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Making Tough Choices: How to Decide What Marketing Channels to Invest In

In an ideal world, business owners would have the resources to spend money on every marketing channel they think may be worthwhile. But in the real world, there usually aren’t enough resources to try everything—you have to make choices about which marketing channels to invest in, and which ones to hold off on for the moment. Offline or online? Website rebuild or paid advertising? Content generation or SEO? It can be difficult to make these decisions when you aren’t sure which ones would pay off. Here are four ways to think about your marketing budget that can shed some clarity: Put together an explicit strategy One of the strangest phenomena we’ve seen in our years in business is marketing departments that operate on a principle of spending this year’s budget in full no matter what, to ensure the budget isn’t cut in the following year. This can easily lead to indiscriminate spending for spending’s sake. Avoid this by putting together a formal marketing strategy that can inform your spending decisions throughout the year. The easiest way to do this is to phrase it like a scientific hypothesis: “we think that if we invest in ________, ________ will happen,” and then test those assumptions. Play off your strengths Above all, the marketing department’s job is to make money for the company. When deciding where to put your money, ask yourself who your customers are, and how they usually find you. This is a great first place to invest in, because when putting together a marketing budget from scratch, step number one should be to cover your core competencies. If most of your sales are at your brick and mortar store, find a way to get more people in your store. If most of your sales are online, find a way to drive traffic to your site. Once you have these basics covered, you can move on and do more creative or… […]

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5 Simple Tips for Setting a Small Business Marketing Budget

In our experience, many small business come to the table with a marketing budget in mind, but oftentimes their budget starts and ends with a price tag. To truly set a budget that will work for your business, it’s important to keep a lot of factors in mind. Below are a few important tips to help you start viewing your budget as less of a line item expense and more of an integrated part of your business plan. Consider Cost Per Client or Customer One of the simplest ways to start determining your marketing budget is by figuring out how much new clients are worth to you, and how much you’re willing to spend to get them. For example, if each new customer generates a profit of $5 for your company and you’re interested in immediate ROI, you’ll know that your marketing plan has to involve bringing in new customers at less than $5 each. Otherwise, you’d be losing money. Invest in Your Existing Clients We know those new clients are your Holy Grail, but don’t forget to invest in the loyalty of your current audience. Be sure to allocate parts of your budget to nurturing those clients with sustained communication and outreach. Continued engagement can create a loyal base who will market your brand for you, all for less than it costs to bring in new clients. Define Your Goals & Objectives If you go into a marketing plan and budget without specific goals in mind, you’ll never really know if your investment was worth it. Set your goals and define how you’ll measure if you’ve reached them throughout the year. This step is also key to figuring out where your budget should be allocated. For example, if you want to build social awareness you may allocate a larger portion of your marketing budget to facebook ads. Don’t Let Your Budget Get Stale The point of those goals and… […]

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What's the best website platform for your business? WordPress vs. SquareSpace, Wix & Weebly

WordPress websites have been the standard for building most websites for years; from the very simple to the more robust. However, lately, we’ve noticed a trend when speaking to a lot of potential clients– a devaluing of the platform because of some fundamental misunderstandings about what WordPress (and working with a professional) can do. A response we get a lot is, “Can’t I just go build that on SquareSpace?” With the saturated market of easy online builders like SquareSpace, Wix and Weebly, many automatically assume these are equal replacements for WordPress. In reality though, that’s like comparing a modular piece of ikea furniture with something custom built. This is not to say one is better than the other, but depending on your needs, knowing the differences could be key to choosing the right approach for your website. To help identify what is the best option for your business, ask yourself a few key questions before getting started: Do you want the website accessible and optimized for phones, tablets, and laptops? Considering that more than half of all website traffic is from a mobile device, your answer should be “Yes.” Not only are responsive websites the new standard, but those optimized for mobile devices (i.e. phones and tablets) will rank better in Google search results compared to non-mobile optimized sites. WordPress If you are looking for the most flexibility and the most control over your mobile layout, WordPress provides full customization. Because the code that controls the layout and design is fully accessible through your server, the smallest adjustments can be made to customize each responsive level. This ensures your layout not only looks good, but is best optimized for your visitors at each level. Online Builder Most online website builder templates are responsive, and adjust accordingly for tablet and mobile, stacking each section for readability. The responsive layout typically follows a standard set of rules the determines how the layout… […]

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Understanding Your Client: 7 Insightful Questions to Ask Up Front

Congratulations! You won the opportunity to speak with someone interested in your services! Now let’s get your partnership off to a solid start by asking some insightful questions. Asking the right questions early on can have the power to define the client’s goals and a strategy for achieving them. Before you close the sale or book the job, you should be discovering as much as possible about your prospect. This discovery phase can help determine if they are qualified to be your client and whether you are qualified to be their partner. The best way to discover information is to ask an open ended question—then listen. If you spend the majority of the time talking, your potential client may only share part of what you need to know. To ensure you’re asking the right questions, identify the information you need to provide the best solutions for this client. Then, ask for permission. Simple Example: “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions? Some of them may be tough to answer.” A good sale is about forming a strong partnership, especially if your service is more than a one time interaction (or if you want referrals later on). By asking the following “surface level” questions you not only identify your prospect’s needs, but build a rapport that will help you form and foster a strong partnership. 7 Open Ended Questions to Ask to Form a Strong Partnership from the Start These questions are just the first “level” of each question – or “surface level.” If you don’t get the answers you are looking for, or feel there’s more to explore, dig deeper. Keep probing, rephrase the question, and ask follow up questions to reach a deeper level and discover the “real” answer to your questions. Question Type: Aspirations What’s going on in your business these days? What has changed since 12 months ago? What’s your story? Your vision? Your… […]

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How to Get More Done for Your Business in 2017

Business owners typically start off each new year with some resolutions on how to get more done with the limited resources they have available at their disposal. How can you accomplish more next year than you did this year? Focus on some fundamentals of productivity, and stick to them. Here are three strategies that work well for me as founder of Little Jack Marketing, and that can be successfully applied to any industry to help you get more done for your business in 2017. Simplify Your To-Do/Note Systems Between traditional pen and paper systems, spreadsheets, and the hundreds of available productivity apps, there is only one thing that matters—using the system that works best for you. What I have found works best for me is to use the simplest and quickest system available, so I can jot down the note quickly and move on to other things. I started off with a single sheet of paper to take daily notes, but in the effort to be more mobile this progressed to a “sticky” note in Evernote, which eventually got organized to a single card in Trello for daily notes. Keep Your Calendars Concise Block scheduling works wonders until you have too many blocks. Before scheduling your day, start by identifying the 1 or 2 goals that you absolutely need to accomplish for the day. Everything else you schedule or commit to should be secondary to these goals. (Occasionally, that means you may not have time to do anything else in your work day other than these predefined goals, but if you chose your goals wisely, you’ll still come out ahead.) In this day and age, it’s way too easy to jump from task to task, continuously “putting out fires”. It’s important to resist this urge by repeatedly reminding yourself that completing 1 thing at a time, in its entirety, will ultimately help you accomplish more. Make Use of Alerts and… […]

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Reimagining Your Company's Value Proposition: How to Listen to Your Audience

Quick, you have 10 seconds: can you state your company’s value proposition? The main goal of your marketing strategy should be to convey your value proposition to potential customers in an attempt to win them over. But many business owners may be surprised to find out that their value proposition may not be what they think it is. That’s why it’s important to occasionally reevaluate your value proposition to make sure it still accurately portrays your business and aligns with customer perceptions. First, what is a value proposition? Your value proposition is what makes your product or service attractive to your customer. A crucial part of reimagining your overall content marketing strategy is evaluating how your current value proposition is performing, and adapting accordingly. The thing is, your value proposition isn’t something you have complete control over—you can try to make explicit what you think your value proposition is, but the customer could have a completely different opinion on what makes your product or service valuable. For instance, let’s say that you think you’re making the tastiest mini-pretzels in the industry, and state this value proposition on your website. However, what if customers choose you over your competitors because you use significantly less sodium in your mini-pretzels than anyone else? In that case, you can see how this crucial discrepancy would be important to know so that you can adjust your marketing materials to capitalize on this benefit. Here are some steps to help you reimagine your value proposition: 1. Write down what you think your current value proposition is. You’d be surprised how many businesses operate without actually knowing what their value proposition is, which makes it that much harder to design marketing content and spread the word about their services. 2. Check the performance of your content categories using whatever analytics are available to you. The types of pages that most frequently lead to sales and other types… […]

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Showing Marketing Leadership and Inspiring Your Employees

If you’re a small business owner or the head of a marketing team, you likely have more on your hands than ever before. The digital marketing field is changing quite literally on a week to week basis—what was once a good SEO practice may be shunned by Google, and the hottest social media channel of last month can suddenly dry up, left behind for something newer and more hip. It makes us think of this, now classic, commercial: So how do you survive the turbulent seas of digital marketing in 2016, and help your team succeed? Here are five tips to help you along the way: 1. Keep your perspective. With digital marketing getting ever-more technical, it’s easy to get caught up in the details of a particular discipline or subdiscipline: analytics, paid advertising, social media, social media advertising, social media advertising analytics, and so on. At the beginning and end of each day, it’s important to remind yourself about your purpose and exactly what problem you are attempting to solve with your marketing strategy. 2. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals. Setting goals that you can actually accomplish is so important, we wrote a post specifically about why you should set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 3. Give your team the tools they need. We live at a great time when there is no shortage of useful apps that can help your team capture ideas, stay productive, and communicate better, so you should be proactive about adopting these technologies as the need for them arises. 4. Delegate what you can. You can’t do all your marketing alone (well, you can, but it will leave scarce time for anything else), which means that you’ll have to trust your team to step in and do their part. As you do this, you’ll notice that different team members have different strengths and affinities. Play to your team’s strengths and be a… […]

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The Rise of the Virtual Office

A couple of decades ago, the virtual office inspired mental images of holograms, robots, and other futuristic stuff. Now, the virtual office is here, and there’s nothing to be afraid of. In fact, the virtual office is more routine than you may think. Telecommunications and the Internet have enabled many more of us to be just as productive at home as we would be from a traditional office. So much of the work that happens in offices takes place via email and phone anyway, that not a great deal is lost by having employees do the same thing from home. Consider these facts about the growth of virtual offices: Regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 103% since 2005. 3.7 million employees (2.8% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time. The employee population as a whole grew by 1.9% from 2013 to 2014, while employees who telecommuter population grew 5.6%. (Source: globalworkplaceanalytics.com) There’s a reason why telecommuting and virtual offices are experiencing such tremendous growth. Here are three significant benefits to virtual offices: They enhance employee productivity and satisfaction. By cutting out the common distractions of working in an office, telecommuting can actually increase productivity. In one survey, 67% of those who had telecommuted for work felt that working remotely improved their productivity. But working from a virtual office doesn’t just help employees get more done—it also allows them to work their own way, and therefore increases employee well-being (think: no commute and time for power naps). They give you unlimited access to talent. Who said that the right people for your company all have to live within an hour of each other? It could very well be that your business would be best served by a designer who lives in Seattle, a developer who is based in Chicago, and a project manager stationed in Paris. In that way, virtual offices help to break down… […]

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The Importance of Building Trust

Trust is a critical part of every successful marketing equation. Why is this the case? Having the customers’ trust means that they take you seriously, are able to believe what you say, and allow themselves to be convinced by you. Or, to put it another way, lack of trust would mean that no matter what your message is, the customers are likely to remain unaffected by it, because they don’t believe what you’re saying. If you read the Big Marketing Insider, you’re probably familiar with the concept of the Trust Triangle. The triangle is meant to break down all the components that go into the type of successful marketing message that builds customer trust and has a maximum impact on the audience. The Trust Triangle is based on the concepts of logos, ethos, and pathos, which originate from ancient philosopher Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle. Following the Trust Triangle and having an equal balance of its three components will create a well-rounded brand image that will give you positive results in any marketing medium: on your website, your blog, social media, web search, in person, and in print advertising. Here are the three components of the Trust Triangle, and what they mean: Common Sense of Purpose Related to Aristotle’s logos, or logic, common sense of purpose relates to the logical reasons why the customer should choose your product. Usually, you can fulfill this part of the Trust Triangle by clearly outlining your argument about why your product or service is the one the customer should buy. To do this effectively, you need to know your customers well. If you do, you’ll be able to understand what reasons are convincing to them, and then state these reasons explicitly in your message. The customers have a problem, you have a solution—that’s a good start for your common sense of purpose. Competence Related to ethos, or credibility, competence means that the customer sees you as someone with… […]

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The Year of the Company Story: Five Strategies for Success

If you follow the Big Marketing Insider, you know that back in January we dubbed 2015 The Year of Digital Media and Your Company Story. At Little Jack, we think companies that aren’t generating a compelling story are doing themselves a disservice in the online environment, and we’re on a quest to change that. That’s why we were happy to see KissMetrics call 2015 “The Year of the Story Brand” last week, introducing their many followers to the same important concept. The article has 5 different thought leaders chiming in on the importance of the company story. Here are the main takeaways: There Is a Brand Bias in Search Rankings The continuous improvements to search engines are eliminating a lot of the loopholes companies used to use to artificially improve their search rankings. Cohesive websites and strong brands that can demonstrate visitor interest are now being favored over ones with keyword-heavy content. Going forward, content quality will be the single biggest determining factor in search rankings. Brands are Human Brand success often rides on the perception of authenticity, or humanness. Small businesses shouldn’t try to outdo their large competitors on the technological front (that’s nearly impossible anyway), but by telling a new kind of story. The characteristics can make a brand feel human—“A willingness to express emotion, a clear sense of purpose, and perhaps above all else, meaningful communication”. Focus on Reach and Frequency Quality content is the first step, but brand strength can be measured in terms of reach and frequency. Ensuring you’re creating enough new content to regularly generate interest, and then getting that content in front of as many eyes as possible through cross-platform promotion will help you increase brand awareness and increase your audience base. Build Your Story Using the Ideas of Conflict, Authenticity, and Audience Introducing conflict into your company story (such as a challenge you had to overcome) is a great way to increase… […]

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