Small Business Marketing Tips | Christie Graphic Design

Small Business Marketing Tips | Christie Graphic Design

Small Business Marketing Tips

Small Fuel Marketing Blog
How to Take Advantage of Your Web Visitors (aka Conversion)

Website Conversion FormulaOnline marketing is a multi-faceted process. Not only do you need a professional website, but you need a way for people to find your website. And then once you have visitors to your site, what do you do with them? Unless your website visitors are contacting you or becoming customers/readers/etc., what is the point of your website?

Luckily, there are a lot of ways to take advantage of your site visitors, no matter how many of them there are. The process of turning website visitors into customers or subscribers is called conversion. Here’s a simplified breakdown of what we do at SmallFuel when customers come to us to get more out of their web presence:

First Step: What Do You Want

Without a goal in mind for your site, you’ll have a hard time getting anything accomplished. Do you want to bring in more customers? Do you want to receive more requests for quotes? If you’re a blog, do you want more subscribers/followers?

Make sure that your goal is accomplishable on your website, which means you need to be able to update your site to complete your goal, or adjust your goal to match your site’s current capabilities. If your goal is to get more customers, but you don’t have a product that’s able to sell through ecommerce, then you should consider adjusting your goal to getting more leads or requests for information.

Second Step: How To Convert More

Once you have a goal in mind for your site, there are certain actions you can do to make that goal more realistic. If you’re already considering a site redesign, make sure certain goal achieving elements are included in the design.

Page Flow

When visitors reach your site, they’re not going to automatically ask for more information or buy your product. Most likely, they’ll go through a series of pages before they decide whether or not to contact you. As a website owner, you want to direct them through these steps as quickly and easily as possible.

Write out what you think the ideal page flow would be for a potential customer. It might look something like this:

  • Home Page → Services Page → Service Landing Page → Contact/Request a Quote
  • Blog → Individual Blog Entry → Subscribe to Blog
  • Individual Blog Entry → Most Popular Blog Entries → Subscribe to Blog

You may want to create a few of these page flows, depending on where you think visitors start on your site. Most likely, they’ll start at the home page. If you have a blog, start a page flow from both your blog index and your individual entries as well. Note that the pages included in your page flow are the ideal path that visitors will take, but you’ll need to make it easy for them to leave this path and find other information your site as well. Your main site navigation should accomplish this. A lot of visitors will want to see examples of what you do and your About Us page, and you need to make it easy for those visitors to easily navigate your site so they don’t get frustrated and leave.

Page Content and Design

You can direct traffic in two ways: design and copywriting. There are a lot of techniques with your site design that can guide visitors to the next page in the page flow. For example, if your site has a strong color theme, then you probably have a specific color designated for actionable items such as links, buttons, and certain navigational elements. You can also use page layout and images to direct visitors to a specific button or link that directs them to the next page in the page flow. Designing a page to accomplish a specific action can be a bit tricky, so it might be best to direct your designer to create something for you.

The second way you can direct visitors is through the content on the page. You want to give customers enough information to keep them interested and be informed, but you always want to provide some incentive for them to continue to the next page on your page flow. For example, if you’re on the Services Landing Page, you’ll want to tell your visitors that they’ll be able to get even more information and details on how your product can help them by giving you a call or an email. Don’t forget about keeping with your company’s brand or style throughout the content.

Third Step: Keep Visitors Close

Even with a great design, excellent content, and a clear page flow, some site visitors just won’t be ready to ask for a quote or contact you. However, this doesn’t mean that those visitors are lost. You can catch visitors with a few different subscription methods.

Email Newsletters

Newsletters are a great way to keep interested site visitors close to your company. Create a company newsletter using one of the numerous newsletter providers out there (aWeber, ConstantContact, and MailChimp are a few of the most popular ones). Have your website designer or developer include a newsletter signup box on almost every page of your site. We have one prominently displayed on our front page and then include the same box in our sidebar. Setup your newsletter to send out an automated response when they signup. The automated response should thank them for subscribing and give them an idea of what to expect in future newsletters. Most importantly, send out an email to your newsletter list at least every month so they remember you and keep interested. This way, when they’re ready for your services, they’ll remember you and be much more likely to visit your site again and contact you.

