Small business consutling serving the local Dallas, TX area. Over twelve years of business management experience covering profit and loss to employee training and development.
Typical Services include:
Typically, a marketing plan is a part of the overall business strategy and it only makes sense to develop the marketing portion so it works on the business goals and objectives and provides an increase in profitability and not just sales revenue as could easily be the case if a marketing plan is implemented without careful consideration to the costs associated with those plans.
Many times I see companies that simply feel as though they should “try” anything and everything thinking that if they throw enough “darts” at the wall then some of them will stick. Well some may get lucky in doing that, however, most don’t. Even if one of those items is successful at getting you more business, how do you know which one and at what cost?
In developing any marketing strategy one must first defined business objectives in order to establish time-frames and specific goals for both the short and long term. Once the business objectives have been established then an analysis of the past performance, marketing efforts, and current customer base can be completed in order to fully develop a target market.
I have found that the most critical piece to any business’ success is ensuring that the strategies chosen must be maintained, monitored, and updated on a consistent basis in order to increase the desired results.
Without properly defined goals and objectives or the necessary tracking mechanisms in place you will end up wasting: time, resources, and efforts. Ultimately, you will be starting over again once the current influx of new business has diminished.
So, the first step is to develop a plan. The plan, once established must be followed and adhered to by everyone involved in the implementation in order to maintain consistency and provide for the tracking of marketing results.
As an example, if your objective is to increase sales by 20% over the next 12 months, then a strategy can be developed in order to attain that goal.
In order to establish a strategy to accomplish that goal, one must fully analyze the past performance and efforts that have been utilized over the last few years in order to establish a baseline for sales revenue, identify high and low sales periods, and evaluate the effectiveness of any past marketing efforts. But nothing can be done until the objective or goal is identified first.
Even in developing what appears to be a simple web strategy can easily go from a simple web site to fully analyzing specific business processes and determining how that web site can enhance the profitability of the company along with integrating that data with other company data sources.
The simplistic thought of getting people to visit ones web site will result in automatically increasing profitability is simply not true. Getting people to visit a web site is only half of the battle as once the visitor gets there they have to want to buy the product or service that you are providing.
There is so much that can be, and should be, done to enhance the web site as it is such an important part of the business. Some of the items that I recommend discussing are:
- The web site content needs to be developed to:
- Draw traffic from outside sources
- Convert that traffic to sales
- Web site traffic analysis needs to be evaluated in order to determine:
- How many people are actually getting on the site
- What are they doing while they are there
- Why are they not buying
- Google maps, Bing, and Yahoo listings need to be created and maintained with accurate information
- Social networking sites need to be utilized in order to enhance sales and to increase brand recognition along with increasing search engine rankings
- SEO work – Search Engine Optimization is an ever evolving process. Proper optimization of each relevant site page is critical to enhance website copy. The most important aspect of promoting a website is to continually add good, quality, content and properly promote that content.
- All email and social network marketing efforts should work in conjunction with the web site.
While I have many clients, past and present, that have used various search engine optimization and marketing companies, I am constantly amazed at the amount of time, effort, and money that is spent in trying to find that “solution” that is going to move the company ahead and actually produce a notable increase in revenue only to give up on that strategy with only negligible results.It all comes down to determining what the business objectives are as well as how cost effective the various strategies are, based on the “best case” scenario for each plan of action, before moving on to the implementation phase.
For example, before investing in an SEO strategy it would be wise to investigate which particular key words would produce the most beneficial increase in web site visitors. Determining which particular key words to target with ones web site is extremely time intensive but certainly well worth the investment as attaining high rankings for insignificant key words will result in either minimal increases in site traffic or an increase in traffic without the increase in revenue.
Another example is before implementing a strategy to increase sales from ones web site it would be beneficial to ensure that company has the product and resources to handle projected increased sales volume in a profitable fashion.
Company Communications and Branding
Regardless of the business type, your communication with your customers should always be from a @youdomain.com email address. This is something that I run across every single day when talking to business owners. Why would you want to communicate with customers, clients, patients, or partners with an @yahoo, @gmail, or @someotherfreeemail.com email address? Imagine what the reaction is from your current or prospective customers.
What, exactly does it say about the company when their email comes from a generic email account? For me, this translates to things like; small, cheap, new, or even questionable depending on the situation. Think of talking to someone at your bank on the phone and they send you an email as a follow up requesting some information or follow up from you and it comes from email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org, does that not automatically create some sense of doubt in the legitimacy of the email your reading?
