Of the many small business leaders that we’ve talked to over the years, several have told us the same thing: they’d love to spend more time on marketing, but the reality is they fit it in when they can.
Helpful marketing insights, tips and tools for growing small businesses
Of the many small business leaders that we’ve talked to over the years, several have told us the same thing: they’d love to spend more time on marketing, but the reality is they fit it in when they can.
For most people, the idea of investing in a branded photo shoot sounds like an unnecessary expense. After all, there are plenty of beautiful stock photos available for free online. But, in the end, nothing sets your marketing materials apart from competitors like unique, custom images that fit your brand’s style guidelines and speak directly to your ideal client.
From auditing websites to managing our CRMs, looking up lead data and occasionally browsing memes, our team spends a lot of time online, mostly through Google Chrome. Our team utilizes Chrome for its versatility, ease of use and security benefits. We also take advantage of many Chrome Extensions — a big addition to what makes Chrome so seamless to use.
Collectively, the Simple Machines team has read a lot of books about marketing.
So you’ve decided to invest in attending a trade show as your newest sales opportunity. Trade shows can be an effective way to bring in a lot of new leads in just a few days, but, if you don’t plan ahead of time, this tactic to meet leads can quickly fall short.
One of the most frequent initial recommendations we’ve made to clients over the years is to invest in a proper Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
If you’ve never really developed a marketing plan before, the prospect of creating your first one probably feels pretty intimidating. (In fact, I know it does — I remember the first time I was tasked with developing one.)
If your business is interested in selling on Amazon, you might be a little confused about where to get started.
When was the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile?
Amazon is by far the world’s most popular ecommerce platform, but you probably already know that.
Historically, for businesses in need of a new website, it can feel like there are only two basic options available:
With over 500 million registered users, LinkedIn has become a powerful tool to connect with colleagues, friends and potential job applicants. And while you may be familiar with reading articles and posting jobs on the platform, you may be missing one key component of the platform: cultivating new leads.
Back in May of 2018, Amazon announced that more than one million small businesses in the U.S. sell their products on the online retailer’s platform.
We’re all reviewers. Every time we buy a product, see a movie, watch a show, play a game or go to a restaurant, we review it. Much of the time we aren’t reviewing deliberately. It’s a thought in our head or an offhand comment to a friend like, “That movie was lame.”
There are a lot of ways to determine the success of a blog. When it comes to marketing, the more views a blog gets, the more opportunities it has to generate opportunities for new customers.
If you need help with managing your social accounts, creating video content or researching competitors, then there’s likely an app, tool or website out there that can help you. The only catch is most of them are pretty lackluster.
As a marketing agency that works closely with B2B companies, part of our job is to make our clients’ lives easier through technology and automation.
Not a bad day to be a Simple Machinist!
As Instagram continues to grow in popularity, the ways you can leverage your channel are expanding.
With the use of stories increasing, the launch of IGTV and in-app sales, businesses are finding new ways to engage their audience with their products and services. But have you considered how you can use your channel to promote your events?
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are vital to the success of any business. Beyond just serving as systems where you can store your customer and lead contact information, CRMs allow you to manage the sales process from start to finish, guiding leads to become customers and then keeping them happy.
Aside from marketing automation and artificial intelligence, the biggest buzzword in marketing this year has been voice search. With the increased adoption of voice-enabled devices like Amazon’s Echo, you might be wondering how this technology might affect your business’s marketing strategy.
For most businesses today, social media is at least part of their marketing strategy — if not an integral feature. And while managing a successful profile may seem as simple as snapping a photo, adding some copy and posting in some cases, there’s much more that needs to go into effective social media marketing.
B2B marketing used to be synonymous with the cold call. Your sales agents would pick up the phone, call a business, pitch, rinse and repeat. Then, once email was popularized, calls were supported with generic mass messages.
Those days are over. Relying on spam emails and calls that cast the widest possible net without any personalization or targeting is no longer a viable strategy.
I sat down with our team to ask them what are their absolute must-haves for our clients' 2019 marketing budgets. Here's what they had to say.
(Scroll down for the video recap)
Simple Machines is excited to announce that we’ll be holding our third Office Hours event on November 7th in Downtown Chicago at Tech Nexus.
At this year’s Inbound Conference in Boston, there were a few main themes that stood out to us:
Featuring 1 billion active users as of July 2018, Instagram has become a key medium for many businesses to reach their audience.
You’re probably familiar with K.I.S.S., short for “Keep it Simple, Stupid.”
Content offers are essentially a transaction. You provide your audience with great content, and in return, your audience gives you some valuable information like their name, email and more. In theory, it’s a win-win.
In the age of smartphones with cameras as powerful as a DSLR, more and more people are relying on their iPhone or equivalent to capture the perfect photo.
Figuring out which marketing channels to invest in is possibly the most common challenge we hear from clients when we first start working with them.
