Testimonials demonstrate to potential customers that you have satisfied customers who have had positive, successful experiences with your company. This helps build consumer trust and encourages more people to buy from your business.
You can include testimonials on your homepage or on product pages; you can even create an entire page dedicated to showcasing customer reviews and feedback.
Enhance Website Security with PDFs & Encryption
In precarious economic times such as these, it’s particularly critical to make sure your website is secure. One way to enhance website security is through the use of PDFs and encryption. Here’s how it works…
By combining PDF technology with secure encryption algorithms and a secure shell (SSH) protocol, you can safeguard the data stored on your website from online fraud or theft. Furthermore, you can use a secure connection such as SSH when sharing large files and rotating PDFs, regardless of size or format.
Marketing Agency vs. In-House Team: Which Should You Choose?
Like most business owners, you know you need to effectively market your business to expand your sphere of influence and engage new customers – but you’re unsure of the right approach. Is it better to recruit a dedicated marketing team to manage all your marketing in-house? Or should you enlist the services of an experienced digital marketing agency to tackle everything for you?
Both are reasonable options, but there are also ramifications connected with either decision. In this article, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of hiring a digital marketing agency versus hiring an in-house marketing team.
3 Time-Tested Methods for Growing Your Business
If you want to grow your business (and why wouldn’t you?), there are a few tried-and-true methods you can employ to attract new customers:
In a perfect world, a business would land so many new customer referrals that it wouldn’t have to shell out money for advertising, marketing, or direct sales. But when you’re first getting started in business, you can’t always rely on getting the referrals you need. As a result, many companies will consider either hiring an in-house marketing team or outsourcing their marketing to an agency. Let’s examine both options…
Why Hire an In-House Marketing Team?
Based on your specific business needs, employing a dedicated in-house marketing team might seem more reasonable. Sure, you’re accruing additional salary expenses to the business, but you’re also gaining total control over how your marketing plan is put into action.
Recruiting an experienced, skilled marketing manager who can take charge of every aspect of your marketing efforts can help grow lead generation and steadily attract new customers. So, let’s weigh the pros and cons of hiring an in-house marketing team:
In-House Marketers Have a Deeper Understanding of the Business
Generally speaking, someone who works exclusively for your business is likely to have a much better understanding of your customers’ needs. They’re more acquainted with your products and services, and they know how best to promote them to your clientele. If you’re a B2B organization – one that specializes in selling products and services to other companies – employing an in-house marketing team may be even more critical. After all, an outside agency might not be as familiar with your specific market.
In-house marketers are likely to feel more connected to and in line with your overall business strategy. In addition, they probably have a fairly solid knowledge base and a good awareness of previous campaigns – and whether or not those campaigns have been successful – without having to go to the trouble of researching them as an agency would. Moreover, an in-house team gives you creative control over the end-to-end digital process.
An In-House Marketing Team Is Focused On Your Brand Only
While marketing agencies will certainly make the effort to familiarize themselves with your brand and devote ample time to your marketing strategy, they’re also focused on the marketing needs of their other clients.
By contrast, in-house marketers can focus on your business 100% of the time. Each of their marketing efforts is customized to your business’s specific needs. They spend time examining what’s working for you and making adjustments to marketing goals and processes. Because of this singular focus, your in-house marketing team is liable to put forth more ideas that are unique to your business.
In-House Marketers Are Available All Workweek Long
With a dedicated in-house marketing team, you don’t have to schedule a time to meet – you can brainstorm or revise plans anytime you need to.
Having convenient access to key decision-makers in real time can help streamline creative timelines and project management much more so than if you are outsourcing a project.
In-House Marketing Can Be Inconsistent and Lackluster
One of the challenges of having just one or two people working on your marketing is that it’s often a part-time role. In-house personnel might already have other duties they’re expected to perform, and handling the business’s marketing needs is simply bundled into their job description.
As a result, consistency plummets quickly. It’s conceivable that in-house marketers could go weeks without posting any new content or monitoring ad campaign statistics.
Additionally, if budget constraints prevent you from recruiting a diverse team of crackerjack marketers, the content created by these individuals might be lifeless and uninspired as a result.
An In-House Marketing Team May Have Limited Training Time
Marketing agencies often spend a considerable amount of time and resources ensuring that their employees keep up to date on their knowledge and skills. Ongoing training might include attending marketing conferences or webinars, exchanging articles and resources online, and brainstorming between various departments.
By contrast, in-house marketers usually have less time to dedicate to improving their skills. They also don’t have the benefit of learning from or collaborating with other marketing departments. While you may initially hire individuals based on their digital marketing experience and expertise, once they’re a part of your in-house team they are far less likely to have the time and resources available to continue to maintain and refine their skills.
In-House Marketers May Run Out of Fresh Ideas
Effective marketing inherently demands imaginative minds that thrive on change. When a small in-house marketing team is focused on managing your brand alone, creativity can begin to languish over time. After all, it’s difficult to keep formulating new and innovative strategies to promote products and share content when you have no one outside your circle to bounce ideas off.
In some cases, company leadership keeps a tight rein on their creative team and doesn’t give them leeway to take chances and try new things. There may also be some overarching arrogance on the part of leadership, believing that no one outside the organization can represent the company as effectively as its employees.
Companies Must Foot the Bill for Retaining an In-House Team
In the short term, it can seem like you’re getting a better bargain by opting for a small in-house marketing team. But ultimately, it can become considerably more costly.
If you choose to partner with a marketing agency, you can anticipate spending more money at first to get you set up. But these costs will dramatically decrease to monthly maintenance over time.
By contrast, you will need to keep paying your in-house marketing team members an annual salary, as well as benefits and paid time off in most cases. With cost-of-living increases, this amount will only grow.
Why Hire a Digital Marketing Agency?
Securing the services of a digital marketing agency can feel like a monumental maneuver. Typically, there’s a preliminary meeting, a contract of some duration, numerous discussions regarding the scope of work, and interaction with a variety of different people on the team. Finding the ideal agency can involve a great deal of time and effort.
