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How to Create Marketing Content That Gets Attention

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: May 10, 2019

The human attention span is evolving and that has important implications for marketers. What type of marketing content gets and holds people’s attention—and how can you create it? Here’s what you need to know.

Attention spans are evolving

While there’s lots of lamentation about how our attention spans are being destroyed by the internet, a recent study by Prezi suggests attention spans aren’t shrinking—they’re just evolving.
 

Surprisingly, six in 10 respondents in the survey of more than 2,000 professionals say their ability to maintain focus has actually improved in the past year and they’re better able to give content their undivided attention. Millennials are actually more likely than Gen X or boomers to say that the right content can hold their attention for a long time.
 

There’s a catch, though: Not every piece of content gets that undivided attention. In fact, 49% of respondents say they’ve become more selective about what they give their attention to in the past year. With so much stimuli to choose from, it’s harder for your business’s marketing message to get through.
 

How to get your marketing message across

Marketing content that gets attention has some things in common. First, it tells a story. Second, it’s personal. Third, it’s visually stimulating. Here’s a closer look at how to incorporate those factors in your marketing.
 

Tell a story

Telling a story with your marketing might sound tough. But really, a story just requires three basic elements:

  1. A setup or situation that piques interest
     
  2. A challenge or conflict that arouses curiosity
     
  3. A resolution that brings satisfaction (and in the case of your marketing, gets prospects to buy/call/visit your website).
     

The setup

What’s a common situation that your target customers find themselves in? For instance, maybe they have trouble making a healthy dinner for their families every night, they struggle to lose weight and stay in shape, or they can’t get their lawns as green as they want them to be. Starting your story with a setup that your target customers will relate to will get their attention.
 

The challenge or conflict

What’s standing in the way of the customer getting what they want? Maybe they want to lose weight and exercise more, but they have a long commute and no time for the gym. Or they’re too tired at the end of a long work day to cook healthy meals. Perhaps they don’t want to spend hours on the weekend seeding and watering the lawn to get it green.
 

The resolution

What does your business do for your customers? How does it help them overcome the challenge or conflict? For example, your home fitness equipment eliminates the drive to the gym. Your pre-prepared cooking kits let even busy working parents cook healthy meals. Your lawn-care service can handle all the work involved in getting that green lawn.
 

How to tell your story

Tell your story in the way that your target customers want to hear it. That might be a live video, a social media post with a photo, a brochure, an animated video with cartoon characters…it all depends on your target customers. You’ll need to do some research to see what type of content they like most. You can also track the results of your content marketing to see what gets the most interaction and engagement.
 

How not to tell your story

What makes people disengage?

  • No substance: More than half of respondents in the Prezi survey say a story that does not challenge them mentally or lacks substance will cause them to disengage.
     
  • Too much information: Too much text (even if it’s formatted in bullet points) can cause overwhelm and make it hard to retain information.
     
  • Too long: Keep in mind your audience might be reading or viewing your marketing message on a smartphone. Don’t make them scroll down to get the message.
     
  • Too many words: Images are highly effective at retaining attention. Try putting your data in an infographic format or making a video instead.
     
  • Make it authentic: Using real customers’ testimonials or user-generated content can strike a chord if your prospects can relate to the customers and their challenges.

Last but not least, don’t forget to tell the story of your business. Use your website’s About Us page, your social media feeds, and your marketing materials in general to remind customers what your business is all about. Humanizing your business will make you more memorable and help you keep prospects’ attention.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades

8 Popular Social Media Channels with Small Businesses

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: March 25, 2019 Updated: April 25, 2019

There are more than 3 billion people around the world using social media monthly, according to 2018 research from We Are Social and Hootsuite. So if you’re not leveraging this massive audience for your business, you could be missing out on huge growth opportunities.

There are hundreds of platforms you can use for your own digital marketing strategy, from giants like Facebook to niche sites like BizSugar and Growth Hackers. Every business needs to carefully consider their own strengths, communication style, and target audience to choose their best possible combination. But there’s a good chance you’ll want to include at least one or two of the most popular social media channels in your strategy. Here are eight options for businesses to consider, in no particular order.