If you’re looking to increase awareness of your organization, then one of the most effective tactics you can put to use is pitching the media.
As you’re probably aware, keywords play a huge role in digital marketing and SEO. It’s essential for your business to rank high for a targeted set of keywords so that customer’s unfamiliar with your business can find you.
You’ve heard it a million times: content creation is an essential component of any B2B marketing effort.
You may have noticed that Instagram recently released a new product known as IGTV — short for “Instagram TV.”
If you’re a small business owner, your first thought was likely something along the lines of, “Crap, another social media site we have to join?”
Whether you’re a freelancer looking to register with new clients or a B2B business promoting your services, an email newsletter is a powerful tactic that can help your business in the long run.
If you’re ready to start a newsletter, here are a few pointers to get yours running.
Have you ever been researching a business, only to realize they lack video content of any kind? For me, I start to doubt that they even exist or wonder if they’re a front of some kind. Why don’t they want me to see what their business looks like? Hmmm…
On paper, geofencing advertising sounds cool, if a bit creepy. A location-based targeting tool, geofencing lets you put in your specific, strategically chosen longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates, attach a cookie to all the mobile devices in that location for a set period of time and deliver relevant ads to your target audience for the next few months.
You’ve spent the time and money to develop a professional video about your organization. You spent hours on the script and made it through the long shoot day, only to receive the first draft of your new video and… it’s not quite there yet.
I’ve read a lot of case studies. (It’s an occupational hazard; I’ll be okay.)
Most of them are instantly forgettable. Some are so bad they make my eyes glaze over before I’ve gotten past the first sentence. But, every now and then, I come across one that just works — and when that happens, it’s extremely effective.
When new clients begin working with us, the first thing we do is have a sit-down to learn more about their company, goals and challenges. During that discussion, just about 100% of the time, they will admit their website could probably use a “refresher” and redesigning it should be an early priority.
There’s nothing quite like a well-thought-out and executed marketing strategy. Weeks of planning culminates in an impeccably put together editorial calendar and beautifully designed content pieces ready to go.
Depending on your disposition regarding technology and the amount of sci-fi you consume, reading and talking about artificial intelligence (AI) can either be exciting or nightmarish.
Social media has been a part of many a business marketing strategy for at least a decade now. The benefits are clear — theoretically, you can directly interact with your target audience whenever you want without relying on traditional media.
Have you ever lost track of a promising lead? Maybe you forgot to follow up, or you misplaced their information after a trade show?
A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to record an album at Electrical Audio in Chicago with one of my all-time favorite recording engineers: Steve Albini.
When building a marketing strategy, it can be confusing to know where to begin. Do you need a website redesign? Should you invest more in content? What about paid Google ads or social? Direct mail? The list goes on and on.
If your website is getting a lot of traffic but you’re not seeing the conversions you’ve been hoping for, your website navigation might be to blame.
For most manufacturers, Amazon is simply too big to ignore. A 2017 analysis by Slice Intelligence found that 43% of all online retail sales in the United States in the previous year happened on Amazon, and that Amazon accounted for 53% of the growth of U.S. ecommerce sales in 2016.
These days, it seems like everyone has a DSLR (a.k.a. “one of those fancy cameras”). The truth is you can get some pretty good shots without hiring a professional. With a little know-how and some experimentation, you’d be surprised what you can capture on your own.
So, it’s happened. After spending hours putting together a piece of marketing, you’ve sent it out only to discover shortly after that it possessed a major error.
Left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have thought to spend last Wednesday night watching a panel give a live website review.
The amount of data that’s collected about us from the internet is staggering. From the information we explicitly share, like our email address; to the information many people don’t even realize is associated with us, like our IP address, it can be very unsettling to consider all the things organizations know about us.
The goal of all marketing efforts is to get people to do business with your organization. Whether you use inbound methods, direct tactics or have someone stand on a busy corner with a sign strapped around their shoulders, you’re trying to bring new leads to your business.
On Wednesday, March 28th, come see Simple Machines President Jill Wilson speak as she joins an expert panel for Chicago HubSpot User Group’s Live Website Review!
Do you know how much money other organizations in your industry are spending on marketing? The CMO Survey — conducted by Deloitte, the Fuqua School of Business at Duke and the American Marketing Association — set out to answer just that.
Trade shows bring with them some obvious benefits. In an ideal situation, you’re placed directly in front of distributors and buyers, giving you the opportunity to demo your product to any interested party who happens to pass by your booth.
If you follow this blog regularly (hi Mom), you know we’ve covered marketing automation quite a bit. We’ve walked through considerations like what to expect when getting started with HubSpot and provided some tactical help like how to troubleshoot nurture workflows.
Nailing down your target audience can be a tricky task. Beyond just what industry your service or product is geared to, who specifically are you trying to talk to? For some businesses, it takes months or even years to feel fully answer this question.
