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Networking Dos and Don’ts from an Event Pro

Fri, 05/24/2013 - 09:26

Having just returned from another networking event, this time, San Francisco Small Business Week, we noticed that networking tends to be a lot like dating – Everything relies on your first impression! From bad breath, to talking with your mouthful, a lousy follow-up or forgetting someone’s name, people, including potential customers and/or business partners notice these things. A bad first impression not only reflects on you, but also on your business. In order to make your first impression a polished one, abide by these tried and true dos and don’ts of networking:

Do
  • Have your business cards with you at all times. Have a pocket for your cards, and a pocket for the cards you collect. If you need business card ideas that stand out, take a look at these creative cards featured on Mashable.
  • Have a great handshake. Some handshakes are too firm, some are too soft, and some are just right.
  • Have your elevator business pitch ready. Be clear and concise.
  • Treat everyone with respect. You never know where your next customer or referral will come from.
  • Keep in touch. So you met some great people/businesses that you’d like to keep in touch with, now what? The next step is reach out via social media, or email to stay connected. Here are some guidelines:
    • Follow businesses you liked on their social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest) business pages.
    • Connect on LinkedIn with folks you met and make sure to include where you met them and maybe even something you talked about. Also, make sure you have a updated picture on your profile. It’s best to be able to see/remember the person before you accept their invite to connect on LinkedIn:

Who are you Suzanne? Where did I meet you? A little context here would make all the difference.

  • Follow up with people when you say you’re going to and with the information you promised. Nothing’s worse then an “I’ll call you” and then never hearing from them again (sound familiar?) Check out this great follow up from Linda at the Women’s Network. She follows up with helpful information and in a very timely manner.

Don’t
  • Try to “hard sell” someone on your product during the first meeting. You’re just getting to know each other so tell them about your company but don’t try to get them to sign up or buy just yet.
  • Talk about yourself too much. Just like dating, you need to find out about the other person by asking questions and listening to their answers. We’ve all met that person that is all, “Me, me, me” and no one sticks around to talk to them for long.
  • Drink too much. Like Patti Stanger says on Millionaire Matchmaker,“There’s a two drink maximum.” After two drinks you might start to commit some of the other don’ts listed here.
  • Use the wrong name when you email or connect with the person on LinkedIn. We have to admit, we’ve done this before when we were in a rush, but we try to never repeat that mistake. Here’s a LinkedIn invite we just received as a perfect example:

    Jeff did a great job saying where we met but who’s Stacy? My name is Jenny! Maybe the two drink rule kicking in?
  • Don’t try to add your new contact on their Facebook personal profile page unless they invite you to. It’s their personal page and you don’t want to overstep your business/personal relationship.

Are there any dos and don’ts you think we’ve missed? Have any networking advice of your own? Share with us!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Networking Dos and Don’ts from an Event Pro appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

The Power of Surprise as a Marketing Tool

Wed, 05/22/2013 - 09:56

Do you like surprises? Well, here’s a good one for you: A recent article by Scott Redick in the Harvard Business Review suggests that the element of surprise is the most powerful marketing tool of all.

Now we’re not talking about scaring the bejesus out of your customers, but rather, using your content and features to create a surprise through mediums like email or social media marketing. All our attention on analytics and metrics, writes Redick, “certainly make[s] our profession more efficient. But they also can make brands less exciting and surprising. With all of this information at our disposal, we risk robbing brands of opportunities for serendipity — the delightful surprises that happen when we least expect them, attracting the attention of consumers.”

In Redick’s opinion, surprise is is the most powerful marketing tool because:

Surprise is addicting
According to Redick, scientists at Emory and Baylor used MRIs to measure changes in human brain activity, and the study “suggests that people are designed to crave the unexpected.” Redick gives Birchbox, the successful subscription beauty product mystery box as an example, proving that business models can be built around this insight. One of our personal favorite mystery addictions in the retail world is ModCloth’s stylish surprise grab bags. For $15, you could snag anything from a skirt, to a dress or a cute coat worth up to $300. The surprise grab bags are only available at random and sell out immediately in nanoseconds!

Surprise induces change in behavior
“Surprise introduces us to new stimuli, which we must then reconcile with shifts in our beliefs and behavior,” writes Redick. Training the mind to think in terms of desired consumer behavior can help unlock innovative strategies. “When developing an advertising campagin, we are often too focused on the question, ‘what do we need to say?’ Instead, we should focus on the question of ‘What expectations do our customers and prospects hold, and how can we turn those on in their head?’” says Redick.

Surprise spikes emotions
Surprise isn’t an emotion, but rather an emotion enhancer. Redick explains, “The interesting thing about surprise is that it appears to amplify whatever you’re feeling. When we’re surprised and angry, we’re outraged. Remember what happened when Netflix raised subscription prices without warning? Combine happiness with surprise, and you hit the upper register of the feeling-good scale.” Redick gives Zappos as an excellent example of a company successfully combining happiness with surprise. The online shoe retailer goes to great lengths to deliver shoes before they’re promised, hence customers are not only surprised by the early arrival of their purchase, but delighted.

Surprise creates passionate relationships
Similar to a relationship with a loved one, the element of surprise with your customers can spice things up. Redick explains that “one experiment conducted among middle-aged married couples found that engaging in less common, but more ‘exciting’ activities like skiing or dancing led to greater marriage satisfaction that pursuing activities that are more common and ‘pleasant,’ like seeing a movie or cooking together.” Just as married couples reacted favorably to unexpected or exciting events, a client, customer or business partner will also be drawn to an unexpected or surprising pitch – provided it’s in line with the business relationship.

The technical and analytic aspects of social media and email marketing are extraordinarily important, but if you’re looking for new ways to stand out, or to reignite a spark with some of your long-term business relationships, don’t be afraid to try something new, daring, or even surprising. When used effectively, surprise truly can be the most effective marketing tool.

What is an example of a time that a marketing effort has surprised you, and how do you remember reacting?

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post The Power of Surprise as a Marketing Tool appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Are You a Content Thief and Don’t Know It?

Mon, 05/20/2013 - 06:00

We’ve written a lot about content marketing and how important it is to provide valuable information and resources for your customers and prospects, as well as how content marketing benefits your search engine optimization efforts. But, is the act of producing engaging content encouraging nefarious behavior? Have you ever discovered a piece of your own work copied word-for-word on another website or blog without credit? Feels pretty crummy, and there are far reaching consequences for both sides. The majority of content “theft” or plagiarism is most likely unintentional, and in this post, we explore content curation vs. content scraping and how to avoid going to the dark side for great content.

Content Curation – Curating is something most of us do everyday when we share things like, retweet something interesting on Twitter, Pin a neat picture, include a helpful quote in a blog post, etc. Content curation, creating useful content and getting it seen and shared, is the engine of successful content marketing.

The key difference of content curation vs. content scraping has everything to do with proper source credit and attribution. According to Steve Rosenbaum’s article on Mashable, 5 Tips for Great Content Curation, you need to “Take the time to give attribution, links back, and credit. The sharing economy works because we’re each sharing our audiences, and providing the value of our endorsements. If you pick up someone’s work and put it on your blog, or mention a fact without crediting the source, you’re not building shared credibility. You’re just abusing someone else’s effort.”

Do you see in the above paragraph how we sourced the information? We told you who wrote it (Steve Rosenbaum), where (Mashable), the original source (in the article titled 5 Tips for Great Content Curation), and we linked to the original source, as well as shared an exact quote which we placed in quotation marks. That’s how you properly and accurately provide source credit and attribution. Get more information on how to provide source credit with these tips from the Washington Post.

A quick note about content syndication: Content syndication is when you give permission to another site to publish your blog or work via an RSS feed or otherwise. Proper source credit and attribution is always provided by the syndicating site. There is a great primer on the benefits to content syndication here from SearchEngineWatch.com. 

Content ScrapingTechnopedia defines content scraping as “an illegal way of stealing original content from a legitimate website and posting the stolen content to another site without the knowledge or permission of the content’s owner. Content scrapers often attempt to pass off stolen content as their own, and fail to provide attribution to the content’s owners.”

We’ve experienced content scraping ourselves and have found many of our blog posts published word-for-word without source credit or attribution and often times, carrying another author’s name. Plagiarism isn’t cool.

Aside from stealing content, scrapers also hinder your website or blog’s search engine optimization efforts because search engines view this as duplicate information on multiple sites – Not a good thing. Search engines try to punish scrapers by comparing post timestamps, but if they can’t determine who the original poster is, everyone involved may get punished. A good way to avoid this is by ensuring you have your Google authorship set up. Our own Chipper Nicodemus states, “Setting up and verifying your content lets Google know you’re the content’s legit owner. If your blog’s content is getting used without your permission, having your authorship set up will ensure your post will rank higher than the person, or blog that’s using it.” He goes on to advise, “Be sure to include some great internal links in every blog post, so if your post gets shared via your permission or otherwise you will get a backlink.”

To further avoid unauthorized use of our own work, we added copyright information to the bottom of every blog post we publish. This can be accomplished with a simple WordPress plugin.

If you’ve got a content scraper on your hands, you can find determine the website owner via a WHOIS search. Send a quick letter to the owner with a cc to the hosting company to take care of matters. Plagiarism Today offers pre-formatted letters here.  They’ve also got a great post on the 5 Simple Rules for Reusing Online Content and we think they sum it up nicely by saying, “Reusing content, when done right and with permission, can be a great symbiotic relationship between a creator who gets extra exposure and a webmaster that gets new content. Done poorly, it becomes more parasitic and not only can harm the original creator, but discourages others from making their work available for reuse.”

How do you curate content and avoid content scraping? Share your thoughts in the comments.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Are You a Content Thief and Don’t Know It? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Top 6 Social Media No-Nos to Avoid

Fri, 05/17/2013 - 10:59

Everyone makes mistakes, but committing a major social media no-no has the potential of hindering your business’s hared-earned reputation. A good rule of thumb is, “when in doubt, don’t.” But, if you’re wondering about specifics, here are the top 6 social media mistakes to avoid, especially in the wake of some serious social media faux pas:

1. Don’t lash out: Sometimes it’s hard to deal with constructive and/or blatantly harsh criticism from others, especially on such an open public space or forum like Facebook. However, as we learned from the recent and epic social media meltdown that Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro had on Facebook, it’s an excellent example of what no to do. Owners, Amy & Samy Bouzaglo lashed out on Facebook in response to some not-so-nice criticism after airing on Gordon Ramsay’s, Kitchen Nigtmares. Instead of say, swearing, ranting for hours, “yelling” in all caps, calling customers “stupid,” and then trying to cover it all up, responding quickly and calmly to a customer’s complaint, and trying to resolve it as soon as possible is simply the best thing you can do.

2. Don’t buy followers or fans: It may be tempting to make social media a numbers game. The more followers or “Likes” you have, the cooler, more trusted, desirable brand you must be, right? However, the point of social media isn’t to acquire a mass following, but to build relationships with legitimate potential and current customers. It’s all about quality over quantity – You may have 1 million followers, but if half of them don’t exist or don’t actually give a hoot about your brand, you may as well have none. Focus on increasing the quality of your content rather than increasing your numbers, and you’ll build a solid strategy and fan base.

3. Don’t create fakes comments: Who doesn’t want engagement and comments on posts, as well as a few good reviews on various sites? The problem is, they just can’t come from you – It boils down to dishonesty, and customers can easily see through it. Instead, include calls-to-actions in your social posts like, “Like this post if you agree,” and ask questions that’ll entice customers to respond. Need more reviews on your Yelp page? Encourage customers, and/or even give rewards or discounts to those who do write reviews, but honest ones!

4. Don’t be “Sir Spam-a-Lot”:  Commenting on other social media or blog posts purely for the purpose of getting your own brand out there screams “spammer.” If you think your content is relevant, contact the owner of the post and propose a real linking or collaboration strategy. If you offer value with your content, you may develop a meaningful relationship – Win-win. Check out our post, How to Connect with Online Influencers – Dos & Don’ts for more advice on how to approach these relationships.

5. Don’t plagiarize: Simple and true, “stealing content” aka plagiarism, isn’t cool. Content marketing is all the rage these days, however, creating your own quality content is of the utmost importance. It’s A-okay to use other posts, websites, articles and studies as a source as reference in your own content, but they absolutely must be cited and attributed – no ifs, ands or buts about it. If you’re sharing third party content on social media, or in blog post, (even if you’re paraphrasing), the source must be cited, including a link. Not sure how to go about this correctly? Check out our post, Journalism 101 – What Bloggers Need to Know for all the details.

6. Don’t embellish: Whether it’s a promotion, a contest, the specifics of what your service or product can offer, or a reaction to a mistake, exaggerating or embellishing can be incredibly obvious to a large audience. In our Amy’s Baking Company example above, the Bouzaglos later tried to cover up their major social media meltdown by posting, “Obviously our Facebook, YELP, Twitter and Website have been hacked. We are working with the local authorities as well as the FBI computer crimes unit to ensure this does not happen again. We did not post those horrible things. Thank You Amy &Samy[.]” Lying to backpedal instead of apologizing and owning up to a mistake will only backfire. Honesty is the best policy.

Have a craving for more social media “what-not-to-dos”? Check out our post, Scary Social Media Faux Pas – Don’t Be That Guy. Have any other tips or scary faux pas that you’ve witnessed on social media lately? Spill it!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Top 6 Social Media No-Nos to Avoid appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Make Your Website Rock: 3 Cool Tools

Thu, 05/16/2013 - 06:00

One of the core ingredients to any online business is a solid website. If you’ve been in business for very long, you may be able to relate to the fact that you’ll never, ever be done optimizing and improving your site. We’ll always be striving for more subscribers, better engagement, more useful content, better converting calls-to-action and so much more. Lucky for us, there are some really useful, and wait for it… FREE tools out there to help us on our quest.

Here’s a breakdown of three I’m really into right now:

1. LaunchRock

Launchrock is probably the quickest, easiest way to set up a website intended to start building an audience. The site builder is simple and intuitive–you describe your idea, upload a nice image and point your domain name to the site. Launchrock then provides a simple form asking potential customers to sign up to be notified of the pending launch of your product. In less than an hour, you can have a great site that helps you build a list of potential customers and prospects.

We’ve been working on a major change at VerticalResponse, and we’ve been using LaunchRock to collect e-mail addresses for folks that want to get the scoop, or be a part of a beta. We’re loving it.

Cost: Free with no limits to how many e-mail addresses you can collect.

2. FiveSecondTest

We regularly use tools like Optimizely to test our landing pages and homepage of our site, but when I discovered FiveSecondTest, I was intrigued. The site is a crowd sourced usability test for your home page, landing page, e-mail marketing, or your app. Here’s how it works:

  • You upload a screenshot or mockup of your page, app, etc.
  • You pre-load a few questions for testers to answer.
  • Then the fun begins. Testers have five seconds to view your image and must then answer the questions you have set.
  • FiveSecondTest collects all of the responses for you, extracts the frequent keywords and then presents the data with easy-to-understand graphs.

You can also participate by taking a minute to serve as a tester and get free testing points for doing it. It’s pretty eye-opening to see how sites are presented and just how much there is to digest in five short seconds. It can make you think about your own site through a different filter.

Cost: Free and paid options.

3. Conduit

Conduit enables you to create a mobile website and mobile apps in a snap. With so much web browsing being done on mobile devices, it’s a no brainer to get on the mobile site bus now, and thanks to the Conduit folks, you can do it by simply copying an auto-generated code into your regular site. Anyone who visits your site on a mobile device will be redirected to your mobile site–just like that. Conduit’s mobile app maker is equally as friendly with a nice selection of designs and templates, you can customize your app to complement your company look and feel and you’re good to go. Where was this when we built our mobile app?

