Marketing in the Digital Age vs Traditional Marketing

Ah, marketing. It’s always been a confusing process. Learning how and when and where to spend your money, learning what your audience responds to and what repels them–it’s all complicated stuff once you really get down to it. And in the past, trying to reach newspapers, television stations, and writing old-fashioned press releases was time-consuming and difficult, making the entire concept seem impossible for many small businesses.

Nowadays, we keep hearing about how much easier it is to do marketing–you can do it from home because it’s all online. So you research how to write a press release online. You wonder if you could write an interesting blog. You hear about how people interview for jobs over Skype. But are these really just as effective as the marketing techniques of the past?

Let’s compare the modern equivalents of some of the older marketing strategies. You might find that they’re easier to understand than you thought–and that they’re much more approachable than they appear to be.

*Note: Of course the “old” methods can still be effective for certain industries and in smaller towns. However, we’re focusing on highlighting the differences between the traditional and the modern so that readers can appreciate the benefits of modern online marketing.

Old Way: Newspapers.

old-newspaper-ad
All the Planet of the Apes toys you could want.

Original image from PlaidStallions.com

Before, people used to pay to take out a spot in the classifieds. Depending on how much room you needed, the price could be pretty hefty. You might also have considered paying for placement in the Yellow Pages or in a local magazine. But no matter what you chose, your space was limited, and you could only rely on grayscale to represent your amazing products and services. In other words, you had to be over the top and obvious to make sure your point hit home. Thus, you ended up with a lot of cheesy ads like this one for Planet of the Apes toys. It gets its point across, but it looks dated, right?

Nowadays, fewer and fewer people are reading print newspapers. So what are people reading instead?

New Way: Blogs.

blogging-for-marketing
Who doesn’t have a blog these days?

To answer that question, people are reading blogs.

Today, many people choose to make their own space online. They want to share their original and personal experiences with readers and customers. And one great way to do this is to start a blog. Whether you want to write about the benefits of your industry in a sales-like manner, or you want to review and/or highlight new products used by industry professionals, blogs are an affordable way to do it. Plus, you can always write guest posts on other blogs and earn yourself a nice advertising spot without paying an exorbitant price. How’s that for the new Classifieds?

Old Way: Press Releases.

old-press-release
Typing up a press release by hand and getting it printed required a lot more effort than the syndicated press releases of today.

Image found at Zagato-Cars.com

Before the age of the internet, the process of writing a press release was a lot slower. First, it had to be hand-typed. Then it had to make its way to television stations, radio stations, magazines, and newspapers via mail or fax, depending on how far back we’re talking. Then it had to be approved and printed up or featured, and that could take a while. Honestly, it seems incredible, given the technology we have today, that these press releases were even featured in a timely manner.

To be clear, we still use press releases today. It’s just that you can now write them up without paper, and you can email them instead of mailing or faxing. People can then distribute them quickly using syndication software, and voila, you’re done. Much faster and much simpler.

New Way: Social Media Marketing.

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So many social media networks to choose from.

If you don’t feel like writing up press releases today, there are still other ways to get the word out about your company. As mentioned above, you could blog or guest blog. You could also start a podcast or try being featured on a webcast.

But none of this really does any good if you don’t let people know about your work. So in order to effectively market your business, you must use social media. You can send your blog updates through all your social media feeds automatically so that whenever you post, your Facebook fans and Twitter followers will see it immediately. Now that’s fast. And you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get your information featured elsewhere. Not everyone needs press releases!

Old Way: Telephone Interviews and Client Dinners.

betty-dinner-party
A little corporate dinner party a la Mad Men.

And we’re not just talking about interviews on cell phones. No, we’re going back to the days of interviewing people via office telephones. Taking people out for dinner for a face-to-face discussion was common, and a lot more time had to be put aside to interview somebody. When you were finished, you had to take notes that you wrote down by hand (or just cold-recalled from memory) to write up a piece that did well. Of course, recorders could be used to gather your information, too, but then you’d have to arrange for a quiet place to meet.

Analog technology. Can you imagine going back to it now?

New Way: Skype Sessions. And Client Dinners.

skype-call
A lot easier than going into the office.

 Image found at: Memeburn.com

Of course people still do all the above-mentioned things, but the advances in technology have allowed for a lot more personal interactions via calls. For example, you can Skype with someone and see how they look and how they present themselves. You can speak via FaceTime if you’re on the go, or you could try Google Hangouts or Webinars.

And, okay, so people still love an excuse to go out and eat. Who can blame them? This one is probably going to stick around forever.

Old Way: TV Spots and Appearances.

budget-divorce
And who wouldn’t trust a budget divorce lawyer?

Before the internet, how could a company get the word out about its services? Well, TV spots and appearances were always a good way to make sure you were seen. Back before the days of cable and TiVo, TV watching was a bit different. Not as many channels to choose from, and you didn’t really have a lot of choice in skipping commercials. While we still see local adverts today, they were much more effective when the audience was roped into watching them. Or you could be featured on your local news station. Being featured assured that a lot of eyes were on you, though, so you had to make a good impression!

New Way: YouTube Channel, Instagram.

youtube-marketing
You, too, can have a YouTube channel. Now don’t get discouraged by all the cats with more subscribers than you.

