Monday, September 25, 2017

Question of the Week: How Will I Know When I’m Ready to Launch My E-Commerce Site?



The actual act of launching an e-commerce site is not quite as easy as “just add water and stir.” But it’s not all that difficult either. 

You could be crocheting toaster cozies in your basement and decide one day that you’d like to sell them. With the right software and little know-how (or a friend with that know-how), you could have that e-commerce site up and running in no time.

BUT - and this is a big but - without the proper planning in place, you’ll more than likely have to keep your day job and abandon your dreams of being a toaster cozy baron(ess). 

Are You Committed to the Launch of A Successful E-Commerce Business?


If you’re feeling certain that it’s time to launch your e-commerce site, then you’ve ideally taken the following eight steps:

1. You Have Tested Your Product


You’ve taken a serious look at your product. Not from your adoring eyes, but from the far more discerning eyes of others. And you’ve determined that there is demand for it.

In other words, it doesn’t suck. 

Because it’s one thing when your friends say, “You should totally sell this.” It’s another when you try to peddle that product to friends of those friends. And you know this.

Therefore, you have conducted surveys and/or given out samples to test and refine your product. And it’s a winner.

2. You Have A Solid Foundation 


You determined your product is worthy (i.e. not a toaster cozy). Congrats. But you didn’t immediately push the launch button.

Why?

It wasn’t for lack of eagerness. Your trigger finger was primed. But you know that the best time to get organized, track your customers and automate as much as you can is BEFORE the launch. And in your infinite wisdom, you have. You’re like Yoda.

You know there will be foreseeable problems in the future and fixing them then is gonna cost you. And while you can’t put every feature into place before the launch, you’re also aware that the whole “we’ll deal with that when it happens” is a decidedly ineffective business model that works for almost no one. 

Speaking of a business model…

3. You Have A Business Model


Yep. You do. Because even though you’ve gained some market share with your free samples, you’re not playing the “I’m too cool for school” card and pretending you can just wing it from this point forward. Like dill gummy bears, it’s just a bad idea. 

Sure, ditching the business model might have worked for Facebook. But you’re not Facebook. (What would that even look like?) And nearly every other company that chose this approach at their e-commerce site launch is now defunct. 

So kudos on that business model, friend!

4. You Are Not Banking on Raising More Money


You’ve already taken (honest, non-criminal) measures to establish the capital needed to start a fully sustainable and long-term business. Partially because when you seek out a venture capitalist later and tell him or her that you need money to scale, they will smile and be happy and give you money. Maybe chocolate too. 
  
But also because you know that if you tell him or her you need money just to break even, he or she is likely to frown and look at you akimbo in much the same manner as a disapproving parent. And then all of those weird parent triggers will be enacted and you’ll feel bad about yourself. Again. 

You already recognize that it’s way better to ask for money when you don’t actually NEED it. 

5. You Have a Marketing Budget


Once you launch, you can’t assume people will just naturally
migrate to your site. Unless you’re giving away diamonds. Or ponies. (In either case, a devastatingly poor return on investment.)

So in order to drive traffic directly to your site, you’ve enlisted the help of an advertising/marketing firm to assist with SEO efforts and getting backlinks to your site. Because, frankly, there ain’t no link like a backlink.

6. You Are Prepared to Listen to Your Customers


And you know you’ll be hearing from them. A lot. And right from day one. 

Of course, you’re well aware that you don’t have to act on everything they say. For instance, Tom Q. feels his suggestion that you consume his gym shorts is helpful in some way. You know it’s not because you don’t even like gym shorts.

But you also know that customers will point out things about your product that may not have occurred to you. And, as you know, that can be really valuable. They could guide you to make necessary changes. 

And once you make those changes, the customers feel valued - thereby establishing a deeper bond and fostering brand loyalty.

7. You Are Sticking with One Product


You have effectively eliminated the term “vertical integration” from your vocabulary. For now, at least. 

Because, of course, you’ve got this killer product and you want to drench it in the limelight and let nothing steal its thunder. Yeah, that’s a mixed metaphor that makes no sense. But neither does cramming your e-commerce site with a bunch of irrelevant product. It will not serve to highlight your amazing product. Instead, it will bury it.

But you know that already, smarty.

8. You Are in It for the Long Haul


Odds are, the process is going to be slow. Like watching paint dry. But harder. Like watching paint dry while juggling. And climbing a tree. 

