5 Circles: Should I be using email marketing?

emailmarketing

This is going to be fun! This week on the 5 Circles Series we’re going to be discussing email marketing. Email can be used both B2B and B2C, it can generate sales, create brand awareness, build relationships, share ideas, inspire people, and grow your business.

But should you be using it?

The short answer: yes.

The long answer: yyyyyyyeeeeeeeeessssssssss. (That was longer, wasn’t it?)

Seriously though, there is literally no reason not to use email marketing in your business. Every email you send is a form of marketing, if you’re smart enough to include business info in your signature! So let’s get down to it:

Should you use email marketing?

Marketing Circle: Social

You’ve heard about Twitter. You know about Facebook. The value of networking with people is unsurpassed. I have personally helped brands to grow their following using all of those mediums. But do you know which tool in the social arsenal worked the best – out of every possible method? Email. If you do nothing else from the social circle, make email your focus – you will *not* regret it.

Best-fit Archetype: Communicator

Do you love writing? Is creating new content one of your favourite parts of running your business? Have people told you that you have a knack for communicating your ideas in a way that reads, and flows, very well? Then you are likely a communicator – the archetype of most writers, bloggers, and media moguls. Sharing information (yours, or someone else’s) is your favourite past-time, and email marketing is an amazing way to share your information with your newest raving fans!

Secondary Archetype: Expert

If you love being the centre of attention, then email marketing might be the right fit for you. Experts are well suited to informative newsletters that position them as the source of must-read information on the topic at hand. Be sure to use other mediums (video, images, audio) in your email marketing if writing isn’t your forte!

How does it work?

Essentially, you create an “opt-in” or “landing” page – a place where people who are interested in your business can gain more information in exchange for their email address. Offering free, helpful information is a great way to get people to subscribe. If your brand is well-known and trusted, offering a discount can be effective as well.

Once they subscribe to your email list, you have the ability to send them information, special offers, new content, and anything else your heart desires. If you use ecommerce in any way, or have online response mechanisms (like appointment scheduling, for example) email marketing is likely to drive a high percentage of your sales.

Best Practices:

  1. Let people opt-in! I see so many companies, especially product companies in FMCG/CPG sectors (but some service-business owners, bloggers and online entrepreneurs as well) hiding their opt-in form. Put it in your header, put it in your sidebar, put it in your footer, include a link in your content, do a popup – make sure that if someone lands on your site and wants to be on your newsletter, they can. I’ve seen 4 blogs this week alone that expected you to follow them on Twitter for their latest posts. << Don’t do that.
  2. … But don’t force it. Yes, email marketing is likely to be one of the biggest drivers of your business moving forward if you utilize ecommerce or have an online response mechanism in place – but because the costs involved in email marketing services (I use Mailchimp) increase pretty much with every subscriber you have, you really want a responsive, engaged list of subscribers… Not a huge list of people who could care less about your existence. Engagement doesn’t only come from the content of your newsletter, it also comes from the sources of your subscribers. Make sure that everyone who subscribes to your list really wants to hear from you.
  3. Offer something of value in exchange for their info. Seriously, nobody wants your “newsletter” (or at least, they don’t know yet that they want your newsletter.) They want the answer to their prayers, the solution to their problems, the “more, better, faster” to their “less, worse, and slow”. Offer them something they can’t resist – something you would/should charge for – for free, in exchange for their information.
  4. Segment your lists. Don’t send the same offers to someone who is a loyal buyer of your products that a brand new, wet behind the ears subscriber gets! Your most loyal people get your best insights and info, and get the opportunity to move up to higher and higher levels of investment in your products and services. It’s called a sales funnel, and it works.
  5. Give a [email protected]That number, from 0 to infinity, staring back at you from inside your email marketing dashboard is not a magic machine that spits out more and more money the bigger it gets. That number is the number of people who have bothered to give you time and attention out of their valuable day. Maybe they’re reading your email instead of playing with their kids, doing their chores, finishing work for a client, I’ve even gotten responses from people who thanked me for my inspirational messages while attending a funeral (not kidding.)
    You don’t know what those 10, 300, 6,000, 250k people are doing today, but they’re not digits and email addresses – they are people. Write to them, share with them, and treat them and their time with respect. Earn their respect. That is how you generate money from email marketing – use it to build relationships with people whom you can help.
  6. Write epic sh!t. << Enough said.  (Thank you, Corbett.)

