Monday, December 28, 2009

Top 10 Ways to Market Your Business in 2010

As we go into 2010, full of promise and change from 2009, it is time to think about economical ways to market your business in the coming year. In this internet, social media age, the old marketing plans can no longer be copied into the the new plans. Here are our top ten things AlphaGraphics suggests that you do:

1. Update your Website- Your website is no longer a brochure for the company. The internet search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have changed the rules. Your website needs to be searchable, it needs to have outside links refer to its content and it needs to be changed very frequently. If you have not had a major overhaul of your site in the last 5 years, its time to invest in a total makeover. Even if you do not make any major changes, the site needs to be editable by the Marketing Department or the owner. There needs to be a system of updating and changing the site on a weekly or monthly basis and having an easy to use edit tool accessible to the marketing people is a must. As discussed in the next item, the use of keywords is also essential for the search engine.

2. Invest in Search Engine Optimization- SEO is the word of the new decade in the marketing arena. For as little as $200 per month, you can hire a company to make your website land on the first page of any search. They do this by testing your website to make sure it has been optimized, by making sure the keywords are in the right place, by making sure that there is activity outside the website that points to your website such as blogs, news releases, email blast, etc. and they use tools to monitor your website activity. You may be able to do it yourself. There are many books written and being written on the subject.

3. Think About Search Engine Marketing- SEM is the sibling to SEO. When you do a search on Google, there are two distinct parts of the results page. There usually is a couple of listings at the top of the page and there are several listings to the right of the page. These are the sponsored links. If you click on one of the links, the sponsor will pay a click-thru fee, usually averaging about $3 per click. The other part of the page is the organic listings where SEO activities dictate the rankings. SEM is done by bidding on the keywords you want to sponsor with the search engines. With Google, you can bid on certain words using their AdWords feature. It is usually a good idea to hire a consultant to place the words for you and to monitor the results. You might also want to design different landing pages within your website for each category of keywords so that when the customer does click-thru to your site, where they land is relevant to the search term.

4. Send out Email Newsletters- This is an email world now. Monthly email newsletters are a great way to inform your customers and prospects about your business. You do have to be careful not to come across a selling a product or service too much or people will opt-out of future mailings. Emails that are informative and specific to what your customers want to know are the best types of emails. Occasional promotional postcard email blasts are OK, but do it too often, your will lose the ability to send future emails. Companies such as Constant Contact are perfect for distributing these emails. They have templates available and they monitor the email addresses for bounces and opt-outs.

5. Do a Demographic Profile of Your Customers- How would you like a listing of the companies or prospects that are out there that are exactly like your current customers. Well, it is possible to get this listing by doing a demographics profile of your existing customers. Once this information is put into the system, we can identify a listing of companies and prospects that have the same attributes as your existing customers in your market. This process usually runs around $1,000 to have done, but it will allow you to better target your market with a reduced number of mailed or emailed items.

6. Don't Forget Direct Mail- Direct mail is still one of the best ways of contacting prospective or current customers. Email filters and the rapid changes in email addresses reduces the overall benefits of doing email only. Using an efficient mailing list such as the one discussed above, greatly enhances your chances that the direct mail item will be read. We also use three-dimensional pieces and personalized url to improve responses rates on our mailings. Personalized url's (purls) are a great way to get your prospects or customers to go to a website to capture additional demographic information on that customer.

7. Write a Blog- Every company needs to have a blog. The best way to drive people to your company's website is to have them read your blog. As in the email blast discussions above, blogs should be informative and not promotional in order to capture and maintain a frequent audience. Starting a blog is easy. I started this one by going to Google and typing in "starting a blog". Don't worry that it appears that no one is reading the blog. Your readership will expand over time and it will be very beneficial with the search engines. Link your company website, your Twitter page and everything else within your blog. Just remember, link, link, link.

8. Be Active with Social Media- Most people understand Facebook and LinkedIn now. A lot of people do not understand Twitter and its benefits. "I'm sitting on a corner in Winslow, Arizona" does not appear to make a great business tool. However, using Twitter to make an occasional statement about something of interest in your business or industry will get you some followers. On Facebook, having a separate company page whereby people can become fans of your business has its benefits. Cross linking your website, your Blog, your Facebook page and your Twitter page will enhance your readership and your search results.

9. Issue News Releases- Commit to issuing a monthly press release about something of interest that has happened to your business. This can be about a new product, a new piece of equipment, a move or something that one of your employees did. Before your do the first one, you need to develop a contact listing of your local media outlets. Once the news release is written then it needs to be distributed to the local media outlets as well as placing the news release on the wire. Putting the news release on the wire allows the release to be searched by the search engines and catalogued.

10. Go to Trade Shows- Re-commit to going to trade shows. At least plan on getting a booth at the local Chamber of Commerce Business Expo. Trade shows are an inexpensive way to get in front of prospective customers. The use of large format graphics and brochures helps to make your booth pop. Capture business cards of prospects by offering something of value such as a prize or free service.

At AlphaGraphics, we are positioned to either providing the above listed services or to helping you to contact a company that provides the service. We would be happy to meet with your to plan out your full year marketing plan.

You can reach us at AlphaGraphics at the following websites:

Mesa 535 W. Baseline Rd., Mesa, AZ 85210 480-844-2222
Tempe 720 W. Elliot Rd., Tempe, AZ 85284 480-413-1900
Phoenix 8041 N. Black Canyon Hwy, Phoenix, AZ 85021 602-234-2944

Follow me on Twitter at: Steve's Twitter Account

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Marketing Return on Investment (ROI)

Pepsi just sent out a shot across the bow. It announced that they will not be advertising the Pepsi or Gatorade brands during the 2010 Super Bowl. Last year, Pepsi spent $33 million advertising their Pepsi, Gatorade and Frito-Lay brands during the game, $15 million of which was devoted to the Pepsi brand. Why the change? Not because times are tough and a 30-second spot will cost somewhere between $2.5 and $3.0 million. No, they just want to be more accountable and spend this money on their on-line presence in 2010. Madison Avenue must be a little concerned about this.

Years ago, measuring the return on investment from an advertising and marketing effort was near impossible. The closest that anyone could come to this was in measuring the percentage of coupons redeemed to those distributed. Direct mail could give a company some measure of response, but those numbers were usually quite small. So everyone measured the return on investment by how many times the commercials or ads were seen by how many people and ultimately by sales figures. Not very scientific.

Enter the internet. Not only is this a great medium to promote a business, but it gives great vital metrics in determining the success of the effort. Even direct mail response rates are enhanced by using the internet. The charge per click-thru perfected by Google is the ultimate measurement. SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) have become so important in getting the advertising message out. Direct mail response is enhanced by implementing a personalized url (purl) whereby the recipient is directed to a personal website by using an incentive for the visit such as a gift card. Once at the website, more information is captured from the customer and a dialogue is started. At AlphaGraphics, we have seen response rates up to 30% from a targeted direct mail campaign with an attached purl.

Under the SEO and SEM scenario, when a customer clicks through to a businesses landing page, that business can then capture additional statistics from that customer by using different email account addresses and by using a different phone number. Special phone numbers that are re-routed to a businesses main line and that provide a recording of the call can be obtained for less than $30 per month.

So when Pepsi decides to go on-line in 2010, I'm sure that a lot of the reasoning had to do with trying to justify the $15-$20 million spend. What better way to justify the spend than by having metrics showing the activity and the success of the spend. The Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) of a lot of companies are feeling the pressure to justify why their department's budgets should not be cut. Being able to show the customer activities on-line and the returns on the advertising purchases will go a long way. And, by the way, far more cheaper than those glossy TV ads.

You can reach us at AlphaGraphics at the following websites:

Mesa 535 W. Baseline Rd., Mesa, AZ 85210 480-844-2222
Tempe 720 W. Elliot Rd., Tempe, AZ 85284 480-413-1900
Phoenix 8041 N. Black Canyon Hwy, Phoenix, AZ 85021 602-234-2944

Follow me on Twitter at: Steve's Twitter Account

Monday, December 14, 2009

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

I spent this last weekend reading David Meerman Scott's book entitled "The New Rules of Marketing and PR" which I believe is a must-read for anyone in the advertising, public relations and printing businesses these days. David is also the author of a continuing blog entitled WebInkNow. The thrust of the book is how to get your business to the top of the heap when customers are searching for you online. He discusses many activities including writing a blog, email blasts, news releases, podcasts, video and continuing to update the company website.

All of this activity feeds upon itself resulting in a better ranking of the company website by the search companies such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. The vernacular being used to describe this activity is Search Engine Optimization ("SEO"). When you do a search using Google or one of the other search engines, there are two different results displayed on the page. At the top and to the right are the paid search or sponsored link areas. These are companies that have paid to be listed in those areas based upon the search terms that were typed. If you click on one of these terms, that company will pay a fee to Google based upon a bid price, usually pennies to $10 per click, based upon what words were typed.

The best area to be on the search page is below the sponsored links, but as close to the top as possible. These are free clicks to the company. Those companies that do not have a great web presence, will probably not be on the first page, and depending on the term, may be several pages back. Most customers do not leave the first page during their search. Therefore, in order to improve their rankings, companies need to increase their web presence and activity. Not only does the website of the company need to have all the right keywords, but the site needs to be active. The more web activity that links into the company site, the higher the rankings by the search engines.

There are many ways to improve the web activity. I will be writing about what companies can do to improve their rankings as time goes on. Suffice it to say, that creating a blog, sending out news release, especially those that the search engines can scan, having other companies link-in to your site, being active on the social media scene and updating your websites frequently can only help your rankings.

You can reach us at AlphaGraphics at the following websites:

Mesa 535 W. Baseline Rd., Mesa, AZ 85210 480-844-2222

Tempe 720 W. Elliot Rd., Tempe, AZ 85284 480-413-1900

Phoenix 8041 N. Black Canyon Hwy, Phoenix, AZ 85021 602-234-2944

Friday, December 11, 2009

Just the Beginning

Well I've heard so much about Blogging that I decided that I just had to give it try. I am the owner of three AlphaGraphics Digital and Print Centers in the Phoenix metropolitan area including Mesa (1990), Tempe (1997) and Phoenix (2006). We have been ranked in the Top 10 franchise operations in AlphaGraphics over the last 4 years and are consistently ranked in the top 100 quick printing operations in the U.S, ranking as high as 60th.

AlphaGraphics is a full service, visual communications business. We also consider ourselves as marketing and communications consultants reaching into the realm of front-end creative, search engine optimization, paid search, e-mail blasts, one-to-one direct mail, personalized url mailings and a whole host of other things.

You can reach my centers at the following websites: