Is Email Marketing Still the Best Strategy?

Some people would certainly tell you that marketing strategy has moved away from email marketing and more towards apps, texting, and other methods of mobile communication. However, some companies are saying that email marketing is still the way to go.

Do you have an email address that is mostly dedicated to receiving email from companies that you purchase from or are interested in? I do. Currently, that inbox has more than ten thousand emails…I don’t delete them on a very regular basis. And this is after a major cleanup last year where I took several days and unsubscribed from probably several hundred companies who were sending me messages.

But you know what? I check that email address every day, sometimes several times a day. I like getting email promotions from companies that I regularly shop with. Sales, promotions, and information about new products that are teased in the subject line of an email are definitely a way to get me to click through. And since it’s all about getting people to open your email, they are definitely being successful.

I definitely think that some people would argue that companies are moving on to other marketing strategies. Any time you check out a social network (which, let’s face it, for most of us is quite a few times per day) there are ads for companies everywhere. Sponsored pages, sponsored tweets, and sponsored posts abound. That’s not even mentioning that seemingly every company has an app for that. You’d be hard pressed to visit any business site on your phone or tablet lately without that little prompt at the top, asking you to download their app.

According to a recent Huffington Post article, people who click through to a website from an email typically spend more time on a website and subsequently spend more money on that site as well. Email marketing is fairly simple to track. You can find out how many people opened your marketing email by keeping track of email metrics. Because email is accessed by many people primarily from their mobile device, email can be one of the quickest and easiest ways to reach just about anyone, any time.

With all of that being said, how do you respond to email marketing campaigns? Or is there a better way to reach customers, followers, or readers? Social media? Please share your thoughts!

(Photo Source)

Maddie Heinen is a regular contributor to ChamberofCommerce.com. She is a freelance writer who specializes in blogging, content creation, and social media. When she is not working, she is taking care of her two kids, husband, and home in Central Florida. Maddie enjoys reading, shopping, and is interested in real estate. She is currently working on establishing her own internet-based media company, Red Hibiscus Media, which will specialize in both online content as well as print material.

How to Build a Smart Inbound Marketing Strategy

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Marketers the world over know how important inbound marketing has become over the last few years. Cold calling and purchasing leads just doesn’t cut it anymore, at least, not in the ecommerce world or its sister industries. But before we delve into how to build a rock solid inbound marketing strategy, first let’s discuss how to put together a savvy overall marketing plan.

Marketing is about as important to small businesses (or any size business really) as water is to grass. That is, if you don’t water the grass, it simply will not grow. It’s the same with your business. You may break even or make a small profit, but if you don’t market your business, it just won’t grow.

What do you need for a decent marketing plan? Three things: a budget, resources, and reporting measures. What else? If you’re serious about marketing, which I hope you are, you’ll also need to hire a loyal marketing professional.

Read on and get the scoop on how to focus your marketing efforts in the inbound realm.

In & Out of Inbound Marketing

The best thing about inbound marketing is that there are many, many ways to go about it. From email marketing to content curation, SEO (search engine optimization) to social media marketing, there are so many ways to pursue inbound marketing that the list could literally go on forever.

Now, that may seem a bit overwhelming to you, but don’t worry! Just because there are a zillion ways to market your business from an inbound standpoint doesn’t mean you should try to tackle every single one of them.

So, take a deep breath, and start thinking about what kind of inbound marketing tactics will work best for your business.

To help you in your quest for business growth and success, the following steps will give you a hand in mapping out and implementing the best possible inbound marketing plan for your business.

Build a Marketing Foundation

  1. Create a keyword list. You don’t necessarily have to use something like the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to do this, however, it is certainly recommended that you use some kind of keyword tool to gain additional insight into which keywords and phrases related to your business give you the most ‘SEO juice.’ Start by sitting down and brainstorming. Use logic. You know your business and what it does inside and out, so develop your keyword list first by thinking along those lines.
  2. Figure out EXACTLY who your buyers are. Knowing who your buyers and potential customers are is the first step toward marketing to them. Can you imagine trying to sell web design services using cat memes? But a cat food manufacturer might see drastically different results with the same concept. At the end of the day, it’s about knowing how your target market feels, thinks, and operates. You need to know what makes them tick. Try creating a buyer persona, i.e., a fictional character that represents your ideal customer.
  3. Identify your marketing goals. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they set up an inbound marketing strategy is that they forget to set goals. How is this possible? Well, when you’re new to the game, it might make sense that you just want to ‘see what happens’ with your strategy and evaluate it from there. But how will you evaluate what works and what doesn’t if you don’t set specific, measurable goals? It’s about figuring out where you’re at and consistently making sure you’re moving forward.
  4. Narrow down a content strategy. Don’t just give this step lip service. Do your research, and decide which types of content will best serve what you and your business have to offer. If your brand name is popular online, you might want to tackle the many popular social media platforms out there to gain traction. But if your potential customers are more apt to respond to an email than like a Facebook post, start by writing templates and testing versions.
  5. Develop a company blog. Here’s where all the parts start to come together. Take that keyword list you developed back at step 1, keep your target market in mind, along with your goals and content strategy (steps 2-4), and start writing. If you’re not a wordsmith (hey, some people just aren’t!) contract the work out to a web author, preferably someone who already has an online following and is familiar with your industry.

