The Common Sense Approach To Marketing Your Business Now and In The Coming Years

If you are reading this blog post, I want you to clear your marketing mind for a few minutes and absorb what I am going to say.  I will tell you right now, it will be upfront and no holds-barred and pretty much right in your face.  I writing this because I see so many business owners struggling or losing business and they cannot put a finger on what is causing it.  Even businesses that have been successful for years are experiencing some pull backs and they don’t know why.

Now let me be upfront before I continue.  This is not a blog post about the state of the economy.  People tend to look for something or someone to blame when they need to look in the mirror and ask some different questions.  You have power over your own economy and if you are experiencing a downturn, then you need to look at the big picture and make some adjustments.  It’s easier said than done but let’s talk about it here and I am sure I will say something that will cause a light to go off and you might have one of those “Ah Ha” moments some talk about.

As I proceed, please understand I am not going in a particular order.  I am going to talk about things that most don’t consider and things they most need to consider in order to improve their current situation.  It was Zig Ziglar that said “action is the manifestation of learning.”  If you learn something here…go do it.

The Pretty Website Myth

I am about to get on a sacred cow and ride that thing home.  I am from Texas if you cannot tell.  I here it all the time…”I have a pretty website but it doesn’t make me money and I am no where to be found on Google.”  That’s one scenario.  Here is the other:  “I want a beautiful website loaded with graphics and pretty images because I know that will get me business.”  So you give them a pretty website with beautiful images and graphics and falls to page 100 in the search results or it takes a minute or more to load because of all the bulk on the site.

I am going to give you the no-holds-barred honest truth about an effective website and some of you might even get mad about it, but clear your marketing mind and listen a minute.  Your website is the central location for all your online marketing efforts.  You don’t need to be thinking about the looks so much as you need to think about how effective it is.

Now I know some of you are thinking “isn’t a pretty website effective?”  Not necessarily.  “Well, is a site that is not so pretty effective?” Not necessarily.

The effectiveness of your website is more than looks.  The effectiveness of it has to do with how it relates to your target audience and does it have content that engages and converts based on knowing that target audience.

One of the best performing websites I have had in all my time of doing this was a single page website that most every person that look at it said it was the ugliest they had ever seen but that thing converted like crazy.  People looked at that ugly site and felt the pain of what that target audience was going through.

Marketing 101 is finding the pain, the problem or the need your audience is feeling,experiencing or wanting and then telling them why that doing business with you will solve all that.  Sounds simple doesn’t it, but you would not believe how many business owners have never accessed the needs, wants, problems, pain and objections of the people they are trying to reach and then offer them an answer.

That’s why you see marketing that basically talks about “how great we are” and “come see us because we are the best.”  You see images of their office and beautiful staff but the content on the website is thin and generic at best.  It looks pretty though.  It’s beautiful but the visitor is confused out of their mind trying to figure out where the answer to their problem is and how do I find it.  All they find are images, graphics and blobs of text that are hard to read.

Please write this down somewhere…Higher conversions will happen when you remove the distractions from the page and concentrate on clean readable content that keeps them moving down the page.

I cannot tell you how many times I have landed on a page to read some content I was interested in only to be distracted by flashing stuff and buttons that took me somewhere else unrelated to what I was looking for.  Attention spans are getting shorter not longer so don’t give people a reason to look away.

Having a nice and clean looking website is great.  Having a nice, clean and effective website built around your target audience is better.  This is why we need to rethink marketing.  Don’t treat your website like a billboard.  Treat it like a newspaper that has content that keeps people reading it.  You have to think like a problem solving publisher.  Sounds strange I know but it is what works.

Listen…I am going to get straight with you here.  Do not be so vain as to think that people will land on your site and because it looks high dollar they are going to call you.  The fact is, they are going to look at an average of 5 different sites before they make a call.  They are going to ask friends and associates about you and your business.  They are going to look at reviews if they can find them.

How is this for a change of thinking and what I am about to say is the truth and has happened more than once.  It doesn’t matter what your website looks like if you have several bad reviews out there.  Guess what…most people don’t even look at the date on them.  They look at those stars and if there is only on or two stars chosen, it want matter how pretty your site is.

