Community Involvement Equals More Business – A real Win/Win!

In today’s tough economy small businesses need to be creative in generating new clients.  Here’s a thought – give back to your community!  By getting involved in your community through non-profits, your local chamber or government; you would be getting word out about your company and products while helping your own community.

Whether you choose to sponsor, participate in or organize an event, you are generating positive word of mouth.  You are generating goodwill within the organization you are helping. Positive word of mouth and goodwill leads people to begin to know, like and trust you and your company – the cornerstones of any referral growth strategy.

Within any non-profit, you are exposed to and can network with people who work, own a home, own a business, have children, have friends, etc., making them likely customers too!

Most community organizations also have an online presence – and are constantly looking for good, local content. Offer to write an article for their web site or newsletter to inform their subscribers about something you are an expert in.  Remember you are writing to inform not sell, however, this is a subtle way of selling your abilities and you company.  Some examples:

  • If you are an accountant, write information on new tax laws or changes on filing tax returns.
  • If you provide pool cleaning services, write about the different ways to keep a healthy and clean pool.
  • If you offer marketing services, write about how different marketing venues work together.
  • If you are a florist, write about planning a wedding.

As a small business owner, you know you need to “advertise” to let people know you exist, but some of the traditional ways of advertising can be cost prohibitive.  Getting involved in your community only costs you your time, generates good will, positive word of mouth and best of all, it will make you feel good too!

Get started today by researching your community organizations, area non-profits and causes you are passionate about. If possible, get your employees involved as well. The more the merrier! And your company will get the more visible impact from the larger presence.

Four Simple Steps to Convert Customers into Advocates

Turning satisfied customers into advocates of your services, products or brands is a very powerful marketing tool.  Every day, the influence of Social Media in purchasing decisions grows exponentially!

Your customers wield tremendous influence over their FaceBook Friends, Twitter Followers, LinkedIn Connections etc. So, how do you turn your customers into your own army of brand evangelists?

Try the old Social Media Four Step!

Step One:

Do Great Work! Always strive to exceed expectations. A delighted customer will happily tout your business to others. They’ll take great pride in having found such a great company to deal with. They will even make your company part of their own identity. Ever see that Apple logo sticker in the back window of a car (or VW Bus!)?  

Step Two:

Engage The Customer! Actively get your customers involved in your product or services. These are the folks you want advocating for you so you better be sure you’re all on the same page! Ask for their opinions about, and recommendations for, improvement to their experience with your company. By engaging your customers in the process, they will feel even more invested in you, and therefore become more willing advocates.

Step Three:

K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Silly! Make it really easy for customers to advocate on your behalf. Provide several simple resources to talk about your company.  Have a strong social media plan in place with several outlets for your customers to talk about you.  Invite them to “like” you on Facebook and write a recommendation or testimonial.

Step Four:

Ask! Let your happy, delighted customers know that you would greatly appreciate their help in spreading the word about their wonderful experience with your company. Invite them to join your LinkedIn contacts and recommend your services. Have them follow you on Twitter, comment on your blog, Pin you to their Pinterest board – whatever! By developing your company’s social media strategy you’re creating a platform for your advocates to some advocating.  Where is your company on the social media spectrum?

Step Four and a Half:

Don’t forget to set up your mostly free accounts up in business directories; i.e. Alexa, Citysearch, Merchant Circle, Yelp, etc.  These directories allow you to put in your company background information, contact information and keyword tags for search engines. Once you’re listed on these directories your brand evangelists have yet another place to can tell the world how wonderful you are!


Rev Up Your Direct Marketing Campaigns With QR Codes!

Quick Response Codes or QR Codes consist of a pattern of black squares arranged on a white background.  Pick up any item at your grocery store (or anywhere else for that matter!) and you’re likely to find a QR code. In stores the code brings up price, description, shelf location, etc with one swipe of the code scanner – for a streamlined and accurate checkout process.

For marketing, this super-barcode is used quite effectively to take a prospect from a printed mail piece in their mailbox into the digital domain.

QR Codes offer the all-important element in marketing known as ENGAGEMENT.

By including QR codes on your direct mailer you’re offering an easy, interactive channel to begin a dialog. Once a prospect scans the QR Code with their Smart Phone they are whisked away to the digital side of your company. Maybe it’s to a specific webpage on your site or to your latest online video OR they may land on a page that greets them by name (Howdy Fred!)

And here’s where the fun starts!

