Blog update and upgrade

Hey there fabulous folk,

This blog is moving to a new location www.martinairing.com/blog

Not to worry, same great content, same set-up, just a new location. What this means for you email subscribers is that you will get an email from Feedburner asking you to confirm your subscription to this blog (Martina’s Marketing Musings) – this is not a mistake. In order to continue receiving emails from me, you will have to click this link to activate. Just one click, so hopefully not too much of an inconvenience 🙂

If you have not received an email from me in a while and are wondering what’s going on, the activation message must not have made it to you. If you would be so kind as to scoot over to the new location and enter your email address again.

Looking forward to connecting with you in my new digs!

Cheers,

Martina

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Why you need a copywriter for your website

Anyone can pick up a pen and write - but can they create killer web content?

Anyone can pick up a pen and write - but can they create killer web content?

Why do I need to pay someone to write my website for me? I can just do it myself. Here, look. I just need to write down what I do, maybe define this word and voila, all done.

Many small businesses have a whole whack of reasons for why they don’t need to hire a copywriter. (And if you’re still not convinced that you even need a website, please read this pronto).

Let’s get one thing straight. A web content copywriter does not write. Anyone can write. He or she communicates. Talks to your customers in a voice and language they understand and relate to. Talks to them about what is causing them pain, what their problem is. Talks to all the great things that you do, in a way that is genuine and not car salesman-y. It’s all about communication baby. You can write the words, but can you talk the talk your customer will listen to?

Here’s how a professional web content copywriter can rock your website:

  • Professional copywriters will do a Features, Advantages, and Benefits (FAB) analysis of what your small business does. They will crawl into the minds of your customers. And figure out what benefits would get them going. And that’s what they’ll highlight in their copy. Too many businesses fall in the trap of just describing what they do without “selling it”. We’ve all seen websites like this. Tons of them in fact. They make me want to pull my hair out. So you sell car parts. SO WHAT?!$ I wanna know why I should buy from you and not Joe down the street. (And if your copy is so jargon-filled or vague that I actually don’t know what you can do for me, do you think I’m gonna call you?)
  • A good copywriter will not just copy what your competitors are doing. He or she will certainly research them, but will then bring out an angle, a voice, a perspective that will help you stand out from the crowd and highlight what it is about you that makes you special.
  • A copywriter will bring an outside perspective and fresh ideas. They are more likely to think like your website visitors than you are and will bring up angles that you never even thought of. You are completely ingrained in your business; you know the jargon in and out. When it comes to writing about your business, this is not a good thing, as you often just end up writing to yourself, not to your customers.
  • If you bring in the copywriter in the beginning stages of your website project (ie. before you have signed off on the site map), you can also get some good ideas for strategic direction. I often find that as I’m researching and as I’m writing, I will get ideas that didn’t occur to me before. This is when my creative juices are truly flowing. Maybe for a web page that could be really effective. Or a shift in emphasis from this benefit to that one. Being able to use these ideas is certainly getting more bang for your copywriter buck. If your website is already established and you’re bringing in a copywriter after the fact, let him or her know that you are open to new ideas and directions. Even if you don’t use them right away, just a little more communication arsenal you can tuck away for later (and you already have your copywriter on board to execute – bonus!)
  • A good copywriter can write with search engine optimization in mind, without making it super obvious. A lot of SEO companies will sacrifice copy flow to jam in keywords. A copywriter an give you an objective analysis of when enough is enough.
  • And finally, a copywriter has no problem with spouting off how awesome you are. A lot of people have trouble writing complimentary and “selling” copy about themselves. It’s awkward. You feel like a tool. Like you’re full of yourself. So you inadvertently tone it down. And that sucks. Let someone else sing your full praises. In a way that’s credible and genuine of course.

Now if you are in the very beginning stages of starting your business, have not secured any funding and are cutting costs by putting up your own website, you might be thinking “Who the hell does this chick think she is? I can’t afford a copywriter! And now I have one more reason to worry about my website, thanks lot.” Sorry. I’m just telling it is like it is. And even if you can’t afford a copywriter right this second, understanding the value of one is half the battle.

So if hiring a copywriter is just not possible for you at the moment, put it in your plan and your budget. You can always bring on a copywriter at a later date. And if that’s what you need to do, here are some tips for going it on your own:

  • Check out some online resources for copywriting. Sign up for their updates. Learn from the pros. Educate yourself on some of the best practices, and try to apply them when you can. My fav hands-down is Copyblogger.
  • Make sure that you aren’t just describing what you do. Get the FAB going. Ask yourself “so what?” frequently. Boast about the wonderful world of your biz. Don’t worry, no one can see you blushing.
  • Get someone totally outside of your business to read what you’ve written. Make sure they understand what you are trying to say. The best type of person for this is either a loud mouth who loves giving their opinion and/or someone who falls in your target market.
  • Get your data gathering mechanisms in place. Set up Google Analytics. Make note of the types of questions coming through customer service. When you are ready to hire a copywriter to revamp your web content, this information will be invaluable to him or her.

