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Why Should My Business Invest in Content Marketing?

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Seemingly every business in the world has been told how important it is to invest in content marketing, with billions of dollars spent on this promotional strategy each year. And yet, 40% of small business owners feel it’s difficult to measure the impact of content marketing. If you’re wondering whether your content marketing dollars would be better spent elsewhere, it’s important to learn why generating content online is essential for your business.

Generating Traffic Online

Most small business owners think of content marketing as a tool for growing social media connections and increasing user engagement, but they fail to see how content contributes to organic traffic patterns. Search engine optimization (SEO) has long been a buzzword for content creators on the web, but the correlation between strong content and organic traffic is simply undeniable. Without great content on your website, your visitor count will fall flat.

Delving into the technical specifics of SEO is a significant undertaking, but understand this: investing in content boosts your site’s value in the eyes of the search engines. This result may not be perceptible to the naked eye, but consistently blogging and generating interesting content has a marked impact on your website’s incoming traffic trends. For a more detailed look at the link between SEO and content marketing, take a look at this comprehensive overview from industry leader Kissmetrics.

Building Brand Awareness

Generating content online to build brand awareness is frankly a no-brainer. Spreading the word about your company can feel incredibly difficult as a small business owner, especially if you’re competing with larger chains that have seemingly unlimited marketing budgets. Content marketing is a cost-effective tool for getting your name out there. Best of all, unlike traditional advertising that only delivers results while your campaign remains active, content lives on indefinitely, bringing you business for years to come.

Establishing Authority

Consumers look to industry experts when it comes to making buying decisions. What wine should I pair with red meat? What’s the perfect local spot for date night with my wife? What shoes should I wear with a little black dress?

Content marketing gives you the opportunity to answer questions your target audience has about the products and services you know best. By addressing points of interest for potential customers, you’re building a reputation within your niche. When it comes time to make a purchase, you’re the company these buyers will turn to for reputable products.

Perhaps the single greatest key for content marketing success is patience. Building a following online and generating sales for your business won’t simply happen overnight. As you generate more and more content, the snowball effect will become apparent. As content drives more consumers to your website, your social media following increases and your industry position soars.

If you continue to show your marketing efforts the attention they deserve, you’ll also see your bottom line grow. Take a deep breath and roll the dice. Content marketing isn’t a quick fix for your sales woes, but it is a viable investment for the future of your business.

5 Tips to Maximize Instagram’s Potential for Your Restaurant

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Diners salivating over a delicious dish from the kitchen often whip out their smartphones before their forks ever touch the plate. The phenomenon of documenting food on social media, often nicknamed food porn, has reached a frenzy. Scientific evidence demonstrates food porn’s prowess, as these images generate hunger and lead us to consume additional calories. While some restaurateurs bemoan simpler days when customers simply ate the food, others are finding food porn can serve as a business boon.

As the old expression goes, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” If you’re interested in making a big splash for your restaurant on Instagram, use the following 5 tips to drive this marketing strategy forward.

1. Encourage Patrons with Giveaways

For some restaurant owners, too many Instagram snaps isn’t the problem. Instead, they’re struggling to gain any traction online. If you find yourself in a similar boat, consider using free food or giveaways to get your customers snapping. Many restaurants will pick winners at random from entries hashtagged with the name of the eatery.

2. Build Your Own Profile

Asking customers to share their food shots is one way to increase your exposure, but don’t leave your social media strategy up to your diners. Instead, build your own profile and interact with your customers online. Comment on photos they’ve shared, create a following by sharing interesting content, and promote your Instagram on your marketing materials to grow your following.

3. Think Beyond Food

Food photography has an undeniable impact in restaurant marketing, but your business is about more than the food alone. Instagram can be used to take your followers on a journey. From documenting what takes place in the kitchen to showcasing new products or services, there are plenty of intuitive ways to keep the attention of your followers without resorting to the same tired pictures of your favorite dishes.

4. Use Hashtags to Expand Your Reach

Using hashtags is a simple way for followers in your digital community to find relevant content. Don’t be afraid to join the conversation by using popular hashtags like #TBT (Throwback Thursday). If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, consider responding to current events on your Instagram feed.

Oreo won marketing accolades during the Superbowl 2013 by tweeting out an image of its signature product, along with the caption, “You can still dunk in the dark.” (The image was in response to the blackout that caused the game to be paused for several minutes). Consider taking a similar approach, but be sure not to spam with irrelevant hashtags that could hurt your digital reputation. Instead, link the event to your food in creative ways.

5. Share Your Photos Outside of Instagram

Instagram is a great destination for starting the conversation with food photography, but don’t limit yourself to interactions on this social network. Instagram is most popular with 18-29 year old consumers, and women use the platform more than men. Connect with other segments of the market by linking your Instagram photos with additional social accounts. It takes next to no effort and it automatically boosts your clout, ensuring your photos are seen by the largest audience possible.

