target customers

Target Customers and Your Website

Not a lot of companies to a good job online at understanding and catering to their target customers.

“Target customers” is actually kind of a funny term as it makes it sound like you might be planning on shooting them. That said, everyone understands the term so we’ll keep using it.

Rather than explain the theory behind customer targeting and how it affects your website and marketing, it might be easier to just look at a practical example…

We’ve worked for some years with a company called WildPlay. They’re a multi-location outdoor adventure park, with things like Zip Lines and some amazing aerial obstacle courses through the treetops. Simply put, they are an exhilarating and empowering natural experience.

Let’s think about their target customer for a second. You might think that their target is anyone who likes outdoor adventures.

You’d be right but you’d also be wrong. Let’s have a look a bit deeper. Their market might include:

  • Outdoors sports enthusiasts (hikers, climbers).
  • Teenage thrill seekers.
  • Local parents planning parties (they are a very popular birthday party location).
  • Tourists visiting the cities their parks are in (huge in the summer).
  • Corporate HR people looking to book off-site teambuilding activities.

So, while all of those potential targets might love the outdoors, they have dramatically different needs that you’re going to need to address on your site. A great example of different needs from these groups is that of local parents versus teenage thrill seekers. While the thrill seekers are going to be looking for maximum adrenaline, the parents are probably primarily concerned with the safety of the locations.

Obviously, you need to put some serious thought into how to address these different targets on your site.  There’s much more of a science to this than we have room to go into here, but if you’re interested in “doing it right” I’d suggest checking our Buyer Legends by the Eisenberg brothers. These guys are the real deal and I first met them when I took their web marketing course way back in 2003 at the Wizard Academy in Austin Texas.

In the next sessions we’ll look at prioritizing our target groups and setting up for “self segmentation.” Moving forwards, we’ll also look at how to write great copy for your targets and how to optimize your site for “conversion.”

Next Lesson Coming Shortly!>>

web marketing fundamentals

Web Marketing Fundamentals Series

Confused and perplexed by the Web Marketing industry? So are we!

Businesspeople looking for marketing support on the web must navigate their way through:

  • High pressure sales for web services.
  • Search technologies which change weekly.
  • Web technology platforms that may or may not be right for your business.
  • An unregulated industry with some vendors offering worthless (or even damaging) services.
  • Millions of pages of marketing-related posts with no clear way of identifying the good stuff.

At PlusROI we believe the best way to improve our industry and help differentiate responsible vendors is to educate the market.

Companies who are educated about web marketing are able to make better decisions and, ultimately, get better results.

The good news is that despite the technologies involved, making smart decisions about web marketing is more about common sense than about technology.

With this in mind, we’re launching the Web Marketing Fundamentals Series.

On a weekly basis, we’ll add a educational post created to inform and empower you. Starting with some of the basics, we’ll work our way though to some more advanced concepts and keep adding as we go.

Our goal is that:

  • People wanting to “do it themselves” will find inspiration and direction that helps them in their learning process.
  • People wanting to get support with their web marketing can learn about the different marketing channels and make smart decisions.

Of course, we also hope that if you like the information we share you might consider us the next time you need a new website or need some help with your marketing!

If you’ve got feedback or have topics you want to see addressed, please send us a note through our contact form.

 

The first post in our series is on different kinds of websites and Achievable Goals for Your Site>>

webucation week

Webucation Week 2014 – Online Marketing Education

7 Critical Keys for Website Success

Creating an effective website experience is a complex matter, but very few people take the time to understand the basic fundamentals they need to succeed.website success

Making matters more challenging is the fact that many designers and developers aren’t experts at business strategy, so have a hard time adapting your goals into a web strategy that’s applied to your site.

Join us for this high energy one hour presentation where we cover 7 key areas you need to be aware of to succeed with your website. We’ll touch on:

  • Realistic site goals.
  • Targeting and prioritization.
  • Branding
  • Search Engine Optimization.
  • Persuasive messaging.
  • Converting visitors to customers.
  • Measuring and improving performance.

You’ll leave this hour feeling much more confident about being able to make smart decisions for your website. There will also be plenty of time for questions and discussion following the presentation.

