Monday, April 29, 2013

Your Online Strategy

Every now and then it's great to rethink, reconsider, and regroup your online marketing plan. Things may be going along according to plan, but could you be getting more out of your plan? There are many reasons to go online with your business. Perhaps it's only to get your name out there. Maybe you're a start up and feel that since your competition has a website your business also needs one.

But beyond the decision of connecting social media and a website with your physical business there should be an overall marketing plan. Consider the future of your business. Are you capable of online sales or do you even want to plan in that direction? Should your business focus only on the local customer base and remain smaller to focus on what you've been successful at or are you ready to move off in a completely new direction? Answers to these questions should provide a direction for your website, SEO, and what is posted to social media.

Online marketing is cheap, efficient and can be focused as narrowly or as dispersed as you'd like it to be. A plan that is well thought out and concise can move your business forward into the future.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's About Staying Connected

Making it in today's economical environment is all about relationships. Marketing doesn't end at the sale any longer. Keeping customers close throughout the life of your product through training, events, and support insures a happy customer will bring in more like minded customers and return to you for product replacement. How do you do that?

By staying connected. Websites, Social Media, and blogs are a great way to keep customers in the loop. These all provide a platform for education, communication, and innovation. When a customer succeeds in the use of something you sell, recommends your product, or innovates outside of the box you have an avenue that can reward that customer. And there is nothing like a public pat on the back to bring a flock of people to see who and what created the kudos.

Today's marketing doesn't stop at point of sale.  And more than ever before today's marketing has sale potential. By staying connected even potential problems can be turned into potential sales opportunities. And businesses who commit to communicating and responsiveness capture the market with additional sales and returning customers.

Not sure where to begin? Contact us today for a total online marketing plan.    

Monday, April 15, 2013

On Your Guard

A recent article on Ars Technica highlights how easy it is to high jack and/or interfere with the content that you post on the net. This time it was the internet providers posting ads as they passed on the requested URL's. The ads interfered with the information on the requested sites sometimes covering whole paragraphs  and covering up the paid advertisements of the website.

And when initially confronted with this issue by customers, the internet providers stated that the ads were being added to keep costs down for customers as opposed to lining company coffers.

But when reminded of the copyrights of the altered websites the internet providers thought better and discontinued the practice.

Internet sites and postings require constant vigilance---especially when even the trusted providers provide the hacks.   

Monday, April 8, 2013

Less is More, as Usual

After you discover that you can rotating banners, sounds, and bouncing balls to your website every newbie to web design is tempted to add all the bells and whistles that they are capable of adding. I know I was.

Unfortunately these are the very things that annoy potential customers right off of a site. The other day I was contacted by a newbie with a link back to the newbie's website. I followed the link and found a site that moved in all directions. Landing on the home page I was greeted by an item seemingly falling from the sky and its accompanying sound. The colors of the site were dark. Some of the paragraph boxes were dark with grey fonts making it difficult to read. The call to action was lacking. And I was distracted by a graphic of the earth that continued to glow. Each page that was clicked resulted in the same item that falls from the sky with accompanying sound---page after page after page.

And the one thing I was looking for was not posted on the site----who was this person was who was contacting me? Just about anyone can post a website on the Internet. Domain names are reasonably priced. But fewer people will post their personal information, letting potential customers in on who they are and what experience they might have to offer so that a customer can make even a preliminary decision on a first contact. If that information isn't there I doubt if you'll be making many sales unless you're selling a universal product so cheaply that people will take a chance on you.

No amount of SEO or Flash displays or sounds will save you from a poorly designed website. The bones of any site need to be in place. What does your company do? Who is your company? What do customers say about you? Why should someone choose your company over a competitor? And don't make a potential contact search around for the call to action button. Make your navigation clear and logical.

And try out your site on as many devices, browsers (old and new), and resolutions as you possibly can. Even templates provided by the major web hosting companies are not foolproof 100% of the time.

And leave the bells and whistles to a minimum. Videos and sounds should be controlled by the end user. Sounds really shouldn't be used unless you're selling those sounds.  And grey fonts hardly ever work well with a black background. Make things as simple as possible. Use clear and concise language. Customers are interested in you---not stock information and the same pictures that are used on all your competitor's sites. Making yourself and your site stand out should create a lot of first contact opportunities.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Using Google Calendar for Event Communication

If you're a business that would like to communicate events, seminars, and sales easily from your website you may want to give Google Calendar a try. Anyone who has a Google account has a calendar. I use my Google calendar to bring in other calendars in total or by event. There's even a sync API that imports directly into Outlook so everything on every device is up to date.

It's easy to include a Google calendar on your website with the available imbed code and they've even included an RSS feed for your customers who prefer news via a news feed. Each time you add something to your calendar it automatically appears on your website and gets generated to your RSS feed. You can create different calendars and share your calendars all differently---perhaps you'd like to have a calendar available for staff only or a select group of customers.

Once embedded on your website your calendar can be viewed by customers in monthly, weekly, or agenda formats. Printing in monthly format is cumbersome if your event titles are wordy---the calendar is best when the event title is one or two catchy words and includes a supplemental description when the user desires more information. In the agenda format the descriptions themselves can be printed.

You can include attachments from Google Docs with any event. For example, if you're having a monthly staff meeting and want to include an agenda, you first create your Google Doc agenda and then attach it to the event you create in your calendar. Docs can include pictures if need be---it's a great tool.

This is all provided free---the only caveat is that Google has been notorious for dropping well liked features that it offers free, like the recently dumped Google Reader, which might leave people scrambling for replacements that may or may not be as good. But if you're willing to take that risk---this may be  the best possible way to communicate your business events with staff and customers alike.