It is not normally even a cost issue, it is typically a “convenience thing” or “forgetting to find out about it thing”, which really speaks volumes for some people, not all, but certainly some. I am in no way suggesting that you have to stop using your @freeemailaccount.com but your communications with your customers should always come from your company email. Even if that also entails you changing the @freeemailaccount.com which most allow you to easily accomplish.
The same thing goes for the contact forms listed on web sites, auto-responders to orders or inquiries, and email marketing lists. Information that creates sales like the company web site must be maintained to ensure that accurate and complete information is provided to the customers.
Social Media Networking for your business
Certainly it is mainstream knowledge that social networks encompass a majority of internet usage. Businesses are now capitalizing on these social sites, in particular Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and learning how to integrate their business processes with those networks.
The question for any individual business is “what” do I need to do in order to capitalize on those opportunities and “how” do I get it done.
One simply needs to perform a simple search engine search to easily locate an overabundance of information concerning the subject; however, one must have the ability to determine which sources provide accurate and relevant information that pertains to your business needs.
The simply reading of a few “e-books” by some unknown author or unverifiable source is certainly not the way to educate oneself in the facets of social network marketing, or any factual subject for that matter, as anyone from anywhere has the ability to get information out on the web and many people do just that.
Realistically you can find case studies completed regarding how individual companies utilized social networking but, again, one needs to be cautious before implementing their strategies until it can be determined what the similarities and differences are between those case studies and your business. The fact is that the case studies that typically end up published are the ones from companies that have large marketing budgets and the staff necessary to carry out very large scale plans, and, in some cases, those case studies involve integrating current data systems in use by the companies which, no doubt, involve, not only a huge commitment by the company, but quite a financial investment.
Social Networking sites are constantly evolving and as they continue to rise in usage and popularity they will continue to evolve into, eventually (perhaps soon) into something that we, as business owners, cannot even comprehend at this time.
So, what is the answer to putting Social Networking to work for your business? The truth is that there probably is no one “set in stone” answer to that question and, if someone tries to tell you that there is, then one really needs to question, or at least verify, that persons sources of information.
I would suggest starting off with determining the questions to a few simple questions before deciding how to proceed. One question is whether your business is B to B or B to C, that question can assist in determining where, or what, Social Network to focus on. The second question is, are your products or services ones that your customers would be happy to promote the fact that they are your customers.
Facebook is obviously the most popular Social Network site as it is now the most popular and most used web site period, and, Facebook is constantly evolving and adding new features. The “check-in” feature is one where customers update their status, actually post on their own wall, to tell their friends that they are at a particular location. This feature alone is, I believe, one of the most powerful features and the implications could have a very significant impact on gaining new customers for your business.
If one just thinks about the concept for just a moment, one can see there are endless possible benefits from this one simple feature. Let’s say that one of your customers updates their Facebook account, from their phone, and posts that they are at your business. Assuming that the customer has friends on Facebook, then those friends will see, at some point that their friend was at your business location. In its simplest form, this action simply acts, in the first phase, as a trigger to those friends that see the post. Suppose your business is, say, a salon, and when the friends of your customer see that posting from their friend it will trigger some type of reaction. The question then becomes, what reaction does it trigger? The friend can simply have a thought based on seeing the business name that the post is linked to (as the business has to have a Fan page, which is where the link goes to) and maybe they think about the last time they had their hair cut. This does not necessarily translate into a physical reaction as they may simply just think about it, however, that, in itself, is quite an accomplishment for you as your business name was at least put in front of a potential customer that has never even heard of your business before.
What if they do make a physical reaction to that post? Just a few options are for them to comment on the posting, in which case they may ask about your business, another great accomplishment for your business, or they may already know your business and subsequently react by eventually conducting business with you again.
As I said, the potential implications are really limitless and one of the baseline marketing principles is to get your name out to customers and create brand recognition for your business. If that single customer of yours happens to have several hundred friends then the potential for some type of connection with new or former customers, is multiplied exponentially. To take it a step further, if one of those first level friends does actually respond to your customers posting then that entire person’s friends will also have access to that original link to your Fan page.
Obviously I have simply touched on the surface potential of what Social Networking can have on your business; the key is developing the correct strategy that effectively promotes your business.
Web Site Development
The Process of developing a web site is one that requires proper planning, scheduling, and execution. A professional web developer would certainly want to gather information regarding the objectives of the business and their operation before preparing a project plan.
As a business, it is important to determine some basic information about your web site.
The purpose of the web site
Every web site has a purpose. The purpose can be range from promoting your business to being an integral part of the day to day operations of the business. Defining the purpose of your web site is an essential first step in the developmental process