The good news for small businesses looking to improve their marketing is that you don’t need a million dollars to work with a marketing agency (not this one, at least!). Yet we’ve noticed there can still be some haziness as to what kind of service you can expect from a marketing agency at your price point.
If you’ve worked with a marketing agency before, then there’s a phenomenon you may be familiar with.
Maybe you’re getting ready to launch a new website or unveil a new rebranding campaign. Maybe you’ve just taken a look at your product images and realized they’re painfully out of date. Whatever the reason, you need photography and you need it stat.
We’re big fans of marketing automation. And what’s not to love? This technology allows us to run smarter and more powerful marketing campaigns that lead to faster, better results.
If you haven’t read the predictions for 2018 marketing articles, I’ll save you some time: this will finally be the year in which businesses and marketers must leverage AI-IoT-Chatbots-Machine-Learning-Video-Content-Big-Data-Blockchain (what I like to call AIIoTCMacLVC-BigDBChain for short).
We live in a world full of deadlines. When it comes to getting your marketing collateral out the door — whether it be blog posts, emails, direct mail pieces or something else entirely — any hitch in the development process can throw your project out of whack, leaving you to miss carefully plotted deadlines.
Automation is one of the most powerful tools for accelerating marketing and sales efforts. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most powerful ways marketers can trip over themselves, annoy people, create embarrassment and damage brand value when misused.
In a world full of marketing buzzwords, few terms are buzzier than “influencer marketing.” While not exactly a brand-new tactic, it has gained prominence in recent years as advertising on social media has become more popular.
With a new year fast approaching, you’re probably already thinking about your 2018 marketing initiatives. Regardless of what ideas you already have or goals you’ve set, the best first step for ensuring your 2018 marketing is successful is to review the results of your 2017 marketing.
Personalization is no longer the future of marketing. Now it’s more of a “today” kind of thing.
We recently helped one of our clients kick off a recruiting campaign after they landed a major new client that necessitated the hiring of 12 new employees in only two months (a great problem to have!).
If you’re reluctant to incorporate video into your marketing mix, I get it. Compared to relatively inexpensive content tactics like blogging and social, video sounds expensive, risky and time-consuming.
This probably goes without saying, but people spend a lot of time on their mobile devices. According to a study by ComScore, 65% of the time we spend consuming digital content is done on mobile. Anecdotally, I see at least half of all email opens for our clients occur on mobile devices.
While many businesses have a digital-first approach when it comes to marketing, there are still plenty of reasons to create physical marketing collateral like brochures, postcards or flyers.
Since not everyone is able to attend HubSpot’s annual Inbound Conference, the good people at the Chicago HubSpot User Group (ChiHUG) organized an Inbound 2017 recap event where co-hosts Stephanie Casstevens and Deb Monkman, along with a panel of Chicago marketing experts, shared their takeaways and insights from the conference.
While "interview" may conjure up images of nervous job applicants or celebrity profiles in your favorite magazine (do people still read those?), I want to talk about a different type of interview: the kind you have with your clients.
It probably goes without saying, but poor grammar can ruin a marketing campaign. If your content is riddled with grammatical errors, then odds are your audience won’t view you as much of an expert in your field.
Yeah, I know. A marketing agency blog about whether hiring a salesperson can replace hiring a marketing agency. The suspense is probably giving you indigestion — where will he land on this?!
(photo credit: Gavin Whitner via https://musicoomph.com/)
Getting in front of your target audience can be difficult. Sometimes the standard methods (blog, newsletter, social) can come up short despite your best efforts. When faced with a scenario like this, you have to think outside the box.
If you're serious about developing and maintaining your business’s brand, you need a marketing style guide.
Content strategies grow stale. Just like websites or marketing tactics — RIP the Yellow Pages — your content strategy can go from top of the line to out of date in no time.
Website updates don’t always take the form of a complete makeover. In fact, you can considerably improve the search engine optimization and conversion rates of your website with some smart page copy and structure updates.
When you’re offering a downloadable content offer in exchange for contact information, you’ve got a tightrope to walk.
At Simple Machines Marketing, we adhere to Hubspot’s inbound marketing methodology: we believe that by creating great content, you can attract new prospects, and through the smart usage of CTAs, forms and content downloads, move these prospects through the buyer’s journey to eventually become regular customers.
You've been sending great marketing emails to your contact list, but no one is opening them. What gives?
In the July-August issue, Harvard Business Review published a series of articles under the title “Why CMOs Never Last.” As we passed the articles around the office, they sparked some interesting conversations – and helped clarify our agency’s point of view on the role of the Chief Marketing Officer (or lack thereof) when it comes to small business marketing.
