Find the Funding You Need to Market Your Business

shutterstock_196752404The Small Business Administration suggests small businesses with revenues under $5 million allocate up to 8 percent of those revenues toward marketing. That figure could be split between brand development efforts such as creating content for websites and blogs and the costs of marketing campaigns, advertising and events. However, that percentage assumes a business has margins of 10 to 12 percent after other expenses have been covered.

It’s tempting to think you don’t need marketing if your business is strapped for cash. But remember, marketing is an investment in your future sales, and without public awareness of your services or products, business will fall flat. So how do you come up with the cash to fund a marketing push if you don’t have those margins? We have some simple tips on how to raise cash for your marketing push and build momentum for a thriving sales cycle.

Get Creative

Crowdfunding is an innovative way to raise capital and market your company without digging into your own pockets. Sites like Kickstarter enable users to post their project, set a deadline and financial goal and ask people to pledge money, with the promise of specific incentives. For example, if you’re working on opening a design studio, people who pledge money could be promised a discounted logo design or similar service. Showcasing your project on Kickstarter or a similar crowdfunding site also helps spreads the word about your business and can attract thousands of viewers to your project.

Another option to creatively fund your marketing campaign: Look for assets you hold that can be cashed in. Stocks and bonds fall into this category, as do retirement accounts such as an IRA and 401(k)—but be careful with these, as you risk early withdrawal penalties and fees. If you receive regular payments from an annuity or structured settlement, you may be able to sell your future payments to a company like J.G. Wentworth for a lump sum of cash now, which you could then use to help fund your marketing push.

Get a Grant

To find open business grants, start at Grants.gov. Use the keyword tool and plug in the word “marketing” to find everything from marketing improvement programs to programs for investment in microentrepreneurs. Also check out the National Association for the Self-Employed; it offers grants of up to $5,000.

Get a Loan

Big banks may offer the traditional road map to business loans, but it’s often easier to find help at a local credit union. Credit unions typically offer lower fees and less stringent qualifications on loans. Credit unions are nonprofits that are controlled by members represented by a board of directors. Because they are controlled by their members, such institutions are often more vested in their surrounding community and businesses.

You also may be able to crowdfund a business loan. Sites like LendingClub.com work as a debt-based crowdfunding community to connect borrowers with lenders and investors. Apply for a loan from $1,000 up t $35,000 and a corresponding interest rate. Lenders earn an interest rate on the money loaned, and borrowers often get a lower rate and less hassle in securing their loan than through a traditional bank.

5 Tips for Better Twitter Advertising

Accessible Twitter website icon

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Advertising on Twitter can be effective for increasing the size of your audience and also for sending traffic to your website. Besides knowing what your goal is, these tips will help you advertise better on Twitter…

1. Goal Impacts Type of Campaign

Deciding on your goal for your Twitter advertising will help you choose the right type of campaign. The promoted account campaign (followers campaign) is best for increasing your followers and building audience for the long term. If your goal is to boost traffic to your website (or to particular pages on your website), then take a look at the promoted tweets campaign. And if you’re trying to get people to install or engage with your mobile app, there’s a campaign for that too.

2. Targeting Usernames vs Interest Categories

For smaller organizations that are looking for niche audiences, use username targeting to find followers similar to the ones you enter. Interest category targeting works better for larger organizations or broader audiences.

3. Good Messaging

Just like any other good messaging, Twitter ads should have use plain and understandable text and have a clear call to action. Adding pictures can also increase clicks on your ads. Try adding 3-5 different tweets to test your message and images.

4. Competitive Budget

Advertising on Twitter can be cost effective, but make sure your bids are within the suggested range or you may see a drastic decrease in the impressions of your ads.

5. Test to Optimize

Just like any advertising, testing will help you optimize the ads to get the best results for your budget and goals. Test different messages, images and calls to action. Test for a certain length of time, and then copy your campaign to make changes and save past tests and data.

Twitter advertising can be a very cost-effective way to increase the reach of your social media marketing.

Five Tactics to Build a Strong Brand Presence Online

The visual brand identity manual for Mobil Oil...

The visual brand identity manual for Mobil Oil (developed by Chermayeff & Geismar), one of the first visual identities to integrate logotype, icon, alphabet, color palette, and station architecture to create a comprehensive consumer brand experience. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you want your customers’ trust, there’s no better way to gain it than to build a strong brand presence online. This signals that your company is not only legitimate and recognized far and wide for your wonderful products or ideas, but also worthy of their investment. After all, no one will buy from a company they don’t trust, and no one trusts a company with sketchy online reviews or, perhaps worse, no web presence at all.

Put time and effort into the five following tactics and watch your brand’s internet presence flourish. Of course, it goes without saying that before you start tackling these ideas, you need to have a sound strategy and brand identity, otherwise you’ll be building a bridge to nowhere.

