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Biz Cheat Sheet on Owned, Earned and Paid Media

As digital marketing continues to soar, here’s a question I’m getting more often from business owners and start-up entrepreneurs:  What’s the difference between paid, owned and earned media for promoting or advertising my business, and how do I make them work for me?

The whole “owned-earned-paid” thing is familiar to advertising and PR pros, but totally mysterious for millions of small business owners who’ve never really thought in those terms. Yet understanding the digital-world differences — and more importantly, how to deploy owned, earned and paid media simultaneously to grow sales — is critical today.  Here’s my BizBest “cheat sheet” for business owners on owned, earned and paid media:

Owned Media Basics

Perhaps the simplest examples of “owned” pieces of online media real estate are your business website and Facebook page. You built ’em. You operate ’em. You own ’em. Done well, they’ll be nicely designed, easy to navigate and chock full of helpful information, articles, photos, videos and other compelling content that customers and prospects will find interesting. Other “owned” media would include any blogs, newsletters or additional social media accounts your business has.

The basic idea with owned media is to fill them with useful and engaging content that helps potential customers discover your business when they search for something online, or use their own social media channels.  This is the realm of what’s called “content marketing,” which uses helpful, high-value information to draw people into your products and services.

Paid Media Basics

No surprise here.  Paid media are the online ads and promotions you pay for with hard, out-of-pocket marketing dollars. This includes search and other pay-per-click type ads, banners and paid promotions on social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others.

Using paid media is the more traditional approach that most businesses are familiar with.  You set a budget, pick your channels and spend as you see fit, while tracking results as best you can.

Earned Media Basics

Public relations fits here.  Issuing a press release that gets mentioned somewhere (either online or offline) “earns” you exposure that you didn’t have to pay for (at least not directly). But it gets trickier. The “earned media” piece is  huge, and difficult to execute — yet it’s a critical leg of the marketing/media triumvirate.

Earned media can produce really good stuff; the attention and engagement you “earn” from customers but that can’t be (legitimately) bought. For example, great comments, recommendations, reviews, mentions, likes and shares are all valuable types of customer-generated media coverage that you must earn, and can’t (directly) pay for.  This includes word-of-mouth, but amplified through the digital megaphone.

Making Owned, Earned and Paid Play Well Together

Owned, earned and paid media don’t exist in isolation. They overlap. In fact, your goal is to make them overlap and work together.  For example, paid ads might attract people to your website or Facebook page where they see some interesting content they want to “like” or share.  In turn, that engagement earns you more notice among the media.  Thanks to the nature of social sharing, the interaction possibilities are almost endless as information passes from one person’s network to others.  This is sometimes called “converged media” — the place where owned, earned and paid intersect.

To have an inkling of what’s going on here, business owners must first recognize that the way buyers research purchases and find businesses has changed radically, and rapidly. These things once occurred via isolated channels. But no more. It now happens through thousands of highly fragmented media channels on a 24/7 basis, often simultaneously as people occupy several digital platforms at once.

Big companies recognize this and now engage is what’s called “Brand Streaming” where they attempt to be absolutely everywhere, 24/7, monitoring what’s being done and said, and reacting quickly to any engagement by a customer or prospect (which is called “agile engagement”).

What to do now

First, don’t despair.  It should already be abundantly clear that since consumer behavior has changed, marketing a product or service will never be the same. You will need to embrace new digital tools and tactics (including some from all of the above categories), and deploy them in as many places as possible.

Start with a firm foundation. Look for small wins that you can reasonably achieve in each category (owned, earned, paid) and build from there.  Take it one step at a time. Don’t try to concoct some huge strategy that takes months to deploy.  Test small things to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s easier, less stressful and more effective.

Copyright 2000-2012, BizBest Media Corp. (@140Main) All Rights Reserved.

10 Tweet Ideas for Small Business

Growing numbers of small and local businesses are discovering that a tweet can be a powerful tool for making your presence known among customers, prospects, your area and your industry.  In particular, Twitter is great for helping amplify your marketing messages and grow your business.

