Smart Marketing Basics


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Marketing Strategy category.

Engagement Marketing – Nurturing Prospective Customers Over Time

I recently received an inquiry regarding participation or engagement marketing and what this category of marketing means to small businesses. So I thought I would devote a few words on this topic in a quick blog post. Please feel free to share your insights as well, by posting a comment.

In its simplest sense, engagement marketing means “lead nurture” and involves providing a steady stream of outreach or communications to prospective customers in order to build a relationship with them over time.

Think of it this way. Marketers pay to acquire leads by executing on a variety of campaigns and programs, such as email blasts, banner ads, opt-in forms on your website, etc.  However, only some of those prospects will convert into customers right away. That does not mean that those that don’t should be discarded or disqualified, rather they should be nurtured.

Offering up a steady stream of news announcements, or thought leadership content (e.g. customer case studies, products tips and tricks, or best practices articles) can help your organization to build a relationship of trust, and keep these prospective customers “engaged” over time, until they become ready to buy.

Automated email or drip email campaigns are a good way to execute on engagement marketing programs. You can easily segment your list of prospects by action – those that respond to your campaign should go into your sales pipeline for follow up, and those that don’t can go into your automated drip campaign. Set a schedule (say once per month) to send out a brief email offering up some valuable content, such as the examples mentioned above, and you will begin build up a longer-term database of prospects. This in-house database will become a valuable strategic asset to your business because it provides you with a low-cost outreach tool for marketing, and allows you to continue to build your brand in a positive way.

Let us know about your experiences in engagement marketing, and what has worked for your small business, as well as what hasn’t!


Quick Competitive Exercises That Will Keep Your Small Business Brand in Shape

Keeping up with the latest competitive maneuvers in your marketplace is important to keeping your small business at the top of its game.  Traditional tools, such as using a SWOT analysis, to assess your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, can be very helpful in identifying course-corrections or strategy-shifts that you need to act upon.  However, the level of effort required can be time-consuming, relegating this activity to the bottom of the small business manager’s “to-do” list.

While a deep dive analysis can be important to your business health, you can quickly monitor what’s going on in your industry by simply using your browser.  At a minimum, you can quickly check the pulse of your market by doing some searches that could identify companies that could potentially impact your business down the road. 

On a regular basis, say once or twice a month, do a Google search on your main search keyword phrases, and then see who is coming up.  

  • Are your search rankings changing? 
  • Are there new players coming up that you haven’t seen before? 
  • Has a key player slipped on the page one results of Google? 

Let’s say that your organization is a technology company providing document management software to the legal industry.  You might have one of your main keyword phrases be “legal records software” or something similar.  Even though you may have optimized your site for this keyword phrase, and use it in your press releases, web page content, etc., it’s important to monitor the ever-changing competitive landscape. 

Additionally, it’s important to do a search on your company name and product names, and see if anyone of your competitors is doing “paid search” campaigns, such as pay-per-click advertising, on your own branded terms.  And lastly, don’t forget Twitter, the social media micro-blogging service that provides a real-time tracking engine for hot topics.  Twitter Search provides another easy and free tool, where you can input your keyword phrases and branded terms to see what is going out there in the social universe.  You can easily learn more about:

  • Who is being tweeted about and why? 
  • What articles are being published about my competitors? 
  • What do people have to say about my brand?

By using these easy competitive analysis exercises, you can avoid competitive surprises and keep your small business brand in tip, top shape!

For more smart marketing plays for your small business, download our free Smart Marketing Playbook article series.


Advertising Tips for Small Business Marketers

The practice of advertising can seem overwhelming to small business marketers, viewed by most as appropriate only for large corporations with big ad budgets.  Actually, when used properly and in a targeted fashion, advertising can be a powerful tool in the small business marketer’s tool box.  Advertising is designed to build awareness for a particular product or service, and is a cost-effective way to get a consistent message communicated out to a large group of people.  The first step, before pursuing any type of advertising investment, is to define the marketing objectives for your company, and then determine whether advertising is a good fit or not.

A key marketing objective for any small business to promote their thought leadership, or business expertise.  Many small businesses overlook marketing what they do on a daily basis, when in fact, sharing some of their knowledge in a webinar event, or speaking at an industry trade show, can be a great way to showcase the value they provide.  This can be done by hosting and promoting an educational-themed event where company executives or subject matter experts share their industry perspectives.  Another idea is to share a company’s best practices, or customer research findings. 

It does not cost much money to hire a local graphic designer and copy writer to craft a simple, professional ad layout around your “business expertise” content.  Advertising your expertise works well, because readers will respond positively to offers of educational value because, especially when researching new solutions.  Featured ads in targeted publications and websites can be very effective in branding your company as a thought-leader.  Running fractional ads in local business sections of newspapers, or in industry association newsletters, can provide any small business marketer with a lot traction among prospective customers.   

