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Sex, Sports, Gambling & QR Codes

Posted 10:55 AM by

Sex, Sports, Gambling & QR CodesWe all know that sex sells-right?  Well at least I do.  And we also know that sports and sex have been connected for a long time from a marketing perspective.  Think Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, Anna Kournikova , Danica Patrick, or Brandy Chastain (of World Cup soccer fame).  And we also know that sports and gambling go together like peas and carrots.  Just ask Forrest Gump, Pete Rose or Alex Rodriguez.

So it was only a matter of time before a hot shot marketing guru combined sports, sex, and gambling with the ones of the hottest new marketing trends: QR Codes.  That’s just what Betfair, an online betting company, is doing to promote their website.  At an upcoming beach volleyball tournament in London, British beach volleyball stars Shauna Mullin and Zara Dampney will be sporting high tech bar codes (QR Codes) on their itsy bitsy bikini bottoms.  When photographed on a smartphone, the QR barcode will direct users straight to the Betfair website.  Sounds creative! Bordering on tasteless, but still creative!

Click here for the full article

QR Codes, Landing Pages, and Content ManagementWhile I don’t personally promote this type of marketing, or gambling for that matter, my guess is that they’ll get a lot of web visits.  For more creative ideas and information about QR Codes, check here.

Anyone have other creative examples of marketing with QR Codes that are less offensive?

 

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4 Reasons You Need a Mobile Website

Posted 1:09 PM by

Mobile Websites with Marketpath CMSA mobile website or mobile ready website is simply an internet site optimized for viewing on mobile devices or smartphones such as the iPhone, Android or Blackberry.  Because mobile gadgets are smaller than computers (with smaller screens), full websites are often difficult to view and navigate via mobile devices.  

Mobile websites provide a better way for consumers to learn about your organization when they’re on-the-go and typically consist of a “stripped down” version of a website, with less information, prioritized or more important to the mobile user.

Visit the Internet Marketing Dictionary for a detailed definition of a mobile website.
 

So why should your organization develop a mobile site? 

  1. Because your current site doesn’t work well or look correct on mobile devices

I mentioned this briefly above.  And while it may be obvious, it is also the most significant reason you should consider a mobile site.  Maybe the fonts are too small, or the images too large, or the navigation and layout are too complex or awkward.  Roll over menus that work and look great when viewing from a computer, might be tedious or impossible to use via mobile.  Or, possibly, the site downloads painfully slow on a mobile device.  Regardless of the reason, if your prospect or customer can’t easily use your site or find what they’re looking for (without getting frustrated), they may just try your competitor’s easier to use mobile site!

  1. The needs & behavior of a mobile web user are different from a traditional Internet user

While it is critical that your site be easy to view and navigate via mobile, it is also important to realize how mobile users are different from traditional computer web users.  Phone or mobile users are often away from their home or office (or at least away from their computers), with less time to spend surfing or looking for information.  Many times, they have a goal in mind and are looking for very specific information such as a location, news or event, contact, map, product, or schedule.  And often, they only have a few minutes to find what they want.

Because of these differences, your mobile design needs to focus on simplicity, presenting prioritized content that is relevant for the mobile user.  The Mobile Marketing Association suggests a less-is-more design philosophy for mobile web sites, focusing on the 3-5 most important reasons someone will visit your mobile site, and making those items visible upon entry, at the top menu level.  Eliminating side-scrolling and reducing down-scrolling also enhances ease-of-use via mobile.

  1. Mobile internet use is growing rapidly!Mobile Website Statistics

Whether you like it or not, more and more people will be accessing your website via mobile devices.  In fact, as of last month (July 2011), 50% of all connections to the internet are from phones and mobile devices

Microsoft Tag recently developed the infographic to the right to summarize the explosion of the mobile web, which is already a large market, but growing more rapidly by the minute.  If you are still skeptical as to the importance of the mobile web, I’ve included a number of interesting statistics.

  • 70% of the world’s population now have a mobile phone; 87% in the U.S. (per Experian)
  • U.S. children are now more likely to own a mobile phone than a book, with 85% of kids owning a phone as to 73% having books! (National Literacy Trust)
  • 55% of US consumers who purchased a new phone in 2011 bought a smartphone, up from the 34% last year (Nielsen)
  • 38% of US consumers owned a smartphone as of May 2011
  • Daily internet usage via handheld devices jumped from 29% in 2009 to 43% in 2010
  • In the last year Google has seen a 400% increase in the number of mobile searches
  • The #1 access method for local information is now the mobile browser

Despite the growing importance of mobile, less than 5% of businesses have mobile enabled websites today.  In fact, 50% of small businesses have never even checked the appearance or functionality of their site on a Smart Phone!

  1. It’s fairly easy to create a mobile website

Assuming the functionality and content from your current site are up to snuff (you know what they say about ASS-U-ME), creating a mobile website is reasonably easy.  This is especially true with tools like Marketpath CMS, or other web content management solutions, that allow you to leverage both your existing website content and content management processes, without having to start from scratch or add new processes to update your mobile site.

Marketpath allows you to easily manage your mobile websites within Marketpath CMS, updating content for both your regular and mobile sites at the same time, while delivering to traditional and mobile formats.

So why not give mobile users what they want and enhance your brand equity and reputation at the same time?

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Nine Beneficial Uses for Web Forms

Posted 12:00 AM by

Nine Great Uses for Web FormsA major component of our recent roll out of Marketpath CMS 3.0, was the launch of Marketpath’s Form Builder.  Form Builder is a great new tool that allows non-technically skilled individuals to quickly create attractive web forms and to easily insert them into their website or web pages, all with Marketpath's web content management solution.

With the introduction of this great new solution, I thought it would be a good idea to review a few of the many ways that marketers can leverage web forms to engage and convert website visitors and capture valuable data from customers and prospects.

  1. Contact Forms

One of the simplest uses of a web form is to create a “contact us” form.  The concept is certainly basic, but execution is key.  By making the actual form or button large, attractive and visible, you can increase conversions by over 100%.  KSM Consulting does a nice jog of this on their home page.  You can also increase conversions by positioning these forms in visible spots throughout your site in high traffic content areas.

  1. Surveys & Polls

Form Builder makes it very easy to create quick polls and surveys in minutes.  And what a great way to learn more from your customers, while keeping your site fresh and interesting!  In this day and age, your prospects want to engage you directly, so why not let them?  Learn their ideas for new products, services and promotions and you benefit.  This strategy also produces user generated content that positively impacts your search engine optimization (SEO) - not a bad side benefit.

  1. Subscription Forms (email, newsletters, etc.)

Easily create Web Forms with Marketpath's Form BuilderFinding ways to add value to your prospects and customers in some fashion, so that they want to communicate or stay in touch with you is always a challenge. You certainly need worthwhile content to keep them interested, but effective web forms are also needs to convince them to sign up to begin with.  Clark Appliance does a nice job of enticing their target customers, cooking enthusiasts, to stay in touch with recipes, cooking classes, and special promotions.  

Kahn’s Fine Wines & Spirits also does a great job cross promoting their email newsletter with events and other promos, both on their home page and throughout their site.

  1. Event Registration Forms

Is there a better way to identify a hot prospect than to have them raise their hand and register for a tradition event or online webinar? If they register, they must have at least some interest in your organization or service.  And if they have interest, why not use a web form to gain some insight into the individual or company? 

  1. Promotions & Contest Registrations

A great way to collect data (name, email, phone, preferences, etc.) about prospects and current customers is through online contests and promotions that encourage visitors to your site to register.  Harry Potter Wall Art does a great job of compiling contacts for future communications and promotions via various contests and give-a-ways they promote on their homepage, as well as via Facebook and Twitter. 

  1. Order Forms (Case Studies, White Papers, Merchandise)

Other excellent way to generate leads using forms is to offer useful content on your website that individual can either download or have emailed to them.  Don’t get greedy with the information you ask for, however, or your sign-up (conversion) rate will go down the tubes.

  1. Request a Quote Forms

This is another type of form that may seem overly basic (see contact us), but that can provide a great deal of value (via leads) if executed properly. By making the form easy to complete, highly visible, and placing it in areas of your site that draw the prospect’s interest, you can dramatically increases conversions. C&T Design and Equipment generates significant leads by featuring the call to action (Request a Quote) directly from their home page, in addition to placing it on each of their regional office pages, as well as other key areas on their site. 

  1. Evaluation & Feedback Forms

Asking for feedback from your customers is a great way to gain insight into whatever initiative your organization to working on, while also getting some positive PR.  With an easy to use form builder, you create simple or complex evaluations. Utilizing these types of forms on landing pages and via customer follow-up email campaigns can create a positive impression about your organization’s service level.

