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Marketing Tactics for the Holiday Season

The holiday season is here and for small business owners this time of year can make-or-break when it comes to sales.

According to the National Retail Federation retail sales will climb 2.3% during the 2010 holiday season. How can you grab your share of those purchases?

More than ever before consumers will be researching products, comparing prices and purchasing online. According to the 2010 Consumer Shopping Habits Survey by ChannelAdvisor, 58% of consumers are “very likely” to purchase gifts online in 2010, while only 41% said they are very likely to buy at brick-and-mortar retail locations. That means even if you own a physical store, you also need to be selling / marketing online if you want to stay competitive.

What tactics should you expect this holiday season?

Email Spam

Heavily frowned upon by most professionals, this tactic is projected to rise by 15 to 20% according to Experian’s 2010 Holiday Marketer report. They will be trying to trick people into replying to emails with the following offers:

•Free shipping, rewards points, discounts or free gifts;
•Refer-a-friend e-mails that include a link;
•Reactivating inactive customers on your email list;
•A call to action with a time-limited offer or a countdown to shipping deadlines.

Reviews

With growing numbers of consumers going online to read other people’s reviews and ratings before they buy, online reviews on blog websites like Product Reviews Canada can be essential to small business success.

•Add your business to local search sites like Local.com and CitySearch, as well as shopping comparison sites.

•Monitor reviews of your product or service + respond quickly to bad reviews.

•Link to reviews from your website, or post them on your site.

Mobile

The % of consumers who make purchases with SmartPhones is still small (13% according to ChannelAdvisor) but it’s growing among people in the 18 - 34 bracket.

•Use location-based services like Gowalla, Foursquare, or Facebook Places;

•Offering limited-time discounts or special deals to mobile users only;

•Sending targeted e-mails or text messages to customers’ smartphones (spamming them is rude however!).

Timing

The busiest day for online retailing will be America's Thanksgiving Day; Boxing Day will come in second. More consumers have been shopping for deals earlier this year, and are still very price conscious so continuing sales after that actual date could pay off.

What happens when you Google google?

Recently (just as an experiment) I decided to go to Google images and Googled the word "google".

I got the following images, along with thousands of others. But theses ones struck me as interesting and thought provocative with respect to SEO and PageRank.





What it proves however is that many people out there want to learn more about Google PageRank and SEO, but they don't have a clue.

Here is the jist of it... PageRank is a measurement of 3 combined things: The quality of your website, the number of 3rd party links going to it, and how popular it is.

If a website is well-designed, content heavy and has a "fair chunk of links" going to it there should be no problem reaching a PageRank of 2 or 3 easily. Doing an even better job and you should be able to get to PageRank 4.

If your site is very popular you might be able to get to PageRanks 5 or 6. If you get to 7 or better then your success is practically guaranteed. ie. beatles.com is PageRank 7... and as you know, the Beatles were "bigger than Jesus".

No seriously, in terms of PageRank, jesus.com is only PageRank of 0 (it forwards to ufmcc.com). And that is just plain sad and pathetic. Jesus would be ashamed of ufmcc.com for co-opting his name like that.

More SEO advice, tips and observations to come!

When it comes to SEO... Think Local!

If your company is locally based (ie. Toronto real estate) then you need to be thinking locally when you advertise online. There is no point advertising on real estate websites that are overseas. Your goal should be to dominate the local market when it comes to SEO.

That means advertising on websites that are either about your product or service, or similar to it, that are locally oriented.

What you want is links to your website using keywords or combinations of keywords for that topic.

ie. Toronto real estate, Toronto homes, Toronto houses, Toronto homes for sale, Toronto houses for sale, and so on.

And on top of that you should be SPECIFIC. You want to advertise on websites about specific neighbourhoods that are close to your business. The names of neighbourhoods, streets, avenues, rivers, local parks, and anything in the region is a gold mine waiting to be exploited by you.

ie. If you're trying to sell a home in Rosedale Toronto, you need to be advertising on websites about Rosedale Toronto. Even better if its a website about Rosedale Toronto real estate, although that may be more difficult because it might be a competitor.