Like Seth Godin says, “It takes about six years of hard work to become an overnight success.” Oh, that Seth. Such a way with words. 

But he’s not wrong.

Are You Ready to Launch Your E-Commerce Site?


Bottom line? If you’ve done all of the above and feel confident that you have a great product to sell, follow your passion. Get that e-commerce site up and running.


And when you’re ready to explore marketing options, feel free to contact us. We’d love to talk to you about your passion.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Why Every Company Should Have a Business Blog


The early days of blogging felt very much like a collection of “Dear Diary” entries on a much larger (and public) scale.

People acquired blogs to elaborately emote on what was happening in their lives - such as the throngs of “mommy” blogs that painstakingly detailed both the joys and arduousness of motherhood in such a way that made one think that mothers hadn’t existed since the beginning of time.

Others started blogs to display their vast knowledge on specific topics that precious few others would find interesting - like trunnion mounts, or rare foot diseases. (The latter of which is at least slightly fascinating because it’s gross.)

For Many, This Became the Definition of a Blog


And yeah. There are still plenty of people using their blogs for these specific purposes. We don’t begrudge them that. It’s fine. 

The problem is, companies and businesses that doggedly stick by this narrow understanding are missing a huge opportunity to increase visibility, leads and sales through a company blog. All because of this antiquated notion.

It’s a shame too. Because by simply hosting a blog on their existing company website and investing in a content publication strategy, they’re very likely going to experience an increase in their ROI. In fact, HubSpot found that businesses who put a priority on blogging experience a 13X increase in ROI, year after year.

Not too shabby. So how does a blog do this? Let’s take a looksy.

Awesome Benefits to Having A Company Blog


If you’re still convinced that a company blog is nothing more than a glorified diary, read on to see what you’re missing. 


1. Increases to Your Search Engine Traffic


One of the best metaphors we’ve heard for blogging is that it’s like fishing.

With fishing, the more hooks you have in the water, the more likely you are to catch a fish. It’s the same way with content. The more content you regularly add to your site, the more pages from your domain will become indexed in search engines. And the more blog posts (i.e. hooks) you have, the better your chances that your target market will find your bait.  

All of this equals improvement in organic search visibility and an increase in website traffic. You want these.

2. Support for Your Social Media Initiatives 


Sharing other’s content on your social media is great. We
know. And we’re not just talking about watching a seagull steal french fries from a couple of surly cats. You obviously want to share high-quality content. (Though what one would define as  high quality, another would see merely as hilarious bird hijinks.)

Either way, you ultimately want to start directing those leads to your own site. Enter the blog post. 

By simply sharing your blog posts on social media, you increase traffic to your business website. Particularly if the post is chock full of highly-relevant, topical information.

3. Humanization of Your Brand


You’re reading a blog post right now. If you were to go to our company website, you’d read our carefully crafted copy and get a sense of our formal voice. (Or, at least, somewhat more formal.)

But if you want a true taste of our personality, then buckle up, buttercup, and dive into our blog archives. Plus, you might learn a thing or two. Which brings us to…

4. The Chance to Build Authority and Boost Conversion Rates 


Prattling on about Sharing industry-related information and insights while speaking expertly on topics in your industry builds up authority in your niche. And with authority comes familiarity and trust. Especially if you’re posting valuable information on a regular basis. 

When your prospects are ready to buy, they’re going to remember that you’re an authority figure. But not the high school principal/drill sergeant kind of authority figure. The good kind. The kind they trust when making a purchase. And then - blammo! - you’re increasing your conversion rates.

5. Ranking Higher for Long-Tail Search Queries 


So let’s say that you’re in the sandwich-making business. You’ve got some catchy name like ‘In a Pickle.’ And you’re thinking, “What do I need a blog for? I mean, who wants to read about cold cuts?”

In spite of the very real possibility that there are at least a few carnivores with a passion for pimento loaf, that’s not really the point. 

See, your blogless website is going to have a hard time ranking for long-tail search queries. Sure, your company website will likely rank for business-specific keywords such as “sandwiches” - along with every other sub shop. 

But if a weight-conscious person who has a hankering for a sandwich looks up “The fat content in various lunch meats,” you aren’t going to rank very high. If at all.

Having more content is the best way to rank for these long-tail queries. The more relevant content you put out there, the better chance you have to rank for less common, but higher-converting keyword phrases.

