Our blog has moved!

Our blog has moved! Please subscribe to our current blog at http://www.bbb.org/northwest/torch-talk-online/ for updates on the most current marketplace issues – such as scam alerts and small business trends – and content specific to the Northwest region.

Advertisements

Top Five Marketing Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Now

marketingmistakes-n2q

Written by guest blogger Corianne Burton, SEO Specialist with N2Q Consulting

“Make the customer number one.” “The customer is always right.” “Customer service is priority numero uno.”

These platitudes may seem tired, but they speak a long-known marketing truth. However, foundational marketing often makes the mistake of simply denying the fact that the customer comes first.

Thinking you know better than your audience, seeing consumers as numbers and not people, and failing to give customers their due attention are seemingly trite mantras from days of old… but they’ll come back to haunt you. If you become tone deaf to these truths, you’ll pay in lost traffic, missed prospects and opportunities, and even your loyal, long-time customers going a new direction. The good news is that you can still take back the success of your marketing campaigns. Just make sure to address these key foundational errors that many marketing firms make.

1. Thinking You Have All the Answers

…Or thinking that you need to have them. Marketing is tricky; it’s an ever-changing field of consumer attraction. While you may have great ideas, keeping current and creative requires humility. You must step back from all the good that you know (or, believe you should know) in order to listen. To learn. To ask questions.

Stop relying on the tried and not-so-true marketing methods. They only maintain the status quo and – as you can tell by our name – this is something we don’t like. To say no to the quo and move into the great beyond, you must listen to experts in the field, ask questions and get creative with marketing efforts that work well for your company and with its goals. If you need help, ask. After all, holding fast to the idea of being a jack-of-all-trades may hurt your endgame.

2. Believing One Size-Fits-All

Furthermore, making assumptions and following stock strategies reaps problems for campaigns and your client relationships. In other words, marketing proposed to “fit everyone” likely fits no one. Failing to listen to your audience or understand the goals of your company lead to lackluster marketing campaigns.

Focus on a segmented, targeted audience rather than a broad one. Taking into account the habits, triggers, interests, goals and hopes of prospects allows you to tailor your marketing to better meet their needs. Plus, matching these details to the goals, products and services of your company helps build relationships. This considerate attention leads to loyal customers.

3. Avoiding the Social Scene

You may desire to remain aloof from the crowd (whether digital or real world), but being antisocial in marketing efforts hurts your business. While social media proves vital to success (for those companies whose customers engage with it), half-hearted efforts produce full failures. Yes, nothing is better than a poorly run campaign.

To take advantage of social media, make sure you’re attending to Facebook or blog comments and questions. Build relationships rather than broadcasting or promoting yourself through these platforms. You’ll be rewarded by knowing more about your audience. The truth is consumers want to know that you see who they are beyond a mere notch in your sales belt.

4. Not Taking Advantage of Analytics

In the activity of a week, assessing the impact of marketing campaigns by “feel” proves difficult. Often this critical assessment gets set aside for lead chasing and advertising. Yet, marketing 101 teaches that tracking and measuring results is crucial for knowing what is working.

Fortunately, a host of analytics offer help in determining your return on investment. Google Analytics, social media analytics such as Facebook insights, and email campaign data give feedback to let you know where adjustments need to be made for greater success. Use the figures and switch up campaigns by concentrating your efforts on what works.

5. Failing to Draft a Strategy

Digital marketing and technology bring a flurry of business boosting options to your door step. It’s exciting! Unfortunately, these opportunities also prove overwhelming, even paralyzing to your marketing efforts. Or, if you eagerly jump in with both feet wherever you can, you run the risk of landing in the wrong place.

Marketing objectives and goals culminating in a strategy are vital. Identify where you want to go and the tactics on how to get there become clearer. Plus, assessing each marketing component to ensure it leads to the same destination proves easier. Your analytics will more accurately measure what you intend to when your direction is set.

The Wrap

Whether you go DIY or hire a creative agency to get your efforts flowing, addressing the details of your marketing campaign proves critical to your success. Your audience does come first. The customer really is numero uno.

Humble yourself to listen to your prospects, customers, industry experts and even your competition to adopt a marketing strategy which tailor fits your company and demographic. Engage with your audience to build loyal relationships. Be sure to use analytics to measure and adjust as needed.

Doing nothing out of fear or everything out of eagerness yields poor marketing results. Money and time are precious commodities poured into these efforts. Use them wisely by developing an intentional marketing campaign that avoids these top marketing mistakes.

To speak with a beyond the status quo marketing firm for help with any marketing efforts that overwhelm or allude you, reach out to N2Q today. We love to see you succeed.