  1. Request Help/Support Forms

Utilizing forms on your FAQ, contact us, or customer service/support pages can both elevate your service immediately and give your company information to enhance your service over time.  Information is power and the data you receive regarding questions and problems can be used to enhance your support processes (time to respond, tracking, etc.), while helping you to prioritize future site content that can more quickly answer your customer’s questions. 

There you have it - I’ve given a few basic ideas on how to leverage web forms to better engage your customers and drive conversions.  What creative ideas or examples of using web forms can you share?

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5 Free Online Marketing Tools for Your Business

Posted 1:00 PM by

Free Online Marketing Tools for Your BusinessAs an individual running the sales and marketing department for a small business, I am always looking for cost effective ways to enhance my knowledge and ability to market, while keeping costs down.  The great thing about being in business today is that there are lots of free online marketing tools and resources that can both educate and provide usefulness to an online marketer.

Below are my first five (5) free tools that any small business marketer should be aware of and possibly using regularly in their day to day marketing.  Next month I'll list of another group of free, useful tools for your business.

1.  Google Alerts

I'll start with a simple, but very useful tool that has been around a long time- Google Alerts.  Google Alerts allows you to sign up for free email updates on the latest (and relevant) Google results for whatever keyword/topic (business, product, technology, individual, etc.) you wish to follow.  Then, when your keyword shows up in Google, you get an email with the new information sent to you. 

This is an amazingly easy and valuable tool that allows you to monitor the web for new news, PR, website updates, and more.   I use it for tracking information on my own company, competitors, customers, industry trends, research and general topics that I what to stay on top of.  Below is an example of an alert I received for "Marketpath," letting me know that our press release had been picked up and posted on an industry technology website.

Google Alert - Marketpath Named 2011 Innovation of the Year Finalist

You can also be creative and use Google Alerts as a marketing tool, to drive traffic to your own website.  Think about it- it makes sense.  Every time you post content on your website with a certain keyword (phrase), Google will send an automated alert to everyone who subscribed to Google Alerts for that keyword. The individual subscribed to the alert, because the keyword is relevant to them. If your content (post, PR, etc.) is also relevant for the keyword, Google Alerts will connect your site to that highly pertinent reader of your content.  Check out this article for more information.
 

2.  RANKS.NL Keyword Density Tool

This is a great tool that provides lots of useful information about any website or web page, in regards to how the site or specific page is optimized for search (SEO).  Just type in your company's URL or the URL of a competitor or related industry site, and you'll get good data about how that site is viewed by Google and other search engines.  Information includes:

  • Key words and phrases it looks like the site is optimized for
  • Keyword density for those phrases
  • Google page ranking for any term the site ranks for
  • Links in and out of the site
  • Google's PageRank for the site
  • Alexa's site rankings
  • Site load times

If you are a novice to all things SEO, the information on this site will help you learn.   If you already have some basic SEO and key word experience, RANKS.NL will provide insight and ideas into how best to optimize your site for search and how other sites (competitors, industry sites) are hoping to compete for different keywords.

3.  Google Analytics

One of the great thing about interactive marketing and the web is that it allows markers to more easily measure their marketing activities and results.  Yet, even in 2011, many small businesses don't pay attention to what is happening on their website.  With Google Analytics, tracking your website marketing is both free and easy.

In simple terms, web analytics will let you know who has visited your site, what they did when they were there, and where they came from.  More importantly, it will tell you how your prospects found you (which sites and key words), what content they value, and whether you converted them to leads or sales once they got to your site.  By properly utilizing Google or other analytics tools, you'll be able to understand both your visitors and which initiatives are impacting them.  Combine that knowledge with a web content management system that allows for quick and easy changes to your site, and you'll be on your way to improving your marketing bottom line.   

Google Analytics isn't quite as simple as some of the other tools on this list (you'll need the analytics code put on each page of your site), but it is probably the MVT (most valuable tool) of free online tools.  Google also provides great resources to quickly get you up to speed.  For starters, try the Google Analytics product tour.

4.  Pressrelease.grader.com

If your business ever produces press releases and utilizes them to generate website traffic or as part of your search optimization (SEO) strategy, then you should take a look at Hubspot's free tool.  PressReleaseGrader evaluates your press releases and provides you with a marketing effectiveness score for that release.  It also provides details as to which elements your release contains or is missing that might impact its effectiveness, including links, content, and key words.

