3 Marketing Strategies Every Artist Should Implement

Are you a new artist? Are you a veteran artist looking to increase interest in your product? Marketing can be an expensive, time-consuming and a tough road to travel when you are new to entrepreneurship. Here are 3 marketing strategies that are inexpensive and require minimal time away from art production!

Social Media

Social media marketing is a strategy that is just that, social. It is typically done on an Internet platform that engages the public in your content via your computer, smartphone or tablet. Social media allows your target consumers to engage with you and your brand. Some of the most common social media platforms used in marketing today are Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Managing your Social Media Marketing can be very time-consuming. So, I recommend focusing your time and content on a few sites. Here are some recommendations:

Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are visual platforms that will connect your art with customers. With Facebook you can create a business page this is separate from your personal page. The business page will allow you to create a community of followers that can like, comment, and share your images and content. Instagram has the same basic framework as Facebook in that you can create multiple profiles and navigate between them within the app on your phone. This similarity is nice if you have a personal and a business profile. Instagram is a social media outlet that focuses on images which are perfect for visual artists. Again, you can create a community of followers. For Instagram, the usage of the hashtag is vital in generating traffic to your profile, unlike Facebook that is better built on sending requests and calling for people to share your page.

YouTube allows the public to take a step into your studio to see you working on your most current pieces. It may not seem like YouTube is a form of social media but in fact, by definition it is. Social media is any networking platform that allows users to communicate and connect in a social way. Due to the ability to like, share, and comment on videos on YouTube it is truly a social network. YouTube is actually a social media platform before it is a video marketing technique. In the next section, I will share a bit of information about how you can turn this social media platform into a video marketing tool!

Video Marketing

Video marketing is meant to call your consumer or viewer to action. For a video, you create to be considered video marketing it should either generate interest back to your website or to something they will need to pay for in order to gain additional access. Videos are a great way to share your talent with the public and generate interest in your art. Videos also allow your followers and subscribers to get to know you. Viewers enjoy the feeling of developing a relationship with you. When you can create a sense of loyalty, your viewers can become some of your best marketing partners because they may share your videos with their friends.

Since YouTube is free this is a great way to share videos that focus on your art technique or provide short free tutorials for a specific art medium. Don’t forget for this to be a marketing technique it needs to generate something the viewer will need to act upon or purchase. By running a link at the end of your video to send them to your website or offering more in-depth instructional videos for a price at the end, will qualify as a video marketing tool. With YouTube, you can create a channel that may focus on the techniques of your particular style of art or you can post instructional videos with step-by-step information to complete a unique piece of artwork. Free and low-cost video editing software, like Apple’s iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, is available to allow you to truly customize your videos before uploading to YouTube.

Let’s use a watercolor artist who focuses on floral still life, as an example. The artist posts a 5-minute painting tutorial on the subject matter of roses on YouTube. The video was created through the iMovie software that comes standard on most Apple computers currently. At the end of the free 5-minute video, the artist then advertises a paid 30-minute video from their website that will walk the viewer through painting a floral still life with roses from start to finish. The webcam and software come standard with Apple products. The cost for creating this example of video marketing was free.

Social Media and video marketing are both virtual ways to reach your target audience. A low-cost type of marketing that is more tactile and leaves a lasting impression on your audience is through guerilla marketing.

Guerilla Marketing

Guerilla marketing is a grassroots, low-cost, fun, and in-your-face marketing strategy. Often guerilla marketing takes the form of visual art like spray paint tags or unique posters and decals allowing it to seem like a natural fit for visual artists. This marketing strategy is meant to create interest and cause the bystander to be curious enough to investigate the advertisement. It takes more imagination and creativity than money to make guerilla marketing work for you.

Implementing guerilla marketing can be a fun and exciting. Some ideas for guerilla marketing might be to use vinyl stickers or paper posters; this is called wild posting. Walking billboards or quick pop up galleries of work in public places are another trending approach. It should also be stated that legal issues can arise in regard to how or where wild posting and pop-up galleries appear. Posting decals or posters can cause an issue especially if they are placed on paid advertising or local, state or federal fixtures. In most municipalities, there are permits that are required for setting up in public places. Don’t let the risk of legal infringement deter you from using this strategy. With the proper research and planning, guerilla marketing can be a quick and fun way to create buzz about your art.

Social media, video marketing, and guerilla marketing are ways to increase awareness and create artist loyalty from the community near and far. Successful marketing will help you increase brand awareness and loyalty among art consumers.

Heather Miranda Sholar is an artist and owner of Apogee Art Studio, writer and developer of Oak City Business Blog and graduate student with North Carolina State University in the Masters of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Sports Management. She is also currently enrolled in the Masters of Entrepreneurship Degree Program at Western Carolina University. Webmasters and other article publishers are hereby granted article reproduction permission as long as this article in its entirety, author’s information, and any links remain intact. Copyright 2017 by Heather Sholar. https://oakcitybusiness.blog/ https://apogeeartnc.com/

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Creating Effective Social Media – 5 Easy Steps to Creating Social Media That Reaches Your Target

Effectively creating a social media presence is not as hard as it seems. Use five easy steps to improve your online presence now.

