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    5 Things About Online Marketing You Didn't Realize You Already Know

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Online marketing. For business owners who haven’t started an online marketing program, the concept can often cause them to feel overwhelmed. Having a vague idea of what online marketing is, but not knowing where to begin, can make it difficult to start. But in today’s connected world, advertising your business online is a must. Without an online marketing strategy, you’re missing out on crucial business leads and the opportunity to connect with your customers through social media. But have no fear! Chances are you already know many key elements of online marketing and don’t even realize it.

    You might be thinking, “Me? Know online marketing?” You might not know it, but if you understand some business basics, you already have a head start when it comes to online marketing. Here are five essentials about online marketing you didn’t realize you already know. 

    1) Your Brand

    Elements like logos, taglines, brand voice, color palette, image requirements, and overall brand personality are vital to your brand. You know what these items are and you know how they work together to communicate your brand to your audience. Having this knowledge is essential before any Tweet, Facebook update, or blog post is ever created. If you’re armed with a solid understanding of your brand, you’ve already taken the first step in building an online marketing strategy for your business.

    2) Your Audience

    The fact is, you know your audience because you know your customers. Renter or home owner? Male or female? College grad or retiring Boomer? The demographics list of every company varies, but no matter how your audience skews, you know who they are. You understand what your customers are looking for in your market and why they seek you out (or should seek you out). With this knowledge, you’re on your way to creating an online marketing plan that’s targeted to the right people. For instance, if you know that your audience is heavily female, then you know that Pinterest might be a good option for your business since the site tends to attract more women than men. Without understanding the wants, needs, and values of your customers, then you could be wasting your time trying an online marketing strategy that isn’t right for your business.

    3) Your Specials & Offers

    Print coupons. Loyalty discounts. Buy-one-get-one-free specials. Whatever your company is offering in terms of specials and offers, you know what they are. But now you can take your offers to an online audience. For example, you could send a special email to your client database promoting a two-for-one deal that you’re planning. Or you could create a custom image to promote a 20% off promotion special to your Facebook fans. With the myriad of online platforms you can take advantage of online, you have unlimited opportunities to share your specials and offers to your audience.

    4) Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats

    Every business has strengths and weaknesses, as well as marketplace opportunities and threats to its business, otherwise known as SWOT. By taking time to think of each category as it relates to your business, you can begin to create various jumping-off points into an effective online marketing program.

    • Strengths: What is your business best at in your marketplace? Why do customers tell you they chose you over competitors? When you understand your strengths, you have excellent opportunities to tell your story to your online audience. For example, if you won an industry award or were voted by consumers as the best in your industry, you could post that information on your social pages and website. 
    • Weaknesses: You know where you need to shore up your business, and hopefully you’re actively addressing those areas that need improvement. For instance, frequently monitoring review sites and social media pages for reviews and feedback is a great way to see what people are saying about you, so you can take steps to respond publicly to them and address any operations or customer service issues with your staff. There are several proactive ways you can address those reviews using a reputation management program.

    • Opportunities: You have a clear idea of what’s going on in your market and how your company can benefit. You see areas to gain profit, gain clients, grow your operations, etc. For example, perhaps your current clients have been requesting evening and Saturday hours. Seeing an opportunity to meet their needs as well as earn additional revenue, you decide to expand your hours of operation.  Then, you could advertise your expanded hours in your online ads or in social media pages.
    • Threats: You know the areas in the marketplace that are encroaching on your business. One of the biggest threats to your business is your competition. Knowing who your competitors are and how they’re advertising to your audience is very important. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to create a differentiated, unique message to present to your audience. For instance, if your competitors are new to the industry, you could advertise that you’ve been in business for 25 years. This key differentiator can build confidence with your potential customers. 