As part of your advertising strategy, be sure to include a compelling “call-to-action” or next step that your prospects can take to get more information.  For example, a link to a recorded event, or an offer for a free white paper, or case study on a topic important to your customers.  Again, targeting print ads in vertical industry magazines or conference programs, or local business journals, as well as online banner ads in those same venues, can be an economical way to get started in advertising.  Just remember to stay focused, and avoid the mass media outlets that reach a broad user profile, such as TV or radio, because those can be very expensive and not very targeted to your audience.

For more information on smart marketing basics, download my free article, Ten Marketing Basics for Your Small Business, located on the SMBmarketer.com website.


How Press Releases and Case Studies Create Leads for your Small Business

I was a guest contributor in an article on lead generation tips for small businesses.  Along with other small business marketing experts, I contributed a tip to create a very nice article, and quick read, with some good nuggets any small business marketer would appreciate.  Be sure to check out the complete article, Lead Generation for Small Business: Experts Weigh In.

For easy reference, here is the tip I contributed:

“Two key tactics I found to be successful are to use PR and to develop case studies. In fact, using these two tactics together creates a powerful combination. Issue press releases on a regular basis, whether it’s once a month, or once a week, that highlight your business accomplishments, including winning a new customer, hitting a revenue or growth milestone, offering a free webinar or seminar. These are great opportunities to keep your brand top of mind in your market place. They also provide sales tools for your sales teams to use for prospecting, etc. Creating case studies is a great way to highlight your expertise and show how your customers are benefitting from your solution.”

It is important that small and medium-size businesses regularly plan, write and issue press releases.  This is a low-cost tactic that will get you a lot of bang for your marketing buck.  Highlighting your successful customers is also key, because it can pay dividends on an ongoing basis.  Your customer sales cycle doesn’t end with the completion of a successful project or sale, rather, you want to ask the customer for a case study that highlights their original business challenge or pain, how they went about selecting your solution, and the value or benefits they now enjoy as a result. 

Creating a customer case study is a low-cost investment.  You simply need to ask for it.  You will be surprised at how your customers will want to highlight their success with your product, because it gives them good exposure as well.  Your customer will come off looking like a superstar when you publicize how they solved a particular business problem with your solution.  It is a win-win situation. 

The process is not complex, rather develop some questions in advance, and then schedule a phone interview to go through them with your customer.  Or email them the questions, and have them email back their responses if scheduling a phone interview is difficult.  You can take the raw data and create a draft, or hire a writer at an hourly rate to create a draft for you.  Once your case study is complete, feature it on your website, give it to your sales team, and issue a press release announcing that it is available!

Writing press releases to highlight your business and customer successes is a no brainer for small business marketers.  If you struggle with how to write a professional release, there are several tools (both free and low-cost) that are available that can make the process easy!  For more information on this, check our marketing templates page, and our Press Release Tutor templates page for help.

Using Press Releases and Case Studies to Generate Leads

Using Press Releases and Case Studies to Generate Leads


How Social Media Can Improve Small Business Marketing

Need a few tips on how social media can improve entrepreneurship?  Well, I can point you to 98 of them! 

I recently contributed to another article put together by Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, which collected quick tips from several small business marketing experts to create an article titled, “How Social Media Can Improve Entrepreneurship“.  Be sure to check out this article; my contributed tip is #60 out of the 98 total (read tip below).

#60.  Combine Blogging and Twitter for a Double-Whammy
Entrepreneurs must market their expertise, and a great way to do this is with a blog.  Blogs get found by search engines, driving traffice to your site.  each post can easily be broadcast via Twitter earning you more followers and business leads.

Remember, a “must-do” small business marketing strategy is to leverage your own content and industry expertise to build awareness for what you do, and the value  you can provide.  Tactical examples include creating customer case studies, hosting educational webinars, and speaking at industry events (see my previous blog post about this).  Each of these events is worthy of writing and issuing a press release.

Writing press releases doesn’t have to difficult or costly, as there are many good templates available to help you get started.  What is important is to get the message right – your press release must be written in a professional manner to be clear, concise and compelling.  For more help on the topic of press release templates, check out my previous blog post, Five Fast Tips, and check out our templates available at SMBmarketer.com.


Press Releases – How to Convince Your Colleagues to use Press Release Marketing

The goal of SMBmarketer.com is to provide simple marketing plans and templates to small business marketers and entrepreneurs who need simple, actionable tools to help them get started in marketing.  Smart Marketing Basics, our blog discusses simple strategies to help small business owners grow their business, while our featured articles provide more insight into the ten smart marketing plays that can help make your business successful.

Previously, our we featured a post called “Press Release Tips for Small Business Marketers” which recommended some free articles on the subjects of common “do’s and don’ts” of pitching your small business to a reporter, and how to use press releases to market your small business.  These are great resources available at no cost to you.  Be sure to check out this post if you have not seen it yet.

I have heard from other marketing professionals that often times they need help convincing their colleagues, business partners, value-added resellers and other key stakeholders they work with, of the importance of Press Release marketing.  While writing press releases to promote your small business is a “no brainer” strategy to many professional marketers, they often times have to influence their corporate peers to support this activity.

To address this request, SMBmarketer.com has introduced a new, low -cost marketing template, a ready-to-use presentation slide deck available today for only $4.95 from our Marketing Templates Library:

Using Press Releases to Market Your Small Business – A PowerPoint Presentation

Using Press Releases to Market Your Small Business - PowerPoint Presentation

Using Press Releases to Market Your Small Business

Download this 15-slide presentation on how to use press releases to promote your small business. It talks about how the press release has evolved from being a simple news communication device, to a broader tool that supports your marketing, sales, and search engine optimization efforts.  It illustrates when to use press releases and how they can be used in a variety of ways, in an easy to follow format. 

Get your partners and stakeholders on board immediately to support your press release marketing efforts by downloading and presenting this presentation at your next sales meeting, or online marketing event.  Visit our Marketing Templates Page at: https://www.smbmarketer.com/marketing-plans-and-templates/


Writing Press Releases to Market Your Small Business

Throughout my career as a technology marketing professional, I have spent a lot of time counseling small businesses on effective marketing, and helping them to justify investments in marketing.  Often times, they have tried a tactic or two, without understanding what their overall strategy should be, or how different types of campaigns are designed to bring different types of results.

As a small business owner or marketer, it is key to invest in marketing to promote your product or service.  This does not have to be an overwhelming or costly endeavor, and there are many smart marketing plays that are proven for small business.  You can start by downloading our free “Smart Marketing Playbook” article, Using Press Releases to Promote Your Small Business

Writing press releases to promote each of your business successes is a easy, actionable strategy that can fits any marketing budget.  What results can you expect you ask?  Issuing press releases regularly helps to keep your company top of mind with prospective customers; it builds awareness for what you do, and the value you provide; and it is a “smart marketing play” that can get your company known.

The press release has also evolved, from a simple news announcement sent only to journalists and media outlets, into a powerful marketing tool for organizations of all sizes.  With the Internet and social media venues as prominent communication vehicles for both business and consumer audiences, readers can come across your news in several places, and can take multiple actions after viewing your announcement.  For example:

  1. Press releases can be indexed by Yahoo and Google, and shown in search engine results. 
  2. Press releases can be posted to your company website and optimized with your keyword phrases to improve your search rankings. 
  3. Press releases can be re-tweeted by readers to their followers on Twitter, who share the same interests. 
  4. Press releases can be used by your sales teams as conversation starters on cold calls. 
  5. Press releases can be pushed out to mobile phones, through RSS feeds, and redistributed to news syndication and aggregator sites.
Small business owners and marketers should invest some time each month or each quarter to identify a pipeline of potential news announcements, such as a new customer win, product launch, case study release, speaking or training event, or even a special promotion or community program. 
 
While there are many things to you can talk about, creating the right messaging is essential to a well-written announcement.  You know your business best, but creating a clear and compelling message can be challenging, especially for “non-marketing” professionals.
 
The answer to this dilemma is to find some easy to use press release templates – there are many available, so be sure to do some research to find some tools that are right for your you.   At SMBmarketer.com, we provide a variety of templates to help small business marketers to get started marketing fast.  If you need more help or resources in this regard, you can:
  1. Check out our marketing templates downloads page
  2. Access our Press Release Tutor interactive templates, and
  3. Subscribe to the Smart Marketing Basics blog for continual marketing tips and help.
I invite readers of this post to also share their comments on how press releases have helped them to market their small business.
 
Thanks for reading!
 

Get Your Small Business a Speaking Gig: 32 Tips from ToiletPaperEnterpreneur

I’ve written about the importance of speaking at events as a key strategy for small business marketing. Pitching yourself for speaking opportunities at relevant industry tradeshows or local business events that your customers attend is a great way to establish yourself as a thought leader in your area of expertise, and to get exposure for your small business. I offered up a couple of my favorite tips in my previous blog post, Pitching Your Small Business For Speaking Events.  