1) Know your target audience: You know your customer (or you should) – that’s your audience. All audiences have diversity: age, economic background, style, and interest areas. Now, when you create content, do it as if you are directly speaking to them. Start a conversation. Spark your target’s imagination. Use humor and remember that being too formal can seem inauthentic. Don’t forget to be online with your audience. Explore what they talk about, what they like, what they share, what they hashtag. Interact to get to know them. Tip: use hashtags to research the climate around a topic and see what’s trending.

2) Intentionally set boundaries: After you have visualized your target audience you will need to set up “Go” and “No-Go” areas for your content. These parameters are simplistic yet, paramount. Setting social media boundaries will help you keep your target group happy. Your goal is to create content that is professional and pleasing to your audience. Remember, what is appropriate for one audience, may not be relevant for another. Areas to carefully consider: politics, profanity, slang verbiage, etc.

3) Find a graphics tools that work for you: Creating graphics will serve you well, as visuals are an integral part of all social media platforms. Even Twitter is now more visually based; they have made it easier than ever to share graphics and animated gifts, right at the point of creation. You can put your best visual foot forward by utilizing any purchased, or free, graphic software like Adobe Suite (purchased) or Pixler (free). You will want to research which programs work best with your skill level; there are many online to explore.

4) Consider your platform: Create visual content with limited text, to show/say something significant and inspirational. Know what rules apply to the platform you are using. For example, Twitter limits you to 140 characters or less. These rules will shape your content. Research platform parameters online to familiarize yourself with each structure.

5) Use color: Don’t forget to utilize color; it draws the eye! You can also create a theme of colors that you will use to represent your brand. Using colors enhances what someone feels, for example, Greens and Blues are said to create trust and a fresh feeling, while yellows, reds, and oranges are said to excite, or even make the viewer hungry (think fast food chains). Create content that welcomes your audience to take a closer look. Tip: add your logo to most of the content you create.

By using the five steps above: knowing your audience, setting boundaries, optimizing graphics, mastering platforms, and through utilizing color, you are well on your way to creating social media that effectively reaches your target.


Stephanie Newby is the owner of Newgreenie Inc, an Entrepreneur, Writer, Current Graduate Student and Social Media Enthusiast. Webmasters and other article publishers are hereby granted article reproduction permission if this article is shared in its entirety, author’s information, and any links remain intact. Copyright 2017 by Stephanie Newby, Newgreenie Inc. newgreenie.com

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Enhancing Your Small Business Brand

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enhance your brand

Your company already has a brand. And it’s not your logo. It’s your image to the world, based on what they see, hear and experience about you.

Even though your brand is ultimately determined by public perception, you can still influence feelings about your small business with the right strategy, visuals and messaging in place.

So are you maximizing your opportunities to enhance your company’s greatness? Consider these three areas where you can create meaningful, relevant experiences with your audience to strengthen and enhance your brand.

Online Presence

In today’s Internet-centric world, most people use the Web to search for a product or service. So it’s imperative for a small business to have a strong online presence to build a reliable brand, which you can easily create with a domain name.

A domain name can be leveraged in several ways. If you’re not ready to launch a website just yet, you can still get started with:

  • Business- branded email – show the world your company is established and professional so potential customers will find you more credible.
  • A Custom Web Address to Your Social Media Page – No website? No problem. A domain name lets you connect a custom web address to your social media or ecommerce page, allowing it to act as a business website. Now when a customer types in your web address, it takes them directly to your social media presence. Having your own web address makes it easy to tell people where to find you online. And, if you want to create a website in the future, you already have a great web address that your customers know.

Then once you’re ready to take the next step, launch a:

  • Company website – gain trust with online consumers and reach a wider audience with your message 24/7. And make sure your site is mobile friendly too

Digital Marketing

With so much competition to choose from, promoting your business frequently helps keep you top-of-mind. Showcase what defines your brand from the competition by using these marketing methods that will build recognition and trust amongst existing and potential clients:

  • Email  boost customer loyalty and drive business to on- and offline channels.
  • SEO  increase your website’s visibility to search engines so your site reaches more potential online consumers.
  • Social Media Advertising – try paid advertising on social networks where your customers and prospects spend time. Many social platforms have budget-friendly options. Here are some options:
    • Twitter¹ ads can work with any budget, and can easily be set up with just a credit card.
    • Facebook² and LinkedIn³ allow you to segment advertising targets by age, gender, location and interests, among others.
    • YouTube4 offers free services, charging fees only if users actually watch your videos.
  • Content – create and distribute unique content to attract customers to your brand, products and services.

Consistent Experience

Whether it’s spoken over the telephone, written on a blog or printed on a business card, providing a consistent experience through all business touch points is key to building a strong brand that resonates with your audience. Consider your:

  • Customer service – take the necessary steps to ensure you are providing a consistent, seamless customer service experience through all channels whether it’s your help desk, live chat, and yes, social media.
  • Design & Messaging – be consistent with your logo, colors and graphics (i.e., stationary, brochures, apparel) and messaging across all forms of communication (i.e., web articles, Tweets, newsletter) since this is key to building an effective, accurate brand.