Experience Marketing: Building Connections with Customers

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Modern consumers are bombarded with marketing content continuously on the web. Unfortunately, the abundance of photos, articles, and videos vying for attention has led to oversaturation and customer fatigue. Simply put, making a splash on the internet is much more difficult in 2015 than it was just a few short years ago. Instead of focusing exclusively on generating intriguing content, many small business owners are finding greater success through a concept known as experience marketing

What is Experience Marketing?

The idea behind experience marketing is simple: customers who have an emotional connection to a brand are loyal to the business. To this end, restaurants, wineries, hotels, and other hospitality businesses are working to build experiences for their customers. Marketers using this technique strive for the domino effect. Assuming the customer has a fantastic experience and feels a strong link to the brand, the consumer will be more likely to talk about the company on social media and share their thoughts on review sites.

Creating a Positive Experience

While experience marketing may be a simple idea, the execution often proves tricky for business owners. Fortunately, creating a meaningful experience for your guests doesn’t need to feel like a challenging proposition. Consider using some of the following keys to boost the emotional connection your customers feel toward your brand:

Personalize Every Visit: Demonstrating your attention to the needs and preferences of your buyers generates immense value in the eyes of your customers. When possible, try to personalize experiences for your patrons by remembering their favorite orders and catering to their whims.

Pay Careful Attention: Nothing feels more frustrating that visiting a business and working to capture the attention of a server or a salesperson. Don’t make your buyers feel unappreciated with poor service. Pay attention to the little details and be overambitious in your efforts to ensure their desires are met.

Be Warm and Inviting: If you consider yourself a marketer above all else, spend some time brushing up on your customer service skills. Positive experiences for customers are often driven by fantastic customer service. Show your customers you care with kindness, appreciation, and genuine warmth that will leave them feeling great.

Encouraging Digital Interactions

Creating a positive experience for customers is not a new marketing concept, but transforming positive experiences into social media traction is a relatively novel idea. Before your customers leave your business, be sure they’ve learned how they can interact with your brand online. From placing social media icons on your menu board to displaying a review site decal on your storefront windows, there are plenty of ways to subtly encourage your customers to share their thoughts online.

Building a loyal customer base through experience marketing can help your business succeed in the digital world, but remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Treat every customer experience like a meaningful interaction, and the results will become apparent bit by bit. By combining experience marketing with other proven promotional techniques, you’re bound to see tangible results for your business on the web.

What Millennials Want: 4 Simple Keys for Brands

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

America’s 80 million millennials represent some $200 billion in annual buying power, making it vitally important for businesses of all sizes to market their products and services to this demographic. If you’re one of the many entrepreneurs who feel stumped when it comes to connecting with the millennial buyer, don’t despair. Instead, take some to time to explore the patterns and trends driving the buying behavior of this group.

What Drives the Millennial Buyer?

Many of millennials buying habits vary greatly from those of Generation Y shoppers. The following four attributes are among the biggest differences millennials exhibit:

1. Intentional with Buying Decisions

Today’s young adults are overwhelmingly earning less money than their parents did for the same work, which has made millennials more intentional about their buying choices. For many hospitality businesses, catering to millennials means taking steps to ensure products are environmentally-friendly and produced in accordance with fair trade practices. With greater competition in a globalized marketplace, small business owners need to be incredibly specific with their marketing message.

2. Not “Black and White” Thinkers

According to recent research, 50% of millennials self-identify as “foodies,” but many of these food aficionados are still attracted by the low prices and decadence of fast food eateries. Unlike the baby boomers, millennials are more flexible in their buying choices. They want to save the planet and make a difference in their local communities, while simultaneously embracing spontaneity and following their whims.

Feel confused? So do many marketing experts—the key to connecting with marketers is treating nothing as sacred. Instead, be open to experimentation and tweaking your brand values.

3. Focused on Technology

Nearly three-fourths of millennials use the web to make buying decisions, and their fascination with the internet doesn’t stop there. Young consumers are redefining many aspects of the hospitality industry, as they prioritize features like online checkins and paying tabs via their mobile devices. Millennials are also vocal about sharing their opinions on review sites, in turn impacting the decisions of others.

4. Interested in “Unique” Experiences

Whereas yesteryear’s buyers were happy to go with the flow and follow the overall shopping trends of their peers, millennials are increasingly looking for the unique, out-of-the-box experience. For hoteliers and restaurateurs, it’s imperative to change the traditional marketing message. Millennial buyers are driven by a desire to see something outside the norm. Curating specific experiences and giving these consumers the opportunity to do something their friends haven’t had the chance to do is an important principle for marketers to embrace.

