How To Make The Most Of Your Small Business Online Marketing Activities

Internet stands out for its speed and effectiveness. As online marketers we have to synchronize with this speed and deliver effective marketing content in the least amount of time and gain maximum mileage. Of course, we should run on a long-term-plan track, but sometimes quickness is needed to achieve business growth spurts. Let’s take a look at how this can be done effectively.

Having a detailed plan

Having a detailed online marketing plan with clear objectives and goals is a great way to start. This keeps things tight and also avoids deviations which marketers may easily fall for in the course of execution, consuming more time. Working within a detailed framework helps to keep it directed towards the goals and also helps in decision making when encountered with multiple marketing options or deviations. So make a written marketing document and then start the action, this is surely a great way to save time and get more results.

“40% of small businesses surveyed by Marchex cite not having enough time as their largest marketing challenge.”

Engage savvy resources

Online marketing is a professional’s job and attempting to do it on your own is a mere waste of time with low effectiveness. So the key is to keep it simple by engaging online savvy marketers or by outsourcing the job to experienced professionals. Their experience will not only help you in getting things done faster, but also give you the ability to try and test the latest techniques of online marketing with ease.

Focus on exclusive areas and goals

This is as simple as it sounds. First define your immediate and long term objectives and then focus on those exclusive goals or targets, this makes the whole process easy and less time consuming. For example if your objective is to generate leads, then all your efforts, tools and channels used should lead to that objective and shouldn’t deviate from it. What small businesses need to do is: concentrate on lead generation, manage their online presence and invest in relationship marketing to start with.

“According to small businesses surveyed by Marchex, the top three things they care about are getting leads (27%), keeping existing customers (29%), and communicating with existing customers (23%).”

Choose and use effective channels

Internet is a colossal mix of tools, channels, information and lots of other stuff. And being smart in choosing the right information and channel which can carry your marketing message to the intended prospects is the key. For example, use YouTube for visual ads and SEO, use Twitter and Facebook to spread the word, place your online ads only on websites which has most of your prospects clicking, anticipate whether a blog can do better than a site and so on.

“Search engine marketing, social media marketing and email marketing topped the list of most effective channels for marketing in a survey conducted in US.”

-Source MerchantCircle, Merchant Confidence Index Q1 2011

Continuous application

The response time and feedback mechanism on internet is really quick and faster than any other media. So this mandates the need for continuous application of your marketing process to make it more lively and responsive. This has two benefits; you can get faster results in less time and also create an impression of a very lively brand.

Frequent reports and assessment

This goes with the earlier point, you need to always keep an eye on the responses on your activities, its effectiveness and conversions. This calls for frequent report generation and assessment of your results and plans. Go for the change if needed at random pace, however keeping it to the point of bringing more effectiveness. This constant vigil can make a huge difference in the whole scheme of things.

Use the latest tools and technology to make work faster

The pace at which the online scenario changes is amazing and rapid, every day new ideas and options creep up and as an online marketer it’s your job to keep your eyes open to all that is coming up, which can prove more effective for you. There are many marketing automation services, social media tools, buzz monitoring tools, web analytics tools, RSS feed readers, and so on. Pick the right set of tools, and devote a fixed amount of time daily on these tools to keep track of all that is happening.

All these can surely get you the results in the least amount of time, however it all boils down to your marketing approach and application of these effective techniques.

Success Secrets of Small Business Entrepreneurs – 10 Tips For Business Success

Owning and operating your own business can be a liberating and exciting opportunity. Creating your own success and mapping out your future on your own terms is empowering. At the same time leaving the comfort of employment including regular working hours, benefits, and a consistent salary can often be discomforting, if not downright scary. For most entrepreneurs the desire to be independent and create your own life outweighs all apprehensions, but still comes with associated risks.

While there may not be a bullet-proof success formula that works consistently for every business, there are common characteristics that unite all successful entrepreneurs. Continue reading to determine how many of these skills and characteristics you have mastered as well as where you may want to focus on improving.