Then there are the costs. Working with an agency is oftentimes more expensive than “DIY” marketing or recruiting in-house personnel, primarily because the agency is more experienced. However, a digital marketing agency can deliver a more expansive array of services and also churn out higher-quality work. Here are some pros and cons of hiring a digital marketing agency:
Professional Marketers Have Specialized Skill Sets
Companies that have been in business for any significant period may ultimately realize that they’re circulating the same ideas over and over again. Campaigns start to look alike, and copywriters continue using the same terminology to describe things. In-house marketers keep trying to devise new and innovative ideas, but it’s getting more and more challenging to do so.
This is entirely normal. There’s a natural limit to how long a company can craft quality content when they’re promoting the same products and services day in and day out. It’s easy to become single-minded when working from inside an organization. That said, getting an outside perspective can be immensely beneficial to a business.
Partnering with an agency can help you view your company from a different perspective and bring a fresh approach to your marketing strategy. While it’s true that an outside agency will not immediately have a thorough, expansive understanding of your company’s brand and history, this can actually be beneficial. An agency can objectively identify opportunities that might have gone unnoticed or were not as easily recognizable by in-house personnel.
Digital marketing specialists have years of knowledge and experience, and they’re trained to analyze your business from the consumer’s or client’s viewpoint. The old adage “two heads are better than one” is especially relevant when it comes to digital marketing.
Consistency and Speed of Work Are Hallmarks of Marketing Agencies
When generating new marketing collateral, it’s easy for an organization to become careless about what and when to communicate. More often than not, attending to customers is their primary focus, and marketing takes a back seat.
Since the majority of in-house personnel have other responsibilities apart from their marketing roles, the time they have available to keep up to date on all the latest social media, SEO, content marketing, and branding trends is extremely limited.
By contrast, entrusting your marketing to an outside agency enables these marketers to jump in and start implementing strategies right away, carrying out each project from planning to completion. Because these agencies routinely handle a wide array of client accounts, they typically work far more efficiently than an in-house marketing team.
Over time, these agile marketers have designed state-of-the-art workflows and processes that are built for quality, volume, and efficiency. Outsourced agencies will strive to make sure to send your content, ad campaigns, and social media marketing out on time, making sure it not only looks great but also that your branding is consistent.
Marketing Agencies Are Cost-Effective Over the Long Term
While partnering with an outside agency might seem more expensive at face value, when compared to the costs of recruiting a full team of dedicated marketers, it’s a bargain! In-house personnel can set your company back hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in salaries, benefits, and technology investments.
On the other hand, you might choose to designate a single, in-house employee to handle all of your social media marketing, graphic design, and online advertising. But for less than the costs associated with that one individual, you could hire an agency and gain access to an entire team of specialists who are experienced in meeting the needs of a variety of diverse clients in multiple industries.
Working with an agency that comprehends your company’s specific needs will allow you to move swifter, secure better outcomes, and make decisions more effortlessly. You may not even have to work with an agency long-term at full scale – once you’re up and running successfully, you may only have to manage maintenance fees, which are considerably less by comparison.
Outsourcing to a Marketing Agency Gives Your Company a Competitive Edge
Fortunately, staying on top of the most current digital marketing techniques is an agency’s lifeblood. Marketing agencies often enjoy early access to cutting-edge technologies, tools, and software – most of which just aren’t available to smaller, in-house marketing teams.
Unless your internal marketing team is large enough to justify the costs of ongoing education and technology, it’s generally more economical to outsource your marketing to an agency.
Partnering with a Marketing Agency Can Incur Higher Costs Over the Short Term
Depending on how many functions you decide to pass on to an agency, you can expect to spend a bigger chunk of your marketing budget than you would with a single, in-house professional – at least at first.
But, as previously mentioned, you can’t always get the best results when entrusting all of your marketing efforts to one person. If you’re currently covering the total cost of salaries plus benefits to support an entire in-house team, you might find that outsourcing to a marketing agency is actually more affordable.
When you partner with an outside marketing agency, it’s important to bear in mind that, in addition to gaining access to a whole team of professional marketers, you’re also laying the foundations of a long-term marketing strategy that will gradually decrease costs and improve overall profitability.
Being businesses as well, marketing agencies naturally have their own salaries, taxes, and other expenses that they must meet. To accomplish this, agencies must set prices for each of their various services. That said, most agencies are upfront about their pricing and are willing to adjust their fee structures to meet your budget.
Marketing Agencies May Lack Your Knowledge of the Industry
While some marketing agencies concentrate on a specific industry, most of them work with clients in a variety of markets. Consequently, they may not have the degree of knowledge you have about your products and services.
In such cases, there will be a bit of a “discovery period” in the early days of a project until the agency has become familiar with the particulars of your key business processes. Even agencies that have worked with a vast array of clients will need time to grasp your customers’ needs.
Because each market is distinct, what performs well for one business might fail miserably for another. You won’t want to squander money on a campaign that will end up alienating potential customers.
It Can Take Time for Agencies to Get Up to Speed On a Company
It can be hard to get down to business straightaway after hiring an agency. The client-agency partnership needs time to ensure proper alignment with the client’s stated objectives.
A creditable marketing agency will want to gain a deep understanding of your clients and identify what it is that they’re looking for. At the same time, they’ll need to make sure they have a good grasp of your brand’s voice and image.
Once a campaign has concluded, the agency will ask for your feedback so that they can adapt and enhance your marketing strategy going forward. All of these things take time, and a freewheeling approach won’t produce optimal results.
You Can Expect Lots of Meetings, Especially Early On
Every single aspect demands your consent and stamp of approval early on, and you can’t relegate these critical decisions to the agency. Being tasked with reviewing a new web design, fresh website content, or greenlighting an ad campaign can be burdensome at times – but it’s an integral part of the process.
As the client-agency relationship progresses, you can expect to continue having regular meetings to:
Regular Communication with a Marketing Agency Can Be Challenging
Effective communication is crucial to keeping your marketing plan running smoothly. But when you partner with an outside marketing agency, you won’t always have instant access to your team. Lack of physical proximity is a natural barrier, and face-to-face communication is understandably more limited.
However, principled marketing agencies will work to ensure that no client feels less valued than another. They strive to keep in constant contact with each of their clients and make a conscious effort to respond to concerns quickly.
Both recruiting an in-house marketing team and outsourcing to an agency have their benefits and drawbacks. Neither option is inherently right nor wrong for any business.