5.  Google Places (Local Business Listings)

If you want people (customers, prospects, vendors) to find your business, based on where it is located, then your business should be listed on Google Places.  If you are not currently listed then you may already be at a competitive disadvantage.  Think about this:

  • 97% of consumers search for local businesses online
  • 20% of searches on Google are related to location

Those are significant numbers you could be missing out on, as Google and other search engines emphasize local search.   Listing your business won't guarantee any success, but can provide the following benefits:

  • Increased local traffic to your website. If your listing contains the right keywords and information about your business, you can attract prospects to your site.
  • Getting listed on online maps and directories. This helps customers and prospects locate you more easily. Some search users also prefer company listing with maps vs. listings without. You want your company in both types of search results.
  • Provides promotional vehicle. If you choose, you can also leverage your local listing for promotional offers and advertising (not free).

Setting up your business on Google Places will take some time, but it is something every local business should do.  I'd also suggest looking at similar local listing such as Bing Local and Yahoo Local, as they should provide similar benefits.

There you have it- the first listing of my favorite free marketing tools.  Next month, I'll write about my second group of free tools.  Until then, can you list your favorite free marketing tools?
 

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8 Reasons Your Business Should Be Blogging

Posted 8:00 PM by

Marketpath Blogging for Businesses Whenever I talk to a small business owner or head of marketing about the benefits of blogging, they usually don't see the full value they'll get by implementing a consistent company blog.  They tend to understand a few advantages they'll see, but rarely do they see the big picture of how a well-run business blog can impact their company's marketing program.  So here are my top eight (of many) reasons your business should be blogging.

  1. Blogging can drive traffic by enhancing natural SEO


    Probably the most significant reason your company should be blogging is because it can positively impact your website's natural (not paid) search engine optimization (SEO), so that your blog and website receive higher rankings on search engines, such as Google.  Blogs help to optimize your site in a few significant ways.  First of all, if your blog is also part of your website, every new post will also be adding relevant and valuable content to your site, which Google values as part of their search criteria.  Second, new blog pages are more likely to be found via search, than a regular web page with the same content, as most of the search engines look at blog content as more current and therefore more relevant vs. typical webpage content.  

    Third, and most important, is that your blog (which should include relevant key words and content for your business) can help build backlinks to your website and to specific pages with related information on your site.  Google, and other search engines, like relevant links and key words, as well as fresh content - and a good blog has them all!  And if your blogs are interesting, then your readers will forward and share them via their blogs, social media sites, email and twitter, all of which will result in more links and visibility for your business.

    Finally, blog posts are available and add value through search long after they are written, so they can drive relevant visitors to your site months, and even years after you first post them and have long forgotten about them.  Through the miracle of search, they live on!

  2. Blogging can drive traffic via your blog's followers (readers)


    Another, more traditional way your blog can drive traffic to your website, is by generating loyal readers, who follow or subscribe to your blog via RSS.  The nice thing about loyal blog readers is that they often become loyal customers or referrals for your business, and are also more likely to forward or post your blog elsewhere.   

  3. Blogging can give your business credibility


    Static websites, with little information, tend to give visitors to your site a poor first impression of your company.  Business blogs do just the opposite, positioning your company as an authority in your field and as a reliable source for information.  By blogging about important topics and trends in your industry, you immediately enhance your reputation, which can lead to secondary marketing opportunities and fewer objections to overcome during the sales process.  The same benefits apply to individuals who blog for your company, as they will be viewed as subject matter experts on topics they frequently blog about.

  4. Blogging is learning!


    Forcing yourself to consistently blog helps to keep you on top of your business.  Like it or not, if you blog, you will also learn.  You'll learn from customers, peers, and competitors who post and reply to your blogs and you'll also learn through the research you do on various topics you plan to write about.  The great thing about your blog is that it will keep you from procrastinating on the important research you know you should be doing anyway on various current topics.

  5. Blog content can be re-used (many times over)


    One of the best side benefits of blogging is that your work and content can be re-used many times over.  Your blogs can, and should, be used for content on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  Those sites are also great ways to encourage more readership and sharing of your blog.  But don't stop there.  Your blogs can also be used as part of your e-Newsletter or repurposed for white papers, case studies and traditional marketing literature.  You can even repost the same blog in the future with updated commentary, when the topic is an important one.

  6. Blogging and PR work together


    Your blog and your PR strategy should be tightly connected, especially if you are a small business with little or no PR budget.  Your blog is a great way to post news and events about your company, while also linking to formal press releases for more information.  You can also get greater visibility for important news, product launches, etc. by linking to them via related blog topics.  For example, if an auto manufacturer is blogging about the benefits of hybrids vs. traditional cars; wouldn't that be the perfect place to link to their recent press release about the launch of their new hybrid or to an industry write up on the vehicle?      

  7. Blogging drives "Calls to Action" and sales leads


    Unless it is a news blog, announcing a new product or feature, your blog should never blatantly be used for your sales or marketing pitch.  Rather, your blog should provide your target audience with valuable information and/or opinions.  If you are always selling, you won't have many readers for long.  You can, however, lead your readers (via links) to associated content about your products, if your product or service relates to your blog topic and you are not selling too hard.   As an example, if you're writing a blog about the topic of business blogging, it might be the perfect place to link to your business blogging software that makes successful blogging easy.

    Another non-intrusive strategy for generating leads and sales via your blog is to include "calls-to-action" on your webpage, but not within the blog itself.  This strategy works best if your call to action is specific and closely related to the actual blog topic, while also being easily visible.  The challenge in this case, is not just posting a generic call to action that really doesn't have much to do with the topic of interest to your reader.    

  8. Blogging Works!


    And my final reason that your company should be blogging is that blogging works!  It is that simple.  A well thought out blogging strategy can significantly impact your online marketing results.  If you don't believe me, check out this research from HubspotCompanies that blog have far better marketing results than those that don't. The average company that blogs has:

    • 55% more visitors to their website.
    • 97% more links to their website (a primary factor in search rankings)
    • 434% more indexed pages by search engines

There you have it- my top eight reasons your business should be blogging.  I know there are many more reasons to blog that I haven't listed or even thought of.  What are your reasons?

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Building an Internet Marketing Plan for Your Small Business - Part II

Posted 8:00 PM by

Last month I discussed the critical components you should consider when developing your internet marketing strategy and plan, as well as the best places to start: your website, search engine optimization, and analytics.  Today I'll cover a few success factors that cross all the components of your plan, regardless of which elements you focus on first.  Keeping these basic principles or success factors in mind throughout your planning and implementation won't guarantee success, but they can improve you odds.

Content is King

Regardless of whether you are emailing prospects, writing a blog, posting on Facebook, Tweeting, or adding a new page to your website, the quality of your content is the most important factor in your marketing success. The reason is simple.  You can have the most technically advanced website or marketing software, but if your audience doesn't care about your message, none of that will matter.  So start with your content strategy, thinking through why you audience will want to read or listen to what your company has to say, and ask yourself two basic questions.

  1. What content will position us as a credible company and as an expert in our field?
  2. What can we give our customers and/or prospects that is valuable to them?  (unique information they can't get elsewhere, promotions, etc.)

Content and Calls to Action - the King & Queen of Website SuccessAs you develop your content plan, also determine who can create important content for your organization and how you can hold them accountable.  Then begin developing an ongoing content calendar that applies to both traditional and online marketing.  Finally, think through how you can share and reuse content across your various initiatives.  Blog posts, for example, can be re-used for email articles   or in print newsletters and can be tweeted.

Calls to Action (are Queen?)

As you are considering your content strategy, you'll also want to think through what you want your audience to do when they are reading your email, blog or tweet or searching through your website.  This may seem obvious, but many business websites, for example, can look nice, yet have very few calls to action.  So your marketing doesn't fall into this trap, ask yourself this simple question.  In a perfect world, what would I want my audience to do after interacting (reading, viewing, listening) with my content? Buy, call us, register, click through to another area, fill out a form, provide information?  Once you know what you'd like your audience to do, start to think through how you can in influence them to interact with your company.  Think back to your content strategy and what you can do to add value for your audience.  Put yourself in your audience's shoes and consider whether this type of call to action would convince you to act.  Remember, you must give your audience something they believe is valuable enough to make them want to interact with you.  What value can you give them?

Measure & Measure Some More!

Regardless of where you start with your interactive plan, you must start measuring your results from the beginning.  It is amazing how many small businesses have websites or Facebook pages, but have no idea whether those initiatives are actually adding value to the bottom line.  It is possible that your Facebook page (or other initiative) is actually hurting your business because it gives people a poor impression of your company or brand.  Let's hope not, but it is possible.  Just doing something (pick any marketing activity) to cross it off your list is not a great strategy.  Instead, think what results you hope to achieve and begin measuring from the start.

The good news is that almost all internet marketing activities are easier to measure than traditional marketing.  So measure from the start, whether you are measuring sales or softer metrics like leads, registrations, page views, or click-throughs.  Then make changes to your marketing and measure again, learning and improving along the way.