More and more of your customers are joining and using Twitter, so if you aren’t there you’re missing an opportunity to be part of the online conversation. To use Twitter effectively, what you Tweet about – your “voice” – should reflect the online identity of your business.

For example, you can tweet about the value your business brings by sharing links and photos with your followers and letting them see what happens behind the scenes. The more people who talk about your business on Twitter, the more followers – and customers – you will get.

Here are 10 ideas for things to tweet about on a regular basis from Twitter for Small Business:

1)    Offer Special Promotions

Create special promotions available exclusively to your Twitter followers. Some businesses tweet a special offer code or secret word that customers can mention to get a discount when they visit either in person or online.

2)    Go Behind The Scenes

Tweet behind-the-scenes videos or photos that provide access to information your followers can’t get other ways. A bakery, for example, might tweet photos of how the breads and muffins are prepared.

3)    Media Mentions

Whenever there’s positive news about you or your business, or perhaps your industry in general, that’s something to tweet about. Be sure to mention the media outlet where the story appeared, and include a link if possible.

4)    Helpful Hints

Create an ongoing series of helpful tips related to your product or service that people would find interesting or surprising. A chef might tweet helpful kitchen tips or recipes. Or a clothing store might tweet ways to match current trends and vintage items. Establish a regular day for sending your tweet tips and people will start to look for them.

5)    Spotlight on People

Look for ways to focus on the people who help create a positive customer experience at your business. You might, for example, include photos of them at work.

6)    Tweet Offers and Incentives

One easy way to boost your audience is to offer a discount to anyone who re-tweets your offer – but only if you reach an established number of re-tweets (perhaps 5 or 10). Offer customers a reward of some kind if they mention your business – such as a free trial or extra service. (It’s also a good idea to include a link to the terms and conditions of your offer.) Some businesses ask customers to show them the tweet on their phones at checkout. Online sellers sometimes send the follower a discount code that can be tracked at checkout.

7)    Try Some Q&A

Pose a question in your tweet and then answer it yourself with a link to your website or another location. For example, a car dealer might ask “What are the top 10 reasons that people buy a new car?” and then link to a blog post that provides the answers. Or a golf shop might ask “Is there an easy way to correct a slice?” and link to the answer.

8)    Entertain and Inspire

People love to share positive tweets that entertain or inspire them in some way.  The tweets that are passed along or “re-tweeted” the most usually contain links, photos or videos. Remember that when you tweet something interesting it has the potential to be shared among many prospective customers.

9)    Tweet Photos

Experience shows that a descriptive tweet that includes a photo will not only get more clicks, it will inspire people to share it with others by re-tweeting it. Think of it as a caption and photo combination. The words in the tweet are the “setup” and the photo is the punch line.

10) Base Your Tweet on a Quote

Some businesses inspire customers by tweeting pertinent quotes from business, literature, history or pop culture. Try to choose quotes that your followers will find inspirational enough to pass along to their own followers.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved. Follow us on Twitter @140Main

5 Keys to Improving Search Ad Results

Millions of businesses use some type of paid search advertising to attract customers and prospects to their location or website. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising – also called search engine marketing or simply paid search – can be an effective, low-cost way to gain visibility online. If your business is using or planning to use paid search advertising, here are five keys to getting the most bang for your buck:

1. Make your keywords really count

Keywords are the essence of PPC advertising. This is what you are actually paying for – the right to show up in results when customers or prospects search for specific words and phrases. The more carefully you choose those keywords, the better your results will be. Ideally, the keywords you buy should match the terms that your customers are most likely to use when searching for your products or services.

But that’s harder than it sounds.  Customers often think in different terms than business owners or professionals and might use different words and phrases to describe the same thing. In short, buying the wrong keywords won’t get you anywhere.  Google has a good keyword tool that can help you find the precise words and phrases that people use most often to search for millions of different products, services and solutions online. Visit www.googlekeywordtool.com.

2. Consider “negative keywords” as well

Selecting keywords is a little like preparing a party guest list. There are people you choose to invite and some you choose to avoid. In similar fashion, using “negative keywords” for your search is like crossing certain people off your guest list. Negative keywords that you specify will not trigger your ad. Thus, for example, if you sell only new or paid services, you might put the terms “used” or “free” on your negative keyword list. That way you won’t pay for people seeking only used or free items.

