Creating a Strong Online Presence for Marketing Success

According to Google, 97% of consumers use the web to search for local businesses – and if the vast majority of your potential customers are online, you should be, too. Having a strong online presence is a crucial component of your marketing strategy, no matter what size your business is or what industry it belongs to.

An online presence is important for outbound marketing because it reinforces your brand and what you offer to your target market. Once you’ve communicated with your audience, you’ll need to have a web presence that helps portray why your product or service is so great – because that’s the next stop for the majority of your potential customers.

It’s also vital for inbound marketing, because quality online content will help attract customers even if they haven’t heard of your brand.

So here are three of the first things you need to look at when building your online marketing efforts.

1. Your website

All businesses, no matter how small, should have a website. It can be extremely basic, but it should contain the fundamental information customers – both existing and potential – need. For example, one frustration I encounter far too often is restaurants that don’t have a website with a current menu, opening hours, location and contact information. I know I’m not alone in that if I can’t find these details, I’m less likely to visit the restaurant – but there’s no reason a business should lose potential customers over something that’s so easy to remedy and costs very little.

A basic website is pretty easy to set up using an application like WordPress. WordPress is a free blogging tool and content management system that gives users the option to pay a little more for the premium version. If it’s relevant to your business, you can even add an online shop – after all, in 2013, 70 percent of consumers preferred to do their retail shopping online.

If you’re not sure where to start, there’s a great guide to WordPress for small businesses on Social Media today. It’s easy to understand and runs through the factors you need to consider and steps you need to take when setting up your small business website.

If you’re starting from scratch and not sure what your website should include, survey your existing customers. Whether you send out an email asking for their input, or mention it casually while making their coffee, it’s the best way to get the insight you need – people love to be involved and share their opinions.

2. Search engine optimization

Once you have a website, it’s vital that it can actually be found by search engines. After all, 89 percent of consumers use search engines to research a product, service or business before making a decision. To take advantage of this, you need to make sure to look at search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.

In case you’re not completely sure what SEO means, how it works, or why it’s important, here’s a quick rundown:

  • What: The purpose of SEO is to make it easy for search engines to find your website and list it in their ‘organic’ (as opposed to ‘paid’) results.
  • Why: People tend to trust search engines, so websites that appear high in results pages are more likely to receive traffic.
  • How: Using search-engine friendly methods to improve your website.
  • Who: Everyone – anyone who has information that people want to find on the internet should be using SEO techniques.
  • When: All the time – SEO is an ongoing process. It’s important to monitor the information on your website and make sure it’s current and correct. Search engines also love new content, which is why starting a blog can do wonders for your SEO.
  • Where: Major search engines include Google, Yahoo and Bing. They connect people all over the world to the content they desire, from products to services to information.

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz and Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guideboth give a fantastic overview of the basics and will help you optimize your website.

3. Social media

Social media is an important part of your online presence that improves your chances of generating additional revenue and building customer loyalty. It allows customers, potential customers and other interested parties to engage easily via a channel that plays an important role in their everyday lives.

Although not every social media channel will be relevant to each business, it’s definitely worth looking into your options. For example, Facebook and Twitter will serve a purpose for almost any business – it’s a great place to post news, tips, photos and videos and ask and answer questions.

In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you might find Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, FourSquare helpful. Make sure to research available channels and find out if they will work for you. Instagram, for example, is a photo-sharing network, so it works wonderfully for businesses selling ‘beautiful’ products such as jewelry, food or housewares. It’s important to consider your target demographic – Instagram has around 130–150 million users, over two-thirds of which are women between the ages of 18 and 35. With Instagram, you’ll also need to keep a smartphone handy to properly access your account and engage with your audience.

Once you’ve decided which social media channels to use, get a clear idea of the kind of content you can share. The more compelling and engaging your material is, the more likely your followers will like, comment and share your posts. Engagement is key to promoting your brand – not only will it make you more appealing to existing customers, the more positive social activity that goes on, the higher the chance is that their friends will be exposed to your brand and intrigued by what you have to offer.

