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124 Not-So-Boring Marketing Ideas for Small Business from Really Smart Bloggers

“Best Small Business Advice Series”

This exhaustive list was created for you by a team of marketing geniuses at Valpak

Tired of reading about hum-drum marketing “advice” you’ve heard before? So are we.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of really great ideas about marketing – from strategy to practical tips you can implement right now – from the web’s most respected marketing bloggers. Together, these articles will help you put a fresh spin on your marketing, find inspiration, improve the performance of your campaigns, and ultimately increase profitability. We’ve organized the ideas based on The Three M’s of Marketing: Market, Message and Medium. These ideas are not mind-numbingly redundant. Not regurgitated. Just awesome. So grab a cup of joe, get your pens out, get ready to Stumble, and enjoy these ideas and the bloggers they come from.


Marketing Approach: 3 'aha!' strategies to get your mind reeling

  1. You must look at your business the same way your customers do. Doing so makes you a better marketer. The truth is that customers do not”NEED whatever you’re selling … The real question is, what are you going to deliver that they can’t get anywhere else? What do your customers REALLY want? Then, how are you going to deliver that in such an exceptional way that your competitors simply cannot mimic what you do?”Always count on Robin Robins, author or Technology Marketing Minute, to tell you like it is.- Not Getting Enough New Clients? Maybe Your Marketing Strategy Is Based On The WRONG Premise
  2. Doing things the easy way is actually harder in the long run. You may choose the “easier” thing because in the moment it seems like “you’ll be less likely to face rejection,” but in the long run it can end up making your job harder because “easy” doesn’t always work according to C.J. Hayden of Women Unlimited. So, do what’s truly best for your business and that will BECOME easy. And then you’ll be marketing the way you should.” – Why You Don’t Market the Way You Should … and How You Can
  3. Got a banana stand? Probably not, but if you have a seasonal business, it’s wise to market 12 months a year. Kathryn Hawkins suggests that in the off season you should run specials and loyalty programs. Also ask fans to share stories and photos on social media all year long. The infographic she shares tells a good story, too. – How to Keep Your Seasonal Business Going after Tourists Head Home

Planning & Strategy: 8 awesome takes on keeping a clear, focused vision

  1. Santa Claus. Perhaps one of the most formidable “brands” of all time. Think about it. He does one thing and does it well. Stop chasing the new, shiny object in marketing. Know why customers choose you and stick to it getting that one message out there. – Why Santa’s Marketing Works Better Than Yours! by Sean D’Souza,
  2. If you want to stay focused, think like the Amish and their approach to crop rotation. The Amish care more that the land remains good for cultivating crops far into the future. Sometimes that means passing up what seems to be a crop with near-immediate pay-offs but little long-term benefit. – What The Amish Paradox Can Teach You About Marketing by Rohit Bhargava
  3. Want to be a better marketer? Read a lot. Larry Bassani, of Everyday Marketing Advice, explains how being exposed to descriptive language “enriches our lives by exposing us to new and different perspectives.” So, keep in mind the power of language when building your brand or any marketing campaign. – The Brain Power of Words
  4. Ouch. Over 1/3 of business owners admit to not having a marketing plan and say that’s the reason they lack sales and growth. Sylvia Browder reminds us in her post for She Takes On the World, that marketing is more than a one-off business card or flier. She shares seven essential pieces for writing a comprehensive marketing plan that we suggest you follow. – Marketing Plan: Why All Small Businesses Need One
  5. Sometimes marketing is just “not that freaking hard.” Sometimes the solution to a business problem is staring us in the face but we can’t see the forest for the trees. Take a step back and ask a friend to help you see the problem in a new light. Kudos to Catherine Morgan for her raw and real advice in Business Unplugged™. – Magic Wand for Entrepreneurs
  6. There’s simply no excuse for not measuring success. Writer and business mentor for startups, Tai Goodwin, writes in her blog, Launch While Working, “Very few business owners actually stop to evaluate to see if all the hard work and effort is paying off. Taking a day or so to actually review your systems to see it they are producing the desired results will benefit you greatly in the long run. I know we like to stay busy and “on the grind” but many times, the only thing getting grinded is us. We are putting in a lot of hours, but we fail to check our “Systems For Success (SFS). I call it doing a “Return On Actions” (ROA). Each system you set up in your business should produce measurable results that you can evaluate at a later date.” – Ten Tips for Building a Profitable Business (Part 1)
  7. Be patient. Success does not happen overnight. Results do not happen overnight. The business owners that go for the “slow” win are the ones that make it to the top. Jim Connolly, author of Jim’s Marketing Blog, has worked with hundreds of small business owners and says he’s never ever seen one that achieved commercial success at a life changing level who got there using a trick or shortcut. Those that have are often broke … and broken. – In Praise of the Slow Win
  8. The sassy and straight-shooting Shelly Cone, owner of Beach Betty Creative inspires us to be brave with marketing when she says “successful people feel fear and do it anyway … The only difference between successful entrepreneurs and you is that they didn’t let fear hold them back. Dig deep, let out a warrior yell and charge forward. Then, learn how to swagger like you own the room-because soon you will.” Wow! Who’s feeling gutsy now? We certainly are. – Get rid of fear, learn how to swagger