Small business owners who take charge of their marketing are the best. They're passionate and dedicated to doing whatever it takes to grow their business and aren't afraid to get their hands dirty in an area that they may not have any formal training in – which can be both a good thing and a bad thing.
Some tasks look easy until you try them. Pulling off the right amount of tinfoil to cover your leftovers? Sounds easy, but I invariably undershoot this. Every single time. If I had a nickel for every piece of pizza that went bad because I botched this stupid task, I’d probably have, you know, a respectable number of nickels.
Relying on outside presenters to create content for your webinar series is a smart decision – especially for organizations who realize their internal capacity to develop new presentations and topics is capped. Bringing in presenters who do not directly compete with your business, but who are closely associated enough to deliver value to your audience, is a creative solution that benefits your organization and the presenter’s.
One misstep that many businesses make during their rebranding efforts is waiting until the official unveiling of their brand to loop their employees in. While this is often done as a way to ensure that employees only see the final product, it actually puts the organization at a disadvantage once the brand is rolled out to the public.
Animoto, a video editing service, released a report on how video marketing has been faring recently on social media sites. According to the report, 64% of consumers said they made a purchase after watching a marketing video on Facebook.
Over the past couple years, there’s been plenty of talk about sales enablement services. If you’ve heard of sales enablement, you may have also heard people say that businesses should now be expecting it and their marketing teams should be delivering it.
We’ve written about a general need for sales and marketing alignment in the past.
If you’ve been spending time creating content for your company’s website, it’s time for a check-in.
Maintaining a successful blog is not easy. While they may seem like a simple way to drive visitors to your website, there's a lot more that goes into running a successful blog then it may appear on the surface.
If your business has its own website, you’ve most certainly received emails or contact form submissions from “SEO experts” promising to “boost your SEO fast,” “get you to the first spot on Google in four weeks,” or “triple your web leads this quarter.”
Our last blog post spent some time wading through the results of a Clutch survey detailing how 350 small business owners are using digital marketing tactics to grow their business. Specifically, the survey focused on where these small businesses currently allot their digital marketing funds, and where they anticipate increasing their investments in 2017.
As part of small business week, we thought we’d do some research and see how small businesses – locally here in Chicago and around the country – are prioritizing marketing in 2017.
Simple Machines is proud to announce that our President, Jill Wilson, was honored yesterday as part of DMN's "2017 Women to Watch"! These women were selected because they have each "produced data-driven results, exemplified leadership, and implemented effective strategies."
At some point, you’ve likely either considered hiring a photographer to come in and take pictures of your business, or you hired a photographer and were… well I’ll just say it, not exactly thrilled with the results.
Whether you’re hosting your own conference or simply manning a booth at your first trade show, there’s a lot of preparation that needs to be done before the big day. From brochures and banners to signs and sales sheets, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by just how much work goes into preparing all of the various collateral needed for an event.
If your business is not already using marketing automation, chances are you’ve at least considered it.
A topic that is not discussed nearly enough when it comes to marketing - especially small business marketing - is how to keep the data you collect about your leads and customers safe.
Generally, I really like Twitter. One of my favorite parts of the site are its various subsections; you’ve got politics Twitter, sports Twitter, “weird” Twitter, cat Twitter… it really goes on and on. They’re kind of like micro sites within the overall site – places where people who share a similar interest can debate issues, create funny memes or send cat videos.
If you’re on the selling end of a B2B company, you’ve probably heard some general wisdom about your buyers.
If your small business is considering signing an advertising contract – whether it be to have ads displayed in a magazine, on a website or in an email newsletter – you need to be sure that you fully understand your investment. Oftentimes, people will accept an advertising offer or package as is, without asking more questions about what they should expect from their campaign.
Early in the life of the internet, I imagine some genius out there had a profound realization. In my mind, it went something like:
“So… we don’t really have to go places anymore, right?”
Taking the time to plan and promote an event only for nobody to sign up is a kick in the gut. It’s like that 11th birthday party when your parents invited your whole class to Dave & Busters but the only person to show up was your depressed Aunt Carol who spent the whole time telling you how hard it is to get divorced in your forties. (That happened to you guys too, right?)
If you've ever felt like one of your marketing tactics was nothing but a waste of time, this article is for you.
If you’re a small business competing in a market with a dominant leader, you can find plenty of David vs Goliath advice out there discussing how you’re supposed to stand your ground.
Has content peaked? It’s an interesting question. Studies over the last several years have found that 50% of content only receives eight shares or less. Why is that?
In the spirit of AMP – which is all about instant gratification – I’ll give our take on this right away.
When used correctly, email marketing has the ability to be a powerful lead generator.
Unfortunately, many people find their emails fall on deaf ears. No matter the message, the frequency, or the design, they aren’t moving people from reader to lead.
So let’s say you’re writing a blog. You feel like your posts are well written and contain valuable information. For whatever reason, however, you’re not grabbing your audience’s attention and you lack the means to reach more people. You’re expending maximum effort for minimal returns.