You might be thinking, “I get steps 1-4, but why do I need a blog? What if I’d rather just update social media pages instead of writing an actual article?” That’s a good question. But consider this: you can tell people you’re an expert in your industry, or you can show them.

Trust me; showing them is much more effective.

A blog is not just a space where words live. It’s a place where people go to get to know your company, a space where you can show off your insider industry expertise and prove yourself worthy of those potential customers who do come across it.

Well-written blogs help your website rank higher in search engine results. Blog articles give you something real, that you own, to share on social media. Blogs are one of the core concepts of all online content.

What do you think? Have you created a stellar inbound marketing strategy that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter and start a conversation!

Image courtesy of Flickr user Stefan Erschwendner.

5 Tools That Help Freelancers Find Their Way

Being a ‘freelancer’ can mean a lot of different things in 2014.

Whether you’re a freelance writer, editor, web Toolsdesigner, or even a sandblaster, one thing is certain: you need help. I don’t mean you need a hand with your work, and I don’t mean that you should see a therapist (who am I to judge?). What I do mean is that without the help of some very handy tools, you will likely find yourself between a rock and a hard place.

So, why not make things easier on yourself? There’s no good reason not to.

What kind of tools are we talking about here? All kinds. Think big picture stuff. Accounting tools, project management tools, website building tools and the like. You may be thinking, “But, I can’t afford all this stuff on my freelance salary!” Don’t fret. Many of the tools I’m about to mention are not only cheap or very reasonable, but some are flat out FREE.

If you want to put the ‘free’ back into freelancer (see what I did there?) read on and let’s explore our options.

5 Online Tools to Make Freelance Life Easier

  1. Web Design Templates: From designers to niche copywriters, having a space where your contact info and the best examples of your work can live online is pretty much where it’s at. IM Creator has some incredible website templates to choose from, and they make designing a website as simple as a few clicks of your mouse. What’s even better? Their templates are free!
  2. Project Management Software: Here’s where it gets a little complicated. You have 5 different clients who want 12 different tasks done within the next week. Go ahead. Try simply writing it down and see where that gets you. Or, try Podio. This handy project management service lets you not only organize your tasks, but, in the event you need to hire an extra contractor (or two) to help you, it houses each project’s information and allows you to share it within the robust platform.
  3. Accounting Solutions: Most freelancers start out loving their independence, but they soon realize that one of the many constraints that will leave them reeling is a lack of organization, especially when it comes to invoicing. FreshBooks offers a simple (and cheap!) solution for many accounting needs.
  4. Google Docs (duh): If you haven’t heard of Google Docs, you might want to leave that cave you’ve been hiding in the last few years and hop online to see the world as it’s now known. Google Docs is literally a freelancer’s best friend. Share documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more with your clients. You can even work on editing them simultaneously.
  5. EchoSign: It’s amazing what you can do these days without a printer. Luckily, EchoSign is on board and they make it even easier to live your life without that seemingly obsolete hunk of junk collecting dust on your desk. Need a signature for that contract you’ve just entered into? Don’t hit print! You can e-sign it (and so can your client) for the exact same effect.

Taking Web Tools to the Next Level

Once you’ve started making a name for yourself and you’ve gathered up a good client/potential client base (something that might take years to do, so be patient!), you’ll likely start thinking about how to take your marketing presence to the next level. After all, if you’re bogged down doing all the day-to-day work for your current clients, how will you find time to go after new ones (something most freelancers must constantly do)?

This is something that many freelancers struggle with. Dividing time between going after new business and taking care of everyday tasks can seem mind-boggling. Well, relax! There are plenty of good ways to go about it. One of them is to employ an all-star email marketing strategy.

Depending on what kind of website you have or what kind of email provider you use, you’ll want to carefully plan out any mass email undertaking.

For example: Gmail has limits put in place regarding the amount of people you can forward any email to, and you can risk losing your Gmail account if you use it to send too many mass emails.

But, there are plenty of ways around this. MailChimp and Constant Contact are two services that not only provide convenient email marketing services, they’ll also give you data on how successful your emails are with respect to open rates, click-through rates and more.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Lachlan Donald.