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Copywriting Cheat Sheet: How to Write for Email, Social and The Web

Thu, 01/31/2013 - 06:00

Psst… want to know the key to writing engaging copy for email, social media and the web? We’ve got a cheat sheet.

Now we don’t normally condone “cheating,” but when it comes to writing effective copy for various online marketing channels, like Facebook, email, or a website, we wholeheartedly approve of you using our copywriting cheat sheet infographic. Producing content and promoting it is a top priority for gaining and retaining customers, but not every marketing channel is the same. Your writing should also accommodate each channel and the audience it attracts. But what tone of voice should you use, how many characters do you include, when should you sell, or simply converse? Our cheat sheet answers these questions so that your content is both engaging and effective… And this is one cheat sheet you don’t have to worry about getting caught using. Pass it on!

The post Copywriting Cheat Sheet: How to Write for Email, Social and The Web appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Think Like a Rockstar and Stand Out from the Competition!

Wed, 01/30/2013 - 06:00

Are you sending emails to your customers? Using social media to promote your latest offers, deals, cool pictures and behind the scenes action? Tweeting interesting tid-bits? Awesome! And guess what? So are most of your competitors. So how does a biz stand out from the crowd and get some attention?

Maybe it’s time to think like a rock star. Rock stars are rarely wallflowers. They’re often larger than life in both looks and personalities. Think about Lady Gaga, Madonna and even Guns N’ Roses frontman, Axl Rose. These stars are not only larger than life, they’re controversial, a bit wild and certainly in the news – a lot.

We recently attended the New Media Expo conference in Las Vegas (a definite rock star locale), and got to listen in on a presentation by Craig Duswalt, called How to Create New Content & Think Outside the Box. Craig is the creator of the RockStar System For Success – How to Achieve RockStar Status in Your Industry and his background includes touring with Guns N’ Roses, as Axl Rose’s personal manager, and Air Supply, as the band’s personal assistant. Craig combined his backgrounds in both music and marketing, and is now a professional speaker and author, promoting his “RockStar System for Success” seminar all over the country, teaching entrepreneurs, speakers, authors, coaches and info-marketers how to promote themselves and their business. According to Craig, “What made me stand out from everybody else was the little outside of the box marketing type techniques that I learned with Guns N’ Roses, how they attracted 80,000 people to a concert, and how we can take those theories, and put them in every day life, and the corporate world.”

Craig shared a few rock star marketing tips to help your biz stand out from the competition:

1. Be Unique: In order to stand out, you have to do things differently from your competition. For example, some of us struggle to market a business that might not be terribly exciting, sexy, or rock and roll. But, take a look at what the folks over at Fiskars are doing. Yep, you heard me right, Fiskars, as in the scissors. But they’re not just any scissors. Fiskars is the #1 scissors brand, and one look at their website, you’ll see why. Instead of jamming their features and benefits down your throat, they actually focus on providing help, resources and ideas for projects and crafts. Ding-ding! Perfect for their users.

And, take a deeper look at their community called Fiskateers. According to Fiskars website, “Back in 2005, Fiskars was looking for a way to connect and communicate with some pretty important people—the very crafters who used their products on a daily basis. With the help of Brains on Fire, Fiskars launched a four-city casting call for the loudest, proudest paper crafters across the country. During an 11-day road trip that accompanied the casting call, more than 100 creative folks stepped up to show their work, tell about their lives, and share their passion for crafting. This was just the type of communication Fiskars was looking for!” Eight years later, they’ve got their own Facebook page, Twitter handle and are a vibrant and engaged community of Fiskars loyalists. Pretty cutting edge (pun intended) for a scissor company, eh? How many businesses would love to have a community like that? And remember, this is about scissors. But Fiskars made it about customers and their interests, which is what makes them unique and what continues to propel their success.

2. Be Current and Timely: Craig Duswalt uses Google Zeitgeist to see what topics people are searching, then crafts his content around those themes. You may remember a few years back when Kayne West interrupted the young Taylor Swift during her VMA acceptance speech. Immediately, the internet was a buzz with chatter about it. So what did Craig do? He leveraged all this buzz for his marketing biz. How? According to Craig, “I wrote a post about what happened because my brand is Rockstar, and it was a very Rocskstar thing that happened. It was a very bad thing that happened, but I tied into some marketing principles and I posted it on ping.fm, which went to my Facebook site. It went to my blog. It went to my website. It went everywhere and I got a ton of hits that night because people were Googling Kanye West. I had a ton of hits because I used something that happened in the news, and tied it into my brand.”

3. Reverse Shoplifting: You may be thinking, “What the heck?” because that’s what we also thought when we first heard Craig speak about this, but it’s brilliant in a controversial, rock star kinda way. Here’s how it works: Craig advised the crowd to first write a short book and self-publish it. There are all kinds of tools available now to do this, and you can repurpose content you already have on your blog, website or other channels. Once you’ve got your book in hand, it’s time to get it on the shelves of some of those big box retailers like Barnes & Nobel. But how do you go about doing this? Here’s where the “reverse shoplifting” comes in: Craig advises walking into a book store with 5-10 copies of your self-published book, and simply place them on a shelf in the appropriate area, hence the “reverse shoplifting.” Craig doesn’t get any proceeds from the sales,  but when a customer brings his book to the register, and the barcode on the back is scanned, (he teaches you how to do the barcode in his seminar), it tells the cashier the book is out of stock, and to place an order for more! Crazy right? While this tip may not work for everyone, it’s definitely an off the charts idea.

If you try any of Craig’s marketing tips you may go from singing the business blues to Welcome to the Jungle in no time! Let us know your thoughts about these marketing tips.

The post Think Like a Rockstar and Stand Out from the Competition! appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

The Next Black & White Animal for New Google Update: Google Skunk

Mon, 01/28/2013 - 06:00

If you’ve worked on the Internet in the past 12+ years, you may have felt the sting of a Google update to their search algorithm. Nowadays, just hearing the words “Panda” or “Penguin” will send a company-wide shiver up everyone’s spines. For some reason, Google likes to name these updates after black and white animals and as with most things “SEO,” there’s a certain amount of speculation and theorizing involved. Just like the inevitable next version of Apple’s iPhone, there will surely be another Google update to their algorithm. This algorithm update that Google has brewing will leave website owners, SEO specialists, bloggers and other Internet people pulling their hair out.

Are you ready to hear what we believe is the next black and white, anti-web spam, animal algorithm update that Matt Cutts is raising over at Google?

THE GOOGLE SKUNK 

While we wouldn’t bet the farm on the skunk part, here are some things you can be sure the Google update will focus on:

Weak content gets smashed. Again.

This shouldn’t be a surprise after Google’s past duplicate content penalties, but you would be amazed at how many people still publish tons of low quality, duplicate content. If you use guest bloggers to pump content into your blog, be very, very careful. Thin, spun, and weak content is right in the middle of Google’s cross hairs. Low quality guest bloggers will sometimes give the same exact article to several different websites. Google may see this as an attempt to game the system and slap a penalty on your site. Some guest bloggers do great work, but keep your eyes peeled for duplicate or copied content. Fortunately, you don’t need to scour the Internet for hours looking to see if your content is posted elsewhere.

Instead, consult these tools for checking duplicate content. Even better than using guest bloggers, create your own, original content. You’re an expert in your field, so write good, quality content and post it on your blog or website. That’s a strong start to creating a solid content marketing strategy.

Poor backlink profile

If your site’s been around for a while, which in Internet terms is more than 5 years, you might unknowingly have a poor backlink profile. A backlink, if you don’t already know, is a link from a website that points to your site. Poor means spammy and low quality, which Google has very publicly declared it will penalize.

Unfortunately, a poor backlink profile isn’t always your fault, and, worse, you may not even know you have one. Back in the “Wild, Wild West” days of SEO, lots of companies, big and small alike, did some less than stellar practices, also known as blackhat, that are specifically intended to beat the algorithm and gain top keyword rankings.

If you’ve ever hired an SEO firm or consultant in the past, no matter how honest they said they were, you still should check your backlink profile. SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer is a great tool to use for this. If you do a random spot check on a few of your links and they lead to sites you wouldn’t dare forward to your Grandma, then odds are you don’t want them linking back to your site. Wish you could just get rid of them? You’re in luck because Google has been kind enough to provide a tool to get rid of spam and low quality links. Behold the Google Disavow tool. This tool, in short, tells Google you don’t want them to look at the links for one reason or another. Now before you go hog wild on with this powerful tool, do some research and be sure you’re disavowing only bad links that you really want gone, and not links that you want to keep. Don’t forget that backlinks are still important and provide significant SEO value.

