Marketing

Whether you need to build your marketing plan from the ground up or just a little help with a specific project, we can help.  Start off on the right foot with the right planning.

Social Media

Facebook and Twitter and YouTube…OH MY!  Social media is growing exponentially. Maybe you know you need to get on board but do not know where to start. Maybe you created your accounts but do not know what to do with them. We can help you go from social media wallflower to social media butterfly.

Tips for Monitoring Your Online Reputation

Monitoring your name, brand, company, products and key executives will help keep your jpeg-11online reputation safe. Don’t just limit yourself to major search engines, check blog search engines, news search sites, social media sites and forums. Okay it’s a little embarrassing, but don’t forget to look up modifiers like “sucks” and “scam”. Here are a few things you can do to monitor your reputation with minimum hassle:

1) Open up a Google account so you can set up an alert system to track your name and other keywords related to your business. The alerts will track blog posts, news, articles, videos and groups.  Google alerts can be set to notify you as soon as they are found: daily or weekly, via email or by RSS feed. At a minimum, you will want these results sent to you weekly.  Do the same with Yahoo alerts. You can also use Google Reader to important any relevant RSS feeds of search results or blogs you want to monitor.

2) Create a Delicious account, which you can use for tagging and categorizing sites you have bookmarked. Use your Delicious account to sort and organize sites and blogs that mention your name or organization.

3) If you have a blog, be sure you have claimed it in Technorati. Technorati is the largest blog search engine available, and it helps you by tracking blogs that have linked to you. You can also search for your brand on Technorati and subscribe to RSS alerts (sent to your Google reader). This way, when someone blogs about you or your organization, you’ll be notified.

4) Use several different applications to track comments on blogs and social site such as Digg, Stumbleupon and FriendFeed. Backtype and Yacktrack are some of the most commonly used. Social Mention is a great search site that will let you search all different types of social media sites at once, including microblogs (like Twitter), bookmarks, comments, images, news, video and audio.  With Social Mention you can set up an RSS feed for your search results, or an email alert. You can even import your results in the CSV/Excel file.  Another cool feature of Social Mention is that it can also give you an idea of the overall “sentiment,” letting you see if the majority of people are saying positive, neutral or negative things.

5) Use search tools within a social networking platform. While tools like Social Mention can be used for searching all types of social media, you can also use the search features of social sites like Twitter and Facebook. Twitter and Facebook will allow you to do real time search. You can set up saved searches in your Twitter account or in any of the many Twitter applications, as well as import results into an RSS feed reader like Google.

Figure out what works best for you and then set up a system that allows for easy monitoring and tracking. Make sure you monitor your results daily or weekly so that you can quickly address any problems or negative comments. Don’t forget to track and respond to positive comments too, this will help you build community and engage with your target market.

What Do People Really Think of You? Monitoring Your Online Reputation

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As blogs and social media sites become increasing popular, it becomes easier and easier for the general public to share their point of view. This is great when someone has positive things to say about you or your organization, but it’s a huge downer when some anonymous blogger is trashing you online. It’s important for organizations to monitor their online reputation – gossip is gossip, and negative statements can spread more quickly online than off.  Checking search engine results regularly for your business can help you nip bad rumors in the bud.

Ask yourself: how often do you use Google to search on your name or the name of your organization? There’s no need to feel vain! Googling yourself is a useful business tool. Search engines are sort of like reputation engines, and you can use them to see if someone has posted something positive or negative about you or your company. Negative commentary can show up on the first page of a search engine’s results, and it can snowball if you aren’t careful. Even if you’ve spent years coveting a positive reputation, you may find it easily marred by a few negative comments posted online.

Blogs tend to be more personal than your average website, and you’re more likely to get honest feedback if you look for comments in blogs. You can use specific search engines like Google Blog to look for these comments. Check out what happens in Google Blog Search when you search for Greenpeace. There are negative comments from three years ago that still show up at the top of the listings!

Consider also searching through video sites like YouTube, which had over 80 million users in July of this year and has one of the largest video search engines in the world. Social news sites like Digg and Mixx are other places where you can check to see what people are saying.

Monitoring what people are saying about you online is the first step to an untarnished name and reputation. Minimize the effects of negative comments or reviews by being open and catching them early.

First Impression: Having a Great Landing Page

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A landing page is the first page a visitor to your site will see. This may be your home page or any other page you would like a reader to see when they visit. According to marketing guru Seth Godin, a landing page can cause one of five actions:

1. Get a visitor to click (to go to another page, on your site or someone else’s)

2. Get a visitor to buy

3. Get a visitor to give permission for you to follow up (by email, phone, etc.). This includes registration of course.

4. Get a visitor to tell a friend

5. Get a visitor to learn something. This could also include posting a comment or filling out a feedback form.

Godin suggests that you optimize your landing page to accomplish one or two of these actions, and no more.  Your landing page should be tightly focused on whichever action you most want your visitor to complete.

call-to-action2Here are 10 tips for optimizing your landing pages:

1. Create a call to action. Include this towards the top of the page, and then include it again a few times throughout the page.  Link this call to action to an order page or a subscription form.

