5 Low-Cost Ways to Start Planning for a Healthier Economy in 2021

Ecommerce retailers are hard at work trying to make the most of what is certain to be a busy and unique holiday shopping season. But what if your business isn’t dependent on seasonal transactions? Or, what if your company is in a holding pattern due to current economic conditions? How can you prepare for the coming recovery and turnaround?

Believe it or not, this can be a great time for business owners and executives who aren’t currently bringing in as much revenue as they might like. We know that for the short term it is painful, but we’ve also been working with some of our clients to prepare for brighter times ahead. 

Contrary to what a lot of businesspeople think, finding success online isn’t just about spending all of your time and money on internet marketing. Instead, it’s largely a matter of planting small seeds (through consistent effort) and watching them grow over time. It’s the men and women who can think aheadespecially when times are tough—who come out on top.

If history is any guide, a stronger economy is right around the corner. Let’s look at what you can do for little or no expense today to prepare for a healthier market in 2021 and beyond…

1. Tighten Up Your SEO Efforts

A lot of marketers will tell you that they’ve “always meant” to take search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing seriously, but never really had the time. Well, if 2020 has given us anything, it’s a bit of extra space on our schedules. If you aren’t being overwhelmed in other parts of your business, this might be your chance to finally catch up.

This is a great occasion to examine your search strategy. Are you targeting the right terms, keywords, and buyer personas? Is the content you are producing engaging to customers? Have you been getting lots of search traffic, or are you constantly falling behind your competitors?

It doesn’t take a lot of hours to generate an editorial calendar, post some new material to your blog, or have your website audited. Any of these activities can help set you up for bigger success next year. 

2. Develop an Organic Social Media Following

As with search engine optimization, social media marketing is one of those disciplines where business owners and executives are constantly looking for shortcuts and quick fixes. Everyone wants to have tens of thousands of qualified buyers following them on Facebook and Twitter, but you can’t buy that kind of engagement or get it by tweeting the occasional picture of your dog. 

Social media marketing takes a bit of effort and activity, but that’s why this is the perfect time to start taking it seriously. Optimize your profiles, update your contact information, and get familiar with tools that let you schedule your content in advance. Do all of that now, and you’ll have an easier time keeping up with your social activity in just a few minutes a day.

Building an organic social user following is like running a marathon, it takes time. If you get started now while things are slow, you’ll build the kind of following that pays off when the economy is turning around.

3. Follow a Smarter Email Marketing Strategy

You can use email to spread news to your subscribers, generate instant purchases, and stay on the top of buyers’ minds… all while bypassing your competitors. Or, you can annoy the people on your list and waste everyone’s time without generating any revenue.

Most marketers fail at using email lists effectively for a number of reasons. They stop attracting fresh subscriptions, fail to format their emails correctly for easy loading and mobile compatibility, don’t send relevant info, and mismanage their sending schedules. Even if you’ve made these mistakes in the past, you don’t have to keep repeating them now.

Take advantage of the lull in your business to start segmenting your email lists and develop a schedule that you’ll be able to stick to for the next year. Think about how you can grow your subscriber list and turn it into a source of new leads and sales. It might take a bit of work and planning, but this is an activity that will pay off in a big way later.

4. Improve Your Online Reputation

Improving your online reputation is the business equivalent of getting more sleep. It might not seem crucial until you realize it affects everything else you do throughout the course of a month or year.

When potential buyers hear about your business, they will almost invariably look you up online before setting an appointment or making a purchase. You want them to find positive reviews, powerful testimonials, and stories of the good experiences other customers have had with your company. What you don’t want them to see are complaints, unaddressed issues, or even fake pieces of feedback posted by your competitors.

To establish a strong online reputation, and be able to monitor it, is one of the fastest and most affordable ways to boost your marketing campaigns. This is the perfect time to start looking at what’s been posted about your business on the internet.

5. Get to Know Your Web Analytics

Ultimately, web analytics will tell you almost everything you need to know about the current state of your business and where it’s headed in the future. With the right perspective, you can see where new customers are coming from, what they like, and why they choose to do business with you instead of a competitor.

Of course, if you’ve never installed web analytics on your site, then you are in the dark when it comes to these insights. Even though there are plenty of free options out there, we regularly meet with business owners and executives who have no idea what their numbers look like, or which direction they are headed in. We don’t want you to make the same mistake.

It won’t cost you anything to get good analytics data for your website, and it only takes a little bit of time to start generating custom reports that can give you a lot of important details. Don’t let your business stop growing simply because you haven’t seen the numbers being generated by user visits.

Want to Put Your Business in Position to Fly Next Year?

For a lot of business owners and executives, 2020 has been a difficult year. However, these tough times have given them an opportunity to regroup and be more profitable in the future. If you want to be one of the entrepreneurs who comes out stronger for the experience of the last few months, this is your chance to start planning and preparing.

7 Ways to Deal with Online Competitors and Their Dirty Tricks

In most business books and classes, competitors are treated like an abstract concept. They are in the background, like gravity, but don’t really affect you except as a thought exercise. In that context, the way to deal with them is simple: just do what you do better than anyone else and let customers figure out that you offer more value on their own.

As most of us know, the real world doesn’t really work like that. You do have to concentrate on your own business, but your competitors are anything but abstract. They are people just like you. In fact, in some cases they are petty, unethical, and downright dishonest.

That brings us to a question that’s rarely ever addressed directly enough: how do you deal with the dirty tricks they play? What should you do to fight back when they try to run ads using your brand names, put up websites that look like your own, or try to copy your products? What are your options when they post fake online reviews, try to steal your content, or market their products or services with lies?

In today’s post we are going to give you the answers. But first, a quick warning: don’t try to fight bad behavior with more bad behavior. While it might not always seem like it, those who perpetrate online lies and scams usually get caught. And once they do, they can face severe consequences, ranging from legal challenges to blacklists from search engines and social platforms. Your competitor might be willing to risk the future of their business, but that doesn’t mean you should put yours in jeopardy.

With that little bit of fine print out of the way, let’s look at seven ways you can deal with dishonest online competitors and their dirty tricks…

1. Run Defensive PPC Ads

Suppose you have industry-leading products and services, or just draw a lot of traffic to your website. Your competitors might take an approach that could be summed up as “if you can’t be them, imitate them.” That usually involves running search and social ads based on branded terms or product names that are normally associated with your company. In other words, they try to steal web traffic that’s meant for your website.

An easy way around this is to simply run your own ads for the same terms or branded search phrases. You might not prefer to spend money on search traffic that was meant for you anyway, and that’s understandable. However, you’ll end up getting most of those visits at a very low price (usually pennies per click). And in the process, you’ll deprive your competitor of that web traffic while also driving up their pay-per-click budget at the same time.

2. Lock Up the Right Domains

A similar tactic some dishonest competitors will use is to direct searchers towards a website that looks like it’s owned by your company. Usually they’ll be savvy enough to employ a variation that’s just different enough from yours to avoid any legal liability. Again, the goal is to siphon traffic away from your website and towards their copycat pages.

If you have a very popular company, it’s worth taking the time to snap up a handful of related domains. As with running ads on your own branded search terms, this can be annoying but it’s ultimately going to be inexpensive.

Not sure which domains you should reserve to play defense against your competitors? Get together with your web design team to evaluate search in traffic patterns, along with your most important keywords or brand names. Then you can come up with a list of the most obvious targets and lock them up before your competitors can.

3. Monitor Your Online Reviews

One particularly nasty tactic some desperate competitors will use involves hiring people to post negative reviews of your business. The theory in this case is that if they can’t beat you on price, service, or value, they can at least make you look worse in the eyes of potential customers who might not know better.

This is an area where a little preparation goes a long way. For a few dollars a month you can have your web development team deploy reputation management software that will keep you informed any time someone leaves feedback about your business. If lots of false and negative reviews show up at once, you’ll be alerted before they can do any damage, and as an added bonus you can use the same tools to improve your reputation online with legitimate reviews, boosting your sales in the process.

4. Protect Your Content

There are lots of scams related to web content, but a competitor who is jealous of your success may simply use it as their own. Unfortunately, this is something that’s common enough for us to have seen dozens of times.

Protecting yourself from this kind of theft is pretty simple. There are software tools (like Copyscape) that will scour the web and let you know if someone has posted your copy-written material. If you find that has happened, you can contact the company hosting the offending website and have them remove the pages right away. Google and the other search engines will also take action against blatant content duplication or scraping. However, you have to monitor the web and be aware of the problem before you can do anything about it.

5. Post Comparison Product Reviews

Sometimes, the problem with competitors is that they try to pass their products or services off as better, using false or misleading information. If you come across minor exaggerations, you might not care enough to address them. If you feel like they’ve shared something inaccurate that’s going to hurt sales, though, you might decide to take the issue head-on.

The easiest way to do that is to simply post a side-by-side comparison video or product review. Just put what you have to offer up against the competition and point out the differences in a clear and accurate way. This type of content tends to attract plenty of views and can be easy for buyers to understand. 

Just be sure that you are sharing your facts, comparisons, and assessments. Being untruthful or overboard doesn’t help you. In fact, it just makes it harder for customers to separate you from others who are being unethical with their marketing.

6. Get Customers to Tell the Story

Even if you are completely honest and straightforward in your marketing, it can be hard to get buyers to pay attention. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem: because your competitors lie, it’s difficult for buyers to trust you. And because they don’t trust you, they can’t see the value in what you are offering.

To get around this stumbling block, you just have to let your satisfied customers do the talking for you. People might not believe marketers, but they do believe impartial reviewers who look and act like themselves. So, if you have testimonials from customers who faced the same problems that the rest of your target market is dealing with, get them to share their experiences.

The caveat here is to make sure your reviewers are uncompensated, specific about the benefits they received, and are easy to verify. Do that, and their kind words will do more to boost your sales than any kind of marketing content ever could.

7. Just Keep Leading the Pack

You knew this piece of advice was coming, didn’t you? As frustrating as it might be, the best way to deal with an unethical competitor is usually to ignore them and do your own thing. They might be getting under your skin, but they probably aren’t making a very big dent in your bottom line.

Think about it this way: when someone tries to imitate your products, your content, or some other aspect of your messaging, they are basically admitting that your business is better than theirs. They’re pointing out that you have the real thing and they are a pretender.

Naturally, we don’t want you to ignore serious copyright violations or let a competitor steal money from your pocket. When in doubt, though, your best bet is to work on your own business, continue racking up those positive reviews, and watch your reputation (and profitability) just keep growing.

Are You Getting the Right Kind of Online Marketing Advice?

Having the right information and strategy has always been key to finding customersand surpassing your competitors—on the internet. Now, with the changes and disruptions we are facing in 2020, it’s more important than ever to have a winning plan.

Are Online Reviews Helping or Hurting Your Sales?

Business owners often scrutinize every corner of their websites. They look for anything that can give them an advantage over their online competitors. However, they often overlook a crucial part of the online marketing mix. One that makes a huge difference between new sales and missed opportunities. This “hidden” component of the online marketing puzzle is a company’s online reviews(reputation).

Surveys show that 90% of all buyers will check a business’s online reviews before they ever convert into a customer. If what they find on Google, Yelp, and industry websites is positive, they can move forward confidently. However, if they see lots of complaints and bad reviews they may take their business elsewhere. Then, you’ll have lost the opportunity to win a customer without ever knowing why.

With stakes so high, let’s dive into three stages to make online reviews a positive part of your selling strategy.

Continue reading “Are Online Reviews Helping or Hurting Your Sales?”

Don’t Let a Negative Online Review Kill Your Sales

One of the best and worst things about the digital age comes down to the fact that customers have more power over businesses than ever before. If buyers say good things about a company, that positive feedback will show up on search engines, social media sites, and review platforms like Yelp. Then, more customers will come flocking and the cycle will go on and on.

On the other hand, a bad review can dissuade new customers from even investigating a business, particularly if the feedback is recent and sharp. That means you always need to be ready to protect your online reputation.

Knowing how important customer feedback is, and how hard it can be to recover from an online complaint or criticism, let’s look at what you can do to keep a negative online review from killing your sales and marketing efforts…

Read the Review Like a Customer

It can be easy, when you’re reading feedback from someone who is critical of your business, to immediately get defensive. Try to resist that urge and look at things from the buyer’s perspective.

Specifically, you want to see if their complaint or poor review has any merit. What is it specifically they were upset about? Is there some chance other customers feel the same way but haven’t expressed their frustration or disappointment? If so, that’s a bigger problem than the review itself.

Look at Your Business First

After you have thought things through, consider making changes or improvements to the way you work. Talk to staff members. Adjust your pricing and policies. Or explain details to customers more thoroughly.

This is important because one bad online review can turn into dozens if you make the same mistakes again and again. It’s never fun to read something bad about your company, but it can be a good thing if it alerts you to a bigger problem.

Respond or Refute

After you deal with any issues in your company—or decide there isn’t a problem you have to worry about—it’s time to think about the review itself. You essentially have three options: to ignore the review, write a response, or refute it altogether.

Believe it or not, simply ignoring a bad review can be your best choice sometimes. You can’t please everyone, and other customers are going to know that, particularly if the review seems off-base or irrationally negative.

In many situations, the smart move is to simply respond to the review politely. Tell your side of the story. Apologize to the customer. Or promise to provide better service in the future. Any of these show that you care, and that you’re paying attention to customer satisfaction. For all of those reasons, you can even decide to respond to positive reviews in the same way.

And finally, if you think the reviewer was mistaken, or if the negative review is somehow fraudulent or aimed at you personally, you could always request that it be removed from your page on a specific platform. Negative reviews won’t be deleted by administrators very often unless you can somehow prove they are unhelpful to other customers. Still, it’s something you can try if you think there is a chance to have it taken down.

Monitor and Grow Your Online Reputation

There are several tools you can use to monitor your online reputation and encourage your best customers to say good things about you online. They cost you very little, and can make a huge difference in your online reputation over time.

That’s important because the best way to deal with a negative review is to simply get lots of better ones that show up beside it. Anyone who uses the internet knows that even the best products and companies occasionally get complaints. And buyers will largely ignore the occasional piece of bad feedback if it’s next to lots of testimonials from happy customers.

Are You Getting All You Could Get from Your Business Website?

If you feel like your website and online marketing campaigns aren’t as profitable as they could be, it might be time for a change in creative direction. At the Marcom Group, we can help you make the most of your time, budgets, and websites.

4 Hidden Factors That Affect SEO Effectiveness

When the topic turns to search engine optimization, business owners tend to obsess over keyword density, inbound link scoring, and recent Google algorithm changes. But, while they are often concerned with the overall strength of their search visibility, many never pay much attention to the effectiveness of their SEO campaigns.

From our point of view, effectiveness really comes down to the bottom line results that are being generated. And really, isn’t that what should matter most?

If you agree, then it’s worth considering a few additional factors that can draw visitors to your website and convince them to either stay or leave. Let’s take a look at four details that often get overlooked when evaluating search engine optimization campaigns…

Continue reading “4 Hidden Factors That Affect SEO Effectiveness”