Marketing Online: Basic Strategies Any Business Can Use

Want to get into marketing online but wondering what the options are and what online marketing strategies will best fit your business and your marketing budget? This marketing online primer presents an overview of strategies for you to choose from. I recommend choosing and implementing at least three; successful marketing online depends on diversity and persistence for most small businesses.

1) Have a Blog/Website.

The first step to successful marketing online is to have a home base on the web.

It doesn’t really matter if you have an official website or a blog or a combination of both. Either will give you a web address where people can find you and a convenient way of referring to you, two things that will facilitate your marketing online efforts. So even if you don’t sell anything online directly, you need a website.

I encourage business people to have a blog on their website or serving as a website because if you blog regularly and have something relevant to say, you will develop a following – and some of those people will help your marketing online efforts by spreading the word about you and your products and/or services.

2) Online Advertising

Many small businesses in particular bother with this marketing online strategy, I suspect because they don’t want to shell out for it.

They only want to do free marketing online. I say, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with free marketing online strategies – as long as you realize they’re not. All the ‘free’ online marketing strategies I’m aware of take a considerable time investment, meaning they’re only free if your time is worth nothing.

CPM stands for Cost Per Thousand Impressions. With this type of marketing online, you basically buy space on a web page and pay for a certain number of impressions, or the number of times your ad is going to be displayed. Many of the banner ads you see on various websites are being paid for on a CPM model.

CPC stands for Cost-Per-Click advertising. In this model, you pay only for the number of times a viewer clicks on your ad, not on the number of times it’s displayed.

Google AdWords is perhaps the best known Pay-per-click marketing online program. When you’re marketing online with this program, you choose particular keywords that you want your ads to be associated with. When people search on Google using one of your keywords, your ad may appear next to the search results.

The theory is that these people are much more likely to be interested in your products or services.

Another online advertising strategy you may wish to try is creating and posting an online video (either to your own website or to a popular video sharing site such as YouTube). An online video can be marketing online gold if it becomes popular.

3) Directory Listings

Adding your business to appropriate directory listings (local directory listings, business directories, etc.) is another way of marketing online that takes little time and is relatively inexpensive. Whatever local business groups you belong to, such as your local Chamber of Commerce, probably have websites where they allow members to list their businesses online and perhaps even place ads on the site at special rates. Search out other local sites, especially those related to tourism, and make sure you’re listed there, too.

Then there are the professional sites. Are you a Virtual Assistant? A CGA? A Canadian retailer? Whatever your professional affiliations, chances are good that organization has a site with a directory of members. There are also a lot of specialized online networking groups/sites that promote marketing online. A Business Advertising package on the Canadian Women’s Business Network, for instance, costs only $36 CAN.

4) Participating in Social Media

Joining the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and forums, posting on Flicker and YouTube, commenting on other people’s blogs, are all opportunities for marketing online.

Marketing online through social media requires a much more subtle technique than marketing online through advertising or directory listings. With all social media, the trick is to participate intelligently and actually attempt to converse rather than just advertising your products or services. Comments such as “Good point.

The downside of social media marketing is that it’s time-consuming. If you want to do it well and see any real benefit from it, you have to work at it. The upside is that it’s free and can really generate a lot of buzz about your products/services if something that you’ve done online ( a post, a video, an article) becomes really popular.

5) Online Networking

LinkedIn deserves special mention in any discussion of online networking. Its stated purpose is to help the world’s professionals connect with one another to accelerate their success. As of this writing, LinkedIn has over 40 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the world. It’s a powerful tool for internet marketing, giving you the opportunity to connect with potential customers, partners and colleagues.

Besides being a great source of support and information, groups such as these also provide some marketing opportunities. Other members may be potential customers or referral sources as they get to know you and what you do.

Like social media, online networking requires taking a subtle approach. The same basic rule applies to online networking that applies to networking face-to-face. Give, give, give and don’t worry about receiving; you will, likely in bigger, more powerful ways than you ever imagined.

6) Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the best and most powerful ways of online marketing in my opinion. For one thing, once you’ve developed an email list, (notice the word developed, not bought), you are, in effect, preaching to the converted, sending your marketing message directly to people who have already indicated some interest in your products or services.

For another, email is an excellent tool for building a relationship with your customers, letting you build both repeat business and good word-of-mouth.

Newsletters can be sent to the email list you’ve built from the people who provided the necessary information on your website, for instance, providing these potential customers with news updates about your company, upcoming events and/or special offers – and, of course, reminding them that your business exists and that maybe it’s time for another visit.

Email programs such as VerticalResponse and Constant Contact allow you to customize your email to your potential customer so you can send selected customers messages specific to their interests and actions.