Don't Forget Business Processes

Remember from the start that technology is Not a silver bullet. It can be used to enhance a process or to better measure the process or process results, but it is Not a substitute for good business processes.  Whether we're talking about updating your website, writing an online press release, or tweeting an announcement, you still need to think through how the process will work in your company.  As you develop your internet marketing plan, always think through and define new processes and how current processes will change (improve).  Remember that a good process is defined, has an owner, and is measurable.  If you don't consider these things, technology with will just make a bad process faster!        

Keep it Simple (Ease of Use that is)

My final success factor for your internet plan relates to all the other factors mentioned above and to the various systems and technologies your small business with use for all your internet marketing.  Because most small businesses are limited in both technical and marketing resources, it is critical that their systems are easy to use and intuitive.  Whether you are looking for an easy to use web content management system or a simple email marketing tool, make sure you participate in a live product demo, so that you can see for yourself whether the toolset is really user friendly. If the system is not easy to use for non-technical people, it simply won't be used, regardless of how much functionality the system might have.  So look for easy to use marketing solutions; tools that allow you to effortlessly update content and calls to action, painlessly connect to your processes and clearly measure your results!


 

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Building an Internet Marketing Plan for Your Small Business - Part I

Posted 7:00 PM by

Last month I discussed various questions a small business should consider, prior to developing their internet marketing strategy and plan.  At this point you should already know the basics such as your brand positioning, target customers, high level goals, etc.  Now it is time to develop your action plan. 

But where should you begin and what components should you include in your plan?   This is where things get a bit tricky and overwhelming.  As the web has become more and more critical for businesses and people in general, it has also gotten more complex.  To start with, let's list the basic components of internet marketing that should be considered.  This certainly isn't all inclusive, but it covers the basics and is a good start for a small business.

  • Internet Marketing Strategy Components Website
  • Analytics
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
    • On-site (optimizing your own website)
    • Off-site (link building, social media, etc.)
  • Email Marketing
  • Blogging
  • Online Advertising
    • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Paid Search
    • Onsite (banners, etc.)
    • Affiliate Advertising
  • Social Media/Marketing
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • LinkedIn
    • Other
  • Public Relations (PR)
  • eCommerce
  • Mobile Marketing
  • Video Marketing

Hopefully your business is already involved with some of these web marketing components already.  But if your business has just recently launched or has been around awhile, but relied exclusively on traditional sales or marketing tactics, you may not know where to start. 

So here is my suggestion.  First of all, plan on starting with the basics and adding new components (initiatives) only after your understand and see value in what you have already bitten off.  I've seen a number of organizations that can say they are doing lots of things like social media or online PR for instance, but in many cases, they really don't know if those initiatives are adding any value to their business.  Also keep in mind that most small businesses are not utilizing all the components I listed above.  Some components are better suited than others for the type of organization you're in and the make-up of your company. 

With that said, I suggest you start with the first three components I have listed above, which are all closely related: your website, search engine optimization, and analytics.  Starting with your website is a no brainer.  In today's day and age, your website is the face of your company.  Whether you send a prospect there for information or they find it on their own, they will form an opinion of your company based on what they see.  If you want credibility, you must have an informative, professional looking website.  Your site will also become the center point for all your future online initiatives.  If you look at the list above, almost all the other elements drive people to your site (SEO, email, blogs, advertising, PR) or leverage your site to increase participation in their activity (social media, email, blog registration).  So spend the time and money to create a professionally designed website and have a plan to manage it. Think through both your human resource requirements (internal and/or external) and how you can leverage a web content management solution that simplifies your online marketing and allows you to keep fresh content in front of your target customers.

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the next component you should start with and it should be part of your basic website planning.  SEO can be very complex, but I am only suggesting you start with the easiest component of SEO, what I call on site SEO or onsite optimization.  On site SEO is simply the process of optimizing your website, based on your specific business and services, so that people (prospects, customers) can easily find your site via search on the various search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.  Optimizing a website requires the website designer or developer to understand two things:

  1. Your business and how people choose to find it on the web  -and-
  2. The components that need to be included on your site, which search engines utilize in their search (page rank) algorithms. 

Some of these components are URLs, title tags, Meta descriptions, page titles and relevant content.  Off-Site SEO, which refers to search engine optimization techniques that are not performed on your own website (linking strategies), should be considered later, but start by getting your site optimized first. To learn more about SEO, check out Google's SEO Starter Guide.

The last element you should start with is an analytics tool, so that you that you can understand the results of your internet marketing initiatives.  Measure from the beginning so that you have a baseline and understand the value your site brings to your business.  Set some basic goals and adjust them as needed.  Many small businesses have some sort of analytics in place, but it is amazing how many of them never look at the results.  Basic information such as the number of visitors you get or the pages they visit can help you understand what people are using your site for and how certain content can change the results.  Start with the basics and try to add more valuable metrics over time such as registrations, leads or sales.  Google Analytics is free and provides better data than most small businesses know what to do with, but there are lots of great analytics vendors if you need something with greater functionality.    

If you don't start out on the right foot with your website, on-site SEO, and analytics, it will be more difficult to be successful with any of the other marketing elements listed about, so get these right first.  Next week I'll follow-up with my success factors that cross all the components of your internet marketing plan.

 

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Seven Questions to Ask Before Developing Your Internet Marketing Strategy

Posted 12:00 AM by

The importance and complexity of the internet continues to grow every day, making a company's internet marketing strategy an even more critical part of a business's overall plan.  The web's complexity can make things especially difficult for a small business, with limited marketing and technology resources. 

Questions a Small Business Should Ask Before Developing Your Internet Marketing StrategyOver the next few weeks, I plan to write about the key components of an internet marketing strategy and various issues that should be considered when developing a small business internet marketing plan. But before you start thinking about specific strategies or tactics, you should first ask yourself (and answer) a few basic questions.

  1. How will your on-line marketing plan work with your off-line or traditional marketing?
    Sounds like a simple question, but it really depends upon your business and objectives.  Will there be synergy between on-line and off-line working together or are there completely different objectives and targets you are trying to reach?  This leads to the next question.

  2. Who are your target markets and customers?
    Are you targeting the same customers that you target off-line or different ones?  Is your ideal internet customer the same as your ideal off-line customer?  These questions depend greatly on your product and branding plans, but should be thought out prior to implementing specific tactics.

  3. How will you find your customers and/or how will they find you on-line?
    This question gets to the heart of your online strategy and plan and will also help determine where your emphasis is and how will you drive traffic to your website.  Depending on your resources and business model, you may choose to prioritize an "Outbound Marketing" vehicle such as email, relying on internal or external sources (list, database, etc.) for prospect data or you may focus more on permission-based or "Inbound Marketing" techniques such as blogs, webinars, social media, twitter, and search engine optimization.  Your plan should include a combination of inbound and outbound vehicles, but where you begin and focus will depend on various factors specific to your business.

    If you or your company are novices to online or web marketing, you will also want to familiarize yourself with search engine optimization (SEO).  Understanding key words and SEO will help to determine how your company will be found online and how prospects think about your services or products.  If your company sells commercial kitchen products, for instance, it will help to know that 18,100 searches per month are made for the keyword phrase "commercial kitchen equipment," while the phrases "restaurant equipment" and "catering equipment" receive  165,000 and 135,000 searches per month respectively.  If you understand how people think about and search for your services, you can then develop a plan to better target those prospects. Google Adwords is a great place to start, as they offer a free tool that will provide you with key word search data for any term or website.
  4. How will you support your Brand Positioning online?
    This is a very important consideration, so that you don't de-value your brand or confuse your audience for short-term gain.  For instance, if your brand is known as a high end, luxury product, you probably don't want your internet initiatives to focus mostly on price.  Or if your brand is known for providing the best service and customer support, your internet strategy should also be focused on providing innovative on-line service that out shines the competition.  Many companies have made the mistake in thinking that the internet is only about price and have damaged their long-term brand and/or company perception by completely changing their value proposition.
  5. What resources do you need to succeed?
    Who will be responsible and accountable for implementing your company's on-line plan?  Your website, email marketing, and social media initiatives won't manage themselves.  So think through both the marketing and technical skills sets you need and whether your plan will be implemented by internal staff, outside support, or a combination of both.  And realize you can take very different approaches, in regard to insourcing or outsourcing, that can both be successful.  For example, you could outsource your website to an agency that handles every little detail or you could utilize a web content management system that allows your company to update and manage the site yourself, without any technical skill set necessary.  Both choices can be effective, depending on your personnel, budgets and long-term objectives.
  6. How will you measure success?
    It is never too early to think about metrics.  Before you begin planning, try and prioritize some high level objectives.  That way, you can always go back to those goals as you are developing your plan.  Are you focusing on sales?   On leads?  Are you trying to drive business to a brick and mortar location? In regard to your website, email or social media initiatives, always think about what interactions you are trying to drive and what you want customers/visitors to do when they get to your website - buy, register, contact you, etc?
  7. What is your competition doing online?
    Regardless of the situation, it is always wise to know what your competitors are doing.  Check out their websites, sign up for their email newsletters and social media, and figure out how your company can differentiate yourselves or one up the competition.  Time spent researching on the front-end will add much greater value when your plan is implemented.