 

Blogging Tips for Small Business Owners

blog-tips-for-small-businesses-10-24-16

Looking to grow your online presence? Want to boost your website’s ranking in search engine results pages? Creating and maintaining a small business blog takes work, but when done right, it can deliver a great return on investment for your enterprise.

A blog gives you the opportunity to position yourself as a subject matter expert in your particular field; it can also give your audience a chance to get to know your company and develop a personal connection with you, your business, and your brand.

Here are some simple tips you can use right now to establish and grow your small business blog:

Establish a Consistent, Approachable Voice 

A blog provides small business owners a chance to connect with clients, customers, and prospects on a personal level. Use your blog to demonstrate your personality, not just to promote and market your business. Think of your blog as a one-on-one conversation with your audience – aim to establish a consistent, friendly voice that reflects how you actually talk when discussing your products and services.

Stick to a Schedule 

Once you establish a small business blog, make sure to keep your audience engaged by posting new content on a regular basis. Many companies make the mistake of starting a blog and then failing to follow up with fresh content – this can give the unwanted impression that a company has gone out of business, or has lost interest in connecting with their customers.

Provide Value to Your Audience 

Give your readers a reason to read and return to your blog by providing them with real value. This value should be in the form of information —for example, ideas on how they can save money, save time, or improve their lives in some way.

Look for topic inspiration in the questions you’re asked as a small business owner. For example, if you operate an automotive repair shop, chances are you’re often asked for maintenance tips, information about choosing the right tires, or ways to save money on car care. These are all topics you can expand on within your small business blog.

Keep It Brief

Remember that most blog readers are looking for quick, easy-to-read content that they can consume during their down time – that means your audience will likely be reading your blog during their lunch break, while standing in line at the grocery store, or during their daily commute. Aim to write easy-to-read content that can be broken down into short paragraphs and lists, since this type of content is easy to view on mobile devices like smart phones and tablets.

Integrate Your Social Media Links

Promote your small business blog through your social media channels like Facebook and Twitter by posting a new update on your feeds whenever you update your blog. This is a great way to encourage your followers to navigate to your website and read your new content. It also makes it easy for your audience to share your blog on their own social media feeds.

Use Your Spell-Checker

As simple as it sounds, it’s worth saying – always check your blog content for spelling and grammatical errors. Regardless of what industry you’re in, the quality of your blog reflects you and your business, so it’s important to ensure your blog is clear, accurate, and well-crafted.

By creating a consistent, engaging blog that delivers value to your readers, you can harness the power of small-business blogging to position yourself and your company, as a go-to resource within your community.

6 Tips to Drive More Traffic to Your Business’ Blog

Driving Traffic to Blog 1

Blogging is a powerful, cost-effective marketing tool that can help you engage with your customers, increase conversions rates, and establish your reputation as a creditable source of information among both your clients and your peers.

Of course, the impact your business blog has on your bottom line is directly linked to both the volume and type of traffic it generates for your website. If your online content isn’t actually reaching your target audience, you’ll be missing out on the wealth of opportunities that blogging offers your business.

Here’s what you can do to drive more traffic to your business’ blog:

Know Your Target Audience

Driving Traffic to Blog 2

In order to create blog content that reaches the right audience it’s important to understand exactly who you’re hoping will read your blog. Otherwise you could wind up writing a blog that fails to engage your ‘target market’.

Start by developing a persona – a description of your ‘ideal’ blog reader that covers basics like their age, location, level of education, and income. Consider what your business can offer this person, and think about what problems you, and your company, can help them solve.

This information will help guide the development of your blog content, and increase the odds that your blog will actually reach your target audience.

Blog Frequently

Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! all use a semi-secretive algorithm to determine what results users see when they’re looking for online content. While the actual formulas that the search engines use to rank websites are a closely-guarded secret, companies like Google have made it clear that websites with fresh, user-friendly content, like regularly-updated blogs, will be rewarded with higher search engine results rankings.

Share On Social Media

Driving Traffic to Blog 3

Sharing your blog posts through social media is a quick and effective way to boost traffic to your website. Publish links to your latest blog on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, and be sure to make it easy for your readers to share posts by integrating social media ‘widgets’ in your content.

Diversify Your Content 

In the early days of business blogging posts were exclusively text-based. Thanks to the development of faster Internet services and computers, bloggers can now integrate both still images and videos into their posts, providing users with an engaging experience that’s both informative and entertaining. Consider diversifying your blog content by adding infographics, photos, Vine loops and tutorial videos to boost your audience and search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

Keep It Brief

Internet users’ attention spans are notoriously short – a fact that’s important to keep in mind when developing your blog posts. Aim to create blog content that’s 750 words or less. Otherwise you run the risk of having your readers tune out before they’ve reached the end of the article. Be sure to break the content up into small, scan-able ‘chunks’ that are easier to read than a large ‘blob’ of text, especially if your audience accesses your blog via a mobile device.