6. The Generation of Inbound Links


One of the three mighty pillars of SEO is having high-quality inbound links to your site. But how are you gonna attract authoritative links to your business website without a blog? (Um, you’re not.)

Adding new content that serves as a resource for other bloggers and media allows for the natural accumulation of inbound links as other writers, columnists, journalists, bloggers and contributors refer to and cite your content in their own pieces. 

So aside from being great for SEO, these links can also generate some serious referral traffic back to your site. 

7. Keeping Yourself Fresh


Google likes freshness. And their version doesn’t involve Irish Spring or Summer’s Eve. 

Rather, they’re happy as a pig in mud when they see new content being added onto a blog a regular basis. And they reward sites that do this. 


8. Conversing with Customers


Going right along with that whole humanizing thing, blogging gives your business the chance to connect with customers and prospects through discussion. 

Having a blog indicates to its readers that you’re open to comments, feedback and even criticisms. (See below.) 

Knowing what’s on the minds of your customers and dialoguing with them helps you gain new insights to better structure your marketing initiatives. It’s gold, Jerry. Gold!  

Ultimately, Your Company Blog Levels the Playing Field


It allows you to differentiate yourself from the competition. And with regular contribution and upkeep, it gives you a dominant voice - regardless of your actual size.

It’s a simple way to naturally increase your search traffic, customer trust and sales by providing your own unique thoughts and insights. It allows you to be “you.”  


So, with that being said, do YOU have anything you’d like to add? Feel free to comment below. Let’s discuss.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Question of the Week: What Is Intentional Bad Design and How Does It Work?


We’ve all experienced bad design. (If you haven’t, click here. Now you have.) 

Bad design may prompt you to ask the following:

  • Does the designer of this monstrosity have a fully functional brain?
  • Who would approve this shoddy work?
  • How did this embarrassment make it all the way to production?
  • If this passes for good design, could I hire out my 4-year-old to do the same quality of work? 

While you may not have pondered child labor, you’ve more than likely questioned the validity or effectiveness of certain designs. And you may have even stood slack-jawed and aghast at the inhumanity of it.  

Then again, you may have determined that the design was intentionally bad.


Like Good Design, Intentional Bad Design Aims to Get Results


See, if the bad design is intentional, then it serves a purpose for good in the minds of the designer and their client. Whereas if it’s just straight-up unintentional  bad design, it’s sleeping on the job. (Slacker.)

Some examples of intentional bad design are as follows:

The Fine Print


Designers know the importance of clear communications in marketing. It's pretty much, like, the first thing they teach in Marketing Designer School. So then, shouldn’t designers make ALL marketing communications clear?

Nope.

If a particular communication could end up detracting from the sale - such as an unsavory restriction, a potentially devastating side effect, or some other legalese - then the designer incorporates the smallest font possible that allows it to still be legible. 

That otherwise beautifully designed ad is now marred by some strange tiny floating text off to the side near the bottom. But it’s totally intentional.

Product Labeling That Looks Cheap


Take a gander at a can of split pea soup from the illustrious kitchen of Wolfgang Puck. Then glance over at the generic or store-brand split pea soup from the mysterious kitchen of nowhere.

Now for some, the photo of a steaming bowl of tantalizing soup juxtaposed by the Puck moniker on the label is reassurance that it’s worth every penny of that $3.89. (That’s 389 pennies.)

But for others, they see Wolfgang and his pretty bowl and feel immediately resentful that they have to pay for such a spectacle. They’re far more drawn to the no-frills neighboring can of store-brand split pea soup without so much as a picture of a pea. Maybe a hokey cartoon drawing, at best.

And to this consumer, money not wasted on great label design means VALUE to them.     

Strange Chairs and Music


The new coffeeshop is super sharp. It’s gorgeous with huge windows, an ultra-friendly staff and coffee that was just roasted, shot through a tube across the ceiling and tastes like happiness.

So when you sit in one of those cool looking chairs, you’re
disappointed at how uncomfortable it is. And why in the world are they playing the sort of music one might hear in their head when they’ve finally cracked? You’re tempted to see it as an oversight. It’s not though. 

It’s intentional bad design. 

Sure, they want you to like their place and their coffee and, well, them. They just don’t want you to stick around too long. It’s bad for business.

There are other examples too - like putting the milk at the back of the store to make consumers walk through, or attaching hugely cumbersome items to bathroom keys so they don’t get left behind on the toilet. (Or in it.)