    5) Your Existing Advertising Strategy

    Billboards, television ads, Yellow Pages, and beyond. If you’ve used traditional advertising methods in the past and know what did and didn’t work, you have an excellent foundation of knowledge that will help you to decide what kind of online marketing to add to the mix. The great thing about online marketing compared to traditional advertising is that you get better audience targeting, tracking and measurement of leads and return on investment, and the opportunity to reach additional audiences. If you already have one or two online strategies, such as a Facebook page or emails to your clients, you can also assess how successful they have been. But, having just one or two online platforms isn’t enough for a strong online marketing program. Here’s your chance to think of adding new online marketing strategies to your current spend.

    If the thought of creating and launching an online marketing program for your business feels overwhelming, just remember that you already know more about online marketing than you may have realized. You have an excellent foundation of knowledge on which you can begin to move into the online marketing space. To learn more about how an online marketing partner can work for your business, visit www.reachlocal.com.

    What challenges have you faced when marketing your business online? Share your comments below.

    About the Author

    Amy Neeley is a Dallas-based copywriter who's been assisting Fortune 500 and small- and medium-size businesses with their marketing messaging since 2004.

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    Types of Images You Should Be Posting Now

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Visit any website, blog, or social media site today and you will see images as an important part of the content and layout. No matter where you go, images are now an integral part of the stories we tell online.  Because images are such an important part of today’s online landscape, it’s important to create and use the right kinds of photos across your entire Web presence. Effective images can help drive action and engagement from customers and prospects on photo-sharing sites, directories, blogs, and social media pages. Check out the types of photos you should be using to market your business online.

    Product Images

    There are many types of product images you can use across your Web presence to drive clicks to your website, build engagement from current and prospective customers, and grow awareness for your type of business in your local area. Here are a few types and examples of product images you should consider sharing.

    • Best-Selling Products – Do you have products that fans and current customers rave about? Highlight them on your social media profiles, website, and local directories with a small description on what makes them top sellers.
    • Before-and-After Shots – Sharing side-by-side before and after photos of the results of your products or services can be a great way to help potential customers visualize the value of your business. These illustrate the benefits of you what you have to offer in a way that words may not be able to fully demonstrate. Plus, there are many iPhone apps and Android apps that allow you to easily arrange side-by-side photos using images from your smartphone’s photo album.  
    • Happy Customers and Their Comments – If your business has customer feedback cards, or if you have received special handwritten notes from your satisfied customers, snap a picture of them and use them to show positive feedback about your business. Make sure to ask the customer who wrote the feedback for permission to use their comments, and make sure to hide any personal information such as phone numbers or email addresses. You can also ask happy customers to provide their photo to post along with a written review, which can humanize your brand. 

    Infographics

    An infographic may take longer to put together than a photograph, but when done correctly, it can be a great tool for sharing information about your business or industry or to educate others about your types of products or services. For example, a sushi restaurant could create an infographic about the etiquette of eating sushi. Or, an orthodontist could share an infographic illustrating the top 10 foods to avoid when wearing braces and why. When you decide what content to feature in your infographic, there are several online infographic generator tools to help you develop your infographic, or you can hire a talented designer to help you create something shareable. Then, post your infographic on your blog and image-driven social media sites like Pinterest to get the word out.

    Quote Images

    Quotes are great pieces of content you use in “snackable” images, and they are simple to make with photo editing programs or easy-to-use quote graphic tools. Consider using inspirational quotes that relate to your business or that your fans will appreciate,  quotes from leaders of your company, or short messages from happy customers. Make sure to cite the quote’s author in the image itself. Also, creating a quote image with an attention-getting line from a blog post is a simple way to share your blog post on your social media sites. Just make sure to include a link back to your original post in the photo description.

    Memes

    From Grumpy Cat to Success Baby, you’ve probably seen many different memes posted on your social media sites. But, have you thought of using these as part of your business’ content marketing? For instance, GE has taken the Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” meme and turned it on its head, creating industry-related memes starring Thomas Edison. There are many different types of memes to choose from, but if you decide to use one as part of your content marketing, make sure it’s not offensive or crude. You can also upload your own image to start your own meme.