What have been your experiences with copywriters? How have you handled the content on your website? Share in the comments…

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Free SEO tool gives you some local search arsenal

Get a leg up on local search with the free SEO tool

Get a leg up on local search with the free SEO tool

More free marketing tool love – a local citation finder.

If you’re wondering what the heck that means, basically this nifty little tool allows you to enter a local keyword search (eg. yoga studio Vancouver) and it will spit out a list of sites that cite or mention relevant businesses. Now these aren’t necessarily links, per se. If a site has a phone number or address listed to do with your query (ie. the phone number of your competitor), it will show up in the results.

What it comes down to in local search is just how local your business appears to be online. There are lots of directory sites out there that look pretty god awful and like they could never be worth any weight. But if Google sees them as a local “authority”, having your business listed could actually do alot for your local search rankings.

So when you’re going for local, having a ton of relevant keyword links to your website is not necessarily the best thing. If Google doesn’t see them as a strong local reference, they’re not going to do you much good, locally speaking. David Mihm has found that citations are the more important player when it comes to local search by far.

Now this tool is not going to tell you specifics about the quality of the sites themselves, for example, or how your competitors are featured on them. But it’s a great tool for getting more  ideas when you’ve used up all your stand-bys. I used it for one of my clients recently and it offered some extra listing ideas and other citation options. And one of them actually brought quite a bit of traffic!

If you want to gain an appreciation of how amazing it is that this tool is free, check out this step by step guide on doing it manually. Cheers to Darren Spark of Whitespark and Garrett French and Ben Wills of Ontolo Link Building Services for creating this tool and making it available freely.

Check it out and see if you can make some improvements to your small business local online presence. Or pass it on to your marketing team or marketing consultant and see what they can do with it.

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Small business blogging when you have nothing to say

Yup, even "boring" industries are blog worthy

Yup, even "boring" industries are blog worthy

You have nothing to say? Really??

This is a common objection I have heard many times from small business owners. The thought of finding some extra time in your busy sched to blog is overwhelming enough in and of itself, but having to come up with fresh, interesting and professional content to boot – yikes! And to add to this, if you are running a business in an industry that does not make the general public jump up and down with enthusiasm, I totally get why you think you have nothing to say.

And if you’re in the boat of “I have nothing to say” then you’re probably rowing with the “blogging has no value to me” oars. If you are, here are some reasons blogging rocks for your business:

  • Opens a communication channel with your customers
  • Establishes your credibility and expertise in your industry
  • Shows that you care enough about your business to blog about it
  • Gives you the chance to communicate ideas and information that don’t really fit nicely into your website content
  • Makes Google and other search engines think “yay, a website with refreshing content! I’m gonna remember you”

And on, and on. There are so many reasons why you should be blogging. Check out what some experts have to say on the subject of when you should start a business blog. But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about what the heck to blog about when you can’t think of a darn thing.

ALL small businesses have something to communicate. Because your blog is about your business, and you have stuff going on all the time.

Still don’t believe you have something to say? Well, give these ideas a gander:

  • Answer common customer questions. One question = 1 blog post. (Bonus, you may even reduce customer service calls).
  • Figure out what fears and pain your customers are experiencing when it comes to your product or service, and address them.
  • Share news about your business. Anything. New staff. New services. An event you will be attending.
  • Educate your customers about what you do. Share your insight and expertise.
  • Talk about success stories and customer comments.
  • Discuss industry news and developments.
  • Share interesting articles and blog posts from your industry.

These are just a few ideas. Hungry for more? This is a great post from Sociatic with more blog post topic ideas.

And if you really want some proof of what I’m talking about, check out a blog post I wrote for one of my clients, Dig Yardscapes, about retaining walls. Yes, they have decided to undertake a blogging strategy even though most people would agree that retaining walls are about as boring you can get. And yes, I actually had fun writing the post.

Do you blog in a “boring” industry? Share your blog URL in the comments. Would love to hear how you overcame the have nothing to say hurdle.

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Avoid this common mistake in email marketing

Don't forget your social media share buttons in your email marketing

Don't forget your social media share buttons in your email marketing

I see businesses making this email marketing mistake again and again. Sending out emails and e-newsletters without any social media buttons.