Rumors are just that… until Google makes it official

The SEO industry is known for their high amount of speculation, regarding updates. That is the nature of the SEO beast, as Google doesn’t release a ton of details regarding their updates. Usually the vagueness of a Google update sends everyone scrambling to check their site’s backlinks with a fine-toothed comb. But here’s an easy way to do it: Take each blog post, article ,and commentary, including this one, with a giant grain of salt. You should take note of the issue, do some investigation and analysis, and then act slowly and surely. Just as there is no quick way to a #1 keyword ranking, there is no quick fix to crawl out from under a Google update penalty. There are horror stories of sites deleting almost every piece of content and backlink just days after Google’s latest black and white beast was let out of its cage. Does all this gloom and doom have you worried? Don’t freak, because we’ve got your back.

So what CAN you do to protect your site from the next Google update?

The constant threat of a Google update has most webmasters and SEO specialists shaking in their boots. Google always preaches about wanting to help the user get a better search result and experience. Almost every link building technique you’ve heard of in the past 5 years is almost certain to line you up for a Google penalty. SEOMoz’s Rand Fishkin, a leader in the SEO industry, posted about the death of traditional link building, and the rebirth of “link earning.” There’s no quick way to obtaining a 1st page ranking. Good rankings, like most good things, require lots of hard work. One thing that always rings true in Google’s ears: high-quality and original content.

Here are the 2 must-knows for SEO that’ll keep you in the clear of a Google update penalty, and climbing up the keyword rankings:
1. Keep your content natural and not over-stuffed with keywords
2. Keep your keywords and landing pages diverse.

So maybe you won’t be reading about the Google Skunk update, but you can be sure sometime in the future – and sooner rather than later – there will be another anti-spam Google update. If you keep up the high-quality content, diverse link profile, you can avoid getting skunked by the next big Google update.

Do you have any ideas on what the next Google animal will be? Or do you think the next update will ding some other factor? We would love to hear about it in the comments!

The post The Next Black & White Animal for New Google Update: Google Skunk appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Amid Social Media Buzz, Don’t Forget Email Marketing

Fri, 01/25/2013 - 06:00

The marketing world is fully enamored with social media. But with all the focus on social, author Dale Traxler of Practical eCommerce, reminds fellow ecommerce marketers not forget about email marketing. “Email may not be trendy,” says Traxler, “but it’s cheap, easy to measure, and easy to target. It’s a good place to do testing, it keeps your brand visible, and at the end of the day it delivers results.” – We like the sound of that!

Some of the Traxler’s reasons for keeping a focus on email marketing?

  • Click through rates are still higher than online advertising.
  • Lists are easy to build. Traxler says, “ For online retailers, it’s easy to grow your email list by promoting it on your website and through your social media channels. Unsubscribe rates are typically low, so your list will almost always grow.”
  • List segmentation is easy and great for targeting customers.
  • Conversion rates are high.
  • A/B testing is easy.
  • It’s inexpensive.
  • Email adapts well to mobile.
  • There’s isn’t any conversation to monitor.
  • Email is easy to measure.
  • Templates are easy to build and customize.

To deliver effective content to your customers, Traxler suggests sending more than just email promos. “Talk about your industry, trends, new products, even what you did on your summer vacation. Use emails as a way to connect more personally with your customers. You have more space than you do on Facebook or Twitter — take advantage of it.” You know what’s the perfect example of this? An email newsletter! And, we’ve got just the post for you to read: 5 Gold Rules to Creating a Significant Email Newsletter.

The best way to use email marketing – according to Traxer – is to integrate with other tools and platforms. “When you send an email, use Facebook and Twitter posts to direct people to a copy of it. Or, use Twitter to solicit email subscribers by offering a benefit to sign up. Because Twitter is a viral platform, the offer to subscribe may reach hundreds of people that haven’t heard of you.”

With all the attention being paid to social media lately, how have you been adjusting your marketing strategy?

The post Amid Social Media Buzz, Don’t Forget Email Marketing appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Writing for the Web (It’s Not What You Learned in English Class)

Wed, 01/23/2013 - 06:00

One of my best friends is a dentist who is about to open her own private dental practice. I received a frantic call from her the other day: “I’m building my website, but I have no idea how to write anything for it. Help!”

Writing doesn’t come easy for many people, let alone writing for the Web. Sure, we’ve all plowed through English classes in school and can never forget the ubiquitous five-paragraph essay. Eventually, though, many go on and end up working in jobs and industries that don’t require a lot of writing, like my dentist friend.

But now that almost everyone’s first destination for information is the Web, content – and being able to produce it – is becoming more important, no matter what your industry. And if you’re a small business, having a website with informative, engaging content is crucial to marketing and growing your company.

If you’re in need of a little writing refresher, here are five website copywriting basics to know before you start typing. (Hint: They’re probably not what your English teacher taught you.)

1. Get to the point, stat.

No need for a formal intro paragraph here. If there’s one thing that the Web has conditioned all of us to do well, it’s skimming content for the interesting bits. If you’re trying to write your site’s “about” page, you don’t need to start off describing when and where you were born, unless it’s relevant to your business or why you started it.

One exception to this rule is using that valuable first sentence or paragraph as a creative, catchy “hook,” like a story or question. This can be a great tool to draw readers in, as long as it’s relevant to the rest of the content on the page.

2. Embrace short paragraphs.

In school, we were taught that a paragraph had to have a minimum number of sentences. (Anyone remember that magic number?) Not so in Web writing. A huge block of text is overwhelming for readers, especially on a website. Break it up into digestible paragraphs of around two to five sentences each.

3. A picture is worth a thousand words.

If something you’re trying to describe can be more easily understood with a photo, graphic or video, then use the latter instead. That’s why infographics are so popular these days – people understand visuals a lot quicker and easier than text.

I have another friend who owns a premium denim business called Railcar Fine Goods. Instead of writing about his special type of denim stitching, he posts tons of photos so readers can instantly see it instead of trying to envision it in their heads. (He also hates writing, so this was an easy and effective way to get around it.)

4. Show some personality.

People want to do business with people, so keep that in mind when you’re writing for the Web. Go ahead, use “I” or “we”  – you won’t get into trouble. One of the first things I recommended to my dentist friend was to avoid writing clinically or using words only dentists would understand. Be professional and error-free, of course, but also have a little fun with your copywriting. A distinctive voice and perspective will help differentiate you from your competitors.

5. Consider SEO keywords.

This is unique to website copywriting. Sprinkling high-ranking terms and phrases in headlines and throughout your website helps boost your position on a search results page when someone is searching for that term or phrase. Check out our post “12 Steps to Becoming a Natural at SEO” to learn how to get the most SEO juice out of your content and copy.

Want more copywriting guidance? Check out all of our helpful copywriting/content marketing posts, and/or visit Copyblogger.com, one of our favorite writing resources here at VerticalResponse. It’s got loads of tips on writing for the Web, with new stuff posted every day. The best part? The writers practice what they preach, so their articles are super-easy to read. Happy writing!

The post Writing for the Web (It’s Not What You Learned in English Class) appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Don’t Get Hacked – WordPress Security Tips to Keep Your Blog Safe

Tue, 01/22/2013 - 06:00

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine tried accessing her WordPress blog via her smartphone only to find that it mysteriously redirected her to a Russian website. When she tried accessing the site through her desktop web browser, however, it came up just fine. She called me to help figure out what was going on, so I dug into the code for the template she was using and discovered someone had exploited a WordPress security vulnerability. They added code that redirected mobile visitors to the foreign site.

It was a reasonably quick and easy hack to fix, and I immediately changed the passwords used to access both the WordPress site,  as well as the server credentials used to upload code, but it left me feeling uneasy about the security of that WordPress install for a while.

So, when I saw that Dre Armeda from online security firm, Sucuri, was delivering a talk about WordPress security at the recent New Media Expo, I made sure I was in the front row, notebook in hand.

It turns out that keeping your WordPress installation secure – whether your site is hosted on WordPress.com or installed locally through WordPress.org – is not difficult, but you need to stay on top of it. There’s nothing inherently insecure about WordPress – certainly no more than any other web application – but following these tips, culled both from Armeda’s talk, as well as my own experience managing WordPress sites and other online systems, can reduce the chances that you’ll be unpleasantly surprised by a hack.

  • Change passwords frequently – Armeda likens passwords to toothbrushes – you should choose a good one, change it often and not share it with anyone. Changing your password monthly or quarterly is good practice for anything that requires a password. Select something that can’t be found in the dictionary and liberally pepper it with numbers and non-alphabetic symbols like #@$ or %. Armeda also recommends taking advantage of a password manger like LastPass, which can handle much of the heavy lifting of changing and maintaining multiple secure passwords for you.