Bottom line: your brand is not a fancy symbol, but what the public feels (and then shares!) about you. By clearly communicating who you are and what you’re about, the world will eventually see how great you are too.

To learn about driving business success through personal branding, click here.

1Twitter, Inc. Accessed Feb. 18, 2015. https://biz.twitter.com/products/pricing
2Facebook, Inc. Accessed Feb. 18, 2015. https://www.facebook.com/advertising
3LinkedIn Corporation. Accessed Feb. 18, 2015. https://www.linkedin.com/advertising
4YouTube. Accessed Feb. 18, 2015. http://www.youtube.com/yt/advertise/

Brand Image via Shutterstock

This article, "Enhancing Your Small Business Brand" was first published on Small Business Trends

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SEO Frustration? Here’s Why You Need to Try Again

White hat SEO company

If you, like me, are an SEO salesperson, or if you are in account management, you have definitely heard it.  Likely even the other members of your agency have heard it as well. To what am I referring?  To the SEO Rip Off/Blackhat Story, of course. Though the details of the story may change prospect to prospect, there are a few standard elements that always seem to be present.  They are: 1) My past SEO company charged me an arm and a leg, and they didn’t get results. 2) My past SEO company took my money, and I just never heard from them again. 3) My past SEO company was doing really great for me, then we got slammed with a Manual penalty from Google, and I found out that my agency was doing black hat SEO. These are all very unfortunate occurrences that happen too often. However, each of these need not be the coffin nail for your SEO hopes. There are reasons to seek out a good SEO company. Today, we will examine three of them that correspond to the stories mentioned above.

You are Now Much Wiser to the SEO Game and Know What to Look for in a Quality Agency

So, you had a poor experience with an SEO company, and you are unsure about how to judge the effectiveness of future partners before you purchase.  Fortunately, you have many more tools in your belt now to help determine what a good SEO strategy is and what is likely to produce the best results.  You have great websites like Moz and Raven Tools that constantly publish great content focusing on best practices for SEO as well as great SEO news sites like Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Land that will help you remain up to date on trends and news in the digital marketing world.  Furthermore, you clearly know a strategy that doesn’t work (aka, your first agency’s strategy), and you can use that to compare new plans.  Finally, you now know that the proof is in the pudding.  That is, you now know that if a company can’t rank itself highly for key search terms, it very likely can’t rank your site either.  If you talk to an agency that can’t be found in the search engines, you know to take a pass and move on.

Demand a Contract that Protects You in Case the Client Doesn’t Perform the Agreed Upon Services

I am still stunned at the sheer number of times I am talking to a prospect about a competitor who is offering SEO services without a contract. You, prospect, now know the futility of a relationship with an SEO agency that doesn’t hold itself accountable in writing to you.  Are you simply going to take your salesperson’s word that he or she is going to get the work done?  You simply can’t afford to make this mistake again because the worst case scenario is too costly to you in terms of money and time wasted, and it happens too often.  You are not being pushy to ask for the terms of the agreement to be committed to writing.  You are simply being a wise, forward-looking business person who is concerned for his or her best interests.

Educate Yourself on Google’s Algorithm Updates to Protect Against Spammy SEO and Find a Company that has Never Done Black Hat SEO or had a Client Penalized for Work Done by that Agency

Panda and Penguin aren’t simply your favorite animals at the ZOO.  Flawed as they may be, they are also some of the best changes to happen to SEO in forcing the spammers into relative ineffectiveness.  They are both updates to Google’s algorithm, the notoriously secret formula that determines search rankings.  Once you can understand both Panda and Penguin, you will then be armed with the knowledge you need to quiz each SEO company on their past work.  First, find out if the company you are considering has ever done black hat SEO in the past.  Though this isn’t a completely damning fact if they are currently doing white hat SEO, it is a sign that you should be very wary of working with that company.  Second, find out if that company has ever had a client penalized. If they have, you need to do some serious soul searching before working with them.  Though they may have reformed their ways, in my opinion, you should probably move on as there are plenty of agencies that have never earned their clients a penalty before.

Your SEO story doesn’t have to have a bad ending.  Things can turn around and be better, and you can experience the joys of targeted traffic and inbound leads all day long if you follow the steps above.  While I haven’t covered everything you should dissect when vetting an agency, the above is a start.

SEO Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "SEO Frustration? Here’s Why You Need to Try Again" was first published on Small Business Trends

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10 Ways Business Owners Can Make the Most of Seasonal Marketing

Seasonal marketing tips for small business

Your company doesn’t have to specialize in a seasonal product or service for you to take advantage of holiday promotions, or certain trends that only come around once a year. In order to bring you seasonal marketing tips for small business, we asked 12 entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following question:

Q. What is one strategy that can help business owners make the most of seasonal marketing campaigns?

Their best answers are below.

