By Beth Borrego / Published September 2020
Building your company website is just the beginning of your online presence and digital interaction with your customers. In chapter five, we briefly touched on online directory advertising and using pay programs like Google AdWords to help potential customers find your website. In this chapter, we will discuss leveraging low cost, subscription, and free online advertising in more depth and delve into other areas, including how to create email campaigns, coupon campaigns, and online press releases. We’ll explore social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, and Tumblr as well as social media management programs designed to automatically post pre-scheduled content online.
There are many ways to list your business online; some are free and some are not. An organic search for free, online directories should yield some results, as long as you know what kind of directories to look for. Make sure to visit bestbacklinksservice.weebly.com for a list of more than 50 websites that you can add your business to. Some sites, such as Angie’s List, Merchant Circle, and Yelp, offer free business listings and allow consumers to post reviews about their experience with your company. Consumers who visit and search these sites may discover your business there, but remember that the reviews are a very important part of the culture of these sites, and they can impact your reputation online.
Of these, Angie’s List is perhaps the most popular one, offering subscriptions to consumers in an environment created specifically for rating companies they have purchased from. On the business side, Angie’s List offers both advertising and promotional tools for businesses to help them solicit feedback from their clientele. Awards are given annually to those businesses with the best reputations online and ratings by Angie’s List members. It’s important to note that while anyone may review a company, reviewers who are not members of Angie’s List will show up but will not be given weight in the overall score a company receives.
Many business organizations also have online directories, but inclusion in them may be limited to corporate members. Examples of this include your local Chamber of Commerce; the Better Business Bureau, where members gain accredited status; and industry organizations and trade associations too numerous to count. The Better Business Bureau is unique because it also includes a rating system and bases the grade a company receives on the number and type of complaints received from consumers. However, it’s the business that is a member, not the consumer. The Better Business Bureau is viewed more as a mediator. Complaints remain on record for a period of 36 months.
It’s important to include the annual membership costs of these associations in your marketing budget. Potential customers often look within an organization’s online membership to find stable and seasoned businesses for a variety of needs. We’ll discuss the networking opportunities that are a benefit of membership in greater detail in another chapter.
Email is a highly effective way to communicate with your customers and prospects, allowing you to follow up on conversations, begin new dialogue, or perhaps send important documents like estimates or proposals without having to rely on the postal service. Email campaigns are a highly important electronic form of communication with your customers. Anytime you collect basic contact information from a customer, it’s important to collect their email address as well.
Email may be used to communicate offers, specials, and new services or to provide newsletters containing helpful tips and professional advice. Online email services like Robly, MailChimp, or Constant Contact offer low-cost, mass email solutions, allowing users to design custom email campaigns using an online program featuring a variety of templates. Once created, the customized email campaigns are sent to specifically targeted email lists at prescheduled dates and times. The customized templates create a professional look that complements your company’s website, your business cards and brochures, and in essence, your company image. You may wish to create different email lists for different services you offer so that only relevant information goes to specific customers. Make sure your messages are focused for the list you are using unless your message is meant to be communicated to all your customers regardless of their interests.
The best email programs out there will also provide valuable data on your open rate and click throughs to links in your message. Make sure when you are considering an email vendor that you look at the reporting features that they provide for your campaigns. Email campaign statistics are really important and easy to overlook. Don’t ever just send and be done with it, or you won’t discover what’s working and what isn’t.
One word of caution: make sure that your customers have agreed to opt in to your list and are given the opportunity to opt out or unsubscribe if they so choose. It’s always a good idea to let your customers know when you collect their email address what kinds of things your company sends and about how often. They may not want to be on the list at all to begin with.
Don’t become a spammer. Be careful of the email campaign frequency, since emails that are sent too often may be perceived as spam and could even turn customers away from your business altogether. This can happen in two ways. First, the email may be blocked by the email host. Companies like Microsoft, AOL, and others work very hard to identify spam so that it never reaches an inbox. Second, you don’t want to upset your customer by emailing them unwanted material. If that happens, they can report your email as spam to the email service provider.
