5 Marketing and Branding Tips to Scale Your Online Business

busssssssssssssScaling an online business isn’t rocket science — it’s actually much easier than many people believe. When you combine a winning product or service and a solid foundation to build on, the sky’s the limit.Use these five simple marketing and branding tips to help you scale your online business and experience increased growth.

1. Make it ridiculously easy for your customers to buy your product or service.

It’s amazing how many businesses make prospects jump through multiple hoops in order to make a purchase — my own marketing agency was guilty of this as well, until recently. While our main offering is custom-tailored online-marketing consulting, we also offer several à la carte services.

The problem was that, previously, a prospect had to contact us via phone or our website to order one of these stand-alone services. When we did a little digging, we found that the majority of these inquiries didn’t require any selling — people simply wanted to make a purchase.

So, we made a switch, making it easy for prospects to purchase these à la carte services directly from our website. And the results have been great so far: Sales are up since we eliminated that previous hoop that a prospect once had to jump through.

Experiment with eliminating steps and making changes that create a ridiculously easy path to purchase.

2. Track every conversion metric humanly possible.

You have to know your numbers — if you don’t know, down to the penny, how much it costs you to generate leads and sales, you will crash and burn.

Cost-per-lead (CPL): You need to know how much it costs to generate every form of lead, from email submits to phone calls. A blended CPL won’t work — you need to be as specific as possible. If you are able to generate email leads for $1 each and phone leads are costing you $8 each, but converting at the same rate, wouldn’t it be wise to push all of your effort into producing more email leads?

Cost-per-sale (CPS): All of your data works together. For example, your conversion rates and cost-per-lead are going to help you determine what each sale is costing you. Business 101 tells us that if the CPS, plus cost of goods sold, is lower than the sales price, it’s profitable. But you need to dive a bit deeper. Where are you pulling the lowest CPS from? Can you open up the faucet to generate more sales from that avenue?

You need to also know what your different landing pages are converting at and where your top-performing lead sources are. You are never going to find a winning combination that you can “set and forget” — constant monitoring and optimizing are required.

3. Seek out media exposure to highlight your expertise.

Getting yourself and your brand out there is crucial if you want to scale. There are plenty of opportunities to score free media exposure if you are willing to put in a little work.

If you aren’t already registered with Help a Reporter Out, or HARO for short, do that now. With more than 35,000 journalists seeking insights from experts, there is a very good chance you will come across several exposure opportunities if you put in the effort. Consistency is key if you want to find success using this strategy.

HARO sends out three emails daily, full of opportunities. Many people read through them for a few days and then give up if an opportunity doesn’t fall into their lap. Don’t let this be you.

Instead, stick it out and put some effort into your responses — journalists receive hundreds of replies to each request, so you are going to need to stand out. Make sure you avoid making these stupid press outreach mistakes.

4. Set up email automation sequences to nurture, promote and convert 24/7.

Every type of business can use email automation. Restaurants can build a list that automatically sends out ecoupons for specials and discounts on notoriously slow days to drive foot traffic. Ecommerce stores can create segmented lists and send special offers to customers based on their previous purchase habits.

Information products can capture an email address and automatically market to that prospect, sending enticing information and discounts, until that prospect pulls out his or her credit card and converts.

Just like every other form of online marketing, email automation requires extensive split testing and constant optimization, but when you fine-tune your efforts, email automation creates a system that promotes, nurtures and converts sales 24/7 — even while you sleep.

5. Maintain consistent social media branding and cross promote.

Social media is such a powerful branding tool, and it’s important that you think about the big picture when establishing social accounts for your business. Using the same handle on every platform makes it easy for your customers to connect with you across all of the channels they are active on.

It will benefit you greatly if you use a handle that’s easy to remember and available on all of the networks you will be actively promoting on. For example, I use the same handle for my personal brand on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

You should also be cross-promoting your social media accounts in an effort to get your audience connected on as many platforms as possible. Someone following your brand on Twitter might not be connected on Facebook, which could be his or her preferred social network. A simple “Make sure to connect with us on Facebook” tweet could get people to like your Facebook page and then engage with a future Facebook post, leading to that hoped-for conversion.

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4 Formulas to a Successful Business

Small business drives the U.S. economy, and as more businesses pop up across the country entrepreneurs are searching for solutions to keep their particular business alive and ahead of the pack. Professional business advisors host seminars and write books about full-proof “formulas” that will make companies succeed. The following are 4 formulas that business advisors prescribe to keep companies on top.

External Solution Formula

This formula is probably the easiest way to grow a profitable company. The formula works when a client or customer purchase enough products at the right price so the business runs smoothly. This type of business makes profits quickly. They are easy to spot, and function due to a contract with one large dominant customer. However, the relationship between the business and the client only lasts for a short time.

Early Entrant Formula

Some believe this formula represents the best entrepreneurial opportunity. These businesses hope to be the first entrants in a specific market. That way, they can have a dominant presence in the market before others try to compete. When it works, the early entrant formula makes entrepreneurs vast sums of money.

Really-an-investment Formula

These businesses are just investments that investors spend money on to turn a profit. This formula will not work for most small businesses, as entrepreneurs want their companies to have long term potential. To make it work, you will need a lot of cash to invest.

The Secret Sauce Formula

This formula is for businesses that don’t fit into any particular category. There are some businesses out there that just work. In general, there is a strong leader with a cohesive strategy and smart decision making to drive success like: smart HR decisions, a great accounting system, creative problem solving, and so on.

First American Merchant (FAM) is the online lender that specializes in small business funding. FAM has the business loans and payment options your business needs. Start your application today to learn about fast, low hassle small business loans today. Contact First American Merchant (FAM) for working capital.

 

How to Turn Prospects into Customers with Your Landing Page

In Ultimate Guide to Local Business Marketing, Google AdWords expert Perry Marshall and lead generation expert Talor Zamir introduce you to the basic framework behind a successful local marketing campaign. In this edited excerpt, Perry and Zamir reveal how to create a landing page that will increase your conversion rate.

We’re sure you understand why a good landing page is so essential to your success, so let’s look at what a high-converting landing page should include. This information we’re sharing with you is the result of years of testing and millions of dollars in ad spend, and has proved successful across dozens of different local business verticals. It’s what we’ve found works the best for local businesses looking to get their phones ringing.

Header

The header is the section at the very top of your site. It should be relatively narrow because you don’t want it taking up too much of the all-important above-the-fold space at the top of your site.

There are just two things to include in the header: your logo, which goes on the far left side of the header, and a call to action, which goes on the far right side of the header.

This call to action should be in a fairly large font so it stands out and people can read it easily. For a local business, we almost always have the business’s phone number here.

However, don’t just put the phone number up there. Add a specific call to action above the phone number to give people a reason to call you. We recommend something like “Call Now for a Free Estimate/Consultation/Quote.”

Video or Image

Under the main headline, on the left side of the page, you should have a video or image. (This video or image could go either above or below the main headline. We’ve tried it both ways, and it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in conversion rates.)

The strategy for the image or video is pretty much like it is for the rest of the landing page: Put your best foot forward. You simply want something that looks professional and helps convey the benefits you offer. For a video, keep it on the short side: around a minute or a few minutes at the most.

For the image, make sure it’s relevant to your business. Ideally it’s a photo of you/your staff looking happy or one that visually shows the benefits your clients get from using your services.

Headline/Subheadline

Hands down, the headline is the most important copy on your landing page. It’s so important because it’s going to be the most read copy on the page and will largely determine whether your prospects pay attention to the rest of the page or simply hit the back button.

There’s no shortage of detailed information out there on copywriting and creating headlines. Most of them require you to think really deeply about this, come up with a customer avatar, think about a lot of theoretical stuff, come up with 100 ideas, etc. A lot of this information is really helpful; we’re not dismissing it at all. But our goal is to make things as simple and straightforward for you as possible.

Obviously we can’t write your headline for you — you’ll still have to do some thinking about this and at least come up with a list of your best benefits and main selling points. However, we’re going to share a headline template that’s proved to be successful on a number of landing pages we’ve created for clients.

Here’s the headline and subheadline template:

Would You Like to … (Insert Benefit 1, Benefit 2, Benefit 3)

If the answer is “YES,” then call us now for your free consultation and learn …

Let’s look at a few examples and then discuss this formula in more detail.

Here’s one for a title loan company:

Would You Like Fast Cash in 15 Minutes or Less With No Credit Check at the Lowest Rates in Las Vegas AND You Keep Your Car?

If the answer is “YES,” then call us now at (888) 555-5555, or come visit us at (location address).

For a mortgage broker:

Would You Like to Refinance Your Home to Today’s Low Rates and Lower Your Monthly Payments Even If You Owe More Than Your Home Is Worth?

If the answer is “YES,” then call now for your free consultation where you’ll discover. . .

One of the keys to the success of this headline template is putting your prospects in “Yes” mode, which psychologically makes them more likely to take you up on your offer.

At this point, your prospect will see the yes, so you’re getting them in a “yes” state of mind. That’s why we follow up with “If the answer is YES . . .” to build off them being in that state of saying yes, then we follow up with a call to action. That call to action leads into the promise of discovering the biggest benefit you offer prospects.

Body Copy/Bullet Points

This section goes under your headline and subheadline on the left side of the page and expands on the promise/offer/value proposition they started.

Most people aren’t going to read all your copy; they’re going to skim it. So a few short paragraphs are all you need along with three to five bullet points. Bullet points are a list of short, punchy sentences that convey the main benefits/key points that prospects should know about your business. Again, keep things short, sweet, and focused on the main benefits you offer your clients.

Contact Form

Not everyone who lands on your page is going to call. So for those who don’t want to call, the landing page should have a contact form where they can submit their information.

The form should have a clear call to action at the top that reinforces why they should contact you and what benefit they’ll receive for doing so. For the form itself, only ask for the information you absolutely need from a prospect — that’s generally a name, email address, phone number, and an optional “comments” field where they can enter any comments or questions they have.

You can also get creative with the button that a visitor needs to click to submit their information. You can use a generic “Submit” button or a more action/benefit-oriented button such as “Get Free Estimate” or “Get Free Consultation.”

The “Proof Zone”

The space under the contact form is a great place to demonstrate your business’s credibility. We call it the “Proof Zone” because the information here should help prove to your prospects that you are a credible and trustworthy business.

How do you do that? One common way is to provide testimonials from happy clients. Having these testimonials in the form of a video or audio clip is very powerful. A text testimonial with a photo is the next best option.

With testimonials, the more specific they are and the more they reinforce the main benefits of your business, the better. Here’s an example of a lame testimonial:

“These guys are great. I’m really happy with them.” — Joe

Compare that to this testimonial:

“Following my car accident three years ago, I’d experienced nearly constant chronic back pain. I tried physical therapy, pain meds, and a few natural remedies, and nothing helped. I visited Dr. Smith after a friend recommended her, and I’m glad I did. After six visits, I’m moving better than I have in years and am virtually pain free!” — Joe Williams, Seattle, WA

If you don’t have testimonials, there are plenty of other ways to demonstrate your business’s credibility. These include using logos of media outlets you’ve been featured on, logos of well-known clients, and/or special recognition/credentials/awards your business has received from industry/business organizations.

Another Call to Action

At the bottom of the page, below the fold, reinforce your call to action. Put your phone number there again so people don’t have to scroll up to find it. And again remind them of the benefit they’ll receive for taking action and contacting you.

Tiny Links at the Bottom of Your Landing Page

If it were up to us, there would be no links on your landing page because we want people focused on the one action we want them to take. However, since we’re advertising on Google, we need to keep them happy and follow their rules. And to satisfy Google’s terms and conditions, there need to be a few links on the page.

We place these, in a very small font, in the footer at the bottom of the page. The bare minimum you need to include here are links to a privacy policy, terms and conditions, and a contact page. The contact page exists so Google knows you’re a real business and should include both your phone number and your physical address.

5 Steps to Start an Online Business and Living a Much Better Life

As you’re reading this, customers all over the world are spending millions of dollars online. It’s estimated that 2.5 billion people log onto the Internet every day. We live in the Information Age, which has created new opportunities to start or build a business using the power and reach of the Internet.

While the opportunity is there, so is the competition. You can Google any topic and find at least a few entrepreneurs who are serving the market related to that topic. Whether you are growing an existing business through the Internet or starting an online business, you will have to stand out to thrive.

The Internet offers you the opportunity to create a business you love around the lifestyle you want. Operating a business that generates income from anywhere in the world no longer a fantasy. In fact, I’m writing this article on a flight from Maui to Panama. My business is making money as I fly. Here are five steps to create a profitable and successful online business.

1. Pick a profitable topic.

Choosing a topic is a hard enough task on its own. Making sure it’s profitable is where some entrepreneurs sabotage their chances. To create a business your customers have to be able to afford what you offer. Do your research on the profitability of a topic by seeing who serves that audience and how they’re doing.

Online entrepreneurship is generally a harmonious community. Entrepreneurs are likely to answer a few of your questions. If you can’t get any answers, Google always has a few. Make sure the earning potential is there before trying to generate revenue from that topic and audience.

Related: How to Make Money Online: The Basics

2. Create a strong foundation.

Your foundation online consists of your website, email list and social media following. There are many micro-aspects of an online business, but those are at the core. Your website needs to be simple and clean. You have a short window to capture someone’s attention. If your website is confusing, people will click off. Have the fewest pages possible. Have an “About” page that’s personal and connects the reader to your message and you as the entrepreneur.

Social media has billions of users, but the organic reach is next to nothing. You have to pay to reach your audience. Email marketing is still the best way to convert a lead to a customer. Build your email list by offering a small digital freebie to entice people to sign up. Create a presence on every social media platform, but don’t get caught up in the hype behind social media marketing. Use it only as one part of your overall strategy.

3. Build an engaged audience.

If your website and social media presence are a ghost town, you won’t draw people in and convert them into customers. Your goal is to build raving fans and followers that will tell everyone they know about you and your business.

You create that engagement by NOT delivering fluff-filled content. When you provide actionable value, people will become engaged and respond. Don’t buy fans or followers—it never creates engagement. Focus on connecting with an engaged group instead of trying to get big numbers. All of us have seen the entrepreneurs who have 30,000 Twitter followers but only get one retweet when they post.

Related: 5 Tools to Help Your Online Business Realize Its Full Potential

4. Create premium offerings.

A business means you have things to sell, and it’s no different in an online business. One of the nice features of an online business is that what you sell is digital. You can create books, guides, and courses. They can be offerings you create one time, and the work is done—you would then update from time to time. Create different types of programs and courses that help your audience, and use your email list to sell them. Make them actionable and packed full of valuable content.

5. Test and scale.

One of the best ways to know what works best for your business is to test what’s working and what isn’t. Be willing to change your strategy if you see it’s not effective. Don’t blindly follow popular advice just because someone got a certain result in THEIR business—it probably won’t work the same for you. When you have the right combination, scale your business.

Life is short. It’s too short to spend it creating a business that doesn’t give you the kind of lifestyle you want to live. Use the Internet and social media to grow or create a business that gives you freedom. The ability to generate income from your knowledge and through digital offerings is incredible.

There are many voices shouting for attention online. You stand out when you do things differently. Build a loyal and engaged following through authenticity. Deliver value that helps them solve their problems and struggles. It won’t take long for you loyal following to draw others in and your business to grow.

4 Key Reasons Local Businesses Fail When Using Google AdWords

In Ultimate Guide to Local Business Marketing, Google AdWords expert Perry Marshall and lead generation expert Talor Zamir introduce you to the basic framework behind a successful local marketing campaign. In this edited excerpt, Perry and Zamir offer four reasons why your Google AdWords campaign may be failing.

You’ve likely heard other business owners trashing Google AdWords as expensive, complicated, and ineffective. Good, let them! That just means there’ll be less competition for you.

AdWords does get a bad rap in many circles, and while clicks are expensive for most people and the interface complex, most of the time when advertisers get bad results, they only have themselves (or those they hire to manage their campaigns) to blame.

There are four main reasons local businesses fail with Google AdWords. Let’s cover them briefly here so you know what you’re in for.

1. No landing page or an awful landing page.

The first page a visitor to your site lands on after clicking on your Google ad is called the landing page. A landing page is an essential part of your AdWords campaign, and a good one can instantly double your leads from AdWords (without spending a penny more on clicks).

I recently clicked on an ad for a family law attorney. You’d think that would lead me to a site about family law, but instead, their home page was all about personal injury law. That’s not what I was looking for. Plus, it was an old, ugly-looking site that made it hard for me to find any information. When I finally found the page on the site about family law, it was a two-paragraph little blurb that basically said they’re certified by the State Bar in family law (don’t they have to be to even practice in the first place?).

Not having a dedicated, high-converting landing page is a huge mistake. Based on experience, we estimate the typical local business website converts somewhere around 5 percent. On the other hand, a better-designed landing page can easily convert at 10 percent to 20 percent.

Even if we assume it just converts on the low end — around 10 percent — versus the 5 percent for the typical website, you’d double the amount of leads you get for the same money spent. That means for every $1,000 you spend, instead of getting 10 leads, you’re now getting 20. That difference could literally make or break your month or year.

2. Horrible ads with low clickthrough rates.

Most Google ads say basically the same thing. (And, quite frankly, they’re not all that compelling in the way they say it.)

As with landing pages, a high-converting Google ad with a high clickthrough rate (CTR) can also instantly double your leads. And the best part is that Google rewards you for having high-converting ads. So not only will doubling your CTR get you twice as many potential leads, but you can also end up paying a lot less per click.

That’s because Google has an algorithm known as Quality Score that determines how much you pay for clicks. In AdWords, just because you bid the most for a keyword doesn’t guarantee your ad will show up in the top position. Google rewards relevancy. And if you can show Google your ad is more relevant than your competitors (and CTR is the number-one factor used to determine relevancy), you can end up ranking higher than your competitors, yet pay less per click than they do.

3. No conversion or call tracking.

We’ve seen that 60 percent to 70 percent of the leads for local businesses come in the form of a phone call. Furthermore, phone call leads tend to be higher-quality leads because someone who’s really a hot lead is most likely going to pick up the phone and call rather than just submit the information through a form on your website.