1. Provide Real Value with Your Website

Your website is often the first thing a potential customer encounters. Make sure the experience is a good one by providing in-depth information and background content on your site. Don’t hide prices or use a checkout system that’s hard to understand. A great site will have: 

  • A smart design
  • Clean, easy-to-read writing
  • Examples and case studies of past successes
  • Easily Accessible contact information

2. Strengthen Your Social Media Accounts

People see social media as the face of a company. If you don’t present a good face, you won’t make a favorable impression, so it’s important to keep your social media accounts up to date and address any and all problems brought to your attention by customers. 

Make sure to: 

3. Address Your Audience

You want to reach out with information that is pertinent and relevant to your customers. For instance, if you sell animal traps and repellents, like Havahart, you probably don’t need to be posting on social media about the latest episode of “Dance Moms.” Likewise, if you blog about “Dance Moms,” you don’t need to be discussing how to keep rabbits from eating the carrots in your garden.

Keep your audience top of mind and avoid going off topic to keep your brand identity focused. 

4. Try New Ideas

It can be scary to do something new, but every company can use a reset every now and then. Say you’ve run the same Pinterest contest every fall for three years. Maybe you should try an Instagram promotion instead. Or if you’ve always put the emphasis on your company rather than the people behind it, perhaps it’s time to humanize your brand by having your employees sign their Facebook posts and give your brand personality. Play around and move on if a new approach clearly isn’t working. 

5. Be Engaged

Finally, if you’re not engaged with your brand, no one else will be either. Here are simple yet important ways to show that your brand is responsive to customers online: 

  • Addressing social media feedback
  • Answering emails within a reasonable timeframe
  • Regularly cleaning up and updating your web site
  • Keeping your blog up to date
  • Removing dated holiday promotions from your ecommerce site

A strong online presence is the key to building a successful brand. If your business does not have a website or social media – or is just looking to strengthen its online strategy – follow the outlined tips and watch your brand grow!

About the Author –

IMG_1340Ali Lawrence is a content specialist for a web design company and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her articles have been published by Hot in Social Media, Yahoo! Small Business, and Business2Community.

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Internet Marketing Strategy Articles for the Week of May 12, 2014

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Tips for Effective Lead Generation

marketoWhile we may have marketing to increase awareness or stay top-of-mind, the gold at the end of the rainbow is generating quality leads. Content marketing and communicating with customers via social channels are great ways to connect, but how do you leverage your efforts to generate leads? Marketo, which provides a marketing automation platform, recently asked several marketers (including me), about lead generation best practices:

There are a lot of philosophies and opinions on lead generation. To help you cut through the noise, we spoke to four leading marketing experts and got some of their best insights. Here’s what they had to say about the dos and don’ts of effective lead generation. — Dos and Don’ts of Effective Lead Generation

Some of my thoughts:

Leveraging your network to drive lead generation can be a very tempting way to try to get referrals. While it certainly makes sense to use this resource, it’s vital to respect your network.

Spamming with marketing and sales offers is the surest way to lose valuable human connections, and increase the deafness to your message when you really need it. Stick to an 80/20 rule for any marketing you do online, but especially to your networks. Eighty percent of your content should be of value to the audience, and only 20% (or less!) should be direct marketing or advertising.

Providing regular, valuable content to your network will increase their awareness of your services and improve your reputation as an expert.

Read more –Dos and Don’ts of Effective Lead Generation

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Internet Marketing Strategy Articles for the Week of April 28, 2014

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Internet Marketing Strategy Articles for the Week of April 21, 2014

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Understanding Facebook Boosted Post Metrics

Cardboard rocket

Cardboard rocket (Photo credit: Matt Biddulph)

 

As you may be aware, Facebook is making it more difficult for companies and organizations to engage directly with their intended audiences.  To counter this (and to make revenue), Facebook offers the ability to boost an individual post so that it shows up in the news feed of your intended audience.  These boosted posts can be fairly low-cost, with a minimum boost of $5 per day.  So how well do these boosted posts perform and what sort of metrics does Facebook provide? To find out, I boosted a post on Lady Paragon’s Facebook page (a site I run with my sister for Women in STEM careers).

Facebook Post Pre-Boost

Here’s what the post looked like before I boosted it:

LP-beforeboost

The metrics we see are:

  • 1 person liked it (red circle)
  • There was 1 share (green rectangle)
  • 976 people saw the post (blue rectangle)

I boosted this post for 1 day at a budget of $5 and targeted fans & friends of fans of Lady Paragon’s Facebook page.