Seasonal Marketing Tips for Small Business

1. Start Early

It can really help to beat the noise by starting a seasonal campaign before everyone else. For example, you might send out thank you notes a few weeks before Thanksgiving or send out promotions during the spring for products that are useful for the summer. Avoid fighting the noise by starting a bit before everyone else. – Andrew ThomasSkyBell Video Doorbell

2. Organize Your Content From the Start

You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” For seasonal marketing, you’ll want to organize content effectively from the start so that you can recycle your best-performing ideas next year. Use a shared drive for your team so all files are uploaded in the same place for review and implementation next year. – Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

3. Enhance Your Web Design and Logo With Seasonal Images

A great example of leveraging design and logo changes to promote seasonality and events is Google Doodles. Google changes its logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous people. You can do the same! For instance, add some snowflakes, outdoor themes, or fall foliage to your logo or change some design elements to promote seasonality. Be creative and consistent with changes. – Kristopher JonesLSEO.com

4. Customize Your Services

For each season, try to customize your services to what customers need the most. You way want to consider offering side services that you normally don’t to match customer needs. A lawn care company for example, could offer raking during the fall season, taking advantage of a limited customer need, even though it’s not relevant the rest of the year. – Matt DoyleExcel Builders

5. Check Out the Competition

Research what others have done in the past to see what works and what doesn’t so you can use this information as a benchmark for your own campaigns. You can adapt their strategy and use your messaging and differentiation points to set yourself apart and stand out during various seasons. – Drew HendricksButtercup

6. Take Note of Last Year’s Holiday Trends

It seems like every year there is something new and exciting going on in reference to seasonal promotions. Whether it’s social media, mobile or online coupons, it’s important to keep an eye on the competition and see what’s worked in prior years. At the same time, you don’t want to waste time on trends that didn’t. Combine what has worked in the past and what works today to find a winner. –Zac JohnsonHow to Start a Blog

7. Build Reusable Assets

If your business has the opportunity to capitalize on seasonal trends (which not all companies do), spend the time to design campaigns that develop assets that can be used for seasonal campaigns in the future. These could be creative, websites, mini-apps, Facebook pages, email lists, etc. The main idea is to conceptualize these campaigns as investments rather than one-offs. – Nick EubanksI’m From The Future

8. Use Google Ads Extensions

During holidays, use Google Ad extensions focused on the holiday season. If you are a clothing retailer, insert ad extensions related to the holiday. For example, if it’s Easter, advertise “Blowout Easter Sales” on all of your Google ads to get consumers to increase their likelihood of clicking. Use time-sensitive offers to give viewers an incentive to click. – Marcela De VivoBrilliance

9. Map Out Strategy Early

Regardless of whether you’re running a seasonal business or have constant sales flow throughout the year, there are ways to take advantage of seasonality. It is key to map out a strategy for the seasonal pushes that can help the business. Whether it is a discount for the holiday months or a free session to kick off member New Year’s resolutions, it is always smart to have a plan to boost sales. –Josh YorkGYMGUYZ

10. Take the Opportunity to Connect

Use the holiday or season to send a quick note, update or joke to your prospects and customers as a way to stay top of mind. Marketing is about repeat impressions and if you are falling off their radar, your marketing is failing. – James McDonoughSEE Forge creators of FAT FINGER

This article, "10 Ways Business Owners Can Make the Most of Seasonal Marketing" was first published on Small Business Trends

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Is Inbound Marketing a Waste Of Time and Money?

Inbound Marketing Advice for Small Business

Need to figure out whether inbound marketing fits in your marketing mix?  Here’s some inbound marketing advice for small businesses.

Inbound marketing is a term coined and evangelized by the founders of HubSpot (a company that develops and markets inbound marketing software) that refers to strategic use of content in lead generation and sales.

The concept is simple — businesses should use blogs, video, podcasts, guides, ebooks and other types of content to attract new customers. Proponents of inbound marketing claim that this is an easier, cheaper, and more effective way of getting business.

Inbound marketing is usually contrasted with outbound marketing or traditional marketing that consists of buying TV and radio advertising, direct mail campaigns, and other forms of offline marketing. Traditional marketing is seen by inbound marketers as expensive, ineffective and difficult  to measure.

Today inbound marketing has become ubiquitous and many small businesses are allocating more and more of their marketing budgets towards inbound marketing initiatives.

Are there better ways to spend your hard earned small business marketing dollars?

Inbound Marketing Advice for Small Business

While content marketing shouldn’t be neglected it should take a backseat to a number of strategic business  and marketing strategies and methods.

Focusing on customer experience, referral marketing, increasing brand awareness would all be better choices for spending marketing dollars for most small businesses.

Why?

Because those strategies executed at the same level of competence simply produce a better return on investment in most markets.

There Is Only One Gary Vaynerchuk

Some inbound marketing affectionados will point out that doing content marketing right will propel you to stardom. Gary Vaynerchuk did it — so can you.