Cost: Free and paid options.

Have any other cool website tools to add to my list? Share away in the comments, I’m always game to try something new!

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Make Your Website Rock: 3 Cool Tools appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Unlock Pro Tips to Creating a Successful Webinar

Wed, 05/15/2013 - 06:00

Webinars are not only fun to host and conduct, but they’re also an excellent tool for generating leads and sales for your business. In fact, according to ClickMeeting.com, 77% of webinars are conducted specifically for lead generation (aka getting more customers). For some people, hosting a webinar may feel overwhelming (similar to those pesky, nervous public speaking feelings), but it doesn’t have to. We have lots of webinar experience here at VerticalResponse, and in this post, we’re unlocking our pro tips that’re sure to to make your first, or next webinar absolutely awesome.

image courtesy of ClickMeeting.com

 

Consider webinar content – The first thing you need to focus on when planning a webinar is your content, as it’s your most important aspect and something you should consider thoughtfully to ensure it’s appealing. Although this may seem challenging, you’d be surprised by what people are interested in learning. Think about what your attendees should know, or want to know about your business, products or service. 
Here are some starting points to consider for your content:

  • What do people need to know in order to get started with your product or service?
  • What can you do to help people get past any obstacles they may have?
  • 
What advice or tips can you offer?
  • What are some frequently asked questions?
  • Provide a demo of your services or programs.
  • Create awareness for your business or organization.

If you’ve never hosted a webinar, pick a topic you’re comfortable with, as it’ll help you feel confident about your presentation. Also, consider having live questions and answers at the end of your webinar. Your attendees will appreciate the chance to ask questions and have them answered right away. Questions add value to any topic you pick, plus, they give great insight into how people interact with your products or services. And, you can pick and choose the questions that will be most helpful to your attendees.

Create a presentation  – For most webinars, you’ll need to create an interesting and compelling presentation. We use PowerPoint at VerticalResponse to create ours, but there are a variety of options including, Google Docs, Prezi and Sliderocket. Most tools have an array of styles for the slides.

You obviously want your webinar presentation to be visually appealing, but try not to overwhelm viewers with too many images. A good rule of thumb is to use one image per slide with text, two-three if you’re showing something specific or making a point. If your presentation offers images for slide backgrounds, use them sparingly.

Also, as tempting as it is may be to add a lot of details to a slide, don’t. Add a couple of lines of text or use bullets to make your points. Speak about a topic or slide as much as you need to, but adding more text to a slide makes it harder for viewers to concentrate – They get caught up in reading everything you’ve added to the slides and miss what you’re actually saying. Let the bullet points show your main speaking points and then you can elaborate as you need to.

After your presentation is complete, you’ll want to do a few practice runs so you know how it flows, what your viewers will see, and what points you’ll need to say. It also helps to get someone else to proofread for typos and any errors.

Get the party started – Before you’re ready to get the webinar party started, keep in mind how it’ll be perceived by your attendees.  All the prep work you’ve done will be for nothing if they can’t hear or view what’s going on:

  • Log in early, (at least 15 minutes prior), to set up, trouble shoot any problems, and to let your attendees know you’re there.
  • Find a quiet place to conduct your webinar. You don’t have to set up a sound booth, but find somewhere that has little outside noise, or people who could interrupt or distract from your presentation.
  • Whether you use a microphone or phone, remember that every sound in the room will be picked up and become part of the webinar. So don’t rustle papers or do other loud things.
  •  Ask questions or do a survey during your webinar. Many webinar programs have this feature built in so that your viewers can interact and give feedback live, and you can share the results on the screen automatically.
  • Have something to drink on hand; a glass of water, coffee, tea or even wine, whatever you prefer. Webinars are a talky business and you’ll want something to sip on to keep you hydrated.

Follow-up – Once you reach the end of your webinar, it’s not all over. Send out a follow-up email to close the circle. Some webinar hosting services will automatically send follow-up emails, which is handy, but you’ll want to edit the message to give it your own voice and include any important info including a link to the recorded version of the webinar, if there is one. You may want to create separate emails for attendees and non-attendees, offer different content and links and check your stats to see if you get different engagement.

Consider sending out a few emails to encourage sales from your customers, or help convert the leads you generated by hosting the webinar. If your webinar service doesn’t send out a follow up email, you can easily create one yourself (and VerticalResponse can certainly help you with that). Simply download a list of all attendees and registrants from the hosting service, then upload to your email service provider and send out a follow up.

Now that we’ve unlocked these 4 tips, your webinar will be a success! Knowing your topic and practicing your webinar beforehand will give you the confidence you need if you’re feeling a little nervous. And, if that doesn’t help, remember it’s just you in the room talking – You can’t see your audience, and they can’t see you, just pretend they aren’t even there and relax. For more webinar tips, check out our post, Be the Webinar Host with the Most.

Do you use webinars for your business? What tips would you add to this list?

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Unlock Pro Tips to Creating a Successful Webinar appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Don’t Waste Your Dough! 5 Secrets to Maximizing Google AdWords

Mon, 05/13/2013 - 06:00

Did you know that when managing your Google Adwords pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, it’s pretty easy to waste big bucks without even knowing it? That dough down the drain could be put to good use, especially for a small business. So what’s the secret to eliminating this wasted spend? Being as efficient as possible is key to getting the most bang for your PPC bucks, so we’ve spilled the beans in the 5 top areas to maximize that’ll get your dollars to deliver:

Choosing the Right Keywords

When selecting keyword or phrases, adding any word or phrase that’s relevant to your business may sound like a good idea. Wouldn’t you want to receive the most traffic possible to your site? In theory, yes, but none of us have an infinite amount of marketing dollars to spend. Keyword selection is a critical process that requires you to look at the keywords that will ultimately result in sales, or conversions. By focusing on keywords that are too general, or broad can result in increased PPC costs.

For example, using keywords that are too general may target potential customers who aren’t ready to buy yet. Say you’re a small car dealership bidding on a keyword like, “used car information.” Although the phrase is relevant, it may actually target people who’re still in the “research or information” stage, while a customer searching for “used Hondas for sale,” is closer to a buying stage than just searching for information. When you focus on keywords that target users at the right stage, you should have a greater return on investment on your PPC campaigns.

Understanding and Using Match Types

Not fully understanding or using targeted match types, can cause you to waste money by inadvertently targeting irrelevant search queries, and may cause you to pay more than you need to for certain keywords. In short, each match type gives you more granularity into targeting.

Broad Match – Broach match is called “broad” for a reason. Broad match allows your ad to show for searches on similar phrases and variations. This includes misspellings, synonyms, and other relevant variations. For example, if you were to bid on “running shoes” on a broad match, you’ll also show up for results for “running sneakers,” which is generally a good thing. The problem lies in that you would also show up for “running shoe cleaner.” If you don’t sell shoe cleaner, this would be an example of a phrase that could be wasting your money. If you were to bid on “green sneakers” and “green shoes” separately on an exact match instead, you could actually end up paying a less expensive CPC (cost-per-click) for each of those keywords, as well as limit the amount of irrelevant traffic.

Phrase Match – Phrase match will show your ads only for searches that include the exact keyword phrase you’ve selected, as well as some close variations. If we use the same example, “running shoes” but in a phrase match, your ad would also show for “cheap running shoes” because that phrase is contained within the search. If the search was for “running orthopedic shoes” your ad wouldn’t show.

Exact Match – Exact match allows you to show only for searches that match exactly the keyword or phrase you’re bidding on. Using the same example, your ad would show only when “running shoes” is the search. This limits the amount of traffic, but is also the most targeted and is generally less expensive than bidding on broad and phrase matches.

Negative keywords

Negative keywords are a great way to reduce the amount of unqualified traffic. By automatically ruling out words like “jobs, contacts, etc.” it’ll cut down on people who aren’t looking to make a purchase. Ruling out words that may be used in conjunction with your keyword, but aren’t relevant to your offering are also good keywords to add as negative keywords. Combined with proper match types and keyword choices; this can really help maximize your PPC spend.

