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11 Three Reasons Google Analytics is Worthless for Small Business

Three Reasons Google Analytics is Worthless for Small Business - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit Pexels

If you own a small business that has a website, you probably want to know how many people are visiting your site.  In fact, you probably want to know a lot more than that.  You want to know how they got to your site, how much time they spend on your site once they get there, how many pages they look at, and lots of other things.

The go-to tool for tracking all of this information is Google Analytics.  It’s free to use, tracks just about everything you could possibly want to know about traffic to your website, and seamlessly integrates with other services like Adwords.

Of course, being the savvy business owner that you are, you either installed the Google Analytics tracking code on your website yourself or had your webmaster do it for you so that you could have access to all the data it provides.  Now, you can log in to your analytics dashboard and see, at a glance, all the information you need to know to judge the effectiveness of your on-line marketing efforts….right?

Wrong.  The fact is that if the previous statement describes you, the data you see in your analytics account is probably complete garbage.  Here’re three reasons why.

#1: You Probably Didn’t Exclude Traffic from Known Bots and Spiders

In 2014, Google made a change that allowed Analytics users to easily exclude traffic from “known bots and spiders” from the data that you see in your account.  Now, all you have to do is check an obscure box buried somewhere in the bowels of the settings page of your Analytics account, and it will automatically filter out traffic that comes from any site on the IAB “International Bots & Spiders” list.

I’m guessing you didn’t check that box.

After all, you’re not an internet marketing expert, you’re a local business owner.  Chances are you didn’t even know that over half of all internet traffic isn’t even humans, much less know that you had to do something to filter it out.

I’m also guessing that the person or company who designed and launched your website prior to 2014 and installed the Google Analytics tracking code for you (who you probably haven’t talked to in a year) didn’t go back and check the box for you, either.

In fact, there’s a decent chance that even if your website was designed and launched by a professional after 2014, and that person or company set up Google Analytics for you, they didn’t check the box to automatically exclude traffic from known bots and spiders.  They probably either didn’t know about the box themselves, or they just didn’t bother to take the time to do it.

The result is that right off the bat, the numbers you see in your Analytics dashboard probably include quite a bit of traffic from non-humans, which of course is not doing you any good.

Here’s a question I’d love to ask Google: Why the heck don’t you exclude traffic from known bots and spiders by default, and make people check an obscure box to include it, instead of the other way around?

At the very least, why didn’t you create a big flashing message at the top of the Analytics dashboard that asks people “would you like to exclude traffic from known bots and spiders?”

Perhaps you were trying to give thousands of internet marketing bloggers something to write about.  Hey Google, here’s a news flash for you:  if thousands of people are writing instructions about what the average user of your Analytics service needs to do in order to properly use your product, it means you’re failing.

#2: You didn’t do all this other stuff either

Perhaps you are slightly more savvy than the average small business owner, or perhaps your webmaster is a little more on top of things than most, and the secret box in your Google Analytics account has been checked.  You might be thinking that in that case, the data provided by your Analytics account would be more useful to you.

If that’s the case, you’d probably be wrong…because checking that box only filters out some non-human traffic.

In order to even begin to get accurate data from your Analytics, in addition to checking the secret box, you’ll also have to do the following:

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you haven’t done all of that.

I’m also going to guess that if you’re paying someone to help you with your online marketing or search engine optimization, they probably haven’t done that either….meaning any reports they provide you probably don’t mean much.

In fact, in Google’s Analytics Academy, which is the learning center designed by Google to teach people how to use Analytics, there aren’t any lessons on how to filter out spam and bot traffic.  Perhaps that’s because if Google added lessons about that topic, it would be a tacit acknowledgment of the massive flaws in their tool.

#3: There are numerous other problems with the data that you have no control over

Let’s pretend for a second that you have way more time on your hand than the average small business owner, and also an above-average level of technical ability, and you actually took the time to do everything listed in above.

Alternatively, perhaps you have a larger budget for webmaster services than most small businesses, and you were able to hire a webmaster who actually understood how to do everything I listed and could afford to pay them to take care of it.

Surely, now you can begin trusting that your Analytics data is accurate, and start using it to make important decisions about your online marketing, right?

Not so fast.  Unfortunately, even assuming that your Analytics data is only reflecting human visitors to your website (which it almost certainly isn’t), there are still numerous problems with the data.  Here’s just a few:

There are actually many more ways that the data in Google Analytics is either fundamentally flawed or less than completely accurate, and that’s assuming that you have the tracking code properly installed on every page of your website.

These problems have been widely reported on many marketing blogs, so anyone who is “in the know” when it comes to online marketing shouldn’t be surprised by that statement.

The problem is that most small business owners, and most self-proclaimed “digital marketing experts” who work with small business owners, are not very well-informed about this subject.

They either aren’t aware of how unreliable the raw data is, or don’t have the technical expertise to sort through all of the issues listed above.  That’s why Google Analytics is just about worthless for the typical local small business.

Imagine if there were so many flaws in the popular small business accounting software Quickbooks that even most CPAs didn’t understand how to get good data out of it.  Would anyone actually pay money for Quickbooks if that was the case?  The answer, of course, is that they would only use it if there wasn’t any better option…and that’s exactly why people continue to use Google Analytics.

kevin JordanKevin Jordan is a member of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network and the owner of Redpoint Marketing Consultants, a small business marketing agency in Christiansburg, VA.  He’s also co-author of the award-winning book The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation and the host of the top-rated video podcast The Small Business Marketing Minute Show. You can connect with Kevin on Twitter @RMCVirginia.

2 Why You Must Act Now to Become the #1Rated Provider in Your Area

Why You Must Act Now to Become the #1-rated Provider in Your Area - Duct Tape Maketing

photo credit Pixabay

It’s no secret that getting positive ratings and reviews about your business on third-party websites is an important part of marketing these days. Study after study has confirmed that a majority of consumers trust online reviews of local businesses and use those reviews when making buying decisions.  However, despite all the press about the importance of reviews, many local businesses still haven’t gotten the message and are not doing anything to encourage their customers to leave a review for them—and that’s great news for you.

You see, the fact that many businesses are not giving this aspect of marketing the attention it deserves means that it may not be too late for you to become the #1-rated provider of your products or services in your local area.  If you act quickly to claim this title, it could have a profound and lasting impact on your business.

The Psychology of Being #1

Before I get into how you can go about becoming the top-rated provider in your area, allow me to explain why doing so is well worth your time.  You’re probably familiar with the psychological concept of social proof, which says that people tend to reference the behavior of others when making decisions.  What you may not be aware of is how powerful this phenomenon is.

In many studies covering a wide variety of industries, the best predictor of the popularity of something was how popular it was already.  That has been proven to be true for everything from the number of downloads a song will get to which answer people will choose on a multiple choice test.

It has also been proven that a small increase in popularity early on will lead to a much larger increase in popularity down the road.  There is no denying that people simply trust the judgement of the crowd.

What this phenomenon means for your business is that if none of your local competitors has any online ratings or reviews—which is still the case in many industries in many local markets—by simply getting a small handful of great reviews on one or two key sites, you can not only become the top-rated provider in your area, but you will likely ensure that you will always be the top-rated provider in your area.

You see, once you get a few great reviews on third-party websites, at least some people will choose to do business with you simply because of that fact.  This will, in turn, make it more likely that you will get more good reviews on more third-party websites…which will make it more likely that people will choose you simply because of your good reviews…and so on.

The good news for you is that if you take action on this quickly, by the time your competitors realize what you’re doing you’ll probably be so far ahead that they’ll never catch up.  The bad news is that if your competitors take action first, you will have your work cut out for you if you ever want to unseat them as the top-rated company in your area.

Deciding what category you will be top-rated in

Now that you understand the importance of acting quickly to become the top-rated provider in your area, let’s talk about how exactly to go about doing that.

The first step is to decide what product or service you are going to be the top-rated provider of.  At first this might seem obvious, but it’s actually important to put a little thought into this for a few reasons.

