5 Things That Will Be More Valuable Than Cash to Marketers in 2021

As 2020 has officially come to a close, and as business owners start looking towards the new year, it’s understandable that many are keeping a closer-than-usual eye on their bottom line. The last 12 months have been completely unpredictable, and they have left even established companies in some industries scrambling around for cash.

There is no substitute for money in your business bank account, of course, but most of the entrepreneurs we know aren’t in dire straits. For them, our advice is to look at the bigger picture. We definitely think this is a good time to hold onto your money, but not if it stops you from winning customers or hurts you in the long run.

To help make sense of this advice, here are five things that will be worth more than cash to marketers in the coming year…

1. A Top Three Search Engine Position

When your company’s website is highly visible on Google, it allows you to reach an exponentially higher number of potential customers than your competitors. Then, you can continue generating leads and making sales even if you have to change your products, services, or pricing. Because organic search positioning builds over time, that’s an advantage that’s hard for anyone to take away.

2. A Sterling Online Reputation

Having a strong online reputationin terms of the right reviews and testimonialsis always important. When the economy is uncertain and money is tight, however, people are even more careful about the way they spend and whom they trust. For that reason, having lots of positive online feedback can give all of your sales and marketing efforts a huge boost.

3. A Strong Brand Identity

While brand identity and reputation are similar, they aren’t the same thing. When you have a brand that is well-known within your target market, it amplifies the effects of your ads, emails, and other outreach activities. If customers and prospects know what your business does, and they understand your unique selling proposition already, they will most likely to say “yes” to your offers.

4. An Email List Full of Buyers and Prospects

Email remains the most cost-effective sales and marketing tool around today. With a few clicks of a button you can reach out to hundreds or thousands of buyers at onceprovided you already have a list of subscribers to work with. Finding engaged subscribers who look forward to your messaging is a great way to generate consistent sales and make your business recession-proof.

5. The Right Marketing Advice and Strategy

Is it a little self-serving of us to say good online marketing advice is worth more than what you pay for? Maybe, but it also happens to be true. When you have a team of experienced professionals nudging you in the right direction, it’s easier to get results while avoiding common blunders. This is especially true at a time when many of your competitors are probably scrambling around trying to figure out their next steps.

How COVID-19 Changed Business Forever

It’s easy to say that COVID-19 has changed virtually every aspect of life in the past nine months. However, while some temporary measureslike social distancing, mask-wearing, and avoiding public gatheringswill probably fade away, some other changes will be permanent.

In our business, it’s easy to see how the pandemic emphasized the importance of having a strong website. Even though some entrepreneurs will be anxiously waiting for things to go back to “normal,” we think many of the shifts are irreversible. In other words, all the reasons your website was critically important to your company in 2020 will continue into the future. That’s because we were already moving towards a digital-first business landscape.

As a full-service agency, we deal with everything: print ads, branding, package design, and digital strategies. But this year has been all about online business. The internet has been critically important to marketers for years, of course, but current circumstances have shown what is possible and accelerated a trend that was already in motion.

What does this mean for you and your business going forward? Let’s look at a few things that are already becoming apparent…

Your Website is the Primary Point of Contact for Your Business

In many ways, your website is your most important piece of real estate, your best employee, and your biggest source of referrals all in one. That’s because it can be seen and interacted with by many times more visitors than you, your building, or all of your employees combined. That’s especially true if you’re using search engine optimization and social media to their fullest powers.

When you have a strong website in place it enhances your credibility. It’s easier for people to trust you, and to understand the unique advantages of your products or services. In order to gain these benefits, though, your website has to actually be impressive. It also helps if you can use interactive toolslike online chat and real-time social media feedsto engage visitors from the first moment they arrive.

It’s Not Just about Looks Anymore

Although we are in the “business web design” industry, we recognize that term has become something of a misnomer. That’s because the design (or aesthetics) of a website are no longer the primary or only consideration. What you can do with your pages is just as important as the way they look.

We’ve already mentioned the big benefits that come with using online chat to engage with visitors directly in real-time. What we have also seen this year is that ecommerce plugins, online scheduling tools, and video training modulesto name just a fewcan all make a website more valuable. These kinds of features boost revenue, save money, and make it more convenient for customers to do business with you.

