20 Ways to Effectively Market Your Small Business

marketing-938935_1280Marketing is an afterthought for most small business owners. Between trying to manage employees and keep customers happy, small businesses owners usually don’t have the time create and implement a marketing campaign that drives brand engagement, generates leads, and boosts sales. Because we live in a digital age, we’re going to focus on the top online marketing strategies that you can use to promote and effectively market your small business.

Let’s dig in.

1. Start an Email Marketing List

Starting an email marketing list may sound difficult, but it’s really not. Think about all of the emails you receive from companies and brands, and then think about how they acquired that information from you—it was likely through an online promotion or a form on their website where they incentivized you to sign up. Hey, you’ve got to give a little to get a little.

2. Use that Email Marketing List

Email marketing is one of the quickest and most effective ways to drive business. Think about it for a second; you’re delivering targeted messages straight to your customers’ inboxes, and you’re reaching them on their mobile device if they’re on the go. More importantly, it’s a completely free strategy that can deliver big results if your emails are engaging and your call to action is strong.

3. Focus On User Experience

It doesn’t matter if you’re an eCommerce company selling trendy socks or a SaaS company trying to collect data and then cold call—if your website isn’t easy to navigate you’ve already lost the business. Think about the user. Does your website make it easy to find a product or service and then purchase it or inquire about it? The user always comes first, and you need to put yourself in their shoes and make sure that your site is easy to maneuver.

4. Make Yourself Look the Part

While we’re on the subject of your website, it doesn’t look like it was built in the ’90s, does it? User experience is the priority, but design is a close second. Your website should feature full frame imagery and a progressive, clean look that makes your company look like the leader in your industry, even if you’re a startup.

5. Use Social to Communicate

A lot of people get caught up using social media to shove their products and services in front of their fan base, and that can be a definite turnoff. Sure, social is an effective way to drive sales, but you should focus on using your social networks to engage with your followers and communicate with them. Ask them questions, and then use that feedback to put out a better product and improve your process.

6. Don’t Let SEO Fall by the Wayside

There’s a lot to think about when you’re developing your marketing plan, but one thing you can’t afford to let slip is your search engine optimization (SEO). As Google continues to make its algorithm changes, it’s a necessity that you adhere to those changes and optimize your website accordingly so that you can obtain—and ultimately maintain—your high organic rankings.

7. Write Great Content

A big part of Google’s ranking algorithm for SEO is content. The search engine giant wants to see that your website is consistently publishing informational and educational content that’s meaningful. With everyone now putting more effort into content, you need to make sure that yours engages the reader and provides them with some sort of value. Don’t write good content—it has to be great.

8. Make Your Followers Feel Special

There’s nothing worse than being a consumer and feeling like you don’t matter to a brand, especially if you consider yourself loyal to that brand. If you want to keep your followers happy and engaged, reward them with sweepstakes, promotions, and giveaways to show them you care and that you’re not all about the sale (even if you are).

9. Use Paid Search

Paid search, also known as PPC, can be a daunting strategy for a lot of small business owners because there’s a lot to learn and understand. From CPCs and CTRs to conversion rates and quality score, PPC can be confusing, but if you work with a specialist or hire an agency, it can work wonders for your business. SEO can take months—even years—to get to the top of Google, but with paid search, you can be on top of Page 1 within a couple of hours.

10. Have an Editorial Calendar

We talked about the importance of putting out great content, but knowing when that content is going to be published is just as important. Having an editorial calendar will keep your content initiatives in order and will assure that you’re serving as the hub of information for your small business.

11. Deploy Remarketing

Remarketing, also called retargeting, is a form of paid search that helps you stay in front of potential customers and stay top of mind. In short, how it works is that you cookie your website visitors’ browsers (using a snippet of code pulled from your PPC platform), which then allows you to follow them around the Internet with targeted advertisements as they visit other sites on the Web. Sound creepy? Maybe a little, but you’ll probably change your mind once you see the data behind it.

12. Audit Your Competition

Look at your most successful competitor and really take a look at what they’re doing on all cylinders: website, organic search, paid search, social media, email, etc. Use tools like SpyFu to analyze the competition, collect as much data as you can, and then use all of that information to mirror what they’re doing, but do it better.

13. Use Video

Did you know that YouTube is the second-largest search network in the world? If you didn’t, now you do, and you should now realize how important video is to your business. Video can help you educate users better than you ever could through your blog content, and video is also another signal that Google factors into its ranking algorithm for SEO. Use video for new product launches and walkthroughs, and host that video on your website and push it across your social channels.

14. List Your Business on Local Directories

Online local business directories like Google Plus Local and Bing/Yahoo Local will help people close to your business find you faster. Make sure you optimize those listings with a business description, accurate hours, and of course your address. Link the directory to your website and you’ll get the added benefit of referral traffic.

15. Pay to Play on Social Media

Your organic posts on social networks such as Facebook don’t show as far out to your fans and followers as they once did, which is why you need to put some dollars behind your social media efforts. It’s not to say you need to pay for every post, but if you have an important announcement or an event coming up, throw some money behind it and choose your customized targeting to hit your desired demographic. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have amazing targeting options and analytics so that you can measure the effectiveness of your campaign.

16. Use Google Analytics

If you don’t have Google Analytics on your website, stop what you’re doing, go to www.google.com/analytics, and get the tracking code on your website ASAP. Google Analytics is a digital marketer’s dream, showing you a plethora of data, including where your website users are coming from, how long they’re staying on the website, which pages they’re visiting the most, and most importantly, if they’re purchasing your products or services. You, or someone from your company, should be looking at this data a few times per week, at the minimum.

17. Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Optimized

We’ve all heard how important mobile is, and if your website isn’t optimized for mobile devices, you’re missing the boat on a ton of traffic, and probably leaving a lot of business on the table. It used to be that having a mobile site was a luxury, but now it’s essentially a requirement, especially when you consider the fact that Google has publicly stated that not having a mobile optimized website will affect your SEO (dubbed “Mobilegeddon”).

18. Offer Discounts

Everyone loves knowing that they’re getting some sort of discount—even if it’s five percent. Make sure that you let it be known that you’re offering a discount by promoting it on your website, through social media, and via your email blasts. Again, you may have to give a little away to get something in return, but your margins should still be there.

19. Focus on Reviews

Reviews play a huge role in digital marketing. People love to read reviews and get other people’s opinions, so you should develop a strategy to solicit reviews from your past customers. Maybe it’s a personal email from the founder of the business or an incentive for leaving a positive review on platforms like Facebook, Google+, and Yelp, but either way, positive reviews need to find their way into your marketing strategy.

20. Listen to Your Customers

Sounds easy, right? Well, yes, but you’ve got to remember to do it. Your customers give you a different perspective, and they often have great feedback for small business owners on what they can do to improve. Make sure you’re monitoring the comments on your social media profiles and have a section of your website where visitors can email you comments/feedback. You’re never going to get it 100% right off the bat, so let your customers lend a hand. Conclusion:

Without some type of marketing strategy in place, you can have a great business, but people aren’t going to know about it. These are the current digital marketing strategies that small business are utilizing to increase brand awareness and boost their customer base.


Don’t Have a Customer Loyalty Program? Here’s Why They’re Valuable


The first time a new customer buys something from you, it’s an exciting moment. But keeping them as a happy customer — and turning them into an advocate for your brand — takes more than just great service on that first sale. What are you going to do to get that customer to keep buying from you in the future?

One great way to garner happy returning customers is through customer loyalty programs. They’re not just great for your business: customers like them, too: 76% of consumers think that loyalty programs are a part of their relationship with brands — and 83% said loyalty programs make them more likely to continue doing business with certain companies.

What’s the true value of customer loyalty programs, and what are the right and wrong ways to do them?

Check out the infographic below from SelfStartr to learn useful statistics about the value of customer loyalty programs, as well as tips for how to use them to demonstrate both your customers’ loyalty to your business, and your business’ loyalty to your customers.

7 Simple Hacks to Kickstart a Productive Day


Ever wish you could flip a switch to activate your motivation? Some days are just more of a struggle than others. We get it. We’ve been there. 

And while there’s no magic switch, there are quite a few things you can do to get yourself going — especially in the morning.

Willing to give it a try? Start your mornings off right and set yourself up for a productive day with these seven quick morning motivation exercises.

7 Morning Motivation Rituals

1) Get up early.

Research shows that early risers are more successful, more proactive, better planners, and better at anticipating problems. Not to mention that many uber-successful people also get to the office uber-early. Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is out of bed by 5:45 a.m., GE CEO Jeff Immelt gets up at 5:30 a.m., Xerox CEO Ursula Burns at 5:15 a.m., and Apple CEO Tim Cook sets his alarm for as early as 3:45 a.m. to get a jump start on their days.

