Marketing Your Small Business

Marketing Your Small Business

Small business marketing may be the most important part in owning and maintaining a successful small business. A good portion of the marketing effort is determining the needs of your target market and then explaining that you provide solutions to meet those needs. Contrary to popular belief, it is a lot more than posting a sign or handing out flyers. Though many of the philosophies and tactics may be similar, small business marketing is an entirely different discipline than marketing of large companies. Successful marketing is not just a tactic or strategy; it is an entire process and you are sure to fail if you are not enthusiastic about your small business.

Done properly, marketing can and will attract all the clients your small business can handle. But I would suggest you get to a place where you work only with clients who value what you have to offer. If you commit to following simple small business marketing systems, strategies and ideas you can significantly increase what you charge for your services. Unfortunately though, most small business promotions focus only on how great their products and services are. But you need to stay focused on what products and services your ideal clients want and need.

Here’s another big no-no to avoid. Instead of marketing only when you need money or cash flow, commit to marketing your products and services all of the time. It is very important to consistently market your products and services because as I have been saying for years, success is based on persistency and consistency, not magic.

Planning is also a key ingredient to the success of any small business. Developing a small business marketing plan will be one of the most crucial elements to your success. By creating your marketing plan you will eliminate the panic and need for an instant solution to financial problems because you can avoid many of the ups and downs that result from the all to common stop and start marketing. Your plan does not have to be set in stone, it can evolve as you and your business grow. The important thing is your dedication to consistency with your marketing.

The lack of persistency and consistency will lead to an unused marketing plan. This in turn will lead to spits and starts in your cash flow. Successful entrepreneurs who have a small business marketing plan make more money in less time. When you start to think of who your ideal client is and what products and services they want or need and then combine that with your marketing tools and techniques, an effective marketing plan is not far behind.

As you are probably starting to see small business marketing is an entire process, a synergy of the individual tactics and strategies. That’s right, small business marketing is a system where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Another common misconception is that small business marketing is just common sense. Nothing could be further from the truth. An understanding of how small business marketing is conducted is essential for you if success is your goal. You do want results and success don’t you?

It’s all about determining the needs of your target market and then providing solutions to meet those needs. So many people believe that marketing their small business is all about running advertisements, but it isn’t. If you are serious about your success in business, then make understanding marketing an on-going priority.

The ultimate result of small business marketing is to attract more new customers and persuade existing customers to purchase your products or services in higher quantities and more frequently. The successful can attribute their success to having a strategic plan and following it consistently. When you create a marketing plan you will be able to compete at a higher level. Your odds of winning the game significantly improve when you take the time to create a plan.

To your success!

What Marketing Can’t Do For You

What Marketing Can’t Do For You

I thought I would clear up some misconceptions about marketing in this two-part series: What Marketing Can Do For You and What Marketing Can’t Do For You. This issue is about what marketing can’t do.

While there’s no question a solid marketing program can increase your business, it can’t fix everything. Below are 5 things marketing can’t do for you:

1. Marketing can’t make you an overnight success. Just because you start a marketing program doesn’t mean you’re immediately going to see your business explode. Marketing is about getting your name in front of your target market on a regular basis until they finally decide to give you a try.

On that note, if you’re in trouble right now – sales are down, a new business isn’t getting off the ground like you planned — depending on how bad the trouble is a marketing program may not be enough to save you. A successful marketing program needs time to work and more likely than not, a little money as well. If you’re panicked about one (or more likely both) you may need to start looking at other options.

2. Marketing is not about doing something once and forgetting about it. The very best marketers test. And test. And test.

For instance, maybe your Web site isn’t converting visitors to customers as well as it should be. You could hire a copywriter to tweak it for you. You could test the different elements to see what raises your conversion level. That’s one way to use testing. You can also test different headlines, different offers, etc.

3. Marketing can’t fix a bad experience. This is a big one. If your customers have a lousy experience with your products or services or with your customer service reps or sales people, etc., that’s it. Worse yet, not only have you lost a customer for good, that customer will probably tell others about their bad experience. So now you’ve lost more potential customers as well.

Marketing can get people in the door, but it can’t ensure they’ll have an experience they’ll want to repeat. Before assuming more marketing is what you need, take a moment and make sure your current customers are truly satisfied with your business.

4. Marketing can’t fix a flawed business. Much like tip number 3, marketing can’t fix cash flow issues or staff problems.

Okay, I can hear all of you saying “Of course, marketing can’t fix cash flow problems. Do you think we’re stupid?” My answer is no, I don’t think you’re stupid at all. I think what happens is sometimes you get so caught up in the day-to-day challenges of running a business you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Let me explain. Let’s say you have a business that’s struggling with cash flow. The first thing that springs to mind may be revving up marketing. After all, the idea behind marketing is to increase revenue. On the surface that makes sense. However, if you look a little closer, what you might find are expenses that are out of whack or not getting invoices out in a timely manner. So what you should be fixing is your accounting problems rather than changing your marketing.

5. Marketing can’t make people buy things they either don’t want or can’t afford. It doesn’t matter how great your product or service is, if you’re selling to people who either don’t have the interest or the means to buy it, then your marketing is going to fail no matter how brilliant it may be.

So basically it all boils down to this, before you decide you need more marketing, take a few moments and make sure marketing is really the right solution for your business.

Creativity Exercise — Reality Check

Before you launch into a new marketing program, take some time to analyze what’s really happening in your business. Do you really need a marketing program or is your problem:

* You aren’t able to close the leads you have
* You aren’t invoicing in a timely manner or following up with unpaid accounts
* Your customers aren’t happy with the product or service
* Your customers are having a bad experience with technical support or something else in the process isn’t working
* Your target market isn’t right
* You aren’t passionate about what you’re doing anymore
* Your business has way too many expenses

And so on. Basically I just want you to make sure marketing really is your problem before you start fiddling with it.

If you want to grow your business, then you should be consistently marketing your business. But if you’re using marketing as a bandaid for some other problem, then you could be headed for trouble.

Need An E-Mail Marketing Consultant?

Need An E-Mail Marketing Consultant?

Dear ,

Email marketing is an effective way to get your business fresh
in the mind of a customer. In fact this is to be the most use
way of marketing by 2008. The content of your marketing campaign
is very important. You are competing with many other businesses
for the attention of the consumer. It has to appeal to them and
encourage them to go to your website and make a purchase. The
concept is simple but the process is much harder. It can be very
time consuming. If you are struggling with your email marketing
processes or simply don’t have the time to commit to the
process, consider hiring an email marketing consultant.

What exactly is an email marketing consultant? This is generally
a freelancer who has skills in the area of developing effective
email marketing campaigns. There are businesses that employ
several email marketing consultants as well. They will help you
device effective promotions, specials, and newsletters for your
business. The amount of time you use an email marketing
consultant will depend on how regular you plan to send emails to
your customers. These consultants are very familiar with the
email marketing process as well as what consumers respond well
to. They know the market trends and many other aspects that are
part of the formula.

Since email marketing is such an important part of the entire
marketing concept today, take the time to investigate the
consultant you plan to use. If they are part of a company then
check them out with the Better Business Bureau. You will find
out about any issues and complaints filed against the company by
other consumers. Check the internet for reviews about the
company or individual as well. It is important to ask the email
marketing consultant exactly what they will be providing for
you.

Ask for references and information previous projects they have
worked on. Most email marketing consultants have a portfolio.
Putting the wrong person in charge of your email marketing can
damage the relationship you currently have with your customers.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself changing email marketing
consultants down the road once your business has grown and the
objectives of the company have changed. Sometimes the
relationship can continue long term but if your company heads in
a different direction then some changes in marketing and
creativity may be in order.

An email marketing consultant should be willing to listen to the
goals of your business. They need to be aware of exactly what
you want to accomplish. Keep in mind they may need to make
changes to your plan based on the best marketing practices but
they should be willing to discuss the changes with you as well
as why they are needed. If the consultant isn’t willing to talk
with you about the goals of your business or isn’t easily
reached then don’t work with them. They may not be effective or
they may have too many projects taking place to do yours
justice. Any agreement with you and an email marketing
consultant need to be clearly placed in writing for both parties
to sign.