Your website is not a magazine.  It’s an information hub.  It’s a place where people come to get knowledge and make comparisons in order to make better decisions.

Let me ask you a question.  Have you ever sat down and just listed all the questions people ask you about your product, service, procedures, or treatment options?  How many could you right down?  If you are struggling right now to think of some, your not listening.

You could fill your website with high converting useful content just by sitting down and writing the questions down you have heard asked over the years.  I know this for a fact because I have done it and I know others who have done it.  I want to recommend a book to you right now called “Youtility.”  It’s one of the best books I have ever read and I read it often to keep some principals fresh in my mind.

The fellow that wrote the book had a struggling pool company in a downturning economy.  He was tanking fast so he had to think of something quick or bankruptcy was knocking on his door.  So he sat down and wrote out all the questions people had ever asked or should ask about pools and if I can remember correctly, it came to about 109 questions.  He then turned his attention to his blog and started writing post on each one of those questions.  The results were amazing.  I am telling you, this book is worth you staying up all night to read.  The link in the post will take your right to it.

People who did have money to spend started calling because they were looking online for answers to their questions and since he had the content that spoke to those needs and problems, guess who got the call.  When other pool businesses went broke, he made money and continued to grow because he got focused on his market and their needs.

Valuable Information From The Greatest Copywriter

Gary Halbert has long been regarded as one of the greatest if not the greatest copywriter of all time.  His sales copy produced millions and millions of dollars in sales and his techniques have been embraced by writers everywhere.  A book you can find on Amazon called “The Boron Letters” has amazing information in it.

Gary Halbert said something that has stuck in my mind and has become the driving force behind our success and the success of our clients.  Here it is:

*Don’t be a student so much of marketing as you are a student of the market.

Did you get that.  Everybody is obsessed with the vehicles of marketing that they fail to study the market.  That’s like deciding to take a Mercedes on to a road you know is only safe for a 4-wheel drive.  You’re headed for disaster.  I don’t care how well the vehicle is built, it will fall apart if you go off road down a mountain side with it and so will your marketing if you don’t know the market.

The Internet Has Brought Us Here

You probably have heard the internet called “The Information Super Highway.”  Well…it’s true and it has brought us to this point.  Well more than a majority of this planet has access to products, services and information so fast it is mind boggling.  Social media has brought relationship marketing to the forefront so much that search marketing has declined.  Some might disagree, but I have the data to prove it.

Keyword phrases that used to have a hundred thousand searches on it a month have fallen into the tens of thousands and some further.  I believe this is a direct effect from Social Media.  Statistics say that more than 70% of people buy on the recommendation of another.  Just this evening, I saw a post on Facebook that said this…”Anybody know of any good restaurants in Monroe, Louisiana?”  Guess what, he got answers he didn’t have to search for.  See what I mean.  This is happening more and more frequently.

Now here is the sad thing.  I here business owners saying “I hate Facebook and I don’t here very good things about it.”  As John McCain would say…here is some straight talk.  Facebook is the most low cost massive reach advertising platform on the planet and you would have to be nuts not to get involved in it.  Google adwords is hugely expensive and because search is down, the cost of keywords is up in order to keep the profits rolling in.

I have seen keywords in the dental niche more than double and triple in cost in less than a year.  Don’t even get me started on the Personal Injury Attorney market.  They have keywords that are $235 per click using Google adwords.  That means every 10 clicks on that one term cost $2350.  That will shake your budget to the core.

Dental keywords that were $1 to $3 are now $10 to $17 per click and rising.  You can reach a massive audience on Facebook for what you would spend to reach a small one on Google adwords.

Let’s wind up the website part right here.  The fact is you need a good clean effective website that speaks to your market.  It doesn’t have to be hyper beautiful.  It does need to be useful and engaging.  Use graphics and images sparingly and where they will compliment the content and keep the reader moving.  You have to think like a publisher.  Go through the things I talked about above by asking the right questions and knowing your market.  Your website will take on new meaning and effectiveness.

Is SEO Important and How Much Does It Cost

Getting great rankings is getting more difficult by the day.  It seems that Google comes out with an update to something almost monthly that leaves all of us scrambling and wondering if it is worth it sometimes.  Even with all that, SEO (search engine optimization) is very important because it has the most long term value.

Your posts on social media get pushed down the page and become buried after a while but your SEO efforts on your site can stand over time.  If you take your SEO seriously, you can reap the benefits for a long time unlike traditional media that runs out when the budget runs out.  This is also true with Pay Per Click advertising…it only goes as far as the budget.

Now it is time to get straight here because I here all kinds of stuff when it comes to SEO and it’s cost and how it’s done.  I here it all the time…clients and potential clients will tell me “I can get my SEO done for $99 and you want $2000.”  I cannot tell you how absurd that is.  This tells me that the business owner is not in touch with there market.

Why so?  Because if they were, they would understand that the cost of reaching their market area will vary based on the size of that area and several other factors.  For instance:  You might be able to effectively do SEO for $199 if you are in a town of 5000 or less, but it want be true if you are trying to reach a city of 15000 people.

Let me make it simple for you.  It does not cost the same to reach 50k people as it does to reach 1 million.  Yet you would not believe the number of business owners that are under the delusion that you can.  I guarantee you that most business owners don’t know what it cost to acquire one new customer.  They don’t know that there are basically 3 levels of customer acquisition and that there are things you have to do on each level to walk them through the funnel to get them to where you want them.  I know business owners who cannot even follow up on lead right or approach people who are interested in them with a take it or leave it attitude.  Remember, everything is marketing and that means how you treat people who may not be ready for your product or service yet.

I know this for a fact personally.  Years ago, I sold Ford vehicles in Arkansas.  I had a man come on the lot and I went and spoke with him and talked a bit about his needs and wants.  He left that day without making a purchase.  He came back a week later and asked for a different salesman and told that salesperson that he felt I didn’t pay enough attention to him so he wanted another.  I didn’t think I had made him feel that way but perception is 9 tenths of the game sometime.  We have to be cautious of how we treat people.

Search Engine Optimization ~ It’s An Iceberg

I get asked a lot, “what’s happening on our website?”  Everyone is enamored with what they can see.  However, SEO is more about what you cannot see.  It’s like an iceberg.  There is about 10% that is visual and the rest is under the water.

Google has over 200 ranking factors and every time you put up a page or a blog post, there is a series of things that need to be done in order for you to get the most out of that page or post.  I good SEO company understands these processes and what it takes to get the best result.  They also understand that they cannot manipulate or trick the search engines but with consistent effort they will get results.

So get out of your mind that you want to try and get SEO as cheap as possible.  Understand that just like cars you have Mercedes SEO and you have Ford Fiesta SEO.  If you want the best result then you need to consider where you want to be.

If someone comes to you and says they can put you on the first page of Google for $99 or $199, they are either running a very short pay per click campaign or they will try and rank you for a very obscure keyword term that has no traffic but they will make you think it does.

Legitimate SEO Consultants and companies will look at many things in order to come up with a plan and strategy that will work.  They will look at competitors, analyze your link profile and the profiles of your competitors.  They will look at what pages are being landed on when a search is done and they will also look at the content on that page, how long it is and what keywords are scattered through that page.  They will look to see if those pages and post have any engagement in social media.  Have then been tweeted or shared on Facebook?

All too often, business owners tell me “I can post on Facebook and ad video and pics.  How hard can that be?”  Let me ask you a question.  If your house is falling apart, are you going to call a mechanic to fix it?  Of course not.  You will call a carpenter or someone specializing in what you need done.  They have the knowledge and skills to get the result you want.  Why would you do any different when it comes to the marketing of your business and its website.

It is a full-time job with over-time when it comes to SEO.  Make no mistake, you cannot learn it over night.  Our company is constantly educating ourselves and we pay a lot of money to have access to information that will help us get our job done.  We spend countless hours researching, testing and implementing only to measure results and adjust sometimes in mid-stream.

So if you think you can realistically get SEO done on the cheap and get Mercedes results, think again.  It’s not possible.

I sat down with a potential client who told me he was quoted $200 for his SEO and web marketing and was set back by my price and told me I was too expensive.  I said, “ok…I will do you SEO for $200, but you have to do something first.”  So I took a piece of paper and wrote $200 per month on the top of it.  I then said, please write down on this piece of paper how many new customers or patients he thought that $200 could produce.  He started stuttering pretty bad.  I said, “Two hundred dollars doesn’t sound so realistic now does it.”

Stop shopping price and start thinking about the results you want and what it realistically takes to get there.

How Long Does The SEO Process Take

Everybody wants a prediction.  They have spent 2, 3 even 5 years doing everything but the right things and they want you to pull them out overnight.  I have made the mistake of trying to predict  when something should happen only for Google to do an update and mess up my plans.  So I stopped trying to be an SEO fortune teller.

When asked this question by a dental client, I asked them this question.  “Can you guarantee me that if you put veneers on my teeth they will be there are year from now?”  He said, “no I can’t do that because there are some variables in place that effect that.”  I said, “what can you guarantee me?”  He said, “I can guarantee you that I will do the best work I can to help you get the best result possible.”  I told him that was my exact guarantee.  I will do the best work I can to get the result we are looking for.

So does budget matter?

Yes it does.  As with anything, your budget can accelerate your results but even at that, a lot will depend on competition in your market, how long they have been there and what are they doing to stay there.  Most business owners think they can throw money at it and magically be there overnight.  Again, that is not right thinking.

If you have been behind in your market or you are just getting started, you need to know that you will not get any love from the search engines for about 6 months or more.  I know you probably just threw up when I said that, but this is what separates the men from the boys in marketing.  You will have to have nerves of steel in the beginning and not get the desire to bale when it’s tough.

An SEO consultant or company is not in control what the search engines do. They can make one change or update their search parameters and will cause havoc across the board.  Recent updates have caused websites that have ranked well for years to fall out of the results overnight.  Other changes have caused website owners to get penalties due to spammy links and SEO blackhat practices.  No mistake.  The search engines are getting smarter not dumber and you may outsmart them for a while but it will catch up to you.  That is why you need to have an SEO consultant or company that actually understands this and will always keep strengthening the basics we know that will continue to work and keep their eye out for current changes.

So if someone contacts you about SEO services and they tell you they can do it on the cheap and you are trying to reach 100k people, hang up because they are lying.  SEO is consistent work across multiple platforms and is not a trivial pursuit.

If you are looking for comprehensive help with marketing your business online, give us a call.  However don’t expect us to be one of those cheap companies.

Your Customers, Clients and Patients Are Marketing For You

Everything is marketing.  Even the people you deal with.  You can either have them promoting you or telling them to stay away.  I know we are all under the delusion that everybody loves us and we don’t make mistakes in how we handle our customers.  Deep down we know it is hog wash but we still like to believe it.

Every business owner I know is always trying to acquire nee customers, clients or patients and they should.  Most of them miss the fact there is a huge base to pull from in the form of their current customers.  It varies from business to business but you need to make raving fans who cannot stop talking about how great you are out of the people you already are working with.  It’s alright to focus on new customer acquisition but don’t forget about your current ones because they all “no somebody.”

Even their silence about you is marketing.  It simply means you are not doing enough to lead them into opening their mouth and talking about you.  Stop and ask yourself right now what you can do to fire up your base of current customers.  Is there something you can do to get them excited about you and what you do?

Let me share a story with you about how a negative experience can start a negative marketing avalanche.  It doesn’t matter if you are right or wrong…it’s perception.

The other day, I got an alert of a comment on one of the Facebook pages I manage.  I went to see what it was and there it was in all of it’s glory.  A patient was mad about a situation with her doctor and she was doing everything she could to tell everybody how bad and unprofessional he was.  So I called the doctor and he confirmed it was true.

The situation was they girl was about to move and she needed to have her braces removed before she did.  The problem for the doctor was she had not finished paying for them and his fear was she move off and he would not see the money so he would not remove them.  The situation intensified and she escalated her “marketing efforts.”  As I mentioned above, one bad review or bad comments about you can send 10 people running and that is especially true if some of the dispute is over money.

So what is a guy to do in this situation.  I am going to tell you and you may not like it but it will keep patients coming in and not running off.

What should have been done is this.  He should have called that person in, sat down with them, removed the braces and then worked out a financial arrangement.  I don’t know if there is a liability issue in leaving the braces on and refusing to move them but there is definitely a negative marketing issue as a result.

Our short sightedness can be a hinderance sometime.  We need to weigh the longterm results and consequences of our decisions.  The business owner could totally be in the right but most consumers will side with another consumer especially if that consumer has a sob story.  It may not be right but it is the facts and we need to be aware of them.

Handling Online Negative Reviews

We were hired last year to clean up a local bridal shops reputation which was bad.  We started the process of getting his reputation restored.  After about a month, he called and said negative reviews were showing up and I went to look at them and “have mercy,” there were reviews alright and some of them looked like a book with explicit detail.  I said, “Dude, what is up with that?”  He said it was the competition trying to ruin him.  I know by looking it wasn’t.  More appeared later.  He asked me how we could stop it…I said, “It’s easy…stop screwing people over and making them mad.”

He was rude and made perverted comments all the time.  His staff was rude and belittle people.  He created customer service nightmares for himself and it unleashed a huge army of marketers but it wasn’t ones he wanted for sure.

A common mistake business owners make with responding to negative reviews and comments is to attack the person who made them.  The problem with this is that if you do that to them, those reading the reviews will fear that it could happen to them.  No one wants to feel unimportant or belittled.

This is what you should do.  Once you discover a negative review or comment, respond by putting the ball back in their court.  That means you offer to help with the offensive situation and ask them for a second chance to prove to them differently.  This could be in the form of a discount, coupon or free service.  When you make that offer, it makes you look like the good guy and that you are concerned about the feelings of those who were offended.  It’s not cowing down or back tracking.  It’s negative marketing prevention.

What’s the take-away?

Simple.  Provide world class customer service and sales experiences. Make it to where they cannot stop talking about their experience with you, your staff or sales force.  Make them feel special.  Offer to help and solve problems.  Do something extraordinary.  This will raise up an army of free marketing people who will bring in new business from their friends and family.

Everything is Marketing

I am saying it again.  The handshake with a potential new client.  The smell and comfort of your office.  The smile on your staffs face.  How they are greeted when they walk in.  How you deal with them concerning financial matters.  The surprises they may encounter when they are paying or checking out.

All to often, it has happened that a person was at the finance desk of a dental office and got hit with something they were not told about.  Lot’s of negative reviews online around this very scenario.

If you are going to be successful in marketing your business this up coming year, then you need to start thinking like a publisher that writes for a specific group of people.  You need to think like a problem solver not a problem creator.  You need to think about your connections and how to improve them.

So What Should Our Business Be Actively Doing In Order To Succeed?

Let me give you somethings that you need to be actively doing:

Creating outstanding content for you website, blog post, videos, audios and social media
Work on creating long lasting relationships and if you are a local business, reach out to your local business friends to exchange content and ideas
Develop a content strategy and implement it
Decide to know who your market is and what their concerns, problems and pain points are
Take your SEO efforts seriously.  Get help from someone who knows what they are doing and knows how to stay on top of a plan.
Get involved with Facebook.  The reach is huge and targeted.
Start working with current patients, clients or customers.  See what you can do to turn them into raving fans
Look at your office or place of business to see what can be done to make in more inviting, clean and comfortable.
Evaluate your current marketing materials and see if they are effectively speaking to your target audience.

If you begin to take these few steps, you can expect to see some turn around in your business.

If you need help with this, we can help you come up with a plan and strategy.  There is a process to it but you will have an accurate picture of where you are where you are going.

Hope this has helped you.