Thursday, April 4, 2013
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
As a small business, you've heard of branding and the role it plays in your identity and marketing. However, most small business owners are confused or overwhelmed by the concept of just what branding is... is it my logo? my color scheme? my website? my tagline?
So, what is branding? According to Bill Chiaravalle, Principal and Creative Director of Brand Navigation, “brands are promises that consumers believe in.” He simplifies the entire branding process down to the fact that if a company has done a good job branding themselves, the consumer will trust them and ultimately develop a strong emotional attachment to them.
So what can Geek Squad teach you? They know branding. They've embraced the full concept of customer confidence, loyalty and recognition through their amazing branding strategy.
The Geek Squad understands that branding covers every single aspect of business. It’s never just about your website or business logo (although that’s part of it). Branding is about creating a feeling and a response in the minds of your clients and customers.
Here are 10 ways the Geek Squad can help you explore your own brand:
1. Company Name.
The name of your company is an integral part of the branding process. You need to ensure that your customers understand who you are and what your represent through your company name. Obviously, the name “Geek Squad” speaks volumes.
Your website needs to offer your prospects a big picture look at your entire brand. Everything on your site should promote the promise that you are making to your clients and customers.
3. Mission Statement.
Your company mission statement should be a natural extension of your brand. The Geek Squad states, “We’re an army more than 18,000 strong, on a singular mission to rid the world of rogue technology. We’re still oddly dressed, but we’re now oddly dressed and saving the day across the globe.” Brilliant.
4. Phone Tactics.
Yes, branding even entails how you answer the phone. Think about ways that you can integrate your brand and your business phone. The Geek Squad doesn’t just “answer the phone.” Instead you are prompted to enter your “top secret pass code” or speak to a Geek Squad Special Agent. The on-hold music consists of a compilation of spy movie theme songs.
5. Dress Code.
If you can incorporate your brand into the way that you or your employees dress, this will even add more believability to your brand. Of course, Geek Squad employees dress in white shirts, dress pants, “geeky” ties and yes, some even flaunt the pocket protector.
If you’re going to use Twitter as a marketing tool, make sure that you use it as a platform to develop powerful brand awareness regarding your small business. @GeekSquad tweets daily tips on fixing your computer, removing spyware and other “geeky’ topics that their dedicated customer-base loves.
One of the most important marketing tools for today’s small business is maintaining a blog. There is no better way to communicate directly with your prospects, customers and clients. At the Geek Blog, the writers go into depth about geeky technology, geeky facts and geeky jokes.
Have you heard about GeekSquad TV? That’s the ingenious Geek Squad videos that showcase the intelligence and utter geekiness of these likable employees. Again, their videos continue to drive home the fact that these guys know what they’re doing.
9. The Car You Drive.
If you are creative enough, branding can even be a part of the car you drive. Take a look at the “Geek Mobile,” a compact, little VW emblazoned with the Geek Squad logo. If that doesn’t create brand awareness, I don’t know what would!
One of the most crucial aspects of branding a small business is that you must be absolutely consistent. Every single interaction that your customers have must send the same message. You are ultimately creating experiences for your prospects, clients and customers that create trust and build emotional attachments to your company.
So, as you begin the task of building a brand that creates fierce and intense loyalty in your market area, don’t forget about the Geek Squad. They are branding masters.
Monday, June 13, 2011
When it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the myths and misconceptions are abundant. Here are some of the more common Search Engine Optimization myths:
Myth #1 - SEO Is A One-Time Deal
Search engine optimization is an ongoing process that requires attention and effort over an extended period of time. To do it properly, it is an ongoing process, and definitely not a one-time action. However, this doesn't mean you need to pay huge fees on an ongoing basis. Once you've started, you should learn how to keep it up.
Myth #2 - Quantity Is More Important Than Quality
When it comes to backlinks, quantity is simply not as important as quality. Attracting a huge number of backlinks is simply not as important to search engines as obtaining relevant links from related and trusted sources.Google rates your "popularity" on how many popular sites your link is on.
Myth #3 - Meta Tags Are No Longer Relevant
While meta tags are not the ultimate solution to search marketing, they still matter. Including a unique and keyword-rich title and description on each page of a website. This will help the site rank better in organic search results for those terms. Meta tags may not be as important as they once were, but they do still matter in the world of search optimization.