By creating a company newsletter, you ensure that people who are interested in your company have a way of being updated on any news and information you want to provide. For small businesses (and larger ones too), an email newsletter will really allow you to keep your valuable website visitors close.

RSS

RSS feeds are another way for users to receive updates from your site. If you have a blog, or a news section, chances are you can create a RSS feed. Users can then subscribe to your feed using a whole bunch of different methods. RSS feeds are a bit trickier to get setup and running than an email newsletter, but the extra work is worth it to continue growing your site’s subscribers.

Twitter/Facebook

If you’re not already using social media, now may be the time to do so. Using twitter or Facebook allows you to connect with your website visitors in a more meaningful and continuous way. There are so many Facebook and twitter users out there now, that you can’t afford to lose out on the large number of website visitors who do use social media to keep up to date on their favorite websites and companies. Plus, it’s easy to get started with twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform, so dive right in. Don’t forget to display your social media profiles/links on every page of your website (usually the header, footer, or sidebar).

The Total Conversion Picture

Getting more out of your website, or conversion, is a constantly evolving process. You’ll want to check your site statistics regularly to see if there are any tweaks you could make to a specific page or your page flow in general. If you create some goals for your website, make some realistic page flows to accomplish these goals, and then catch some more visitors with some of the subscription methods, you’ll be well on your way to turning your website into one of your most valuable marketing tools. And if you get stuck, SmallFuel’s here to help. Contact us if you’d like us to help with your website.

Have you seen a difference in how your site performs by using these methods? Share in the comments!

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The 8 Steps of an Advertising Campaign

StairsIn the past, I worked with a business that made its decisions on where to advertise based entirely on which publications and stations actually called up and solicited an ad. While plenty of publications are cold-calling potential advertisers in hopes of getting a little ad revenue these days, I wouldn’t really recommend taking a similar route. Instead, approaching advertising like any other business project can guarantee that your advertising budget actually has the affect you want in the long-term. An advertising project isn’t so different from buying a new office or designing a new product: with the right process, you can complete your project efficiently and with great results.

Here are eight steps you can follow to keep your advertising campaign on track and successful:

  1. Market research: Before you even start thinking about where you might want to place an ad or even what it could look like, it’s important to do at least some basic research. Even if you aren’t in a position to bring in an expensive research firm, you can ask your current customers questions about why they come back to you, as well as taking a close look at your target demographic’s needs and interests.
  2. Budgeting: Your business probably has a set advertising budget for the year — but how do you divvy it up between your various advertising projects? For each project you’re planning, you need to be clear on just how much money you’re willing to spend. You’ll almost certainly change exactly how you divide it between costs like copy writing and design, but you can treat the overall amount as set in stone. Write it down and put it in your project folder.
  3. Setting goals: The aims you have in mind for a particular advertising project need to be written down ahead of time. While it’s good to be ambitious, it’s also important to decide what constitutes a successful advertising campaign for your business. Sales can be the simplest metric: if you’re advertising a particular product, how many units will you need to sell to pay for that campaign?
  4. Advertising venue: The website, tv station, newspaper, radio station, magazine or other advertising venue you place your ad with is a crucial decision. You’ll need to look at not only the cost of your preferred venues but also whether they reach your target demographic. Ad buys can make up a significant portion of your budget. Deciding on where you will place your ads first tells you how much money you’ll have left over for actually creating your ad.
  5. Choosing creatives: Unless you’re planning to write, shoot and design every part of your ad, you’ll probaably need to bring in some help. Finding the right freelancers for each aspect requires checking through portfolios and rates — if you can find a business or freelancer who can handle all aspects of creating your ad, even if that means subcontracting, it can save you a lot of time. You’ll also want to make sure that you find any talent you’ll need for your ad (voice actors for radio, models for photography and so on).
  6. Design and wording: While you may not have a lot of actual writing and designing to do for your ad, during the creation process you will need to review and sign off on different stages of the project. When starting with a new designer or other creative, make sure that you both know any expectations for timelines and progress checks.
  7. Placing the ad: Once you have a finished ad in hand, it’s time to actually place it with your preferred advertising venue. You may have a few contracts to sign and a check to hand over. You’ll also want to make sure you actually see your ad once it’s run — from a newspaper, for instance, you’ll want to see the tear sheets of pages containing your ad.
  8. Evaluation: Depending on your ad, how you evaluate it can vary. If it included a coupon, for instance, you can simply count how many customers brought in the coupon. For other ads, you may be simply comparing sales before, during and after your advertising campaign. Spend as much time on analyzing how your advertising campaign worked as you can. That information can point you to more effective uses of advertising in the future.