By now, you probably know that blogging is paramount to your ability to drive traffic to your website, improve search engine ranking, establish brand authority and delight your visitors – all of which can help you generate new leads.
With the new year fast approaching, it’s as good a time as any to take stock of your year in marketing and plan for the future. While you may not necessarily need to overhaul your marketing strategy in 2017 (though you should consider refreshing it), there isn’t anyone who couldn’t benefit from an honest status review of what you’ve accomplished and a plan for how to build on your success.
If you’re in a B2B sales or business development role and you’ve set goals for 2017, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that one of those goals is to generate more leads.
Our last blog post discussed how businesses can often find their marketing efforts dragged down because they refuse to put anything out there until it’s perfect.
I have a friend who is constantly coming up with what I think are usually good – occasionally great – ideas for things like new businesses, apps, websites, songs and movies.
Like many people, the first thing I do upon waking up every morning is check my email. This habit defies logic, as I couldn't tell you the last time I received a personal email or even a marketing email I was particularly interested in overnight, yet I do it anyway. With eyes barely open enough to adjust to the bright light emitting from my iPhone, I delete marketing emails from the same brands over and over again, sometimes deleting without even opening the email in the first place.
Last week, two of us – Simple Machines President Jill Wilson and myself – made it to HubSpot’s annual conference, Inbound.
Making things is hard. Writing blogs, creating newsletters, developing direct mail pieces and more all take a considerable amount of creative energy. Effort which, if not repaid by a high enough level of engagement, can be incredibly demoralizing.
A key lesson we all learn in life is how to set expectations. Unfortunately, it’s a lesson most of us only receive when our expectations are so out of whack that we suffer a crushing disappointment. For example…
Think back to the last time you were really excited to buy something. What was it that had you giddy with anticipation? A promise that your purchase will help you become a better, cooler version of yourself? A resolution to an ongoing problem? Something to make your life so much easier?
Overhauling your marketing strategy is kind of like going to Ikea. It’s painful but sometimes necessary, the build phase is deceptively simple and there’s a decent chance something falls apart when you’re done if you’re not careful.
I’m the type of person who really hates buzzwords. Because more often than not, a buzzword just becomes a fill-in for really having nothing to say.
I’m not sure who decided salads were exclusively for laughing women or that steak was the manliest food that could ever meet your mouth, but I do know this: the perpetuation of gendered stereotypes in marketing is the result of lazy, out of touch work at best, and sexism at worst.
For years now, entrepreneurs have championed the mantra “fail fast, fail often”, or “fail forward” or “fail better.”
A common question asked by business owners who are considering hiring a marketing agency is "why shouldn't I just do this myself?"
I’m tired of the internet.
Well, kind of. I still generally like Twitter and my set of regularly checked websites.
But I am extremely tired of ineffective internet marketing tactics that are frequently presented to small businesses as the answer to all their problems.
Your website layout and the road have a lot in common. (I promise this isn't a setup for a bad "information super highway" joke.)
Strategy is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot. Too much. Especially when it comes to marketing.
A few months ago I saw a random tweet pop up on my feed that has stuck with me – for negative reasons. It was a quote from a presenter at a digital media conference that said something along the lines of, “Great storytelling is the future of marketing.”
Personalization in email and print marketing campaigns is becoming increasingly popular. Statistically, consumers are more likely to open your email or mail piece if it’s addressed specifically to them and not a generic “Dear Sir.” This all sounds like a total win for marketers, right?
Wondering why your website isn’t on the first page of Google search results?
I have a friend who overcomplicates everything. If I text him about doing something, I’ll periodically get an answer back that looks like this:
We all want to be the Disney’s, the Apple’s, and the Beyonce’s (yes, Beyonce is a brand). We want our brand to be strong, timeless, and relevant, even if it is on a smaller scale than some of the brand kings.
We don’t attend them too frequently, but a couple of us recently made it to trade shows – and we had some observations.
Let’s begin with my failure.
I was writing a strategy document for a client not too long ago where I suggested they use a “humorous tone on Twitter.” To illustrate my point, I came up with some humorous-ish tweet examples. They were funny enough, I thought.
I’ve sat on the other side of the desk. The one with you on one end and an outside marketing group at the other. And believe me, I’ve done a lot of internal eye rolling.
Raise your hand if, in the past month, you’ve clicked on a hashtag and discovered a new brand to follow and engage with as a result.
If you’re trying to figure out whether your small business’s social media efforts are worth the time and resources, I recommend starting with a little exercise.
Note: This blog was originally published on the Aloha Print Group Blog.
Rebranding is a time consuming job. You have to breathe new life into your messaging, update your logo, settle on a new color pallet/typography and, critically, do a whole lot of printing.