Geo/Day/Device Targeting

Google Adwords allows you to target and segment your target audience in multiple ways including, Geographical, Day, and Device Targeting. Geographical targeting allows you to target specific locations, regions, cities, states, countries, etc. Device targeting allows you focus more on specific devices, which may be worth more to your business. Lastly, Day Parting allows you to adjust keyword bids between different days or hours of the days in order to spend your marketing dollars when you are most profitable. For a more in- depth look at these targeting options, check out our previous blog post, 5 Google Adwords Tips for a Small Budget. Also, with Google Adwords newest changes around Enhanced Campaigns, maximizing these different targeting options will be even easier.

Making Good Use of Google Reporting

Google Adwords offers a variety of insightful reports to help you determine where problems may lie in your account and provide you with valuable information into where efficiencies can be made. For example, a Search Terms Report provides you with a list of all the search queries that resulted in your ad being shown. This report is helpful determining irrelevant keywords as well as opportunities for new keywords. After you determine which keywords or phrases you do and don’t want triggering your ads, you can add them as new or negative keywords.

Another essential report is the Campaign Report. This report can be sliced and diced in different ways and can provide great insight into where you should be focusing your PPC efforts. If you break it down by day or hour of the day, it can help you to determine when most of your conversions are occurring so that you can shift your budget to those most profitable times. If you look at it on a geographical basis, you can see where most of your conversions are coming from and exclude certain areas that aren’t your target audience or simply don’t perform well. These are only a few of the many reports Google Adwords offers.

By maximizing these five areas, you can make the most of your PPC mula. Pay-Per-Click PC world also offers more insight into other PPC mistakes you might be making.

How will you use these tips to make the most of your marketing bucks? Share away?

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Don’t Waste Your Dough! 5 Secrets to Maximizing Google AdWords appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Do You Know Your Target Market? How to Find Out…

Fri, 05/10/2013 - 06:00

Do you know who your target market is? We mean, really know? And, we’re not talking about, “I sell dresses, so my target market is women.” We mean, “I own a dress shop on Sacramento Street, my customers are female, ages 35-45, live in a 10 block radius and make more than $45,000 per year.”

When you first started your business, you may not have spelled out your target market in much detail, but spending some time to hone in on it now could reap some major benefits for your business. Knowing your target market allows you to spend your marketing time and resources more effectively. You might also discover potential new customers you hadn’t considered before.

So, how do you figure out who your target market is? Here are a few things to think about:

Getting to Know You

You not only need a solid understanding of your customers and their needs and desires, but you also need to know yourself pretty well too. What products or services do you offer? How do they benefit your customers? Do they benefit different customers in different ways?

Let’s say you’re a tax accountant who offers tax preparation services. The benefit seems pretty obvious – Customers don’t have to do taxes themselves (phew!). But think a little deeper. Are your services more suited to high-income people with complex tax situations who want to avoid an audit, busy people who could do their own taxes but are willing to pay to have you take care of it, or someone who needs tax planning help? Once you know who your target is, you laser focus your marketing efforts to the folks who are most likely to buy your product or service.

Here are some helpful tools and resources that’ll help you determine who your target market is:

  • U.S. Census Bureau has a plethora of information by state, city, age, business, geographic and much more. They’ve also got data from the 2012 Economic Census, which is the U.S. Government’s official five-year measure of American business and the economy.
  • Google Analytics provides a depth of knowledge about who’s visiting your website, how they got there (by keyword, referring site, etc), how much time they spend and so much more.
  • Facebook Insights - If you’ve got a Facebook Page for your business and it has over 30 Likes, you can access Facebook Insights. Insights provides data about who’s interacting with your Facebook Page including total page Likes, or number of fans, daily active users, new Likes/Unlikes, Like sources, demographics, page views and unique page views, tab views, external referrers, media consumption. Mashable offers a great Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Insights here.
  • Surveys – Asking your customers a few simple questions via a survey can uncover some really valuable information that’ll help you hone in on who your customers are and their overall satisfaction. You can also learn about other services or products customers want.

Think Outside the Box

Defining your target market isn’t all about whittling it down to very specific groups; you may actually find your market is larger than you thought (That’s opportunity knocking!)

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my product have other uses?
    Maybe you sell organic shampoo. Can it also be used as body wash or laundry detergent? Is it particularly good for babies or those with sensitive skin?
  • Can I create new products or services my current customers would buy?
    If I run a yoga studio, would my customers also be interested in other types of exercise classes?
  • Are there services I can offer along with my product?
    Customers of a plant nursery may need landscape design help. What other services are they getting elsewhere that you can provide?

Find a Common Thread

Is there something many of your current customers have in common? By determining a few characteristics many of them share, you can target similar people.

This is an especially useful strategy for non-profits seeking donations. Who are your current donors? Do they have similar jobs, hobbies or interests? An organization raising money for the environment may find it has a number of donors who are teachers that participate in outdoor sports or lawyers who drive hybrid vehicles. If you can identify some common traits, you can target similar people.

Remember the Obvious

This may go without saying, but we’re going say it anyway… How did you get your current customers? Did they find you? How? Yellow page ad? Word of mouth? Website? Did you find them through an event or trade show? Do you convert more people with a special offer or free sample? Figure out what works for you, and keep refining your tactics.

So there you have it, a few things to think about to expand your target market. How do you identify your target market?

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Do You Know Your Target Market? How to Find Out… appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Butter Up Your Social Media Calls-to-Action

Wed, 05/08/2013 - 06:00

If social media is bread, a call-to-action is its butter. CTAs, as they’re often referred to, are the action or engagement that your content is meant to inspire, and when implemented effectively into your social media marketing campaigns, CTAs have a delightfully sweet and smooth impact on your marketing goals.

Heidi Cohen of Social Media Examiner defines a call-to-action as, “a way for you to entice your social media audience to focus their attention on the next action you want them to take.” Cohen recently wrote about ways to improve your social media calls-to-action; her tips include:

  • Clearly determine what action you want readers to take – CTAs aren’t just about closing sales, other common actions include signing up for email newsletters, downloading a whitepaper, watching a product demo or scheduling a consultation.
  • Hook ‘em – Answer the reader’s question “what’s in it for me?”
  • Don’t promote, persuade – Social media marketing is about context and engagement, not merely posting direct sale opportunities. Cohen gave Target’s Tumblr page as an excellent example as they, “show customers the fashion back story and how to style their clothes. There’s no ‘Buy, Buy, Buy’ in their content. They use social media sharing and notes to build customer excitement and engagement pre-purchase.”

Target’s Tumblr

  • Motivate with urgency – Utilize limited time offers or promotional opportunities to give your audience the extra incentive to act quickly.
  • Tailor landing pages – Cohen writes that recent research has “found that using more landing pages yielded better results. This makes sense because it translates to more targeted offers.”
  • Test what works best – As you monitor a CTA’s effectiveness, try changing individual aspects to find the best result. This can include changing prompt placement, text size, color or the message. Best results are found by changing only one aspect at a time, so you can tell what works.
  • Measure all results – Don’t just guess what works, measure what works. Look at click through rates, conversions, completions and abandonments.

Social media marketing can be a really fun, creative way to express your company’s culture and set innovate marketing goals. It’s important to always keep an eye on your calls-to-action to get the best return on your investment. What techniques do you use to for engaging CTAs? Share away!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Butter Up Your Social Media Calls-to-Action appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Email Testing 1,2,3 – How to Get an A+

Mon, 05/06/2013 - 06:00

When it comes to email marketing, once you’re content with the copy and design, it’s tempting to forgo all email testing and just send it out – especially when you’re crunched for time. However, testing, editing and proofing your email on a regular basis helps to ensure a successful campaign. Here are some easy-to-implement email testing tips that’ll take your email campaigns from average to ace in no time flat.

