Top Trends to Market Your Business

1. Revving up reviews
Online reviews matter, but buying them is unethical. So people will be finding new ways to generate legitimate positive reviews. One example: Grade.us builds a “review funnel,” channeling customers from their experience with you directly to review sites via URLs and QR codes. You must make it easy for fans to play up your business’ name.

2. Visual appeal
Increasingly, marketing will help people think in pictures. “Infographics will dominate not only for social media marketing, but support graphics for editorial articles and press releases,” says Melih Oztalay, CEO of SmartFinds Internet Marketing. “These visual representations of knowledge present complex information to be easily consumed by the reader.”

3. Social scale-back
“After falling in love with all things social media, small business owners are cutting back, limiting their involvement to two or three tools, rethinking networking and introducing measures for their marketing efforts. Many have wasted precious time and money [on social media] in 2013 and now are looking to be more strategic and pragmatic about what’s working and what’s not for 2014,” says Donna Marie Thompson of Peak Profit Potential.

4. Local leverage
Micro-shopping will continue to build momentum in the coming year. “Small and local business will be hot: Shopping local and locally grown will become more popular.  People are recognizing that when they shop locally, this keeps dollars local,” says Bill Corbett Jr., president of Corbett Public Relations. Business owners should be looking for ways to build up their home-grown credentials in all their marketing.

5. Return to roots
It will be the year for keeping it real. “Do what best fits your brand. I would never do video. I just don’t feel comfortable doing that, but I love print and radio interviews,” offers Dave Wakeman, principal of Wakeman Consulting Group. “Your marketing needs to reflect who you are and not what some ‘ninja’ or ‘guru’ is telling you that you have to do.”

6. Embrace the basics
The tried-and-true will still hold sway. “Some ‘old’ techniques like traditional direct mail are seeing a resurgence as online mailboxes become more and more full and traditional ‘snail mail boxes’ remain relatively empty,” says Linda Pophal of Strategic Communications LLC.

7. Reward the repeaters
Regulars are the life-blood of any business and as such should be rewarded for their year-in, year-out devotion. As small businesses look to hold their ground in a still-uncertain economy, the smart ones will be giving their regular customers discounts, special sales and invitation-only events to help keep them incentivized,” suggests David Rusenko, founder and CEO of Weebly.

8. Newsjacking
“Brands are taking advantage of current news topics in the moment things happen and attaching news to their brand in some way to capitalize on the newsworthiness,” according to Melissa DiGianfilippo and Alexis Krisay, owners of Serendipit Consulting. “This can be done through relevant blog posts, social media sharable graphics or media opportunities.” Approach with caution: Not every event can be leveraged for PR purposes.

9. Making websites work
“According to research recently conducted by Peer 1 Hosting, 81 percent of online shoppers will not shop on a site that can’t deliver a faultless online shopping experience. Further, 65 percent say they’ve abandoned an online shopping cart because of website time-outs and slow page loads,” explains Robert Miggins, SVP business development at Peer 1 Hosting. The ever-growing emphasis on online contact will bring with it a marketing imperative to keep pages working seamlessly.

10. Instream advertising
“It works by pitching a format-appropriate message in the social portal of your choice. In the past it was only big business’ game, but more and more small businesses are jumping on board since it’s possible to set geo-targeted parameters very specifically and therefore pay substantially less than you would for a nationwide campaign,” says Daniel Zayets-Volshin, managing partner of WebsiteBoston.com. “The growth of instream advertising models is going to be one of the most fruitful marketing trends of 2014.” (How 3 Small Businesses Use Instagram for Marketing)

11. Mobility
Mobile apps. Mobile messaging. Mobile advertising. Whatever your marketing strategy, make sure it fits on a phone or tablet. Do it strategically and thoughtfully—but do it. Smart phone = smart marketing.

Garbarge In = Garbage Out: Make Your Database Clean in 5 Steps!

Face it!  Bad data costs your company money.  If you can’t quantify the bad data, you can’t quantify the negative effects to your bottom line!

Bad data infiltrates every database, in the form of duplicate contacts, irregularly formatted leads, and junk records. You can’t keep all bad data from entering your database, but once it’s in, you need to clean it out. Here are 5 ways to keep your database clean and in compliance.