And There Is Plenty of Intentional Bad Design in the Digital World Too


You know. Pop ups, newsletter sign-ups that offer no escape, anti-ad blocker blocker pages, breaking up a single story into 8 pages versus 1 page, and then putting 1 paragraph of content on each page, things of that nature. 

The reality is, intentional bad design is used by all sorts of businesses to help make additional sales, drive customer decisions and achieve higher margins. It may not appeal to one’s appreciation for aesthetics. And yeah, it might even be adding a little more ugliness into the world.


But like it or not, it works.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Question of the Week: What Is White Label SEO and Should I Be Using It?

Well, let’s strip it down and first look at white labeling without the SEO.

White labeling is when a company provides you with a service or product at a discounted price so that you can put your name on it and turn a profit. They do this so they don’t have to spend money on marketing and you get to avoid spending time and money on developing a product or service. 

It Is Essentially the Same Thing as Private Labeling


You’ve seen it at your favorite grocery store - like Trader Joe's. When you’re there, you’ve probably noticed an overwhelming number (like, almost all) of the products there that have the Trader Joe’s label. Joe is ALL about private labelling.

In essence, private labeling is the same as white labeling. It’s when one entity makes the product - i.e. the butcher, the baker or the candlestick maker - but surrenders the brand so they can place their product in front of a wider audience. The partner group who sells the product (our buddy Trader Joe) gets the brand, but has nothing to do with its production.

So How Does White Label SEO Work?


Take that idea of private/white labeling and bring it to the SEO industry. 

White label SEO is that same sort of partnership. It’s an arrangement where two companies - an ad agency or business, and an SEO reseller - partner together for the sales and delivery of SEO services and then share in the profits from the sale.  

So let’s say you’re an advertising/marketing agency who’s new to the SEO game. One of your long-standing clients is in
the business of selling lederhosen. You’ve created an amazing lederhosen website for them (congratulations on THAT feat, by the way) and they’re now in a position to now start adding SEO to their strategy. 

In this case, if you were to seek out a white label SEO provider, you’d pay them to do all the heavy lifting of industry and keyword research. (Insert sweaty grunt.) They’d handle the on-page and off-page SEO. They’d optimize that stunning lederhosen website for conversions, monitor visitors using analytics and heat maps, and a whole bunch of other SEO type stuff. Then they’d send the information directly to you in the form of reports.

Those reports would be white labeled with your logo and message, which you could pass on to the lederhosen maker without their ever knowing you have a partnership with the SEO reseller. Presenting this SEO data as your own keeps you in good standing with your client and, in an ideal world, lederhosen sales surge.

Should You Be Using a White Label SEO Strategy?


The usual and thoroughly annoying answer to that is - it depends.

If you don’t have a team of SEO experts, getting on board with a white label SEO program will completely remove the need to build one. And unless you happen to have a gaggle of friends who are also SEO whizzes, building a team is never easy. It requires a lot of time and even more green. 

Also, having a trusted white label SEO partner on board as part of your services allows you to adapt to the constantly changing digital needs of your client without tearing a huge hole into the fabric of your agency. In other words, you can focus on your competencies while the white label resellers round out your agency’s portfolio of offered services. 

As with Anything, There Are Caveats


If you do decide to go the white label SEO route, be wary of those offered at a discount. And frankly, even those that aren’t. You need to remain vigilant. 

SEO is still largely a link building game and lesser SEO resellers could resort to spamming blackhat links - which Google does not like. Also, you might end up with links from sites with poor content. And while Google’s algorithms won’t catch this, your clients might. It’s not a chance you want to take.

So there ya have it. Whether an SEO reseller is right for you will probably take some experimentation. So pull up your big boy/big girl lederhosen and get to it. 


And Viel Gl├╝ck! 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

6 Ways Social Media Influencers Will Get You Seen



Remember 30 years ago when Bruce Jenner got everyone to buy Wheaties? 

Okay, that’s not completely accurate. Though back then purchasing behavior was often influenced by recognizable figureheads like athletes, celebrities and dancing raisins. We were so shallow.

But advertising methods have changed. Now we’re a different kind of shallow.

Purchasing Behavior Is Now Influenced by Social Media Stars


It’s true. Bloggers, YouTubers and Instagrammers with a slew of followers are the ultimate authority on what’s cool. (Even if they’re painfully uncool.)