Like it or not, millennials are here to stay. Understanding the unique challenges that these buyers represent is a beneficial tool that will help your business better reach such consumers. If you’re eager to keep your business on the right track, continue to monitor the habits of the millennial buyer. This will allow you to better craft the right marketing strategy for your brand.

Every Business is an Online Business!

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Small business owners often overlook the need for a dynamic business website. According to research conducted for GoDaddy this past summer, 59% of small businesses still don’t have a dedicated website. Survey respondents provided a number of different reasons for this trend, with 35% of participants citing their small size for their lack of a web presence. Unfortunately, these businesses are missing out on a myriad of benefits, while simultaneously jeopardizing their financial health.

Why Do I Need a Website?

In 2016, every business is an online business. The internet is not only a tool for retailers who provide services to clients via the web. Instead, it’s a vitally important resource for connecting real-world businesses with customers. If you’re still on the fence about building a web presence, consider the following invaluable benefits an effective business website provides:

1. Your Website is a 24/7 Salesman

Think of your website as the best salesperson on your team. Unlike human staffers, websites never take a break or clock off for the day. A professional website allows consumers to learn more about your business and the services and products you offer. Best of all, this advertising is incredibly affordable. Unlike traditional ad campaigns, you won’t fork over thousands of dollars to keep your website performing optimally.

2. Websites Increase Your Visibility

How many customers are you losing to competitors who market themselves effectively online? According to a Google study, a full 50% of consumers conducting mobile local searches visit a business in person within 24 hours. Buying habits have shifted in the 21st century, with customers turning to the internet to make informed decisions about which local businesses to patronize.

3. A Professional Site Boosts Customer Engagement

Any business owner can recognize the importance of fostering customer loyalty. Your best customers will repeatedly visit your business and recommend you to others. Building a web presence is a powerful tool for customer engagement, as it allows you to foster relationships with your existing customer base outside of physical interactions.

Whether you choose to build a targeted email list, promote new products or sales, or simply keep your customers abreast of changes in your business, your website allows you to make a powerful impact. Generating interesting content also gives your loyal buyers something they can share with others via social media, further contributing to your online clout.

If you’re eager to invest in the future of your business, stop thinking about in terms of “online” and “offline.” 84% of Americans use the internet, while a further 65% use a smartphone. The internet is a ubiquitous resource that nearly all consumers are already using to make buying decisions. By refusing to embrace the power of the web for your small business, you’re only driving would-be customers away and endangering your livelihood.

Help, I Don’t Have Time to Blog!

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

The benefits of generating interesting content for your business blog are undeniable: from driving traffic to your site to establishing authority in your industry, a great blog can make a long term impact on the health of your business. Unfortunately, many small business owners ultimately neglect their blogs, simply because they can’t find the time to write new posts. If you find yourself in similar shoes, learn why it’s important to establish a gameplan for keeping your blog performing optimally.

Avoiding a ‘Dead’ Blog

Many business owners attack the blogging challenge with gusto initially, only to lose steam as the challenges of keeping their company afloat overshadow the need for new posts. Neglecting your blog for a few months can have serious repercussions, however. Your customers will stop visiting your site, and potential leads may look to competitors when they find your blog is stagnant. You’re essentially flushing sales away, one by one.

How Do I Fix the Problem?

First, be realistic about your blogging capabilities. If you know that you can’t commit to producing three full-fledged posts every week for the foreseeable future, don’t start now. Set reasonable goals that won’t loom over you as an intimidating chore down the road. If you know you cannot or will not make the time to generate content, don’t play the ostrich with your head in the sand. Instead, come up with a strategy for filling your site with relevant content from other contributors.

How to Hire Blog Writers

There is no shame in working with a professional writer to ensure your blog stays populated with the informative posts—in fact, some business owners would be better off working with a blog writer from the start. A marketing expert can help you craft blogs that convey your message in an effective manner, making your brand truly shine. A professional may also be better suited for helping you navigate the waters of search engine optimization (SEO).

There are a number of different ways to find contributors for your blog.For long term solutions, partner with a marketing agency who can help you generate ideas for your blog and deliver well-written posts that will keep your audience intrigued. Many business owners find this approach delivers better results for their brand, while eliminating the stress of keeping up with an ambitious editorial calendar solo.

When it comes to blogging, don’t be tempted to throw in the towel because you don’t have the time in your schedule. Instead, take a pragmatic approach: commit to writing a small number of posts or outsource your work to a capable partner. Regardless of which approach you take, keeping your blog alive with great content will boost your visibility on the web and help ensure the future success of your brand.

Adding Content Value: Stop Wasting Your Time with Fluff

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

When it comes to keeping your website populated with new content, it’s easy to feel somewhat overwhelmed. Many small businesses try to keep visitors interested by churning out new posts every week, but unless you’re delivering something of value, you’re wasting your time. Instead of focusing solely on the frequency of your posts, you need to hone in on the value proposition for your site. This will supercharge your marketing efforts and help your business stay healthy.

Why Does Content Matter?

Much of the confusion about quality content is derived from a fundamental misunderstanding of content’s purpose. Keeping your blog populated with fresh information isn’t simply a show of force—content creation is one of the most powerful tools available for connecting with your customers. Effective content marketing should also expand your brand’s digital reach.

High-value content provides the following benefits for your brand:

● Generates organic inbound search traffic
● Engages your existing audience
● Builds further credibility and authority in your industry
● Converts visitors into new leads/customers
● Solidifies your brand message

Don’t be tempted to stay on a surface level, but keep your attention on content that will perform optimally for your business.

Defining “Value”

So, you understand the importance of creating unique content, but what qualifies as valuable? First and foremost, content should be relevant to your brand message. Your should blog shouldn’t be filled with fluff that doesn’t have any ties to the product you sell.

Valuable content is also useful and unique. Don’t re-purpose the same message your competitors are selling and hope for the best. You need to spend time crafting a brand message that your customers aren’t going to find elsewhere. Furthermore, don’t get stingy and only update your site every once in a blue moon. Moz cautions business bloggers to avoid providing low value content, because it can be as dangerous as poor quality posts.

Identifying Pain Points

Too many entrepreneurs view business blogging as the strange beast that bucks the trends in marketing, but website content should connect with your customers in the same way as traditional marketing campaigns. Before you write a blog post, ask yourself, “What are my customers pain points?” Spend some time prospecting and speaking to your existing clients about what they’re looking for. Developing a deeper understanding of how your customer thinks will equip you with the right tools to create valuable content. It’s Marketing 101, folks.

If you’re tired of making a tiny splash when you’re looking for a big wave, stop blogging without any purpose. Either spend some time generating content that will cement your position as an authority in your industry, or farm your content out to a marketing team who can help you make the right impact. If you continue to use the same tired content techniques and hope for the best, you’ll discover with time that you’re only wasting money and not generating any real growth for your business.

5 Steps for a More Effective Social Media Marketing Plan for 2016

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Social media has radically redefined how modern brands think about marketing to consumers, but many small businesses struggle to hit the right note with their customers. Without the proper direction, your social media efforts will likely fall flat. If you’re tired of lackluster results from your social marketing endeavors, use these five simple steps to develop a more effective marketing plan for the new year.

1. Consistency: Sticking to Your Commitment

Many businesses join networks like Twitter and Facebook with the best of intentions, only to flake on their marketing efforts a few months later. Think of your social campaigns like a snowball rolling down the hill. The snowball starts small, but it can only grow if you keep pushing it. Use this simple guide to understand how frequently you need to post to maximize engagement.

You also need to ensure that your status updates feel cohesive. The Content Marketing Institute recommends considering the imagery, tone, and subject matter of your updates. Don’t confuse your followers with a disjointed message.

2. Engaging: Remember, Social Networking is a Conversation.

Plenty of small businesses treat their social networking efforts as little more than a promotional vehicle. Instead of stepping on your soapbox and yelling about your upcoming sale, use your social platforms to engage with your customers. Respond to their messages, and don’t be afraid to inject a bit of personality into your conversations. Effective social marketers foster better relationships through consistently interactions.

3. Relevance: Does Your Content Matter?

The world’s most successful social marketers understand the importance of sharing content that is relevant to a brand’s message. Unlike blog posts or newsletter copy, social shares are often brief and to the point. This doesn’t mean relevancy should fly out the window, however. Focus on crafting updates that make sense as part of the bigger picture. This will help you grow your following organically, while converting casual followers into fervent brand devotees.

4. Sharing: Forget the “One & Done” Approach

Most marketers use their social accounts as a way of sharing content from their website, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this technique. It’s important to remember, however, that only a small fraction of your followers see each individual update. Kissmetrics advises sharing your content multiple times, in order to connect with the largest audience possible.

5. Images: Boost the Impact of Your Updates

It’s always easiest to share a small written message with your followers, but images have consistently been proven to increase engagement on social networks. For example, including an image can increase your retweets on Twitter by 150%. If you’re feeling ambitious, you might also want to consider using video to further captivate your digital audience.

Much like any other marketing tool, social networking takes plenty of hard work. By building a thoughtful marketing strategy as you head into the new year, you’ll ensure your social efforts don’t go unnoticed. Make updating your accounts part of your daily routine, and with a bit of luck, you should see your engagement increasing as time moves forward.