Tag: Marketing

Small business coach

Marketing Online for the Small Business Coach

Are you a small business coach?

Marketing online can be one of your most lucrative avenues for getting new business, but only if you’ve got good strategies in place.

A lot of people advertise online as a coach these days – you have to find a way to stand out. (Kudos, you’re off to a great start if you’ve already identified your coaching niche!)

If you can nail down some great online marketing strategies, then you open up a big new world of possibilities for sharing your business coaching expertise. Ready to get started? Here are some tips for small business coaches: 

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Speak directly to your audience

Want to know what can make you stand out from others who are marketing coaching services? The ability to narrow down your messaging to the audience who you specifically want to target.

Too many coaches speak in general terms on their websites, resulting in wishy-washy language and messaging that doesn’t really speak directly to anyone. Sometimes they come across as too “woo-woo” and let’s face it, if you sound like you might be suggesting crystals and meditation as a way to improve business results, you are unlikely to attract the analytically-minded business owner!

Here at One Week Website, we really like the Storybrand approach to engaging with your target audience. The first step is to put that target audience first. This means you should have a clear understanding of the tone, language and overall messaging that will really resonate with them.

You might go as far as to identify a specific group of small business owners that you want to target. What are their biggest worries or problems? How can you help? Can you distill that into a headline that will grab their attention?

Doing this first guides with messaging on your website, but also everywhere else that potential leads might see you.

Small business coach

Build your email list

Once you have your target audience and messaging dialed in, it’s important that you look for other ways to stay in touch. Most people who arrive on your website won’t be ready to buy from you the first time, but it’s an opportunity to get their email address so you can send messages to them.

There are a couple of great strategies for getting that email address:

  1. Create a “lead magnet” – a piece of valuable content that you give away in return for their email address.

  2. Create an email newsletter that people want to receive. Most businesses have some kind of email newsletter, but only a small number have people searching for them just to sign up. Some examples of popular newsletters include: NextDraft, Ben Settle, TheSkimm and REI.

Here again, when devising your lead magnet or hot email newsletter, think about what will be appealing to your target audience. Your aim is to get as many “good fit” leads onto your email list as possible.

The important thing once you get people onto your email list is to be consistent about communicating with them. Email marketing works if people get to know and trust you. For example, if they’ve signed up for your newsletter, make sure that gets sent at regular intervals. If it’s to go out every week on a Tuesday, don’t miss a Tuesday!

Delivering value is as important as consistency. Whatever you are sending out should be relevant and interesting to your target audience. For example, you might address common problems that they have. You don’t have to write a novel every time, but you should always deliver something they can use, even if it’s a quick tip.

Use a marketing funnel

A marketing funnel is a useful tool for nurturing potential leads, from their discovery of you to making a purchase. A funnel is so-called because the shape describes that journey from lead to customer. At each stage, some people will drop out, so like a funnel, it is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. See the diagram below from Entrepreneur, which also depicts how potential customers may be attracted by a lead magnet:

Small business coach

At each stage of the funnel, the lead is interested in different things. For example at the awareness stage, they probably want to know more about a specific problem. At interest and decision stages, they want to learn about their options for dealing with the problem.

As a small business coach, a sales funnel is a great opportunity to help people get to know you and build their trust in you. You’re able to showcase your expertise throughout. Here’s an example of how that might work:

  1. Lead signs up for a free guidebook you have written that addresses something that concerns them (that you can help with). For example “How Your Own Mental Blocks Are Holding Back Your Business.” They now enter the “awareness” section of the funnel.

  2. You send regular emails, including an invite to a webinar you are giving on that problem or something closely related. (Interest)

  3. The webinar grabs the interest of the lead so they enter into the next step with you – a quiz designed to see if you will be able to help them. (Something like this can be a great way to segment leads so that you’re only continuing with those you can help the most.) (Decision)

  4. The leads that “pass” your quiz are invited to apply to your coaching program. The features and benefits of doing so are highlighted for them. They take action – either by joining or declining. (Action)

The idea of a marketing funnel is that if you pull it off well, you’re left with highly qualified leads. It’s a common frustration of small business coaches that you often spend time on “tire kickers” when you’d like to spend more time with those who are genuinely interested!

Another great thing about marketing funnels is that you can automate all or most parts of them. So for example, when someone signs up for your lead magnet, that can trigger a series of events based on actions that they take.

You may find that when the lead reaches the decision stage, it is appropriate to schedule a consultation with you to seal the deal. This is common when people require a bit more of a personalized touch to reach a decision. (It’s also a good reason to stow the personal consultation down your funnel, rather than leading with it. This should mean that you’re able to convert more of the people whom you talk with).

Take opportunities to establish thought leadership

One of the big things people expect from coaches is that they are thought leaders. People come to you because you have the necessary skills to help them plan, strategize and be more self-aware. Establishing credibility in the space is important, especially with so many people now selling themselves as coaches.

How can you do this online? We’ve got a few suggestions here:

  • Write regularly on key topics in your niche. This might be for your own blog, or for guest posts on other blogs and on sites like Medium. Look for opportunities to share your work, for example sometimes local newspapers will run guest columns from coaches that will be published online.

  • Be consistent on social media. You don’t have to cover every channel, but work out where your target audience is most likely to be found. For example, LinkedIn is a business and career-oriented platform, will you find a lot of your audience there?

  • Consider creating a podcast. Only do this if you have the time to commit to a regular publishing schedule! Many entrepreneurs and small business owners like to listen to podcasts, especially if they’re on the go. Otherwise, see if you can get a guest spot on another popular podcast, one that is likely to reach your target audience.

  • Run webinars, or be a guest on someone else’s. If you’re comfortable in front of a camera, this can be a good way to make people feel that they know you better.

These online opportunities to establish yourself as a thought leader not only help to build your public profile, but SEO value for your business too. The more content out there that focuses on you and your niche, the more likely you are to come up in related searches.

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Final thoughts

As a small business coach, marketing yourself so that you will stand out from others is essential. Online channels give you the opportunity to reach a wider audience, but you have to start with defining exactly who that audience is.

From there, establish regular contact with your leads via an email list. Have an effective marketing funnel (or more than one) so that prospects are automatically lead down a path toward purchasing from you.

Finally, harness the power of online channels to build up your own credibility and thought leadership. Think about what people want as a requirement of their coaches – why should they choose you?

Copywriting examples

What You Can Learn From These Top Copywriting Examples

Even if your business currently employs the talents of a copywriter, you can still learn a thing or two from the top copywriting examples out there. 

Whether you are aware of it or not, your website copy will either attract or deter your target audience. The words you use really matter!

Good copywriting engages people. It entices them to want to learn more. On the other hand, bland copy will send them to snoozeville. We’re talking the kind of copy that just spits out data, or is written for the sake of SEO. While copywriting and SEO aren’t mutually exclusive, there’s an art to ensuring you’ve got the best of both.

Here we’re looking at some case study examples so you will know how some of the best do it. What can you learn and take away for you own business?

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The landing page

A good landing page has one job and one job only – to sell your customer on an action you want them to take. A landing page is a standalone marketing page that your target audience arrives at, usually by clicking on a banner or an advertisement of some kind. The goal action may be to get them to buy or to sign up for something.

With this important job, good copywriting is essential for any landing page. You need marketing copy in headlines, sub headlines, body copy and the call to action. It’s not easy to design a winning landing page, but you can learn a thing or two from some of the best:

Drip

Copywriting examples

What works well?

  • They clearly identify the value proposition, or what the target audience is going to get. “Double your leads” is an enticing prospect!
  • They highlight that the course is free, but has a value of $197. People always love to think they’re getting a steal.
  • They use simple, short sentences to highlight what the prospect will get out of signing up.
  • Use of bullet points makes the page easy to scan.
  • The layout is clean and simple with a clear call to action.

What else could they do?

  • Perhaps highlight the value proposition – “double your leads” – over and above “getting started with Drip.”
  • Some people might find the social media share buttons distracting.

MeetEdgar

 

Copywriting examples

What works well?

  • Very direct and effective headline. They address the objections of their target audience about social media (whether or not it will work for them) AND nail the benefit of automation.
  • The call to action is interesting and clear. Instead of something like “get it here” they say “see how it works.”
  • Very clear and succinct description of what the product is and does.

What else could they do?

  • Perhaps they could test saying a little more about what people are getting by handing over their email address in the copy. It’s not exactly clear.

[bctt tweet=”Always highlight your value proposition as clearly as possible in your website copy” username=”onewkwebsite”]

The social media accounts

Copywriting for social media isn’t as easy as it sounds. If you want to optimize how you use your accounts, then you need to be able to go beyond simple descriptions or sharing of GIFs.  There’s an art to engaging your target audience on their busy newsfeed and being able to combat any lurking trolls.

Here are some examples of social media copywriting done well:

Charmin

How does a toilet paper company keep social media interesting? Charmin’s Twitter account is one to behold. From pop culture references (Game of Thrones – get it? 😉 ) to subtle, yet witty sales copy, the brand has managed to engage good copywriting without being overly vulgar.

Copywriting examples

Lessons you can take from Charmin:

  • Where appropriate, find the humor in your brand!
  • If you can, make connections with pop culture.
  • Come up with your own interesting (and topical) hashtag. Charmin’s “Tweets from the Seat” hashtag series has become popular and again, highlights their sense of humor. 
  • Address any common questions or objections that your product or service might raise. For example, Charmin highlights their commitment to sourcing their paper from responsibly managed forests.
Copywriting examples

Away

Instagram is one social media platform where businesses often struggle with their copywriting. The platform is very much for the visual, but what you say and the hashtags you use matter too.

Away is a luggage brand that’s mastered the subtle art of sales copy on Instagram without appearing to be pushing a sale. Using the hashtag #travelaway, they highlight the possibilities and experiences that owning a suitcase can bring. Their images and copy aren’t just about the luggage, they’re about where that luggage might take you. 

