Google Adwords: 7 beginner tips for small businesses and start-ups

If you are a small business looking to dip your toeGoogle Adwords into online advertising then Google AdWords is a good place to start.  PPC (pay-per-click) search engine advertising can offer an affordable advertising option for your business. But how do you get the best ROI when you are competing against big businesses with sizeable budgets? We take a look at 7 helpful tips to ensure small businesses and start-ups get the most bang for their buck.

Google is probably the most well-known and popular search engine so it makes sense to start your online advertising journey through Google AdWords.  In a nutshell, Google Adwords works by enabling you to bid to place you advertisement in front of  someone searching through keywords related to your product or service. You only pay when someone clicks through from the advertisement to your website.

Here is an example of ads that crop up when I typed ‘ Online French courses’ into Google. The ads are marked and appear to the side and at the top of the natural search results. Where you advertisement ranks depends on a combination of your CPC (cost per click bid)  and your ‘ Quality Score’ (relevance to the search, the quality of your landing page and click-through rate).

Example of google adwords ads

Benefits of Google AdWords to small businesses:

  1. You only spend what you can afford. There is no minimum spending commitment  so you can work out a budget to suit your individual business.
  2. You only pay when someone clicks through the advertisement to your site.
  3. With a bit of practice Google AdWords is pretty straightforward to use with plenty of guides to help you through setting up your account and getting your first campaign off the ground. Checkout Google Adwords Support.
  4. You can measure the success of your ads so you can continuously experiment and make tweaks to improve performance.

On the downside Google Adwords is not something you can quickly knock up and then leave to tick over by itself. It takes a while to get the best results and a fair amount of on-going commitment to get a good return on investment. You’ll need to spend time researching the best keywords, monitoring performance and tweaking your ads.

Here are 7 helpful tips to ensure your small business or start-up get the most out of Google AdWords

Google search engine1. Keep things simple to start. You’ll wield better results by keeping things simple at first and getting the basics right before progressing to more advanced options.  As we mentioned earlier it will take a bit of practice to get the hang of things and a fair amount or adjusting and tweaking to get the best results. With a small budget and a number of other roles to juggle it is a good idea for small businesses to  begin by advertising on Google Search before advancing on to Google Display Networks (these are other Google owned properties like YouTube and Google Partner sites like The New York Times). This way you have a better feel for what keywords are performing better before investing more of your hard-earned cash.

set a budget for adwords2. Set a sensible daily budget. Don’t be tempted to spend more than you can afford. Think carefully about what a click-through is worth to your business. For example how many click-throughs become prospective customers? If you want to find out how to work out your maximum bid then have a read of this article by Marketing MO ‘How to Calculate your Max Bid Price’. Alternatively (although not recommended for any length of time) if you are finding it a bit daunting initially and your pushed for time, you can try Google’s automatic bidding option. You set yourself a 30 day budget and Google Adwords will set your bids for you. As you get more confident you should move to manual bids which will give you far more flexibility to optimise your performance.

3. Spend time on keyword research.  Having relevant, specific and targeted keywords is essential to the performance of your advertising and consequently your ROI. It really is important you invest time researching the best keywords for your business.

Keyword planner. Google’s keyword planner is the best place to start. Input the keywords that you think customers would type into a search engine to find your business. The keyword planner will provide a list of similar keywords and tell you whether the competition is high, medium or low and what the approximate cost-per-click is. The key for small businesses is to be specific. It is far better to have fewer clicks with people who are genuine prospects than lots of irrelevant traffic coming to your site.

Group your keywords. It can be a good idea to group your keywords into keyword groups. I’ve put a very basic example below, but it can be a good way to help you structure your campaigns into relevant groups for better targeted advertisements.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 11.08.40

Longtail keywords. These are specific words or phrases and are usually lower cost as there is less competition for them. People are more likely to use them when they are nearer to the point of purchase. If we use the example above, the term silver jewellery is very generic so you could narrow your keywords down to something more specific- silver diamond engagement rings Hertfordshire. Of course it will take some time getting the right long tail keywords for your business but if you target them correctly you can get higher ad rankings without the big price tag.

4. Be as targeted as you can. As we’ve seen with keywords the key to using Google AdWords successfully is to be specific and targeted rather than taking a broad brush approach. Not only will it keep your costs down it will help you bring in more targeted traffic. You click-through rate may be lower but the quality of your visitors is likely to be higher. Here are some options that will help you more closely target your advertisements.

Location targeting: You can choose what geographical location to show you ads – by country, region, city or within a radius around a specific location. For example if you ran a pet grooming service you would be able to target the location where your customers live.

Custom ad scheduling: The default option for AdWords is to have ads showing all day and at all times. However, if you know your customers are likely to be active only during business hours then you can schedule ads to only appear during 9.ooam – 5.00pm.

Keyword matching options: Google AdWords matching option will help you manage the searches that trigger your advertisement. For example a broad match will bring in more traffic but the traffic is likely to be less targeted. Whereas exact match is more restrictive and will bring in fewer clicks but your traffic may be a better match for your business. There are a range of options:

  • Broad match
  • Modified Broad Match
  • Phrase Match
  • Exact Match

Checkout Google AdWords support to select the right matching options for your business.

good copywriting
5. Compelling copy for your PPC ad. With limited words to play with you need to make every word count. You can see from the example below the structure is fairly straightforward. You have a headline of a maximum 25 characters, your URL address, description line 1 with a maximum of 35 characters and description line 2 with a maximum of 35 characters.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 14.01.02You need to make you PPC ad compelling as possible to your target audience and relevant to the keywords you are bidding on. Try to include at least one keyword in your headline. A useful copywriting model to keep in mind is AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Use your headline to grab attention, your description lines to create interest and desire – for example describe your product or incentive. Always finish with a call to action.