It may take a marketing campaign or two for you to start seeing
the effects. You should see a small increase in traffic to your
website as well as sells. Don’t expect to see a huge difference
overnight regardless of the product or service you are offering.
Your email marketing consultant should go over this information
with you as well. A consultant knows the process and market
trends enough to give you a realistic forecast of what to
expect. They can also help you analyze data that can be used to
make your next email marketing campaign more effective.

To Your Success,

P.S.
Email marketing is a valuable concept that allows you to reach
volumes of customers quickly, effectively, and inexpensively.
The process can be difficult and time consuming. An email
marketing consultant can help you meet your email marketing
campaign goals while allowing your to use your time to operate
other aspects

OS Commerce

OS Commerce

Executive Summary

eCommerce platforms are being commoditized. Enterprise level solutions are coming down in price and new open source solutions are being made available to anyone with an internet connection for free.

The most robust of these open source solutions is OS Commerce (OSC) – a community driven eCommerce solution that is flexible, scalable, and user friendly. As eCommerce becomes even more a part of mainstream retail, OSC will provide businesses of all shapes and sizes with the functionality and capabilities of the big boys. This brief examines some of the advantages of OS Commerce and provides insights into how it can help your business.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Maybe so, but you CAN get an eCommerce platform for nothing. Offered for free at www.oscommerce.com, this eCommerce solution provides tons of bells and whistles and provides a user friendly interface to manage the administrative portions of the store. The code is based in the PHP scripting language and runs on the Apache web server – a user also needs access to a SQL database to initially upload the files that manage the categories and products within the admin section.

Now that sounds complicated, but really anyone can do it with some concentrated effort. Much of the documentation online regarding OS is very thorough and provides step by step plans on how to get your store up and running. Any newbie to this type of work will likely come across some roadblocks, but the OS Commerce community forums are only a click away to start trouble shooting.

The solution is community driven, meaning that like minded OSCers are ready to help out their peers with answers to posted questions. Yes, at times this can be extremely frustrating waiting for an answer, but it is very rewarding to overcome a technology bug on your own.

Contribute to the Cause

The best part of OSC is the number of contributions that can be added to your site at any time. Again, there is no cost for these enhancements and upgrades – just the need to be patient in your installations. In most cases, contributions are located on the OS commerce community section and are downloadable via zip files. After opening the file, read the “read me” file which will walk you through the file additions, subtractions, and code changes needed to make your enhancement work properly. If you explore the OS platform be sure to upgrade with the following contributions.

Ultimate SEO URL’s by Chemo

This cool contribution allows the site owner to create static URL’s out of a database driven site. This will dramatically help in search saturation as more pages are able to be indexed. Its no secret that search spiders like traditional urls better than ones that are dynamic and this contribution helps achieve that.

Easy Populate

No need to input product data manually, this contribution allows you to import data from a basic excel file into your store. A true timesaver!

Featured Products

If you have an ecommerce store – certain products are more attractive to sell than others. This contribution allows you to tailor the featured products that you want to showcase within both your home and category pages.

Final Thoughts on OSC

Myself, I am a marketer. But after learning OS I really feel like I have some programmer blood in me! This platform is easy to use and perfect for a small to medium size business in getting online. Yes, there will be headaches along the way but stay with it and you will overcome them and soon have an ecommerce store to bring you in a new revenue stream.

Craig Smith is the founder of Trinity Insight LLC – a management consulting firm for the E-Commerce sector.

E-Commerce First Impression

E-Commerce First Impression

E-Commerce landing pages are like front doors… friendly, easily accessible and an invitation to the visitor to enter. That’s how you want cyberspace visitors to perceive your landing page. You are selling products and/or services on your e-Commerce site, and you need to have a landing page that invites readers in to take a look. There are some tips that you can consider as you build your front door to make it as friendly and inviting as possible.

