Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Create a Marketing Plan by Answering These Essential Questions.

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Create a Marketing Plan by Answering These Essential Questions!

Writing a small business marketing plan

You've built your small business, developed your products and services and you're ready to make sales: all you're missing, is an audience. Marketing is the stepping stone that lets people know about what you've created and encourages them to buy; for that, you need a marketing plan.
You don't need to be an expert at marketing to create a useful small business marketing plan, you just need to ask the right questions, do some research and create some compelling answers.
Marketing needn't be a 'dark art' and so long as you approach it with an open mind and there are some simple, practical steps you can take right now to put an effective strategy together. This should result in a marketing plan that works, getting you better value for money for your marketing budget and helping you grow your business.
In this article, I’ll share the questions that will help you create a lightweight and effective approach.

It's important to take a closer look at how you define your products, services and audience. Asking these questions will help you identify exactly what you have to offer, who might be interested in buying your products and services and where you might find your audience.
These questions are all about understanding what your small business has to offer your customers, helping you to define your product and service and the unique selling points that make the difference.

What is the specific product or service that you are marketing?

Clearly define in one or two sentences exactly what your business provides, emphasizing your key products and services as a customer might experience them.

What is it about your product or service that is unique or sets it apart?

Explain what is unique about your business offering. Share some detail on your products and services about what makes them desirable and valuable to your customers.

Why would a customer buy your products or services, rather than one of your competitors?

Think about what helps a customer look at your business and understand what sets it apart from your competitors. Explain the value that your business offering provides: you might set yourself apart through providing higher quality services, unique skills, knowledge or experience, better pricing, a different approach, niche solutions, accessibility or greater value for money.

These questions help you to identify and understand your audience. They will help you decide where your potential audience is, who they are and what they want.

Who are the audience and target market that your products and services are targeted at?

Identify the people or businesses that are most likely to be interested in what you have to offer. The more targeted you can make this, the easier this will make things. Remember that it’s much more effective to market to specific niches rather than to the market as a whole.

What does your audience want or need, what is the benefit to them?

Clarify what it is that your target audience specifically requires from your business, product or service. There should be a clearly explainable benefit of what is in it for them as a result of purchasing what you have to offer.

Where does your audience hang out?

Use your experience to think about where your audience are likely to be. There might be popular forums or websites, or perhaps there are magazines or newsletters dedicated to serving the niche your business is serving. Again, the more clearly you can define this, the better as you will be able to target your marketing more effectively.

Next, we’ll examine one of the most important aspects of marketing, the ‘Call to Action’. A call to action is the step that you want a potential customer to take when they interact with your small business. That might be making a purchase, contacting you, submitting information or something else.
Whatever it is, engaging with your audience effectively is critical to winning new business and the quicker and easier you make it, the more success you will have.
These questions are all about engaging with your audience and thecustomer action that you want them to take as a result of seeing your marketing and advertising.

What are the most effective ways / channels to reach your audience?

Based on where your audience hangs out, brainstorm the most likely ways that you might be able to reach them. There are numerous ways including: advertising online or offline (hard copy, media, radio etc.), social media (Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Google+), advertising on specific websites, forums or newsletters, pay-per-click and display advertising, posting to forums as an expert and many more. Spend some time researching the many and varied channels. It will be well spent.

How will your audience engage with you?

Assuming that people do reach you, think about how you will engage with them. If it is via a website, ensure that the website is setup to handle their visit and guide them to the information they need. If you’re going to speak to them either face-to-face or over the phone, make sure that its easy to reach you. Think about how you can make contacting your business as easy, quick and painless as possible.

What action do you want people to take?

Known as the ‘Call To Action’, this is one of the most vital parts of marketing, defining what you want people to do as a result of them seeing your message and engaging with your business. This might be signing up for a free account, making a purchase from you, getting in touch for further information or something else. This is the next step in the process from converting them from being a potential customer into an actual customer.

What is the next step?

Answering all of these questions will provide a strong basis for a simple and effective marketing plan. Once you know what you are offering, who you are targeting, how you are targeting them and what you want them to do as a result, you’ll be in a much stronger position. You can then use this information to build compelling messages and calls to action that get you customers, build your brand and lead to a successful business.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Local SEO Strategy 2014: For Small To Medium Sized Businesses

Local SEO Strategy 2014: For Small To Medium Sized Businesses

Posted on Monday, 17 March 2014 by  Origianal Post at:  Blog.WooRank
If we always say that change is the only constant in online marketing this is even more important in local SEO. Taking this into account, although we have already discussed extensively on how to optimize your site for local SEO in the past, this post will entail certain local SEO strategies that have been prioritized in 2014.
In 2012, it was reported that 61% of local searches resulted in purchases. In 2013, ever since Google’s Hummingbird update was released, the search engines have become smarter than ever before in returning relevant, personalized and even localized results for searches. Take advantage of being the first one to use the local SEO strategies for 2014 that we highlighted for you:
Local SEO Strategy 2014 For Small To Medium Sized Businesses
Local SEO Strategy 2014 For Small To Medium Sized Businesses

Local SEO Strategies 2014

You might have already optimized for local SEO in the past and the old rules still work, but there are newer strategies that weigh in hugely in 2014:
  • Long Tail And Meaningful Keywords

You may have to rethink your keyword strategy on the website and around every content linked to your  website. With Google’s Hummingbird update in the picture, keywords in the form of questions (e.g. what is the best pizza place in Manhattan) deliver as good and relevant search results as their robot-friendly counterparts (e.g. Pizza Place Manhattan).
Take a look at the following example for Pizza Place Manhattan.
Local Search Result For Pizza Place Manhattan
Local Search Result For Pizza Place Manhattan
And now take a look at Google search result for what is the best pizza place in Manhattan.
Local Search Result For What Is The Best Pizza Place In Manhattan
Local Search Result For What Is The Best Pizza Place In Manhattan
In the traditional search, both these search terms would have given you similar results. But now 90 percent of those results do not bear resemblance to each other. That is because Google search understands the user intent much better. So, if you want to target the second category of search users, you would rather use long tail keywords in your site content as well as every other content linked to your site. But it does not mean that if you use long tail keywords, you will show up in the first page of Google Map results for that keyword. There is a combination of many other factors in play here and they are discussed below.
  • Optimize For Organic SEO

Adam Steele from Lean Marketing and Mike Blumenthals of did some recent local pack (set of local search results) case study on Google SERPs. They found that these local results were influenced by individual website’s organic SEO ranking. This means that if you rank well for organic SEO, you will rank better in local search results as well. So, do not give up on your organic SEO efforts in 2014 and keep working with meta title and meta description optimization, heading tag optimization, page speed, image optimization, url optimization, rich snippets, social media optimization, strategic link building, content marketing, conversion optimization, to name a few.
  • Optimized Google Maps And Google Plus Local

Google maps have always been a core local SEO ranking factor with local businesses. The integration of Google maps and business previews from the corresponding Google+ Local have increasingly strong correlation to local SEO.
Google Maps And Google Plus Local Local SEO Strategy 2014
Google Maps And Google Plus Local Local SEO Strategy 2014
Thus, if you have an optimized Google Maps and Google Plus Local page, your local SEO strategy of 2014 is headed towards the right direction. Take note of the major local SEO optimization points below with respect to Google Maps and Google Plus Local
    • Accurate NAP – When accurate NAP (name, address and phone number) details are available.
    • Address Match On Website – The NAP details must match with that on your website.
    • Proximity to Google’s City Marker – When your location is closer to a city recognized by Google on the map.
    • Number of Reviews – The higher the number of reviews on Google+ page, the better.
    • Quality of Links – The quality of websites that mention your business, website or NAP details (with a link to your website).
    • Number of Local Citations – Citations from local business listing sites or review sites.
    • Number of Third-Party Reviews  – Number of reviews you receive on sites other than Google+.
  • Pinterest Place Pins 

Pinterest announced a new feature in November 2013 that was called Place Pins. This feature would be of a certain interest to local businesses in the food and hospitality industry.
Place Pins Feature For Desktop And SmartPhones On Pinterest
Place Pins Feature For Desktop And Smartphones On Pinterest
Users of Pinterest, can pin new destinations that they already have on their boards or search new places on the map. The map search is powered by FourSquare.
If you have a good fan following for the amazing services you give to your local visitors in a restaurant, resort or hotel, pinners can view your NAP and service details and images of your business related products and services right on the map. Read this article that gives a step-by-step guide to Place Pins, to local businesses.
  • Getting Local Citations

There is no change to this local SEO strategy in 2014, only that it gains in importance. In the post Hummingbird era, local citations from quality directories and other locally relevant sites are still very important to gain higher local SEO ranking on Google search. Check with Get Listed how well you are listed around the web in locally relevant sites. Use this tool to check if you are listed under the right business category with Google Places. We recommend using a Microsoft Excel worksheet  or similar to keep track of all your business listings. You can use this template to save and track your business’s local listing. Keep your listings duly updated with accurate NAP details. We have hand-picked a list of quality business listing sites for major countries. Check whether you are listed in them:
  • Mobile SEO
Forty per cent of mobile searches have local intent. Local SEO is not influenced by mobile SEO (yet), but mobile SEO sure depends on local SEO. This is because not every small, mid-sized and large businesses have optimized for mobile yet. Their website’s rankings on desktop thus cannot be influenced based on their website’s mobile performance. But in the near future there exists a possibility that search engines rank sites with mobile-friendly websites too, on account of the rising numbers in smartphone and tablet users.
On the other hand, when you are on top of your local SEO, you have a higher advantage of ranking high on mobile SEO. In such cases, if a mobile user happens to visit your site, you will be required to give them an awesome mobile experience, otherwise it is just going to affect your local rankings on mobile. Take a look at some statistics that support my point on why mobile SEO is important for local SEO of small to medium businesses:
    • Ninety percent of American adults own a mobile phone out of which 58 percent own smartphones. (Source: PewResearch)
    • Sixty-three percent use the mobile to access websites. (Source: PewResearch)
    • Google’s study on mobile search suggests that 40 percent of mobile searchers are for local services or resources. (Source: Google)
    • Every three out of four mobile searches is a follow-up action that includes tasks such as research, store visit, social media sharing and a phone call. (Source: Econsultancy)
If your small business does not have a mobile-friend site yet, check out our three part series of blogs for that give you a list of responsive web design tools:
Search engines such as Google spare no time in updating their algorithms to improve the quality of local SERPs. This poses a real challenge, especially for the small and mid-sized local businesses, who cannot afford local SEO experts to keep their site up-to-date to these changing trends.
But, it is not all that difficult on your own either. Just know what you are doing and prioritize your local SEO strategies in 2014 accordingly. You will compete alongside bigger brands on local search, sooner enough.

 These were the priority-based local strategies of 2014. Let me know how many of these strategies you have adopted already this year?
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