Warnings:

  1. Stop using Feedburner. I know, they’ve improved their features and you can now X, Y, and Z. That doesn’t matter. Stop using Feedburner/blitz/deliveryguy/razzledazzle/whatever today. Be professional, use branded email marketing that comes from your own email address with your own spiffy signup form and confirmation emails. Nobody is impressed by your Feedburner follower count more than they would be impressed by your newsletter subscriber count, and with the RSS-to-Email capabilities (Google it) that exist today, you’d be crazy to put all of your eggs in the soon-to-die Feedburner basket.
  2. Don’t beat your subscribers over the head with offers, unless that is what they signed up for (which is really only true if you’re Groupon. And you’re not Groupon [probably. If you are, hi Groupon!]) They signed up for value, deliver them value – and if you can add to that value with well-placed, timely offers of additional help and support (aka your products and services) then do so. Train your subscribers to expect regular content and offers, and lots of value. They’ll love you for it.
  3. Ignore everything on this list (except the Feedburner thing. Seriously guys…) Don’t do email marketing the way anyone says you “should”. Some people say to email daily, others say monthly. Some people say you should include 10+ images, others say none. Do it your way, test, track, monitor, and improve – and who knows, you might actually end up learning what your ideal clients and customers really want along the way!

So there you have it. Is email marketing right for you? If the sky is blue and bears are you-kn0w-what-ting in the woods, then yes. Do email marketing. Build a database of people who want to hear from you, who find you valuable, and want to learn more about what you can do for them. You will not regret it!

Want to use this article on your site? Go ahead! Just include this byline at the end:

An ex-corporate marketing maven gone rogue, Cheryl Woodhouse is a Business Growth Mentor and Certified Master Law of Attraction Practitioner who helps small business owners to use their business growth as a tool to design their ideal life – one that includes plenty of profit. She has the uncanny ability to pinpoint the perfect business model for your goals, using your unique skills and abilities as a guide to create a strong foundation for your success. She then uses her mad skills in marketing to eliminate the overwhelm and frustration in your business, guiding you to choose 5 highly profitable core activities, and ditching the rest. You can find out more about your ideal marketing methods on her blog at CherylWoodhouse.com

The 5 Circles of Marketing (because "types" just sounds boring…)

marketingAre you a billionaire philanthropist playboy? Awesome! Richard Branson and Bill Gates, you have more important things to do today so I’ll send you on your way.

For the rest of you – since you’re not billionaire philanthropist playboys (or playgirls!) yet, my best guess is that you could use some “oomph” in your business. Bring in some new leads, new customers, new attention. You know, make more money and share more of your unique gifts, abilities, and products with the world.

I’ll also venture a guess that you probably don’t want to spend the next 10 years trying everything under the sun to make that happen, nor do you want to work 90+ hours a week on all the different marketing methods you’re using to drive that growth.

Here is what you need to know.

There are only 5 different types of marketing. Every method under the sun can be fit within one of these 5 types, or circles. The key to reaching your target market wherever they may be is to choose one method from each of these circles to focus on at any given time.

You can evolve and change as your business and the market evolve and change, but you should really only be putting focused energy into one method from each group at once. More than that, and you’ll likely end up overworked from too much on your plate – and you’ll have the bonus of very little to show for it, since you couldn’t put too much effort into any one thing.

And FYI, once you’ve seen these 5 types, you’ll see something else – most wildly successful companies do this without even realizing it. If you want to be wildly successful, you might want to give it a try.

Thus, I present to you The 5 Circles of Marketing!

1. Collaborative Marketing

This is the type of marketing many online experts preach about, though it is likely not the only method they use. Once you master collaborative marketing, however, watch out! You’ll have the midas touch. Collaborative marketing is all about mutually beneficial relationships. Yes, you get something from the relationship – but that is not the focus! The focus is in the give and take.

If you receive the benefit of someone’s promotion, you provide them with an equal or greater benefit like commissions, future promotions and partnership opportunities, content, etc.

It is important to note that JV’s are not the only methods for collaborative marketing! Ad swaps, referral agreements, strategic partnerships and co-promotions for complimentary services are all examples of collaborative marketing. Anything that involves two businesses working together to promote each other is a collaborative promotion. Examples include…

  • Ad swaps
  • Referral agreements
  • Strategic partnerships
  • Affiliate promotions
  • Co-promotions or cost-shared advertising and promotion
  • And of course, joint ventures.