Yes, waking up early gives you more time to work, but there are other benefits as well. You’ll be able to eat a healthy breakfast (see #2), fit in a workout (#4), or even spend time doing an activity that’s not work-related (#7). The more time you give yourself in the mornings, the less you’ll have to rush and the more ready you’ll be to tackle the day.

Not an early riser? Not to worry — here are 19 tips for becoming more of a morning person.

2) Eat a good breakfast.

You are what you eat. According to research from the Health Enhancement Research Organization, people who have consistently healthy diets are 25% more likely to have high job performance and 20% more likely to be more productive. Plus, if you eat a lousy meal or no breakfast at all, you’ll be hungry all morning — and it’s difficult to concentrate when you’re not feeling at your best.

My colleague Lindsay Kolowich put together this infographic on the best foods to eat to keep you on your game. Eat eggs, bananas, yogurt, or blueberries for breakfast to start your day off right. 

3) Optimize your alarm.

Your surroundings have a huge effect on your mood, and while you can’t control the weather, whether you have enough hot water in the morning, or if there will be traffic (another reason to get up early!), you can control your alarm clock.

The right wake-up call can set the tone for your entire day, so get rid of the traditional grating beeps and replace your alarm with a song that fits the mood you’d like to wake up in. Classical music is hypothesized to increase your intelligence, pump-up songs like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” make you feel more powerful, and “feel-good” songs improve your mood by actually causing your brain to release more dopamine.

If you’re not sure where to start, my colleague Carly Stec has compiled six playlists for you, each of which corresponds with a specific mood and different productivity-boosting effect.

4) Work out.

It goes without saying that exercise is good for you. Exercise increases the production of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that decrease the risk of depression and improve your mood and long-term memory, respectively. Exercising in the morning forces you to wake up earlier, gives you a totally natural mood-booster, and increases your energy.

And exercise has benefits beyond improving your mood. A 2006 study showed that regular physical exercise led to increases in willpower and self-regulatory behavior.

5) Start with “why.”

It’s hard to get excited about getting out of bed in the mornings when you’re not totally sold on what you’re getting up for. And even if you love everything about your job, the daily grind can make it hard to keep your eye on the prize all the time.

Boost your intrinsic motivation — behavior driven by the enjoyment of a task — to keep yourself going. Intrinsic motivation is a more powerful force than extrinsic motivation, which drives you to act because of incentives like money, recognition, or praise. Remind yourself why you got into sales — for example, you could tape a list to your bathroom mirror and reach for it at the start of each day, or write down one thing you’re excited about every night to read the next morning. The important thing is to be able to quickly remind yourself of what drives you to be great at your job.

6) Remind yourself of your wins.

It’s all well and good to know that you love sales because you believe in your product, but on days when you’ve dealt with rude prospects, been reprimanded by your boss, or lost a big deal you’ve been chasing for weeks, you’re going to need a more concrete reminder.

Greg Fung, a HubSpot sales rep, keeps a list of wins and losses in an Evernote document that he refers to when he’s having a bad day.

“Keep your list handy and add to it as new good and bad incidents come your way,” Fung says. “You’ll be surprised by how quickly the ‘rights’ outpace the ‘wrongs,” and you now have a great tool to lean on during tough times.”

To adapt this exercise for a boost of morning motivation, keep a “master list” of your biggest wins and keep it on your nightstand or somewhere easily accessible so you can refer to it on mornings when you just don’t want to go into the office.

7) Do something that makes you happy.

Breaking news: We do better at work when we’re happy in our personal lives.

Multiple studies have shown that happiness is closely correlated with job performance, and of course, happiness is closely tied to our personal health as well.

So set aside some time each morning to do something that makes you happy. Whether it’s reading a chapter from your favorite book, spending 30 minutes on a side project, or just eating a really, really good breakfast sandwich, if you dedicate time to improving your personal life, it’ll pay dividends in your career as well.


What Tracking 13 Billion Email Opens Can Teach Us About the Current State of Email Engagement


Last year, we saw significant changes in marketing technology. Mobile and social search shifted marketer’s SEO efforts, and messaging apps started to introduce new ways for brands to connect with their audience. But one channel continued to hold the reputation of ‘ol reliable among marketing teams: email. 

Serving as one of the oldest digital mediums still in use, email is known for delivering the highest ROI among digital marketing channels. However, as the applications and devices people use to view emails continue to evolve, the prospect of optimizing for the inbox has become a bit more complicated.

