Archive For: October, 2013

Free Marketing Tools Every Small Business Should Be Using

Free Marketing Tools Every Small Business Should Be Using

If you are a small business owner and venturing into the land of online marketing, it’s always good to have a few tools at your disposal that make your life easier.

I mean, seriously, who can complain about that? Whether you are just getting started, or have been for awhile, saving money is always a good thing — especially when you can get the job done without shelling out more money. As a small business owner, chances are keeping costs low is important.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a social media dashboard that allows you to schedule and send out messages to your social media accounts from one place. You can connect up to (5) accounts for free, which is often more than enough for most small businesses.

The best way to get started is to sign up for an account and add the social media accounts that you would like to monitor. You can add Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and more. After you get your accounts set up, download and install the browser extension. This way, you’ll be able to easily schedule things to share, without the hassle. And you can schedule ‘on the fly’, which makes it a handy little timesaver.

Mailchimp

There are other options out there. If you do a lot of email marketing and are concentrating on growing a list, you may want to go with Aweber; it has a bit more flexibility. For most small businesses, if you just want to send out a simple newsletter to your customers from time to time, Mailchimp is the perfect solution.

For one, they have a free account that has a lot of functionality, and the analytics are very impressive. You will be able to see how many times your customers open your emails, plus get to see what links are being clicked the most.

You can put this data to use and learn who your most engaged customers are, which can help you with sales later on down the road.

SurveyMonkey

When you are in business, you’re in business for your customers. Whether you are selling a product or service, your customers are the deciding factor for your success. Soliciting customer feedback is important. You want to make sure that what you are doing is being well received.

You can set up your own online surveys quickly and with little effort with a tool called SurveyMonkey. The free plan includes basic options that will allow you to collect customer feedback online, and their paid plans have a wealth of other features added in.

Rafflecopter

Rafflecopter is a really awesome app for running contests on Facebook. If you haven’t heard, Facebook now allows contests to be ran on your Timeline, but just because that door is now open, doesn’t mean you want to abandon running your contests through apps.

If you want more traction on social media, Rafflecopter is one of the best choices out there. You can easily run your own giveaways or contests and create your own options for entries. For example, contestants can earn more points by ‘liking’ your page, following you on Twitter or Pinterest, or sharing a tweet. The variety of options offered gives you the ability to use this app to build a following across multiple social channels at the same time, while at the same time exposing your business new (potential) customers.

Topsy

If you are not hip to Topsy, you are missing out — big time. Topsy is a social search engine. It is a great tool to not only find infuencers or people interested in your niche, it’s also an incredible tool for uncovering link opportunities and getting ideas for blogging.

All you need to do is visit Topsy and type in your keyword. Next, select “links” and “all time”. That’s it. You should see a list of some of the best performing content on social media, sorted by the actual page. What can you do with this information? Well, for starters, you can use it to inspire your own content. If you see a piece of content that performed exceptionally well, do it better. If you can do even 20% better, there is a good chance that you can get people linking to your content as well.

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Where Will Your Website Be In 2014?

Where Will Your Website Be In 2014?

This year is on its way out. Let’s not kid ourselves here: time flies. Whether you are moving forward or not, time waits for no one. If you dream of having a snazzy website, lots of traffic, and online success — you have work to do.

It’s time to start thinking about your goals for next year. We’ve made the work a bit easier on you and came up with the top 6 ways you can make your website (and online presence) better.

Ready? Let’s do it.

Go mobile

Numbers don’t lie: mobile phones account for 17.4% of global web traffic and the people in the know only expect this number to grow. “You need to be where your customers are” cannot get any truer. People are using their smart phones and mobile devices to look for products and services. If you’re online make sure your website is responsive, or have a mobile version of your website setup.

Focus on content

To say content is important would be the understatement of the century. Good content is what attracts visitors, and you need visitors in order to turn them to customers. Make sure you are devoting time to producing content that is useful and informative. You should also publish regularly. Just remember to not drone on about your products with every post. It’s important to craft content that will be useful to your readers.

Original content will help you:

  • Build brand awareness
  • Showcase your expertise
  • Grow trust with your readers
  • Differentiate from the competition

Get active on social media

This is a big one. Search and social go hand in hand. If you’re after rankings and traffic, you’re much better off approaching online marketing from both angles. What’s important to remember is don’t just use social media to share your links. Be sure to actively engage with influencers and others in your industry. This will give you more visibility and help to establish you as one of the key people in your niche.

Create concrete goals

You won’t get anywhere without goals. You have to know where you are going in order to get there. Write down a list of goals and areas you want to improve, then start scratching those tasks off the list. Want to use something besides paper or Word? Wunderlist is a handy little app that will allow you to easily create lists, set due dates, and reminders and more.

Measure what you’re doing

Once you have goals in place it’s important to measure your efforts so you know if they are paying off. Use tools like Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, and Facebook Insights to gather data about your brand. Try to analyze what’s working and what’s not. If you can pinpoint some of the activities you’ve been doing that are working well, look for ways you can do them better — or just do more of it. The important thing here is to find areas that may be not producing and eliminate them.

