• Tell Them What You Want Them to Do – Leave No Doubt
• Convincing Them You Are the Expert
• The Almighty Call to Action
• Don't Sell Them - Build a Relationship
• Get Them to Sign up, Order, or Call

Just being aware of these points isn't enough. Consistent research, learning, and training is paramount to continued success. In my next article, I'll identify some of the free online marketing courses I've used. As you have probably already surmised, producing effective content takes time and effort. If you are a small to medium business owner who would rather focus on your business and leave the Content Marketing to professionals, contact us today. Getting an effective content marketing program started and maintained by a professional Internet Presence firm like ours is much more affordable than you may think.

Influencer Marketing - The voice in your head!

influencer marketing - content marketingAre your ready to take your marketing to the next level? Sure, you have a shiny new website and it's even 'mobile friendly'. You have a Facebook page, Twitter account, and even an Instagram for your business and you are even updating status and posting to your Social Media accounts on a somewhat regular basis. But are you getting the results you were hoping for?

Chances are you are like most small business owners and are not seeing the results you expected because you didn't have a set goal in mind, take time to know your audience, focused on followers over engagement, and expected instant results. If you are ready to take your marketing to the next level, you'll need to resolve yourself to the face that it won't be easy to pull off. The latest buzz term is "Influencer Marketing". What marketers have figured out is that simply maintaining your website and social media accounts isn't enough to set your brand apart from the noise that's engulfed the Internet. Is Influencer Marketing the future of Marketing?

Consider this:

  • 69% of marketers who use influencer marketing consider it effective
  • 73% of marketers say it’s effective for lead generation
  • 76% say it helps with boosting customer loyalty
  • 93% say it can help with building brand awareness
These are stats published by HootSuite and Content Marketing Institute.

Chances are your most recent purchase decisions were more affected by something you read and who you are connected to through the web of social media, than through traditional marketing channels. Influencer marketing is a new twist on content marketing.

While influencer marketing provides plenty of benefits to marketers, it isn’t an easy task to pull off. You might end up facing a number of challenges along the way. Maybe you’re unable to provide engaging content or you were unable to choose the right influencers. Whatever the reason is, you might end up experiencing a failure in your campaign. Check out the top influencer marketing challenges marketers’ face when trying to execute the campaign:

  • Identifying the right influencers is the biggest challenge for 75% of marketers
  • Finding the right engagement tactics is a challenge for 69% of marketers
  • 53% say measuring the performance of a campaign is their biggest challenge
  • So you see that these factors can influence the success or failure of your campaign.

So you see that these factors can influence the success or failure of your campaign. There are a lot of articles written about Influencer Marketing, so if you are ready to step up your marketing game, you'll need to do some homework. If you are like most business owners, you are probably too busy to 'go back to school', so for you my advice is take the plunge and hire an Internet Presence firm.  It's a whole lot less expensive than you think!




How is your online marketing working for you?

online marketing performance review

A periodic review of how well your marketing is performing is critical for future growth!  This coming year, as with the past decade, we’ll see an even higher reliance on using online channels to brand and promote your product or services.  Five years ago, adults spent less than 1 hour per day online with their mobile device.  In 2016, it’s reported to have increased to 3 hours per day.  That’s not counting time spent online with their laptop or desktop computers.  How about Social Media? 

On average social media use continued to climb, although the younger age groups have now reached a saturation point, as about 90% already use social media. The fastest growing segment are the over 65s, which will change the marketing landscape when it comes to using social networks for targeting certain audiences.  All metrics point to the fact that online usage isn’t just reserved for the younger generation.

How does this relate to increasing the success of your business?  Consumers have too many choices these days and they have to be constantly reminded that you exist. The best way to reach them is where they spend a good bit of time… which is online.

Most small businesses today still aren’t taking full advantage of ‘Content Marketing’.  Understandably so.  First of all, the technology and playing field is constantly changing.  Business owners don’t have the time or resources to stay current on what the latest online marketing trends are, let alone generate content to push out on social media sites, blogs or emails. 

Keeping your website current and relevant is probably a chore to most and isn’t getting attention either.  Most small business owners I speak too either believe hiring an Internet Presence Consultant to manage and maintain their online presence is too expensive, or not something they wish to invest their money in. 

Well the facts are in! Content Marketing is an investment you can’t afford not to make.  Don’t be like a recent contact I spoke with who said, “My business isn’t doing well enough to justify spending money for online marketing”.  My call to her was prompted by a conversation I had over coffee with a friend who was asking me if I knew of any local print shops that could handle a project for him.  I pulled up a local print shop website on my iPhone to show him.  Sadly, the website wasn’t mobile friendly and we were not able to get the information he wanted.  Instead, we searched Google and went to the business who appeared first on the list.  I wonder how many customers she misses out on daily because of her inferior online presence?