    Culture Images

    Posting images featuring your company’s culture is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to your employees and to your community. Do your employees volunteer at community events? Does your business sponsor a local animal shelter or youth sports team? If so, make sure you share photos of these events and goodwill on your website, blog, and social media pages. You may discover that you have even more in common with your fans and create new advocates within your online community. 

    These are just some of the many types of images that you can post online to boost engagement with your brand and build your overall Web presence. What other types of images do you use as part of your content marketing strategy? Let us know in a comment! 

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    About the Author:

    Tara Banda writes about how small business owners can reach local customers through online marketing for the ReachLocal blog. You can connect with her on Twitter.

    7 Types of Customers on Social Media (And What They Mean for Your Business)

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Any business using social media to market their company online, share about their business, and engage with customers will quickly learn that there are many types of people who follow their brand’s social media pages. No matter what social media platforms you are using, you are likely to run across these seven different types of customers. Here’s a look a who they are, why they’re following your brand on social media, and what to do to get the most out of them!

    1) The Quiet Follower

    This customer may have quietly liked your business on Facebook or followed you on Twitter to stay in touch with your brand, but they don’t say much and may seem like they aren’t engaging with you. These types of followers don’t do any harm, but you can potentially get more engagement by creating stronger calls to action on your posts, such as by asking your followers to like or “retweet” your posts. Sometimes all it takes to create more engagement is simply to ask for it! The bonus: on Facebook, the more you can get “quiet” followers to engage with your content, the more your content will show up in their news feeds.

    2) The Casual “Liker”

    The casual “liker” occasionally “likes” your Facebook or LinkedIn posts or retweets your content on Twitter. They most likely have followed your business because they genuinely enjoy the kinds of content you share or want to showcase to their friends that they are a fan of your business. To get more out of the “liker,” types, try using calls to action on your Facebook posts that ask your fans to share your content. For example, a restaurant could share a photo of their famous dessert with the caption, “Share this post if you love chocolate!” Or, a spa could post a photo of the latest trend in nail polish color with the caption “Share this if you’re wild about green this spring!” By asking your fans to share your posts, you help turn casual “liking” fans into more vocal advocates for your brand and potentially spread the word about your business to the friends of your fans.

    3) The Deal Seeker

    This customer follows your business on social media sites for access to exclusive deals, coupons, and customer appreciation incentives and events. And there are lots of this type of follower! In fact, research shows that 58% of Facebook users expect access to sales or to receive discounts or promotions after “liking” a brand on Facebook. So, make sure you’re giving this type of customer a reason to stay up to date with your brand by posting regular deals, offers, and specials for your social media audiences. For example, some businesses offer a “deal of the week” or a special contest each month that appeals to the deal-seeker type of fan. Bonus: Businesses that are regularly sharing sales, coupons, or contests are giving new consumers a good reason to follow their social pages, so this can also help you grow your follower numbers. 

    4) The Unhappy Customer

    Negativity is never something you want to see on your social media pages, but it happens even to the best of us. The fact of the matter is, more and more people are using social media as a way to more publicly communicate with brands by leaving posts on their Facebook pages or through @mentions on Twitter, often in hopes of getting more timely or satisfactory customer service. And, due to the public, transparent nature of social media, sometimes that means that unhappy customers who want to complain publicly will be seen by more than just your business. 

    To minimize the negative impact of unhappy customers, it’s important to have a good reputation management process in place so your business can respond in a timely manner to customer complaints on your social media pages. By monitoring your pages for feedback and complaints, then responding quickly and appropriately (when needed), you communicate to that follower that your business is listening and that you care. Plus, publicly responding to these customers shows all your current and prospective fans and followers that you put the customer first. Pro tip: Set up a dedicated email address or phone number you can share publicly on negative comments like these so you can take the resolution process offline to best address the customer’s needs. 

