As we go into 2010, full of promise and change from 2009, it is time to think about economical ways to market your business in the coming year. In this internet, social media age, the old marketing plans can no longer be copied into the the new plans. Here are our top ten things I suggest that you do:
1. Update your Website – Your website is no longer a brochure for the company. The internet search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have changed the rules. Your website needs to be searchable, it needs to have outside links refer to its content and it needs to be changed very frequently. If you have not had a major overhaul of your site in the last 5 years, its time to invest in a total makeover. Even if you do not make any major changes, the site needs to be editable by the Marketing Department or the owner. There needs to be a system of updating and changing the site on a weekly or monthly basis and having an easy to use edit tool accessible to the marketing people is a must. As discussed in the next item, the use of keywords is also essential for the search engine.
2. Invest in Search Engine Optimization – SEO is the word of the new decade in the marketing arena. For as little as $200 per month, you can hire a company to make your website land on the first page of any search. They do this by testing your website to make sure it has been optimized, by making sure the keywords are in the right place, by making sure that there is activity outside the website that points to your website such as blogs, news releases, email blast, etc. and they use tools to monitor your website activity. You may be able to do it yourself. There are many books written and being written on the subject.
3. Think About Search Engine Marketing – SEM is the sibling to SEO. When you do a search on Google, there are two distinct parts of the results page. There usually is a couple of listings at the top of the page and there are several listings to the right of the page. These are the sponsored links. If you click on one of the links, the sponsor will pay a click-through fee, usually averaging about $3 per click. The other part of the page is the organic listings where SEO activities dictate the rankings. SEM is done by bidding on the keywords you want to sponsor with the search engines. With Google, you can bid on certain words using their AdWords feature. It is usually a good idea to hire a consultant to place the words for you and to monitor the results. You might also want to design different landing pages within your website for each category of keywords so that when the customer does click-through to your site, where they land is relevant to the search term.
4. Send out Email Newsletters – This is an email world now. Monthly email newsletters are a great way to inform your customers and prospects about your business. You do have to be careful not to come across a selling a product or service too much or people will opt-out of future mailings. Emails that are informative and specific to what your customers want to know are the best types of emails. Occasional promotional postcard email blasts are OK, but do it too often, your will lose the ability to send future emails. Companies such as Constant Contact are perfect for distributing these emails. They have templates available and they monitor the email addresses for bounces and opt-outs.
5. Do a Demographic Profile of Your Customers – How would you like a listing of the companies or prospects that are out there that are exactly like your current customers. Well, it is possible to get this listing by doing a demographics profile of your existing customers. Once this information is put into the system, we can identify a listing of companies and prospects that have the same attributes as your existing customers in your market. This process usually runs around $1,000 to have done, but it will allow you to better target your market with a reduced number of mailed or emailed items.
6. Don’t Forget Direct Mail – Direct mail is still one of the best ways of contacting prospective or current customers. Email filters and the rapid changes in email addresses reduces the overall benefits of doing email only. Using an efficient mailing list such as the one discussed above, greatly enhances your chances that the direct mail item will be read. We also use three-dimensional pieces and personalized url to improve responses rates on our mailings. Personalized url’s (purls) are a great way to get your prospects or customers to go to a website to capture additional demographic information on that customer.
7. Write a Blog – Every company needs to have a blog. The best way to drive people to your company’s website is to have them read your blog. As in the email blast discussions above, blogs should be informative and not promotional in order to capture and maintain a frequent audience. Starting a blog is easy. I started this one by going to Google and typing in “starting a blog”. Don’t worry that it appears that no one is reading the blog. Your readership will expand over time and it will be very beneficial with the search engines. Link your company website, your Twitter page and everything else within your blog. Just remember, link, link, link.
8. Be Active with Social Media – Most people understand Facebook and LinkedIn now. A lot of people do not understand Twitter and its benefits. “I’m sitting on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” does not appear to make a great business tool. However, using Twitter to make an occasional statement about something of interest in your business or industry will get you some followers. On Facebook, having a separate company page whereby people can become fans of your business has its benefits. Cross linking your website, your Blog, your Facebook page and your Twitter page will enhance your readership and your search results.
9. Issue News Releases – Commit to issuing a monthly press release about something of interest that has happened to your business. This can be about a new product, a new piece of equipment, a move or something that one of your employees did. Before your do the first one, you need to develop a contact listing of your local media outlets. Once the news release is written then it needs to be distributed to the local media outlets as well as placing the news release on the wire. Putting the news release on the wire allows the release to be searched by the search engines and catalogued.
10. Go to Trade Shows – Re-commit to going to trade shows. At least plan on getting a booth at the local Chamber of Commerce Business Expo. Trade shows are an inexpensive way to get in front of prospective customers. The use of large format graphics and brochures helps to make your booth pop. Capture business cards of prospects by offering something of value such as a prize or free service.