6. Optimise your landing page.  Your landing page is really important and needs to be relevant to your advertisement and the search query your visitor typed in. If it’s not your visitor will simply leave. There is no point spending you money on advertising if your landing pages are irrelevant or ill-thought out. Poor landing pages can be the reason behind low conversions and a high bounce rate. So spend some time getting your landing pages spot on.

7. Monitor performance. To get the best ROI make sure you keep on top of how your ads are performing. Monitor your CTR (click-through rates)and make adjustments to your ads as you go along, depending upon what you find is (or isn’t) working. Keep updating your keywords lists, removing any keywords that are performing poorly.  The more you measure and tweak the better your ads will perform.

Google AdWords can be a great way for small businesses and start-ups to drive traffic to their website and grow business. However to make the most out of Google AdWords and to get the best ROI it will need you to invest time and effort into making it work for you business.

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences of using Google AdWords, so please do leave a comment.

 

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How to build a successful Twitter presence for your small online business

twitter for small businessWith 302 million monthly active users, Twitter still has plenty to offer small businesses. It’s a great tool for promoting awareness, driving traffic to your site, generating sales, engaging with customers and building your brand personality. Of course, as with any social media platform, in order to be successful you need to be following best practice and have set yourself clear goals. Otherwise you could be investing valuable time and effort with little to show in return.

What do you want to achieve?

Twitter can successfully work as part of a wider integrated marketing strategy. According to small business research, 60% of respondents have purchased from small and medium businesses because of Twitter.

But to be successful it is important that you define and prioritise your goals.  If you’re busily tweeting away with no clear sense of purpose the benefits are unlikely to match the time and effort you may be putting in.

So think about what your key business objectives are. For example are you looking to:

  • Build followers.
  • Increase engagement amongst target audience.
  • Grow awareness of your brand.
  • Generate sales leads.
  • Drive traffic to your site.

The clearer your are about what it is you want to achieve the more focused you can be in your approach to your Twitter activities.

We’ve put together some easy to implement best practice tips to help you make the most of your Twitter presence.

Getting off to a good start

If you’re not already using Twitter then getting off to a good start is important. Once you’ve signed up you’ll need to create your username (also known as your Twitter handle). For example ours is @shopintegrator. Then you’ll create a profile bio, add a profile pic – these should succinctly reflect your business. Next its time to start looking for the right people to follow – which of course will be dependent upon the industry and business you are in.

Check out Twitter’s own business resource Twitter For Business. You’ll find plenty of useful advice to get you off to a confident start.

Tweeting essentials

  • Include the Twitter ‘Follow Us’ button on your website.
  • Tweet regularly but ensure it is something worth sharing.
  • Keep your brand’s personality and voice consistent in your Tweets.
  • Don’t make it all about you. Share links and retweet anything that will be of interest to your followers.
  • Don’t use up all your 140 characters. You’ll want to leave enough room for people retweet.
  • Use hashtags but don’t go mad. One or two per tweet is probably about right.
  • Recycle your best tweets with some re-wording. Research shows that a repeated tweet can get as much as 86% performance as the original tweet.
  • Promote your Twitter username online and offline

visual contant on TwitterIncrease your visual content

As visual content becomes increasingly important within social media, try to include more images and photos in your Tweets. According to HubSpotTweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites and 150% more retweets – so it’s definitely one to think about. Remember though, when you are posting images they count as a link and so will automatically use up 22 characters.  Keep your tweets extra concise to allow for re-tweeting.

Videos are also a great way to capture and engage an audience. Since January this year iPhone and Android Twitter users can actually capture, edit and share videos of up to 30 seconds duration on Twitter.

Share interesting and varied content

Twitter isn’t just about relentlessly pushing your own agenda. You need to mix up your content so it is varied and interesting. If you’re stuck here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Eye-catching images and videos.
  • Links to your blog articles.
  • Latest industry news and titbits.
  • Behind the scenes peeks at your business photos.
  • Funny and inspiring quotes.
  • Start conversations by posing questions.
  • Product launches.
  • Industry statistics.
  • Latest trends.
  • Ask advice.
  • Share tips and recommendations.

Social on TwitterBe social

“80% of your Tweets should focus on driving interactions with your followers, such as retweets, replies, and favourites.” Twitter for Business

Central to your Twitter success is building a genuine rapport with your followers. Try using Twitter’s 80/20 ratio. Don’t just bombard your followers with tweets that push your businesses products and services. 80% of your tweets should be sharing links, retweeting and joining conversations.

You are trying to show the person behind  your business so always take a friendly and positive approach to your interactions.

Measure your performance

Don’t just tweet merrily away without taking a step back to analyse your performance. Twitter Analytics is worth spending some time getting familiar with. The Twitter dashboard can give you all sorts of interesting information about how you are doing. For example:

  • At a glance 28 day summary: Tweets sent, profile visit, mentions, new followers, top tweet, top mention and top followers.
  • Tweets: Impressions, engagement, retweets, replies and link clicks.
  • Follower insights. Interests, location, gender and who your followers are following.

Digging a bit deeper into how you are performing and getting to know who is following you will enable you to better focus your Twitter efforts.

Following best practice and implementing even just some of the tips we’ve talked about will help your business get more out of Twitter. We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences on Twitter so please do leave a comment.

How to get more from Pinterest with 5 great tips for small businesses.

PinterestThe last few years have seen our fascination with all things visual significantly grow. We can see this reflected in the rise of visual platforms like Pinterest and Instagram who steadily continue to gain social media market share.  With this in mind we take a closer look at Pinterest and how small businesses can make more of their presence.

Pinterest can be described as a visual online scrapbook. Users create and share images they find interesting (called pins); organising them into collections called boards. With over 70 million registered users and 3472 images pinned every minute, Pinterest can be an excellent social media platform for small businesses.  Pins usually link back to the website they originated so it can be a great way for you to share your content and drive traffic.

