business tips

The Missing “Link”

LinkedIn is one of my favourite social media platforms to use. Like many of you, I use it to conduct business development activities, discover potential new talent, and find out what some of my peers are working on. As a business owner and marketer, I also use it as a platform to target my potential clients and “tout” my expertise through the sharing of my company’s updates as well as industry-related articles.

LinkedIn has two distinct options: the LinkedIn profile page which most of us have to showcase our personal “resumes”, and the company page that is set up for your company.

While I know many business owners and marketers have an LI profile, many small businesses still do not have a company LI page. So what exactly is the difference between a profile page and a company page on LinkedIn? A LinkedIn profile is probably the most powerful tool you can use for business development as it allows you to highlight your professional experience, connect with your peers or potential clients, join industry-related groups, post your blogs or other articles, and share awards and updates.

I have seen many companies use the profile page as their company page, but LinkedIn has a distinct company page that provides your business with the opportunity to engage with followers with targeted and regular news and activities, share career opportunities, and expand your online brand presence.

If you are a business owner or marketer with a B2B business, an LI company page is a must! If you have a B2C business, it is still a good idea to have some presence on this platform, as this platform is great for SEO and for expanding your reach to influencers.

Here are some reasons I‘d recommend considering using an LI company page for your business:

1. Show How You are Unique

In the description on your company page, emphasize how you stand out from your competitors. You might want to include company news and share information about your company culture. This will help you reach potential customers and also new hires. Support the content with professional videos, or images to help you show how your company is different.

2. Improve SEO

We all hear about SEO, but did you know that Google and other search engines rank LinkedIn company pages and posts highly in the search engine results pages? Having the page and posting on it frequently will help you increase your SEO and increase site traffic.

3. Share Content

It makes sense that you need to write posts that your viewers want to see and share with others. The more you can engage your viewers, the more likely you are to expand your global reach and influence. You can also link your post back to your website for more information and to convert them into a warm business lead. It’s a good idea to create a media mix on this platform as well, so consider using different formats such as SlideShare business presentations, blog posts, infographics, webinars, podcasts and videos.

4. Measure Success

Like most social platforms, you can view analytical data about your company page to help you gain deeper insights into your page performance.

Having a LinkedIn company page will help you network and prospect to a targeted audience for quality sales leads, while establishing your business’ public image on a global scale as a reputable and trustworthy organization. In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer!

Your Social Media – When is it a Waste of Time?

social_media_ROIWhether you’re a small or big business, being on social media is a good idea. The visibility and connectivity accessible through social media has convinced most business owners that it’s worth their while. But what isn’t so clear is how to measure what’s working and what’s not, and when to drop a platform that’s just waste of time and energy.

While its possible to track ROI and conversions, it can be tough to accurately measure the effectiveness of a social media campaign. You might find that some social media efforts that drive visitors to your content can be measured in other ways. For example, if your social strategy isn’t so content-heavy, and if you are promoting products or events, then your business would fit a more traditional measure for ROI and conversions. The only way to know if what you’re doing is enough is to have a gauge on your ROI.

In order to get there, you have to align your objectives to your measurement. For each network (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) you’ll need to have an objective before you can decide on how successful the network is. You’ll need to decide what measurement would be the most valuable to you. Maybe you’re a blogger and your goals are e-mail sign-ups and blog followers, or, maybe you are a retailer looking to increase sales and traffic to your website – either way you must consider your key metric. I can guarantee that if you have had no objectives for your social media, then you will be extremely disappointed with the results.

Capturing the data is the easy part – measuring interactions (likes, clicks, shares, followers) and analyzing traffic, reach, and leads, can help gauge what your business is getting out of its social media investment, but you’ll need to measure these outcomes against your objectives.

Like all marketing tools, each social media network provides some general trends and demographic information to help guide your decision as to which platform your unique business should focus on, but ultimately, you need to understand your brand and your audience before you can choose the right platform, set objectives and measure if it is successful.

If you leverage the right tools and tactics necessary to better understand your audience, then you are more likely to put out messaging and content that is most likely to increase loyalty, drive sales, and help you reach company goals.

Measuring social media ROI can be extremely frustrating and difficult. I’d love to know how you measure your social media ROI, and what metrics you measure. Share your comments and thoughts with me in the comment section!

You Need to be Found: Google Adwords

Google-Magnifying-Glass1

Today’s economy is challenging for many businesses, but it’s an even bigger challenge for the SMB owner, who is forced to use increasingly smaller marketing budgets to increase brand recognition and drive sales through lead generation tactics. One such lead gen tactic is Google AdWords. You’ve seen those ads that appear on the side of the page every time you search for something on Google. Businesses bid for this online advertising through Google AdWords. All you have to do is create an ad, and choose specific search keywords which you would like to target, and, voila! Your ads might appear on Google, next to the search results. The idea is that people interested in your product/service can simply click on your ad to either make a purchase or learn more about your company.