Lessons you can take from Away:

  • Consider the benefits or experiences that your product or service can help enable.
  • Use high-quality images with your copy – that’s what people notice first.
  • When producing social media, consider how you might utilize user-generated content. Many of the pictures they share come from their customers.
  • Don’t write a paragraph when a sentence will do. If you can keep it brief, people are more likely to remain engaged.
Copywriting examples

Hootsuite

Facebook newsfeed advertising is a tricky thing to get right. Somehow, among all of that noise on the target audience newsfeed, you need to ensure that your ad stands out.

Hootsuite does well at grabbing attention (after all, their brand does specialize in social media!). Take the advertisement shown below; what you can’t see here is that it’s actually a brief video. The video shows a few sentences and points (all written) about why you should pay attention to the product:

Copywriting examples

Lessons you can take away:

  • Spice up copy with a multimedia format. This advert is made more interesting by the fact that you need to pause and watch each sentence come up.
  • Keep copy short, sweet and benefit-driven. “Effortlessly execute social campaigns with Hootsuite Planner.”
  • Dangle a carrot where you can. “Try it free for 30 days” is an excellent hook.

The homepage

Homepage copywriting is arguably one of the most important aspects of your website. As we always say, your target audience needs to immediately be able to grasp what you do and what it has to do with them. Otherwise, they’ll probably depart.

Your messaging should be central to your homepage copy. You should tell what you do and describe your value proposition. Here are a couple of good examples you can “borrow” from:

Perfectly Placed

Copywriting examples

What you can take away:

  • Check out how simple and benefit-driven that headline is! It very succinctly states what they do and what the benefit is. Always think in terms of “what’s in it for me?” (your customer) on your homepage.
  • They clearly state who they offer their service to. If your business is restricted by geography, make sure this is stated upfront so that you don’t waste anyone’s time (or your own).
  • Clear call to action with a prominent button – “Get organized now.”

Fitness Builder

Copywriting examples

What you can take away:

  • That headline is pure benefit in as few words as possible – “get ripped.” In case anyone has any confusion, it is backed up by the image of the muscular guy next to it. How briefly can you state your primary benefit?
  • Give people the numbers where possible – we are attracted to them! “With over 1000 workouts and 7000+ fitness videos to choose from.”
  • Give people an option to sign up above the fold (although we wonder with this one if they’ve tested having the headline above the signup form, rather than the other way around).
  • That is one slick value proposition: “work out anytime, anywhere with your portable, affordable personal trainer.

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Final thoughts

Your social media, landing page or web copy should speak directly to the target audience you aim to attract. While top copywriters spend years honing their craft (and tend to be expensive to hire), you can still pick up a few good tips from the companies we have highlighted.

If we were to boil good copywriting down, it would come to messaging and simplicity. All businesses should have clear and consistent messaging and copy should be written as simply as possible. Don’t be tempted to waffle on when a sentence or two will do!

Brand messaging

How to Improve Your Brand Messaging with StoryBrand

Are your business results where you’d like them to be?

If you’ve followed Donald Miller and StoryBrand at all, you will have heard one of their key points for brands before: people buy because of the words you use, not because you have the prettiest website.

Your brand messaging is what either draws your target audience in, or pushes them away. If there is any confusion or lack of clarity, they’re more likely to look elsewhere.

StoryBrand has been on a mission to help businesses improve their brand messaging and their desired results along with it. Your messaging should be developed as part of a strong brand strategy – here’s what to consider:

What is brand messaging?

Brand messaging is the overall message you convey to your target audience via various tools and channels. For example, you’ll be communicating something via your tagline, your social media, your brand promise, brand story and any other content you produce.

Some important parts of brand messaging are your value proposition and brand positioning. When these are clearly defined, they ensure that your messaging is consistent. For example, brand personality is part of positioning – you want to be consistent with the tone and personality you convey. It would be confusing to switch from a friendly, informative sort of personality to an edgy or more aggressive stance.

What Donald Miller teaches via StoryBrand is that a confused customer will always say no. You might change your content format or advertise via different channels, but your underlying messaging should remain consistent.  Your message is in what you say and how you say it.

The overall goal of brand messaging is that it specifically resonates with the target audience that you intend to engage with. The customer relates to your brand, is inspired, persuaded and ultimately, motivated to buy.

Key takeaway: Your brand messaging is much more than a tagline. Nike has the infamous “Just Do It” line, but this is just one part of an entire brand messaging framework. If you were to assess your own content including website, social media and anywhere else, would you find consistent messaging across each?

Brand messaging

Typical brand message mistakes

What is the biggest mistake companies make with their brand messaging? They’re not clear enough. If you’re audience has to hunt around to figure out what you’re about, you’re not doing it right. As Miller says, people don’t buy the “best” products, they buy the products they can understand the fastest.

The root cause of this lack of clarity is often that the business didn’t define their customer first and put their needs at the front of their messaging. With just a quick look around the internet, you’ll discover brands that have tried to be clever with their messaging, but it falls flat because the target customer doesn’t understand.

As Miller puts it, brand messaging should be able to pass the “grunt test.” If a caveman or woman were to look at your website or marketing material, would they be able to grunt out what you are offering, how it will improve their lives and what they need to do to buy it? Within five seconds, your audience should be able to grunt out an answer to these three things.

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We’ve already hinted at another mistake – confusing brand messaging with a simple tagline. A tagline may be catchy, but every business owner or marketer needs to take a look at the broader picture too. Your audience, value proposition, imagery, tone and product positioning are just a few of the other items that go into your overall marketing strategy. Some taglines may communicate the three things within five seconds – most don’t.

Thirdly (although we could point out more mistakes), another common brand message mistake is failing to excite or motivate the target audience via your messaging. Miller talks about how we are motivated to action when something can help us to survive and thrive. If this key ingredient is missing from your messaging, people may understand what you do, but fail to see why it should matter to them.

Tips for better brand messaging

Where should you get started with better brand messaging? Donald Miller and the StoryBrand Framework provide businesses with some great strategies for improvement, including the seven parts of the framework outlined here.

Here are some tips to go along with that:

#1. Put your target audience first

Who is your target audience? What do they really care about? What sort of tone, language and overall messaging will really resonate with them? 

Sometimes brands are so close to their own products and services that they fail to see their messaging through the eyes of the customer. They might try to be clever with their words in such a way that goes over the customer’s head – sort of like telling “inside” jokes. They might use jargon too heavily or other language that is difficult for the customer to interpret.

That’s the thing – your target audience shouldn’t have to interpret what you’re saying, you should have done that for them. 

Your brand messaging should be customer-centric rather than brand-centric – think “you” rather than “us.” As Miller puts it, the customer is the “hero” of your story – it’s not all about your brand.

Before you develop any sort of messaging, you need to be inside the minds of your target audience. Consider pain points, goals, favorite features and anything else that appeals to them.

Activity: Do you have a clear definition of your target audience? If not, try creating a picture of a customer “avatar,” including their demographics, pain points, goals and interests.

#2. Define your brand positioning

Brand positioning refers to the space that your brand occupies in the minds of your target audience and how it compares to competitors. Your messaging helps to communicate what your positioning is. Brand positioning strategy involves creating associations in the minds of your customers so that they perceive your brand favorably over competitors.

One of the keys with positioning is that something needs to make you different. That’s what helps to distinguish your brand in the eyes of the customer.

As an example of great brand positioning, consider the grocery chain Trader Joe’s. They operate in a highly competitive sector but tend to stand out from other, larger grocery chains because of how they have positioned themselves. They talk about being a “national chain of neighborhood grocery stores” and work to have that friendly neighborhood feel in their stores.

They offer high-quality food and low prices and a fun shopping experience with nautical themes, Hawaiian shirt-wearing team members and free samples. Overall, their entire experience is different to that of competitors.

Activity: How will you distinguish your brand from competitors? What will your brand call to mind for customers?

Brand messaging

#3. Develop a clear value proposition

Your value proposition is essentially the “what’s in it for me?” for your customers. It is customer benefit-driven and states why they should do business with you. Sometimes it takes the form of a single statement, but quite often it might be a series of bullet points or similar.

In fact, Donald Miller says of developing your website homepage:

“On the web, we tend to scan rather than read word-for-word, so consider framing these value points as icons with short descriptions beneath them. That way, people will understand them quickly and easily. Bullet points work, too.”

A common mistake is to list features instead of the actual benefit to the customer. Always keep in mind that if something you’re saying doesn’t answer “what’s in it for me?” then it’s probably not benefit-focused.

Your value proposition carries through to any other content you put out as well – your social media, emails, opt-ins, product descriptions… All of these things should have a consistent position on the benefits that you offer.

In a blog post, Donald Miller talks about a powerful way to convey value. When it comes to purchasing a product or service, people often have an internal problem, an external problem and a philosophical problem. The philosophical problem can be related to a wider issue, for example; “I need a new car but I should also do my bit to save the environment.” Miller uses Tesla as an example:

External problem: I need a car.

Internal problem: I feel cool when people see me driving the latest technology.

Philosophical problem: I should do my part to save the environment.

Activity: Have you got a clear value proposition? What benefits do you offer that will resonate with your target customer? Can you frame value in terms of external, internal and philosophical problems?

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Final thoughts

Your brand messaging should communicate your positioning, voice and value as clearly as possible to a defined target audience. It’s about much more than a tagline – your messaging involves every component of how you communicate and should be consistent.

StoryBrand has created a simple framework to help brands be clearer with their messaging. It’s a common mistake that many confuse customers, causing them to leave without buying.

We use and recommend the StoryBrand framework here at One Week Website. If you want to know more about it and how we apply it, hit us up with your questions!

Website opt-ins

How to Effectively Use Opt-ins on Your Website

Have you ever felt that you’d like to improve your opt-in rates on your website?

Opt-ins remain an important tool for business websites. They get subscribers onto your email list so that you’re able to stay in touch with them and help to progress them through your marketing funnel.