 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social network that’s made specifically for businesses and professionals. As such, it’s going to be especially helpful for B2B businesses and those who want to become thought leaders in a particular industry. You can set up a personal profile and/or a company page. And you can also share content and publish articles directly on the platform, allowing it to serve as a sort of blog for your brand.

 

Twitter

Twitter is an important channel for networking with customers, suppliers and partners, and for establishing thought leadership in your industry. Relevant tweets may also appear at the top of search results, increasing your potential for organic reach.

As social media influencer Neal Schaffer shared on Everyone Social, Twitter can be an especially powerful tool for building an audience because of its reciprocity and engagement features. You have the ability to follow people in your community or industry, start conversations with nearly anyone, and even participate in Twitter chats.

 

Facebook

Facebook has more than 2 billion monthly active users, making it by far the most popular social media channel. In addition to the number of users, Pew Research also found that Facebook users are more likely than users of other social networks to log in daily. It’s especially useful for consumer-facing businesses, but can also work for B2B. And the platform offers a variety of targeted and cost-effective advertising options to help you reach your ideal audience.

 

Pinterest

Pinterest is a social media platform that lets users bookmark (pin) image based content. It’s especially relevant for brands with strong visuals, including designers, bloggers, photographers and ecommerce businesses. There’s even a buyable pins option that shows the price and other relevant information of specific products so users can essentially shop directly on Pinterest. It can also be useful for B2B companies that create infographics or share other relevant visuals in their content.

 

Instagram

Instagram is a mobile platform for sharing photographs and videos. It’s an option for consumer-facing businesses that create striking images, like fashion designers, interior decorators and handmade makers. It’s also especially popular with teens and young adults, showing the largest growth of any social media channel in that demographic (aside from Snapchat) last year, according to Forrester Research. So brands that target young people should strongly consider creating an Instagram account. Finally, the platform recently added Stories and livestreaming features for brands that want to showcase “behind the scenes” type content.

 

Snapchat

Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users to send photos, videos and other media to friends or to broadcast it to their network. There’s also a map feature that offers unique opportunities for local businesses to create buzz. It has more than 186 million users worldwide and is mostly popular with young mobile users. Though it isn’t growing quite to the degree that it has in recent years, it should still be on the radar of businesses that target millennials or Gen Z.

 

YouTube

YouTube is the largest video platform on the planet. The platform has more than 1.8 billion active monthly users. And you can also embed videos to your website or other forms of content. According to Think with Google, the most popular types of videos on YouTube include comedy, music, pop culture and “how to” videos. So if you can teach something useful or create funny or entertaining video content, YouTube could serve as a useful part of your strategy.

 

Slideshare

Slideshare allows users to upload and share presentations and documents. It’s owned by LinkedIn, so it’s easy to connect your account or share presentations with your audience there. Like LinkedIn, it’s mostly relevant for B2B companies or those who want to establish thought leadership in a particular industry.

About the Author:

smallbiztrends
Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.

Is Your Marketing Inclusive?

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: March 6, 2019

Consumers are more attuned than ever to whether a company’s marketing reflects them. If your marketing only shows pretty young women or middle-aged men, you could be driving some prospects away. Why is inclusion so important, and how can your marketing incorporate it? Here’s a closer look.

Why inclusive marketing matters

The US population is more diverse than ever before. Some 43% of millennials over 18 are nonwhite — more than any other generation, according to Pew. According to estimates from the 2017 Census, 40% of the U.S. population overall is multicultural. Specifically:

  • There are 60 million Hispanics, accounting for 18.2% of the population
  • There are 40 million African-Americans, accounting for 12.3% of the population
  • There are 19 million Asians, Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, making up 5.8% of the population
  • 11 million Americans are mixed race or “Other,” accounting for 3.4% of the population.

Inclusion is more than a multicultural issue

Multicultural consumers are not the only ones who care about diversity and inclusion, however. A whopping seven in 10 millennials say they’re more likely to choose one brand over another if that brand demonstrates diversity and inclusion.

Increasingly, consumers are supporting brands that they believe in. Fully half of millennials in a BCG survey say the brands they choose “say something about my values and who I am,” and a whopping 88% of consumers in a Salesforce poll say businesses have a responsibility to foster positive social change.

