CoxTails 2018

Consistent Online Trends to Be Aware Of

The digital marketing landscape is constantly evolving and will likely see the emergence and change of a number of different tactics. In this post we’ll explore six  online trend’s that are predicted to make an impact in 2016, and offer insights for you to consider in order to stay ahead of the competition. Let’s take a look!

1. Video Ads Will Dominate

While video advertising is necessarily new, this method of advertising will definitely be gaining popularity 2016. Search engine results pages (SERPs), like Google, will soon begin to include video advertisements, which will validate and reinforce this marketing trend. Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, already offer thumbnail videos as users scroll through their newsfeeds.

Consumers also rely heavily on videos to view peer reviews prior to making purchases and for product and service explanations. In fact, 96% of shoppers find videos helpful when shopping online and 1 in 4 shoppers use YouTube while in-store, to search for videos related to a product they desire. Video will soon dominate the internet, with industry experts predicting that it will represent 79% of all traffic by 2018 — globally!

2.  Mobile Use Will Overtake Desktop Use

Mobile use officially dominated desktop use for Google searches in 2015. More people are relying on mobile devices for emails, interacting with websites, and consuming content. For 2015, internet usage on mobile devices accounted for 51% of time spent each day with digital media. More Google searches also occur on mobile devices than desktops in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan.

The importance of this trend is clearly illustrated by Google’s latest algorithm update which actively penalizes websites that aren’t optimized for mobile with a lower search ranking. For businesses, the rule of thumb should be to think mobile first when creating content and developing advertising. This means testing your creative on a number of different screen sizes and utilizing responsive design on your website and landing pages. Don’t get left behind! Check if your site is mobile-friendly today.

3.  Digital Assistants Will Change SEO

2016 will see a rise in the use of digital assistants for internet searches. With the advent of digital assistants, such as Siri and Cortana, the SEO landscape is responding to accommodate more conversational search language. Consumers are now able to use sentences that resemble everyday language when using digital assistants for search queries. And, with tightly-packed schedules and increasing mobility, people prefer the convenience of being able to speak directly to a device with simple commands and questions. Consider including the following into your SEO strategy and PPC campaign:

  • Make use of conversational search terms. Use long-tail keywords, colloquial phrases, and long form questions. Your site is more likely to show in search results when your content matches the conversational queries of consumers when using digital assistants.
  • Stop focusing on basic information. Digital assistants thrive on retrieving basic information for consumers and don’t need your site to provide that. Focus on complex, niche content for successful SEO.
  • Incorporate more videos and photos. Digital assistants can’t do this on their own like they do with basic information. They need your site’s visual content to satisfy search queries. Adding more visual content will help optimize your site to accommodate the rise in digital assistant searches.

4.  The Rise of Social Media Platforms

Social media cannot be denied as a tool for marketers. Marketing campaigns aim to connect with and bring value to consumers in real-time. You won’t see Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn disappear anytime soon but the new year will see the increasing popularity of Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, and Periscope as advertising platforms. Snapchat — the increasingly popular photos and video sharing app — is proving to be an excellent source for quick advertising in real-time. This is becoming clear by the growth of their brand-focused Discover feed where companies like Buzzfeed, Daily Mail, and National Geographic maintain channels of content that expire and are refreshed every 24 hours.

5.  Content Remains King

Consumers are savvy, well-informed, and continue to crave information, therefore, your content should provide useful information that educates and encourages consumers to purchase from you. Recent data shows that 81% of consumers review products online and 61% read reviews before making a purchase.

Customers utilize social media, YouTube videos, peer reviews, and other content to make informed decisions. Continue to focus on developing content that answers commonly asked questions and addresses specific needs for potential customers. Be the answer your customers are seeking! This will ultimately help position you as a leader in your industry.

6.  Further Adoption of Marketing Automation

Automation tools allows marketers to trigger specific tasks based on actions that users have taken. This ensures more effective delivery of quality content that targets specific audiences and increases the ability to nurture leads. The automation process helps shorten the sales cycle and increases leads, sales, and cost savings. Let’s look at some automation trends you’re likely to see in 2016:

  • Mobile: With increased reliance on mobile devices, marketing automation will be used to send push-notifications and in-app messaging to reach consumers.
  • Personalization: Personalized messages, such as a contact’s name in the subject line of an email, get more responses and click rates. Automated marketing will become more personalized by using consumers’ search histories and items left in a virtual cart before checkout.
  • Lead Nurturing Programs: Using a series of emails and content to move customers from cold to warm leads will become the norm for marketers.
  • Choosing Your Own Path: The convergence of personalization with nurturing programs allows contacts to have a personalized path of content. Each contact  may receive similar content in the beginning of their journey but then, based on their response, they are put into different content categories to optimize the chances of becoming a customer.
  • Utilization of Experts: Agencies can manage multiple clients at once, therefore, more and more businesses will be relying on the help of experts to manage their marketing automation.

As the New Year approaches, consider how you can get a leg up on the competition by embracing these marketing trends. Be visible! Invest in your online presence and offer valuable and diverse content on multiple platforms to engage prospects and keep them thinking about your brand.

 

How to Manage the Online Marketing of Your Seasonal Business

Whether your business is only open during specific seasons and closed to the public the rest of the year or if you operate year-round, but experience peak and slow seasons, you will need to manage your business’ online marketing uniquely. In this post we’ll take a look at how to market your seasonal business all year.

