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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!

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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.

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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

 

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Houston Online Marketing Trends to Plan for in 2016

When it comes to digital marketing, it’s not enough to follow the herd. Amidst fierce competition, brands, now more than ever, must really stay on the cutting edge of marketing techniques in order to maintain relevance with their audiences. In this post we’ll take a look at some online marketing trends to plan for in 2016 to help your business’ marketing soar into the new year.

More and More Focus on Mobile!

Mobile devices have been an important target to marketers and that trend shows no sign of slowing down in 2016. At present, 64% of all adults in the US own a smartphone, and by 2016, worldwide smartphone ownership is expected to exceed two billion people. That’s over a quarter of everyone on earth! Can your marketing afford to lose such a massive audience?

In addition to smartphones continuing to dominate in 2016, expect to see increased ownership of other mobile devices. By the end of next year, 1 in 10 people in the US will be tablet owners, and wearable tech ownership — like smart watches — will have tripled. Brands that want to thrive would be well served to capitalize on the popularity of these devices by tailoring their marketing campaigns to accommodate a variety of mobile screens and platforms.

Focus on New and Niche Social Platforms

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn may have the market cornered when it comes to social media, but as a marketer you ultimately need to be where your audience is. With these “old-guard” networking sites mostly saturated — over a quarter of teens have recently left Facebook, for example — 2016 is the time for brands to broaden their social horizons by reaching out to their audiences on sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Periscope.

While Instagram is owned by Facebook, and Periscope by Twitter, these sites boast an entirely different experience than their parent sites. Fresh and fun, sites like Instagram and Periscope offer instant, real-time connections. And their emphasis on photos and videos makes them great for brands too! Just take a look at how users are engaging with brands through Snapchat’s new, innovative “Discover” section.

Predictive Analytics

Think of predictive analytics like market segmentation on steroids. Predictive analytics looks at the past behavior of consumers and analyzes it for patterns that can predict future actions. Not only can it let marketers nurture their audience with personalized messages, it can help to predict the outcomes of proposed marketing campaigns, letting brands minimize risks and maximize ROI.

Video Ads Will Dominate

Whether it’s pre-roll, post-roll, or native, advertising in digital video will continue to grow this year,  doubling in ad spends compared to three years ago ($2.8 billion in 2013 vs. $5 billion in 2016). While impressive, these numbers are hardly surprising, given how popular streaming video is for consumers and what a powerfully engaging medium it is for marketers.

App Indexing Will Lead to an Explosion of Apps

Recent moves by Google to enable better indexing of Android apps in its Play store is as important for businesses looking to get their apps noticed as SEO is for content marketers. Rather than apps being organized very generally (games, utilities, etc.) new indexing algorithms let users search for just the right app to suit their needs, in much the same way they would a website.

If your business has an app, or is considering releasing one, it’s easy to get it indexed, and doing so can provide a helpful push in getting your app noticed.

Digital Assistants Will Lead to a New Kind of Optimization

Digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri, or Microsoft’s Cortana have changed the way users interact with the web. Businesses need to optimize their web presence in order make their information easily accessible to digital assistants so that when a user says something like “Siri, show me hardware stores in Houston,” your store comes up.

When predicting trends, it’s hard not to feel like some of them are more science fiction than reality. But while things like wearable tech, and complex algorithms might seem “far-out” right now, it’s important to remember how far technology has advanced in the past decade. As tech advances, it’s important for digital marketers to keep up. In the vastness of the world wide web, failing to do so is the quickest route to obsolescence.

More Key Steps to Planning Your 2016 Small Business Marketing Budget

If you follow our blog – you probably have noticed our hyper focus on building effective marketing budgets. That’s right. We’re totally into this topic because now – more than any other time of year – is the time to ensure your budget for NEXT year is planned to set your Houston business up for success.

Heads up: 2016 is quickly approaching!

Marketing trends change and previous metrics may prove outdated, so it’s always important to try and keep your marketing efforts as relevant as possible. Below we’ve developed a step by step guide to show you that creating a marketing budget for 2016 shouldn’t be that hard.

Reviewing Your Marketing Budget From 2015

Step one in creating any marketing budget is reviewing the previous year’s. Be sure to review all the marketing investments and efforts that have been made and determine if the return on investment makes the cost worth your while.

It helps to outline efforts that have proved effective in the previous year and determine how they can be improved. For your methods that didn’t prove to be as successful, determine what went wrong. Can you salvage these efforts into 2016 or are you going to scrap them and replace them with something (hopefully) more fruitful?

You may also want to revisit and refine who you are targeting with your marketing. Identify what motivators might have changed for them in their buying process, for example, an increase in mobile usage. Answering such questions about your audience will help you make changes to your marketing plan and budget.