This is the first misconception. Practically all small businesses will miss the mark on creating remarkable content and in the process they will waste valuable time and money.

Most small businesses are simply not capable of creating content that will make anyone think twice about sharing it.

At the end of the day — how many wine vloggers do you know?

Inbound Marketing Is Not Free

Producing content, tweeting, blogging and running inbound marketing campaigns costs money or time. Let’s not forget the training costs, opportunity costs and the cost of tools.   

Inbound marketing tools are relatively expensive.

Yearly costs of using the market leading inbound marketing platform like Hubspot for a somewhat established business start at more than $12,000 per year. However, this platform is powerful and its list of features includes everything from keyword suggestions and social media monitoring to landing page creation tools and email lead nurturing.  

But it creates no content.

Great content can make a big impact on your bottom line, but this can come at a substantial cost. Creating comprehensive guides, impactful infographics, producing video and other types of remarkable content can cost thousands of dollars.

If you are like most small business owners content creation is not among your core competencies, and as a result you might find yourself in a situation where you are investing a lot of resources without acceptable returns.

Sometimes Inbound Marketing Is A Waste Of Resources

Content should always be a part of your marketing strategy. However there are markets where serious investments in content marketing make no sense. Local niche markets like office cleaning, civil engineering or corporate catering are simply not compatible with inbound marketing.

Understanding how your market behaves online and online can save you a fortune.

Customer Experience (Not Content) Is The One True King

Zappos didn’t become a billion dollar company because they were producing great content about shoes. They became a billion dollar company because they delivered amazing customer experience, and customers couldn’t resist telling their friends.

And what did Zappos use as the primary tool to amaze their customers? Telephone.

Instead of trying to minimize the number of calls they get (much like every other ecommerce business)  Zappos embraced every phone call as an opportunity to create a personal connection with their customers.  Zappos created an army of rabid fans, sales went through the roof, and they got acquired by Amazon for 1.2 billion dollars.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to provide customer experience that beats expectations for your industry. Finding low cost ways to personalize, accelerate or personalize your customer experience will go a long way towards increased loyalty and improved profits.

A simple way to improve customer experience design would be to talk to your customers regularly about their experience with your business, identify “pain points” and eliminate those systematically.

Your website can be a useful tool for improving customer experience. This is where content comes into play. You can engineer your content to enhance customer experience just by interviewing your customers. This may result in higher conversion rates and lower customer acquisition costs.    

Remember That You Customers Are Assets

Inbound marketing philosophy is centered around acquiring new customers using content. If fully adopted as a sole marketing strategy it would limit the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

Small businesses would benefit more by adopting a broader, more strategic approach to marketing that revolves around relationship building, customer experience, and integration of offline and online channels.

Before you make a heavy investment into inbound marketing make sure that:

  • Your customer experience defies industry expectations
  • You measure all important business and marketing metrics.
  • You have a way of communicating with you customers long after they made their last purchase.
  •  Your referral strategy is effective and results are predictable.
  • Your partnerships with complementary businesses produce results.
  • You developed a customer centric culture obsessed by delivering value to customers

Should I Abandon Inbound Marketing?

No.

Inbound marketing should be aligned with your overall marketing strategy as a major part of your online marketing. Content that’s useful to your targeted market can introduce new prospects to your brand but it can also help validate your company in the selection process. Great content can also help reshapes someone’s buying criteria, and compel them to pick up the phone and call you.

But heed this inbound marketing advice for small business: most small businesses can make a greater impact on their bottom lines focusing on other aspects of their marketing strategy before making a serious commitment to inbound marketing.

Inbound Marketing Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Is Inbound Marketing a Waste Of Time and Money?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Continue Reading

Is Inbound Marketing a Waste Of Time and Money?

Inbound Marketing Advice for Small Business

Need to figure out whether inbound marketing fits in your marketing mix?  Here’s some inbound marketing advice for small businesses.

Inbound marketing is a term coined and evangelized by the founders of HubSpot (a company that develops and markets inbound marketing software) that refers to strategic use of content in lead generation and sales.

The concept is simple — businesses should use blogs, video, podcasts, guides, ebooks and other types of content to attract new customers. Proponents of inbound marketing claim that this is an easier, cheaper, and more effective way of getting business.

Inbound marketing is usually contrasted with outbound marketing or traditional marketing that consists of buying TV and radio advertising, direct mail campaigns, and other forms of offline marketing. Traditional marketing is seen by inbound marketers as expensive, ineffective and difficult  to measure.

Today inbound marketing has become ubiquitous and many small businesses are allocating more and more of their marketing budgets towards inbound marketing initiatives.

Are there better ways to spend your hard earned small business marketing dollars?

Inbound Marketing Advice for Small Business

While content marketing shouldn’t be neglected it should take a backseat to a number of strategic business  and marketing strategies and methods.

Focusing on customer experience, referral marketing, increasing brand awareness would all be better choices for spending marketing dollars for most small businesses.

Why?

Because those strategies executed at the same level of competence simply produce a better return on investment in most markets.