Who: Presented by Robert Cooper
When: Monday, November 24th at 4:00 p.m.
Where: 777 Fort Street (Fort Tectoria)
Cost: $0

RSVP required.

How To Generate High Quality Web Traffic

Launching a great website is only half the battle –  you need to take meaningful action to get visitors.getting web traffic

In short, you need to get really smart at “buying” traffic through web advertising or you need to learn how to create and promote great content so you can “earn” traffic. Or, of course, you can do both!

In this one hour session we’ll explore:

  • Advertising Strategies
  • Content & Social Strategies
  • Holistic Search Engine Optimization

Possibly the most important thing we’ll look at is how these multiple areas can work together to drive dramatically better results.

We’ll also save time for Q&A and discussion after the formal presentation.

From this session you’ll get a great sense of what you need to do to succeed in the different areas and be able to figure out which areas make sense for your business.

Who: Presented by Robert Cooper
When: Tuesday, November 25th at 4:00 p.m.
Where: 777 Fort Street (Fort Tectoria)
Cost: $0

RSVP required.

 

What Works On The Web – Successful Industry Approaches + Expert Q&A

Curious what really works on the web?what works

This presentation has been adapted from a very popular seminar we ran earlier this year and outlines tactics we’ve seen work with our own eyes over the year.

We’ll present “mini case studies” on successful topics like:

  • Selling your professional services.
  • Selling big ticket items.
  • Selling B2B products with long sales cycles.
  • Developing your personal reputation.
  • Developing thought leadership in an industry.
  • Selling your retail or ecommerce items.
  • Boosting your prominence in local search.
  • “Aspirational” Social Media.
  • Online branding.
  • Maximizing sales per customer.

This one hour session will be followed by an informal Q&A session with leading local web marketing experts as well as our strategic partners with expertise in social media, graphic designer, videography, and photography.

Who: Presented by the PlusROI team and Strategic Partners
When: Friday, November 28th at 4:00 p.m.
Where: 777 Fort Street (Fort Tectoria)
Cost: $0

RSVP required.

setting website goals

Achievable Goals for Your Website

If you want to succeed on the web you need to do more than throw up a website and hope for the best! While any site is better than no site, it requires some attention, education and intent for you to manage a successful website.

As a start, let’s look at some different types of sites and what kind of goals you can expect to achieve with them. While websites won’t all fall into these strict categories, it’s important to understand the different site elements at play and what goals you can accomplish with them.

Contact Info Site

We see a lot of sites tossed online because a site is “needed” but without much thought about Branding or strategy.

At this level your site will, at a minimum, serve to provide basic contact and address information for people who already know about you. This kind of site won’t be found by anyone who does not know already know about your business. It’s likely the only time it will show up in Google is if someone types in your business name.

You can buy ads or spend time promoting this type of site through Social Media, but it may not be wise to spend resources this way as this type of site is typically put together without giving a lot of thought to what it will take to build credibility and earn the business of new visitors.

If your goal is simply to provide contact info and/or directions to your business, you can succeed with a basic site like this.

Branded Site

At this level, someone has taken the time to present your business in an attractive manner through the website. This type of site will serve to establish credibility for people who have been referred to you by other customers, but is not likely persuasive enough to earn business from folks who haven’t heard about you before.

You can promote this kind of site, but will not likely have significant success in “converting” new visitors who don’t know about you into customers.

Persuasive Site

This type of site is well-branded and you will have identified your target customer groups and done a great job of creating “benefit-driven” copy that illustrates meaningfully how you will make your visitors’ life better if they become a customer. This type of site will also be good from a “conversion” perspective and present clear calls to action and next steps for your visitors, which will make it easy for them to “convert” from site visitors to customers.

With this type of site you can confidently spend time and money promoting and advertising the site to your target customer groups as you stand a great chance of actually earning their business through your website.

Attraction Site

With all the other elements addressed, it becomes well worth your time and effort to invest in a content and Search Engine Optimization strategy that has the goal of generating its own traffic. You’ll need to engage in ongoing efforts to make this happen, but if you keep at it the rewards are significant.