While following such a set process may seem like it would stifle the creativity necessary to put together a new ad, following these steps can actually make it easier. You can minimize confusion and make sure that everyone is meeting the necessary deadlines — and you can ensure that you’ll be able to measure your ad’s actual cost and responses during each step. You’ll be better equipped to tweak your ad or move it to another publication in the future.

Photo by jurek_durczak on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

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How to Leverage Twitter for Your Business

TwitterAt first glance, many small business owners have a hard time seeing a use for Twitter. It’s a site that allows you to post only short messages, and it seems like many users are effectively posting random comments. But Twitter can be a very effective tool for your business — and you can use it to market your product or service for free.

Here are some tips for those just starting out:

Getting Started With Twitter

The first step to leveraging Twitter for your business is to set up a Twitter account. You want to pick an account name that is relatively short — it’s preferable to use your company’s name, but an abbreviation can make it easier to communicate effectively on the site. You’ll also want to fill out your bio as completely as possible: link to your website, describe your business and put up a logo or other image.

From the start, you’ll also want to use a few external services to help you keep an eye on who is saying what — unless you want to spend hours a day on the site. Luckily, these tools are free as well.

  • TweetDeck: This is an extremely popular desktop application that will let you handle replies, direct messages, search lists, and multiple accounts. There are other desktop applications as well, and using them make Twitter easier to follow and interact.
  • TwitterLocal: If your business relies on local buyers or clients, you’ll want to have a good idea of what’s going on in your area. TwitterLocal provides you with a tool to read tweets made in locations you specify. (Relies on Adobe AIR, which is also free).
  • SocialOomph: With SocialOomph, you can write posts ahead of time and set them up to automatically post at a time of your choosing, among other things that this service provides.

There are thousands of other free Twitter tools, but deciding which ones can help you requires first deciding just how you want to use Twitter.

Sharing Information on Twitter

Success on Twitter is measured — at least by prospective customers or clients — by your authenticity. As a matter of course, most Twitter users have no interest in following an account that is nothing but links and company announcements. Instead, they’re looking for a little interaction. There’s nothing wrong with including announcements, but you want to respond to comments that other Twitter users make about your business or your industry.

You can jump into a conversation very easily on Twitter, especially if you have set up alerts about topics relevant to your business. If you see that someone is talking about your industry, for instance, take a minute and look at what he has said: agree or disagree, you probably have an opinion about the topic that you would like to share. On Twitter, there’s no need to wait for an invitation — just jump in and start sharing.

The same holds true if someone mentions your product on Twitter. Good or bad, you should acknowledge the mention. If it’s bad, take a moment to see if you can address the issue. If you can fix the situation, you know that you’ve got a satisfied customer who will tell the world about it. The more happy customers you have commenting about how good you are on Twiter, the more potential customers will hear about it. It’s word of mouth marketing taken to a higher level.

Getting Followers of Your Own

There are tools available that you can plug in your Twitter account information and automatically add a thousand contacts on Twitter. However, taking this approach won’t help you in the long run. In a worst case scenario, you can get banned as a spammer. In the best case scenario, most Twitter users will ignore you as just another marketer.

The better option is to grow your Twitter contacts organically. Find someone interested in your business or industry? Start following him — and a put a little extra effort into conversing with him. Get a notification that you’re being followed by someone new? Check out his profile and start a conversation (and follow him back). In just a few months, you’ll have a solid network of Twitter contacts that are actually worth knowing.

Follow Us!

SmallFuel is on Twitter, and so is everyone on the SmallFuel team. Hope to see you there!

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When Is It Time to Bring in a Marketing Professional?

