iMarketing Genius [Free Event]

May 21, 2012

The Facts: I have never heard of these people but they are apparently quite successful at what they do and, hey, it’s a free event and networking opportunity.

Bonus: Free copy of Steve Jobs’ biography.

iMarketing Genius.

Quick Details:

May 26-27, 2012 (Sat/Sun), 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire
255 Barclay Parade Southwest
Calgary, Alberta T2P 5C2

Let me know if you plan to attend and I’ll see you there.

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Free eBook: 25 Website ‘Must Haves’ for Driving Traffic, Leads and Sales‏ | HubSpot [Affiliate Source]

January 18, 2012

25musthave ebook coverWe all know how important a website is to a business’s online strategy, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue?

This free, 52-page guide is the ultimate resource to having a killer website. You’ll learn:

 

  • How to get found online with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), including building inbound links, meta tags and more
  • Important design and usability factors you need to know
  • Tips for creating awesome content that attracts and keeps visitors on your website
  • Best practices for converting traffic into leads, including Calls-to-Action, Landing Pages, and Forms

Whether you’re looking to build your first website, or if your existing site just isn’t getting the traffic or leads you were hoping for, this eBook is for you! Get started by completing the form to your right to download the “25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales” eBook today!

 

200x200 Marketing Evaluation


A Few Words About: Social Media Statistics

January 13, 2012

Less than six months ago the following  statistics were reported by the eMarketing Association:

  • 695 MILLION – Number of Facebook users
  • 148+ MILLION – Number of LinkedIn users
  • 140 MILLION – Number of tweets created each day
  • 2.5 BILLION – Number of visits Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn together received in one month alone
  • 164 MILLION – Number of active blogs

According to the latest figures made public by the sites themselves, Facebook (preparing for it’s upcoming IPO) now has more than 800 million users. Somewhat strangely, LinkedIn lists only 135 million users, a difference of more than 10 million from the eMarketing data. Also curious is the fact there there seems to be no change in the average number of daily tweets. While traffic to all three platforms remains high, YouTube has recently been making significant gains, accounting for 25% of visits to social networking sites (Source: Experian Hitwise) and seeing a 1.4% increase in traffic in November 2011. In comparison, Facebook’s traffic dropped 1.3% to 51.3% of visits in December. Lastly, as of November 2011, BlogPulse estimates that there are over 175 million active blogs out there. Of course, Google+ is the new kid on the block, attracting approximately 25m users in its first month of public availability. Pop star Britney Spears became the first person to hit 1m followers on Google+ on Friday, 16 December 2011. Most recently estimates suggest a user base of more than 50 million.

While the use of social media continues to grow, as do the relevant business cases, it’s important to take note of trends and be on the lookout for innovations in the social space, particularly as the major platforms seem to be approaching a plateau. Most importantly, when considering the use of social media as part of an integrated/multi-channel marketing strategy, be sure to do your research. Learn which vehicles are being used by your audience and in what ways. Tailoring your approach to fit both the needs/wants of your audience and the strengths of individual platforms is the best approach. C4 Solutions offers the marketing and technical insight you need to ensure success in the arena of social media marketing. Contact us today to find out how or request a FREE SEM Readiness Assessment.

 


How to Brand your Website and Create an Image | VodaHost [Affiliate Source]

January 6, 2012

Brands, Logos, Marketing

We spend a great deal of time in this blog discussing how to drive traffic to your website using SEO and other marketing techniques. However one of the critical tools that will keep visitors returning to your website is the branding of your website. Once you have delivered traffic to your website, your visitors are now in the hands of your website’s content and your websites branding, the latter of which will contribute greatly in determining whether visitors will ever return … or not.

Branding is a pretty old idea. It came about as a simple solution to the issue of how to tell one persons’ cattle from another’s. I’m not an expert in the field (quite literally) but I’m willing to imagine that it was as simple as branding the name “Steve” on Steve’s cattle and “Bernie” on Bernie’s cattle – A simple technique that was later adopted by students worldwide to keep wandering hands off their provisions in the refrigerator (note: with varying degrees of success).

branding, marketing
As we discuss Branding here today, we are still discussing a certain amount of ownership and though branding has evolved and become a powerful sales technique, the basic idea remains very much the same. Branding exists so that we (the consumers) can tell the difference between one business’ product and service from another business’ product or service and can make the “right” decision about which to purchase.

Branding is certainly not a light topic – there are entire publications as well as very many books that have been written on the subject, however to put it in a nutshell you could describe a ‘brand’ as an organization, service or product with a ‘personality’ that is shaped by the perceptions of the audience. This article should be considered as a starting point for further research.

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller.” [Note: Abridged]

It is easy to explain using the definition above but a really good brand is a different entity altogether and is far greater than the sum of its parts. Branding has becomes an entity that has real psychological power over people.