To determine which approach is right for your company, it’s important to examine your short-term marketing goals as well as your long-term growth strategy. Weighing these against your own team’s strengths and weaknesses is critical to assessing whether you should keep your marketing initiatives in-house or entrust them to outside experts.
In addition, identifying which particular services your company needs and determining your marketing budget are essential to reaching a final decision.
Many companies already have a core of in-house individuals tasked with handling their marketing.
By and large, in-house personnel live and breathe the company brand and are likely to have a far more in-depth understanding of the business’s unique selling proposition, product set, and buyer personas.
Thus, in-house marketers may be better qualified to create relevant content and effective communication strategies for the company.
Nevertheless, the range of expertise and resources available to in-house marketers may be limited – indeed, they may find it difficult to implement new software or keep pace with ever-evolving trends and technologies.
There’s a steep learning curve involved with digital marketing, and teaming up with an external agency can help avoid classic “newbie” mistakes.
Instead of spending time and effort exploring various possibilities, agency specialists will formulate and carry out a hard-and-fast plan without delay, ensuring a quicker return on your investment.
Outsourcing key services to agency specialists can not only be extremely cost-effective, but it also provides an outside perspective that can help in-house marketing teams recognize opportunities to improve.
Keeping some of your resources in-house also helps the company maintain some degree of direct control over its content, branding, and other marketing resources.
Now that you’ve had a chance to analyze the pros and cons of retaining an in-house marketing team versus partnering with an outside agency, it’s time to take the next step.
It’s become something of a fad for folks to hop on social media and encourage their friends and neighbors to “Shop Local.” There’s a lot of good logic behind the mantra, though.
First, let’s look at the numbers.
Small businesses with fewer than 100 employees account for 99% of all businesses in the United States. Locally owned businesses employ over 77 million Americans and are responsible for creating 75% of all new jobs. Nonprofits receive 250% more support from local businesses than from nationally owned chains.
Still not convinced? Consider this!
Smaller-scale, locally owned businesses contribute to creating communities – like yours – that are more prosperous, more entrepreneurial, more connected, and generally a lot better off!
Here’s another startling number, and it’s a doozy! Approximately 1 in 12 small businesses closes every year, with low sales being the primary cause. Imagine your favorite 12 businesses in the community and decide which one you could live without. Tough choice, huh?
Saying “Shop Local” is all well and good, but we have to actually take the time and spend the money to support our local businesses with both our presence and our dollars. If not, we are contributing to a loss of our community and maybe even its identity.
For every $100 you spend at a local business, $73 stays in the local economy. Conversely, for every $100 you spend at a non-locally-owned business, only $43 will return to the local economy. When profits stay local, the community’s wealth, tax revenue, and standard of living increase. When you shop local, you’re individually stimulating the local economy – and in turn, helping shape your community’s unique character and personality.
2) Invest in the Community
Local businesses are owned by your friends and neighbors who live in the community. Because of this, they’re less likely to leave and are more personally invested in the community’s future. Locally owned establishments tend to support each other, working with other local businesses such as banks, service providers, and farms to fulfill their needs. This helps both businesses and the residents of the community – like you and your family! In times of economic downturns, local businesses are more likely to work harder to stay open. Local ownership means that important decisions about the business are made by people who live in the community and can personally feel the impact of those decisions.
3) Support Community Groups
Small businesses donate significant portions of their profits to nonprofits, events, and teams within their communities. Big businesses often donate to charities and nonprofits as well, but this money doesn’t typically go back to the community where you live. When funds are donated to local nonprofits, they go directly towards helping you and your family, friends, and neighbors.
4) Keep Your Community Unique
One-of-a-kind businesses help give your community its distinct personality. This exclusive experience can make your city or town a desired destination for tourists or visitors passing through. The more interesting and unique your community, the more it will attract new neighbors as well. Entrepreneurs and skilled workers, in particular, are increasingly likely to invest and settle in a community that actively strives to preserve its distinctive character.
5) Diversity of Products
Big-box stores are beholden to national sales plans and marketing strategies. Thus, they generally don’t stock their stores with products that are highly sought after within a specific region. Local business owners choose products based on what they know their customers want, often carrying unique items and handmade goods from local artisans. Community shops and farmers’ markets are stocked with locally grown produce that’s fresher, longer-lasting, and often more flavorful than that which you’d buy at the supermarket.
6) Better Expertise
Small business owners are passionate, well-informed, and highly knowledgeable about the products they’re selling. They often hire employees with more specific product experience as well, which better equips the business to educate potential customers and “story tell” about the brand. Because they know their customers personally, business owners can easily adjust their inventories to include the goods and services local people want to buy.
7) Nurture a Close-Knit Community
When you shop at neighborhood businesses, you’ll likely run into friends and family more often, which can help unite the community as a whole. Cities and towns with a higher number of local businesses are proven to enjoy stronger social ties and greater participation in civic affairs. Local ownership of business means residents with deep roots in the community are actively involved in development decisions that shape our lives and local environment.
8) Personalized Customer Service
Maintaining positive relationships with community members is important to local businesses. Employees have a vested interest in the products or services they’re selling, and this drives them to go the extra mile to deliver personalized support and ensure customer satisfaction. Business owners are usually directly connected to every employee in the store, and this personal approach often means that any problem you have is taken seriously. Owners of local businesses are often easier to get hold of than decision-makers at a large chain store, so any customer complaints that may arise are usually resolved quickly. Other drawing factors for local businesses include a less-crowded environment and frequently shorter lines, meaning less stress and hassle when it comes to getting what you need from the business.
9) Reduce Environmental Impact
Because local businesses make more of their purchases locally, less fuel for transportation is required. They typically set up shop in town or city centers, which helps contribute to less sprawl, traffic congestion, habitat loss, and pollution. Independent businesses often have a smaller physical footprint than larger companies, and they generally utilize far less packaging than big-box stores as well.
10) Promote Entrepreneurship
Creativity and entrepreneurship are the foundation of the American economy. By supporting local entrepreneurs, you get a higher level of service and help make your community a better place to live.
11) Create More Job Opportunities
Small businesses create jobs where people live, so community members like yourself, your friends, family, and neighbors can work closer to home. This cuts back on commute time, which helps keep employees happy and improves retention and overall job performance. The increase in jobs for local residents will have a positive domino effect, as local stores will need to partner with other local residents to help with accounting, printing, and other essential services. Local businesses also contribute to higher-paying jobs for your neighbors. When you shop locally, you are helping create jobs for teachers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, and many other vital professions. During economic downturns, locally owned businesses tend to retain more of their employees, as compared to big-box retailers which decrease the number of jobs under the same circumstances.
