Small Company Marketing And Marketing Communications – Optimizing Planning And ROI In The Short Term

Starting any B2B or B2C business isn’t easy. While small and midsized enterprises account for over 95 percent of all businesses, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 50 percent of small businesses survive for more than four years.

Why is that? We have observed three major factors that can be fatal:

1. Managers often face too many “important” or “urgent” situations, and find themselves with too little time and skill to evaluate and execute the correct decisions;

2. Even when they know what they want to do, businesses often lack the resources, including funding and appropriate staff, to act in the short, and often long term;

3. Frequently, newer organizations lack the knowledge and expertise to profitably develop the marketing and marketing communications strategies, plans and executions necessary for their growth.

Add to this the current explosion of digital marketing choices; for a beginning business, what used to be a fairly straightforward marketing process has turned into a complex web of choices. Limited resources also means increased importance on understanding and determining the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing dollars, much less how to improve it.

A recent survey by Forrester Research found that sixty percent of buyers are now making their purchase decisions without interacting with a sales person, or even standing in front of the actual product. The implication for all organizations is that all marketing programs must be focused and crystal clear, and this is especially true for newer organizations.

Optimizing Marketing And Marketing Communications Planning

Navigating through today’s rapidly changing demographic, economic, technical and political landscape can be overwhelming for any company (or nonprofit, for that matter). Marketing strategies, plans and executions must be developed and executed with intelligence. And businesses must understand and have confidence in what results to expect.

Most strategies, plans and executions aren’t perfect, no matter how solid you and your staff think your assumptions have been. Ask yourself, “Is here anything more that can be done to ensure the success of your program?”

Actually, there is. Engage a marketing and marketing communications professional, for two to three months, to evaluate your plan and make recommendations on how to improve it before you commit your capital and other resources to it. Choose someone who has the ability to see the entire picture of your business, including customers, prospects, employees, competitors; someone who understands new and traditional media; and, someone who is passionate about improving your ROI.

Does this sound like a lot of work, time and money which you can’t afford? Frankly, often you can’t afford not to take this step. An investment with the right professional should more than pay for itself, and should profitably improve sales in both the short and long term. Apolitical, fresh eyes and candor can go a long way toward improving ROI, and should also help you, your employees and other stake holders eliminate some of the stress about the future.

What Exactly Will A Marketing Consultant Do?

During this two to three month engagement (perhaps more, depending on the situation), a marketing professional will:

1. Learn all aspects of your business, including interviews with your key constituents;

2. Evaluate the existing marketing and marketing communications strategy (target audience, category, brand benefit/point of difference, reason to believe), plan, spending, and specific creative executions and media selection;

3. Recommend specific changes to the overall program where necessary, and bring in other professionals if needed because of their specific areas of expertise;

4. Provide a procedure for measuring and evaluating the new program and the objectives of the agreed upon plan. Benchmarking and on-going analysis are key elements of successful programs, allowing for change or refinement as you proceed;

5. Inform and discuss the reasoning behind the completed plan so that the organization fully understands the rationale behind it.

The end goal of this outsourcing is to improve your ROI by using professional expertise and leadership to provide an integrated and holistic plan with meaningful tactical executions. And, importantly, doing so before committing time, money and resources to a new and lengthy plan. In other words, “Look Before You Leap.”

Selecting A Marketing Consultant

Ideally, you should look for an established, media neutral B2B and B2C consultant, with brand experience across industries, companies and nonprofits, both large and small, who is willing to tell it like it is so candor will flourish. Don’t settle for a consultant with experience in only your niche or industry, or someone selling only one particular discipline. One size fits all often means nothing fits! And be sure your selection is analytically driven, and willing to test their recommendations in the real world.

The often hectic, early years of your developing company may, in fact, be the perfect time to undertake a long range professional review of your business and opportunities, avoiding the dangerous practice of relying on “this is the way we’ve always done it” as a business plan.

Hopefully, some of these thoughts will help, but as Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Free Internet Marketing Software Keyword Generator

As you begin your search for new free internet marketing software and free keyword generator programs there are certain things that you must do to maximize your efforts. Remember that time is your most valuable commodity as an internet marketer and simply put we as marketers do not have time to waste looking at, reading about and testing new software programs that offer the following;

1.) Trial Use

2.) Limited Use

3.) Timed Use

4.) Demo Only

5.) Light Version

I’m sure that from time to time you will find a truly wonderful program that defies all of the odds, but let’s look at this from a practical point of view here. How much time was spent getting to the point where you found that software program? Was it really worth all the hassles? More often than not I’m sure that you’ll agree that it would be better if you could simply find a website that reviewed these so called “free internet marketing software programs” and “free keyword generators”. And of course finding such a site that also offered a blog or forum for viewer comments would be even better.

To prove this let’s do a brief study on free internet marketing software and high quality free keyword generators. For the sake of argument let’s run a search on Google for a “free keyword generator”.

Case Study #1:

Free Keyword List Generator by Stomper Net – My first thoughts were WOW another GREAT free or low cost promotional tool being offered by Stomper Net! Then I realized that I had to sign up for their email list AGAIN and register to use the tool. Once I’d jumped through these initial proverbial hoops I was shocked to find that I’d overlooked the fact that this software uses Word Tracker Keywords.

This means that my software would need to be upgraded to unlock it’s full potential, which of course would cost money. Worse than that I might need to sign up for the Word Tracker Keywords program and that means I could possibly end up paying for a monthly or annual subscription to their service.

* Before I offend anyone I do realize that Stomper Net and the Word Tracker Keyword program are both well respected staples in the internet marketing niche. However, in this case it is my goal to help people find completely FREE full version internet marketing software and keyword generator software that they can use to promote their products, services and affiliate programs with.

Case Study #2:

Good Keywords – At first site their website looks very well organized and professional. They offer free full version keyword research tools and keyword generator software that looks like it will do exactly what we’ve all be looking for. At one time this may have been a state of the art program back when Yahoo’s Overture worked reliably on a consistent basis.

The problem with this free internet marketing software group is that it is completely reliant on a program that is so over used that the mere traffic to the Yahoo Overture website alone bogs down their system so badly that you’re lucky if you can even get their website pages to load from one visit to the next.

* Also sadly in this internet marketer’s humble opinion the results that are pulled with the free Yahoo Overture tool has proven to be unreliable and unstable at best. Again, I don’t mean to offend anyone and I’m sure that at one time this was a GREAT program, but there are newer and better things.

Case Study #3:

Global Promoter – The first thing I noticed on their website was this;

“Please be patient. This may take up to 2 minutes because it compiles the results of 6 major search engines. Sometimes no results are returned even though there are queries performed on the keywords you typed in during the given month. If this occurs, just hit submit again until the correct results are returned.”

In theory this looks GREAT if they’re really using this free internet marketing software program, or in this case, free keyword generator software, to search on SIX major search engines! However, what I found next really bothered me.
“No Searches Done in March 2008 on the Overture network of search engines for your keyword.”

This only left me thinking that there I was again using a program that was completely reliant on Yahoo’s Overture, which again in my humble opinion was outdated, unreliable and inconsistent.

Case Study #4:

Google AdWords Free Keyword Generator Tool – With this free internet marketing software program I thought that I’d finally struck oil. After all no website is more revered, searched and used online for things of this nature than the mighty Google themselves! With that in mind I typed in my favorite set of keyword search terms;

“free internet marketing software”

Unfortunately the results that were returned consisted of 3 targeted keyword phrases and 11 other keyword phrases that had NOTHING to do with any form of internet marketing software.

Case Study #5:

Traffic Zap’s Free Keyword Generator – Let me cut this one short by telling you that when I tried to use it the first thing I got was a POP UP with something that looked mildly semi-pornographic. It then appeared to be processing for some time only to return an error message that once again leads back to problems that we’ve already discussed regarding the long list of free internet marketing software programs that rely on Yahoo’s Overture.

At this point we’ve researched ALL of the top 5 unique listings on Google for “free keyword generator” and we have yet to find a truly reliable free internet marketing software program that we can use to promote our products, services or affiliate marketing programs…..other than ones that we would most likely have to PAY to upgrade, such as the program by Stomper Net mentioned above.

Final Case Study:

Free Keyword Generator by IM Software 4 Free – This program checks for a list of popular keywords by searching on Google, Yahoo and MSN combined to come up with a more complete starting point for internet marketers to use. It also runs a search on these 3 major search engines to find out how many competitor posts show up for each of the chosen keywords.

While no free internet marketing software or free keyword generator is going to be perfect this tool is truly a GREAT program to use and best of all it’s completely FREE to download and use. There is no trial use, limited use, timed use, demo or light version that leads to a paid upgrade or leaves you out hanging in the wind to PAY if you want to use the software after a specific time frame.

The Right Email Marketing Software For Photographers – Built Your Business Fast

If you run a photography business, and you’re wondering whether there’s good email marketing software for photographers, then you’re in luck.

The trouble with looking for email software is there are so many services available, which one should you use? Many of the paid software is good. However, for photographers you should look more broadly than just getting email marketing software.

What do I mean by “more broadly?”

I mean, you should look for photographer business software that includes email software. Not a stand-alone email service. This way you can have a centralized business management operation rather than a hodgepodge of software applications to run your business.

There is no question that using a quality email software application can do wonders for your business. However, why stop with just email marketing?
Did you know there’s software for photographers that in addition to having email capability, also offers scheduling (which nicely integrates with your email marketing), credit card processing, e-commerce platform, financial reporting, time keeping, payroll (if you hire people to assist), and more?

Frankly, the integrated, all-in-one solution means you’ll spend less time managing different software applications and entering data. When your photography business software is completely integrated, you can leverage and integrate your email marketing lists with other aspects of your business.

I’ll explain with an example:

Suppose you have 2,000 people on your email list. Suppose 500 of those people are regular customers with the remaining 1,500 one-off or occasional customers. With a comprehensive software platform, you can integrate your email software with your scheduling. This way, for example, if someone is scheduled for a photo-shoot, you can program the software to send out reminder email messages.

This is just one example of how the right email software can not only maintain your business, but build it.

Consider another example:
You can place a freebie option on your website that is an incentive for prospective customers to sign up for your e-newsletter. An incentive could be anything – a discounted photo-shoot, photograph touch-ups, or a simple informational booklet about hiring a photographer.

Once a prospective customer signs up, you can send them all kinds of useful information about what you do, what you can do for them as well as sending samples of your work. You can start and maintain a dialogue. If and when those prospective customers need a photographer, they’ll very possibly contact you.

Always think about more sales. Suppose in November you want to offer your client base gift cards. A solid photography software program includes the gift card creation (electronic if you wish). You can sell these gift cards via your email marketing.

The point is when you integrate your email marketing with your other business processes, you spend less time administrating, and in fact harness leveraging power to increase sales and revenues.