Your Customers: 7 'kick-in-the-pants' reality checks for business owners

  1. It’s quality over quantity when it comes to your mailing list. It doesn’t matter how many people you interest if they are not going to buy from you. Choose your advertising medium wisely by using the “channels with the heaviest concentration of people MOST likely to buy from you.” -How to Sell More in 5 Steps: The Essential Guide to Marketingby Peter Sandeen, Firepole Marketing Blog
  2. Customers don’t want quarter-inch drill bits. They want the promise of the quarter-inch hole. Greg Timpany referenced the landmark publication, The Marketing Imagination by Theordore Levitt, in his blog post when he reminds us that “what the business thinks is irrelevant, it is what the customer think[s] is important that drives our differentiation efforts.” Resist the temptation! Don’t compete on price or take up ad space with a list of bells and whistles. Sell the need you’re filling, not the product itself. Figure out what customers want before they want it through research and lots of questions.
  3. You probably have a good idea who your customers are. But who is your best customer? It’s the single most important question that every business owner must answer before starting a direct marketing campaign. – Who is Your Best Customer?, Business Advisor Blog
  4. Women like to be courted, even through advertising. Over 80% of purchases in the US are made or influenced by women – so chances are, you’re marketing to females and ought to keep this in mind. - Yvonne,
  5. Great advice if you’re marketing to women over 50: Steer clear of the white-haired-grandma-knitting-in-a-recliner stereotype! 55% of grandmothers today see their grandchildren more than once a week and 74% are deeply involved in raising grandchildren. Today’s grandma is hip, vivacious, active and lively – so your marketing should be, too. – Holly Buchanan, Marketing to Women Online
  6. It’s just as important to nurture existing customers as it is to find new ones. Give current customers a reason to stay loyal. “Marketing is a lot like romance. Success is just as much about ‘staying together’ with your customer as it is finding a new one.” – JoAnna Brandi in her post for Retail Online Integration
  7. If you want to acquire more customers, face the truth. It hurts to hear the truth sometimes, but boy does Makenzie Davies shell it out in her post for “Entrepreneurs are remarkably hands-on and control-freakish… and at the same time, remarkably aloof from customers. That’s a bad idea. If you think you know your buyers, then test your assumptions. Find them, meet them, share ideas about your new offerings and listen to their reactions. That means hearing everything they have to say – good, bad and indifferent. Use what you hear to challenge assumptions about the products and services you’re building, and fine tune them to respond to the needs of those you consider your prospective customers.”


