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How to Avoid Lead Leakage

LeaksAt ReachLocal – an online marketing services company catering to small business – the mantra is “Don’t leak leads.” And that’s good advice for business owners investing more and more money in online marketing only to have large chunks of leads slip away.

If you don’t have an engaging website that turns visits into leads, haven’t created a mobile site, aren’t responding quickly when leads do appear or simply don’t know which marketing efforts are working, you may be wasting your money marketing online. According to Kris Barton, Chief Product Officer at ReachLocal, small businesses never capture some 75% of potential Internet leads simply because they lack the basic tools and capabilities to convert them.

And the worst part is that most business owners never even know about the plumbing leaks that are costing them new customers. To fix the problem, start by identifying where leaks may be occurring in your sales funnel. It can happen at any of the three main stages in the so-called “customer purchase journey”:

1)    The top of the funnel where customers first discover you by looking online for the type of products or services you offer.

2)    Mid-funnel, which is the stage where they visit your website, contact you and become leads.

3)    And finally at the bottom of the funnel where they actually make up their minds on whether to become a customer or not.

Here are some ways to avoid leaking leads, according to online marketing specialists at ReachLocal:

Go beyond Google. Sure, Google is the 900 pound gorilla. But some 25-35% of online searches come from Bing and Yahoo! So if you aren’t advertising there as well, you could be losing customers to competitors who are.

Bid on your own business name. Many small businesses that buy keyword ads don’t include their own business name. But like it or not, your competitors might be doing just that – running search ads to capture customers searching for your business.

Claim your business listing on Google+ Local. If you haven’t done this you’re missing a great opportunity to appear on page one of local search results. Not only does claiming your Google+ Local listing help you rank higher in search, it also helps you show up better in Google Maps. So claim your page and optimize it with your contact info, URL and other content.

Use “site retargeting” to recapture prospects. Only some 2% of customers convert on their first visit to a business website. “Retargeting” is a way to try and bring back the other 98% by using an online ad service that tracks who visits your site, and then will display your “retargeted” ads to those people when they visit other websites.

Actively manage your social media pages. More consumers are now connecting with local businesses on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube.  If you aren’t actively monitoring your pages and posting new content, you may be losing out on leads.

Beautify your website to keep visitors from bouncing: These days, customers expect a great online experience even from the smallest businesses. If your site is outdated and unprofessional, visitors won’t give you a second thought.

Use landing pages to boost lead conversions from your online ads: If your online ads send visitors to a page not directly related to the ad (your home page for example), forcing them to search for what they want, you will lose them quickly. Create specific “landing pages” for a product or special offer related to your ad, with a clear call to action.

Make sure your website is mobile friendly. If it isn’t, visitors viewing it from a mobile device will have trouble finding what they’re looking for. For example, sites with lots of dropdown menus are hard to navigate on mobile, and flash animation might not show up.

If trying to control lead leakage on your own is too daunting, consider using an outside service such as ReachLocal’s new ReachEdge suite of products that help local businesses go digital and market more efficiently and effectively. Visit www.ReachLocal.com for details.

Copyright © 2000-2013 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

4 Steps for Getting More Leads from Facebook

Fsales funnelacebook has proven to be a great source of new customers for millions small businesses. But many business owners are not using Facebook to its fullest lead generation potential. For one thing, Facebook has added new features that make it more useful for small firms.

First understand there are two basic ways to have a business presence on Facebook. There’s an “organic” presence. That’s your free Facebook page where you build your base of fans, post pictures, offers, articles, and more.

But there’s also paid advertising and having a paid presence can be a great supplement to. Facebook’s rich advertising platform lets you target specific audiences and take some of the guesswork out of social media marketing. Local businesses can benefit greatly from the ability to target messages only to potential customers in their own area. You can also target by age, gender, education level and occupation. Or reach people who have a specific interest in what you do.

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You can use traditional ads, or what Facebook calls “sponsored stories.” Sponsored stories let you extend your reach beyond the people who interact with your page. Your sponsored stories will show up more frequently in news feeds as well as advertisements on the side of the page. Using a combination of both ads and sponsored stories can help you get the most out of your Facebook effort.