While email marketing can be super-effective once you have people on your list, the first challenge you face is actually getting them there. How do you entice someone to hand over their email address and opt into your list?

Know your audience first

We know, we’ve said this before! However any marketing activity worth doing needs to start with a thorough knowledge of the audience you are targeting. You need to understand what appeals to them and the problems that seem urgent in their eyes.

In terms of website opt-ins, you need to be able to connect the desire to opt-in with something that matters to them or is part of their character. For example, let’s say you have a target audience that largely consists of busy executives. You decide to create a “lead magnet” – a free giveaway in return for their email address. What should you create? 

Considering the description of your target audience and the fact that they’re always busy, in this case you might choose something that is quick to consume but provides them with value. Something like “10 Quick Tips to Improve …”, may be more likely to get read than a 50-page eBook. Of course this isn’t always the case, but you get the picture – you need to create something with broad appeal for your defined audience.

How to create an enticing lead magnet

According to Marketo, 96% of people who arrive on your website aren’t yet ready to buy. This means that capturing their details on that visit is very important. The exchange of an email address becomes the transaction you are looking for.

To get something of value (the email address), generally you need to give something of value. In most cases, this will be a lead magnet – a free piece of useful content – however if you run an ecommerce business, a quick strategy is to offer a discount in exchange for the email address. Here’s an example of a pop-up form from kid’s clothing retailer, Primary, below:

Website opt-ins

The immediate discount offer might work well for products that tend to be everyday needs or of lower-price, but it’s usually not going to work right away for more complex products or services. For example, if you sell a cloud-based software, consulting or something big-ticket, people often want to do more homework before committing.

In terms of devising an effective lead magnet, it can be anything that you like as long as it provides real value to your target audience. This is why you define them first! In fact, step two is to identify a specific value proposition for your lead magnet. Your value proposition will answer to a need of your audience, such as “how do I fix X problem?” 

The most effective lead magnets tend to aim for a quick solution to a very defined problem. They are ultra-specific which helps the target audience to get results more quickly. For example, if you run a business that sells disaster preparedness kits, you might give away a printable checklist that people can mark off before evacuating. It’s simple and it’s directly related to the products being sold.

A lead magnet can help you to demonstrate commitment to solving and a true understanding of a problem. This helps you to build the trust of the target audience. If you can get them some kind of quick win, they may trust your paid products or services.

We like how Jon Morrow puts it here:

“On an opt in page, you want the copy to be as short as possible. One litmus test is if what you are offering requires more than a headline to explain, it’s too abstract. It’s not familiar enough, it’s not obvious enough!”

Lastly, when we talk about effective lead magnets, we have to talk about format. Yours may take any format that you like, but it’s important that you play to your own strengths, particularly if you’re creating it yourself. If you’re not great at writing but love video, then look at a video format, and vice versa. 

Aiming for rapid consumption tends to also be effective. So if you’re producing a video, keep it short and punchy, serving a clear purpose in a small amount of time. Think about those buyer personas and whether or not they are likely to spend a lot of time consuming a piece of content.

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How to get that email address

You’ve created a lead magnet (or other type of offer), but now you need to actually get your website visitors to sign up for it. This is where presentation is everything.

Think about what entices you when you’re choosing something. The saying goes not to “judge a book by its cover,” but the truth is we do. When a visitor arrives on your website, they usually can’t see the valuable content inside your lead magnet, only the outer packaging which is only unwrapped once they opt-in.

Website visitors will either get to your lead magnet via an opt-in form that could be placed anywhere on your website, or via a dedicated landing page. This second option is usually useful if you’re trying to get opt-ins from paid ads or from social media posts. It makes sense to direct them to a purpose-built page rather than straight to your website where there are all sorts of other distractions.

Whether you have a website, landing page or both, there are some key elements to include that help you to get that email address:

  1. Attention ratio
  2. Enticing copy
  3. Attractive design

Attention ratio

Unbounce defines attention ratio as “the ratio of the number of things you can do on a given page to the number of things you should do.” Any landing page should have a 1:1 ratio, denoting one key goal of the page. When you’re talking about an opt-in form on your home page or anywhere else on your website, your ratio might be more like 10:1.

Your aim is to keep that attention ratio low and guide visitors to taking the action you want – opting in. Too many distractions can impact your opt-in rate negatively because people don’t pay attention to it.

Tips for improving attention ratios include:

  • Having one clear call to action
  • Using elements that draw attention to the sign-up form, such as pictures or an arrow
  • Using pop-ups or top bar forms
  • Reducing the number of elements on your page

Enticing copy

The written copy you produce plays a vital role in enticing people to take the next step. Whether on a landing page or as part of a sign-up form, the place to start is with your headline copy.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” David Ogilvy

Successful headlines tend to tell the visitor what they’ll get out of taking action, stand out and compel them to take action. Depending on the complexity of what you’re offering (and remember, the idea is not to be too complex), you may include a subheadline as well.

Melanie Duncan’s “4-U” formula provides a simple way to craft compelling headlines. The basic elements are shown in the image (borrowed from her website) below:

  • Useful = it solves a problem the target audience has (“Get More Opt-Ins With 5 Simple Steps”)
  • Urgent = language that indicates time or avoidance of a serious pain (“This Common Household Cleaner May Cause Asthma in Your Children”)
  • Unique = use of words that are interesting or novel
  • Ultra-specific = you hone in on the specifics. For example, instead of just “8 Marketing Tips for Small Businesses,” you might have “8 Killer Email Marketing Tips for Small Businesses.”

Any other copy you use should only be support the “big why” for visitors to opt-in. It comes back to that attention ratio – rambling won’t help you to keep people’s attention. 

Attractive design

Your visual design plays a big role in enticing people to opt-in. To start with, you might use contrasting colors that, while they still go with your overall look, help your opt-in form to stand out. For example, perhaps you use a contrasting border color, or fill color.

Another design element might include directional clues, such as arrows pointing to your form. A person’s eyes will naturally follow to the point of an arrow, drawing them in. Think also about your button design, using contrasting colors and stand-out shapes to make them obvious.

The type and placement of your form is also important. This is something you can test to learn more about what appeals to your audience. “Behavioral marketing” is the term used when you set up marketing strategies based on behavior you have observed (such as with Google Analytics). 

To give you an example, pop-ups can be very effective – they can also be very annoying! Timing tends to be the key. If visitors are hit with a pop-up the second they get to your website, that’s when they tend to get dismissed immediately. Waiting until they’ve had an opportunity to look at what they came for can be a better strategy.

A floating bar is another way to display your opt-in form that can be quite effective. Sidebar forms can work too, however, they’re also prone to people’s “banner blindness.”

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Final thoughts

Opt-ins can form a key part of your lead generation strategy, allowing you to build an email list as well as grow your visibility and trust with your target audience.

The key with any opt-in is that you must be giving people a good reason to subscribe and you must “package” the opt-in enticingly. For example, you should solve a specific problem that they have, giving them a quick win, and making it obvious how they should proceed to get your lead magnet.

Play to your strengths and showcase what makes you wonderful. This way you can make the best use of opt-ins on your website.

Marketing funnels

8 Essential Automations For Effective Marketing Funnels

Automating your marketing funnel can have ongoing benefits for your business.

Wouldn’t it be nice to gather leads, nurture prospects and lead people to buy from you, all with automated processes? 

It might sound a bit robotic for dealing with humans, but the truth is, if it’s done well, marketing automation can be a very effective way of ensuring you keep up engagement with leads and see more sales as a result.

Let’s talk about your marketing funnel and what you can do to simplify it with automation:

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The marketing funnel

Let’s start with the basics of a marketing funnel. You may also hear it called a conversion funnel or sales funnel. It’s core purpose is to nurture potential customers, from lead generation through to making a purchase.

The marketing funnel is depicted with different stages, with marketing activities strategically selected to be the most appropriate for each particular stage. This is an important concept to grasp – you need to ensure that you have each stage of the funnel covered when it comes to marketing strategy. Someone who is very familiar with your product needs something more than basic, “here is what we do” content, for example.

Below is a diagram of the marketing funnel, taken from ActiveTrail. It depicts the basic stages of a marketing funnel. You’ll see slightly modified takes out there, but essentially all of them are outlining how a new customer takes a journey from learning about your business, to making a purchase from it:

Marketing funnels

A marketing funnel that has been well-planned can work like a machine for lead generation and sales, which is where automation is a big help. Your marketing funnel may be very basic to begin with, but as businesses learn more about what works for them, they often want to add more complexity and function to their funnel.

Typical activities for stages of the marketing funnel

The marketing funnel has some clearly defined stages, with different activities suitable for each:

  • Awareness – This is the stage of the funnel that potential customers enter upon lead generation. So for example, they might have clicked on your social media ad, been directed to a landing page and then signed up for some type of content.

    A critical step at the awareness stage is segmentation of leads, ensuring that people get the most appropriate nurturing for their needs. This is especially true if you have multiple “personas” in your target audience, or different products and services.

    At the awareness stage, prospective customers are seeing you for the first time. You need to be able to quickly position your brand as a “preferred” alternative to others. You demonstrate authority and start to build the trust of new customers. Typically, you don’t come on strong with a sales message.

  • Consideration – During this stage, you have the attention of your potential customers. They’re aware of who you are and what you do and they’re interested to know more. You will have lost some leads that came in who may have decided you’re not a good fit. This is why the funnel gets narrower as it progresses: you expect to lose some potential customers along the way.

    Your aim here is to cultivate further interest and lead people to more detailed information about your products or services. Some typical activities might include producing content that talks about how to choose products or services like yours or what to beware of.

  • Decision – This is the “action stage” of the funnel, where the new customer decides whether to buy or not. In marketing terminology, this is where prospects go from being “marketing qualified leads” to “sales qualified leads.” The sales team will usually get involved at this stage (if you have separate teams – otherwise, you switch to sales mode!)