But using negative keywords is a bit of balancing act.  If you use too many of them, your ads might end up reaching too few customers. If you don’t use any negative keywords, however, your ads might show to people not really interested in what you offer.

3. Be conscious of your quality score

Your ad’s “quality score” is something that many small businesses fail to consider. Unbeknownst to many business owners, search engines don’t consider all ads equal, even if you pay the same or even a higher rate than a competitor. Google, for example, assigns each ad a quality score based on how relevant it considers your ad, your keywords and the “landing page” you are linking to. Their goal is to deliver the most relevant and useful ads to people searching online. The higher your quality score, the more often your ad will be seen by the best searchers. If you use Google AdWords, you can check your quality score in your online account (under the Keywords tab).

4. Write compelling ad messages

Search ads are extremely short so you have to make every character count when you write your copy. Hone in on only the most critical benefits and features of what you offer, knowing your goal is to get someone to click on your words. Include your keywords in your ad copy so searchers know your ad is relevant to what they want. Ads that include the exact search term get more clicks.

Emphasize any unique selling points you have, and include a call to action such as “buy now,” “sign up for a free trial” or “request a quote.”

5. Send users to the best landing page

When someone clicks on your ad, the page on your website that you send them to is the “landing page.” But it doesn’t have to be your homepage. The idea is to send people to the most relevant page on your site that relates to their search, and that helps them make a purchase.

To improve conversions – and get a higher quality score – try to match the text in your ad to the message and other content on your landing page. Don’t make visitors hunt and click for offers you featured in your ad. They should be able to find what they’re looking for on the landing page.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

The Magic of Test-and-Learn Marketing

When business owners create products or services – and the marketing plans to sell them – they often base their decisions on what customers tell them. But which is more important:  What customers say? Or what they actually do?

The answer, of course, is actual behavior. And therein lies the power of a marketing trend that’s changing how millions of business owners think.  It’s called A/B testing, and at its core the concept is rather simple: Test something several different ways in the real world and see what works best. Then go with that. What could be more basic?

Yet businesses both big and small trip on this every day. They survey customer preferences and base decisions on what they say. But stated preferences can’t hold a candle to actual behavior when it comes to identifying what works – and what doesn’t.

The Internet world has long used A/B testing to try out different website designs.   But the concept is so straightforward and effective that it can apply to almost any circumstance where a choice must be made. And for small businesses, the test-and-learn approach makes perfect sense.

It’s Just What it Sounds Like

A/B testing is exactly what it sounds like. You test approach “A” and approach “B” and see which does better. The key is that you do it in the real word with real customers and real-time results. And you keep doing it with different customer segments until you have the answers you need.

In buzzword terms, this is a “data driven” approach. The “data” are the results of the battle between A and B.  You need to do it for different customer segments because while Option A might win generally, some segments might favor Option B.

One reason A/B testing works is that customers often don’t know themselves what they really want. They might say one thing, and do another. Sound familiar?  A/B testing cuts through the fog.

Entrepreneurs are told over and over to conduct surveys and other traditional market research. But observing actual behavior is almost always a better predictor of future behavior.  The hugely popular drink Red Bull is a good example. When first surveyed about it, customers called it disgusting. Yet annual sales are now in the billions of dollars.

Solid Objective Answers

The beauty of A/B testing is that it has no problem delivering solid answers about highly subjective preferences for such things as taste, color, shapes, images, layouts and the like. If you simply ask customers which color they prefer, for example, they’ll express a preference.  But when you actually observe and measure their response to different colored products, packaging or even web pages with A/B testing, the results might be radically different.

In the real world of small and local businesses, what this means is that while many things influence consumer purchase behavior, the consumers themselves are often unaware of them. For example, the package something comes in has a big influence on purchasing, even when it shouldn’t matter. Music influences what people buy and how long they spend in a shop, restaurant or pub. Lighting influences how people notice products and buy them. Other factors include smells, excitement, the number of choices (fewer can be better) and how prices are displayed.