12) Put Your Taxes to Good Use
In addition to generating more tax revenue per sales dollar, taxes paid by small local businesses are widely used to support vital public services such as schools, libraries, parks, street repairs, trash collection, and police/fire departments. By shopping locally, you are actively contributing to these and other local programs that directly benefit your friends, family, and community!
13) Increase Competition
Unfortunately, big-box stores have a long history of driving mom-and-pop shops out of business. With less competition, the big-box stores can charge higher prices. With a multitude of local businesses within your community, all stores will need to keep their prices competitive in order to gain your business. Having lots of small businesses in the community also guarantees a much broader range of product choices, many of which are carried specifically to fill the needs of local customers.
Shopping locally is, hands-down, one of the best and easiest ways you can help improve the community in which you live. Patronizing small businesses in your neighborhood has endless positive and long-lasting effects – not only for the businesses but for everyone in the community!
What’s your favorite local business to shop at on a regular basis? Drop us a line here to let us know or call us at 252.814.2150!
If you think your business will flourish without blogging, think again. Incorporating a blog on your website is a powerful way to drive business success.
Before I dive into the reasons you should start a blog, here are a few of my favorite statistics that will get you pumped up about blogging!
Over 409 million people view more than 21 billion blog pages monthly.
Small businesses with blogs receive 126% more lead growth than small businesses that do not blog. (Source: ThinkCreative)
6 out of 10 US consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog.
I could keep going, but you get the idea. Unfortunately, the statistics alone aren’t always enough to encourage a business owner to start blogging. If you don’t have a blog for your brand yet, the reasons why probably sound a little something like this:
I wouldn’t know where to begin!
I don’t have anything business-related to blog about!
I don’t have time!
If these reasons resonate with you, take a deep breath and hear me out. Starting a blog is not that difficult, and once you take that first step, the benefits of brand blogging will make your hard work totally worth it!
Here are five ways blogging can help your business…
1. Increase Website Traffic
One obvious way blogging can drive traffic to your site is through SEO (search engine optimization), which is the process of crafting content so that it improves your Google search ranking. With a business blog, you can regularly strengthen your SEO success through the effective use of keywords and frequent updates (which prompt search engine bots to crawl and index your site more frequently).
Ranking higher than your competitors in Google means that your target audience will see your business first! When someone performs a Google search and lands on a web page, they’re expecting the said page to provide useful and compelling content. Whether your blog provides tutorials, entertaining stories, or product and service information, the users that search for solutions and land on your blog will set aside time to read it.
So, with blogging, not only does your website traffic increase but so does the average time users spend on your site.
2. Establish Credibility
Any smart business owner knows you can’t just talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk. You can claim to be an industry expert all day long, but does your website actively prove that you really know what you’re doing? By sharing valuable info about products and services in your niche, you’re strengthening your brand. When you shed light on solutions to customers’ pain points, you earn their trust.
One company blog that oozes credibility is the Whole Foods blog, Whole Story. This blog enhances the company’s brand identity, addressing its target customer base that’s interested in healthy, organic options. Whole Story is a powerful example of a brand using a blog to provide value while promoting their own products.
3. Humanize Your Brand
A brand is the promise, the big idea, the expectations that reside in each customer’s mind about a product, service, or company. Branding is about making an emotional connection. ~ Alina Wheeler
In many of my blog posts, I touch on consumers’ desire for a personal relationship and human connection with their favorite brands. From social media to email marketing, multiple forms of digital marketing allow space to humanize your brand.
However, blogging gives you a bigger opportunity to add a personal touch. Social media platforms are great for short, quick bursts of ideas, information, and entertainment. But blogging gives you the opportunity to dive deep into a subject and really show readers your enthusiasm!
A blog can make a business more transparent and further express a brand’s personality in ways that might not be as obvious on other platforms.
The more “human” you’re perceived by your customers, the more loyal they will be to your brand.
4. Results That Last
So, you write a blog post, make it live, and share it on social media. Your post gets your brand a little bit of audience engagement, and soon you’re on to writing your next post. Is your old post still relevant? Sure is! Does it still serve a purpose? Absolutely!
You see, months or even years after a blog post is published, it can continue to attract new leads to convert.
Hubspot says that more than 90% of their blog’s leads came from old posts. Why would older posts perform better than new posts? It’s simple. Gradually, new posts become old posts that grow in search ranking through views and shares.
Here’s an example. I searched “how to pitch a business idea” on Google.
The top 4 results are from 2013, 2018, 2009, and 2017, and you don’t make it to the top of Google by not being relevant.
Blogging is a gift that keeps on giving!
Start Blogging Now to Elevate Your Brand’s Success!
Clearly, blogging has awesome benefits. If you’ve realized you need to start blogging but don’t know where to begin, our seasoned and versatile content creators are happy to help!
6 Things People May Totally Hate About Your Website (And How To Address Them)
A good website is an integral part of any business’s success; but for ecommerce companies, in particular, it’s absolutely essential. Notwithstanding, businesses are often quick to launch a website without making certain that it functions in a user-friendly manner.
Making the effort to ensure that your website is fully operative – both from a design and usability perspective – can help your site become a chief source of both leads and revenue. But neglecting to do so could bring about an infinite number of missed opportunities.
In this article, we’ll take a look at 6 key components that people generally hate about websites in order to help you avoid making the same mistakes with your site.
Slow Loading Web Pages
Let’s start with one of the greatest nuisances for web users today – loading time. In this day and age, people want instant gratification in every area of their lives; rapid access to web pages is merely another “necessity” that we’ve come to expect. Indeed, the impatience level of most people is about 3 seconds – with approximately 40% of individuals reporting that they’ve exited a site which has failed to load in that time.
There are a number of ways you can effectively overcome slow loading times. These range from quick fixes such as decreasing the amount of media on a page as well as compressing large image sizes, to more technical solutions – some of which might necessitate the services of a professional web developer.