This kind of site can generate traffic through social media, referrals from other sites and word of mouth. The activities you need to undertake include making sure your site is optimized for Google, creating relevant new content that will attract your visitors, and promoting this content to gain links from relevant sites and social media connections.

A well thought out Attraction site is often complemented by an email sign-up strategy whereby you gain permission to contact those visitors who are not currently in the market to buy, but will be at some point in the future. Tools to build your opt-in email address list include great newsletters, downloadable guides, and exclusive web pricing.

Obviously, there are some complexities around all these different areas and we will get to them in future lessons!

See the next lesson on Target Customers on Your Website>>

cost effective launch

Anatomy of a Cost Effective Online Launch

newsOver the years I’ve participated in all kinds of online launches: everything from tiny start-ups letting people know about their new services right through to software launches with six-figure launch budgets.

Focusing these days on small and medium sized companies, I thought it would be great to explain one very cost-effective strategy for an online launch of a new product or service.

Online PR: an Efficient Way to Engage with a  Highly Relevant Audience

At the core of this strategy is something we refer to as Online PR. Much like traditional PR, Online PR involves building strong relationships with those writing for the market that you want to launch into.

However, unlike traditional PR where you typically focus a ton of effort on a small number of highly influential outlets, with Online PR you are able to focus a small amount of effort on a LOT of relevant properties like blogs, websites, industry publications, etc.

Smaller Companies Get Bigger PR Bang for Their Buck

While everyone wants to be featured in the huge publications (e.g. New York Times) the truth is that getting featured in these publications can involve many months and many thousands of dollars of time and resources invested without any guarantee of being published. This model simply does not work for most small businesses.

Connect More Easily With Your Target Audience

On the other hand, although individual bloggers and industry websites have dramatically less reach individually the people running these blogs and sites are dramatically more accessible than the big publications. AS well, although individual sites and blogs may not have ton of reach, when you combine multiple different properties, your aggregate reach can get quite significant.

Online PR: SEO’s Secret Weapon

As well, if you’ve studied SEO you’ll know that getting links from relevant external sites is a huge factor in how seriously you’re taken by Google. Given that traditional “linkbuilding” tricks can now get you blacklisted on Google, Online PR becomes more and more attractive and adds even more value in terms of how it can boost your SEO.

How Smaller Businesses Can Execute Effective Online PR

So, what’s involved in Online PR?

1) Develop Research and Relationships.
Take the time to scour Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc to create a list of everyone who is writing about the industry or topic that your product relates to. Once you’ve found them, start to reach out. Read and then comment, like, retweet or repost good things they’ve written and try to connect with them through social media or other means. Take the time to introduce yourself, tell them why you’re interested in them and tell them what you do. Build your “house list” of email addresses and do your best to make sure your email will be well received when you eventually send it!

2) Craft A Story
Nobody cares about your product. Sorry – it’s true.  However, what they do care about is what your product or service can do for them or their readers. With this in mind, craft a Press Release around the launch of your new product and show how it will solve the problems of your audience. Of course, if you can tie it in with a current trend, technology or event all the better!

The bottom line is you need to make it clear WHY your launch is important and WHY it’s relevant to the people you are sending your Press Release to.

3) Get the Word Out

At launch time, send out a personal email to each and every contact you’ve established or identified. Make sure to include a reference to their blog, site or publication and let them know why you appreciate what they are doing. Then, tell them what you’re launching and why it might be of interest to your readers.

Your approach might look like the following fictional pitch to Yours Truly

Dear Rob,
I’m writing today to tell you about today’s launch of our new Search Marketing plug-in. I’ve been following your posts for a while and I’ve been impressed by the practical and actionable insights you offer small businesses as to how they can effectively boost their search rankings.
This launch will be of interest to your readers as it allows them to quickly gain insights to their rankings that would otherwise not be available without using a dramatically more expensive tool.Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback. I’ve included more information below as well as a links to our complete press release.
While this approach is time consuming, you can actually execute on it quite quickly if you do your research and preparation in advance. As well, while some launches get more traction than others, I have yet to participate in a launch project like this that has not been well worthwhile.

4) Acknowledge Those Who Help (and set the stage for next time around).