1. Positive outlook on life and success. Successful entrepreneurs tend to be optimistic, upbeat, and look to the future as an opportunity still awaiting. Big dreams are a common theme with successful small business owners and often what propels the individual and the business to its ultimate success. In conjunction with the big dream comes the necessity to break it down into smaller visions that can be clearly articulated, monitored, and measured. Many if not all successful entrepreneurs have great imaginations and spend time mentally visualizing success. This includes thinking about specific deals, transactions, and events that will ultimately lead to personal and business success. Clarity of purpose and staying focused on the task at hand are critical to achieving business success. The more realistic the visualizations and dreams the more likely you will be to achieve. Success is ultimately birthed in the imagination and mind and translated through daily actions inspired during those visualizations.

It is widely known you must “see it before you can achieve it.” Though business success ultimately lies in the physical ability to provide a product or service at a profit, the product, service, and ultimately the unique approach to these transactions are all byproducts of mental visualization. If you are an author, visualize your next book signing after your release has gone #1 and you’ve made it to the best-selling list. If you run an auto repair shop, visualize successful interactions with clients in which you deliver exceptional service and value during each transaction. Ultimately you must take whatever niche, product, market, service, and segment you are involved in and visualize how you will succeed at delivering value to the clients you serve while ultimately earning a profit. The most successful entrepreneurs out there visualize the success of the product or service in their mind prior to it being affirmed in the physical marketplace.

2. Passion = Profit. Personal passion is a prerequisite for any successful business. If you enter a business deal strictly looking to make money or achieve success and aren’t passionate about the business, the people, or the end result, you are severely limiting the potential outcome. Passion ignites enthusiasm in those that surround you; team members, clients, vendors, etc. Profits find passion in business regardless of the market segment. Passionate about auto recycling? As strange as it may seem other people are too. Embrace your passion and look for ways to share your excitement and knowledge about a specific product or service with others who share a similar interest. Embrace your love for the product or service you deliver and follow the path that ignites passion in your daily life. Passion provides the necessary motivation that ultimately leads business owners down a path towards fulfillment of goals and dreams.

3. Compensate for weakness and focus on your strengths. Most of us have been taught through the traditional school of thought – which unfortunately restricts our ability to succeed. Traditional thinking teaches us to be humble about our strengths and consistently strive to improve our weaknesses. Successful entrepreneurs often turn this mantra upside down. Instead of spending countless hours and energy attempting to develop skills you may never master – focus on what you do best and compensate for the rest. We are all gifted with unique individual talents that are expressed naturally in our day-to-day interactions. You may be good at writing, analysis, speaking, insight, relationships, painting, interacting with kids, animals, etc. We all have inherent traits that come naturally and don’t require long hours of hard work to achieve. That doesn’t mean we don’t improve with practice, but let’s face it, some of us are specifically better at things that others aren’t. Focus on those things that you do best and compensate for the things you don’t. Find team members that are strong where you are weak and vice versa and you will build a synergistic team that supports each other exponentially.

4. Failure is not an option. Successful entrepreneurs understand that failure is not an option and continually look for ways to succeed. Don’t allow failure to be considered at any level in the organization. Focus on success at all times and never let the possibility of failure take root in your mind or business culture. There will always be setbacks and learning lessons throughout any business venture and life, but find the opportunity for growth and success in every dilemma and challenge faced. All negative circumstances can be turned in to a positive and ultimately failure does not ever have to be selected as an option. Any circumstance can be re-framed with a positive twist no matter how bleak the situation may appear.

5. Prepare and execute the plan. Dreaming often comes naturally to entrepreneurs. Detailed planning and execution may not. In order to ensure success at moving from where you are to where you want to be, a detailed plan must be drafted and executed. Utilize the Merlin Method (“begin with the end in mind”) and work backwards from there. For example, if you would like to become the next Donald Trump, start with Donald Trump as the end result. Move back from there and make a list of the traits required to become Donald Trump. What relationships, transactions, business deals, and skills are required to succeed? Which of these do you possess? What items to you need to work on? Assess where you are at, who you are, and ultimately who you need to become to get to where you want to go. Formulate a plan that enables you to move down the path acquiring the skills and building the relationships necessary to ultimately arrive at the end result you are striving for.