There Is Only One Gary Vaynerchuk

Some inbound marketing affectionados will point out that doing content marketing right will propel you to stardom. Gary Vaynerchuk did it — so can you.

This is the first misconception. Practically all small businesses will miss the mark on creating remarkable content and in the process they will waste valuable time and money.

Most small businesses are simply not capable of creating content that will make anyone think twice about sharing it.

At the end of the day — how many wine vloggers do you know?

Inbound Marketing Is Not Free

Producing content, tweeting, blogging and running inbound marketing campaigns costs money or time. Let’s not forget the training costs, opportunity costs and the cost of tools.   

Inbound marketing tools are relatively expensive.

Yearly costs of using the market leading inbound marketing platform like Hubspot for a somewhat established business start at more than $12,000 per year. However, this platform is powerful and its list of features includes everything from keyword suggestions and social media monitoring to landing page creation tools and email lead nurturing.  

But it creates no content.

Great content can make a big impact on your bottom line, but this can come at a substantial cost. Creating comprehensive guides, impactful infographics, producing video and other types of remarkable content can cost thousands of dollars.

If you are like most small business owners content creation is not among your core competencies, and as a result you might find yourself in a situation where you are investing a lot of resources without acceptable returns.

Sometimes Inbound Marketing Is A Waste Of Resources

Content should always be a part of your marketing strategy. However there are markets where serious investments in content marketing make no sense. Local niche markets like office cleaning, civil engineering or corporate catering are simply not compatible with inbound marketing.

Understanding how your market behaves online and online can save you a fortune.

Customer Experience (Not Content) Is The One True King

Zappos didn’t become a billion dollar company because they were producing great content about shoes. They became a billion dollar company because they delivered amazing customer experience, and customers couldn’t resist telling their friends.

And what did Zappos use as the primary tool to amaze their customers? Telephone.

Instead of trying to minimize the number of calls they get (much like every other ecommerce business)  Zappos embraced every phone call as an opportunity to create a personal connection with their customers.  Zappos created an army of rabid fans, sales went through the roof, and they got acquired by Amazon for 1.2 billion dollars.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to provide customer experience that beats expectations for your industry. Finding low cost ways to personalize, accelerate or personalize your customer experience will go a long way towards increased loyalty and improved profits.

A simple way to improve customer experience design would be to talk to your customers regularly about their experience with your business, identify “pain points” and eliminate those systematically.

Your website can be a useful tool for improving customer experience. This is where content comes into play. You can engineer your content to enhance customer experience just by interviewing your customers. This may result in higher conversion rates and lower customer acquisition costs.    

Remember That You Customers Are Assets

Inbound marketing philosophy is centered around acquiring new customers using content. If fully adopted as a sole marketing strategy it would limit the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

Small businesses would benefit more by adopting a broader, more strategic approach to marketing that revolves around relationship building, customer experience, and integration of offline and online channels.

Before you make a heavy investment into inbound marketing make sure that:

  • Your customer experience defies industry expectations
  • You measure all important business and marketing metrics.
  • You have a way of communicating with you customers long after they made their last purchase.
  •  Your referral strategy is effective and results are predictable.
  • Your partnerships with complementary businesses produce results.
  • You developed a customer centric culture obsessed by delivering value to customers

Should I Abandon Inbound Marketing?

No.

Inbound marketing should be aligned with your overall marketing strategy as a major part of your online marketing. Content that’s useful to your targeted market can introduce new prospects to your brand but it can also help validate your company in the selection process. Great content can also help reshapes someone’s buying criteria, and compel them to pick up the phone and call you.

But heed this inbound marketing advice for small business: most small businesses can make a greater impact on their bottom lines focusing on other aspects of their marketing strategy before making a serious commitment to inbound marketing.

Inbound Marketing Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Is Inbound Marketing a Waste Of Time and Money?" was first published on Small Business Trends

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Mobile App Publishers Should Focus on High CTR, MoPub Report Says

ad network partnerships

For mobile app publishers, choosing the right advertising networks to work with is an important part of maximizing revenue potential. A report, just released from MoPub, an ad serving platform for mobile app publishers, reveals insights that, it says, can help publishers drive more revenue from their ad network partnerships.

Ad Network Partnership Report

The report revealed three core findings:

More Successful Publishers Work with 2-5 Ad Networks

Publishers need to work with the right number of ad networks, to balance revenue goals with resource management, the report says. Working with too few limits income. With too many, things can get complicated. Fifty-three percent of publishers work with two to five networks.

MoPub report data - publishers work with 2 to 5 ad networks.

“Publishers partnering with just one ad network may have lower fill rates, which could narrow their potential revenue stream while publishers working with too many may spend time and resources managing increased complexity,” the report says.

The Share of Total Advertising Impression Volume Varies by Region

The top three ad networks — AdMob, Millennial, and Facebook Audience Network (FAN) — account for varying shares of total ad impression volume, depending on the region, the report finds.

For example, ads served by the trio represented 72 percent of the total impressions in the Middle East compared with just 41 percent in North America.

MoPub report data - impressions by region top three ad networks.

