What Mobile-First Marketing Means for Your Business

Mobile-First Marketing

Last month’s Google Performance Summit in San Francisco, CA, revealed a number of changes to Google’s AdWords and Analytics tools. Some of the highlights of Google’s summit included the development of “Promoted Pins” in Google Maps, changes in ad bidding and a new appearance for ads in search results. All of these developments reveal that Google is moving forward into the mobile-first era while continuing to handle trillions of searches every year.

Google announced that its Maps service will soon include a new generation of localized ads, as well as “promoted pins” featuring local businesses. They note, “Nearly one-third of all mobile searches are related to location,” revealing that “people’s online and offline worlds are colliding.” Since locally-based mobile searches are growing, this is a tremendous opportunity for organizations to integrate their advertisements into the stream of their followers’ lives and to show them that they are located nearby.

Changes to AdWords bidding will now allow customization based on the platform of choice – desktop, tablet, or mobile. Again this change is driven by Google’s commitment to pursue a “mobile-first” approach to advertising. The increased customization capabilities for AdWords bidding will allow businesses to optimize their marketing for whichever platform drives the greatest response and, ultimately, to reach customers more effectively.

Finally, the “mobile-first” approach to advertising has led Google to reformat the way search results appear to favor mobile platforms. This follows Google’s decision earlier this spring to remove right-hand ads from desktop search results. Expanded-text ads and new responsiveness features in mobile displays further contribute to the versatility and appeal of Google’s world-leading ads program.

Google has published some very helpful information about how mobile searches connect customers to physical businesses. Of course, Google’s search and advertising capabilities have revolutionized the face of marketing in the digital age, and their shift toward a “mobile-first” approach means they are continuing to have influence in this area. The call for professionals in this ever-changing media environment is clear: as Google notes, “accounting for mobile and designing for mobile-first are two very different things.” Mobile advertising and search capabilities offer a promising way to bridge the gap between cyberspace and physical space, as the content users see online pushes them to visit physical locations.

The Public Relations and Marketing Group, LLC (PRMG) is a full-service public relations, marketing and digital advertising agency. A Certified Google Partner, PRMG is dedicated to helping organizations and professionals drive client outreach through strategies like mobile-first marketing. If you are interested in any of the services we offer, please contact us at info@thePRMG.com or 631-207-1057 for a free consultation.

Spotlight on Advertising: Google Ads Now Include Pictures

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If you are not already familiar with Google AdWords please read our Beginner’s Guide to Google AdWords to better understand the topic. 

On Wednesday June 5th, Google announced that it will begin to allow advertisers to add photos and pictures to AdWords campaigns.  The standard format, as viewed above, allows advertisers to target individuals who are already searching for specific products or services, and the ability to add a photo will only increase the effectiveness of these ads.

We know from our experience with social media that both ads and posts do substantially better when accompanied by images.  Not only do images increase the size of your advertisement, but they help your ads stand out.  High-quality images are engaging, and will help to expand the number of impressions that your online advertising campaign receives.

Use this advantage to strengthen your brand, by showing memorable visual content that you want immediately associated with your brand.  Previously, visual online advertising was limited to Google Display Network, which has a much more limited audience of websites that allowed Google ads to appear on them through Google’s AdSense program.

Essentially, Google AdWords allows for easily customizable and highly targeted ads that, if done right, will give you a good return on your investment. This option is currently in beta mode, and is not yet available to everyone. If you are interested in developing new online advertising campaigns, please contact 1-855-PRMG-123 or email at info@theprmg.com .

10 Ways to Generate Leads Online

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The Internet offers countless opportunities for building your professional network and generating leads for your business. Especially for those on a tight budget, it’s important to focus on making the most of lead generation tools and techniques that are readily available on the Web. This article will provide you with ten simple ways you can generate leads online for your business.

  1. Send Out Monthly E-newsletters — Email marketing is hugely effective when it comes to converting leads into customers over time. To maximize your email marketing efforts, it’s essential to keep in touch with your audience using an e-newsletter. Your e-newsletter should contain valuable, timely and relevant content that is intended to keep your audience interested in your organization and what services or products you offer. For more information on writing and distributing e-newsletters, please see our article, “Why Your Business Needs an E-newsletter.”
  1. Offer Free Content in Exchange for Contact Information — By offering valuable content such as guidebooks, e-books and other free downloads on your website and in your advertising, people will be more likely to give up their contact information. Even if it’s just a name and email address, this information is essential to generating leads and future customers or clients. Over time, engaging these leads with credible, valuable content can lead to long-term buying relationships.
  1. Host Webinars — Webinars are online seminars offered by a company to replace an in-person business conference, lecture or presentation. When people want to attend your webinar, they’ll have to enter their name, email address and other contact information, if necessary. This is excellent for businesses because, for every webinar participant, you’ll gain a new lead and a potential customer. The stronger your presentation is, and the better you promote your upcoming webinar, the more leads you will generate.
  1. Advertise Using Pay-Per-Clicks — Pay-per-click advertising is an excellent way to generate qualified leads. Pay-per-click advertising outlets, such as Google AdWords, allow businesses to market to people who are already actively searching for their products or services. Users who click on your ad will be delivered to a custom landing page where they can enter their contact information in exchange for the content or service that was advertised. For more information on pay-per-click advertising, please see our articles, “Interest-Based Advertising,” “A Beginner’s Guide to Google AdWords,” and “An In-Depth Look into Google AdWords.”
  1. Create Effective Landing Pages — A landing page is a single Web page that appears in response to a reader clicking on an advertisement. Landing pages are often linked from social media ads, email ad campaigns or pay-per-click ad campaigns. Landing pages should include brief descriptions of the downloadable content and services your business offers, as well as an image of the content and a short form for contact information. A well-designed landing page is essential for generating qualified leads for your business. Marketers can even measure the effectiveness of a landing page by analyzing the activity generated by the linked URL, such as click-through and conversion rates. For more information on creating effective landing pages, please see our article, “Five Steps to Generating New Business through Web Advertising, Landing Pages and Emails.”
  1. Submit Your Website to Web Directories — Web directories provide valuable backlinks that will improve your business’ visibility and search engine optimization. By listing your business in accurate categories, people who are already looking for information regarding your industry or service will be directed to your website, making them more qualified and targeted leads. For more information on free Web directories and other submission sites that offer backlinks, please see our article, “Why You Should Take Advantage of Free Submission Websites.”
  1. Distribute Press Releases Online — Every time you distribute your press release online, that site will provide backlinks to your main website. This will further direct interested readers directly to your business. Keep in mind that, for SEO purposes, it is vital to distribute press releases that are optimized for your target keywords. For more information on press releases, please see our article, “5 Tips for Writing Effective Press Releases.”
  1. Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile — When used properly, LinkedIn can be a great tool for business networking, developing professional relationships and generating strong leads. For B2B companies, LinkedIn is the ultimate social networking site. The first step is to make sure that your profile is as close to 100% complete as possible. Next, it’s important to boost your visibility and credibility on LinkedIn by contributing to group discussions on the “Discussions” and “Answers” boards. For more information on LinkedIn, please see our article, “Making the Right Connections with LinkedIn.”
  1. Share Documents, Slideshows and Presentations — By sharing your presentations or slideshows on the Web, you can not only boost the credibility and popularity of your business online, but you will secure valuable backlinks to your website. Websites such as Scribd and SlideShare not only rank high with major search engines, but they provide backlinks to lead readers directly to your main website.
  1. Maintain an Active Blog — According to a study done by KBK Communications, B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads than those who do not. Blogging is essential to any successful marketing and communications strategy, especially in regards to lead generation. Include a clear section for readers to subscribe to your blog via email or an RSS feed. For more information on blogging, please see our article, “Should My Business Have a Blog?

For more information, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group at (631) 207-1057 or johnzaher@theprmg.com. You can also visit our blog for more valuable articles, advertising spotlights and more.

An In-Depth Look into Google AdWords

Google Adwords

Google AdWords is so unique and beloved by marketers because it gives businesses the ability to advertise to an audience that is already interested in the products or services they offer. Using Google AdWords, you are put in complete control of how much you want to spend, when you want your ads to appear and where you want them to appear. Through its various components and special features, Google AdWords allows you to better target potential customers and clients without wasting money in the process.

Google is made up of two components: The Search Network and The Display Network. This article will provide you with an overview of these two networks, the different types of ads available through AdWords and an overview of AdWords Express.

What is Google AdWords? — For a more beginner-friendly analysis of Google AdWords, read our article, “A Beginner’s Guide to Google AdWords.” In this article, we discussed the basics of one of Google’s most effective, simple and budget-friendly forms of Web advertising available today: Google AdWords. Through Google AdWords, you can create pay-per-click (PPC) ads that can target users based on their location and keywords that you can select through bidding for certain search phrases. You can also incorporate “Ad Extensions” to help users easily find out more about your business and its offerings. Ad extensions expand text ads with one or more lines that provide additional information such as an address, phone number, page links and product images. When users click on your ad, they will be directed either to your website or a landing page. For tips on creating successful landing pages, you can download our free guide, “Five Steps to Generating New Business through Web Advertising, Landing Pages and Emails.”

To begin using Google AdWords, you must first decide to use either the Search Network or Display Network. The next step is to decide on a format for your ad, depending on which network you choose.

Search Network — The Search Network on Google AdWords provides an excellent way to reach your target audience on their personal computers, tablets, mobile phones and any other electronic devices used to find information. The Search Network allows users to advertise within the Google search engine or with search partners who allow advertising on their websites. For example, AOL.com and Ask.com are two of Google’s popular search partners. Advertising on Google’s Search Network allows you to target users depending on what keywords they use in their search queries. Your ad will appear in the “sponsored links” section, above the main search results, or on the right side of the screen when someone searches on Google using one of your desired keywords. If you are unsure of what keywords will work best with your ad, you can try using the Google Keyword Tool. By entering one keyword or phrase into this tool, you can see what related word searches your ad will show up on. One thing to keep in mind is that, unlike on the Display Network, you can only run text ads on the Search Network.

  • WAP Mobile Ads — While more and more people use smart phones when searching for information about local businesses or services, Mobile Ads may be the right fit for your business. WAP mobile ads are a format of AdWords ads that appear on WAP mobile websites, and are available as either text or image ads. With Google Mobile Ads, you can connect with your customers on their mobile phones by reaching out to targeted audiences across top websites and apps. When mobile users click on your ad, they will be send to your mobile webpage. One question to ask is whether or not your website is optimized for mobile devices. To see how your site looks on a mobile device, you can use the “GoMoMeter” tool at howtogomo.com. This site will also provide you with recommendations for creating a mobile-friendly experience for your business’ website. To create a WAP mobile ad, simply sign in to your AdWords account, navigate to the “Ads” tab at the ad group level, click the “New ad” link and choose “WAP Mobile Ad.”

Display Network — Using the Google Display Network on Google AdWords, you can reach users from all over the Web and choose from text, image and video formats to communicate your message to highly targeted audiences. The Display Network gives users the opportunity to run their ads on a gigantic network of websites that have Google AdSense enabled. For example, your ad may appear on a blog, online newspaper or a website that is relevant to what products or services your business has to offer. The Display Network offers lower costs, easier ad approval and a variety of formats for your advertisements. With the Display Network, as well as with every Google AdWords campaign, it is essential to keep an eye on your budget to monitor your spending. Another tip is to run one ad campaign on the Display Network and a second campaign on the Search Network. This will help you determine which network is more appropriate and successful for your business.

  • Image Ads — Image ads are graphical ads that are available on Display Network websites. Image ads contain graphics that can be matched to a page’s content to ensure that they are reaching your selected target audience. You can run image ads in both keyword-targeted and placement-targeted campaigns. To learn how to create an image ad, simply sign in to your AdWords account, click the name of the desired campaign, choose the Display Network and begin creating your ad by following the simple instructions here.

  • Video Ads — On the Google Display Network, you can promote your business’ video ads on the websites where your customers are most likely to spend their time. These click-to-play (CTP) Video Ads provide a valuable and engaging experience for viewers without being too intrusive. Video ads should be visually appealing, interesting and no longer than 30 seconds. Google also offers the option to play video ads on YouTube, using the “Promoted Videos” feature. Based on a list of keywords, your video ad will come up when viewers search for, discover and watch videos on YouTube. For example, someone watching a video of a piano tutorial may be presented with an advertisement for your music classes. Advertising on YouTube, the Web’s video-sharing superpower, will help you reach more customers and boost your video’s view count. Best of all, you will only be charged when someone watches your video.

  • TV Ads — Using Google TV Ads, you can target audiences on more than 100 national television channels such as ESPN, TNT and CNN, with the potential of reaching up to 35 million U.S. households. To get started with Google TV Ads, you must already have an AdWords account. Next, you can set your budget to determine how much exposure your ads will receive and what your maximum cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) will be. One thing to keep in mind is that there is no minimum budget requirement on Google TV Ads, but campaign budgets should be set strategically in order for ads to make the greatest impact with your audience. Next, you can target audiences by choosing to advertise on relevant programs, times of day or networks. The final step is to simply upload your ad and launch your campaign. If you already have a television ad, simply upload it with the AdWords tool. If not, you can use the Ad Creation Marketplace to make a new television commercial. After you’ve submitted your ad, Google will check to make sure that it complies with the technical specifications and policies of Google and its TV partners. If your ad has been approved, it will be ready to run on national television. Using the online functionality of Google TV Ads, you can track results, adjust your campaign and measure performance and ROI.

AdWords Express — The easiest way to kick off your Web advertising efforts is to take advantage of AdWords Express. Google’s new tool, AdWords Express, helps businesses promote themselves on Google Search, Google Maps and mobile devices. AdWords Express is the simplest way to advertise on Google. Creating your ad takes only a few minutes and then everything else is managed automatically by Google. After your ad campaign is running, it works just like the traditional AdWords tool. When people search in your area for the products or services that your business provides, your ad will appear above or beside their search results. Because of its simplicity and convenience, AdWords Express is perfect for local businesses that are looking to reach new customers but don’t have the time to manage an advertising campaign.

You may also be interested in tips on creating successful landing pages and emails. To learn more, please download our free guidebook, “Five Steps to Generating New Business Through Web Advertising, Landing Pages and Emails.” For more information about Google Adwords or other marketing tools, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group at (631) 207-1057 or johnzaher@theprmg.com. You can also visit our blog for more valuable articles and advertising spotlights.

An Overview of Google Business Solutions – The First in a Series of Three Articles

google

With its wide variety of cost-effective business tools, it’s no wonder why Google has secured its position as a global superpower on the Web. Google Business Solutions are a collection of services that are specifically directed at businesses and webmasters. Google offers tools to meet the needs of organizations and businesses of all sizes and boasts over 30,000 search and 3,000,000 Google Apps customers worldwide. This article, the first in a three-part series, will provide you with an overview of Gmail, Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Google AdSense, Google Chrome, Google Places and Google+. It will be followed by “An In-depth Look at Google AdWords” and then an article on “5 Additional Innovative Business Tools from Google,” which will focus on Google Offers, Google Engage and more.

Productivity

Gmail — With dozens of email providers to choose from, deciding on Gmail should be a no-brainer. This user-friendly email provider allows you to communicate and collaborate with reliable and secure Web-based tools. Gmail provides you with more than enough free storage space, significantly less spam, built-in text, voice or video chat and much more. You can also access Gmail from any phone, regardless of which device you use, to access your email on the go. For businesses, another comforting feature is that Gmail is entirely safe to use. Gmail uses HTTPS encryption to keep your mail and information secure.

Although most Gmail features are free, businesses can purchase a flexible plan of $5 per month to access a variety of premium features that include Google Docs and Google Calendar. Google Docs allows you to securely store all Web-based documents, spreadsheets, drawings and presentations online. This feature also provides real-time collaboration, which allows users to edit these files at any time, so you will always have the latest version. Google Calendar is a Web-based calendar application that allows businesses to manage meetings online and minimize costs. You can send event invitations, share your calendars company-wide or between specific co-workers, invite guests on mobile devices and much more.

Google Chrome — Google Chrome is a Web browser that combines a minimal, user-friendly design with sophisticated technology to make browsing the Web faster, safer and easier. Most people use their Web browser more than any other feature on their computer for searching for information, shopping, reading the news, watching videos and more. Therefore, it is essential to have a high level of security, speed and stability, which Google Chrome has mastered. Google Chrome is designed to be as fast as possible, up-to-date with the latest security updates and simple to use. Best of all, this Web browser is completely free to download on any computer.

Web Marketing

Google Analytics — This powerful Web monitoring tool provides users with rich insights into their website traffic and Web marketing effectiveness. Using Google Analytics, you can analyze data and determine which ads, keywords and other factors are most effective in driving traffic to your website and optimizing your Web presence. By consistently monitoring the information provided by Google Analytics, businesses can adapt based on what works and what doesn’t. Ultimately, this tool will help you create higher converting websites and strengthen your online marketing efforts.

Google AdWords — Google AdWords lets you create and run ads for your business with a custom budget. Ads are displayed under “Sponsored Links” alongside the search results when someone searches on Google using one of your chosen keywords. This tool is so effective for businesses because you are advertising to an audience who is already interested in what you have to offer. In addition to text ads, you can run display and click-to-play video ads on Google AdWords. For more information on how to use Google AdWords, please read our article, “A Beginner’s Guide to Google AdWords.” Look out for our next article, which will include a more in-depth look at the features and options available for businesses on Google AdWords.

Google AdSense — Google AdSense is a free platform that places AdWords ads on non-Google websites. AdSense allows Web publishers to earn revenue online by displaying ads on site search results, websites, mobile Web pages and mobile apps. By simply allowing others to place targeted Google ads on your website, your business can earn money. While displaying these Google ads, AdSense also lets you provide a Google search bar to your site users. By placing this search box on your site, visitors can search the Web directly from your website. Also, you will receive a “Top Queries” report that shows you what your visitors are searching for on your site. By reviewing the 25 most common searches conducted through this Google search box, you can identify additional topics, keywords or information to add to your site, based on what your customers or clients are searching for.

Google Places — Google Places is an excellent tool for allowing businesses to get found on Google for free. Since 97% of consumers search for local businesses online, it is essential for your business to be found in search results. Over 90% of the local business Web pages on Google have not been claimed. Claiming your business page will put you at an advantage since local business results appear at the top of search results on Google when someone searches, using a certain location. By simply registering your business with Google Business Center, you can help potential customers find you on Google Places. On your Google Places page, you can include your location, contact information, photos, videos and any other information that you would like to communicate to your audience. Customers or clients can also leave reviews on your Google Places page.

Social Media

Google+ — Now open to all users, Google+ is a relatively new social media giant that has taken the Internet by storm by reaching 10 million users in its first 16 days, from June 28 to July 14. Google+ improves upon the features of existing social media outlets. Like Facebook, you can create a profile, complete with personal information and photo albums, comment on other users’ content and share posts. Google+’s “+1” button also works the same as Facebook’s “Like” icon. Like Twitter, anyone can follow you and you may follow any user by adding them to your “circles,” no matter who they may be. The “Circles” feature allows users to organize contacts in specific groups. For example, you may have a circle specifically for friends and then one only for business contacts. Google+ also has many other unique features such as Hangouts, Sparks and Huddles. The Hangouts feature allows users to engage in live, face-to-face chats involving multiple people at a time. Sparks delivers popular content from across the Internet on any topic you choose. Huddles, available on Google+ Mobile, is a unique group messaging feature that allows multiple people to chat in one place.

Businesses can also benefit from including the “+1” button on their website and blog. For more information on Google+, read our article “Google+’s Advanced Technology Addresses Facebook’s Shortcomings.”

For more information, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group at (631) 207-1057 or johnzaher@theprmg.com.

A Beginner’s Guide to Google AdWords

Google Adwords

Follow These 5 Steps to Your AdWords Success

Google AdWords is one of the most effective, simple and budget-friendly forms of Web advertising available today. Taking advantage of Google AdWords can really help you make the most of your business’ advertising efforts. This form of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising targets users based on their location and your selected keywords, as well as other factors. These advertisements are so effective because Google AdWords allows you to reach people who are already looking for your products and services. Your ad will appear in the “sponsored links” section above the main search results or on the right side of the screen when someone searches on Google using one of your selected keywords. Users can then click on your ad to either make a purchase or learn more about you. In addition to text ads, you can also run display and click-to-play (CTP) video ads. Incorporating Google AdWords into your advertising strategy can drive more traffic to your website, maximize the effectiveness and reach of your advertisements and subsequently generate more leads. This article will help you get started with Google AdWords, choose the right keywords, determine your budget, create powerful advertisements and measure your performance.

1. Get Started — Once you are familiar with how Google AdWords works, choose a username and create your own AdWords account. Once your account is verified and active, you are free to begin. However, always set aside plenty of time for planning before starting any advertising campaign. It is crucial to determine who your target audience is before you create any ads. This is so important because on Google AdWords, you can target users by their location and related keywords. Using the Google Display Network on Google AdWords, you can reach users all over the Web and choose from text, image and video formats to communicate your message to highly targeted audiences. Once you create an ad, it is targeted automatically based on the themes in your keyword list or location you choose. Your ads can also be targeted manually, matching the specific placements you select, or based on the specific audiences you want to reach. For example, if your business is a restaurant and you are targeting people searching for food in a particular city, use regional targeting.

2. Choose the Right Keywords — Choosing the right keywords is essential to any Web advertising success. Before you create your ads, it is important to determine which words or phrases are most related to your business. It is essential that your keywords are relevant, high-quality and not overly general. They must directly relate to the theme of your advertisement and the page you are directing your potential customers to. A tip is to use phrases that are two or three words long. Selecting the right keywords will improve the performance of your ads and ensure that you are reaching the people who would be most interested in what your business has to offer.

3. Determine Your Budget— On Google AdWords, the amount you pay for advertising is entirely up to you. One of the main reasons why Google AdWords is so popular is because you are put in complete control of your spending. You can set a maximum cost-per-click (CPC) and decide on a daily budget. For example, you can set a daily budget of $10 or decide on a maximum cost of $15 cents for each click on your ad. This cost flexibility makes AdWords perfect for those on a budget. Which keywords you choose can also have an impact on how much you will pay. Each of your desired keywords can have a bid amount specifying the maximum amount you are willing to pay each time someone clicks on your ad. If your main keywords have high competition, you will pay more because the highest bid for a keyword gets the first place. However, especially for those who are just starting out with Google AdWords, we recommend using automatic bidding. With automatic bidding, you can set a 30-day budget and not have to worry about specifying individual bids for ad groups, keywords and ad placements. Google AdWords will set your bids for you with the goal of bringing you the most clicks possible within your budget.

4. Create Powerful Ads — If you are using text-based ads on Google AdWords, the content of your advertisement is the most important factor in reaching potential customers. The more powerful and compelling an advertisement is, the more likely people will be to click on it. Each ad is comprised of a headline, two lines of text, a display URL and a destination URL. Your headline will act as a link to your website and it should relate directly to your chosen keywords. The following text should convey the most important information about your product, service or organization. Since space is limited, it is essential for your message to be compelling, concise and descriptive. You can also help potential customers or clients find you by including your business address with textual ads. The display URL, which appears in green, will display the website that you are promoting and the destination URL is not visible because it is the exact page within your website where users are being directed.

However, text-based advertisements are not the only options available to you on Google AdWords. Using the Display Network, you can choose from text ads, image ads and video ads. Click-to-play (CTP) video ads provide a rich and engaging experience for users using visuals to enhance your advertising message. You can also choose to create image ads, which combine graphics and proven AdWords targeting technology. Before you create video or image ads, your campaign must be set to show ads on the Display Network.

5. Measure Your Performance — Periodically measuring your progress is important because once you know when and where your advertisement is most effective, you can adjust your targeting and bidding strategy. On Google AdWords, you can set up performance metrics in the “Campaigns” tab within your AdWords account. Here, you can see keyword metrics and view-through conversion reports that provide insight into the effectiveness of your ads on the Google Display Network. You can also use the Placement Performance Report to optimize your ad placements and improve the performance of your ads that have appeared on sites within the Display Network. This tool allows you to target more aggressively on Google as well as other well-performing search partners such AOL, CompuServe and Netscape. If necessary, adjust your ads, keywords and ad placement until you are satisfied with your results.

As always, if you would like further information or help with creating a Google AdWords campaign for your organization, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group at (631) 207-1057 or johnzaher@theprmg.com.

Marketing in a Recession Revisited

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12 Tips to Help You Survive and Thrive in a Double Dip

I thought it might be helpful to revisit an article I wrote on the “Top 10 Tips for Marketing in a Recession” in January of 2009. While many of the suggestions still apply and I remain optimistic about the long-term prospects for the U.S. economy, I believe that the economy of today is the new normal in the face of a number of economic hurdles, including high unemployment, international financial unrest and a depression in the real estate market. It is my personal opinion that things won’t change significantly, at least until business confidence can be restored with the election of a new President and Congress in the Fall of 2012. These recommendations suggest that while it is necessary to market, you must do so with the idea of slowly maintaining and growing your business, while continuing to overcome a myriad of external challenges.

Starting a Business in a Recession — If you are thinking about starting a new business in a recession, you are not alone. Small businesses are often the greatest generators of new jobs. This is one of the reasons why the unemployment rate remains high in the United States. Often, when people are laid off, they take the opportunity to start their own business. However, think hard before you start a business, especially if it is a restaurant or a retailer. For example, the highly competitive restaurant industry sees 27% of restaurant startups fail within the first year, according to a 10-year study by Cornell University and Michigan State University. If you are looking to open a restaurant or retailer, make sure that your business will be unique and that you are confident that there will be a demand for your product or services. Think along the lines of necessities, including health care or products like coffee. For example, think of the Dunkin Donuts and 7-Eleven franchises. Another essential point to keep in mind is that before you start your new business, you must set aside plenty of money for marketing. For more information on this, read our article, “If You Build It, They Won’t Necessarily Come…

One of the first overall suggestions I can make is that when choosing whether or not to start a business in a recession, you must identify what the most profitable businesses are and which ones can give you the most competitive advantage. In a recession, consumers require value more than ever. Just look at Walmart, Target and McDonalds. These companies have done relatively well during the recession because of the value they offer consumers. However, there is an exception with high end luxury markets. Although these markets did take a hit early in the recession as real estate values and stock market portfolios declined, they did bounce back. If you can effectively market to wealthier geographies and demographics, you should do so. If your product is a necessity, for consumers or for businesses, then say it is and why it is. For example, Apple did very well during the recession because consumers viewed their products as necessities. Also, if you have products that appeal to children, then make sure you market them effectively. Parents will be more likely to self-sacrifice than to deprive their children, especially when it comes to their education, health and development.

1. Focus on Your Customers — If you already have a business or non-profit organization, focus on your current customers and clients. Continue to do what you can to keep your current customers returning and always make sure they are satisfied. If you are a retailer or restaurant, send your customers a gift card or special offer to show your appreciation. If you are a professional, hold the line on your rates, provide volume discounting or some other type of acknowledgement of their patronage. From a marketing perspective, you should periodically send your clients e-newsletters, newsletters, use direct mail and engage them in social media to communicate special offers or news to keep them in the loop. Your next step in marketing your current business should be to focus on your website because this is the online hub of information and content for your organization.

2. Develop Your Website — Since you may have extra time now, it is time to focus on your website. Ask yourself: What do I need to do to get higher search engine rankings? The answer is to make sure you have a strong public relations and content creation program, develop your website’s on-page optimization and utilize off-page optimization techniques. For more information on on-page optimization, read our article, “On-page Optimization and Keywords.” For off-page optimization tips, read our article, “No, We Can’t Get You Those Results Overnight.” One tip is to incorporate microsites into your Web strategy. Microsites are essential to maximizing your Web presence and boosting your organization’s search engine rankings. Consider building microsites for specific products or services that your company offers. To compliment your website, you may also decide to create a blog. You may need some development help, but once your blog is created and your new sites are set up, you can use your CMS system or Adobe Contribute for sites created in HTML to make changes yourself. The goal for your blog should be to develop excellent content that will compel visitors to return and share with others. We highly recommend providing downloadable content on your site that visitors will be willing to give up an email address or other contact information for.

For more information on developing your website, read our article, “A Practical Guide to Developing Effective Websites.”
For valuable tips on Web optimization, download our free guide, “Web Optimization Tips.”
You can view examples of websites that The Public Relations and Marketing Group has created on behalf of its clients here.

3. Build Your Social Media Presence — It is crucial to share your content and communicate with your audience on appropriate social media platforms. Communicating with friends and followers through social media will help build your networks and engage your current customers. If you’re just starting out with social media, focus on the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If your business is B2C, focus your efforts more on Facebook and Twitter. For B2B companies, LinkedIn should be your first priority. Developing a strong presence on social media websites does require time but it can prove to be an extremely cost-effective way to market your business, which is especially helpful during rough economic times. For example, create a Facebook fan page for your company to communicate with customers and share photos and news. Twitter, the immensely popular micro-blogging network, is an excellent communication outlet to send short messages to a huge audience. LinkedIn is a professional networking site that allows users to rapidly build their connections, browse and post job offerings and share industry expertise with other professionals in their field. Determine which of these social networking sites you should devote your time to and build a strong presence there.

Beginners can learn how to create a social media presence for their business by reading our article, “Getting Started with Social Media.”
For more information on building a strong presence on Facebook, read our article, “10 Steps to Getting the Most Out of Facebook.”
To learn how to make the most of your Twitter account, read our article, “Secrets to Twitter Marketing.”
For more information on using LinkedIn effectively, read our article, “Making the Right Connections with LinkedIn.”

4. Network — Old-fashioned networking may also help you build professional contacts and reach potential clients at low cost. If you are a professional, attend networking events in your industry and other trade groups where you may find prospective clients. To demonstrate your position as an expert in your field, professionals can hold original lectures, in-house if possible, to keep costs lower. Retailers and restaurants can hold product demonstrations or workshops. Always promote these events to the public using press releases, social media and e-blasts.

Everything up to this point can be done at low cost. However, often this may not be enough and you will also need to advertise to successfully market your business. In a recession, it is often cheaper to advertise and you may have more leverage. However, always keep in mind that you should never advertise in something solely because it is cheap or within your budget. It is always better to spend more on something that is more likely to work for you. For example, your organization may benefit from targeted ads placed in print outlets, on the Web, through email or on television.

5. Focus Your Print Advertising — When using traditional print advertising outlets, make sure that you have the budget to sustain your advertising efforts. If you have a local business, consider using D-Cards and high visibility print ads. To ensure that your advertisements are reaching the right audience, micro-target your ads by placing them in specialty publications. For example, you may want to target a local community by using the front pages of Pennysavers or local newspapers, as well as D-Cards. If your services or products appeal to a specific trade group or demographic, consider specialty publications that service that group. If you need to advertise in a daily newspaper, be sure to put together a catchy ad that is in a high visibility location. In addition, Newsday’s daily deals are often good for retailers and those in the hospitality industry.

6. Target Your Web Advertising — For those on a budget, I would strongly recommend using Web advertising. As studies repeatedly show, more and more people are turning to online sources when searching for products, services or information. This is why Web advertising is so important when marketing your business. Popular Web advertising outlets include Google AdWords, social media ads, landing pages and daily deal websites.

7. Use Google AdWords — Google AdWords lets you create and run text, display or video ads for your business with a custom budget. This is good for marketers on a budget because you will only pay if someone clicks on your advertisement. These ads are displayed under “Sponsored Links” beside search results when someone searches Google using one of your listed keywords. Google AdWords is so effective because you are advertising to an audience who is already interested in what you have to offer.

8. Advertise with Social Media — Social media websites offer highly quantifiable and cost-effective advertisements. Like Google AdWords, you will only pay when someone clicks on your ad. Through social media advertising, you can control your budget, build fans, drive traffic to your website and micro-target based on user demographics, gender, age and interests. For B2C companies, use Facebook Ads to reach your audience. Facebook is able to micro-target based on what users have listed as interests. For B2B organizations, LinkedIn advertising can be effective. LinkedIn offers rich display and text ads that can reach millions of active business professionals. LinkedIn advertising is unique because it can target based on job title.
To learn more about Facebook advertising, read our article, “Interest-Based Advertising.”

9. Create Landing Pages — A landing page is a single Web page that appears in response to a reader clicking on an advertisement. A landing page is little more than a Web page that contains specific content and can be used as part of an effective Web advertising campaign. When used in a Web advertising campaign, landing pages should provide access to your entire website but the goal here is for the visitor to interact with the content on the page. By offering downloadable content, you provide your audience valuable material in exchange for their contact information. This will help you generate business leads and build your email lists. For more information on landing pages, read our article, “Five Steps to Generating New Business through Web Advertising, Landing Pages and Emails.”

10. Use Daily Deals Websites — Daily deals websites and phone applications are immensely popular, especially for those with smart phones. These websites and phone apps cater to a vast audience that is interested in obtaining new deals and visiting new venues. Daily deal marketing services such as Groupon and LivingSocial collect users’ email addresses and send them a featured email every day, offering a heavily discounted deal from a local business. Recipients may buy the coupon, redeem it at the local business and get the product or service they paid for. For example, on Groupon, you and the daily deal site will split the revenues from coupon sales and you will pay nothing upfront to Groupon. Running ad campaigns on sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial can prove to be hugely beneficial in attracting customers to your business, especially if you are in the restaurant or hospitality industry or offer some kind of service to your guests.

11. Use Take-Over Emails — Your business can benefit by using take-over emails in your email advertising strategy. Take-over emails allow you to take advantage of another organization’s broad email list. For example, Newsday and other publications offer take-over emails for $50 per thousand, meaning they will send out your email for you to their audience. When creating your email advertisement, make sure that the most important information appears at the top, under the fold of the email, and that you have a compelling title that will encourage your readers to read more. Include links to landing pages, your website, social media profiles and contact information.
To learn more about email advertising and take-over emails, read our article, “Web Ads, E-newsletters and Take-over Emails.”

12. Advertise on Television — Sometimes, you may need to reach large numbers of people in a short time frame. Under these circumstances, I would highly recommend considering television advertising. When advertising on television, it is important to narrow your target audience by using specific programming. Consider upcomers like FiOS, for example. If you are looking to reach businesspeople or wealthier viewers, consider advertising on CNBC or news channels. If your business’ product or service is catered to women, choose to advertise on channels such as Lifetime, WE or HGTV.