How to Use the Internet to Promote Your Business Without Getting Distracted

Remember a few years ago when social media marketing was being touted as a cheap promotional strategy that would level the playing field for small business? How times have changed! Today, using the Internet and social media to promote your business has become a necessity that typically turns into a costly draw on your time, energy, and money. Countless businesses are involved in Internet marketing in some way, and the sheer amount of competing noise can be overwhelming.

targetThough there is nothing cheap or easy about online marketing if you want to be effective, you can still get some real results without draining your budget and without compromising too much of your time. The key is going in with the right approach, recognizing what online marketing allows you to do (as well as what it can’t do), and knowing how to keep yourself from getting distracted.

These days, the majority of small businesses that conduct successful online marketing campaigns typically share a few common qualities:

They have a plan with measurable goals. Before you create even one online profile, send out one tweet or status update, or write a blog post, you need to be very clear about what you are trying to accomplish with your online marketing as well as if your goals are realistic. Are you trying to build relationships, sell products, or generate leads? All of the above? Once you’ve answered that question, you then need to create a detailed plan of action that describes how you will use Internet marketing to go about accomplishing those goals.

They are clear about their available resources. As mentioned above, successful online marketing takes a significant amount of resources. So, you need to be very clear at the beginning about what you can afford to dedicate to your online marketing efforts. What is your available time? What is your budget? What skills or qualities do you and your employees have that can be used in your online marketing? Do you have any good writers? Is anyone good at making connections? Creating engaging images? Conducting a webinar or hangout? Take stock of these resources and give some thought about how you can best use them.

They know where their target market hangs out. Stop spending your time on platforms that don’t convert! You need to find out where your target audience hangs out online and determine the best ways to reach them there. What kind of content will attract their attention and get them interested in your business?

They maintain an online marketing schedule. Another great way to help you stay focused on the things that matter is to create and maintain an Internet marketing schedule. This schedule will include any content marketing initiatives as well as social media marketing tasks, such as posting content, commenting, and connecting with other users. Make an effort to keep to the allotted times, and look for ways to automate the activities that don’t necessarily need direct input, such as scheduling status updates.

They keep their online marketing efforts fresh, yet focused. The online world changes very quickly. Techniques that were once working can suddenly stop being effective, while new openings and opportunities are being created. That’s why you need to be making the effort to monitor the effectiveness of each strategy and create some space to try out different techniques and platforms. Your goal with this is to be keeping and tweaking the strategies that are working, while putting a stop to the ones that aren’t. But, keep in mind that these efforts should be in moderation. If you remember the overall online marketing goals that you set for your business mentioned above, then you’ll keep yourself from taking on much more than you can chew and chasing every new and shiny strategy under the sun.

In short, successful online marketing is a process that is unique to your business and your target audience. There is no magic bullet; there’s no one guaranteed successful technique or platform. You need to just roll up your sleeves and figure it out. Don’t let this put you off, though. If you get it right, you can significantly improve your brand awareness, boost your sales, and create loyal customers, and these results will be exponentially greater than the resources you put in.

How To Make Location-Based Social Media Work for Your Business

Now that interest and enthusiasm for daily deals sites, such as Groupon, LivingSocial, and Google Offers have begun to wane, a new wave of social media of platforms lies in their wake. Location-based services, such as Yelp and Foursquare are being heavily targeted to small businesses as a way to increase sales and customer engagement.

But location-based social media is far from the holy grail model of small business success. To make it work, you need to approach it all with a solid strategy. Here are some tips to make location-based social media work for your business and not against it:

Know your business. Many small business owners learned the hard way that offering daily deals just wasn’t good for them and their business model. The same can be said of using location-based services to entice customers to patron your business. If you are constantly having to cut into your profit margins with discounts that don’t bring repeat business or you are unfamiliar with these platforms and are having a hard time eliciting user engagement and interest, then it may not be for you.

The bottom line here is that you need to be realistic regarding how well these kinds of services will fit into your business, how adept you can expect to be with them, and what kinds of offers and enticements you can comfortably support to drum up interest and sales.

Know your customers. Even if you know that you can comfortably carry out a savvy marketing campaign on Foursquare and the like, you have to make sure that your customers are the kinds of people who would use such services. If most of your customers aren’t there already, then don’t bother spending inordinate amounts of time and money trying to drag them there.

If they are on the network, then first spend some time learning how they use it and what is important to them.

Make it simple. Give customers who check-in a small reward for doing so, such as a discount or coupon, and maybe offer a different reward for customers who leave a recommendation for your business on the network. You can use this service like a loyalty program. Make sure your rewards are clear, meaning customers know what they are getting when they perform certain actions, and that you follow through.

Make it worth their while. This is extremely important… While you don’t want to break the bank with offers that are too costly, you still want to make sure that the reward is connected to the level of effort required to access it. And building on the last point above, make sure that you acknowledge and reward active users. These are the people who take the time to leave recommendations, upload photos of the business, or leave other “tips” to future customers. Having such people on board is extremely valuable to your business because they are helping you promote your products and services. Woo them!!! The worst thing you can do is totally ignore their efforts.

In short, using location-based social media platforms in your marketing mix, may or may not be right for your business. If you consider the points above, you can save yourself a whole lot of headache later on and money, too, and which small business owner doesn’t want that?

Should You Bring Multiple Authors into Your Business Blog?

If your online business marketing strategy includes a business blog, then you may want to consider bringing in multiple authors for your content. Now, here I’m not talking about having the occasional guest poster, though there are definitely many benefits to such a setup. What I’m referring to is a team of writers, who may or may not be directly affiliated with your business, but they possess some expertise or knowledge that compliments your content production. They may offer multiple posts and even become regular contributors.

I recently came across this video at Social Media Examiner that describes several aspects of running a multi-author blog. It’s definitely a model of contant creation and management that some small business owners should consider.

Perhaps you don’t see the need for multiple authorship, or you may be reluctant to give away a part of your platform so that others can come and take away the spotlight. But if your business relies heavily on your online branding and marketing efforts, then you may want to think again. There are many benefits to running a multi-author blog:

  • Writers will be more invested in your site (and your business) and will readily share content with their own followers and circles to both promote your business and their contributions.
  • Having multiple authors creates a greater sense of community. They and their followers will be more invested in your site. There’s a sense of ownership because they have contributed towards it. This means not only more social sharing, but also more visits and quality commenting.
  • Multi author blogs also come with some serious SEO benefits. If you have an active, contributing community then it ensures that your website is constantly being refreshed. These days, any known expert in search engine optimization will tell you that constantly producing quality, fresh content will give your website a leg up in the search results.
  • By bringing in other writers it means you will be able to offer your readers and customers insight and expertise that you may be lacking. Outside writers also bring a different writing style and perspective which can give your content some balance and freshness.
  • You will also have more time to run your business. Aside from having to look over posts that have been submitted for review, most of the process of having contributing authors upload content can be automated. With blogging platforms, such as WordPress, setting up a multi-author blog is relatively secure and easy to set-up and manage. Even an initial, automated screening process can be put in place.

In short, there are many compelling reasons to consider opening up your business blog to outside authors. If it is not something that would benefit your particular site, then consider hosting a forum or encouraging comments from your readers. Either way, your goal is to build an engaged community who will also be engaged with your business.