First, you should do a little bit of keyword research to find out what products or services your potential customers are searching for, and what keywords they are using to describe those products.  This is important because you’ll want your business’s listings on third-party review sites to show up in search results for popular search terms, which means you’ll need to use those terms in the description of your business that you put on those sites.

For example, a handyman might determine that many people in his area are looking for plumbers online, but not many people are searching using the term “handyman”.  He would want to make sure to include terms related to plumbing on his business listings so that when he collects reviews he can brand himself as the top-rated plumber in the area.  Being the top-rated provider of a service nobody is searching for defeats the purpose of creating social proof, and won’t do you any good.

Another reason that you should put some thought into what category you will target for top-rated status is that one of your competitors may have beaten you to the punch in one category, but be lagging behind in another.

For example, a cleaning company that offers residential and commercial cleaning might have a competitor who only offers residential cleaning and has 20 five-star reviews on Google.  It might make more sense for that company to try and get reviews from their commercial cleaning customers and brand themselves as the top-rated commercial cleaning company in the area, instead of trying to catch up with their competitor in the residential cleaning category.

Of course, you can certainly become the top-rated company in your area in multiple categories, but you should first target categories that will get you the best results the fastest, and then move on to more specific categories.

How to get reviews

Once you’ve determined what category you want to become top-rated in and have set up listings for your business on third-party review sites using keywords related to that category, it’s time to start getting some reviews on those sites.

There’s really only one way to do this, and that means asking for them…and asking a lot.  As more and more companies catch on to how important reviews are, your customers will begin to get bombarded with requests for reviews.  Here’s a few tips about how to make it more likely that they will respond to your requests:

  • Have a specific point in your customer service cycle where you ask for a review in order to make it less likely that you’ll forget to do it.
  • Train yourself and your employees to always ask for a review whenever they get a compliment from a customer. Be specific about where you want the customer to leave a review, and give them the information they need to do it (such as a direct link to the site where you want the review sent in an email).
  • Especially target customers you have a long history and close relationship with. They’ll not only be more likely to leave you a review, but their review will probably be more descriptive.
  • In addition to your customers, ask strategic partners to leave you a review. This is 100% legitimate as long as they make it clear in the review that they are speaking not as a customer but from someone who has knowledge of your business from the perspective of a strategic partner.
  • Consider using an automated reputation marketing tool to help you collect reviews (Us and GetFiveStars.com are two examples of these).

Where to get reviews

The answer to where to get your customers to leave reviews for your business depends to a certain extent on your industry, your competitors, and where you are located, but for most businesses, the following guidelines are a good starting point.

  • Start by getting six 5-star reviews on your Google My Business page. This will make the average star rating show up on the page instead of just the number of reviews.  It will also make your Google listing more likely to show up as one of the three businesses displayed in the maps section of the local search results.  This will help kick-start your “top-rated” claim.
  • Next, get 5-10 reviews on your business Facebook page. This page often turns up just after or even before your website in search results when people search for your business by name.
  • After Google and Facebook, do some local searches for the keywords you are targeting and also some branded searches for your business, and see what directories if any turn up in search results. Get some reviews on these directories next and get 5-10 reviews on each.
  • Last but not least, get some reviews on high-traffic industry-specific review sites such as Homeadvisor.com, Zillow.com, Healthgrades.com, or Cars.com.

Once you’ve done all of the above, then pick one or two sites to get the majority of your reviews on going forward.  It will be easier to brand yourself as the “top-rated” provider if you can point to a large number of reviews on one site vs having to average ratings and reviews across many sites (although this is still a valid strategy).

What to do if you’ve already been beaten

In some competitive industries or large metropolitan areas, if you are just now starting to gather ratings and reviews, you may be too late to the party to become the top-rated provider.  In that case, with a little bit of creativity you can still use social proof to help you get new customers:

  • Narrow your geographic focus: If someone else has nailed down the top-rated status for your industry in the closest major city, try targeting your suburb or even your neighborhood (if your business is located in a neighborhood that has a widely used name but is not formally recognized as a municipality).
  • Target a narrower category: If there is a service you provide that your highly-rated competitor doesn’t, get some reviews reflecting that and brand yourself as the #1-rated provider of that service.
  • Get reviews from a specific category of customer: Instead of branding yourself as the #1 rated provider of your service overall, you could brand yourself as the #1 choice of a specific type of customer after collecting reviews from that type of customer. For example, a cake bakery could get reviews from owners of bridal salons in the area and brand themselves as the “top-rated bakery for wedding cakes among local bridal salons”.

By following the tips listed above, within relatively short order you should be able to claim the title of “#1-rated” in at least one category.  Don’t wait too long to take action, though—for all you know, your closest local competitor could be reading this same blog post and planning their own top-rated marketing campaign!

kevin JordanKevin Jordan is a member of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network and the owner of Redpoint Marketing Consultants, the #1-rated marketing agency in Christiansburg, VA.  He’s also co-author of the award-winning book The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation and the host of the top-rated video podcast The Small Business Marketing Minute Show. You can connect with Kevin on Twitter @RMCVirginia.

3 Ten Steps to Starting a Podcast

Ten Steps to Starting a Podcast - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit: DollarPhotoClub

As the content marketing arms race continues to heat up, it’s becoming harder and harder to get noticed.  Sometimes it seems that unless you are a published author, speaker, and prolific blogger, you won’t get much traffic or recognition as an authority in your niche.  This is especially true in competitive niches like small business marketing, where having a blog is now practically considered a minimum expectation.  For people struggling to keep up with the competition, there is some good news, however—at this time, podcasting is still a relatively easy way to differentiate yourself from the competition, stand out in a crowded market, and gain access to hard-to-reach influencers in your industry.

Notice I say “at this time”.  While podcasting might not ever become as prolific as blogging is as a form of content marketing, I do think there will come a time when the number of people who have their own podcast will become so great that it just won’t be very exciting anymore.  That time hasn’t arrived yet—in fact, about 50% of Americans still don’t even know what a podcast is, and even among content marketers there are still relatively few podcasters.

Perhaps this is because people believe that podcasting is technically difficult and requires more time and energy than blogging.  Ironically, the truth is exactly the opposite—writing a keyword-rich blog post optimized for internet search actually requires more technical skill (in terms of knowledge of SEO best practices) and more time than producing a good podcast episode.  In fact, it’s taken me about four times as long to write the first three paragraphs of this blog post as it does to record one episode of my podcast.

For those of you who have been considering starting a podcast, now is the time to do it.  Follow this ten-step process to get your show up and running.

Step one: pick a topic

Picking a topic for a podcast should be fairly easy for people who have an existing business or a blog, since your podcast can simply be on the same topic as your blog.  However, you should probably check iTunes before finalizing your topic to see how many podcasts there are covering the same subject.

If there are few podcasts about your topic, that makes your job easier.  If there are many podcasts about your topic, then you’ll want to spend some time thinking about how your podcast will be different than all the existing podcasts about the same subject.  If you simply copy what many other people are already doing, it will be harder for you to build an audience.

Step two: pick a format

Once you have a topic, you’ll need to decide on a format for your show.  Will the host of the show interview a guest in each episode who is an expert on the topic?  Or will the host be the expert who provides all the content?  Will you have one host or two hosts?  How long will your episodes be?  How often will you publish new episodes?  Will your show be a video or audio podcast?

It’s important to consider your target audience as you answer these questions.  For example, the target audience for my podcast is busy local business owners who probably don’t have 40 minutes to listen to a long podcast every week.  As a result, most of my podcast episodes are only about 5 minutes long.  However, if your target audience is marathon runners who love listening to podcasts about fitness as they train for their next race, then you’ll probably want to make your episodes a little longer.

Step three: get equipment

Contrary to what you might think, you really don’t need much equipment to produce a quality podcast.  All you need is a quality microphone (I use the Blue Nessie), a Skype account, software to record a Skype call (like Pamela), and some basic software for editing audio files (like Audacity).  You can get all of the above for under $100.  If you’re starting a video podcast, you’ll need some additional equipment (like a webcam), but if you want to keep it simple and stick with an audio podcast, you’ll be just fine with the basics.