A harsh reality facing business owners is that their employees aren't always as excited about new marketing efforts as they are.
We’ve written before about the value of getting feedback from your customers. Using surveys, online reviews and other forms of feedback has helped a number of our clients really get a handle on what’s working, what’s not – and how they can improve their marketing and operations.
Whether you're hiring a marketing agency for the first time or simply transferring marketing responsibilities to their new and rightful owner, this week's post takes a look at several best practices for documenting procedures and gathering the appropriate intel needed for a seamless handoff.
When it comes to developing content for marketing purposes, I tend to think in terms of undervalued assets. If possible, I want to capitalize on a perceived gap in the market. Essentially, I look for any opportunity to zig where others zag.
It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you’re on (or if you don’t believe in the two party system at all): the 2016 presidential candidates can teach us a thing or two about email marketing.
When it’s time to talk marketing goals, we frequently hear business owners talk in terms of outcomes, getting right to revenue: “We need to hit $20 million in revenue this year” or something along these lines.
Previously we shared some tips for how to develop DIY video; today we’re going to take a look at what you should expect — and how you can prepare — if you’re considering hiring some outside help to create your marketing video.
For many companies, hiring an intern to put marketing on the right course is a common last-ditch effort before biting the bullet and working with an agency.
As more marketers invest more resources in content, it becomes increasingly important to carefully consider the best ways to connect with your potential customers.
Inbound marketing is an approach that started getting attention in the mid 2000’s and has been increasingly lauded as a leading strategy for businesses to create demand for products and services with its market.
This week, Pinterest finally released advertising management tools that are accessible for businesses on modest budgets.
If you’ve done a Google search lately, you may have noticed that the sidebar ads (the paid search ads on the right side of search results) are gone. In February, Google confirmed that it is eliminating the right side AdWords ads from search results.
“Hyperlocal” has been a buzzword in marketing for the last few years, and with good reason: reaching customers in a defined, local geographic area can help businesses stand out amongst crowds of regional or national businesses.
As an advertiser, it’s easier than ever to dip a toe into many of the biggest digital channels that exist. With a modest budget and a few clicks, your ad can be seen on the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter.
This low barrier to entry has empowered countless marketers and business owners to decide that it’s easy enough to advertise on these channels, and everyone else is doing it, so might as well throw a quick ad up there and a couple hundred bucks behind it to see what happens.
It’s tempting to think this way. Don’t do it.
You've got a big trade show this spring that you really hope to make the most of. You've spent almost $10,000 on a top-notch booth that showcases your brand. You've worked with your marketing agency to breathe new life into your messaging and marketing collateral that you can't wait to proudly hand out. You already know of a few prospects in your pipeline who will be attending. Your social media plan for the show is...hmm.
If you’ve ever written a blog post, e-newsletter or post on social media, you’ve probably struggled to pick an image that best conveys your message. When you know you only have a few seconds of consumers’ attention, then the image you choose to make a connection with them becomes incredibly important.
It seemed like finding clients on social media was the stuff you read about on, well, social media, so my initial reluctance to use LinkedIn as a prospecting tool was high.
Lead quality and lead quantityare sometimes thought of as competing ideas, requiring you to pick one and sacrifice the other.
You’ve just signed a contract with a new marketing agency. You’re buzzing with excitement about what the future holds for your company. Think of the campaigns! The leads! The sales!
Let’s say you (or your marketing team) has already put in the time and hard work to hone in on a well-researched and strategic inbound marketing plan.
You know your business better than anyone.
In October of last year, Google rolled out Primer – the app designed to help startups, small business owners
Any marketer worth their weight in AdWords knows that reporting is one of the most important cornerstones of a successful campaign.
Quick: what’s your company’s conversion rate?
Changes in your organization are all but inevitable – stick around long enough and you’ll need to (or be forced to) deal with changes that are so significant that you need to announce them to the world.
Recently, I was talking with members of my team about some of the more common
Sales and Marketing: they can be the best of friends or the worst of enemies. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to find these two teams suffering when their work is siloed.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that a couple common things can happen
April 21 marks the beginning of a new, more mobile-focused era for the Google algorithm.
PPC campaigns are a staple of many digital marketing campaigns. While most people think of Google AdWords first when considering where to run their ads, Bing and Facebook also provide ample – and sometimes even better – opportunity to increase website traffic or increase conversions.
If your small business has aspects of its products and/or services with benefits that could be considered sustainable, green, responsible, eco-friendly, environmentally-friendly – or whatever other descriptor you prefer – your outlook in this area has likely evolved over time.
Some companies bring something new to the table, such as an innovative product or a personal touch that no one has experienced before.
For small and growing businesses, the development of a marketing plan should not take place in isolation.
To ensure that a marketing operation is truly positioned to achieve broader business goals – and that the business is prepared for the change driven by the marketing – it’s critical for the marketing team actively engage the leadership team from the beginning on the vision, goals, strategy and direction of the company before making any recommendations.