In the past, diversity was seen as focused on race, ethnicity and gender. Baby boomers and Generation X still define it this way, a study by Deloitte shows, but millennial and younger consumers have a much different view. For them, diversity goes beyond the obvious markers of gender and skin color to include age, geography, religion, socio-economic class, sexuality, body type, marital status and more.

How to make your marketing more inclusive

  • Use inclusive imagery. It can be difficult to find stock photography that goes beyond stereotypes. You’ll have to make a conscious effort to search for images that feature people from a wide range of demographic groups in non-stereotypical poses (smiling senior citizens learning to use a laptop, I’m talking about you). Try using sites like RepresentationMatters, the Lean In Collection or Tonl that specialize in diverse stock photography.
  • Go beyond racial diversity. Do you show people in wheelchairs? Heavyset people? People who aren’t conventionally attractive? “It’s also about age. Geography. Socio-economic diversity,” Google’s Lorraine Twohill notes in writing about how Google made its marketing more inclusive. “Our images had lots of racial diversity. But everyone looked like they worked in tech and lived in hip, urban neighborhoods.”
  • Think beyond your target market. You may feel that you don’t need inclusive marketing because your target market is primarily one demographic. For example, if you sell tools and 80% of your customer base is suburban men, why should you change your advertising? You have no way of knowing how many women, men or urban residents you’re missing out on because they don’t see themselves in your advertising. What about some ads showing a young woman using tools to set up her first city apartment or a multiracial couple fixing their plumbing?
  • Use gender-neutral pronouns in your marketing and advertising. “They” is now a widely accepted substitute for “he,” “she,” or “he or she,” and ensures that transgender and nonbinary customers feel seen.
  • Diversify your team. The best way to create an inclusive marketing is to include many voices in creating it. It’s often difficult to spot our own biases and preconceptions. Make your team feel comfortable challenging the status quo and suggesting new ways to approach your marketing messages.
  • Make sure your business walks the walk. Your marketing and advertising may promote your business as inclusive and supportive, but what will your customers find when they walk in the door? Educate your employees on the importance of an inclusive environment.

Creating inclusive marketing and advertising won’t happen overnight. But as business owners, it’s our responsibility to lead the change — not just to attract more customers, but also because it’s the right thing to do.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades

18 Ideas for Marketing a Seasonal Business in the Off-Season

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: September 27, 2018 Updated: September 27, 2018
Does your business rely on seasonal customers? Whether you own a surf school, a patio furniture store or an ice cream shop, you know how slow business can get during the off-season. Try these marketing ideas to keep customers engaged (and buying) all year long. 
 
