Archive for May, 2009
I’ve used business cards since day one. In fact, I had my own cards before I even took on my first web design client. It’s such a simple concept that I think a lot of people undervalue their importance, especially in this digital age. It’s certainly a marketing tool that every small business owner, ministry and organization should be using, but let’s take a few minutes to think about how we’re actually putting those cards to use so they don’t collect dust in that fancy card holder you spouse picked up.
The biggest question you should ask yourself is how your business card is working for you? Beyond some contact information that can easily be entered into a phone or contact list and then discarded as quickly as it was given, does your card hold any other value?
What if the back of your card encouraged people to refer your services? If you sell merchandise online, what if you added a 5% off coupon code on the back? Adding a reminder to subscribe to your newsletter, or visit your blog, would be another great way to add value to your business card, making it work for you.
Any time I mail a contract out to my clients, or cards around the holidays, I make sure to include three of my business cards. As my business grows, more and more of my leads are generated by referrals, and having a few extra cards handy ensures my clients can easily recommend me to others if they wish. I also make sure to have a number in my wallet and a few in each of my cars. I never know when an opportunity will come to talk about my business and I’ve always been disappointed when I can’t execute on the question, “do you have a card?”
Another way to use business cards is to take out the personalization and simply use them as a cheap way to market your business. Think of it as a mini postcard that can easily fit in a pocket or wallet. My wife and I started a coupon site a few years back called shopestores.com and to help promote it, we designed a simple, two color design that included the logo, tagline and a short sentence talking about the site. Over the years, we’ve handed out thousands to friends and family, inserted in bills we’ve paid, left at restaurants with the tip and other miscellaneous places. It’s a great way to talk about your business without having to talk about your business.
Of course, the downside of business cards is that they are pretty hard to track their effectiveness. But thankfully, they are cheap to produce and easy to hand out. I would recommend many of the online printers like VistaPrint.com or UPrinting.com. I recently purchased 2500 cards for under $60 (with shipping). And if you need help with design, just let me know. You can view some more examples of our business card and stationary designs here.
At the end of the day, your business cards should be working for you and doing more than simply sharing your contact information. If not, you are missing out on a wide range of opportunities.
Remember, it’s up to you to keep the conversation going. I’ll be back soon with more weapons for your guerrilla marketing arsenal.3 comments
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.No comments
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.No comments
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.No comments
Remember when seeing a website address (URL) on a television or magazine ad sent a spark of curiosity through you? “Look honey,” you would say to your spouse waiting for your favorite syndicated program to end the laborious commercial break. “There is another one of those ‘www’ things.” It was foreign. It was unexpected. It shouted “cutting edge.”
Now, they are absolutely everywhere, spawning a new generation of people who can’t even fathom what life was like before the Internet. Open up any magazine, and you’ll be hard pressed to find an advertisement that does not include a website address. Purchase any product and somewhere next to the ingredients is a URL. The Internet has become a hub of activity, commerce and community. Most importantly, especially to the author seeking to connect with their public, the consumer expects to find information to help with their buying decisions.
Hopefully, I do not need to sell you on the importance of having a presence online. If I do, this article is not for you. But, if you are an author thinking about a website and have no clue where to start or even if you have an established website and want to build traffic and awareness, I strongly suggest you keep reading.
Below, I have listed ten ways for authors to market themselves online. These are easy to implement and most importantly, cost little to nothing to execute. They are ideas that will help you establish an essential presence in the online world that is so much more than just a website. Anyone can put up a page of information about themselves. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to make it enjoyable and worthwhile for your visitors. Hopefully, this article will be worth your time and you can use it as a great way to build your audience.
01. CLEAN HOUSE BEFORE INVITING THE NEIGHBORS OVER
Whether you have a site or are in need of a site, it’s always important to look at what you have before you begin to market yourself. Your web site should look contemporary, up-to-date and easy to navigate. It should present your work in a way that is both entertaining, yet professional. You worked hard to get where you are today. You did not settle for second best in your publications. Why settle for a sub-par website?
It can be a little frightening to start at ground level, especially if you don’t have a clue about the Internet. That is why it is extremely important to spend time selecting the right company for the job. If you already have a web designer, go to them with the ideas in this article and if they cannot help you accomplish them, find someone who can. Unless you are managing your own site, you are only as good as the person pushing the buttons for you. Make sure your site is ready for the flood of traffic that will come when you begin to focus on marketing it to the masses.
02. YOUR BEST BRAND IS NOT YOUR TOPICS, BUT YOUR NAME
Many authors make the mistake of branding their sites with their latest title or bestseller. This backs the author into a corner if they ever venture outside of the topic. Your best brand to build is your name, not your current theme, and your website URL should reflect this. This will give you the freedom to promote your latest titles and update the theme of the site with each release. It will also make it easier for people to find you through search engines, especially if you have multiple titles.
03. YOUR SITE MUST BE EASY TO FIND
As soon as you have an established site, make sure your publisher and publicists know that it is something you are serious about. Your URL should be in all future editions of your books along with links from the publisher’s site. They should also be including your URL in any magazine ads, press releases, postcards, etc.
Another way to help people find your website is to add a signature line to your email with your full website address (http://www.yourname.com). It’s a terrific marketing technique! One quick click and people have access to your site.
Your web developer should be submitting your sites to search engines along with configuring your pages with keywords and descriptions so that your site is search friendly. They should be providing this service as part of the initial design process.
04. BUILD A COMMUNITY AND MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE
Building community into your site is an easy way to connect you to your readers, and more importantly, to connect your readers to each other.
A great way to do this is to provide a message board. This is a place where visitors register to participate in ongoing conversations that they either start themselves, or jump into. When building your message board, first focus on the topics you write about and then provide areas for members to broaden their discussions. You are creating a gathering place for people to meet and talk who have a similar interest…your work! Once your community is established, spend some time each week and interact with your readers!
While there are hundreds of programs and various companies providing message boards, I have found PhpBB to be the best provider of software in this area.
Other ways to build community is by providing ways for readers to become a part of what you do. Depending on your genre, this can be accomplished by asking visitors to your site to fill out surveys about the topics you write about. You can also provide a Q&A section where readers can submit questions to you via email and you can post them along with your answers. Invite readers to submit reviews of your works and post them on the site.
Without a sense of community or some level of interaction, the reader will come to your site and leave without a compelling reason to return.
05. BUILD AN ONLINE MAILING LIST
The biggest kept secret that many authors have yet to grasp is that email marketing works. There’s no denying it. Its key advantage over other Internet marketing methods is that it enables you to contact your readers immediately instead of forcing them to contact you. This ability is especially useful when something that your readers need to know as soon as possible has happened. Whether you’ve just released a new title or simple would like to stay in touch with your readers, the fastest (and cheapest) way to spread the word is via email.
There are many ways to collect addresses. Obviously, having the ability for the reader to subscribe directly from your site is key. Another easy way to collect addresses is to hold contests. Give readers the ability to win a signed copy of one of your books, or partner with your publisher to give away something of high value like an eBook viewer. When visitors enter the contests on your site, you can capture their email address and automatically subscribe them to your newsletter. Just be sure to be upfront about your intentions by telling them that when they enter, they will subscribe. You can also give them the option to get more information from you.
Promote your online newsletter wherever possible. You should have a short sentence in your email signature that says “Get the latest updates direct from my site! Sign up for my newsletter here!” This will give everyone you come in contact with an opportunity to join without forcing the issue on them. Also, have a sign-up sheet if you do any speaking engagements, that way you can stay in touch with those who come to hear you speak.
Once you have an established list, make sure to use it. There should be no reason not to send out a quick monthly update. Even if you don’t have anything to say, there is always information you can dig up that your readers would love. Press releases, reviews of your latest work, sneak-peaks on future releases, sample chapters and site updates make great content for email newsletters. Don’t let them forget about you! Stay in touch with your readers as much as possible.
Whatever you do, make sure you are following good email etiquette. Never add addresses to your list unless they have specifically asked to be included and make it easy for people to unsubscribe.
06. THE IMPORTANCE OF NETWORKING WITH LINKS
A link is simply a connecting point from one site to another. Clicking on a link will take you to another site. Networking is the cornerstone of any successful business or author. You are in the business of selling books, and without connecting with established readers that are already online, you are missing huge opportunities.