2. Earned Media Marketing

Earned media marketing is essentially content marketing and publicity rolled in together. The focus is on spreading your message or the message of your company as an expert authority figure.

The key to earned media marketing is distribution. Even bad content, if it is distributed anywhere, can get you incredible results. Of course if the content was great, the results would be even better – so I still encourage you to create epic content. But if you create something epic and no one ever sees it, you’re wasting your time.

Earned Media Marketing is related to Collaborative Marketing in that it involves a give-and-take relationship, but it is usually with a person or a content source rather than a commercial entity or business. Some examples of Earned Media Marketing are…

  • Publicity
  • Guest blogging
  • Interviews as an expert
  • Traditional media coverage
  • Press release coverage
  • Organic product reviews (unpaid, non-affiliate reviews)

3. Broadcast Marketing

Ahh, Broadcast Marketing. This is what you see from 99% of “big brands” – it’s the visible face of these mammoth corporations. Of course, they also include a piece from every other circle in their mix, but this is what you think of when you think of traditional marketing.

Broadcast Marketing is “push” marketing – you are, in essence, paying to shout from the rooftops and hoping someone will listen. Largely untargeted and subjected to ad blindness, this is not the most effective tool in your marketing arsenal but still one you should be using if you can. The key is to get as targeted as possible – the publications your audience reads, the sites your audience visits, and if you’re a local business, even billboards that your customers drive by.

Broadcast Marketing is something that you’ll want to dedicate some serious time to – at least 20% of your marketing efforts. You want to constantly review, tweak, and improve your Broadcast Marketing to achieve a higher ROI and drop inefficient investments. Some examples of Broadcast Marketing include…

  • Magazine and newspaper ads
  • Radio and television ads
  • Digital ads (banners, etc.)
  • Pay per click ads
  • Paid press release distribution
  • Paid blog posts/guest posts
  • Sponsored content
  • Online video ads
  • Billboards
  • Flyers
  • Mass direct mail
  • Solo ads
  • And pretty much anything else where you pay directly, in advance, with no promise of results, for the exposure

4. Event Marketing

Can I just say – I *love* event marketing! If you want to create a big splash in the market place and have people saying “I see you everywhere!”, events are where it’s at.

You want to have a focused strategy for how you will get involved with events. Will you host? Will you piggyback off the efforts of others? Will you just attend the events for networking? What specifically related to events will you be doing?

My two personal favourites are hosting digital events like webinars, telesummits, teleseminars, etc. and sponsorships. I love sponsorships! But not just any sponsorship, I want sponsorships that give me a physical presence and a way to interact with people in person and get them engaged. No gift bags or logos for me, I want a booth or a stage! But again – I never try to do both at the same time. One or the other.

Events are a great place to start if you’re looking to get clients *fast*, fill your programs or launch your products, and get in front of a large amount of potential clients at once. Some examples of Event Marketing include…

  • Sponsorships
  • Physical events you host
  • Digital events like telesummits, webinars, and teleseminars
  • Conferences
  • Tradeshows
  • Conventions
  • Festivals
  • Summits
  • Networking group meetings (hello, MeetUp.com!)

5. Social Marketing

Let’s start this section with a disclaimer. Social Marketing, in all its forms, is primarily one-to-one – so it is slow. It is also one of the biggest possible time-sucks when you are first starting out!

If you don’t have 10k followers or fans to interact with and get to buy your stuff, you’ll spend a lot of your time following people, randomly sharing messages and hoping to get attention from bigger groups, interacting one-on-one with people, and ending up randomly surfing the web (while wondering how you got to the LOLcats again when you’re supposed to be working.)

Now that we have the disclaimer out of the way, Social Marketing can be effective if you use it as a tool for building relationships one-on-one that will be hugely beneficial, in the beginning, or as a way of interacting with a large number of people at once as you get bigger. The key is to stay focused, and know where you “fit” in the social world. Spending all day on Facebook or Twitter isn’t where you belong at the beginning, and spending all day on forums isn’t where you belong if you have a 6 figure business.

Another disclaimer – never, ever count on something going “viral”. Yes, there are experts who will tell you there is a formula for viral content. Yes, there are people who will say you can manufacture it. Those same experts also offer paid services called “seeding” – advertising your so-called viral content for a pretty penny, usually about $1/view for the first 30,000 or so views before it has any element of virality to it.