1) Identify Duplicates

Once you start to get some traction in building out your database, duplicates are inevitable. So proactively scrub your data on a regular basis and eliminate duplicate leads as they come in.

Of course, you need to delete with caution, even when there is a duplicate. So dive into both lead records, determine which has the most pertinent data (i.e., email address or phone number), and then merge the records accordingly.

But who wants to sort through a database of thousands (potentially millions) of  leads? That’s why your database automation platform and CRM should have rules for automatically de-duplicating lead records. This also comes in handy when you’re uploading lists — you don’t want to create a bunch of duplicate records every time you bring new contacts into the system.

2) Set Up Alerts

You can use alerts to stay even more on top of your database. Say your platform automatically de-duplicates leads based on email address. But what if a contact comes in that has a duplicate first and last name on your form, but a different email address? If you have alerts set up, you can be notified and proactively decide whether the record is a duplicate or not — after all, some people have the same names.

3) Price Inactive Contacts

Consider implementing a filter to hone in on records that have been inactive for a given amount of time. Why aren’t those contacts participating in your marketing campaigns? Are they still working for the same company?

Once you’ve identified inactive leads, the next step is up to you. You may decide that some of your them are worth keeping, but keep them with caution; if those inactive leads are simply not interested, marketing to them may hurt your brand’s reputation.

4) Check for Uniformity

Uniformity is key to a clean database, but it’s also a challenge. For example, if you let leads type in their country of residence, rather than choosing from a drop-down menu, you’re bound to collect inconsistent results. Residents of the United States might write  ”US,” “U.S.,” “USA,” “U.S.A,” or “United States of America.”

That’s why your platform should be able to automatically clean similar data values. That way, if you want to email all of your leads in the United States, you won’t leave any out because of dirty data. Of course, being the smart marketer that you are, I know that will segment the leads for you  on a much more granular level, such as region, company  size, or interest… but that’s another story.

5) Eliminate Junk Contacts

Some anonymous leads will write in “asdf@gmail.com” or “blah@hotmail.com” to avoid  sharing their real email addresses. You don’t want these garbage leads polluting your lead database., so run smart campaigns to automatically identify records with bogus email addresses and then delete, blacklist, or suspend these contacts.

You might be wondering whether you should delete employees of your competitors. Often, competitors will subscribe to learn (and potentially imitate) the ways you market to your customers. You can’t really consider these “leads” and there is no reason to  market to them. On the other hand, if you delete them, you’ll loose potential insight into their strategy.

Have you used any of these techniques? How do you keep your database clean? Let us know.  Contact Miller Creative Strategies to learn more!

E-mail Marketing – Best Practices of the Trade

One of the most powerful aspects of email marketing is that it can be tested (and thereby optimized). Following generic “best practices” or fixed “rules” is not a path to success, because what works for one audience won’t necessarily work for yours.

Testing is your biggest ally. You should always ‘test for the best’ in your email campaigns.

What to Test

Historically, the subject line has been the most popular marketing email element to test, followed closely by the content of the message itself. But as MarketingSherpa highlights in this chart, there are many other elements of your emails that are just as testable.

Here are 25 elements you can consider testing:

  1. Subject line
  2. From name
  3. Day of the week
  4. Time of day
  5. Frequency
  6. Mostly-images vs. mostly-text
  7. Short copy vs. long copy
  8. Links vs. buttons
  9. Number of links
  10. Unsubscribe at the top
  11. First name personalization — in the subject line
  12. First name personalization — in the email body
  13. Animated gifs
  14. Font colors
  15. Font styles
  16. Opt-down
  17. Social sharing icons
  18. Social connecting icons
  19. Delivery by time zone
  20. Call to action — number
  21. Call to action —placement
  22. Post-click landing page
  23. Social proof
  24. Tone — human vs. corporate
  25. Copy length

Here are some results of real marketing tests to ponder:

How to Test: Eight Pro Tips

  1. Start simple. Test subject lines and headers first. It doesn’t take a lot of time or creative work to come up with a few simple variants, and the return can be significant.
  2. Test one element at a time. If you test more than one element, you won’t be able to tell which variant drove the success.
  3. Control for time of day and day of the week. If you’re testing other variants, then send on the same day and at the same time to eliminate the timing variant.
  4. Keep a log of all your tests. Record your findings so you can refer back to the specific variables tested and, more importantly, learn from them.
  5. Make sure testing is part of your day-to-day processes. Testing doesn’t have to be daunting, and it shouldn’t be something you put off due to a lack of resources — it should be part of your daily routine.
  6. Run tests on groups that are small, but large enough to determine a clear winner. The winning variables should then be incorporated into your larger mailing.
  7. Don’t forget that small differences can be significant. This is especially true if your sample sizes are large.
  8. Listen to what your tests tell you! All the testing in the world won’t matter if you’re not making decisions and modifications to your campaigns based on what you’ve learned. Unused data is sad data, indeed.

Contact Miller Creative Strategies, LLC, to learn more!

 

 

J. Miller

Building Your Company’s House E-mail List – the How To’s

Within any type of online business creating and building an effective e-mail list is a necessary business practice in order for a company to retain information surrounding consumers in specific markets.

With an effective e-mail list, it is possible to properly implement an e-mail marketing campaign which is both measurable and successful. But how do you create a good list? Well list building, a lot like other forms of information capture, carry their own little tricks of the trade and here today in this article we are going to look at some excellent tips which will help you on your way to creating fantastic e-mail marketing lists.

Decide on your software

For any e-mail list which is being planned a popular product of choice has always been Microsoft Excel which will allow you to create spreadsheets of e-mail addresses and create new fields with notes next to each address. Excel is highly recommended because it is cross compatible with multiple operating systems, too, allowing you to forward your list for review (if applicable) by management.

Autoresponders

Whilst building your list you need to have regular contact with your subscribers. This can be done by using an autoresponder service like Aweber or Getresponse. You can capture email addresses and send emails out automatically. You only need to write the email once then once set-up, it can be sent to thousands of recipients who have opted on to your email list.

Create your list internally

Keeping all information in house when building an e-mail list is an excellent way of being able to manage the quality of your list and assess first hand how effective it may be.

Internal list building could take more time than it would outsourcing or getting an experienced list builder to help, but overall the extra time compared to the extra costs of outsourcing even themselves out.

Manage your e-mail list

This goes without saying however it is no good having an e-mail address within the list you are building when that person specifically requested never to be contacted surrounding marketing information, special offers etc.

It pays off in the long run to build a list of targeted subscribers who are interested in the information that you are going to send them. Be certain that when e-mail addresses are obtained they are from people who are open to marketing offers and receiving e-mail from businesses like yours. Overall, keeping tabs on your e-mail list will ensure you do not waste any unnecessary time or have angry consumers e-mailing you back surrounding their privacy. Make sure they can unsubscribe at any time.

Don’t cave in to e-mail list brokers

Disreputable e-mail list brokers are the burden of e-mail marketing campaigns. Quite often, companies will sell you e-mail lists which go in to the thousands featuring e-mail addresses which are fake or have not been active for years.

If you are list building, do your best to not cave in to cheap offers from shady e-mail list brokers because it could do more harm to your list than good.

Be clear in your message

This applies more to when you decide upon engaging your e-mail list, however it is the most important part of any e-mail marketing campaign.

You need to be clear in your marketing message for your list to be effective. Imagine creating a fantastic e-mail list only to ruin your chance with a shoddy e-mail with too many offers and a bad subject line.

 

R. Larcombe

3 Reasons Why Your Business Should Integrate Its Social Media & E-mail Marketing

It is important for businesses to understand that both social media and email are excellent marketing tools. So, it is not the question of choosing one as the debate has been framed over the last few years. But the question to ask is how the two can be utilized together for optimum efficiency and to achieve business goals.

Social Media Complements Email Marketing

The inclusion of social media tools in the email campaign extends the reach of the email campaign. Links to tweets, likes, or shares on Facebook and other social media sites in email strengthens your reach. You may use social media to maximize your ROI for email campaign if your subscribers are ready to share an offer you mailed them. This might possibly drive new subscribers enticed by your offer.