Here are four steps to generating more leads from Facebook, suggested by the firm Optify which provides digital marketing software:

1. Improve your page: It’s not enough to just have a Facebook page. You need to make it informative, attractive and engaging. Pay special attention to your cover photo and profile picture – the two primary visual items on your page. Your profile picture might appear in many places, including search results, ads and sponsored stories. And because it’s small, it must be simple. If you use a business logo that’s complex, you might want to create a simplified Facebook version.

Your company description is critical. Only the first 125 characters will appear on the main page, so make them count. Optify recommends including your main web address and a short sentence describing your business.

Take advantage of the “Invite Email Contacts” feature that lets you send a note to any email list inviting them to “Like” your Facebook page.  Just make sure you’ve created a page that’s worth visiting.

2. Create Captivating Content: In order to generate leads, your Facebook page must be a steady source of helpful, shareable information. Try addressing customer “pain points.” What solutions can you offer that help people? The more you can do that, the more they are likely to share and like your content.

Keep posts short. Those in the 100-150 word range get about 60% more “likes” than longer ones. If you can convert your message into a photo or other image of some kind, so much the better. Facebook reports that photo albums and pictures generate 120%-180% more engagement.  And add new items to your page regularly. Daily is good; but at least weekly. This will ensure that your content – and your business name – consistently appears in news feeds.

3. Try Facebook Quizzes:  These are a quick and fun way to engage customers and learn something about them at the same time. Just keep these things in mind: It’s not a test, so don’t make it one. This will turn off customers. No more than 10 questions.  Tell people up front how this will benefit them, and how many questions there are. And offer an incentive. If your goal is market research, for example, offering a prize (i.e. a discount) for completing a quiz will boost participation.

4. Use Facebook Ad-Ons:  If your website and blog already have significant traffic you can increase your visibility to a larger audience by using one of the social plugin applications Facebook offers. These allow users to perform multiple actions with a single click. There’s also a registration form that lets users sign up for your website directly from Facebook, and something called “Facepile” that shows Facebook users who likes your business and puts mutual friends at the top of the list.

Copyright © 2000-2013 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Why Business Owners are Adopting Digital Marketing

Internet marketingSmall business owners are a practical bunch. So when it comes to digital marketing – websites, search ads, digital banners, email, mobile ads, and others – they approach it with a decidedly practical bent. “Generating leads and sales is very important to us,” says Jack Groot, owner of JP’s Coffee & Espresso Bar in Holland, MI. “Without real traffic and ultimately profit, there is little or no value for us in digital marketing.”

Groot speaks for millions of small business owners who are leaning more and more into digital marketing, but only if they see real value in it. Larger organizations are accustomed to marketing digitally – they’ve been doing it for years. Many smaller firms, however, have stuck with traditional ways. But that’s changing, and picking up steam.

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Digital marketing has blossomed as digital marketing tools for small business have become more accessible and affordable. A major trend driving increased use of digital marketing by smaller businesses is the increased availability of customer data – from website visits, social media, electronic purchases, and many other sources. This information helps even the smallest businesses understand customers better, identify leads earlier and respond to customer needs by knowing what they’re looking for.

According to a new study conducted by Inc. Magazine and Vocus, a cloud software provider, the top six reasons small biz owners use digital marketing are to:

1)    Drive sales

2)    Increase brand awareness

3)    Reach new customer segments

4)    Drive customer engagement

5)    Identify usable customer insights

6)    Save money/improve productivity

Another attraction of digital marketing for small business is that you can move the needle without having to allocate lots of resources – especially personnel.  Meanwhile, more than half of the small and mid-sized businesses surveyed by Inc. say they now have at least one full-time employee working on their digital marketing efforts. Others use part-timers, outsourcing, or the business owners do it themselves.

Not surprisingly, the Inc. survey found that websites are the most commonly-used digital marketing tool among smaller businesses, with about 87 percent now using them. And while some still use “old” non-interactive websites, many others are incorporating digital marketing tools that incorporate social interaction to gain much greater traction.