Just create things that are worth sharing, and put them out there. If people agree it is worth sharing, they will. If it is worth sharing *enough*, the timing is just right, trends are hitting on all of the right things, everything is perfect, and the stars and the universe align to deliver a hoard of interested super-advocates to your doorstep, it might go viral.

Creating something worth sharing socially is step one. Some examples of Social Marketing include…

  • Social media (obviously)
  • Networking meetings
  • Referral networks
  • Social sharing plugins, networks, etc
  • Viral marketing
  • “Guerilla” street teams
  • Forum participation
  • Mastermind groups

So there you have it.

Those are the 5 circles of marketing. Do one thing from each of these 5 circles, and put your heart and soul into each and every one. You’re certain to see results from a consistent, focused effort in each of these areas – and you’ll have the happy benefit of not being overwhelmed and unfocused, frustrated and confused as you do it.

What do you think? Have I missed any methods for these 5 circles? Do you do this already in your business? Share!

Shine bright,

– Cheryl

Branding 101

I get a lot of questions from companies about branding – specifically, what is “branding”, and how do you do it?

As with many a great blog post, I’m going to start with the dictionary definition:

Brand name: noun, a word, name, symbol, etc., especially one legally registered as a trademark, used by a manufacturer or merchant to identify its products distinctively from others of the same type and usually prominently displayed on its goods, in advertising, etc.

Following the dictionary definition, then, your brand is simply your logo. Sounds simple enough, right?

But true branding goes so much farther than logos and labels.

In today’s world, companies are so much more than just faceless entities. We are now socially connected and accessible beyond what our predecessors ever could have imagined. Your company and its products are so much more than a producer and a bottle, you are a collection of traits that consumers will either relate to – or not.

Your brand is your opportunity to identify and highlight those traits in a way that allows consumers to recognize you, relate to you, and share you with those in their circle of influence.

So how do you build an effective brand?

Don’t start with your logos and labels, start with your company’s identity. Think of what makes your company unique, what your story is, where you are coming from and what your goals are. You want to, essentially, develop a personality for your company as if it were a character in a book.

You need a back story, unique mannerisms and traits, a “role” for your company (protagonist? antagonist?), and a goal for your brand. You need to know what your “character” contributes to the story (in other words, what are the benefits of your product to consumers?)

Imagine if your company were a person. How would they react when faced with certain situations? What type of relationships would they build? What would they get excited about?

This is your brand.

Still thinking of your company as a person, imagine now how this person would look – think less in terms of actual clothing items, and more of style and color. Would your company wear dark-grey pinstripe suits all day? Or would a flowing, floral summer dress be more appropriate?

Use these visuals to help you design the look, logo, color scheme, and other important visual elements of your brand.

It can help to pull together a “vision board” of ideas to bring to your graphic designer. Find images in magazines and online that you believe your company would wear or have if it were a person. You will likely find a small number of colors stand out, and these can be used to form your logo and the general color scheme of all your visual elements!

This is how people will remember your brand.

Of course, the visual elements will simply act as a visual reminder. They will help people to remember the finer details of your company, who you are, where you’re coming from, and what you offer.

It is somewhat like tying a string around the finger of every one of your customers. Every time they see the string (your logo, colors, and visual elements) they will be reminded of the warm, fuzzy feeling they got from you!

Those of course are just the basics. There is much more involved in creating a brand than these simple steps, but hopefully this post gave you some ideas that you can use to help create (or refine, or recreate) your company’s own, unique brand!

If you need assistance with creating or implementing your branding campaign, I can help. Visit my coaching and consulting pages to discover how I can help your company one-on-one.

The Biggest Mistake Small Businesses Make with Social Media

Every once in a while, we here at BuzzCrate have an opportunity to make a real difference to small businesses just by publishing a simple blog post. This is one of those times. What you’re about to read will, we hope, be a great eye opener for those of you already using social media to promote your business, or for those who are considering doing so.

I want you to think, just for a minute, about one of the crucial functions of your business. Something that you know takes a specialized skill set. Something that may be easy to “get”, but very difficult to master. Some things that come to mind are tasks like woodworking, cake decorating, sales copy writing, graphic design, or programming.

Think of a task like that within your business. Really get a sense of how much time and effort it took to really master that skill, and how much that employee’s mastery means to your business.