  • Keep both WordPress and its plugins updated – It seems that every time I log in to the admin console for WordPress, there’s another prompt to either update WordPress itself,  or one of the plugins I’ve installed. It only takes a few minutes, but I’ve been tempted to put it off. Like me, you’ll need to fight this temptation. Try to log in as the admin user at least once a week to make sure everything is up-to-date. Often, these updates fix security vulnerabilities that could leave your site open to hackers. Since the code that runs WordPress and its plugins is open for the world to see, it often doesn’t take long for some nefarious coder to find and exploit a security hole. Keeping everything up-to-date helps keep your site safe.
  • Delete unused plugins - I often install two or three plugins for a specific feature – such as SEO, social sharing or contact forms – before I settle on one I plan to use. Simply deactivating the plugins you’re not using isn’t enough – the code is still on your server and, if it has some weakness in it, can be exploited. Make sure you hit the “Delete” link on these plugins to remove them from your server completely.
  • Never use the “admin” account to create content – WordPress and its plugins are only one point of possible infection. The computer and browser you use to access them can also be a weakness. Some pieces of malware sniff for passwords and then share them with other bad guys in the Internet. Since the “admin” account on WordPress has access to the entire install, having that password get out could be disastrous. To limit the risk, set up a separate user with the “Editor” or “Author” role in your WordPress installation and only use that account when you’re creating new blog posts or commenting. You should only use the “admin” account when you’re performing administrative functions.
  • Keep your antivirus software up-to-date and scan your computer frequently - If you don’t currently have antivirus software installed on your computer (i.e., Norton, Avast, Trend Micros, etc.), stop what you’re doing (ok, finish reading this post then do it) and get it installed immediately. And when your antivirus needs an update, allow it. Do a thorough scan of your machine at least once a month to keep it clean of the kind of malware that can open you to a whole variety of security issues.

It’s important to understand that nothing can guarantee 100% WordPress security. But, staying on top of software updates, changing your passwords frequently and limiting your risk to exposure for a security breach can get you more than 98% of the way there.

The post Don’t Get Hacked – WordPress Security Tips to Keep Your Blog Safe appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Cool Photo Apps to Make Your Images Pop

Mon, 01/21/2013 - 06:00

Using compelling images in your emails, blog posts, pins, Facebook status updates, and of course, on Instagram, the hippest social network around, is crucial in these image-centric times. But how can you set your pictures apart from the millions of other photos? We’ve got five photo apps that’ll make your pictures pop, and your friends jealous of your mad image skills.

1.Overgram and Over HD by Potluck (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch only)

Overgram is a free iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch app that allows you to drop stylistic type “over” your photo. It includes 10 fonts and will place a watermark on your image. If you’d like to remove the watermark, you can complete a quick $.99 in-app purchase and it will be removed. If you’d like more fonts (more than 225 to be exact), the ability to choose from a variety of stock backgrounds and additional customization options, you can download the more robust Over HD app for $1.99. The other huge difference with Over HD is that it has the ability to share your tricked out photos on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, as well as Instagram.

2. Diptic by Peak Systems (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android)

Diptic allows you to edit and mash up photos to create incredible collages. They can then be quickly shared on your social networks including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr and Posterous. The editing functions include 165 layouts for up to 9 photos in one collage, text captions, 14 different filters and the ability to round the borders with very distinctive textures. You get all this functionality for only $.99.

3. Color Splash by Pocket Pixel Inc. (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch only)

Using your finger to highlight the areas you’d like to add a “splash” of color to, the $.99 Color Splash app lets you effortlessly bring a dramatic look to your photos. By switching the photo to black and white through a filter, you have the ability to “brush off” the drab and highlight the color of the original photo. This focuses the attention of your audience to that particular piece of the photo. While this specific app is not available for Android, there are three others that are similar including Color Splash FX (Free), Color Splash Effect (Free) and Color Touch Effects (Free).

4. LensLight by BrainFeverMedia (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch only)

Another $.99 cent photo app, LensLight is a must for anyone who wants to add cool lighting effects to their Instagram pics. With the ability to choose from four different lighting effects including Bokeh, LensFlares, Light Leaks and Spotlights, your friends will think you’re moonlighting as a professional photographer. In addition to the above mentioned effects, you can further customize your photos using the provided lens textures.

5. AutoStitch Panorama by Cloudburst Research (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch only)

AutoStitch Panorama is a high-quality panorama app worth every bit of the $1.99 price tag. With the ability to stitch photos in any order, including vertical or horizontal, the app can generate gorgeous wide-angle panoramas of up to 18 megapixels, with no visible seams. Like other apps we’ve shared above, the app isn’t available for the Android platform, but the Photaf Panorama (free) is a somewhat comparable app available at the Google Play store.

There you have 5 cool photo apps that’ll give your pics extra mojo. Have any faves of your own?

The post 5 Cool Photo Apps to Make Your Images Pop appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Bite-Sized Social Media Marketing

Fri, 01/18/2013 - 06:00

When it comes to social media, bigger isn’t always better. Visitors like short, crisp interactions that get straight to the point.

Social media software expert Jeff Bullas recently wrote a compelling article highlighting 5 types of snack-sized content for social media marketing worth considering. Bullas’ list includes:

1. Snack-Sized Blog Posts
Instead of hitting readers over the head with a solid wall of text on your blog, keep to the basics including:

  • A good headline
  • Enticing introduction
  • Tempting sub-titles
  • Short paragraphs between 2 and 3 sentences

Most readers use social media management tools to quickly skim through headlines. Keeping things short and basic can make your post stand out.

2. Infographics
Bullas advises that infographics “have the endearing habit of being shared ‘often’ and quickly.” Furthermore, they often mix graphics and text to communicate brand messages in seconds and are easily embedded online. If you want to jump on board with your own, check out our recent post, 5 Free Tools for Creating Killer Infographics.

3. 15-Second Videos
Viddy is widely hailed as the Twitter and Instagram video love child, allowing only 15-second-long video clips on its site. It’s taking off, and could become one of the most powerful social media marketing tools in the years to come.

4. Images
Most studies show that pictures are still the most widely shared items across all social media software programs. Nothing beats a crisp, clear image for social media effectiveness. We’ve got more scoop on that here.

5. Quotes
Bullas is a big believer in the power of quotes, writing, “the audiences on Twitter and Facebook social networks love those inspiring or humorous quotes that help people start or finish the day with a smile on their face or a song in their soul.”

Do you believe that shorter can be sweeter when it comes to social media marketing? How do you use bite-size content to get your message out? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

The post Bite-Sized Social Media Marketing appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

3 Mobile Marketing Strategies That’ll Light up 2013

Thu, 01/17/2013 - 06:00

Now that it’s January and the “best of 2012″ lists are complete, it’s time to look ahead at the new and interesting mobile marketing tools or strategies coming our way this year. Why mobile marketing? Check out these stats: According to eDigitalResearch, 54% of all smart phone owners use their phones to access websites, and 38% have made an online purchase with their phone! That’s a huge audience to grab for your small business. While it’s still early in the year, we know big changes are in store for how mobile phones will be used, and how mobile marketers, like you can use them. So here are three innovative mobile marketing tactics, features and/or apps we think will be big in the next year:

1. Passbook – As a user, this mobile app allows you to store all of your boarding passes, event tickets, retail coupons and store cards all in one place. As a business, you can create offers, such as coupons, event tickets or loyalty cards in the form of a “pass,” which you can distribute to current or potential customers via email, the web or directly from an app. All coupons or passes are then stored in the Passbook app, ready to be used. Amazingly, the app is also time and location enabled, so when a customer walks into your store any/all relevant coupons you have in Passbook, will appear on their phone. And once someone has accepted an offer stored in Passbook, permission is automatic granted for other offers you may have. So you can continue to offer deals to your most loyal customers and easily update or change the deal. Apple has a helpful site with more info about Passbook.

This app appears to be a great idea, and easy to implement in your marketing. And, you don’t have to be a programmer to take advantage of it (phew!). If you have the iPhone 5, or you update to iOS6, the Passbook app will be added to your phone.

2. Location based marketing – Sure we’ve seen and used different location based social media programs like FourSquare, but as mobile marketing continues to expand, using location based apps could become much more important for your business. Location services rely on GPS data to pinpoint where the phone user is. Since many people are already willing to check in when and where they shop or eat, savvy marketers can use this data to target their messages to the right people at the right time. This allows you to send cool time-sensitive offers, increasing the sense of urgency to customers while they’re in your store or the area. ByteLight takes this a step further by using location-based services (indoors) through actual light! ByteLight is a light blub that sends waves of unique patterns only visible on a mobile device mobile to determine where a user is. As a business, once a customer reaches a certain part of your store in the vicinity of a ByteLight, you can send an offer specific to that section of the store. Watch the video to learn more about this innovative technology:

3. Mobile payments – This is not a new concept, but with more businesses enabling payment from a mobile phone, it’s something that’ll be in full force in the near future. Google Wallet and Square Wallet are examples of apps that can be used by your customers to purchase from your business. But beyond the ability to make a purchase in-store, they also offer a quick way for someone to pay when shopping online. And, for a business that offers loyalty programs, its an easy way for your customers to keep track of their purchases. Starbucks does a bang up job of this – not only can you purchase a coffee using your mobile phone, but the app also tracks purchases for their loyalty program. Want to do this for your biz? You’ll need to add a button for online payments to your website, and an NFC reader for in-store purchasing. And, of course, your customers will need to download an app like the ones mentioned above.