Step four: set up hosting

Just like a website, podcasts need a place on a server where the media files will live.  While you can host a podcast on your website (depending on where your site is hosted), I don’t recommend it—if your podcast really takes off and gets a lot of downloads, it could really slow your site down.  Instead, use a dedicated podcast host like Libsyn.  For most podcasters, about $15 a month will give you plenty of storage space for your media files.

Step five: pick a title

When you pick a title for your podcast, there are several different directions you can go.  You could us your name (The “John Smith Show”), use a clever name that uses jargon from your industry in the title (a fishing podcast called “The Reel Story”, for example), or use a descriptive name that tells people exactly what your podcast is about.  Keep in mind that if you can work some keywords into your podcast title, it might help it turn up in searches on iTunes or Google when people search for podcasts about your topic.

Step six: design your podcast cover artwork

The same cliché about judging a book by its cover holds true for podcasts.  Get a professional cover designed for your podcast on Fiverr.com that meets the iTunes specifications.  This will be the first thing people see when your podcast turns up in search results on iTunes, so you want to make a good impression.

Step seven: record an intro and outro

You’ll want every episode of your podcast to have a short introduction that includes the name of the show, who the target audience is, and why people should listen.  You can record this yourself or have it done by a voice-over artist.  You’ll also want an “outro” for each episode with a call-to-action for your listeners—for example, telling them how they can contact you, or where they can go to download some additional content related to the episode.

Save the intro and outro as a template in your audio editing software, so that you can simply drop the audio file for each episode into the template.  This will make the editing process quick and easy.

Step eight: plan the launch

This step is way beyond the scope of this blog post—in fact, several excellent books have been written about the process for launching a podcast.  I recommend Podcast Launch by John Lee Dumas if you want to learn how to launch a podcast the “right” way.  However, if you want to simply submit your podcast to iTunes and aren’t worried about doing a big launch, that’s fine also.

One thing you should be aware of, however, is that iTunes has something called a “new and noteworthy” section where recently launched podcasts are featured.  Only podcasts less than eight weeks old are eligible to appear in this section, which is the first section people see when they open up iTunes.  If you launch your podcast the right way, you can get significant exposure by getting your show featured at the top of the “new and noteworthy” charts in your category.

Step nine: getting reviews and subscribers

After your show is live, you’ll want to get some five-star reviews for it so that people who stumble across it will be more likely to download an episode.  Getting people to review a podcast on iTunes is not easy, because compared to leaving a review for a book on Amazon or reviewing a business on Facebook or Google, the process for reviewing a podcast is somewhat cumbersome.  I suggest asking friends, family, and strategic partners to help you out by leaving your podcast an honest review.

Step ten: marketing your podcast post-launch

The process for marketing a podcast is really little different than marketing a book, blog, product, or anything else, so I won’t go into detail about how to do that here.  The bottom line is that you will have to promote it—it isn’t simply a matter of “if you launch it, the listeners will come”.  You can spend as little or as much time and money marketing your podcast as you want, but obviously the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.

While the process for starting a podcast may be slightly more involved than starting a blog, once you have started it, it actually requires less time and energy to maintain than blogging.  Now is the time to get started, before podcasting becomes simply another standard expectation for content marketers.

kevin JordanKevin Jordan is a small business marketing consultant and member of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.  He’s also co-author of the best-selling book The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation and the host of the top-rated video podcast The Small Business Marketing Minute Show. You can connect with Kevin on Twitter @RMCVirginia.

2 Five Essential Elements of a Terrible Small Business Ad

Last week, when I opened my mailbox, I found a relic from a bygone era.  It’s one of those things that shouldn’t really exist anymore outside of a marketing museum, and yet somehow does—a great testament to the power of tradition, perhaps.  I am speaking, of course, of the printed business phone directory—the famous “yellow pages”.

I have been told that in ancient times—i.e., before the internet—people would use this printed directory to look up the contact information of local businesses they wanted to get in touch with.  Now, I think it is mostly used as a prospecting tool by marketing consultants like myself, since it is a great way to find out which businesses in the area have a decent marketing budget (printed directory advertising isn’t cheap, after all), but are not using that budget very effectively.

It’s also a great place to find many examples of terrible small business advertising.  In fact, just about every banner ad and full-page ad in printed phone directories makes at least two or three of the same mistakes.  A yellow-page style printed directory makes these mistakes painfully obvious due to the fact that all competing businesses are listed right next to each other, whereas in other formats—such as online banner ads or newspaper ads—they might not be quite as evident.

Whether or not you’re spending money on banner ads in printed directories, studying these mistakes—and then examining your own advertisements with a critical eye—can help you avoid some potential errors that reduce the effectiveness of your ads.  So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the five essential ingredients of a terrible small business ad (and how to avoid them).

Irrelevant headline

One of the most important parts of any ad is the headline.  It’s the first thing people will see when they look at the ad, and what it says will determine whether or not they even read the rest of the ad.  A common characteristic among ineffective ads is that they have a headline that is irrelevant—in other words, it doesn’t communicate anything about who the target audience is for the ad or what type of product or service the ad is promoting.

Here’s a few examples of irrelevant headlines (these are all actual ad headlines I found in the yellow pages):

  • “Don’t Compromise”
  • “Our Family Serving Your Family”
  • “A Part of Your Community, a Part of Your Life”
  • “No Job Too Large or Too Small”

See what I mean?  All of these headlines could apply to any type of business and any audience.  The last one is my personal favorite—it was for a tree trimming company.  It makes me want to call them up and tell them I have 3,000 acres of heavily forested land that I need cleared by next month, just to see if they will concede that there are in fact jobs that are too big for them.

When you write the headlines for your ads, be sure to mention your target audience, what you do, your value proposition, and some kind of hook, if possible.  For example, a local CPA with great online reviews who has many years of experience might have an ad with the headline “My Town’s Top-Rated Small Business CPA” and the sub-headline “20th Anniversary Sweepstakes—Enter to Win a Free Tax Return”.

Bullet point list of all the same products or services sold by your competitors

After the irrelevant headline, the next essential ingredient of a terrible small business ad is to include a bullet-point list of all the same products or services that your competitors sell.  Make sure that you only include things that people would automatically assume that you do based on your type of business.  For example, if you’re a lawn care company, only include things like grass cutting, mulching, hedge trimming, weed treatment, etc.  Don’t put anything different or exciting on your list—that would come dangerously close to what some people might consider a “best practice”.

Now, if you actually wanted to write an effective ad, instead of using a bullet-point list of all your services, you might consider only mentioning the one thing that you do that none of your competitors do.  In other words, mention your unique selling proposition or core difference, which—if you’re doing things right—is why someone reading the ad would choose you vs your competitors.  If you don’t have a core difference, then you probably shouldn’t be spending money on advertising until you come up with one.

Impossible and overused promise

If you want to guarantee that your ad rises (or should I say, sinks) to the level of “terrible”, just add the following phrase to it:

“Call us for the best quality, service, and price!”

Now, you might be thinking that you actually have the best quality, service, and price, so why shouldn’t you mention that in your ads?  Well, I can tell you with absolute certainty that you don’t have the best quality, service, and price, and here’s why—it’s impossible to have all three of those at the same time.  If I am willing to accept poor quality or bad customer service, I can get a cheaper price—always.

The ironic thing is that despite the fact that it’s impossible, many businesses claim to have the best quality, service, and price all at the same time—even businesses who are competing against each other.  Consumers have become so used to hearing this claim that it has lost all meaning, so do yourself a favor.  Even if you, by some miracle, actually do have the best quality, service, and price, don’t use that phrase in your ads.   Instead, use testimonials from your customers that mention your low prices, great service, and excellent quality.

Meaningless trust symbol or endorsement

Trust symbols are logos or icons, usually from a widely recognized and trusted third party, that you can use in your ads in the hope that people will transfer some of the trust they place in the third party to your business.  In order to make them effective, however, the trust symbols have to actually mean something to your target audience.