So why should you care? Emails with share options get 30% higher click through rates (see the full overview of the study done at Mashable). Do I have your attention now?

Use full advantage of retweet and facebook “like” buttons. I often find that I want to share information that I’ve received in an email newsletter and been scrambling to find the links.  Now I will admit that if the content is really good, I will make the effort to go to the website and find the link to the info (but if the info isn’t even on your website, I really don’t know what to say). But that’s just me. I guarantee that most people will not bother to make the extra effort.

Don’t make it hard for people to share your content. Make it ridiculously easy, with one click social media share buttons and wicked content that will make your information sharable. It’s a win-win situation.

Remember, your emails and newsletters aren’t stand alone entities. They must be in sync  your whole online marketing strategy. If they’re not, you’re just asking for a whole bunch of frustrated recipients, and denying your content its opportunity to go viral. And you don’t want that, now do you?

If you’re not yet using social media or blogging for your small business, contact me today to find out what you’re missing.

If you blog on WordPress, try this retweet plugin

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Free marketing tool – what questions are your customers asking?

Free marketing tool - keyword questions

What questions are your customers Googling? Try this free marketing tool to find out!

Figuring out what people are typing into the Google search bar, what content drives people to your website, how people use your keywords is all a part of the often mysterious world of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It might sound complicated, but online technology is making things much easier, and much of it is FREE.

The free marketing tool I want to share with you today is about questions. What questions do you think your customers are asking? What do they want to know? You can list off a whole bunch I’m sure, but do you know which questions people are asking search engines using your keywords?

Sure, you can make guesses, but how about a tool that will tell you? For free?

Wordtracker labs is offering you just that with their free application that lets you see common online queries. It’s as simple as typing in a keyword. Wordtracker will then spit out a list of the questions that have been asked online with that word over the last year.

I played around with it by typing in the word kale (I know, kinda random, but I had just picked some out of my veggie garden, and that’s  what came to me). “How to cook kale” was right at the top, which was no surprise. But farther down the list, “how to cook fresh kale” caught my eye. While it is much less popular, it could be a good question to target if you know that there is no way you would ever rank for the 1st question due to competition.

While I can’t vouch for 100% accuracy (check out a review here that brings up some valid reservations about the service), I can promise that this will give you great insight. You might find a question that isn’t super common, but could help to drive very qualified traffic to your site if you create content to draw it in. It might give you an idea for your next blog post. It can open your eyes to an area of concern or interest your customers might have that you never even thought of.

Marketing is all about learning everything you can about your customers (current and potential) and then reciprocating by delivering what they want, need, think about, fret over, show interest in, want to learn more about …

So I say bring on any tool that will help you do just that. And if it’s free, then any small business, no matter how tight the budget, can take full advantage.

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Why you need a website for your small business

Potential customers are searching for your website

Potential customers are searching for your website

I don’t care who you are or what you do – if you are a business owner, no matter how small, you need a website.

If you just bristled and came up with a really good reason why you don’t need/want one, let’s talk about it. Maybe you think…

  • You can’t afford it. Rebuttal: Crazy expensive websites are a thing of the past. Sure big companies still spend lots of money on site design, but you don’t have to. Technology has made it easy to set up websites really cheaply. If you’re really savvy, you can set one up by yourself for little (if any) money.
  • You have your market cornered – your competitors don’t come anywhere close to what you do and you lead your industry, making a website pointless. Rebuttal: clickety, click, clack goes the keyboard of the savvy marketing guru creating a killer new website for your competitor that’s gonna blow your target market’s mind. You can’t sit on your heels because of the way things are now.
  • You don’t have the time to maintain it and worry about it . Rebuttal: you can easily hire a consultant to help you with web updates, or just keep it mostly static (there are reasons why this is not a good strategy, but I still think a static site is better than nothing)

These are only some of the objections I’ve heard – I’m sure there are lots more floating around out there, otherwise all business would have websites.

OK, let’s get to the main point of this post – why small business need websites.

Here’s what a website can do for you:

  • Share your business story – let people know what you do, why and how you can help them
  • Get new customers – people are looking online for your services (when was the last time you picked up a telephone book?)
  • Share your company’s news, promotions, new products/services etc… Keep you customers updated
  • Educate people about what you do (and hopefully get new customers in the process)
  • Gather important information about what your customers need and want
  • Create a database
  • Make it easy for people to find you or contact you
  • Enhance credibility – prove that you are a real company and you care enough about what you do to maintain a presence (if I can’t find a business online, alarm bells always go off)
  • Reduce the number of customer service calls you get
  • Become an important source of information in your industry

There are lots of other reasons. Lisa Barone over at Outspoken Media did a great post outlining why you need a website and how to get started.