Here’s a rundown of how many small businesses are using some of the different digital marketing tools:

  • Email marketing (66%)
  • Videos/photos (55%)
  • Blogs/white papers (53%)
  • Webinars (26%)
  • Paid search (23%)
  • Online store (23%)
  • Mobile apps (18%)
  • Mobile/SMS messages (4%)

Spending Levels on the Rise

Small business spending on digital marketing is also on the rise. According to the Inc. survey, some 23 percent of all small businesses now spend more than 75 percent of their marketing budgets on digital.

Among “larger” small businesses (those with $1 million or more in revenue), about 22 percent allocate less than 10 percent of their budget to digital. About 1-in-5 of these firms spends between 10 and 24 percent of their budget on digital. Another 13.5 percent of firms allocate 25-50 percent to digital, while about 14.5 percent devote 50-75 percent of their marketing spend to digital.

Groot’s businesses – including the Midwest Barista School in addition to the coffee and espresso bar – are now focused almost entirely on digital. And the reason is simple. According to Groot, digital methods – including his website, social media and blog – give him more bang for his buck for generating sales and leads, building awareness, keeping a high profile and driving profitability.

Defining Digital Success

Business owners are clear about what constitutes successful digital marketing in their eyes. Increased sales tops the list (named by 71%), with generating leads second (59%). Other success criteria include the following:

  • Higher search ranking (33%)
  • Publicity/social following (32%)
  • Employee recruitment (9%)
  • Event attendance (5%)
  • Retention rates (4%)

Business owners seem largely satisfied with the progress they’re making on the digital front. About 71 percent rate their current digital marketing efforts as successful at achieving their goals. For those with revenues over $1 million, the success rates are even higher, with about 80 percent rating their efforts a success.

What’s Ahead

Overall, small business owners overwhelmingly expect to increase their spending on digital marketing, with about 90 percent saying they are likely to do so in the next three years.

Copyright © 2000-2013 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

5 Reasons to Connect with Customers in Person

In person meetingFor many small businesses today, digital communications – email, texting, social media, and others – have completely taken over.  In many ways, this is a good thing. It’s super convenient, efficient and keeps you constantly connected.

But some business owners are starting to wonder. Has it gone too far? These days, many people are reluctant to even pick up the phone and make an “old-fashioned” voice call. They’d much rather send an email. Meanwhile, face-to-face meetings are increasingly rare.

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But this “technology takeover” has potentially serious consequences for a business, says Michael Houlihan, co-founder of Barefoot Cellars, a wine-making business focused on being more fun, lighthearted and hip. Business is still built on relationships, and in a purely digital world, relationships can stagnate, or never develop at all.

Trust – another business cornerstone – dips as well, as genuine personal connections are replaced by keystrokes and mouse clicks.

When Houlihan and his partner Bonnie Harvey started Barefoot Cellars, they had no wine business experience. So they paid personal visits to countless suppliers, retailers and potential customers to gain knowledge and build relationships. “The Barefoot brand would never have become successful without meetings, phone calls and recurring personal visits that kept relationships all over the country healthy and up-to-date,” says Houlihan. “People don’t just buy your product or service. They buy you.”

Of course when travel is involved, face-to-face meetings can be expensive. But the digital equivalent – a Skype video call – can fill in nicely. It’s the next best thing to being there. Houlihan now uses Skype frequently in his own business dealings. “Live video streams let you do just about everything except shake hands,” he says.

Here are five reasons to consider more face time in your own business dealings:

1)    Taking the time shows you care. People want to be valued and appreciated. Spending time with them – whether in person, on a computer screen or, if all else fails, a phone call, is one of the best ways to build a relationship.

2)    You can provide more personalized attention. This might be the key selling success. There’s no “multi-tasking” when you’re standing face-to-face with somebody (unless, of course, you don’t mind being terribly rude). You have to focus on the other person and respond not only to what they say, but also to their mood and other non-verbal signals. You read those signs and adjust your own actions accordingly.