Let us manage and maintain your online presence so you can devote your time and resources to do what you are best at – managing your business and providing awesome customer service!

Last Minute Holiday Marketing Tips!

We are now past Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so the holiday shopping season is well underway.  Ideally you should have developed your holiday marketing campaign during the summer, but even if you neglected that task, you can still take advantage of the increased consumer spending that occurs this time of year. Here are some last-minute marketing tips that small businesses can use to boost their holiday revenue.

Cater to last-minute shoppers
Make procrastination pay off for your customers by offering special deals or incentives for last-minute shoppers. Discounts are great, but expedited shipping to beat the holiday deadline can be an even better incentive.

Take advantage of social media
If you’ve got a sizable following on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platform, take advantage of it by offering your fans special deals. One way is through Facebook’s Offers feature; they’re available to any business with 400+ likes.

Use email marketing to connect with customers
Even though social media seems to have taken up much of the spotlight, email is still a great marketing tool, especially for those customers who have not yet embraced social media. Most email marketing services like Constant Contact and Vertical Response make it easy to send special holiday offers to those on your online mailing list – just a few clicks of the mouse, and it’s ready to go!

Give back to your community
‘Tis the season for giving, so consider donating a percentage of sales or profits to a local charity. It’ll make shoppers feel all warm and cozy about buying from you, not to mention the goodwill you’ll be building in the community.

As a side note, mark your calendar with with a 'Must Do' for the end of January.  Schedule a FREE, no obligation consultation with us to review your online marketing performance.  We would love to review your existing online presence and provide you with constructive feedback on what you can do to increase your visibility on the web and increase your bottom line in 2017! 

Promoting your Content - 3rd phase of Content Marketing

Social Media MarketingI've covered 2 of the 3 phases of Content Marketing in previous articles: 1) Defining a Strategy, and 2) Developing the Content.  The 3rd phase is Promoting the Content.  In this article, I’ll describe our strategy and methodology in promoting content.

It is important to understand that there are various online media channels available to distribute and promote content.  The most important lesson to learn is that how many channels you use to distribute your content is much less important than cultivating a few channels and doing it right.  Finding the right channel(s) is the key.  As an example, if you sell services or products to other businesses, you may find LinkedIn just as powerful for the distribution of content as Facebook.

The most powerful online channel for distributing content is by far a Blog.  Blog content, much like websites, are searched and cataloged by the major search engines.  Publishing content in your Blog that educates our potential customers on your value proposition and why your products and services are important to them will be indexed by the major Search Engines and will be searchable for the foreseeable future. There is no shelf life on Blog posts. Once your content is published in your blog, you can republish portions of it on your other online channels with a link back to the full article.  It’s like the gift that keeps giving.

Another powerful content distribution channel is Facebook.  The thing to understand about Facebook is that it is great at communications and exposure, but not so good at driving traffic or helping you with SEO.  Our core online marketing strategy for Business to Consumer Clients is to use both Blogging and Facebook to distribute content.  We’ve learned over the years that it takes some measure of original content to build authority with consumers.  We’ve developed an approach were we publish original content on the Clients blog, and then use an excerpt of the article in a Facebook post with a link back to the Blog.  To build reputation, generate buzz and establish credibility, we will repost 2 or 3 articles from other relevant sources that augment or support the content in our original post.  More and more that process is being called Content Curation.  Only after we’ve posted relevant and engaging content, do we post a marketing, sales, or call-to-action message.  Depending upon the specific business, we may add LinkedIn, Twitter or Pinterest to the mix.

Our experience is that creating and curating content that defines the problem or need our Clients products or services address produces the online marketing results expected.

Developing Content - 2nd phase of Content Marketing

My previous 2 articles were devoted to the emergence of Content Marketing as the ‘must have’ component of your SEO and online marketing and the 1st phase of a Content Marketing strategy – Defining a Strategy.  The 2nd phase of a successful Content Marketing strategy is Developing the Content.