Marketing Online and Offline Are The Same in One Way…

Just like any offline marketing, your online marketing efforts need to be planned. So don’t just post something here and place something there and consider that you’re marketing. Create an internet marketing campaign and plan and measure your results just as you would with any other marketing.

And remember too, that targeting still matters. The more carefully you have targeted your potential customers and the more carefully you have chosen and placed your marketing advertisements or your conversations, the more successful your marketing campaign will be.

The thing that’s different about marketing online, however, is its incredible reach. The Internet gives your business the chance to reach thousands and perhaps even millions of people who would never hear of your products and/or services otherwise – making online marketing a marketing opportunity you don’t want to miss out on.

Source The Balance

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Build A Brand for Small Businesses

Branding is just as important for small businesses as it is for big names. Indeed, many corporate brands try to look more like small firms in order to appeal to consumers that prefer to support independent brands. 

Many small business owners I talk to already understand that branding is essential to their business, but a surprisingly high number of them don’t really know why.

They recognize the link between successful businesses and strong branding and aspire to build a brand that emulates similar success for themselves. And they understand that branding is not just a logo or how their business is perceived externally. But too few realize that successful brands have this branding at the heart of the business. So much so that in many ways you could almost substitute the word brand for business.

marketing-branding-advertising emineo mediaBranding is a way of defining your business to yourself, your team and your external audiences. It could be called the business’ “identity”, but only on the understanding that it embodies the core of what the business is and its values, not just what it looks and sounds like. Customers of all sorts of businesses are so savvy today that they can see through most attempts by companies to gloss, spin or charm their way to sales.

The benefits that a strategically defined brand can bring are the same as when people fall in love with each other. When customers connect emotively — because they share the same values and beliefs of a brand — it leads to higher sales and better brand differentiation. It also leads to loyalty, advocacy and can even protect your price in times when competitors rely on promotional discounts to drive sales. It can also give you the ideal platform from which to extend your offering or range.

Here are ten tips on how to successfully implement branding for your business.

1.   Start by defining your brand.

Review the product or service your business offers, pinpoint the space in the market it occupies and research the emotive and rational needs and concerns of your customers. Your brand character should promote your business, connect with your customer base and differentiate you in the market.

2.   When building your brand, think of it as a person.

Every one of us is an individual whose character is made up of beliefs, values and purposes that define who we are and who we connect with. Our personality determines how we behave in different situations, how we dress and what we say. Of course for people it’s intuitive and it’s rare that you even consider what your own character is, but when you’re building a brand it’s vital to have that understanding.

3.   Consider what is driving your business.

What does it believe in, what is its purpose and who are its brand heroes. These things can help establish your emotive brand positioning and inform the identity and character for brand communications.

4.   Aim to build long-term relationships with your customers.

Don’t dress up your offering and raise expectations that result in broken promises, create trust with honest branding — be clear who your company is and be true to the values that drive it every day.

5.   Speak to your customers with a consistent tone of voice.

It will help reinforce the business’ character and clarify its offering so customers are aware exactly what to expect from the product or service.

6.   Don’t repeat the same message in the same way over and over again. 

Alternatively, aim to make your key messages work together to build a coherent identity. 

7.   Don’t try to mimic the look of chains or big brands.

Try and carve out your own distinctive identity. There is a big consumer trend towards independent establishments, and several chains are in fact trying to mimic an independent feel to capture some of that market. Truly independent operators can leverage their status to attract customers who are looking for something more original and authentic, that aligns with how feel about themselves.

8.   Be innovative, bold and daring – stand for something you believe in.

Big brands are encumbered by large layers of bureaucracy, preventing them from being flexible and reacting to the ever-changing needs of their customers. Those layers of decision-makers can make it hard for them to be daring with their branding.

9.   Always consider your branding when communicating with customers.

Don’t lose your pride or dilute your brand positioning with indiscriminate discounting. Try offering more, rather than slashing prices. Promotions are an opportunity to reinforce your brand mission.

10.  The old way of stamping your logo on everything won’t cut it.

The future of branding is fluid and engaging — respect your customers’ intelligence by not giving everything away up front. Generate some intrigue and allow them to unearth more about your brand for themselves. This is the way to foster ambassadors who revel in telling other people what they have discovered.

Source Marketing Donut

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The Basics of Branding

emineo media branding basicsBranding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean? How does it affect a small business like yours?

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.

Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can’t be both, and you can’t be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.

The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials–all of which should integrate your logo–communicate your brand.

Brand Strategy & Equity

Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too.

Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company’s products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product–and customers will pay that higher price.

The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe.

Defining Your Brand

Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, consider leveraging the expertise of a nonprofit small-business advisory group or a Small Business Development Center .

Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:

  • Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
  • Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
  • Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
  • Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
  • Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent.
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to someone else–if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.
  • Be consistent. I placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip I can give you. If you can’t do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.
Read more: Entrepreneur
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