Philip Graves, a consumer behavior consultant, says that while these things, and many others, influence what we buy, consumers usually don’t have the faintest idea their thought process has been altered.

Offer Different Choices and Measure the Results

The trick here is not to ignore what your customers say, but rather to pay far more attention to what they do by offering different choices and measuring and observing (first hand if possible) the results. Don’t simply ask customers to “imagine” something. You have to create it and actually let them experience it. This live testing gets the best results by far. It works even better if people don’t know they’re part of a test. You want people to behave as normally as possible.

Just remember. No matter what business you’re in, it’s vital to continuously test, learn and adapt. Asking people what they think is no substitute for experimenting in real time. You don’t have to fully understand why Option A performs better. If it does, go with it.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

14 Ways to Market a New Product or Service

Marketing a new small business product or service in a highly fragmented media world has become trickier than ever. Relying only on slow-moving, old-school methods such as direct mail and print ads is a thing of the past. Today, success belongs to those who compile the most effective media mixture.

The media mix you choose could be the difference between cheers and yawns, says Dan Adams, whose firm Advanced Industrial Marketing conducts training workshops worldwide.  The first step for any business owner is simply to understand the different online (digital) and offline (traditional) options.

Compared to traditional media, online marketing makes it easier for you to track results and generate low-cost leads, notes Adams. But most importantly, digital marketing makes you “findable” on the Internet.  In most transactions today – and especially business-to-business – the prospect finds the supplier, not the other way around.  And that’s usually through an online search.

14-Course Marketing Menu for Small Business

Here are today’s top 14 most effective marketing methods, including seven digital and seven traditional:

1. Online Ads

You can run pay per click (PPC) ads with search engines or contextual ads displayed next to related articles.

2. News Release

Done well, this is incredibly powerful for directing Google searchers to your website. Send out news releases full of content that will appeal to readers (and editors) of online magazines, journals, and blogs. Include both a link to your website and the keywords your prospects will likely use in their Google searches.

3. E-mail Marketing

This is especially useful when you have hundreds or thousands of prospects in your target market. There’s stiff competition for attention, so consider getting help from a specialist here. It’s definitely a science.

4. Online Presentation

Delivering slideshow and video content through your website is a great way to attract attention and persuade prospects that your solution is simply wonderful. Done well, this is also one of the most powerful ways for you to build credibility.

5. Social Media

This is still emerging as an effective medium, but it’s already proving helpful when local businesses take the time to build long-term, meaningful conversations with prospects.

6. Webinar

This is great way to connect with hard-to-reach prospects, especially professionals and business executives. As with e-mail marketing, there’s a science to this, so consider working with a firm that specializes in setting up and hosting webinars.

7. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This is everything you do to rank high in Google searches, and it should also be the glue that holds your online product launch campaign together. It all starts with understanding the keywords your prospects will use… which should start during customer interviews in the front end of product development.

Seven Traditional Media Tools

1. Print Ads

This method is becoming less popular relative to online media but is still helpful for keeping your business or brand familiar and for popularizing product launch keywords for online searches.

2. Press Kit

This collection of pre-packaged materials—sent to members of the media—builds credibility with editors and journal writers. It helps them tell interesting stories about you and your product.

3. Print Article

Articles and trade or technical papers in journals now end up online as well, so fill your article full of well-planned keywords and web links to draw prospects to your website.

4. Direct Mail

This can still be an effective product launch tool, especially as your competitors switch their focus to digital inboxes. Studies show many Internet users have a printed publication in their hands while they are searching online.

5. Trade Speech

A well-delivered presentation conveys lots of complex information to a captive audience. Consider professional help to avoid “death by PowerPoint,” rehearse hard, and try using tag-team delivery.

6. Trade Show

These remain highly influential, but they are also time consuming and costly. Make sure your staff is trained and your lead follow-up is strong, or you’ll waste time and money faster here than anywhere else.

