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Comments Off on Five Tips for a Profitable 2013

Five Tips for a Profitable 2013

Guest post by Jennifer Vessels,
CEO, Next Step Consulting

Start the year by taking charge of your success. While economic uncertainty continues there is positive growth and momentum in many markets. Minimize your uncertainty by developing a plan for a profitable 2013.

Next Step’s five proven growth tips are:

  1. Evaluate your staff and upgrade employees to “A” players that can take your business to the next level of profitability.
  2. Study your operating processes to find bottlenecks, waste and inefficiencies.
  3. Build incentive plans to drive revenue and profitability.
  4. Reinvent marketing to communicate the unique value you bring to the target market.
  5. Measure your customer experience to improve overall satisfaction and increase revenues with existing and referred customers.

Sign-up for our free upcoming webinar:
Economic and Business Model Changes Needed for Cloud

Growth and change can be challenging. Next Step can help you meet these challenges and achieve your revenue goals for 2013. If you are interested in finding out more about how we can help, click here to read more about the services that we offer.

Our services that lead to growth include:

  • Team Building
  • Sales Productivity
  • Employee Engagement
  • Executing Marketing Programs
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Strategic Planning

For more information about the author or Next Step Consulting, please visit www.NextStepGrowth.com

Comments Off on Marketing Metrics: What to Measure in Marketing – Part I

Marketing Metrics: What to Measure in Marketing – Part I

Part I: The High Level Executive Metrics

As you move from “old marketing” or “outbound marketing” (tradeshows, print advertising, direct mail, telemarketing) and embrace “new marketing” or “inbound marketing” (using the Internet to make it easier for customers to find you using your website, SEO, PPC, Blogs, etc.) it’s critical to know what metrics you  should track to measure your success and progress. Here are the top five high-level metrics.

1) Overall Website Grade – The great thing about this score is that is it very easy to understand (who doesn’t comprehend a 1 to 100 score?), and it compares you against your peers (currently over 70,000 other websites), and it is based on a number of different metrics so it summarizes data to save time.  This metric is available for free from the Website Grader SEO Tool.

2) Website Traffic – This is the total number of unique visitors to your website over a time period, usually a month.  At a high level, this gives you a sense of the overall interest in your business, and if the marketing programs you are doing are working or not.

3) Leads This is the next step in the sales funnel, and is the most important metric for measuring your marketing efforts.

4) New Customers “How many sales did you close this month?” is probably the most important question you should answer for your business.

5) Customer Acquisition Cost – Many businesses don’t compute this on an ongoing basis, but knowing the total sales and marketing cost for each new customer (on average each month) is important.  It gives you a good sense of how your business is going, and if it is getting easier or harder to grow.

Of course there are many more things you could track, but the goal of this list is to have 5 things that you should measure on a monthly basis to see a high level or executive view of your business.  In the next in the series, we’ll look at more detailed metrics for measuring marketing a bit deeper.  Importantly, make sure to measure these metrics as a trend, keeping track of how they change over time.  The real value is not just in knowing where you stand, but also knowing if you are moving forward or backward.

This list was adapted from a post in the Hubspot Inbound Marketing Blog by Mike Volpe
Comments Off on 5 Ways to Create Cross-Media Synergies With Social Media

5 Ways to Create Cross-Media Synergies With Social Media

A compilation of notes from Marketing Profs webinar by Jay Baer, with input from copywriter, Aliza Bornstein and Bob Gelman

In our ongoing quest for meaningful, actionable information to help small businesses navigate the murky waters of online marketing, we attend webinars, subscribe to news and research services, and work in this realm every day. The material in this article really focuses on an important aspect of any media campaign: synergy. We think it’s good info and will be useful to many of our readers.

What We’ve Learned: The shift in social media is fundamental—it transcends tactics. The old way of marketing is archery. The new way of marketing—lead by social media—is much more conversational. You engage customers by trying to build preference and brand kinship.

Combining social media with traditional marketing tactics is your best bet for ultimate marketing success.

Increase Social Media Success Through Cross-Media Optimization
Conversation marketing is transformative, but inefficient, because you’re only reaching out to a few, as opposed to many. Social media doesn’t work well by itself, either. Think of social media as an ingredient in the marketing programs you’re already active in. Start with a strategy list, then move onto what social ingredients you can add to your existing marketing, and then the new social media programs you can create from scratch.

1. Social Media + Search Marketing
This is the most fundamental and the most required. An October 2009 research report revealed that consumers exposed to a brand in social media are almost 3x more likely to search for that brand’s products.

Integrate Social & Search
The three components of inbound marketing:
• Content (making content that people can consume on the Web; blogs, videos, white
papers, Ebooks).
• Social Media (promoting that content and developing relationships on the social Web;
Twitter, Linked-In, Facebook, forums, blogs).
• SEO (search optimizing the content to make sure people can find it; on-page,
off-page, link-building, keyword analysis).

The trick is to think of your marketing program and your social program as bait in the water—get found! Why? Because it works!

Content = Traffic
Creating content—and having that content yield Web site traffic—works. According to a recent study HubSpot did of 1200 of their customers, companies that have a blog receive 55% more Web site traffic on average than the companies without a blog.

Content isn’t King—Optimized content is King
It’s not just blogs. Every piece of content that you create on the social Web needs to be optimized for search. You have to ask the question, “How are people going to find this?” Google is the world’s most important reporter and most important customer—you have to be thinking clearly about that from the very beginning.

2. Social Media + Email
Social media and email are much more similar than they are different. Both try to develop relationships between brands and consumers. Historically, bad email and bad social media looked a lot alike.