6. Be dedicated! Successful entrepreneurs know that a business is similar to a baby in that it will require nurturing, attention, and caring, throughout its entire life. Different stages will require different levels of input and interaction. Make sure you are serious about and able to afford the time required to ensure successful implementation of your business plan. Long hours and hard work are often part of any phase of the business. If you are truly passionate about what you do none of this will really be negative. Remember to schedule time with family and friends, and most importantly for yourself. Though many hours may be spent caring for and nurturing your business, you ultimately are not good to anyone if you burn out before the business succeeds. Be conscious of how you are feeling and the work load you are undertaking. Being dedicated does not mean you are completely consumed by the business. When at work focus and commit to completing the necessary tasks at hand. When scheduled away from work – leave the business alone. Be dedicated to your business, your family and friends, and living a balanced life and you will be more likely to succeed in all areas simultaneously.

7. Build relationships and network. Ultimately it isn’t what you know – but who you know. We have all encountered this motto multiple times during our business careers, and it still rings with truth in every situation. Surround yourself with a competent team, board of directors, advisers, vendors and partners and continually look to network. Ultimately the people you meet during your daily interactions will be the ones that will buy from you, support you in delivering your product or service, or in supporting you personally in your quest for success. Opportunities will present themselves through the people you meet on a daily basis.

In business, you are judged by the company you keep – from your management team, board of directors, and strategic partners. Businesses always need assistance, more so small businesses. Maybe the lady you met in a trade association meeting can help you secure funding, or the gentleman you bumped in to at a conference can provide you with management advise. It is important to form alliances with people who can help you, and whom you can help in return. To succeed in business, you need to possess good networking skills and always be alert to opportunities to expand your contacts.

8. Desire to learn. You do not need to be an MBA degree holder or PhD graduate to succeed in your own business. Actually formal education is often inversely proportional to the amount of success achieved in small business. Curiosity and a desire to learn how to solve real world issues is what propels many business owners to success. Talk to those around you and find out what would best help the greatest number of people in your market and you will have found a winning proposition. It often isn’t about how smart you are in a certain area but more specifically how well you are able to clue in to what other people are telling you and how you can help them solve problems.

9. Keep the faith. The road to success will often contain detours and potential pitfalls. Keep faith in your original dream and vision and ultimately good things will arrive. Realize that one of the biggest factors in determining your future success will be in how you deal with temporary set backs. Stay focused on the ultimate end result and have faith in your ability to succeed. Setbacks are strictly learning lessons that ultimately teach you how to be better at what you are attempting to do. Each setback enables you to pick back up and potentially increase momentum in your business by utilizing the learning lessons from the experience.

10. Practice discipline. Thomas Huxley once said, “Do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you like it or not.” Do what others are unwilling to do and ultimately you will have opportunities that others won’t. Realize that you are on a mission that requires faith, commitment, and discipline. Find those traits and behaviors that support success and practice the discipline required to hone those skills day-to-day.

Ultimately if you possess or are able to master these 10 characteristics shared by successful entrepreneurs you will find yourself to be one of them.

The Sports Event Every Small Business Owner Should Watch

Can you imagine leading a pack of 12 Siberian Huskies across 1,000 miles of freezing cold (and brutally tough) Alaskan terrain?

I can’t.

Sleeping as much as you can in a paper thin tent…

Eating rock hard beef jerky whenever you get a chance…

And being blasted by Mother Nature.

And while many would argue that the Tour De France or the Kona Ironman are the toughest endurance events on the planet, I say it’s the Iditarod dog race.

Why?

Because anyone who’s willing to lead a pack of 12 dogs for 20 days while Mother Nature is doing her best to CRUSH this person, is someone with a boatload of mental toughness to do darn near anything they set their mind to.

And here’s something else to ponder:

The Iditarod participants get next to no chance to rethink… re-strategize… or change course because the clock keeps on ticking. So they have no choice but to go balls to the wall hoping their original race plan is enough to win.

Sound familiar?

Everything about this race reminds me of how business is done in the 21st century.

You got all kinds of competitors dying to eat your lunch.

You got all kinds of customers price shopping you on the internet.