Make sure to link to those who published news about you through all your different social media outlets. Being written about by a third party boosts your credibility and is much appreciated by those who have written about you (everyone loves being linked to).

Also, be sure to keep nurturing these relationships and each successive launch will just get easier and easier in terms of generating coverage!

Got more questions about an online launch? Just contact me!

The Power of a Simple Web Design

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” (Steve Jobs)

What Internet entrepreneur or online marketer wouldn’t take a cue from Apple legend Steve Jobs? We all strive for simplicity. Our mobile devices are loaded with apps to simplify our lives. And when consumers visit a website, the expectation is that the visitor can simply find what they’re looking for, whether it’s a trending story to read, a new product to buy or a pleasant online visual experience. If “increased conversions” isn’t enough for you to go for a simple and standard design, then perhaps the following three reasons will be.

Science

ConversionXL fancies non-fancy site designs and uses science to support the motto: the simpler the design, the better. For one, visually complex websites are consistently judged as less aesthetically pleasing than simpler ones during a first impression, according to a 2012 study on the Google/YouTube User Experience by the Department of Psychology at the University of Basel.

ConversionXL breaks it down by focusing on prototypicality – the process of conjuring up a standard image or idea based on how your brain naturally categorizes information. Your brain has basically created templates for everything you see, feel and interact with. For example, when you think of Los Angeles, you’re conditioned to think of Hollywood and celebrities. Likewise, online customers and users have expectations for what a specific type of website will look like, and if it significantly deviates from that image, the user rejects it.

Remember when Facebook added the newsfeed or replaced walls with timelines and cover photos? The social digital world practically collapsed, because Facebook disrupted our prototypicality and cognitive fluency, which is our preference for sites we’re highly familiar with. Think about your site in comparison to the ubiquitous marketing blog or e-commerce site, for example. Don’t forgo design originality or creativity, but work to ensure that it meets standard expectations and doesn’t jar the user experience.

SEO

ConversionXL and people who like pretty, easy-to-digest interfaces aren’t the only ones who go for simple website designs. Google also prefers simpler websites over sites loaded with the most cutting-edge display technologies. Earlier this year, Google was having trouble crawling Apple’s website, and direct links to apps weren’t appearing in Google results. Although Apple’s site is aesthetically phenomenal, it can detract from functionality and SEO friendliness.

Googlebots aren’t yet equipped to effectively crawl all the advanced technologies and flashy designs. A site that’s not as technologically elaborate has greater SEO benefits, advises Search Engine Journal.

Mobile

More than 1.2 billion people access the Web from a mobile device, according to Trinity Digital Marketing, and 58 percent of U.S. consumers own a smartphone, according to comScore. Websites, e-commerce sites and blogs can’t afford to not be mobile-optimized. If you’re site won’t load for a smartphone or appears aesthetically chaotic, you’ve likely just lost another customer or follower.

This year, Macy’s revamped their Black Friday strategy to enhance the mobile experience. Mobile shoppers can rely on an app to access Macy’s Black Friday deals and edit shopping wish lists. Macy’s shoppers can also use the app’s location services to find items in physical stores, which means shoppers can utilize the app for online and in-store shopping during the busiest shopping time of the year. Keep in mind as shoppers access apps and sites on their smartphone to find deals and make purchases, shoppers want to process to be fast, easy and simple.

*Note: This is a guest post provided by one of our strategic partners.

Content Marketing Demystified

contentmarketingLike the changing of the seasons, the one thing we can be sure of in the world of online marketing is the regular rise to prominence of a new “killer marketing tactic.”

This year’s buzzword? Content marketing! Once again, like “inbound marketing” last year and social media, blogging and SEO in years gone by, marketers are now promoting content marketing as the silver bullet for gaining new customers.

That said, while there’s a lot of hype around Content Marketing it is indeed true that it’s one of the most effective ways to build your customer base. IF, that is, you do it in a meaningful manner and complement it with an overall multi-channel strategy.

So, what exactly is Content Marketing? Rather than giving a detailed academic definition, we’ll put it in very practical terms.