Engage Your Audience 

When crafting content for your business’ blog, aim to use a tone that reflects the personality of your organization. If your brand is light and fun, make sure that’s accurately portrayed in your blog posts (while making sure to respect social norms and boundaries).

You should also focus on providing value to your audience – give them a reason to ‘like’, ‘share’ and return to your blog by posting insider information, tutorials, or answers to frequently-asked questions.

Remember that your business’ blog can be a great, low-cost way to promote your enterprise, but only if you’re able to generate and retain traffic to your website.

Marketing Your Small Business Infographic

7-Content-Marketing-Ideas-to-Market-Your-Small-Business

Utilizing Business Partnerships for Growth

Handshake - Business deal concept

By David Quinlan, Vice President of Marketing at BBB Northwest

In today’s BBB Northwest podcast, we takes a look at how small businesses can leverage the power of partnerships to foster growth initiatives. Listen below or continue reading for a full look at how to utilize those partnerships.

Before you jump in and get too excited about the opportunities that partnerships can present you and your business, you also have to think about the following:

  • What are you trying to accomplish with this partnership? More specifically, how will it help you market and sell your offerings?
  • What type of partnership would be the best fit? You want to make sure that the partnership is mutually beneficial. You also want to make sure that you both share a similar vision when it comes to growing your businesses.

So here are some quick tips on why utilizing partnerships will help with business growth:

Tip #1: Increase Company Awareness

Partnerships can help you expand into different markets, establish new distribution channels, and grow new revenue streams while helping to increase your company’s awareness. This will help you gain exposure with new customers who haven’t heard about your company. What does this all mean? Well, by working with another business that is aligned with what you have to sell, you can both expand your reach and promote your products/services without having to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on advertising.

Tip #2: Co-Marketing Opportunities

No longer are you on your own when it comes to running a local event, an educational webinar and even a contest or giveaway. You’re now in a position to market your company faster than you’d be able to by going through the traditional advertising route. As such, you will then reach potential customers faster, in untapped markets that would otherwise take more time and money to penetrate.

Tip #3: Build Credibility

It’s a no brainer that the partnerships you build will surely be with businesses who are credible. Doing so will help increase your own credibility and in turn, build trust among your customers as well as your potential customers. Therefore, creating that “great first impression” is already a hurdle you’ve jumped over and can focus on initiatives that will drive more sales.

Tip #4: Cost Savings

Aside from just utilizing partnerships to gain awareness and grow sales, partnerships can also serve as a major cost savings. These cost savings could be around the following items:

  • Office supplies.
  • HR specific functions like payroll and employee engagement.
  • Technology discounts on things like Internet, marketing and CRM software, IT help, and much more.

Tip #5: Gain Competitive Edge

Understand where your strengths and weaknesses are compared to the competition. From there, push to build partnerships with companies that make up for your weaknesses and can fill in the gaps to help you gain a competitive edge. Here’s a simple example, let’s say you run a roofing business and you know how to do your job well, but one of the gaps within your ability to grow faster is the fact that you may not have an automated process for people to schedule consultations, which is causing you to miss new opportunities and even calls. As such, you can partner with a technology company that can automate this process for you so that you aren’t losing any sales. And in turn, you can pay this partner a percentage of the sale that comes through.

Utilizing Partnerships Blog & Podcast 3.24.16 GIF

Now to wrap it up, I want to share how we’ve leveraged partnerships here at BBB Northwest. One of our biggest partnerships is with the Portland Trailblazers. As you can imagine, nailing down an NBA sponsorship is extremely pricey – unless you co-op. Cooperative advertising is a cost-effective way for manufacturers, retailers or distributors to reach their target markets. At BBB we were able to leverage a three-year partnership with the Blazers with the help of our BBB Accredited Businesses. Collectively – we have been able to expand our brand and message on a larger platform at a fraction of the cost. CLICK HERE to read more about BBB’s partnership with the Blazers.

Remember, aligning your business with the right partnership can improve your reputation, help evolve your products/services and allow you to tap into new markets at a minimal cost.

Want more info? Subscribe to our blog to read more on how to leverage partnerships, execute goals that are better for business and for upcoming podcasts.