Keyword Stuffing in Your Website Content
Website content that’s jam-packed with keywords does nothing but lead to haphazard copy providing very little value to consumers. Moreover, it actually undermines your search ranking, as Google now penalizes sites observed to be employing this method – meaning that there’s no good reason for businesses to persist in this practice.
The concept of keyword stuffing came about at the turn of the 21st century when Google’s search algorithm leaned heavily on the amount of keywords featured on a website. This led to marketers incorporating as many keywords into their copy as possible, without regard to the overall quality of the content – which, at the time, saw their websites ascending through Google’s search rankings.
Since that time, Google’s ranking algorithms have progressed by leaps and bounds, and now a considerable burden is being placed on website reputability and user behavior. Regrettably, many marketers are still seeking to optimize their sites through the now-antiquated practice of keyword stuffing.
You ought to have a good idea of the content that’s currently on your site. However, it’s never a bad idea to revisit your copy to make certain that it provides genuine value to website visitors and hasn’t fallen into the trap of keyword stuffing. You can have an in-house employee refresh your copy or hire a professional copywriter to update it for you. The long-term effects of being penalized by Google will outbalance the short-term commitment of time and money in rewriting the content – the sooner you get this taken care of, the better.
There’s Too Much Text on the Page
While it’s important to provide quality content that users will find beneficial, websites should also be visually appealing. Content doesn’t only consist of written copy. Nowadays, images play a critical role as well. Not only do images help provide a visual reference, but they’re also ideal for splitting up large portions of text.
Websites featuring excess verbiage will instantly turn off many users. In this day and age, when people’s patience levels and attention spans are perpetually declining, it’s unreasonable to expect them to wade through multiple paragraphs of text.
Your Website Doesn’t Clearly State What Your Business Does
Having a website that doesn’t explicitly spell out what your business does is a surefire way to suffer defeat at the hands of your competitors. As with many decisions these days, consumers are likely to hop online and research their options before investing in a particular product, business, or service.
When a user visits your website, they’ll expect to quickly find out what it is you do and how your product or service could be of use to them. It’s vital that you communicate this information right away, as consumers are typically only a couple of clicks away from looking elsewhere.
If you know your target audience would prefer to be spoken to in plain English, then you’d be wise to stay away from industry jargon as this could make your product offering hard to understand. It’s always best to keep your message as clear and concise as possible.
Overusing Stock Imagery on Web Pages
Users welcome an image or two to break up sections of written copy. Regardless, businesses that choose to utilize stock imagery have to take into account the types of images they use. A huge number of identical or similar-looking images are being overused these days. Adding to these trends could leave your website looking tacky and outdated while failing to reflect the true nature of your business.
The images you choose to use on your site should add value as far as providing a visual aid for the information on the page – or, at the very least, be aesthetically appealing while still being relative to the page itself.
Stock photos are classic examples of the type of imagery that will leave your business looking dull and unimaginative. Make sure your brand identity isn’t obscured amidst the excessive use of generic images.
Your Website Isn’t Optimized for Mobile Devices
While mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are being used to surf the internet more than ever before, a staggering number of websites still aren’t optimized for mobile. This often makes for a lousy user experience for visitors attempting to browse a site that lacks mobile functionality.
Whether it’s persistent pinching and pulling to navigate each page, multiple clicks on the wrong tabs due to the display screen being too small, or a section of the web page not showing up correctly on the screen – the end result is typically that visitors will no longer wish to return to the website, at least not on mobile devices.
If you have yet to optimize your website for mobile, it’s time to take a look at how much of your traffic is arriving via mobile. If it’s a considerable chunk – and let’s be honest, it almost certainly is – then optimizing your website should be your primary concern. You don’t want to be turning away potential customers due to negative experiences while navigating your site.
There are several elements that visitors dislike or find annoying about business websites. Hopefully, this list will help you identify any trouble spots on your website while also offering some practical ideas for how to improve it.
Before you go about making drastic changes, though, it’s important to take a close look at how your website is currently performing. Doing so will allow you to better track how the changes you make now will impact your site’s performance going forward.
If you’re like a lot of small businesses, the highly technical task of updating and optimizing your website might be a bit outside the scope of your personnel’s capabilities. Never fear! The knowledgeable web designers and developers at HighClick Media are ready, willing, and able to help! Call us today at 252.814.2150 or drop us a line to see how we can help elevate your brand!
Coming up with a cyber-recovery plan to safeguard your company’s digital assets – including your website – should be your number one priority. This will allow you to get your website back up and running quickly in the event of a cyberattack. You’ll want to establish a proposed timeline with your preferred “deadlines” for system recovery, as well as details about which programs and applications will have to be addressed in order to execute recovery. Finally, make note of who will be responsible for conducting each task included in your recovery plan.
Develop Educational Content
Sure, your website is a sales and marketing platform – but it can also serve as a vehicle for customer education. Whether your typical customer is another small business, a nonprofit organization, or an individual consumer in your area, you can establish your website as a place that visitors can turn to for up-to-date resources on everything from product use cases to new developments in your industry.
Have you ever had an unpleasant experience while browsing a particular website? Maybe you found it difficult to find the particular page you were looking for. Perhaps you tried to use the search function to find an important piece of content, but it didn’t deliver accurate results. Or, maybe you were seeking contact information so that you could get in touch with a customer support specialist – but no matter how hard you looked, you didn’t see any contact forms, email addresses, or phone numbers.
Crafting an enjoyable user experience should be at the heart of your website design and management approach. But, how can you go the extra mile to make sure that your customers can easily navigate your website and make the best use of all its features? Rock Content recommends designing a clear menu that allows your customers to visit key sections of your website with one click, including an easy-to-find contact form.
In addition, it’s also essential to make sure that your overall site layout looks attractive – after all, visually appealing content might prompt visitors to stay on your website longer (and the longer visitors stay on your site, the more likely they are to take action, such as making a purchase or booking an appointment). If you can’t find a theme that you like with your current content management system, you might consider enlisting the services of a professional web design and development firm that can create a custom layout for your site.
Local SEO: How to Get Found Online by Customers in Your Area
You might be acquainted with the basic principles of search engine optimization (SEO), and perhaps you’ve even been incorporating some useful keywords into your website content already. But have you taken the time to focus on local SEO? By emphasizing local SEO in your website strategy, you can specifically target customers in your area who are seeking products and services like those that you offer.