And don’t forget, with all this attention on mobile phones and mobile marketing, it’s vital to have mobile-friendly email marketing and websites. According to Knotice, 36% of all email opens in the first half of 2012 came from mobile phones. And that number is just going to keep increasing.

These are just some our predictions of what will be big in 2013, what are your mobile marketing plans for 2013? Is there an app, feature, strategy, or concept you’re excited to try?

The post 3 Mobile Marketing Strategies That’ll Light up 2013 appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Don’t Break the Bank – Small Business Financing Made Easy

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 06:00

So you want to be an entrepreneur? Or are looking to fund your existing small business? You’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a look at 5 options for small business financing made easy:

1. Personal Funding
The first and most obvious way to finance your business is to pay for it out of your own pocket. Undoubtedly, as you were planning to embark on this exciting new adventure, you’ve started putting some money aside, whether it be in your various bank accounts or under your mattress (hopefully the former), while waiting for the opportune moment. For many, this is how your business got started and you may have reached the end of your kitty and need some more options. Read on…

2. Friends & Family
Another relatively easy way to get your small business financed (depending on your relationship with your Aunt Harriet) is to ask the people close to you to invest. Family members and close friends are often happy to lend money to help a personal acquaintance in need, especially when you add in the excitement of launching a new company, with very little hassle or legal wrangling. Our very own CEO and founder, Janine Popick used this method to get VerticalResponse funded!

The downside that comes from mixing business with personal relationships, is it can cause a strain later, especially if results are less than stellar, so always keep it professional and honor the investments your friends and family make. Make sure they’re first on the list to get paid when you start to take money out of the business.

3. Kickstarter
If you’ve got a creative idea and don’t want to go the traditional small business financing route, check out Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects that covers everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others.

According to Kickstarter, since their launch on April 28, 2009, over $350 million has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people, funding more than 30,000 creative projects! That’s a lot of moolah for a small business!

Kickstarter says, “Each project is independently created and crafted by the person behind it. The filmmakers, musicians, artists, and designers you see on Kickstarter have complete control and responsibility over their projects. They spend weeks building their project pages, shooting their videos, and brainstorming what rewards to offer backers. When they’re ready, creators launch their project and share it with their community. Every project creator sets their project’s funding goal and deadline. If people like the project, they can pledge money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers’ credit cards are charged when time expires. If the project falls short, no one is charged. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing.” And, if your project gets funded, Kickstarter applies a 5% fee to the funds collected.

We recently posted about the crew at Back to the Roots, and they got funding for their latest project using Kickstarter. Definitely cool stuff.

4. Debt Financing
This is how the vast majority of small businesses get funded; simply by taking a loan at the bank. If your cash flow, credit history and business plan are up to par, banks will provide you with funds or a line of credit, along with a reimbursement schedule and interest rate. You can choose between 2 types of loans: secured, in which you’ll need to give up a deposit (in form of personal, commercial or residential property) in exchange for the funds; or unsecured, where no collateral is required, but the amount of capital will be smaller than for a secured one.

The advantages of this method are 1) interests are often tax deductible and 2) the bank won’t look to tell you how to run your company. On the other hand, having such a potentially high debt might discourage other investors to provide you with additional funds, so there’s a fine line to walk here.

5. Government Loans
Governments around the world are making a big push to help entrepreneurs start their ventures. The economy is still recovering, but start-ups and small businesses hold the key to providing it with the jolt it desperately needs by creating new jobs and generating revenue. In the US, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is in charge of raising capital from local lending partners to help kick-start nascent companies. To take advantage of these funds, entrepreneurs need to meet certain minimum criteria and provide financial details for both themselves and their start-up (loan request amount, collateral details, business and personal statements…) while facing an ever-growing competition from the other new business owners on the market. There’s plenty of cash to be loaned though, as in the past 10 years, the SBA has provided nearly 435,000 new businesses with over $94.6 billion total (source: Go4Funding).

Personal acquaintances, financial institutions and even online fund crowdsourcing can all be excellent paths for small business financing.

Have you taken advantage of any of these methods to finance your small business, or found others? Share away!

The post Don’t Break the Bank – Small Business Financing Made Easy appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

14 Must-Attend Business Events and Conferences for 2013

Mon, 01/14/2013 - 06:00

There are a ton of great business events and conferences to attend (and sponsor) every year, and 2013 is no exception. We recently shared 10 Awesome Events Every Entrepreneur Should Know, and we’ve got 14 more to attend in 2013, and one for 2014!

OMS – Online Marketing Summit (Multiple events/locations)
February 11-13, 2013
San Diego, CA
Attendees: 1,200

What OMS says: “Online Marketing Summit (OMS) connects marketers with the knowledge, experts and technologies that are transforming digital marketing and business as we know it.

This interactive symposium empowers marketing professionals of all levels with actionable information via expert led educational sessions and collaborative engagement with peers, thought leaders and providers that are driving the industry forward.”

 eTail West
February 25-28, 2013
Palm Desert, CA
Attendees: 2,000

What eTail says: “Launched in 1999, eTail is the premier online and multi-channel retail conference dedicated to supporting the growth of the retail industry by facilitating high-level networking opportunities and providing leading industry knowledge.

Every year, eTail brings together 2000+ senior-level eCommerce and marketing professionals from cross-industry, including, but not limited to; Apparel, Accessories, Sporting Goods, Beauty, Consumer Electronics, Hard and Soft Goods, Home Furnishings, Books, Music, Luxury, Travel, Office Products, Department Stores and more to find solutions for their top challenges.”

SXSW – South by Southwest (Interactive)
March 8-12, 2013
Austin, TX
Attendees: 15,000

Recommended by our resident Evangelist, Rob Zazueta
What Rob says: “It’s the event where I meet the leaders in the industry, just by waiting in line for the bathroom. There are amazing sessions discussing both cutting edge and well-tested ideas that cut across all aspects of marketing, technology, productivity and more. Plus, the trade show is where I find the hits I hear about for the rest of the year.”

What SXSW says: “Scheduled March 8-12, the 2013 SXSW® Interactive Festival will feature five days of compelling presentations from the brightest minds in emerging technology, scores of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders, the SXSW Trade Show and an unbeatable lineup of special programs showcasing the best new digital works, video games and innovative ideas the international community has to offer. Join us for the most energetic, inspiring and creative event of the year.”

 

Inbound Marketing Summit (Multiple events/locations)
April 3-4, 2013
New York, NY
Attendees: 1,000

What IMS says: “Inbound Marketing Summit (IMS) is the one event that brings together enterprise CMOs, business leaders, agency execs and their teams, awesome keynotes, expert panels, plus solutions providers and their tools, all in a dynamic, community-based setting. Learn about the latest in social strategy and branding, content marketing, online video, Social CRM, mobile payments and more. And explore how to turn your plans into action with exclusive demos, showcases and the multimedia experience you expect from The Pulse. Come join the marketing revolution April 3-4, 2013 at the Altman Building in New York City.”

eMarketing Conference
April 9-10, 2013
San Francisco, CA

What eMarketing says: “With over 35 expert speakers and 33 sessions (all on one floor), you will leave energized and ready, with relevant, actionable new processes, techniques, ideas, and a bunch of new meaningful contacts. You can design your own conference around dedicated topics on Social, eMail, Search and Mobile marketing. Sessions are highly interactive and our speakers, panelists, moderators and attendees attend most social networking events at the conference.”

 

WaHB – Work at Home Business Expo (Multiple Events/Locations)
April 20-21, 2013
San Diego, CA
Attendees: 1,500

What WaHB Expo says: “WaHB Expo is focused on the Work at Home and Home Based Business industry. It provides a forum that brings together the providers of home based business models and services, with the very people considering a home based business for their own professional future, as well as those with already established home based businesses looking for the resources to grow and support them.”

 

Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition
June 4-7, 2013
Chicago, IL
Attendees: 9,500

What the conference says: “Even if you’ve attended IRCE in the past, this year’s show will truly be breaking barriers of its own, in terms of content that includes more workshops, main conference session tracks and a greatly expanded roster of 220 expert speakers, fully 20% more than last year’s show.”

 

World Domination Summit
July 5-7, 2013
Portland, Organ
Attendees: 1,000

What the World Domination Summit says: “In July 2012, a small army of remarkable people converged on Portland, Oregon for a weekend of strategizing and adventure.”