You got all kinds of government regulations strapped around your neck.

And despite all of these roadblocks, you have to find a way to lead your business (as well as your team if you have employees) over, around, through and under every single obstacle that stands in your way.

So what?

What’s the big lesson here?

Now that I think of it, the lesson here is the fact that business is tough. Business is hard. Success does not come easy no matter how many times we’re reminded about that one-in-a-million overnight success.

Sure, you can certainly have a big breakthrough in business.

But more than likely, you’re going to have days, weeks, months and maybe even years where the going is slow like the Iditarod dog race. And if you are truly committed to success then you have to keep plowing along… making slow and steady progress until you lead your pack of dogs across the finish line.

The irony in business is the fact that the finish line never comes.

Huh?

Yeah, because once you achieve one goal there is another goal looming on the horizon.

This is also why you have to celebrate your success (when you cross that finish line) so you don’t burn yourself out.

So there you have it.

The sporting event you should follow if you own a small business and are serious about making it successful.

Email Marketing For Small Businesses

Why You Should Use Email Marketing For Small Businesses

Email marketing is more important than ever as a tool to help improve small business’s customer base and bottom line profits. This is especially true with competition being greater than ever in this prolonged recession. There is not much else that can impact a company’s bottom line faster than a well thought out email marketing campaign to a large and well-nurtured email list.

A business can easily and cheaply deliver a large number of customised and personalised messages at predetermined intervals for next to nothing, so why not take advantage of it? Every business, big and small should be doing this. Most Small Business have not developed a serious email marketing strategy and this is something that should be done sooner rather than later. They are leaving money on the table, so to speak, by not using this valuable method of marketing.

Before you can conduct any sort of meaningful email marketing campaign, you need to have a list of people’s email address and names if possible. There are a number of ways to get this moving fast. As they say “the money is in the list”.

What is a Customer Worth to You?

Customer Lifetime Value

Most Small Business owners won’t know this, but here’s how to calculate it:

Determine average net spend of a new customer transaction:______________

Determine average # of repeat purchases per year: ______________________

Estimate average # years a customer patronises the business: ________________

So, let’s say the average customer buys an item worth £100 profit to the business, and then repeats this process once again in the year, they are worth £200 to the business in year one. If they remain a customer for 5 years, they are worth £1,000.

Use any figures you want, but this is a simple way to view the worth of a customer

Building Email Lists:

  1. Website pages. You never know which page a visitor will land on when they arrive at your site from a search engine or link. You maximise your chances of getting a lead if you have a signup form on every page of your site.
  2. Special Internet-Only offers: Try to get your customers to get on your email lists to receive these special offers. The offers can be discounted products, two for one sales, coupons, vouchers or whatever you wish.
  3. Ask for email addresses. Get your staff to ask customers for their email address.
  4. Send postcards to your mailing list. If you have postal address information but not email addresses of existing customers, send them a postcard asking them to subscribe to your email list. You will want to provide them with some sort of incentive of course.
  5. Use Invoices: add a sign up box on your invoices.
  6. Rented Lists: Can be useful in building a subscriber list. Be careful and only use a reputable provider of such a list and make sure your list contains names and addresses of people who are specifically interested in your type of products or services. Otherwise a waste of time.
  7. Create a Newsletter:and promote it in all your company correspondence and advertising.

Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Do Confirm all new subscribers: This will be done automatically via your autoresponder.
  2. Do Use the “double opt-in” method to ensure the integrity of the signup. This confirms that the subscriber has given you their email address is done by having the subscriber reply again via email to confirm.
  3. Do use the Unsubscribe Link Feature:This is very important to let the subscriber know they can get off your list by unsubscribing. This stops a lot of complaints about spam. All reputable systems will provide this feature.
  4. Do Personalise Each Message: You can increase both your reading and click-thru rates considerably by putting the subscribers name in the email. It’s important to establish a relationship with each customer.
  5. Do Choose Your wording Carefully. Most email systems use spam filters that analyses the certain words or combinations.
  6. Do Use Eye Catching Subject Headings: When your email arrives in your subscriber’s inbox, there are only a few seconds to the subscribers attention. They will quickly delete your email or ignore it.
  7. Don’t add email addresses to your list: unless the person has given you permission.
  8. Don’t forget to sign your messages: Always include a signature at the bottom of your emails, as it’s one of the easiest ways to attract more traffic to your website. This signature should include your personal details, your company details, and an unsubscribe link.