A/B testing is key to increasing conversions – you can run tests to analyze your conversion rates with your current site features. Then, as you implement new features like headlines, calls to action, or contact forms, you can run additional tests to compare their effectiveness. By conducting multiple A/B tests at once, you won’t have to wait until a new feature has been thoroughly tested to analyze the impact of another.
A/B testing is key to increasing conversions – you can run tests to analyze your conversion rates with your current site features. Then, as you implement new features like headlines, calls to action, or contact forms, you can run additional tests to compare their effectiveness. By conducting multiple A/B tests at once, you won’t have to wait until a new feature has been thoroughly tested to analyze the impact of another.
If you need help with your website optimization, creating a new website from scratch, boosting your SEO for greater discoverability in Google searches, or any other aspect of your digital marketing, you don’t have to go it alone! HighClick Media is here to help! Call 252.814.2150 today or drop us a line here to see how we can help elevate your brand!
Guest blogger Cody McBride’s love for computers stems from high school when he built his own computer. Today he is a trained IT technician and knows how the inner workings of computers can be confusing to most. He is the creator of TechDeck.info where he offers easy-to-understand, tech-related advice, and troubleshooting tips.
We applaud the efforts of small business owners and their employees who work hard every day to make our community a fun, vibrant, and unique place to live. Independent retailers help build our economy and create more sustainable cities, towns, and communities.
There are several ways that local businesses can celebrate Independent Retailer Month. Here are 10 great ideas we found, courtesy of indieretailermonth.com:
1) Bonus Bucks
Offer customers a $1 coupon for every $10 they spend in your store in July. Make the coupon redeemable in August, so customers have to return at a later date.
2) Goodie Bags
Reward new customers and other qualified purchasers with free goodies. Bags could be filled with sweet treats or small items from your inventory.
3) Hold a Contest
Offer one lucky winner and their guest the luxury of a private shopping party. This could also be a special door prize during an in-store event.
4) Shopping Crawl
Partner with neighboring independent retailers to promote a shopping crawl. Provide a map and prizes for participants.
5) Drop and Shop
Invite customers to donate lightly worn clothing and shoes to a local nonprofit organization. In exchange for their donation, customers receive an exclusive in-store deal that day.
6) Charity Giving
Donate 10% of the purchase price of all sales to a community charity. Promote this in advance to your customers for optimal response.
7) Check-In Deals
Offer every shopper who “checks in” or tags your store on social media an exclusive, in-store promotion.
8) Online Coupons
Offer exclusive promotions on your website that are redeemable in-store only.
Create campaign-style buttons for your staff to wear with the message: “Proud to Be Independent.”
10) Digital Ad
Promote your business with a paid ad on a social networking site, such as Facebook, where you can specifically target your local community, as well as current and past customers.
If you’ve never advertised online before and don’t know where to start, HighClick Media can help! Give us a call today at 252.814.2150 to learn more!
July is Independent Retailer Month, a month-long celebration that encourages consumers to shop locally at independent retailers.
Local independent retailers contribute a good chunk of their income to the local economy. Supporting the local economy is crucial to preserving communities, as these contributions benefit schools, road construction, emergency services, and much more. Keeping money in the local economy allows businesses to employ local people, creates greater economic opportunities, and generates tax revenue for city services.
The Challenges of Being an Independent Retailer
It can be quite challenging for indie retailers to stay afloat in the digital age when consumers can order merchandise and get it delivered free at the click of a button.
Large corporations have robust and intricate websites, as well as the resources to hire people to work on those websites. More often than not, independent retailers are responsible for creating their own websites and don’t generally have the expertise to design sites that will rank high in Google searches or are outfitted with ecommerce capabilities. Typically, indie retailers also have smaller budgets for marketing, expansion, and store maintenance.
Another drawback to being an independent retailer is a lack of negotiating power and group discounts for merchandise. Since priority shipping is more often than not given to large orders, indie retailers may also lose out on best-selling items. Simply because they’re smaller, they’re considered a lower priority.
The Benefits of Being an Independent Retailer
At the same time, there are distinct benefits and advantages to running an indie retail business that you just can’t get in a large-scale operation.
Owning an independent retail company gives you certain freedoms that you wouldn’t enjoy otherwise. You can create your own unique space and be creative with it. You can choose whom you want to work with and set your own schedule. You can also be a positive influence in the community and with your customers.
Agility is another significant benefit of an independently owned retail operation. Smaller companies can react quickly to local trends, including weather conditions. Owners are often available to personally communicate with customers when they wish to share their concerns. As a result, local businesses become keenly aware of their customers’ specific wants and needs.
Independent retailers can quickly adjust when the retail climate changes. Larger retailers can’t do so as easily and end up scrambling to change the way they do business in clumsy, inefficient ways.
Secrets of Success for Independent Retailers
Savvy indie retailers know what it takes to not only stay in business but thrive. Here are four secrets to continued success for independent retailers:
1) Change with the Times
Being an independent retailer will keep you on your toes. Stay current with trends and welcome change – don’t fear it! Be on the lookout for new vendors, find ways to broaden your client base, and implement ongoing training for your staff.
2) Focus on Top-Notch Customer Service
Excellent customer service breeds enduring success. As an indie retailer, you must be the local authority for all things related to your field. This allows you to advise your customers confidently. If you don’t have an answer to a customer’s question, acknowledge that you don’t. Customers respect truthfulness in businesses, as it helps build trust with them. When customers trust your business, they will keep coming back to you.
3) Take Calculated Risks
Keep learning and evolving your way of thinking. Be willing to try out new ideas in a judicious manner. When experimenting with new methods or processes, always think long-term, keeping a careful eye on your cash flow as well.
4) Be Exclusive
Aim to get as many exclusive lines of merchandise in your store as possible. Customers will continue to shop with you when they know that your products are unique. Rely on the expertise of your buyers to bring in a regional assortment that appeals to consumers.
If you are an independent retailer struggling to regain your balance in these uncertain times, HighClick Media can help! We can create a professionally designed website for your business, implement search engine optimization for your website to help increase brand awareness, boost your presence on social media, and help with any kind of paid advertising you may be considering. Call us today at 252.814.2150 or drop us a line here to see how we can help you #elevateyourbrand!