Myth #4 - PPC Will Help Search Ranking
There is no association between Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising campaigns and how well a website ranks in organic search results. There is simply no evidence to suggest that advertising via AdWords will help improve an organic search ranking.
Myth #5 - Submit Your Website Early And Often
Submitting your website to search engines is no longer a necessity. Search engines use spiders to follow links on a website. However, if you find a search engine's submit your site" button, by all means use it.
Myth #6 - SEO Is A Scam
Search engine optimization, when done properly, is quite effective. In fact, a website may have a difficult time ranking at all if it is not optimized adequately.
Myth #7 - SEO Is A Guarantee
As the old saying goes, the only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes. When properly implemented, SEO can very likely improve your organic search rankings. But be leery of any search marketing company that makes guarantees. There are simply too many factors and variables for SEO success to be guaranteed, and some results from those companies may only last a short period of time - leaving you in the lurch after the very expensive honeymoon period.
Myth #8 - Build It And They Will Come
Once upon a time, before the Internet became so cluttered, you could build something new and interesting and it would attract attention without any effort. But now, with multi-millions of websites on the Internet, you must work to draw attention to your innovation. Do not assume that people will find it simply because it is cool!
Myth #9 - NoFollow Links Are A Waste Of Time
Acquiring links that are tagged as "NoFollow" are not a waste of time. A mix of both DoFollow and NoFollow links looks far more natural to the search engine algorithms than a website that has all DoFollow or all NoFollow links. Additionally, some search marketing studies suggest that not all search engines pay attention to the NoFollow attribute, and they do in fact value a NoFollow link the same way that they would value a DoFollow link.
Myth #10 - Google Is The Only Search Engine that matters
While it is true that Google is by far the largest search engine, a decent volume of web traffic can still be generated by achieving a high ranking in other search engines for competitive search terms.
Friday, May 27, 2011
More and more people are using their mobile devices to connect to the internet, look up information and keep up to date. From standard wireless phones to tablets, how easy your site is to navigate on a mobile device could make a the difference between holding and losing a customer.
Let's focus on the basics of designing for mobile devices.
1. Do You Really Need A Mobile Website?
Before diving into creating a mobile-ready website or shelling out a bunch of money to have one created, it's important to figure out if you actually need a mobile website. Of the estimated 91.4 million mobile internet users inthe US, how many of them are in your target audience? How many of them will need to gather information from your website on a regular basis?
Check your existing website analytics and identify how many visitors are using mobile devices, along with the types of devices and operating systems they are using. Identify where they are going and what sort of content they are using. If they are using just a couple of features, like finding your phone number or hours of operation, you may be better off for now just optimizing your desktop site to make that information easily accessible by mobile users instead of building and maintaining a separate mobile site.
2. Prioritize Content
After deciding you and your users will benefit from a mobile website, it's time to figure out what information they want access to
Mobile web surfing isn't the same as desktop surfing. Mobile users are not captive users and tend to use the internet for specific reasons, such as connecting with others, looking up contacts, keeping up to date on events or articles and using applications such as reservations or purchasing. By prioritizing your content for the mobile user, you make their experience clean, efficient and useful.
In Tapworthy – Designing Great iPhone Apps, author Josh Clark boils down the mobile user’s mindset to one of three possibilities:
- Microtasking: Using the phone for short bursts of activity.
- Local : Finding out what’s around the user.
- Bored : Using the phone for distraction/entertainment.
Keeping all these factors in mind, now it's time to consider your mobile web design strategy.
3. Designing for the Mobile Device
- Design for smaller screensThis is a given. Although you have a wide range of mobile devices from simple phones to tablets, make your site fluid. Be sure the width is shrinkable as well as expandable.
- Simplify Navigation
Web design for mobile devices must take into account ease of navigation, and placing it at the top of the screen makes for a frustrating experience on a cell phone. Have the content show up first, and keep links at the bottom. For touch screen devices like the iPhone, long link text is easier to tap on than short links, so use more than three words for your text links.
- Minimize User Input
Tiny keyboards and touchscreens are vulnerable to errors and take time. Good rules to follow:
- Keep URLs as short as possible
- Use alternate input mechanisms where possible, such as drop-down choices, buttons
- Limit input to essential fields. For example use zip codes only, rather than city and state inputs on forms.
