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I contend that in today’s business world, a website is one of the most important assets a business can own, second only to the customer list. In the eyes of many consumers today, if you do not have a website, it’s as if you do not exist. And without customers, you have no revenues, and therefore no viable business.
Consumers are searching on their computers, and increasingly on their smartphones, for information of all kinds: a place nearby to get sushi for lunch, the best model economy car to buy, a good beach read, and which school is best for their child’s education. If your business doesn’t show up on the Web, or if it only shows up in the reviews left by other people, then you are missing a huge opportunity to present your business in a positive light and tout the benefits it offers to its targeted audience.
The time and effort you put into improving your website so it is easily findable and relevant to the needs of your targeted audience is one of the most important activities you can engage in as part of growing a business. A website that offers valuable information and educates visitors about the benefits of working with you or buying your products and services will improve your relationship with current customers and attract new prospects that are an ideal fit for your business.
The customer list is a business’s number one asset. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that making repeat sales to existing customers is the most cost-effective way to grow your bottom line. Maintaining a customer list will enable you to market directly to those who already have a proven interest in what you have to offer and make the relationships you already have with these people even stronger. So it’s important to tend to your customer list as you would tend to a garden. The idea is to grow your customer list over time in order to grow your business.
Enabling those who visit your site to sign up for an e-newsletter on your website Home page or offering them exclusive resources and information in exchange for their contact information are some of the ways you can use your website to help grow your customer list.
Other online tools, including social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, can help you engage your customers further so they feel they are part of your business and feel a sense of trust in what you say and do. Always remember, though, that the spirit of the Internet is to provide value to your followers, not to hard sell your company’s products or services. What you post on your social media pages should be educational, informative and engaging, not overly promotional.
Your website and your customer list are closely tied together. Your current and prospective customers will refer to your website for useful information that will enable them to learn more about your company and what you have to offer. Value-added resources you can provide for your customers on your website can include resource articles and how-to videos. The more useful background information you are able to provide to a member of your target audience, the more likely they are to make a purchase. Regularly posting new information and resources will give them a reason to return to your website again and again, helping to facilitate a long-term relationship with customers.
Accountants may argue with me about classifying a website as an asset. That said, if you own a bricks and mortar store, and you qualify that as an asset, I believe a website is as equally valuable to a business, particularly if customers can make purchases from that site.
Finally, just like the upgrades you make to your business’s physical location and the equipment you need to operate, the money you spend on marketing is an investment in the future of your business. All marketing initiatives should start with a strategic marketing plan, and a strategy to maximize your company’s Web presence and website should be at the center of your plan. Like any good investment, your marketing strategy should yield a measurable return calculated by clearly defined measurements of success determined before implementation.
At NMC, we offer our own version of a strategic marketing communications plan, and we call it The Marshall Plan®. One of the features that makes The Marshall Plan® unique is a time-tested development process that engages the leadership of an organization along with the best minds from our agency to collaboratively develop a road map to generate the return on investment your business or nonprofit needs to grow. Please call me if you want to talk more about how a Marshall Plan® can help you improve your bottom line and deliver measurable results that will get your entire organization energized about your growth potential.
“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you,
whose presence calls forth your best.”
I believe that your network of contacts is the foundation of your brand. The people who are closest to you, who will vouch for you, who will refer you for jobs or business, and who trust you enough to do business with you are the ones who will help you define who you are and what makes you unique.
Have you ever considered mapping your network? It might be a useful exercise. It would be something you could post on your wall and look at every day. It would be a visual reminder that you need to ‘tend to your flock,’ and stay in touch with these people to show them gratitude for being part of your life.
You could start with your most inner circle of contacts. This would be your family and closest friends.
The next layer might be the people you work with on a day-to-day basis and the friends you see frequently but who aren’t necessarily your most intimate friends. If you send Christmas cards every year, it might be the people on your Christmas card list. Or it might be your Facebook friends.
The next layer might be all the associations you are part of: your professional memberships, your church congregation, your school and community groups, and perhaps even the residents in your neighborhood.
Then there might be another layer with people whose names you recognize, but who you might not know very well. You might make it a goal to get to know these people better.
I recommend you create a network map, and you hang it on the wall near your desk. You might want to include an affirmation such as: “These are the most important people in my life and I am grateful for my relationship with them.” Or it could even be as simple as “These are my peeps!”
Hi, Erika here. Recently, we featured an article about the value of having mobile-friendly websites and it got me thinking…
You have a website for your customers and it’s even a mobile-friendly website, but what about social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest?
Today, more than ever, people judge your business based on its online presence. For example, if you’re planning a trip to Disney World, you are going to Google them. When you do, you will find their website, Facebook, and trip ideas in the immediate results. Why? Because they want you to know that you can trust them to make your experience as easy and fun as possible; they take the stress out of it.
Think of your business as Disney World. No, you don’t have to dress up in costumes or invest in a magic Kingdom, but you should dress up your business with an awesome website and invest in the magic world of the Web through a social media site like Facebook.