    5) The Negative Detractor

    As much as we’d like all negative comments to come from customers who have legitimate complaints that can be resolved, we have seen case after case of businesses getting slammed with negative comments on social media from fans and non-fans alike , sometimes for issues not related to specific experiences with your business. Often, these stem from political, ideological, cultural, or other personal issues that have come into public spotlight. In order to keep your business safe from the threat of social media detractors, it’s best to steer clear of making potentially controversial public statements that risk drawing ire from the public at large. Should your business ever find itself in a social media firestorm, it’s probably best to consult with a good public relations or crisis communications firm for strategic guidance on how to proceed.

    6) The Enthusiastic Cheerleader

    Everything! Is! Awesome! Including these passionate social media followers. They may or may not do a ton of business with you, but they retweet, like, comment on, and share every single post from your business. They enter every contest and tag your business in happy reviews on their personal wall. These are great fans to have because they spread the word about your business to their networks, they add life and charisma to your social pages, and they help keep the momentum in your community going. Make the most of these social media fans by highlighting them as a fan of the week, sharing their user-generated content like fan photos, or asking them to participate in a social media campaign or promotion for your brand.

    7) The Loyal Customer

    You know them by their profile picture because you’d also recognize them if they walked through your door tomorrow. They recommend you to everyone they know, and their lifetime customer value is way beyond typical because their referral rate is so high. These are the true fans of your business because they’re the life and soul of your customer base. To really benefit from these customers, ask them to star in a video testimonial for your business or share their success stories as case studies or quotes on your website. And, offer value to them in return by showing your appreciation for their loyal business through customer reward programs, appreciation events, or loyalty discounts.

    Have you run across these customers on your social media sites? What other customer types did we miss? Share your thoughts in a comment!

    About the Author

    Tiffany Monhollon shares practical tips and insights about reaching consumers across the web as a blogger for ReachLocal. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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    Why SEO Isn't Enough: 6 No-Brainer Reasons to Use Search Advertising

    Last updated 1 year ago

    When small businesses think of Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, the first thing that comes to mind is often search engine optimization, or SEO. While getting your website to rank organically on the search engine results page (SERPs) is one of the most important online marketing tactics, it’s critical not to overlook the other half of the equation – search engine advertising. Also known as PPC advertising, it’s one of the easiest, quickest, and most cost-effective ways to drive qualified website traffic, and ultimately get more leads for your business. Here are six no-brainer reasons to use search advertising to market your business online.

    1. You Can Build On Your Existing SEO Efforts

    You’re probably already doing on-page and off-page search engine optimization for your business website — and that’s a great way to help your business get found online. Research shows that 53% of clicks on Google go to the first result on the page, and organic SEO is what can help your business rank there. It’s also true that 75% of consumers don’t scroll past page one of the search results. Now that Google shows fewer organic results, it’s becoming harder than ever to rank on page one, but search advertising can help searchers find your business on that all-important first page.

    2. You Can Get Found Immediately in SERPs

    In addition to being an easy remedy to getting visibility for your business on the first page of search engine results, search advertising also delivers immediate results. While optimizing your website to rank higher organically could take weeks, months, or even years — not to mention the expertise needed to optimize it completely and effectively — your search ad can start to appear in the search results very quickly after you set up your campaign and bid on keywords you want to rank for. This enables you to reach searchers long before your SEO efforts may take effect on your organic rank.

    3. You Can Target Specific Consumers by Geography & Search Terms

    Because search ads allow you to target specific geographic areas and keywords, such as a certain product or service you offer, you can focus your advertising efforts on consumers who are looking for exactly their type of business. This means consumers may be more likely to click on your targeted and optimized text ad rather than a less-specific organic result that may or not be relevant.

    4. You Can Try Different Text Ad Messages

    Another benefit of using search ads is that it allows you to easily change or test multiple headlines, messages, calls to action, and more to see which performs best with your target audience. You can also run multiple ad groups within one campaign, each with a message that targets a different part of your business. For instance, a dentist may want to run one search ad for braces and another one for teeth whitening within the same campaign. This not only gives you more flexibility in your content, but it also allows you to narrow your audience based on specific products or services they are looking for.