Plan Ahead

Planning for a seasonal business doesn’t mean all of your efforts should be spent in your peak season. Being prepared in the slow times or off-season is prudent and will keep your head above water when your busiest sales season arrives. Take tax season, for example. This may not be the joyful event that everyone gladly marks on their calendars, but it is necessary.

Tax season is usually from January through April, making this a peak time for those offering financial services and tax preparation. So when should planning occur? It would be best to begin planning ahead in the summer and early fall. Marketing to new customers and establishing a relationship well before tax season will pay off greatly when the peak season rolls around by exposing your business to these customers and creating brand awareness for when they need your products or services.

Promote in the Off-Season

How can you promote your brand in the off-season to attract early buyers? Consider offering early discounts and promotions that incentivize shoppers to buy early. Let’s use the tax preparation company we were discussing as an example again. During slow periods you may offer customers free consultations or discounted rates for those who are looking to get a head start at putting their taxes in order. Email and social media marketing can be a great avenue for these promotions as they can reach a large portion of your buyers / fans and can be targeted to a specific audience.

Get in front of your established and potential customers all year, especially during off-seasons, to keep your brand and services offered top-of-mind. Offering personal deals in real-time will keep your business top-of-mind during the slow times when your customers aren’t necessarily thinking about your product or service. And remember, the internet connects your business with people worldwide, so what might be the off-season for you may, in fact, be the peak season for customers in other parts of the world.

Use Social Media to Keep Your Brand Top-of-Mind

Social media isn’t seasonal and using it as a part of your marketing strategy shouldn’t be either. Daily posts and updates will keep fans and followers connected and engaged with your brand. Using social media in the off-season can also be used to drive traffic to your site, which means you need to keep your content fresh and relevant!

Use Testimonials and Positive Reviews Year-Round

61% of shoppers read product reviews before making a purchase. This means you have to be ready to put your best virtual foot forward all year! Showcase positive reviews and testimonials you’ve received from pleased customers and display them on your website, landing pages, and social channels.

Develop a Seasonal Keyword Strategy

SEO matters all year for your business. In order to rank higher in search results, it’s important for you to focus on keywords that will increase traffic to your website during different times of the year. Choosing the right words to attract the right audience will ensure your brand is seen by as many people as possible.

Keyword research tools can help you decide which words are the most relevant for each season. Successful seasonal SEO will require you to research specific keywords, create campaigns, optimize ads for those keywords, and monitor your campaign’s performance. Keep up on current trends and remember that maintaining a year-round keyword strategy will require year-round work on your part.

Develop Content Year-Round

In line with your keyword strategy is the importance of developing content throughout the year. When your potential customers aren’t ready to buy they’re combing the internet looking for information that answers their questions. Your content needs to be updated, relevant, and offer valuable information to those shoppers. For a seasonal business, this means creating content throughout the year so things don’t seem stale. Think about a shopper visiting your blog and seeing that you haven’t posted anything in months. This is most certainly a turnoff for buyers and a great reason for you to maintain a content calendar.

A content calendar allows you to actively plan and consistently schedule content throughout the year. It also gives you a top-down look at your efforts to better optimize them with the seasons, holidays, and special events in mind. Think about the commonly asked questions or industry trends and utilize those to create information that your consumers will find value in.

Pay Attention to Your Competition

Do you know what your competition is up to? Are they creating excellent content and engaging their audience on social media throughout the year? Keep your eyes on the market and on your competition. Doing so allows you to stay abreast on industry trends and will give you inspiration and ideas regarding how to — or how not to — market your business during these slow times.

Target the Right Audience Using Segmentation

Segmentation targets subsets of your audience that are most likely to convert. These can be based on demographics, geographic location, lifestyle, and behavior. With a seasonal business, it’s vital that you understand who your target audience is so during peak and slow times you always have their attention.

Understanding your audience and segmenting your message correctly also requires you to understand where certain consumers are in their buyer’s journey. Some may simply be looking for more information where others have a lot of the information they need and are closer to making to decision and/or speaking to someone at your business. The goal is to be present at all times, and delivering relevant messages to your segmented audiences will help to increase the effectiveness of your marketing and ROI because these groups are already more qualified to respond to your advertising.

Digital marketing for seasonal businesses requires work! Business may slow down or come to a complete halt in the off-season, but your work isn’t done. Plan ahead of your peak and slow seasons, promote early, utilize the power of social media, develop a solid year-round keyword strategy, keep your eye on the competition, and know who your buyers are and when they buy. If you can work these tips into your seasonal marketing strategy you’ll be more better prepared to capture customers in Houston when things slow down.

Why Marketing Matters Every Month of the Year (Even in January!) ​

It’s January. The once beloved Christmas trees are now abandoned on the curb, retail stores are no longer playing Jingle Bells, and gyms are packed with resolution setters. And for many small business owners, January means putting a break on advertising. After all, you spent a fortune getting your name out there during the holidays, and now you need to scale back, right? Wrong!

Marketing year round is essential to the livelihood of your business. And yes, that means in January, too. In this post we’re going to highlight why marketing matters every month of the year and why, in particular, advertising in January is important to set your business up for a successful 2016.

Why Marketing Matters Every Month of the Year

While many businesses, especially small ones, tend to cut or completely eliminate their marketing budgets in January, doing so can actually cost your company money. That is because there is nothing more important than remaining top-of-mind for your clientele.