When you run out of websites that are local that you can advertise on your only option left is to increase the content on your website. In which case you have to remember that its the keywords and the quality of the content that will bring in the users.

Definition of SEM

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is advertising via Pay-Per-Click (ie. Google AdWords) by bidding on the top advertising slot for specific keywords.

SEM differs from SEO because you have to pay for every click you get. If you are in a hurry and want to get sales right away, Search Engine Marketing may be worth it... but it really depends on the market keywords you are fighting over.

ie. Lets say you are trying to sell real estate in Toronto. There are a lot of real estate agents out there doing the exact same thing. The bidding is going to be high, in the range of $2 to $10 per click, and there is no guarantee that people clicking will actually buy.

However, depending on the topic you are competing for, SEM can be worth it. If the price of bidding is quite low you can get lots of potential customers that way.

My recommendation is that people test SEM out for themselves or higher a SEO/SEM expert to do it for them. The advantage of hiring an expert to do it for you is that they can carefully pick the right keywords, the right bid range, do it on a budget and provide statistical analysis.

Its always cheaper to do it yourself, provided you have the technical know-how to do it properly and aren't overbidding.

HOT TIP #1: Set a maximum bid of 10 cents and don't limit yourself to Search Engines, but instead use the ENTIRE network of websites for those keywords.

HOT TIP #2: Don't forget mobile advertising, ESPECIALLY if you are advertising a place.

HOT TIP #3: If your business is a specific place (ie. a restaurant) remember to limit the location diameter to 50 km.

HOT TIP #4: You can also bid on specific websites. (Or go to that website and ask them directly for advertising rates.)

HOT TIP #5: The more specific you are, the cheaper it will be and the more likely you are to get a customer.

Definition of SEO

Search Engine Optimization is the process of making a website appear higher in search engine rankings. Ideally you want the top spot for specific keywords. ie. If your website is a Toronto hotel, restaurant and spa, then you want to focus on those keywords. That way its easier for people to find your website when searching for "Toronto hotel", "Toronto restaurant" or "Toronto spa".

Accomplishing this has three major factors:

#1. Your website should be Search Engine Friendly (SEF).

#2. Your website should have lots of appropriate content. The more content the better.

#3. You need to advertise your site using the appropriate keywords.

If you are higher in the rankings you get more visitors, more customers to your business and more profits.

SEO / Search Engine Optimization in Toronto

I've started this blog because its become evident that there are a lot of people out there who want to learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but are unfortunately clueless.

I recently quit my job at an advertising agency, and although it wasn't my primary reason for quitting, the fact that my boss there was clueless about SEO was certainly a factor.

What was worse is that he didn't even want to LEARN the basics of SEO. He didn't care. He was an old dinosaur who would lie to clients about how the internet works because he frankly didn't understand it and didn't care.

Another factor was that he would promise clients the moon, and then complain when the SEO expert (me) couldn't deliver it automatically.

Therefore the first thing I want to stress is that SEO doesn't happen overnight. Its a slow, gradual process and it requires PATIENCE. It takes time to make a website popular.

One of the things he kept fussing about was how he wanted our websites to go viral. He was dreaming! Your website will not go viral unless your product/service and/or presentation is actually REALLY, REALLY GOOD. It doesn't matter how much you advertise your crappy website, if its crap its crap.

But you can fix that so at least your website is presentable. One of the things I will talk about on this site is SEF: Search Engine Friendly(iness). SEF website design can make a big difference in making your site popular, but its also a matter of presentation, aesthetics, user friendliness and "the FUN Factor".

These topics and many more are on the horizon. Please follow/bookmark this blog and come back for more SEO advice and tips in the future.