7 Digital Marketing Blogs You Should Be Reading

Digital Mktg Blog Gif 3.15.16

Digital marketing has become a necessity in today’s fast paced, nose-to-phone society, and no one needs data or numbers to prove that more people are relying on the internet today than at any point in the last decade. But unlike its real world brethren, the pool of digital marketing success is turbulent, unforgiving, and pulls many so far under water that they forget how to swim. There is no longer any space for amateurs or the ill-informed, especially now that Google has drastically modified the way it delivers ads to consumers. This means that small businesses will need to start building a little muscle to brave the rapids themselves.

The only way to combat digital marketing ignorance is an active desire to learn as much about this turbulent world as possible. Slowly sinking a toe in to test the temperature of the water is the first step, and involves lots of research. But don’t just go reading the first website or book that claims its digital marketing knowledge is up to snuff; learn from these big fish instead.

Digital Mktg Blog Gif 2 3.15.16

The Big Fish Digital Marketing Bloggers

Blogs are the new world library in which sharing and retrieving well researched and informative articles is quicker and simpler than grabbing a Readers’ Digest in line at the grocery store. They’re convenient, mobile, and definitely beat memorizing the Dewey Decimal System.

The Moz Blog – Started as a small SEO company in 2004 by Rand and his mother Gillian Fishkin, Moz is responsible for some if the first scalable digital marketing data mining. With the introduction of Mozscape, Moz single handedly changed the way marketers approach their target audiences online. You won’t find a better group of people to field advice on digital marketing anywhere on the web.

The Marketing Insight – Owned and operated by digital marketing specialist Suttida Yang, The Marketing Insight was created in response to a desperate need for small businesses to understand the digital marketing world. The eternal optimist, Suttida prides herself on providing all business owners with a comprehensive understanding of marketing awareness, engagement, and general sales techniques.

Buffer – A social media management company founded by Joel and Leo in 2010 as a way to help businesses master the social media game, Buffer has created a solid resource of happy and impressively dedicated experts in the fields of online marketing management and digital employment. Their unique blog provides readers with a direct scope into the worlds of social media, business management, and digital engineering.

Content Marketing Institute – Founded in 2007, The Content Marketing Institute was forged with the sole intent of teaching businesses a better way to brand themselves online. According to their website “CMI will not stop until the need for content marketing education no longer exists.”

Marketing Profs – Founded by marketing doctor Allen Weiss in 2000, Marketing Profs is a unique conglomeration of professors and professionals in the fields of publishing, technology, academia, and marketing. Their chief goal is creating a learning environment geared towards improving the marketing strategies of all businesses, everywhere.

The Daily Egg – This content marketing blog for Crazy Egg, the heat map software that visually tracks website traffic, is a daily blog dedicated to the improvement of digital marketing, web managing, and design. Each blog entry is rich with tips and tricks for everything from infographics and copywriting to branding and analytics, and of course the occasional egg joke.

HubSpot Blogs – Founded in 2006 by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah on the “Inbound Marketing Theory,” HubSpot believes that the time of cold calling and trade shows is over, and the day of content marketing has come. Operating on this belief, HubSpot provides its readers with a diverse range of content marketing advice through its three blog trains: Marketing, Sales, and Agency.

These are just a small number of blogs providing rich content to its readers. What blogs do you enjoy reading about? Let us know in the comments section!

Seven Content Marketing Ideas to Market Your Small Business

Engaging with your existing and potential customers involves some level of creativity, especially around the type of content you’ll be pushing out.  Adopting a simple content development process and then embracing the best practices on how you can market your content is essential for success.

That said, here are seven content marketing ideas to help market your small business:

Connectivity Idea with Lightbulb

1) Run a Contest

Whether you want to increase brand awareness or increase your email subscriber list, running a contest is a way to drive the masses. The planning for an effective contest should include the following:

  • Be able to answer the simple “why.” Specifically, “Why run the contest?” This will help with building up a compelling offer that resonates with your target audience.
  • Resources needed. Decide who’s going to be in charge of graphic/web design, content writing, promoting the contest, and collecting data.
  • Determine how long the contest will run.
  • Determine how much money you plan to spend to promote and what the major KPIs are that you will track to understand if the contest was successful or not.

2) Host a Webinar

Webinars are a great way to showcase your expertise and authority around a specific topic. A few great benefits of running webinars are that they are cost-effective, help with brand awareness and reaching a broader audience. As a result, webinars can be leveraged as a major driver behind establishing your credibility, while also positioning promotions to get sales.

3) Blog Frequently

The most effective way to make sure that you keep up with blogging on a regular schedule is to have a content calendar mapped out. Doing so will help you stay organized, so you stay ahead with the type of content that needs to be developed every week. Further, did you know that:

  • Blogs that post daily get five times more traffic than those that post weekly or less?
  • Once you accumulate 51 posts, blog traffic increases by 53%?
  • Blogs that post every day generate four times more leads than those that posts weekly or less?