You may be tempted to invest in the same things you did in 2015, especially if the results of your marketing efforts have been stellar. The problem is that the marketing landscape frequently changes, and the involvement of technology and the internet in our everyday lives means that these changes will take place more frequently.

Concentrating on Other Marketing Efforts for 2016

Marketing is no longer a one-way street and consumers have a wealth of information available to them to make purchasing decisions. You will need to adjust your marketing efforts to reflect the latest trends in the marketplace to remain relevant.

Here are some helpful ways to reach out to potential customers in 2016:

Content Marketing – By now you’ve probably heard that content is king. Everyone with a smartphone or a computer will look to the internet for answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. If you can provide valuable and relevant content for these people, you then have the opportunity to turn them into customers. Always remember, offer advice and assistance first before selling. Shopify, for example, offers amazing content such this comprehensive guide on building, launching and growing an online store.

Social Media – Having a social media presence is expected for almost all businesses today. Facebook may be the first thing that pops into your mind, but there are many other social media sites that may be a better fit for your company and your market. If you’re in a highly visual industry like retail for example, then Pinterest and Instagram are excellent places to share photos of your latest products. If you’re a law firm or even an accounting firm, then LinkedIn would be an excellent way for you to connect to the right people interested in your services. Either way, social media is the new norm for businesses and there is a social platform that can help you reach any audience.

Marketing Automation – A significant portion of our marketing efforts are usually spent on the small stuff like sifting through data, managing content, sending emails and posting to social media. Marketing automation makes these processes much easier. You can create a system that will allow you to send appropriate emails to the right people, to schedule posts in advance for the year’s seasonal events, and to organize sales data according to different variables like customer location and items purchased. This will allow you to focus on other aspects of your marketing and it will leave you with enough breathing room to look at the big picture.

Mobile Marketing – Mobile is poised to become the center of digital marketing efforts for 2016. Google has already confirmed that mobile web searches have already overtaken that of desktop searches. The company is already making way for mobile web surfing, starting with their latest algorithm update dubbed “Mobilegeddon.” This latest algorithm change penalizes websites that haven’t been optimized for mobile; meaning that your site needs to be responsive or, at the very least, mobile-friendly.

As more marketing avenues open up, you may find yourself rearranging the budget a few times or allocating more funds to make use these new methods and techniques keep your marketing relevant. Think of these as investments rather than costs, you may eventually find that they provide fantastic return for your business. So what are you waiting for? Start creating a marketing budget for 2016 today!

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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.

Top Marketing and Advertising Quotes from Around the Web

As marketers and advertisers, we’d be nowhere without our talent for creating engaging content and implementing cutting-edge marketing strategies. That’s why we’re always looking for that spark of inspiration that can help us out along the way.

We’ve put together some of our favorite quotes about marketing and advertising – feel free to leave your favorites in the comments below.

On the Importance of Understanding Your Audience

“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in & be what people are interested in.” – Craig Davis

“Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.” – Howard Luck Gossage

“If you want to understand how a lion hunts don’t go to the zoo. Go to the jungle.” – Jim Stengel

On Social Media and Creating Great Content

“Social media is about the people. Not about your business. Provide for the people and the people will provide for you.” – Matt Goulart

“Social media is about sociology and psychology more than technology” – Brian Solis

“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is — it is what consumers tell each other it is.” – Scott Cook

“Content is anything that adds value to the reader’s life.” – Avinash Kaushik

On Creativity

“Creativity is one of the last remaining legal ways of gaining an unfair advantage over the competition.”      – Ed McCabe

“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” – John Maynard Keynes

On Thinking Outside the Box

“In advertising, not to be different is virtually suicidal.” – Bill Bernbach

There you have it. We hope these quotes help get your creative juices flowing. For some extra motivation, let us leave you with the timeless words of Andy Warhol: “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

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25 Reasons Email Marketing Still Works!

In the world of marketing and advertising, it is important to be on top of the newest trending marketing strategy in order to reach consumers. However, as many new strategies have emerged, it’s critical to not forget the powerful effects of email marketing.

Leading companies like Amazon prove that email is still relevant by harnessing the power of targeted marketing on a daily basis, reminding us how much success you can have by simply growing and utilizing your email list.

