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Why Marketing Should Not Be An Afterthought for Small Businesses

Almost every small business owner is faced with the important question: "how much should we invest in marketing?"

While in some cases capital may be limited, a business's marketing budget should never hinge on what funds are left over after other expenses are taken care of.

Many new business owners and entrepreneurs make the mistake of waiting until their business is profitable before investing in marketing. Delaying this essential element is only counterintuitive and detrimental to a business.

The fact of the matter is, if your business is not generating sufficient revenue, how will it ever afford marketing?

Conversely, if your small business is failing to generate revenue, then a lack of marketing expenditure could be the reason why.

The Righteous Path to Small Business Success

Right from the start, it's critical that marketing is included in you company's business plan. This is particularly essential for start-ups.

Strategize and develop relevant, brand-supported materials that will bolster your business's marketing efforts. Such materials may include business cards and brochures, signage, and a website. All of this should be included in your business's financial projections and overall budget.

You should also determine exactly how your small business will establish a marketing budget.

Allocate a Marketing Budget for Your Small Business 

One common approach is to allocate a percentage of your projected annual revenue as a baseline. This percentage will vary depending on the type of business, size, geographic market, and industry conditions - in addition to whether your business in brand new or established.

In most cases, larger businesses will allocate a smaller percentage for marketing. For example, Walmart has an annual marketing budget of about $2 billion, which accounts for less than 1 percent of its gross revenue.

For small businesses that earn less than $5 million per year, between 8-10 percent of annual revenue should be invested in marketing. Launching a new businesses, expansion, or product may even call for more. In these situations, it's not uncommon to invest up to 20 percent in marketing.

In addition to creating a marketing budget, determining how to spend your business's marketing budget can be even more challenging. It is important to write a well-defined marketing plan that includes specific activities and initiatives. It's equally important to know how you plan to track these activities.

With time, you can refine your small business marketing plan and budget to maximize profitability and overall success.

About the Author
Tyler Tafelsky is an Internet marketing manager here at OIC Group, Inc. He works with a number of small businesses in developing digital marketing campaigns.

6 Social Media Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

The capacity to plan and execute a social media marketing strategy is sometimes limited for small business. Because small businesses lack having a the resources and manpower to consistently manage social media marketing, some local companies tend to fall behind on this powerful medium.

This is a big deal, because local businesses that build cohesive social marketing campaigns can get a significant jump over their competitors. And because social media promotes customer interaction, credibility, and loyalty, small businesses in particular can greatly capitalize on these marketing opportunities.

So if you're seeking ways to promote your small business and have yet to delve into social media marketing, below we offers six solid tips to get you started.

1. Start Blogging

Okay, so blogging was probably not what you expected as the first tip to build your social media strategy. However, the blog content you produce (whether that be an article, video, or infographic) is the foundation for what you share via social media. In a sense, you can be as active as ever on Google+ or Facebook, but if you're not sharing quality, audience-relevant content, you're social media strategy will not reach its fullest potential.

The idea is to use the content of your blog to inbound traffic from social media sites to your small business website. This can be immensely powerful for a local business, because local social media followers often have see more trust and respect in supporting a business in their area. That said, not only should you be producing and sharing content about your business, but also sharing content about the area (when relevant to your market or product/service offering.)

2. Spruce Up Your Profile Pages

Most social media platforms allow businesses to get creative with their profile pages. Both Facebook and Google+ alike offer tremendous customization, enabling businesses to show-off the goods and funnel users down a conversion path.

An example of this is using custom tabs on your business's Facebook page. With custom tabs, you can add image galleries, videos, or an incentivizing freebie. You can also include a link to your email opt-in to build your company's email list.

To start using custom tabs on Facebook, you'll need to install an iFrame applications. Here is a solid list of iFrame apps that can be used for various purposes.

3. Create a Plan & Keep on It

It's common for us to hear the question "How many times per day should I post on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook?”

Unfortunately, there isn't an ideal number of daily posts. However, research does suggest that posting 2-3 times a day is a good baseline.

Anyone can manage a consistent posting schedule for a couple weeks, yet the real champs of social media marketing are the businesses that keep at it every day of the week. Because your followers check social media sites at different times throughout the day, only posting once every 24 hours is simply not enough - for most followers won't see it.