Content Marketing:

  • Involves determining what kind of relevant content you can provide your audience that they will appreciate and will help position you as the expert in that area in their eyes
  • Can be online or offline and can include blogging, newsletters, white papers, case studies, videos, demonstrations, seminars, webinars, etc, etc, etc.
  • Involves figuring out how to get your content in front of your desired audience. i.e. you might use email to send newsletters to existing customers whereas you might become a contributor on an industry blog or host an educational seminar to become known to folks outside your immediate sphere of influence.

 

Simply put, content marketing is the practice of creating content and using it strategically to improve your credibility in your area and/or generate interest in your products or services.

There are several keys to great Content Marketing:

  1. Forget about selling while you are creating your content (and focus on helpful content).
  2. The above notwithstanding, have a strategy for converting “interest” in your content into leads or sales.
  3. Make sure to leverage your content through as many channels as possible (blogs, newsletters, SEO, Social Media.
  4. Talk with people from your audience to find out what interests them BEFORE you start creating your content (you’d be amazed how many people do it the other way around).
  5. Start with smaller pieces of content to build further confidence in your approach before you invest tons of time in content creation.

Interested in finding out more about content marketing? I’ve been practicing these principals for over 15 years now both offline and online, and I’d be happy to share some very practical information in future posts.

That said, if this is of interest, please contact me (I read every single contact submission through our site) to let me know you want more written on this topic. Note: as you might guess, this is me trying to make sure this is a topic you’re interested in before investing a ton of time in it, much like I recommend above.

Alternately, if you’re interested in getting some professional help with content marketing, we’re here to serve! Just contact us to find out more.

Set Up Basic Google Authorship In 2 Steps

Most businesses know that it’s important to optimize for Google Search.

With at least 70% market share for Search, Google is the first tool most people turn to when looking for a product, service, or really anything they want to know more about. 

The challenge for businesses is that Search Engine Optimization is constantly changing, and it can be tough to rank at the top of Google Search results and get found by customers ahead of competitors.

Help your Search rankings by setting up Google Authorship

Luckily, Google itself has provided a powerful new tool to help you connect with customers called Google Authorship

If you want to become known as a subject matter expert through content marketing and blogging, or even if you just write occasional blog posts, you should definitely consider setting up Google Authorship.

Google Authorship links content you create either on your own website or blog, or even on different websites you contribute to, with your Google+ profile: 

google authorshipAs you can see, setting up Google Authorship provides benefits such as your head shot image appearing next to your content in Google’s search results.

Get found by customers

Most importantly, the more quality content you publish online, the more likely you are to be ranked high by Google and considered an authority in your subject area.

And (ideally) a higher Authorship ranking from Google will help you show up on the first page of Google Search more often where you can be found by customers more easily.

Set up basic Google Authorship in 2 steps

There are two simple steps for setting up your basic Google Authorship:

1) Create a Google+ Profile
You’ll need to upload a high quality “head shot” (more about this below) of yourself and fill out some profile information, such as where you live. If you’re worried about sharing personal information, Google Plus gives you the option about what and how much to share.

2) Verify your authorship

Go to plus.google.com/authorship, sign up with your email and click on the verification link Google sends send you.

The importance of a proper G+ “head shot”

It’s really important to to ensure that you have good “head shot” uploaded as your G+ profile picture. Here’s what Rob Cooper uses for his G+ profile:

downloadIt should be a “head shot” rather than, say, you posing with your kids at the park. Otherwise, Google likely will not display your profile photo next to anything you write. 

Beyond the basics

We’ve outlined the basics to get you started. But there’s more:

  • If you write guest blog posts and articles on other website, ask the website owner to add an “author link” in your post.
  • Be sure to add all of the blogs and websites your contribute to to the “Contributor to” section of your G+ profile:

google authorshipFocus on quality and relevance

The most important consideration after setting up Google Authorship is the ensuring the quality of your content.

Search Engine Optimization, especially for Google Search, has evolved to the point that quality and relevance are becoming the primary “signal” or consideration for ranking high in Google Search results.

Thanks to Google Authorship, you will be rewarded for quality with higher Search rankings.

And spammers, or people churning out duplicate content, will be penalized.

For complete info about Google Authorship visit Google’s Authorship page. Have a question about implementing Google Authorship? Contact us! We would be happy to help.