Five Workplace Email Tips

When you write emails for work you have to treat them like any other professional document. They are a reflection on you and your business and once you've sent them you've lost all control over who sees them and how they are interpreted and used. THINK BEFORE YOU EMAIL.

#1. If you need a response only send to one person at a time.

Asking six people for help in an email will frequently result in none of them replying. ie. "We need to bring food to Friday's office meeting." Response? Nobody will bring food. Each person will see the 5 other recipients and assume one of them will bring food instead of them. To remedy this I recommend making the email more personal (as opposed to talking to an audience) and BCC it to everyone so each person thinks its just for them: "Can you bring some food to Friday's office meeting? I think it would be beneficial." Also this is pretty much a necessity when discussing anything confidential or potentially embarrassing. (If you want an immediate response you're better off just phoning the person.)

#2. Limit each email to one topic or idea.

If you've ever received an email with a list of different topics to respond to you know it takes significantly more time to answer such an email. Indeed you are much more likely to put it off until later because you want more time to think of a proper response. You immediately recognize writing a proper response will take an hour or more and if you already have a busy schedule it will have to wait until later. Thus when sending emails its better to send multiple emails which can be answered quickly and individually.

#3. Change the email's subject.

When emailing back and forth the subject you are discussing will sometimes change. When that happens its best to change the subject line, especially if you're deliberately changing the topic. This keeps the conversation clear and logical (and avoids confusion). This also makes it easier to find the email again later because you will remember the subject header of the email.

#4. If you wouldn't say it in person, don't put it in email.

If you're not sure if something is appropriate conversation (or important) ask yourself whether you'd ask it in person. Thus things like flirting or insulting your supervisor in a funny way is probably a bad idea. THINK BEFORE YOU EMAIL.

#5. Stop Laughing out Loud so much!

LOLs are actually annoying to many people, but more so are the people who use them repetitively. Try to avoid using it too much (or avoid it altogether). The same thing goes with smiley faces and other emoticons. ChatSpeak is not appropriate for professional documents. The same goes with slang and excessive foul language.

The Future of Facebook & Online Marketing

By Charles Moffat - February 2010.

It may be too soon to tell, but according to some industry insiders Facebook's days are numbered... and it could mean a world of difference to people looking to the popular social networking website as a source of internet marketing.

#1. Facebook Fatigue - More and more people are cutting back on the time they use on Facebook, claiming they are tired of the constant nonsense chatter. Some people have deleted their accounts altogether.

#2. Competition - With Twitter, Google Buzz, Orkut and the myriad other social networking groups out there the competition for attention is becoming pretty stiff. For now Facebook is the #2 most popular website out there (according to Alexa.com which tracks internet popularity), but its reached a plateau. Some industry insiders are now concerned a new upstart website will replace Facebook as the premiere social network.

#3. Facebook Profits - Unlike Google which has enjoyed huge profits since it first introduced AdWords, Facebook's profits have been almost non-existent in comparison. This is largely due to the problem that when people visit a social networking website the majority of the ads they see are either for weight loss or personals, which apparently are not being clicked on that often.

#4. Is Social Networking a Good Marketing Strategy? - Early on the youngsters and tech savvy were promoting their websites on Facebook and bragging about their websites to all their friends. Some of them even went so far as to start befriending lots of strangers in an effort to gain a larger audience to advertise too... but this backfires because many people have caught on to this ploy and are now much more cautious about who they allow on their friends list. The long and the short of it is that Facebook (and similar websites) aren't really effective advertising places. They're excellent tools for maintaining a fan base, a newsletter, posting updates... but its not a realistic way to advertise.

#5. Annoying Facebook Emails - Every time someone updates something or sends a message on Facebook you get these annoying messages... "Jane Doe sent you a message on Facebook..." Right now if I check my inbox I see 80 Facebook messages that I haven't got around to deleting yet, and if I check my trash there's 34 messages I've deleted in the last month. Thats about 120 messages per month, 4 per day, and the vast majority of them are completely unnecessary and useless. (Seriously, do I really need the extra email in my inbox every time someone responds with LOL?)

#6. Mark Zuckerberg - The creator of Facebook is still only 25 years old and while he does enjoy wealth and fame, his website is largely paid for by the American government and the American advertising industry which is using the website to determine what "trends" the American people are worried about. So far they seem to be worried about their weight and their love life, but thats statistically true for all human beings. The problem is Zuckerberg doesn't seem to know what to do with the company financially (he doesn't even have an official business model or a marketing plan) and he keeps getting in trouble with privacy concerns.

#7. The Privacy Debate - Facebook has accomplished what Geocities set out to do back in 1994. Geocities wanted everyone to have their own personal website, where they could do whatever they wanted (providing it was clean and legal), but required them to learn how to design a website. What Facebook has done however is standardize the approach by using lots of forms for people to fill out. You can list your real name, where you live, your phone number, your favourite colour, what kind of car you own, what things you like to drink/eat, and you can even post all sorts of embarrassing things you do on a minute to minute basis just like Twitter (which is another website that wastes your time). The problem is that this all becomes TOO MUCH INFORMATION and has led to a variety of problems like people having their identities stolen, their houses robbed when they are away on vacation and even complete strangers messing around with their love lives. And this totally ignores the problem that the US government is watching for terrorist activity and the American marketing industry is simultaneously watching for the best time to sell you a product. Thus while its obvious that Facebook is being used for marketing, when they actually try to sell it a product its rather disturbing that they are peaking through your xmas wish list that you posted for your family/friends only...

#8. The User Interface - Facebook keeps messing with the user interface... and making it worse. This annoys people every time they do it.

#9. Lots of Fluff, No Shopping - Facebook is full of clubs, groups (like Yahoo! Groups or Meetup.com) and lots of artists/musicians trying to make a name for themselves... but there's no marketplace like Amazon or eBay. It seems silly that a website dedicated towards market research doesn't even bother to have sections where people can order products... but then that would be self-directed, wouldn't it? Facebook's goal is to watch for trends, and then market to those trends directly through targeted advertising.

#10. Sleazy Ads - The ads on Facebook all seem to be from the bottom of the barrel. They're the king of ads you expect to see in your spam folder. Lose Weight. Find a Girlfriend. Buy Viagra. Get Rich Quick. These ads hardly suggest a company worth investing in. So even though the ads are targeted, the people/companies doing the targeting are less than desirable and it really makes you wonder how much of your profile info they can see, even though your privacy settings are the highest you can make them. Facebook seems to have attracted a lot of get-rich-quick schemers and their marketing tactics are dubious at best.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Facebook has plateaued and is now losing popularity, down approx. 1% over the last month. More importantly however is the fact that compared to 2 years ago individual users are now going to the website half as much as they used to, down 5% in the last month alone.

If these trends continue Facebook's time in the lime light will dwindle... in which case maybe then people will wake up to the fact that it was never a real viable option for marketing anyway. Too many LOLs, friendly pokes and twittery posts... its all just too much fluff.

Online Vs Offline Synergy Tips

By Charles Moffat - February 2010.

Synergy is all about about having things work together and promoting each other at the same time. I sometimes refer to it as a duality effect, especially online when you have two websites that link back and forth to each other.

Developing synergy between your online business and your offline business is important because it means clients you meet in real life will be able to check your website... and vice versa, clients who find your website will be able to phone or meet you in person.

I personally believe that nothing beats meeting a client face-to-face. So much so that I usually don't work for people unless I've met them in person or at least spoken to them on the phone, although situations are known to vary.

Building synergy between your online and offline business however is a process and an ongoing one, so here's some tips to get you started:

#1. If you're hosting some kind of sale or event, post it on the main page of your website. This will encourage people to come to the event and see you or your products in person. (This also boosts your Google PageRank for SEO purposes because they track how often you update your website.)

#2. Invite friends and colleagues to visit both your website and your business events. If you're having a sale, tell your friends about it. Maybe they can even give you positive feedback (free advice!) on how to improve it next time.

#3. Promote your website on all your offline marketing. Advertising, letterheads, stationary, leaflets, brochures, catalogues, directories should all have your website address and contact email.

#4. Likewise on your website, your mailing address and phone number are quite useful for clients who want an immediate response and don't want to wait for your email response. Such info should be easily viewable, on multiple pages of the website so its super easy to find.

#5. If you have your site listed or advertised on other websites, list your phone number & contact information on those websites too. Don't expect them to go to your website and contact you later, leap frog it to the next step.

#6. Don't be afraid of the mass media. The more reporters you know on a first name basis the better. Make sure they have your contact info and web address too. This can lead to more coverage both online and in newspapers.

#7. Form partnerships with other companies that operate both online and off, but are not in direct competition with you. Rub each other's backs from time to time and watch as your list of clients grows.

#8. If your business only serves the local community try to tailor your online and offline activities so that it speaks specifically to your target community. ie. If your business only operates within Ontario, your marketing strategy should incorporate that and your online presence should drop words like Ontario, Toronto, GTA like breadcrumbs so your customers can find you.

#9. If you have company cars or vans you need to invest in advertising on the company car. Some companies even go so far as to buy a car that looks outrageous or unique in an effort to attract attention. ie. A pizza company that uses a Carver (a Dutch vehicle with three wheels).

The same concept can applied to employee uniforms, hats and equipment.

#10. Keep track of reach methods are the most effective at reaching clients and augment those methods in an effort to improve them and increase the synergy.

According to market research the most effective means of advertising online are:
  1. Paid Keyword Advertising (ie. Google AdWords)
  2. Brand Sponsorship (ie. Sponsoring events)
  3. Referrals
  4. Video Ads (ie. YouTube)
  5. Podcasts
  6. Display Ads (general ads, non-targeted)
Some less reputable people out there believe in just contacting potential clients (telemarketing and such), but in this day and age people have developed such a hatred of telemarketers and similar tactics that it really is not effective advertising. Its too pushy and that causes most people to immediately reject it and can even cause them to boycott a company or product.

Remember the ultimate purpose of synergy is to get new clients to contact you. That is half the battle, the rest is up to you to keep the client happy and coming back for more.

The Importance of Trust in a Business Relationship

By Charles Moffat - January 2010.

When meeting your clients you need to convey a sense of professionalism and trust. You certainly don't want to come across as a "untrustworthy scumbag with a big sales pitch".

The most important aspect in any relationship is trust. If you can't trust your business partner you're probably not going to do business with them. Thus its important that if you're going to be successful (and not end up in prison like Bernie Madoff) you want to keep your business honest and on the proverbial up-and-up.

15 Ways to Build Trust

#1. Keep Your Promises & Contracts.
#2. Never Tell Lies or Stretch the Truth.
#3. Keep Confidences.
#4. Communicate as Fully as Possible, the Whole Truth.
#5. Have No Favorites, Treat People Equally.
#6. Forgive Mistakes, People are only Human.
#7. Follow Through on Agreements.
#8. Listen Attentively.
#9. Lead by Example.
#10. Don't Talk Behind Backs.
#11. Pay your Bills Promptly and in Full.
#12. Keep Records of EVERYTHING.
#13. Remember your Body Language & a Firm Handshake.
#14. Don't Mix Business & Pleasure.
#15. Don't Give Excuses, Give Apologies.

Once lost you can never get trust back. By behaving honestly in your business practices your business partners will give you references to other people who may need your help.