Marketing professionals run the range from full-out marketing firms capable of every marketing technique under the sun down to freelance writers who just crank out copy from brochures. Marketing services are equally varied, as are marketing price tags. It’s that last one that leads many small business owners to do as much of their own marketing as possible: even when a business has the money to spare, it often seems more practical to upgrade equipment or improve the business in other ways than spend money on marketing. Just the same, though, there are several marketing situations when calling in a professional can have a tremendous result on your business — you can find opportunities where the cost of a little marketing help is completely out-weighed by the sales that marketing professional can bring in.

When Can A Marketing Professional Help?

  1. When you need production quality: To get the best quality brochures and other printed marketing materials, there are a whole list of printer specs you need to know. The same goes for getting the best website, the best advertising and so on. Becoming an expert in one of those fields can take time you’d be better off spending on running your business, especially when you can get quality results by paying a designer or other professional to handle the project for you.
  2. When something has to give: As your business grows, you’ll have to hand some task or another off to someone else, if only to keep up with the rest of your business. Depending on what kind of service or product you sell, marketing tasks are often the easiest to outsource. While turning production over to someone new guarantees headaches, sometimes marketing can be as simple as handing over a copy of your current marketing materials and letting your marketing professional go.
  3. When you have a specific problem: Most marketing is done with fairly general goals in mind, like getting a certain number of new customers by the end of the year. But if you’re looking at something specific, it may be time to call a specialist. From public relations issues to new product launches, there’s a specialist out there who has seen similar situations many times — and can guide you through it with relative ease.
  4. When you need help to reach your goals: No business owner can succeed without ambition, but reaching some goals can require some help. Bringing in a marketing professional to help you reach one of your goals can make sense, especially when meeting your goals will bring in more than enough income to cover the expense.
  5. When your time is more valuable elsewhere: In every small business, there are times when you have something you need to be doing besides marketing. You don’t want to throw marketing out the window, but you get a higher ROI by spending your time elsewhere. At that point, the best thing you can do is bring in someone to handle marketing tasks. You probably don’t need a full-fledged marketing team — instead, think about what marketing tasks you can outsource.

It’s worth your time and effort to do as much marketing as you can for your own business. If nothing else, that approach can guarantee that you’ll still have money in your marketing budget when you find yourself in need of some professional assistance. But when it’s time to call in a professional — and you’ll know when that time rolls around — it’s worthwhile to pay the costs and ensure you get the best marketing help you can. Once you’ve decided on what kind of help you need, it’s just a matter of finding the right professional — one who can complete your marketing projects on your timeline, within your budget and to your satisfaction.

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Personal Branding Vs. Branding A Small Business

Branding Iron
The moment you decided on a name for your business, you started creating a brand for your company. Your brand — no matter what product of service your company offers — is crucial to your marketing. Every transaction your business makes affects your brand: if you provide good customer service, you’re building your brand just as much as if you take out an ad or give a speech. But there’s another kind of brand that you may be building, whether or not you’re aware of it. Just as people associate a brand with your business, they may also associate a brand with you.

Your Personal Brand

It’s not uncommon for a small business owner to do business under his or her own name. John Doe’s business, for instance, might be Doe Consulting. That approach guarantees an intertwined brand, and makes associating yourself with your industry relatively easy. Anything you can do to associate your name with your industry, from writing a blog to just chatting with friends about the topic, adds a little to your personal brand, bringing your company along for the ride. If you’re willing to put some work into crafting your personal brand, you can make yourself the go-to-guy or gal in a particular niche — and, as long as your business operates in that niche, you can build it up by association.

But is tying your personal brand to your company all that it’s cracked up to be? If you attach your name and your personal brand to your small business, you can create a brand relatively quickly — but it’s easy to wind up with your personal brand entangled with your business brand. While it may seem that you’re comfortable with that arrangement now, there may come a day when your business’ brand needs to stand on its own. Even something as simple as launching a new product can be complicated if both you and your business are known for a narrow niche.

Your Business’s Brand

On the surface, branding your business separately from yourself may seem more complicated. After all, you’re managing two brands at once. But the fact of the matter is that you can develop very different brands for both yourself and your company at the same time. That’s at least partly due to the variety of branding methods available to you. Some, like sending out a company newsletter, are more useful for creating a business identity. Others, like public speaking, lend themselves more towards building a personal brand.