COVID-19 Will Pass but Digital Business is Here to Stay

Speaking of decreased costs and increased revenue, it’s important to remember that bottom-line considerations have been driving business website upgrades for many years. There are a lot of business owners out there who only made changes to their websites out of necessity in 2020. Now that they’ve seen the benefits, though, they won’t be going back.

There aren’t many silver linings to the struggles we have seen in 2020. However, it’s never a bad thing when entrepreneurs and executives can discover lasting ways to find customers or save money. That’s why it’s a safe bet that the “new normal” of relying on business websites is going to be with us even as the pandemic stops being an ongoing concern.

7 New Year’s Resolutions for the Struggling Online Marketer

Do you feel like you aren’t getting the right kinds of results from your online marketing campaigns? Struggling to even get started with search engine optimization, social media, and digital ads? Or, do you feel like you’re always trying to catch up to competitors who get leads and sales from the web while you struggle?

If any of these situations resonate with you, then know you aren’t alone. We talk to dozens of business owners and executives every year who are going through the same things. With a brand-new year right around the corner, this is your chance to set your company on a different and more profitable path.

To help you make that change, here are seven New Year’s resolutions for any struggling online marketer to follow…

1. Review Your Business Website Regularly

Your business website isn’t one of those things you should launch and then forget about. Go through your pages, like a customer would, every month or two to look for problems or spot places where your content could be updated. This could stop your site from getting stale and prevent you from missing big problems (like broken links or missing plugins) that hurt your credibility.

2. Post Something New Every Week

Most business owners and marketing professionals struggle with content creation for the simple reason  like it never becomes a habit. You don’t have to write a long article, design a white paper, or dive into a video series every week. What you could do, though, is adding a few hundred words to your blog, updating your company’s Facebook page, and taking a snap for Instagram. Do that regularly (maybe on a Saturday morning) and you’ll develop habits that will build over time.

3. Get Familiar with Important Web Metrics

It’s almost impossible to make progress with your online marketing plan when you aren’t sure what’s going on with your website. Basic online statistics will tell you how many visitors are coming to your pages, how long they’re staying, and what they are doing when they interact with your site. Once you have a grip on those details you can develop smarter strategies and make better investments.

4. Try Something New Every Quarter

Most business owners (and more than a few web designers) fall into the habit of only working with the tools or techniques they are used to. For example, they might only post to Facebook because that’s what they pay attention to in their personal lives. It’s fine to start with what’s comfortable, but make sure you’re always trying something new to expand your boundaries. Before long you might come across a new source of leads or sales that you wouldn’t have otherwise discovered.

5. Build a Brand without Overselling

Your messaging is important. You want to stay on-topic with your blog articles, emails, and social media posts. But, you have to do that without always being in hard-sell mode. Finding the right balance can be tricky. Here is a good rule of thumb to follow: when in doubt, write or speak as if you were explaining something about your business to a colleague. That will stop you from getting too personal, but also keep you from being overbearing with your marketing.

6. Put Your Focus on Consistency

You might have noticed that many of the resolutions we recommend have to do with keeping your efforts and campaigns moving over time. That’s intentional. Success in online marketing doesn’t usually come from an all-at-once effort. Instead, it’s the cumulative effect you get from hundreds of posts, updates, and interactions. Just keep at it and you will make progress.

7. Stop Trying to Do It All on Your Own

Want to know a secret? Even in a web design and digital marketing agency like ours, it’s impossible for one or two people to do everything. There is just too much to look after between content creation, online reputation management, hosting plans, and dozens of other details. You can get help with all of these thingsand a lot more—by working with a team like ours. It will probably cost less than you think and could make a huge difference in your company’s profitability.

Want to Make 2021 Your Best Year Yet?

There is no easier or better way to make your business more profitable than by improving your digital marketing strategy. And, there has never been a better time to get started with web design, search engine optimization, social media marketing, and internet advertising.

3 Workable Social Media Strategies for Your Small Business

There are a lot of things for small business owners to love about social media marketing. It’s largely free, can help you reach a huge audience of potential clients and customers, and can actually be lots of fun if you’re doing it correctly.

Social media marketing has its downsides, though: for one thing, social media can be a huge waste of time when you’re busy with other tasks. Plus, there are so many social platforms to stay on top of… with new ones showing up all the time. 

With all of that in mind, it’s easy to understand why some business owners feel too overwhelmed to even attempt to put a social media marketing strategy together. In today’s post, we want to remind you that getting social media marketing right doesn’t have to be in all-or-nothing proposition. In fact, we have three workable strategies you might consider in order to give your growing company an extra boost.

Strategy 1: Do a One-Time Setup so Customers Can Find You

The first step towards finding success with social media marketing is just having a presence on the right platforms. Your prospects and customers should be able to find your company (not just your personal profile) on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, at a minimum. You should also have a presence on the major review sites for your area or industry.

The point is to ensure that people who are interested in working with you can find you on their favorite social channels. That makes it easier for them to learn about your business, contact you, or leave a review. It also reduces the possibility that they’ll contact a competitor whom they mistake for your business. Why give some other business owner a sale or review that was meant for you?

Strategy 2: Schedule Weekly Posts and Boost Your Content

Thinking a little bit bigger? You should still set up your social profiles, complete with business descriptions, contact information, and custom photos, logos, and usernames. You could go further by scheduling intermittent content updates. You might even consider charging a few dollars for each post that you put online.

The goal of this strategy isn’t to dominate your industry or area on social media, but to make sure that you stay on the top of your customers’ minds. If they hear from you once every week or two, they’ll be reminded of all the great things that you can do for them. Based on how informative or entertaining your content is, they might even share some of your posts with their own friends and contacts.

Strategy 3: Own the Social Space with Consistency and Creativity

The third strategy is even bigger. It involves regular (or even perhaps daily) posting of content, complete with boosts, hashtags, and messaging strategies. The key here is that you aren’t just posting a lot of content, but you are being creative and building a brand. It ensures that fans and followers will engage with your posts, helping you to gain a bigger viewership over time.

The difficulty with this strategy, of course, is that takes time, money, and attention. That’s why most small business owners don’t start here. In truth, many never even get to this point. If you are managing your social strategy well, you might start with the first strategy, move onto the second and eventually even the third. Once that happens, you are dominating the social space, and it can make a significant impact on your sales from one quarter to the next.

Are Your Search and Social Strategies Generating Results?

Lots of creative firms like to focus on the technical details of things like search engine optimization and social media marketing. We are familiar with these tools too, but we prefer actionable plans and real results. After all, if you aren’t getting new business from your content, then what’s the point?

Does Social Media Affect Search Rankings?

In the last couple of years, the lines between search engines and social media have blurred a bitboth for users and marketers. On the one hand, lots of everyday users (and buyers) are using social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to find information, not to mention products and services.

Pair these changes with the longstanding debates within the SEO community about the role of social posts and activities within search algorithms and you get a lot of confusion about the relationship between the two. So, you might be wondering: does what you do on social media affect your search engine visibility?

The short answer is “probably not,” at least not directly. However, the story doesn’t end there. To help you understand the relationship between social media activity and your Google search rankings, here are a few things you should know…

Continue reading “Does Social Media Affect Search Rankings?”

Should You Be Worried About Google Zero-Click Search Results?

Lately, web designers and search engine optimization (SEO) experts have been sounding the alarm on a growing trend: zero-click search results on Google.

If you haven’t heard this term and/or aren’t familiar with the concept behind it, we want to bring you up to speed. We are going to begin by telling you what zero-click search results are. Then, we’ll get into the bigger question of why you should or shouldn’t be concerned about them. 

Understanding Zero-Click Search Results

What you really need to know about zero-click results is that a large number of Google searchessome estimates say more than halfnever leave the company’s ecosystem. A person searches something, for example, and ends up at Google Maps, YouTube, or another Google-owned web portal to find the answer.

For users, a zero-click search result can be fast and convenient. However, for companies who rely on Google for lead generation, it can be disconcerting to know that fewer and fewer users are finding their way to third-party sites on the web.

Assuming that you get a lot of business from Google, or you prioritize SEO as part of your online marketing plan, you might be worried. However, there’s a decent chance these search queries aren’t that relevant to your business.

Why Your Business Might Not Be Affected

While it’s true that more and more Google searches are resulting in zero offsite clicks, it’s also true that users are interacting with search engines in ways that are relatively new. For example, people commonly ask Google to forecast the weather, get the starting time for the big game, or find driving directions.

There are specific web tools and portals losing traffic based on those sorts of search trends, but they may not fall within your company’s area of influence. Google isn’t recommending realtors, making appointments with architects, or giving inside advice on insurance products (as examples) within its family of web properties.

In other words, many of the zero-click search results are coming from new, information-based searches that don’t relate to industries like yours.

Looking for SEO and Online Marketing Alternatives

While we stand by the notion that most small and medium-sized companies aren’t being affected by zero-click search trends, that isn’t the same as saying they will never be affected. In fact, it’s almost inevitable that marketers reading this article will be at some point in the future.

Google changes like all companies do, and SEO is in a constant state of flux. The key is to understand that and adapt to conditions as they are right now and will be in the near future. For 2020, that means continuing to prioritize search engine optimization in its various forms. It also means keeping an eye on the horizon and experimenting with new ways to reach out to buyers over the web.

Contrary to what some business owners, executives, and web designers get locked into thinking, there are ways to find customers that don’t revolve around organic search results. The beginning of a new year is a great time to re-examine them and size up opportunities for the future.

Are Your SEO and Online Marketing Strategies Setup for Success in 2020?

Every month we talk with business owners and executives who are following old playbooks for online marketing success. What helped you find customers five years ago won’t work today, and in fact might hurt your search visibility or leave you playing catch up with your competitors.

Effectively Marketing to Your Company’s Advantage

At The Marcom Group, we often meet business owners who have tried marketing their company on their own but never quite achieved the results they wanted. Maybe branding and marketing your business has taken a backseat to your daily operations. You want more business and more traffic to your website, but you’re not quite sure how to accomplish that. Working with a professional, full-service advertising agency like The Marcom Group can provide you with the guidance and resources you need to more effectively market to your target demographic. 

The Marcom Group: Your Marketing Partner 

Many businesses owners don’t realize just how important marketing is from the outset. They may use cookie-cutter services to create their website and other marketing materials—but these templated services are limited in how much they can personalize to your business. Do-it-yourself programs can only offer so many functions—but with The Marcom Group, your options are nearly limitless. From your website to your logo to your social media advertising, our team can help you create a cohesive brand that will be a lot more effective at bringing your business to the next level. 

When companies use professional marketing materials, it can make a big difference in how potential customers perceive them. Done properly, a custom-designed business card, logo, and website can show that you are an authority in your industry. People will be more likely to trust you than someone who has put little effort into building their brand. Our staff consists of talented graphic designers, web developers, copywriters, and digital marketing strategists. Each member of the team specializes in their area, providing our customers with a level of customer service and professional expertise that they just can’t get with ready-made programs. We pride ourselves on being able to offer a variety of creative solutions for each individual company’s requirements. 

When we meet with a new client, we ask them to think beyond their immediate needs to consider their long-term goals. This often includes utilizing social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to improve their web presence and more effectively reach their target demographic. Social media is an important component of any marketing strategy, but many business owners don’t have the time to keep up with their accounts. Our team can work with you to create the SEO-enhanced content you want customers to see, post it across your accounts, and boost the posts to reach the right customers. 

We Take a Holistic Approach to Your Branding

New businesses may not have a huge marketing budget, which can make them wary of seeking out professional help. However, The Marcom Group partners with each client to maximize their marketing budget no matter how large or how small it may be. We offer a diverse range of services customized to your business. We use a holistic approach to consider all aspects of a client’s brand, from their brochures and trade show displays to their website and social media posts. This provides for more cohesive branding across all mediums, which helps to improve your corporate identity.  

Many of our clients are concerned with ranking high in online search results. This is important to earning more business from people who are searching for a particular keyword or phrase related to your industry. After all, people are more likely to select a business on the first page of their Google search than one that’s several pages in. However, you must have the right SEO plan in place to get that kind of result. For the best SEO rankings, your website must be secure, fast to load, and easy to navigate. It should also be regularly updated with high-quality content using a variety of mediums, such as photographs, videos, blog posts, and other interactive tools. We utilize the latest SEO strategies, including Google Ads, to improve rankings for our clients. From regularly updating plug-ins and checking security features to posting blogs and other content, we can manage all aspects of your website to optimize it for PCs and mobile devices. 

A business’s online reputation is paramount to their success, so we also encourage our clients to reach out to their customers to post Google reviews. This increases your online presence via a platform that more and more people are relying on every day. Replying to negative reviews can also demonstrate that you care about customer experiences. We make providing this level of customer service easy through automated responses that help you reach customers more quickly, saving you time while also showing prospective customers that you’re responsive to their concerns.

What Mobile-Friendly Web Design Means to Your Customers

You have heard hundreds of times by now that you need to have a mobile-friendly website to compete online in 2020 and beyond. However, there is some confusion amongst business owners about what that actually means. Is it enough to have a responsive website that adapts to mobile platforms, or is there more to the equation?

To find the best answer to this question, we have to stop thinking like marketers and web designers. Instead, we should approach the issue through the lens of potential customers. What would mobile-friendly mean to them?

Through years of work, study, and user testing, we’ve identified several traits that need to be present for website to be considered truly mobile-friendly. Here are some of the most important factors…

A Website That Displays Cleanly on a Small Screen

This is the most obvious definition of a mobile-friendly business website, but it’s worth spelling things out. If someone can arrive on your site via a phone or tablet and finds strange layouts, distorted images, or other obvious issues, then they are very likely to click away. This isn’t a very high bar to clear, but lacking basic mobile functionality is a good way to alienate half or more of your potential customers.

A Web Layout That Works Across Several Browsers and Devices

Of course, just because your website looks great on one mobile device doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily going to display perfectly on another. You can’t afford to lose a huge chunk of business just because some of your customers like iPhones and others prefer Androids. That’s why pages and layouts need to be tested on a variety of screens and platforms. 

Reasonable Page Loading Times

Most of us have been through the frustration of trying to load a website that took several seconds (three or more) to come online. Your average mobile user will simply take their time and attention elsewhere. You can speed your pages up by investing in premium web hosting and streamlining your code for fast delivery. If you are unsure about your website performance, an audit might be able to give you the answers you need.

Content That’s Optimized for Mobile Devices

It isn’t only servers that affect website speed. The content you load onto your pages (particularly images and videos) can play a big role too. For one thing, it’s important that they are formatted with the correct size and resolution to display on both traditional computers and mobile devices. And for another, they need to be identified properly with HTML5 tags to prevent delays and errors.

Fast and Intuitive Website Interaction

Have you ever tried to navigate your way through a website, or complete a purchase, only to become frustrated and leave? This is an all-too-common experience in the mobile age. Remember that many of your customers will be tapping links and prompts with their fingers. They don’t want to type in long strings of information through forms, and will appreciate simple menus, click to call buttons, and other intuitive features that make it easy for them to complete tasks.

7 Urgent Steps for Marketers in the Covid Economy

As the coronavirus has taken over first the news, then our attention, and finally the economy, clients have come to us again and again with one question: “what now?”

The answer depends of course on the situation a business owner or executive is facing. For some, a Covid recession is a major event. For others, it’s a sad reality but not a huge business concern.

If you have the kind of company that is relatively unaffected by the current pandemic, then you might not be concerned with changing strategies or tactics. For all the rest of us, though, here are seven urgent steps you might want to take today if you haven’t already:

1. Don’t Panic or Make Rash Decisions You Might Regret

One of the worst things you can do, in this crisis or any other, is complicate matters by enacting quick decisions that compound the issue. This is a time to think clearly about what’s possible, what’s likely, and which opportunities or obstacles lie ahead. Take some time to get clear about what you’re facing and what you want to accomplish. Only then should you make strategic decisions.

2. Start Using Your Email Newsletter to Communicate

This is no time to be quiet or leave your customers wondering what you can or can’t do for them. While we would encourage you to reuse any outreach tools you have at your disposal; email is particularly well-suited for fast and effective communication. Let buyers know what’s happening with your business, even if nothing has changed. That way you won’t miss out on business because they have assumed you are cutting back.

3. Reach Out to Your Best Customers through Social Media

While email will probably be the preferred method of communication for the moment, don’t overlook the power of social media to connect with your best customers, clients, vendors, or partners. Some of them may prefer to communicate through these channels. And, sending a note through Facebook or LinkedIn (as examples) is more personal than reaching them through an email blast.

4. Look for Opportunities to Sell and Serve Your Market

Don’t assume there isn’t any business to be found in your industry, or that you know exactly what your customers want. Reach out to some of them and see if there are new opportunities to make your company a more valuable partner or resource. It might be that there are lots of ways you can serve buyers, or the community, that aren’t immediately obvious.

5. Investigate New Customers and Sales Opportunities

If your customers and clients are slowing down, don’t simply take it as a given that you will have to do the same. It may be that you are able to serve other markets (for instance, hospitals or delivery companies) who are doing a thriving business right now. Often, it just takes a bit of creative thinking and investigation to identify new sales opportunities, even in a downturn.

6. Cut Off Any Non-Performing Ads or Campaigns

We started our tips by advising you not to make any rash decisions. However, that’s not the same as saying you should stay still. If there are marketing campaigns or activities that just aren’t going to work in the current economy, then this is the time to pause or discontinue them. Don’t let your money go towards projects that aren’t going to benefit your business for many months to come.

7. Take Advantage of the Downtime to Get Better

One of the things that makes marketing hard is that most business owners and executives don’t have time to read books, take courses, or think about projects like a website overhaul. If there is any small silver lining to what’s going on in the world it’s that we have the opportunity to step back and be more intentional about our plans. Where do you want to be in a few months, and what can you do to make it happen?

5 Reasons to Upgrade Your Spam Protection Today

Recently, we have been reminding clients that our company has been offering state-of-the-art spam protection for years. In fact, we were one of the first creative firms in southern California to introduce inbox controls as part of our web design and hosting services.

With unsolicited emails bringing bigger risks than ever right now—including phishing scams, virus attachments, and ransomware—this is the perfect time to make sure your business is protected. Today, we want to share five simple reasons you should upgrade your spam protection if you haven’t already…

1. Dealing with Unwanted Emails Takes Time

You might think it doesn’t take long to clean spam from your inbox, but those wasted minutes each day add up quickly. In fact, you might be unknowingly spend a dozen hours on unwanted emails over the course of a year. 

Why not use the productive parts of your day on tasks that matter instead of dealing with spam?

2. You’ll Keep Viruses and Ransomware Out

It’s easy for even the most careful business owners or employees to accidentally click on an unknown email attachment just once. Then they may find their computers have become infected with viruses, malware, or even ransomware that restricts file access. 

With strong spam controls in place the odds that you’ll end up struggling with these hassles, or losing access to important data, are greatly reduced.

3. You Can Keep Control of Incoming Email

One worry business owners and managers have about using spam protection is that they won’t be able to receive messages from certain customers, or that they will no longer be able to view email attachments when they need to. However, with our email filtering service you always control what you want to receive and have the option of whitelisting important contacts.

In other words, you won’t miss out on any of the emails you actually need because you’re using spam protection with us.

4. You’ll Get Better Performance from Your Computers

Some companies try to fight spam and malicious emails using desktop software or antivirus suites. However, because these programs have to operate constantly, they can cause your computers to run slowly. And, they may create issues when you need to download or update software.

Our spam protection doesn’t need to be installed on your machines, so it won’t affect computer performance in your office.

5. Strong Spam Protection Costs Very Little

In most cases, getting the best of anything for your business means spending a lot of money. However, when it comes to keeping your inbox safe from spam, you don’t have to break the budget to get the coverage you need.

You can add email filtering to your web hosting package for one low monthly fee. It might be the best investment you make all year.