 

Content Marketing World (Multiple events/locations)
September 9-12, 2013
Cleveland, OH
Attendees: 100

What CMW says: “Content Marketing World is the conference for the marketing/PR professional who develops the strategy or handles the execution of content marketing initiatives.  This is the person that, in some way, develops or curates valuable, relevant and compelling content through one or multiple channels to attract and retain customers.

This could be content for social media or public relations efforts.  It could be content for your corporate magazine.  It could be mobile content or applications. It could be a total content marketing strategy for your website and other properties.”

 

Foodservice Social Media Universe
September 16-18, 2013
Austin, TX

What FSMU says: “Welcome to the 3rd annual Foodservice Social Media Universe (#FSMU) Conference and Expo. In 2013, we will focus on the technology-driven transformation of the foodservice industry. How social and technology is at the core of app development and customer experience management. We will again, examine best practices for social media execution in the restaurant industry, uncover new strategies, learn new tactics and expand our universe of restaurant + technology providers.”

 

SES – Search Engine Strategies (Multiple Events/Locations)
September 10-13, 2013
San Francisco, CA
Attendees: 3,500

What SES says: “Founded in 1999, SES has become the leading search and social marketing event in the industry. SES is programmed by leading practitioners and industry thought leaders who form the SES Global Advisory Board. The focus is 100% on education with a large sprinkling of networking sessions and events for attendees to share knowledge and experience as well as develop new business relationships.”

 

Dreamforce
November 18-21, 213
San Francisco, CA
Attendees: 50,000

What Dreamforce says: “Dreamforce ‘13 will be here before you know it, and you can sign up to be the first to hear about all the details, including pricing.

In 2012, Dreamforce broke all records, and 2013 is going to be even bigger and better with:

  • All-new keynote speakers and an amazing band for the Dreamforce Gala
  • More than 800 breakout sessions—content for every role!
  • 500+ partners in the Cloud Expo”

 

Email Insider Summit
December 2013
Park City, UT
Attendees: 100

What Email Insider says: “Set at the world-class Deer Valley ski resort in Park City, Utah, the Summit will generate discussion about the hottest topics in email marketing, with a focus on offering solutions that can be implemented the day after you get off the slopes. Industry thought-leaders deliver keynote presentations each day, followed by panels heavy with brand marketers – which will explore melding email and social media platforms, capitalizing on Big Data, turning $10K into $1M through budget allocation and much more.”

 

SMX Social Media Marketing
December 2013
Las Vegas, CA
Attendees: 700

What SMX says: “Whether you’re managing communities or buying social media advertising, SMX Social Media Marketing is your conference. You’ll be inspired by experts, meet others with your challenges, and leave confident you’ll excel in this fast-paced environment.

SMX Social Media Marketing is a two-day, tactic-rich conference that covers all key issues for getting the most out of social marketing, whether you’re tasked with driving organic traffic, managing paid campaigns, or stewarding your company’s brand with online reputation management and customer service. ”

Keep in Mind for 2014:

NMX – New Media Expo aka Blog World (Usually in January)
Las Vegas, NV

What NMX says: “Join us at New Media Expo (aka BlogWorld), the World’s Largest Conference and Trade Show for Bloggers, Podcasters, Web TV & Video Creators, and Social Business Pros. New Media Expo attracts content creators from across the globe, and it’s also the epicenter of leading ideas in social business with the collocated BusinessNext Social conference! These concurrent events combine to produce a who’s-who line up of content creators, global influencers, niche experts and business icons dedicated to educating you with the latest knowledge, technology and techniques for online success. You’ll learn from latest case studies and the most effective methods these innovators have used in their own businesses and online properties to rise above the rest.”

Which of these business events, conferences and/or festivals do you find useful? Plan on attending any? Let us know!

The post 14 Must-Attend Business Events and Conferences for 2013 appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Want Better Facebook Engagement? Stop What You’re Doing

Fri, 01/11/2013 - 06:00

When it comes to marketing your business or brand on Facebook, you think you know what works for engaging your followers… but it turns out, you might not.

Buddy Media analyzed user engagement on more than 1,800 Facebook Pages from some of the world’s largest brands. The results? A 32-page report telling us that as marketers, in some cases, we’ve got it all wrong. The extensive report, “Strategies for Effective Wall Posts: A Timeline Analysis” covers the best days and times to post on Facebook by industry, the type of content that resonates best with Facebook users, and posting strategies proven to increase interaction. Let’s uncover the truths about what really works for successful Facebook engagement:

Best & Worst Days to Post on Facebook
One of Buddy Media’s most interesting findings is the fact that marketers, businesses and brands mainly post to Facebook during the week, when in actuality, “the interaction rate for posts on the weekends is 14.5% higher compared to weekday posts.” Turns out, only 14% of posts by brands are actually published on Saturdays and Sundays.

In general, the best day for brands to post on Facebook is Sunday. The worst? “While Monday and Tuesday receive decent interaction rates, brands should avoid Wednesdays when interaction is 7.4% below average.”

Best days to post on Facebook by industry? Here’s just a handful from the report:

  • Advertising & ConsultingBest: Saturday & Sunday; Worst: Wednesday
  • Clothing & FashionBest: Thursday; Worst: Sunday
  • EntertainmentBest: Saturday & Sunday; Worst: Wednesday & Friday
  • Food & BeverageBest: Saturday & Sunday; Worst: Monday & Thursday
  • Health & BeautyBest: Saturday, Sunday & Monday; Worst: Tuesday
  • NonprofitsBest: Sunday; Worst: Wednesday
  • TechnologyBest: Monday; Worst: Friday
  • Travel & LeisureBest: Sunday; Worst: Monday

Best & Worst Times to Post on Facebook
Are you posting to Facebook during the day, like most brands or businesses? Turns out, Facebook interaction takes on more night owl qualities than you might have thought. “Brand posts published between 8 pm and 7 am, which are defined as ‘non-busy hours,’ receive 14% higher interaction than those that post between 8 am and 7 pm,” yet only 18% of posts are sent during “non-busy” hours.

Best & Worst Facebook Frequency
Think posting often is the key to gaining Facebook engagement? As long as you don’t exceed more than 7 posts a week and 1-2 times a day. “Brands that post one or two times per day see 19% higher interaction rates than those who post 3x per day. The key is not to bombard fans with too many posts, as Facebook News Feed Optimization often penalizes for this.” Additionally, brands posting more than seven times a week on Facebook saw a 25% decrease in interaction rates.

Keep it Simple
Giving your Facebook followers a lot of context seem appropriate, as more than 75% of brands write lengthy Facebook posts. However, posts with 80 characters or less receive 23% higher interaction posts. Time to keep it short and sweet!

Be Picture Perfect
Thinking about writing a simple post? Include a picture. Photo posts receive interaction 39% higher rates than average. Although, simple text posts do fairly well with a 12% higher interaction rate than average. Posts with links and videos tend to drive the least amount of likes, comments and shares.

Ask Away
Facebook fans love a good question. “…they generate 92% higher comment rates than non-question posts,” but make sure to ask your question at the end of your post. “Posts that have a question located at the end have a 15% higher overall interaction rate and a 2x higher comment rate than those asked in the middle of a post.”

Get Emotional
Think the use of emoticons on your brand/business Facebook page is tacky or unprofessional? Turns out, posts with emoticons receive 52% higher interaction rates, have a 57% higher like rate, 33% higher comment rate, and a 33% higher share rate. Which emoticons receive the highest interaction rates? and – No joke! Depending on your industry, however, the use of emoticons could make or break your Facebook interaction. Emoticons are most successful for health and beauty, food and beverage brands. Automotive, clothing and fashion and tech brands don’t do well with emoticons worn on their…Facebook page.

As a marketer, a business owner or a brand on Facebook, do any of these findings surprise you, and will you apply these discoveries to your own social media marketing strategies? Let us know how it goes!

The post Want Better Facebook Engagement? Stop What You’re Doing appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Why Your Customer Service Policy Stinks

Thu, 01/10/2013 - 06:00

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

I recently was on a flight on a well-known airline that shall not be named. I love flying with this particular airline because I can get online. Since I know I’ll be on a plane for three to five hours, sometimes I save work so that I can do it while in the air.

Twice now, I haven’t been able to get online with the wi-fi provider contracted by this airline. Other times, it’s been so slow that it was impossible to do something as simple as loading a Web page.

The first time I had issues, I thankfully was able to get on a live chat to tell them I wanted a refund. The customer service rep gently told me they don’t give refunds, just credit. I was not happy, but since I knew I’d be flying again, I lived with it.