3)    You can be more effective in general. When you talk to someone in “real time” you also can make progress in real time and solve problems in real time as well. Sending emails back and forth isn’t always efficient. And thanks to facial expressions, body language and tone of voice, you’ll usually find out more than just the basics when you have verbal conversations. In fact, if you’re really observant, you may notice things about the other company or clients that they aren’t aware of themselves.

4)    Other people are more likely to say yes. “In my experience, when you use someone’s name along with eye contact and an attentive demeanor, they’re more likely to be agreeable and to give you the benefit of any doubt,” says Houlihan, who with Harvey wrote “The Barefoot Spirit” (Evolve Publishing, 2013).  The next time they see you they’ll be more relaxed and familiar with your company. People want to do business with people they know. And you can get to know them much better “off-screen”.

5)    Your vulnerability shows (and that’s a good thing!).  In a virtual world, you can almost totally control the image you show to other people. That’s good to a point. But in a face-to-face relationship, the other person gets more of a 360-degree view of who you are. The imperfections and vulnerability they might see actually makes you appear more believable and sincere

Business relationships can and should start through digital means. The tools are there and you should use them. But in order for your business to be lasting and dependable, relationships should be allowed to grow in person as well. Your business will be better off in the long run.

Copyright © 2000-2013 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

How to Ring Up More Referrals

referralsCustomer referrals are one of the most powerful and lucrative ways of building business. While word-of-mouth gets you noticed, referrals are even better because the best ones bring purchase-ready customers or clients right to your doorstep (or website) complete with an existing customer’s endorsement.

So it simply makes sense to not only foster more referrals, but also be smarter about the ones you get.

Membership type businesses, such as health clubs, constantly run referral programs by offering existing members discounts or freebies for bringing in others. But small business owners of all types know the magic of referrals, which offer instant credibility for what you sell.

Finding and using referrals effectively, however, can be harder than it looks. Referrals come in several different flavors. If someone merely provides you a name or email address, that’s a low-grade referral. But if an existing client actively talks up your product or service, sets up a meeting or brings the prospect in, that’s a superstar referral.

Here are eight ways to get more and better referrals:

1. Create a referral-generation plan and put it to work

Referrals aren’t automatic. Some business owners assume that a great product or terrific customer service will automatically generate referrals. Not so. You have to ask. Don’t be shy. Most loyal customers are open to providing referrals. Some even appreciate the opportunity to tell friends, family and associates about something good they’ve discovered.

2. Ask at the right time

Timing is important, but many businesses ask for referrals at the wrong time. The worst time to ask is at the cash register or when you present a bill. Instead, look for opportunities earlier or later in the process when customers are more receptive.  There’s really no predetermined time to ask. Do it whenever opportunities arise.

3. Provide some support

Don’t ask customers to recommend you to others without providing them some kind of backup or support. It can be as simple as a supply of business cards, a link to a special page on your website. It could also be a brochure or some other type of printed material that reinforces the referral and describes what you do.

4. Offer appropriate incentives

The incentive you offer must fit with the kind of business you run. It could be a discount, service credits, an upgrade, a free item or some other trigger that will entice clients to provide referrals. Test different offers to find out what works best.

Communicate details of your referral program to your best customers through whatever means you have available, including a blog, newsletter, email or customer mailings. And be sure to thank customers when they make referrals.

5. Get the right information

When asking for referrals, consider using a form, checklist or web-based system that requests details that will make the referral more valuable. A simple name and number isn’t really a referral at all. It’s just a lead.

At the other end of the spectrum are referrals where the customer actually facilitates a meeting, visit or purchase by the referred person. This makes the customer an active agent on your behalf. Between these two extremes are referrals where the customer authorizes you to use their name when contacting somebody.

6. Target your most influential customers

If resources are limited, consider seeking referrals only from your most influential customers.  These might not actually be your best customers, but they are the people whose opinions would carry the most weight with other people in your industry, community or customer base. By targeting these influencers, you avoid spreading yourself too thin or generating weak referrals.

7. Target related businesses

The health care profession is one of the most adept at fostering referrals between complementary disciplines – specialists, imaging services, physical therapists, medical equipment suppliers and others. Consider the same strategy yourself. Contact businesses that provide complementary services to your own and ask for referrals.

8. Build your relationships

This takes time, but it’s critical because many of your most influential customers won’t provide referrals until you gain their complete trust.  You’ll want to treat each customer contact as if it’s critical to your next referral. Through each sales, marketing or customer service “touch” you are building a foundation of trust that that will one day lead to a valuable referral.

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Why Marketing Metrics Matter to Your Business

Metrics.horizWhen it comes to measuring marketing success, many business owners (and professional marketers) prefer to think that results are more magic than math. But that’s just not so. The digital era – with it’s easy (relatively) access to analytics – has introduced a whole new way of thinking.

Using real data, business owners can now take a “show me the money” approach to measuring marketing success. Marketing metrics – as opposed to, say, website metrics – can show what works and what doesn’t with far more clarity than ever before.

If you aren’t using some type of marketing metrics or analytics, your business is flying blind. Your goal is to confidently identify which marketing efforts are delivering the best financial returns. Only then can you make the right strategic moves to improve your results over time.

With marketing dollars scarce, business owners and startup entrepreneurs are moving to methods where they can most easily measure and quantity success – or the lack thereof. Meanwhile, test-and-learn marketing (A/B testing) and other marketing tools are helping even the smallest businesses glean valuable insights into what customers and prospects actually DO rather than simply what they SAY.

Marketing Metrics vs. Website Metrics

Don’t confuse marketing metrics with simple website metrics such as page views per visit, time on site, back-links and others. The marketing data important to you includes such things as total traffic, action rates, leads, conversion rates and – ultimately – sales. Whereas web metrics focus on what’s happening with your website overall, as well as specific pages, marketing metrics are mostly about human actions – your customers and prospects.

Metrics-focused marketing starts with three main activities:

1)    Setting goals and targets up front. These should include such things as how many incremental sales are generated, how much revenue each sale produces and the gross margin. In short, you want to know precisely what impact your marketing efforts are having on revenue.

2)    Designing or selecting your marketing programs to be measurable in the first place. You’ll want to know the incremental contribution of each individual marketing effort you undertake in order to compare results.

3)    Focusing on decisions that will improve your marketing results. The idea is to adapt and make changes along the way.

Here are three key marketing metrics to consider:

  • Lead Conversion Rate: Lassoing lots of leads is great. But converting them to sales is what really counts. Your conversion rate is the percentage of leads that ultimately become sales (10 sales from 100 leads = a 10% conversion rate). This also produces insights into lead quality and how revenue can react dramatically to even small changes in conversion rates.
  • Revenue Per Customer:  Once you know how much the average customer is spending, you can make better decisions on whether to focus on new customers, selling more to existing customers, or both.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost: This boils down to what it costs you to gain a new customer. It’s a critical number to know for deciding what you can spend on your marketing efforts. If your revenue per customer is higher than your acquisition cost, you’re at least on the right track.

Metrics Missteps to Avoid

  • Vanity metrics: Avoid relying on “feel good” measurements that sound good but don’t actually measure business outcomes or improve profitability. Common examples include PR impressions, Facebook “likes” and names gathered at trade shows.
  • Focusing on quantity, not quality: The main metric of lead generation is usually quantity. But focusing on quantity without also measuring quality can lead to marketing programs that look good initially but don’t deliver profits.
  • Activity, not results: Marketing “activity” is easy to see (costs going out the door), but results are harder to measure.
  • Efficiency instead of effectiveness: Know the difference between effectiveness metrics (doing the right things) and efficiency metrics (doing – possibly the wrong – things well).
For example, having a packed event is no good if it’s the wrong people.

Lenskold Group, a marketing analytics firm, has a helpful, and free, online tool for calculating the return on investment (ROI) of your lead generation. Just put in the numbers for nine different variables and check the results. Look on the website under “ROI Resources”.

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8 Essentials of Successful Discounting

Discounts.horizThese days, if you aren’t offering a discount of some kind (or at least the appearance of one), you might not be selling much of anything. Pervasive discounting by businesses both big and small has caused buyers to demand deals on anything and everything.