You may possibly improve your brand’s reputation and awareness with the help of social media tools. Your customers speak their minds through social media. But the open discussion there makes you more popular if you are ready to communicate with honesty and sincerity. Constant communication will more likely endear them to you. Social media tools can be effectively utilized to grow your email list and similarly your email list can leverages social networking. One way to incorporate this is by integrating your newsletter to the Facebook landing page.

Social Media to Boost ROI of Email Marketing

While email marketing campaigns can be costly, using social media for marketing costs nothing. So, one can possibly think of using social media to increase the ROI of email campaigns. This can be done using several strategies. If your offer interests your customers they may likely share the offer with their friends. Sometimes, you may have to motivate them to share by offering incentives.

You may indicate the same offer in your email campaign. Additionally, when you discuss the same offer on social media pages, such as Facebook or Twitter, you will likely drive fresh subscribers enticed by the offer you made.

So what you are basically doing is using email campaign to bring new subscribers to your Facebook or other social media page where you already have a large membership. Some of these new subscribers as well as the old subscribers can be active influencers who will already have a large set of friends and associates. So, your campaign has the potential to go viral.

Social Media can Improve Brand Awareness When Used with Email

Social media has a huge potential. It makes your product more visible than ever before. The notion of brand image was, until recent times, limited only to companies who could afford to invest huge amounts into campaigns. But social media has opened this opportunity for small businesses as well, without having to invest. While email marketing can enhance your reach, it is only through a social media campaign that you can hope to enhance your brand image. You can interact with a large number of friends or fans—whom a significant percentage are your customers or likely customers. They are people with good or bad comments.

How you respond to these customers determines in a significant way the direction your business can take. Many times people on social media sites are tolerant of follies and mistakes. So, when you explain them through direct interface, the chances are your reputation will soar and you may successfully create the brand image you wanted to.

10 Principles for Blog Design

10 Principles for Blog Design

Here are the principles we’ve incorporated into the new design.

  1. Highly visual content design
  2. Clear conversion goals that don’t get in the way of reader experience
  3. Multiple paths to social
  4. Give them Tweetables
  5. Social validation
  6. Fast page load
  7. Great mobile experience
  8. Merchandise our best content
  9. Connect content to authors
  10. Cherish guest posts

Contact Miller Creative Strategies to learn more about blogs, content, logistics and how they can positively affect your business.

Test for the Best for your Email Marketing Campaigns

According to recent data from Marketing Sherpa, email is the top channel that marketers track. A full 63% of the marketers surveyed indicated they are currently tracking email marketing data.

What about the other 37% and what they are doing?… exactly what email metrics do business owners value and track?  The sense is many are tracking open rates, click rates, and that some are also looking at relevant segments (geographies, personas, buying behavior, etc.).

How many businesses continually examine the data and re-examine their assumptions. It can be too easy to hold on to a fact or number, and then never go back to it for re-examination.  For example, in PR it is often said Tuesday is the best day for a press release.  This could be totally true for some businesses, but maybe not for yours. It is valuable to have a good process in place so that you feel comfortable with benchmarks and your organization’s progress.

In that vein, here are four considerations to get better results from your email programs.

1. Use a technology that makes it easy to measure and visualize data

It is important to make sure you have a system that enables you to accurately track and measure data. Having tangible metrics vs. guesses really enables you to optimize your
efforts for every email marketing campaign
. The heat map below is used to help users identify the best time of day for an email send.

2. Make sure testing is part of your DNA

Make sure testing is part of your day to day processes – like brushing your teeth; you just need to do it.  Testing does not have to be daunting in nature.  It can simply
be A/B subject line tests, including graphics or not, testing times or days of the week, offer, etc.  If you are running paid emails, some vendors will work with you on A/B tests as well.  As a reminder, not all tests will be mind-blowing, but overtime you will learn the variables that are most critical for your team to test.

3. Make decisions and modifications based on the data

The worst and saddest thing ever is when a marketing team collects data and it just sits somewhere in an Excel file collecting dust.  Do something with your data! Implementing
your changes can make a significant difference in results.   For example, with events do a test with your pre-event  email campaign – see what messaging most effectively.  You then can use these results to inform your post-event email follow-up.

