Marketing vs. Sales: How Social Networking now bridges the gap.

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Until recently, defining the roles of marketing and sales was simple: marketing paves the way, while sales closes the deal. The job of Marketing is to spread the word to prospects, while salespeople are tasked with following up, building key relationships, and closing deals.

Today, the line between marketing and sales is now beginning to blur as more and more salespeople are becoming astute social networkers. With social media spaces becoming more popular, salespeople and entrepreneurs all over the world are using LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites to discover new markets, meet prospects directly and forge profitable new business relationships. No lead generation, branding or cold-calling required. In a sense, many salespeople are becoming their own marketers.

The sales role in social media networking — initiate and develop key relationships.

  1. Develop relationships with people who matter. There are plenty of people participating in the social media sphere who can waste a ton of your time. Once you meet someone (prospect or suspect), make sure to get up-to-date, reliable contact information to use in your ongoing email marketing.
  2. Comment on key industry blogs, post links, and keep close watch on others who comment.
  3. Continue to build your sphere of influence. As a good social networker, be sure to invite connections to join you on other social sites, and request that your connections introduce you to others that may need your product or services.


The marketing role in social media networking — help salespeople plan, execute and measure their efforts.

  1. Work with your salesforce to create a blog and share ideas about your industry. Share your recent posts within your social media spaces, and invite comments.
  2. Keep salespeople focused — because some salespeople are not detail oriented, they may tend to overlook focused on the wrong social networking strategiesomment on blogs that are hot within your marketing space. Keep your identity present in your market at all times.
  3. Search Twithority and other social sources to uncover key influencers and leaders on the most important social sites. For example, creating a relationship with a YouTube user who has several thousands views on his/her videos, or making friends with someone who has thousands of connections on LinkedIn is valuable social currency, so to speak.

Keep in mind, however, this strategy may not be relevant to your situation, as each social media strategy is unique.

Pay Per Click Advertising: four reasons why it’s a marketer’s best friend during a recession.

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As advertising budgets get slashed here in 2009, there’s one area that you might want to spend a few dollars on, even if you have never spent money on it before. Pay Per Click advertising (PPC), Paid Search, Search Engine Marketing, Adwords or whatever you know it as, offers some immediate benefits to companies in need of website traffic, lead generation, or just some really helpful market research.

  1. Pay Per Click Commands Generous ROI — In 2007, according to Marketing Sherpa, online marketers ranked PPC and email marketing as one of the most profitable channels with the highest ROI. AdWords can average five times stronger ROI than other online marketing channels, including email marketing.
  2. Instant Targeted Traffic — If you have a new website, PPC ads are your best bet. Invest a minimum of $100 a month, and PPC gives you immediate traffic which can help generate sales right away. While organic site optimization (SEO) offers long-term benefits, its bottom-line results can take months or years.
  3. Test your website, landing pages, or promotional offers — The moment your PPC brings traffic, you’ll have immediate feedback about your site’s effectiveness. You’ll know your convertion rates for sales and leads, which pages generate the most interest, and above all, you’ll know your site’s bounce rate — the key metric that tells you if viewers are abandoning your site after viewing one page.
  4. Branding — If you’re simply looking to put your company name in front of your target audience, PPC also works quite sell. For every click you buy, PPC exposes your brand’s name, message and offerings to the most qualified prospects, not just to everyone. But make sure your branding has a measurable conversion goal, like an email sign-up.

Is Social Media the new PR? 3 out of 4 PR Pros seem to agree.

Social Media, with its infinite number of media channels reaching millions, is quickly becoming the new way for PR professionals to influence public opinion, polish brands and sell product. If offers infinite opportunities to communicate with slivers of vastly powerful little universes.
I recently ran a short discussion on LInkedIn, and posed the following question on a forum:
PR practitioners: is social media enhancing or destroying your business?
I received the following answers that seemed very positive:
(Enhancing) “Quite simply yes. I run a public relations and social media consultancy and we run integrated campaigns that treat both mainstream media and blogs as important stakeholders/audiences. The importance varies depending on the sector, campaign as well as individual blogs/media/journalists/writers. Just last week we held a preview event to showcase a new TV show specifically to parent bloggers.” — Stuart Bruce, Managing Director, Wolfstar, public relations
“Working at an agency that has been primarily traditional PR until this year, I have seen the benefit to this agency in a number of ways. By focusing on the social media I think the niche is one of the biggest advantages we have. While magazines sometimes are specifically only for one interest, the social media allows us to break our target by age, location as well as industry. Our messages can be more targeted to the most receptive audiences and therefore have the most chance for success.” — John Whitcomb, Social Media Coordinator, Robin Leedy & Associates
“As a PR pro who recently transitioned to social media exclusively, I will say that traditional PR folks need to get on board or risk being left behind. Social media is not going anywhere and it’s an undeniably powerful medium to engage in real time with influencers and audiences in MANY spheres. Best of all, it’s measurable UNLIKE the vast majority of traditional media placements.” — Dina Fierro, Director, Fashion & Beauty at Attention PR & SMM
And then interestingly enough, there’s one PR guy who thinks SM is possibly a fad:
“Until social-media sites are capable of delivering information regarding the demographics of their readers, they’ll always be niche — plain and simple. I know, we’ll probably read a dozen or more stories in the next 12 months talking about some type of revolution, but we’ve heard all that before. In reality, revolutions are VERY few and far between. This very platform is considered Web 2.0 of sorts, but it still involves typing text into a form, something that I was doing back in 1994.
That said, social media isn’t really going to destroy anything. If you represent a consumer product, there may be some blogs that have an audience that’s influential enough to worry about. Most of these are blogs associated with mainstream media outlets, however. For most, blogs are a supplement to their additional media work and something that won’t change the world in the near term. Can those of you who spoke about social media’s unique measurement capabilities explain that? Honestly, I’d really be interested because I’ve not seen ANYTHING reliable. To say that it’s more measurable than traditional media’s a pretty big leap, given that all print pubs have to go through a pretty exhaustive process in regard to readership verification to qualify for 2nd Class postage.” — Cyrus Afzali, President, Astoria Communications

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Social Media, with its infinite number of media channels reaching millions, is quickly becoming the new way for PR professionals to influence public opinion, polish brands and sell product. If offers infinite opportunities to communicate with slivers of vastly powerful little universes.

I recently ran a short discussion on LInkedIn, and posed the following question on a forum:

PR practitioners: is social media enhancing or destroying your business?

I received the following answers that seemed very positive:

(Enhancing) “Quite simply yes. I run a public relations and social media consultancy and we run integrated campaigns that treat both mainstream media and blogs as important stakeholders/audiences. The importance varies depending on the sector, campaign as well as individual blogs/media/journalists/writers. Just last week we held a preview event to showcase a new TV show specifically to parent bloggers.” — Stuart Bruce, Managing Director, Wolfstar, public relations

“Working at an agency that has been primarily traditional PR until this year, I have seen the benefit to this agency in a number of ways. By focusing on the social media I think the niche is one of the biggest advantages we have. While magazines sometimes are specifically only for one interest, the social media allows us to break our target by age, location as well as industry. Our messages can be more targeted to the most receptive audiences and therefore have the most chance for success.” — John Whitcomb, Social Media Coordinator, Robin Leedy & Associates

“As a PR pro who recently transitioned to social media exclusively, I will say that traditional PR folks need to get on board or risk being left behind. Social media is not going anywhere and it’s an undeniably powerful medium to engage in real time with influencers and audiences in MANY spheres. Best of all, it’s measurable UNLIKE the vast majority of traditional media placements.” — Dina Fierro, Director, Fashion & Beauty at Attention PR & SMM

And then interestingly enough, there’s one PR guy who thinks SM is possibly a fad:

“Until social-media sites are capable of delivering information regarding the demographics of their readers, they’ll always be niche — plain and simple. I know, we’ll probably read a dozen or more stories in the next 12 months talking about some type of revolution, but we’ve heard all that before. In reality, revolutions are VERY few and far between. This very platform is considered Web 2.0 of sorts, but it still involves typing text into a form, something that I was doing back in 1994.

That said, social media isn’t really going to destroy anything. If you represent a consumer product, there may be some blogs that have an audience that’s influential enough to worry about. Most of these are blogs associated with mainstream media outlets, however. For most, blogs are a supplement to their additional media work and something that won’t change the world in the near term. Can those of you who spoke about social media’s unique measurement capabilities explain that? Honestly, I’d really be interested because I’ve not seen ANYTHING reliable. To say that it’s more measurable than traditional media’s a pretty big leap, given that all print pubs have to go through a pretty exhaustive process in regard to readership verification to qualify for 2nd Class postage.” — Cyrus Afzali, President, Astoria Communications

Five reasons why your company should begin participating in social media now.

Participating in Social media sites such as Linkedin, Facebook and many others, is simply a must these days, particularly if you need to broaden your network, explore new trends, share new ideas, and most important, generate new leads. I’ve been doing it for months now, and have done all of the above.
Quite frankly, I’m hooked. And the benefits of participating on forums, and discussions have helped me create relationships with induvuduals at companies that I never would have dreamed of. Here the benefits I’ve discovered:
1. A great mentoring environment — This BTW, is a two-way street. Especially on Linkedin, you simply present a pressing business question, and you’ll get lots of interesting answers, usually sent to your email if you wish.
2. Inside Sales Info — If you need a specific contact at a company of your interest, Linkedin saves time. You can reach the right people instantly and make things happen.
3. Educate, Share, network, mentor and your next clients will come from a place you never expected. Many swear by Twitter, the 21st century gossip social site. They’ll read a few of your tweets and find you.
4. Staying in touch with important business contacts. Being connected through social media allows us to deliver information that is relevant to their business.
5. Selling or testing a product? Ask your connections to be your instant focus group, give you feedback to improve features, services, or whatever. People on social media site are very generous with their thoughts and opinions. Test ads, copy, proposal ideas, whatever. It is really helpful, and takes very little time.
But don’t take my word for it. There’s so much information on the subject, you can’t keep up with it. If you’re looking for dozens of ways to use FaceBook go to Facebook Ideas Galore. Or here’s a must read article on using LinkedIn 10 ways to Use LinkedIn

social_media

Participating in Social media sites such as Linkedin, Facebook and many others, is simply a must these days, particularly if you need to broaden your network, explore new trends, share new ideas, and most important, generate new leads. I’ve been doing it for months now, and have done all of the above.

Quite frankly, I’m hooked. And the benefits of participating on forums, and discussions have helped me create relationships with induvuduals at companies that I never would have dreamed of. Here the benefits I’ve discovered:

  1. A great mentoring environment — This BTW, is a two-way street. Especially on Linkedin, you simply present a pressing business question, and you’ll get lots of interesting answers, usually sent to your email if you wish.
  2. Inside Sales Info — If you need a specific contact at a company of your interest, Linkedin saves time. You can reach the right people instantly and make things happen.
  3. Educate, Share, network, mentor and your next clients will come from a place you never expected. Many swear by Twitter, the 21st century gossip social site. They’ll read a few of your tweets and find you.
  4. Staying in touch with important business contacts. Being connected through social media allows us to deliver information that is relevant to their business.
  5. Selling or testing a product? Ask your connections to be your instant focus group, give you feedback to improve features, services, or whatever. People on social media site are very generous with their thoughts and opinions. Test ads, copy, proposal ideas, whatever. It is really helpful, and takes very little time.

But don’t take my word for it. There’s so much information on the subject, you can’t keep up with it. If you’re looking for dozens of ways to use FaceBook go to Facebook Ideas Galore. Or here’s a must read article on using LinkedIn 10 ways to Use LinkedIn

Formula for Success: Email Marketing Lead Generation Components.

If you’re looking to invest in an email blast to a large B2B or B2C email list, you’ll need the following three components to achieve results:
1. A highly compelling offer…something free, a huge discount, a buy one get one, or anything to get your prospects attention so they will buy, register, or respond. Personally I prefer offering something free for registering. It’s your call, based on your marketing goals, but it has to be something that is easily and instantly understood, so the prospect can make a quick decision whether they will click on your email, and take the next crucial step in the relationship. Remember, the prospects on your email list probably don’t know you from Adam, so your first impression is critical.
2. Simple one-page, colorful, exciting email that dramatizes your offer, grabs the prospect by the throat, and convinces them to click to your landing page, and take the next step to being a customer. The email must clearly and instantly tell the prospect who we are, what we are offering, and what the immediate benefit of the offer is to them…what’s in it for them. Also, email creative is no place for anything vague, or wishy-washy. Straight to the point, bang em over the head works best. No newsletters or anything lacking immediate urgency either.
3. Your Landing page –– Once the curious prospect understands our offer, has decided to risk clicking on an email from a complete stranger, and is willing to take the next step on our behalf, let’s make sure they land on a page that will deliver instant gratification. Bear in mind, an average visitor spends less than 10 seconds looking at a web page before deciding whether to take action or move on. Your landing page’s headline and copy must connect to the email they clicked. If your email promotes a free offer, your landing page should focus on that free offer, not on superfluous information that distracts from the free offer. Strike while the iron is hot. Give them what came for, get them to sign up, and move on. Your landing page needs to deliver the information you promised they would receive. Nothing more, nothing less.

template-rhm

If you’re looking to invest in an email blast to a large B2B or B2C email list, you’ll need the following three components to achieve results:

  1. A highly compelling offer…something free, a huge discount, a buy one get one, or anything to get your prospects attention so they will buy, register, or respond. Personally I prefer offering something free for registering. It’s your call, based on your marketing goals, but it has to be something that is easily and instantly understood, so the prospect can make a quick decision whether they will click on your email, and take the next crucial step in the relationship. Remember, the prospects on your email list probably don’t know you from Adam, so your first impression is critical.
  2. Simple one-page, colorful, exciting email that dramatizes your offer, grabs the prospect by the throat, and convinces them to click to your landing page, and take the next step to being a customer. The email must clearly and instantly tell the prospect who we are, what we are offering, and what the immediate benefit of the offer is to them…what’s in it for them. Also, email creative is no place for anything vague, or wishy-washy. Straight to the point, bang em over the head works best. No newsletters or anything lacking immediate urgency either.
  3. Your Landing page –– Once the curious prospect understands our offer, has decided to risk clicking on an email from a complete stranger, and is willing to take the next step on our behalf, let’s make sure they land on a page that will deliver instant gratification. Bear in mind, an average visitor spends less than 10 seconds looking at a web page before deciding whether to take action or move on. Your landing page’s headline and copy must connect to the email they clicked. If your email promotes a free offer, your landing page should focus on that free offer, not on superfluous information that distracts from the free offer. Strike while the iron is hot. Give them what came for, get them to sign up, and move on. Your landing page needs to deliver the information you promised they would receive. Nothing more, nothing less.

Internet Marketing: Simple HTML Do-it-yourself Newsletters.

Everyone knows it’s important to communicate with customers and prospects on a regular basis about new products, services and and general news about your company. Traditional print newsletters are great, but very time-consuming and expensive. So, if you’re not adept at HTML programming, you can really take advantage this great new tool. There are also many online services that allow you create your own newsletters, but the templates they offer don’t allow much customization.
ZoselCo offers an inexpensive solution that offers the best of both worlds. An online newsletter that is true to your brand, yet is simple to update and create yourself. The solution also offers great reporting, letting you know who opened, clicked and lots more.
If you’d like more information please contact Scott Zosel
custom html newsletters

Everyone knows it’s important to communicate with customers and prospects on a regular basis about new products, services and and general news about your company.

Traditional print newsletters are great, but very time-consuming and expensive. So, if you’re not adept at HTML programming, you can really take advantage this great new tool. There are also many online services that allow you create your own newsletters, but the templates they offer don’t allow much customization.

ZoselCo offers an inexpensive solution that offers the best of both worlds. An online newsletter that is true to your brand, yet is simple to update and create yourself. The solution also offers great reporting, letting you know who opened, clicked and lots more

Recent marketing debates: Direct Mail vs. Permission-Based Email?

If you are still using direct mail a primary lead generation tool, consider permission based email. You can easily get the same results for a fraction of the cost.
If you’re like me, you probably get hundreds of pieces of mail each week. And many of the letters, postcards, or self-mailers are beautifully crafted with offers designed to attract the industry standard 1%-2% response rate that will make each direct mail campaign profitable, even though we toss these expensive mailpeices in the garbage.
When I say expensive, I mean big bucks. For example, practically any of the mailers shown in the photo above cost anywhere in the range of $.65 – $1.50 each (mailed), depending on the quantity. And when you’re talking quantities of 10,000 to 50,000, that’s huge dollars, particularly if you’re just using Direct mail to prospect for new leads or customers who have never heard of you. And while the traditional direct mail industry seems to be going strong, Permission-based email is less than half the cost of of traditional direct mail marketing, to very likely produce the same results. This makes me wonder if the companies using direct mail have ever tested permission based email marketing.
When I say a fraction of the cost of traditional direct mail marketing, here’s what I mean. We recently quoted a price for an email campaign for a B2B client for 142,000 emails. Total costs, including creative, custom landing page (essential), and delivery was about $.05 per unit. That’s pretty typical. Compare that with $.65 – $1.50 each (mailed) for the quantities of 10,000 to 50,000 I mentioned earlier. How could a marketer who is looking for great results for the dollar afford not to test permission based email marketing? Permission based email marketing can easily achieve the industry standard 1%-2% response rate. Sometimes better depending on the list, product and offer.
Permission based, or opt-in E-mail campaigns are by far the most cost effective method of lead generation today. With the proper development expertise, you may achieve much higher response rates than traditional direct marketing at much lower costs with faster turnaround times. Proper development may make it perfect for new product introductions, marketing offers, newsletters, target new markets, etc. Plus, we can provide a highly accurate means of measuring response and conversion.
SPAM Sensitive? From what i understand, permission based email marketing is somewhat misunderstood. No matter how legitimately the email names were generated, marketers in general have a strong perception that all email marketing is SPAM.
Not true.
If you’re a little leery of email marketing becuase of the potential for spam, here’s the good news. All legitimate permission based email marketing companies follow very strict guidelines that protect you and your company’s reputation.
Must comply with the CAN SPAM Act of 2003.
Certify that all ‘opt-in’ emails sent contain an ‘opt-out’ option for the message receiver, a return email address and a non-deceiving subject.
Complete documentation of how opt-in records were collected (email form, address, IP address, date time Database sources assume liability for any and all legal issues with regards to the database.
Spam filter testing and deliverability rate of 100%. The databases used will clean their records at least 1 or 2 times a month to ensure deliverability.

ZAC-DMblogIf you are still using direct mail a primary lead generation tool, consider permission based email. You can easily get the same results for a fraction of the cost.

If you’re like me, you probably get hundreds of pieces of mail each week. And many of the letters, postcards, or self-mailers are beautifully crafted with offers designed to attract the industry standard 1%-2% response rate that will make each direct mail campaign profitable, even though we toss these expensive mailpeices in the garbage.

When I say expensive, I mean big bucks. For example, practically any of the mailers shown in the photo above cost anywhere in the range of $.65 – $1.50 each (mailed), depending on the quantity. And when you’re talking quantities of 10,000 to 50,000, that’s huge dollars, particularly if you’re just using Direct mail to prospect for new leads or customers who have never heard of you. And while the traditional direct mail industry seems to be going strong, Permission-based email is less than half the cost of of traditional direct mail marketing, to very likely produce the same results. This makes me wonder if the companies using direct mail have ever tested permission based email marketing.

When I say a fraction of the cost of traditional direct mail marketing, here’s what I mean. We recently quoted a price for an email campaign for a B2B client for 142,000 emails. Total costs, including creative, custom landing page (essential), and delivery was about $.05 per unit. That’s pretty typical. Compare that with $.65 – $1.50 each (mailed) for the quantities of 10,000 to 50,000 I mentioned earlier. How could a marketer who is looking for great results for the dollar afford not to test permission based email marketing? Permission based email marketing can easily achieve the industry standard 1%-2% response rate. Sometimes better depending on the list, product and offer.

Permission based, or opt-in E-mail campaigns are by far the most cost effective method of lead generation today. With the proper development expertise, you may achieve much higher response rates than traditional direct marketing at much lower costs with faster turnaround times. Proper development may make it perfect for new product introductions, marketing offers, newsletters, target new markets, etc. Plus, we can provide a highly accurate means of measuring response and conversion.

SPAM Sensitive? From what i understand, permission based email marketing is somewhat misunderstood. No matter how legitimately the email names were generated, marketers in general have a strong perception that all email marketing is SPAM.

Not true.

If you’re a little leery of email marketing becuase of the potential for spam, here’s the good news. All legitimate permission based email marketing companies follow very strict guidelines that protect you and your company’s reputation.

  • Must comply with the CAN SPAM Act of 2003.
  • Certify that all ‘opt-in’ emails sent contain an ‘opt-out’ option for the message receiver, a return email address and a non-deceiving subject.
  • Complete documentation of how opt-in records were collected (email form, address, IP address, date time Database sources assume liability for any and all legal issues with regards to the database.
  • Spam filter testing and deliverability rate of 100%. The databases used will clean their records at least 1 or 2 times a month to ensure deliverability.

Landing Pages: An easy way to convert more online prospects.

If you’re looking for ways to increase your site’s conversion rate, consider creating simple landing pages. It’s fast and easy.
What is a landing page? It’s a page that may not be accessed through your normal site navigation, and is used specifically to convert prospects who have responded directly from your banner ad, Pay-per-click ad, or promotional email. It’s designed to direct visitors to take a specific action — purchase, registration, or subscription, etc.
Landing pages are a key part of your advertising strategy, yet a small fraction of advertisers actually use them. And then wonder why their marketing dollars are wasted. Think about it. Have you have ever clicked on Pay-per-click ad, and ended up not getting the information you requested? An average visitor spends less than 10 seconds looking at a web page before deciding whether to take action or move on.
What Makes a Good Landing Page?
The headline and copy connect to the ad you clicked — If your ad promotes inexpensive kitchen knives, your landing page should focus on inexpensive kitchen knives, not on superfluous information distracts from the main focus, such as pots and pans. Your landing page needs to deliver the information you promised they would receive. Nothing more, nothing less.
It asks the visitor to take a specific action — your landing page should be designed to do one thing: persuade the prospect take ONE specific action — purchase, registration, or subscription, etc. Make your offer very specific and offer both a form and a phone number.
Short, benefit oriented copy, relevant to the ad they clicked — Landing page copy is usually shorter and more straightforward than the copy on your homepage. Keep it to a few short bullet point if possible. Shorter copy works best for encouraging people to take action on free items, such as signing up for a free newsletter or registering for a free service. Don’t over sell.
Nix those distracting navigational links — When it comes to landing pages, choices are killers. Once you’ve convinced (and paid for) a visitor to browse your site, you want them to stay on the page and take a specific action on your behalf. Tests prove that landing pages with too many navigational links consistently under-perform when it comes to conversion rates. Keep it simple: a company logo or header for recognition along with a link to the homepage is all you need. However, Google could penalize you if you leave out ALL links. Include the links in the footer rather than the header of the page so you don’t distract your prospect.
gnremail

If you’re looking for ways to increase your site’s conversion rate, consider creating simple landing pages. It’s fast and easy.

