Free marketing tool – check out how your webpage stacks up in terms of SEO

Free marketing tool - SEO Automatic SEO Report

Free marketing tool - SEO Automatic SEO Report

The folks at Search Engine Journal shared this free tool from SEO Automatic via their blog and it is a great place for any small business to identify instantly major problems in their SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Once signed up, you can get free access to the Lite SEO report, which will give you feedback about your title, description, header, and keyword tags. Having these tags set up properly is a basic must-have for every website. Your report will tell you know whether there are major issues, something worth your attention, or a nice green check mark. Then, you can go on your merry way to fix things up (or give your self a pat on the back if all you see is green).

Even if you don’t have full access to these parts of your website (or your eyes have just glazed over and you’re thinking what the heck is a header tag?), armed with this information, you can go to your webmaster to resolve the problems (and you never have to learn what a header tag is if you don’t want to, thank you very much!). And if whoever is in charge of your site is unable or unwilling to help you, you know it’s time to move on and find either a new website service provider or marketing consultant (or both) to make sure that all you see are green check marks.

Don’t think that SEO or search engine marketing is important to your business? Perhaps it is not important for you to show up in search results for your keywords – maybe your target market does not use the web to find your business (which is becoming increasingly rare these days). But picture this scenario. A customer (whether current or potential) wants to find you specifically and types in your company name into the search bar and… you show up, but you are way down the list. Or even worse, you don’t show up at all! (And if you have never tried to search for your own company name, drop everything and do it right now). Not only does this look bad, but it could mean the loss of a sale or client. And I think that everyone would agree that this is not a good thing.

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One reason websites are a great thing for small business – they level the playing field

Websites important for small businesses

Websites important for small businesses

If you are still hesitating over getting a first new website for your company, or improving your existing one, here’s another reason to jump on the bandwagon… websites can even the playing field between small businesses and large corporations.

Why is this so?

  • These days, it is possible to set up an inexpensive, totally presentable, engaging website that communicates with your visitors and offers them a positive experience with your brand. If you’ve got the time and the skills, you can do this for yourself for free. Or, you can hire an online marketing consultant to set you up and keep you going. Really, site visitors most probably don’t need fancy or expensive sites to serve them. They just need to get the information they came for quickly and easily. How you engage with them is the most important consideration.
  • Many companies do not realize and value the potential of online communications for marketing and business success. If your competitors fall in this category, it’s your turn to jump ahead. If they’re not doing social media, for example, here’s your chance to use this essentially free marketing tool and get it going on your website.
  • There are certain things that, to a certain extent, money can’t buy. And large companies cannot buy positive customer reviews – if their product or service is not up to par, there is a good chance that the word is spreading online. Only great customer experiences can. Make sure to communicate these on your site.

I have just found out that a new small business client of mine can really capitalize on what its competitors are lacking on their websites and in the online communications arena. I’m looking forward to the outcome…

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Free business tool – Google alerts

Free marketing tool - Google alerts

Free marketing tool - Google alerts

Google Alerts is one of my favourite free business tools. You just have to sign up to be alerted via email whenever there is a mention on the internet of your selected keywords.

Something that all businesses should have set up is an alert for their corporate name. It’s an easy way to monitor online content about your company, without having to do any leg work. It can also identify potential channels and opportunities for your marketing communications planning, keep you up to date with trends in your industry and allows you the chance to engage with your customers. This is also an important way to monitor any negative comments and gives you the opportunity to respond and hopefully clarify/undo any misconceptions. Plunk in some of your competitor’s names, and you have a great tool to monitor them as well.

Keywords is another great way to stay on top of particular industries or product types, for example. They also offer the same marketing and pr benefits as above. Be careful with your selections, though. Too broad a key word can inundate you with information. The marketing tools you choose should always be realistic for you and your schedule.

Your reputation is crucial to your business’ success. Make sure that you take the steps to monitor it online. Interested in giving it a try? Go to Google alerts.

Posted in Customer relationship management, Free marketing tools, Online communications, Public relations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When lying to your customers is a good thing

How white lies can save your customer service

Any marketing or public relations professional worth their weight abides by one cardinal rule – don’t lie. Don’t exaggerate either. Not only is stretching the truth unethical, it will eventually catch up to you, and any gains you may have made will quickly disappear.

Now I am not talking about making false claims about your product, or misleading people into believing things that are simply untrue about your company. I am talking about little “white lies” that can go a long way to maintaining your reputation and your customer satisfaction.

A couple of examples and how white lies can save the day…

  • A classmate of mine at BCIT was doing some research on our direct marketing project, and called a company to get some information. The response from the consumer relations department? A very rude “Why should I help you?” and a quick hangup. The whole class found out about the experience, and too bad for the company in question that we were all in their target market. Imagine if instead the woman at the other end of the line had instead responded with “I’m terribly sorry, but our company policy does not allow us to share our marketing tactics with the general public. We do really appreciate you calling though.” So the company policy does not exist… but the customer is none the wiser and still has neutral or positive feelings towards the company.
  • I’ve worked in customer relations before, and as a marketer on a mission, I knew just how crucial each and every call/email was. Prompt and thorough responses are greatly appreciated. I don’t know how many times customers sang the company’s praises just because an email was replied to in a timely fashion. There are lots of companies out there who do not agree with me, and are perfectly fine with allowing calls or emails to be dealt with weeks later (or in some cases never!). But realistically speaking, I was not always able to respond as quickly as I would have liked. So what did I do? I white lied… I have been out of the office, the person with the answer to your question is on holidays, your email address bounced back. My reasoning? The customer still feels important and that the company cares about them.

Empower your front line staff with diplomatic white lie skills. Brainstorm potential white lies that can save certain situations. Ensure proper customer service training. And make sure that the staff that deal directly with your customers know just how important they are to your business. And treat them accordingly.

(Now, I am only advocating using white lies now and again, in certain situations. If you constantly have to use white lies, there is a problem and business processes need to be re-evaluated and improved. Use your internal expertise to address the problem, or hire a marketing consultant to help identify your shortcomings when it comes to dealing with customers and activate solutions to streamline your procedures).

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Be up front with your limitations

User frustration with online forms

User frustration with online forms

Sometimes certain information is kept quiet. Or, it is simply a case of missing or lacking communication. Unfortunately, when your customers or consumers have to figure out your limitations on their own, they will not be very appreciative of your services by the end of it. This applies to the online world as well in a big way.  Perhaps even more so, as online you really do have the time and the space to communicate these things up front.

Online forms is an area where this comes into play often. Who hasn’t had the experience of diligently filling out an online form, only to find upon submission that your information is not going to be accepted? Perhaps you live in a country that is not able to participate for a various number of reasons. Or you don’t have the right account to process your transaction. Either way, if you had been told about such factors before getting to the form you would a) not have wasted your time and b) not be feeling frustrated at the company/organization who failed to communicate with you.

The point is, let people know about the important limitations that will affect their experience with you and your brand. If you’re really good… you can find a way to take a limitation and make it a positive talking point.

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