Email Marketing Systems

Ok, now you have the basis of email marketing. Let’s focus on what you need to do next. You will need to select the Autoresponder system that best suits your requirements. Below are some of the more commonly used systems. These are not expensive and includes the hosting of the software (basically you only rent it) and your subscriber lists and follow up messages etc as well. These are all Hosted.

AWeber: Has some great features and is easy to use. Costs around $19.00 per month, but cost will go up once you go past 5000 subscribers. Highly reliable and robust.

GetResponse: Similar to Aweber, but a little more difficult to use in my opinion. Cost about $18.00 per month, cheaper with annual payments.

Trafficwave.Net: You get unlimited autoresponder and click track reporting. Price stays the same regardless of how many subscribers you obtain. Cost about $17.95 per month.

Imnica: A new and up and coming hosted system. It has the vast majority of features the others, same deliverability levels, and LESS strict policies. Imnica Mail also has a full blown API for easy integration with existing systems. Not as easy to use as some of the other, but a great price at $9.00 per month.

With Imnica Mail you also get unlimited lists, unlimited AutoResponder messages, and unlimited broadcasts to your list.

InfusionSoft. Good choice for larger businesses that need to send out huge quantities of email. It integrates email marketing, sales, e-commerce, and even customer service.

Autoresponders Generally:

Because email marketing applications are available as hosted solutions, businesses do not have to worry about using their internal systems to send messages, nor do they have to worry about managing the mail server or backing up their database. Most importantly, they don’t have to worry about legal issues and CAN-SPAM compliance. With these third party systems, all of that is done for them. Once the email system is setup with the chosen provider the next step is to develop the email list. As email is the primary method of online communication. You should have a website that captures leads and sales, nothing is more important than the email marketing system behind it.

Creating an “Opt-In” Form:

You create the Opt-in form within the Autoresponder. You chose the type of form you want, edit the wording and the system provides you with a code that you can cut and paste into your website.

Of the five above systems above, I recommend AWeber mainly for its reliability and ease of use. They also have a very neat “light box” feature that allows you to setup an opt-in form without needing to change the design of your website. They also have good tutorials which lead you step-by-step through the setup process and use of the system.

What Kind of Emails: HTML or Plain Text?

What does this really mean? Basically with HTML you can send messages with text plus graphics and banners etc. With Plain Text it’s text only.

Ideally, you would like to send your messages sent using HTML and graphics to get the full impact, just like in print flyers and direct mail. This works just fine, however, there are a few things to keep in mind with HTML email messages:

  1. Many people will only accept email in Plain Text and have “images” turned off in their email accounts. If you send HTML emails to them, they will only see the words and not the graphics…not really the impression you want to convey.
  2. Generally most of communicate in plain text (i.e. just words). It’s more personal and is more likely to be opened and read.
  3. Plain Text has is disadvantages as well. For example you can’t use all of the means at your disposal to get your message across, such as headlines, photos, pictures, etc
  4. I recommend that you start out with PlainText

Building Email Lists Through Offline Methods

All Businesses, both large and small should be building their email list offline as well as online.

A good example of this is a retail outlet dealing directly with customers. The staff could ask their customers if they want to sign up for Internet Specials. Staff could even wear a badge saying “Have You Heard About our Internet Offers?” When the customer asks a member of staff what the Internet Offers are, they say they change all the time so it’s best to email them to you each time they change…do you want to get on our email list? Your Staff can capture the email information on a small card specially prepared for this or on the part of the receipt that the business keeps. This method is a bit slow, but over time it will grow significantly. This same basic strategy can be used for any business where there is direct customer contact.

Summary:

Email Marketing for Small Businesses is vital and over 90% of them are not using email marketing at all, and the others are not doing it very well. As a Small Business Owner you can leap ahead of your competition if you take advantage of Email Marketing.