In case you need more convincing, here are 25 reasons why email marketing not only still works for businesses of all sizes, but should be an important part of every marketing plan:

  1. Practically everyone uses email! There are approximately 2.5 billion email users worldwide.
  2. Email marketing has the ability to be very targeted and specific. When you send information to your database you’ll have the opportunity to reach any segment of your list you want.
  3. People are more likely to see your marketing messages when you send them via email. Emails for business-to-business (B2B) marketers typically achieve a 27.97% open rate.
  4. Email is mobile friendly. As mobile usage increases, more and more people are accessing their email on their devices providing you with more of an opportunity to reach consumers on the go. Just make sure your message is optimized for mobile so your recipients can actually read your message.
  5. The possibilities to grow your email list to tens of thousands of subscribers are seemingly endless. With email marketing, there is virtually nothing limiting you from expanding your database. Mail Chimp confirms that there is no limit to how large your email list can be but it is recommended that you use a high volume plan to ensure your campaigns run smoothly.
  6. It’s easy to create a personalized approach. Instead of sending generic messages to your entire list, you have the ability to segment and deliver specific content that certain groups are most likely to engage with.
  7. Following examples set by email marketing leaders like Amazon, you can store data about your target market and keep track of what your audience does so you can create offers and content that can meet a need or establish a solution to a problem they may have.
  8. Email helps to keep your audience informed about the latest news and offers you provide allowing them to feel more comfortable with your company and connected to your brand. Last year Nielsen released a report that indicated 28% of U.S. online shoppers subscribe to store or product emails in order to stay informed.
  9. Personalized email messages are the core of an effective marketing plan. Tools like Retention Science help marketers understand consumer data in order to create powerful personalized messages that build customer loyalty.
  10. It’s one of the most inexpensive forms of marketing, but it’s still very effective. The cost associated with email marketing depends on how many subscribers are receiving your messages.
  11. It is not required that you hire someone to help you with email marketing in order to become successful. By practicing simple, yet effective tactics, you can launch your own email campaigns and a strategy for success while maintaining your marketing budget.
  12. Unlike SMS marketing where the reader may incur a charge, emails are free to users regardless of the number of messages they receive. This gives the recipient a much higher incentive to open your emails since they have nothing to lose.
  13. It’s common knowledge that people are more likely to make a purchase when they have a coupon. Email coupons also help your prospects save money and drive online and in-store sales.
  14. You can use emails to promote yourself across a wide audience instead of purchasing expensive ad space on other websites.
  15. Emails are less likely to interrupt a prospect, who is probably checking his or her email several times a day anyway. The average person checks email 15 times per day more or less, increasing the chances of seeing your email message regardless of when you send it.
  16. In addition to people checking their email multiple times per day, it’s harder to ignore email messages than it would be to skip over a radio or television advertisement.
  17. Email marketing allows you to build good rapport with customers so they can look forward to receiving notifications and opening your emails to see what you have to say. Brands that maintain good customer loyalty by emailing prospects regularly include: Apple, AT&T, Hyundai, Ford and Google to name a few.
  18. It also paves the way for interactive marketing where recipients can forward your messages to their network and share the content with friends.
  19. You can insert specific, targeted calls to action in each message to help prompt readers to take action.
  20. Email marketing is a simple way to motivate prospects to make a purchase. According to the Direct Marketing Association, two out of three consumers have made a purchase as a result of an email.
  21. Recipients can easily click links and pull up products and services directly from the email message.
  22. Emails help remind people about sales, offers and products they are interested in.
  23. Unlike face-to-face sales, email marketing puts less direct pressure on the prospect to make a purchase so when they do buy, it feels like the choice was based more on their own decision and not a marketing ploy.
  24. You can create urgency through your email marketing campaigns by implementing limited time offers to help urge prospects to buy.
  25. At least 60% marketers say email marketing is producing ROI.

Email marketing is by no means a thing of the past. It’s affordable, easy-to-use and flexible allowing you to take a personalized approach when trying to reach prospects.

It’s important to stick with a platform that is easy to use and delivers analytics you need. The direct communication that email offers between you and a recipient is seemingly priceless. With more than 60% of marketers and advertisers finding success, email is still alive and well for you to utilize for years to come.

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Red, White, and Social: Social Media Marketing Ideas for the Fourth of July

Independence Day marks a day of festivity; family, friends, food and fireworks take center stage…and so should your business. Promoting your business on the Fourth of July can be done pool or beachside if you utilize social media promotions.

Here are seven Fourth of July social media marketing ideas to drive sales and engagement throughout the holiday:

1. Run a Photo Contest

Bring the celebration over to social media by having visitors post their most patriotic moments, or their best red, white and blue photos. Or, create a brand and holiday-specific hashtag just for your event.

The Clymb, an outdoor gear retailer got creative with their Fourth of July Instagram campaign last year. Customers were encouraged to upload photos of their outdoor Independence Day celebrations and three winners were awarded gift certificates.

Non-retail businesses can also take advantage of Fourth of July social media promotions. This Warford Orthodontics Fourth of July photo contest encouraged followers to post firework and patriotic photos on their Facebook page. The winning entries were awarded Visa gift cards.

2. Choose a Brand Specific Holiday Hashtag

Promoting your business on the Fourth of July can be as simple as creating a brand specific holiday hashtag to be used across all platforms. A brand specific hashtag will help you sort through contest entrants, as well as create higher visibility for the campaign.