But where do you begin? There are billions of websites online. The task does initially seem daunting, but the solution is simple. First, you have to figure out who your public is. Then, surf the net to find websites that reach your public. Find sites that cater to your target audience. Offer a place on your site to link to resources and offer to trade links with these sites. Google.com is a great search engine to use when doing this type of research. Your web designer should be able to help you identify key sites to be a part of.
More than likely, you have met a few authors along the way. Offer to trade links with them and present these authors on your site as ones you endorse to your readers.
Again, your publisher should be using every opportunity to help promote your site via advertisements, postcards, press releases, etc.
The fact is, the more sites that link to your site, the better chances you have of showing up higher in search engine results.
07. POST EXCLUSIVE CONTENT AND INFORMATION ABOUT YOU
For the majority of your readers, your website will be the only place that they can follow your actions and learn more about you including future releases. Without varied content, it’s very easy to loose interest and frustrate your readers. View your site as a way to get the person who has read and enjoyed your site more engaged with what you do. How will you make sure they will purchase your future works? You must present more information than what they have already read and enjoyed.
Online journals are a great way to connect to an audience. A short 3-4 paragraph update a month will do wonders in keeping your site active and looking fresh. Also look at adding an extended biography while listing your favorite books, movies and music. Ask your publisher for permission to post sample chapters from your works and republish articles that focus on your latest interest.
This additional content will help add some depth and personality to your site. Best of all, it will help establish your site as a destination point to get information about you. People will return again and again.
08. PARTNER WITH AN ONLINE RETAILER
If you have yet to make a connection to an online retailer, I strongly suggest you find one that is willing to partner with you. While it may not be your job specifically, speak with your publicist about running a few promotions with retailers. Your two goals should be to drive awareness of your products, and your site.
There are many ways to partner with online retailers, but you need to make sure you remain open to suggestions. Be willing to write original content or even share what you already have. Offer contests that the retailer can run on their site or even offer to provide signed copies of your book for giveaway.
Whether you are a new author or an established author, online retailers will be looking for traffic in return, so offer them a prominent link on your home page pushing people to your site. In return, ask for a link to your site. You should be able to put together three to four 3-month promotions every year with various online retailers.
09. MAKE A COMMISSION ON YOUR OWN PRODUCT
First of all, if you are not giving guests that come to your site an opportunity to purchase your own product, you are missing sales left and right. Secondly, if you are not making any money by pushing your guests to make their purchases at a specific online retailer, you are letting go of dollars that could be in your pocket.
It’s safe to say that everyone who visits your site either has read one or more of your books or is thinking about doing so in the near future. You need to be giving everyone an opportunity to purchase your products. It’s too expensive and time-intensive to set up your own store, so therefore, it makes sense to link to a well respected, established online retailer. Set up a buy link prominently on your home page. If you would like, link to multiple retailers or link to one exclusively for a short period of time and go for partnerships like I explained in tip #8.
When you choose an online retailer to link to, make sure they have what is commonly referred to as an “affiliate program.” The concept of an affiliate program is simple. The online retailer will supply you with a traceable link and you will get a percentage of any sales made by guests who visit your site, click on one of these links and make any purchase. You will get a commission from whatever they buy, even if it’s not your book! This is pure money in your pocket, simply by selling your own products! The percentage of sale varies from site to site, but find a program that best fits your needs, will give comfort to your target audience and if possible, work with a retailer that will help you expand your site.
10. UPDATE, UPDATE, UPDATE
I can’t stress the importance of maintaining your website enough. It is vital to your relevance online. I would almost suggest that it would be a complete waste of your money if you are thinking about a website and planning to forget about it until your next project comes out. At the same time, a static site (meaning one that does not change) does have some value, but only to first time visitors. After that, you will lose touch with people as soon as they close your site.
The power of the Internet is amazing. The ability to interact with your readers on a monthly, weekly, daily basis is at your fingertips. To not utilize its full potential would be the same as not realizing your own potential.
I hope these ideas have sparked some excitement and curiosity to get moving on marketing yourself online. It is extremely elating to be able to call a website your own. If you have any questions about the information about, please do not hesitate to ask.
Kevin McNeese owns and operates KMWeb Designs. He has worked in professional web design and online marketing since 1999 and currently manages sites for various authors, artists and small businesses. If you have questions about anything covered in this article, please contact KMWeb Designs.No comments