My contributions were also featured in a great article compiled by Mike Michalowicz, Author of The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, in his blog post titled, “Ways To Get A Lot More Speaking Engagements“.  If you are serious about pitching yourself for speaking engagements, then you should definitely check out this article.  It features 32 easy-to-read, actionable tips from a variety of experts that can help any small business get the speaking gig they really want!


Pitching Your Small Business for Speaking Events

When it comes to small business marketing, pitching your company for speaking opportunities should be a no-brainer. Speaking at local business or community events, or seeking out presenter slots at industry trade shows or association meetings is a great way to get exposure for your company’s expertise, as well as generate some potential sales leads. For more insight on this topic, check out my previous blog post, Small Business Marketing Should Include Speaking at Events.

When it comes to topics, the one tip I always recommend to small business marketers is: submit a speaking abstract that pitches a project or customer case study that you have done.  Customer stories and project profiles are way more compelling to event committees than offering up a sales or product pitch because industry events and associations love to hear about what their member companies are doing.  It is a relatively low-cost investment to hire a writer to interview yourself, or your customers, and then complete a 2-4 page write up on a successful project you have completed, or how a customer has used your product to solve a specific business problem.  Speaker selection committees respond more favorably to these types of submissions.

Another example of compelling content would be to do a brief survey of your customers that identifies the top industry issues that they face, and what value they get from your “type” of solutions.  Presenting market research or survey findings puts you in a better position to be selected as a speaker, because you will be perceived as an industry expert that is providing more “educational” content.

Of course, once you have been accepted as a speaker, it is imperative that you promote your speaking engagement using a press release! Speaking at an industry or business event creates a perfect opportunity to brand yourself among prospective customers. Issuing a press release on your presentation creates awareness among show attendees that you will be there, and can drive additional traffic to hear what you have to say. Issuing a press release on your speaking engagement promotes you as a thought leader to prospects, and provides recent and relevant content to post on your website, helping you to improve your search engine rankings.

If writing press releases seems like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be. There are several good templates available that can help you through it step by step, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t have access to a PR agency or consultant. You know your business best, and with a bit of help, you can craft a concise and compelling message about your business. Event press releases should be short and to the point, and focus on promoting you as a speaker, the event you are speaking at, and the specific time and location of your presentation.

For more help on how to write an event press release, check out the Press Release Tutor templates, available from http://www.SMBmarketer.com. The Press Release Tutor provides online, interactive templates that can walk you thorugh creating a professional press release in 5 easy steps.


My Favorite Marketing “Tweets” for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

It is not hard to argue the importance of marketing to the success of any business. For entrepreneurs and small business marketers, the challenge seems to lie in simply getting started. The discipline of marketing is vast, encompassing many practice areas where most marketing professionals focus on mastering only a few specific skill areas.

After spending 20+ years in the marketing arena, my experience has shown that startups and small businesses need actionable, easy ways to get started marketing, and they need to do it fast.  They can’t usually afford in the beginning to invest in a lot of staff, agencies or consultants, and so having some easy templates and strategies to get them going is key. If the initial steps seem too complicated, they simply won’t do it.  Think easy, actionable tips – or in this case, tweetable tips!

If you subscribe to my blog, Smart Marketing Basics, or follow me on Twitter @SMB_marketer, you can see that I write on this topic often.  Below I feature some of my favorite ‘tweets’ that highlight two “must do” marketing tips for small businesses simply trying to get started with marketing:

1) Use PR to promote Your Business
This is easier than most people think, and is a low cost of entry investment.  Even if you are not doing a big PR blitz around a new product launch, creating press releases give you a sales tool for cold calling, helps with drive better search results to your website, and gives you content you can email to prospect lists.  You should regularly write press releases on what your business is up to.  One idea is to seek out local business and industry events where you can speak on a topic related to your business.  Here are some of my favorite tweets on this topic:

Small Business Marketing Should Include Speaking at Events: http://t.co/rGtjxjJ

Tips for small business on how to write winning press releases: http://t.co/3bsxyoj

2) Good Marketing Starts with a Solid Message
Most small companies don’t invest in this activity, and so initial marketing results meet with poor performance because their messages are not clear, concise and compelling to readers. There are cheap, easy templates available from many sites to help get you started (including ours, www.SMBmarketer.com). Here is a favorite tweet on this topic:

Smart Marketing Starts with a Solid Message: http://t.co/ZpyamxZ

I hope these tweeted tips give you the marketing inspiration you need to get going!  Don’t get overwhelmed by all the marketing possibilities out there.  Rather, focus on doing a couple of things first, and then build from there.  Once you are ready to add more to your marketing mix, check out our free article, Ten Marketing Basics for Your Small Business on our website.

Article: Ten Marketing Basics for your Small Business

Article: Ten Marketing Basics for your Small Business


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