For example, if you’re a wedding photographer and you are a top-rated provider on the website weddingwire.com, you can put the “Weddingwire Rated” badge in your ad.  This website is seen as an authority in the wedding industry, and an endorsement from them means a lot.

Terrible small business ads, on the other hand, will use a trust symbol that has no meaning to anyone.  For example, they might use a shield icon with a lock to indicate they take security seriously.  I suppose that’s better than nothing, but all that really indicates is that they know how to use clip art in an advertisement.  If the “trust symbols” you use in your ads aren’t actually associated with a brand your target audience knows and trusts, then it really defeats the purpose of using them.

Lack of a tracking method

The last essential element of a terrible small business ad isn’t necessarily something that can be recognized by a reader, but it is probably more important than anything else on this list.  It’s the lack of any method or mechanism for tracking how many leads come from the ad.  No trackable phone number, no coupon code, no landing page with a unique URL—nothing.  After all, why would you use any of those readily available and easy-to-create methods to determine whether or not your ad was worth the money you spent on it?

Out of all the mistakes I’ve mentioned here, this one is probably the most common.  It’s also probably the only reason why I still get a printed business phone directory in the mail every year.  If the businesses who paid large amounts of money to advertise in that directory were tracking how many leads they actually generated as a result, I doubt that they would continue to advertise there.

If you’re not making any of the mistakes mentioned above, congratulations.  Unfortunately, many small businesses who really can’t afford to waste a single dime on ineffective advertising are making at least a few of these mistakes.  Will you help me spread the word to those businesses by sharing this blog post on your favorite social media platform?  Perhaps if enough people do that, we can relegate the printed business phone directory to a marketing museum where it belongs.

 

Kevin JordanKevin Jordan is a small business marketing consultant and member of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.  He’s also co-author of the best-selling book The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation. You can connect with Kevin on Twitter @RMCVirginia.

2 Four Ways Your Business Can Give Back in 2016

photo credit: Dollar Photo Club

photo credit: Dollar Photo Club

Being January, it’s the time of year when many of us set goals for the year and make some New Year’s resolutions pertaining to our businesses.  Perhaps we have a certain amount of revenue we’d like to earn in 2016, a product or service we’d like to begin offering, or some content we’d like to get published.  These are all excellent goals and I encourage you to set them, but I’d like to also encourage you to set one other type of goal for this year: a giving goal.

What I mean by a “giving goal” is a way that your business can donate time, talent, or treasure to help make your community or even our planet a happier, healthier, or safer place to live.  Why should you do this?  Well, I could say that you should do it because giving a helping hand to those less fortunate than yourself is the right thing to do…but in case that isn’t compelling enough for you, consider the fact that just about every single highly successful person or organization in history has made a habit of giving back in some way.  

I’m not suggesting that giving back will guarantee the success of your business, but I do believe there is more than an indirect correlation between success and giving.  This is especially true if you participate in cause marketing—in other words, making giving back such a big part of your brand identity that customers actually choose you over your competitor at least in part because of it.  Toms is a great example of this—for every clothing product you purchase from them, they donate a product to someone in need around the world.  

Now, I’m not suggesting that you need to become the next Toms, but I do think it’s important that you find some way that your business can give back.  There are many, many ways you can do this, many of which don’t even require any monetary contribution, but just in case you’re one of those less creative folks, I have taken the liberty of suggesting four possible ways your business can give back this year.

Volunteer your technical expertise

If you have a service-based business, chances are there is a non-profit organization in your community that could benefit from those services but that might not be able to afford them.  By donating your services to those organizations, they can focus more time and money on their core mission.  In some cases, your expertise might actually be their core mission.

For example, construction professionals like electricians, carpenters, and plumbers could volunteer their time on a Habitat for Humanity build site.  Financial professionals could help teach financial literacy classes or serve as advisors on the board of a non-profit organization.  Marketing professionals could donate their services to help non-profits with email campaigns or maintaining a website.  I know that there are marketing consultants that specialize in working for non-profits, and I’m not suggesting that those people should work for free, but there are plenty of small non-profit organizations that can’t afford to pay for marketing assistance but who could really use some help in that area.  Marketing professionals who donate their time to organizations like that often find that it’s a great way to meet leaders in their community who can afford their services.

While donating technical expertise doesn’t have the same tax benefits of a monetary donation, it is in many cases even more beneficial to the recipient and is also a great way for smaller businesses without a giving budget to support an organization they believe in.  

Be a mentor

Another way you as a business owner can give back this year is to mentor someone who is just getting started in your industry.  This could be part of a formal mentorship program run by an organization like SCORE or your local SBDC, or it could be something that you do on your own.    

This can be a very rewarding experience for you and really make a difference in someone’s life.  If you have had any amount of success as a business owner, chances are you had a mentor or coach at some point or at least got some valuable advice from people that helped you succeed.  Why not pay it forward by passing along your wisdom to the next generation of professionals in your industry?

Donate products, equipment, or space

If you have a business that sells physical products, you could donate those products to a local non-profit organization that could either use them directly or that could use them in a fundraiser such as a silent auction.  Even if you don’t sell physical products, you could donate used equipment such as vehicles, computers, or tools to organizations that need them.  

If you don’t have anything to donate yourself, you could simply partner with a local non-profit and serve as a collection point for donations.  You can reach out to your customers and get them to bring donations to your place of business, or if your business involves going to your customer’s home or business, you could collect items from them directly.  Just about every community has a Goodwill store or Habitat ReStore nearby, and most people have items lying around the house that they don’t really need or use.  If your business partners with one of these organizations to help them get donations from your customers, you can do a lot of good without having to spend one penny of your own money.

Donate money

While there are many ways your business can support causes and organizations that don’t involve financial contributions, direct monetary support is something that every non-profit appreciates and in fact needs to survive.  There are so many worthy organizations and not nearly enough money to go around, and you may think whatever small amount you can donate makes no difference.  I can assure you that this is not the case, and this is especially true when it comes to organizations that work in developing countries, where a dollar can buy a lot more than it can in the U.S.  

If finances are tight and you’re not sure if you can afford to give direct financial support to a non-profit organization, there is an easy way around this problem.  Simply do what Toms does and tie your support directly to an increase in revenue.  You can even tie it to one of your other business goals for the year—for example, if you want more customers to upgrade to your “gold” service plan, you can advertise that for each customer who upgrades to that plan you will donate x dollar amount to a local non-profit.  

One word of caution here—if you are going to make your financial support of an organization public, do your due diligence and make sure that the organization is using the money responsibly.  Also, it’s probably a good idea not to publicly support controversial organizations or causes (such as political campaigns) unless you are very certain that 100% of your customers also support that organization.  Otherwise, it could end up costing you customers who don’t want to support a brand that affiliates with a cause they don’t agree with.

Between all the examples I gave above, hopefully you’ll be able to think of a way your business can give back in 2016.  If you did think of something and want to share your commitment publicly, or if you are already giving back in some way, please leave a comment on this post and let me know about what you’re doing.  

 

kevin JordanKevin Jordan is a Certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, owner of Redpoint Marketing Consultants, and co-author of the best-selling book The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation. You can connect with Kevin on Twitter @RMCVirginia, and find out how he’s giving back in 2016 by visiting his small business marketing blog.

5 Planning Your 2016 Content Marketing Calendar

2016 content calendarThere are only a few weeks left in 2015, and that means it’s time to start planning your marketing calendar for 2016.  Actually, that time was about three months ago, but we both know that you’re probably just now getting around to it.  Hey, no worries—we’re all busy small business owners here, so we’re not going to judge you if you’re running a little behind.  If fact, I’d like to give you a bit of a head start on your marketing plan for 2016 by helping you map out your content marketing plan for next year.

Below, I’ve provided twelve ideas for blog posts that can be applied to any business—that’s one blog post for each month.  After writing each blog post (or having a copywriter write it for you), read it or summarize it while standing in front of a camera—use teleprompter software from freetelepromptersoftware.com to help you.  Upload the video to YouTube and/or a video podcast on iTunes.  Then, copy and paste at least a portion of the blog post into your email newsletter template, and send that to your list once a month.  