- Design for Intermittent Connectivity
Even with mobile providers offering faster and faster speeds, connectivity on mobile devices still can't match broadband. Users pay for internet access and not everyone has unlimited plans. Your site should be designed with reduced size in mind:
- Keep page sizes small so they load quickly
- Remove unnecessary code, comments and optional tags
- Reduce image sizes and resolutions that are optimized for mobile devices
- Minimize the number of embedded image to reduce the page load time
4. Testing Your Mobile Website
Once you've created your mobile website, it's good to test on as many mobile devices as possible. You can test your site's mobile-readiness by visiting one of these sites.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Whether you're building a website yourself, or have a web designer to do it for you, work through this check list and you won't go wrong.
1. Contact details
It might seem a bit obvious this one, but you'd be surprised how many people forget to add their contact details. Not only must you have your contact details--at a minimum your address, phone number and email address--but you must make those details easy to find. Don't hide them away in the footer. Make the "contact us" page one of the most obvious ones. Because having a website boils down to just one thing: making more sales. And if your website visitors have a hard time getting in touch, then they're not going to buy from you.
This is a must-have if you have a store front or office, that can make a real difference to the number of leads your website generates. The nature of the Internet is anonymous--we're all dealing with companies and individuals through a computer screen. And because of this, the Internet is a scammer's paradise--it only takes a few minutes to build a website and pretend to be a company. So having a map of where you are adds a real reassurance to your website visitors. It turns a virtual interaction into something more solid, and gives your website visitors the peace of mind that you're real people living in the real world
3. A Lead Capture Form
This is the next step on from adding your contact details. Many website visitors want to know more about your products and services, but are disinclined to give you a call or drop you a line. But they're quite happy for you to get in touch with them. And in order to make that possible, you need a lead capture form. Think of this as a sales assistant approaching a shopper, rather than a shopper going out of their way to approach a sales assistant. A lead capture form allows your website visitors to leave their details and express an interest in you, without going the whole hog of picking up the phone. And since many people surf the web out of office hours, the chances are that the time that they're actually on your website is a time when you don't have anyone to answer the phone. Having a lead capture form allows you to give them more information when it's convenient for you, and lets them express and interest when there's no one around to talk to.
4. Photos of You and Your Staff
This is one of my favorites - it's yet another great way of reassuring your customers about who they're dealing with. In the same way that having a map gives your web visitors the confidence that you exist, having your photos on the website creates a personal connection between them and you. It's so much harder to turn away from a face than a computer screen. Having a photo kick-starts a personal relationship with your website visitors, and it makes it much more likely that the visitor will then get in touch. The added advantage is that not many websites include personal photos, so get this right and your site will start to get head and shoulders over the faceless ones around it.
5. Newsletter Sign-Up Form
This option is a good opportunity to warm up future customers. Many people surfing the web for products and services will be in a "research" phase of the buying cycle. They're not ready to get in touch or start buying just yet, but they are interested in finding out more information. Having a newsletter allows you to start to interact with them before they're ready to buy. They get the opportunity to "'taste" your service and personality, without having to commit to buying from you. You can start having a conversation with them, so that when they do decide to buy, that relationship already exists. And as anyone running a successful weekly or monthly newsletter will tell you, it can be the biggest source of new leads for your website. So add a newsletter sign-up form, and start emailing news about your company and industry to those signing up, and the customers will surely come.
These aren't absolutely necessary for all types small business websites, but are very important if you want to push your marketing power.
This is a half way house between your website and a newsletter to your customers. A blog gives you the opportunity to add personality to your website and start an open conversation with your website visitors. It adds a human element to a company site, and gives you the opportunity to showcase your knowledge, products and industry. And because visiting a blog is anonymous, many more will read your blog than will sign up for a newsletter. Not only that, most blogging platforms allow visitors to comment and add to the author post. This means that having a blog allows web visitors to see that there are other people spending time on your website and interacting with your business. We all prefer to eat in a busy restaurant than an empty one!
The other real advantage of a blog is that it allows you to add fresh, relevant content to your website, which is one thing that Google really likes to see. If Google likes it, then the chances are you will be boosted up the Search Engine Results page for searches relevant to your products.