Facebook Boosted Post Metrics

Here are the metrics after the boost:

ladyparagons-FBafter

The metrics provided are:

  • 4 people liked it (red circle) — 1 was from before, which Facebook properly reports in the red circle in the How people engaged with your post section.
  • 1 share (green rectangle) — this was from before the boost
  • 3102 saw the post (blue rectangle) — Facebook reports that 2079 were from the boost in the Paid Reach box.  You can also see the percentage of paid to organic in the box with the 3102 — blue was organic, green was paid
  • 4 link clicks (purple circle)
  • Engagement of 7 — this is the number of link clicks added to the number of post likes

Facebook Post Insights

When you look at the post in the page Insights, you see the following metrics (more recent data):

FBboostedpostinsights

The orange bar shows the number of people who viewed the post, divided into lighter orange for organic, darker for paid.  3.1K is pretty close to the 3102 mentioned above.  218 is the number of post clicks and 116 is the number of likes, comments and shares. This is very interesting. Either the boosted metrics didn’t include some of the stats, boosting the post helped increase the organic reach and engagement, or the post received an unusually high number of engaged traffic from some of the people who saw it (remember that when someone likes a post, their network sees that they liked it, at least for a short time period).

Hypothesis: Boosting a Post Improves It’s Organic Reach & Engagement Too

I boosted another post on the same page (same budget $5) and got the following results:

  • 1331 Paid Reach
  • 5 Engagements – 3 link clicks, 2 post likes

FBboostedpostinsights2

According to the post insights, the post  got 15 post clicks and 4 likes, comments and shares.  Not nearly as high, so there probably is a difference in the influence of the people who engaged with each post.

If we look at the Google Analytics traffic to the actual post on the website (April 2-April 22), the April 2nd post (Jessica Kirkpatrick) had 338 pageviews (20 from Facebook), while the April 9th post (Kate Synder), had 93 pageviews (77 from Facebook).

Conclusion: Unclear, More Results Needed

The results do tend to show that a boosted post receives more organic engagement, especially if there are people with good influence that do engage with the post.  Using good targeting to reach the right audience to improve engagement on a boosted post may provide the most beneficial of results.  More testing is needed — I’ll continue to monitor my efforts.

What have you found with Facebook boosted posts?

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Turn to the E-Market for Real-World Customers

communicationsThe oldest question in business is how to drum up more customers. It’s a question that can never be answered easily or conclusively due to the ever-changing nature of consumer behavior. However, the advent of the Internet makes it easier than ever for some companies to tap into new pockets of clients and customers. The holiday season alone accounts for $42 billion in online sales annually, as Comscore reports. How can you tap into an e-audience to improve your company’s bottom line?

Create a Discussion

Everyone enjoys having their opinion known, and the Internet represents the world’s largest forum. Having a detailed comments and reviews section for your web page or outlinking web pages ensures that more people are able to gain trust in a brand. According to Bright Local, only 15% of digital shoppers don’t take reviews into account when thinking about a purchasing decision, since the vast majority of e-customers put their full trust into a review that’s as short as a few words. Retail sales consultants especially need to take heed to customer reviews. A negative review will not necessary sink a product, but a lack of reviews indicate that nobody at all is willing to buy.

Turn Customers Into Sales Members

Few methods of expanding a customer market work as well as letting your existing customers sell the products to their friends and family. Not only do word-of-mouth customers cost significantly less to sign up, but they tend to be some of the most stable and profitable, and have higher elasticity, according to a University of Florida study. Generate e-leads by incorporating a referral system with your customers, providing them with the chance to get savings or rewards simply by passing along the brand to their networks. Specialty sales force members will find this particularly helpful for business-to-business (B2B) products or services.

Hunt and Gather

With a wealth of contact information floating around the Internet such as email addresses, mobile phone numbers, and social media links, there are plenty of dragnets out there working to harvest this valuable metadata. A sales associate with a high customer turnover rate, such as an insurance salesman looking for car insurance leads, can take advantage of leads profiling services that deliver the contact information for active, enthusiastic customers right to their doorsteps. These services reach out to potential customers, screening for location, demographics, or other information, and provide a sales agency with the resources needed to enlist new customers.

Social Spending

The lines between social media and online shopping have become blurred to the point where you can go to one site for both purposes. Generate new customers by incorporating social media information, hotlinking, and shares, but be wary of the pitfalls of this process. Since social media represents an active, dynamic medium of exchange, today’s users expect a rapid response to their inquiries—to the point where Lithium Technology reports that half of all average Twitter users want a unique response to their query within an hour. Create a compelling social media dynamic in order to recruit new customers, but keep the keyboards active and monitored in order to avoid the risks of losing customers before they ever pull out their credit cards.