Email Testing for Accuracy

Once you’ve added images and links to your draft email, you need to send out a test email. Send one to yourself as well as a few coworkers or eagle eyed friends to proofread and click your links, as it can be easy to miss something when you’ve been looking at it for a while. When you get the test, do a quick check of the following:

  • Is the subject line attention-grabbing and typo free?
  • Do the images render correctly?
  • Is there alternative text for images? (Most email clients block images by default, however the alt text will appear)
  • Do your links go to the right places?
  • Is your font easy to read and consistent throughout the email?
  • Are there any typos in the content?
  • Is there a clear call-to-action (or calls-to-action)?

Testing Email Clients

Because emails consist of HTML code, each email client has its own rules that determine how your email will look in a recipient’s inbox. Outlook, Apple Mail, Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail are all commonly used email clients that you may want to test. We recommend sending a test email to a few of these email clients to ensure your bases are covered. If you want to test multiple email clients at once, you can try Email on Acid, which is a tool that allows you to preview your email to see how it looks.

When testing your email, be sure to preview the way your email appears without images, as many email clients render or display an email without images by default (Gmail is a good example of this.) By using alternative text (alt text) in your images, you’ll ensure the message isn’t lost even without the images. If your email uses large images from Photoshop or a similar tool, keep in mind that the text inside these images will not appear when your image doesn’t.

Email Testing on Mobile Devices

A recent study by Litmus indicates that the email clients with the largest market share are Apple iPhone (23%), Outlook (17%), and Apple iPad (11%). Yep, mobile is hot. According to another study by by Knotice, 41% of emails sent in the second half of 2012 were viewed on mobile devices. (This was an increase of 14% from the year before.).  So whenever you test your email, it’s a good idea to also view it on mobile devices if have them available.

Here are a few things to consider when testing on a mobile device:

  • Is the font large enough to read?
  • Do the images work on the small screen? Very large images or too many can cause issues on mobile devices.
  • Are the links large enough and spaced out enough for someone to click on? (It’s very helpful to use buttons to make it easier for mobile users to click.)
  • Does the email load properly? Sometimes if your email is too large, it’ll require the mobile user to download the remaining portion.

Keep in mind, any extra time required by the recipient can be a deterrent to act on your call-to-action.

Testing Browsers

You may or may not be aware that emails can render differently across the different web browsers. It’s a good idea to view your email in the most popular web browsers – Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer. Each browser has its own set of rules that govern the appearance of your email, so you may not be able to get identical results, but you can at least be sure the email looks pretty similar in all three of these browsers. BrowserStack is a great tool for testing how your email looks in different browsers quickly.

Some things to check for:

  • Is the background color the same in all browsers?
  • Do the images show up properly?
  • Is the font color and size consistent?
  • Are the column widths the same or similar?
  • Is the overall appearance clean and legible?

As you can see, there are many facets to testing your email before sending! One important thing is not to get too bogged down by wanting the email to look exactly the same in every email client or on every browser. Most importantly, focus on the message being easy-to-read with clear calls-to-action.

What’s the first thing you test in your email?

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Email Testing 1,2,3 – How to Get an A+ appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

9 Stellar Social Media Infographics You Simply Gotta See

Fri, 05/03/2013 - 06:00

Infographics, oh, sweet infographics. They’re beautifully designed images that infuse our brains with interesting statistics, knowledge, tips, and advice. How did we ever survive with out them? Not only do infographics transform a plethora of data into easy-to-understand graphics and interesting takeaways, but they’re also ridiculously easy to share, create, and most importantly, fun to read! Plus, infographics are extremely versatile. You can find one about almost any topic including, caffeine, Kobe Bryant, the evolution of Star Trek and even color psychology.

It’s obvious people and businesses have gone gaga for infographics, as the influx of these content marketing gems, even in the last year, has gone gangbusters. And, one of the most popular topics when it comes to small businesses and infographics is social media. So, we’ve scoured the Internet and collected the latest stellar social media infographics you simply gotta see:

A Simple Checklist to Help You Evaluate Your Facebook Page; Shortstack

How Organizations Structure Social Media Teams; Go-Gulf.com

Huffington Post (100 Fascinating) Social Media Statistics;  iStrategylabs

It’s a Photographidemic! How Visual Content is Plaguing Social Efforts… in a Good Way!; Kelsey Trabue

Path to Social Success in 2013 – A 12-Month Plan to Boost Your Business’s Social Presence; Intuit

The Art of Getting Retweets; Quicksprout

The Social Media Design Cheat Sheet; imFORZA

The State of B2B Social Media 2013; B2B Marketing

There’s More to Social Media; Get Satisfaction

Have any favorite social media infographics of your own? Share away.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 9 Stellar Social Media Infographics You Simply Gotta See appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Snap Outta Social Media Snoozeville

Wed, 05/01/2013 - 06:00

Have your social media efforts been bitten by social media fatigue? Are your posts lifeless, sleepy and (no, don’t say it!) non-engaging? Then it’s time to shake things up! Grab a cup of joe, get ready to pump thing up and breathe new life into your social media efforts. Here are 5 ways to snap outta social media snoozeville:

1. Mix things up with a new social network.

Have Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn been your go-to social media networks over the last several months? It may be time to interject some new networks into your social media marketing efforts. Not only is it fun to explore new territory, you’re also exposing your business to a whole new audience. Pinterest, Instagram, Vine and/or Google+ might just be what the doctor ordered.

2. Share new content.

Does the content you share on social seem like the same blog/Facebook post/tweet, different day? It’s time to change the type of content you’re sharing. Produce a video, interview a customer and write up a testimonial, host a Google+ Hangout, conduct a webinar, write a poll and ask questions, hold a contest, create your own infographic, write a guide, produce a how-to, post your email newsletter, share interesting content from other people (while giving appropriate source credit, of course), post a song, create a Vine clip, share an animated GIF, instead. Don’t be afraid to bring some humor into your posts. Share a cartoon, funny GIF, or your favorite meme.

3.  Make ch-ch-changes.

People need spontaneity and variety in their lives, including social media. If you always post to your social channels between 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday, try posting on different days and times to see if your engagement increases. Post to Twitter and Facebook at night or on the weekend. Preschedule your posts so you don’t have to be awake 24/7 to post efficiently and effectively.

4. Get into pictures.

As we’ve mentioned before in a previous post, posting pictures on your social channels can give you some serious engagement! According to Buddy Media, Photo posts receive 39% higher interaction rates than average. What drives the least amount of likes? Posts with links and videos. It’s time to get snapping!

5. Take a breather.

Know that it’s okay to take a breather from your social media marketing efforts every once in a while. We often worry if we take a day off, we’ll be forgotten; This just isn’t true. A day of rest can get actually get those creative juices flowing once again.. Don’t worry, social media will still be there when you get back.

Have any re-engergizing tips of your own? We’d love to hear ‘em!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Snap Outta Social Media Snoozeville appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Getting the Most Out of Google Grants

Tue, 04/30/2013 - 09:48

As a nonprofit organization, there are tons of free and extremely helpful resources out there just waiting to be taken advantage of. Google Grants, the nonprofit version of Google Adwords, is one of these free resources, and one of our favorites. Why? ‘cus it gives 501c3 nonprofits $330 per day (that’s $10,000 per month) of free advertising on Google.com to “promote their missions and initiatives”! In a previous post, we touched on the eligibility requirements to apply for Google Grants for Nonprofits (go check ‘em out now). In this post, we focus on how to get the most out of that Google Grants account of yours while keeping these restrictions in mind.

First, let’s take a look at the Google Grant Adwords account restrictions:

  •  $330 daily budget cap ($10k per month).
  •  $2 max cost-per-click (CPC) bid
  •  Only applies to Google Search
  • Text ads only
  • Keyword targeted campaigns only

A  common occurrence with Google Grants accounts is that many nonprofits have trouble spending the entire daily/monthly budget due to the $2 CPC bid limit. Also, regular Adwords account ads take precedence over Google Grant ones for placement in search results. So, in order to really succeed, you’ve got to focus on optimizing your Adwords account to improve your Quality Score, relevancy and click-through rates (CTR). The Quality Score is Google’s way of determining how relevant your ads, keywords, and landing page are to people searching. So what’s the key? Have all three of these elements (keywords, adcopy, landing page) be as closely related as possible.

Account Structure:

So let’s get some structure to your account! First, you’ll want to group keywords that’re similar to each other in their own adgroups. For example, as a nonprofit, you’d probably separate donation-type keywords from volunteer-type terms. Separating out keywords in this way allows you to create targeted ad copy to ask for donations from the one list, and to ask for volunteer help from the other. Where the user lands after they click on your ad copy is very important as well. You want a continuation of the keyword/ad copy theme on the landing page. This will not only help improve your Quality Score, but will also help increase the chance that users will take the desired action (donate/volunteer/share/etc.) on your website.

Keyword Bids:

It’s recommended that you set all keywords in the account to the $2 max CPC bid – the highest amount allowed in order to help show up as high as possible in the search results.

Keywords:

When choosing keywords, you should start with your nonprofit brand keywords first. These keywords will have the best response from users since they may be searching for your organization. Next, focus on the specific nonprofit niche that your organization is in. If your nonprofits’ mission is to provide educational opportunities for children in Africa, then you should focus on keywords related to helping children in Africa, or providing education to children in developing countries.

You should also create a keyword list of other nonprofits that provide similar assistance and services. You want to target not only “direct competitors” but also nonprofits that offer complementary assistance. For example, nonprofits that provide similar educational opportunities but in a different geographic region, or nonprofits that provide assistance in Africa, or nonprofits that help children in undeveloped countries.

Lastly, create a separate list of keywords for the more generic nonprofit-type keywords. For example: nonprofit donation, support nonprofits, etc. These keywords are a little less focused, so they may have a lot more user search volumes. However, these types of keywords are highly competitive with many paid Adwords accounts advertising on these keywords. Your $2 max bid cap and Google’s preference to regular Adwords accounts could limit your ability to show up for many of these terms. But, these keywords are still very valuable since they have the highest volume of searches, so don’t skip this step.

Ad Copy:

Your ad copy should be highly relevant to the keyword searched. If possible, the keyword a user searches should be in the ad copy itself, and include a clear call-to-action. For example, “Donate Now!”or “Become a Volunteer.” Highlight aspects that make your nonprofit stand out from others in the same niche. Do 100% of your donations go to the community? How many families has your organization helped? Was your organization featured on a credible third party source (news outlet, well known corporation, etc…)? Call these things out in your ad copy.

Landing Page:

The page/landing page a user reaches on your website after clicking on your ad should be closely related to the keyword they search for and the ad copy they see. You should send users who’ve searched for a donation-related keyword to your donations page, not, say, the homepage or the volunteer page.

To help with brand awareness, nonprofits should also include a social media button next to donate now button. For example, “Not ready to donate? Support our cause and Like us on Facebook” or “Too busy to Volunteer? Share our story with your friends on Google+”… Not all users are ready to donate/volunteer, but most are still more than happy to show their support by “liking” your organization.

To increase donations, nonprofits should also include an employer match option or a mention of it on their website. Many companies offer employee donation matches, so you can double the donation by reminding users to check with their company’s human resources department.

So while Google did set limitations on Google Grants accounts to protect its paying customers, it’s still providing assistance to all nonprofits. And first and foremost, Google’s #1 priority is still to provide users the most relevant and useful information. Having a tight keyword group along with matching ad copy and corresponding landing pages will allow your business or nonprofit to show up higher and more frequently when users search in Google.

Want to learn more? Join us for an upcoming webinar on Google Grants, and stay tuned. Do you plan to, or have you already used Google Grants for your nonprofit? Tell us about it!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Getting the Most Out of Google Grants appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Let’s Hang! Use Google+ Hangouts as an Innovative Marketing Tool

Mon, 04/29/2013 - 06:00

Wanna hangout? Oh, you live in another city/country/universe? No problem – Google+ Hangouts to the rescue! If you’re not familiar with Google+ Hangouts, it’s a free video chat service that allows you to catch up with friends via computer, phone or tablet. But what if you could use Google+ Hangouts to not only virtually ‘chill’ with friends, but use it as an innovative marketing tool? Turns out, many businesses are using it to host virtual meetings and/or broadcast their knowledge, content, and personalities to the world.

NPR hosts a “Morning Edition Virtual Coffeehouse” Google+ Hangout with reporters and special guests, Glamour Magazine hosts several Google+ Hangouts including a book club, and even sites like, Breast Cancer Answers hosts a bi-weekly Google+ Hangout with various doctors to, you guessed it, answer questions and educate readers about breast cancer.

Our very own search engine optimization guys hosted their own Google+ Hangout with Skadeedle, discussing keywords. They broadcast the Google+ Hangout to the world (which can also be streamed and recorded on YouTube) and, boom! Not only did we have a successful Google+ Hangout, but we also have an excellent piece of content marketing in the form of a recorded video.

Sarah Hill, Chief Digital Storyteller for the Veterans United Network, recently wrote a fascinating article about how she utilizes Google+ Hangouts to engage, build relationships and connect with military veterans. Hill writes, “There is nothing more effective for building your audience than face-to-face communication. Social media posts can’t compare with the ability to see your audience blink, follow their hand gestures, or witness their eye movements and facial expressions — all key components of what’s been called human media.”

Many in Hill’s network prefer the virtual face-to-face communication because, “Text-based interactions can leave users feeling like they’re just following an individual. Face-to-face interaction through group video chat gives users a feeling of truly getting to know you.”

One of Hill’s most effective Google+ Hangout methods is her weekly “Virtual Front Porch,” in which participants are free to come and go as they please, with no set agenda, just a friendly chat to touch base. Hill writes, “For personal branding and content creators, this can be a gateway to great interviews or subjects for your next piece — and remember, you don’t have to worry about taking notes if you have it streamed directly to your YouTube account.”

Hosting your own Google+ Hangout is an excellent opportunity to interact with current and potential customers, create stellar content marketing, and implement some of those human elements back into our marketing tactics. Have you hosted or attended a Google+ Hangout? Share away!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Let’s Hang! Use Google+ Hangouts as an Innovative Marketing Tool appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Just Say No to Micromanaging

Fri, 04/26/2013 - 06:00

Micromanagement. It may seem like a little thing that’s isolated to a few managers, or staff in your company, but the effects of micromanagement could have a huge long-and short-term negative impact on your ability to be effective as a manager, and your ability to achieve or exceed your company’s goals. Take a second to think about these questions:

  •     Do you tell your employees what to do?
  •     Do you oversee all aspects of their projects?
  •     Do you direct rather than empower?
  •     Do spend more time on day-to-day tasks vs. the growth of your company?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may just be a micromanager, so I’ll ask another question… at what cost?

What You Want

You want things done a certain way. The “right” way, and maybe even your way. I get it. But, when you tell employees exactly what you want, how you want it and when you want it, you’re basically just telling them to execute. And, unless they don’t enjoy thinking very much, they won’t be satisfied for long.

The bigger question to ask yourself, or that micromanager you’ve got is, “can you articulate what you want the outcome to be, but let your employee chart how they get there?” Letting them become part of the journey can pay off big-time because, not only will they feel more valued, but you may actually get a better end product because you’ll have more people generating ideas and solutions. Even though you’re the boss, you may not always have all the best answers.

What Your Employees Want

So we know you want things done and you want them done a certain way. As I discussed, allowing employees to be a part of the journey can have a far-reaching positive impact because we know employees don’t just come to work for a paycheck. They come for so much more including a sense of belonging, having a purpose, being productive, learning and contributing to a common or shared goal, having engagement and maybe even some recognition.

When you do all the thinking for them, possibly robbing them of their creativity, ability to problem solve, their trust and ability to be flexible.

Just Say No to Micromanaging

The good news is, you can start to shift the habit of micromanaging by identifying why you or a manager does it, and make a few easy changes.

1. Identify Why

Do you have a new team that you don’t know well, haven’t established trust and confidence in? Do you have folks who don’t carry through, or miss deadlines? Identifying the “why” will help you address the root cause and take action to help curb feelings of distrust, lack of confidence or other things you have identified.

2. Accountability with a Capital A

If you want your team be accountable, make sure you work this into SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-sensitive ) goals for them that are realistic. If people aren’t held accountable, they may never know they aren’t meeting your expectations. At VerticalResponse, we work off of periodical reviews to make sure that what we want for our business is what our teams know they need to do. It’s pretty cut and dry.

3. Let Go

Knowing when to step back and give your team the space they need to explore a problem, brainstorm, come up with solutions and execute on them is at the very core of every good manager. If you overstep your boundaries, give your team the right to give you feedback so you know how much rope to give them, and respect when they tell you to scram. When I’m in a meeting and a decision needs to be made, my team looks at me and asks what I think? A lot of times, I turn it around on them and say, “What do you guys think?” This way they know they have a say.

Have you had to step back and let go? How did your experience play out? I’d love to hear some real-life examples.

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Just Say No to Micromanaging appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Convert Facebook Likes into Sales with These 4 Simple Steps

Wed, 04/24/2013 - 06:00

Small business blogs are filled with advice on how to get more “Likes” and engagement on your Facebook Page. By following this advice, you’ve hopefully seen the number of people reading and engaging with your posts steadily increase. Success! But is all of that engagement leading to increased sales?

There’s no direct path from a “Like” to a sale, so you must master the gentle art of shepherding your fans through your sales funnel. Use your Facebook page to develop relationships with your customers and make it easy for them to find links back to the content you create on your blog and website. Once they’ve arrived, you can guide them further through your funnel through cross promotions and well-placed calls-to-action, all in an environment you control. But it all begins with the “Like.” Here are four tips to help you make the most of your Facebook business page to drive more traffic to your site:

  1. Post content that demonstrates the utility of the products or services you’re selling in a fun way. My favorite example of online viral marketing will always be BlendTec’s “Will It Blend” series. It’s not only humorous, but it made people want to buy a BlendTec blender. It also changed the way we view their competitors (“Yes, it has many cool functions, but can it puree an iPad?“). Post a snippet of your content to your Facebook page, and link it to the full version on your site, making sure your site includes a quick and easy path for making a purchase.
  2. Create Facebook-exclusive offers. We typically think of these as discounts, coupons or other opportunities for your fans to save money, but that’s what everyone else is doing, too. Get creative – try packaging multiple products or services together to create a special Facebook fan-only product and encourage your fans to share it with their friends. Or partner with a complementary company and drive traffic to each other’s pages with special combined deals. Give your fans unique, exclusive benefits and demonstrate the value of liking your page.
  3. Keep an eye on your Facebook Insights and adjust accordingly. Insights may not update in real-time, but it’s close enough that you can rapidly adjust posts you’ve made that are having an impact. If you see a post’s engagement start to skyrocket, consider paying to promote it to a larger audience. You’ll not only drive more traffic to your page, you should also see a lift in clicks on any links you included in the post.
  4. Understand why people are liking your content. Posting fun content is a great way to gain your fans’ attention and interact with them. You may find, however, that those posts are getting far more attention than the ones that will lead them back to your site. Find a way to balance their appetite for fun and still drive them back to your site by taking your products and services a bit less seriously.

If you’re still in the process of just trying to get people to like your Facebook page, keep focusing on that goal. But keep these tips in mind as you post and, when you’re at the point where you can begin optimizing for sales, you’ll already be on the path to success.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Convert Facebook Likes into Sales with These 4 Simple Steps appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Full-Screen Facebook Ads a Game Changer?

Tue, 04/23/2013 - 06:00

Facebook is stepping up its advertising game! Turns out, the social media giant is planning to implement full-screen ads that’ll require users to watch a 15-second video commercial while signed into the service. Steamfeed.com’s Brian S. Hall recently wrote a compelling analysis about the coming changes, first reported on AdAge.com. Hall writes, “Facebook is reportedly working on full-screen autoplay video ads it will supposedly roll out no later than this summer. Facebook is expected to charge nearly $1 million for these new ads, which are designed to leverage Facebook’s massive scale — but not the company’s vaunted ‘social graph.’”

This is obviously a significant change for Zuck & co. as it’s a tell-tale sign of Facebook looking to leverage its overall size for revenue dollars. This is a major departure from Facebook’s past practices of micro-targeting consumers based on location, interest and behavior. In fact, Hall’s article reports that Facebook is only considering four different demographic packages for its four daily “slots” of video ads:

  • Women over 30

  • Women under 30

  • Men over 30

  • Men under 30

Hall explains how this new revenue source could mean major changes to advertising’s biggest guns, “If successful, the new ad platform could bring in nearly $1.5 billion in additional revenue to Facebook — and might also kick off a war with the television industry for major ad dollars.” Adoption of such large-scale advertising options could certainly have a major impact across the industry.

What goes unexplored in the article, however, is the impact that such advertising techniques could have on smaller businesses who typically rely on the careful targeting of Facebook’s Pay Per Click campaigns, search advertising or email marketing.

It’s still unclear when this expected change is scheduled to roll out, but the article says it’ll start with Facebook’s desktop users and eventually transfer to mobile and tablet technologies as well. As the online advertising landscape becomes more crowded, smart business owners and organizations should prepare themselves by developing strong organic social connections that don’t rely on escalating advertising costs.

If Facebook begins showing full-screen ads several times a day, how will it affect your use of the social media site, and how will it affect your social media marketing strategy?

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Full-Screen Facebook Ads a Game Changer? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

3 Free Photo Editing Tools That’ll Give Your Pics Sham-Wow

Mon, 04/22/2013 - 06:00

With the influx in popularity of sites like Pinterest, Instagram and marketing materials like infographics, poppin’ pictures are a must – Plus, it’s been proven that images invoke more engagement (up to 20x more!) on social. Spicing up your images or photos could do wonders for your email or social media marketing. But where can you edit and enhance plain Jane images? Here are 3 free photo editing tools (that you don’t even have to download) that’ll give your pics some serious sham-wow:

Pixlr.com
Pixlr is excellent for your basic photo editing needs, and includes the following features: crop, rotate, erase, paintbrush, paint bucket, basic shapes, type tool, and red eye remover. There are also tools for more advanced adjustments like: brightness & contrast, hue & saturation, color balance, color vibrant, levels, curves, exposures, layers and history tool box  (which we use a lot), and more.

*Pixlr Bonus: There’s a mobile Pixlr app and a filter editing site/app (Pixlr-O-Matic) that are also free. Pixlr-O-Matic does whimsical effects (filters), overlays, and frames.

If you’ve ever used Photoshop, Pixlr should be a snap. If you need some extra guidance, there’s a community-powered support site that can get you started.

 

PicMonkey
PicMonkey appears more basic than Pixlr, but does include more features. The great thing about PicMonkey, is that makes things super simple for people who are just getting started with photo editing. The tools are clearly marked and the editor uses very simple navigation. There are also classic filters like Sepia, in which you can adjust the tint and fade.

About half of the features on PicMonkey are free, anything labeled with a tiny white crown means you have to upgrade to $4.99 a month.

*PicMonkey Bonus: There’s a theme section (the jack-o-lantern icon in left menu) that allows you turn your photo into a Vampire, Zombie, Day of the Dead, Witch, Demons, Trick or Treat, Winterland, or Sweatheart scene with effects and objects.

 

FotoFlexer
FotoFlexer contains all of the basics seen above and also includes the following sections: Basics, Effects, Decorate, Beautify (with wrinkle cream), Distort, Layers, and Geek effects and tools. The editor is really easy to use with its labels and icons.