In the midst of all this, how can business owners and entrepreneurs craft a financially sound strategy for offering discounts? The knee-jerk reaction is sometimes to cut prices willy-nilly. But don’t rush into a discount strategy. It pays to start with a plan, making certain the discounts you offer will actually help grow your business long-term, rather than shooting yourself in the foot.

No matter what, be sure to monitor and measure the results of a discount strategy. If you sell more but still lose money, it’s not helping your business.

Here are eight keys to successful discounting:

1. Make the discount relevant

Devise an offer that not only will appeal to your clientele, but also one that jibes with how those customers buy from your biz. For example, a “buy one get one free” offer might appear strong on the surface. But if you sell something that customers wouldn’t typically buy multiples at the same time, it’s not likely to work well.

2. Commit to your campaign

Whether you use social media, search engine marketing, postcards, coupon packs, email or other ads, frequency and consistency count. Prospects may see an offer but not respond right away.  Consumers look for an offer that’s appealing and has value, and may respond immediately. But with big ticket, high-commitment items they are likely to take more time to consider the offer and wait until they need to make the purchase.

3. Balance strong discounts against your bottom line

Structure discounts that get customers in the door, but still make money for your business. “Look at your product mix and look at your margins,” says King. “Because if you don’t, that’s where you’re going to get burned.” Evaluate carefully what you can reasonably offer, and don’t be afraid to exclude specific items that don’t fit the discount model (see tips below on crafting a profitable offer).

4. Set goals and measure your results

Balance results with objectives. Was your goal to generate new customers? Drive more phone calls or website visits? Promote a new product or service? Don’t just file away coupons you use to promote your discount. Take a little time to analyze the transactions. Did customers merely buy the discounted items or did they spend more while they were at your store or website? Well-planned discounting typically (though not always) prompts customers to spend more.

5. Don’t forget to prepare

Some businesses that offer a discount for the first time aren’t properly prepared for the response. If you attract customers to try your product or service, but you’re not able to serve those customers at your best level, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Be sure to inform your staff about your discount strategy, and provide any information they need about coupons or offers. Customers may have questions, and you’ll need the answers.

6. Don’t treat discount buyers as “second rate” customers

Make every customer feel wanted, welcomed and appreciated. Training your staff to handle promotions is just as important as the offer itself.  The reason is simple: Treating people well is the key to repeat business after the discount deal is gone.

7. Don’t target only new customers

Offer extra discounts for repeat business: One way to turn new customers into repeat customers is to establish loyal customer discounts of some type. Loyalty cards (buy 9 get the 10th one free), birthday discounts and referral rewards are several examples.

8. Avoid hot water

Be careful with the wording of your discount and on-sale offers. Clearly label what’s “on sale” and what isn’t. If you advertise discounts of, say, “Up to 50% off” the Better Business Bureau suggests that at least 10 percent of the items be offered at the maximum amount off.

Profit-boosting tips for crafting a discount coupon offer:

  • Know your marginal cost: Deep discount offers work best for businesses with low marginal costs, where the price of producing an additional “unit” to sell, over and above fixed costs is low.
  • Be patient: Discount offers can hurt short-term profits but pay off later as new customers return and pay full price.
  • Block multiple purchases: Research shows that profitability drops greatly when customers are allowed to purchase multiple coupons.  Disallow multiple purchases if possible (although there’s nothing to stop buyers from setting up multiple accounts to buy your coupons).
  • Gather purchase data: If possible, find out if customers who bought your discount coupons have purchased from you before at full price. You might start by simply asking them.  Remember that coupons can re-active old customers who’ve forgotten about you or moved to a competitor
  • Consider fees: Stiff pay-to-play fees charged by Groupon and others also curb coupon profitability.  Groupon, for example, takes up to half of the coupon price, although the fee drops to 10 percent if your offer only appears following user searches and not in Groupon’s daily email.
  • Query customers: Capture as much information about coupon customers as possible, including names and email addresses, and follow up with further offers.
  • Cross-sell and up-sell: Coupon customers might buy other full-price items as well. To facilitate this, be sure to specifically offer them related items.