In 2015, Litmus — a web-based email creation, testing, and analytics company — tracked over 13 billion email opens worldwide as part of its 2016 State of Email Report highlighting trends across all industries and verticals. Here’s where people are engaging with email most.

The Current State of Email Engagement

Before we could determine how people were engaging with email, we needed to define what clients they were using. Here’s what we found:

Top_10_Email_Clients.png*Some email clients may be over- or under- represented due to automatic enablement of images and/or image blocking.

To provide color, Lauren Smith, content marketing manager at Litmus, explains what these numbers mean across webmail, desktop, and mobile environments. Smith says:


In 2015, opens across all of the major webmail clients decreased. The fall in Gmail opens and subsequent rise of iPhone and Android opens may suggest users of the Gmail app are switching back to the native email apps on these phones.

It’s probable that this move toward mobile is also affecting Yahoo! Mail and Outlook.com opens. Subscribers are likely using those apps on their phones, rather than in the actual webmail client, which would be reported as a mobile open, rather than webmail.”


While the rest of desktop opens remained relatively stagnant in 2015, Outlook opens decreased 33% and now represent only 6% of opens.

The popularity of Outlook overall is on the decline, with older versions of the desktop client — which has better HTML and CSS support — being phased out in favor of newer versions. Outlook 2016 for Windows was released in September 2015 and has already seen some adoption, picking up over 5% of Outlook opens. Outlook 2013 also saw a 50% gain over the year, whereas Outlook 2003 dropped 35%.”

Environment Growth

Digging deeper into the data, we also measured the past five years worth of data by environment in order to further clarify trends.

The results show the meteoric rise of mobile, which is almost entirely at the expense of desktop environments.

Mobile opens increased 17% to now represent 55% of email opens. Webmail opens decreased 13% to end the year with 26% of opens, and desktop opens decreased 17% for a year-end 19% of total opens.”


Mobile Usage Trends

As seen above, mobile dominates email engagement. Looking even further into this, here’s how mobile engagement trends break down over the course of 2015.


Android opens increased 35% to represent 10% of opens, and iPhone opens rose from 27% to 33% of opens. Conversely, iPad opens decreased 5% over the course of the year and now only represent 12% of mobile email opens.

So while mobile continues to see increased engagement everywhere, marketers are left to wonder, what’s up with the iPad?

Smith adds, “iPad opens have been on a continuous decline over the past year. It’s probably no coincidence that the iPad’s slump to 12% of opens has accompanied a downturn in tablet sales. As of Q4 2014, Apple had sold 12.3 million iPads, while Q4 2015 figures report sales of 9.8 million — a 20% drop.

While lower-priced tablets from Microsoft and Google may have impacted iPad sales and open figures, it’s possible that other Apple products may be cannibalizing sales. For example, the dimensions of the iPhone 6 Plus may serve as a suitable tablet replacement — providing users with the ultimate ‘phablet.’”

What This Means for Marketers

As marketers, we tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time on optimization. We optimize for search engines to get found and for conversions to generate prospects, but when it comes time to engage with said prospects, optimization behavior breaks down.

We treat all subscribers — and their methods for reading email — as equal. But the apps and devices people use directly correlates to how they engage with your emails. Images and links break, designs render incorrectly, and as a result, we ultimately wind up wasting otherwise strong sales opportunities.

As an example, here are just some of the ways the top two email clients may introduce quirks that impact the effectiveness of your email.

iPhone (iOS)

The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus feature 3D Touch, which adds pressure sensitivity to the latest iPhones and introduces two new interactions: peek and pop.

When scrolling through the inbox, users can now use a light press to “peek” at an email, which opens the email itself in a modal window. Using that same touch, they can then press harder to “pop” into the email itself and see the entire email, just like opening it normally.

Since “peeking” at an email loads the images contained within, peeks will count as opened emails. However, even though opens are registered, engagement could easily drop for campaigns if subscribers are just “peeking” at — and not reading — your campaigns.

If you’re seeing your engagement rates dropping, consider revamping your content, optimizing your inbox view, and ensuring your messages are mobile-friendly.


Like most webmail clients, Gmail relies on a preprocessor to strip emails of anything that could be either a security concern or affect the rendering of the email client itself. This means that Gmail not only strips emails of any JavaScript, Flash, or object and embed tags, but it also goes one step further and strips the email of any style tags.

This understandably causes frustrations for email designers, who often use CSS in the style tag to manipulate the style of their campaigns, especially with responsive emails. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your main styles are all inline and that the email works well even without the style tag.

What’s Next?

Creating email can be hard. Optimizing for your audience, and the apps and devices they’re opening on, is the first step toward making it easier and more effective.

Where are the majority of your prospects and customers opening and engaging with email? Once you have a clear and detailed understanding of this, optimizing for their experience becomes much more direct.


5 Tips To Make Your Email Newsletter More Profitable

mobile phone texting to cyber spaceEmail newsletters, or ezines, have been around for years. They were one of the first forms of early communication in the online world. And even though they’ve undergone a lot of changes over the years, they still remain a tried and true marketing format.

Depending on your age, you’re probably thinking “email”, really? Rumor has it those 30 and under rarely even open up an email program anymore. And for those 30 and over, its all just a bunch of spam, right?

Wrong. I personally still have about a 45 percent open rate on every ezine I send out. That means almost half of my list opens up and reads my newsletter on a regular basis. They read, they click, and they take action.

Other studies have shown that on average (if you build up a great list), you can expect to find almost half of your list to open up on a regular basis, and read for at least 10 seconds. And up to 35 percent will open it for at least three seconds, meaning they are scanning your information for content relevant to them.

That’s huge. And it definitely proves that email isn’t dead. Not by a longshot.

Whether you are new to ezines and just thinking about starting one up, or have been using one on and off through the years, here are 5 tips to pay attention to:

Tip #1: Rely on a System

I’ve spoken with two potential clients this week about improving their online marketing processes. And in both cases, they were attempting to manage a newsletter list on their own, sending out through their Outlook program. Does that sound like you? If so, stop now.

Outlook isn’t made for sending out multiple emails to a varied list. In fact, if your list gets too big (25? 50? There isn’t a defining amount) Outlook will shut you down, your host may suspend your website, and you can quickly lose all the traction you’ve built to your site.

Instead, rely on a third party system specifically made for ezines, like aWeber or Constant Contact. I prefer aWeber myself, and have used them for years. I like having access to both an ezine system and an autoresponder system. These third party systems also provide you with everything you need to be successful at emailing your list, from list building management tools, to CAN SPAM compliance features, to quick building features for integration with your website. For one low monthly price, you can everything you need to automate your process and keep it manageable too.

Tip #2: Sending Consistency

Emailing only becomes reliable when your audience can rely upon you. Send out too frequently and they may delete you because they simply don’t have time. Send out too intermittently and they may forget who you are. Focus in on a frequency that works for you and stick with it – calendar it if you have to. Try once per month at a minimum, or go with twice per month or even once per week if you feel you can handle the workload.

Tip #3: Look and Feel

Think about your favorite emails at the moment – what do you like about them? Use those as your templates when creating your own. You can start with one of the templates most third party systems like aWeber have, or create your own to match your branding. If graphics intimidate you, start simple with a text ezine. You can always move up from there. The important thing is to get it out.

Tip #4: Subject Line

While most people focus in on the content of your ezine, they often forget about spending quality time on the one thing that matters most: your subject line.

When you receive dozens of emails at a time, most people scan and delete within seconds. Your goal is to be recognizable and avoid the delete key whenever possible. Make sure your emails always come from the same source, and that your subject lines give people enough information to know it pertains to them, and is of interest to them.

Every delivery system is different; some truncate after 60 characters; some will give you even less than that. Recent studies have shown that 10 characters or less have the highest open rate. Second in line are subject lines with 50-59 characters in length.

Tip #5: Make It Clickable

From top to bottom, give people a way to click out of the ezine and into your information all over the web. If you’re active on Facebook, make sure to include a Facebook link. If you want people to comment, ask them to leave a message after they click to your information online.

You can even write specifically to motivate people to click back to your site to continue to read. Ask questions, or leave the story line hanging. The goal is to like what you have to say, want more, and click to your site to get it. Once there, they will hopefully find a reason to connect with you in some other manner.


5 Simple Social Media Techniques to Drive More Traffic to Your Website

social-media-439155_1280Are you looking for ways to make the most of your social media efforts? Want some simple techniques to drive more referral traffic?

We all know Facebook is naff for organic reach, but with Twitter recently removing the share count from their social buttons, organic Twitter traffic for some has started already to decline too. It’s clearly becoming harder to generate free traffic from social sites.

How do you reverse the trend? Your Personal Marketer share their top 5 tips in the infographic below.

5 Simple Social Media Techniques to Drive More Traffic to Your Website