There are a lot of books on the topic of Trust within business practices:

Building Trust: In Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life
By Robert C. Solomon & Fernando Flores

The Truth About Trust in Business: How to Enrich the Bottom Line, Improve Retention, and Build Valuable Relationships
By Vanessa Hall

Inter-Organizational Trust for Business-to-Business E-commerce
By Pauline Ratnasingam

Do Business with People You Can Trust: Balancing Profits and Principles
By L.J. Rittenhouse

The Workplace Revolution: Restoring Trust In Business And Bringing Meaning To Our Work
By Matthew Gilbert

For those of you who are more visual there is also quite a few YouTube Videos on the topic of Trust in Business.

Email Tips for the Workplace

The following is a list of articles by Christina Cavanagh which details advice and tips for managing your email at the workplace.
For more advice about managing your email check out Christina Cavanagh's book "Managing Your Email: Thinking Outside the Inbox" on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble or Chapters.

Seven Blunders of the World


"1. Wealth without work

2. Pleasure without conscience

3. Knowledge without character

4. Commerce without morality

5. Science without humanity

6. Worship without sacrifice

7. Politics without principle"


— Mahatma Gandhi

What exactly is SEO?

If you've been wondering what SEO is its because you haven't caught onto the internet lingo: It stands for Search Engine Optimization.

SEO is a process & a set of methods by which businesses online can market themselves by increasing their visibility on search engines.

So for example lets say you were in the sofa business. You would want to market yourself using the following keywords: Sofa, couch, chesterfield, chaise longue, convertible couch, davenport, daybed, divan, futon, love seat, ottoman, settee, sofa bed, window seat, furniture, furnishing, decor, etc.

Then what you need to do is place those keywords on various websites (the more on topic the better) with a link going back to your sofa business.

You will likely want to seek out the advice of a professional who deals with SEO daily because they will know all the White Hat tricks of the trade. Avoid using Black Hat techniques like link spamming and link farming.

It will take awhile to take effect, but the end result will eventually be a high search ranking in popular search engines like Google. So for example if you type in Bicycle Mechanic Toronto one of the top listings will be The Bicycle Mechanic blog, which operates out of Toronto.

20 SEO TIPS

  1. Newsletters
  2. Include Text Links with your images
  3. Multiple domains or sub-domains for specific topics
  4. Exchange articles/links with colleagues
  5. Include titles on your links (time consuming but it helps a little)
  6. Use a variety of link anchor text
  7. Include a sitemap on your website
  8. Don't use Black Hat techniques or you will get banned by search engines
  9. Social bookmarking helps
  10. The more links the better
  11. The more on topic the pages are linking to you the better
  12. The higher the linking pages' PageRank the better
  13. Keep track of your progress by periodically checking your keywords once/week
  14. Track your PageRank
  15. Get listed in Search Directories & Business Directories
  16. Keep making more content
  17. Remember to update old content
  18. Update your website regularly with more recent info
  19. Avoid pushy SEO salespeople (they're sham artists)

20. Lastly, SEO is an ongoing process. You have to keep working on it to stay ahead of the competition.

10 Business Tips Everyone Should Know

#1. Follow-up new Leads

#2. Stick to the Plan + the Budget

#3. Capture All Leads (ie. Don't lose track of clients' contact info.)

#4. Set Goals for the Future

#5. Hold Monthly Events or Sales

#6. Maximize Your Website (ie. Search Engine Optimization)

#7. Time Yourself to meet Market Demand (ie. If your clients all call after 6 PM, your work schedule is going to be late nights.)

#8. Distribute Online Newsletters, Blog Postings, Local Forums

#9. Market with Repeat & Referrals

#10. Prioritize Your Time

36 Sambir - What we do.

This is the blog for 36 Sambir, a business consulting company in Toronto, Canada.

If you are you looking for a business analyst, a business development consultant, a management consultant or advice for improving your business strategy or marketing we can help.

This blog will feature free business tips and advice.
If you need SEO, SEM or SMO help in Toronto then you need to contact designSEO.ca
Get started by emailing contactus@designseo.ca.
Consultations are $30 per hour.