 5 tops tips to get Pinterest to work for your business

getting started on pinterest1. Make a good start

Before you launch headlong into Pinterest take a step back and think about your objectives, your audience and the kind of presence you’d like to have. Familiarise yourself with Pinterest by exploring what other businesses, both in and out of your industry, are doing to maximise their presence. For inspiration checkout some of the examples Pinterest showcases.

Once you’ve created your business account and verified your website you can set up your profile. Use a recognisable image such as your logo and a clear and interesting description of your brand and what it aspires to. You can then start planning your boards. Categorise your boards into subject areas – be creative and think of relevant, inspiring subjects that will be off interest to your target audience. If you’re a bit stuck for ideas then an easy board for businesses to start with is a blog board. If you have a blog then you have ready-made, shareable content that links back to your site.

Then it’s all about making the most of your Pins. 

“As a rule of thumb,  try to make sure all of your Pins are beautiful, actionable and interesting. Pinterest

  • Add the Pin-it button to your website to make it easy for people to pin content from your website.
  • Every time you create a pin include a useful description of what you are pinning and a link back to where it originates.
  • Where appropriate think about using Rich Pins such as Product Pins. These allows you to add in more useful information such as where to purchase (for example your website), real-time pricing and availability. These details will stay on the pin even when it is repined.  2 million Pinterest users save product pins to their boards daily so it’s worth doing.

Make the most of the advice Pinterest offers businesses. It has some excellent case studies, blog articles and How to guides. All of which are great resources to get you off to a flying start.

use colourful images on Pinterest2. Focus on the visual

Pinterest is all about the visual. So try to use colourful, interesting and inspiring images as much as possible. Avoid seen before, run-of the mill stock photos.

There are plenty of websites available for you to source interesting images without breaking the bank. For example, Shutterstock, iStockphoto, FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Dreamstime all offer excellent images at reasonable prices. Free images are also available but do check that they are in the public domain and cleared for commercial use as many free images will need an attribution. Pixabay is a great source of free images that are in the public domain and don’t require an attribution.

Try using original photography. This is a great way to showcase your products in interesting, real life situations. It will have a greater impact than bog-standard product shots.

Pinterest recommends the following tips for your images:

  • Use quality images with a high-resolution.
  • Images at least 600 pixels wide work best on Pinterest ( the minimum image size is 100 x 200 pixels)
  • Vertical images work better on mobile screens. Remember 75% of Pinterest usage takes place on mobile devices so it’s worth bearing in mind when you are composing your pins.
  • Keep to a maximum of 4 images in any one pin.

Don’t forget about video. With 8333 videos shared every minute across social media, video is a great way to encourage sharing. Pinning a video is simple. For example if you’ve uploaded your video on YouTube, go to Share and use the ‘Pin It’ button to share it on one of your Pinterest boards. Remember to include an eye-catching image and a relevant description.

Content Image3. Mix up your content

Try and make your content interesting with a number of varied subject boards. Approach your content from the point of view of the customer not your sales manager. Rather than just pushing your product and services think creatively about the different things that might be of  interest to or help your customers. What might encourage them to repin your pin? If you’re a bit stuck for ideas maybe test drive something from the list below that you can adapt for your industry:

  • Pin links to your blog posts
  • Have a product showcase board
  • Latest trends / seasonal trend boards
  • Competitions
  • Behind the scenes peek at your business
  • Meet the team
  • Charitable work / charitable partners boards
  • How to videos
  • Infographics
  • Coming soon sneak previews
  • Client / customer showcase boards
  • Interesting industry news

Of course these are just a few ideas – once you start pinning regularly you’ll find all sorts of ways to create engaging content.

pinterest4. Get involved – be an active Pinner

As with all social media, active participation is important. The more of you put in the more you are going to get out of it. With Pinterest you are trying to connect with your audience through their interests and lifestyle.

  • Be active by pinning regularly. Pinterest suggest trying to Pin once a day.
  • Follow other Pinner’s boards.
  • Repin, like and comment on interesting pins – especially those that are relevant to your industry and likely to be of interest to your audience.
  • Be friendly and welcoming it is your opportunity to bring personality to your brand.

pinterest analytics5. Measure your performance

To get the most from any social media platform you need to be an active participant, this of course takes up valuable time. Therefore it makes sense that the better idea you have of your Pinterest performance, the smarter you can be in channelling your time and effort into the right places.

Use Pinterest’s analytics tool to get a better picture of what content is working for you and what content is having little impact.

  • Pin performance: Identify your tops pins. Which have the most impressions, repins and click-throughs? Which of your boards are the most popular?
  • Your audience. Who is looking at your pins and who has actively liked, repined or click-through a pin. It will give you an overview of your audience’s demographics, who they follow and their interests.
  • Website content. If you’ve verified your website you can see how the content of your website is performing on Pinterest – these are all the pins that link back to your site.
  • For more information take a look at Pinterest Analytics guide.

These are just a few tips to help you optimise your presence on Pinterest. As we mentioned earlier in the article don’t forget to check out some of the resources Pinterest offers small businesses – there is plenty of help and advice to get you off to a great start.

Finally, don’t forget to support and promote your Pinterest activity on all your other social media platforms and in email communications. A coherent, integrated approach to all your marketing channels will produce the best results. 

 We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience of using Pinterest, so please do leave a comment.

 

 

 

 

How small business ecommerce can improve their online content

Website sign postAs a small business owner how can you improve your online content?

Quality content plays a crucial part in the success of your ecommerce business and as such, it should be right at the heart of all your online activity. Good content should be the foundation of your marketing practice, search engine optimisation, web design and your customers’ online experience. Poor, ill-thought-out content can be a real barrier to online purchasing.