Message: 19 tactics proven to make customers act

  1. To rise above the clutter, tap into your customers emotions. Consider this study of 50,000 brands: The ones that grew most over a 10-year period were those “connected to fundamental human values such as joy, connection with other people, exploration, pride, and societal improvement,” says Matt Egol on the Bazaar Voice Blog.
    “When people engage in brand experiences that activate values that are priorities to them, they may be more likely to identify with the brand and develop an emotional connection with it. For example, a recent highly successful Starbucks program connected perceptions of the chain with the values of universalism and benevolence by encouraging consumers to take action related to an issue (e.g., voting, recycling) and to share their experience with their friends and family
  2. We (you, me, our customers) use our whole brains to make decisions. Years of research have continually shown that people buy emotionally (right brain) and justify the purchase rationally (left brain). Armed with this knowledge, you can advertise in a way that appeals to your customers’ emotions and logic. – People Buy Emotionally & Justify Rationally: How This Affects Your Offer, Business Advisor Blog
  3. The most important word in your copy is “free” so use it … freely. – Direct Response Copywriter Word of the Night: FREE by Scott Martin,
  4. In addition to “free,” there are 13 other words that have more psychological prowess than others because they tap into an emotional trigger in the areas of the brain where our deepest and most instinctive impulses originate… so use them. They are: Free, Now, You, Save, Money, Easy, Guarantee, Health, Results, New, Love, Discovery, Proven, Safety – 14 Most Powerful Words in Marketing by Jamie Turner, 60 Second Marketer
  5. Use only active verbs in direct marketing copy. – 9 editing tactics to supercharge your selling copy by Dean Rieck,
  6. Writing for your website is different than writing for an ad. Keep it brief.- Write Compelling Ad Copy for Your Business Web Site,
  7. Speaking of brief, if you use a bulleted list, keep it short. People can process only seven pieces of information (plus or minus two). – How Customers Make Buying Choices, by Karyn Greenstreet, – Self Employed Success
  8. A magic headline formula is “Get ____ by {Doing something simple} Now” such as “Get Organized by Calling Us to Haul Your Junk.” An average headline only keeps 25% of people reading further. – 101 Headline Formulas by Peter Sandeen, Affect Selling
  9. Figure out what you do for your customers that your competition does not – and use THAT in your ad headline. – 8 Tips for Writing A Knock-Em Dead Headlineby Kris Mills, International Cyber Business Services
  10. Nail down “one thought” for your ad, email or blog post. This will greatly speed up your process AND get customers to act. Get to the one thought by chopping up your headline into fragments. Chip away each fragment until you left with the one word/phrase that you want the readers to remember. – How To Use Headlines To Get To “One Thought” by Sean D’Souza,
  11. Ha! To make a strong call to action, approach it the same way you approach your significant when you want him or her to do something for you.
    “Let’s say you want your husband to take out the garbage for you… do you think he’s going to do these things without you even having to ask? You’re going to have to ask for it… That’s what a call to action is all about. Be brief with it and give consideration to it when you ask for it.” The Call to Action: How Businesses Get Things Done by Carolina Ceniza-Levine for Six Figure Start
  12. When choosing photos, “avoid stock photos like the plague” says Karen Zapp on Karen Zapp’s NonProfit Blog. This is especially true if you’re offering a visual product like food or a service like exterior home repair (before and after’s). Take a lesson from nonprofits that use photos to tug at the heartstrings for donations and support.
  13. Stay away from generic messages in your ad, too. Instead, incorporate a narrowly-defined position in your ad. For medical practices specifically, Dr. Donna Galante, business coach for medical practices, says to forget general marketing statements like “We offer quality care” or “We accept most insurance” because they are used by many offices. Set yourself apart! – 5 Secrets to Successful Implementation of a Marketing Plan for Your Practice
  14. Stop right there! Unless you are really, really, really good at copywriting, hire a professional. Your direct mail campaign is really not the place to practice or hone copywriting skills.
    “Copywriting is something that is complicated, even though it doesn’t look that way. The trick is to make whatever you are writing seem as if you are simply being entertaining and informative, yet all the while you are manipulating the people reading what you have written.” 18 Simple Ways to Increase your income with direct mail, Internet Marketing Tips & Strategies
  15. To give your direct mail the best shot at being successful, write as you’re talking directly to the reader, saying “you” throughout. Use it instead of saying “we” because it’s more personal, relevant and creates a connection with the reader. – The Long Lost Marketing Method that Works Like Gangbusters by Michael Zipursky for Firepole Marketing Blog
  16. Do not put your company name in the headline of your ad. It’s prime ad real estate, so until you are a household name, use it to convey a problem you can solve for the customer instead of putting all the focus on your name. – How to Write Attention Grabbing Headlines by Charlie Cook, Marketing for Success
  17. Turn “fans” into fanatics. Start with your very first customers. Squeeze everything you can out of them. Solicit feedback and use it in press releases, social media, case studies, testimonials, videos, etc. (Get their permission to do so, of course.) – Startup Marketing: 10 Things To Do In Your First 90 Days by Will Davis, Marketing In Trenches
  18. When someone says “sorry, I can’t afford it right now” it means they aren’t convinced of the value. John Follis of The Follis Report acknowledges that this is tough to hear, but has candid advice:“Every day thousands of people will pay $5.00 for a coffee, $15,000 for an attorney, or $50,000 for a car. Because, whatever the cost, they’re convinced it’s worth it … The best option is to get some professional help to figure out what can be done (now) to more effectively communicate the value and benefit of the product or service you offer.Follis often references Steve Jobs, and how his success was in part due to the fact that he brought in experts to help him. “It’s a good lesson for every small business owner who thinks they: 1.) Don’t need marketing help or 2.) Don’t see the value of paying for the right help. So, before you react to prospects who say, “I just can’t afford it,” be sure you’re not saying the same thing.”Find a trusted marketing advisor to help identify what you need to change in your marketing messages.
  19. Good writing can make or break a campaign. Corey Eridon at Hubspot agrees, saying “the ability to find the exact right words to tell your company’s story isn’t an easy feat, and it’s even harder to do so consistently.” His list of ten companies who “totally nail copywriting” is a great source of inspiration.