Now I want you to imagine, for a minute, what would happen to your business if you let your office clerk, your neighbor’s kid, or someone else who “gets it” but hasn’t “mastered it” do that task for your business day in, day out.

Can you see what a catastrophe that would be?

  • An automotive shop hiring someone who has done an oil change to rebuild engines?
  • A roofing company hiring someone who patched their own roof as a crew foreman?
  • A spa hiring someone with painted nails as their esthetician?
  • A transport company hiring someone with a learners’ permit to drive their Freightliners?

You couldn’t imagine doing something like that in your business. It would be probably the worst decision you could make, right? Even if you cut your labour costs in half, you would lose so many customers so quickly, you would likely never be able to recover. Right?

I want you to really understand the gravity of what it would be like to under-value the mastery of those skills, and hire someone less than qualified to complete them. What effect would that have on your business? Your lifestyle? Your family?

It paints a grim picture for sure.

Now there is something I would like you to “try on” for a minute. For some of you, this may not be true; However, for a large percentage of you who are reading this, I want you to take this in for a second.

When it comes to your online presence – your website and your online marketing, including social media – you’re doing exactly the same thing.

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t see a freelance project or employee position come up, where someone is having their Receptionist, Office Assistant, File Clerk, Customer Service Rep, or some other unrelated person within the company handle their website and online marketing.

Many of you are likely already doing this. You have someone in another role within your company managing your online presence. Or perhaps you are managing it yourself, or having a friend or one of your children manage it for you.

Think back. Think about that ominous feeling you got about the future of your business when you took something essential to your business that requires mastery, and put it in the hands of an unskilled worker.

You need to get that feeling about your online presence, as well.

Businesses need to begin to understand the real value of a qualified person working on their online marketing. Yes, online marketing is lower cost than print advertising. Yes, everyone knows how to use the internet these days. And yes, everyone under the age of 28 may seem like an absolute internet and social media genius sometimes.

But it takes a lot more skill to use effectively and get results than even print or broadcast advertising.

If you were going to get a television commercial produced, you wouldn’t let your receptionist carry around a camcorder, would you? Of course not!

But when you have your receptionist, sales person, customer service person, or other unrelated employee handle your online presence, that is exactly what you are doing.

Now, we’re not crazy. We work with a lot of small businesses, startups, independent professionals and non-profits. We know you likely don’t have the budget for an $80,000/year Online Marketing Consultant, in house.

But you don’t need one.

How many hours do you think your “online stuff” person takes each day away from their primary function. 2? 3? 4? You would be surprised how long it takes for someone inexperienced with using the internet for marketing can actually take in managing a presence like that.

Conservatively, let’s just say 2 hours each day. And let’s give them the new BC minimum wage – $10/hr. That is $20/day in lost productivity on online marketing that, lets face it, probably isn’t bringing back $20/day.

Over the course of one year, you are losing over $5000 worth of productivity from that employee for something that may or may not have worked for you at all.

Much like hiring a salesman with social phobia,
you’re saving in the short-term for a larger long-term loss.

There are a variety of companies, like our own, who offer services to small, medium, and even large businesses, non-profits, organizations, and governments to build, brand, and better their presence online. But you might think having a dedicated person is unnecessary and expensive, right?

Well, no and no.

Most of us charge well under $5000/year for services above and beyond what your receptionist could achieve. Companies who do this professionally study, gain experience, do and read market research, and commit their entire careers to mastering online marketing, branding, and PR.

We call it “new media” – everything from Facebook and Twitter to blogs, online ads, search engines, directories, online video, websites, and more.

Not only do our services typically cost less than losing productivity from your regular staff (with our typical small business client seeing costs of around $3100/year, on average), but the return on investment is far greater.

If you’re having someone in-house manage your online presence, or managing it yourself, you likely don’t even know how well those forms of marketing are performing – and if you do, you probably don’t think very much of the results.

New media specialists not only make a point of tracking “metrics” (numbers that tell us if we’re making you money or not!), but they pride themselves in just how much of a return we can generate on your investment.

When was the last time your office manager expressed an interest in providing a good ROI for their wage?

Exactly.

I firmly believe that it is only because of a lack of understanding that businesses choose to operate this way.

Because you may not know everything there is to know about social media yourself, you fail to see how much is really involved in using it successfully – especially when there are hundreds of millions of people and businesses already on Facebook. You think to yourself, “Well, it can’t be that hard. If they already have a profile, they know how to use it!”