How Typography Affects Your Internet Marketing

English: Example of Tahoma typeface

English: Example of Tahoma typeface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suvir Mirchandani, a teenager from Pittsburgh, recently came up with a way to save the government a lot of money. No, it doesn’t involve massive cuts to social programs or reductions in military spending. Rather, he wants to cut printing costs by changing the font the government uses for its publications. By switching the typeface for all publications to Garamond, Mirchandani estimates the federal and local governments could save millions of dollars each year. The reason: Garamond is a thin, light typeface that doesn’t require much ink.

Although his initial estimate of a $234-million-per-year savings is definitely off, Mirchandani’s proposal brings up some interesting points about typography. While switching to Garamond would save in printing costs, typography experts pointed out this typeface is much harder to read than others. Older customers, who are more likely to read print copies, would probably have a harder time making out Garamond than Times New Roman or Arial. This means that while the government would save money, the publications could lose readability.

Readability is an important consideration for all publications, whether they’re in print or online. While you may not think about typography when you’re optimizing your website, it can make a big difference in how readers view and understand your information. The right typography can really make your content pop, while the wrong kind can turn readers off. Paying more attention to typography during search engine optimization can really help you drive more traffic and boost sales.

Overview of Typesetting

Typographers use specific terminology to describe text styles. It’s helpful to know these terms when you’re discussing typography with your web design team:

  • Typeface: Text styles like Times New Roman, Tahoma and Arial are commonly called fonts, but the correct name is actually typeface.
  • Font: Font includes a certain typeface, plus the weight, width and size of the text. 9 point Arial bold is an example of a font.
  • Serif: A serif typeface has extra decoration around the letters. Times New Roman, Garamond and Palatino are a few examples.
  • Sans-Serif: A sans-serif font is without extra lines or frills at the ends of letters.
  • Line Length: This is the length of a line of text from margin to margin.
  • Leading: Leading is the amount of space between separate lines of text.
  • Kerning: This is the blank space between each individual character.
  • Tracking: This is the average letter spacing over a large group of letters or characters.

Readability vs. Aesthetics

The most obvious way typography affects your site is in terms of readability. Numerous studies have found that certain fonts are easier to read, though there isn’t a clear consensus on whether serif or sans-serif typeface is better. Many believe that serif typeface is easier to read in print and sans-serif is easier on-screen. If you have a book close by, pull it out. What kind of typeface is used? The best-selling Harry Potter book series used Garamond, a serif typeface, as do many popular novels.

On the Internet, some people advise to only use sans-serif. Others say serif is better for headings, while sans-serif is better for body copy. The reason for this is headings need some extra pizzazz. Here’s an example of a serif heading with a sans-serif body, as seen on the Starbucks website.

coffee-typography

Jezebel does the opposite, though, by using serif copy with sans-serif headings.

jezebel-typography

This logo from Warren CAT uses a sans-serif font, but also incorporates a stylized ‘W’ to make it stand out.

warrencat-typography

As mentioned above, several studies have suggested that particular typefaces are better for general readability. However, the most legible typeface is not always what readers prefer. According to a study done at Witchita State University, Verdana, Arial and Comic Sans were the most often preferred typefaces. However, Times New Roman and Arial were read the most quickly, and Arial and Courier were the easiest to read. Ironically, Comic Sans, one of the preferred fonts, was actually least legible.

The study also determined size mattered. Verdana, Arial and Comic Sans were preferred at 10, 12 and 14 points, respectively. Also, Tahoma was the most legible font at 10-point, Courier at 12-point and Arial at 14-point. Ultimately, having a readable font is important as it makes it easier for you to convey information. According to a study done by Microsoft and MIT, reading more legible typography can improve mood and cognitive function.

Font Personality

Readability isn’t the only consideration when selecting a font. Otherwise, participants in the Witchita State study would have always selected the most readable fonts as their favorites. The font you choose can add a certain style and personality to your site. It may even make readers more likely to take you seriously.

According to an experiment done by Errol Morris in the New York Times, certain typefaces may carry more authority. In the experiment, participants were given an excerpt in one of six fonts — Baskerville, Helvetica, Comic Sans, Computer Modern, Georgia and Trebuchet. They were then asked if they agreed with the excerpt, and to what degree. The typeface used made a big difference in users’ responses. People were most likely to agree with the argument when it was presented in Baskerville. They were most likely to disagree when it was in Comic Sans or Helvetica. It’s also worth noting that reputable news websites, like the New York Times, often use an elegant serif typeface.

While there is no clear answer on which typeface is best for your website, using the right one really can make a difference in how readers perceive and remember information.

What kinds of typography do you think are most effective online?

About the Author

alilawrenceAli Lawrence is a content specialist for a web design company and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her articles have been published by Hot in Social Media, Yahoo! Small Business, and Business2Community.

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