7. Customer Reviews and Testimonials
What's the most convincing way to sell your products? By having other customers recommend them. Its one thing for you to go on and on about how great you, your company and your services are. But at the end of the day, any website visitor is going to take all that with a grain of salt. Of course you'd say that you were great! But if other customers give recommendations or reviews of your product and service, then that adds real weight to what you are saying. Of course, you're hardly likely to publish reviews and testimonials that show you in a bad light. But if it is a genuine comment from a real person--and that person doesn't mind you publishing their contact details, so that other web visitors can check they're real--then that comment can go a long way to reassure people that buying from you is a good decision.
8. Email to a Friend
This is one of the oldest and most basic website features, and one that is sadly overlooked these days. As mentioned above, the most effective way to convince someone to buy from you is to have someone else recommend your products. An email to a friend feature on your website does exactly that --it allows a website visitor to send details of your products to someone they know, which is, of course, an implicit endorsement. Include an "email to a friend" link with each product you sell, and you will really see the benefits of the personal recommendations.
9. Social Bookmarking
Have you ever wondered what that strip of icons on web articles actually does? The icons are often accompanied with a message like "share this," or "add this." The icons all represent--and link to--social book marking services. Social bookmarks are a public web page where you place all the links to all your favourite websites. They're a way of you creating a simple web page and saying to everyone "I recommend these websites." When you place social bookmarking links on your website, you allow your website visitors to quickly add your website to their list of social bookmarks. It is yet another way of them endorsing your product.
The other added benefit is that when people link to your website using a social bookmarking service, it can also help boost you up the Search Engine Results Page for searches that are relevant to your product or service.
10. Twitter and Twitter Feed
In short, Twitter is a micro-blogging platform that allows you to send and receive short messages. I'm not here to discuss the ins and outs of Twitter, but it can effectively achieve lots of different things. First of all, it allows you to communicate and have a conversation with your customers or visitors to your website. Second, it allows other people to sit in on these conversations, and find out what you're saying. Both these help add a human element to your website--turning a computer screen into a real person again. And as stated before, its so much harder for a web visitor to walk away from a real person than their computer screen. It means they will be much more likely to get in touch.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
If you seem to be throwing lots of time and money at advertising, SEO, PPC, SEM and every other type of advertising - with less than desired results, then these five questions could save you money, time and and build customer loyalty.
Most business owners steer away from asking their customers what they think about their products or services for fear that they may find fault. This is a "bury your head in the sand" mentality that limits your potential and your opportunities to stay ahead of your competition.
How do I know this? Because I have worked with dozens of small businesses, and most of them have never asked their customers what they think. When I work with businesses, one of the first things I do is evaluate their products and services for my personal liking - and sometimes asking colleagues and friends to do the same. If I don't think their offerings are up to par, then bringing in more customers will do more damage than good.
So here's the top five questions and why you need to ask these.
1. How did you hear about us?
It is important to understand which marketing channels are working for you. If the majority of your new customers are coming from word of mouth referrals, create opportunities for more referrals. Don't spend your hard-earned cash on advertising to people who don't know and love you.
2. What was your main reason for choosing us?
I am constantly reminded that price is not the main reason people choose to do business with you. Consistently across the 70 industry sectors we have surveyed, trust that you can provide the right product or service is the Number One reason. But there are others and you need to know the reasons why customers choose you, because this is essential to your communication with existing and potential customers.
3. What is one thing we do really well for you?
This question gives you clues about why you are better than your competitors--and this creates opportunity to exploit your strong points in your marketing. Customers will tell you why you are better than the guy down the road. Your job is to make sure that you keep delivering well on your strengths.
4. Is there anything we could we do better?
This is the main reason why business owners don't do customer surveys - they don't really want to know - yet this is vital information that you need to know. You need to know where the gaps are so you can plug them. Don't allow your weaknesses to be your competitors' advantage.
5. On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to refer a friend or colleague to us, where 1 is not likely at all and 10 is extremely likely?
Those of you who are familiar with net promoter score will know that a customer who scores 9 or 10 is a strong referral source. You also want to ask them why they have given you this score so that you can understand what is important to your best customers and be sure that you continue to meet their expectations.
So there you have it. With the answers to these questions, you can create marketing plans that have a balance of strategies for attracting new customers as well as retaining existing ones. You will know what areas you need to work on and what you need to constantly keep on top of to avoid losing customers.