When looking to make a purchase, consumers go through a buyer’s journey. This journey is an important framework by which to base your marketing strategy. To sum it up, a consumer goes through three core stages in this journey — awareness, consideration and decision. We say “core stages” because this journey has drastically evolved over time, especially in recent years. It’s important to understand that not all of your customers are in the same stage of their buying journey and as such, having a consistent and frequent marketing plan allows you to reach every consumer in the market for your product or service.

Maybe you’ve heard that 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to sales? What that means is they’re becoming acquainted with, and considering your company, long before they reach for their credit card. Going dark in January means you could be missing interested customers. It’s essential to consistently distribute your message to develop brand awareness so that next time someone is in the market for your product or service, they have already been familiarized with your brand.

Even if your business is seasonal, there is value in continuously promoting. Take, for example, popular winter and outdoor retailer The North Face who, for the first time ever, beefed up their year-round marketing with a big spring push. The campaign, that emerged in April called “I Train For,” is a departure for the retail giant that used to only run big pushes during the fall and winter seasons. This shift came when the brand realized that customers use The North Face products year-round.

President Todd Spaletto shared that this new campaign “… set the table for us to make an unprecedented spring investment.” Their choice to extend marketing efforts beyond the fourth quarter has put them on track to reach their current revenue goal of $3.3 billion by 2017, up from $2.3 billion in 2014. Consumers have a strong connection to The North Face brand and “it’s important to maintain that connection with consumers year-round” said Mr. Spaletto.

Keeping a seasonal business profitable throughout the year is a challenge. While these types of businesses can be great, as they offer highly coveted services or products during a few busy months, the difficult flipside to that is the off-season. Seasonal business owners face a unique challenge of squeezing out as much profit as possible during a few short months, and it can often feel like a desperate race to outlast the dormant months ahead.

Some companies shut down their business entirely during the slow season, but others stay open to try and turn a small profit where they can. With marketing, and remaining top-of-mind, you can keep your doors open — and even turn a profit — during the offseason; here’s how:

  • Minimize expenses
  • Stay in touch with your customers
  • Keep marketing through all of your channels
  • Offer initiatives for off-season purchasing
  • Team up with other businesses
  • Switch up your product line
  • Plan ahead

Why Marketing Your Business in January Is Especially Important?

For business owners, January is a month that can offer great advertising deals. Since marketers are not hyper-focused on advertising after such a strong push during the holidays, many media outlets offer exceptional promotions and heavily reduced pricing for those that not only run in January, but book advertising for future months.

Another, albeit unique, aspect to consider for 2016 is the political campaign. With election day slowly creeping up on Americans, political campaigns will be buying ad space across all media. In fact, an NPR article cited that political ad spending will top $4.4 billion this year, up from $3.8 billion in 2012. These campaigns have huge budgets and will push smaller advertisers out of the way. Think about about your marketing early to ensure you’ll get the best rate possible and be prepared to be flexible with your run times.

Another reason marketing your business in January is crucial is because frequency is king. Keeping your advertising consistent and frequent will keep the momentum going strong from the holiday season and allow you to remain relevant into the new year. In marketing, one of the concepts that many business owners (yes, even seasoned veterans) lose sight of is frequency of their message. In other words, how many times your core audience needs to be exposed to your message before it triggers a response.

All too often, small business owners will try something once, expect instant results, and then draw the conclusion after a couple of weeks that it was or was not effective. This is comparable to a diet when someone gets discouraged with the results after one or two weeks, drawing the conclusion that the weight loss program doesn’t work for them. Building your brand awareness and a strong reputation is a journey, not a one-time test; it takes an investment and patience to reap the benefits. But most importantly, it takes frequency, even in January.

Yes, your message needs to be compelling and timely, but ultimately advertising and marketing work gradually over time. Frequently, business owners do big marketing pushes during their busy season when in reality, they need to create multiple touch points — exposure you can only accumulate with frequency. In fact, a widely accepted statistic is that it takes 6-8 touches to generate a viable sales lead. So keep your message consistent and your advertising frequent, and you won’t have any issues generating new leads.

A Marketing Minute

There are six simple words that are the kiss of death for small businesses: “Out of sight, out of mind!” We know you’ve heard of it, but it doesn’t just apply to those unanswered emails and texts, in today’s world these six words are the end all be all for business. It’s so important to create top-of-mind awareness with your marketing efforts, and to do so, you need to allot funds to your marketing budget for every month of the year. Yes, even in January!

4 Steps You Can Take to Start Driving More Traffic to Your Website

The internet is an ever-changing digital landscape of best practices, search engine algorithms, and keywords. It probably feels like determining how to drive more traffic to your website isn’t as easy as it used to be, if it was ever easy at all. Fortunately, we’ve got some simple ways to drive more traffic to your website while doing more than playing by the rules. You’ll be giving your site’s visitors better, more valuable reasons to come back, and you should see conversions because of it.

Be Mobile Friendly!

You’re probably familiar with the word “Mobilegeddon” by now, and you’re probably not impressed. To many, it seemed to roll out not with a bang, but with a deflated whimper that left some scratching their heads. Unfortunately, that’s because a lot of the people that would have been looked at for impact were in the process of becoming or were actually already “mobile friendly.” In search results, this is the key identifier of Google’s algorithm update earlier this year.