Because the QR code can contain UNIQUE information about everyone on your prospect list, not only are they greeted by their name, information they may otherwise need to type in (address, city, state, zip code etc.) is pre-populated – again to streamline the engagement process for the prospect. PLUS (and this is a big plus) you can track results of your campaign TO THE PERSON! This allows for highly effective follow up activities such as triggered emails, special offers etc. that turn interested prospects into customers!

How can you effectively use QR codes in your direct marketing efforts? 

The possibilities are endless – and surprisingly inexpensive to implement.

QR code marketing campaigns provide you, the marketer, precise measurements of a campaign’s effectiveness and an immediate, simple call to action.  QR Codes offer a logical link between your direct mail marketing and your online presence. But most importantly, they Engage The Customer!

Direct Etc. will work with you to develop a direct mail campaign that effectively blends all your marketing efforts.  Contact us today for more information.


Why Are Keywords Important For Your Website?

Keywords are what a person types into a search engine when they are looking for something online.  So, it is important when creating content for your website that you choose the right keywords for search engine optimization (SEO).

After all, there is no point in having a website if the website is not found by potential customers! 

How do you determine which keywords to target?  Start by developing a list of possible keywords that describe your services or products.  Then search for them on Google and see who shows up in the search results.  This will show you if the keywords are really relevant to your website and show you which competitors are showing up. From this information you can do a complete analysis using various web tools available, i.e. Google Keyword Tool, WordTracker, Market Samurai, etc. to determine your primary and secondary keyword lists.  The primary keywords will be used for your Onsite Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which includes content, title tags, meta descriptions, alt tags and H1 headers.  The secondary list can be used in promoting your website with online pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.

When you start implementing the keywords into your website, remember to create individual pages that are relevant to just a handful of the keywords.  This will give you a high quality content ranking with the search engines.  If you try to put every keyword on every page, this will result in a poor quality content ranking and the pages will be penalized by the search engines.

Remember, all of your competitors are doing SEO on their websites as well.  Trying to compete for a single keyword is very difficult. But you can target longer keyword phrases that closely match your target market. This approach will make it easier for you to come up on the first page of search engine results pages (SERP’s).

For example, if you are mattress company it will be very difficult to come up high with the term “mattress” because of the competition.  But, “mattress for sale online” would be easier for you to work with.

So, if you are ready to build a business website or have one already that is not ranking well in searches, we recommend the first thing to do is a Keyword Analysis – this will give you the strongest foundation to build a website that will be FOUND!

A word of caution, SEO is an ongoing process that can be quite time-consuming – especially to be done correctly.

The importance of being found at the very moment someone is looking to buy cannot be overstated. Consider seeking out the services of professional. The investment will pay off in the end.

Why Do You Need Social Media Marketing?

Social media is a growing and powerful resource for companies to enhance their brand’ offer special promotions and to keep your company engaged with your customers; you need to embrace social media! You can easily see how many promotions are being done by companies on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Digg, etc.

The first step is to set up your social media accounts and develop your company profiles.  Now the fun begins! Your company website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter presence must be updated with relevant, new content including images, text and video at regular intervals. These updates reflect the latest information about your company’s products and services.

Social media allows for interactive dialog between your company, your customers and your prospective customers. Hopefully most of this dialog will be positive, but on occasion you may need to respond to a negative comment. Social media is a great way to address a negative situation right away. By being proactive, most people will feel your company is worthy of their trust and their business and that you willingly address and solve problems, rather than ignore them.

Through your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media outlets, customers are able to write testimonials or reviews of their experience with you.  Since people are using information they find on Internet and through social media in their buying decisions, it is imperative you embrace social media, or be left behind your competition.

A strong social media marketing campaign will give the opportunity to connect with millions of potential customers from all around the world.  It is estimated that by the end of 2012, Facebook alone will have over 1 billion users!

Social media is here to stay.  You may need help in determining and implementing your social media strategy. There are many firms that specialize in this area of marketing. You should consider getting expert help to get the most bang for your buck.

More and more brands are using social media to launch new products and promotions.  View this recent report on CBS News –;flexGridModule

Direct Mail and PPC Campaigns Working Together

In today’s marketing, you have several options to reach out to your target audience and direct mail can complement a variety of the online marketing efforts.  Pay per click (PPC) campaigns has proven to work well with direct mail campaigns and boost your sales.