Once the visitor clicks on your well-placed ad, he enters your landing page, your front door. His/her eyes go immediately to the area above the fold and to the upper left side of the screen. Put the information there that you want your visitors to see first. Write headlines that pop. Don’t add fluff; make sure the visitor knows what you are about. Your message should be clear to the reader, and it should define the value of your product or service. Remember that pictures always speak louder (and frequently more effectively) than words.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. Content on your page needs to be organized so it’s easily followed. Columns help visitors browse your pages, and they help search engines identify who you are. But research suggests a single column produces more conversions than multiple columns on a page. Take a look at the composition of your page and minimize columns if at all possible. Keep your copy easy to read and understand. If your visitor has to wade through a morass of language that is difficult to follow, you will lose him/her.

You will also lose your visitor if you require a sequence of clicks on several pages to complete a purchase. If I’m in a store trying to purchase an item and find the process lengthy or otherwise frustrating, I’m likely to leave and go somewhere else. There are too many options in the world of commerce to have to put up with being challenged when trying to make a purchase. Try to make buying your product or service as easy as possible; preferably, one click on the landing page should get the customer to the page to complete a purchase. No eCommerce site reaches 100% CTR. But yours will increase if you make the process simple.

Finally, it’s important to remember you are promoting your brand. Some of the tips will need to be individualized for your particular site. You won’t want a page full of energy if you determine a less forceful approach is desirable. Likewise, don’t create a calm and pastoral page if you want an edgy feel. Your brand needs to be compatible with the tone of your page; each needs to complement the other for maximum appeal for visitors.

If you keep the ‘front door’ concept in mind as you create your landing page, your chances for visitors to become customers will improve.

What Is Blogging-Stay On Top Of Newest Technology

What Is Blogging-Stay On Top Of Newest Technology

There are some people who like to stay on top of every new thing that comes along. These are the people who just love being associated with the “cutting edge” and they are technological risk takers of sorts. They have no problem with those things that fail because the “next big thing” is right around the corner. For example, when blogs first came along they never asked themselves “what is blogging”; they charged ahead and just did it.

Okay, you are reading this, so we will assume that you fit into a different category. Perhaps you are not wary of new things, but you prefer to have some idea of whether they are going to benefit you first. This is, in a lot of ways, the smarter approach. You don’t have to jump on everything new, but you are willing to incorporate technology into your life if it can help you in some way…and now you are at the point where you need to know what blogging is.

A good place to start is with the definition of what a blog is. The word ‘blog’ is actually a contraction of ‘web log’, which can also be thought of as a journal. That’s way most of the early bloggers started out; they would post regular updates to their blog and the better ones generated large-scale interest.

While many people still use blogs in this way, a segment of bloggers started using them in other ways. Now blogs are used as more of a framework for all kinds of websites. In fact, you could visit a website that is really a blog, and you would never know it.

WordPress is perhaps the most-used blogging framework. It is easy to install and it can be used free of charge. The real beauty of it though is all of the plug-ins that are available for it. Plug-ins are applications that give additional functionality to the basic WordPress set up. You can find plug-ins that help you to process payments, set up membership sites, schedule posts, change the look of your site, and much, much more.

The question of what is blogging used to have a simple answer, but as mentioned, blogging is evolving. But when talking about blogging in its purest form it all comes back to making regular updates to a website. You can have a blog that is about some aspect of your life (your job, being a parent), a topic that interests you (political beliefs, hobbies), or your opinions on just about anything (pop culture, news).

If you are just blogging for yourself, then you can do it however you want. If you want to get a lot of people reading your blog then you need to provide fresh and interesting content that gets people to spread the word about your blog. You can also use your blog to make money if that is something that you are interested in.

3 Easy Ways To Generate Website Traffic

3 Easy Ways To Generate Website Traffic

There are literally hundreds of ways that you can generate website traffic. They all work, but what you need to keep in mind is that they may not work immediately, so start with one, master it, and then move on to the next. As you do this, you will find the ones that you like better, or the ones that work better for your business and website, or both.

Here are just three popular ways to generate website traffic.

1. YouTube. YouTube.com is one of the most visited sites in the world (with over 73 million visits per day) and its visitor numbers continue to climb. If you want to be where the people, and your potential leads or customers, are, sign up for an account on YouTube, post a video, and put your link in the description of the video. YouTube also allows you to put your website on the video itself, but it is not a do-follow link so it is just there for visual purposes. As with all of your marketing efforts, you need to do some keyword research before preparing your video. Pick a keyword that you want to use, use it in the title of your video, in the tags of your video, and in the description of your video. The video must be under ten minutes long but you can do a very effective video for under a minute, which is another great advantage to using YouTube to generate traffic to your site. It doesn’t take much time, and it’s absolutely free. If you further want to leverage your video, you can submit it to one of the video submission sites which then sends it out to other popular video sites.