Offer: 9 tricks and tips for creating a compelling offer

  1. Your advertised price has to scream value or it’s not going to resonate. Instead of putting emphasis on the dollars off or 20% off, quantify the value the customer gets for the money such as “100 gallons of paint” or “8 hours of housekeeping.” – 9 editing tactics to supercharge your selling copyby Dean Rieck,
  2. Remove punctuation and decimals from your advertised pricing to give a more positive impression of your price. This works on menus, coupons, direct mail, print ads and so on. – An Easy Way to Make Your Prices Seem Lower by Roger Dooley, NeuroScience Marketing
  3. Stay away from the number “seven,” especially in broadcast advertising. It is the only singular number with more than one syllable. Subconsciously, this sounds like “more” … which is not a good thing when you’re trying to promote a bargain. – An Easy Way to Make Your Prices Seem Lower by Roger Dooley, NeuroScience Marketing
  4. Want to get a customer’s attention with an offer? Do something unexpected. For example, the problem with the free-shipping incentive is that “most customers know it and expect it, making it that much more important that you go beyond free shipping in order to get the sale.” – Go Beyond Free Shipping to Attract More Businessby Mike Michalowicz,
  5. Want long-term customers? Try a front-end offer. Remember the viral photo of a dry cleaner that placed an ad on bus that read, “If you are unemployed and need an outfit cleaned for an interview, we will clean it for FREE.” Donnie Bryant of Marketing & Making a Difference, says “That’s not just nice. That’s an irresistible front-end offer. Focusing on others rather than obsessively looking at your own business is essential to running a successful business.” – Can Marketing Restore Your Faith in Humanity?
  6. Create an unexpected offer that makes the customer feel valued – like offering a 60 day guarantee instead of 30 days – and do it all with a smile. “Change anything about your business that doesn’t scream service” to keep customers coming back. – Copywriter’s Tip: How to ‘Attract’ New Customers, Instead of Browbeating Themby Carlolyn Permentier ,
  7. Good advice on creating offers for gyms and other businesses selling memberships or courses: Break up your packages in tiny steps that are logical for potential customers – an use those as offers. Mark Silver lays it out for you in his post for Heart of Business called “Is Your Offer Too Big or Too Small?
    “Remove the wall that can make your offer seem like a dead-end, and instead understand that once your client finished the current offer, they’ll be ready for the next step. What is that next step? Identifying the next step can help you relax into a smaller offer now, and it can also help you step up into getting your clients what they need … Just make sure the short course is something real and useful on its own, and not just an excuse to try to sell to them.”
  8. FREE. It’s a scary word to business owners, but there’s something in every business that can be given out for free that attracts new customers. Carrie Wilkerson, author and renowned business coach, drives it home in Marketing Lessons From the Pumpkin Patch. This popular pumpkin patch is one that she and her family
    “drive 1 hour and 15 minutes to get to, driving past other patches on the way there. They don’t charge admission and have tons of activities for the whole family … Apply these concepts to marketing your business: Get as much POTENTIAL traffic as possible, then get them to like you, to trust you, to stay, to buy. Then…guess what? Just like the pumpkin patch – they will drive PAST other businesses to get to YOURS. And they will come back again and again and again and they will bring family, friends and associates.”
  9. Offers must be useful and believable promises. Seth Godin, perhaps one of the most well-respected marketing leaders of this time shares this nugget of wisdom:
    “We only sign up/pay attention to/pay for offers from marketers when:What’s promised is something we think is worth more than it costsandWe believe you’re the best person to keep that promise.

    This applies to resumes, meetings and even the kid raking your lawn.
    If your marketing isn’t working, it’s either because your promises aren’t useful (and big) enough or we don’t believe you’re the one to keep them.”

Branding: 2 Tips to Remember

  1. It’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want in a logo design but stay away from anything generic by doing a Google Images search for logos in your industry. For instance, if you own a coffee shop, search in Google Images for “coffee shop logos.” Stay away from the common themes you see. – Design 99: 3 Ways To Steer Clear of a Generic Logoby Tim, 99 Designs Blog
  2. Branding goes beyond logos. It’s also about creating a memorable experience when customers are IN your store by paying attention to the details. Sometimes it’s as simple as carefully planning the background music store or restaurant. – Feast your ears: Why your restaurant can benefit from music branding by Tricia Smith, Smart Blogs: Food and Beverage