  1. Offer off-season specials. There’s a reason desert resorts slash prices when it’s super cold or hot. Reducing prices during the off-season is the easiest way to attract customers. Try holding a “flash sale” or one-day sale. Nothing sparks spending like a really limited time offer! 
  2. Upsell and cross-sell existing customers. Reach out to existing customers to offer them special packages for next season, or products and services to get them ready for next season.  
  3. Promote early payment specials. To keep cash coming in, try offering discounts for early payments for next season. For example, if you run a children’s summer camp that starts in June, you could offer a discount to parents who sign up pay in full by April 1. 
  4. Hold a giveaway or contest. People might not be ready to buy surf lessons in January—but they would still be open to winning them. Use a contest to collect email addresses and get permission to send emails to the entrants. You’ll build your list of leads for the busy season.
  5. Work on getting referrals. Contact satisfied customers and ask them to refer you to someone else who might want your service or product. You can offer a reward for referrals, such as a discount coupon or a gift card.
  6. Grow your online reviews. Ask past customers to review your business online. Make it easy by emailing them a link so all they have to do is click and type. Then be sure to pay attention to your reviews and deal with any negative ones.
  7. Hold an event for your loyal customers. Build goodwill by rewarding your seasonal customers with a fun event. It could be a preview of next season’s offerings (with the option to buy early at special prices) or just a party to thank them for their business.
  8. Market a different product or service. For example, a lawn care business could offer snow removal services in the winter. An ice cream store could add hot coffee drinks or hot chocolate to the menu. 
  9. Target a new geographic market. If your seasonal business is weather-related, use the off-season to reach a new market with different weather. For example, if you sell patio furniture in Boston, you could ride out the slow season by expanding to Florida.
  10. Target a new demographic market. When the tourist season slows down, a bed and breakfast owner could promote their location as a site for business offsite meetings or church retreats.  
  11. Switch from consumer to corporate. If you have a consumer-oriented business, try targeting corporate customers during your off-season. For instance, a food truck owner could look for corporate catering jobs or find trade shows and events where they can set up a food booth. 
  12. Partner with local businesses. If your business is in a tourist area so everyone is in the same boat during the off-season, put your heads together. Work with other local business owners and the chamber of commerce to brainstorm ideas for marketing the town as a destination during the off-season.
  13. Focus on local customers. If you’re in a tourist town, hold a blowout sale for local residents to clear out last season’s merchandise. They’ll enjoy the savings without the in-season crowds.
  14. Educate your customers. What can you teach customers to help them make the most of your products or services? If you hold sailing classes during the warmer months, for example, you could offer boat maintenance classes during the winter.
  15. Find out what your customers want. Is there a product or service that your seasonal customers frequently ask for that you don’t offer? If not, conduct a customer survey and see what other products or services customers are interested in, then do some market research on the feasibility of adding them.
  16. Focus on low- or no-cost marketing methods. Your sales will be slower and your budget smaller in the off-season, so concentrate on marketing channels that require more time than money, such as social media, public relations and email marketing.
  • Use email to stay in touch with customers during your off-season. If you sell off-season products or services, customers won’t know about them unless you keep in contact. Even if you essentially shut down in the off-season, you don’t want to “go dark” until next season. Get customers’ permission to send them emails; then create a regular cadence of marketing emails (say, once a month) to promote off-season specials or build anticipation for next season. 
  • Use both social media and email marketing to provide useful content for customers and stay on their radar. What is your business really all about? A bed-and-breakfast is about providing a place for couples to connect. A summer camp is about creating lifetime memories. How can you help your customers achieve the same goals in the off-season? The summer camp could create content on how to keep the kids entertained on a rainy day or fun winter sports to try with your kids. The B&B could share tips for creative date night ideas. 
  • For public relations, know that it takes a lot of time to get on the media’s radar and develop relationships. Print media, in particular, work several months ahead. If you want to get publicity for your tax preparation service in February or March, for example, you should start making connections with appropriate media now.

    17. Find out what your customers want. Is there a product or service that your seasonal customers frequently ask for that you don’t offer? If not, conduct a customer survey and see what other products or services customers are interested in, then do some market research on the feasibility of adding them.
    18. Create your marketing plan for the coming season. You’ll have more downtime during the off-season. Use it to fine-tune your marketing plan for the next season and take care of marketing projects you don’t have time for when you’re busy, such as redesigning your business website or finding a freelancer to help with marketing. 

 
 
 

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades

Checklist for Choosing Business Software

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: June 26, 2018 Updated: June 27, 2018

Good software can enable your small business to increase sales by saving time and money while expanding capacity.

But you must choose wisely — because the wrong software can be an expensive mistake.

Here is my tried-and-true checklist for choosing software to support your business operations:

Testimonials from Businesses Like Mine

Find vendors with a meaningful number of testimonials from other small business owners. Look for testimonials from businesses like yours — businesses of roughly the same size, in similar industries and trying to solve similar problems.

A software package might work just fine for some businesses, however, it may not help fix your problem.

Financially Strong Vendor

For mission critical processes, I hesitate to put my company’s future in the hands of software or an app that may or may not be updated a year from now.

You see this problem with some mobile apps and content management system plugins. A year or two goes by and the plugins appear abandoned and don’t play nice with newer versions of the software. Plugins may have security issues that leave your business vulnerable to hackings. Or perhaps an app looked promising, but it’s still buggy and unreliable a year later. The more mission critical the need, the more you should insist on financially stable vendors that are committed to their software.

Easy to Use

When you use, for example, an inventory management package meant for large corporations, it might seem good because you’re getting lots of features and functionality. And isn’t more always better?

