Inbound Marketing: Why It's Here to Stay 

By Steve Hoag

inbound marketing strategies

Inbound marketing is taking off in a huge way. And it’s in it for the long haul. Digital marketers and users alike are falling head over heels for this approach. So why is it here to stay, and not another passing fad? Read on!

Low costs and high incentives for users create high engagement for marketers.

People love free things. Inbound marketing is all about providing free, high quality content to empower users. The user is only spending a few minutes of their time to acquire great information. The biggest hurdle for most users is filling out a simple opt in form on a landing page. Thanks to the very low end-user cost and the fact that users WANT this content, inbound marketing campaigns can generate a great deal of engagement. There are also extra incentives that can be added in like coupons or free sample for sharing/liking etc. Consumers aren’t dumb. They know a good deal when they see one, which is why inbound marketing is exploding in popularity right now.

Data friendly.

There’s one thing that every marketing team wants: actionable data. Inbound marketing is great for this thanks to the use of forms and analytics that help provide actionable data. Marketers can quickly gain access to a variety of KPI’s, and in some cases using only free tools.

Synergizes with other (free) technologies like social media.

Marketers love free things just as much as consumers. As I pointed out earlier, there are a ton of free tools and technologies that inbound marketing synergizes with. You don’t have to purchase a fancy analytics package right off the bat. You can use tools like MailChimp, bit.ly, Google Analytics, and more to start a bootstrap marketing campaign. Not to mention that social media is absolutely free, and is arguably the most important inbound marketing tool there is. Inbound marketing is one of the most cost-effective business decisions you will ever make. This sort of marketing strategy is not just for the big brands. ANY business can take advantage of it thanks to its high budget flexibility and synergistic qualities.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Friday, February 14, 2014 6:44:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C blogging enterprise inbound marketing landing pages SEO SMB social media social media marketing web trends

Big Brand Social Media Lessons for Small Businesses 

By Steve Hoag

social media for small business

 

Big brands are often idolized on social media. They have thousands of followers, everything they post gets shared, and they seem to grow without even trying. Well I have news for you! They do have to try very hard to break through the clutter. In fact, big brands can be highly innovative on social media. Here are some social media lessons small businesses can learn from their larger brethren:

Create a lifestyle, story, or personality.

One of the biggest hurdles of a big brand is to overcome the stigma that comes with being a business giant. Consumers tend to think of you as a faceless giant. Many big brands have overcome this stigma using social media to create stories and a unique personality. Starbucks uses Instagram to post casual pictures of customers, its coffee shops, and products. IBM created a network of blogs to give consumers an inside look into life as an IBM employee.The Weather Channel makes Vine videos to peek into its radio station shows. These are all different tactics that serve the same purpose – namely, to give a big brand a face and personality.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

There are two camps of thought when it comes to big brands when it comes to outside the box thinking. Some people say: ‘They have the budget, resources, and brand recognition to try crazy things and make them go viral.’ Others think: ‘Just because they have the resources doesn’t mean they will be successful. If they fail it will blow up in their faces because of how popular their brand is.’ Both are true. Thinking outside the box is a huge risk for big brands. They will either be celebrated or chastised. Pepsi has created soda machines that give out free samples in exchange for Facebook likes. Chipotle has even fake hacked its own Twitter account to create buzz. The point is, if big brands aren’t shying away from risk, why should you? There’s much more room for error with small businesses!

Pay attention to individual customers. Make them feel valued.

Big brands have thousands, if not millions of customers. It’s hard to keep track of all of their needs and concerns! Big brands have actually done really well at connecting with individual customers to make everyone feel valued. There are dozens of dedicated support accounts for products like Xbox, Comcast Digital Cable, and much more. Other brands like Zappos share cool customer stories like orders from Antarctica. Big brands are constantly monitoring social media, looking for mentions, analyzing sentiment, and then reaching out to those users. The point of social media is to connect people with people. You’ve won social media if you can make another person feel like they’re talking with another human being, rather than a brand. Reach out to people that mention you! Making people feel valued goes a long way.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, February 12, 2014 4:27:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C blogging enterprise SMB social media social media marketing

Why Outsourcing Development Can Mean A More Successful Web Design Business 

By Steve Hoag

outsourcing development

Designers love designing. That’s a fact. However, there are quite a few designers out there who dislike coding. The good news is that’s why there are developers to help you out! Focusing on doing what you like to do, and leaving the dirty work for developers is great if you like things like more sales and profit. Why’s that you ask? Well…

Outsourcing development means you can take on more projects.

Depending on the website, it can take a great deal of time to both design and develop a project by yourself. Also, you are limiting your sales by having to do all the work yourself. Outsourcing means you only need to focus on the design and can handle multiple projects at once. More projects in the funnel means more sales!

Outsourcing development can be more cost effective than finding a domestic solution or doing it yourself.

How much do you value your time? $25 per hour? $30 per hour? I guarantee you that you can find someone in places like India that is extremely skilled and is willing to work for less than you or a US developer. Outsourcing means saving costs and receiving the same high quality of work. That means a better bottom line for your business.

Outsourcing development can create a symbiotic business relationship.

Outsourcing helps both you and the developer out. Initially, it means you are finding the business for the developers, but this can change as time goes on. If you can create a close business relationship you may find yourself receiving design projects from the developers in the future. That means you won’t have to spend as much time searching for leads, and will be able to focus on designing. Sounds like a win-win to me!

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Friday, February 7, 2014 8:15:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C enterprise SMB web design web development

The Top 3 Mistakes Made in Content Marketing 

content marketing mistakes

Content marketing can be a huge asset to any business that uses it. It drives traffic, brand awareness, SEO, and lead generation. The trick is to avoid some common pitfalls that can really inhibit the success of your online marketing and implement best practices. So what should you be careful to avoid?

Not having a clear plan and appropriate metrics established.

Every marketing tool needs to have a solid plan and strategy behind it. Otherwise, it’s like having a ship with no compass. You have a great tool but no direction. It’s important to build a content calendar to know when/where to post. Also, be sure to clearly define metrics to measure your success. Depending on your budget, there are a lot of great free and premium tools out there that you can use. For instance, bit.ly is a URL shortener that you can utilize to measure clickthroughs. Metrics and analytics are crucial for building on previous success, and continually optimizing your marketing.

Not clearly defining your audience.

Another common mistake businesses make is not clearly defining or understanding their target audience. Understanding your target audience is one of the most critical success factors in content marketing. Create an audience profile so that you have a clear direction to go in for every piece of content. Not knowing your audience means a lot of your content can be hit or miss, and that’s not a recipe for long term success.

Not making content easy to digest.

Online marketing content should not be like reading a college textbook. It needs to be concise, informative, and compelling. Don’t write something in two paragraphs that can be done in one. Use pictures or infographics where appropriate to quickly convey information. Also, make use of sub-headings that allow users to skim content, and still have the same basic takeaways as someone who read every word. Internet content marketing is about turning a whole meal’s worth of info into bite-sized chunks.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Tuesday, February 4, 2014 8:25:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C blogging enterprise SEO SMB social media marketing website

How To Decide Which CMS Is Right For You 

By Steve Hoag

which content management system is right for your business

There are a ton of CMS options out there for your business to use, but only a few are ideal. It’s important to ask yourself some key questions when deciding which CMS to implement. The answers you give will help to evaluate your options and come to a decision.

How much do I want to pay for my CMS?

This is a very important question because it immediately eliminates many options. Take a look at your budget and determine how much you want/can pay for a CMS. Also, keep in mind that even if there’s room in your budget for a paid option, there are many awesome open-source solutions like MojoPortal, Joomla!, etc. It’s important to remember that if you don’t have an in-house designer/developer, you will also need to allocate money for web design or content migration. Choosing a CMS is only part of the website puzzle.

How many customization options are there?

Another key question is what sort of customization capabilities a CMS has. More customization is always good, but it doesn’t really matter if you won’t need it. Focus on what you need, like crucial add-ons. For instance, e-commerce store integration, or blog/newsletter add-ons. Make a list of all the customization options you will need and then evaluate your options based on that.

Is the solution scalable?

An important factor to consider when choosing a CMS is how scalable it is. Scalability refers to a website’s ability to grow with a business. You will eventually need to invest in a new CMS if your current website management system doesn’t scale very well. It’s important to think long term as well as short term, and find the best trade-off for your business.

How user/novice friendly is the CMS?

User/novice friendliness is crucial if you will be managing your website in-house. It’s even more important if you know that you don’t have any experience with that CMS and need to adjust to it. On the other hand, if you are outsourcing your website management to a development firm, this may not be as big of an issue.

What sort of support options are there?

Customer support is critical in any product. A lot of CMS options out there like WordPress and Drupal have tons of community support available. If you are dealing with another lesser-known option, make sure that the company has great support plans or documentation. It will save you a lot of headaches in the long run!

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Thursday, January 30, 2014 7:53:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C enterprise SMB web design web development
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