On top of more traditional branding techniques, the web has created many opportunities: websites, social networking, blogging and more. And you aren’t limited to just one website or one account on a social network. If you need to set up online brands for more than just your business or yourself, you can do so.

Personal Brands and Business Brands

When it comes to developing your brand, you get to make the choice on how closely you want to connect your business brand to your personal brand. But whichever route you choose, it is important to build a solid brand for your business. The elements of your brand are crucial to the ways your existing customers recommend you and your future clients find you. As people become more and more reliant on the internet when searching for even the most local of services, like pizza or a plumber, your brand may become the only way they can find you.

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5 Must-Know Facts About Printing Marketing Materials

Photo by kubina on flickrDespite claims that all marketing is headed for the web, printed marketing materials can be crucial to your small business. Brochures, business cards and other printed materials can help you stick in a prospective customer’s mind in a way that a website may not. After all, it’s easier to keep a business card than it is to keep track of a business website. The importance of your printed marketing materials means that you need to make sure that they’re high quality. In some cases, that can mean paying extra to get the best printing — but if you know the facts about getting your marketing materials printed, you can often find better deals with better printers.

However, knowing what’s important when it comes to using a printer can be rather tricky, especially if you’ve never had anything printed before. In order for you to understand what’s involved with the printing process, here are 5 facts you need to know.

5 Must-Know Facts about Printing

  1. Design is an add-on: No matter what printer you work with, you’ll find that his or her primary business is definitely not design. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find a printer with a good design staff, but the cost of the design work will almost always be more than you can arrange through an individual designer. If your preferred printer recommends a designer or two, it’s fine to check them out — but you’ll often find a better price by looking for a designer on your own. The only drawback with bringing in your own designer is that you must make sure that your designer gets the printer’s specs. An experienced graphic designer can tell you exactly what specifications he or she needs to complete your project.
  2. Not all printers are created equal: Different printers offer different specialties. Online printing solutions, for instance, offer good quality service on relatively simple projects. If you need a business card — and you already have the design — you can get them printed up with high quality and low expense by going online. But those same printers just can’t offer as good a solution on anything even a little out of the ordinary. In those circumstances, you’ll be better off with a printer you can describe your needs to in person.
  3. Paper makes all the difference: While the weight or brightness of a paper may not seem important, it can make a huge difference in how your marketing materials turn out. You have to know throughout the planning, designing and printing portions of the process just what paper you are going to use — a change in materials at any point can change both your budget and just what your designer and printer need to do to guarantee a quality product. Printers are very aware of this fact, and a good printer will walk you through your paper options if you ask.
  4. Go local and make a deal: If budget is a concern whenever you’re thinking about a new marketing project, it’s important to build a close relationship with a local printer. Small print shops have more flexibility to make deals. If, for instance, you’re willing to work with the paper the printer has on hand, it can make a major difference to your budget. It is important, however, to keep in mind that paper costs are on the rise, reducing just how much of a bargain you can make.
  5. Consistency is crucial: No matter how many copies of a particular marketing piece you’re printing up today, you’re probably going to have to go back for another batch at some point. Business cards are a good example — you’ll probably be using the same business card design for quite a while, and you want each printing of your business card to look the same. That means going back to the same printer whenever you can. If you want to make sure your business cards match your brochure (and it’s definitely worthwhile to do so), you’ll also want to be able to go back to your designer.

With these facts in hand, you can set out to find a printer capable of completing your project — within your budget. As you work through a few printing projects, you’ll find that you’ll pick up more information about printing and what kinds of materials you can use to market your business. But you’ll also find yourself coming back to these simple facts time and again.

If all of this information seems like too much to process, you could hire someone trusted to do it all for you. Most marketing companies, including SmallFuel, will handle all of these details and be able to make informed and insightful marketing decisions based on your needs and marketing goals.

What do you do? Any tips or suggestions we’ve left out?

Top image by kubina.