Despite its importance, we can all get a bit complacent with our online content and forget that it needs updating and refreshing on a regular basis. If you review and update  your content frequently then fantastic but, if like most small business owners, you are constantly juggling multiple roles and tasks, then finding time to review and plan content can be a challenge.

However if you can manage to schedule some time in your diary to follow some of the content suggestions we’ve outlined in this blog then it will genuinely save you time and money in the long run. Don’t forget quality content is at the core of a successful online presence – do it well and it will make all the activities that follow far more effective.  So, put some proper time aside to review your current online content and ways you can improve on it.

SEOSEO – customers should drive your content efforts.

“Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed“ Google Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide

Interesting, relevant and fresh content is not only what will bring customers to your online business and keep them coming back it is the back bone of search engine optimisation (SEO). As far as SEO is concerned the practice of keyword and key-phrase stuffing are well and truly over. Search engines are looking for quality content that is relevant to your market. The best way of creating just such content is to keep your customers in mind. Ask yourself –

  • What will my customers find interesting?
  • What content is relevant to my business?
  • What information is my customer looking for?
  • What information do they need to make a purchasing decision?

“Develop great content” may be the most oft-repeated suggestion in the SEO world. Despite its clichéd status, though, this is sound advice. Appealing, useful content is crucial to search engine optimisation….Crafting fulfilling, thorough content that addresses searchers’ needs improves your chance to earn top rankings.”  MOZ Beginners Guide to SEO.

Planning start pointThinking about your content in terms of your customers needs is essential.

Where to start?

Before you launch yourself into all sorts of new and exciting content ideas – you first need to get the foundations right. This means reviewing your current offering, setting goals and objectives , identifying content gaps and putting a plan in place. This will better help you understand the content needs of your business and provide you with a solid and realistic base for future content. It also means you are more likely to get it right!

Where are you now? Review your current offering

Take a long objective look at the content of your website.  Be honest with yourself and try to be unbiased (if you’re worried that you can’t see the woods for the tress then get someone you trust to review your content).

  • What are you current strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you do well?
  • What could you do with a bit more of or less of?
  • Do you have a good balance of content? For example, is there too much lighthearted content and not enough informative content or vice versa.
  • Does your content read well?
  • Is your interesting and relevant to your customers?.
  • Have you had any feedback from customers – what would they like to see?

It is only by taking a really thorough look at what you currently offer that you can set yourself realistic objectives and identify any content gaps.

What do you want to achieve? Set yourself goals and objectives? What is it that you need your content to help you do? Are you looking to grow the traffic to your site, increase your sales conversion rates or rank higher in search engine results pages? Once you know your overall goals you can then set yourself some SMART content-related objectives.

Where are the gaps? What is your current content missing. Once you’ve reviewed your current offering you will better be able to identify content gaps. Think about the balance of content you have. For example is your content primarily entertainment – are there ways you can introduce some more informative content to your website. Conversely if you are business-to-business you may find informative and educational comes easily but you could do with a little more content that entertains.

Take a look at Smart Insights Content Matrix – it offers some excellent ideas to help you fill in some of those content gaps to give your business a better balance of online content.

How are you going to achieve your goals and objectives?  This is where you take all the information you have gleaned from above and put it into a workable content plan with a schedule of actions for the forthcoming year. If you have a content plan in place you are far more likely to stick to it and focus on achieving the actual objectives you have set out.

Content Image 6 practical tips for more effective online content

To get you started we’ve highlighted a few key areas you could  consider improving to help build your online content.

1.Product pages

Product pages can easily be overlooked but actually they are a critical part of your customers’ experience on your website. Your product descriptions are a good way to start improving your content. Make sure your product descriptions are written with your customers in mind. What information are they looking for to help them make that all important purchasing decision? Think about what keywords and phrases customers might  use when searching for that particular product.

Whatever you do don’t just use the product description provided by the manufacturer (search engines don’t like replicated copy).  Rewrite the descriptions to them to make them original and customer friendly – it’s a great way to provide some unique, fresh and relevant copy to your website..

2. Blogging

If you haven’t already started a blog for your business then it is time to think seriously about setting one up. Blogging is a great way to support your SEO efforts. A good blog provides you with regular, unique, fresh and interesting content. It also helps drive traffic to your site and increases engagement amongst your customers.

Still not convinced?  Then take a look at these impressive statistics from The Blog Economy:

  • Small businesses with blogs generate 126% more leads
  • Companies that blog have 97% more inbound links
  • Websites with blogs have 434% more indexed pages
  • 81% of consumers trust advice and information from blogs.

And, if you are not quite sure where to start then take a look at our helpful blog article ‘How to start a successful blog for your online business’.

3. Video

Visual content is playing an increasingly important part of ecommerce content strategy – and for good reason. Search engines like visual media such as video content so it is great for your SEO purposes. Of course we only need to see the phenomenal success of YouTube to see how is popular a medium it is amongst consumers.

Digital Sherpa provides some interesting video marketing statistics :

  • Video increases people’s understanding of your product and service by 74%
  • 50% of users watch business related videos on YouTube once a week
  • Your website is 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of a search engines result page if it includes a video.

Have a think of a suitable way you can use video for you business. For example a video tutorial is a great way to show customers how to assemble or use a product. And, if you want to build your ‘brand personality’ video can be a great way to your business a face. You could use video  in your email mail as way to entice customers to your website. Indeed, an introductory company email that includes a video receives an increase in click-through rate by 96%.

4. Informative content

Having content that ‘educates’ and ‘convinces’ is an important part of offering balanced online content. This content tends to be more authoritative and informative; for example –  industry trends, whitepapers, news articles, demo-videos, infographics, business guides, research reports and press releases . If you have them make them available to view on your website, if you don’t then think about implementing some.