7. Sales Visit

If you sell B2B, this is still the most effective—and expensive—product launch approach. Use a disciplined lead nurturing program to make each sales call count. And spend the time and money on great sales tools and sales training to make your sales force look good.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Six Lead Ranking Tactics that Really Pay Off

Ranking your leads – also called “lead scoring” – is an exercise most small business owners don’t bother with. At least not in a formal sense. But that may be passing up an opportunity to make follow-up efforts more effective by targeting and nurturing them in different ways based on their score.

Lead scoring is basically a way of objectively ranking your sales leads according to a variety of factors such as expected time to purchase, level of interest, “fit” and others. It’s about trying to determine the quality of your leads and allocate your immediate efforts toward the ones that have the best chance of converting, while others go into the nurture track.

More Important Now than Ever

Lead scoring is becoming increasingly important today for small businesses that are strapped for resources and need to do more, with less. In that environment, it’s a perfect fit. Different types of leads call for different types of follow-up. For example, some may fall into the long-term bucket, while others are just plain hot.

According to a study by Aberdeen Group, a major business research firm, companies that do lead scoring right are able to qualify leads at a 192 percent higher rate than other companies. Not only does lead scoring help you hone in on the most promising prospects, it also gives you an objective way to calculate and schedule the right types of follow-up for each ranking level.

Online Behavior is Key

The old “BANT” approach to lead scoring (does the lead have: Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline) doesn’t work well anymore. Today’s buyers – both consumers and businesses – start their information gathering process much earlier than in the past and rely on the web – and social media in particular – more than ever before. While most businesses have little visibility into this web-based behavior, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems are still trying to figure this out, new “Social CRM” services such as Nimble (www.nimble.com) are revolutionizing how this is done, especially for smaller businesses and work groups.

Here are six lead-ranking tactics that can really pay off for any size business:

1)    Start by clearly defining what constitutes a “priority lead” for your business. Once you communicate this to your sales people it gives you a handy way to measure how good they are at engaging these prospects and closing sales.

2)    Create a system to capture information on leads, score it and measure it. Key information you will want to understand is whether the lead is the right person to purchase your product or service, and whether they have the right level of interest.

3)    Consider information from the digital and social “graph.”  While you still want traditional demographic or business information on prospects such as age, income level and job title, the real key to discerning true purchasing intent is found in “behavioral” type information. In other words, it’s not who they are that defines them, it’s what they actually do. And since this can be found online, today’s term for this is “digital body language.” Tracking what prospects do online, in social media, to consume information about your business and interact with you in some way is far more powerful ammunition than information you might get, say, by telephone.

4)    Pick your proof points. There’s no single way to define a lead score, as it differs business to business. But generally you’ll want to assign a number (1-5 for example) and/or weighting (such as 10-30%) for each factor. In a B2B setting, for example, factors might include the level of pain (that is, how badly they need a solution to a problem), the prospect’s job role, business or industry and the source of the lead.

5)    Map your prospects’ variations. Spell out the type of lead that each score represents, and the follow-up action that’s called for. For example, the right person at the right time with the right amount of interest is top priority and gets immediate attention. Likewise, the right prospect at the wrong time is flagged with nurturing and follow-up. A lead that’s ranked as a wrong fit with no interest can be eliminated.

6)    Keep it simple to start. Don’t try to use too many scoring criteria or create complex follow-up plans. Start with a simple approach and carefully measure your results. You can always expand from there.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

How Rock Star Customers can Help You Grow

In an age of digital discovery and social media, here’s something that more and more local business are learning:  Existing customers can be one of the most powerful growth engines ever.  One way to put this engine to work is to identify and harness the hidden marketing potential in your “Rock Star” customers.

But watch out: they might not be the ones you think. For example, they aren’t necessarily the biggest spenders or most loyal. Loyal customers don’t always promote you (in fact, it’s likely they’re not), while big spending customers may not be profitable or have a good story to tell.

So who are your Rock Stars?

Bill Lee, CEO of an educational organization called the Customer Reference Forum, says your Rock Stars are simply the ones with the biggest potential to promote your business and influence others. “First, they’re loyal—that’s the price of admission,” says Lee. “They have a good story to tell about how your product or service helps them. Second, they’re eager to tell it. Third, they have access—and want to gain more access—to influential networks that contain more buyers like them. And fourth, they want to build their reputation and influence in such networks.”