Image from Mashable.com

The internet loves videos. Well, you probably already know this–did you watch any videos today? We’re betting you did. Whether you’re keeping up with world news or just mindlessly scrolling through funny Vines, you more than likely understand just how evocative and powerful video marketing can be–even if you’re not entirely familiar with the ins and outs of marketing.

So how can you utilize video marketing for your business? For those who like to-do videos or showcasing their talents, YouTube is a great way to reach your customers. For others who don’t have as much time to invest, Instagram might be a good choice (although Instagram is known for its focus on aesthetics over function). Vine is also a great way to connect–and with only six seconds to record your video, you have to be creative. It all depends on the style of your brand and how much time and energy you have to invest.

The best part about online video marketing? It’s free. No paying for television spots or expensive production. Just try your best and connect with your audience for the best results!

Old Way: Word of Mouth. New Way:…Word of Mouth.

Some things never change. 🙂 If you don’t believe us, check out this article on how word of mouth is still effective–even in the age of digital marketing. You can also check out more information on social media marketing here, or take a peek at the benefits of video content or get familiar with mobile marketing.

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to see how we can help you be seen online.

Why Search Engine Optimization is a Long-Term Investment

When it comes to search engine optimization, there are so many things to consider before you get started that it might seem like an impossible task to take on. From meta tags to building backlinks, and from content marketing to social media, it seems there’s a million things you need to do to play the ranking game–and actually do well at it.

But SEO is a long-term investment. It’s not a “set it and forget it” type of process–it’s a fluid, ever-changing industry, and it takes a lot of knowledge and dedication to keep up with all the latest strategies. Before we get into that, though, take heart–There are some things you can do to get started immediately:

  • Make sure to list your business on Google + and as many major directories as possible. Defining keywords, linking to your website, and providing vital information about what your business does makes it easier for the search engines to index you.
  • On that note, make sure your address, phone number, and business name are listed consistently across all directories. Search engines can create duplicate listings for slight variations in addresses, and this creates confusion for customers who are searching for your services.
  • Build a website with an easy-to-navigate structure and visitor-friendly photos. Make sure you include meta tag descriptions, provide search engine-friendly alt tag descriptions on photos, and submit a site map to Google periodically. Updating your blog or at least providing fresh content is a must. And you should always make sure your link structure is clear to search engines. I.e., website.com/blog/how-to-install-a-faucet is great; website.com/22560 is not.

SEO is ever-changing and increasingly complex.

But the nature of the beast is that SEO is an ever-changing process. Google is always trying to make its algorithm more accurate–for example, when you think of how search functioned in the 90s versus now, they have improved a lot at returning relevant results! Why? Because Google has invested a lot of time into researching user intent, so that when someone types in a query, he or she gets more accurate results. Naturally, the company is going to continue doing their research and honing the algorithm in the years to come.

What does all of this have to do with Search Engine Optimization? Well, put simply, SEO is the process of getting a site “Google-ready”. SEO experts take current Google data and make sure that client sites comply with it, so that they’re ranked higher in comparison to their competitors.

SEO experts must work with an algorithm that is unknown to anyone–and still try to stay in Google’s good graces.

So basically, once you’ve achieved that ranking, if you’ve hired good SEO people, you’ll likely hold that spot for a long time to come.

However, sometimes Google makes SUCH drastic changes that while you may have been ranking on page one on Monday, suddenly on Tuesday, you’re not ranking at all. You soon discover that you are lacking now-important SEO elements or utilizing outdated techniques.

For example, “keyword density” used to be a big concern for SEOs. They advised that articles and content on sites contained keyword-rich articles, using the exact same grammar structures every time the keyword was used, even if it didn’t make sense in the context of the sentence. Back then, this was actually a way some people would “cheat” Google–just stuff keywords in some text and end up ranking on page one! (By the way, this is what’s known as “black hat” SEO–doing things simply to cheat the system–and black hat techniques will get you booted from page one on Google’s next update faster than you could imagine.)

Now, Google actually punishes people for stuffing keywords. And the search algorithm has become sophisticated enough that Google can understand changes in a query’s grammatical structure. What that means is that you no longer have to JUST search for “landscapers cheap Lexington” to get relevant results, but you could search for “cheap landscaper in Lexington” and get basically the same thing.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a screenshot. Take a look at the pages:

cheap-landscaper-lexingtonlandscapers-cheap-lexington

Yep, the majority are the same links. One just has a map, so they’re listed as Google + business listings, and that’s where you’ll spy the difference. But the point still stands. Google is really good at interpreting what the user is looking for–affordable landscapers in or around Lexington. Whether you word it like Yoda or an English professor, Google wants to help you out, and does a pretty good job at it!

SEO experts are in it for the long haul–and so are you.

Because Google is always changing, search engine optimization must follow suit. There are those out there who say SEO is dead (there’s always somebody saying that about ANYTHING, though) and there are others who say it will become obsolete as search engines grow closer and closer to behaving like human minds. But the fact is, the web is always changing. People build new websites. New businesses crop up, while others close their doors forever. It’s not enough to rank on page one today. You have to work with experts to make sure that you continue to rank on page one in the future too, whether Google releases a major update or another business moves into your vicinity. So until Google can read your mind and pull up the best business to match your personality (eep–that’s some scary stuff, isn’t it?), search engine optimization will be a thing. SEO is a long-term investment, and if you have a great business at your side, it will be worth it.

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to see how we can help you be seen online.

New Social Media Trends You’ll See in 2015

As the year 2014 draws to a close, many of us are looking forward to a nice, relaxing holiday. And it’s well deserved–2014 was a busy year for us! But for marketers? Marketers tend to struggle with letting their brains completely relax, and so are already looking ahead to 2015 and analyzing social media trends to figure out how to plan an even better marketing strategy.

So let’s talk about marketing with social media. What can we expect to see in 2015?

While we don’t think we will be seeing tons of innovation (more on that below), we will see an increase in what’s already becoming popular: More visual content and more mobile content. Let’s take a look at some examples:

E-Commerce will take off

E-Commerce
E-commerce will explode in 2015.

 

Image courtesy of Mashable.com

Earlier in the year, Facebook and Twitter began playing around with “buy” buttons that appeared alongside content. This made it so that users could easily make purchases with just a few clicks, and they’d never even have to leave the network.

And guess what? It seems they’re doing pretty well with it.

You can expect this to continue into 2015, with many advertisers pushing hard to integrate this strategy in the top social media sites. By sticking that button in there, it not only increases the likelihood that someone will purchase something from your website, it also gives hard sales numbers for analysts to keep exact track of data. Before, this wasn’t possible. And considering that currently, over half of all mobile searches lead to a purchase, you can see why it makes marketers so giddy. So if you want to be on top of the e-commerce trend, you’re definitely going to be ready to implement these changes in the coming year.

Social media marketing will be even more popular

Social_Media_Marketing
Do you have a content strategy? You’d better be promoting it with social media!

 

Content strategy was a central theme to marketing in 2014. And guess what? It’s going to be sticking around for 2015. But this time around, marketers are going to press for a content strategy by leaning heavily on social media distribution.

What does that mean? Basically, there were a lot of companies that created content in 2014, but a good percentage of them didn’t bother to amplify this content through social media channels. And to be honest, that’s just silly. Promoting your content through popular social media platforms should be your primary goal in terms of content marketing. Your reach and visibility is greatly increased through social media. If you need more proof, you can read more here, here, or here. Take your pick 🙂

You’re going to see even more new networks

elephants-being-social
“Come on, Peanuts! JOIN US!”

 

Yes, we know, we said right away in the article that there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of innovation. So you might be wondering: If this is the case, then how can there be so many new social networks popping up? Ello, Yik Yak, and many others have burst onto the scene, so what gives?

Well, there’s always going to be someone new, someone trying to take a slice of the pie that is already being shared between social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. But will they last? Many of these new sites promise true privacy (and this is a draw to many with all the recent privacy breaches), but even if they deliver, it’s still incredibly difficult to make a dent in the already over-saturated social media scene. A large number of new social media platforms end up feeling incredibly empty and lonely, which directly goes against the primary reason people use social media in the first place: to be social!

So while you’re going to see lots of new, shiny sites to sign up for, don’t worry too much about being on top of every new trend: Many aren’t going to last. It’s still worth it to be aware of the trends, though!

Have you noticed any other social media trends that you think are going to be big in the coming year? Let us know in the comments!

10 Reasons to Engage with Customers Online

1. You personalize your brand

Engaging with customers allows you to control the flow of the conversation. If they ask for clarification on an upcoming sale, you can give it to them. If you thank them for taking the time to promote your brand, you can choose how you want to engage. It’s all a great way to show your brand’s personality—and to demonstrate how unique your company is!

2. Customers give feedback for free

Many times, customers will respond to an image or a status that you share on your social media platforms: they’ll chime in with their thoughts, answer a question, or let you know how they feel about your most recent promotions. And this is a great way to find out what your customers are thinking without forcing them to take a survey—basically, you get free feedback. And who doesn’t love that?

3. You present a positive image

If you’re a fan of a company like Coca-Cola, you probably don’t expect a lot of interaction with the brand–they’re simply too big to get back to every person who tries to engage with them. But if you’re a fan of a local hair salon, you more than likely expect that they’ll get back to you in a timely manner–they should care about their customers. You feel they should strive to interact with customers because they’re local—which is precisely why you, as a local business owner, have to be aware of your customers’ needs. They’ll communicate their interests and thoughts to you online—whether by email, twitter, or Facebook. When you respond to their concerns, you present a positive image that lasts.

4. Customers will share content for free

A great thing about posting on your social media networks is that your customers will be eager to share your content. Whether you’re asking them to share for a chance to win a coupon, or they’re simply doing it on their own because you post such great content, you’re getting free advertisement. When you engage with your customers, they’ll be happy to share your content, and you all benefit from that.

5. Networking is good for everyone

When your customers interact with you, you may be surprised to learn that some among the group are actually quite high-status clients. You can use this to your advantage by making a real connection with them and agreeing to help one another out. Trade blog posts, promote each other’s stores or websites, or simply share social media updates. You’ll both benefit from this mutual transaction, and your fans get the benefit of seeing that you’re willing to network and share with others!