“Even as programmatic buying continues to grow, for many publishers, partnering with ad networks is core to their monetization strategy,” the report says. “Publishers tend to partner with different ad networks across many variables including region and ad format, but lack a definitive source about the number of ad networks to work with and how to maximize their revenue and efficiency.”

The report recommends that publishers displaying ads in regions where traffic concentration is lower than in others should consider working with more than just the top three networks.

Publishers Should Focus on Ad Products with High Click-Through Rates

Since advertisers invest more in high-performance media, top CTRs typically translate into increased revenue, the report reveals. In this case, the highest converting ad formats are interstitials and native ads.

MoPub report data - CTR by ad format.

Interstitials are full-screen ads that cover the interface of their host application. Typically, they display during transitions in an application, such as between activities or during the pause between levels in a game.

Native ads follow the natural form and function of the user experience in which they are placed. They are designed to look and feel like natural content rather than advertising, such as these ads from Tango.

Example of native ad on Tango, from MoPub

MoPub, acquired by Twitter in 2013, does not operate an ad network but is an exchange consisting of more than sixty such networks. Mobile app publishers, such as Zynga, Ask.fm, Lotum, NewsRepublic and Tango, use MoPub’s platform to work with networks of their choosing. The platform is designed to help publishers increase monetization.

To learn more about MoPub’s findings, download the full report.

Smartphone Photo via Shutterstock, Other Images: MoPub

This article, "Mobile App Publishers Should Focus on High CTR, MoPub Report Says" was first published on Small Business Trends

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A Big Breakdown of Google’s Local Mobile Search Changes

local search ads on Google Maps

Last week was quite eventful for PPC marketers. Google announced a number of changes coming to AdWords and Analytics during the Google Performance Summit, with mobile being the huge focus.

Google revealed several incredible mobile statistics. We were introduced to Expanded Text Ads. We got a sneak preview of the new Google AdWords interface. And so much more.

Another big change was what Google described as “the next generation” of local search ads.

yes local search ads on Google Maps

So what exactly are these new Google maps ads? What’s changing?

Here are answer to the top 10 questions you’re asking (or should be asking!) about the new local search ads on Google Maps.

1. How are Local Search Ads on Google Maps changing?

The new local search ads on Google Maps are designed to help businesses be more visible at moments when consumers are searching online (especially on a mobile device) for somewhere to eat or shop.

In the coming weeks and months, Google will be revealing several new Maps ad formats and features that are designed to drive more foot traffic to your physical location. These include Promoted Pins (including brand logos), in-store promotions, customizable business pages, and local inventory search.

Google’s goal is to optimize the Google Maps experience so that users actually see the ads but without going so far as to become obtrusive and become a distraction to users who may be driving (e.g., there are no plans for interstitials or audio).

 local search ads on Google Maps

Google introduced local ads to the Google Maps app in 2013.

2. Where will the New Ads be Shown?

The new local search ads on Google maps will appear within the app, on the Google Maps mobile, desktop, and tablet sites, and on Google.com Expanded Maps results.

local search ads on Google Maps app

In the Google Maps app, which has more than 1 billion downloads, a single ad with a purple ad label will be featured in the top spot above the organic results.

local search ads on Google Maps desktop

For searches within Google Maps, Google will show a maximum of two ads with a purple ad label at the top of the search results.

expanded local search ads on Google Maps

For Google.com location-related searches (officially known as Google.com Expanded Maps Results), users who click on the “More places” link at the bottom of the Local 3-Pack will first see a Google Maps ad in the top position with a yellow ad label, above the other map results.

3. Why is Google Making These Change?

During the Summit, Google revealed some insane statistics that should make all marketers stand up and take notice.

Here are seven mind-blowing mobile stats that explain why you must bridge the gap from the mobile world to the physical world:

  • Around 90 percent of all global sales will happen in stores, as opposed to online.
  • Nearly a third of mobile searches are related to location.
  • Location-related searches have been growing 50 percent faster than mobile searches overall in the past year.
  • Over a billion people now use Maps.
  • Google searches (on Google.com and Maps) guide consumers to 1.5 billion destinations every year.
  • 84 percent of consumers conduct local searches.
  • Three out of every four people who search for something nearby using their smartphone end up visiting a store within a day, and 28 percent of those searches result in a purchase.

If your business has a physical location and you want to grow, then it’s extremely important that you make it ridiculously easy for people to find you online when they pull out their smartphone to search for what you sell.

4. What are Promoted Pins?

Google will soon bring Promoted Pins to Maps. These branded pins are designed to help your business stand out to people who are nearby or who will walk or drive right by your business. It’s your opportunity to be a unicorn in a sea of donkeys.

For example, if you run a restaurant, your ad might convince someone passing by to grab a bite to eat. Or if you want people to stop at your gas station, your Promoted Pin could convince people to pull in and fuel up.

Here’s what Promoted Pins look like:

local search ads on Google Maps advertisement example

So if you were in need of a pharmacy, Walgreens’ ad might appear at the top of your search results (assuming there is one near you). In addition to highlighting details about Walgreens, you’ll see an in-store promotion ($3 off contact lens solution).