Do that, and you’ll have 36 pieces of nice educational content about your business by the end of 2016 that will bring you traffic and leads well into the following year and beyond.  Are you ready?  Let’s get started:

January: Share your goals for 2016

Most people spend some time around the New Year at least thinking about setting some goals for things they’d like to accomplish during the year.  Some people even end up actually setting those goals.  By “setting goals” I mean putting in writing exactly what you intend to accomplish and when you intend to accomplish it by.  People who do this are far more likely to accomplish those goals.  

If you set goals for your business in 2016, why not publicly share them with your customers on your blog in January?  People respect businesses that are constantly seeking to improve and grow.  Yes, there is a danger that if you end up not accomplishing goals that you shared publicly, people might be aware of your failure.  Who cares?  People will still appreciate the fact that you’re even trying, and they’ll trust you more for being authentic.  

February: Interview an employee

Help your customers get to know your staff a little better by featuring one of your best employees on your blog.  Interview them about their job, using some or all of the following questions:

  • How long have you worked here?
  • What do you like most about your job?
  • Share a story about a time you really helped a customer solve a problem.
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?  

To make this really powerful, do the interview on video and use the transcript for the blog post.  If you don’t have any employees, interview a vendor instead.  This will help your customers become more comfortable with your team, which will make them trust you more.  You never know when that trust might come in handy.

March: Do a “top 10” or “roundup” style blog post

This is a blog post where you make a list of great resources your customers might be interested in.  For example, a CPA could post a list of the top ten personal finance blogs or top ten budget apps for smartphones.  These types of posts tend to generate lots of backlinks, especially if you contact all the sites you link to in the post and let them know they’ve been featured on your blog.  

April: Answer a “Should Ask Question”

A “should ask question” is one that your customers should ask about your products or services, but don’t know enough about what you do to even know to ask those questions.  These types of questions really position you as an expert in your niche and demonstrate how smart you are to potential customers.

May:  Answer a “Frequently Asked Question”

While “should ask questions” make great content, the problem is that not a lot of people will be searching for answers to these types of questions on Google.  That’s where frequently asked questions come in handy.  Check your “sent email” folder to see what types of questions you and your staff answer over and over again.  Pick one topic, and write an 800—1,000-word blog post about it.  These tend to show up in search results, especially if you get a few quality backlinks to the post.  

June: Do a seasonal post

June marks the beginning of summer, which in the U.S. is a time of transition for many people and businesses.  Schools close for the summer, colleges shift to different schedules, some seasonal business wind up for their busy season and others wind down for a few months (think ski resorts).  Many families get ready to take their annual vacation.  Just about any business can find a way to relate their products or services to one of these transitions.  Use this for June’s blog post.

July: Interview one of your customers or strategic partners

Everyone loves seeing their name in the paper, even if it’s just your paper (aka, blog).  Invite one of your best customers to be interviewed for a feature on your blog and in your email newsletter.  Ask them questions like:

  • How long have you been our customer?
  • What do you like best about what we do?
  • How have our products or services benefitted you?
  • What tips can you offer other customers to help them get the most from our product or service?

For some businesses (divorce attorneys, counselors, etc.) this might not be appropriate due to privacy concerns.  In that case, interview a strategic partner instead of a customer—it will work just as well.

August: Publish an infographic

Infographics are all the rage these days, and if you can create one that helps people in your industry support their position on a topic—especially if that topic is somewhat controversial—it could get a lot of shares and links.  There will be a cost of time and money involved here to develop the infographic, but if done well, it will be more than worth it.

September: Invite a strategic partner to write a guest post

After working hard on your blog for eight months, it’s time to take a month off.  Let someone else create some nice content for your website by inviting a strategic partner to write a guest post for your blog.  Make sure they know you will promote their post on social media and in your email newsletter.  Also, make sure they understand the SEO value of writing a guest post—just send them a link to an article that explains guest blogging to them.  

October: Write a case study about a successful project you’ve completed this year

Hopefully, by this point in the year, you have a least one major success story under your belt for 2016.  Write a case study about it, including what life was like for your customer before they found you, what you did to help them, and how life was better for them afterward.  Include numbers and data to support your case study if possible.  This might just be the most valuable blog post you write this year because you can use it in your lead conversion process for a long time to come.

November: Write a post about the holidays

Yeah, I know, writing a blog post that somehow relates your products and services to the end-of-year holiday season is cliché, but let’s face it—this time of year, it’s probably what you and your customers are going to be thinking about half the time anyway.  You might as well acknowledge that and use it to create some content for your blog.

December: Do a year-in-review post

Remember that blog post you wrote in January about your goals for 2016?  Do a post updating your progress regarding those goals, along with anything else your business accomplished during the year.  If it was a bad year, focus on some of the challenges you had to overcome.  If it was a good year, highlight your achievements.  

In either case, spending some time thinking about everything you managed to do during the course of an entire year is a valuable exercise.  Chances are you’ll be shocked at how much you accomplished.  If you had told me at the beginning of 2015 that by the end of the year I would become a best-selling author, be named to a list of the top 100 business bloggers of the year, and be the president of a brand new BNI chapter, I wouldn’t have believed you—but I accomplished all those things and more.  

If you stick to the content marketing plan I outlined above for an entire year, I’ll bet that by the time you write your year-in-review post for 2016, you’ll have some pretty impressive accomplishments to discuss as well.  

3 Proven Strategies for Local Lead Generation

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Marketing Podcast with Mark Z. Fortune and Kevin Jordan

Every local-based business wants to improve their local lead generation process. Leads are the life-blood of your marketing efforts. The best salespeople can convert those leads into sales, but without leads even the best sales force on the planet can’t bring you more business.

That is why lead generation is one of my favorite subjects to discuss, and the topic of a new book from a group of my friends and Duct Tape Marketing Certified Consultants called Local Lead Generation: Proven Tips to Help Grow Your Business.

My guests for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast are Mark Z. Fortune and Kevin Jordan, Certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultants and co-authors (among others) of The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation: Proven Strategies and Tips to Grow Your Business. We discuss the new book, how to improve your total online presence.

Questions I ask Mark and Kevin:

  • What are some of the common mistakes small business owners make?
  • How do I get customers to visit my website?
  • Why shouldn’t you just buy traffic with pay-per-click?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why it is so critical to focus on local search and local lead generation
  • How reviews draw customers into your store
  • What the role of social media is in local search

 

Transcript

Transcription Service Provided by GMR Transcription

John: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by MarketingProfs. Do you have the write stuff? Unleash your inner writer by downloading the latest MarketingProfs Marketing Writing Kit for free. You’ll find it in the show notes, but you can go to mprofs.com/ducttape.

Hello, welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guests today are Kevin Jordan and Mark Fortune. They happen to be a couple of Duct Tape Marketing Consultants who have, with several other Duct Tape Marketing Consultants, written a book called The Small Business Owners Guide to Local Lead Generation. So, Mark and Kevin, thanks for joining me.

Mark: Thanks for having us John.

Kevin: Thanks.

John: Well, so I always like to pick on the title first, you know, everybody knows they need lead generation. You guys have stuck the word local in the title and so I wonder is there a difference between local lead generation and just everyday lead generation?

Mark: Yeah, well, we felt like there was. I think what happened was there’re five of us who have coauthored the book and in just some of our back and forth and working together in the network, we all sort of realized that we’re all working with clients that are local businesses and sometimes they face some unique and common struggles across just the local spectrum and these days, especially in the online world, you can really narrow down your focus as to who your local market is.

So, if you’re a local veterinarian clinic, you’re not really concerned with marketing outside of a three- to five-mile radius of where your business is so there are very specific things, especially in the online world, that you need to worry about in order to bring in the right kind of customers to your business and that’s really where we focus in on the local aspects in this book.