6. You might get free recommendations

When you engage with customers, you’ll find that they appreciate you taking the time out of your day to respond to them. This in turn can increase their opinion of your brand. And if they love your brand, they’ll recommend you to friends. Think of the last time a restaurant owner responded to your comment or review personally—it felt nice, didn’t it? You owe your customers this courtesy. Deliver it, and they’ll react accordingly.

7. Positive word of mouth

The beauty of online marketing is that it doesn’t have to stay online. By building your brand image and engaging with customers, you’ll make a good impression that will follow you offline, too. Whether you’re a plumber or the owner of a salon, if you’re friendly and active online, your customers will spread great news about you by word of mouth. This in turn can bring more visitors to your store or more phone calls to your office!

8. Brand awareness spreads

A natural consequence of networking, sharing, and recommendations is that your brand awareness spreads. Every time a new person learns about your business, your brand has made a new impression! So remember that even if you’re not where you’d like to be in terms of followers/fans or interactions, you are still building platform for yourself. There are some benefits that come from this, too!

9. Consistency will bring in more visitors

If you update every once in a while and never interact with your fans or followers, you’ll find that people tend to view you as unreliable. You’ll start to lose fans, and people won’t care about your updates as much as they would if you were consistent. You can prevent this by regularly updating, engaging with your community, and by presenting a friendly, consistent image. Remember that even if you’re not hitting your projected numbers, you’re still growing. You can always change up your plan, as long as you don’t quit altogether.

10. More traffic to your website and other social media accounts

Finally, your shining example of being a great business owner will help you gather more followers and fans, as well as drive more traffic to your website. Be sure to post your website’s address as well as any other contact info across all of your social networks. That way, if someone finds you on Twitter, they can still visit your website or go to “like” your Facebook page. Conversely, if they find your website and want to follow you on social media, they can easily navigate to your profiles directly from your website. Easy and simple!

As you can see, it’s important to engage with your customers for so many reasons. Your presence online can truly affect how you’re perceived both online and off. By implementing a consistent routine and keeping a positive attitude, you’ll find that the benefits of engaging with customers online are only going to better your business.

Can you think of any other benefits of engaging with customers online? Let us know!

Working Effectively with Internet Marketing Experts

internet-marketing-experts
How can you best work with internet marketing experts?

So you’ve hired internet marketing experts to take over the marketing strategy for your small business. You’re excited to see results and you’ve already begun paying for your marketing team to begin the work. You check your rankings the next day, and it seems that you haven’t moved up at all. You check again after a week, and things still don’t seem to be going as planned. At this point, you’re frustrated and ready to tell them you’re finished—you want to work with a different internet marketing company. If you feel like this, you’re not alone. Many small business owners have felt the exact way you do—so in this article, we’re going to talk about making the most of your experience with internet marketing experts, and what you can reasonably expect while implementing your marketing strategy.

Internet marketing is not an overnight process.

When you hire a gardener to plant your garden and tend to the plants as they grow, you know the process will take time. You don’t expect a seed to germinate into a blooming flower the next day! The same thing goes for marketing. Internet marketing experts need to take a look at your individual case and plan accordingly. For example, some clients have zero presence on the internet—no website, no local listings, no blog. Others have been doing their own work and simply need assistance managing social media or content distribution. By the same token, there are industries in which there is a lot of competition—HVAC, roofing contractors, and auto mechanics. Other industries have an easier time ranking because they are one of a few businesses that provide a service in an area—people like dentists, medical specialists, or even psychics. Everyone’s case is different, and everyone takes a different amount of time to begin appearing on the first page. So how is this possible? Well, Google combs through data on a daily basis, and it begins to compare this data over time. So it makes sense that it’s not going to find your site, immediately deem it the “most relevant” and put it at the top of the search results above all of your competitors. It takes time for Google to weigh and determine site relevancy, so you must be patient as this process takes shape.

Changing things without consulting your marketing team can result in setbacks.

If you’re feeling antsy about a particular keyword not showing up, you might feel like you want to get rid of it and choose another. But if you go into your blog or Google Places and begin changing keywords around, you’ll eventually find that you can easily undo all the hard work you’ve put in already–even if you meant well. This isn’t to say you can never (or should never) change keywords—sometimes, you find that you’ll just stay on the second or third page indefinitely with the amount of competition you’re facing. In this case, talk to your marketing team and determine new keywords to use. Over time, you’ll hopefully see improvements for these terms. If you don’t see any new traffic growth over the first few months, then you definitely need to take a look at what’s going wrong and make adjustments accordingly. The main lesson here is to not go ahead and do things without consulting your team. You are, after all, paying them to help you rank. You should always understand one another and what your goals are. If there is no communication between you and your marketing experts, then you’ll essentially be throwing away money. You need to work together!

Get involved and learn about the process.