Not necessarily. If you have a small team, getting more features and functionality can leave you worse off. Why? Complexity.

Complexity means it can take your small team more time than they can spare to master the software because they wear six other hats. The result? Resentment, frustration, failure. Complexity also adds more cost to get the software installed and configured, — especially if you must hire a consultant to set it up or have to pay overtime.

Automation with Other Systems

Today you get the most value from cloud software that passes data and transactions automatically to other systems you use. Doing so lets you harness automation — and that saves money. The last thing you want is to have to manually re-enter data from one system to another.

Always look for software that integrates with other software in your business. Many vendors today list all third party integrations on their websites. Avoid developing your own custom integrations, because they can get costly.

Ability to Upgrade Seamlessly

Find software that meets your needs when you are small, but grows with you. When choosing software, I like to start with a simple affordable package, then upgrade to more features or capacity later. And you want to be able to do it seamlessly without switching vendors or going through a manual conversion process.

Free Trials and Low Risk Terms

Free trials enable you to do a hands-on evaluation for a week or two. After that, with a month-to-month payment plan, or the ability to cancel at any time, you’re not locked in. If the software doesn't work out, you at least don’t have to be stuck paying for it long term.

Follow the above six checklist points and you too can improve your operations with software.

About the Author:

smallbiztrends
Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.

How Your Business Can Benefit From Podcasting

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: June 7, 2018

Back in the early 2000s, I was at a party when one of the guests mentioned he was hooked on podcasts. “Huh?” was the primary response, as few of us knew what he was even talking about. My, how things have changed.

Today, nearly two-thirds of Americans are familiar with podcasts, according to the 2018 Infinite Dial Study, and 44 percent of Americans age 12 and older have listened to one. Consumers ages 25 to 54 are most likely to listen to podcasts — almost one-third of them do.

Here’s how your small business can benefit from podcasting.

Podcasting is on the rise

The 2018 Infinite Dial Study names podcasting one of the biggest audio trends for 2018. Widespread smartphone use, as well as an increase in the number of connected cars, are big factors in podcasting’s growing popularity. An estimated 83 percent of Americans now own a smartphone. And, according to Nielsen, the use of smartphones to download and/or listen to podcasts rose 157 percent between 2014 and 2017.

More than 30 million Americans listen to podcasts each month and 21.9 million do so each week. Weekly listeners listen to an average of seven podcasts per week; 80 percent of them listen to all or most of the podcasts they start. With such high levels of engagement, podcasts are an ideal medium for savvy entrepreneurs to promote their businesses.

Start your own podcast

To successfully start your own podcast, follow these steps:

  • Set your goal. What do you want to achieve with your podcast? Do you want to become known as a thought leader, drive customers to your website, or make connections in your industry? Your goals will drive the format and content of your podcast.
  • Find your niche. There are tons of podcasts out there. How will you make yours stand out from the crowd? Determine who your target audience is, and then listen to the most popular podcasts aimed at this audience. Where is there an opportunity to provide something new?
  • Choose a name for your podcast. The name should include some keywords. Using keywords in your podcast name, as well as online descriptions of it, helps users find it online or with a smart speaker.
  • Plan your cadence. Creating a quality podcast takes time. You’ll need to come up with topics that you can talk about for 30 to 60 minutes. If you plan to interview guests, you’ll have to find them, convince them to participate, record an interview, and edit the recordings. It’s also a good idea to launch with several podcast episodes — not just one — so listeners who like the first episode can keep on listening.
  • Market your podcast. Let your customers and prospects know about your podcast. Include a link to where they can download your podcast on your business website, in your email signature, in social media posts, and in marketing emails. Consider buying airtime on complementary podcasts to advertise. Your guests can also help promote your podcast by linking to it on their websites or mentioning it during their own podcasts.
  • Get subscribers and reviews. Encourage your listeners to subscribe to your podcast, and to review your podcast wherever it's hosted, like on iTunes. The more subscribers you have, the more impressive your podcast will look to new listeners. Positive reviews will also help convince potential listeners to give your podcast a try.

Other ways to profit from podcasting

Even if you don’t launch your own podcast, you can still benefit from the podcasting trend. Find podcasts your target customers listen to. Then advertise on or sponsor those podcasts.