Consumer Shopping Is Changing – Here's Why Small Businesses Should Care
Online shopping has increased dramatically, and that isn’t going to change.
Between stay-at-home orders and social distancing, entire consumer sectors have been forced to buy differently. Several months into COVID-19, online shopping has not only skyrocketed across a number of categories, but consumers’ intent to shop online continues to increase, even as many retailers have already reopened or are planning to do so soon.
Specific categories where continued growth is expected include over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, groceries, household supplies, and personal-care products. Even “nonessential” categories such as skincare, makeup, apparel, jewelry, and accessories show signs of continued growth.
Millennials and high-income earners are leading the pack when it comes to shopping online.
While the migration to online shopping has been more or less universal across most categories, higher wage earners and millennials (roughly 25 to 40 years of age) are the driving force behind shifting their spending to online for both essential and discretionary items.
Gen X has undergone a similar online shift, although not to the same extent as Millennials. Gen Z has focused its shift online to specific categories, including apparel, footwear, at-home entertainment, and food takeout or delivery.
Consumers are switching brands at unparalleled rates.
A staggering 75% of consumers in the U.S. are actively considering new (to them) shopping behaviors as a direct response to economic pressures, temporary and permanent store closings, and shifting priorities. This widespread change in behavior has also been demonstrated by a shattering of brand loyalties, with over a third of consumers trying a new product brand and a quarter of them integrating a new private-level brand. In fact, out of all the consumers who have tried different brands, nearly three-quarters of them intend to incorporate these brands into their routine purchases. Interestingly enough, Gen Z and high earners were shown to be the most likely to switch brands.
Large, trusted brands are among the major beneficiaries of this consumer shift, enjoying 50% growth during the crisis, while private labels have actually outpaced the retail market. Some 80% of customers who started using a private brand during the pandemic express that they intend to continue using it once the coronavirus crisis diminishes.
Brands need to make products readily available and communicate their value.
Availability (both in-store and online), convenience, and value are the primary reasons shoppers have presented for their switching brands.
For marketers, this emphasizes the necessity to rapidly become aware of when consumers are shifting to brands or retailers and then manage the logistics to ensure that products and services are available.
Consumer shopping is changing in response to health and safety concerns.
While some Americans have shown little or no reluctance to go back out to shop, many are still apprehensive. When considering whether or not to return to more “normal” shopping behaviors, hygiene and hygiene transparency have surfaced as significant sources of concern. It’s become increasingly important for stores and restaurants to not only follow hygiene guidelines (thorough cleaning and face coverings for consumers/employees are top priority) but also to effectively convey that these procedures are being followed.
Consumers in the U.S. have already begun to change their behavior due to hygiene concerns. Contactless activities, such as food and grocery delivery and curbside pickup, are rising in popularity. Other hygiene-enhancing technologies are also doing well and are likely to continue to do so, going forward. For example, over three-quarters of American consumers report that they intend to continue or increase their usage of self-checkout in retail post-COVID-19. Millennials and Gen Z are the largest groups shown to be adopting these contactless activities.
Consumer shopping intent is primarily concentrated on essential items.
Around 40% of U.S. consumers have cut back on spending in general, and they expect to continue to economize on nonessentials in particular. This truth reflects extreme discomfort about the state of our economy.
With overall spending declining among consumers in the U.S., intent to spend in essential categories is rising. Even among individuals with higher incomes, where essential items are gaining momentum, intent to buy inessential products is still lagging considerably. As the worst part of the crisis (presumably) subsides, a remarkable resurgence in online spending for nonessential categories such as apparel and footwear is apparent. This is most noticeable among high-income earners and Gen Z.
Consumers want value for their money.
Linked to concerns about the state of the economy is a broadening focus on value – particularly for essential categories. People want to get the things that they need most for the least amount of money.
Americans are spending their time at home differently than before.
People are spending more of their at-home time on household activities, media, and news. Over the past three months, consumers’ intent to eat more meals at home, even post-COVID, has strengthened dramatically. Online entertainment platform use has escalated. Home fitness is thriving, with a notable upswing in equipment purchases and online activity. Even in less-restricted areas, consumers expect to spend more time on at-home activities in the post-pandemic environment.
Americans are worried about returning to regular activities outside of the home.
As the economy continues to reopen, nearly three-quarters of consumers in the U.S. express their hesitancy to resume normal activities outside the home. Going to a hair salon, gym, or restaurant is a concern, but even more so are shared environments, such as public transportation, ride-sharing, air travel, and being in congested places (like large indoor or outdoor events).
The shift in consumer shopping trends varies greatly by consumer segment.
McKinsey & Company has identified five customer segments fueled by optimism, health, and financial dealings, each of them relatively similar in size. These five segments showcase consumer trends to a differing degree and manifest the following characteristics:
Affluentandunaffected consumers indicate a general optimism about the future, are typically male and make in excess of $100,000 per year. These consumers tend to be able to stay at home during the coronavirus crisis, affording them the opportunity to shop online more often. This group is slightly less sensitive to price than other segments due to greater job stability.
Uprooted and underemployed consumers are experiencing a sizable impact on both their health and finances due to job insecurity. They’re conservative about how they spend money, with a low degree of optimism about future economic conditions. Unsurprisingly, this group is downsizing to essential items and value, swapping out brands, and shopping online whenever possible.
Financially secure but anxious consumers are largely 65 years of age and older, and they’re generally cynical about economic conditions post-COVID-19, and this has had a major impact on their buying habits. This group has articulated the biggest need for hygiene transparency, with greater-than-average concerns regarding safety and well-being and anxieties about the ability to obtain necessary supplies.
Consumers who are out trying to make ends meet are being vigilant about how they spend money and feel that their jobs and employment security have been exceedingly impacted by COVID-19. This group has a substantial representation of minority groups and rural populations. They’re less likely to be able to stay at home, but they’re strongly migrating toward shopping for essential items and greater value.
The disconnected and retired category includes individuals who are retired, over 65 years old, and have a lower income level than the “financially secure but anxious” segment. Predominantly from the Southern United States and suburban areas of the country, this group has not displayed significant changes in shopping behavior in one way or the other.
What Do These Changes in Consumer Shopping Mean for Small Businesses?
As independent retailers and other small businesses consider these fundamental changes in consumer behavior, they will need to modify their strategies and courses of action to adapt to the new norms.