John: Yeah, and I’ve actually been doing this for a long time and even before we had the Internet really as a foundational tool or a website at least, and I do think initially there was a feeling that oh, if you’re trying to sell globally, you need to be online and that’s a big deal. But now people shop around the world certainly but they also shop across the street using all these Internet tools so it really has become, I think, hyper important for local businesses.

Kevin: Yeah, absolutely, and I would add to what Mark said that in addition to the online elements which are very important these days, there’s a lot of offline marketing tactics that are available to local businesses. A business that’s not particularly local simply can’t use or can’t really use the … and we get into some of those in the book, especially when it comes to direct mail and referrals and those kinds of things.

John: Yeah, and I think that’s a great point too because I think a local business, as you pointed out, I think one of the advantages is when they start combining all of these things and so they use their offline tools to drive people maybe online to get more information to then drive them into their store and that’s where I think the real power comes is when you’re integrating all of these things.

Mark: Yeah, and it’s so important to keep in mind if you’re a local business owner that probably well over half of your potential customers and ideal customers are carrying a Smartphone that is location aware and they’re searching for your type of business while in the car or in the office and they’re not on a desktop computer doing it. So, that local aspect of what you’re doing and being able to be found quickly by the search engines is just critical these days.

John: Well, and also you imagine when you pull your phone out and you’re driving around, you have pretty high buying intent too, right? It’s like I want to find this thing that I’m looking for and I’m going to go buy it right now and so that makes that even more important I think. So, you guys both consult with small businesses. What are some of the common mistakes, maybe just generally when we’re speaking about marketing, that you encounter on a daily basis?

Kevin: Mark, you want to take that one first?

Mark: Sure, one of the things I see very often across my client base is a real tendency to jump on marketing tactic of the week. Sometimes it’s just of their own research and their own searching and sometimes it’s they’re being sold an advertising program by a vendor and they don’t fully understand but there will be a rush to oh, man, we have to get on Facebook or oh, we’ve got to do paper click or oh, we’ve really got to figure out Twitter this week, and there’s very little cohesive strategy that goes into it.

And we all know small business owners are yanked in a million directions at once so it’s hard to really focus on that plan and nailing down really where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. So, I very commonly see a real tendency to just jump on one tactic for a little while.

Kevin: I agree 100 percent with what Mark said and one thing I’ll add to that is that a lot of times, and I think this is a very tragic mistake, is that small business owners get connected with a marketing person – I hate to use the word professional because I wouldn’t necessarily –

John: Because that would imply something, wouldn’t it?

Kevin: Yeah, that would imply something. They get connected with a marketing person who is not fully qualified to do what they’re doing and in fact just last week, I did a consultation with a local independent insurance agency who had just launched a new website and nowhere on the entire website did it say anything about where the business was located. And if you know anything about search engine optimization for local businesses, you know that that information needs to be in multiple locations on every single page of the website.

John: Well, the thing that’s funny about that is that’s not just search engine optimization, that’s just good manners.

Kevin: Yeah, common sense.

John: I mean, how am I going to find you?

Kevin: Yeah, and not only that, but this particular web designer was charging this business owner over $300.00 a month for a “search engine optimization package.” So, I don’t know what was going to be in that package, but it’s kind of like selling someone a car and then telling them that the engine is going to cost extra, and I see this a lot where business owners just don’t know how to hire the right marketing people. And if someone reads this book, if nothing else, I hope what they get out of it is knowing what questions they need to ask before hiring someone to help them with their marketing.

John: You speak about, as many marketing related books do these days, a lot about content and in fact, you talk about out publishing the competition. I will say, and you’ve certainly experienced that, I think a lot of small business owners generally are buying that now and understanding the value of that, but it is still probably the hardest work for them. It’s the part that they struggle with the most; I mean how can we make this idea of content marketing something that a small business owner can actually wrap their arms around?

Mark: Yeah, I think one of the important things, and something we really try to point out in the book, is to not get intimidated by the notion of content. And I think small business owners tend to think that means they have to stare in front of a blank computer screen with an empty Word doc every Monday morning and figure out how to crank out a thousand words by 9:00 a.m. for a blog post and that’s just not the case. I mean one of the tactics – I have a newer client, a local landscaping service, and when I said content to him, he nods his head because he knows he has to do it but you can tell it’s just overwhelming him, the idea that he has to do all of this.

And I say, “Start simply. What are the ten most frequently asked questions your customers ask you on every job you get? Write those answers down. There’re ten blog posts right there.” You can break it down into very common themes and really start to tackle this.

John: Yeah, one of my favorites is what are the questions they should be asking you but they don’t know even to ask you but you know that if they ask that or if you were able to provide the information on that, that would help differentiate you and it would help them get to a better understanding. I see you guys and I talk about FAQs and I can’t remember the acronym you used for what I’m talking about now, but I coined the term Frequently Unasked Questions, but then I found the acronym didn’t play very well in some places.

Kevin: We call them SAQs, the Should Ask Questions.

Mark: I was just drawing that out. I’m like no, that won’t work, hold on.

John: Yeah, you don’t want to pronounce it phonetically or something, that’s right, but I think that’s a great point too. And you talk about in the book this idea of repurposing content too. I think that’s another thing that they get intimidated by is to see people are doing video or they’re doing podcasting and oh, my God, how am I going to think of all this stuff and really finding a piece or two of kind of foundational content that really tells your story and sets you apart, I mean it’s not that hard to turn that into eight or ten applications, is it?

Kevin: Absolutely not and in fact, this podcast we’re recording right now, a transcript of this could easily be turned into multiple blog posts with very little editing. In fact, one thing that I’m doing right now with the owner of a clinic for weight loss is instead of just writing his blog, what we’re doing is every week I interview him about his own business as if we’re doing a podcast episode and then I can write the blog post using a transcript of that so that it’s in his own voice. But thinking forward and thinking ahead, we’re saving the recordings of those so that if any time in the future he wants to start a podcast, he already has all the podcast episodes ready to go.

John: That’s great. That’s such a great technique too for people that find it hard to sit down and type on a blank screen, but boy, you ask them a question or two and they won’t shut up and so I think that that sometimes can be a great way to extract content from somebody.

We already talked about the obvious put your name and address on your website, but what are some of the other must-have considerations for a website now that even for local businesses has become maybe the hub of their business?

Mark: Well, I think in so many ways, yes, the NAP, the name, address and phone number is absolutely critical to be on a site so that you can be found unlike Kevin’s client that he mentioned earlier. I think it’s also really important if you have multiple locations to create a unique page within your site for each location that also helps drive that local content or those local search results. I think it’s also critical to take into account your community and your surrounding neighborhoods when you’re developing content.

Write something unique to the neighborhood you’re in. Write something unique to the community interests or a cause that you may be involved with and that will over time, if you’re consistent with it, really help with your search rankings. And don’t forget to ask your customers for reviews, I mean it’s just so important to manage that reputation online, and five star reviews and thumbs up reviews and great reviews on Google+ and Facebook will really help drive leads and new business into your store.

John:  Yeah, and I think it’s also a great trust factor. Anymore, we tend to not believe advertising, we tend to not believe a lot of stuff that somebody is telling us about themselves, but we are more likely to believe that five star review even from a perfect stranger. So, I think they certainly are a necessary element in the search game, but I think they’ve become a real important trust signal as well.

Kevin: One thing I’d add as far as critical elements of a website, and I’m sure your listeners are well aware of the latest changes to Google’s algorithm by the time this podcast comes out, but the bottom line is if your website is not mobile friendly, it’s going to be more and more difficult for you to rank in search results and so just go ahead and bite the bullet if your website isn’t mobile friendly right now, get a redesign that’s responsive and that conforms to the latest best practices in that regard so that you won’t be slapped by future updates from Google.

John:  Well, and we talked about it already. I think Mark mentioned the idea, you know, so many people locally, when they’re looking for a business, that’s what they’re using to search so even if it weren’t for the fact that Google was now not going to show your site, I mean it makes such a bad experience for that person that’s on a phone anyway.