5. User generated content

User generated content is another excellent way of introducing new and unique content to your site. By this I mean opening up your business to content that is generated by your customers such as customer reviews, blog comments or community forums. Search engines like user generated content:

“According to the latest ecommerce SEO trends, the more your brand, products or links are discussed by commenters across the Internet (including your own site), the better your page ranking will be. Google has increased its focus on these conversational searches because, as hinted above, comments and reviews are much harder to fake or manufacture in high numbers than other types of content.” Volume 9 

So be open to including user-generated content on your site. Do remember though if you are going to accept user-generated content,  you will need to regularly monitor it.  It is a good idea to introduce some guidelines  that visitors wishing to comment online must adhere to or risk being removed – such as not accepting the use of profanities, posting explicit photos or images, any bullying behaviour or derogatory comments.

6. Content that entertains

Having more interactive, entertaining content is a good way to draw customers to your business. It is often the case that business-to-consumer companies often find this type of content generation comes a bit more naturally than business to business companies.

Because business-to-business companies may find it slightly harder they may fall a bit short on more ‘entertaining’ content.  It is as all about creating a good balance of content therefore interspersing more informative content  with a bit of  ‘entertaining’ content is a good idea. If you are business-to-business think about including more light-hearted content such competitions, quizzes, community forums or video.

 

ID-100253237Finally – don’t forget to alert customers to all your great content!

So you have implemented some great new online content, the next thick is content distribution. How are you going to alert people to your content? Content is a great way to drive new traffic into your website so you need to bring it to the attention of your customers and potential customers.

“Interesting content is one of the top three reasons people follow brands on social media” The Blog Economy

Use an integrated approach to market your content, if possible use both online and offline methods. For example if you’ve posted a new blog article then tell people in an email alert and on your social media sites with a link to the article. Great content will draw people in – you just need to bring it to your customers attention.

“Fulfilling these intents is up to you. Creativity, high-quality writing, use of examples, and inclusion of images and multimedia can all help in crafting content that perfectly matches a searcher’s goals. Your reward is satisfied searchers who demonstrate their positive experience through engagement with your site or with links to it.” MOZ: Beginners Guide to SEO 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience on this subject so please do leave a comment.

  1. Website, forum, blog signpost image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  2. Catching SEO word image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  3. Start business image courtesy of kashasa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  4. Announcement Quote image courtesy of 2nix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why you need social media customer service (Infographic)

Social media networkInfographic: Social CRM combines the power of social media with customer relationship management (CRM)

It is no surprise that social media customer service is now a very real, valid and useful communication tool. Businesses small and large alike that choose to ignore customer complaints and inquiries on Twitter, Facebook etc. are increasingly finding themselves in hot water.

Everyday social media users are increasing their usage daily making the importance of this medium that much more essential. If companies want to harvest new business they are practically required to set up a social media CRM (customer relationship management) Department.

Dennis Stoutenburgh, co-founder of Stratus Contact Solutions, a company providing one-to-one customer engagement and multi-channel solutions comments,

“If you’re not engaging customers during the entire product life cycle through social media, you’re missing out. Because someone else will.”

When it comes to any business model, no matter how generational, antiquated thinking may be a bad move when it comes to future success. This is not the time to be a technological ostrich hiding in the sand until the fad passes, this is the time to get on the bus.

The Sleeping Giant

Consumers are becoming more savvy by the second. They are what the Japanese used to call, a “sleeping giant.” When social media customer service is exchanged, in many cases, millions of eyes are could be watching.

Immediate Gratification Generation

In the old CRM model, direct communication meant maybe a phone call; being transferred to a supervisor; or calling the customer back. Now, with an immediate gratification generation poised at the ready, businesses better have an instant answer to any query. In addition, it is a generation that has been raised with everyone getting a trophy. Therefore, it is important to commend and console validating for all to witness.

Pick Your Poison

It’s important to choose the social media platform that works according to each business genre. Whether an in-house social media CRM department is set up or an outside team is used, knowing how each correspondence will be viewed is paramount. For example, if a complaint is posted on Instagram it may not create as much of a negative backlash than if it were viewed on Facebook. Each business needs to decide the level of platforms they want to concentrate on or if they want to cover a broader spectrum, which of course means more expense.

Priority and Monitoring

Response time is now a real statistic that just may determine getting a leg-up on competition. Making a query a priority on social media platforms such as Twitter lets the consumer know that you are part of their world. It is also important to continue a relationship with each social media communication by requesting to follow and especially to respond to their threads.

Once this relationship is set up, monitoring software can show specific consuming patterns for not only the business involved but other businesses as well. By following consumer’s social media path, patterns may emerge that offer advantageous purchasing information.

Maneuver, Influence and Encourage

Social media customer service has an opportunity to use these platforms to immediately connect with their customer base. Setting up fun follow programs, contests and/or free giveaways can bring an influx of new business practically overnight.

With the simplicity of not having to do more than press a virtual button, consumers can be maneuvered into getting involved; influenced by a variety of marketing techniques; and encouraged to recommend friends and family.

Service Topics and Consumer Response

As an example of how social media CRM is responded to by consumers, particular service topics show some interesting numbers (Buffer Social 2/14).

A comparison of service topic response includes three demographics:

A – Do not use social media for customer service.

B – General population

C – Use social media customer service.

 The response is as follows:

Amount of consumers willing to spend more for great service.

A. 11%

B. 13+%

C. 21+%

Amount who aborted a transaction due to poor customer service.

A. 49%

B. 55%

C. 83%

Number of people who will be told of excellent customer service.

A. 9

B. 15

C. 42

Number of people who will be told of bad customer service.

A. 17

B. 24

C. 53

When social media customer service is used and maintained correctly the potential for positive results is practically guaranteed. Embracing this new consumer tool will not only offer an opportunity to increase a bottom line, it just may bring back a “human touch” that many would have never connected to a virtual exchange.

 Continue on to the graphic below to see a more granular breakdown of platforms and user information.

Social media customer service

 

Dave Landry JrGuest Author: Dave Landry

Dave Landry jr. is a financial and marketing adviser for small enterprises. He hopes you enjoy the infographic and accompanying article, and encourages you to hone in and emphasize your social media for customer service strategies as much as possible. You can find more from Dave on Facebook.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post. Please do leave a comment.

Social network image courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.com

10 Types of Emails that You Need to Start Sending Out Now

Email marketing is one of the oldest internet marketing techniques. It’s been around for ages. If you think, sending emails to promote your products/services is an anachronism of a bygone era, you couldn’t be more wrong. Emails are still a very effective way to attract and retain customers.

I know this will come as a surprise to you, but emails still deliver tremendous ROI. According to a Gigaom research report, ‘Workhorses and Dark Horses – Digital Tactics for Customer Acquisition’:

Types of Emails that You Need to Start Sending Out Now56% of respondents say email marketing is very effective for customer retention.

Marketers also believe emails are the most effective model for revenue generation.

These figures leave very little room for doubt that the “humble” email, for long considered to be the old marketing workhorse, is as effective today as it was a few years ago. The efficiency and deliverability of email marketing hasn’t dulled one little bit in spite of the arrival of other tactics like content and social media marketing.

But there is a problem. With over a 100 billion emails being sent and received every day, the construct of your email assumes tremendous importance. You can’t just send any email to your target customers. You need to send an actionable email that makes people want to buy your products or services. As can be imagined, this is easier said than done. But, if you want to leverage the immense potential of email marketing, you can’t just send any email to your target customers; you need to send emails that work.

Let’s take a closer look at the kind of emails you need to start sending out, if you want to capitalize on your email marketing efforts:

1. The ‘We’ve Got Something Good for You’ Mail

We’ve Got Something Good for You

Send a mail if you really have something important to say to your target customers, for e.g. you’ve got a new product you want to introduce, a fantastic video chat lined up or something else.

The Inc. mail is talking about an amazing event that has been planned. It is a video chat with the founder of Quirky, and it’s free! The mail makes its point brilliantly, without going overboard. Its design is clean and professional looking and has an understated appeal about it.

The key here is to make your point in a manner that encourages recipients to take action. The focus must be on ‘conversion’. If you take a look at the example of the Inc. email, you will find that readers will want to ‘sign up’ for the video chat. The text and use of images is right on the ball. Its design and wording is absolutely perfect.

2. The ‘Offers’ Mail

Offers

If you are sending an email about special offers, make sure the best offers are clearly displayed in the mail. This is the kind of actionable email that has a higher chance of bringing customers to your website or even physical store. You will do well to remember that your target customers don’t have all the time in the world to go through your mail; what’s more, you are not the only seller sending them emails about product offers and discounts. So, it’s important you are able to make your point quickly and effectively.

3. The ‘Reminder’ Mail

Reminder

A no-nonsense reminder email about a special offer that is about to end should be sent to people on your email list. Reinforce the USP of the offer without beating about the bush and end the mail with a link to the offer. Such mails are simple, straightforward and make their point quickly.

You don’t have to make a song and dance about a reminder. The Copyblogger mail makes its point in three lines. All one needs to do is glance at the mail to find out what it wants to say. It’s a text book example of a reminder mail.

4. The ‘Don’t Miss Out’ Mail

Did You Miss It This email illustrates the importance of an email subject line. The words ‘Last Chance to Register’ create a sense of urgency and a fear of missing out on a great offer. The email copy talks about the offer (chance to attend a webinar) and what’s it all about. The idea is to make sure the recipient gives your mail a reading if he/she hasn’t done so earlier.

Never stop trying to sell a product/ service to somebody who you feel will be interested in it. But how do you make sure your emails don’t put the recipient off? You can do this by ensuring your emails reinforce the point made in the earlier emails. Think of it as progressive reinforcement. This makes it easy for your mails to make a degree of sense to the recipient.

5. The ‘Leverage Holidays’ Mail

Leverage Holidays

One of the best times to send an email is during the holiday season, when your customers are looking for products that could be gifted to friends or family. If you are selling products/services specifically designed for the holiday season, send a mail like the one ‘Leaders in Heels’ sent its target customers. The mail includes an image of the product, a description that says why it’s a perfect pick for the holiday season and a link that takes readers to the ‘buy’ page.

As a business, you need to continuously explore new avenues that help you sell your products and services; the holiday season is a recurring avenue that shouldn’t be missed at all costs. If you are a products-based business, you could sell products that make for ideal gifts; on the other hand, if you are selling specific services then a special holiday discount on some or all your services will be a very good idea.

How you go about making the most of your holiday season is your call, but do it you must. And in email, you have a potent medium that will successfully put your holiday products/services offerings in front of your customers.

6. The ‘Welcome’ Mail

Welcome

If somebody is showing interest in your products and services, send a welcome mail. It should include links to the download page (or products page) and also a ‘how-to’ page that offers detailed information about product functionality.

Evernote follows up the welcome mail with a series of ‘tip mails’ that help first time users create their first Note and also optimize the use of this suite of software and services. The idea here is to help users become more conversant with the functionality of your products. You don’t want a scenario wherein a target user’s interest in your product turns into frustration, just because he/she is unable to optimize its use.

7. The ‘Freebie’ Mail that Doesn’t Come Across as Such

Freebie

A business needs to engage with its existing and potential customers regularly. If you are running a business, it’s difficult to come up with new product/services or send a personalized discount offer all the time.

The next best thing is to send useful, actionable niche centric information in the form of a freebie. It could take the form of free eBook, guide, video or podcast. Such freebies can boost your reputation and increase the trust factor in your brand.

The more such freebies land up in your customers’ inbox, the better it will be for your brand’s awareness and reputation. What you are also doing by sending such mails is telling your customers that you are not only interested in selling to them but also want to help improve their knowledge base; you are also interested in helping them take better business decisions.