2. Keep your statements short. Provide brief but valuable bite-sized chunks of information and always include a way for visitors to contact you if they have questions.

3. Ask and answer questions. Provide a Frequently Asked Questions section (FAQ) where you ask a few commonly asked questions and answer them.

4.  Make sure your copy flows in a logical sequence.

5. Make good use of white space, headings and color. Your design should complement your copy to ensure a pleasant reading experience for your visitors.

6. Provide a bonus or a free item. Offering something for free that a visitor can easily download in exchange for their email address gives you an opportunity to build an ongoing relationship with them.

7. Be careful with your uses of images. Your goal is to bring the visitor to complete your call to action. Extra images can distract your visitor as they scan the landing page for information.

8.  Include relevant, well-written customer testimonials.

9. Make sure the page will load fairly quickly regardless of your visitor’s internet connection. Keep in mind that not everyone has a broadband connection.

10. Test and track the data from your landing page. Use your web analytics and other data to determine how well the different aspects of your landing page are working for you.

Your landing page is your first opportunity to tell visitors about yourself. Give them the best first impression possible to keep them thinking well of you when they leave the site.

Visit Seth Godin’s blog for more helpful online marketing tips.

Let Your Website Do the Talkin’: Optimizing Website Content

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A website with stellar content is an absolute “must-have” as part of your overall online marketing strategy. You want to do more than just provide your visitors basic information about your organization: you want to engage them and encourage them to come back again. If you subsist off of donations or sales, then your website needs to also provide a clear call to action. Additionally, you need to make sure your website content is search engine friendly. If search engines can’t find your website quickly, how will your potential visitors?

Your web content should be inviting, friendly and informative. Be straightforward and concise in your writing style and get your message across as quickly and clearly as possible. People have less patience with dense content online than they do with printed papers. Do the following to ensure a good visitor experience:

1) Write headlines that let visitors know exactly what they will find on your site.

2) Make sure visitors can easily find your navigation bar.  There should no shortage of links directing visitors to other pages on your site.

3) Don’t be overly wordy or include too much content, especially on your welcome page. The majority of web visitors are seeking specific information and will skim your website until they find it.

4) Include a search box within your website to help visitors find exactly what they’re looking for.

Help people find your website by optimizing your site for search engines. One way you can do this is by consistently using the same keywords on your website. Keywords are the words you believe people will most likely use to search for your website. Consider a search engine like Google as an example. If you type in “natural pet food,” then Google will show you a list of sites that include those keywords. The sites that come up first are the ones that have successfully optimized their site for those particular keywords.

Research shows that most people will click on one of the first five sites listed. The majority of us will rarely click through to a site that is listed on page three of the search results. You should carefully consider which keywords you want your website to rank for. A free online Keyword Tool by Google can help you determine which keywords you should use based on the number of times those keywords (and their variations) where searched for in the past month.  Choose keywords that are used often, but not so much that it will be impossible to compete and rank well for them. Avoid using keywords that are so specific that few people will think to use them.

Here are some additional keyword tips:

~ Use singular and plural forms of keywords

~ Use synonyms

~ Change the word order of keyword phrases

When working on your website, keep the above information in mind. Having a great website really boils down to two simple things: clear website copy and search engine optimization.

E-Newsletter Pre-Launch Checklist

jpeg-7So you have your e-newsletter written and ready to go. Congrats! But before you click send and unleash your gem to dozens, hundreds or thousands of people interested in your organization, take a minute to go over this pre-launch checklist and do the following:

1. Make sure your e-newsletter is CAN-SPAM compliant. After all the time you put into your e-newsletter, the last thing you want is for it to end up in someone’s spam folder. To avoid this, be sure to include an unsubscribe link, along with a physical address in the email. You will also need to make sure your e-newsletter is going out from an actively monitored email address from which someone can process the unsubscribe requests.

2. Consider segmenting your email list for a specific e-newsletter campaign. The more relevant content is to the individual subscriber, the more likely they are to remain on your list. Personalize the email as much as you can.

3. Check your subject line carefully. Research shows that people are more likely to open your email if it has an appealing subject line. Make sure its clear to your readers who the e-newsletter is from. Include your company name or the name of an instantly recognizable person from your organization in the “From” line.

4. Proof read your content. Is it creative and engaging? Ask yourself why anyone would care about what you wrote. If you hadn’t written it, would you find it interesting? Did you include a call to action?

5.  Test your email. Send it to yourself and a few others nearby. Make sure the text isn’t garbled, that the design looks right and that the e-newsletter arrives in your Inbox and not the spam folder.

If you’ve sailed through the checklist, then you’re ready to click send. Hopefully if you continue writing in earnest and taking a little extra time to ensure quality, your subscribers list will grow along with your business.