If you’re still wondering “why is responsive design important?” then you should take a look at a few statistics: as many as 20% of people will be using your website from a mobile device, and some 60% of searches are made from or start with a mobile device. Couple this with the fact that people use the search options on their smartphones like we used to use the nearly-defunct phone book. And – not to mention the fact that the number of users integrating smartphones into their shopping experience or even outright shopping from their phone is steadily increasing, and you begin to see why creating a responsive website isn’t just a good idea, it’s a vital one.

What this means is that if you want steadily growing traffic, you must be mobile friendly. You will need to focus more of your attention on aspects of your business that are affected by mobile traffic and optimize them. This isn’t just to make it easier for users to browse your site, or just to appease Google. This will also enhance user experience and make them more likely to visit your site again.

By the way – making the update should be easy. Depending on the platform hosting your site, there may already be tools in place to make the switch smoothly.

Stay on Top of the Shifting SEO Landscape

SEO best practices are not static. On one hand, this is because technology and the programming behind it are always being updated and improved upon. How people build websites and use search engines are changing as well. On the other hand, this is also a constantly developing precaution against companies that want to game the system.

Abusing protocol might get a site more traffic for a short while, but invariably, that traffic won’t stick around because the site isn’t actually what users are looking for. And then, of course, Google, Yahoo, or another search engine will adjust their algorithm to downrank the site for its misguided efforts.

Even if you’re using best practices from years ago, that doesn’t mean your SEO techniques will still be effective. That may sound obvious on the surface, of course, especially with the aforementioned emphasis on change. However, it cannot be stressed enough how quickly your SEO strategy may need to be adjusted in response to algorithm changes.

You need to not only make use of SEO best practices to the best of your ability, you need to keep track of its changing requirements as well. Your site may need an SEO facelift in order to actually see more traffic flowing into your site.

What might make your SEO strategy seem more complicated is also the increasing level of nuance in optimization. It isn’t merely about keywords or about having new posts being put up every day. SEO algorithms are beginning to take quality and value into account. That means taking a fresh look at your content, which we’ll discuss in a moment, as well as making judicious use of long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords use three or more words to make a phrase, and are intended to emulate the phrases people will actually use on search engines. This not only diminishes competition for keyword ranking, increasing the odds of your page being found, but it improves the quality and type of user that finds your site. They will be more likely to want what your website has to offer, and thus be more likely to come back.

Content Is a Priority

As we just noted, SEO is much more nuanced than it used to be. This is due, in part, to last year’s Pigeon algorithm update from Google, which largely had to do with affiliate sites and deceptive ads. It also represented a shift in how Google viewed content, specifically with regard to low-quality content (ie., little or no added value), especially when it’s stuffed with keywords. Ergo, your site should regularly produce quality content that adds value to your business. If that sounds obvious, it’s only because you were probably attempting to do so from the beginning.

What you might not know is how to produce quality content, or even what kinds of content you should be producing. Of course, this will be influenced by your industry, but there’s a few basics to stay on top of.

  • Your content should be multi-platform ready. This means that the content you produce increases your search visibility as well as your social media reach. Multi-platform content can be shared and re-shared easily across a spectrum of social media platforms, all while linking back to your site, providing a digital word of mouth.
  • Blogs in particular can help your SEO ranking, especially if posts utilize different but inherently related long-tail keywords. Presented correctly and updated in a timely manner, a blog and social media outlets will also increase the perception of your site as authoritative in your industry.
  • Guest bloggers can improve your ranking and perception as well. While commerce is an inherently competitive endeavor, there’s a point at which thriving on the internet requires a certain level of intra-industry cooperation. This isn’t to say that guest bloggers are an immediate necessity, or that they’re going to be right for your site in particular. Guest blogging should go both ways, so having credible guests lends you authority while you, guest writing for another site’s blog, increases the visibility of your own site and further supports your own credibility.

Social Media Engagement Connects Customers to Your Site

Social media is literally digital word of mouth, but making an impact on social media takes more than just shouting into the void. Turning that impact into site conversions is a step further than that. The key is engagement.

Now, engagement as a term can come off as jargon, but it’s quite literal. Just as sales are more effective inside a store by interacting with a customer, your social media outlets should be engaging, letting you interact with users that will, in turn, follow your social media content back to your site. This can sometimes be as basic as customer service, but it can also be used to draw customers in with contests, pictures, and updates about your industry. Keep in mind that being engaging will also have long term payoffs, bringing in conversions that you wouldn’t have reached without it.

Much more than that, social media analytics can give you clear feedback about what is or isn’t succeeding about your site and your business overall.

In the end, the best ways to drive more traffic to your website aren’t complicated or difficult, but they do require time, effort, and above all, quality. Take these steps and you’re sure to see your traffic swell.

The Top 7 Mobile Marketing Must-Knows

Whether we like it or not, our mobile devices are becoming a bigger and bigger part of our everyday lives. Some studies have even predicted that by 2018 there will be about one billion people on the planet using smartphones.

Marketers should see this as a great opportunity to come up with unique, personalized, and real-time ways to connect and engage with customers.

But what exactly are the must know things about mobile marketing?

Here we’ll highlight some of the most important ones to keep in mind for 2016:

1. There’s More to Mobile Than Phones

Mobile marketing doesn’t just mean reaching people on their smartphones, it encompasses a myriad of different devices and technologies that you should

consider. You need to think about the size of the device, operating system and what kinds of activities people are actually doing on various phones or tablets. For example, according to a recent Forrester study, 66% of smartphone users utilize their devices while in a store, compared to only 9% of tablet users.

2. Basic Marketing Principles Still Apply

Regardless of whether you’re engaging in radio, print, or mobile advertising, the time-held truths of marketing still apply. In the end, it’s all about getting the right message to the right customer at the right time. Operate under the assumption that mobile is the first way that customers experience your brand, and use tools like Google Analytics to learn as much as possible about their location, device, and behavior.

3. Change Is Constant in Mobile Marketing

While it’s always great to have a plan, one of the must-knows of mobile marketing is that your marketing plan should reflect the rate of change in the industry. New devices, apps, and operating systems will come and go, all impacting your mobile marketing efforts in one way or another. Building periodic reviews into your mobile marketing plan will help you assess what changes are taking place and make the appropriate adjustments.

4. Focus on Responsive Design

Having a responsive website means that your web content is always optimized for viewing on a multitude of devices. Aside from ensuring a positive user experience regardless of the device visitors are using, responsive design is important because Google’s latest algorithm change ranks pages by their mobile-friendliness. Those who haven’t made the effort to optimize will be penalized with a lower search ranking.

5. Don’t Rush Into App Development

Developing your own app is often time-consuming and costly, and might not even be necessary depending upon your business. If you can achieve the functionality you’re looking for with your website, why spend the time and effort of app development? The key to this working is to understand what your visitors most need from your business (hours, location, phone number, promotions, etc.) and deliver that to them on your recently optimized, responsive website.

6. Video Is Trending

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have seamlessly integrated easy to watch video content into their mobile experience. Using video to advertise on mobile is still in it’s infancy, but it’s one of the fastest growing areas. A recent Google study suggests that people who view videos on their phones are 1.4 times as likely to watch ads as those who view videos on desktop computers or televisions. Smartphone viewers are also 1.8 times more likely to share videos than those on personal computers.

7. Listen to Your Customers

While you may be eager to get the word out to your subscribers via mobile, keep in mind that mobile is a very personal form of communication. A “batch and blast” approach is likely to yield negative results, so it’s important to listen to your customers and read their “digital body language” in order to communicate the right message at the right time. A recent PWC survey found that most users indicate that they approve of a more conversational approach to mobile advertising, rather than one that is impersonal.

By keeping these must-know mobile marketing trends in mind when formulating your mobile strategy, you’ll be able to attract more customers and engage them long-term. Mobile marketing is constantly evolving, and by staying abreast of new techniques and technologies, you’ll be able to successfully leverage mobile as a key part of building your brand.

Can you think of any other mobile marketing must-knows? If so, feel free to share them below in the comments.

Houston Small Business Marketing Tips and Tricks…from the Pros!

As a Houston small business owner, you’re always looking for ways to get the word out about your products or services. Marketing budgets are tighter than ever these days, and you need as much bang from your marketing buck as possible.

Odds are that you’re not alone. Many Houston small businesses are now striving to get an edge over the competition and adjust to the city’s growing population and changing demographics. The effectiveness of marketing and brand recognition can often make or break an entire business.

So what exactly can you do to stay ahead of the marketing curve? Here are six small business marketing tips from the pros that you can start using today to make a significant impact both now and into the future:

1. Use Automation & Technology

Automation is great because it takes a lot of the manual work out of your marketing efforts. Many platforms now allow you to create emails and marketing that are sent out once triggered by a specific action from a prospect. Also make sure to leverage analytic tools to monitor web visitors and social media automation services, like SocialSync, to autonomously post updates. In fact, many experts believe that the future of small business lies in automation, not just for marketing but HR, payroll, and inventory management. By having a solid technology strategy and automating as much as possible, you’ll be able to focus only on the most important aspects of your business.

2. Understand Your Audience

Marketing is a conversation, and before you start talking to someone you should know everything you can about them. As a business owner, do you know who exactly you’re targeting with your marketing? Have you done any market research or surveying to determine not just who your market is, but what their motivations are? You can leverage some of the following strategies to better understand and define your target audience: online analytic tools, database marketing, and product analysis.

3. Utilize Traditional Networking

There’s still nothing like face-to-face interaction when it comes to making a lasting impression. Networking with other Houston small businesses can pay dividends in the long run, as referrals and respect in the business community are great forms of marketing themselves. In addition, by networking with other business owners you’ll be able to learn from one another, swap ideas and figure out what’s working and what’s not as it relates to your marketing. Here are some astounding statistics that illustrate the power of face-to-face networking:

  • 84% of business people said they actually prefer face-to-face meetings
  • 74% said they were influenced by looks and a handshake
  • 77% said they prefer in-person conferences because they can read body language
  • 95% said face-to-face was essential for long-term relationships

4. Leverage Real-Time and Social Media

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, new stories and topics are trending every day and can sometimes change dramatically by the hour or minute. If the topic makes sense as it relates to your business, go ahead and inject yourself into the conversation. You can build on this to use social media as a brand-building tool for your business. Answering questions, providing customer service, and engaging individual customers will make a huge difference in your social media marketing efforts. One caveat: be careful which topics or events you choose, as you don’t want to come across as insensitive. You’ll want to shelve any potentially risque humor, or anything that could be deemed offensive or inappropriate.