The Clymb’s Fourth of July photo contest required entrants to use both their business name in a hashtag (#TheClymb) in addition to a brand specific holiday hashtag (#RWBCLYMB).

Edelman Digital offers a great roundup of 5 websites that offer hashtag generation help, if you’re struggling with creativity.

3. Curate Holiday-Specific Social Content

Provide added value by sharing Fourth of July specific content with your customers. BBQ recipes, an article highlighting local events (fireworks, parades, etc.), even trending national stories help build engagement with your community on social media platforms.
Offerpop suggests creating a Pinterest board with a roundup of the best summer cocktails.

4. Promote Holiday Specific Products

Get creative! Discount red, white and blue or holiday-related products. Lowes knocked it out of the ballpark with this Vine they posted, creating a fireworks display with a selection of their many products.

5. Create a Promotion for Visitors to Use In-Store or On Your Website

Up the ante and use a program like Offerpop’s Viral to spread the word about your promotion. Share your promotion on your company blog or through your email newsletter and have your followers retweet the promotion to unlock the discount code.

6. Run a Social Media Specific Promotion

This is a great time to grow your mailing list! Offer a Fourth of July promotion for customers who sign up for your newsletter.
Can your product be showcased in tandem with the Fourth of July holiday? Combine the idea of a photo contest with a brand specific hashtag and encourage your customers to share on social media in exchange for a coupon or discount code.

7. Support a Cause

Take a look at your community – are there any events or organizations your business can support? Entrepreneur.com says that ‘”Cause marketing’ is now the norm, and customers who visit your website and see your advertising want to know that you share their desire to make the world a better place by supporting an important cause.”

With careful planning, social media marketing can allow you to enjoy the holiday, reach the community and your consumers, and translate into Fourth of July sales. Think outside the box and enjoy engaging with your customer base, but most of all, enjoy the fireworks!

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SEO Tips for Your Houston Business

Search engine optimization — SEO for short — is an extremely effective method for driving organic traffic to your website. Having a solid SEO strategy for your Houston business not only helps to boost organic traffic but the traffic you attract is likely to be more qualified in the long run. When a user comes across your site through a web search you demonstrate your company’s value and authority by providing useful information on a topic they want to know about.

For those just starting out, Google has written a Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide that outlines the best practices for creating great web content that’s hospitable to person and algorithm alike. But while the strength of the content you post is the foundation of any successful SEO campaign in Houston, there’s some additional considerations webmasters should keep in mind to ensure their pages are achieving the rankings they should.

Have a Responsive Site

You could have the best content in the world on your website but if no one can read it, it will hardly matter. Having a clean, fast loading, and properly coded site that displays correctly on any browser or device is necessary to having a highly ranked page. This especially includes making sure your site is optimized for mobile, since Google released an updated algorithm last month that specifically penalizes sites that aren’t built with a responsive design.

Design With Pagination in Mind

Make sure to have a strategy for how you split up the content on your site into separate pages. Irving Weiss over at Moz has some great advice about the importance of designing for pagination. Sometimes splitting up an article into two pages can be beneficial, such as when different parts follow different keyword strategies. Having a large number of indexed pages with quality SEO content will ultimately improve your search rankings sitewide, while having more than a few low quality pages will put a ding in the rankings of your quality content.

Have a Keyword Strategy

Long gone are the days when ‘Googlebombing,’ and keyword stuffing could push any old web page to the top of practically any search result. Today’s complex algorithms, combined with high competition for the top spot means that nothing but the best content will suffice. On top of that, you want to find a niche. Using a keyword planner, such as the AdWords Keyword Planner, will let you find a good balance between search traffic and competing pages. The trick here is to know your customer base, and create content that targets the keywords they are searching.

Keep Your Content Fresh

It’s a myth that changing up the content of your website arbitrarily, with the hopes of attracting search engine web crawlers to your site will give a boost to your search rankings. There’s no fooling search engines by updating content. Creating new, unique content on the other hand benefits your readers and your rankings. Your readers have more opportunities to engage with your site, and having more points of entry means your site will show up in a variety of different search results.

It’s a good idea to follow a schedule when posting new content. If your readers expect new content regularly, they’ll keep coming back, share your links on social media, and maybe even link to your site from their own blog, further bolstering your rankings.

Hire a Professional

A successful SEO campaign has value that is “completely unparalleled.” But it’s a long term investment that can flop if not properly implemented. The increasing complexity of search engine algorithms means that SEO best practices are constantly changing. Hiring someone who can manage your SEO campaign will ensure that your site is targeting the right keywords, and putting your site in front of the right audience for your business.

However you choose to implement your SEO campaign, one thing’s for sure: the modern search engine has completely transformed the way people seek out information, and it’s here to stay.