We often hear from business owners who are anxious to be ranked at the top of the first page of Google for the keywords they are targeting. We can’t blame them – being one of the first search results that a person sees can be huge for a business (especially when you consider the fact that only 8.5% of online search traffic makes it to the second page of results in their Google search). But is it realistic to expect that your website can get to page one of Google?
If you’re a small business owner, you have probably wondered how to pique interest from your target audience—without spending a great deal of money. One of the best ways to get people to care about your company is to tell a compelling story.
Mobile optimization, the creation or editing of mobile websites to ensure that they look great and function properly on all mobile devices, can make or break your chances of converting mobile users. With the majority of American adults now owning smartphones (58% as of January 2014, according to the Pew Research Center), it’s crucial that your website is not only search engine optimized, but that it is also conversion optimized, as well. Conversion optimization is the method of creating an experience for a website visitor with the end goal of increasing the percentage of visitors that convert into customers. Websites that have been properly conversion optimized will experience conversion rates worth getting excited about.
In a move to promote better online security practices, Google has announced that it will start using website encryption as a ranking signal. While encryption will be a lightweight signal at first – affecting less than 1% of global queries initially – the move by the search giant likely forecasts lower search rankings for sites that fail to make the security update.
Have you ever landed on a website, interested in purchasing a service from a company, only to be overwhelmed by the volume and organization of information? How quickly did you exit out of the tab?
We’ve touched on the process for assessing marketing channels a number of times on this blog – looking at how to calculate marketing ROI and how to assess social media success. These posts look at how to assess marketing on a channel-by-channel basis, but what about assessing the success of a longer term marketing plan with several moving parts?
This week, Google started taking action against guest blogging websites found to be in violation of their SEO guidelines, following through on the warnings issued starting in January. This situation has left SEOs questioning whether or not this spells the end of guest blogging.
With 78% of small businesses gaining new customers via social media, there’s no surprise that Twitter is at the top of just about every small business owner’s mind. One of the most common things we hear from our clients is that they know they should be on Twitter but don’t think they have the time or resources to make it worth the effort.
If you’re not measuring your social media marketing returns, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey by Tata Consultancy Services, 44% of companies surveyed reported that they do not have mechanisms in place to measure the impact of their social media efforts. By comparison, about 18% reported negative returns on their social media investments, while 38% saw positive returns.
(Today's guest post comes from Bernadette Coleman, who shares some of the benefits of using Tumblr along with tactics for getting the most from this platform.)
If you’re in any way involved in the management of your business’ website, it’s a given that you’re familiar with website analytics. Odds are that you’re using Google Analytics (or a plugin for it), and depending on your role in the business, you’re either being given reports from analytics or you’re pulling the data yourself.
Recently, we made a significant change to how we report on SEO work.
It goes without saying that businesses need to have a finger on the pulse of their target market in order to succeed. If you don’t know your customers’ psychographics and how they make buying decisions, you’ll have a tough time getting off the ground – not to mention adapting to changes.
(As a follow up to our post about seven types of trade show displays, business and tech writer Elizabeth Alton outlines a few important ways small businesses can compete in this space.)
Along with the posts we write for the Simple Machines blog, we contribute to a number of different websites that cover similar territory. Below are a few of our recent favorites.
Several of the posts on the Simple Machines blog have dealt with the task of generating effective, optimized content – whether it’s website copy, blogs and articles, social media content or press releases.
(Occasionally we like to invite guest writers to weigh in on topics that we don't regularly write about but that some of our readers may find useful. Today's post comes from Mike Weimar, who provides some good insight regarding different display options for businesses marketing at trade shows.)
You’ve been working hard to create visibility for your business. You get calls and emails from your website. Changing your number and contact email is only going to confuse visitors and potentially result in prospects calling the wrong number in the future, right?
Last week, Google unrolled its most recent webspam algorithm: Penguin 2.0. As SEOs dissect, analyze and speculate about every word in the announcement from Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, let’s take a step back and consider what these updates mean on a broader scale and what implications there are for small businesses.
I know, telemarketing is an easy channel to hate – I’ve been on the receiving end of plenty of those calls, too. Hate it all you want, but the fact remains that when it comes to B2B lead generation, telemarketing continues to be an extremely powerful tool for a lot of companies.
I started my marketing career in 2008, just as the latest recession was rearing its ugly head. As you undoubtedly already know, priorities in the worlds of lead generation and sales were very different then. Thousands of companies were coming to the harrowing realization that referrals and business development leads were drying up as media-driven panic caused the entire business world to table all planned investments indefinitely.
Is your marketing budget too big? Are your marketing efforts drawing too much interest from qualified prospects? Do you need a way to flush that money down the toilet? I’ve got your answer – don’t invest any resources into your lead intake process.