The easier it is to find your business, the more likely people are to give you their business. You take yourself and your business seriously, so express that on your website. Your website should be based on informing potential customers about what you have to offer, and it should be sales driven. The use of a social media site, like Facebook, is your way to make your business human.
Think of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as the cafeteria in high school. It’s where people discuss the latest gossip and juiciest rumors. You want to be involved in those conversations, especially when it comes to your business. Join the conversation. It not only increases awareness, it makes you more likable and if there is one thing we know for certain—people buy from companies they know, like and trust.
So how do you know what social media sites are right for you?
Facebook: This is the truly universal site when it comes to promoting your business. It’s a classic that never seems to go out of style. It is well established, has the most online users, and people trust it.
Facebook makes it incredibly easy to connect with hundreds of people in a single post and features private messaging options that are great for handling customer complaints and/or concerns.
Twitter: Twitter is also universal, but is usually most effective in driving traffic to another site or post. It can be great for reaching out to new clients or business professionals. You can retweet their posts to get their attention. The only problem is making your message clear in 140 characters or less.
While Twitter is great for spreading a message and starting conversations, it offers the owner of the page very little control once a Tweet has been made.
Pinterest: Do you work in an industry or offer products that are best demonstrated by images? If so, then Pinterest could be a great resource for your business. It makes it easy to share images, and you are easily able to link images to your site. You can also follow other local businesses and re-pin their pictures.
Pinterest is a great tool for creating streaming images that are easy to update and can even be used in an e-commerce market by linking images to your website order page.
Blog: If you are an expert in your field a blog is a great way to demonstrate your knowledge. You can offer weekly features and develop a high level of readership. Blogs are a great tool for forming a better relationship with your customers/consumers.
Blogs can easily be linked with ANY of the social media sites listed above, as well as with your company website.
No matter the exposure your business needs social media is well-equipped to make it happen!
How Marketing Can Help You Learn From Your Mistakes
Marketing can be a dubious art sometimes. It can often seem like your marketing and advertising efforts are wasted. John Wanamaker, owner of America’s first big department stores, was famous for saying, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” He was right, and you may be wondering how this ties in with your ego. It’s because in marketing you may fail. You may try something that is part of the wasteful half of your total budget. You may even fail badly. But the important thing is to learn from it quickly, change your course, and find the 50 percent of marketing that resonates with your target audience.
When I started my career in marketing, we didn’t have the benefit of the Internet which is the greatest marketing teacher we could ever dream of. Today we can see patterns of behavior on the Web and adjust our company’s website content often. We can see which pages are most popular and which aren’t holding peoples’ attention. We can add content and change the design to make it more appealing. Metrics like these help people whose ego might otherwise prevent them from seeing the weaknesses of their business. It’s hard to argue with cold hard data, which is readily available from Google analytics. But much of marketing doesn’t have clear-cut facts to base decisions on – sometimes only trial and error will provide you with the info you want. And it is here that your ego can get in the way.
As a business owner, it was my ego or sense of self-esteem that gave me the courage to go out and start my own business in the first place two decades ago. I believed in my dream and was sure others would, too, and luckily, I was right. However, if we are too tied up in our own ego, we are not going to be as willing to try new things since they come with the risk of failing. Yet failing is part of the learning process. Failing fast is key (just pull that Band Aid off!) and learning from your mistakes is paramount; it can be the very reason a business succeeds.
When making marketing choices, it’s also important not to assume that you are the target audience. I used to work for a ski resort where the lift tickets seemed pricey to those of us who worked in the marketing department. That’s because our salaries were a fraction of the average salaries of our targeted audience. We couldn’t make assumptions based on our own budgets or even our own value systems. Many skiers were and still are willing to pay the price because they value the ski experience so deeply.
The same applies to things like pop-up ads. You may hate them, but if people actually click through on them to see what’s being advertised, then they are successful. Again, you are not the target audience, so get your ego out of the way and try new things with your marketing. You may look like a failure one day, but if you adjust your plan and try something different based on your failure, you may be a hero the next day.
I speak to many groups and individuals about social media marketing, and I often hear “how does anyone have time for all of that? I don’t have time to check Facebook ten times a day.” Again, get your ego out of the way. If you are not spending time on social networks, you are in the minority. Americans spend on average eight hours per month on social networks and there are a billion regular users of Facebook, including 600 million mobile users who are checking in on their mobile phones. There are now four billion YouTube views a day and YouTube is second only to Google for searching for information online.
New advertising opportunities such as with Facebook or Google are a good way to experiment with your preconceived notions about who your customer is. You can try running an ad that targets exactly who you think will click on it and run also an ad targeting a new demographic, one you might think is a bad fit. You will receive interesting metrics from the ad reports that could illustrate a huge failure or a huge win.
It is a good idea to have a reality check with yourself and your company on a regular basis. Google your business – see what people are saying. Do a search for what you think people will type into their computers if they were trying to find your company and see what comes up. The results may not match your ego-based expectations. It might be a helpful wake-up call, providing your business with a great opportunity to switch things up a bit and experiment with something new and potentially game changing. Marketing is about finding the way to reach your customers that is perfect right now. Remember, it’s not about you! It’s about your customers and what they want.