Direct Mail: 13 posts you've really gotta read before your next mailing

  1. The advent of social media and other digital marketing tools doesn’t make older forms of marketing, like direct mail, obsolete. In fact, they should work in tandem.
    “Mail pieces and technology are like the high school quarterback and the well-liked cheerleader. Direct mail is the star quarterback: reliable, smart, and firm to the touch. Technology is the flashy cheerleader: sharp features, full of new ideas and occasionally loud. Put them together and you have the prom queen and king.” Direct Mail Will Never Die!! Here’s Why Matt Haskell, The Digital Nirvana
  2. Hold your horses! There’s no need to hire that hot-shot graphic designer. Denny Hatch writes in Target Marketing Magazine that “ugly direct mail works better than pretty direct mail.” – Famous Last Words : Ugly Works!
  3. Funny works, when done right. “Humorous campaigns do better than price- and promotion-centered ads regardless of the economy.” – If Your Ad Gets Laughs, It’s Likely to Get Buyers by David Kanter, David’s Direct Mail Forum
  4. Give your direct mail a facelift. Still using photos and text from last year’s campaign? Try a new direction. Make it fresh with a new photo or “if you’ve been using a dry, informational style, insert some humor. If you’ve been sending short, punchy one-liners, try adding more informational text.” – Small Business Marketing: Give Your Direct Mail a Facelift, RivKind Blog
  5. Keep an “inspiration” folder of marketing materials you like, whether it’s an eye-catching color scheme, slogan, font or content that you found appealing. Browse through to spark creativity. – Give your Direct Mail Campaign a Boost – 7 Tips to Make it Work for You by Matthew Toren,
  6. Direct mail remains relevant – 85% of consumers sort through and read selected pieces of mail every day.- Direct Mail Marketing: Is It Worth the Cost? Blog
  7. Resurrect old ads. Take your best mail piece and get it back in the mail. See if it still works. – The mathematical formula for crazy direct mail ideas by Dean Rieck,
  8. Repeat the call to action, language or imagery used in direct mail on your website to assure visitors they’ve come to the right place. – Being Direct Isn’t Insulting by Larry Chase,
  9. “Constant, two-way communication is the way to keep customers coming through your door. The fact of the matter is that all relationships grow over time. Have you ever established a relationship with someone you talked to only once? Probably not. It takes nurturing and nudging.” – Are you Out of Sight, Out of Mind?, Business Advisor Blog
  10. “Train your team. Whatever system you use to track promotions, make sure your staff is prepared to respond to and keep track of inquiries. It’s the only way you can tell what worked…and what didn’t.” – Marketing Tips: Track Corporate Marketing, Service That Sells Blog
  11. “Track redemptions every single day. Putting it off will result in more work and risk of error.” – The Most Important Thing to Know About Tracking Coupon Redemptions, Business Advisor Blog
  12. Be prepared to run 10-15 tests before analyzing the response to your insert direct mail campaign to determine how well different audiences are responding to your offers. – Using Insert Media to Stretch Direct Mail Dollars by Leon Henry for Chief Marketer
  13. Email marketing and direct mail go hand in hand. ”Improve your response and overall revenue by adding an e-mail component to your direct mail campaigns. Every time you drop mail, you should send a corresponding (same offer and creative treatment) e-mail to any customer or donor for whom you have a valid e-mail address.”
    Fundraising Best Practice Series: Volume 1, Direct Mail by Andrew Wolsen,

Digital: 20 ways to improve digital marketing efforts

  1. What works in direct mail may not work online and what works on Facebook may not work on Twitter. Adopt your message for the medium. – Keys To Managing A Successful Online Presenceby Alex Konanykhin
  2. A great idea that’s easy to execute, too: Get your customers’ birthdays and send limited-time offers to them on their special day. – Build loyalty with birthday email marketing by Donna, Solid Cactus Blog
  3. Wanna build your SMS texting database? Here’s a clever idea: promote a discount to captive customers already in your store whereby they get a discount by texting to the advertised number. This brilliant little idea has potential for big returns. - SMS / Text Message Marketing: a 2-minute tutorial by marketing professor Todd Bacile
  4. Morning, afternoon? Weekdays or weekends? This infographic tells you when the best time of day is to send your email marketing messages. – The Best Time of Day to Send Emails Infographic by Mark, Adverblog
  5. QR codes aren’t just for “before” the sell. Put them on tickets, receipts and other “outside of the box” places that lead customer to the next experience. Example: A museum placing a QR Code on tickets for previews of the show and distributing digital keepsakes afterwards. – 10 Takeaways From the 2011 Emerging Practice Seminar by Tara George, Technology in the Arts
  6. Use QR codes to lead to your order/buy now page instead of just your homepage. – Who Needs Cash When You Have QR Codes?by Ashleigh, Dispatch 5.0
  7. Don’t send too many text messages to your customers. Sending at least one a month is about right. – E-mail and text marketing campaigns: How they bring more guests into your restaurant by Sara Petersen, Smart Blogs: Food and Beverage
  8. Bring the best of your online marketing offline. For example, include positive product ratings and comments from your website on shelf tags. – Insights from 11 million consumer conversations by Tara DeMarco , Bazaar Voice: Blog
  9. Solopreneurs: Build a customer base quickly is to make your business look bigger than it really is. Make sure your website has a big-company look. – Juha Liikal in 15 TRICKS TO MAKE YOUR BUSINESS LOOK BIGGER, The YEC
  10. When making the essential “mobile friendly” version of your website, trim back on content . You’re dealing with a much smaller space so don’t cram everything from your regular website on your mobile one. – How to Make Your Mobile Website a Hit by Sharon Merritt for Wild Boy Design Blog
  11. Do not copy text on your website: Google penalizes you for that. – Construction marketing: Creativity, copying and plagiarism: Where are the boundaries?, Construction Marketing Ideas
  12. Don’t limit video to your website or YouTube – promote it offline via QR code, direct mail, business cards, and in-store advertising. – Tips to Promote Your Videos Outside YouTube: The YouTube Advertiser Playbook – Part 8by Chris Atkinson , Reel SEO Blog
  13. Measure response to offline campaigns via a dedicated URL. – Offline to Online Marketing by Dave, Click and Mortar Blog
  14. Don’t pick hard-to-load graphics for your website. “Not only because they take longer to load (not everywhere has a high speed connection) but search engines get confused by them, and could potentially downgrade or even ban you in their rankings.” – Ten Website Mistakes to Avoid Like the Plague: Part 1by Suzanne Falter-Barns, Get Known Now Blog
  15. Wanna “get found” in Google? The first step is to claim and update your Google Places listing if you haven’t done so already. It’s a free listing for local businesses. Setting it up will help you show up in Google searches. Derrith Lambka shares some other pretty easy tips in her post. – How to Get Found on Google by Derrith Lambka, Marketing Zone Blog
  16. Words to use in email subject lines to get more clicks: survey, weekly, e-newsletter, series, posts, job. Be mindful of how you use them, though; convey what’s in it for the recipient. - The Science of Email Marketing by Debra Zimmer, Best Free Marketing Tips
  17. Customers who look at product reviews on a mobile device are the most likely to go to a brick and mortar showroom. “Keep an eye out for people checking a mobile device in the store, so you can have salespeople approach them and offer help.” – The Truth About Showrooming: It’s Worse Than You Think by Rieva Lesonsky, Grow Smart Biz
  18. Be patient with search engine marketing.
    “Most of the snake-oil and low-budget stuff that scammy SEO companies peddle to small business owners are based on false promises of quick fixes and rapid improvements. There’s no overnight success when it comes to SEO and online marketing; building trust and building a successful online presence takes time.” Matt McGee on SEO & small business search marketing by Matt McGee for Success Works: Powerful SEO Copywriting
  19. Chances are you don’t have the budget to create your own app. The good news is you don’t need big bucks to go mobile. Leverage ones that cater to small business, and use a reputable provider.
    “Big companies have more resources (read: money) to investigate Passbook integration, while small businesses don’t have the same luxury. Services such as SnipSnap (Passbook support coming soon), Gyft and even Valpak are great alternatives to both customers and businesses alike.” Add local coupons to Passbook using Valpak by Jason Cipriani, cNET
  20. Marketing to women? Try reaching her through an app. “When mom’s ready to make a purchase decision, there’s no way around it – value comes first, whether she’s shopping for the kids or herself … Apps [are] big winners with moms, too – 72% of moms are downloading more apps than a year ago.” The Shopping Mom’s Mindset by LauraTomasetti, 360 Public Relations Blog