The right promotion could help your business drive more store visits.

For example, let’s say you’re on your way back from successfully buying contact solution at Walgreens. There’s a Starbucks a couple blocks away and you’re a regular customer. To entice you to visit, Starbucks might use a Promoted Pin on Google Maps to offer you $1 off any beverage if you use your rewards card.

5. How does Google Maps Choose Which Ads to Show?

There could be hundreds of stores near your location but only a few precious ad spots. How does Google know which listing is the most relevant to the searcher?

Google says it is using a “variety” of signals, including:

  • Query context.
  • Location.
  • Search/browsing history.
  • Interests.
  • Behaviors.
  • Time of day.
  • Demographics.

What Google Maps is doing is similar to the ad serving used on the Google Display Network.

So if Google knows that you don’t often go to Starbucks, Google Maps won’t show you Starbucks ads. Pretty smart, eh?

6. What Else is Changing with Google Maps?

Local pages are getting a new look, all designed to increase foot traffic to your store.

local search ads on Google Maps get revamp

When someone taps on a local search ad, they’ll be taken to a page that advertisers can customize. The local pages will include important business details such as store hours, phone number, address, and driving directions.

Businesses can also highlight offers that are unique to that promoted location (e.g., 10 percent off an item) and allow people to search for items in your store’s local inventory. Google will only show local inventory if it is relevant to your business.

7. How can I Display Local Inventory?

According to Google data, one in four people avoid visiting stores because they don’t know whether a specific product is in stock. That’s why you should bring local inventory information into your customizable local page, along with ability to search through that inventory.

How do you display that information? You need to provide Google with your inventory feed. You can see Google’s specifications here.

8. How Much will the New Local Search Ads Cost?

picard-smartphone-data

Advertisers are currently charged on a cost-per-click basis for Google Local Search ads. These clicks include:

  • Get location details.
  • Get directions.
  • Click-to-call.

9. When will the New Local Search Ads Roll Out?

The new local search ads are currently in beta. Google hasn’t revealed an exact date when the ads will become more widely available, but it’s a safe bet they will start rolling out to more advertisers within the next three months.

10. What Do Location-Based Businesses Need to Do?

While you wait for access to the new ads, there are a couple things you can do now.

First, and most important, you must enable location extensions. Only ads with location extensions enabled will be eligible to show. Location extensions are proven to positively impact your performance.

You can advertise with local search ads on Google Maps right now. Just check that all your information in Google My Business is complete, accurate, and up to date. Any inaccurate information will make it that much harder for people to find you when they’re ready to buy. Which could be right now.

Republished by permission. Original here.

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This article, "A Big Breakdown of Google’s Local Mobile Search Changes" was first published on Small Business Trends

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Here’s Why You Need to Handle Link Building Manually

manual link building

There are certain goals that always seem to stay on the priority lists of brands and businesses. Drive traffic? Definitely. Grow the brand? A must. Develop relationships with consumers and other businesses? Absolutely. All of these factors are crucial to any given brand’s success and long-term achievement, and finding ways to address all of these goals is a necessity.

One of the most fundamental and widely performed strategies used to work on such goals is link building. A practice known to fuel site traffic, link building tends to be used by brands and businesses to leave a trail of bread crumbs across the Internet leading back to their own page. While that’s not necessarily a bad way of looking at the SEO practice, it does take away from the emphasis that should be placed on the importance of manual link building with quality in mind.

The Importance of Manual Link Building

All too often, people jump into link building ready and eager to scatter the bread crumb trail and increase the quantity of their external links. So eager, in fact, that they end up investing in “black-hat” strategies, such as automated link building. Other than being risky to invest in, automated link building also doesn’t work in the long run. Search engines are constantly evolving their algorithms to become even more airtight and capable of detecting fraudulent, or inauthentic, SEO tactics. For a search engine to find that your business invested in something that exploits loopholes in their algorithms would result in a heavy fine and set your site back even further than it originally was.

Above all, automation goes against the very concept of link building and what makes it so effective, and black-hat SEO doesn’t factor in what you should already have before you even consider link building. Let’s back up to that whole quality thing. As a baseline, your website should have purpose and utility that people can benefit from. It should be a strong website that’s populated with quality content, and it should reflect a brand or business that is an industry authority. Assuming those baseline points are already taken care of, you then move forward with link building in a manner that’s in keeping with the purpose, utility, and beneficial qualities of your identity.

Before you even build a single link, you should have already built value. When you have that value, manual link building gets much easier. By interacting with other pages in a real and personable way, you’re able to leave a link. By leaving a link that leads to a website of upstanding value, you’re able to signal the importance of your Web pages to other users and search engines. It comes down to a matter of value and quality that keeps your brand consistent across the board, and the important thing to remember is that when it comes to SEO, quality can’t be automated.

Chain Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Here’s Why You Need to Handle Link Building Manually" was first published on Small Business Trends

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