When they do this, they’re engaging with your brand and their networks (friends, family, colleagues) are seeing that engagement and may be prompted to check you out for their own needs.

Ways to Market Your Business Online for Free

1. Create a simple website with a free website builder.

As web designers, we understand the cost factor involved in creating a quality website. We also understand the importance of having a website. Having something is better than nothing, even if it’s free. takes you through an easy-to-use step-by-step process for creating a free, simple website you can use to promote your business and connect with your audience.

2. Submit your website to search engines.

Put simply, if you want your website to be seen online, search engines should know you have one. Take an active approach and submit your website manually to ensure search engines will serve your site in search results when people are looking for your products and services online.

While search engines like Yahoo! and Bing (and Google, too) prefer you directly submit your website through their platform, services like let you submit your URL(s) to all of these and more using one registration.

DISCLAIMER: Doing this has no influence on where you show up on the list of search results. That’s called search engine optimization, and that’s a whole other beast.

3. Make sure you have a Google My Business listing with accurate information.

According to a survey from

  • 71% of customers research and confirm a business’s location before leaving to visit that business for the first time
  • 22% use their smartphone to lookup the location while they’re on the way (tisk tisk)

That’s 93% of customers verifying your location. More importantly, 73% of those customers lose trust in the brand when their online listing shows an inaccurate location.

Given Google pretty much reigns supreme in the search engine world, it’s ideal to head there first to establish your business listing and make sure all other Google listings are consistent and correct.

Google My Business is basically Google’s dashboard for managing your Google properties. Think of it as an interface between you and your local search presence on Google. When managed properly, a well-utilized Google My Business listing allows Google searchers to find you more easily and provides them quick access to information they want. With just a touch of a finger or click of a mouse, they can get to your website, see your hours of operation or contact you directly.

BONUS: If you go the extra mile and upload captivating images and proudly display rave reviews from happy customers on your Google My Business listing you can also show prospects how amazing you are.

4. Register with local online directories.

Submitting your information to online directories dedicated to certain regions or industries is another great way to get in front of as many people as possible. For example, MayeCreate Design is listed as a Service business on the Discover the District website, so when anyone goes looking for service companies in the downtown Columbia, MO area, they’ll see us.

Services like Manta exist specifically for this purpose and proudly states this on their website: “Manta helps millions of small businesses get found by more customers.” HubSpot shares this along with 49 others on their blog, highlighting that submitting only to a few means you’re missing out big time. So basically what we’re saying is go crazy!

5. Submit your listing to all the other search engines out there.

Submitting your listing to platforms like Bing Places puts your name in the running when people go to search for your products and services on that browser. Sure, Google is typically pegged as the omnipotent search engine of the 21st century. But there are still plenty of people out who may prefer one of the others.

6. Create social media accounts for your business.

Creating business accounts on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter is absolutely free. And incorporating the use of social media into your marketing plan has its advantages if your that’s where your target market is. The simple practice of offering engaging content and interacting with your customers and influencers on social media can fuel your branding efforts and put your name in the forefront of your audience’s minds, again, if that’s where your audience lives.

Now, the caveat to that is this: the act of creating the account is free, yes. However, the rewards you could reap from using it directly correlate to the time and energy you put into managing it, so keep that in mind if you pursue this option.

7. Start a blog.

So, get this. Having a featured blog as a key part of your website gives you a 434% better chance of being ranked highly on search engines.

434%!!! Um, WHAT?! I know! That’s insane! I’ll take ya one further: Business to Business marketers using blogs as part of their content marketing mix pull in 67% more leads than B2B marketers that don’t, as cited in this blog-inspiring post from

And when platforms like are offering a free blogging service, why not?? Even Facebook and LinkedIn also have story-promoting features built in, though these are into integrated with your site they won’t impact your search engine ranking the same way.

When used for the purpose of blogging, writing about your business and your industry can be used to grow your business credibility and increase your website traffic exponentially. Your blog articles can offer answers to questions commonly asked in your industry. And when people find quality information they can trust, they’ll remember who gave it to them and start building trust with you as a result.

8. Show off your expertise on other industry blogs.

If starting your own blog sounds overwhelming, you can get your feet wet sharing your industry knowledge online by doing either one of these two things:

  1. Write for other blogs.
  2. Post comments on other blog posts.

This way, you’re influencing readers to trust you by providing valuable information when they need it, and if readers like what you have to say, you’re building credibility in your industry.

9. Take advantage of free email marketing services.

When you sign up for a free email marketing account with MailChimp, you’re allowed up to 12,000 emails per month and 2,000 subscribers. That’s a lot of subscribers and A LOT OF EMAILS at zero out-of-pocket cost.

Not to sound like a broken record, but this activity, like social media and blogging, does take time to set up the account, create your lists, and email content, so keep that in mind when getting started.

10. Post videos to YouTube.

YouTube is still a free online video service (for now at least) and provides incredible opportunity for sharing videos related to your products, services, and/or industry expertise.

Each time you upload a video, you can use your social media accounts and email marketing to alert your followers. You could also throw it up on your website as a Resource or as a blog post and then share on social media. I could go on, but you see my point.

11. Submit your events to online community calendars.

Every little bit helps, right? Think of this suggestion as taking a digital “word of mouth” approach to your online marketing efforts.

If your business hosts, is involved with, or sponsors a lot of events, be sure to submit your event information to as many free online community calendars as possible. This is guaranteed to gain you some attention from folks you may not have had an opportunity to capture in any other way, so why not?

Oh, the places you can go…

These 10 free ways to market your business listed above offer a great starting point without putting a dent in your budget. Because let’s be real: cost aside, marketing your business can be a complex challenge in too many ways to list.

Seems foolish not to take advantage of free online advertising, doesn’t it? If you want to get your pride on, you’ve gotta start somewhere, and starting with these above methods will not only help you market your business for free, it will also gain you experience in the online world and create opportunities for you to expand your marketing efforts in the future.


Best Ways to Market Your Business in 2018

As this year ends and another year approaches, you should be looking back on what was successful this past year as well as looking ahead at what to expect for the new year. There is already a plethora of information out there with the cutting-edge trends to be ready for in 2018. However, let’s not forget that for the most part, what will work best in 2018 is utilizing the channels you already have in place. Here are some tips and trends to help you identify the best ways to market in 2018 using channels with which you are already familiar.

2018 Business Website Tips

It started out with whether to have a website or if a Facebook business page could do the trick. Then as websites became a must, it became which kind of website (“brochureware” or a more interactive site?). Now that it’s 2018, it’s absolutely imperative that you have a high-quality, dynamic website for your business.

In 2018, your website should:

  • Provide visitors with the information they need to call or visit you.
  • Be optimized for search engines
  • Have a lead-generating contact form to initiate email communication (not just “email us at”)
  • Inform visitors of your hours, products, services, and prices
  • Have a blog that brings in organic visits through valuable information
  • Most importantly, your website should be responsive. Mobile-friendly will prevent you from losing potential and current customers, but responsive is what will get your website to be a lead generator and customer converter.

Email Marketing in 2018

Before getting into the details of email marketing for 2018, let’s first quickly review why email marketing is still such a strong marketing channel.

Email Gives Your Audience Control

Aside from its numerous benefits, email marketing has an advantage over social media because users have a bit more control over things. With social media, users sign on and open themselves up to a barrage of content. They’ve got businesses’ sponsored and regular posts as well as suggested follows showing up amongst the posts of their friends and family.

Your email inbox is similar, but it is your decision whether to open the content. You don’t have to go through every opened email to get to the one you want to see. Also, for the most part, you’ve signed up to receive marketing emails and can easily unsubscribe with the click of a button.