Sounds simple, right? Well, from a conceptual standpoint, it is. In practice, however, we have found that for many of our small business clients, using Google AdWords is more of a science. Finding the “right” balance of key words, with the words used in the ad, together with the right bid amount takes many, many hours of ad monitoring, key word adjustment, ads revisions, as well as working to increase ad click-through rates and daily budgets.

Google AdWords is generally thought of as an ideal advertising “add-on” for small businesses with limited budgets, but even if you know what you’re doing, depending on your industry and keywords, it can be an expensive venture, and therefore needs to be closely monitored (in fact, hourly monitoring is best!).

Here are a few lessons that we’ve learned about Google Adwords for small business that I’d recommend to any small business considering investing in this advertising program.

  1. Before you create your ad, spend some time reviewing your web analytics to see what terms people are using to find you online at this point. Google Analytics offers this type of information.
  2. In combination with the keyword tool Google Ad Words provides, create a list of targeted keywords (narrow these down to focus on a specific service/product and your targeted audience).
  3. Create two very targeted ads. Always create two ads, so you can see which one is doing better, and simply replace it as the campaign evolves.
  4. Decide on your maximum monthly budget (I suggest being able to spend at least $100 a month).
  5. Direct the ad to link to a specific page on your site. Or, if you have the budget, create a landing page on your site specifically for this ad. For services, this page needs to have the ability to capture lead gen via a form or download. For products, this page needs to have a special offer.
  6. Launch the campaign, and monitor it hourly. Keep a close eye not just on your cost-per-click (CPC), and the Average CPC (how much you are paying on average per click), but also the first page bid estimate (which tells you how much you need to spend to be on the first page).  These three areas will help you to decide which terms you may want to pause, and which ones you might want to increase your bid rate on.
  7. You’ll need to make sure that you have metrics on your website to track the number of people that are actually coming to the linked page via Google.
  8. Run the ad campaign for a month (if funds permit), and generate a report at the end of each week to capture the CPC, which key terms did well, increase in traffic to your site via the ad, how many leads were generated (or products sold), and note if there is a pattern emerging. For example, you might notice that there are lots of clicks on Thursday and Friday mornings, and it tapers off over the weekend, and early in the week.  You can then decide to put more money towards your CPC on Thursday and Fridays.

I have tried to capture the basics to help create and launch your Google AdWord campaign, but it’s worth noting that this tool has a huge number of functions. There are other options to consider, including impression vs. clicks; how to increase your quality score; what is the advantage of display networks vs. search; what are filters and ad extensions; and how should you determine your campaign settings and so much more.

With such a deep online advertising tool with a multitude of variables you can see why, if used correctly, Google AdWords has the potential to increase your ROI. It does, however, require considerable thought, time and effort to make it work for your business.

Have you used Google AdWords in your small business? If so, have you found it helpful? Has it increased your ROI? Do you have any questions about how to set up a Google AdWords campaign? Please share your questions and comments below.

Who Needs Integrity in Marketing?

cheating_rectAs part of my business development strategy, I help business owners understand the WHY as well as the HOW behind their marketing, as I have seen, time and time again, many businesses hoodwinked by self-proclaimed marketing experts promising results from a carbon-copied set of tactics. As a business owner, I want my peers to know what questions to ask!

I have dedicated my business and this blog specifically to helping medium-sized business owners because they often fall prey to unscrupulous companies looking to make a quick buck. I feel that these growing organizations, the backbone of our Canadian economy, are being taken advantage of by an unregulated industry that is just as likely to sell websites as it is to sell iPods or mugs. They approach the small to mid-sized business owner with flashy razzle-dazzle and some even “talk the talk”, hitting them up for thousands of dollars in website design and site management with no intent to actually help the client.

Like most of us, unless you know what you are looking for, you don’t know what you don’t know. As such, I have outlined a few questions that will hopefully protect you, the small to mid-sized business owner, against web designers or web programmers calling themselves marketers.  If you need help in deciphering the legitimate companies from the charlatans, consult a real marketing consultant to help guide you.

When a business owner wonders why their brochures or flyers, e-newsletters or e-blasts are not working for them, or says that they really want to create a new website or add QR codes to their business cards – as a marketing professional – I have to put on the brakes and ask them why they want to do so.

