Category Archives: Marketing

Enter the World of Web Design Cautiously

Enter the World of Web Design Cautiously

Web developers can come up with great designs that help attract business and make your site more user-friendly. But be careful who you hire or you could wind up wasting money and hurting your image.

Web-Design-IdeasYou want your Web site to lure new customers and provide interesting information to your existing clientele. But be careful when retaining a firm to develop or update your site. There are a lot of fly-by-night operators in the Web development business.

With no licensing requirements, anyone can set up shop — and the consequences can be devastating. For example, one company paid $75,000 to a firm to design a complex site to take orders from customers. The developer “farmed out” the job to an overseas third party. The company never got the site it needed and lost a bundle in the process.

To prevent problems cropping up down the road, here are three safeguards to take before entering into any agreement:

Safeguard 1. The development firm should provide references and examples of its prior work in your field of interest. Of course, the references should confirm that the developer completed the projects satisfactorily. It’s critical that the firm be what it appears, and not merely a jobber who sends work out to third party contractors.

Safeguard 2. When searching for a Web development firm, your company may submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) to a few firms to get bids. Make sure the bidders know that your RFP is a copyrighted document that may not be shared with others so that information about your firm doesn’t wind up in the hands of competitors.

Safeguard 3. Consult with an attorney about how to retain your intellectual property rights.

Safeguard 4. Include all of the following in a written contract:

  • A means for network administration hosting and backup. If your site is hosted on the developer’s server, you must have full control over the domain name.
  • The developer will provide a copy of the source code and all updates.
  • The exact scope of the work; specifications, deadlines and penalties for non-delivery.

An acceptance period during which you can confirm that the work is satisfactory. Problems might crop up long after the check has cleared.

Attracting & Keeping Customers Requires Repetitive Contacts

The demands of operating a business never leave enough time to strengthen important relationships and reinforce your company’s value. Landing prospects and keeping customers requires continual nurturing.

When a farmer grows crops, much time and tender loving care are required to ensure a successful harvest. When you meet with potential customers, it is unreasonable to expect that they are going to stop going to the competition and move to your firm. Prospects who have specific needs that are not being met are like low hanging fruit — they are ripe for picking.

business-relationshipsBut what about the other prospects that decided not to buy from your firm but are still potential customers? Perhaps they are not ready to leave one of your competitors yet. But at some future date, they may be willing to do business with another company. How do you ensure that your name is at the top of the list of alternatives?

Existing clientele also require nurturing. Most companies find time to stay close to their top customers. It is more difficult to devote extensive time to smaller profitable customers that you definitely want to keep.

Trickle Marketing

A solution to these dilemmas is to establish a “trickle marketing” campaign for your customers and prospects.

This involves sending regular material to maintain a presence. In some cases, this material doesn’t have to be overtly promotional – it can merely educate customers with useful information and demonstrate your professional competence. By doing so, it keeps your company in the minds of prospects and customers. You are nurturing the relationship the way the farmer cultivates fruit.

Many businesses send newsletters, tips, article reprints, news releases or brochures to their targeted audience. These devices are all useful. The problem is that most companies don’t send this material out frequently enough.

Think of your personal response to direct mail. In many cases, you pitch it in the trash without opening it, especially if you are busy. The pieces you open and notice are probably the ones that were sent multiple times. There is so much mail clutter, that it can take dozens of exposures for your material to gain recognition.

For the typical company, this poses a dilemma. The high cost of printing and mailing marketing material can make repetitive contacts too costly. As a result, your customers and prospects are not getting sufficient touches throughout the year.

Solution: Augment your mailings with an e-mail marketing campaign. The costs are significantly lower when you send your material out via e-mail (see right-hand box for e-mail tips).

The key to staying in front of customers and developing prospects is frequency and value. Instituting a trickle marketing campaign for your company can help achieve these goals.

Link E-mail to Your Website

Website-Traffic-752x483There may be a simple way to drive traffic to your website and increase sales. You can accomplish it without spending a dime on advertising.

Many companies overlook the humble e-mail signature’s ability to drive traffic to their websites. They spend big dollars to advertise their sites and get priority placement on search engines. Meanwhile, everyone from the company president to the mailroom supervisor crank out countless e-mails that, with one click, could easily link recipients to the company’s website.