4) Video Tutorials

Short videos that help provide actionable insights is always a great way to go. Utilize video tutorials to teach something of value. You can even include a strong CTA (call-to-action) that can help with generating new sales or leads. For inspiration, do some research on platforms like Vine, YouTube, and Snapchat. This will surely help you see what helps with engagement, so that you can replicate as needed for your own videos.

5) Interview Influencers

Make time to interview key influencers within your community and even within your network of professionals. Big publications like Inc, for example, leverage both written and video platforms to interview successful entrepreneurs. The key to successfully generating content here is to make sure that you interview influencers your target audience most likely identify with.

6) Create/Share Memes and Gifs

Keeping with mainstream media is a great way to generate ideas around memes and gifs relevant to your own industry. Doing so humanizes your brand exuding authenticity to further engage with your audience.

7) Design Captivating Infographics

The great thing about infographics is the fact that you don’t have to develop the content from scratch. For instance, you can curate written facts, tips, and stats, and put them into visual content pieces. Imagery within infographics are important because researchers have found that colored visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%.

There are multiple ways to tackle the ideation process when it comes to creating content and marketing it. Start by asking yourself what your customers would want to see and read. From there, you can easily move into figuring out “how” you can drive high engagement with your content pieces.

Four Popular Myths About Marketing Your Small Business

Every small business owner has two major goals in mind: increase profit and customer retention. To be more specific, 45 percent of small businesses state that increasing profit is a big challenge they want to tackle this year; while 43 percent report that improving current customer experiences and retention will be vital to revenue growth.

The larger question at hand is, “How will small business owners (such as yourself) be able to overcome these challenges?” Of course, the obvious answer is to get more sales. But what is holding your small business back from increasing profit and customer retention?

Marketing Myths Blog 2.11.16

In this blog post, we’ll debunk four popular myths about marketing your small business:

1) Marketing is too expensive

The traditional misconception about marketing is that it’s too expensive and too difficult to track. However, marketing should be looked at as an investment. Here are a few stats that shouldn’t be ignored:

  • Business owners who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI.
  • The only thing blogging costs you is: your time. Therefore, publishing even just one blog post per week or two per month is a great place to start, rather than just having a website that only talks about you. Blog posts are a great way to write about things that your customers actually care about, i.e. create a meaningful connection. Plus 82% of consumers want to read content from brands, as long as they provide value.
  • For every $1 spent on email marketing the average return on investment is $44.25.
  • Seventy-eight percent of people say that a company’s social media posts influence their purchase decisions.

Quick tip: To start, dedicate anywhere between 5 to 10 percent of your revenue back into marketing and narrow in on three to five specific tactical executions. Doing so will help you best understand the right marketing mix to help foster profitability and retention.

2) Doing it all yourself

Truth is, you should be busy running your business, not focusing on “doing it all.” When it comes down to executing your marketing programs, don’t shy away from outsourcing or hiring someone part-time to help. More specifically, much of marketing is moving into the digital-sphere, which means you have the ability to track what’s working and what’s not in a quick manner. This enables you to stop any campaigns or implementations that aren’t providing a positive return.

Quick tip: To start, consider hiring a local marketing firm who can succinctly outline a strategy and the return you will likely see or hire on a freelancer. If you go the freelance route, remember cheaper isn’t always better. Also, have realistic expectations, i.e. no such thing as overnight success here.

3) Must have a strong brand

You don’t need to have a strong brand presence in order to successfully drive marketing campaigns that will foster sales and retention. All you need is the commitment as well as the prioritization of ensuring you don’t give up before seeing the results you want.

Quick tip: Put together a simple content calendar to follow. Doing so helps you block out time to know when you should be updating social media, updating your blog to checking in on how many sales you’ve generated with an advertising campaign.

4) Too time consuming

Getting the right marketing strategy and tactics set up will take some time, especially if you are unfamiliar with the technologies (e.g. Google Analytics, Adwords, Facebook Ads, etc.) needed for success. However, once setup is complete, you should easily be able to get into the cadence of spending anywhere between 2-5 hours per week optimizing and managing campaigns.

Quick tip: Check out brands both small and large (e.g. GoPro, Expedia, Sevenly, Ugmonk) that are doing a great job of connecting with their audience (via social media and content marketing) and generating sales. Adopt some of their practices and test them out for yourself. 

For a list of trustworthy marketing companies to help take your business to the next level, visit the BBB Accredited Business Directory.