If too many of your emails are reported as spam, it may affect your ability to send future emails. It’s important to solicit help from the email generation company you subscribe to in order to avoid this potential problem. Their staff is there to help you avoid issues before they arise. Some of the more popular email generation companies offer online tutorial videos, webinars, and live chat and help forums to assist users while creating campaigns. Emails can be created and scheduled months in advance of the specified send date, allowing you to streamline your efforts. If a campaign needs to be re-scheduled or postponed, it’s easy to do so.
Each email campaign’s content is important and should be engaging for the subscribed readers. You might create something as simple as a service reminder or something more in depth like a newsletter that is mailed monthly or quarterly. Newsletter content may be relevant to your business, but it doesn’t have to be limited to that alone. An occasional recipe or something personal like a vacation or household tip might be interesting to the reader as well, giving the email a more personal feel. One piece of advice—don’t promote political or religious beliefs or news in your emails because you could turn customers away permanently by hitting a tender note.
Previously, we discussed all of the components of creating a print ad. The components used for print ads apply to email campaigns as well. Templates can be used to send an electronic postcard, brochure, or newsletter. Creating electronic versions of your paper products is smart and helps to achieve brand recognition.
For example, let’s say that in July you normally send out a postcard campaign to a portion of your customer list that has previously purchased a specific service. It would be wise to take the email list for that same group of customers and create an electronic version of that postcard. Next, schedule the completed email to be sent about 48 hours after you deliver your postcard to the post office for delivery. The goal is to get two impressions with that customer in a relatively small window of time. Think this is too much? It’s not. Postcards get lost, misdelivered, recycled, or misplaced, and emails can be deleted without being read. You’re increasing the odds that your customer will notice that you’re offering them a special opportunity that they certainly don’t want to miss.
Coupons in email campaigns can be a very effective way of getting both new and repeat business. Be sure the coupons have expiration dates to create a sense of urgency so the consumer will want to use them. Make sure the email contains a link to your website with some text that guides them there to read about the service you are promoting in the campaign. You might tie the coupon to a holiday or event or simply to when your company is in the slower part of its season to attract bargain shoppers.
In addition to the basics found in your print brochure, there are a few additional nuances that should be addressed and added to your electronic campaigns. Links are frequently used in emails to allow the recipient to click one or more areas of the ad. Embedded links direct the customer to specific pages of your website designed to provide them with more information about each promoted service. These emails may also include small graphic images, known as icons, identifying links to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. These social media icons should be linked to your business’s social media accounts so that customers who wish to read, participate on, or simply “like” these pages may easily do so. It’s also important to place these social media icons on your company website, linking them respectively to the corresponding social media pages online. Some widgets also update your website automatically with the latest post placed on Facebook or Twitter, for example. These widgets help to keep your visitors engaged by encouraging them to visit your social media pages as well as your primary website.
There are also free and low-cost press release websites online, allowing users to create and submit press releases from their account when logged into the site. In most cases, creating an account on these sites is free, although some are fee based. If your business has events that you believe set you apart from the competition, or perhaps you’ve achieved a company milestone, it’s important to make sure that information is online. This is easily done by offering customers a news area on your website containing copies of press releases for users to read about your company’s achievements for themselves. Press releases convey credibility and professionalism to consumers and may help them to feel more comfortable purchasing services from your company.
Some examples of common milestones might include company achievement awards, news recognition such as interviews given to the press, introducing a new product or service, acquiring another company to grow your business, or spotlighting a particularly noteworthy project.
Not everyone reads every email that they receive, and not everyone will regularly return to your website to read the latest news and information. However, today’s consumers are turning in increasing numbers to social media to stay in touch with friends, family, and coworkers and to stay abreast of the news that’s important to them; your business needs to become important to them in an exciting and contagious way with social media driving business to you. As you add press releases to your website, be sure to announce them via social media, providing a link to the page where they can read the release in its entirety. If the release is based upon adding a new service, for example, you might also run an introductory offer for a limited period of time.