At the end of the day, it is trust and reputation that will help in customer acquisition and retention.

8. The ‘Newsletter’ Mail

Newsletter

One of the ways you can use emails to regularly engage with your business’s target audience is by sending a weekly/monthly newsletter. This newsletter can include information about the latest product launches, discount offers and also the latest happenings in your niche. The key is to make your newsletters as interesting as possible. You want them to be read and the stories in them to be shared. You don’t want them to be ignored.

Coming up with an interesting and extremely readable newsletter every week, or month, isn’t easy. You need to think of it strategically and cannot afford to take this task lightly. Your marketing team needs to sit down with your content writers to brainstorm ideas. These ideas need to be worked out keeping the needs of your target audience in mind. Think of your newsletters as ‘solutions providers’; thinking of them as marketing material will just make them one dimensional. Try and make your newsletters as multidimensional as possible.

This will ensure your target audience looks forward to your newsletters.

9. The ‘Did You Miss It’ Mail

Did You Miss It

Don’t confuse this with a reminder mail. This one starts off with the assumption that the recipient must have missed out on signing up for a particular service (read solution) or buying a particular product.

Now, one of the reasons why this happens is they were not interested in your product or service in the first place. But that was then and there is a good chance that circumstances have changed; your product/services can make more sense to them now than they did earlier. There is no harm in sending a mail talking about the recipient having missed an opportunity to use your product/service and the fact that it is still available to them.

Such mails make a great deal of sense if they are backed by solid evidence that the recipients are actually interested in using your product/service.

10. The ‘Give it a Rethink’ Mail

Give it a Rethink

Think of a scenario where a potential customer has signed up for a free service, but you want to get him to sign on for its paid version. You need to keep reminding that person the paid version is a sound investment and can deliver high ROI. The fact is that your target customers will sign up for different free services they believe will help their business in some form or other.

If you don’t remind them to try the paid version of your service, they might continue to use the free version; and if and when they do decide to try out a paid version of a service, that particular service might not be yours; some other provider might have beaten you to the finishing line because he might have sent those ‘rethink’ emails, which you hadn’t.

It’s important to remember that when a customer finally makes a decision to sign up for a paid service he chooses the service provider who’s been making a solid case for the paid service.

Your Turn

If you are not sending in these emails to your existing and potential customers, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to grow your sales. If you belong to a school of thought that sending emails is an outdated marketing tactic, its time you rethink and start implementing a well-defined email marketing strategy. You will soon realize that emails are a great way of adding new customers and retaining old ones.

The great part about using emails is that their scope is not limited. You can craft them the way they fit and in a way that you believe will deliver maximum returns. This is what makes email marketing so special and is a big reason why it has stood the test of time as a marketing tactic.

Image Source: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

So How Much Does Social Media REALLY Matter to Your E-Commerce Site?

Did you check your Facebook profile today? Chance are you did. And multiple times, at that. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average American spends over 40 minutes per day on Facebook.

If you work backwards on Facebook’s claim of having over 128 million daily users; it means that over 40% of all Americans check their Facebook account on a daily basis.

These numbers are not just about American attitudes to social media, they are a reflection of the global addiction to social media that we have witnessed in the last few years.

If users are on social media, it follows that marketers won’t be very far behind. It’s no wonder then that social media has steadily gained a progressively bigger share of the marketing budgets of brands worldwide.

Projected share of social media in marketing budgetsProjected share of social media in marketing budgets

Trouble is, social media does not seem to be living up to all it’s been hyped to be. The last touch attribution numbers – conversions by folks who came directly from social media onto your site – remains miserably low. Low enough that questions are being raised about the ROI of social media expenditure and the sustainability of social media marketing.

Data from Monetate’s Quarterly E-commerce Report for Q2 2014, shows that the total traffic that can be directly attributed to social media is a meagre 2.3%. Conversions, obviously are even lower.

Website Visits and traffic

Black Friday – the annual shopping bonanza that all retailers await for the whole year brought in record breaking numbers for e-commerce sites last year – $1.2 billion in sales to be precise. However, even during a ‘made for shopping’ holiday like Black Friday, social media accounted for just 0.34% of all online sales.

If a medium offers a business just 2.3% of the total traffic that it gets from all sources, and an even tinier share of conversions; does it really deserve a 9% share and going forward, a 21% share of overall marketing budgets?

Social Media Is NOT a Last Touch Medium

The short answer to that question is, YES.

Let’s now look at the long version of the answer. All the grouses about how social media has not performed to its potential come from people who are getting a very fundamental thing about social media completely wrong. Social media is NOT a last touch medium, it is an influencer medium.

Users are NOT going to go from a social media post you made about creative crafting ideas to buying a couple of boxes of colored glitter. What that post about creative crafting does instead, is give the user ideas about what to do the next time they want to work on a craft project, what tools to use, which products work best and so on. So the next time that user wants to create a model airplane, they will know where to go to buy their glue sticks and glitter pens.

Social media is your build up to the sale and not your salesman.

So what do you do to ensure that this medium that takes up swathes of your users’ time and attention on a daily basis contributes to your business meaningfully? How do you move out of the trap of looking at last-touch attribution figures for social media and writing it off as a failed marketing tool?

You do that by leveraging the things that social media DOES do well. Here’s a rundown of the various things that social media DOES offer without a shadow of doubt – things that once employed effectively by your business can only help in growing it to the next level.

1. Understand your audience

As we saw earlier, social media is the place your users spend a significant chunk of their time on. With 4 out of 5 Americans now active on social media, this platform is a treasure trove of user data, if only you take the time to look and learn. Social media tells you a ton of things about your audience – where they live, how old they are, how educated they are, what they like to do for fun, places that they frequent, brands that they identify themselves with and more. Each of these factors combine to paint a composite user profile that you can use as a guideline while marketing to them.