That is true in the same way that owning a television makes you
qualified to produce SuperBowl ads.

I say that to illustrate a point. The above sentence seems absolutely preposterous – crazy even!

But there is no difference from a couch potato producing SuperBowl ads and your nephew building your business website. None whatsoever. Unless of course your nephew is a professional web designer with experience and samples of sites that have generated real revenue – then all we have to say is, you’re one lucky aunt or uncle!

The time has come for small businesses to start seeing the real value in new media. In our world today, it has become an almost essential part of modern business life.

30 years ago, you weren’t in business unless you were in the phonebook.

Today, you aren’t in business unless you’re on the web.

The cost of the ad space may be lower, but the expertise required is far beyond anything that any marketing or advertising medium has ever required before.

Luckily for you, even when hiring a qualified new media expert for your business, the cost of their efforts will still be far smaller than the cost of an equally effective television or even radio or newspaper ad.

I want to hear from some small business owners on this topic. Do you agree? Disagree? Did this blog post help shed light on these areas of your business, or are you still having difficulty seeing the value of new media?

Join in and share!

Building a Community Around Your Business

Community building is so important to a business.

Sure, you can advertise in the Yellow Pages, put up a website, use Pay Per Click advertisements, you can even use television and billboard advertising – take out a full-page spread in a national newspaper if you want. But what will that do?

High cost per lead, low ROI.

Okay, okay – so “cost per lead” and “ROI” are typically thought of as big-business terms, but aren’t. You should know how much it costs you to get a customer, and you should know how much you get back for dollars spent in various ways.

For example, if you know how much your Yellow Pages advertisement costs you each year, you should find out how many customers you get from that ad – and the average amount of money those customers spend.

If your Yellow Page ad costs $240/year, and you get 12 customers from that ad (one a month, which is more than most businesses get from Yellow Page advertisements)…

Your cost per lead is $20.

Now, if we say that your cost of goods sold is $20, and your average customer spends $50, then we know three things :

1. That your Yellow Page ad is getting you about $10 in profit for each new customer.

2. That you can use any form of advertising you want, and as long as your cost per lead is under $30, you’re going to break even… And

3. That the lower your cost per lead is, the higher your profit per customer is.

We all know that online strategies like blogging and social media have drastically lower costs per lead than traditional strategies, but it gets even better – when you build a community around your business!

Within a community, you have the evangelists… They go out and sell your product or service for you. And no, you don’t have to pay them – they’re customers and community members who are so impressed with you and what you’re doing, that they want to convert other people to their way of thinking – they want to make other people buy from you.

You also have the technical support… These are users who know your product inside and out, and answer questions on your behalf to solve problems for customers – thereby increasing the value of your product, since “everyone knows how to fix it!”

You’ll have the beta-testers… Those who feverishly buy up every new product or service you release, and give you constructive feedback through your contact forms to improve the product.

You’ll have the re-tweeters… Not as prolific as the evangelists, but they believe in what you’re doing, so they share it with their friends through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites.

You’ll have the commenters… The insatiable commenters. They’ll discuss anything and everything you have to say. They attract massive amounts of attention to blog and social media posts by providing a level of interaction. Don’t discount “trolls” either – those who start arguments for the sake of arguing. Sure, everybody will respond to the arguments – but in the meantime, they’ll be reading your content to see what started it.

All of these personalities come out when you build a community around your company, and every one of them will give value to your business beyond what they may buy.

Communities are simple things. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, once said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that you can never “build” a community – you can just create great tools and hope that a community uses them.

That is what we do.

The right tools are never a guarantee of success, but if companies like Apple and Coke have taught us anything, making a cult following look easy takes time, effort, and patience.

Watch for our coming series of posts on things *you* can do to build a community around your business.

We need a website – now what?

That is a question we get posed so often, we almost want to have a canned response. Or at least, we wish we could.

It usually starts with a potential client calling our offices and asking us a few questions about our services, our prices, how we work, etc. And then the question is posed:

“Well, we know we need a _____ (be it a website, a Facebook page, a social media strategy, a blog, or any other high-tech marketing apparatus) – Now what?”

See, most businesses identify the need for a website, blog, social media strategy or anything else by the fact that “so and so” told them to, or “everyone else” does. Most of you, honestly, don’t know exactly why you need it.

But that isn’t true, you say.

You know exactly why you  need that website linked with Twitter and Facebook, with a built in blog. Because it will bring you more customers.

GREAT! And how will it do that?

Uhh…

Exactly.

Websites and social media are part of “Inbound Marketing”.

Your old ways of marketing – TV and print ads, direct mail, flashing banners and tradeshows – those are “Outbound” forms of marketing. They work by disrupting the lives of those they come in contact with, forcing them to pay attention, and for a small number they get enough attention to actually sell a product.

The new way of marketing – using those websites, blogs, social media accounts, and more – are “Inbound” forms of marketing. Instead of interrupting, you’re inviting. You just go out and find where your ideal customers are already hanging out, provide them with some useful content (blog posts, articles, free reports, info) and ask them to come visit you.

When they do, you offer them even more content to link up with you – Follow, Tweet, Like, and subscribe. You get their trust, and their contact details. You send them more content – and then mention that you have paid resources available.

It is called a lead generation system, and every business should be using one.

I’m sure you’ve heard of lead generation before, maybe even using the internet – but it usually involved a form for a “free consultation” and some form of disruption marketing like banner ads, Pay Per Click, or direct mail. I’ll tell you…

Those leads will be 10x colder than those who found you on their own, in their “neighborhood”, and choose to give their information to you.

Want some proof before you start changing your strategy?

Let’s take a look at a report published by HubSpot.Some startling statistics for you :

Companies who allocate more than 50% of their lead generation budget to inbound marketing experience a 61% average lower cost-per-lead. The exact numbers? $84/lead for inbound vs. $220/lead for outbound. Can you afford to spend $220 per lead?

The same study found that for most businesses, even though marketing costs were lower for those who used inbound techniques, the inbound techniques accounted for more than 50% of all leads generated by all businesses (both inbound and outbound dominant.)

5 years ago, blogs were an easy tool to ignore. No one knew how to use the internet to generate leads and revenue aside from banner advertising (more outbound, disruptive advertising). MySpace and Facebook were competing for attention from individuals, and hadn’t yet figured out how to generate revenue from businesses effectively.

Today, ignoring the above statistics could mean a rocky road ahead for your business.

Even those of you who traditionally believe that social media is only for products geared towards young people are in for a real eye opener in the coming years. With smartphones permeating every last safe hold of society, small business owners are the fastest growing segment of Twitter users. The over 25 age group accounts for 50%+ of all Facebook users.

Think about this statistic from a recent Website Magazine advertisement : 20 million people visit WalMart stores around the world every day…

… and 250 million people visit Facebook in the same time period.

If you ignore a market that vast, that readily and willingly interacts with commercial interests – often seeking purchase information and reviews through those channels – then your business will eventually fall behind in “the new economy.”

So, we’ve described why you should pay attention to social media. We know why you need an online presence.

You know you need a website – now what?

Now you call us. We can take your business and develop a complete online branding and social media strategy, create a brand, website, blog, and social media presence based on those ideas, and help your business join the ranks of inbound-marketing dominated businesses.

The future of marketing is here, now. You need to stop trying to start your own conversation. People are already out there, talking about you and your business.

Join the conversation.

Social Media Is Supposed to be Fun, People!

I always laugh quietly to myself when I hear of a social media marketing expert trying to advise clients on a corporate social media policy. Isn’t that more the realm of human resources and legal departments?

Of course, any other similar issue would be. But social media is scary. People and companies want to use it for their own purposes, while eliminating the possibility that your company could have fun with it. No fun on company time, after all.

The problem with this mentality is that I have seen it lead to far too many failed social media campaigns.

For your company to really find a place online, you have to use social media properly. Begrudgingly spamming thousands of twitter followers with your url while dying a little on the inside is not what I would consider”proper”.

Instead, when you’re developing a social media strategy, think of how you use social media in your personal life.

Okay, so you might spam your Facebook friends with photos of your kids/dog/cat/lizard/whatever sometimes, but that isn’t what we’re talking about today.

When you use social media in your personal life, you engage people.

You tweet them back when they mention you on twitter.

You “like” that picture of them at their company retreat last year (that no one was supposed to see).

You meet someone new and tell them to add you, be your friend, like you, and follow you.

You tweet, like, blog, comment, stumble, ping, and add your way through everything your friend put out in the world, and your friends do it right back.

And why?

Because they’re your friends, that’s why.

And if you apply that same mentality to your social media, you may find that you have a lot more fun – and your results will reflect that.