4. Re-examine urban myth data – know what works for your industry and business

You may have some report from 2011 that cites that a good email open rate for B2B businesses is 30%.  It is critical to make sure you reference current data, and more importantly know what a good benchmark is for your company.  It is important to start collecting and analyzing your marketing metrics and see how large industry events, seasonality, or other factors influence your results.

 

H. Bullock

Is Your Company Facebook Profile “Dog Ugly”? You May Be to Blame!

uglydog

Can you believe that Facebook’s Timeline feature is nearly a year old? 12 months later, small businesses are still trying to figure out how to use the visually-driven and slightly complex design to its full advantage. One thing that’s clear is that if your brand page
is ugly, it’s time for an overhaul. While content may be king, an image is still worth a thousand words, and potentially even more. According to a recent study by Fast Company, 44% of social media users are most-likely to engage with companies if you post visual content.

Here is a list of things your company might not be doing on Facebook and some ways to ensure that your visual imaging is up to par, so you can build relationships with Facebook’s billion-strong user base:

1. You’re Not Taking Advantage of the Cover Photo

First impressions matter on social media, and your cover photo is the first chance your company has to impress a prospect. When the feature first launched, a Facebook rep stated that it was prime real estate to “capture the culture and essence of a brand [so
they] can showcase their products.” Eye-tracking research on social media users indicates the average viewer spends the most time on a brand page examining the cover photo. There’s a myriad of brands using cover photos the right way, and clothing retailer the Gap is a prime example.

gap facebook

Given the fact that 100% of page viewers will pay close attention to your cover photo, you’re probably flubbing your strategy if it isn’t the star attraction.

2. You’re Not Using Visual Content

If you’re relying exclusively on text and links for Facebook posts, your page likely isn’t as appealing as it could be. Images are twice as effective at driving engagement as plain text updates, so it stands to reason that a text-only timeline isn’t catching your
prospects’ eyes.

3. You’re Not Pinning or Highlighting Posts

Facebook brand pages have the option to pin their best posts at the top of their news feed, or alternatively highlight content. By selecting the star-shaped highlight icon, you can change the update’s display to the entire width of your brand page. “Pin to top” is
limited to one post a week, but it holds the post at the very top of the timeline. Your social media fans are hit with a great deal of noise, and sending your prettiest content straight to the top can direct their eyes to your most-attractive content.

4. You’re Not Organizing Your Apps

Directly below your cover photo lie your apps, and the same eye-tracking research indicates they get the second-most attention of any content on your Facebook page. There are currently more than 3,000 options available to companies, which include the
near-ubiquitous photos, video and events. Custom-built apps are also available.  Ensure your options are listed in order of importance to your brand through careful organization. Red Bull does an excellent job of organizing their apps for first-time Facebook page visitors:

Due to the inherently customizable nature of apps, figure out what works best for your brand. The worst thing you can do is not take advantage of this opportunity to stand out.

5. You’re Using Stock Photography

Swapping out photos of your actual staff members for stock photography isn’t doing you any favors. In fact, purchased images of models have been shown to be 95% less effective at generating leads than their authentic counterparts. The company behind the research, Marketing Experiments, speculates that consumers are pretty good at identifying irrelevant images.

stock-photo

 

While the example above is clearly fictitious, it’s a pretty good illustration of how to not approach social media marketing.  Don’t be boring, don’t be posed, and don’t try to showcase your brand identity by using images you bought online.

6. You’re Not Using Fan-Generated Content

If there’s anything your future social media cheerleaders are bound to adore, it’s seeing that your company actively engages their customers on social media. Mashable Contributor Lauren Drell recommends starting to “embrace and show off your fans – post their pictures and Instagrams.” Is there a better way to spotlight the people who
make your small business possible than spotlighting user-generated content about your product or services? Salad chain SweetGreen does this well on a regular basis:

In an era where visual content is king, taking every opportunity to boost the eye-candy on your small business Facebook page is your best bet for out-marketing your competitors. Through a combination of keeping your content and brand messaging authentic, and knowing basic best practices, your engagement rates will surely soar.

 

 

Rothman

Facebook® Unveils New Search Engine, “Graph Search” – What Does it Mean for Business?

Facebook® has unveiled many changes in the past, but few have had such far-reaching implications as its new “Graph Search” feature. Breaking away from traditional search methods, this tool aims to give users a way to find concrete answers to their questions rather than the suggestions offered by traditional search engines.