If you’re not tracking call conversion, then you’re missing out on not only 60 percent to 70 percent of your leads, but also your hottest leads. Not tracking call conversions also means you’re not going to be able to optimize your AdWords campaign well. You can throw a ton of money away on bad clicks if you’re not tracking calls and have the data that shows you which keywords and ads are making the phone ring and which ones are not.

4. Poor campaign structure.

With all the AdWords books, articles, and training courses available, it’s somewhat surprising we even have to mention this. However, we still see AdWords campaigns every week that are set up poorly (many times by agencies that should know better) and don’t even adhere to basic best practices.

One example of poor campaign structure is a single campaign that runs on both Search and Display Networks. Search and Display are two utterly different beasts, and they should never be lumped together in a single campaign (in fact, we urge you to avoid using the Display Network to advertise your local business, until you develop strong AdWords chops and seek additional training). Other examples include only having one ad group, having too many keywords, and going too broad with the keywords in your campaign.

AdWords may not work all the time for every local business — there are some situations where due to high click costs, budgets, internal sales problems, or other issues that even a well-structured AdWords campaign won’t generate a high enough ROI. However, in our experience, that’s the exception much more often than the rule.

The Best Marketing Advice You’ve Never Received

My company sells sales-and-marketing software technologies. Really good ones. Customer relationship management applications. Bulk email services. Quoting software. Mobile apps. Outbound and inbound lead, opportunity and campaign management tools. We also help implement these technologies by providing design, training, customization, integration and development services. All for an hourly fee, of course.

So are you looking to increase your sales with these great technologies? After more than two decades doing this I have some advice for you and it’s the best advice you’ll ever receive: Don’t. Really, don’t. Don’t do this until you hire someone first.

The software companies won’t tell you this. They’ll tell you that you can double your business, improve your sex life and reap great profits just by buying (or more likely subscribing) to their services. Just hit a few buttons and all your problems are over. Technology partners (like my firm) will make similar promises. “We’ll customize this for you,” we say. “So, it’ll be exactly what you want. We’ll make it talk to your other systems, generate sales, clean your apartment and train your dog. Really. We will!!”

We are all BS-ing you.

Over the years my company has implemented hundreds and hundreds of sales and marketing systems. We have had some glorious, fantastic successes. And, we have had our share of horrible, profanity-filled, tear-stained failures. What was the difference? Why do some companies succeed with these technologies and others don’t? It just comes down to one thing.

A person.

Technology is nothing more than a tool. It is a bat in the hands of Bryce Harper and a calculator on the desk of an engineer. It is a microphone for Beyonce, a computer for Mark Zuckerberg and an outfit made of meat for Lady Gaga. It is an implement that enables marketing people to do their job.

Want to succeed on social media? Hire a marketing major from the local university.Tell her to record a monthly video and post it on Google Hangouts or Periscope. Tell her to post one blog a week on your website and combine it with messaging on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Give her permission to log onto your social sites, even when mobile, and respond to any communications. Of course, supervise her. Give her ideas to write about, give her access to your employees and customers to interview. Read what she writes before she posts it. Have metrics to track your growth in followers, likes and fans.

What will happen? Eventually, you will have a growth in followers, likes and fans. Some of those people will buy from you.

Want to do a great newsletter? Hire someone to do it for you. Make him in charge of your monthly newsletter. Sign up for a good bulk-email service like Constant Contact, My Emma, A Weber or another. Have him manage your data. Give him ideas to write about, then let him do the research, interview the right people and produce the content. Review the content, of course. Then let him use these marketing tools to get it out and delivered. Have him provide metrics telling you who received, who opened and who clicked. Do this again and again, month after month, year after year. Over time, as your recipients are getting useful advice consistently from your company, a strange thing will happen: they will start remembering your company when it comes time to buy a product or service you provide.

With the right amount of effort, you’ll start getting leads from this, too.

There’s a cost, of course. You can probably pay a college kid minimum wage and promise them a great experience to add to their resume. Or you can pay someone older and more experienced from UpWork or Freelancer anywhere from $20-$150 an hour. You get what you pay for. My preference is to find someone local who can interact with you and your people, take photos and videos and get a good feel for your company.

Do you want to do a great mailing? A successful telemarketing campaign? A vibrant website? Do you want to maintain a complete and accurate database in your customer relationship management system?aEnsure that nothing falls through the cracks and every contact who gets entered there is “touched” by your company on a continuously? That’s marketing, and you’re not going to do this with just technology. You’re going to do this with a person who’s using the technology.

Don’t be a cheapskate, and don’t believe the stories software companies tell. They only want to sell you software. When you budget for your next technology purchase, budget for a person who you will be paying to own this technology and make it really work well. This is a cost no one tells you about. But it’s critical if you want to succeed.

And that’s the best marketing advice you’ve never received.

How Your Business Can Copy the Marketing Strategies of the Fortune 500

We’re so used to seeing the big brands. We see their ad campaigns and outputs so often that we sometimes forget something really obvious: How did these big companies become big?

Related: With Orgying Models and Public Breastfeeding, Are Equinox’s Latest Ads a Desperate Ploy or Pure Genius?

Sure, many of them had visionary leaders. Some even had massive marketing budgets. Some just had a few lucky strokes. But what about their marketing? The world’s most successful brands work hard and spend big to achieve their marketing goals.

And the fact that these companies are so enormous makes it important for them to work harder than ever at that marketing.

Obviously, no small business can copy the exact marketing moves of these brands; however, we can adopt their strategies on a smaller scale. Here are four such strategies that you can start using right away in your small business marketing plan.

1. Coca-Cola has kept its brand identity and product consistent for over 130 years.

Coca-Cola is the world’s most well-known brand. Its product is in every country and on every continent and reaches millions of consumers around the clock. But this reach doesn’t come cheap: Coca-Cola spends an estimated $4.3 billion on marketing and advertising alone. With a budget like that, you can do almost anything you want to do.

But rather than make radical moves, Coca-Cola has worked hard to stay the same. Its emblematic marketing features and products have changed very little in the company’s long history. Why does this matter?

As North Star Marketing has observed in question form:

The difference between a good brand and a great brand? Consistency.

Coca-Cola’s consistency is communicated in its iconic logo and its soft drink’s familiar taste. The company has paved the way for global domination.

Now, you may not have a single product such as Coca-Cola, but you can still practice rock-solid consistency. Many business owners are too quick to run after the shiny balls in marketing: Every so often they’ll add shiny tricks and ad hoc alterations to their marketing scheme in hopes of renewing their image and increasing their revenue.

But maybe there’s some wisdom in stability and dogged determination.

2. Apple satisfies the cravings of a passionate tribe.

Another of the world’s most famous brands is Apple. What is its marketing strategy? Apple created a movement.

This didn’t happen by accident. Everything about the company’s marketing and advertising produced visions of world-changing experiences. It adorned this vision with unprecedented technology and mind-blowing innovation.

Whether or not Apple’s products live up to the hype doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the company created the hype and turned ordinary citizens into a tribe of frenetic fans. How many times have you heard someone say, “Yeah, I’m a Microsoft fanboy,” or “I buy every new product that Microsoft produces” or “I waited in line for 12 hours to get my hands on a copy of Windows 7″?

Probably never, and it is unlikely that you ever will. But, with Apple? Definitely. Apple founded a tribe.

Can you? The answer is, “Of course!” even if your customer base isn’t as large or your product as expensive. Any brand can create raving fans through a few simple strategic mindsets:

  • Create an awesome product.
  • Deliver unparalleled customer experiences.
  • Rinse and repeat.

Related: 4 Millennial Marketing Tips From Taylor Swift

3. Colgate publishes top-notch information on oral health for its customers’ benefit.

You’ve probably used Colgate toothpaste before. Maybe you even used it this morning!

But Colgate doesn’t merely make toothpaste. It imparts oral-care education to the masses. It has an Oral Care Center that is packed with user-friendly information, and engaging videos that provide all sorts of preventative care how-tos.

Obviously, this type of content makes complete and logical sense for a toothpaste company. But it’s interesting to discover how Colgate’s technique can be applied to small businesses.

The company is doing content marketing here, plain and simple. Instead of merely shoving its products down customers’ throats (or mouths), Colgate is giving information.

Any small business can do the same thing: Identify your target audience members. Understand their needs. Deliver the kind of content that they want. Simple.

4. Starbucks takes social media to a whole new level.

Starbucks has a lot going for it in the marketing arena.

But when it comes to social strategy, Starbucks is an absolute genius.

Some 80 percent of the Fortune 500 companies are active on Twitter and Facebook, but Starbucks takes this activity to a whole new level. Let’s take just one channel that the coffee company dominates and consider a few facts:

  • Starbucks makes smart use of gifs and videos in its Twitter feed.
  • Nearly every tweet has a custom image.
  • Outright marketing is slim and hard to notice.
  • Starbucks tweets back to its customers with emojis and full messages.
  • Oh, and its response time is
  • Starbucks publishes custom infographics just for Twitter.
  • Starbucks keeps a pulse on popular trends and tweets about them.
  • Starbucks dominates the hashtag world and owns several unique ones.

Clearly, Starbucks has a killer Twitter strategy. And so can you. It’s not hard to dominate Twitter. It might be hard to gain 11.1 million followers, but you don’t need millions of followers. You just need active and outstanding engagement with your followers.

It’s a marketing strategy that works.

Conclusion

Maybe you’re not Apple. Maybe you’re not Coca-Cola. Maybe that’s okay.

Marketing power doesn’t flow from big budgets, 130-year-old brands or even Steve Jobs.

As Roger Martin explained in the Harvard Business Review:

Good marketing and good strategy are both about making choices that build and maintain a particular set of capabilities that enable the company to outperform its competitors.

In other words, successful marketing depends on successful strategizing. By observing the marketing strategies of the world’s most successful businesses, we can learn to implement their marketing moves on a smaller scale.

You can produce the same red-hot marketing sizzle by embracing the strategies of the big boys.

What Fortune 500 marketing strategies do you think would be most effective in your small business?

How to Start a Business Online

kiThere is a proven sequence of steps you can follow to guarantee your success when you’re starting a small business online. I’ve seen thousands of people start and grow successful

businesses by doing the following:

  1. Find a need and fill it.
  2. Write copy that sells.
  3. Design and build an easy-to-use website.
  4. Use search engines to drive traffic to your site.
  5. Establish an expert reputation for yourself.
  6. Follow up with your customers and subscribers with e-mail.
  7. Increase your income through back-end sales and upselling.

Anyone, from newbie to seasoned online entrepreneur, can benefit from this process in learning how to start a business online.

Step 1: Find a need and fill it

Most people who are just starting out make the mistake of looking for a product first, and a market second.

To boost your chances of success, start with a market. The trick is to find a group of people who are searching for a solution to a problem, but not finding many results. The internet makes this kind of market research easy:

  • Visit online forums to see what questions people ask and what problems they’re trying to solve.
  • Do keyword research to find keywords that a lot of people are searching, but for which not many sites are competing.
  • Check out your potential competitors by visiting their sites and taking note of what they’re doing to fill the demand. Then you can use what you’ve learned and create a product for a market that already exists–and do it better than the competition.

Step 2: Write copy that sells

There’s a proven sales copy formula that takes visitors through the selling process from the moment they arrive to the moment they make a purchase:

  1. Arouse interest with a compelling headline.
  2. Describe the problem your product solves.
  3. Establish your credibility as a solver of this problem.
  4. Add testimonials from people who have used your product.
  5. Talk about the product and how it benefits the user.
  6. Make an offer.
  7. Make a strong guarantee.
  8. Create urgency.
  9. Ask for the sale.

Throughout your copy, you need to focus on how your product or service is uniquely able solve people’s problems or make their lives better. Think like a customer and ask “What’s in it for me?”

Step 3: Design and build your website

Once you’ve got your market and product, and you’ve nailed down your selling process, now you’re ready for your small-business web design. Remember to keep it simple. You have fewer than five seconds to grab someone’s attention–otherwise they’re gone, never to be seen again. Some important tips to keep in mind:

  • Choose one or two plain fonts on a white background.
  • Make your navigation clear and simple, and the same on every page.
  • Only use graphics, audio or video if they enhance your message.
  • Include an opt-in offer so you can collect e-mail addresses.
  • Make it easy to buy–no more than two clicks between potential customer and checkout.
  • Your website is your online storefront, so make it customer-friendly.

Step 4: Use search engines to drive targeted buyers to your site

Pay-per-click advertising is the easiest way to get traffic to a brand-new site. It has two advantages over waiting for the traffic to come to you organically. First, PPC ads show up on the search pages immediately, and second, PPC ads allow you to test different keywords, as well as headlines, prices and selling approaches. Not only do you get immediate traffic, but you can also use PPC ads to discover your best, highest-converting keywords. Then you can distribute the keywords throughout your site in your copy and code, which will help your rankings in the organic search results.

Step 5: Establish an expert reputation for yourself

People use the internet to find information. Provide that information for free to other sites, and you’ll see more traffic and better search engine rankings. The secret is to always include a link to your site with each tidbit of information.

  • Give away free, expert content. Create articles, videos or any other content that people will find useful. Distribute that content through online article directories or social media sites.
  • Include “send to a friend” links on valuable content on your website.
  • Become an active expert in industry forums and social networking sites where your target market hangs out.

You’ll reach new readers. But even better, every site that posts your content will link back to yours. Search engines love links from relevant sites and will reward you in the rankings.

Step 6: Use the power of e-mail marketing to turn visitors into buyers.

When you build an opt-in list, you’re creating one of the most valuable assets of your online business. Your customers and subscribers have given you permission to send them e-mail. That means:

  • You’re giving them something they’ve asked for.
  • You’re developing lifetime relationships with them.
  • The response is 100 percent measurable.
  • E-mail marketing is cheaper and more effective than print, TV or radio because it’s highly targeted.

Anyone who visits your site and opts in to your list is a very hot lead. And there’s no better tool than e-mail for following up with those leads.

Step 7: Increase your income through back-end sales and upselling

One of the most important internet marketing strategies is to develop every customer’s lifetime value. At least 36 percent of people who have purchased from you once will buy from you again if you follow up with them. Closing that first sale is by far the most difficult part–not to mention the most expensive. So use back-end selling and upselling to get them to buy again:

  • Offer products that complement their original purchase.
  • Send out electronic loyalty coupons they can redeem on their next visit.
  • Offer related products on your “Thank You” page after they purchase.

Reward your customers for their loyalty and they’ll become even more loyal.

The internet changes so fast that one year online equals about five years in the real world. But the principles of how to start and grow a successful online business haven’t changed at all. If you’re just starting a small business online, stick to this sequence. If you’ve been online awhile, do a quick review and see if there’s a step you’re neglecting, or never got around to doing in the first place. You can’t go wrong with the basics.

Sticked

New Feature Enables Etsy Sellers to Shoot and Edit Product Videos From Smartphones

Etsy has launched a new feature within its mobile app that guides sellers through the process of shooting, editing and publishing simple videos on their smartphones.

With it, the Brooklyn-based DIY-craft ecommerce site wants its sellers to make more videos showcasing the stories behind their products.

The Shop Videos feature on the Sell on Etsy mobile app officially launches today on iOS and Android phones and tablets. Sellers can also produce and edit videos externally and use the new feature to publish videos on their Etsy pages.

The release of the app comes as American adults are spending more and more time consuming video content online. Year by year, more and more of the video content being consumed is being watched on mobile devices, according to a 2015 report from digital marketing information agency eMarketer.

Etsy has seen 60 percent of traffic coming from mobile, according to a recent quarterly financial report. At the same time, the ecommerce platform acknowledges that not all of its 1.5 million sellers have access to expensive professional recording and editing video equipment.

The video editing software walks users through the process of filming short video segments, stitching those clips together and overlaying background music to smooth out the transitions. In a cute nod to the creative community, the available music is written and performed by Etsy employees.

It’s definitely a nice perk for Etsy sellers, but it’s also strategic for the site to get more of its sellers making and producing more videos. Consumers are “more likely to purchase an item when they know something about a shop and the people behind it,” according to the blog post promoting the new video editing feature. The more videos Etsy users create, the more crafts they sell, in theory, and the more money Etsy makes.

Etsy makes 3.5 percent commission on every sale on top of a 20 cent charge per listing. And Etsy sure does need to find a way to pump up revenues. Since going public in early 2015, shares of Etsy have fallen from $30 per share to less than $7.

It’s 2018 But Nearly Half of US Small Businesses Still Don’t Have a Website

20151020164526-small-business-owner-on-laptopFor some of us, that is: It may be 2018, but 46 percent of  U.S. small businesses still don’t have a website for their company, according to a report released by business-to-business research firm Clutch.

Of the more than 350 small businesses surveyed — the majority of which have less than 10 employees and less than $1 million in annual revenue — cost was listed as the second-most popular reason for not having an online presence. Lack of technical know-how and the need for upkeep were other popular reasons, while 12 percent said that they use social media in place of a static site.

The most popular justification for not having a website, however?

Nearly a third of surveyed respondents said that they didn’t have one because it wasn’t relevant to their business or their industry. That could be a problem. As Max Elman, the founder of Razorfrog Web Design, said in a statement released with the report:

“No matter what type of business you run, if you have customers, it’s necessary to have some sort of information online, at least a page describing who you are and offering contact information. It’s essential to have this information indexed and shown to those looking for you.”

The founder of a company that builds websites, Elman is perhaps not the most objective source. But he has a point: More than 80 percent of Americans say they do online research before making a purchase.

Related: How to Market Brick and Mortar to the Web

For the 64 percent of small businesses that do have a website, many could use a technological upgrade: Nearly a quarter of these businesses said their websites weren’t compatible with mobile platforms. Of the online improvements business owners planned to make, search-engine and social engagement topped the list with 40 percent each, followed closely by improvements in content and design.

The report concludes, as expected, that all small businesses in every industry can benefit from a website, be it a single page or more elaborate setup.

In other words, if your business doesn’t have a website, it’s probably time to change that. And if your business already has a website, particularly one that works on mobile, you’re further ahead of the game than you likely thought.

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