I’m willing to bet that you know all (or most) of the Brands in the image below with no further explanation (you may already be connected with several of these brands):

Brands, Logos, Marketing, Logotype

Do you remember having a birthday party somewhere, or choosing where to go for your birthday… a restaurant, say. How did you choose where to go? What are the memories you have of the occasion? How did the experience it make you feel? Maybe a few years down the line you might see the logo of the restaurant and recall a memory or an idea that relates to the brand… and the happy memories of your birthday party.

Brands are designed to capture you on a subconscious level and not let you go!

At its very, very best a brand is a psychological stimulus that will sell a product or service before a salesman has even spoken to you but it relies upon your connection with the brand and the subconscious images and ideas it brings with it. Branding is important everywhere in business, no matter what your niche!

nike just do it, logo, slogan, motto

A brand is the visual, emotional, rational, and cultural image that you associate with a company or a product. Here are some well-known branding examples.

When you think Volvo, you might think safety. When you think Nike, you might think of Tiger Woods or “Just Do It.” When you think IBM, you might think “Big Blue.” The fact that you remember the brand name and have positive associations with that brand makes your product selection easier and enhances the value and satisfaction you get from the product or service.

While Brand-X cola, or even Pepsi-Cola, may win blind taste tests over Coca-Cola, the fact of the matter is that more people buy Coke than any other cola and, most importantly, they enjoy the experience of buying and drinking Coca Cola. The fond memories of childhood and refreshment that people have when they drink Coke is often more important than a little bit better cola taste. It is this emotional relationship with brands that make them so powerful. (Also, check out the Coke / Pepsi logo comparison below to see the great job that Coca-Cola did with their logo)

A brand is not just a logo, ad campaign, spokesperson or slogan. Rather a brand is a product of the millions of experiences a company creates with employees, vendors, reporters, communities, and customers—and the emotional feelings these groups develop as a result of their experiences.

A brand is the sum of all the characteristics that make your offering unique:

  • Reputation
  • Customer Service
  • A Promise
  • Price
  • Feeling
  • Attitude
  • Logo
  • Product Line

Every business has a brand, whether they like it or not, whether they realize it or not, whether or not they have an expensive ad campaign or a new logo. A company has a brand whether it’s selling bread, beer, oxygen cylinders, accounting services, or chemicals. Even cities and geographic areas have brands – think New York, Los Angeles, Cape Cod and Detroit. Some cities have such a strong brand identities that they have products named after them to leverage this image—South Beach Diet, LA Fitness, Chevy Tahoe.

Your business has a brand. It’s the sum of everything your organization is, says, and does.

The question is, are you in control of your brand? When you are, your image will be clear and your results will be consistent. When you aren’t in control of your brand, the marketplace will let you know. You can see it for yourself with companies like AOL. They placed much emphasis on an initial push for consumer business which resulted in big sales, but whose service wasn’t able to keep up with the demand they created. Until AOL built greater capacity the results were dissatisfaction–even anger from consumers diminished trust.

Right, we’ve spent quite enough time discussing the brands of other business’ The purpose of this article is to get you creating a brand for your own website.

This process usually begins with brainstorming and I would certainly recommended that, even after you have picked the branding elements that you want for you website, give yourself a few days to think them over. Once you have branded your website and attracted a few visitors, you would be disappointing them and losing their trust. It would be tantamount to learning that overnight, McDonald’s had re-branded their primary color to green and changed their logo to a penguin diving off an iceberg… I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t go down too well…

There are many things to consider and ask yourself questions about:

  1. What products and/or services do you offer? Define the qualities of these services and/or products.
  2. What are the core values of your products and services? What are the core values of your company?
  3. What is the mission of your company?
  4. What does your company specializes in?
  5. Who is your target market? Who do your products and services attract?
  6. What is the tagline of your company?What message does your tagline send to your prospects?

Using the information from the previous steps create a personality or character for your company that represents your products or services. What is the character like? What qualities stand out? Is the personality of your company innovative, creative, energetic, or sophisticated?

Use the personality that you created in the previous step and build a relationship with your target market that you defined in Step 5. How does that personality react to target audience? What characteristics stand out? Which characteristics and qualities get the attention of your prospects.

Review the answers to the questions above and create a profile of your brand. Describe the personality or character with words just as if you were writing a biography or personal ad. Be creative.

A logo identifies a business or product in its simplest form.

A logo is not your brand, nor is it really your identity. Logo design, identity design and branding all have different roles, that together, form a perceived image for a business or product.

The identity or ‘image’ of a company is made up of many visual devices:

  • A Logo (The symbol of the entire identity & brand)
  • Stationery (Letterhead + business card + envelopes, etc.)
  • Marketing Collateral (Fliers, brochures, books, websites, etc.)
  • Products & Packaging (Products sold and the packaging in which they come in)
  • Apparel Design (Tangible clothing items that are worn by employees)
  • Signage (Interior & exterior design)
  • Messages & Actions (Messages conveyed via indirect or direct modes of communication)
  • Other Communication (Audio, smell, touch, etc.)
  • Anything visual that represents the business.

A logo is for identification.

A logo identifies a company or product via the use of a mark, flag, symbol or signature. A logo does not sell the company directly nor rarely does it describe a business. Logo’s derive their meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around – logos are there to identity, not to explain. In a nutshell, what a logo means is more important than what it looks like.

The BlueVoda website builder offers a fantastic logo maker for your website. Click here to watch a tutorial on how to use the Logo Maker in BlueVoda.

Pepsi, Coke, LogosHere are several hands-on branding strategies for you to apply to your own Web site, using your business name and your own name:

  1. Repetition – This is very important: keep all of your design elements the same from page to page and make sure the key elements are always present. Most importantly, display your logo at the top of each page, consistently throughout your website. Your website must always have its own distinct “feel“.
  2. Newsletter Use your mailing list to push your domain name and slogan (consisting of your Unique Selling Proposition). If you have an newsletter (or a periodical e-magazine) create a header that contains your domain name and your slogan. Use this same header in every single issue.
  3. Domain name – Always use your domain name as your brand and put it everywhere; put it on all of your stationary (letter heads, business cards, post cards, statements, etc.).
  4. Signature file – Implement your USP into your signature file, so with every email you send visitors will be further and further exposed to your brand. Check out the help file of your email software for more on setting up sig files.
  5. Thank you pages – If you have online forms (for visitors to contact you, request more information, subscribe to your newsletter etc.), you most likely have a “thank you” page where you thank visitors for using your form. This is an excellent place to position your logo and slogan. Don’t clutter with lots of banners and marketing material. Keep it plain and simple.
  6. Ebooks – Create free books on subjects of interest to your visitors and allow them to re-distribute to their own visitors. Brand your ebook with your logo, domain name and slogan on every page of the ebook (also consider including your own name).
  7. Publish free articles – With thousands of new web sites and ezines popping up in Web land every month, the demand for high quality content is immense. You can provide articles for other webmasters/editors to publish on their Web sites/ezines. At the end of your article put your name and a link to your Web site, with short teaser copy to get people to click on your link (offer a free book, subscription to your ezine or some other enticing offer – see my resource box at the end for an example). This is free publicity at its best – not only will you get traffic back to your Web site; you’ll also add status and credibility to your name (provided your article is of high quality).
  8. Autoresponders – These are emails that are sent automatically to anyone who requests them (triggered by sending them an email). Autoresponders are great as they work 24 hours a day without any intervention on your part. Use them to send visitors free reports, articles, list of links, etc. And add your branding copy (logo, name, slogan, USP etc.) at the top and bottom of the autoresponder message, with a link back to your Web site. Nowadays all good Web hosts provide their customers with free autoresponders.

If you don’t brand, you’ll have a hard time surviving on the Web. If you do brand – properly – you’ll have a hard time not laughing all the way to the bank. And as shown by the above tips, online branding is not hard to do. Just implement the tips and you’ll be well on your way.

Remember that your branding can use tools offered to you by websites such as Facebook Twitter and YouTube to include your branding there, using your account control panel (and maybe a bit of markup code). Make sure your logo is always present so that regardless of how a visitor finds you, they will feel comfortable when they arrive at your website.

Remember: Your branding must be universal and repetitive if it is going to stick in the hearts and minds of your customers!

If your website does not stand out or stay fresh in the mind of your visitor then your website has done them an injustice! You will always be surprised at the effect that a well branded website will have versus a website that does not have such good branding. Simple things like an extra bit of though about the perceptions of your visitors and some design work can do wonders.

Make sure that you never let another website visitor leave your website without having been exposed to your branding and certainly don’t frighten them out by suddenly changing your branding!


A Few Words About: Online Presence

December 22, 2011

Online Marketing, Search Marketing, Internet Marketing, Web Marketing

Generally speaking, a phased, multi-channel approach is recommended to build your brand identity online. Online marketing can be used to supplement or replace conventional marketing efforts, potentially at lower cost. It’s important to note that internet marketing should not been seen as one-time investment, but a strategically planned, executed, and maintained process that can substantially improve your company’s web presence. A well-planned strategy, making use of a range of marketing vehicles, can deliver lasting benefits including increased visitor traffic, improved lead qualification, and increased sales revenue.

Websites

Website, Web Marketing

In all but the rarest cases, it’s pretty much inexcusable not to have some form of website representing your company in cyberspace. Your business website is the doorway to your online presence, the beacon of your brand identity on the information superhighway. However, many companies fail to look beyond their website as simply a marketing tool, and harness its power to drive real business results based on a clear set of goals, for example:

  • To inform potential customers of your offerings
  • To build a user community
  • To gain valuable market research
  • To reduce support and customer service costs
  • To reduce printing and mailing costs
  • To generate sales leads
  • To conduct e-commerce or gain advertising revenue

Having a firm grasp of the goals you want your website to accomplish enables you to make the best choices regarding design, programming, usability, and the host of other considerations that are crucial to effective site development.

Search Engine Marketing

SEM, SEO, Search Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization

Most Search Engine Marketing (SEM) methodologies can be broken down into two camps: paid referrals (outbound marketing) and earned referrals (inbound marketing).

Paid Referrals (Advertising)/Outbound Marketing

The fastest and most flexible way to direct traffic to your website is through paid search engine advertising, also known as Pay-per-Click (PPC). Using PPC campaigns immediately puts your site advertisement in the Sponsored Listings area of major search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing) and their network affiliates. You decide how much to spend, which regions to target, and what keywords to bid on, with the ability to test and modify ads and campaigns on the fly.

Display, Video, and Mobile Advertising

Initially limited to static images, then simple animations, online display advertising now encompasses a range of rich-media formats spread across the web. The technology for presenting the right ads to the right audience has also improved drastically, directly benefitting both consumers and advertisers. Analytical targeting options such as demographic and behavioural targeting are available and you can track the performance of your campaign daily to measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in order to calculate your Return on Investment (ROI).

Meanwhile, video is swift becoming the dominant form of content delivery online. Video advertising provides your business with tremendous reach, helping you make connections with consumers and driving your commercial success by associating your brand with high-quality content. Real-time targeting, measurement, and optimization tools guarantee superior performance.

Finally, from smartphones to tablets, mobile devices already permeate the consumer market and their dominance is growing in the business space. While location-based services and real-time reporting have helped build the medium’s success, click-to-call/act is the latest feature moving it forward, and the results come in the form of higher brand awareness and click-through rates than typical online advertising. Mobile advertising has become an essential pillar of a successful online marketing strategy, engaging and influencing millions of consumers making real-time purchase decisions.

Earned Referrals/Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing (a.k.a. permission marketing evolved) is designed to help potential customers find you on their own, primarily through search engines, blogs, and social media. Inbound marketing efforts generally involve less up-front costs than outbound ones, but more labour may be required. Ideally, the two approaches should dovetail each other.

Search Engine Optimization

SEO, SEM, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Ranking

The goal of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is making sure your company’s website has the highest possible placement on major search engines, thereby allowing potential customers to find you quickly and easily. This is accomplished through internal changes to your website (on-page) and actions by other websites (off-page).

One of the most important steps in creating a successful online marketing program is the development of a list of High Performance Keywords. These keywords are the phrases that prospects and potential visitors will type into search engines in order to learn about the products and services that they want to purchase. They also form the basis for various source code and response features recommendations designed to optimizing site performance, usability, and conversions. They can also be used in the creation of Content Optimized Pages as an alternative for websites that are not search engine friendly and incorporate technology such as some e-commerce shopping carts, dynamic page generation, Flash, or Frames.

Link Quality

Google’s search algorithm ranks every page it find on the Web from 1-10 (PageRank). The details of the criteria for this ranking are one of the biggest secrets in Silicon Valley, but we can say with the confidence born of experience that in-bound links are one of the largest factors. In-bound links to your site act as a vote for its relevance and credibility, the cornerstones of search results.

Social Media Marketing

Social Networks, Sharing Sites, Social Networks, Social Media Marketing

The development and rapid adoption of various ‘Next Generation’ Web technologies present today’s businesses with unique, affordable, and effective ways to generate publicity, increase sales, and build their brand by interacting with potential customers directly (often in real-time) in ways not previously possible. The term social media describes a variety of different media vehicles where information is published by and between users sharing in some form of online community. Typical examples include:

  • Blogs (e.g. Blogger, WordPress)
  • Wikis and Podcasts
  • Video (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo)
  • Social networking platforms (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn)
  • Social bookmarking sites (e.g. Del.icio.us, Digg, Technorati)
  • Social geo-location platforms (e.g. Foursquare, Google Places)

Success in the arena of social media marketing requires a keen insight into online marketing concepts, familiarity with the range of Web 2.0 offerings, and the ability to effectively deploy and maintain social media campaign strategies. C4 Solutions equips businesses with the resources needed to compete successfully online. Whether you are targeting a niche market or something broader, locally or globally, we can help you communicate your brand with credibility and authority. C4 Solutions offers a portfolio of customized services to maximize your marketing potential. Contact us today to find out how or request a FREE SEM Readiness Assessment.