This most recent time, I could only send and get email. So while on the flight, I got my receipt from the wi-fi provider, and replied that I wanted another credit. (For some reason, they didn’t automatically apply the credit that I got from the last incident.) I was met with the following email:

Thank you for contacting (name withheld) Customer Care. We are very sorry to hear that you were unable to utilize our services on your last flight. Our service is not optimized for streaming/downloading any type of media like Pandora or Netflix.

We want everyone to have the ability to stay in touch, in flight. In order to preserve an equitable Internet experience for passengers on your flight, (name withheld) prioritizes different types of usage. Users consuming excessive bandwidth in a short period of time (example: downloading or uploading large files, streaming HD video, file sharing, multi-player gaming) may be temporarily given a lower bandwidth priority during some or all of their session.

The funny thing is, I couldn’t get online even if I had a Netflix account. Secondly, if I was downloading things that don’t throttle my ability to access Web pages, that should be the least action I should be able to take.

Disappointments aside, I thought about how companies should really look at how they set customer service expectations, and how their policies stack up. Here are my three tips:

1. Explore your refund policies.

Are they fair? Are they transparent? At a time when many companies give refunds with no questions asked (and also free return shipping on things purchased online), customers have greater expectations when it comes to getting their money back. If your competitors are giving refunds and you’re not, you might have a problem.

2. How do you communicate those policies?

Is it only to people who complain? I think the worst thing you can do when responding to an angry customer is to come back with a generic policy. I know firsthand; my email marketing company, VerticalResponse, has done it before and I try to avoid it now at all costs.

3. Are you prepared for anything?

In your response and interactions with the unhappy customer, are you prepared to cover every possible reason someone might complain, and provide a solution or explanation for all of them? In my real-life example above, the company responded with a reason that had nothing to do with my situation, leaving me even more frustrated.

Unhappy customers are a fact of business life. But not anticipating how they got to be unhappy – and offering just a generic policy instead – could make even the most loyal customers (like me) look elsewhere.

The post Why Your Customer Service Policy Stinks appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

A Beginners Social Media Marketing Plan

Wed, 01/09/2013 - 06:00

If you haven’t started marketing your business on social media just yet, 2013 is your year to jump on board! We’ve also created this beginners social media plan to help you hit the ground running. Let’s get started:

1. Create and Secure a Business Page/Username – Setting up a business page and username on the following “big four” social networks is crucial if you want people to easily find you:

2. Start a Blog – Aside from obviously having presence on various social media sites, creating a blog also gives people the opportunity to learn more about, and interact with your company. Blogs are easy to create, can be quickly updated, and provide you with even more content to share on your social networks. Check out our post, Blog Wars: WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr – Which Platform Rules? to find the best blogging platform for you and your business.

3. Listen & Connect -  After you’ve set up your social networks, it’s time to “listen” to social conversations and build relationships. You can search for social conversations in the following places:

  • Twitter Search – This is a great place to start your relationship with the Twitter community. You can type in a keyword, phrase or use a hashtag (#) in front of a word to find people who’re talking about subject matter that relates to your business.
  • Facebook Search – Facebook search plays a second fiddle to Twitter search, but you can still find some great information in public posts.
  • Pinterest – You can search thousands and thousands of pin boards for interesting content and find people who share your interests both personally and professionally.

It’s a good idea to find several contacts on the various social networks to build relationships with. Don’t feel like you have to converse right away. You can just follow for a while and see what’s being talked about. But, if you have something to add to the conversation, do it.

4. Share Content

Content plays a huge role in not only building an audience, but keeping one as well. Some of the content you can share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest includes:

  • Your own blog posts
  • Customer testimonials
  • FAQs
  • Links to other interesting blog posts (provide attribution and proper source credit)
  • Photos
  • Live and recorded webinars
  • Product and service updates
  • eBooks
  • Handbooks
  • Quotes
  • Questions
  • Videos (YouTube is a great place to start)
  • Industry articles

5. Stick with It

We all start social media marketing plans with the best intentions, but remember social media takes time and consistency to prove its worth. Results won’t happen overnight. Some ideas to sustain your social media marketing plan include:

  • Respond to a least one social action daily. Whether you retweet a link, like or comment on a post or repin a picture, keeping your business in front of your audience is key to staying top of mind.
  • Don’t give up after a week, or two or even three. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your social media marketing plan. The social programs that have been successful over the last several years are ones that remain consistent.

6. Measure

It’s important to measure a number of elements of your social media marketing plan. Some measurement tools we like include:

  • Facebook Insights (in the admin panel of your Facebook Page) – With Insights you can see how your individual posts are performing. You can also see who your target audience is and tailor content for them.
  • LinkedIn Page Insights (under the insights tab on your company page) – The Page Insights on LinkedIn are a bit less robust than Facebook, but you’re still able to see critical data including page views, page visitor demographics and unique visitors.
  • Twitter Counter – This tool allows you to see the performance of your Twitter account, as well as how your tweets are performing.
  • PinReach – This tool provides analysis of your Pinterest account including repins, likes and followers. It even provides details about your audience including your influential followers.

7. Change as Needed

Part of your success includes analyzing what works, what doesn’t and making changes. What you do today might not work next month, so stay flexible and go with the flow.

You have the power to make your social media marketing plan as successful as it can be. We hope these tips help you get off to a great start!

The post A Beginners Social Media Marketing Plan appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Google Adwords Tips for a Small Budget

Mon, 01/07/2013 - 06:00

You’re interested in marketing your small business online, but you don’t have a lot of money to spend. Google’s online advertising program, Google Adwords, allows you to place an ad in front of customers searching for products/services you offer. You can create an Adwords account with as little as $5. Google Adwords is a pay per click model, so you’re only charged when a user clicks your ad. But how do you compete with big companies with the budgets to match? What if you only have $100 a month to spend on online advertising?

The key to advertising with a small budget is to narrow your campaign and be as targeted as possible. Having a targeted campaign will limit how many potential customers see your ad, and how many can eventually make a purchase. However, it will provide the most sales potential at the lowest cost. Here are five of our favorite Google Adword tips that’ll get the most bang for your small budget:

1. Google Search
Businesses with small advertising budgets should only advertise on Google Search. While Google Search Partner and Google Display Network can produce some leads for your business, they tend to be less qualified and less efficient than Google Search. Therefore, we recommend you start with Google Search first.

2. Keyword Selection
Selecting keywords for campaigns on a small budget is important. The most obvious keywords to target are your branded keywords. These branded keywords include your company name, your brand plus the products/service you offer (i.e., Klimisch Inc, Klimisch Autobody, Klimisch auto repair shop, etc.). Branded keywords are low cost per click (CPC) and drive the highest conversion rates. Already rank in the top position in Google organic search? A study by Google has shown that even with a #1 rank in organic search, PPC ads still provided 50% incremental clicks. These incremental clicks were not replaced by clicks on organic search when the PPC ads didn’t appear.

Also, you can try to target long tail keywords instead of generic head terms. Long tail keywords are keyword phrases that’re more specific and targeted to a given business. For example, the keyword “restaurant” would be considered a generic head term, as there are many types of restaurants in many different locations. Even if you narrow your keyword list to “Japanese restaurant,” that might still be too broad since there can be a lot of different Japanese restaurants in a given city. You want to include your city/area/zip code and specific products/services that you offer. Long tail keywords for a Japanese restaurant in say, Palo Alto, California that services ramen and yakitori could be “Japanese restaurant in palo alto ca,” “Japanese restaurant near 94305,” “Japanese ramen restaurant in palo alto,” “Japanese yakitori restaurant near 94305,” etc.

3. Geotargeting
Google allows advertisers to show PPC ads only to users that are searching from a specific location. You can target by city, zip code or even radius targeting by mile/km around your business location. This ensures that you only show ads to users near your business service area.

You could also use geotargeting to only target users outside of your city or immediate area. You could test sending coupons or special deals to these users to provide them an incentive for going out of their way to buy/use/dine at your business.

4. Day Parting
Day parting equates to showing your ads only at specific times and/or days. If your business hours are only from 9am-9pm, then you may want to turn off your ads during non-business hours. There are also more advanced uses for day parting including only running/stopping ads during peak hours or slow times/days. You may want to run ads during peak hours because conversion rates will be highest at that time. Conversely, you could turn off ads during peak hours because you already have more business than you can handle during those hours. For slow hours/days, you could offer coupons or specials only during those hours to try to drum up business.

5. Device Targeting
Google allows you to target desktop/laptops, mobile devices, and tablets separately. We recommend splitting up mobile device targeting from desktop/laptop and tablet campaigns. Desktop/laptops and tablets are similar enough that you can keep them together. Mobile is different because of the smaller screen and the ability to make a call. Mobile device targeting is very important for brick and mortar businesses. Users searching for a service/product on their mobile phone are more likely to be interested in buying something instantly. For example, a user searching for restaurants or tire repair on their mobile phone is more likely to buy or make a reservation at that moment.