Obviously if you’re hiring internet marketing experts to manage your marketing strategy, it’s because you don’t have the time (or desire) to learn how to do marketing on your own. And that’s fine! But if you take the time to learn just a few basics about internet marketing, you’ll find that you can more easily follow along with the process and even enhance it. At Internet Local Listings, we do manage many clients’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. However, our clients often ask to be involved with the process, and we encourage it. By tweeting, updating your Facebook status, or writing content for your own page, you’re helping the process along and learning more about how to work with your internet marketing team as you go. That’s a great thing! By combining ideas and discussing tactics, you can enhance your team just like you would with traditional or word-of-mouth marketing. Give input, feedback, and get your hands “dirty”, and you’ll get a lot more out of your internet marketing experience. If you would like to learn more about digital or online marketing, check out our Back to Basics series, where you can learn about SEO basics and discover simple changes you can implement on your site to help boost your rankings. If you want to hire a team of qualified internet marketing experts, simply give us a call at (888) 770-3950 or visit our contact us page and fill out a form. You can also use our scanner to see if your site is listed correctly across the internet! So contact us today to discuss your marketing concerns with our experienced, qualified internet marketing experts!   Check out these pages for more information on internet marketing tips:

 

Why Small Business Marketing is Essential in 2014 and Beyond

small-business-marketing-in-2014
In 2014 and beyond, how can small business marketing benefit your company?

Getting the word out about your business has always been your top priority. As a small business owner, you already understand how important marketing is—whether it’s word of mouth, fliers, direct marketing, or running local advertising campaigns, you know that you have to get the word out or your numbers suffer. But what many small business owners don’t take into consideration is a marketing plan. And without some type of marketing strategy, you’ll likely become frustrated, not knowing whether your efforts are paying off.

This is the primary reason that small business marketing is now non-negotiable. In 2014, we have a number of options to help us determine how and where to market to our clients: social media, blogs, video marketing, online local business listings, Google Places, and more. With all of these tools at our disposal, is there any excuse not to have a marketing plan in place?

No, there isn’t. In this article, we’ll talk a bit about why small business marketing is essential in 2014 and beyond. When you understand just how effective marketing is for your business, you’ll have a better foundation to grasp the concepts of beginning your own marketing campaign.

Small business marketing is the only way to get the word out.

word-of-mouth-marketing
Get the word out about your business!

You’ve heard of companies like Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, and Apple. Why is that? Because they have a massive consumer base and they have massive marketing budgets. Their ads are fed to you frequently to ensure you know what the company is up to, and they make sure that their products stay up-to-date and relevant.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Well, I don’t have that kind of money to spend on an advertising campaign!” and you’re probably right. Most small business marketing budgets are scant. And that’s okay. You don’t need a ton of money to start seeing returns on your efforts. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, you can implement social marketing strategies for very little money, and you can get started with blogging completely free of charge. The best thing about this type of marketing is that you can begin to spend money whenever you like to boost your efforts. Want to place an ad on Facebook? You can spend as little as $5 a day to promote your business. Want to pay for a domain name and host your blog as a website? For less than $20, you can grab a domain name, and hosting can be as low as $3-5 a month. There’s no reason you must feel like you are required to spend thousands of dollars just to be seen online.

When you get the word out with small business marketing, you begin to build your audience online. And that’s the #1 most important thing.

In 2014, traditional networking is still important.

traditional-marketing
A traditional marketing plan is still helpful for local small businesses.

Networking. It sounds like a buzzword, and to some extent, that’s what it’s become. That aside, you should never underestimate the power of networking. If you go to local business expos, connect with influencers on Twitter and Facebook, and simply ask your customers to refer you to friends and family, then you’re already networking. If you’re not networking and these activities don’t sound like they’ll increase your sales, then think of it this way: you’re building a strong reputation and a sturdy foundation of support and availability for your clients. And that is absolutely essential.

The easiest way to get started is to simply ask your customers to review you on Yelp and Google. This has the added bonus of sending “relevancy” signals to Google, helping you to rank higher. Many customers would be happy to submit positive reviews when asked, but they often don’t bother to go online and leave reviews otherwise.

You can also get started on Facebook and Twitter for free. Place signs around your office or store that tell customers where they can find you online. Ask friends and family to spread the word. None of this will cost you a thing, except maybe an hour or two of your time to craft the signs!

Are press releases outdated? Nope. Not even close.

making-a-list-of-blog-topics
Sharpen your press release skills.

Spread the word about newsworthy business developments: A new product, a sale, or a special event your company is attending or hosting. Try to send out a press release once a month to keep the word about your company relevant and fresh. This can cost money if you choose to promote your company online—you can pay anywhere from $120 to upwards of $250 to have your press release promoted on popular sites. But you don’t have to do this. Small business marketing is all about leveraging your local connections. Talk to your local newspaper or ask to be on the news or featured on a radio show. You can talk about your new products or even offer customers a special discount if they mention your interview or article. By doing this regularly, you can easily make a good impression on your local community.

The new way of connecting to customers: Videos.

YouTube logo small business
Small businesses should be making visual media–including videos.

Many small businesses specialize in a specific, niche service: Plumbing, dog grooming, notary services, etc. Think of how you felt when you first started learning about your industry. You probably felt overwhelmed and looked to professionals for guidance. Or consider how you feel when you want to save money and try to take care of things yourself—fixing a pipe or cleaning your roof, for instance. Many people look up tutorials now on YouTube.