You’re probably already using an automatic signature line (also known as a “tag line”) with your name and contact information, such as address and phone number. The same e-mail tool you used to set up your signature can be used to add your company’s URL (website address) as a hot link. The people you wish were viewing your website — customers, prospects, vendors, your banker, social contacts, your mother — merely have to click the link to take a look.

But you can take this strategy a step further by customizing your signature line to promote benefits on your website. You can get more mileage from signature lines if you have more than one version.

You can choose the signature from a menu each time you write an e-mail or set one signature as the default and use the others as appropriate. You might want prospects to click to your website home page or invite existing customers to see a new product line by clicking to a different page. And you can inform media contacts of your speaking schedule by directing them to yet another page.

There are many possibilities. Does your website offer hints for using your products? Then have every e-mail generated by your customer service representatives carry a link to a “Helpful Hints” page. Does your website have coupons to print out and take to a store? Then link customers to the coupons. Can people sign up for a newsletter at your website? Link to the subscription page.

Housekeeping Tips

  • Use basic text in your signature line. You may want to skip the logos and graphics because mail programs vary widely in their display capabilities.
  • Provide a description, not just the URL, so people know where the link leads. Words in your Web address that make sense to you may look like gibberish to others depending on their mail programs.
  • Test the signature line by sending it to people who use different mail programs, such as Outlook, and Outlook Express.
  • Test your links from time to time. Dead links are annoying and lead people to think you’re not minding the store.

Make sure to update your signature line to reflect changes in your website content. If you add a new feature or special offer, announce it in your e-mail messages.

Making the Most of Your SEO

What business doesn’t want to increase traffic to its website? More than 90 percent of people who visit websites today enter them via search engine links rather than by typing in a specific URL. Consequently, search engine optimization (SEO) presents a huge opportunity for businesses looking to increase their site traffic. Take a look at six tactics to help increase your website traffic.

SEO-learningTo increase website traffic, you need to employ two corresponding, yet very different methods to help your site land top rankings in the major search engines, SEO and SEM. Don’t become confused by the two terms or use them interchangeably:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO), is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results using design, coding and content.
  • Search engine marketing (SEM), is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages through the use of paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion, effectively buying your way to the top.

Here are six tactics using SEO and SEM that can help increase your website traffic.

Tactic #1: Create SEO-friendly URLs. Use keywords that are relevant to your firm, industry, location, and the content on a particular Web page as the page URL. For example, yourdomain.com/pennsylvania-construction.html. Don’t overdo it, though. Excessively long URLs look like spam sites. A tip: Use hyphens in URLs, not underscores. Hyphens are treated as a “space,” while underscores are not.

Tactic #2: Keywords, META tags and page titles are important. Search engines rank sites based on the relevancy of the content on the site’s pages. Research your keywords (related to your product or service) because using the wrong set of terms can cause a site to rank poorly and attract browsers instead of qualified prospects.

It is vital that in the HTML code, you include a META tag page title and page description. The page title is the single most important on-page SEO factor. Effective SEO requires that the page title be unique, descriptive and contain at least one keyword relevant to the content on the page. Using a META tag page title such as “Homepage” says nothing about your firm or the content your website is providing.

Likewise, the page description should be descriptive of the content on the particular page. The meta description tag won’t boost your page ranking, but it will often appear as text below your search listing, so it should include the relevant keywords and be written to persuade searchers to click on your listing.

Keywords are important but they are not as important as META tags. Virtually no major search engine today considers the keyword META tag, but relevant keywords are still extremely valuable within the content on your Web page. What keywords are most important for your site? Tip: Look at the source code of your competitors and industry associations to determine what keywords they are using. Don’t forget to utilize Google’s free AdWords Keyword Tool.

Social Media: There Could Be Gold? (Part 2)

Social Networking Best Practices

Whether you are new to social networking, or a seasoned veteran, it’s important to:

Make a Commitment. Social networking, like most marketing tools, requires a commitment to time and possibly finances — perhaps even cultural change within your organization — in exchange for successful results.

Be Visible. Make sure that your image remains consistent between the various social networking sites. Develop a communications plan that keeps your agency visible, but that does not overwhelm your online following.

social-media-best-practices

Listen First, Respond Second. Once your program is established, monitor the social buzz daily to keep a pulse on both current and potential supporters. Much like a dinner party, you must listen before you respond. Then, once you have a clear picture of what is being said online, you can determine a course of action.

Keep it Local. Supporters and prospective supporters alike may be more likely to donate to — or volunteer for — charitable organizations that are within driving distance. Keep this in mind as you develop and refine your social networking plan.

