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Archive for the 'Planning' Category

3 Free Tools That Any Start-Up Business Can Utilize

This article is written by guest-blogger, Josh Olswanger, owner of Thrive Web Designs, a Boise web design firm.

As you venture off to start a new business, you will undoubtedly have a list a mile long of marketing ideas, how you’re planning to find new business, operating procedures, finances, and the list goes on. Creating a business plan should be a necessity when deciding to go for the gold. With today’s day and age, there are so many tools available online to help you not only monitor the status of your website’s traffic, but also help you grow your presence and client/customer experience.

Below are 5 tools that are free and very effective for any business, regardless of what industry you’re in.


1. Google Analytics

Google analytics is a free application that you can integrate into each page of your website to help you monitor traffic. It allows for you to do a very precise drill-down to see how visitors are finding you, which keywords they are typing in to find your website, as well as many other elements including bounce rate percentages. A bounce rate percentage is measured by how long a visitor stays on your website.

Learn more about what a bounce rates and what they mean.

Setting up a Google Analytics is very easy and only requires that you have a gmail account setup, as well as access to the html code of your website. You will enter a snippet of code provided by Google when you setup the account.

Click here to start a free Google Analytics account.


2. MailChimp for E-Newsletters

Including a newsletter within your website by giving away something for free, is a great way to keep visitors coming back for more. Giving away information or advice away is very popular. If you know that your business will definitely grow by the use of a newsletter program, then MailChimp is the weapon of choice. MailChimp is by far the most advanced and intuitive newsletter program available. Even better, it’s free of cost up to 2,000 subscribers, and then affordable packages for over 2,000 subscribers are available. With MailChimp, you can monitor traffic to your newsletter, get in-depth reports on new subscribers, create free newsletter templates using easy-to-use editors, as well as create sign-up forms for your website or blog.

For more information on this great newsletter software, visit MailChimp.com.


3. Blog

Although the importance of a blog and “blogging” is no secret anymore, often times, businesses will overlook this simple but very effective marketing tool. As your website competes for relevancy and ranking power on Google and Bing, search engines are paying more attention to the frequency and quality of the content on each page. Using a blog and integrating it within your website, can prove to help your SEO, in many cases dramatically help.

WordPress is arguably the most popular blogging platform available today. Not only is it free, but also it allows you to customize your own website for those brave enough to handle the task. WordPress also includes many add-ons or “plug-ins” including ones that help your search engine marketing.

As a golden rule, just having a blog doesn’t mean your website will necessarily do better, but including relevant and unique content along with frequently posting new entries usually makes an impact. WordPress offers two different options for setting up a blog. A wordpress blog setup at www.wordpress.com will allow you to host your blog directly from their site for free. This means that your domain name will look something like “www.yourdomain.wordpress.com.” The other option is setting up the blog on your own server/hosting account by going to wordpress.org to setup.

For more information on setting up a custom blog, visit WordPress.org.

Article written by Josh Olswanger of Thrive Web Designs, an Idaho web design company.

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Your Guerrilla Marketing Arsenal: Weapon #2 – A Marketing Calendar

Now that you have your marketing plan in place (see previous post) we want to avoid the panic attacks of having too much to do in so little time. If you did it right, your marketing plan should be overflowing with ideas to explore. The reality is, like anything else, you’re going to sow exactly what you put in, so let’s focus on prioritizing your list and giving each item the time it deserves. The last thing you want to do is jump from idea to idea without fully seeing each item to its full potential.

A marketing calendar is extreamly helpful in keeping track of promotions and setting goals and timelines to ensure a successful launch. Any solid promotion should have multiple marketing tactics attached, and it can be easy to drop the ball or miss an opportunity unless you are documenting your steps.

To get started, I would suggest purchasing a cheap 12-month calendar so you can get a good glimpse of the entire year quickly. You can also do this in Excel by downloading a calendar template. A calendar view is handy if you have promotions that are going to overlap each other.

Clearly connect or color code you promotions by writing down a start date and an end date. That way, you can quickly see when a promotion starts and when it ends.

Once you have your promotions in place, now it’s time to add your marketing goals. If a promotion starts on the first of the month, you will want to ensure you have all of your promotional materials ready for that month. What changes will you need on your site? When will they be due to your webmaster? What images and banners will you need for your promotion? When will the promotion be announced to your email subscribers?