If you are currently running a PPC campaign and not a direct mail campaign, you are missing the potential to reach several more leads.  And, vice a versa, if you are conducting direct mail campaigns and not PPC campaigns, you are missing out sales.

Why is this? 

Direct mail is proactive, you reach your targeting mailing list at their home or place of business and present an offer for your services and they are only seeing your company on the printed piece. So, for best results make sure your call to action is strong.

PPC is reactive, because it relies on prospects searching for your services on Google, which is a very strong prospect, because they are searching and usually are planning to purchase.  However, on the Google search, you will share your ad with other advertisers who are paying to come up on top of the searches. So, again, make sure your offer is clear and your landing page has a strong call to action.

Throw a larger net to get more fish!

By using more than one marketing tool, direct mail and PPC together, you are increasing your possible leads and sales.  You can mail to a targeted mailing list of prospects that fit your criteria, but that doesn’t guarantee your reach every possible interested prospect.  What about the people who weren’t on the list but are still interested in your services?  With the number of online users and increase online sales, it is most likely you can catch them with a PPC campaign.

When you use direct mail and PPC, you will maximize the effectiveness of your marketing and increase your revenue.  If you need help in your marketing needs, contact us today and we will show you how we can help.

How Do You Create A Strong Call To Action?

In all of your marketing efforts, the main objective is to get a response.  The call to action (CTA) is the most important part of your message of your website, email campaign, direct mail campaign, SMS campaign or pay per click campaign.

The problem with most CTA’s is they are not clear enough as to what your audience will be getting, or they do not stand out enough.

The most common CTA mistakes on websites is a lack of detail.  For example, “Buy Now” – Buy What?  Or, “Click Here”…and what download a virus?  Make your message clear – “Click Here To Sign Up For Our Newsletter” or “Fill Out The Form to Buy Our Video”.  The design of your CTA is also important.  The CTA should be larger than other elements on the page and use color and contrast to make it stand out.

This is also a problem with Direct Mail, if your printed piece is covered in “Act Now”, “Limited Time Offer”, or “Supplies Are Limited”, this is not a strong message to the consumer who has been seeing these messages over and over and they tune them out.  Be clear on what your company is offering, for instance, if you are a pool contractor, you may want to offer free estimate and a $100 off coupon for returning the card.    With direct mail it is also very important that your CTA is going to the right mailing list!

We all know that mobile marketing is becoming more relevant as the number of people who use their tablets and smart phones for information increases. With mobile marketing you will increase your opt-ins by giving your customers more information on what they will receive, how often and how to opt-out.  Make sure your CTA provides incentive; it could be a coupon, entering a sweepstakes, special offer, etc.

PPC advertising costs you money, so you want to make sure every click you pay for counts.  A PPC campaign is highly targeted traffic, so it’s important that you don’t confuse your pay per click visitors.  Your landing page should be solely dedicated to s single purpose with a strong CTA.  For example if you are a landscaping company wanting to build your customer base, your landing page should provide your company information, a form to fill out for more information and an incentive for doing so, i.e. first month service free and free estimate.

Direct Etc. will help you develop the strong CTA’s to increase your response, exposure and conversions. Contact us for more information.


Video Marketing, Why You Need It

Video Marketing is a very hot topic now and is growing rapidly. Cisco Systems estimates that 90% of web traffic will be driven by video by the end of 2013 and must be incorporated into your website’s content marketing strategy.

Your website’s content and your blog gets your message in front of your potential customers and you can be found via Long Tail Keyword search in Google.  However, Video is much easier to syndicate and will get that video in front of as many eyeballs as possible.  There are several ways to post syndicate your videos, here are a few resources:

  • YouTube
  • Video Aggregators, e.g. Veoh, Blip, Metacafe
  • Post Link on Your Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, etc.
  • Place Video on your website or blog
  • Ask other websites to post your video
  • Post your video on iTunes as a video podcast

As you can see, website content is important, but one video allows you dozens of places to post and get you more exposure.

Creating videos is simple and inexpensive.  You don’t need a director, professional equipment, editing skills or software.  You just need a video camera or smart phone to get started.  Find the best person in your company to be your star and then deliver information people can use and enjoy.

Think about it, as a restaurant owner, wouldn’t a video of patron enjoying your venue and raving about the Chef’s Special have way more impact than pictures on your website? You bet!