If you’ve been at the helm of a business as it launched its online presence in the past decade, you probably remember a period soon after launching where you started to feel pretty popular.
For B2C marketers (at least those selling products), tracking ROI is often as simple as making sure you know where your traffic comes from – it’s pretty easy to translate it to dollars from there. For B2B marketers, however, the sales process complicates the situation greatly. Not every lead is a sale, and not every sale is equal – so how much is a lead really worth?
If you happen to work in marketing at an agency or on the brand side, chances are good that you want content marketing and authorship to be a big part of your marketing strategy in 2013 — if it’s not already. Every day, we see more evidence of content’s importance in inbound marketing and its brand-building potential; at the same time, we’re witness the fading effectiveness of old school anchor text and link building tactics in the race for SERP.
I know, I know – coming from a guy who works for a marketing company, that headline sounds like a poor attempt to drum up demand for sales. But the truth is that the inspiration for this post has come from our clients, not from our leads.
Press release, news release, media release—a piece of newsworthy communication directed to the media about your company. For a little over 100 years, press releases have announced new products and services, addressed issues of concern, addressed allegations, promoted discussion of booming sales, and provided industry perspectives regarding trends, data, and statistics. It was and still is an important form of communication used to attract the attention of the media to “juicy” pieces of company information. Unfortunately, claiming this publicity is not as easy as it sounds.
It sounds simple enough: feedback from your customers helps you to improve your customer service, your marketing, and your business in general. Your customers can give you a wealth of valuable information, from how they found you to how they liked you, and the more information you can get from them, the better.
Launching a new marketing campaign is kind of like dating; your level of satisfaction has a ton to do with your expectations, and those expectations are better shared sooner than later.
Simple Machines has been featured as a guest blogger on the blog "Drew's Marketing Minute."
Depending on what industry you’re in, positive customer feedback on user review sites like Yelp, Google Places, and social media can have a big impact on your business. For small restaurants, local service companies, and mom and pop retailers in particular, those compliments and four and five star reviews deliver the social proof needed to establish a good reputation and drive in new customers.
Consider a small business owner who’s just getting started. We’ll call him Paul. Branding might strike Paul as more of a Miller vs. Budweiser problem and not something that has much application when it comes to his company. He’s pretty confident that his business model is strong enough to stand on its own, and it’s not like he’s about to launch a national brand awareness campaign or anything.
Imagine that you’re sitting on a ten million dollar budget to spend as you see fit on advertising this quarter. Sounds nice, right?
Now, you might already be having visions of James Cameron directing your five-minute underwater mega-commercial, but let’s also assume that you’re still on the hook for positive ROI. In other words, if you blow the budget, you’ve got problems. So where do you start?
I’ve sat in on several marketing budget meetings with clients, and have found that most people seem to find it a grueling experience. The ones that get stressful seem to have one thing in common: the goals of the meeting quickly feel insurmountable. There are two commonalities I see in these stressful marketing budget meetings that can be prevented easily – for a stress-free budgeting meeting, avoid these mistakes!
So you just came up with a mind-blowing idea for an app that's going to change the world and inevitably land you on the cover of Wired. Great job! So, now what?
Another way to think about the theme of this blog - using the fundamentals of marketing to solve seemingly complicated problems - is the idea of getting rid of marketing clutter.
There have been countless articles, blog posts, and discussion forums that ask the same question: should your business "be in" social media?
The answer, of course, invariably comes to a common conclusion - it depends entirely on your business, your goals, and your target market. Yes, social media has proven to be an invaluable branding and customer service tool for many consumer-facing businesses, but setting up a Facebook account for your new commercial laundry equipment distribution business probably doesn't need to be at the top of your priority list.
Everyone's heard it before: Whether your website is being used to increase sales, generate leads, or deliver information, professional and engaging content is crucial. It seems like an obvious point to make, but those who have visited their share of business websites can attest that a lot of them are tedious, sloppy, ambiguous, confusing - or some combination of the above.
Defining your business's target market is a crucial and foundational step in your marketing strategy.
In my opinion, the biggest reason that marketing can be frustrating to business owners is this: when you're dealing with marketing, you're dealing with probabilities. With most other phases of production, you can make projections based on some concrete numbers - if you put in x number of hours and y amount of materials, you'll end up with z products. With most marketing channels, you can plan what you put in, but you can never really know what you're going to get out, and even then, it's difficult (and sometimes impossible) to know if you could've gotten more. Sure, big businesses have elaborate models to estimate market saturation based on reams of data, but most of us don't have access to a sample large enough to make those conclusions.
Clients frequently approach us about the value of having a blog. Many of them are interested because of how popular blogs seem to be, but are skeptical about the value it would bring for their company. We understand the skepticism, but the fact is that every business that has a website can benefit from a blog. Here are three reasons why: