Posted on March 21, 2014
Filed Under (Marketing, Mobile, Web Design) by jennifer

mobile-vs-standard-websiteJust because your website can be viewed on a mobile device (smartphone, tablet) doesn’t make it mobile-friendly. To find out how to ensure your mobile customers have a positive experience, follow these 12 suggestions from mobile experts and Web design and development pros.

1. Be responsive (i.e., use responsive design).

2. Think with your thumb (or index finger).

3. Keep the design simple.

4. Keep content short and to the point.

5. Remember, an icon is worth a thousand (or, okay, a dozen) words.

6. Make it fast — by serving images that are optimized for mobile.

7. Don’t go overboard with Java.

8. Make it easy to find your phone number, location, and contact info.

9. Consider video, but add it wisely.

10. Make sure forms are designed for mobile.

11. Consider geolocation (directions to the nearest store, in-store availability of merchandise).

12. Test to ensure your content can be properly viewed on different devices, platforms, and operating systems.

To see full explanations of each mobile web design tip, go to my article, 12 Tips for Creating a Mobile-Friendly Website.”

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Posted on March 7, 2014
Filed Under (Marketing) by jennifer

integrated_marketing_diagramToday small businesses have more choices than ever regarding how and where to market or promote their products and services. In addition to traditional methods, such as print advertising and direct marketing, which can be expensive, you have email marketing, web-based advertising and multiple social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as mobile marketing.

To make sure they reach as many potential (and existing) customers as possible, small business owners and managers must use multiple methods and outlets. The problem is crafting one message that can easily (and inexpensively) be used or adapted on different media or sites — because as many marketers have learned the hard way, what works on Facebook doesn’t necessarily work on Twitter. And what works for traditional email marketing doesn’t necessarily translate to mobile.

So how can small businesses increase their chances of their integrated — or multichannel — marketing campaigns being successful, that is, getting viewed by their intended target(s) and driving traffic to their website, Facebook page, or store? I asked dozens of marketing pros to find out. Their top seven integrated marketing tips appear below.

Step 1: Have a clear understanding of who your target audience is.

Step 2: Pick your channels. Figure out where your target audience is and then direct your efforts at those channels.

Step 3: Have a consistent look. Your branding (logo, tagline, colors, fonts) should be the same no matter which media you choose.

Step 4: Create clear, consistent content that can easily be adapted or repurposed to suit different media or channels.

Step 5: Ensure that your messaging is integrated. Make sure your copy (tagline, calls to action, descriptions) are the same or sufficiently similar across channels.

Step 6: Make sure the people who are helping you market your products and services are working in sync (i.e., regularly communicating with each other).

Step 7: Don’t forget to track your campaigns — and coupons. If you don’t track your campaigns, how do you know which ones are working?

To read full explanations of each tip, read my article “7 Ways to Create a Successful Integrated Marketing Campaign.”

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Posted on February 22, 2014
Filed Under (General Business, Marketing, Networking) by jennifer

crowdsourcing-cartoonAh, the wisdom of the crowd. It can help companies (by attracting new customers) — and it can also hurt them (those pesky negative reviews on sites like Yelp). So how can your small business harness the power of the crowd for good? Dozens of business owners and marketing experts offered the following top seven suggestions for how to effectively use crowdsourcing — to both attract new customers and keep existing customers coming back.

1. Use the crowd to expand your graphic and web design pool/options.

2. Crowdsource your marketing/advertising photography.

3. Crowdsource new product development.

4. Tap the crowd to speed up application development.

5. Use crowdsourcing to test products (for bugs, functionality or simply crowd appeal).

6. Use crowdsourcing to foster innovation + build community.

7. Consider crowdsourcing as a form of customer outreach.

For a complete explanation of each tip and resources, read my article “7 Ways Crowdsouring Can Boost Your Brand and Customer Loyalty.”

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Posted on December 20, 2013
Filed Under (Marketing) by jennifer

ecommerce_iconFor small business owners, January is often a blessing and a curse. While you get to (hopefully) relax a bit after the Christmas rush (a blessing), you don’t want to have too much downtime, i.e., a big drop-off in sales (the post-Christmas curse). So how do you keep customers coming to your ecommerce or bricks-and-mortar store — and keep the cash register ringing — after Christmas and avoid the January doldrums?

I put that question to dozens of small business owners, ecommerce, and marketing experts. Following are their 12 best tips for boosting post-holiday sales — some of which you should start implementing NOW (as in before Christmas or Kwanzaa).

1. Include a discount coupon or gift card for a January purchase with items sold in December.

2. Keep holiday marketing efforts going until the end of the year.

3. Thank holiday shoppers and loyal customers with post-holiday special deals or savings.

4. Run a fun post-holiday contest.

5. Follow up with customers who have clicked on “this is a gift.”

6. Recoup sales from abandoned shopping carts.

7. Keep the deals coming with special January promotions and discounts.

8. Use social media.

9. Bump up your remarketing efforts.

10. Launch a new product or service.

11. Target and reward mobile shoppers.

12. Think globally.

For a detailed explanation of each tip, click on my article, “12 Tips to Boost Post-Holiday Sales.”

Wishing all my fellow small business owners a prosperous new year…

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Posted on December 4, 2013
Filed Under (Marketing, Social Media) by jennifer

twitter_logoWith over 232 million active users, Twitter can be a great way to get the word out about your small business, product, or service. So how can you turn 140 characters into marketing gold? I put that question to dozens of business owners and social media experts. Here are their top 14 tips on how to market your business on Twitter.

1. Optimize your Twitter bio. That means including a brief description of your business as well as a link to either your Home page or a key landing page.

2. Find out who the top influencers and experts are in your target area(s) and interact with them on a regular basis.

3. Get friends and colleagues involved. Have people you know follow you and vice versa — and encourage them to tweet about your business and re-tweet or favorite your tweets.

4. Tweet regularly — at least once a day.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for some Twitter love. Ask followers to retweet, mention or favorite your tweets — or to share content with a fresh tweet.

6. Track mentions — and respond if appropriate.

7. Retweet.

8. Favorite tweets.

9. Follow trends/hashtags and try to work trending hashtags into your tweets (without going overboard).

10. Offer discounts or special deals to Twitter followers.

11. Use images and videos. Photos and videos have been shown to generate three or four times more clicks than regular tweets.

12. Use promoted tweets (if you can afford to).

13. Make sure you are consistent with your messaging across all social media channels.

14. Track your tweets — using Twitter analytics or by including a bitly or similar shortened link to track clicks.

For detailed information about each tip, read my article “14 Ways to Use Twitter to Market Your Business.”

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Posted on November 2, 2013
Filed Under (Social Media) by jennifer

social-media-iconsSocial media can be a powerful marketing tool. But used the wrong way, social media sites can have a negative impact on your small business — costing you goodwill and prospective customers. So how can you create a positive impression of your small business and/or your products on popular social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ — and avoid potentially costly social media blunders? To find out, I asked dozens of social media experts. Following are their top 15 picks for the most common social media mistakes small businesses (and businesses of all sizes) make and how to avoid them.

1. Not having a social media policy.

2. Treating all social media sites as if they are the same.

3. Not making the most of your social media bio.

4. Using social media as a megaphone.

5. Focusing on quantity of followers instead of quality.

6. Over-posting and posting inappropriate content.

7. Newsjacking.

8. Not monitoring social media for suggestions, complaints or questions regarding your business or products.

9. Deleting or ignoring negative comments — or responding in kind.

10. Not responding quickly, especially to complaints.

11. Posting too infrequently.

12. Sounding impersonal or automated.

13. Sending automated direct messages (DM) to all of your new Twitter followers.

14. Overusing hashtags.

15. Not including a measurable call-to-action in social media posts. [Speaking of which, check out my new ecommerce site, Prepster Pineapple Clothing! Our fab new Prepster Pineapple Yoga Pants are perfect for hanging out or working out in!]

To see a detailed explanation of each social media mistake, read my article titled “15 Big Social Media Mistakes Companies Make — and How to Avoid Them.”

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Posted on October 18, 2013
Filed Under (Ecommerce, Marketing) by jennifer

ecommerce_iconHanukkah is less than six weeks away — and Christmas just four weeks after that. And analysts are predicting that this holiday season ecommerce (including mobile commerce or mcommerce) sales will be even better than last year. The question is, will shoppers be stopping and shopping at your online business?

To find out if your ecommerce site is holiday ready — and learn how you can drive more traffic to your online business and increase sales this holiday season — check out these 16 tips from ecommerce and online marketing pros.

1. Don’t wait until the last minute to get your site holiday ready.

2. Make sure your teams, servers and partners can handle holiday traffic.

3. Make sure your site is secure.

4. Have a true mobile version of your site.

5. Stock up.

6. Make sure pages load quickly.

7. Make products shareable.

8. Make checkout easy.

9. Optimize your copy.

10. Use video and 360-degree images.

11. Implement a holiday SEO strategy.

12. Staff up — and be ready to answer customer queries quickly.

13. Ramp up your email marketing campaigns — and add SMS marketing to the mix.

14. Run pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.

15. Incentivize customers to order early.

16. Offer free or discounted shipping — and provide shipment tracking.

For additional information, and to see explanations of each ecommerce holiday tip, read my article titled “16 Tips for Ecommerce Holiday Season Success.”  And be sure to check out my new ecommerce site, Prepster Pineapple Clothing!

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online_shoppingWith so much competition online for eyeballs (and dollars), your website needs to stand out. Indeed, many times you only have seconds to make a good impression. If your web or ecommerce site is hard to find, takes too much time to load, is unattractive or difficult to navigate, chances are you’ve lost a potential customer, maybe dozens of them. So how do you create content that attracts and sticks in people’s minds?

To find out, I asked dozens of web content and marketing pros. Here are 16 of their top web content strategies for engaging both humans (i.e., potential customers) and robots (search engine spiders or web crawlers) — and increasing your search engine rankings and sales.

1. Make sure your content can be properly viewed across platforms and devices (e.g., laptops, smart phones, tablets).

2. Know the customer journey. (Not everyone is going to land on your home page.)

3. Make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for.

4. Use keywords, but do some research first.

5. Create unique content.

6. Tell a story.

7. Provide product reviews.

8. Let visitors know they can trust you.

9. Blog.

10. Create evergreen content (content that doesn’t grow old or stale).

11. Remember that size matters when it comes to images and multimedia. (Small is beautiful.)

12. Think quality not quantity.

13. Say it with headlines (H1 and H2 tags).

14. Keep content short and to the point.

15. Make content easily shareable — and share it via social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest).

16. Brand photos, images and content with your URL and/or logo.

For additional information, including detailed explanations of each tip, please read my article, “16 Ways to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy.”

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Posted on August 5, 2013
Filed Under (Ecommerce) by jennifer

It seems you can’t go a day without hearing about someone or some group hacking a website or stealing credit card and other sensitive data from ecommerce sites.

So how do you protect your ecommerce site from being hacked and sensitive customer data from being stolen? I recently asked dozens of ecommerce and security experts to find out. Following are their top 15 tips for protecting your ecommerce business from hacking and fraud.

1. Choose a secure ecommerce platform.

2. Use a secure connection for online checkout–and make sure you are PCI compliant.

3. Don’t store sensitive data in house.

4. Employ an address and card verification system.

5. Require strong passwords.

6. Set up system alerts for suspicious activity.

7. Layer your security.

8. Provide security training to employees.

9. Use tracking numbers for all orders.

10. Monitor your site regularly–and make sure whoever is hosting it is, too.

11. Perform regular PCI scans.

12. Patch your systems by downloading patches and upgrades in a timely manner.

13. Make sure you have a DDoS protection and mitigation service.

14. Consider a fraud management service.

15. Make sure you or whoever is hosting your site is backing it up–and has a disaster recovery plan.

For additional information about these tips (i.e., how to implement them), please read my article, “15 Ways to Protect Your Ecommerce Site from Hacking and Fraud.”

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Posted on June 27, 2013
Filed Under (Web Design) by jennifer

Your website is often the first  and only  encounter prospective customers will have with your business. So it’s important to make a good first impression. Yet so many businesses, especially small businesses, ignore or refuse to spend money on good website design. And this can be a fatal mistake.

As numerous studies have shown, how your website is laid out, what colors, fonts, and images you use (or don’t use) can mean the difference between success (low bounce and exit rates, high conversion) and failure (high abandonment, low sales). And you do not have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to create a website that is both functional (easy to navigate) and attractive (easy on the eye).

Following are 11 simple tips for creating a well designed site  or improving an existing one.

1. Have a polished, professional logo – and link it to your home page.

2. Use intuitive navigation(e.g., horizontal menu at top and remembering that people read from left to right, top to bottom, like the letter Z).

3. Get rid of clutter. Excessive use of graphics and too much text distract and turn off readers. Give readers (white) space to breathe.

4. Use color strategically – to highlight items. Don’t think of your website as a coloring book.

5. Invest in professional or really good photography – and avoid those free or cheap stock images that everyone uses. Remember, visitors are more likely to judge you by your images rather than any text (no matter how clever).

6. Choose fonts that are easy to read across devices and browsers.

7. Put the most important information at or near the top of pages.

8. Design pages as if every one could be a landing page. (Not everyone is going to arrive at your site via the Home page.)

9. Say no to Flash and frames!

10. Use responsive design, i.e., design tools or a platform that automatically adjusts pages to users’ browsers.

11. Test your design – by having friends, colleagues, or paid testers review web pages and provide honest feedback.

To see full tips with explanations, read my article “13 Simple Tips for Improving Your Web Design.”

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