In the past 3 years, we’ve refined a process of developing content that has proven successful for our clients.  We have found that in order to gain ‘relevance’ with Search Engines and building authority within the online community for the brands we promote, 3 types of content work well together:

  • Original Content
  • Curated Content
  • Marketing/Sales Content

Original content is content that which is generated with the specific purpose of educating our Clients potential customers on the value proposition, features and benefits of their products or services. We do that in the form of a human interest, creative writing or expert analysis piece.  We like to mix the type of content up to keep things fresh.  As an example, a national comfort product manufacturer sells their products online and thru retailers.  We were hired to promote their ecommerce business.  Their value proposition is that travel, leisure and sleep is better with the use of their products.  They see themselves as a ‘wellness’ company who uses natural fill in their products.  We produce content that is written by a ‘creative writer’ and a certified therapist who specializes in stress management. The pieces written by the creative writer are antidotes and human interest stories situations where the products may be used.  In these stories he folds in how the products are being used and the benefits they offer.  The pieces written by the therapist are articles dealing with common everyday stress and discomfort situations, and how they affect us medically.  In the articles, he will make recommendations on comfort products and how they help with specific issues.

Curated Content is content that is published online in magazines, news articles, and other blogs.  We research published content that pertains or is relative to our original content.  We use these Curated Content pieces to amplify and corroborate the original material pieces we’ve written.  As an example, when we write a piece on how a back pillow can be used to alleviate back pain when driving long distances, we may follow up with a piece from WebMD on lower back pain, its causes and ways to relieve pain.  It’s reinforcing when a original piece highlights something that is then corroborated in another widely recognized magazine or online journal.

Marketing or Sales Content is content that comes directly from the Clients website or ecommerce site.  This is the content that provides a Call to Action to our intended audience.  This is the content that will show large images of products with short descriptions and links back to the website where the visitor can get more information and hopefully make a purchase or subscribe to a service.

The mistake many online marketers make is that to don’t take the time to build a relationship.  Long before we put out any call to action, we warm up our audience with educational, informative and sometimes whimsical content.  We design our content so as to engage our audience so that we can hear what they find important.

In my next article, I will discuss how to distribute and promote content.

Get 'The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing'

content marketing guideHow do you feel about using Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram to promote your business?  Many small business owners I speak with who are not using Social Media, or are using Social Media but are not seeing any results, say the thing - "I just don't get it." 

Don't despair.  Like everything else in life, it's just a matter of someone showing you the ropes.

Marketo just published 'The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing'.  It lives up to its title! DOWNLOAD IT NOW!

Content Marketing trumps SEO

Why Content for SEOToday’s business environment is as competitive as it has ever been.  In the early days of the Internet, those who recognized the potential of the web and its effectiveness to reach large numbers of potential customers, quickly leapt ahead of their competitors.  As the Internet technology grew, eCommerce exploded and almost everyone accepted that an Internet Presence was a business necessity.  Search engines began to spring up to help people find information on an ever crowding of the Internet.  Today, getting and staying noticed on the Internet requires much more than the old fashioned Search Engine Optimization (SEO) professionals can offer. 

Today, a whole new set of criteria is required: CONTENT.  Content is anything that is public and shareable. This includes blogs, whitepapers and articles, videos and podcasts, webpage content, press releases, presentations and more. A strong content marketing campaign is important for every business and website, regardless of industry. Producing great content is not only useful for SEO, but also helps with brand building and is the substance of any social media marketing campaign.

If you are like most companies, you struggle with content creation. Have you found your content marketing has been put on hold because of one of these reasons?

  • You don’t know what to write about.
  • You don’t know how to leverage your content online.
  • Your staff doesn't have time to spare for content creation.
  • You’re not comfortable with writing ability.

As an Internet Presence and Content Marketing firm, we know that it takes much more than just churning out the content.  We've learned over the years that it takes a proven strategy and methodology to not only produce, but also successfully promote your content.  We have divided our Content Marketing methodology into 3 phases:

  1. Define a Strategy
  2. Develop the Content
  3. Promote the Content
I’ll devote the next three blog posts to each of these phases.

ROI and Content Marketing

For years we've been hearing about the rise of Content Marketing and how it was key to driving traffic to your website and if you have a physical location, into your business. When we updated our business plan to make Content Marketing our core business 4 years ago, communicating ROI with our customers was a challenge. Most small businesses at that time had a basic understanding about exposure, social shares, and links, but weren't clear on how that related to their bottom line. Oddly, most customers we spoke with, were perfectly willing to spend money on newspaper and telephone book ads purely based on the number of households served, but very hesitant to except page views, likes, shares or comments in the same way. We quickly developed a narrative designed to illustrate clearly how much more the interactive nature of Content Marketing warmed up leads, educated customers on what set the business apart from their competitors and created a virtual 'word of mouth' phenomenon that turned their audience into cheerleaders. Initially this was a hard sell because the basic analytics tools were not in place yet. For those who made that initial investment, the results speak for themselves.