E-Newsletter Tip: Engage Readers with Eye-Catching Design

jpeg-6Most of your e-newsletter subscribers want attractive design in addition to great content. Images and design highlight your content and make it more appealing and readable. While some people prefer plain text emails, the majority of e-newsletters are done in eye catching HTML.

Images help to convey your overall brand message better than plain text. Images used in e-newsletters are typically in .GIF or .JPG formats and are usually saved in a hosted location. Some people will set their email to disable images in their Inbox. To account for this, just use an “alt tag” for the image. An “alt tag” is a title or additional text related to that image which will show in place of the image that was blocked. For example, if you include an image of your organization’s logo in your e-newsletter and someone receives it who can’t view images, then your “alt tag” might read “The New York Times Logo.” This is less jarring to the subscriber than something like “image1.jpg.”

If you have a thriving subscriber list, then you may want to consider working with a graphic designer for maximum design quality. Keep in mind though that a good graphic designer does not necessary translate into a good email designer.

If you decide to hire a graphic designer, make sure you’re working with someone who has experience with email design and is familiar with the different limitations of email clients. A reader who is using Outlook 2007, which has its own way of showing images, may become frustrated that your images are showing up poorly and decide to unsubscribe. A good designer will design the e-newsletter to be visually appealing while driving your target audience to dig further into the content

Content is King: Content Tips for Creative & Engaging E-Newsletters

An e-newsletter is a fun way to build community for your organization. If you have creative and engaging content that keeps your subscribers caring, then your e-newsletter will be worth the time, energy and money that Content newsgoes into it. With so many other tasks to deal with in the workplace however, many people struggle to come up with solid content for a monthly e-newsletter. Here are a few tried and true tips to help you keep fresh interesting content flowing:

  1. Keep a folder on your computer just for e-newsletter ideas. When you see a relevant news article or have a sudden idea pop into your read, save the information in a word document and put it in your folder with a few quick notes. Ask others in your organization to keep a folder of their own or email you when they see something they think might be interesting. This will take some of the pressure of you and ensure a diversity of topics.
  2. Develop back up content. If you have an idea that will be relevant pretty much anytime, then write it down when you have a little free time and are feeling creative. You can draw from your reserve in a pinch when running out of time and struggling for content.
  3. Sign up for a few e-newsletters from others in your industry. Consider the type of content they include, and think about whether it interests you. Gauging your own reactions will help you get an idea of how your readers feel about your e-newsletter. Imitate your favorite e-newsletter and try to improve upon its weaknesses.
  4. Check blogs and use search engines to figure out which topics in your industry are generating the most coverage. Look up your own organization to see what people online are saying about you, and address those topics.

Once you begin brainstorming ideas, you’ll see what a huge range of topics you can cover in your e-newsletter. In your e-newsletter you can:

– Identify a problem/solution scenario

– Provide a list of “top tips”

– Write a review

– Explore educational content

– Create a survey

– Recommend events

– Make a list of useful resources and links

– Feature an interview

Your subscribers have handed over their email address in the hopes of hearing something useful and interesting from you, so don’t disappoint them. Take pride in your writing and have fun with it! If you enjoyed writing your e-newsletter, your readers will probably enjoy reading it.

Don’t be Junk Mail: Understanding and Improving your Email Campaigns

jpeg-1Nearly 20% of email marketers don’t track their email marketing campaigns, meaning they have no way of knowing how effective they are. Just a little time reviewing and analyzing the metrics of your email or e-newsletter campaigns will help you to see if you’re reaching your clients effectively.

Here are a few basic terms you should know:

  • Delivery Rate: The delivery rate is the total number of emails delivered to an inbox. Delivery rate percentages are determined by comparing the total number of emails that bounced (undeliverable) with the number of emails sent.  For example, spam filters or an out of date email address can cause an email to be bounced. You can reduce the chances of having your email bounce by asking subscribers to white-list your email.
  • Open rate: The open rate is the percentage of total delivered emails that were actually opened.  It’s an important number to be aware of, as you might suddenly find that your open rate has been going down without jpeg-2your knowledge. Industry research estimates the average open rate to be 30%. If your rate is lower than this, you may want to evaluate the effectiveness and content of  your emails.
  • Click-Through Rate: The click-through rate tracks the number of times a link in your email was actually clicked on by a subscriber. JupiterResearch estimates that the average click-through rate is about 12%. If you keep your content relevant, direct and targeted, you should manage to keep a good number of people interested.
  • Unsubscribe Rate: This is the number people who choose to unsubscribe from your email or e-newsletter. This rate is determined by dividing the total number of unsubscribes by the total number of delivered emails. Your unsubscribe rate is  often an overall indicator of email list health or freshness. If you are using a list of emails older than six months, then you may experience a high unsubscribe rate because the list is out of date. If the list is fresh and full of recent email subscribers and you are still experiencing a high unsubscribe rate, then you should review the relevancy of your content.

Reviewing and understanding these numbers is an integral part of determining the effectiveness of your campaign. Tracking your email campaign will help improve your business and keep you out of the spam box.