    The prospective customer is likely to be comparing what you offer to what competitors offer. Your job is to make the decision to go with your business as frictionless as possible. Typically, you might do things like incentivize the decision to make a purchase, or make yourself available for consultation.

Why automate your marketing funnel?

We will readily admit that building and fine-tuning an effective sales funnel can take some work, but the core point is that it will save you more work in the long-run.

An automated marketing funnel will:

  1. Allow you or your team to spend less time on menial tasks. There are a lot of small things that soon add up to large amounts of time that can be automated.

  2. Lower your labor costs. You need less people hours spent on menial tasks.

  3. Allow you to focus on more high-value tasks. For example, you could be having sales conversations with prospects instead of manually sending out emails.

  4. Improve your customer service. You can’t get to everyone right away, but an automated system can.

  5. Allow you to generate better leads. As you learn more about what works, you will notice patterns that help indicate how you might attract the right people.

8 automations for marketing funnels

Automation really is a key secret to successful marketing strategy. An important part of this process is that you should be so tuned into who your customers are and what interests them, that your automated processes seem natural to them.

Here are some automations for your marketing funnel, broken down by stages:

Awareness

#1. Social media 

Did you know that 1.47 billion people log into Facebook daily? Social media has a big role to play in building awareness, and while you can’t (and shouldn’t) automate it completely, you can help ensure consistency with automation.

In fact, consistency is one of the keys to getting results with social media. But maintaining a consistent schedule takes time and effort that business owners often don’t have to spare. A solution is to schedule social media posts using a tool such as Buffer, Hootsuite or Sprout Social. There are free versions available for businesses that don’t have a high volume requirement for posting.

The idea is that you can devote a chunk of time to curating and scheduling social media posts, rather than trying to post in-the-moment daily. It’s important to remember that while you can automate posts, you should still stay in touch and be ready to respond to any comments.

Of course, another big part of social media is the ability to use paid advertising. This is another aspect with great automation tools built in, like allowing you to schedule ads and to automatically adjust aspects such as pricing. You should also take the time to carefully target your ads, so that they’re automatically shown to people who are a good fit for your business.

Marketing funnels

#2. Lead generation

Whether it’s via social media, your website or paid advertising, you should always have an efficient method of lead generation. The idea is that you should be able to build an email list of potential customers so that you can engage them through email marketing later.

There are actually multiple ways you might automate lead generation into your marketing funnel. For example you might:

  • Set up gated content or a “lead magnet” on your website. Visitors have the option of filling out a form to access the content, while their form details are automatically added to your email program or CRM system.

  • Set up a specific landing page that you can direct people to from social media or other channels. They fill out the landing page form and it gives them access to content, a webinar or some other type of valuable resource.

  • Use a lead generation tool such as ClickFunnels. Paid programs like this are designed to make setting up your funnel easy.

#3. Lead segmentation

As we mentioned earlier, segmenting your leads into appropriate groups is a critical task. Segmentation allows you to nurture leads in a way that is most relevant to them, rather than simply blasting the same email out to everyone.

Let’s take our One Week Website web packages as an example. The One Week Website package is targeted toward new business owners who need a simple starter website, however the One Month Website package targets small business owners who want a new website built from scratch. Typically, the second group will be more established than the first and may want to go beyond basics on a website.

These are two distinct groups, so it makes sense to identify which group a lead belongs to then send content that will be the most relevant. There are some things that will interest one group, but not the other.

Segmentation can be automated using your email management tool (such as Drip, Mailchimp or AWeber). Most of the simpler email management tools only offer a basic level of segmentation (such as assigning a tag to the lead to designate where they came from). Some of the bigger CRM tools (Ontraport, Zoho etc.) will offer more complex segmentation, allowing you to slice up your list in many different ways.

Here are some basic ways you might segment your list:

  • By how they got there. For example, if they signed up for a particular lead magnet or attended an event.

  • By preferences shown. For example, showing interest in certain topics or products.

  • By actions taken – attending webinars, making a purchase, downloading something…

  • By demographic information. 

The “how to” for setting up segmentation will vary depending on the email provider you use. At a basic level, you set up rules that either add a tag to the person for easy segmentation, or put them on a certain list.

Consideration

#4. Content curation and creation

Content marketing usually forms the backbone of the consideration segment of the marketing funnel. Your aim is to be seen as an expert in your particular area by putting out valuable content on a regular schedule.

Artificial Intelligence and other technologies are getting more and more sophisticated, but we’re not suggesting that you can automate the entire content creation process. While there are some tools out there that will write, in their current incarnation, they can only handle rudimentary pieces like sports recaps.

There are some things you can set up automations for to help with your content curation and creation though, including:

  • Tools that recommend topics and content ideas. For example, BuzzSumo allows you to see the most popular content on any given topic.

  • Tools that allow you to set up automated alerts, which help you to curate content for sharing or gathering ideas. For example, you can set up Google Alerts for topics you are interested in.

  • Tools that assess your content. For example, Headline Analyzer will score how effective your headline is, while Clearscope will scan your post and score you based on your use of keywords for SEO.

  • Content posting and sharing automation. For example, you can schedule blog posts ahead of time in WordPress and set up automations that trigger email and social media once it has published.

#5. Email campaigns

One of your most effective nurturing strategies throughout the marketing funnel will be use of email marketing (that is, if you write good emails!). Like other marketing strategies, consistency is important because it helps to keep you recognized by potential customers.

Email campaign automations are one of the best ways to maintain your consistency while keeping up engagement. Here are some things to automate, using your email service provider (or CRM):

  • Welcome emails. If someone signs up to your list, you should always acknowledge their presence by sending an email. Make the best use of your welcome email by including information of value, such as how to follow you on social media or some suggested content.

  • Email drip sequences. For example, perhaps the potential customer signs up for a lead magnet, which triggers an email sequence being sent to them. Each email should have a clear point and deliver value to the subscriber.

  • Email contingencies. This means the sending of emails based on action (or even inaction). For example, you can set up automated rules that send a certain email to everyone who opened a previous email, and a different email to those who didn’t open the email.

  • Re-engagement emails. If your email system can manage it, you can create a segment of people who haven’t opened any emails within a certain period. You then automatically target them with a few emails designed to get them re-engaged. If you get no response out of that, you can have them automatically removed from your list. This helps to keep your engagement statistics looking healthy and ensure that you focus your energies on those who want to be there. 

Note: You might also send these emails for other stages of the funnel too.

Marketing funnels

Decision

#6. Emails for the Decision stage

We’re giving this its own section, separate to the last one on emails because here we’re talking about emails that are particular to the decision stage. The prospective customer is now at the bottom of the funnel and they’re either going to decide to buy now, to wait until later, or not to buy at all.

Here are some typical emails that you can automate for this stage:

  • Invitations to book a consultation or demonstration
  • Special offers or discounts
  • Abandoned cart emails. These seek to remind the customer that they left something in the cart and encourage them to return to complete their purchase. Some businesses choose to offer an incentive, some don’t.
  • Emails that highlight case studies or testimonials, helping the decision along.
  • The “last chance” email, where you remind the prospect that an offer is about to expire.
  • The “thank you” email after purchase. This might offer additional value such as tips for getting started or links to useful resources.
  • Follow-up surveys to gather feedback.

#7. Upsells

Promoting upsells is a smart way to increase revenue without having to find new customers. In fact, you’re more likely to sell to someone who already bought than one who hasn’t purchased yet. 

If you’ve been on ecommerce sites such as Amazon where you see recommendations like “people who bought this also bought …”, then you’ve seen automated upselling in action. There are a few ways to automate the upsell:

  • Offer the upsell during the checkout sequence. For example, “try our premium service for one month at no extra cost,” “get a second widget at 50% off,” “upgrade to business class for just $500 extra,” “add a two year warranty for $60.” Your cart software should be able to help you to do this.

  • Have an upsell widget in place on your website to make automated recommendations. For example, “people who viewed this product also looked at …” or “frequently bought with this product …”

  • Have an automated email upsell after the sale. For example, Air New Zealand has a program known as “One Up.” This offers passengers the chance to bid on a seat upgrade to the next cabin class up. Emails are automatically sent out offering One Up and customers are alerted a few days before their flight if they’ve made a successful bid.

    Hint: You will tend to have better success if you’re pitching the new customer on an idea that will help them rather than “spend more money now.” For example, if you sell leather belts you might say something like: “keep your new belt in top condition with this quality leather cleaner.”

    Note: Your email upsell or cross-sell offers could lead into new automated email sequences.

#8. Retargeting

Retargeting is the step where you aim to bring back people who have visited your website or viewed your ad. It basically means that you “follow” them around the internet (in a non-stalker way, of course!).

You have probably seen retargeting in action before. Maybe you liked one post for a brand on Facebook then noticed their ads popping up later, or perhaps you visited a website then saw PPC ads for that same website appear elsewhere. Retargeting is about being visible to prospective customers in the hopes that they’ll come back.

Here are some ways to automate your retargeting:

  • Facebook pixel. You input this pixel into your website and set up event tracking so that actions can be triggered by events. You also clearly define the audience you wish to target to guide back to your funnel.

    The Facebook pixel will track all events on your website and show corresponding ads to users who meet your defined profile. You can get quite granular with your targeting, setting up rules such as for people who visited a certain page within a certain number of days and took a certain action.

  • AdWords remarketing ads. These are good to set up for people who abandoned the shopping cart, visited your page or signed up, but then left. If you’re using AdWords remarketing for the first time, you’ll need to set up a remarketing list.

    You can automate the bidding for your ads if you’d like, but anyone who is budget-conscious may want to select manual bidding to avoid any surprises.

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Final thoughts

An effective marketing funnel is an automation machine, yet maintains a balance as a “human” voice to engage with prospective customers. Before getting started on automating a sales funnel, it’s important to set goals for each stage and to have a good understanding of what will appeal to your target audience.

A great place to start is simply by mapping out your funnel on paper. Start with how you will generate leads and what you’ll use to entice them, then look at addressing content interests and needs. Always aim to be able to keep up communication with leads and nurture their trust.

Finally, remember to consider what happens once a customer has been through your marketing funnel and made a purchase. There’s often a good opportunity to continue to nurture them and foster loyalty. This is another great area to use those email automations. The bottom line is that it’s much easier to keep the customers you already have than to gain a new one!

Email marketing best practices 2019

How to Get Results from Email Marketing in 2019

Email has been around for decades. The first email was sent in 1971. By the late 1990’s, adoption of email had soared.

Twenty years later, we’ve seen many incarnations of email marketing as technology has changed and marketers have had to find new ways to reach their audiences. We frequently hear claims that email is a dying channel, yet this doesn’t play out in research.

Email marketing best practices for 2019 are another evolution in the cycle, although there is a crucial element that remains unchanged; effective email content is about your audience.  Here we’re outlining some key challenges and best practices for email marketing strategy in 2019:

The audience for email campaigns

The rumors of the death of email marketing have so far proven to be just that – rumors. There is still a significant audience for email marketing. In fact, take a look at these stats from OptinMonster – the audience is basically anyone over 15-years-old!

Email marketing best practices 2019

One of the important basic steps to take with any sort of marketing strategy is to clearly define who your target audience is first. Email is still relevant and used by most customer types you can think of, but it won’t be the best channel for all of them. Do your own research into your intended target audience to understand their preferences.

OptinMonster further delves into statistics on email marketing and shows that, while email is now an “old” channel, it’s still more likely to reach its intended recipient than social media. With algorithm changes on social channels, reaching your audience organically can be challenging, whereas you can see in the data below, industry averages for email open rates are much higher.

Email marketing best practices 2019

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Biggest problems with email marketing

Once upon a time, emails were something of a novelty. The movie You’ve Got Mail highlighted how everyone used to notice when they got an email and there was some level of excitement over it.

The basis of most challenges that we have with email marketing now is that we don’t notice our emails anymore. The average office worker now receives 121 emails per day. We are so bombarded with emails, texts, pings, tweets and any other form of communication that it can be overwhelming. The biggest challenge for today’s email marketers is finding a way through all the noise.

Here are some of the most common problems that businesses have with email marketing:

  1. Their email list isn’t growing. Ideally, you want a constant flow of new subscribers to communicate with.
  2. Their email open rates are low. This means that few people who receive the email are actually opening it.
  3. Their overall engagement rates are poor. This might include things like a low click-through rate, or low conversion rate from the click-through.

The good news is that all of these issues are fixable with the right email marketing strategy in place.

Before we move onto some tips for getting results from your email marketing, take a peek at these insights from a Litmus poll on the biggest challenges facing email marketers. The answers given by those surveyed provide some clues as to how those issues we’ve highlighted might come about (although some are very specific to larger companies).

Email Marketing Challenges

How many can you identify that could also be an issue in smaller businesses? We see several: low insight into performance, poor tools, lack of quality data, bad strategy…

Get better results from email marketing campaigns

If you’re going to do email marketing in 2019, then you need to approach your email campaigns strategically. Emailing like it’s 1999 won’t work! Here are a few marketing tips for better results:

Establish email marketing goals

One of the first email marketing best practices is quite simple – every good marketing strategy has established goals. Principally, each individual email marketing campaign should establish who you want to reach and what you want them to do.

The goals you have will dictate the type of campaign you should send and the email content to include. Here are a few typical examples of email marketing goals:

  • To build brand loyalty among subscribers.
  • To nurture a relationship with subscribers so that your business is visible to them.
  • To boost engagement with your business. For example, perhaps you want more people to see your content or to follow you on social media.
  • To re-engage customers who have not been active with your business.
  • To sell something or get sign-ups for something you have on offer.

Importantly, having goals to work toward allows you to measure and understand whether your email marketing campaigns are effective. If you send an email with a goal of getting conversions but find that there are less than you had hoped, you can start to drill down on why that is happening. We know that email marketing can work very well, so what’s holding your campaigns back?

Understand the mechanics of an effective email

What makes for an effective email? To begin with, you need to get the mechanics right. Here are a few important points to understand:

  • Email deliverability – This refers to the email successfully arriving in the recipient’s inbox, rather than their spam folder. There are some steps you can take to improve email deliverability:

    • Maintain a good reputation for emails. Most email services will show you how you’re doing in terms of spam reports and unsubscribes – excessive amounts of these indicate a poor reputation.

    • Stick to a consistent send schedule. This can also contribute to your reputation and if your schedule is erratic, your emails may be rejected by the user’s IP. Additionally, a regular schedule helps to ensure that subscribers remember who you are!

    • Clean up your email list regularly. If you keep getting bounces or subscribers who haven’t opened your emails for a while, purge them.

    • Use branding in your “from” field. For example “Danny from One Week Website.” This has been proven to help reduce spam complaints and increase open rates.

  • Have your emails optimized to be read on mobile devices. Emails are now opened more often on mobile devices than desktop. Furthermore, if your email doesn’t display correctly on mobile, it may be deleted within three seconds. Most email service providers now offer email that automatically works with mobile, but it pays to check yours.

  • You need to be good at crafting an email subject line. If you’re past the deliverability hurdle and your email is now sitting in an inbox, whether it gets opened or not may depend on how much your subject line stands out. This is something to A/B test and work on improving over time.

  • Your email content needs to be valuable for the intended audience. One of the quickest ways to end up with a poor reputation score is to send out emails for the sake of it, or with poorly thought-out content.

  • Your “call to action” must be clear. So you have a goal for the email, have you made that obvious to the reader? If you’re hoping to get them to take another step, it needs to be clear to them what that is.

Personalize your email content

According to a survey by DMA Insights, 53% of consumers say that they receive too many irrelevant emails from companies. This often happens when companies take a “spray and pray” approach to email campaigns. They blast out the same email to everyone at once, no matter what their interests are or how they came to be on the email list.

The bottom line is that a more personalized approach where you segment your list (such as by interest, or by stage of the buyer’s journey), will improve open rates, engagement rates and your overall conversion rate.

Personalizing email content is often pegged as one of the hot email marketing trends for 2019, but realistically, it goes beyond a trend. Ensuring that your emails are relevant to the people receiving them is one of the core best practices of any type of marketing.

Here’s where it gets interesting – while we’ve known about list segmentation for years, today’s technology allows us to go even deeper. We’ve got more automations available based on customer behavior, for example. You can set up “rules” that say “if they do this, then send them that email.”

The use of “big data” to gather insights that further help to personalize content is also growing. However, along with that has come a surfeit of data. There is so much available that your average marketer often can’t possibly analyze it all on their own. Artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to sort, analyze and report on data.

What does this mean for email marketing? AI can allow you to go beyond segmentation to get even more personal with your emails. Several modern marketing platforms are enabling this use of AI so that businesses can automate a more personalized approach (because who has time to craft each email personally?)

As Smart Insights puts it:

“People have come to expect retailers to deliver content that recognizes their unique tastes and interests. For marketers, that means segmentation just won’t cut through the clutter: to drive engagement, email content must appeal to the individual on a personal level.”

Grow your email list the right way

When it comes to new subscribers, think quality over quantity. This means building your email list the right way with the right people on it, such as via a landing page with an opt-in, not by buying email lists or importing from dubious sources.

In fact, new data protection laws are often prohibitive of sneaky old ways of building an email list. The EU GDPR is big on “permission based marketing,” meaning that you should have obtained consent from people in order to email them. For businesses in countries outside of the EU, this is important to know – the laws apply to you if you are considered to be storing or processing the data of any EU citizens.

Outside of data protection laws, it just makes good sense to have appropriate permissions to email people. You’re not doing your reputation any favors if you blast out emails to any address you can get your hands on. Besides that, there is definitely a trend pointing to the tightening of data protection laws – we don’t know whether the US or others may follow the EU example.

With GDPR compliance in mind (because let’s face it, you don’t know who might fill out an opt-in form on your website), you need to explicitly get permission to continue to send emails to people. You can’t assume that just because they’ve filled out a form requesting your lead magnet that they can now be subscribed to your newsletter. You need to get their permission without pre-checking any boxes for them, like the example from SuperOffice shown below:

Email marketing best practices 2019

Using some type of “lead magnet” – a giveaway that entices people to sign up with you is still a great strategy for growing your list. The trick is to choose something that is most likely to encourage the right people to sign up, usually something that will be of specific value to your target market.

If you were to say, offer a drawing for a new iPad in return for signing up, then you’d probably get a lot of people who just want an iPad but otherwise aren’t a great fit for your business. When you offer something that answers a specific pain point or really will only be of interest to someone who is a genuine fit, you get a better quality list.

Know your email marketing types

Your email content should vary with the goals of your marketing campaign and the specific stages or needs of the email recipient. OptinMonster describes email types as either promotional emails, relational emails or transactional emails. Each has their own purpose to fulfill:

  • Promotional emails – These talk about new products, sales or offers. For example, you might send an email with a coupon code for a special deal or advertising your Black Friday specials.

  • Relational emails – These deliver what you have promised to the subscriber. For example, your weekly newsletter, an email course, or information that is of value to the subscriber.

  • Transactional emails – These include all those emails that relate to an action that the subscriber took with you. For example, a welcome email for subscribing (always send these!), confirmation emails for purchases, and sign-up or changes to subscriber detail confirmation messages.

An effective email is one that the recipient expects to get and that delivers value to them. Even the welcome email can be used to say more than just “hi.” Think about anything useful you might be able to include to get the subscriber started. Other transactional emails can also offer a bit more value, for example, what if your purchase confirmation included a video about how to use the product?

Promotional emails tend to be more effective if they’re not sent out constantly (unless your business is something like Groupon where people expect to be sent emails on different deals). Otherwise, you don’t want your email list to become immune to receiving offers from you.

As for your relational emails, keep one core principle at their heart – sharing something valuable. If you don’t have a lot to say in your weekly newsletter this week, think about one relevant snippet that your audience may find useful. Engagement rates remain strong when you avoid emailing just for the sake of sending something.

Of note from recent trends in email marketing is the emergence of interactive emails. These emails allow people to take action from within the email, rather than be taken to another site when they click on a call to action. For example, a customer who bought a product may be able to give it a rating from within the email.

Use good email marketing tools

Email marketing strategy is always better if you use good-quality tools to help with the task. The best service providers include professional email design, the ability to create email automation sequences, and a useful analytics function so that you can monitor your campaigns.

If you go looking for an email service, you will find a large number of options available to you. These vary from free (with restrictions on subscriber and email numbers), to hundreds of dollars per month. The difference is generally in the features available. The higher-cost providers tend to offer more ability to segment lists and to automate functions. These are often great for companies with a large list, but a small business with a smaller list may be able to achieve their goals by starting out with a free account from someone like Mailchimp.

One hint for improving your odds of a better response is to use tools that help you to avoid making mistakes. From the client perspective, it’s just not a great look to receive error-laden emails, emails that don’t open properly, or emails with simple mistakes (like calling them “Jenny” instead of “Danny!”). Email tools such as GetResponse allow you to test out your email in different, popular email clients before hitting send. This way you can avoid some of the more elementary mistakes that can wreck your marketing efforts.

When you test out your email, pay attention to how it reads. Is it easily skimmable? Does the formatting change at all for particular email clients? Think about the things that make your email “easy” for the reader.

Here are a few tips for what to consider when choosing an email provider:

  • Does the email software integrate with any other software that you use and need information from? (For example, sales software)
  • Does it offer attractive, mobile-optimized templates?
  • How does the software handle responses? For example, if you have a large list and get a lot of responses, you might want the software to organize responses into support tickets.

Measure your marketing strategy

A major component for getting results from your email marketing strategy is to measure and test your campaigns. You’ve got to have the right metrics defined (dependent on your goals) so that you’re taking action on things that make sense.

For example, it’s unlikely to be worth adjusting your landing page or wherever you’re sending people in the hopes of a conversion if you have poor click-through rates in the first place. If people aren’t clicking where you’d like them to, look more closely at testing things like:

  • The layout of your email – is it confusing or difficult?
  • Your call to action – is it compelling and clear?
  • The content of your email. For example, is there so much going on that people miss the call to action? Are they being torn between multiple calls to action? Is the content really delivering value?

You can also A/B test things like:

  • Different subject lines and their impact on open rates
  • Plain text versus images
  • Short versus long content
  • Placement of any calls to action
  • Landing page text and its impact on conversion rates.

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Final thoughts

Email marketing in 2019 is still a strong, relevant channel to engage with your customers. Of course, the caveat is that you can’t be using old “tactics” with your email campaigns. Today’s audience is more seasoned and savvy – they expect companies to deliver them value in emails, not another addition to their spam folder!

As with websites, software and any other touchpoint with a customer, think about the user experience for your email recipients. The most effective emails tend to be hyper-targeted to them and easy to interact with.

Remember to consider data protection issues and building your email list the right way. The trend for tougher laws on this isn’t going away – in fact there is a lot of consumer demand for it. With some simple planning and tools in place, you can build a quality email list of engaged subscribers.

Social media marketing

The Small Business Guide to Successful Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing has become a necessity for small businesses.

You may already have a website and a local customer base, but social media helps to further boost brand awareness. In fact, 44% of local businesses rely on social media for brand awareness, while more than one in three internet users say they go to social media to find more information about a brand or product.

Many small business owners hesitate over social media because it’s one more thing to manage in their vast to-do list. However, investing some time and effort into social media can pay off, especially if it helps to draw more customers to your business.

The key is to do social media strategically. As a small business, you don’t have the resources of the big brands and their massive social media operations, but you can take a targeted approach to reach “your” people.

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How to choose the right social media platforms

Start by clearly defining your goals for social media, your target audience and identifying the best platforms to choose that will meet those criteria. You might choose to be on multiple platforms, but as a general rule, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you find yourself trying to juggle too many social media channels, you can end up doing none of them effectively.

How do you choose the right social media platforms? There are two main factors we would take into account:

  1. Know the purpose of each social media platform
  2. Know which platforms your target audience is most likely to use.

You need to understand the underlying purpose of each social media platform to know how you could use it to meet your business goals. Just because a platform is popular, doesn’t mean it will be a good fit. The graphic below from CNBC gives a short and sweet summary of each platform (although it is a little dated – Google+ was recently taken down).

Social media marketing

You may already have an idea of the types of content you’d like to post to social media, so this can be a consideration for platform choice too. For example, if your content is big on visuals, you’ll want platforms that show visual content well. Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are all channels where users look for hot visual content.

Another factor is the resources and skills that you have at your disposal. For example, if you aren’t great at video and don’t have the means to have quality videos made, then YouTube probably isn’t the best choice for you.

As far as knowing which platforms will be the best fit for your target audience, there is data widely available to show you who is using each platform. You may not be able to get an exact profile match, but you’ll be able to find key demographics.

For example, take a look at research into social media platform usage and demographics from Pew Research or Smart Insights. You will also find information on social media penetration across different countries and benchmarks for engagement.

Social media marketing

You can see that YouTube and Facebook are the most widely used online platforms among U.S. adults, but here is where it’s important to have your own audience defined. Among millenials and Gen Z, Snapchat and Instagram are more popular.

What to post and when

A universal rule across social media platforms is that businesses shouldn’t be “salesy” all the time. In fact, some of the most effective content for driving business goals doesn’t appear to “sell” at all. For example, content that is designed to provide useful information or to be entertaining. The bottom line? Based on your target audience profile, post the things that are interesting and valuable to them, NOT posts that are primarily based on your business interests. (Although of course you should occasionally post about new products or sales you are having).

Getting to a more granular level, it’s about understanding what is most appropriate for the platform you are using. Facebook is multi-purpose in terms of types of content you can post. You might choose pictures, text-only, text and pictures or videos. The aim is to build up a fan base on your business page and get people liking, sharing and commenting.

Twitter is much more fast-paced with home feeds updating a constant flow of tweets. It’s about sharing quick pieces of information or imagery enticing enough for people to notice and click on in the moment. The audience tends to skew older than platforms like Snapchat.

Below, we’ve put together a table of suggested content types for different social media platforms, along with a recommendation for how often to post on each. This recommendation is taken from research published by CoSchedule, but as always, it’s important to test for your own business to figure out what suits your audience. Mix up your content and frequency until you have found your own rhythm.

Social Platform:Content Type/s:How Often to Post:
FacebookCurated content, videos, photosAt least once per day
TwitterNews, GIFs, snippets from and links to blog posts15 tweets per day
InstagramHigh-quality photos, quotes, stories1 – 2 posts per day
PinterestPhoto guides, infographics, “how to’s”11 pins per day
LinkedInProfessional content, blog posts, company news, jobs1 post per day
SnapchatEngaging stories (video or photo)At least daily (stories last for 24 hours)

There aren’t any hard and fast rules for social media, as long as you use the platform as it is intended. One tip if you’re stuck for ideas on content is to look around at what top business accounts on the platform in question are doing. There are always studies being done into which posts are the most effective that you can do a search for.

Alternatively, try setting up alerts for keywords or topics related to what you do. This will keep you abreast with what is being posted and you will be able to see which content gets good engagement.

How to get engagement on social media

The whole idea of social media is to be “social.” If you can get good engagement on your social media channels, it tends to beget further engagement. Good engagement means that your posts get shown more often to more people and you have the potential to reach new customers.

To begin with, you need to make sure you are delivering content that is worth following. The old post-for-posting’s-sake approach won’t do for the overall profile of your business. Make sure all posts are well-thought out and conducive with the messaging that you want to send as a brand – you’ll confuse people otherwise.

Think about the types of content that get people responding. A simple one is to ask a question. “What was your first car?” is a post that is much more likely to get a response for a car dealer than simply a picture of a car.

Another strategy is to tell interesting stories. Look at Humans of New York on Instagram as an example. They tell the stories of real people and the audience always responds. Why? Because we are wired to pay attention to stories. We’ve used storytelling for thousands of years to form connections with one another.

There’s an obvious strategy that many businesses often mess up – actually being social. This means starting conversations, joining in conversations and responding when people take the time to comment or send a message. If you don’t reply to questions on your posts, for example, people notice and soon lose interest. They figure that you’re not really active on the social media channel anyway.

Furthermore, there is data to show that social media has become a vital platform for customer service. 80% of customers engage via social media while 54% prefer social messaging channels for customer care. If you’re not responding quickly, it just may cost you the customer.

How to effectively use paid social media marketing

Most social media platforms now have their own paid marketing options. This means you can run advertisements that appear “native” to the channel, such as sponsored posts on Instagram.

Effective use of paid social media marketing means having a good understanding of the platform you are using first. You need to understand your audience and know the types of posts that they engage with. You need to have clear calls to action that help drive people toward the end-goal that you have.

Paid social media can have some great advantages over other types of paid advertising. It can be very cost-effective, particularly because the social platforms offer you ways to narrow down your target audience. This means that your ads only get shown to users who meet your criteria, rather than shown to just anyone.

Our best tips for getting the most of your paid social media are:

  1. Go in with a very clear audience definition
  2. Have well-defined goals for your advertising
  3. Take the time to craft engaging ad content
  4. Test, iterate and re-test.

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Final thoughts

Your small business needs a presence on social media if you want to boost awareness of your brand. Increasingly, consumers are turning to social media as they search for products and services, and they’ll often buy from businesses they trust from following on social media.

One of the major challenges for small business owners tends to be the time and resources to do social media well. We suggest that if you are limited on those things, you choose the one or two platforms that are most likely to put you in front of your target audience.