Promoting social presence in email
Tactically, the first way to cross-reference your email and social media programs is to let people who are on your email lists know you have social media outposts.

Enabling social sharing in email
Embed into your emails some sort of sharing tools where your email subscribers can put their cursor over. This social sharing concept is much more relevant and successful because it saves time.

Content level sharing
You can share right from the email instead of going to a social media site by adding a sharing button to the top or bottom on your email, or better yet, a specific component inside the email. Encourage people to share at the content level, not the email as a whole. Adding a social sharing tool like SWYN (share with your network) can expand the traffic on your site.

Subscriber segmentation
An exciting aspect of social sharing is that you can use the results to segment your database. You can take the information and create segmentation by coding your subscribers as coming from Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, etc. and tailoring an email newsletter to specifically target this group.

List growth through social media
Growing your subscriber list directly on the social Web is very easy to do.
Tagging new subscribers as coming from social media is the easiest way to do this. You can put a widget on a social media or sharing page for subscribers to sign up for something like a newsletter. All subscribers from this widget will then be coded.

Social media/Email content development
You can also use your social media program to help form the actual content of your email newsletter. Take the best content from your Facebook page, and the best content from your blog, and put it in your email newsletter. The premise is you’re going to put a lot more content and frequent updates on the social Web than you will in your email newsletter. So why not use your social Web activity as the trial balloon (idea for initial conception) for your email content?

3. Social Media + Virtual Events
The third way to create cross media synergy with social media is through virtual events, like this webinar. It’s not about who your audience is today. What webinars and virtual events make possible is the ability to garner an audience over time. The amount of people involved in the live event is almost irrelevant. It’s how many people are going to consume the content down the road (tomorrow, a month from now, a year from now). Your content is always there because there is no expiration date. If you do a good job of search optimizing it, it lives on.

More is more. Atomize your content.
Creating content and putting it out on the social Web yields traffic back to your Web site if it’s search optimized. The idea is you need to atomize your content. The old way to do this would be to put your newest white paper on your Web site and wait for people to come and download it. But that’s only one piece of bait in the water. The new way is to take your idea and perpetuate it in as many social media forums and fashions as you possibly can, because each of those content types are going to attract traffic. Social media continues to pay dividends over the long haul.

The following are examples of combining a virtual event and social media outreach:

Twitter + Webinar = Twebinar
A Twebinar is an integration of a webinar and a live Twitter chat where people can ask questions. At the same time the webinar is happening, people on Twitter are discussing it amongst themselves.

Twitter + Interview = Twinterview
You take something as mundane as an interview and add social media to it, and it becomes a virtual event people tune in to listen to.

Twitter + Group Chat
At a specific date and time, everyone tunes in on Twitter to discuss blogging tips, strategies, advice, etc.

4. Social Media & Live Events
The fourth way to combine social media is with live events. Creating a real world component of any social media program is a best practice. By taking something 2-dimensional and making it 3-dimensional, you’re expanding your marketing platform and making it that much more powerful.

5. Social Media + Marketing Research
Ask your fans for feedback and keep it simple for them. They can create products for you that you never even thought of developing! Twitter research can be done by survey or poll. Think of what you can add to your marketing tactics. Social media works best when it’s part of something bigger. Are you ready for something bigger? Start your synergy audit today!

Comments Off on Think You Don’t Need a Marketing Plan?

Think You Don’t Need a Marketing Plan?

I am often asked to perform marketing tasks for small businesses that are operating without a marketing plan. In many cases, I’m able to demonstrate how their investment is more effective and efficient when part of a plan.  The plan gives you an objective reference as to whether you are on target, it helps you control costs, stay focused, and to make sure that team members are in synch, as you begin to grow.

Perhaps most importantly, the plan helps you to understand what works for you and what does not, so that you can fine-tune your efforts.  I believe a marketing plan should be a relatively brief, straightforward and easy to follow guide for your business  over a specific period of time.

Here is a template for a generic marketing plan to help your business get moving in 2010.

I. Executive Summary

  • Brief summary of goals and overall recommendations (write this last)

II. Business Description

(it’s a good idea to refresh the team on the basics of the business)

  • One sentence description of services/products provided
  • 30-second commercial
  • Points of Difference/Benefits
  • Your Unique Positioning Statement
  • SWOT analysis outcomes

III. Environmental Scan

  • Overview of current market situation (product, pricing, distribution), competition, challenges, trends
  • Services required by customers
  • Changes in customer demands
  • What marketing activities are the most successful currently, what’s not working
  • Overview of past year’s performance, ROI, profit margin etc.

IV. Target Market

  • Profile of primary and secondary target markets
  • Consider geography, industry, size, accessibility, decision-makers, service gaps, underserved markets
  • Segment your market by common characteristics
  • What’s most important to customers?
  • Does your market niche need to be more specific? Broader?

V. Goals

  • What do you wish to achieve in your business? Example: Increase sales in a division by a certain percentage
  • Be specific about when and what

VI. Marketing Strategies

  • Outline marketing programs and strategies to reach each of your goals

VII. Tactics

  • Outline the tasks required to implement and monitor each strategy

VIII. Budget

(expenses and revenue forecast)

IX. Evaluation

(when to determine success, how to evaluate, what needs to be changed, etc)

If you don’t already have a marketing plan, this is the year to make it a priority. With our current economy, don’t lose sight of the importance of marketing. It is a proven fact that companies that continue to focus on marketing during down times come out ahead of the competition when things get better.