They could be spinning anything from brilliantly thought-provoking content to senselessly heart-warming pictures of baby animals to seventy-three ways to pointlessly crush a bowling ball on a hydraulic press.

At any rate, cool or not, these social media influencers are key to growing your presence on the internet. And with the vast and sundry array of endless distractions, the internet is a hard place to be truly present. (That’s why those working to master the art of meditation will choose the land of the Yeti over that of Yahoo!, hands down.)

How Do Social Media Influencers Help Your Business?


Well, actually, they can do this in a number of ways. They can:

1. Help Build Trust 


Something like 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends, family or people they know. Only 58 percent trust branded websites. But get this - 70 percent said they trust online consumer opinions. People are more likely to believe strangers than the website’s brand. 

So does that mean if your paper production company’s website states unequivocally that they don’t source their wood from the highly endangered Truffula tree, all it takes is an emphatic “Not true!” from some guy at lorax@netscape.net to deter that 12%?

Probably not. But it isn’t gonna look good for you. 

If, on the other hand, your paper company donates a portion of their proceeds to conserving the Truffula tree, and lorax@netscape.net spreads the word (and has a surprising number of followers), it’s gonna click with people. They're likely to remember it. And, even better, since the info came from an influencer the audience already trusts, they’re likely to believe it.

Boom! Trust established. 

2. Wear Or Use Your Product 


You want to work with influencers who are relevant to your niche and will appreciate your products. So get in touch with them. Make them aware of your products.

As we’ve said before, people love freebies. So send them some. They can try them and if they’re into your stuff, they’ll talk about it on their highly influential sites. 

Their followers will be foaming at the mouth to try your stuff next. And it will give your product a serious boost.

3. Write a Favorable Review about You 


Way back in the day, like a good nine months ago, keyword optimization was all you needed to kick up your search engine ranking. But not anymore. 

Google likes high-quality organic links. (And we don’t mean chemical-free breakfast meat.)  

So when you partner with super-star bloggers who write features about and reviews for your products or services, you'll start building those high-quality links. That means more traffic to your site and improved search engine ranking. 

4. Generate Quality Leads


While you’re imagining all of the traffic flooding your site, ease back a moment. It’s not all about reach. If only a small percentage of those visitors are going to be genuinely interested in your product or service, they’ll just be gumming up the works.

For example, if you’re selling ball-point pens and the social media influencer happens to have a subset of friends who are rabid anti-ballpointillists, things could go south fast. To yield the highest ROI for your digital marketing spending, you want leads who are deeply passionate about ball point pens. 

In other words, to get quality leads, stick with social media influencers who specialize in your specific niche.

5. Engage New Audiences


Picture it: 

You’ve got some heavy hitting social media influencers loving on you. 

Their followers have never heard of you. 

End scene. 

It’s not really the end though. The influencer gave you the VIP pass to brand awareness, but now you have to prove yourself. Offer a giveaway or run a contest and ask the influencers to promote it.

Here’s how it works. 

Let’s say you sell specialty cakes featuring exotic fruits. Just find yourself an influential food Instagrammer who has a big following. After you’ve won her over with your gorgeous ganache with goji berries, she could post an image of one of your featured specialties. 

In the caption, she could announce a giveaway to her followers and give them the step-by-step on how to participate.

The rules of the giveaway could require users to follow both her and your Instagram account. They may also be required to repost the photo, tag both accounts, and include you branded hashtag in the caption in order to enter.

And now you’re out there.

6. Drive Conversions


Even though some of the top social media influencers may not be old enough to drive cars, they can drive conversions.

Again, this is not a matter of handing over the keys to the influencer and expecting miracles. Because no matter how passionately influencers promote your product, there will always be consumers who hate to part ways with their money. 

So consider developing and offering a special discount code that’s valid for a limited time. 

These work in two ways. First, they can be promoted through your influencers to give their followers an extra reason to buy your service. Second, by creating a unique discount code for each influencer, you'll be able to track how many conversions each influencer generates. 

So How Do You Get Social Media Influencers?


Honestly?

If the sheer overwhelming awesomeness of your product or service doesn’t do the trick alone - and, no offense, it usually doesn’t -  you’ll likely find that you’re paying your social media influencers a commission. 

But if you scratch their backs, they’ll scratch yours. And it could be really worth it. Just be sure they don’t have claws.