Make it Easy. Remember to make it simple for people to find you. Add social networking information to business cards as well as your agency’s Web site.

If your organization hasn’t yet gotten its feet wet in the world of social networking, it may be time to rethink your marketing strategy. Establishing a presence on social networking sites can be particularly effective when it comes to heightened public awareness for your agency and for identification and targeting of potential supporters. In addition, finding ways to tie social networking initiatives into community fundraising or resource raising efforts can create a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Social Media: There Could Be Gold? (Part 1)

Could Your Organization
Benefit from Social Networking?

Business-Social-MediaTraditional media outlets such as newspapers, radio, and television, have long served the purpose of delivering one-way messages, like not-for-profit advertising. Social media, by contrast, uses Web-based platforms to not only deliver your message, but to allow recipients to participate.

You’ll find a number of technologies under the umbrella of social media, including e-mail, instant messaging, blogs and social networking Web sites. In fact, sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have now surpassed traditional search engines when it comes to reaching some segments of the public.

The end result? Social media is not only changing the way your supporters access news and information, but how they make donation decisions. If your organization has not yet embraced the power of social media, it might be time to take another look.

Social Networking Web Sites

Separate from our professional lives, many of us have a profile on at least one social networking Web site. That’s why many organizations, commercial and tax-exempt, are employing this innovative new marketing tool. Not-for-profit agencies are no exception.

Adopting these technologies, however, involves more than creating a profile or fan page for your organization. To really be effective, it requires a shift to a culture of transparency. And, it is this window into your agency that makes it more important than ever for your message to be consistent at every point of contact with current and prospective supporters.

How Social Media Puts Your Group Out Front

Establishing a presence on social networking sites can give your agency a competitive edge in several ways, including:

1. Image Enhancement. Profiles, fan pages and participation in groups all serve to build awareness about your organization’s image. They also provide an opportunity to interact with current supporters as well as begin the relationship-building process with prospects.

2. Open Communication. Social media, including social networking, is based on the principle of two-way communication. Your agency can benefit from both the positive experiences and negative feedback that customers voluntarily share. Not only can you address these customer concerns publicly, but you then have the chance to make any necessary improvements. You have the unique opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons.

3. Target Marketing. Establishing a presence on social networking sites can help you identify, and subsequently target, potential supporters. While the need for advertising through traditional media outlets may not be eliminated, the ability to target marketing communications reduces overall costs and provides a greater return on your marketing investment.

Tapping into social networking analysis tools may also assist with targeted marketing efforts. You may learn, for example, through online discussions that one service your agency provides is more likely to draw volunteers and supporters than other services you have been promoting. For example, if your agency deals with rescue animals, perhaps your community is more responsive to advertising that features dogs rather than cats. You can get real mileage out of that information that will help to develop your marketing message. Just go easy on overt advertising on social networking sites, or your efforts could backfire.

How to Close the Deal = Know Your Prospects

Closing-The-DealYour sales team needs to know your products and services inside out, but when it comes to closing a deal, they need to be just as well-versed in your customers’ needs.

Suppose you hear from a prospect you’ve been targeting for a long time. Just because you’ve been contacted doesn’t mean a sale. Customers are likely to be looking for an idea of how your products or services are going to beef up their bottom lines — in other words, if they buy, what’s in it for them?

You need to give answers that demonstrate how you can bolster the prospect’s operations, productivity and — above all — profit.

Here’s a three-step strategy to help seal the deal:

1.) Learn

Spend as much time as possible learning everything you can about the customer’s company and projects it may be starting that need your products or services. Study the company’s Web site. Find data on finances, operating methods, history, products, services, top executives and industry standing. Ask the customer for any relevant written material, explaining that you need the data to scope out the needs of the business.

2.) Question

Using your research, prepare six questions you want to ask the prospective buyer. Make the questions open-ended so they elicit lengthy answers. The goal is to uncover problem areas in the company.

3.) Listen

When you finally sit down with potential customers, let them do most of the talking and listen carefully. This helps you come back with insightful solutions and suggestions. It’s all positioning: by knowing your prospective customers’ businesses and needs and providing solutions to their problems, you position yourself as a professional who is concerned about their success. Once they see that, the deal is more likely to be clinched.

Solid research can help cut the number of calls you make and boost the percentage of leads that become done deals. Remember, the more money you help customers make, the healthier your bottom line will be.