If you’re a landscape company, a video showing the transformation of a customer’s property as well as the customer enjoying their new yard is far more impactful than just before & after pictures.  And as an added bonus, a clients’ testimonial on video will carry far more weight than one that’s written.

Another advantage of Video marketing is its ability to establish your company’s personality even faster than writing articles or blog posts.  On video your personality comes through to viewers and gives them an opportunity to like and share you with their social community, expanding your reach even further.

Even though video is established in most market areas, the number of companies using it effectively is relatively small. So the use of videos to discuss your products and services definitely sets your company apart from your competition.

The growth of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets accessing the internet is phenomenal. Video plays very well on these mobile devices.  As your Blended Marketing Solution provider, Direct Etc. will help you to integrate your online marketing, including videos with your direct mail and email campaigns to ensure all channels perform at their best!

Contact us today to see how we can help you.


Google Places Update

As we all know Google is constantly updating their products and search algorithms.  Direct Etc. will keep up with these changes and get the information out to our readers as quick as we can! We know how important it is to the small business owners to keep up with these changes and adjust their business listings on the Internet to advance their brand and continue to grow business.

In an effort to bump up their social network Google+, the search engine has replaced Google Places with Google Plus Local.  When Google Plus launched in 2011, there was a lot of enthusiasm, however, the usage statistics did not keep up with the pre-launch hype.  With replacing Google Places with Google Plus Local, which will also interface with Zagat, Google hopes its 100 million users with start interacting more frequently on the social network and give Facebook more competition.

If you already have a Google Places page, it has been replaced with the new Google+ Local page.  So you don’t need to worry about doing anything with your listing.  Here is a list of changes that have been implemented.

  • The substitution of the new Google+ Local pages for Google Places pages
  • The appearance of a “Local” tab within Google+
  • The integration and free availability of Zagat reviews
  • The integration of Google+ Local pages across Google properties, i.e. search, Maps, mobile
  • Integration of a circles filter to find reviews/recommendations from friends, family and colleagues.

When Google launched Places their hope was that merchants would use it to interact and communicate with their customers and prospects.  This didn’t happen because of the limitations of Places.  Learning from that Google+ Local is much more versatile and social “friendly” with functionality equal to Facebook and Twitter.

These changes will enhance the consumer experience with a relatively small adjustment and learning curve.  Internet users will continue using Google as they have but get the benefit of the richer pages and Zagat ratings.  Millions of local merchants can use the technology to create dynamic pages and content and create greater engagement with customers and prospects.

If you don’t have your Google+ Local page, we encourage you to do so soon.  It’s free and easy to set up.  However, if you need some help, please contact us.

Direct Mail PLUS Email Marketing: A Great One-Two Punch for Small Businesses

If you’re a business with a fair amount of foot traffic coming through your door, are you collecting email addresses from your customers?

This is one of the simplest, cheapest marketing strategies to implement, but I am always surprised at how many independent businesses I frequent never bother to ask me for my email address. What’s up with that?

However, when I drop into most any chain store or restaurant for the first time, they want my address, cell number, email address and shoe size (kidding!)

Sometimes I give them what they want, other times I don’t want to be bothered – but kudos for trying! Obviously, by keeping in touch with me, they stand a better chance at future sales – and they just might be right!

Keeping existing customers as customers is a heck of a lot easier than finding new ones, but don’t take your customers for granted.

Sending out monthly email marketing specials, advance notice of events or sales, or just a simple “THANKS” for being a customer, goes a long way in keeping loyal customers.

If your business lacks foot traffic and/or lacks email addresses, a targeted direct mail marketing campaign can be highly effective in improving your situation.

While you’re sending out your direct mail, why not build a database of email addresses at the same time – the old “kill two birds with one stone” strategy.

Every effective direct mail campaign needs a compelling offer – typically a discount of some sort.

As an added incentive, have the recipient head to your website or landing page where they can submit their email address to receive an even better deal.

Now this prospect has moved one step closer to becoming an actual PAYING customer!

By submitting their email address to your site, they have also Opted-In to receive future offers from you via email.

Future Offers = Future Sales!

Sending someone on your email list an email marketing offer is considerably less expensive than mailing them one.

And as your database of email addresses grows in size, you’ll want to consider an email marketing system such as Constant Contact, Mail Chimp or any one of many such programs to manage your email marketing campaigns. The cost of these programs range from FREE to hundreds of dollars a month, based on your needs.

By the time you’d have to actually pay money to manage your email marketing – it will already be worth the investment!