The Anti-Charlatan Questions to ask:

  1. How did they hear you needed a new site – e.g. solicitation via email or online?
  2. How well-written was the email or letter of solicitation? Did it provide you with links to projects they have done?
  3. Ask to have a meeting with them at their office. This will give you some indication if they have a legitimate business.  If they work from home, then they should be comfortable telling you that.
  4. When you meet with them, do they spend most of the meeting talking about what they can do for you, or on finding out more about your company and your challenges and needs?  If it’s all about them, you might expect your site project to be as well.
  5. Did they claim to be a web designer or marketer? Can they substantiate their claims of experience and practice?
  6. Do they have examples of their work? You need to know exactly what their involvement was in the development of the site. Did they design the site?  Did they design it using a website template (e.g. WordPress), or are they custom sites?  Note:  A template is a sort of prototype that they would simply modify by adding your content and pictures. The amount of design is very limited, and these sites all look very similar, but this is the least expensive option. A WordPress site also offers templates, but can be customized (although the WordPress icon in the URL will be visible to your audience).  A custom site is developed from scratch by a true designer, and this is usually the most expensive option.
  7. Ask them about the project process – do they create a critical path, a site map, with timelines clearly stated, etc.?
  8. Do they have writers who can write the content for the site? Is the content written from an SEO perspective or is it straight copy?
  9. What kind of SEO provision is outlined in the project?
  10. Do they write the programming for the sites? You are looking for them to tell you PHP, Java scripting, etc.
  11. Do they provide you with a Content Management System (CMS) so you can manage the site in-house?
  12. Ask them if they create wireframe designs.  If yes, ask them to show you an example.  If no, ask them why. The answer should speak to their expertise.
  13. What types of quality control measures are in place?
  14. Do they have references you can call?  Look through their work samples, and choose ones you’d like to talk to. Make sure it is a senior person at the company, not a reference for a junior employee.
  15. How will you be able to measure the ROI of the site?  You are looking for them to tell you that they use Google Analytics or other site measurement metrics. You’ll need to discuss if they will be providing on-going site measurement and recommendations.  If they are not marketers, I strongly recommend you work with a marketing agency or consultant for increased site value.

As a marketer and business owner, integrity is more than simply a word – it is something live by, to follow and believe in. Integrity is one of the most vital assets I bring to the table for my clients.

Was this blog helpful?  Do you have any questions I can help you with?  Please share your questions or stories in the comments, so that others may learn from your experiences.

Emotional Branding – Why your Business Needs it!

Dove

Making an emotional connection with your audience should be a year-round priority for your business, as consumers and clients (both B2B and B2C) make most of their buying decisions based on emotions. As I pursue business development opportunities, I aim to provide my potential clients with a brand that resonates with their audiences, and this often involves developing messaging that evokes emotion and impact.

Last year, I came across a blog by Jim Joseph of Entrepreneur and thought the message was worth reiterating with you: Many people have different interpretations about what brand positioning means. It’s one of those concepts that is hard to pin down, yet at the same time is so important to the success of your brand. Positioning is at the heart of your brand. It’s essentially the summation of everything your brand is about. Positioning is built from what you know to be true about your customer. It takes the benefits you’ve outlined and makes them meaningful to customers. In its simplest of forms, positioning is the mental space you want to occupy in your customer’s mind. It’s the first thing you want your customer to think about when they hear your brand name.

An emotional connection with your customer is the key to being a brand. But that emotional bond should be reflected in the positioning statement for the business. Positioning is more about emotions and less about the facts. That’s why marketers who think a claim about their product or service is a positioning statement, really miss the boat. The same goes for a description of your type of business. There’s no emotion in that and it’s emotions that differentiate a brand. Your brand’s positioning is the basis for building the brand experience across the entire marketing plan. The key is to make sure the actual brand experience delivers on what was intended in the positioning. Let’s take a look at a few big brands and what they’ve done for positioning. The tagline can often be a big hint:

  • L’Oreal: “Because you’re worth it.”
  • BMW: “The ultimate driving machine.”
  • State Farm: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”
  • Dove: “You are more beautiful than you think” – featured in photo above in ad called, “Real Beauty Sketches”

Notice the level of emotion in each of these taglines, which essentially highlights each brand’s positioning. Here’s how they might be translated into positioning statements:

  • L’Oreal: Makes you feel valued and good about yourself.
  • BMW: Makes you feel powerful.
  • State Farm: Makes you feel secure and safe in times of need.
  • Dove: Makes you see what other people see when they look at you.

These are obviously big blockbuster brands, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t do the same for your small business. Here are a few tips to creating a positioning statement for your company:

  1. Think about the emotional benefit that you offer your customer.
  2. Think about how you want your customer to feel about you, every time they think about you.
  3. Try to capture that emotion in a brief statement that best describes what you can offer, and jot down a few options.
  4. If you have a team, run the ideas by them and do a little brainstorming. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you start generating ideas.
  5. If you need help with any of these, have a marketing agency facilitate this process, their expertise will help you.

Do you feel your brand makes an emotional connection with your customers? Please share your experiences in the comments below.