5. Target Your Marketing

As a small business owner, not targeting your marketing is something that you can’t afford. By understanding your audience and specifically targeting different segments, your marketing efforts will deliver a much higher ROI. You’ll also be targeting individuals that will be much more responsive to what you have to say, and therefore receive better feedback. If you’re unclear about your target market, you can start by identifying and analyzing your existing customer base. First, start with general traits such as gender and age, then drill down to find more specific commonalities and motivations.

6. Optimize Your Website for Mobile Users

Not just some, but all business need to be thinking about the mobile user. Google’s latest algorithm update now penalizes websites that are not optimized for mobile use, making it something you literally can’t afford not to do. In case you don’t believe us, check out these statistics from Smart Insights:

  • More than 20% of Google searches are performed on a mobile device.
  • In the United States, 25% of internet users only access the internet on a mobile device.
  • 61% of people have a better opinion of brands when they offer a positive mobile experience.
  • 25.85% of all emails are opened on mobile phones, and 10.16% are opened on tablets.

If you feel like your marketing efforts are stuck in the stone age, use a few of these small business marketing tips from the pros. Small businesses are constantly evolving and by putting some of these tools and tips into action you’ll be able to realize both short and long term results.

Do you have any marketing tips to share that might help other Houston small businesses? Make sure to let everyone know in the comments!

How to Attract New Customers When Marketing in Houston

Are you wondering how to attract new customers to your business in Houston? Maybe there’s a secret that other businesses know about that you don’t?

Don’t worry, marketing to Houstonians isn’t necessarily rocket science. All it takes is the ability to assess what you’re doing now, and make the changes that are necessary.

When you’re done reading this blog, you’ll have some ideas for how to attract new customers to your business in a few easy steps. Let’s get started:

1. Start by Understanding Your Targets

Developing accurate personas of your target audience will give you a good start as to who you should be marketing to. This should go hand-in-hand with specific big-picture, strategic goals for attracting new customers. Some good examples of goals are: increasing membership signups, raising overall revenue, or developing a greater presence on social media. Your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Based (SMART).

2. Understand Your Customer’s Journey

Determine the steps your consumers requires that you take time to find the answers to their questions, and make that fit seamlessly with how you market to them. Ask yourself – at which stages different aspects of your marketing plan will ultimately reach them?

A visual map can be very helpful in this process, allowing you to see what different avenues customers often take towards making a purchase. The benefit is that you’ll be able to determine which pathways are potentially most profitable, and fill in any gaps you might have along various legs of the journey.

3. Hire Experienced Staff Members

As a Houston business owner, the reality is that you just can’t handle everything yourself. You’ll need to hire experienced staff members and leverage the expertise of these trained professionals. Ideally you’ll want to identify them as early in the process as possible, even if they have to do more than one job to begin with. Here are some of the skills that you should probably consider must-haves if you want to attract a significant amount of new customers with your new team:

  • Strong written skills
  • Graphic design
  • A basic understand of web development
  • Lead generation
  • Social media management
  • Email marketing.
  • Digital marketing (Heads up – three of the hottest skills in demand for 2015 have been SEO, pay-per-click (PPC), and content management.)

4. Evaluate Your Web Presence

Do you exactly how well your website is performing?

Have you recently updated your site to something responsive or, at the very least, mobile-friendly?

How does your site appear to viewers?

Is it dated, unattractive, or hard to navigate?

Determine the functionality of your website. How easy is it for visitors to find the information they’re looking for?

Are you looking at page views to see which content is being looked at most? By doing this, you can position that information better on your site to serve the viewers needs. It’s also a good idea to take a look at your competitor’s websites for ideas and inspiration. Think about what they’re doing right, or better yet, what they’re doing wrong, and use this as a means of improvement.

5. Utilize Marketing Automation & Email Workflows

Today’s marketing automation and email tools enable you to create content that targets specific points in your customer’s path to purchase. This keeps customers engaged and allows marketers to personalize their messages, further strengthening the bond between customers.

More importantly, it allows you to scale your marketing efforts by reaching more people at once without your email blasts seeming like spam. Outline the different steps in the path of your buyer’s journey, and automate each step with the appropriate materials and responses.

6. Create Content for Your Audience

The goal here is to be useful and provide value to your target audience. Blogs, white papers and case studies tailored to their common needs can be very powerful in terms of connecting with potential customers.

Creating content with a strong keyword strategy also has the benefit of improving your ranking in search results. Identify some key areas of interest for your audience and develop different types of content that speaks to them and that they would find useful.

Remember, people like to get their information in a number of different ways. Utilize eBooks, case studies, video content, and infographics to serve your prospect’s needs. In fact only 30% of companies say they are effective at content marketing, so this would make a great way to get a leg up on the competition.

So –  you’ve learned some basics of how to attract new customers in Houston to your business. Sometimes success starts with small, basic steps. With a bit of persistence and ingenuity you’ll be attracting more customers than you can handle.

How to Turn Your Houston Marketing Frown Upside Down!

Are the results of your marketing efforts getting you down? The world of marketing is always in flux, and in Houston it isn’t any different. In this post, we’ll give you four tips to get you to the top of your Houston marketing game in no time flat. Let’s begin!