Mark: Yeah, I have a new client. We’re redesigning their website specifically because of that issue. It’s a veterinary clinic and they have good search rankings. They’re actually pretty good marketers and have a successful business, but 40 percent of their traffic was mobile and the latest Google updates have really punished their traffic and there’s really no way to get around that other than to rebuild your site in a mobile responsive design. You just have to bite the bullet and go for it.

John: So, now I have my lovely website up and it’s mobile friendly and it has great content. How do I get people to visit?

Kevin:  Well, I think the first thing is making sure that when it is built it’s built with all the proper elements of SEO best practices in place so making sure the keyword rich content and the coding is done correctly and all that. That’s Step 1.

And then Step 2 is just taking the idea that you preach John about the total online presence where you incorporate your social media, your email marketing, your online advertising, your ratings and review sites and directory listings and have that all working with each other and all pointing back and driving traffic to your website.

John: Yeah, and then it’s plain old networking too, right, in the local community working with other businesses, getting links from other businesses, posting content other places that point back to your site.

Kevin: Yeah, and we joke in the book that some of the, you know, we talk about the idea of back links and how you can get links from authoritative sites like your local chamber of commerce and your local BNI chapter. In other words, some of those organizations are things that you probably need to be doing anyway and this idea of getting traffic to your website is just even more incentive for you to be participating in your community.

John: So, you mentioned a couple of elements of search engine optimization. Are there any particular elements for local search? So, in other words, for that local business, are there some things that are very unique to that local business to show up when I’m in that town searching for whatever you’re selling?

Mark: I think what I’ve seen with my clients are reviews tend to be very, very important, and I work with my clients as a part of what they’re doing. And we talk about it in the book that when a customer has had a good experience, work with them to get that email address and ask them for reviews. Take five minutes or take 30 seconds and give us a quick review on Google+ or on Facebook, and that really will help boost up your traffic as folks are searching for your business in that mobile environment.

Kevin: It’s also an insurance policy because let’s face it, the customer who has a bad experience with your business is going to be much, much more motivated to go online and leave a negative review than the one who has a great experience. That’s just the ugly truth of it.

So, you might say well, I don’t have any negative reviews so I’m not that worried about it, but when you get one, you’re going to be worried about it so why not go out and get five or ten or 15 or 50 positive reviews so that when that negative review does happen, which it will if you’re in business long enough, then it’s just not really that big of a deal because it’s buried by all of the positive reviews.

John:  So, getting reviews, optimizing your site, writing content, all these things that work over time do take time. Can’t you just buy traffic?

Mark: Not if you don’t want to get punished. I think there was probably a time, not that long ago, where the Black Hat SEO guys, if you will –

John: Well, no, I’m talking about legitimate ways of buying traffic meaning paper click advertising, I mean –

Mark:  Oh, okay.

John:  – surely you get some clients over time that maybe they have more money than time or patience and feel like hey, why don’t we just dive into Google AdWords. What’s wrong with that thinking?

Mark: Well, for one, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can get really expensive really, really fast with very low conversions. I think if you have a good website and a good strategy and a good landing page and someone who really understands paper click marketing that you’re working with, you can start dipping your toes into paper click pretty quickly and generate some decent results.

I know two of our coauthors, both Phil Singleton and Justin Sturgis, use that very often with their clients and use it very successfully, but I’ve seen it happen time after time. Somebody thinks they just put in a credit card to Google, into AdWords, and traffic is going to start pouring in. And sometimes traffic does pour in, but none of it converts. If you don’t have a good landing page and a good clear call to action and offer for what somebody’s going to get, you’ll spend a lot of money really fast.

Kevin: Yeah, I would say that AdWords or any other form of paper click advertising even though it might get traffic to your site quickly is not a short-term proposition either because even just to do a basic test of whether a landing page or a campaign is going to be successful, I think at least one to two months minimum would be required depending on your traffic volume and the area you’re targeting.

So, I see business owners who will do it for a couple weeks or a month and are not satisfied with the results and give up, but they don’t even have a statistically balanced sample in order to judge whether or not it would have been successful.

John: I think you both alluded a little bit to this idea of conversion, I mean obviously, once you know if you get X traffic you will get X result then in many cases you can afford to say okay, let’s go buy all that traffic up because we know what it’s worth to us, but what are some of the ways that you would recommend to know what’s working and not working? I mean I think a typical small business even if they feel like their revenue is good, in many cases they don’t really know what’s driving it so how do you find out? How do you measure what’s working and not working online?

Kevin: I think the first thing John is to make sure that you have a method in place for tracking it and are looking at that on a regular basis, whether you or the person you’re outsourcing your marketing to, so analytics are hugely important and with online, online anything really, there’s no excuse not to be tracking it well because the tools are there, they’re available and most of them are free. So, that’s Step 1.

Mark: I think the other part too is once you have Google Analytics up running in the social world you can see how much engagement you’re getting. You’ve got to dedicate some time to actually analyze what that means and where your new customers came from and understanding your cost to acquire. One of my clients right now is a software and data company here in Arkansas where I’m located, and we spend an hour a month going over all of the month’s analytics and eventually the conversation moves from how many likes did we get or how many shares did we get to okay, how many of those shares turned into somebody that wanted to see a demo or wanted to try a free trial of our product?

And the same thing applies to local business to consumer businesses as well. How many people are converting from all the tactics that you’re using? And then you get down to a cost to acquire and you begin to understand what the lifetime value of that relationship is.

John: Yeah, and I think so often people are, and I’m guilty of this, you’re very traffic driven, but as a metric, have an understanding what you started to talk about. What are some of the goals of that traffic? What are we trying to get them to do? Even if it’s how many of them are signing up for a newsletter when they come here or converting to signing up for our webinar? And I think too often all people think about is traffic and sale and there are a lot of goals or steps along that journey in between that can and should be measured.

Mark: Right and I think it’s important with the local businesses to really understand what you have with your existing customer base. I mean that can really be, you know, probably is your most valuable asset in the company in terms of helping folks you’ve already converted to convert others. So, we really encourage all of our clients to work with your customer base, make sure they have a wonderful experience and turn into those referral partners for you.

John: So, the final question and then we’ll wrap up. I know you guys have some resources that you want to share along with the site for the book, and I know you both get this question all the time, what ultimately is the role of social media in local lead generation?

Kevin: Well John I think No. 1 is the first principle of social media, and we jokingly talk about this in the book, is to do no harm. So, for a local business that is pressed for time and who thinks I have to be on social media so they go and set up their Facebook page and their Twitter account and their Google+ and all the other places that they want to be and then they post one or two things and then stop.

It is actually hurting that business because when someone goes on your Facebook page and sees that the last post there is Happy Thanksgiving 2012, it’s what we call the social media ghost town effect and it makes people wonder is this business even open. Do they respond to requests? So, No. 1, if you’re going to have a profile on a social media platform, you’ve got to post regularly.

And No. 2 is the purpose of social media is really to have conversations with your customers. It’s not some place where you post your ads and it’s just like you’d put an ad in the newspaper, take the same ad and put it on your Facebook page. You want to be using it to maybe start a Facebook group for your customers or use it to solicit feedback or something. It’s all about having a conversation, not about pushing out a marketing message.

John: Yeah, and I think that’s a great point. I mean I’ve often told people that say I just don’t have time for social media, do something; find some way to serve your customers using it. Just as you mentioned a group or something on Facebook or following them on Twitter, making a Twitter list of them and at least checking in once a day and seeing what your customers are saying. I mean you could find that valuable couldn’t you, and I think a lot of times you’re right, people get caught up in oh, if I’m on Twitter, it means I have to say something witty 12 times a day, and it certainly can have value without you saying a thing.

Mark: Well, and I think you touched on something really important there John, which is so much of the time it can start with just listening first because even if you’re not active in the conversation and you haven’t set up your properties, your business and the needs you’re trying to solve are absolutely being discussed. An example I see every day, and it makes me think of this in my business all the time, is my neighborhood has a Facebook group, just all the houses in my neighborhood.