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5 Marketing Blogs You Need To Read Every Day

imageMarketing doesn’t work in a vacuum: even the best marketers spend some time every day keeping up with new information in the field. That used to mean subscribing to industry magazines, going to marketing conferences and using other resources that were only affordable if you were doing marketing all day, every day. With the advent of blogs, though, there is plenty of marketing information available immediately and freely. Even better, it’s already broken down into articles short enough that a small business owner can read a few over the course of a busy day. There are thousands of quality marketing blogs available, but there are five that we’d particularly like to recommend reading every day — in addition to SmallFuel Marketing, of course.

  1. Influential Marketing Blog Rohit Bhargava is the blogger behind the Influential Marketing Blog. He knows marketing inside and out: as a senior vice president at Ogilby’s 360 Digital Influence, Bhargava is out there pioneering digital marketing techniques every day. Among his other credentials, Bhargava wrote a book last year, titled Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity And How Great Brands Get it Back.
  2. Church of the Customer Ben McConnel and Jackie Huba — the founders of the Society for Word of Mouth — blog at the Church of the Customer. They specialize in covering marketing topics related to word of mouth marketing, but they also include posts with a wider focus. For those of you who don’t primarily rely on word of mouth as a marketing strategy, it’s worth reading the Church of the Customer to understand how word of mouth can still affect your overall marketing plan.
  3. OPEN Forum While not precisely a marketing blog, American Express’s blog for small business owners routinely has great posts regarding marketing. If you go to the Marketing section of the site, you can see videos from such marketing experts as Seth Godin, as well as find blog posts and articles from a variety of marketing specialists. On OPEN Forum, you get information from a variety of leading business experts.
  4. Copyblogger If you write the marketing copy, press releases and other communications for your business, Brian Clark’s Copyblogger is a must read. It has article after article about taking the writing you do for your business to the next step, and each one is a must read. Even if you outsource such projects to a freelance writer, Copyblogger is a key resource: the blog can give you ideas on new approaches and techniques, as well as give you the skills to evaluate the work that freelance writer is sending you.
  5. Seth’s Blog Seth Godin literally wrote the book on permission marketing, as well as ten other marketing books. For the most part, his blog posts are very quick reads. Each post is a concrete idea: Godin will tell the story of a successful marketer, describe an idea or mention a relevant link. Reading Godin’s blog can ensure that you’re constantly getting new ideas about how to market your own business.

These are just five of the best marketing resources you can find online. For the most part, they cover marketing as a borad topic. Other blogs focus on particular types of marketing, marketing for particular industries or even marketing in a specific geographic area. It’s worth your while to find at least one or two of the marketing blogst that are particularly relevant to your business: if you can find a shortcut through the experiences of someone else in your niche, your reading will pay off. There are many more, and if there is a blog you’d particularly like to recommend, please tell us about it in the comments. 

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Templating Your Press Releases: Save Time and Money

text for press release
Press releases can be a great tool for getting your news into the media’s hands, but crafting a new press release for every announcement can be costly and time-consuming. Unless you have someone on staff that can put together a well-crafted press release, you’ll have to spend time finding a writer every time you want to send one out.

But there is an approach that can help you cut down the time and money you spend on press releases: templates. By templating your press releases you can save time and effort on each release, and if done well you can even improve the overall quality of the announcements you put out.

The Standard Boilerplate

Most companies have relied on at least a little boilerplate for their press releases for years: you probably have a paragraph about your business’ background that you can drop into press releases, as well as other communications related to your business. Your boilerplate probably includes contact information for your company, as well as background information about the business’ history and specialties.

You can use the idea of boilerplate text to move you towards using a template for your press releases. If you routinely direct media interviews to one person, for instance, it makes sense to have a bit of boilerplate saying exactly that, along with that person’s background. Be prepared to tweak standardized text to customize it to specific press releases: when you run a small business, you’re responsible for taking all interviews, even if marketing and public relations isn’t your background. That means that you’ll probably want to emphasize different parts of your own background when sending out a press release. For a press release describing your business’ philanthropy, your background should probably mention why you chose a particular charity. For a press release sharing newsworthy statistics, your background should emphasize the fact that you’re an expert on the topic.

Tweaking an existing paragraph is far easier than writing a new paragraph from scratch. You already have an existing structure — all you have to do is fit the relevant information into that format.