This might seem counter-intuitive to teach your customers learn how to help themselves, but it is actually a great way for your customers and company to share a dialogue. It establishes you as an authority figure and expert in your industry. Plus, taking the time to create a video tutorial for your customers shows that you spend time thinking of their needs—and customers truly appreciate that. Finally, videos on YouTube, when properly optimized, send strong relevancy signals to search engines, and that helps your website rank higher.

And there you have it. Small business marketing is essential in 2014. You need to network to connect with clients. You need to create content to stay relevant on search engines. You need to connect with customers in new and innovative ways. As the internet grows more content-based, your small business will have to keep on top of these trends to ensure your customers are still finding you.

If you need assistance with any small business marketing services, Internet Local Listings is always here to help. Simply contact us here or visit our site for more information. We have a special running right now, too—so act fast and save money while you start bringing in more customers!

Back to Basics #8: Social Media Trends: Do Small Businesses Need to Keep Up?

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Should small businesses keep up with new social media trends?

Small business owners: Are you tired of hearing about the importance of social media? Have you started up a Facebook page or Twitter account and decided that it’s just too much effort for too little payoff? Well, you’re not alone. Many small business owners feel that social media trends don’t offer a lot for their companies—what’s popular today might be gone in a couple of months, after all. And who wants to spend a lot of time building up a following just to find out that there’s another new social media network out there?

Unfortunately, you still need to be harnessing the power of social media. Even if you don’t keep up to date with social media trends, you will find that there are certain staples that are here to stay—at least for a few years. And that’s plenty of time for you to invest in your followers and customers to make sure they connect with your company.

The number of small businesses jumping on board with social media trends is only growing.

Did you know that…

  • 88% of small businesses use LinkedIn.
  • 84% of small businesses use Facebook.
  • 74% of small businesses use Twitter.
  • 58% of small businesses use Google+.

(statistics taken from HeidiCohen.com)

And the numbers are only growing. Many small business owners who haven’t begun social media marketing yet say that they plan on implementing a strategy within the next year. Those who already have often say that they want to step up marketing efforts and track results more carefully. If you’re in the former camp, check out our articles to learn more about what social media is, and how to develop effective social media marketing strategies on a small business budget.

Text and photos aren’t enough anymore—you need to try out videos.

Another one of the top social media trends for small businesses is the growing usage of YouTube. Companies are happily producing their own visual content for their customers. According to a small business survey conducted by Verticalresponse.com, 35% of the small businesses they surveyed said that they used YouTube as a part of their regular marketing efforts. With the number of free video creation programs available on the internet now, it’s become much easier for even the most non-artistic person to make informative, engaging, and SEO-friendly videos. You can actually have a lot of fun creating videos for your customers—think of them like visual blog articles. You can talk about a variety of subjects relating to your industry. For blogging ideas, check out our article here and apply some ideas to your video content. The videos don’t have to be stiff and “corporate” in appearance–you can make them as unique as your company.

But what about the competition? How do you keep up?

Yes, it’s true that your competition will likely be using social media just as you are. And it’s also true that as people join social media sites, you’ll have more competitors. You’ll be competing not only for business, but for your content to even be seen in the first place! Think about it: If the average Facebook user has, say, 300 friends, how many posts do you think they’ll see in a day? A lot. Now think of all the companies they’ve “liked”. There’s going to be a lot of competition to be seen on their news feed.

Unfortunately, as the user base for social media sites grows, the competition levels get continually tougher. And usually the only way around this is to start paying. You can pay for ads to be placed on a target demographic’s page, or you can “boost” your posts to make sure they stay on top of a news feed. You’re certainly not forced to do this by any means—but remember this as time goes on.

Whether you’re new to social media or you’ve been working on it for years, there’s no way around it: small businesses must stay on top of social media trends if they want to see organic growth online. This isn’t to say you must spend 24 hours a day on social media; however, with regular updates and time investment, you’ll see your engagement growing and your efforts paying off.

And if social media trends are just too much for you to handle right now…

If you need help managing your social media accounts, visit Internet Local Listings and take a look at our internet marketing packages. We’ll be happy to help you get whatever you need to be seen online–whether it’s social media, a new website, or local business listings!

Mobile Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Mobile marketing tips for small  businesses
If you own a small business, it’s time for you to learn more about mobile marketing.

Today more than ever, it’s important for small businesses to optimize their websites for mobile access. According to statistics released by Strategy Analytics, as of 2012, more than one billion people used smart phones to access the internet. But to be brutally honest, sites that aren’t optimized for mobile devices load slowly and look terrible—and smart phone users immediately leave a site if this happens to them. And can you blame them? If you are browsing the internet, you don’t want to have to feel like you must solve a puzzle in order to use a website! So if your small business website isn’t optimized for mobile, that is a lot of potential business you’re losing out on. What can you do to remedy this?

In this article, we’ll take a look at three great mobile marketing tips for small businesses.

Mobile Marketing Tip #1: Responsive Design

As mentioned above, mobile web design needs to be implemented in order for smart phone (or tablet) users to browse your site effectively. Responsive design is a type of web design that detects which device a user is using to access your site, and adjusts the screen accordingly. This reduces load time, simplifies form submission (who likes typing out tons of information on a phone keyboard? No one, that’s who), and makes the site look professional and clean no matter how your visitors are logging on. Your customers deserve to have the best experience possible, and you owe it to them as a professional business owner!