Start making deadlines

You cannot have goals without deadlines. When you don’t set an end date to a task, all it becomes is a “want”. Set your goals and pick a reasonable amount of time to accomplish them. If you have a date in mind you’ll have an easier time getting things done. You want to take small steps towards your goals everyday.

What are your plans for 2014?

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The Power of Authentic Customer Reviews

The Power of Authentic Customer Reviews

Let’s face it: customer reviews have taken a bad rap, and for very good reason. In a world of fake Yelp reviews and PRISM surveillance, there aren’t too many trusting souls on the internet. In fact, people are a bit skeptical of claims from either side of the fence, business or government.

The main driver for this is that most online reviews are bought and paid for by businesses hoping to gain an edge in the search engines, and dupe unsuspecting customers. Of course, not all reviews are make-believe, and an authentic customer testimonial can have a positive impact on your business.

But you need a strategy.

How To Get More (Authentic) Customer Reviews

Of course, it helps if you have a product or service that is truly amazing. I’m going to assume that you have that in place and have had the opportunity to create some believers.

Here is what you need to do next:

Reach Out To Your Most Loyal Customers

This should be the first step on your list, and for good reason. Social proof is important for building a business, and most people will not be moved to leave a positive review without a truly exceptional experience. And, most of the time, no one wants to be first.

In order to get the ball rolling you’ll want to get a couple of reviews from your customers. Reach out to the one’s you have developed a rapport with and ask them for a favor — simple as that. If the review will be appearing on your website, offer to link to their website (if appropriate). The link is the important part, so is using an actual picture. A real image puts a face to the testimonial and a website gives proof the person is who they say they are.

Invite Others To Share Their Opinion

Now, it’s unethical to give something away for the sole purpose of a review. That being said, there is nothing wrong with encouraging your customers to share their opinion. If someone has something good to say, why not ask them for a review?

Spread The Word

Once you have received good customer feedback, spread the word far and wide. You can not only use these testimonials on your website, but you can also use them on social media, presentations, and brochures.

The Power Of Community

If you own a brick-and-mortar business, or have local customers this can be an even more powerful marketing tool for you. When people see people they know talk positively about a business, it… well, has a positive impact.

More Tips For Getting Excellent Customer Reviews

Sometimes the best answer is a matter of perspective. You may think your business is firing on all cylinders and doing great by your customers, but you may be overlooking something. The key here is to pay attention to your customers. They are far more important than your actual product or service, because without them you do not have a business — you have a hobby.

Got any tips to add?

 

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vBulletin VS. XenForo – Which One Is Better?

vBulletin VS. XenForo - Which One Is Better?

Starting a forum is no easy task. There are a lot of decisions to make. And, a lot of choices. The first one that you’ll likely spend some time on is choosing which forum software to use. Will you go with vBulletin? Perhaps XenForo? A free forum software? There are many options; some free, others paid. The choice you make is depends entirely on what requirements you have for your community, what your budget is, and the type of support you will need.

Let’s Start With The Top Contenders: vBulletin and XenForo

The two names that you will come across the most are vBulletin and XenForo. Both are leading forum software, and both require a paid license. What’s interesting about these two options is that the developers for XenForo we’re some of the original developers of vBulletin. And yes, they had their day in court over this.

That being said, both forum options have their advantages, so much of the choice you need to make boils down to your individual taste. Let’s dig in and see what’s under the hood.

vBulletin Forum Software

vBulletin 5 Connect is the latest release. Internet Brands, the new owners of vBulletin, have added a ew feature set that seems impressive at first glance:

  • Simplified site set up and customization
  • Dynamic tools for content discovery
  • Expanded photo and video
  • Sleek new UI features activity stream
  • Increased social engagement
  • Expanded photo and Video capabilities
  • Robust architecture (SEO and Performance Improvements)
  • Category-leading mobile optimization

However, in practice most users are more fond of earlier versions of vBulletin, specifically VB3 and early releases of VB4. You should do your own research to reach your own verdict. vBulletin has been the leading forum software for many years, but since the release of vB5 many users have either stuck with their earlier versions or moved to other forum software.

XenForo Forum Software

XenForo started off with the original developers from vBulletin. When vBulletin was purchased in 2009 from Jelsoft by Internet Brands, conflicts arose over the next release, version 4.0. Kier Darby, the lead developer envisioned the new release to be a complete revamp of the software. Internet Brands wanted to incrementally improve on the software and conflicts arose. Eventually, Darby left and formed XenForo. For three years a lawsuit ensued when IB (Internet Brands) decided to sue the developers of XenForo. The lawsuit was settled February 28, 2013.

Afterwards, XenForo worked on developing a software that many people have come to love and use. There are many features bundled in XenForo; including great styling, activity streams, and social integration.

Examples Of vBulletin Forums

Of course, the look is all important. You want your community to have a nice look to it as this will help with engagement. Here are two notable forums with large member bases using vBulletin:

WebHostingTalk

WebHostingTalk

WarriorForum

WarriorForum

And some XenForo examples:

Digital Point

Digital Point

IGN

IGN

Final Thoughts

As you can see the look and feel can change, but what it really comes down to is what will work best for your community. At URLjet, no matter your choice of forum software, we have competent staff able to handle everything from forum setup to customization services. Get in touch if you have any questions about starting a forum.

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