It’s a Digital World and we all live in it! Where you should start, to rapidly be noticed.

Everyone seems to be  shifting their marketing investment from traditional to digital, which makes sense as it’s much easier to reach a wide audience and more affordable on a cost per acquisition basis. However, easier and less expensive aren’t necessarily better, you should still incorporate a blend to make sure you’re reaching people to maximize engagement. You’ll need to choose wisely to make sure your investment is working for you. As you’ve probably noticed, digital advertising is everywhere and many ads are simply not relevant, well-written, designed or targeted properly. You probably see hundreds of digital ads a day that you tune-out or ignore. Advertisers must be diligent in targeting and provide relevant content to rise above the din. Plus, it seems like every day there’s a new platform to be aware of. So where should you start? Search or display Ads on Google? Review platforms such as Yelp and Google My Business? Search Engine Marketing or SEM? Improving Search Engine Optimization or SEO? Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn? Video on YouTube? Depending on your business, it’s definitely going to be a combination to find your sweet spot. In the future, we’ll get into detail on more specific advertising options and the ways to maximize your reach and minimize investment. For today, we’ll start at the beginning to help provide initial visibility with some general insights.

So where to start? We’ll assume for this exercise that you already have a website as it’s generally the price of poker for any size business. However, certain business like bars have used Facebook very effectively as their primary landing to connect with customers or prospects, promote events, etc. My recommendation is you have both presences, but I digress.

First, I  recommend you set up your business profile on Google for business, It’s free and it’s going to get your digital toe in the water. People will be able to find your business, see all your general information, find a map and get directions, leave reviews, view pictures,  content & you can even track your website traffic. Also, you’ll be able to start paid advertising, targeting and measuring, (more on that in a future post.) This initial profile set-up is essential for online visibility. Whether you’re bricks and mortar or an online business, if people can’t find you, you’re done. Like I said, this piece is free so it should be a no-brainer. You should add as much information to your profile as you can. All the basics like location, hours, description, product posts and website address and make sure to add quality photos. In this case, more is more, as long as it’s truthful and relevant, include it! If you really want to maximize the potential of organic search results, for SEO or Search Engine Optimization (again: free), it’s all about adding relevant content regularly to promote engagement. Make sure your website is easy to navigate and all your links work, with a place to add content regularly. Google’s web crawlers have a secret algorithm that constantly prowl the web to determine what’s the most relevant for their customer’s searches. What that means is, if people are visiting, responding, commenting and in general, engaging with your site, you’ll rank higher in search results and that ranking has proven to lead to higher revenue. It can be a little complicated and time-consuming but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be fine. If you get stuck, google has pretty good support as well. Google wants you to succeed so you’ll spend money with them and they can keep the internet as relevant as possible for their users. For website tracking, Google Analytics, is a great option, and can show you visitor behavior and conversions, it’s also free but we’ll get into this in another posting. So get started and set up your Google for business page. If you need help, just let us know.

Next, if you have a physical location, you need to set-up a Yelp for Business Owners page. Why? It’s simple, there’s no better way to get business than from unsolicited reviews. Plus, it shows you care about quality service and feedback. Many people go to Yelp first when they’re looking for a specific business. It doesn’t matter what kind of business you are, as long as you have a place customers can visit, do this. Again, it’s super-important to add as much content as you can so people have a feel for your business and develop an interest. Make sure you add quality photos as seeing is believing. Add all the elements they have available to your profile, don’t hold back or get lazy. This is important for web-search as well, as your Yelp ranking improves so will your Google organic-search ranking for Search Engine Optimization or SEO, (yes, more FREE visibility). Yelp also has an algorithm that supposedly weeds out fake reviews to make sure it’s reliable. However, sometimes it works too good. As an example, we had a review for a. favorite design, that was excellent, from a real-life customer that we didn’t know and Yelp pulled it down, saying it was fake. It wasn’t, I promise, I reached out but they wouldn’t repost it and blamed it on their system’s algorithm. Rise of the machines, or something. Regardless, the goal is to get lots of positive reviews. One drawback, in general,  more people like to complain rather than praise, I’ve seen this mostly with service industry like restaurants and sometimes one bad experience and…YIKES! I’ll get into how to manage through a bad review in a future post but the key is to try to make it right with the customer and whatever you do, don’t respond negatively, it never helps. (Sidebar: As a customer yourself, I recommend that when you have a positive experience, make sure to take the time to post a review on Yelp or Google. Generally speaking, I’m sure there are many more positive experiences in the world than negative, so speak up, promote your local heroes and quiet the negative-nellies just a little bit. It’ll make the world a better place, I promise). Ok, back to regular programming. Once you have this set-up, Yelp for Business Owners will offer you advertising to raise your ranking and visibility, it can be expensive but there is value to getting a lot more eyeballs. Before you blindly sign up, speak with your Yelp for Business owners rep to see what kind of options and deals are available, ultimately they’re sales people so make sure you understand the value and challenge them for other options that fit your goals. I’ll dive into Yelp advertising on a future post but for now just get yourself set up on Yelp for Business Owners.

Let’s talk Facebook. Most everyone has a Facebook profile and your business should too. Again, it doesn’t matter what kind of business you are, it’s another way to get those free Google web crawlers on your side, SEO / Search Engine Optimization. Just like the previous recommendations, content is king, so add as much about your business as you can. If you have a website that can link directly to your social media, like WordPress, you can post on you content page and it’ll automatically hit your Facebook page as well as other Social Media platforms – easy-peasy. Now, most likely I don’t need to tell you how to use Facebook, blog-posts, photos, anecdotes, the more relevant and engaging the content the better. However, my advice, keep it professional, make sure it represents the very best view of your business. Sure, adding your own personality is important and you should have some fun with but keep it clean. Your brand will thank you, I promise. Next, you should consider advertising on Facebook as there’s a lot of value, which we’ll get into on another post, I know I keep writing that but there are so many options and considerations, bite-sized pieces are best.

Finally, If your business is of the professional services variety, you should set up a business profile on LinkedIn. It’s a great way to see and be seen among business peers, post relevant business content, connect with prospects,  see what the competition is doing and even recruit. I know I read like a broken record but you must make sure your profile is complete  and you’re regularly adding engaging content. If you have a website that can link directly to your social media, like WordPress, you can post on you content page and it’ll automatically hit your LinkedIn page. Once again, if properly connected this will improve your web relevance. On LinkedIn your professionalism should stand out and your brand should shine. (Sidebar: once you get your profile dialed in, they also offer paid marketing solutions, products for your sales team like Navigator, etc. So far I don’t feel those elements are integrated well with each other, there seems to be a different department for each and they don’t communicate, so if you’re the hub for these extra options, enter cautiously and ask a lot of questions). I recommend that every professional service business have a LinkedIn profile, it will improve your visibility and web presence. So that’s a good start to get you noticed digitally. If you get started with the above, I promise your digital visibility will improve immensely. The catch is, you have to continually update with relevant content to make sure the mysterious web-crawlers are working behind the scenes for you. If you set it and forget it you’ll become irrelevant on the web, so if you want consistent visibility, add it to your essential to-do list.

As always, if you have any questions, see something you’d like me to write about, or need help with the above…or really any marketing challenges, just reach out. Best, -Tom

Is Direct-Mail still a thing?

Do you like results? Then, hell yes it is!

Sure direct-mail is expensive compared to digital advertising but just like everything else, you get what you pay for. With all the digital noise, direct mail still gets the best results. Need proof? Check out the stats in this great article from Small Biz Genius, http://bit.ly/OOF-SBG. Now, I’m not suggesting you go all-in on direct mail but it should be a consideration to add to your bag of tricks. The key is to make sure you’re reaching the right people. Before the digital age, businesses without targeted lists would use a “spray and pray,” approach, meaning they’d dump a ton of mail, casting a wide nest to catch as many prospects as they could. Sure, there was some success but even with deep pockets, this was an incredibly wasteful approach. Since direct mail cost is higher, it’s much smarter to target your audience as tightly as possible. If you’re reaching the right audience, you can mail less and lower your cost per acquisition. Also, if you’re savvy, there are so many options to reduce postage and production costs. How much is a new customer is worth to you? Answer this question and a smart well-done direct-mail campaign is usually a no-brainer.

I’ll touch on a few of the smartest options, but there’s a few universal truths you’ll need to consider to make any print investment worth-while. Use a professional graphic designer or agency, it will save you in the end. They’ll make sure your piece meets postal regulations and gets the best postage rate as well as designing the most efficient piece for printing. I’ve seen so many companies spend their dollars on the distribution and print, only to have substandard creative. You should be proud of your marketing, it should represent your business clearly and concisely. Please don’t try to cram too much into one piece or your message will be wasted. Having a partner that understands printing efficiencies and can design an amazing creative piece to spec’ that fits the printer is immensely valuable in paper, postage and collaboration as well. Also, using a trustworthy printer that acts as an extension of your team is extremely important.  Even just having another set of eyes can save you from yourself and just like any quality expert, will help you navigate through unfamiliar territory.  OK, there’s my PSA, I’ll repeat this one a lot, it’s important, so hug your local graphic designer or printer, (just ask them first). One more thing, a single mailing won’t cut it, you’ll need repetition  before you get traction and if you integrate other marketing platforms consistent with your mail piece you’ll really be cooking with gas!

For certain Businesses, EDDM or Every Door Direct Mail may be an excellent solution. EDDM offers mail targeted by mail carrier route and the US postal service offers demographics so you can pick the right area. This works especially well for businesses that have a specific local reach. I’ve used this approach for our shop in the nearby community as well as larger businesses that need to get penetration in specific areas. The main drawback to EDDM is that there’s a lot of sorting on the front end for the advertiser, however, if you have more time than money for marketing, this is a great option.

Do you already have a great mail list? Then you should definitely explore bulk-rate postage savings. The most important thing, once you have an excellent list, is to save by efficiently creating your mail piece to postal regulations and proper sorting to make sure you’re squeezing the most out of your budget. Another great thing about having a solid list is you can utilize 3rd party services to analyze your list and recommend like-minded prospects. If you go this route make sure to use a reputable service that utilizes proven models to get the most bang for
your buck.

Another great option for extremely inexpensive postage is shared mail service. Basically the way it works is that you combine your mail with other businesses to split the postage. In my opinion, the key is to make sure your piece stands out and is is the diamond in the mix. I’ve tried their so-called “turn-key,” services and found them to produce sub-standard results. The savings in postage can be extreme, sometimes 1/4th of a bulk piece but don’t just pocket all the saving. To maximize results  you’ll need to add repetition so while it may be less expensive but you’ll need to mail with more frequency.

There are so many options that can maximize results and reduce expense. and integrating the right mix will get you the exposure to make you rise up from the crowd. It can be challenging to know where to invest to grow your business. Don’t sweat it, we can help you get there from here.