From there, it’s about learning the particulars of your chosen channel. Understand the intent and the desires of the audience using it. Post regularly and do what you can to encourage engagement. Supplement with paid social media campaigns.

It may seem like a lot of work, but social media has become essential for businesses. Don’t let yours be left behind!

Marketing for local business

5 Practical Tips When Marketing for Local Business

Are you a local business that needs marketing strategies to reach new customers?

Around 85% of small business owners say they rely upon word-of-mouth to attract their customer base. Referrals are great and of course you should try to get them, but there are more expedient ways to reach a larger audience.

Online marketing is not just the domain of large or online-only businesses. Online methods can be invaluable when marketing for local business too. You might not have the budget or brand power of the big business titans, but you can use a few practical strategies to reach your local community.

Here are five to get started:

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#1. Optimize for local business search

You’ve probably heard of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), but did you know that local SEO is a thing too? In a nutshell, this means optimizing your website and online presence so that customers looking for a local business can easily find you on search engines.

If you don’t yet have a website, research into local business marketing shows that you’re not alone. In fact, many local businesses still aren’t online, much to the detriment of their visibility. Of local businesses that are online, many have neglected their websites, or have not optimized them for local SEO. Why is this important? A lot of consumers are beginning their search for a local business online. The image below from Social Media Today shows just how many:

Marketing for local business

Here are a few tips for local business optimization to make the most of your website:

  1. Optimize your homepage and meta data. This means ensuring you have clearly stated who you are, what you do and where you are based in key places. Your page title tag, header tags and meta description should contain this information. Using local business schema on your web pages helps to make search engines understand what you do. This is additional code that can be added to your pages to speak to search engines in their own language.

  2. Have complete contact information on your website. You should include key information such as your phone number, business hours and address. A tip here is to ensure that this information is listed on your website exactly as it appears on your Google My Business listing.

  3. Claim your local business listing at different online directories. These tend to show up early in search engine results. Sites such as Yelp, Google My Business and the Yellow Pages are important to be listed on.

  4. Prioritize getting (good) reviews. Word-of-mouth is always going to be important for a local business, but more than that, online reviews have been shown to significantly correlate with search engine rankings. Importantly, it’s not just the number of reviews that matter, but what people are actually saying in those reviews. It has been shown that positive reviews help to enhance your ranking.

#2. Engage on social media

Do you have a presence on social media yet? Many business owners struggle with maintaining their social media accounts and making optimal use of them. As a small business, you’re probably limited on resources, but social media marketing has been proven to be invaluable for local marketing too.

If you want to reach your local community on social media, it’s important to know where they hang out. Do they use Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram? Or does your business suit a younger demographic who may be more frequently on Snapchat?

When you have limited time and resources, you need smart marketing strategies, so start by focusing on the most likely channels to reach your customer base. From there, it’s a matter of being “social.” You need to engage at a local level, rather than worrying about having thousands of “likes’ across the globe. This means being present and active on your chosen channels.

Here are a few tips for doing local social media right:

  1. Build a personal relationship with your audience. Include things like team selfies, behind-the-scenes photos, and content that locals will get.

  2. Keep your audience engaged. Post things like topics of local interest, questions of the day or even local giveaways. As an example, Lake Tahoe Television posts a “question of the day” video on Facebook and gives away a local sponsor prize to a winner.
    Marketing for local business

  3. Provide valuable content on your social media channels. Constant promotional posts tend to turn people off, but if you can give them something to keep them interested, they’ll engage. For example, you could post demonstration videos, ideas for local activities, or helpful resources.

#3. Sponsor local events

Local events can be a great way to boost the profile of your small business, both on and offline. Depending on where you are located, there may be any number of community events needing sponsorship or providing the opportunity to set up a booth. Your Chamber of Commerce, Rotary club or other local organizations are often good sources to find these events.

As a local business, participating in events can bring you face-to-face with your target audience. Sponsorship or participation can also help with local SEO in the form of backlinks. Usually there will be some kind of website for the event with links back to sponsor websites. Depending on how well the organizers market the event, there will often be profiles of sponsors on the event social media pages as well.

Depending on who your target audience is, consider events, conferences or training opportunities that are small and local as well. For example, you might have some expertise that can be shared with locals. Picture a garden center providing tips for planting a vegetable garden, or a marketing agency taking a training session on social media for local business owners.

It’s all about generating good will by giving back to the local community, as well as boosting your business profile in the process. You can make it a “soft” marketing opportunity by giving away branded swag or even signing people up for a free consultation.

Marketing for local business

Source

#4. Try local content marketing

Content marketing has been shown to be one of the most effective marketing strategies if it is done well. Small business owners often worry about having to compete online with larger companies that have more resources, but the answer is to think about your local market first.

This means identifying what your target audience looks like locally, and what sort of content they’d like to see. As an example, a landscaping or gardening company in a fire-prone community might put out instructional content on defensible space around houses.

If you have some budget to pay for content, using local content creators can be an extra way of boosting your profile locally. Local writers or content creators often have a profile and influence locally that you can leverage. Usually they will share content that they’ve created for you.

Another solid strategy is to get guest content from local contributors. For example, that landscaping company might get some input from the local fire department or Forest Service. They might source content from other businesses that are adjacent to theirs, but not direct competitors. In fact, partnerships with other local businesses can be a fruitful and efficient way of sharing resources and cross-promoting one another.

In a piece for Moz, Mike Ramsey talks about how your content should be both local AND useful. To get you thinking, he lists these ideas:

Ideas of things that are local:

  • Sports teams
  • Local celebrities or heroes
  • Groups and events
  • Local pride points
  • Local pain points

Ideas of things that are useful:

  • Directions
  • Favorite local sports
  • Granular details only “locals” know.

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#5. Try a loyalty program for local customers

What keeps you going back to your favorite coffee shop? For most people, it’s a combination of good coffee, great service and the ambience. The cherry on-the-top that often keeps people returning is the loyalty card. Often it’s the basic punch card – buy 10 cups of coffee and your next one is free.

The fact is we respond to rewards programs and local customers appreciate getting something back for their loyalty. It’s a great local marketing strategy to encourage customers to return.

As far as reward or loyalty programs go, they tend to work best if they are simple for both your small business and your customers to use and understand. The punch card is easy to implement, but the con for the customer is remembering to carry a card, while the downside for your business is that you’re not collecting their details so you can stay in contact.

Apps can be effective as most people carry their phone around everywhere. On the other hand, look at your customer base – would an app be excluding older customers from your rewards program?

Another method is to use rewards software at the point of sale, for example by having people register with a phone number or email address that they then provide at every sale. These can be more costly to implement, but they do allow you to follow-up with customers. On the other hand, not all customers will be comfortable with handing over their contact details.

What will work for you? Make an assessment of your local area and target audience to figure out what people will be most likely to want to use.

Final thoughts

It’s important to take a “local first” approach when marketing for local business. If the majority of your customers are from your immediate local area, then you should gear your online marketing and any offline efforts toward them.

Optimize your website for local search and engage on social media. Deliver content that matters to locals and seek out opportunities for local events. Find ways to reward your customers for their loyalty and keep them coming back.

Local marketing doesn’t have to be at the scale of the big businesses online, it just has to reach its intended audience. Consistency and a genuine local approach will help to lift your business profile.

Social media marketing Social media marketing

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan for Your Small Business

Does your small business have a social media marketing plan?

Over the last decade or so, social media has become a key part of marketing strategy for most businesses of all sizes. Those who tend to do well from their marketing efforts are the businesses that have strategized and planned their approach.

Your social media marketing strategy should paint a clear picture of what you want to achieve with your social channels and how you’re going to do it. It’s easier to execute well when you have a plan, right?

Let’s take a closer look at what the core elements of your social media marketing plan might look like:

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#1. Know your current social network status

Before you put pen to paper on a social media marketing plan, you’ve got to know where you’re starting from. If your business is already on social media platforms, do a self-audit to understand how they are doing.

You can look at:

  • The social platforms you are on. Are you posting regularly and are you getting engagement?
  • The audience you are attracting (if any). Are they a good representation of your target audience?
  • Your business presentation on social media sites. Are you communicating what you’d like to be, in the way you’d like to say it?
  • Which social networks (if any) are bringing you the most value?
  • How does what you are doing compare to any competitors?

Gather and hold this information to help you make decisions during the planning process. Importantly, you should also run a check for any “imposter” accounts – those operating under your business name that pretend to be you. If there are any, these can be reported to the relevant social platform.

Social media marketing

#2. Set goals for social media marketing

What exactly does your business want to achieve from social media marketing? Everyone wants some sort of return on investment, what do you consider that to be?

Now that you know your current position, you’re at the first step for beginning a social media strategy. Goals will help you to know what to measure and how to measure it. We like to use the SMART method, indicating that all goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound.

An important part of setting these goals is that they will help you to define the most meaningful metrics for tracking them. There can be a lot of “noise” in social media and it’s easy to get caught up in it, losing track of your real business goals.

Take Facebook “likes” for example. What do they really mean? It’s easy for anyone to quickly click “like” as they scroll by, but this doesn’t tell you that they’re actually engaging with your brand or even that they’re part of your target audience. “Likes” and metrics such as retweets tend to be “vanity metrics” – they feel good to get, but they don’t provide you with anything of substance.

It’s important to stay focused on the things that are meaningful and contribute to your core social media goals. You may even have different goals for different channels – that’s fine, as long as you articulate and measure them.

Some common goals for social media presence include:

  • Driving brand awareness
  • Positioning your business or its people as thought leaders
  • Using social channels to drive traffic to a website
  • Engaging your specific target market
  • Improving customer retention
  • Driving leads and sales.