You can also connect with podcasters who target your customer base and — if relevant — offer to be a guest on their show. For example, if you own an accounting firm catering to small business owners, see if you can get a guest spot sharing tax tips on a small business podcast.

With a little thought and planning, podcasting can be an effective marketing tool for your small business.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades

Don’t Get Fooled by These 7 Marketing Myths

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: April 19, 2018

Did you get pranked on April Fool’s Day? Even if you got through April 1 unscathed, you might still fall victim to some common marketing misconceptions. Don’t get fooled by these seven marketing myths.
 

Marketing Myth No. 1

If my product or service is good enough, I don’t need to market it — it will sell itself. According to the most recent Census, there are 27.9 million small businesses in the United States. That’s not even counting big businesses! With so much competition out there, marketing is essential to let prospective customers know your business exists. Every business needs marketing — that’s why big, recognizable brands like Disney, Apple, and Starbucks still advertise.
 

Marketing Myth No. 2

The more types of customers I target, the more I’ll sell. Marketing to a wide customer base may work for big companies with huge budgets. But even for these giants, it’s not as effective as it used to be. (Consider the struggles of department stores and mass-market retailers in recent years.) The more narrowly your small business can target its market, the better your results will be and the more customer loyalty you’ll build.
 

Marketing Myth No. 3

Good marketing will get results right away. Online marketing is more likely than traditional marketing methods to produce quick results. If someone clicks on your online ad, for example, you’ll know immediately. In general, however, most marketing methods take some time to pay off. For example, it will take a few months at minimum to see results from improving your website’s SEO or launching a content marketing campaign.
 

Marketing Myth No. 4

Marketing is a waste of money. Marketing is only a waste of money if you don’t do it wisely. Create a marketing plan and marketing budget to control your spending. Then monitor which marketing tactics get the best results. Once you know what’s working, you can dedicate more of your budget to the marketing methods that really pay off, and reduce spending on the rest.
 

Marketing Myth No. 5

The more money I spend on marketing, the more customers I’ll attract. Spending more on marketing will probably get you more leads—but leads aren’t the same as customers. When it comes to generating leads, focus on quality, not quantity, for best results. To do that, plan marketing that carefully targets your ideal customer. You’ll spend less but get more qualified leads — and make more sales.
 

Marketing Myth No. 6

Online marketing is all you need. Digital marketing has come to dominate the landscape — good news for small businesses, since it’s generally more affordable than traditional marketing methods like print or television advertising. But that doesn’t mean you should shut out traditional tactics altogether. A good marketing plan will incorporate both online and offline marketing to reach your target customers wherever they are.  
 

Marketing Myth No. 7

If I use social media to market my business, I don’t need a website. Marketing and advertising on social media is a great way to build brand awareness. But the ultimate goal is to drive customers to your website and to your business. Without a website of your own, you’re putting all your eggs in the social media basket—and what happened with Facebook in March shows just how dangerous that is. What happens when a social network changes its algorithms or loses popularity? Having a business website gives you a place where you’re in control of the marketing message you deliver.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades

5 Essential Pages For Your Small Business Website

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: April 11, 2018 Updated: April 11, 2018

There are certain pages every website can’t be without. A small business’s site needs to give visitors what they are most likely to be looking for.

If you’re getting a website together for your small business or reinventing an existing site, take a look at the five essential pages every small business website needs. We include three other recommended pages as well.
 

Homepage

Your homepage is the virtual lobby of your business, the first thing people notice when they visit the site. It’s therefore vital that your homepage presents your business in a professional and engaging light. Make a great first impression!

As research from the Neilsen Norman Group highlights, you have less than 10 seconds to convey your value proposition. Get to the point about what your business is about. Keep words concise, punchy and compelling to hook visitors and get them to explore deeper into your site.
 

About Us

People (including business people) do business with other people. Customers like to know a bit about a business, its experiences, ethos and goals. An About Us page informs visitors of such information. Avoid making it too lengthy or dull - show your company’s human side and let potential customers see who’s behind the business. Pictures of the team in action help.
 