What is Graph Search?

Graph Search returns results based on the actions and interactions of friends within a Facebook® user’s network. Searches can be as specific as “Chinese restaurants my friends in Manhattan enjoy,” allowing users to narrow down results to a set of people in a specific location. Results show what others with similar tastes have done, where they’ve been and what they’ve liked or recommended via Facebook®.

How Does This Change Traditional Search?

Facebook®’s new search engine scales search down to a personal level. Results drawn from within a user’s circle of friends are meant to be more accurate, more relevant and more useful than the broader scope offered by Google and other popular engines. With Graph Search, Facebook® users won’t just be able to see the hours and location of a business; they’ll know which of their friends has gone there and whether or not they liked it. Searching for books, movies and other entertainment will show who has enjoyed a particular selection, leading to a growth in the importance of peer opinion.

How Does Graph Search Challenge Google?

Instead of getting a list of links that Google judges as most relevant to a particular set of search terms, Graph Search users are presented with results that pertain directly to their networks within Facebook®. Google’s rules for page rank and result visibility don’t apply in Graph Search. In fact, the frequency with which a Page appears to a user in Facebook®’s new search will depend on how many friends have Liked or recommended that Page. In order for a Page to be part of a user’s search results, someone in that user’s network will have to have interacted with that Page. Google+ may have started the ball rolling on social search, but Facebook® is taking it one step further with Graph Search.

What Does Graph Search Mean for  Business?

Businesses who haven’t yet invested in social media should take notice. The introduction of Graph Search changes the way that Facebook® users find information within the social network and may even draw them away from standard search engines. Why spend time sifting through pages of search results when a query can be narrowed to deliver an answer based on the recommendations of a trusted network of friends? Marketers would be smart to keep an eye on Graph Search and amp up the amount of social media interaction that they do for their businesses.

Being visible in Graph Search results requires being visible on Facebook® in general, so interactions between business Pages and users will become more important. It’s already vital to create compelling content that draws people to a Page, but the level of importance is likely to increase as long-tail keywords become more common. Within Graph Search, people may begin to use more and more specific search terms, making it essential to brand a business with location-based keywords and words that relate specifically to its products and services.

Graph Search and the Future of Internet Marketing

Though Graph Search is still in beta, its unique design could have sweeping implications for businesses and corporations that rely on Internet marketing techniques. SEO and content are still big players in marketing, but social media interaction continues to grow in importance. With Facebook® leading the way, the evolution of social search will make peer opinion more and more important as time goes on. If Graph Search takes off, it could be a whole new venue for Internet marketing.

3 Key Elements to Successful Network Marketing for 2013!

Patience – The number one thing that you can use in regards to making money on the Internet is a little bit of patience. If you can have this in mind whenever you try to make a move on the web, you will be calm, collected and cool when something doesn’t go your way. You will then be able to correct the issue and move on. Those that rush into things, try to hastily make websites, write articles, or try to buy their way into the search engines, often times fail. A little patience goes a long way.

Social Networking – For those that are no longer working in an office somewhere, but are enjoying the riches of marketing of all types, they have mastered the art of being social. This is not something that you can do without investing into the lives of others. Whether it’s online or offline, you have to make sure that you’re spending time daily to read what others post on their profiles, or at least send people emails, and make a few phone calls. Being social is the number one way you’re going to master any MLM plan of action.

Work Ethic – This is going to be tough for some, but you’ll need to establish a hard work ethic from the very start of your network marketing success journey. If you don’t work hard in your amateur years, you will not be able to get to the top of the MLM mountain. Make sure you put in some serious hours at first, then taper off when you have either a turnkey business, or a lot of affiliates to help you out. If not, establish hard work, and you’ll generate a lot of money.

The above 3 elements are commonplace for those that are making the online world work for them. If you use the above tips to your advantage, you will not only succeed in business online, but you will also be able to teach others to avoid certain mistakes. Without the above 3 elements your road to riches will be paved with serious pot holes and you will often times fall into traps and bad ideology. Focus on a good plan, execute it well, and use the above as a simple guide to reduce the growing pains that are inevitable.