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10 Things Wrong With Your Website

In this age of social media and digital everything, you can’t afford to be a website weakling. If your competition has a killer online presence, and you don’t, you lose. Today’s consumers look online more than ever before.  Even business owners who think they don’t really need a “best in class” website are missing more than they think.  Based on visiting thousands of small business websites, BizBest compiled this list of 10 common mistakes that businesses make with their websites, and how to fix them:

1. Crummy Content

Thanks to the rise of social media and changes in how search engines operate, it’s now more important than ever to have high-quality content on your site. Off-topic and poorly written content won’t show up in search and makes your site look second-rate. Don’t load up on sales pitches. Instead, provide helpful tips, case studies and other info that gives customers and prospects valuable information on how to solve a problem or accomplish a task.  Avoid industry jargon and keep it conversational. A service such as HubSpot.com can help.

2. Keyword Clueless

Knowing — and using — the proper keywords for the products and services your business sells is important to online success. Even if you think you know what they are, unless you’ve used a keyword discovery tool to see the precise terms that real people are typing into search engines daily, you haven’t done it right.  KeywordDiscovery.com and the keyword tool in Google AdWords can help.

3. Social Scarcity

No website is complete today without some nod to social media.  At a bare minimum that should be a link to your Facebook page, but could and should also include Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and your own blog.

4. Muddy Metrics

Who’s visiting your website? Where are they coming from? What are they doing once they get there? What are the most and least popular portions of your site? What kinds of visitors are making you the most money? If you lack the answers, you’re flying blind. Sign up for a web metrics service such as Google Analytics to get a grip on what’s happening.

5. Missing Mobile

Mobile web usage is exploding, with huge  implications for small businesses that lack a mobile-friendly site. Mobile sites are designed specifically for the small screen. They are quick, easy to navigate and “thumb friendly,” which means they use large, centered buttons with “breathing room” to prevent accidental clicks. The best mobile-friendly  sites make the mobile experience local. Since customers are constantly seeking local information on their phones, your mobile site should make it quick and easy for people to find you. Google has a terrific program called GoMo (www.HowToGoMo.com) to help business owners and startups learn about mobile websites and find help setting one up. You’ll find tips, a tool to rate the quality of an existing mobile site, samples of good mobile site design, and a helpful list of vendors who can help you create a mobile presence.

6. Obvious Omissions

It’s stunning how many websites lack obvious info such as contact information, hours and location, or seemingly try to hide it. Don’t make people hunt for a “Contact Us” page. Display your preferred means of contact prominently across your site. If you make it easy for people to call or email, they will. Be sure you have a process in place to follow up all inquiries.

7. Offer-less Ordering

If you want people to sign up, order or otherwise engage, you need to encourage it with some type of offer or call to action. You could, for example, offer free trials, discounts or a newsletter. Tell people what you want them to do.

8. Dorky Design

Design counts. But it’s not all about looking pretty. It’s about creating a great user experience and being highly functional and effective at attracting, keeping and converting customers. Obvious cookie-cutter sites and over-the-top images undercut your goals. Customers are there because they want to accomplish something, and your design needs to reflect that. Keep all order and lead-generation forms simple. The more information you require, the fewer people you’ll get filling them out.

9. Laughably Link-less

If people can’t find you online, you’re toast. One thing that makes Google (and other search engines) take notice is how many quality sites link to yours. Other sites are more likely to link to yours if you offer helpful information such as tips, white papers, newsletters, a blog or other items. Sending out regular press releases on your business is one way to build links. You can also seek links from professional associations, clients and vendors.

10. Unborn Updates

Incorrect or outdated info on your website spells certain doom. If your latest press release is three years old or other content is clearly aging, customers will wonder how up-to-date and vibrant your business really is. Review and update all content on your site regularly to keep it fresh and timely.

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13 Business Resolutions for 2013

2013Here they are, along with some of our best tips and strategies to help you pull each one off:

Resolution #1: Fix my website!

Here are 10 things that are probably wrong with your site, and how to fix them: 10 Things Wrong With Your Website

Resolution#2: Improve our customer service!

Here’s how: 8 Ways to Earn True Customer Love

Resolution#3: Be a better tweeter!