Our very first Content Marketing client was a regional 'Co-Op' type specialty store. We were contacted on day by the newly hired Marketing Manager who was looking to move their marketing efforts into the 21st century. He started by telling us that the bulk of their marketing dollars was being spent on telephone book ads. He had convinced his management team to allow him to cut the budget for paper ads in half and to be allowed to take half of the remaining budget and put it into Content Marketing. He asked if we could put together a proposal to support that. His only measurement for success was that after a 3 month trial period, in store sales could not be less than before we started. That challenge was accepted by us. 2 years later, they were no longer purchasing ad space in the 3 different phone books that serviced their region, and their marketing budget was cut by one-third. Sales not only continued to increase, but they are continuously exceeding their sales projections. I love telling their story to prospective clients, because it illustrates how even a simple unsophisticated plan like that can succeed when pitting print ads against online marketing.

I could go on about other clients success stories, but that's not the point of this article. The point is that today's consumer has much better access to information in the palm of their hand (literally) than ever before. When was the last time you were in a public location and not more than half the people didn't have their attention directed to their smart phone? Look around you when you are out and about. No one waits until they get home or to the office to look something up. Today, when you need to find a product or service, you look to your smart phone for information. When you have some down time, you are on your Facebook or Twitter account 'catching up'. If your website isn't mobile friendly or you are not active on Facebook or Twitter, then you are not being found.  When I meet with a prospective client today, the ROI story is much easier to present. In my conversations, I always direct the attention towards a discussion about Responsive Designed Websites, an engaging Blogs and active social media. 

Many small business owners try to manage their own blogs or social media accounts. That's almost always a recipe for failure. You know your business; don't get distracted by trying to be an Internet Presence Professional too! That's where we come in. Call us. We provide a FREE 1 hour consultation to assess your needs and provide you with feedback on how we can get you noticed online.

Who is the expert?

Over the years of working with new clients, I’ve come to believe that you can generally group Client’s into 2 basic categories: those who wish to hire a knowledgeable web designer to enhance their online presence; and those who wish to hire someone that can build them a site to their specifications.  I’ve had the pleasure (mostly) to work with both kinds and have mixed feelings.  Generally, I prefer working with those who hire me because they are looking to get the most out of their marketing dollars and value the “Internet Presence” knowledge I bring to our partnership.  And I value their input in their field of expertise.  That’s my opinion, but I’ve been curious as to what the end results of these various projects have been.  Which of these two types of client sites perform better?

It really doesn’t take too much time to discover which sites perform technically better than others.  To gauge the sites, I decided to use parameters that are generally stated as being ‘important’ to the Google Ranking algorithms at the time the websites were being developed.  I ignored parameters that the Client doesn’t influence such as quality of links, trust, and structured data markup.  Parameters that are influenced by Client’s direction are generally content quality and relevance, content length and readability and page load speed.

Responsive DesignI had the great fortune of working with a client who had, a year prior, hired a design firm to rebuild their ecommerce site.  The Client provided the design direction to the firm and micromanaged the entire process.  They (the Client) relied heavily on using a couple of similar websites as a guide because ‘they liked the way the sites looked’.  After 1 year the Board of Directors contacted us and asked for our review and recommendations because the online sales were heading in the wrong direction.   What we found was that the website’s page load speed was unacceptable.    There was a bounce rate of 70% of mobile users and 50% of Desktop users.  This was an ecommerce website, yet not a single product was listed on the home page.  The homepage was beautiful – as long as you were patient enough for it to load.  The obvious issue with the home page was a total reliance of images to beautify the page, without any regard for usability.   We redesigned the website, and over the next year their ecommerce sales more than doubled.  The difference between the websites: one was designed to please the Client’s personal preference, our redesign was to use generally accepted design practices proven to satisfy today’s discerning online shopper.  Apart from doubling sales, we developed the website at ½ the cost of the previous firm. 

After reviewing a few other examples in our portfolio, I noticed a pattern.  The elements of a website that are most important to visitors are not always understood by the owners of the business.  Owners tended to want something that glorifies their business whereas the visitors just want to get what they are visiting the site for – and to do it with as little effort, and as securely as possible. 

If you’re considering an update to your website, my recommendation is to allow your developer to use their Internet Presence expertise to get the best business results.  It’s a partnership and you’re business knowledge of the industry is critical, but listen to get your money’s worth and rely on your developer to choose the best way to present your content!