Social Media: 19 things you really need to know

  1. There IS such a thing in ROI in social media! Brian Solis tells you how to figure it out, and compares social media to bars.
    “What is the secret of bars? Why do we happily pay four times as much for beer in a bar as in a store? We pay this brand premium to be with friends. The secret of bars is that they convert our quality time into cash. Like bars, social media are places where friends meet. The best social media programs also convert the consumer’s social time into a brand premium, reaching a return on investment (ROI) up to four times as high as the ROI of a TV commercial.” Calculate the ROI of Social Media by Brian Solis, Brian
  2. Go easy on “like-gating” on Facebook.
    “If you’ve ever been prompted to ‘like’ a brand before you actually get to see anything on its Facebook page, you’ve encountered like-gating. And while the practice certainly can earn your brand some quick friends in the short term, it may not actually do much to engage users. In fact, it can actually do some damage. It’s a cheap way to get a fan. Try discounts, contests, or exclusive access to info to gain fans instead. 10 tips for a killer Facebook brand page by Michael Estrin,
  3. Got people writing stuff on your Facebook page that’s just plain mean? ” Just like you learned on the playground, learn how to handle the jerks. Then, move on.” – A brand’s guide to handling social media jerks by Katelyn Watson,
  4. What is the size of the profile picture in Facebook? How wide is page of your brand? Here are all the numbers you need and you can even download a handy PDF Facebook cheat sheet. – Facebook Cheat Sheet: Sizes and Dimensions by Pritt Kallas,
  5. Who knew?! Facebook actually shares cool case studies of how brands are successfully using their site in Facebook Studio and Success Stories. And it’s chock full of great ideas and inspiration. – 5 Facebook Marketing Resources You’re Not Using Yet by Stephanie Buck, AmEx Open Forum
  6. Take 20 minutes every day (no more) to build your audience on Facebook. It worked for the owner of a Kansas Candle Shop who grew her Facebook audience up to 7,000 raving fans. She posts one thing every day, is always friendly, rarely “sells” but always informs, and mixes it up between offers, pictures, polls, and information. – How to Get New Customers – Insights from the Kansas Candle Queen by Dave Gilbertson, Constant Contact “Save Local” Blog
  7. Try Promoted Posts and Sponsored Posts on Facebook. Word on the street is that they can be pretty effective, given your messaging on target.
    “The combination of a Promoted Post and a Sponsored Story helped us to achieve metrics on our post that we have never seen before on our Brand Page … It’s important for every advertiser and brand to test things on their own. Just because one company sees a certain set of results doesn’t mean that your company will see the same. Every brand, fan base, target audience, and customer base is different and will react differently so what it boils down to in my opinion is test, test, and test again.” Facebook Promoted Posts vs Sponsored Stories Justin Vanning,
  8. Do not autopost the same message to Facebook, Twitter and other social media profiles. Be authentic, not a robot! – Should you autopost the same updates on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter? by Keren Lerner, Top Left Design Blog
  9. Use pictures in as many posts as you can, on Facebook especially. “Pictures are very powerful on Facebook. They take up more space in the news feed and can get more engagement than a straight text post.” – 9 Facebook Marketing Tips to Improve Engagement by Andrea Vahl, Social Media Examiner
  10. Don’t be annoying on Twitter. If you want Twitter to work for you, follow the unspoken rules listed in this well-known post about Twitter etiquette from the fabulous Amber MacArthur: How to Not Be Annoying on Twitter,
  11. A free and easy marketing tip! Announce a last minute special for your Twitter followers as a way to quickly boost business. – Simple Low or No Cost Marketing Ideas for Restaurants, Unique Think
  12. Figure out just a few topics to talk about on Twitter and own it. Don’t just blast out any ol’ message. “Bear in mind that Twitter’s a multi-directional communications platform. Engage with others by responding to comments and questions on your subject.” – The Secret To Attracting More Twitter Followers by Heidi Cohen,
  13. Wondering why your Facebook engagement has declined? You can thank Edgerank for that. You can always count on Hugh Briss at Social Identities to break it down in layman’s terms … and provide useful tips.
    “Facebook Edgerank most certainly affects whether your posts are seen or not. The better your content and the more engaged your fans are by liking, commenting, and sharing your posts, the better your Edgerank. If you engage with my Page posts more often or nearly as often as you do with those from your friends and family the chances that my posts will be seen are going to be better than if you read my posts but never engage with them.” Does Edgrank Really Affect How Many People See Your Facebook Posts?