Ensure Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly

When Mobilegeddon rolled out in April 2015, a lot of businesses weren’t ready for it, especially the small ones. However, it took some time for the effects to really be visible. After six months, there was some solid data to consider, and for the non-mobile-friendly, the numbers weren’t good.

On average, they fell five ranks on search engine results pages (SERPs), which would be painful enough for businesses already ranking well. For businesses that barely made the first page, it’s disastrous. In fact, 77% of mobile searches occur where desktops are likely available, such as home and work.

People prefer to use their mobile devices, and when nearly 70% of clicks go to the top three returns and more than 50% of searches are performed from a mobile device, you can’t afford to not be mobile-friendly. We mean that quite literally — you could be losing thousands of dollars monthly.

How to Do It:

The task of re-designing your site may seem daunting, but ultimately it’s worth your trouble. Google recognizes three different mobile formats: responsive, dynamic (sometimes called adaptive), and mobile-specific redirect sites (e.g., m.YourWebsite.com).

While a separate mobile site seems like the quick and easy path, it isn’t going to be a long term solution. Why? Because more and more devices are coming in a wide variety of sizes. A dynamic design will offer the same content on the same URL, but use different HTML sets based on what meta data it reads from the browser you’re using. It’s effective, but harder to index by Google-bots; it also requires you to spend more time and money individually designing an appropriate number of HTML options.

We strongly recommend the responsive design — it has the ability, within one set of HTML to adjust to any screen or browser size as it’s encountered (i.e., respond to device parameters). That makes it very easy to index, and much cheaper to pay for.

How do you know if you’re mobile-friendly? And if you’re not, how do you fix it? There’s a few aspects you should be looking at.

  • First, use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test and Mobile Usability Tool to see what changes Google says need to be made.
  • Next, check the options provided by your content managing system (e.g., WordPress, Joomla, SquareSpace); Google has tips about some of these as well.
  • Then make sure you don’t use Flash, mismatched fonts, or non-optimized images (i.e., extremely large file size).
  • If you already have a mobile site, ensure all of your redirects go to the proper URL’s or you could inadvertently downrank yourself.

However, in most cases, you’ll probably be coordinating with a web designer to redevelop your site or make any needed changes. However, if you are handling your own website, here’s a few tools to help you on your way:

Ensure Your Team Is Thinking Mobile First

Unfortunately, even when your site is mobile friendly, your marketing creative may not be. Whether you’re the one that handles marketing or if you have a team that develops it, you need to ensure that your marketing is designed with mobile in mind first and foremost. Here’s a few reasons why:

How to Do It:

Marketing that isn’t targeting mobile audiences first is missing out on a larger and larger chunk of your audience. So what does creative need to concern itself with?

First and foremost, how easy is the marketing to absorb on a mobile device? Marketing also needs to be designed to work within a responsive platform and adhere to some of the same guidelines (e.g., image file sizes) that your website does.

Secondly, you need to determine what kind of marketing is going to be most effective for reaching your audience. Banner ads must be effective and native advertising is not only on the rise, it’s successful.

Most importantly, you need to have your marketing in the right place at the right time.

Ensure You’re Effectively Targeting Your Audience

Unfortunately, this seems to remain a difficult thing for marketers. According to one study, more than half of the respondents found it difficult to determine proper target personas. You may think it’s unnecessary, considering Nielsen reports roughly 59% of ad impressions reach their audience.

There’s a key problem there though — it’s measuring ad impressions instead of what’s actually important: conversions. Personalizing calls-to-action will boost conversions by 42%, while personalizing the shopping experience across all marketing and media channels boosts conversions by 40%.

How to Do It:

Reevaluate your audience by examining what your products and services fulfill in terms of customer needs. Use this to focus your segmentation.

Really break down your data, all of your data across all channels, and filter that to determine which segments are reached most effectively, on what channels, for what budget.

Take full advantage of listening tools and targeting software, especially if you can make targeting in real time.

Lastly, you should always validate your targeting and retargeting. It ensures you really are hitting your targeted segment.

Ensure You’re A/B Testing for Effectiveness

The fact is, A/B testing can take time, but that time is offset by the advantages it offers you. This tool helps you sharpen the focus and personalization of your targeting. Why? Because you’re constantly testing variations for success. This will allow you to determine something as simple as whether or not one layout reaches one segment better than another, while it fails with a different segment entirely. Similarly, you can test channels, and how successful one choice is for reaching a targeted segment per channel. Marketing isn’t one size fits all, and there’s only one way to figure out what’s going to work for your needs.

How to Do It:

First, make sure you’re evaluating the right things the right way. Don’t stick to a format because it’s the way your company has always done it. It may be time to overhaul everything, whether it’s your website or your marketing.

If you’re working on your marketing, take advantage of the Google Website Optimizer. In fact, Google AdSense has a great method for A/B testing.

Furthermore, review the offerings from Optimizely and VWO. Be sure you select an A/B testing method that suits your business needs most effectively. Also, review case studies from businesses that are similar to yours, and from businesses that are just as successful.

Create a plan for A/B testing content and marketing, and apply it either immediately or on future projects. The results will help shape your efforts toward higher success.

If you put these four aspects into motion, you should see an uptick in the success of your marketing efforts. Of course, at Cox Media Group Houston, we’ve got the experts and tools you need to take your marketing to the next level. Whether you need a hand putting these steps into place or you’re looking for more advanced advice, we’re ready to help.

Responsive Website

 

Changing Your Attitude Creates A Productive Team and Drives Revenue

It’s time to be more aware of attitudes in the workplace…especially yours. As a business owner or team leader, your attitude is what sets the tone for your work environment and plays a huge role in building a healthy work culture, which in turn affects the dedication and productivity of the employees under you.

While most people don’t pay much attention to their attitude until someone brings attention to it, as a leader, you need to be consciously aware of the effect you’re having on your team.

The point is this: You need to consciously control your attitude in the workplace. Why? The simple answer is employee engagement. To break that down, here are some statistics regarding what employee engagement does for your ROI:

  • Turnover reduced by 65% low-turnover companies and 25% for high-turnover companies
  • Absenteeism reduced by 37%
  • Shrinkage reduced by 28%
  • Safety incidents and quality defects reduced by 48% and 41% respectively
  • Earnings per share performance increased by 147%

If you haven’t been actively aware of your attitude and your employee’s reaction to it, then you may not realize how changing your attitude can make your team more productive either. Making an active effort to have a positive attitude will ultimately influence your team to be more positive, and more engaged. It boosts morale, increases productivity, as well as a host of other benefits, including increased revenue.

Tips for Attitude Improvement

Your attitude is often instinctual, so learning how to craft your attitude to meet your needs can be difficult. The following list of tips will help you become aware of, and better express, positivity in the workplace.

Focus on a Positive Vision of the Future

Your mental picture for the future can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you’re overtly negative, your team’s outlook is more likely to be negative and you’re more likely to achieve poor results. By having a positive vision of the future, you’re more likely to reach your goals.

Focus on Goals for You and Your Team and Daily Check-Ins

You may be tempted to believe that not pressing your employees for project statuses is a friendlier approach to leadership. Statistically, that’s not the case. Engagement and productivity are more likely the more involved you are. Specifically, according to Gallup, the rates of engagement are: 38% when managers help staff set goals, 28% when managers hold staff accountable, and 31% when managers are approachable for questions and problems.

Focus on Positive Self Talk

It’s important to understand that this does not mean putting on blinders and ignoring negative situations and interactions, and it doesn’t mean becoming obsessively positive in a way that can’t acknowledge negativity at all.Positive self talk refers to your inner monologue, the part of your stream of consciousness that handles how you view yourself and others. Retraining your inner monologue to view things first, logically, and then, positively can result in lower stress, better mental health, and less risk for depression. Interestingly, this often involves thinking at yourself in the third person.

Focus on Positive People

Don’t underestimate the power of one person’s energy to affect another’s. Just consider the last time you were around someone who was constantly negative; exhausting, isn’t it? There’s two sides to this tip: first, positive people aren’t and don’t need to be perfect people; second, at some point you need to make a determination about whether or not you need to let an employee, with a toxic effect on company culture, go.

Focus on Listening to Others

There’s fewer ways to understand your team than to actually listen to them, that is, to actively listen to them. Understand their concerns, their needs, their goals, and you can invest in them so as to help them invest in your company.

Focus on Humor, Especially About Yourself

There’s something to be said for the importance of taking things seriously, of course, but there is such a thing as being too serious as well as a need for levity. Worry is, in fact, counterproductive, and you’ve only got so much time in your workday. Taking yourself, your work, and your team too seriously lead to higher levels of stress, derision, and hostility.

Focus on Responsibility Not Function

Limiting yourself or allowing your team members to limit themselves with the phrase “not my job” is a fast track to limiting how much you or they invest in a particular project, or even your company. If the ball gets dropped, the sense of responsibility will ensure the team picks it back up. Combined with check-ins, and you’ll also begin to identify top performing employees as well as toxic ones.

Focus on Results

You could rephrase this tip to say focus on your team, or even focus on your business. The point here, is that when you’re at work, you’re at work. Outside emotional influences and negativity can lead to a poor attitude at work, which, in turn, ends up with poor results. This isn’t to say you should repress your emotional needs in an unhealthy way, rather you should focus them as much as possible on maintaining positivity in the workplace.

Effects of the Positive Workplace

Remember, a positive attitude is contagious. As the saying goes, “a dead battery can’t charge a dead battery.” You have to be the force for positive change, and as a leader, your workplace will invariably see an atmosphere changed for the better.

What these changes can do for you:

  • Inspire helpfulness in others. Few want to help someone with a bad attitude!
  • Improve energy levels, enthusiasm, and performance momentum
  • Make way for better decision making, problem solving, and creativity
  • Enable risk taking and increase the resilience in the face of a challenge
  • Lowers stress and engender better working relationships.
  • Validate work efforts even in the face of project hangups and bad news
  • Promotes friendly competition as a force of motivation
  • Promotes a sense of teamwork
  • Improves productivity and willingness to take extra steps (e.g., overtime) for success
  • Increases time spent productively while decreasing time wasted
  • Supports proactive approaches to risk prevention
  • Improves morale overall

There are more ways to create a positive atmosphere in the workplace, especially when trying to inspire an innovative company culture. Employees that feel they have more input, and are able to have a real influence toward the company’s success, are more likely to be invested in the company for the long term.

It should be a little easier to determine how changing your attitude can make your team more productive. Remember, no two businesses and no two people are the same. With a positive attitude and a willingness to listen, you can guide your people to a more prosperous future.

SMB Guide to Effective Marketing Strategy