Google also allows advertisers to include a telephone number in their ads, so users can click and call your business directly. Another reason to target mobile devices separately is the limited real estate available on mobile phones. On desktop/laptops and tablets, Google will show up to 10 ads (3 on top, and 7 on the side) on a given search results page. On a mobile, there’s only space for around 5 ads (2 on top, and 3 on bottom). Therefore, it’s much more important to get in the top 2 spots on a mobile device to ensure users see your ad.

Google Adwords is a great way to dip your toes in the Google advertising waters to grow your business and drive sales. You can start with as little as $5, yet reach millions of customers searching for your products/services on Google each day. Remember, you only have to pay when a user clicks on your ad. By using these Google Adwords tips, you’ll get positive results and increased sales.

The post 5 Google Adwords Tips for a Small Budget appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

The 20 Best Marketing Infographics of 2012

Fri, 01/04/2013 - 06:00

Compelling imagery and visual design ruled marketing in 2012. Never before have pictures and images been so important for igniting engagement in your social media, email, and content marketing campaigns/strategies. With that, the popularity of infographics (information graphics) has also taken the marketing world by storm, and it’s easy to [literally] see why. Infographics are chock full of interesting stats, actionable items and a plethora of knowledge all wrapped up in a pretty package that’s ridiculously easy to share – A marketers dream! Let’s take a look at 20 of the best marketing infographics of 2012:

Psst…Want to make an infographic of your own? Read our post: DIY: 5 Free Tools for Creating Killer Infographics

Social Media:
“Like Us!” – What Motivates People to “Like” or “Unlike Brands on Facebook; Lab42

How Much Time, Money Do Small Businesses Spend on Social Media?; VerticalResponse

The Power of Pinterest; Internet Marketing Inc.

How LinkedIn Works; InfographicLabs

The ROI of Social Media – Is Social Media Marketing Effective?; MDG Advertising

Blogging:
12 Things to Do After You’ve Written a Blog Post; DivvyHQ

Virality:
The Anatomy of Going Viral; Single Grain

Copywriting:
15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly; Copyblogger

Content Marketing:
Understanding the Content Marketing Explosion; BlueGlass

The Anatomy of Content Marketing; Content+

22 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have a Clue; Copyblogger

Email Marketing:
Email Best Practices; eMerge

How to Create a Winning Email Marketing Campaign; VerticalResponse

Design:
It’s All About the Images; MDG Advertising

Colour Psychology in Logo Design; Muse Design Inc

Does Design Matter to Small Businesses?; 99designs

SEO:
The SEO Puzzle; Vayu Media

Social vs. Search; MDG Advertising

Infographics:
What Infographics Are; Infographic Labs

Webinars:
World Wide Webinars; ClickMeeting

The post The 20 Best Marketing Infographics of 2012 appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Top 12 Marketing Webinars of 2012

Wed, 01/02/2013 - 06:00

Happy 2013! Hard to believe a new year is here, but in the time-honored tradition of “Best of” lists, we offer you the top 12 webinars of 2012. Not only did these webinars have tons of attendees and gobs of online views, but they presented new and useful topics to help your email and social media marketing.

So here are, in descending order, the 12 most popular webinars of 2012!

12. Email Delivery Changes in The New Year – This webinar is chock-full of useful delivery info, in easy-to-understand terms. Watch now.

11. 10 Keys to a Killer Facebook Timeline – This webinar covers how to create a great Facebook page timeline, with stellar examples and tips. Watch now.

10. Pinterest for Your Business - 2012 was the year for Pinterest, and to help small businesses learn about how to use the popular and growing social network for their businesses, we presented this fun webinar. Watch now.

9. 5 Copywriting Mistakes to Avoid – Everyone makes mistakes. This webinar takes you through five common copywriting mistakes you want to avoid, and how to fix and/or prevent them! Watch now.

8. Content is King – The content of your emails, blogs, websites, and even social media outlets has never been more important for driving engagement and meeting the needs of customers. This webinar, presented by a VR customer and marketing team members, has great tips and real-life examples to help you create content. Watch now.

7. Get the Inside Scoop on Google Analytics - Our MarComm director demonstrates the ins and outs of using Google Analytics for your small business, including heaps of great tips! Watch now.

6. The Power of Google Places: How & Why Every Business Needs Top SEO Positioning – Special guest, Winston Cook, from Local SEO joined us to give some great insight on how small businesses can take advantage of and optimize their Google Places listings. Watch now.

5. LinkedIn For Your Business – Everyone says you need to use LinkedIn for your business, but how do you get started? This webinar is invaluable for navigating LinkedIn for new users. Watch now.

4. Creating a Successful Email – We present this webinar every month to help those new to email marketing, or as a refresher for those who’ve been doing it for awhile. Watch now.

3. 4 Quick Ways to Make the Most out of Email and Social Media – VerticalResponse CEO, Janine Popick, presented a useful webinar to help small businesses balance their email and social marketing. Watch now.

2. How to Avoid the Spam Folder – This webinar discusses email delivery and what you can do to help get your emails to the inbox. Watch now.

1. Word of Mouth Marketing 101 with Andy Sernovitz – As our #1 most popular webinar, this proves that word of mouth marketing really works! Andy Sernovitz, author of Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking, joined us to talk about how to energize your fans and get positive word of mouth for your business. He also provided some very entertaining examples. Watch now.

There you have them, our 12 most popular webinars of 2012, and we look forward to bringing you many more information-packed webinars come 2013.

What webinar topics would you like us to offer in 2013? Share in the comments!

The post Top 12 Marketing Webinars of 2012 appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Top 20 Most Popular Marketing Blog Posts of 2012

Mon, 12/31/2012 - 06:00

As 2012 comes to a close, we’re ecstatic to share our “Top 20 Marketing Blog Posts of the Year” list. We strive to produce informative, valuable and actionable content for our readers, and over the past year, we’ve produced more than 300 posts of original content. Our blog posts cover marketing topics ranging from SEO to Pinterest, Google Analytics to public relations, blogging to email unsubscribes and even a little Ryan Gosling. Let’s take a look at the top 20 most popular marketing blog posts of 2012 that you, our readers enjoyed most:

#20. Great Scott! 5 Email & Social Marketing Tips from the Future
At this year’s Marketing Sherpa Email Summit, a panel of email & social marketing experts presented Email Marketing Technologies & Tactics of the Near Future.  The panel discussed the ‘future buyer’ and how his or her buying habits will affect your future email & social marketing campaigns. Here are the top 5 takeaways you can start implementing now to bring your own email & social marketing campaigns back to the future: Read more

#19. How Much Time, Money Do Small Businesses Spend on Social? [infographic]
We recently wrapped up a survey asking almost 500 of our small business customers how much time and money they spend on social media. We asked how many hours small business owners or employees dedicate to various social media activities, from finding and sharing content to blogging. Here’s a fun and informative infographic that we created (as seen on Forbes, VentureBeat, Technorati and more) illustrating some of the key data that led to these four conclusions. Read More

#18. 10 Awesome Events Every Entrepreneur Should Know
If you’re feeling uninspired, in need of some education, hungry to pick up some knowledge on the latest products, technologies and trends or in the mood to network amongst peers and other entrepreneurs, attending an event may just be what you need! Here are ten awesome events every entrepreneur and business owner should know. Read More

#17. 5 Cs Every Startup Needs to Succeed
There’s nothing more exhilarating than having a great idea for a business and running with it. But before you start sprinting, there are a few essential things that need to be in place. Here are five – coincidentally, they all start with the letter “c” – that every start-up needs in order to succeed, whether you’re in software or skincare. Read More

#16. Give Your Dashboard a Makeover – 8 Email Metrics that Count
There are so many metrics available when it comes to measuring the success of our email marketing campaigns, yet a select few are most useful. At the end of the day, you want to know whether customers are engaging with your content and taking action upon it, not just looking at it, saying it’s pretty (or not), and moving on. The 8 tips below will allow you to take these numbers and give you more insight into your readers’ engagement.  Read More

#15. Get Snappy, Gain Engagement – 8 Instagram Tips for Your Biz
With the rapid and rising success of picture-centric sites like Instagram and Pinterest, it’s clear that compelling imagery is crucial to our social and content marketing success. Telling a story with a picture can be just as effective as a blog post, tweet, status update, or email. Having a presence on Instagram and following these tips for your biz could build your engagement faster than you can say “cheese.” Read More

#14. 5 Golden Rules to Creating a Significant Email Newsletter
In the world of email marketing, guess who your customers’ pal and confidant is? Ding, ding! Your newsletter… and there’s research to prove it! According to the Nielsen Norman Group, readers feel an emotional attachment to their email newsletters. So how do we ensure we remain the Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia of newsletters to our readers? Follow these five steps and you’ll be golden: Read More