But as much as they might love you, these Rock Star customers won’t help grow your business on their own. Even customers who identify themselves as “promoters” in customer surveys—saying they’d be highly likely to refer you to a colleague or friend—aren’t actually doing so. Studies have shown that only about 10 percent of self-described promoters actually refer profitable new customers. The key is this: You have to take the initiative and make it easy for them to do so.

Make it About Them

To make it work, it has to be all about them – not about you, says Lee, who is also author of a book called “The Hidden Wealth of Customers” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012).

One tactic that works with Rock Stars is community marketing that recognizes how people buy things locally, from a refrigerator or flat screen TV, to a new roof or a doctor’s services. In that context, most people aren’t likely to seek out a salesperson or collect brochures. Instead, they’ll talk to friends, neighbors, colleagues or other peers to find out what or whom they’re using.

Some big companies have caught on to this. For example, Microsoft has brilliantly deployed “customer advocates” to leverage this natural approach to buying, particularly overseas. Microsoft will find local “MVP” customers who are well-connected in their local communities and want to increase their status, and help them do so by providing access to early releases and “insider knowledge.”

Getting known through established locals is faster—as well as more affordable—than trying to get locals to know a business through advertising, PR, big splash events, and other traditional marketing. Small businesses can use this same approach.

Make Yourself an Influencer

But instead of relying on your Rock Stars to carry the ball completely, the trick is to enlist their help in making you more of a “thought leader” in your own industry or community. Many business owners fall into the rut of seeking influencers—such as bloggers with large followings, or prominent personalities in their markets or communities.  But it’s usually better to be the influencer yourself – enlisting your Rock Stars to help you do it.

A good local business providing exceptional solutions to a community or market has two things that no outside influencer can match, says Lee. You have actual customers who are happy, plus you have your own “subject matter experts” (you and your employees) who work with these customers all the time. That alone gives you far more valuable knowledge than the usual outside influencer.

Perhaps the best thing about Rock Star customers is that they already exist, quietly thriving under the radar, waiting for you to discover them and put them to work. Failing to do so is a little like being a homeowner who knows a stash of gold is hidden in the wall but never uses a metal detector to find it.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

10 Ways to Tap Twitter for Leads

Slowly but surely, many business owners are realizing that Twitter is a terrific (and free) tool for a variety of business purposes, including marketing, customer service, branding and PR and generating leads. Those who use it effectively are generating traffic for their websites, building networks and getting closer to their customers.

Using Twitter specifically to generate leads is something that works differently for different types of businesses.  You should try out different approaches and see what works best for you. Then go with that.

Here are 10 things you can do on Twitter to attract prospects to your business:

1)   Tweet about special offers you have available at your business. But follow this tactic judiciously. Tweeting too often about business offers can get you labeled as a spammer.  One nice way around this is to weave offers into a blog post or article on your website.  Then simply Tweet a link to your article, with some “teaser” text to spark interest.

2)    Create your own business-branded page on Twitter. This makes it easier to generate leads.  An enhanced business profile page increases your Twitter presence by prominently featuring your most important content and visually branding your page. Your enhanced profile page is completely public — users can view it without joining or logging into Twitter. Twitter is still in the process of rolling out this feature to all businesses. See details at business.twitter.com.

3)    Use “featured tweets.” This is available from your business brand page and lets you display select tweets at the top of your page for an extended time. Normally tweets move down the page as you add more, but these stay put and are a great way to feature special promotions or offers.

4)    Target key products, services and industry terms via Twitter Search. It’s a simple yet powerful tool you can use from inside Twitter to help you identify the people and companies that care about the things that your business does. This will open up a rich vein of potential people to follow who may follow you back.

5)    Look professional and attract more attention by installing your own custom Twitter page background. This can include colors, images, logos and other graphics related to your business. The better your page looks, the more customers you’ll attract.

6)    Make sure your Twitter profile shows up in search. Your Twitter profile can contain a maximum 160 characters so make the most of it by including the top keywords associated with your business or profession. You can’t use all of your keywords, so be sure and pick the best. Be brief and grab attention.