#3. Know your target audience

“Customers are your best teachers. Learning about your customer’s beliefs, values, and priorities teaches you which selling points you should emphasize.” Mark Goulston

Defining and understanding your target market helps you to hone your social media strategy. Why is this important? Well, there are millions of people on social media and probably just a fraction of them represent your ideal customer. You can waste a lot of time on social platforms, or with curating content that doesn’t attract the right people.

Sometimes people worry about being “too narrow” with their approach. They think that they’ll lose business by ignoring particular audiences. This isn’t usually the case though. For example, if you sell binders for snowboards, why would anyone who is not interested in snowboarding buy them? It’s the sort of product that people who know snowboarding buy for themselves.

From a social media marketing perspective, it’s important to know your customers well so that when you share content, it is selected to be of interest to them. One key part of doing social media well is that you don’t just try to “sell” all the time. You need to be putting up regular content to drive engagement. Without both regularity and engagement, social media platform algorithms start to throttle your organic reach – they assume the audience isn’t interested.

What do you need to know about your audience? Here are a few key items:

  • Their demographic information
  • Any geographic information if relevant
  • What their main interests are (including pages they might be following)
  • What their main problems are.

If you run Facebook ads or any other kind of social media advertising later, this information helps you to segment your audience for those ads. This is a much more efficient use of your marketing spend.

#4. Research competitor social media sites

Do your competitors already have a social media presence? This is a good opportunity for you to learn, not so you can copy them, but so you understand what might work for you. After all, you will have similar user bases, right?

Here are a few tips for researching your competitors:

  • Find which social networks they are on. Look at the numbers on their pages – this can be an indication that the social platform is a good match for the target audience. (Not all platforms will be – you are much more likely to find a 22-year-old on Snapchat than Facebook, for example).
  • How quickly is their following growing?
  • What sort of content are they posting?
  • What is their social media engagement like?
  • How often do they post?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?

To help you out with your analysis, there are some tools you can use for further insights. For example, BuzzSumo will show you the number of social shares they receive, while Brandwatch provides some deeper insights.

#5. Choose your social media channels

Based on your goals and your target audience, decide which social media channels will be the best for your business. As a small business, you tend to have some fairly hard limits on time and resources. This means it’s important to choose your social platforms wisely.

Sometimes people try to do all of them at once, but find that they are overcommitting themselves. What ends up happening is that they’re spread too thinly to conduct any one social platform well. It’s better to pick one or two that you can commit to. The best choice is simply to choose where your target audience can be found.

How will you know? The research you’ve already conducted should have revealed demographic information – this is easily checked against statistics from data companies for social media platform usage. Try Smart Insights or Pew Research, both of whom conduct annual studies.

Importantly when you make your choice, you should also consider the types of social media content you are willing to produce or curate. Different platforms work best for different types of media. For example, there’s no sense in committing to Instagram if you won’t be able to regularly post high-quality images.

Social media marketing

#6. Document your social media strategy

We’re fans of documenting your social media strategy, along with any other business processes. This helps greatly to create a cohesive and consistent marketing plan, no matter who comes and goes in your business. It’s important to keep everyone on the same wavelength.

Your social media plan should be the governing document for “how we do things around here.” You don’t want someone going rogue and posting things to your social accounts that aren’t a good fit for the business.

You can include any or all of the items we discuss in this post, and you should definitely include:

  • The tone or voice to be used in your posts.
  • A description of your audience and what interests them.
  • Post types that are acceptable, or unacceptable.
  • Any policies that you have for engagement. For example, when someone private messages or mentions your Twitter account, how quickly should a response be made? What are the rules of engagement? Are there some things that must be escalated? Are there some types of messages that will get the sender blocked? (As public platforms, ANYONE might be commenting or messaging you!)
  • The goals for social media marketing and the metrics used to analyze them.

#7. Optimize your social media presence

Whether you’re starting from scratch or revamping your current social media presence, it’s always a good idea to optimize your social media accounts. This means setting them up to give the best possible impression, deliver what your audience will need, and get you noticed.

Sometimes this looks different for each individual social media channel. For example, many businesses use Twitter or Facebook for customer service queries or issues, whereas they might be using Instagram stories or Pinterest for sharing company culture or product information. If you have a preference, let followers know how to contact you for help or any other reason. Optimize your social profiles based on your goals for the platform.

At a basic level, optimizing social media platforms means:

  • Ensuring all information fields are filled out. Have you noticed the number of businesses that haven’t included a website link in their social profiles?!
  • Using high-quality images that are sized correctly for the platform. Make sure you have a good profile picture and any other common pictures, such as cover images.
  • Conduct keyword research to find what terms people will use when searching for businesses like yours. Use keywords in your available fields, such as “about.”
  • Using any calls to action you have available. For example, a Facebook Page allows you to have a button CTA – what will you ask people to do?

#8. Share content that engages your audience

In the end, the success of your social media marketing plan is all about your content. If it doesn’t grab your target audience, you won’t get very far. To do this, you need a good understanding of your audience and their intent when they’re using your chosen social media channel.

One of the first things to do is to develop a content calendar for your social media channels. There are tools that can help. For example, use Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule out posts into the future. Just remember that you need to be checking in and responding regularly. You can’t automate engagement!

While there have been questions as to whether using a third-party app for social media posting impacts reach, there have been multiple studies (including this one) to suggest this is not the case. Again we’d emphasize that the point of social media is to be social. You can’t set and forget it if you want to generate audience engagement.

You can look for inspiration from what other successful businesses are doing. For example, check out the Shorty Awards, or look for posts about “the most successful social media campaigns.”

If you’re relatively new to social media, or if your business hasn’t been particularly active, what you post may be a case of trial and error. You can use your best guess based on the data you have collected as to what might engage your target audience, but otherwise, test out different types of posts.

#9. Drive traffic to your social accounts

These days organic reach can be a bit of a lottery. We’ve entered an age when social media platforms are maturing and “pay to play” is here to stay for businesses. It’s still important to post regularly on your social media channels, but if you’d like to drive traffic consistently, you will probably need a bit of help.

A key part of your social media marketing plan should include any paid strategy that you have. Most social channels now have their own paid marketing tool, giving you the chance to reach a wider audience and gather important insights along the way.

Facebook advertising allows you some complex segmentation tools as well as deep analytics for your ads. You can view results during your ad campaigns and make adjustments as necessary.

Besides forms of paid social media marketing, share your social accounts everywhere! You can include “follow us” links for each channel on your website, put links in email newsletter footers or signatures, include them on your business cards, and even share across your personal accounts.

Lastly, we really meant it when we said your content can drive your social media success. If you’re regularly sharing strong content, you start to get people engaging and sharing. This draws more people to your pages, to continue a cycle of drawing traffic.

Social media marketing

#10. Invest in social media tools

As a small business, you have a huge list of responsibilities that fall on you. It’s nice to have social media tools to take care of some of them, right?

The best social media tools help you to stay on top of important data so that you don’t miss anything. They help you to automate key tasks and free up your time to create more of that great content.

It can be a little overwhelming when you start to look for marketing tools. There are now many options and mixes of features. We’d suggest that you start by looking at the little tasks that you need managed and take it from there. Some tools will automate tasks completely, while others will make them a lot easier. Some are purely for social media, while others are for content marketing of all types. For example, there are tools for:

  • Checking on marketing trends and influencers
  • Finding popular content
  • Tracking in-depth analytics (more than social platforms offer as a standard part of their features)
  • Social listening – tracking trends and mentions of names or topics
  • Scheduling your posts
  • Creating or editing images
  • Creating animated videos
  • Setting up “rules” for tasks

The aim is to have your social media marketing plan running as smoothly as possible. You’re human and you get busy – it’s nice to know that doesn’t have to mean dropping the ball with your social media channels.

#11. Stay on top of social network engagement

A big part of improving your organic reach is being consistent and timely with how you engage on social media. We’ve probably all seen those social media accounts where someone asks a question or says something in the comments that really requires a response, only to receive crickets.

What is acceptable in terms of response? Consider these statistics:

  • 45% of consumers turn to social media first for questions or issues
  • 21% would rather message on social media than contact the company over the phone
  • 21% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands they can reach on social media
  • The average user waits just four hours for a brand to respond on social media
  • The average brand takes 10 hours to respond.

Timeliness on social networking sites is critical. Let’s just say you have a potential customer who doesn’t know you very well yet. They message you via one of your social media channels and wait for a response. And wait. Eventually, when they haven’t heard back within a few hours, they check out a competitor and send them a message. The competitor responds within a couple of hours… You get the idea – having a service level agreement (SLA) for responding is important. Even if you can’t respond within a couple of hours, letting people know what to expect helps.

Facebook provides impetus for brands to respond quickly to messages by having a badge which indicates how responsive you are to messages. In order to get the “very responsive to messages” badge, you need to have achieved both of:

  • A response rate of at least 90%
  • A response time of less than 15 minutes.

If you have the “very responsive” badge, all visitors to your page will see it. If you don’t, only page administrators will see your responsiveness statistics.

Besides the messages you receive that require a quick response, it helps to stay active in the comments of any posts too. If someone has something to say, respond and keep the conversation going. When people see that you respond, they’re more likely to engage.

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#12. Test your social media strategy

For most small businesses, your first run at a social media marketing plan won’t be perfect. You’ll learn things along the way that help you to guide your marketing strategy and make changes where necessary.

Tracking your results with your metrics tools (such as Google Analytics) is critical so that you understand objectively how you are performing against your social media goals. It’s also worth noting, sometimes you need to be prepared to wait for results. Established pages with larger user bases see results from posts or campaigns more quickly. It can take a bit of time to build up a regular following – commit to consistency.

Another strategy for gathering useful data is to split test (or A/B test) your campaigns. This involves testing small elements to see what works better. For example swapping out images or text. The Facebook Ad Manager allows you to do this.

Once you have gathered some solid data, analyze it and look for where you can improve. Re-evaluate, re-test and update your social media strategy regularly. Over time, your social media channels can form a key driver of traffic and a valuable asset to your business.