#13. What Motivates People to “Like” or “Unlike” Brands on Facebook
Baby pictures, overly pushy political or religious posts, and TMI (Too Much Information) status updates from friends are just screaming for a ‘delete,’ but as a business or brand on Facebook, what causes followers to flee? According to Lab42’s latest research, 73% of social media users “unliked” a brand because of the following reasons: Read More

#12. Symbols in Subject Lines… ♥ Them or ☹ Them?
Lately, I’ve been surprised by how many emails I’ve received with symbols in the subject lines. Which begs the question: Does cute ✈ when it comes to email subject lines or should marketers ✂ them out of the mix? Here are a few things to consider before you try adding symbols to your email subject lines. Read More

#11. Scary Social Media Faux Pas – Don’t Be That Guy
According to a survey by Symantec and Applied Research, the cost of public relations disasters, lawsuits, security breaches and other risks associated with social media blunders averages $4.3 million. The survey also reports that after a social media mishap, 28% of companies have reported damage to their brand, or a loss of customer trust averaging a cost of over $638,000. So to avoid putting our businesses and ourselves on the virtual chopping block, let’s get our social media etiquette on and learn from the missteps of others. Read More

#10. Subject Line Length – Is Longer Better?
A few things have evolved in the wild world of email marketing, including devices we use to read email, like mobile phones and tablets, and the emails we receive, like flash sales (which have the longest subject lines known to man). So, does your subject line length need to evolve too? Let’s examine some facts first. Read More


#9. Calling All NonResponders – Don’t Give up on Them Yet!
Who and what exactly are nonresponders? These are subscribers who continue to get your emails, but haven’t opened, clicked or responded in a long time, if ever. We’ve all read the advice to clean up our email lists and get rid of the “dead weight,” the unengaged, the nonresponders. But wait! Have you tried to reengage them before you cut them loose? Read More

#8. 5 Must Knows for SEO
Search algorithms seem to change more frequently than the latest fashion trends. Every time Google makes another update there’s a mini-panic from webmasters and small business owners – “oh no, now what?!?” Take a deep breath and stay calm because there are some things in SEO that stay consistent. Here are five SEO constant concepts to consider and build upon: Read More

#7. It’s Not You, It’s Outlook – The Complete Guide for Email Marketers
If you’re an email marketer, email designer, or find yourself in the B2B client space, you’ve probably encountered some form of Outlook error. Your email looks pristine on your shiny iPhone, Android device, or web-based email client, but suddenly blows up when you open it up in Outlook. We’ve been there. We’re here to help. Read More

#6. The Customer is Not Always Right
We once had a customer who we worked diligently with to make sure he was going about his email marketing campaigns in the proper way. Repeatedly, this customer disrespected our requests and kept attempting to send questionable email to questionable recipients. (I’m sure you’ve all gotten emails in your inbox like this.) So inevitably, we had to ask him to leave our services. That’s right, we “fired” a customer. Read More

#5. DIY: 5 Tools for Creating Killer Infographics
With the recent rise of infographics (information graphics), what used to require an avalanche of stats or analyses to dissect, can now be interpreted and relayed into an easy-to-read, fun, and visually appealing schematic – an excellent content marketing concept! You can use infographics to spruce up your different online assets such as your website, blog, email/newsletter, or your social network pages. Here are 5 free (!) apps that allow you to start easily infographic-ing: Read More

#4. 12 Steps to Becoming a Natural at SEO pt. 1
This is the first of two posts that will each contain 6 SEO take-aways. Fret not, they’re no Labors of Hercules, but they should be more than enough to give you a proper foundation to start optimizing your website. Read More

#3. 9 Mistakes We Make with Our Email Marketing
At the end of the day, we’re all using email marketing to accomplish business goals. From growing our subscriber list to generating more sales, email marketing is the workhorse of our marketing plans. So, why is it that we keep making the same mistakes over and over? Perhaps it’s because we don’t even know we’re making them. I’ve compiled a list of 9 mistakes we make with our email marketing and quick tips to fix them. Read More

#2. 5 Lessons from the Chick-fil-a PR Kerfuffle
The chicken sandwich chain, Chick-fil-A, found itself in the hot seat. While you might not be as well-known or have as many customers as AirBnB (remember the customer whose apartment was destroyed?) or Blackberry (remember the days-long email outage?), your company still has a public face. Here are five things to help avoid a public relations firestorm: Read More

#1. Like it, Pin it, Sell it. Why Pinterest Matters for Your Business
Businesses have started to use Pinterest to showcase not only their products, but other items related to what they do or sell. Here are ideas to help get your business off to a great start on Pinterest!

The post Top 20 Most Popular Marketing Blog Posts of 2012 appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Talk to Your Customers; You Might Learn Something

Fri, 12/28/2012 - 06:00

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

If you own and run your business, you’re busy. I get it. Who isn’t? You have to pay the bills, pay your employees, order supplies, and the list goes on and on and on. And if you’re growing, you have less and less time to do all of the above, including talking to the people who are most important to you: your customers.

I’m not saying that you need to be on the floor all day or answering customer service inquiries. What I’m talking about is listening to how they feel about your business and communicating back with them that you’re hearing them.

At VerticalResponse, we have hundreds of thousands of customers, so it’s not possible for me to do this. But I do believe in keeping a close ear on what people think, making myself as accessible as I can, and talking.

So what do I do to make myself available?

1. I put my email address on our blog and our website. I also include my Twitter handle as well. These are, hands down, the best way to get to me. If someone wants to call me directly, he or she can. I’ve found that when a customer calls or emails me, he or she has either had an exceptional experience with us, or a rotten one and I typically find a process that needs to be fixed. For that one person who contacted me, there are likely 20 more out there who just didn’t bother. It’s an opportunity, imho.

When a customer emails me with a question about our product, I’ll try to answer it if I can, instead of forwarding the email to someone on the support team. It doesn’t happen too often, but because he or she has taken the time to find my email address, I feel that I should at least respond with an answer – hopefully the one he or she is looking for!

2. I regularly check our Facebook page, and I look to see what people are saying on Twitter about “VerticalResponse,” “Vertical Response” (because people often think our name is made up of two words), and our handle, “@VR4SmallBiz.” I also look at what people are saying about our competition as well. It’s always good to know the good and the bad so you can act on anything if you need to.

The Harvard Business Review just published a study about the low percentage of CEOs who use social media in their business. I was shocked by some of the comments made about how CEOs have “people” for that. Seeing and listening firsthand to what your customers think is crucial to your business.

Are you accessible?

The post Talk to Your Customers; You Might Learn Something appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Ways to Get More Facebook Likes

Thu, 12/27/2012 - 06:00

If you don’t already know by now, I’m a big believer that social media can help grow a business. But I often still get some pushback from people and customers who are hesitant to jump in. Here are two of my favorite excuses:

“I’m afraid I’m going to overexpose my business to my customers. Won’t that happen?”

Here’s how I answer that:

  • If you communicate with your customers through email marketing, 20% to 30% of your email recipients will open your message – if you’re lucky.
  • Probably only a few percent of your customers have liked your Facebook page.
  • If your “likers” have a lot of friends or are following a lot of Facebook pages, your message in their news feed may have passed them by.

My point? It’s not overexposure. You have to be everywhere your customers are as much as you can!

“Getting people to ‘like’ me sounds pathetic.”

In reality, it’s not that much different from asking people to give you their email address or asking for their business card. And the more people that you’ve got exposed to your message where they want to see it, the better.

Why do you want more Facebook likes?

  • When someone likes your business, that action will show up in his or her news feed.
  • When you post something, it could show up in your liker’s news feed (depending on how engaging your content is and how they have their feed set up).
  • It could show up in the ad to your liker’s friends when you use Facebook ads.

How do you get more Facebook likes? Here are a few ideas:

1. Facebook Ads
It’s pretty simple to walk through and doesn’t cost much at all. Even better, you control how much you want to spend.

2. “Like-gate” with a Coupon
Send an email campaign offering a link to a killer coupon with a “like-gate.” What’s a like-gate? It’s when the customers click on the link to the coupon and they’re brought to a screen on Facebook that simply asks them to “like us” to get the coupon. (I recommend using VerticalResponse Social or Sprout Social for this.)

3. Like-gate with a Contest
Do the same as above, but with a contest for customers to win something they’ll really value. (I recommend using North Social or Wildfire by Google for this.)

4. Email
Send an email message to your email list asking them to like your page.

5. Message Your Personal Facebook Friends
Send a Facebook message to your Facebook friends (within Facebook) asking them to like your page (be strategic, because you can only send one request).

Getting more likes for your Facebook page should just be a part of your overall social media marketing mix!

For more tips and ideas, download this free marketing guide: Why Facebook Is Important for Small Business.

The post 5 Ways to Get More Facebook Likes appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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