Mobile Marketing Tip #2: Optimize Your Social Media Accounts

According to Constant Contact, up to 91% of local searchers use Facebook to find business online. When you sign up for Facebook as a business, you can fill out your location, business hours, phone number, and any other important local information. When a visitor finds you via search, they’ll be able to see all of this information displayed neatly on their mobile device. Setting up a Facebook account is easy—it takes fewer than 10 minutes to get the basics down. Plus, it’s free!

Setting up Twitter is also simple. You can localize your Twitter profile by filling out the “location” section, and add your website or contact information in your profile header. Many people search on Twitter for businesses, so make sure that you can be found easily and quickly by completing your profile fully. Like Facebook, Twitter is also free to use.

The bottom line? If you’re not on Facebook or Twitter, you could be missing out on a large amount of mobile traffic. And because both platforms are free, there’s no excuses!

For more information on social media marketing for small businesses, check out our article here: Developing Successful Social Media Strategies.

Mobile Marketing Tip #3: Opt-in for Text Messaging

This tip is a bit tricky, particularly for small businesses just getting into mobile marketing. You can allow your customers to opt-in for text message alerts. But here’s the catch: text messaging is pretty private, even if the customers DO want to sign up for alerts. So texts should only be sent when you have something better than normal to offer—a 24 hour sale, a limited inventory, or for a limited-time item that’s almost sold out. Allowing someone to opt-in can be a great way to get a customer back into your store and purchasing your products, but you have to remember to respect their boundaries.

Check out this resource to get started on building your website with responsive designs:

http://www.cio.com/article/2387279/developer/7-tools-to-build-websites-using-responsive-design.html

Or you can always visit Internet Local Listings and check out our websites. With our premium website packages, you’ll get 100% customized websites that look professional and are completely mobile responsive!

Do you have other suggestions for mobile marketing tips for small businesses? Leave them in the comments below!

Is Word of Mouth Marketing Still Effective?

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Is word-of-mouth marketing still an effective way of reaching customers?

In today’s busy, online-centric world, you hear a lot about how social media is the answer to everything: more traffic to your website, more phone calls to your business, and more customers purchasing your products and services. As a small business owner, you don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on complicated advertising campaigns. While larger businesses have millions to pour into campaigns that they can adjust over time, you have a very limited budget and no excess to tweak your strategy in the future. So you’re probably still relying on word of mouth marketing. But is it still effective? Are you getting the most you possibly can from it?

Word of Mouth is Still a Reliable Marketing Method

Many small business owners say that they still use word-of-mouth advertising and that it is effective for their marketing efforts. In fact, two in three marketers say that word of mouth marketing is actually more effective than any other traditional marketing tactics they’ve tried. According to a study done by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, 70% of marketers say that their companies will increase social media budgets in the next year, whereas only 29% say that they’ll spend more on offline word-of-mouth marketing. So what does this mean? It means that small businesses rely on word-of-mouth marketing, they find it to be effective, and because of this, they don’t see it as necessary to dump a bunch of money into it. It’s a safe investment for them because they get real results.

Word of Mouth Marketing is More Flexible Than You Think

If you think about it, you can still benefit from word of mouth marketing while utilizing modern social media tactics.

Sites like Angie’s List make it possible for your customers to leave feedback in an online space designed to market your business. Encourage your happy customers to leave you a glowing review to bring in more business. It’s like telling a friend that you really loved a restaurant and then they go and check it out. Someone recommends your site on Angie’s List and that’s a lot of clout.

Yelp  is also a great site to show how awesome your small business is. Again, encourage your happy customers to leave reviews and help spread the word about your business. Yelp is practically a go-to resource for those looking for local businesses.

Facebook is another way you can connect with local customers. When your customers share your statuses or interact with you on your page, they’re more likely to buy from you. In fact, 85% of customers who follow brands on Facebook are likely to recommend it to their friends.

You Can Still Encourage Customers to Spread the Word in Person

While all of these strategies work to spread the word about your company, simply talking to friends and family is still an effective way to bring in new customers. If you are in the business of working directly with clients—say, as a lawyer, doctor, or dentist—you have a lot to gain from this. People are far more likely to take recommendations from friends and family when it comes to important things like finances and health.

Let the experts at Internet Local Listings help you get the word out about your business. We’ll get you listed across all major online directories and we even provide updates for social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. By working together, we can get people talking about your brand—and help you draw in new clientele.

Back to Basics #5: Blogging for Beginners

 

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It’s really not a question. You must blog.

If you’ve never heard the saying “Content is King” then you’d better get used to hearing it now! When you run your own website, the best way to keep your clients up to date and to keep the search engines happy is to post new blog articles. Frequently.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself that you’re not a professional writer. Maybe you’re worried that that you simply don’t have time to update a blog. While you may be correct about not having formal training in writing, it’s more than likely not true that you don’t have the time to do this. You do. You just have to break it down into small chunks. In this article, we’ll talk a bit about how beginners can overcome the fear of putting their writing out there, and how they can find the time to keep updating regularly.