    These are only a few of the questions you should ask yourself before starting on your plan.  Some may be obvious and others quite simple, but considering them now, rather than later, will minimize your headaches along the way.
     

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    Indiana Becoming U.S. Technology Leader

    Posted 8:00 AM by
    Silicon Prairie Indiana?For a number of years now, Indianapolis and Indiana as a whole have been working to grow the state's technology focus and to position Indiana as one of the United States' high tech business hubs.   Progress has been positive in the past few years, as the state has put various business and tax incentives in place to encourage investment in technology businesses and to put an environment in place that helps technology start-ups to succeed.

    Well, based on what I saw at this year's TechPoint MIRA Awards, given to the state's top technology firms, Indiana is succeeding.  The number of successful and innovative technology firms seems to be growing at an unprecedented rate.  Below are just a few of Indiana's growing technology sectors and companies worth looking into.

    Health Care Information Technology
    • My Health Care Manager- Leverages technology to help seniors navigate the difficult journey of aging with an innovative decision support system.
    • LocalHealthNow.com- Offers innovative tool's that provide health professionals geographic, situational insight into currently occurring illnesses and outbreaks.
    Technology Integration and Infrastructure
    • BlueLock- Cloud computing solutions
    • Prevel Technology- New database technology that dramatically improves performance and reduces cost
    Marketing Technology
    • Exact Target- SaaS email marketing
    • Cantaloupe- Online video management tools to integrate with email, websites, blogs and social media.
    • Delivra- Affordable Email marketing.
    • Marketpath- SaaS tools for web content management, ecommerce, blogging, and search engine optimization.  Marketpath helps small and medium sized organizations more effectively and efficiently run their online marketing. 
    As a member of the Marketpath team, it was an honor to be included as a MIRA Award finalist with so many impressive individuals and innovative companies that are leading Indiana's technology expansion.   

    One of the speakers at this weekend's MIRA Awards stated that Indiana was fast becoming the new "Silicon Prairie" and that Silicon Valley better watch out.  I'd have to agree.  And Marketpath is happy to be part of Indiana's growing technology sector.

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    The Business Value of Twitter

    Posted 6:58 PM by
    Many people are skeptical in regards to the ROI from participating in social marketing initiatives.  This is Twitter Business Valueespecially true when discussing the value to businesses of using Twitter.  Not only do many non-marketers question its value, but I have also talked with numerous professional marketers who are Twitter Skeptics.  I have to admit that I was pretty skeptical as well.  I signed up with Twitter about a year ago and started following a few Tweeters of personal interest.  Within a few weeks a cousin of mine signed up to follow my personal Twitter account.  My initial reaction was shock and I mockingly asked him, "why in the BLANKING world would you want follow me- don't you have a life?"

    Since then, I've changed my opinion about Twitter quite a bit.  I still think following individuals is, for the most part, a complete waste.  But I've come to realize that Twitter can be a valuable marketing tool for many businesses.  In its simplest form, Twitter is a powerful tool that allows easy "Permission Marketing."  It's not much different then permission based email marketing, where a person has signed up to receive emails or your newsletter.  And as a marketer, an individual that has raised their hand and asked for you to communicate with them, whether via email or Twitter, is a valuable commodity.  Twitter is a great venue for communicating with a group of people who you already know is interested in your product or message.  Still not convinced?  Well, Dell just reported they have already earned $6.5 million in revenue from Twitter over the past two years, and that doesn't include the softer value from advertising impressions.

    Is Twitter the end all and be all of marketing?  I don't think so.  Before you even worry about Tweeting, I'd suggest getting the basics right. First make sure you have the right brand message.  Then make sure you support that brand with a website that communicates your value, is easy to use, has strong, relevant content, and can be easily found on search engines.  Start with a strong content management system that allows you to keep your marketing message fresh, and that has tools to maximize your search engine optimization (SEO).  Then go out and start Tweeting!
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