Of course, this may sound like a lot of unnecessary work, and if you don’t have a lot going on, it probably is. But the only way to grow your business online is to remain active, and eventually, flying by the seat of your pants will only take you so far. If you start now, it will be second nature by the time you’re rocking and rolling.

It’s up to you to keep the conversation going. I’ll be back soon with more weapons for your guerrilla marketing arsenal.

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Your Guerrilla Marketing Arsenal: Weapon #1 – A Marketing Plan

As an entrepreneur, I’m always on the go. It’s one of the best things about paving your own way. If you want to do something, you just do it–no red tape, no long meetings or boring presentations. Of course, that can be both a blessing and a curse as too often, I’m flying a bit blind with no eye on the end game.

I got my first true wake up call about three years ago, when a competing business of mine called me up and started asking me all these questions that I’d never put an ounce of thought into answering before. “Where do you see your business in five years?” “Have you ever thought about selling your business?” “What type of salary would you take if you were part of a company but still managing your business?” My silence and stumbling quickly gave me away. I had no clue. I was simply basking in the glory of my success, blind to the reality that there was an actual future ahead of me.

So after that phone call, I sat down to create my first business plan. What came out of that planning was a relaunch of one of my main sites, which is now one of the top sites in its category, welcoming over 120,000 visitors every month. In three years, it is now bringing in almost as much revenue as KMWeb Designs.  I can guarantee you, if that company never would have challenged me to seriously look at where I was going, that site would have never took off the way it did.

Was it a marketing plan? Not really. But in all honesty, a marketing plan follows close to a business plan. They both establish where you are going and force you to envision your future and attainable, realistic goals. Without them, you are lost and treading water, whether you are successful or not.

So where do you start with an online marketing plan? My suggestions are to start as basic as possible and if it involves throwing huge amounts of cash at solutions, you’re taking the easy way out that will return very little. Instead of detailing what you should do, how about answering some of the following questions? This should get your marketing plan started and give you plenty to do in the coming weeks:

  • What is bringing people to my website?
  • What is keeping people on my website once they get there?
  • What is encouraging people to return to my website after they leave?
  • How are people finding me online?
  • What are people saying about me online?
  • Where are people talking about my industry online and am I part of the conversation?
  • What social networks am I a part of (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter)?
  • Who is my main audience?
  • What audience should I be reaching that I am not?
  • Are there local and/or national organizations that represent what I do?
  • Where could my business serve my local community?
  • What can I do to encourage people to talk about my business with others?
  • How would my competition answer these questions and what are they doing that I am not?

Take a few minutes and answer these questions. The answers should give you quite a few ideas on how to build your basic marketing plan that should include your overall messages, your audience, your budget and your plan of attack.

Go start the conversation and I’ll be back soon with more weapons for your guerrilla marketing arsenal.

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Your Guerrilla Marketing Arsenal: An Introduction

Ever since I read an article in Entrepreneur Magazine’s February 2008 issue titled, “Here’s The Plan,” I have wanted to turn its basic concept into a quick format blog, exploring the hundreds of ideas that were listed with no explanation behind them. The concept of the article was simple: to encourage small business owners to plan for the future of their business without spending a ton of time or money in the process. The long, laundry list of marketing “ideas” was obviously meant to inspire thinking outside of the article, and I’ve always thought it would provide an excellent skeleton for a blog, assuming I would ever find time to write one.

Being a small business owner like myself who is always looking to find growth in new areas, the article has provided me with a lot of inspiration and I’m excited about the prospect of sharing that with you.

I’m a huge fan of guerrilla marketing, which at its simplistic definition is creative marketing. It’s viral, word-of-mouth, covert and a starter of conversation. It’s embracing social media, tweaking proven marketing concepts, using new media techniques and thinking outside the box. It’s finding ways to spend next to nothing, while raking in the biggest reward. What small business owner wouldn’t want to dive in?

So that’s what we’re going to do. Dive in.

Like you, my days are not filled with sipping lemonade under the sun, while my employed minions do all of my work for me. I don’t have hours to sit and write award winning, frame worthy pieces that will change your world. But I do have a few minutes to simply chat about ideas that have worked for me, and even a few that I haven’t tried out myself.

I’ve been lucky to build KMWeb Designs to over 200 launched sites in nine years and have built up a niche site in NewReleaseTuesday.com to over 15,000 registered members and 120,000 visitors a month. I’ve done both while spending next to nothing in traditional media. And while I will never claim to know it all in this ongoing world of online marketing, I do feel a have something to say. Hopefully, you’ll agree.

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