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Creating a list of blog topics will save you time in the long run.

Blogging for Beginners Step 1: Create a List of Topics

Before you begin blogging, it’s a good idea to have a list of potential topics to write about. You may be tempted to just write about what you’re up to when you’re at work, or maybe something that’s going on with your family. While it’s important to keep that human connection in your posts, it’s also important to keep your customers informed of key topics relating to the services you offer. To help illustrate, let’s take a fictional business and talk about a few good topics they could use in their blog.

Sam’s Pest Control is a small, family-owned company in Anywhere, USA. They want to start a blog to connect with their customers and draw in new clients. They might want to write about things like:

  • What pest control can do for your home or business
  • How you’ll save money in the long run when you use a pest control service regularly
  • How to keep your home protected from pests
  • Innovations in humane pest control
  • How pest control services change with the seasons

And there are probably many more topics to choose from. But as you can see, by thinking outside the box, you can come up with a long list of blog topics that will keep you writing for months to come.

creating-a-blogging-schedule
Keeping a schedule is important to the success of your small business blog.

Blogging for Beginners Step 2: Create a Blogging Schedule

Continuing with our Sam’s Pest Control analogy, we’ll take a look at how to build a schedule that you can work with, even if you’re busy running your own business.

Sam works Monday through Friday, and often, he works overtime. He’s exhausted when he comes home and definitely doesn’t think he has hours to spare on blogging. He’s a business owner, not a writer—so how is he supposed to manage all of this?

It’s simpler than he thinks.

First of all, don’t worry about writing grammatically perfect posts. You can edit and use a spell checker and still make your point. Obviously you should try to edit your post so that it makes sense, but don’t presume you have to craft perfect prose to be a successful blogger for your small business.

Second, set aside 15 minutes a night. Write however much you can—a good goal to start with is 100 words. If you do this five days a week, you’ll have one 500-word post to put up by the end of your workweek. And keeping up the schedule of posting once a week is a very realistic, very achievable goal for small business owners. Whether you choose to do it after dinner or right when you get home is up to you. Just create that schedule and stick with it.

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There are so many blogging platforms to choose from. Pick one you trust.

Blogging for Beginners Step 3: Create Your Blog

Now that you have a list of topics and a schedule you WILL stick to (we believe in you!), you can go ahead and create your blog. Some people prefer to just update with text on their website. While this can work, it makes it difficult for people to find posts as you start to amass a lot of articles.

The better choice for a small business is to sign up for a free blog at WordPress.com. You can also choose to go with other platforms like Blogger, but WordPress has a lot of support and is widely used. In our experience, it runs more smoothly and has more customization options as well.

For your blog name, try to choose something short and to the point. Remember that this is connected to your company, so you’ll want to choose something relevant; something that conveys the company image. Sam’s Pest Control is, thankfully, a short enough company name that he can probably choose that. (It will end up looking something like samspestcontrol.wordpress.com.) If you have a longer company name (something like Sparkle Power Wash and Window Shine Company) you’ll want to shorten it to something that reflects your business’s services, such as “sparklewashco.wordpress.com” to keep customers from getting confused.

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From choosing custom colors to adding your own pictures, you’ll want to make your blog look professional.

Blogging for Beginners Step 4: Customize Your Blog

So you’ve claimed your blog and you’ve prepared lists for post ideas. Good! Now you have to customize your blog and get it set up for visitors to see.

One of the worst mistakes a beginning blogger can make is choosing a terrible layout. The colors are awful, music starts playing when you navigate to the page (hint: NEVER do that; at least give visitors the chance to press play if they’d like to hear the music), and the pictures don’t align correctly.

Thankfully, this is actually a very easy thing to avoid.

When you sign up with your blogging service, they’ll provide free layouts. You can choose from any one of these and make your blog look sleek and professional without having to know a word of coding. Furthermore, most allow you to customize colors, fonts, and pictures, so you can still make the blog look unique without sacrificing utility or aesthetics.

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If you don’t promote your blog, no one will read it. And that’s sad.

Blogging for Beginners Step 5: Promote Your Blog

Once you have everything set up and you’ve written your first post, you’ll have to promote it. You could have the best blog post in the world, but if you don’t put it out there, no one will find it! The internet is a huge place and there are lots of people vying for the attention of clients, including your competition.

So how do you make sure that the right people see your work?

Post it on all of your social media channels. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn—whatever you use, make sure you post a link to your blog. Try submitting to StumbleUpon. Reach out to local press outlets if you have an announcement to make about your company—maybe you’re rolling out a new product, or maybe you’ve hired a new employee and you want to do an employee spotlight. Whatever the news is, you can contact local journalists or blogs and see if they’d like to cover your post.

Finally, make sure your existing customers know about your social media sites and your blog. Invite them to follow you or sign up for a newsletter and you’ll be surprised at how many people will be happy to oblige!

 

Good luck with your new blog! With regular contributions and some effort to get the word out, you’ll soon be seeing new visitors and increased interest in your small business. And if you need help with the marketing aspect of this, don’t hesitate to contact Internet Local Listings. We’re social media marketing experts and would be happy to help you market your site!