With insights like these, your business won’t end up making gaffes like selling spare parts for a Lamborghini to a Ford user.

2. Target Your Audience Clearly

So we saw how social media can tell you who your users are. Now take a look at social media from another perspective.

Social media is the only marketing platform that tells you exactly where to spend your marketing dollars, so you don’t waste them on people who will not respond to your communication. On social media, you have the option of laser-targeting only and only those individuals who fit the right age, sex, location, interests and activity profile that you have created for your ideal customers.

This prevents spillage of your budgets on non-responsive audiences, it improves the efficacy of your messaging among your real target audience and reduces the overall budgets you would need to achieve a particular result by streamlining your marketing.

3. Engagement

Users like, follow or share data from a brand only when it resonates with them and speaks to them in language that they identify with. Once you hit upon this magic formula for your posts, nothing stops users from sharing it with their friends and family and taking your content viral.

Some of the key things that ensure your users are engaged (and by extension, ready to spread your word of mouth for free!) include:

  • Your content matches their areas of interest
  • What you’re saying is very different from what they see other brands say
  • Your content tells them about something they did not know about before
  • Your content is exciting / funny
  • Sharing your content with their friends will portray your users as smart and cool, earning them brownie points from their peers.

Remember, the deeper your engagement levels are with your users, the easier it will be to convince them about the merits of your brand and products. In other words, building an engaged user base is basically the process of priming your users to become customers of your product.

4. Trust

Users log primarily on to social media to connect with their friends and family, not to follow brands or organizations. This primary function that social media has of being a social connector, means that users set a lot of store by what their friends and family have to say about various matters – political issues, environmental stands, entertainment gossip and brand endorsements.

A study of over 25,000 online consumers by Nielsen as part of their Global Online Survey showed that 90% of online consumers trust recommendations from their friends.

By building a positive, credible brand image for your business with your fans and followers, you are in turn creating brand ambassadors who have the power to influence their peers to a level that your marketing messages can never hope to achieve.

Solicit reviews of your products from existing customers on social media to get the benefit of virality and being seen by their friends and family. Use social proof like the number of fans you have or the number of positive reviews that your product got or the number of times people shared your blog post on social media as tools that help potential customers make up their minds and enable conversions.

5. Top of Mind Recall

For a radio ad to stick in a user’s mind, you need at least nine repetitions per day. That figure is similar for television. For any business to be able to afford that kind of airtime all year round, is an incredibly expensive affair, to say the least.

Social media solves this problem by offering itself up as a near-free platform to reach out to your users. With the right kind of organic posts, your brand can reach out to users multiple times every single day, every day of the year at no extra cost. This is an opportunity that no business, especially cash strapped small businesses, can afford to ignore.

Dig into your analytics and determine the times of day when your users are active on social media. Use social media as a completely free reminder medium with regular posts at these times in the day. Paid ads on social media too work best when they are targeted at the right times of day and on the right days of the week.

6. Inspire Your Users

As discussed earlier, do not look at social media as a salesman with revenue targets on his head. Instead, view this wonderful medium as your online brochure that users can browse through at their leisure to get ideas on what to buy and where to buy it from.

I am not endorsing salesy posts that say “Here’s my product, it’s so great, buy it now!”. What a smart social media marketer would do instead is to SHOW the users the various ways your product can be beneficial to them. Show them various use cases for your product. Highlight real-life stories of customers who have used your products and the pleasant experiences that THEY had.

Platforms like Pinterest, Instagram or even Facebook lend themselves beautifully to creating look-books or design guides that tempt users to check out your wares, instead of simply pushing percentage-off offers down the throats of unwilling and uninformed users.

7. Make Life Easier for Them (Social Login)

One of the cardinal requirements of a good business is to make life easier for your users. Does your website force users to create a username and password as a pre-requisite for transactions? Do users have to remember these username-password combinations each time they revisit your website? If you answered ‘yes’ to either of these two questions, you’re creating a wall between your website and its users.

Social media helps knock down this wall with the help of a social login. By allowing users to log into your website using their social media accounts, you are taking away the friction of creating a new account from scratch and remembering the password attached to that account for future visits.

Research by Monetate shows that users spend 127% more time on websites that allow social logins than those that don’t. It further goes on to say that 64% of users are more likely to return to a site that remembers them without the need for them to create a fresh username and password.

There’s yet another benefit that social logins offer you on a direct level. Users that sign on with social media accounts agree to share the data from their social media accounts with you in exchange for the convenience of a social login. This is invaluable data that you can access directly in your inbox, without even going to social media and digging around for details.

Invest in a social login, it will only help your cause with your target audience.

8. SEO

This is much debated, but now well established benefit that social media offers businesses, both big and small.

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and without a doubt, Google+ help in backing up all the other ranking signals that your page has and help in making the final cut in where your page ranks in a particular search. Let’s understand with an example.

Let’s say I search for ‘Pizza places in Birmingham’ on Google. If a friend of mine on Google+ has left behind a +1 or a positive review about ABC Pizzas located in Birmingham, then all other factors remaining constant, ABC Pizzas will get a bump up in their search rankings compared to other pizza places. The simple reason here is relevancy. Google assumes that since this is a place recommended by MY friend, it would be more interesting to me, than a place that is rated highly by a bunch of strangers.

Searching for people on Google or Bing, typically pulls up their social profiles – another indicator of how search engines DO give points to social signals, much as they would like to confuse and confound marketers everywhere.

Conclusion

Social media may not fit into clear silos of ‘lead generator’, ‘lead nurturer’, ‘awareness creator’ or ‘last mile converter’ that we are used to for other marketing platforms that we use. To truly benefit from social media, you need to understand what social media brings to the table and maximize it for all that its worth.

Consider social media as an enabler for your sales, instead of a deal-maker and you’ll be surprised with the results that you see.

Image Source: (1, 2)