Products / Services

Depending on what type of business you have, you’ll want a Products page, a Services page, or perhaps both. List what you sell in an organized way, so that it’s clear to people.  If you have a lot of different products or services, you might summarize them in logical categories, and link to more detailed pages about each product or service. 

Images really help for products. Be detailed enough so that what you sell is clear to visitors. Also, by being clear in your language, you better optimize your pages for search engines and this means it will be easier to you find your site.

Contact

Why bother with a website if your visitors don’t know how to get in contact with you? 

As well as providing essential contact information, including your email address, phone number and address, your contact page should encourage visitors to connect with your business on the social media channels you use as well.

If your business gets foot traffic, include directions and possibly a map. Many website platforms today make it easy to embed an interactive Google map so visitors don’t get lost. Be sure to include your hours of operation.
 

Testimonials

For small businesses, a testimonials page is your chance to let your business shine. It’s a good idea to put the name of the person with their perspective company alongside the testimonial to give the endorsement greater credibility and authenticity - rather than anonymous testimonials.

Video testimonials are really good, but simple text works too. Some businesses today also use apps that embed reviews from external sites, and those reviews may appear on a testimonials page or somewhere else in the site.

If you haven’t got any testimonials yet, now’s the time to start contacting satisfied clients and customers. Ask them right after you’ve provided your product or service when they’re satisfied and it’s fresh in their minds.
 

Once you are sure you’ve done a great job with the above five essential pages, here are three other recommended pages/sections to build out over time:

FAQs

Having a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website gives you the opportunity to answer common questions for customers so valuable time doesn’t have to be spent answering them over and over. FAQs can also allay customer objections. As Bourn Creative advises, always present the questions on your FAQ page in a positive light and answer the questions honestly.
 

Appointment Scheduling

Businesses that depend on consumer appointments (salons, pest control, car repair) may want to consider a page with a calendar to find an open slot and schedule the appointment online. More and more appointment scheduling apps are available to embed into websites. It’s a great convenience for customers, and companies can see an increase in customer registrations from these apps.
 

Blog

Finally, consider a blog on your website. Keeping it up-to-date with fresh and engaging content will ensure your business is portrayed as digitally-minded and can help you be seen as a leader in your field. A regularly updated blog can also work wonders for the search engine optimization (SEO) of your site, helping it to rank higher on the search engines.

About the Author:

smallbiztrends
Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.

Which is Better - Hiring a Web Developer or Using a DIY Website Builder?

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: March 29, 2018

Today, many small businesses get a website up and running in one of two main ways. They either:

  • Hire a web developer to build them a custom website, or
  • Build their own website using one of the do-it-yourself platforms (such as Jimdo, Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace, or GoDaddy Websites).

There’s no right method for every business. For some businesses, the right answer will be to hire a web developer to build a custom website to your specifications. For others, the right answer will be the do-it-yourself approach. 

Which method you choose depends on a number of factors including your budget, needs, timing, and internal capabilities. Let’s take a look at pros and cons to help you choose the method of getting a website that’s right for your business.

                                                           

Hiring a Website Developer

 

Hiring a web developer is often the choice of businesses that already have a website.  Businesses like this are usually looking to upgrade. They need more than a basic five-page website. Their website may have proven return on investment already. So these businesses see the value of investing in a better website.

 

Here are some advantages of a custom website:

  • Your website will be exactly what you want, to your specifications. It may include advanced functionality.
  • A professional does the work for you.
  • You have someone to contact for ongoing changes and fixes. Most development firms provide support on an hourly rate or fixed-fee basis.
  • Use your own domain name. This is important for credibility.

 

And here are some downsides of a custom website:

  • Cost is significantly higher than a DIY website. A typical custom website price starts at $2,000 — and can go into five figures.
  • You have to spend time communicating your needs to your developer. If this is your first website, identifying your needs could be harder than it sounds because there are many things you’ll be thinking about for the first time.
  • Your business is responsible for hosting, upkeep, and protecting your site from breaches. This can mean your business will incur ongoing costs and a bit of complexity.

 

Using a Do-it-Yourself Website Builder Tool

 

Building your own website using a DIY website builder platform is often the choice for startups and entrepreneurs getting their very first site. This method is also a good choice for businesses in a hurry — you can literally have a website live in a few hours. And for those on an extremely tight budget, the DIY method is ideal as the costs are spread out with a low monthly fee.