In short, consistency wins. Make an effort to post various types of content throughout the day. Additionally, stagger your social media posts at different times in order to reach more fans. Also, always remember to include a call-to-action statements (or verbs) like 'check-out,' 'click' or 'share.' This will help increase the level of engagement users have with your content.

4. Maintain Brand Integrity

It's easy to let personal interests mingle with a company's social media presence, especially if the business is small and local. We see this all the time, and in more contexts that social media.

For instance, the owner of a local brewery wanted all of his logo's designed around fish, purely because he loved fishing. However, nothing about his brand or beer had anything to do with fishing.

Like my favorite yoga teacher always said, "keep the ego out of it." That same idea can be applied to social media marketing. Avoid making posts about your business that center on you.

The fact of the matter is: nobody cares.

Okay, so maybe friends and fellow employees of the company care, but keep your personal life out the business's social media front. A good tip to avoid being tempted into doing this is always speaking in-terms of the business as a whole. Use "we," not "I" - because as we all know, there is no "i" in team.

5. Be Empathic & Engaging

Think of social media marketing as storytelling. Furthermore, think of your target audience or customers as the characters of the story. Be empathic: put yourself in shoes of the audience and think about what motivates them.

This concept is paramount in almost any form of marketing. Empathy drives engagement, and when you have engagement, the ability develop relationships (and drive leads) is limitless. Analyze and measure what patterns and reactions your followers display. In essence, let their actions, needs, and desires drive the story.

6. Reach Out

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of building a strong social media presence is proactively reaching out to individuals and other local businesses. Don't hesitate to tag people or other companies in your posts. Not only will tagged recipients find it awesome that your singled them out, but their friends and colleagues can catch on too.

The cool thing about Facebook and Google+ is that users get notified (typically through the social newsfeed) when their friends get tagged. Although this is not always the case, the concept of reaching out is imperative to generate more awareness.

Another easy way to reach out is to start following other related businesses, especially those within your local area. This shows that you’re engaged in your local economy and care about what other companies are doing in the area. It's also a great way to build relationships with other businesses.

Most of the social media marketing tips can be applied to any business model. We appreciate your reading our post, and if you'd like to learn more, visit our page about social media marketing.

This blog post was contributed by Internet marketing specialists Tyler Tafelsky. You can connect with Tyler on Google+.

Ecommerce SEO Tips for Local Small Businesses

Ecommerce SEO is not just for big brands with big advertising budgets. When executed in the right manner, ecommerce SEO for small business retailers can have a momentous impact.

The first step toward ecommerce SEO success is building logical expectations and setting realistic goals. In short, most small business ecommerce sites are not going rank highly for 2-to-3 word product-related keywords (e.g. "Asics running shoes" or "mens vintage clothing"). There's just too many well-optimized websites dominating the playing field.

Instead, an ecommerce SEO strategy for a local retailer needs to be extremely specific with keyword targeting. That is, small businesses need to optimize their ecommerce sites for more detailed long-tail keywords (e.g. "Asics nimbus gel 12 womens" or "mens vintage leather pants".)

Additionally, any small business retailer can benefit from having a local SEO strategy that merges aspects of social media marketing. Addressing the local approach to optimization (and social marketing) can significantly benefit ecommerce SEO for small businesses. This is primarily because Google is starting to integrate more locally-focused search results that also include social activity of Google+.

So how does a small business begin in creating the optimum ecommerce SEO strategy? Let's dive into greater detail below.

Latch-On to the Long-Tails

Although high-volume keywords look attractive for SEO, the more volume a keyword offers, typically the more competition it has. In fact, this is a primary reason most ecommerce SEO campaigns fail - they try to optimize for keywords that just not plausible to rank for (and they spend months trying to reach page 1 with no success.)

When doing keyword research for small business ecommerce SEO, start with phrases that are highly relevant to your website and core product offering. Get very specific with your research and try to uncover long-tail keywords that offer substantial search volumes, but with minimal competition. Although this can be an exhausting effort, choosing the right keyword targets can make or break your ecommerce SEO campaign.

Look for 3-to-5 word phrases that get 10-200 local monthly searches. The keywords in this range of search volume are typically less competitive, yet significant for SEO. And if your business is highly relevant on these long-tail keyword phrases, you chances to rank for these terms are even greater. Be sure to actually search these phrases in Google and get look that the search engine results page (or "SERP".)