Are Banner Ads a Waste of Money?

A colleague of mine (David Sovka) wrote a blog post recently about what a waste of time and money banner ads are.  While Dave is a very smart guy and a way more entertaining writer than I’ll ever be, he totally misses the opportunity presented by banner advertising.

folgers

“Not so good” banner placement.

As someone who has (for the most part profitably) spent  millions of dollars of other people’s money on banner ads, I felt compelled to respond to the post.

First off, to make the general statement that banner ads are “stupid” or that “click-through rates are an appallingly low 0.1%” is like saying that the US is an obese nation. While, this may be statistically true, you’ll likely notice some striking exceptions the next time you visit the beach. Likewise, by being the exception as an advertiser, you can also stand out dramatically in the online ad environment.

Here’s a few places where banner ads work:

  • In a well targeted environment where ads are delivered to people who have explicitly expressed an interest. For instance, I’m into cycling in a big way. If a banner ad for a mountain bike appears on a page, you can be guaranteed it will capture my attention. Even if I don’t click, the advertiser has gained a valuable branded impression.

    Speaking of branded impressions, if you do a good job with your ads, the low click-through rate can work in your favour as you can drive literally millions of targeted, branded impressions for very low cost (remember, with most banner ads you ONLY pay when someone clicks).

  • In a well selected group of placements (web sites). For instance, I’ve personally seen banner ads drive a measured 100:1 customer spend:ad cost ratio. To be fair, this is a non-typical example. That said, the beauty of a scientific approach is that you CAN measure your results on an ad by ad, placement by placement basis and then adjust accordingly.
  • Anywhere they replace print ads. This is, of course, a blanket statement with tons of exceptions. However, a high percentage of print advertisers would drive way better ROI by moving to a smart banner strategy.
  • When they are part of a responsible “remarketing” program where they are displayed to folks who have visited your website in the past.

So, with all that stated, Dave is right about one thing: banner ad performance is generally horrible. However, the reason for this is not that the medium sucks, but that most advertisers take a lazy, non-strategic approach to banners which is unlikely to drive any meaningful results.

To that I say “great.” It simply makes it easier for disciplined, scientific marketers to stand out.

The Importance of Testing, Obama Style

imagesThere’s a recent article about the dramatic difference in results between the best and worst performers tested in President Obama’s fundraising emails during the presidential campaign.

In short, there was a 600% performance difference between the best and worst subject lines used during their testing process.

While these numbers are dramatic, they are not surprising. We see test results on a daily basis and whether it’s an email subject line or an A/B test for an ad, it’s rare that we don’t see one version performing dramatically better than the version(s) being tested against.

The takeaway? If you’re not testing, you’re losing money.

What are some of the most accessible testing strategies across a variety of mediums?

Subject line testing in email (like the Obama effort)

Even if you don’t have a sophisticated email provider (to randomize and split your lists into testable segments), you can randomize your list in Excel and then break it into an appropriate number of groups to test different subject lines to. When testing subject lines, experiment with different tactics like:

  • including the recipient name (if possible).
  • asking a question.
  • using different writing styles.
  • highlighting different benefits (of what’s inside).

Ad testing (in Google Adwords)

It’s amazing how few people test their ads. If you’re running ads based on what you “think” people will respond to, you are not getting the best performance you could. Plus, it literally takes only seconds to add additional ads to your ad groups (and Google automatically takes care of the rest).

Adwords testing has other huge benefits to companies launching new products or services. If you want insights on which user benefits are the MOST important to your audience, simply run a series of different ads, each highlighting a different benefit. You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly on the basis of your clickthrough rates which of the benefits resonate most with your audience! You can then take this knowledge and apply it to your product/service pages with some confidence that you’ve identified the right benefits.

Web page testing

Ever argue with your colleagues about what should go on a new product page? Argue no more – test instead!

With Google Content Experiments (in Google Analytics) you can create multiple different versions of a page, have them randomly served to visitors, and identify the top performing version. While it’s not necessarily “easy” to set up, it’s well worth the hour it takes to learn to configure “Goals” and set up your Content Experiment.

Questions about testing? Drop us a line.

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