Here’s one way to do it: The Right Way to Retweet

Resolution#4: Boost my social influence!

These 16 tools can help: 16 Sweet Social Marketing Tools You Gotta Try

Resolution#5: Nurture our leads!

Become a lead nurturing pro: 9 Steps to Lead Nurturing Success

Resolution#6: Find a business mentor!

Here’s how & where: 8 Places to Find Your own Free Business Mentor

Resolution#7: Launch a new product or service!

And when you do, here’s how to market it! 14 Ways to Market a New Product or Service

Resolution#8: Try A/B testing!

Here’s what you need to know:  The Magic of Test-and-Learn Marketing

Resolution#9: Keep better books!

These basics will get you there: The 10 Bookkeeping Basics You Can’t Ignore

Resolution#10: Get serious with Facebook!

Can’t go wrong with this Facebook cheat sheet: A 10-Step Facebook Cheat Sheet for Biz Owners

Resolution#11: Network more!!

These tips will really help: 9 Ways to Make your Contacts Really Count

Resolution#12: Review our pricing!

There’s more to pricing then you think: What Every Business Should Know About Pricing

Resolution#13: Innovate more!

Here’s how to make it happen: 4 Rules for Fostering Innovation in Your Business

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

8 Ways to Earn True Customer Love

Many businesses are content if their customers seem “generally satisfied” overall. Others aspire to something more — they seek the kind of passionate customer satisfaction that inspires glowing thank you letters and backyard fence (or social media) recommendations.

If you suspect customers aren’t quite feeling that kind of love for your business, you’ve probably got some work to do. In a sense, customers who aren’t wholeheartedly with you might as well be against you. Customers who lack the love factor can actually be more damaging to your business than those who do business with your competitors.

That’s because people who aren’t yet customers of yours might at least try you out in the future. But those who are blasé about your business have already tried out your product or service and found you lacking in some respect. That’s not good.

Earning true customer loyalty – the kind that translates into recommendations and referrals – takes commitment, innovative ideas, energy and a little old-fashioned elbow grease. You, as business owner, must clarify for everyone else just what it is you want to accomplish with customers. This includes partners, employees, vendors and others who support what your business does.

And lest we forget, customer “love” also translates into a better bottom line. A recent American Express survey found that 75% of small business customers are willing to spend more with businesses that provide great service – up from just 58% two years ago.  And here’s the kicker: A hefty 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of poor service.

Here are eight things that will help customers find the love:

1. End the obstacle course

Take the initiative to find out when customers need (or will soon need) service or help – before they have to ask. The magical customer service moment is when your call, email or postcard offering help arrives at the precise moment the customer needs it.  Meanwhile, make it clear to each and every customer exactly how they can get service or help from your business when they need it – including a name and contact information.

2. Avoid customer hot potato

Whenever possible, the person who speaks to a customer first should “own” that customer for the duration of their visit. Companies send signals of disrespect by passing off a customer to “someone who can better help you with your problem.”  Yeah, right.

3. Streamline your website

Many small business websites seem cobbled together – a collection of different areas with different terminology and logic for getting around. Figure out one look and message you want to send, and stick with that.

4. Fix (for real) the big issues bugging your customers

Millions of businesses ask, ever so thoughtfully, “How can we improve?” That’s good. But how many really listen and act on what they hear? Customers read inaction as lack of caring and won’t bother to respond the next time you ask. A business that makes changes based on what it hears from customers earns more love.

5. Invest in customer loyalty

Customers have had it with loyalty programs that are just too much work or offer skimpy benefits. Try offering customers something without them having to ask or pay extra for it.

6. Offer customers real choices

Don’t bind customers into the fake choice of letting them “opt out” of something. Let them know up front that they can decide to get emails, offers or whatever from you and give them a choice.

7. Make someone responsible

Maybe it’s you. Or perhaps you make it part of someone else’s responsibilities. Either way, you call attention to your company’s passionate and persistent commitment to customer care. Be sure to reward employees publicly for exceptional customer care performance.

8. Put your money where your mouth is

Define specific customer care objectives that are right for your business, put some resources behind them, and figure out how you will measure the results.

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