Evolving Towards a Template

You can use any existing press release as a template, but it will be a very general template. Such an approach will give you the basic structure: a spot to place your headline, introduction and body text, but that sort of template can be hard to work with if you aren’t used to writing for publicity. Instead, you’ll want a specific template that lets you get a little closer to a ‘fill-in-the-blanks’ document.

Those boilerplate paragraphs you’ve tweaked make a better starting point for your press release template. By building up a few paragraphs that you can easily tweak to reflect the specifics of your current press release, you can create a template that is truly relevant to your business. With an effective template, you’ll only need to drop in a headline and a body paragraph or two covering the specifics of your latest news. Even headlines and news paragraphs can be written off a template. There are certain structures that are more effective than others, especially when it comes to headlines. Those structures reflect the type of press release you’re sending out, as well as your target audience: the structures that catch bloggers’ attention are different than those for newspaper reporters.

Drawbacks of Templates

If you rely on a template to produce your press releases, the news you send out to the media will have a certain sameness. It can be harder for a press release following a template to gather the notice of reporters, because your press releases will seem similar across the board. It’s the trade off of paying less for a press release. There are some compromises that can help you cut costs on your press releases without relying entirely on a template. You can work with a press release writer for headlines and body text, providing boilerplate for the rest of the press release — many writers are willing to effectively write half of a press release. You can also use multiple templates: different templates for different kinds of news or a set of templates you rotate through in order to provide some variety in your releases.

Your Thoughts?

How do you handle your company’s press releases? Do you use them regularly, have you created templates?

Do you have any press release tips to share with other readers?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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Using a Portfolio: How To Market Your Business By Hand

Marketing with a Portfolio
Putting together a physical portfolio can be a great way to market your small business, whether it’s an offline or online venture. The oft-overlooked folder stuffed with goodies can be just the trick for getting exposure with new potential clients, network easily with other small businesses and possibly increase sales as a result.

A portfolio folder is contains your business profile information, and you leave it with potential customers to browse through. It holds contact information, samples and anything that helps introduce you and your business to people.

A portfolio folder is a great marketing tool, no matter how small your business. It gives people something tangible and helps them learn who you are, what you offer and how you can help them. That folder makes you look good, gathering all your information attractively together in one handy place.

What to Put In a Press Kit

It doesn’t take much to fill a portfolio folder with exactly enough material to attract people to your business. A basic portfolio folder might contain:

  1. Your business card
  2. A sheet with your contact information
  3. A small bio or introduction
  4. A list of your services
  5. A few samples of your work
  6. A press release about your business
  7. Some screenshots or photos of past work
  8. A special discount offer or a coupon
  9. A small promotional gift, like a pen or a magnet

You don’t need to stuff your folder full or spend a great deal of money. You can build your folders at home using store-bought paper, quality ink and your own printer.
It’s nice to have letterhead stationery if you can, though, and it gives your business that extra edge. An alternative is inserting your logo into a Word .doc and making do with that for now. (Make sure the .jpg is good quality and not blurry, though.)

Why Portfolio Folders Work

People like to have their senses stimulated during the shopping experience. Stores play music, they let us pick up and touch items on shelves, and some places even light candles for olfactory stimulation, too.

In fact, human beings crave as much sensory information as we can get – and the more we get, the more we’re likely to buy. A portfolio folder lets people have that sensory experience with you and your business. They can feel and touch what you’ve given them, and they can listen and talk with you.

Portfolio folders also work because they’re not as easy to throw away as a brochure or flier. People tend to keep portfolio folders for a period or even file them for reference later on.

Lastly, this marketing tool engages people easily. People open the folder, look inside, leaf through the sheets, touch the card… They take in plenty of information about your business and their interest is held longer than just a glance at a flier. 

Boost the Marketing Potential

Hand-deliver your folder and introduce yourself properly to someone in the business who hires or buys. Your portfolio folder is a tool that lets you strike up a conversation, and it’s the best time to use your elevator pitch.

Hand delivering also lets the potential customer see you, talk to you and ask questions.  A personal conversation also lets people see your face and associate you and your business together better, making you more memorable. If you just drop off your folder with the secretary or a clerk, no one will ever match your face to your business.

While you talk with the person, ask the questions customers are dying for you to ask. You can also ask about the business’ current provider, too, and whether they find the service or products are satisfactory.

Be subtle with these questions, of course. You don’t want to appear as if you’re attempting to steal the competition’s business.

Questions you could ask include those about the businesses usual needs, such as how often they buy a certain product or service or in what quantities. You could inquire over any small frustrations (or large ones) that they currently experience, especially ones that your product or service resolves.

You might even suggest small improvements or propose a solution while you’re there, just to be nice.

If you can’t deliver your folder in person, one idea is recording an audio file and adding a CD to your folder? People will at least be able to hear your voice. Tell the story of how you got started or share some extra information on how you can help the business achieve more.

Do you have any other items that you’d add to your portfolio folder? What would be something that you’d like to find on the pages if you were handed one of these marketing kits?

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What McDonalds Can Teach You About Sales

McDonalds and Selling
When it comes to selling, there is little that McDonalds doesn’t know. Being around for almost 60 years, they have had time to explore just about every possible way to sell more. And they’ve found some good secrets too – like selling package deals.

Package deals are great for selling merchandise or services. Shoppers like it when everything they need is right there and they don’t have to think too much. Sellers like package deals too, because they’re easily presentable and boost sales as well.

In this post we’ll show you how McDonalds uses packages to sell lots, and then we’ll show you how you can use packages can improve you’re own sales. Read on for more…

Why selling packages works

Look at our McDonalds example. The fast food giant doesn’t just sell hamburgers. The menu doesn’t list many single-sell items. McDonalds offers the whole deal to hungry people, full meals that have the works plus fries and a drink. No one has to worry about figuring out which side order or extra they want. It’s all taken care of in the utmost convenience and the consumer is happy all his needs are met.

That’s why packaging products or services works – it’s handy. It saves time because it’s fast and easy.

Package deals also save consumers a little money (in a roundabout way). Look at the McDonald’s strategy again: For a discount off the purchase of single items, consumers get a full meal.

Those hungry people aren’t thinking about comparing costs between buying it all or buying individual. They’re thinking about how much they save, or maybe how little it costs to get a hot cherry pie tossed into the order.

By adding upsells to package meals, McDonalds increases sales even more. They smartly package together a burger, a drink and fries, then offers upsells of bacon, cheese or dessert for an even better sale—and a more satisfied customer who has everything they need or want, and then some.

Ka-ching!

Getting started with your own packages

Packaging your own offerings is easy, and the benefits to your business (and to the customer) can be worth it. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Write up a list of à la carte items or services. Group together related items that beg to be paired up together in a gift-basket style.

For example, if you sell coffee, package up coffee, two mugs and fancy spoons. If you blog, offer ten posts, relevant images and posting to the client’s blog. If you own a garage, package tire rotation with break verification and an oil change.

Don’t have too many package deals – the purpose isn’t to make choice more difficult but rather easier for the consumer to do. A good strategy is using the small, bigger, best theory (or bronze, silver and gold). Each package adds on extra products or services to increase the value of what the consumer receives.

Set prices for your packages by totalling the individual costs and determining a discounted price for grouped items or services. If it costs $50 for one item, set a purchase of three items at $125.

A few tips for boosting package sales

It’s always a good idea to have a handful of add-ons and extras you can offer that enhance package deals. For example, if you’re a web designer, an add-on could be a half-hour of consultation or a custom banner ad. If you market, a half-hour review in a month’s time to track progress might be nice.

Always make sure that shoppers can compare costs between single items and package deals. They won’t start to calculate a great deal, but they will glance and see the differences in pricing.

Select some catchy names for your package deals. People aren’t buying products or services, they’re buying an emotional feeling. Think of McDonald’s Happy Meals or the Burger King Whopper Meal. Try to reflect your brand image with the names you choose.

A good tactic to try is naming packages in a way that conveys the smallest is less attractive than the largest. For example, no one likes to be considered a skinflint, so consumers may subconsciously opt for the “Royal Regalia” versus the “Budget Baron”.

Throughout all of this, remember that your goal isn’t to squeeze more money out of people – your goal is to have a more satisfied customer. You achieve that goal when you make a client’s life easy and fulfill all of his/her needs.

Let’s hear what you think. Do you like it when you can buy package deals? What’s the best deal you ever received?

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