With these things in mind, here are five recommendations for the continued success of small businesses:
Go Digital: As an independent retailer, you simply can’t afford not to have a strong online presence. This involves having both a functioning, mobile-friendly website and consistently engaging with customers on the most appropriate social media platforms for your specific industry.
Revamp Your Messaging to Sync with the Times: If you operate a business where the public is likely to gather, even if socially distanced, you must prioritize hygiene transparency and communicate your efforts clearly and often. As value is prized above almost everything else these days, you have to be able to offer great value to your customers – they’re counting on it!
Maintain Product Availability: As much as possible, make sure that the products your customers are most in need of are readily available. Some of this is certainly out of your control, as supply chains have been and may likely continue to be interrupted. Talking to your customers to identify their needs will help you prioritize your merchandising.
Manage Your Corporate Social Responsibility Efforts: Consumers are counting on your business to do its part to operate in ways that enhance society and the environment, instead of contributing negatively to them. This can be hard to maintain, especially if you’re in survival or recovery mode, but it could make all the difference to your ongoing success.
Develop Practical, Actionable Online & Pickup Solutions: Customers expect to be able to shop remotely and receive goods in a way that makes them feel safe. Integrating ecommerce functions into your existing website and offering curbside pickup for online or call-in orders will encourage your customers to continue doing business with you, and not defect to your competitors.
At HighClick Media, our number one priority is your long-term success. If we can help you update your existing website, build a new website from scratch, outfit your business for ecommerce, or manage your social media communications, call us today at 252.814.2150 or drop us a line here!
An Approachable Guide To Starting Your Own Business
Professional service providers can offer a lot of value while you work to build your startup. For example, if you’re looking for branding, digital marketing, or web development assistance, partnering with an agency can help. Having the right professionals on your side will make your entrepreneurial dreams much more attainable.
To make business ownership seem a little more approachable and guide you through the startup phase, we’ve put together this guide packed with tips and resources!
Develop Your Business Idea
Before you do anything, you will need to pick a business idea. Try to keep it simple! Some businesses are easier to start than others. Inexpensive, service-based businesses are great for first-time entrepreneurs on a limited budget, especially those going at it alone. You won’t need to hire a team of employees, lease retail space, or purchase large quantities of inventory. Plus, you can always scale your business later when you have the funds to hire help!
Some great examples of easy businesses include pet sitting, residential cleaning, landscaping, hauling, exterior home maintenance, painting, and event planning. If you’re looking for something more remote, consider services you can offer virtually, like tutoring or personal training. Offering services to other businesses is where you’ll make the most money. Think freelance copywriting, web design, web development, marketing, consulting, and social media management.
Launching a service business will serve as a great introduction to business ownership while minimizing the risks involved. Service businesses generate cash quickly, enjoy good profit margins, and can get off the ground in a matter of days!
Register Your Business
Once you have your business idea, your next step is to decide whether or not to register your business. In some cases, you might not have to register at all! As long as you do business under your legal name, you are not required to register anywhere. However, you might still want to register your business with the federal government for trademark protection and with your state agencies for legal benefits and liability protection. You may also want to file a Doing Business As (DBA) so that you can legally conduct business under a name other than your own.
Streamline Your Business Finances
Financial organization is another important part of starting a business. When your finances are managed properly, you’ll have a much clearer picture of the financial health of your business. Keeping track of the cash flowing in and out of your business is essential for ensuring you have the money to pay the bills before they come due. Carefully tracking your expenses, staying on top of your accounts receivable, and managing payroll effectively will help you keep your finances on track.
Online accounting tools make it easy for business owners to manage these financial tasks without hiring an accountant. For example, if you’re short on time, you can automate repetitive tasks with invoicing software. A reliable invoicing system will help you send detailed estimates, create invoices quickly, send invoices to multiple clients, track client payments, duplicate invoices for different customers, and more. Tools like these will make quick work of all your time-consuming administrative tasks, giving you more time to focus on what you do best.
Access Startup Capital
Most entrepreneurs need some level of funding to get a business off the ground. Fortunately, you have several different options when it comes to funding your new venture. Startup Nation explains that crowdfunding is one such method that has become incredibly popular in recent years. Using crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, you can raise money directly from people who support your business idea.
You can also try soliciting startup capital from angel investors and venture capitalists. Just make sure you’re willing to give up some share of equity in your company if you go this route! Small business loans, grants, and contests can also help you access the funds you need.
Market Your New Business
Marketing is one of the most challenging parts of launching a startup. What’s more, a lack of budgeting resources is a common marketing problem among small business owners. Focus on low-cost, high-value marketing strategies to attract your first clients and continue growing your business from there.
For example, social media marketing can offer some incredible value to local businesses. Use social media to build a following of engaged locals around your brand and give your audience a reason to care about what you’re doing. Content marketing goes hand in hand with social media and is a great way to position your business as a trusted leader in your industry. Produce blog content and YouTube videos sharing valuable content with your audience. Aim to deliver a high level of value to your followers with the content you produce so they have a reason to keep coming back!
Build a Solid Online Presence
Make sure your customers can also find you on Google. Listing your business on Google Business Profile will allow customers to find your business when searching for local services in your region. Beyond this, Google Business Profile provides tools that you can use to engage with your customers, evaluate data insights, and share updates about your business. Google Business Profile further provides tools for streamlining appointment booking, showcasing menus, and advertising promotions.
Starting your own business is a great way to carve your own path and take full control over your earning potential. If you’re feeling hesitant about getting started, you’re not alone! Thankfully, there are plenty of great tools and resources out there that will make business ownership more approachable.
Need help with website design, digital marketing, or branding? HighClick Media can help! Contact usat 252-814-2150 today and see how we can help elevate your brand!
While you’re at it, check out this article from our friends at FirstSite Guide to discover more than 50 online business ideas that you can start right now!
Guest blogger Alyssa Strickland created millennial-parents.com for all the new parents on the block. Alyssa believes the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child, but she also thinks it takes a village to raise a parent! Millennial-Parents is that village. Today’s parents can be more connected than ever and she hopes her site will enrich those connections. On Millennial-Parents, she shares tips and advice she learns through experience and from other young parents in three key areas – Education, Relationships, and Community.