7)    Answer questions.  Two out of three Twitter users say they are more likely to buy something from a local business that answers their questions on Twitter. So while that begs the question of how many of your customers and prospects are actually on Twitter, it’s a safe bet that whatever that number is, it will only get bigger.

8)    Leverage the power of #Hashtags to locate your leads. On Twitter, hashtags are used to organize tweets around specific topics.  They’re the words with the pound sign (#) in front of them. By pargeting your tweets to specific hashtags – or topic streams – you will reach people specifically interested in that topic.

9)    Chime into Twitter “Chat.” On Twitter, “chats” are similar to hashtags except more granular.  There’s a publicly available document posted on Google Docs call “Twitter Chat Schedule” that lists over 600 chats on specific topics. Just search “Twitter chat Schedule” on Google to find it.

10)  Create a customized Twitter visitor welcome page for your business website. Once you have this, you can include the link in your Twitter profile and in your tweets. Anyone who clicks on it will arrive at your special welcome page for people who’ve found you via Twitter. This customizes your message and makes them feel especially welcome. It also opens up the possibility of special offers to Twitter users.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.  Follow @140Main

5 Mobile Marketing Tips and Trends for 2013

As mobile device usage continues to soar (including smart phones, tablets and mini-tablets), business owners should plan to tap this trend in 2013.  According to a “Mobile Path to Purchase” study conducted by Nielsen, one of the top uses of mobile devices by consumers is finding and calling local businesses, and accessing map and driving directions.

In short, mobile devices have become the “go-to” tools for millions of individuals to find, contact and visit local businesses.

Depending on the product or service category and device used, as many as 73 percent of mobile users report looking for a business phone number and subsequently calling the business. In addition, up to 84 percent of mobile searchers report looking up a business location and accessing driving directions (again, depending on the category).

Those are huge numbers driving leads and sales for local businesses. And the implications are clear:  You need to be visible in mobile search, and your ads or listings should always include a phone number and directions. Here are five mobile marketing tips and trends for small business, looking ahead to 2013:

1. You Must Provide Information with Local Relevance

The key to success in mobile for 2013 will be to provide information with local relevance along with local offers. “If an ad or listing doesn’t have local relevance at the time of action, the consumer will move on to the next business, so including local phone numbers rather than toll-free numbers is helpful,” says Bill Dinan, president of Telemetrics, a firm that provides call tracking services.

In the Nielsen survey, mobile users cited local relevance and local offers and promotions as the top reasons for engaging with mobile advertising.

2. Pay Attention to Timing

Consumers use their mobile devices differently depending on the specific product or service they are looking for. In general, when someone searches for business information on a mobile device their so-called “purchase intent” is strong. But the exact timing depends on what they’re looking for.

For example, about 87 percent of people searching for a restaurant on a mobile device plan to go there the same day – often within the hour. In the travel category, however, most mobile searches are research based and don’t always result in immediate buying decisions. In the autos category, searches are a mixture of quick purchases and research type activity. About 49 percent of searchers intend to make a purchase the same day.

Overall, about 85 percent of mobile restaurant searchers, 51 percent of mobile auto searchers and 46 percent of mobile travel searchers ultimately make a purchase. The study focused on restaurants, autos and travel because they rank as three of the top categories projected to show major mobile growth over the next three to five years. But results are similar in other categories as well.

3. Tablet Trends are Changing the Mobile Mix

Growing popularity of tablet type devices such as the iPad (and their new mini tablet siblings) is altering the mix of how consumers use mobile, and how you should approach mobile marketing in 2013:  Here are some key tablet trends:

  • Across all vertical categories, tablet owners mostly use their device at home (72 percent) while smart phone users mostly use their device on the go (68 percent)
  • Among smart phone users, local directory apps are most popular for restaurant and automotive users, while brand websites are most popular for travel users. For tablet users, however, branded websites are the most popular among all categories.

4. Making Your Website Mobile-Friendly is More Important than Ever

Consumers shun using browser search on mobile devices, preferring to go directly sites or apps. This means that having visibility for your business specifically geared to mobile is extremely important. To help consumers find you in mobile, make sure your website is mobile compatible or consider creating a dedicated mobile site.

Also, get listed in mobile directories and Google Places, and include mobile advertising in your marketing mix. xAd (www.xAd.com) is among the largest mobile-local ad networks in the U.S. and one of the few that offers the ability to target ads by both location and search context.

5. Tailor Local Offers and Deals for Mobile Users

Keep in mind that mobile users greatly favor ads and listings that include specially-tailored offers and deals. Many local businesses are achieving success with limited time ads and offers targeting people in the area via their mobile devices. For best results, also include a strong call to action and stress local exclusivity.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

10 Tips to Jumpstart your Video Marketing

As online video gets cheaper and easier to produce, and its effectiveness as a marketing method grows, more and more small businesses are jumping in. Business owners who’ve stuck largely to text-based marketing channels such as search ads, blogs and social networks are discovering that video can be a compelling addition to a marketing mix.

And customers and prospects – both in the consumer and business-to-business realms – are gobbling up video and now even expect it in many circumstances. In a single month, 179 million Internet users in the U.S. watch over 30 billion videos, according to industry research.

For small businesses, however, one big catch with video in past was cost. But that’s changed. You no longer need expensive video production experts to produce effective, good-looking videos. New, inexpensive web-based applications can turn PowerPoint presentations, audio, photos and other graphics into powerful lead generation videos. You can even add interactive features such as live forms right into the video, rather than simply flashing a web address and hoping people visit.

There are many different types of applications to choose from, involving a variety of skill levels from novice to expert. A great place to learn about them is at ReelSEO.com. Another good resource is KnowledgeVision.com.

Here are 10 tips and strategies to help you jumpstart a video marketing program of your own.

  1. First, change how you think about video. Many of us are still ingrained with how old-style “network television” first defined video as a story with a beginning, middle and end that people watch passively. That’s changed dramatically. Online video can be super-short, highly interactive, incredibly creative and a million other things.
  2. Use a divide and conquer approach to your videos. Divide them into three categories: showpiece, workhorse and long-tail videos. Showpiece videos are the splashy pieces that show off your business. Workhorse videos explain your most important products and services. Long-tail videos delve more deeply into special topics.
  3. Use showpiece videos sparingly. Don’t blow your entire budget on a few Hollywood style videos that cost a bundle. Focus on one that can perhaps play in your trade show booth or be an attention-grabber on your website. For this one you might consider hiring a video production company.
  4. Make workhorse videos shareable. These videos should have a super-clear message and a well-defined target audience. They should be the kind of informative, authoritative video that people like to pass along. These don’t have to be slick.  But they must be clear, focused and true to the particular personality of your business.
  5. Go for a deeper dive with long-tail videos. Use these videos to dig deeper into specific topics, answer frequently asked questions, provide detailed data or feature yourself or others in your business as subject-matter experts. Talk about specific solutions and customer needs.
  6. Make bit-sized pieces. Don’t cram too much into one video. Break it up into a series of educational mini-segments that take on one piece at a time.
  7. Create a template you can replicate. For example, Zappos, the popular online shoe seller, creates simple 60-second videos following the same format to showcase individual products. Once the mold is set, such videos are cheap and quick to produce.
  8. Create videos with text and still images. Videos don’t need to have moving images. Many highly effective videos consist of a simple series of PowerPoint type slides with text and photos. Some have audio; some don’t. These are easy to create online.
  9. Make it local. Some businesses are having great success creating videos that feature impromptu “interviews” with people on “Main Street,” or in recognizable locations in the community. Today’s inexpensive hand-held cameras can produce amazingly good quality, and you can easily upload, edit and enhance the videos with online editing services.
  10. Marry your video content with a call to action. The days of creating a video and then plunking a web address or phone number in the last frame and saying “Call us or visit our website” are over. New techniques let you easily add interactive polls, surveys, live forms and other lead generation techniques, so use them. You don’t want prospects watching your video and then asking, “What now?”

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.