  14. Use just about any customer interaction – from emails to face-to-face transactions – as a chance to ask customers to like you on Facebook. – 10 Ways to Get More Likes for Your Facebook Page by Donna Feldman , Get Clients Now Answer Center Blog
  15. Create a social media accountability plan and diagram who does what. Be detailed. – Questions Every Real Estate Broker Must Ask About Online Marketing by Doug Devitre,
  16. Ready to jump on that Pinterest bandwagon? Hold your horses… David Risley at Blog Marketing Academy says it isn’t for every business.
    “Focus on business building and your foundations. Worrying about building your Pinterest following isn’t even relevant if you have no email list and nothing to offer people. Otherwise, it’s just vanity. The only exception I think would be if you’re in the ecommerce business selling physical product. In that case, Pinterest is more relevant to you.”How Pinterest Exposed the Problem with Internet Marketing Training
  17. Social media: we love it as much as the next business but it’s just another tool in the marketing tool box.
    “The fact of the matter, especially when it comes to commoditized products like toothpaste, sales get done through direct marketing, in-store placement, search, coupons, ads and other incentive-based selling… At the end of the day, social media- the ability to comment and like/rate – is only really a feature set. All of the tool discussions from social networks to blogs is, well, the debate of finer tacticians who use that commenting feature.” Will Social Rule the World? by Geoff Livingston,
  18. Measure, measure, measure. Be adamant about tracking your social media efforts and stick to what works, change what doesn’t.
    “Many Social Media sites (and tools like HootSuite) offer critical analytic information to help ensure that the content you share is “sticky” – i.e. generating clicks to your site, social sharing, comments, likes, retweets, etc. It’s important for you to look at this data – whether on Facebook Insights, Hootsuite, or Google. “But My Business is Different”by Laura Roeder for Duct Tape Marketing
  19. When it comes to the web and business, perhaps no question is as discussed (and argued) as: “What should my business be doing online?” Matt Mansfield at Matt about Business, suggests this simple formula: “There are still no simple answers however, there is a formula which, if followed, can walk you through the process of answering the question again and again: What you CAN do online / What you NEED to do = what your business should be doing.”Not Sure What Your Business Should be Doing Online? Follow this Formula!

Blogging: 7 essential bits to use on your blog, anywhere, anytime

  1. Before you decide blogging isn’t “right” for your business, check out this article from Cheryl Burgess at Networking Exchange Blog where she shares ideas for blogging for any business, such as a plumber:
    “A small plumbing business could post blogs and diagrams to help its customer base deal with various small plumbing issues such as a leaky faucet. By offering free advice, the brand will build trust and become a thought leader.” Are You Building A Culture Of Content?
  2. If you’re blogging, answer people’s burning questions and give insight into what your business looks like every day through photos and funny dialogues between employees. – Branding With Your Blog by Troy Hanna, Address Two
  3. Take the fewer, bigger, better approach when it comes to choosing the social media channels for your business. “It’s being involved that counts too. Use social services like KnowEm to secure your profiles to prevent any trademark issues. Test and try each of platforms to see where your customers are, where you get the most engagement, where you get the most traffic, where you get the most links, and most importantly, where you get the most sales. Does Your Small Business Need a Facebook and Twitter Social Media Account by Michael, “Michael Graywolf’s SEO Blog”
  4. An editorial calendar is a MUST if you use social media. Download one here.- How to Develop a Social Media Editorial Calendar by Heidi Cohen, Heidi’s Actionable Marketing Blog
  5. Your employees are perhaps your greatest untapped resource for telling your story and advocating for your business. As marketing expert Cheryl Burgess says, “Storytelling has always been a brand’s greatest ally, but not until the past decade has it been possible to distribute it so readily.” – Brand Storytelling: Why Your Employees Should Tell Your Story by Cheryl Burgess, Blue Focus Marketing
  6. Flip through a magazine or check eNewsletters in your inbox for inspiration on blog topics (and status updates and Tweets). – 17 Blog Content Brainstorming Resources by Linda Fulkerson, On Blogging Well
  7. Use gritting writing on your blog. “Gritty writing is about doing the work to get the right message to the right people. If the audience doesn’t get it, it’s the storyteller’s job to fix it – to improve the delivery. That’s the work. Whether you write your words on the page, speak them to your team or audience, or model them in your actions, it’s all communication – it all carries a message.”Are You a Gritty Writer?by Jamilla H Warner,