Take note of the websites that ranking in the top 10 results. Additionally, take a gander at any paid or sponsored listings surrounding the organic results. A competitive keyword is sometimes evident based on who is bidding for the keyword using PPC advertising.
 

Combine Local SEO with Ecommerce SEO

In effort to ensure better quality results, Google is starting to serve its users more relevant, localized listing. Earlier this year, Google started integrating Google+ social activity into it search results. This has underscored the importance of locally optimizing a small business website.

The first step of local optimization is quite basic. You simply need to include your geographic references of your location through certain areas of the site. One of the best ways to achieve this to ensure your address is accurately mentioned in the site-wide footer of your website. In addition, you can further locally optimize your ecommerce site by:

  • including the city and state in the Page Titles and Meta Descriptions of the primary optimized pages of your site
  • mentioning your geographic location in the page copy or text of certain webpages
  • building links to your website using geo-specific anchor text (e.g. "mens vintage clothing in Boston")
  • cross-linking your Google+ Local page with your ecommerce site (more below)
     

Share Your Goods via Google+

A priority for any small business pursuing online marketing should be creating a Google+ Local page. This social media profile is a powerful web property that can significantly enhance the ecommerce SEO efforts of a small business.

Here you can share links to products, video reviews, or other relevant content that you deem valuable to social users. As a result, you can inbound more traffic to your website, in addition aiding your 2013 local SEO strategy with social signals pointing to your content and optimized product pages.

When Google+ followers or simply local searchers go to Google to find a product that you're offering, it's possible that your Google+ posts can be seen in their search engine results. To maximize the potential of this happening, be sure to use the hashtag (#) to tag relevant keywords that best describe your post.

For instance, if you're posting a review about a 'green countertop cleaner' include at the end of your Google+ post a few hashtags, like #green #ecofriendly #cleaner. This will increase the keyword relevancy of your post around green cleaners, and can increase the chances that your post will be visible on both Google+ and Google search.

To learn more about ecommerce SEO services, contact us or visit our subsidiary company ClickCentricSEO.com

Why Your Small Business Needs an Optimized Website

Small Business Website OptimizationEvery year the small business landscape is becoming more and more competitive, especially in major metropolitan areas. With commercial interaction becoming even more digital, the need for a website is imperative to stay afloat.

Most small business marketers realize this need and already own a website. Yet, many fail to acknowledge their website's core purpose. Sure there are the essential contact information and core product or service pages, but more often than not, there’s an untapped opportunity.

Some small business websites are simply out-dated and visually appalling to visitors. Most sites could be locally optimized for great search engine visibility (SEO). Depending on the status of your company's website, an optimized website could offer a game changing marketing opportunity.

What's an Optimized Website?

An optimized website addresses two primary aspects:

  • The mark-up language of a site's code
  • The keyword relevancy of a site's content Building a well optimized website involves a wide array of skill-sets.

The website design and development team must build the site so that the back-end code or (mark-up language) is search engine friendly. This typically involves the use of certain technologies as well as coding techniques. As a result, the website will be crawled and indexed more efficiently. The second fulfillment of an optimized website centers on establishing keyword relevancy in the site's content.

Otherwise known as on-page SEO, this is a process that includes researching the right keywords or search phrases, and creatively blending them in the proper places throughout the website. The requires copywriting and strategy web marketing skills. There are many resources on the web for SEO services, and the on-page component is the primary aspect of optimizing a website.

Benefits of an Optimized Website

Having a professionally optimized website can pay major dividends for your small business. A well developed, keyword optimized website can increase your business's chances of being found in the search results, especially if you utilize the link building resources that a website optimization company can offer.

A polished up website can also serve as prime candidate for Pay Per Click advertising. Local PPC for small businesses is a highly effective means for more website traffic. You can also utilize the potential of blogging. By building an on-site blog, you can write and share compelling articles about your company. This can further lead to more inbound web traffic.

In today's digital age, these are some of the most important considerations for small business marketers. The marketing platforms are changing, and only strong local companies are surviving. Whether it's pursuing a new web design for your small business or considering the options for search engine marketing, there's immense potential to grow your web presence.

 

This article written by Tyler Tafelsky, one of our Internet marketing specialists here at OIC Group, Inc.

Visit Tyler on Google+

 

Peoria Web Design Company Offices:
OIC Group, Inc.
Phone: (309) 680-5600

Mailing Address:
PO Box 1111
Peoria, IL 61653