2. PPC. Most people think of Google Adwords when they hear the term pay-per-click advertising. Google is the best place to start because it is inexpensive to register (only $5.00) and it currently gets the most traffic. Again, you need to pick your keywords carefully. If you have a low budget, start out with the most uncompetitive keywords, use them in the first lines of your ads and even choose for your ad to show only when someone searches exactly that keyword. This will get you fewer clicks, but they will be more targeted. Once you start gaining ground, you can start to target more competitive keywords as well. You can also try the other PPC platforms like Yahoo and Bing. They have less visitors but the bids are also less expensive.

3. WordPress. You can really use any blogging platform to get traffic to your website but WordPress is very good from an SEO point of view, meaning you can get some incredibly effective, and free, plug-ins that will help you raise the ranking of your website. Include the link to your website in your posts and when you comment on other blogs to generate website traffic.

Create A Website That Sells In As Little As One Hour

Create A Website That Sells In As Little As One Hour

There are many reasons to have a website. They range from personal vanity websites to photo galleries to full blown e-commerce sites. Making money on the web costs less than almost any other type of business you could start. There are countless ways to make money online. Learning to create a website that sells will get you started on the e-commerce journey.

Determine what you plan on selling. Information sells better than almost anything else on the internet. Best of all, it has little cost attached to it. Simply create a digital product, throw up a sales page and you could be making money within the day. Sites that can help you get started selling digital products include Clickbank.

Become an affiliate and sell other people’s products for a commission. This method is as specialized as any other listed here but is effective. Sites like Clickbank will let you promote digital products, hard goods – pretty much anything, and make a commission on every sale. You will still need to get traffic in order to make money but you can make money selling other people’s products and services.

You could also choose to sell hard goods. The easiest place to do this is through an auction site like Ebay. Using Ebay’s auction site, you can literally sell anything you would sell in a retail store. In fact, people even sell things like real estate, cars and more. The great thing about something like Ebay is that they have already paid millions of dollars to get traffic to their website. You pay Ebay a percentage of your sale in return for access to that traffic. There are lots of people making a very nice living selling goods through Ebay. It is even possible to sell digital goods like e-books through Ebay.

One of the simplest ways to get a website built fast is to use a web site builder. These web site builders will allow you to throw up a professional looking website in as little as an hour. Many have e-commerce capabilities and help you get started selling online in no time at all. Good web site builders will allow you to edit changes quickly and easily. They will offer things like unlimited pages, lots of disk space for images, lots of bandwidth where you won’t have to pay if anything extra if you get a surge of traffic.

Whether you build your website from scratch or use a web site builder, you too can cash in on the revolution sweeping the world that is the internet.

What Makes An E-Commerce Shopping Cart Provider Stand Out?

With more than a hundred e-commerce shopping carts to choose from, selecting one is really a matter of preference with careful product evaluation. But what makes one provider stand out from the rest? See the answer below.

Features

Different shopping cart providers offer similar and unique features that are useful to the consumers and beneficial for you as a merchant. While choosing which features to have may depend on the size of your business, a good shopping cart provider offer a wide range of feature options for different business needs.

Integrated Online Marketing and Promotional Tools

With a right shopping cart, you can increase traffic and increase sales virtually over night. How? Shopping carts affect the costumer’s response to your website. The more useful tools it has, the more it can attract new costumers and persuade existing costumers to buy your products. Through integrated marketing and promotional tools like catalog and product comparison, your costumers are able to make easy and wise decision on which products to buy.

Promos, sale, discounts, free shipping and coupons are powerful marketing strategies that can attract more costumers. Shopping carts offer these features.

Product review is another powerful feature that can increase sales. In a study conducted by CompUSA and iPerceptions, 63% of costumers are more likely to buy for the sites with product ratings and reviews.