    5. You Can Promote Special or Seasonal Offers

    In addition to promoting specific products or services, you can also create search ads to promote specials and seasonal offers, like a back-to-school discount on braces. Since you can easily update your ad groups or text ads, you can remove the offer or replace it with another one in just a matter of minutes.

    6. You Can Drive Consumers to a Conversion-Optimized Landing Page

    Search engine ads are also very effective for driving traffic to campaign-specific landing pages. Running a special for $100 off braces? Create a special landing page that provides details about your offer along with a clear call to action and conversion path. For instance, your landing page might ask potential patients to call your office to schedule an appointment during a specific window of time, which increases the likelihood they will follow through with contacting you.  Having an optimized landing page can help you increase conversions from prospects that search for your business online.

    We can’t stress enough how a well-written, well-targeted, and well-executed search engine advertising campaign can help you get more customers online. To learn more about ReachLocal’s search advertising service, ReachSearch, or to request a consultation, visit www.reachlocal.com

    Tamara Weintraub helps equip small business owners with information about local online advertising, social media, and content marketing as a writer for the ReachLocal blog.

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    Local Commerce Software: The Future of Local Marketing Is Here

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Recently, ReachLocal announced new local commerce solutions, including our consumer service ClubLocal, and several exciting new software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions that help local businesses convert more leads into customers.  

    ReachLocal President Nathan Hanks gave an overview of these new solutions when he spoke at Borrell’s Local Online Advertising Conference which was keynoted by well-known marketing guru Seth Godin and featured presentations by “disruptors” within the local marketing space like Facebook, Pandora, and ReachLocal, among others.

    Nathan shared his unique insights on the evolution currently happening in local marketing where the entire customer acquisition funnel is moving online. “Soon, many local service transactions will take place entirely online; in fact, the shift has largely happened in the travel and retail industries with companies like Expedia and Amazon,” he said. “We believe that everything local that can be bought online eventually will.”

    To that end, ReachLocal has been hard at work on local commerce solutions that enable merchants to deliver their high-touch service along with an Amazon-like online buying experience that helps them win more customers. This local commerce shift will unfold for merchants in two ways:

    1.     Through tapping into new consumer-focused services that connect consumers with local merchants (e.g., OpenTable for booking a restaurant table, Uber for booking a taxi)

    2.     Through new merchant software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms that enable local merchants to do local commerce online themselves

    ReachLocal has created innovative solutions for both of these models. First, ClubLocal is our new consumer brand that builds the relationship with consumers and drives new business for local home service providers. Second, our new SaaS solutions enable SMBs to manage the entire customer lifecycle online, from lead generation (already largely online) and automated lead management to online booking and mobile payments. 

    These SaaS solutions include:

    • ReachSite – a smart website solution that helps businesses convert more of their visitors into leads. It includes basic SEO, dynamic content optimization, and lead capture technology that helps businesses build their marketing list and see the effectiveness of their various marketing tactics.
       
    • ReachConvert – a lead management solution that helps businesses turn website leads into customers. It notifies the business of new leads via text message, email or the ReachLocal mobile app and helps them stay top of mind with consumers through automated emails to their prospects and reminders to the business’ staff to follow up with new leads.
       
    • ReachCommerce – a local commerce solution that takes local merchants’ entire booking and buying process online. This will not only allow consumers to book appointments and pay online, but it will digitize the business’ entire back-office operations, including scheduling, employee and fleet management, estimating, transaction processing, invoicing, retention, business intelligence and reporting. 

    These solutions will help local merchants take their entire customer acquisition process online and more cost-effectively grow their business while delivering much better buying experiences for consumers so that they keep coming back again and again.

    What’s next in the local space? Share your thoughts below about how you think this shift to online local commerce will benefit both merchants and consumers. And, stay tuned to hear more information about these and other new solutions from ReachLocal. To stay up to date on the latest news, tips, and information, you can subscribe to our blog via RSS.

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