To finish, I’m going to concede some situations where you might not need a website (and I really, truly had to wrack my brain for these):

  • All of your customers are over 80 (and even so, I know there are tons of savvy senior citizens out there on Facebook and Twitter, so maybe this isn’t really a point)
  • You live in a small town where  you only cater to the local community and every one knows exactly what you do. You have absolutely no interest in growing that business beyond your community.

Clearly, I believe very much in what I do for a living and in the power of websites for small business. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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What divides rich entrepeneurs from broke ones – Video from Marie Forleo

Really enjoyed this video from Marie Forleo. One of the biggest challenges that face a small business owner is to learn to LOVE marketing. Yes, you gotta do it. You gotta embrace it. You gotta kick to the curb any negative marketing stereotypes you have. As Marie says, marketing (a product or service that you believe in of course) is all about communicating with passion. Not about forcing something crappy on someone who doesn’t want it.

Check out the vid here: https://marieforleo.infusionsoft.com/link/128c984240/61a80.

Warning – there are some f bombs!

Posted in Small business marketing | Tagged | 2 Comments

The power of cross-selling – appeal to your customers without harassing them

The power of cross-selling to loyal customers

The power of cross-selling to loyal customers

Cross-selling is the practice of of selling an additional product or service to your existing customer base. In the marketing world, it is generally agreed that customer loyalty is HUGE – 80% of sales come from 20% of your customer base. A loyal customer is much more receptive to buying a new product or service from a company that they already like. The big question is – do your customers know all that you can offer them?

So maybe you’re thinking to yourself, of course they do… all my services are already listed on my website. Why would I have to keep on bringing them up? Because, no matter how much you wish they would, all of your site visitors will not diligently read your services page and tuck away that info for future reference. They might not even make it to your services page at all! And loyal customers, no matter how much they love you, aren’t going to do the legwork of checking in to see if you have something new to offer.

I personally was very loyal to one service provider. He did great work, and I kept going back to him (and still do!). But, I only knew him for the one service he provided me. I didn’t realize that he offered other services. So when I was looking for assistance for a project, I didn’t even think to contact him, cause I didn’t know he could help me out. Definitely a missed opportunity!

Cross-selling is a fine line, though. We have all had the experience of being “cross-sold” where it was too in your face and definitely not something we were interested in.  Banks and cell phone companies do this all the time, to the point that most of us have stopped listening. It’s just a “sales pitch” and we’ve got better things to do.

So, why not try a “soft” cross-selling approach that is as much about education and awareness as it is about making the sale. Here are some easy ways you can cross-sell all the great things that your company does, without coming on too strong or being too pushy…

  • Make the most of your email signature – highlight a brand new product, list the different services you offer, share an interesting tidbit about a particular offering. Don’t forget to include links to the corresponding page on your website
  • Let your business card do the talking – a business card is not just a little bit of paper with your contact info. Let it be a stand alone info piece about your company… this is a great place to list services. Especially if your company does many different things that aren’t all captured in your company name. People forget easily, let your business card remind them of what the heck you do again.
  • Create a special “cross-sell” call 2 action on your website and highlight different products or services. This helps to reinforce in your site visitor’s mind what you do and link that service with your company. Even if they don’t need that service right now, maybe they will down the road. Wouldn’t it be nice if  your company popped into their minds when asked about someone who does x (insert your service here)?
  • Incorporate cross-selling into your e-mail marketing. Have a featured product or service section included in your emails. And of course, if you have a new product or service, or even just an upgrade or change to existing, email away!
  • Use all your online communications channels to cross-sell. Share case studies, talk about success stories – take the opportunity to start conversations online about all the services and products you offer.

These are just a few ideas. There are many more. What tools do you use to cross-sell to your customers?

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Secret ingredient to your business model…happiness!

American hotelier Chip Conley shares with TED audiences in this 15 min clip his secret ingredient responsible for his business success – happiness!

He talks about how there are many tangible and intangible things that business owners can measure and how mostly the focus is on the tangible, because it’s easy to figure out. An example of a tangible aspect of your business is the number of sales you have made. The intangible in this example would be how your customers felt (and continue to feel) about doing business with you.

Chip argues that it’s the intangible aspects of your business that are the most valuable and I agree with him – this is where customer loyalty and employee satisfaction reside.  And without these 2 “ingredients”, your small business will struggle or will not be nearly as successful as it could be.

So do your business, operations and marketing planning and execution with happiness in mind.  And remember that happiness is contagious… it might start to follow you around everywhere 🙂

Check out the talk. What do you think?

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