And nine out of ten posts, other than somebody’s dog is lost, are who knows a good roofer, good electrician, good plumber, good whatever, name the service that you’d like. And that stuff is a goldmine as a lead generation tool, and while you can’t actively necessarily advertise on those groups, people are talking about the kinds of needs that your business solves out there and you’ve got to be willing to listen and dive into that conversation.

John: I was working with a group of chiropractors – not chiropractors, orthodontists, and I was giving a presentation on social media and was told that the group was very leery of the impact of it. And so I went and found, without much work, found about a dozen pictures of young women who had just gotten their braces off raving about how beautiful they feel now and thanks to their orthodontist and in most all cases didn’t mention the orthodontist and I showed them. I said, “Would this be a marketing opportunity for you had you seen that your customer is raving about this?”

And in a couple cases, they did mention the orthodontist, but out there into no man’s land because the orthodontist wasn’t doing what you just talked about and missed, in my opinion, a tremendous opportunity to say hey, you were a great patient and have all of that young lady’s friends and followers know that their orthodontist cared in a moment that was obviously pretty important to that young lady.

Mark: Well, and you’re right, and what if you’re the one orthodontist in that town who has really figured that out?

John: Exactly.

Mark: You’re going to be miles ahead of your competition.

John: Yep, yep, it was a great demonstration. So, localleadgenbook.com is where you guys have set up shop for the book. And do you want to tell us about some resources that you have there because I know you mention them throughout the book and then also I think you have a special offer for the launch?

Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. The resources page we put together is still a work in progress, but now as we get closer to launch, we’re adding more and more links to each chapter so for each chapter in the book, we’ve put links to the resources that we mention in the book and articles that have more content, especially the chapters on SEO and paper click. And by the way, it’s really, really difficult to describe what an anchor text link is in a printed book.

John: Yeah, right, right, some things you have to experience online, right, yeah.

Kevin: So, for things like that we have additional resources on the website that people can use to help them. And then we’ve also put together what we feel is a really great bonus package for people who buy the book and come to the site and provide a proof of purchase so we have a bonus chapter on video marketing which I think is becoming more and more important even for local businesses.

John: You bet.

Kevin: We have a downloadable template for creating your marketing kit, video interviews with all the authors – what else do we have Mark?

[Crosstalk]

Mark: Don’t forget the eBook. We put an eBook out there with 66 lead generation tactics and tips that you get for free when you go to the purchase link on localleadgenbook.com.

John: Awesome. Well, thanks guys. Obviously, you’re in the Duct Tape Marketing Network so I will see both of you probably sooner than later, but congratulations on the book and obviously local businesses, this is information you need and it is in a very digestible format and great job.

Mark: Thank you.

Kevin: Thanks John and I want to finish up with one additional quick story. I don’t know if you remember, but the first time that I met you, it was after you gave a speech to our local Small Business Development Center and I walked up to you and asked you to sign my book. It was The Referral Engine book.

If you had told me at that point that in less than three years you would be writing the forward for a book that I wrote, I would have told you that you are absolutely crazy, but here we are and it’s happening and you’ve given us a lot of support not only with the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network but just in resources and access to the other things that we need so thank you very much for that.

John: Well, you’re welcome. The need for what we do is immense guys so, you know, it’s a lot of fun doing this. I do remember that Kevin by the way. The nearest town that had an airport I think was about a hundred miles.

Kevin: Yeah, oh, yeah.

John: That’s how small we’re getting. All right guys take care and we’ll talk to you soon.

Mark: Thanks John.

7 Does Your Business Have a TV Show?

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Kevin Jordan – Enjoy!

If you watch any television at all, chances are you’ve stumbled across one of the many reality TV shows that turn the day-to-day drama of a small business into prime time entertainment. There’s TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress (starring Kleinfeld Bridal in Manhattan) and Cake Boss (featuring Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, NJ), the History Channel’s Pawn Stars (Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, Las Vegas) and American Pickers (Antique Archeology in Le Claire, Iowa), and my personal favorite–the Discovery Channel’s Flying Wild Alaska (about the airline Era Alaska, based in Unalakleet, AK). These shows have turned the owners and employees of obscure small businesses into international celebrities, and generated tens of thousands of dollars of revenue for the businesses (if not more). What small business owner hasn’t watched one of these shows and thought to him or herself, “I wish I had a TV show about my business distributed by a media giant to millions of viewers around the world”?

Well, I’ve got great news for you. You can have a TV show about your business, and Apple will deliver it literally into the hands of 1.5 billion people around the world. It’s called a video podcast, and for the business owner who has the time and resources to devote to creating one, it’s a very effective way of delivering educational content to your target audience and establishing yourself as an authority in your niche.

iTunes Video BlogsWhat’s a Podcast?

Before I go any further, perhaps I should clarify what exactly a podcast is, because the name “podcast” actually is no longer a good way of describing it. You see, a podcast is basically a means of distributing content to an audience. That content can take the form of a radio show (audio podcast), a TV show (video podcast), or a newspaper (yes, you can actually distribute PDF documents using a podcast). The reason it’s called a “podcast” is that in the beginning many people were listening to audio podcasts on their iPods. However, there are now many different ways that people can consume podcasts, so that’s a little bit of a misnomer.

Just as is the case with more traditional forms of syndicated content distribution, people can either consume one “episode” of your podcast (like picking up a newspaper from the rack at the news stand), or they can subscribe to your podcast and have each episode automatically delivered to their favorite device when it is released (smartphone, laptop, iPad, iPod, etc).

Why would you want a video podcast?

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “I already have an email newsletter that people can subscribe to. Why should I have a podcast also?” Unlike an email newsletter, this method of delivering content to your target audience is completely spam-proof, and does not require someone to divulge any personal information (like name and email address) in order to receive it. Therefore, all barriers to entry are essentially removed. It’s a great way to let people “try out” your business at no risk–a key component of the Duct Tape Marketing Hourglass concept.

As to why you should consider a video podcast instead of an audio podcast, there’s a couple compelling reasons:

  • With a video podcast, there are fewer restrictions on the type of content you can produce–think live demos, screen capture videos, virtual tours of your facility, etc.
  • Your personality comes through more powerfully in a video (assuming you appear on-camera) than in an audio broadcast
  • In some cases (depending on your content), you can separate the audio from the video in your editing process and use the audio files to create an audio podcast without any additional editing, thus reaching a wider audience.
  • Right now, there are a lot fewer video podcasts than audio podcasts, meaning less competition. Also, Apple is actively promoting video podcasts in iTunes and has expressed interest in getting more of that type of content on their platform.

What will your show be about?

So, now that you’re convinced that this whole video podcast thing is at least worth investigating, the only thing left to decide is what your show will be about. Here’s a few ideas:

  1. Use your show to teach customers (or potential customers) how to use your products. For example, the Basic Brewing video podcast teaches people how to brew beer, and its host, James Spencer, has an online homebrew supply store.
  2. Use your show to establish authority and credibility in your niche. If you’re a speaker, author, or coach, a video podcast is a great way to position yourself as an expert. See the NutritionFacts.org video podcast for an example.
  3. Your show could simply be a method of broadcasting company events, messages and updates to your employees, strategic partners, vendors, and customers. For example, the White House publishes a video podcast that is simply a recording of all the president’s speeches.

If those examples don’t give you any ideas or inspiration, just go to iTunes and search for video podcasts about topics you are genuinely interested in (you can even find video podcasts about video podcasting). Subscribe to a few and start watching them on a regular basis. Chances are, before long you will start to view the hosts of the shows you subscribe to as experts you can turn to for trusted advice. You may even end up buying products or services from some of them! There’s no reason why you can’t be one of those “trusted experts”. Start a TV show for your business so you can share your knowledge and experience with the world, gain the trust of your target audience, and position your brand at the top of your niche.

Kevin JordanKevin Jordan is an authorized Duct Tape Marketing Consultant living in central Virginia. He’s also the host of the Small Business Marketing Minute, a daily video podcast for small business owners looking for simple, affordable, and practical marketing tips. He teaches several online courses on small business marketing, including video marketing.