What is a landing page? It’s a page that may not be accessed through your normal site navigation, and is used specifically to convert prospects who have responded directly from your banner ad, Pay-per-click ad, or promotional email. It’s designed to direct visitors to take a specific action — purchase, registration, or subscription, etc.

Landing pages are a key part of your advertising strategy, yet a small fraction of advertisers actually use them. And then wonder why their marketing dollars are wasted. Think about it. Have you have ever clicked on Pay-per-click ad, and ended up not getting the information you requested? An average visitor spends less than 10 seconds looking at a web page before deciding whether to take action or move on.

What Makes a Good Landing Page?

The headline and copy connect to the ad you clicked — If your ad promotes inexpensive kitchen knives, your landing page should focus on inexpensive kitchen knives, not on superfluous information distracts from the main focus, such as pots and pans. Your landing page needs to deliver the information you promised they would receive. Nothing more, nothing less.

It asks the visitor to take a specific action — your landing page should be designed to do one thing: persuade the prospect take ONE specific action — purchase, registration, or subscription, etc. Make your offer very specific and offer both a form and a phone number.

Short, benefit oriented copy, relevant to the ad they clicked — Landing page copy is usually shorter and more straightforward than the copy on your homepage. Keep it to a few short bullet point if possible. Shorter copy works best for encouraging people to take action on free items, such as signing up for a free newsletter or registering for a free service. Don’t over sell.

Nix those distracting navigational links — When it comes to landing pages, choices are killers. Once you’ve convinced (and paid for) a visitor to browse your site, you want them to stay on the page and take a specific action on your behalf. Tests prove that landing pages with too many navigational links consistently under-perform when it comes to conversion rates. Keep it simple: a company logo or header for recognition along with a link to the homepage is all you need. However, Google could penalize you if you leave out ALL links. Include the links in the footer rather than the header of the page so you don’t distract your prospect.

SEO Primer: Designing your site with SEO in mind.

Building_Blocks_thumb

If ranking highly with Google is important to your business, here are some basics to follow when designing a website.

For the novice, Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the technique of publishing information and building links that makes search engines rank your website high in the organic search results. As more and more companies are seeking these desirable high ranks, SEO consultants are getting rich. No disrespect to SEO consultants, but these guys are not rocket scientists, just ordinary guys who understand how search engines work, and how to make them rank sites high.

SEO is not as hard as SEO professionals would like you to believe. Anyone can do it if you understand the basics. In a moment I will explain the fundamentals of designing a website with the proper search engine structure in mind. But first, I’d like to clarify a few common misconceptions about SEO in general:

You do not need to pay a small fortune to rank highly. If you know a few simple techniques, you can do a credible job of promoting your site. And if you still feel like hiring a consultant, remember, pricing for SEO can be all over the map. So shop around.

Here the top eight most important items to consider when designing your website, in order of importance:

  1. Keyword research – ideally, this is the best place to start when designing a site. Unfortunately this is not where most companies begin. Only by using keyword research will you be able to accurately identify and quantify your internet market niches. You can use a keyword research tool like wordtracker, for instance, to accurately show you which keywords are searched for the most, and have the least competition. For example, if you’re selling office lighting, the broad search term ‘office lighting’ is highly searched for, but a highly competitive phrase. Yet terms like ‘office ceiling grid lighting’ or ‘office fluorescent lighting’ may not offer the same high volume of searches, but have far competition.

Point to remember: keyword research is your foundation, or quantified roadmap to follow for internet marketing successfully receiving the most relevant traffic with regard to your target market.

  1. Domain – URL currently holds a lot of keyword weight. You may already have a URL, and it may or may not be descriptive or relevant. However, if you have the opportunity to start from scratch buy one that is short and somehow contains your most important keyphrase. As you probably are aware, there are not many short, descriptive URLs available these days. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create one. For example, for office lighting, you may be able to purchase www.officelightsweb.com or www.officelightsmn.com (localized) or other URLs contain your keyphrases. You’d be surprised what terms are still available.
  2. Title Tag – This is the 2nd most important part of design with regard to SEO. Your page title is what shows up in Google and shows searchers what you have to offer. That’s why search engines place so much value on this. Page titles should clearly reflect your primary key phrase and try to stay under 65 characters. Also, make sure every title tag is unique. So for www.officelightsweb.com/products/desk-lighting/ my title will be ‘Office Lighting | desk lighting, desk lamps’. For my root page www.officelightsweb.com it could be ‘Office Lighting Solutions for Business’.
  3. URL Structure – Simple and logical is best. Also always keep your keyword phrases in mind. In my example website, http://www.officelightsweb.com, because our product (and keyword phrase) is office lighting, I will probably have this URL structure: www.officelightsweb.com/products/desk-lighting/. I use dashes because most of the Search Engines see that as a space. The idea is to keep it simple, and straightforward so your site structure is easy for Google to navigate. You could add other pages in this fashion using more specific popular keyphrases in this fashion: http://www.officelightsweb.com/products/office-ceiling-grid-lighting.
  4. Content – Relevant content is king with search engines. The more content you have with your primay keyphrases included in a contextual manner, the more the search engines will value your site. Creating a blog, news, articles, and other sections of your site that are regularly updated with content is the foundation of a internet marketing website. The first 200-250 words are most important. Try to have your keywords phrase appear here at least twice. It does not have to be exactly the same and should not sound unnatural. See our section on content management to learn how to update your web content.
  5. Heading Tags – I try to match the h1 tag with the title tag. Which also happens to be your keyword phrase. Or at lease contain it within your h1 tag. Try to have it come right after your body tag so that it is the first thing crawled. It should only appear once on a page and corresponding h2, h3 tags should hierarchically relevant.
  6. Meta Keyword – This should simply reflect the keywords specific to that page. Not as important because it is only really used by yahoo right now. The more key words you have, the less value each one is. That is why each page should be very specific.
  7. Meta Description – Hard to say how much weight is put on here but it adds some value in click through rate. I usually try to put my keyword phrase in this twice. Once all together and once broken up.
  8. Images – If they are not in the CSS they should have alt tags that are descriptive and utilize some keyword phrase

Internet marketing 2007: Five critical, yet affordable, components for success.

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The good news, marketing isn’t nearly as expensive as it used to be. These days, it’s a small investment offering a big reward.

I often peruse the internet looking for new companies that market technology products and services. It’s a great way to quickly spot the truly serious and sophisticated online marketers. And, those that sorely need help.

What do I mean by sorely needing help? The websites of the technology marketers I refer to are lacking some or all of the five critical components for online marketing success:

  • Lead Generation
  • Brand & Message presentation
  • Positive user experience
  • Lead collection & conversion
  • Analytics/Optimization

The truly serious and sophisticated online marketers always, (without exception) have all these components working together like a well-oiled machine. As I surf through dozens of websites of budding technology companies seeking explosive growth, I witness many beautifully branded sites with consistent, compelling messaging. After a quick look at the source code, I notice that many of these sites are also optimized for search engines and powered by sophisticated lead tracking and data collection technology. On the other hand, I’m often shocked to observe many other start-ups, offering seemingly innovative products and services, that are woefully ill-equipped to compete in their particular marketplaces with their current websites.

These ‘ill-equipped’ sites are poorly branded with inconsistent messaging, and lack the most basic lead generation functionality and tracking. I see dozens if not hundreds of start-up companies relying on websites like this. I can understand that many technology start-ups are strapped for cash, but that’s no excuse. Until recently, a fully optimized, branded marketing presence could cost an arm and a leg, upwards of $100K or more. But in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace for branding and web development services, a savvy technology marketing company could build a powerful marketing presence with every feature necessary to compete for $25K or less depending on their particular needs.

With that in mind, here’s the question that every CEO of a technology startup should be pondering: what investment will take my company further, one new salesperson ($50K + commissions + benefits) or a fully optimized marketing web presence? To those serious technology marketing companies, the answer is obvious. Invest in a high-powered, fully optimized web presence.

So where do you begin? In today’s competitive marketplace, there are a number of mandatory website components that every technology marketer should have to achieve their business goals. So if you’re investing in sales growth, here are the five key components that your modest website investment should buy you:

1. Lead Generation – Attracting qualified prospects. You may have a beautiful website sporting lots of flash and such, but if no one in your target market can find it, it’s not a very sound investment. A fully optimized web presence is designed from the ground up with keywords and tags strategically placed in the overall site structure to achieve specific lead generation goals. Once this foundation is firmly in place, you can augment your SEO (search engine optimization) efforts with a variety of practical and inexpensive ways that drive qualified prospects to your website.

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) Online marketing is not as difficult or expensive as you would imagine. Just determine a niche you can dominate. Many online markets are not crowded. And it’s a safe bet that there are qualified prospects out there searching for the technology product, service or information resources you offer. So, to optimize your site, you don’t need to hire an SEO expert – just make sure your web developers plan ahead to get your site highly ranked on Google, Yahoo and MSN.
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising – Depending on your particular technology product or service niche, Google Adwords or Yahoo Search Marketing offers instant, targeted and cost effective lead generation and outstanding ROI. The beauty of buying PPC adwords, is that you can set your budget for the number of clicks you want, and sit back and test the results. You can start with a budget as low as $200 a month. Plus, your PPC adwords will also help you build traffic which also helps your build your search engine rankings.
  • Online Newsletter Sponsored Links – Whatever niche your technology company serves, it’s likely that there are dozens of online newsletters with very high volumes of opt-in subscribers that may be looking for your product or service. These are not cheap, but produce high quality leads.
  • Banner Advertising – Let’s say your search engine analytics tell you that many of the qualified prospects that visit your site come from a particular website that offers banner advertising space. Running and testing a banner advertising campaign on a website with proven results makes sense.

2. Brand & Message presentation – First impressions are huge. And the moment a qualified prospect clicks to your site, it’s critical to establish your credibility as a major player in your niche.

  • Keep it simple – your message and brand presentation should instantly tell visitors who you are, what you do, and how you can offer value.
  • Graphic treatment and compelling value propositions combine to differentiate you from competitors and build credibility.
  • Aesthetically pleasing – consistent presentation of colors, graphics and images demonstrate your competence while adding to your credibility.
  • Unique selling messages speak clearly to specific target audiences, helping you compete for audience ‘share of mind’ much more effectively.

3. Create a positive user experience – Now that you’ve attracted a qualified prospect to your site, you have to make it easy to find the information that attracted them in the first place. If your site navigation is difficult to understand or it makes their life difficult, your hot prospect will simply move on and start searching for another source. Anyone who has searched the web for information can sympathize with that.

Also, you can easily scare off prospects with content that’s poorly written, too technical, or just plain confusing. Here are a few suggestions for designing an intuitive user interface that keeps your prospects engaged:

  • Keep it simple – use clear, consistent navigation that makes it easy to find content quickly and easily. It doesn’t hurt to make sure it’s enjoyable to use.
  • Design for the way people like to read on the web – short concise sentences, bullet points, animated diagrams, whatever makes the information more
  • Give the user multiple ways to find the same content.
  • Keep your shopping process simple and seamless.
  • Design so that your site functions consistently across all platforms and browsers.

4. Lead collection & conversion – OK, so let’s say your prospect has found you, is convinced you’re a credible company, has easily found the information they were looking for, and is now ready to take the next step in the sales process. What now? The tools you’ll use are slightly different depending on a couple factors:

  • You’re selling product directly on your site – The days of expensive development for ecommerce shopping carts are over. You have numerous choices of companies who offer shopping cart services that are easy to set-up and tailor to your needs.
  • You want to prospects to qualify themselves – For example, a common strategy is to give away a Free Whitepaper in exchange for a prospect’s name, job title and company information. Your website should have simple forms asking for minimal information. You don’t want to bog your prospects down and make them think too hard.

Whether you want leads or sales, or both, information from prospects and customers should flow easily into a database that sales and marketing management can access. If you have fairly simple product or service offerings, this should not be a major undertaking. These days, it’s just part of doing business on the web. The cost of automating your sales process in this manner can easily pay for itself in no time.

5. Analytics/Optimization – Now that you have a steady flow of site traffic, it’s time to consider ways to optimize your site and generate even more prospects of even higher quality. There are many analytics tools available to you that tell you everything you want to know about how your visitors found you and how they interact with your site. Using analytics tools you can:

  • Track and compare all of your marketing initiatives including banner ads, email newsletters, paid links, and keywords.
  • Discover where prospects are entering your site, and where they’re leaving, so you can make simple adjustments to keep them interested.
  • Set up goals to track prospect conversions.
  • Focus your marketing budget on revenue-generating campaigns.

Conclusion

If you want to increase sales for your company, don’t spend another dime on brand advertising, direct mail, telemarketing, or sales staff until you make sure that your website is pulling its weight in your marketing mix. As I mentioned earlier, online marketing is not as difficult or expensive as it used to be. With a website equipped with the tools I’ve described, all you have to do is zero in on your particular niche and dominate. Done correctly, it’s a small investment offering a big reward.