User-friendly Interface/Ease of Use

Costumers are very impatient when it comes to purchasing products and services online. The last thing your costumers want to you is figure out how to navigate your shopping cart. A user-friendly website is important to keep potential costumers browsing. A user-friendly shopping cart is crucial if you want to keep your costumers stay and complete the transactions.

Payment Options

Different online costumers prefer to use certain types of payment. While most would like credit cards, many are still hesitant to enter personal information online and choose other alternative modes of payment like Paypal, checks and money orders. A good shopping cart service should cover all these.

Hacker-Safe Ordering Page

Earning your costumers’ confidence is important in any business. That is why you have to make sure that your costumers are properly protected when they enter their credit card information to your website. Wise costumers often look for SSL certificate seal on a merchant’s website. This seal is a guarantee that the site is hacker safe. Make sure that you have one.

Full Order Management System

A good shopping cart guides costumers throughout the process of purchasing, checking out, payment and shipping. These services can be provided fully by a hosting company or are linked from different services. Payments can be through major credit cards, PayPal, money orders and checks. Shipping can be linked to major shipping carriers like UPS, DHL and FedEx.

Costumer Service/Support

One of the best ways to gauge if a particular e-commerce shopping cart provider has a good costumer service is by sending questions though their email address. How fast did they reply? Did you get a template reply? In business, time is money; and personal touch is a plus. Costumer service should reply a personalize message as soon as possible. Another way to test how good the costumer service is is through its technical support. In running an effective e-commerce store, the availability of good documentation is important.

Os Commerce – An Intro

Os Commerce – An Intro

Executive Summary

eCommerce platforms are being commoditized. Enterprise level solutions are coming down in price and new open source solutions are being made available to anyone with an internet connection for free.

The most robust of these open source solutions is OS Commerce (OSC) – a community driven eCommerce solution that is flexible, scalable, and user friendly. As eCommerce becomes even more a part of mainstream retail, OSC will provide businesses of all shapes and sizes with the functionality and capabilities of the big boys. This brief examines some of the advantages of OS Commerce and provides insights into how it can help your business.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Maybe so, but you CAN get an eCommerce platform for nothing. Offered for free at www.oscommerce.com, this eCommerce solution provides tons of bells and whistles and provides a user friendly interface to manage the administrative portions of the store. The code is based in the PHP scripting language and runs on the Apache web server – a user also needs access to a SQL database to initially upload the files that manage the categories and products within the admin section.

Now that sounds complicated, but really anyone can do it with some concentrated effort. Much of the documentation online regarding OS is very thorough and provides step by step plans on how to get your store up and running. Any newbie to this type of work will likely come across some roadblocks, but the OS Commerce community forums are only a click away to start trouble shooting.

The solution is community driven, meaning that like minded OSCers are ready to help out their peers with answers to posted questions. Yes, at times this can be extremely frustrating waiting for an answer, but it is very rewarding to overcome a technology bug on your own.

Contribute to the Cause

The best part of OSC is the number of contributions that can be added to your site at any time. Again, there is no cost for these enhancements and upgrades – just the need to be patient in your installations. In most cases, contributions are located on the OS commerce community section and are downloadable via zip files. After opening the file, read the “read me” file which will walk you through the file additions, subtractions, and code changes needed to make your enhancement work properly. If you explore the OS platform be sure to upgrade with the following contributions.

Ultimate SEO URL’s by Chemo

This cool contribution allows the site owner to create static URL’s out of a database driven site. This will dramatically help in search saturation as more pages are able to be indexed. Its no secret that search spiders like traditional urls better than ones that are dynamic and this contribution helps achieve that.

Easy Populate

No need to input product data manually, this contribution allows you to import data from a basic excel file into your store. A true timesaver!

Featured Products

If you have an ecommerce store – certain products are more attractive to sell than others. This contribution allows you to tailor the featured products that you want to showcase within both your home and category pages.

Final Thoughts on OSC

Myself, I am a marketer. But after learning OS I really feel like I have some programmer blood in me! This platform is easy to use and perfect for a small to medium size business in getting online. Yes, there will be headaches along the way but stay with it and you will overcome them and soon have an ecommerce store to bring you in a new revenue stream.