 

Here are some advantages of DIY websites:

  • You get professional designs. Most also have mobile templates or responsive designs that display well on all screen sizes.
  • Inexpensive! It’s possible to get a “free” website, although you should opt for a paid plan as it won’t have ads and you can use your own domain address. Paid plans typically run less than $30 a month.
  • Content can be updated instantly – you can even switch designs on the fly. Simply log on to your DIY dashboard and make changes. No need to put in a request to your developer.
  • Hosting, security, and software fixes are handled by the platform.

 

But before you decide, consider the downsides of DIY websites:

  • The limited customization available may not meet your needs. Usually you get a package with pre-determined features or a few à la carte add-ons. 
  • The DIY approach is easy, but does require you to be hands on and takes time.
  • You may be limited to online help pages or email for support. Telephone support may cost extra — or may not be available.
  • If you stop using that particular DIY platform, you have to start over again somewhere else. You can’t take your site with you.

 

One final tip: try before you buy. Most DIY website builder platforms have a free plan or at least a free trial. It’s a good way to see if the DIY approach is for you.

About the Author:

smallbiztrends
Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.

6 Ways Your Best Customers Can Help Market Your Business

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: March 13, 2018

You’ve probably heard of “brand advocates” who help promote products they use on social media. (Maybe you even have some online brand advocates of your own.) But did you realize that your business has brand advocates off-line as well?

The concept of brand advocates has been around for decades under many different names. Ken Blanchard called them “raving fans;” Apple dubbed them “evangelists.” Essentially, the idea is the same: A business’s best customers are its most powerful marketing tools.

What Makes Brand Advocacy So Effective?

Brand advocacy has several advantages as a marketing method:

  • It doesn’t cost you anything, which lowers your customer acquisition cost, increasing your profitability.
  • It builds trust. According to a Nielsen survey, 82 percent of all consumers and a whopping 92 percent of consumers aged 18 to 34 ask other people for recommendations before making a purchase.
  • It strengthens your bonds with your most satisfied customers by creating an ongoing relationship.

How to Get Started With Brand Advocacy

Now that you know the benefits of brand advocates, how can you get your best customers to help market your business? Here are six ideas to get you going.

  1. Create a VIP panel. Putting your brand advocates on a VIP customer panel not only makes them feel special, but also benefits your business. Give your VIPs early access to new products or services, and ask them to share their experiences. Ask for their feedback on how you can improve your customer service, or what new products they’d like to see you introduce. You’ll get valuable insights in addition to free marketing.
  2. Involve your brand advocates in content marketing. Create an email newsletter just for your brand advocates that’s full of helpful content. Encourage them to forward the information to people they think might find it useful, and to share it on social media.
  3. Reward brand advocates for their help. Discounts, exclusive offers, and promotional materials are easy ways to thank your brand advocates for spreading the word. (Make sure, however, that you don’t reward customers for posting online reviews—this can violate the rules of review sites.) You can also hold special events to thank your brand advocates. If you sell B2B, you can reward your brand advocates by advocating for their businesses as well.
  4. Give them plenty of your business cards to pass out. Whenever you meet with a brand advocate, give them a small stack of your business cards. Mail them a few dozen business cards every few months. Ask them to share the cards with others who might need your product or service.
  5. Ask your best customers to serve as references. Do prospective customers often have questions about your product or service? For example, if you sell software to businesses, or landscaping services to homeowners, prospects probably want to talk to your past customers before making a decision. Find out if your top customers are willing to talk to prospects about what it’s like to work with your business. (Just make sure you don't overload any one customer with reference calls.)
  6. Ask them to provide customer testimonials. See if your best customers are willing to write testimonials about your product, service or company. If they’re shy about their writing skills, have an employee interview them and write up a testimonial for the customer to approve. Better yet, ask if your customer would be willing to film a short video testimonial, or be interviewed on video about how your product or service helped them. Share the testimonials and videos on your website.

Once you get started with a brand advocacy program, you’ll find that it’s one of the most effective ways to market your business while also learning more about your customers.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades

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