The only downside: It can take a while load inbetween editing. The other two programs are a little snappier.

*FotoFlexer Bonus: The animations tab lets you add GIFs (animated clip art) to your image – Fun! You can also import a photo from your computer or from a variety of image hosting sites like PhotoBucket, Facebook, and Flicker. Check out this patchwork effect:

All of these editors allow you to either save the edited image to your computer or share on social media sites right from the platform. Remember to save your images as you edit so you don’t lose your work – That’s always the worst!

Do you have any favorite free and/or cheap photo editing tools of your own? Share with us!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 3 Free Photo Editing Tools That’ll Give Your Pics Sham-Wow appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Pick Keywords That’re Kind of a Big Deal

Fri, 04/19/2013 - 06:00

So let’s cover the basics first: What exactly is a keyword? A keyword is a word or search term that someone types into Google, Bing or any other search engine when they’re looking for information online. This (hopefully) directs users to information relevant to their search and ultimately to your site. Any keywords you use within your website should obviously be related to the content, products, etc. found on your site. For example, if you own a custom coffee mug business called, Chipper’s Coffee Mugs, a valuable keyword would be “custom coffee mugs.” There will never just be one keyword for your site, but there will be handfuls of words that are more valuable to you than others. And, if you pick/use the best keywords and keyword tools (that are kind of a big deal), customers will come. Here’s how:

What Makes a Good Keyword?

Value: There are lots of different factors that’ll tell you how valuable a keyword is. All of this data can be found from the Google Adwords Keyword Tool amongst others. There’s usually a nice sweet spot with all of these value factors, which makes it easier to pick the best keywords. Just like with everything in life, there will always be a little booger of a keyword that doesn’t fit the bill perfectly. We suggest using your best judgement on how to blend the values to pick the best keyword.

Impressions: An impression is when a keyword shows up in the SERP (search engine results page). One-word keywords will have much higher impressions, but are usually not the best keywords to go with. Think of one-word keywords as being the big fish in the sea; it would feed your family for a month, but is impossible to catch because there are millions of other fishermen in the water. On the other hand, you don’t want to spend too much time trying to catch a keyword with no or little impressions.

Competition/ Difficulty: This is a statistic that tells you how many other people/companies/sites are competing against you for a particular keyword. Sometimes this is a stat that can be a little misleading. If you type in the term: “Facebook” on the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, you’ll get this result: Competition: Low. Monthly Searches: 3.7 billion. This means, there aren’t very many websites or companies using “Facebook” as a keyword, however, 3.7 billion people are searching for it on a monthly basis! Holy search volume BATMAN! Before you jump to the conclusion that you need to pick the keyword, “Facebook,” you have to use your noodle. This is a prime example of where the competition stat is a misleading. “Facebook” is a great keyword to start with, make it the head of your keyword, and then find a longer tail search. A longer what?

Long Tail… Like a Giraffe? This certainly sounds like a funny term, but it has a lot to do with keywords. Having the right amount of tail on your keyword can go a long way for your business. There are a few parts of a keyword. The head, middle and tail. Let’s revisit the Chipper’s Coffee Mugs website scenario. Here’s an example keyword: custom coffee mugs. The head portion doesn’t have to be right at the beginning of the keyword. In this case the head of this keyword is “coffee,” the middle is “coffee mugs” and the long tail is “custom coffee mugs.”

Head: coffee

Now don’t get us wrong it would be awesome if you could rank well in the SERPs for “coffee,” but that might not be the best keyword for a custom coffee mug business. If you think about it, people searching for “coffee” might also be looking for the closest place to get their caffeine fix, not necessarily how to obtain the coolest new custom mug.

Middle: coffee mugs

Now we’re getting closer to that great keyword! We’ve narrowed it down from just coffee, to what you put the coffee in, which happens to be what you sell. Now these middle ground keywords are relevant to your business, but they’re highly competitive keywords.

Long Tail: Custom coffee mugs

This is the keyword sweet spot. It combines the right amount of search volume without being too competitive and is also highly relevant to your business.

Can your tail be too long? Yep! Here’s an example of an overly long tail: black custom coffee mugs with lid – Talk about getting down to the details! While we would imagine the conversion rate would be pretty high, but there may not be many searches on Google for this overly long keyword.

Wondering how to research keywords? There are tools for that! Google’s AdWords Tool is the industry standard, but there are plenty others that have lots of value! Mix and match the tools until you find the best ones that work for you.

Free Keyword Research Tools

Google AdWords Tool- The industry standard for keyword data.

Google Trends- Another cool tool from Google that compares how certain keywords are trending.

Scribe WordPress Plugin- A useful built in keyword tool if you run a site on WordPress.org

Microsoft Advertising Intelligence- Similar to Google’s tool, but for Bing.

Wordtracker

Paid(ish) Keyword Research Tools

Pro SEOmoz Keyword Analysis Tool- This is a great keyword tool if you already have a Pro SEOmoz Account.

Other Keyword Research Ideas

These aren’t mainstream methods for keyword discovery, but they might get your brain wheels churning in the right direction:

Google Instant- This is what Google suggests for the searcher when they start typing in theory search term. This is a great tool to use for blog post ideas because everything Google suggests is highly topical or has been recently been searched.

Google Related Searches: These are searches that Google will display after a traditional SERP has been displayed. This will usually be longer tail keywords. 

Now, you should be seeing the value in having some long(er) tail keywords in your keyword mix. Know of any keyword tools we may have missed, or do you have a tool mixture that works well for you? Let us hear it in the comments.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post How to Pick Keywords That’re Kind of a Big Deal appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Help Your Employees Get More Done

Thu, 04/18/2013 - 09:50

When you think about your team, would you describe them as happy, content, and fulfilled with their work? Or, have you got more issues than a magazine rack with grumpy, discontent, unsatisfied people in your ranks? What can you do to ensure the former?

In my 12 years of leading VerticalResponse, I’ve learned that a huge factor in my team’s satisfaction, is the ability to get sh*& done! There, I’ve said it. Yes, the simple ability to get what they need done goes a long way, baby.

Remove Obstacles

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I work for my team and one of my biggest goals is to remove obstacles for them so they can keep moving forward and meet their deadlines. There’s nothing worse than getting held up by some bureaucratic approval process, or having to do a “dog and pony” show for simple things. No one enjoys being in perpetual hurry-up-and-wait mode. Trust me, we all know how frustrating that is!

Tip: Empower your team and keep approvals and other blockers to a minimum. One simple question you can ask to help identify potential roadblocks is, “What can I do to help you get your stuff done?” Then work together to remove roadblocks proactively. Be aware of your team’s deadlines and prioritize accordingly. For example, if one of my content marketers is on a tight deadline with an editor, I’ll look at the piece ASAP so she gets it done.

Give ‘em What They Need

Take a look around at the tools and resources your team uses in their day-to-day. Is there something newer that could help employees get work done more efficiently? Are they doing things manually that could be automated? Are they doing tasks that may even be totally unnecessary because that’s they way “it’s always been done”? That last one always kills me.

Here’s an example: A few years ago a member of our team needed a new version of the software he was using for graphic design. Our Head of IT at the time made him make a federal case (okay, I’m embellishing just a bit, but it was pretty crazy) to get the software update. How do you think this made the designer feel? He was just trying to get his job done better and faster. Now a few more years have passed and he just got an email from our current Head of IT informing him that a new update was available and that we got him the very latest version with all the bells and whistles, not just for him, but for his entire team. Big difference, eh?

Tip: Make sure everyone at your company is on the lookout for affordable and practical ways you can get things done more efficiently. Whether it’s that new software, or instituting a meeting-free day, see what will make the most impact on your team and their ability to get things done.

So, what can you do to help your team get stuff done? Whether you remove obstacles, automate a manual process, or just get out of their way, helping your employees get stuff done may be the best thing you ever do.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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