PR: 6 practical tips for getting coverage

  1. Want PR? Then, be irresistible to the media. PR pro, Elena of PR in Your Pajamas explains in her post: 109 Ways to Make Your Business Irresistible to the Media:
    “If you’ve ever wondered, “Why did they interview that guy instead of me?” Actually, it’s not you. 99 times out of 100, it’s not your qualifications, your knowledge, or your ability. It’s your approach. The first step is to build the relationship months in advance of pitching.”
  2. To get your website into a news story, use one of the techniques that Joan Stewart, aka The Publicity Hound for Communications Conversations, shares: “Tell [the media] the name of your company is (fill in the blank).com. Instead of identifying my company as The Publicity Hound, I’d say it’s”
  3. Holding an event that you want the news to cover? Just remember that there are hundreds of events happening at the same time on any given day. So don’t count on the media to get the word out. Try promoting on social media, too.
    “Invest the bulk of your time blasting your event out on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. (please do so wisely, though, with well-crafted posts). Take advantage of online event guides. A lot of them are tweeting the events listed on them, thus doubling your social media efforts. Still alert the media your event is happening with a press release. Just make sure you target it, and don’t expect a massive push of coverage unless there is something really “cool” or a celebrity present.” News vs. Newsworthy: Knowing When To Publicize And When To Promote by Kim Ring,
  4. Figure out the right reporters at key media outlets, the ones that care most about your message. And before you pitch them, establish a relationship with them.
    “Reach out to the media and offer an informational interview. Take journalists to lunch. Offer giveaways to bloggers. It’s critical to maintain a friendly and open relationship with the media. If they already know you before you pitch a story, you’re much more likely to get coverage.” PR Tips for Small Business: Part One by Mollie Borchers for &
  5. Go to this website now: This is where many journalists to go to find help and resources on stories they’re working. In time, you’ll find a story that is relevant to your business, and you can contact the journalist yourself to be a part of the story. – Fast Public Relations Tips for Busy Small Business Ownersby Kelsey McBride,
  6. PR 101: Don’t forget your manners. This means following up with a journalist that you worked with to say “thank you” for their time. Be genuine, “regardless of their interest this time around. They might buy from you tomorrow.” – Selling the Story – What PR Can Learn From Sales by Jeremy Porter,

Networking and Word of Mouth: 6 reminders you forgot your needed

  1. Want more referrals? Be sincere. Follow the advice Mike Hartzell shares on his blog, Mike Hartzell Blog:
    “Make it your first purpose to make their [i.e.customers'] day rather than talking products and services… Instead of studying in a course or reading a book about ‘how to get referrals’, time may be better spent giving a random 20% bonus service to customers. The old adage of ‘No good deed goes unpunished’ in reality should say: Good deeds create success.” Get Referrals by Following the Law of Contribution by Mike Hartzell, Mike Hartzell Blog
  2. To build a strong network of partners and customers, spread the love. Share their work. If they are launching a new product or service, send it to your network. Eventually they will do the same for you. – How to Build a Strong Business Communityby Pamela Slim, Escape from Cubicle Nation
  3. It may be almost 2013, but business cards are still useful. Give them out to the clerk at the grocery store and give them to friends, but write a personal note on the back to make them a memorable keepsake. – The 13 Best Ways to Use Business Cards by Diana, Natural Touch Marketing Blog
  4. Make a list of the ways your business can help your community. Then make a list of ways your business could use help and support FROM your community. There are so many ways to form good “win-win” strategic partnerships…it’s just a matter of looking in the right direction. – STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS (OR It’s Not Just About You…and That’s a Good Thing) by Melody, My Size Marketing
  5. Build several partner relationships at once because some of them will flourish right away while others may take months or years to build. – Building Vendor Relationships to Drive Your Business, Professional Photographers of America Blog
  6. Presentation is everything. First impressions matter. Pay attention to the details. Be obsessed over a clean store, well-maintained vehicles and well-groomed employees. – When the “Old-Fashioned Way” is Good for Business, The Business Advisor Blog


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