Email Offers Consistency

With social media, you’ve got to spend time learning feed preferences for each channel and what specific settings to enable or disable—which change frequently.This type of specificity, as well as the news-feed style of information consumption, has its own benefits, but there are times when predictable email is preferred. Email stays pretty consistent for the most part. You can almost always rely on scrolling to the bottom of the email to click unsubscribe.


Top 10 Digital Marketing Tools to Help You Grow Your Online Business

1. Oracle Maxymiser

Maxymiser is a tool that goes far beyond the realm of landing page testing. This enterprise-level software solution was built to test multiple aspects of any given site and to run several different tests simultaneously. Maxymiser also allows you to segment who you want to send to each test, creating a more catered experience for your website visitors.

2. Optimizely

Optimizely combines tools for visual creation and robust targeting into its platform, making it easy to quickly create and target tests to the proper groups of users. The company also has a formidable amount of partners to make it easier to centralize customer data for your various tests.

3. Visual Website Optimizer (VWO)

Even though the mantra of “always be testing” has become a bit cliche, there’s no denying the importance of A/B testing any given page of your site. Visual Website Optimizer streamlines the process by allowing you to quickly play with elements of your pages such as headlines and images to generate multiple versions of your site for visitors to land on. Coupled with a powerful analytics platform, you can quickly see which version of your site is the clear winner in terms of clicks and conversions.

4. Landscape by Sprout Social

A great way to make sure your online content stands out is to include an image, but sourcing images that satiate the unique requirements for each social network can be tough. We aimed to solve that problem with our new social media image resizing tool known as Landscape. Quickly turn one image into multiple, each perfectly sized for the social media networks you’re using.


If you don’t have the time or artistic flair to create your own pieces of content, then you can use a tool like is a platform that pairs those who need content up with those who can create it. The site charges a flat rate for each type of project, which includes Infographics, e-books and video.

6. is an awesome tool for easily finding and sharing unique, relevant content to your social networks, blogs and more. With you can find months worth of great in no time flat.

7. Kapost

Kapost is a platform that takes into account every step of the content marketing cycle. One fantastic function is the ability to assign different pieces of content different buyer personas, which shows which stages of the content marketing cycle your prospects are most likely to convert on.

8. Adobe Analytics

Adobe provides an enterprise-level analytics solution for companies who want to gather deep analytics on their website data and performance. The platform has cross-channel attribution functions, 360-degree customer analysis and predictive intelligence which enables you to observe and respond to customer actions in real time.

9. Woopra

Woopra is an analytics platform that’s specifically tailored for ecommerce businesses. Looking to help battle the problem of cart abandonment, Woopra analyzes each step of your site’s checkout process to determine where visitors are dropping off and which traffic source is the most valuable in terms of checkout success.

10. Nanigans

Nanigans is a multichannel advertising software with an emphasis on Facebook marketing. Its software has access to the Facebook Exchange (FBX) for retargeting and a plethora of other tools that make targeting more efficient. Beyond Facebook remarketing, the platform boasts features focused around Twitter ads and Instagram growth as well. Nanigans is the tool of choice for companies such as Zynga, Wayfair and Rovio.

The 10 Best Ways to Promote an Event Online

Armed with this, your online promotion efforts are going to help drive meaningful engagement and, ideally, increase attendance.

Create content that promotes your event

No matter what kind of event you’re promoting online, letting it exist in a vacuum is never a good idea.

What I mean by that is your content marketing efforts should overlap with the event you’re promoting.

Let’s say that your brand or business has a weekly podcast. It’s crucial that you take time during that podcast to plug your event.

In general, you shouldn’t miss an opportunity to promote an event of yours on a platform you control, particularly when you’re dealing with a targeted audience.

TechCrunch has a fantastic CTA on their site that leads you to their event.


But, beyond that, it’s important to recognize the practicality of this approach.

To put it frankly, even the most dedicated audiences get busy.

They may have wanted to keep up with all your content, but simply missed your official announcement of the event.

That’s why TechCrunch created content that promotes their events.

Their content offers tangible value, but it never feels purely self-promotional.


And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

If you want, you can create blog posts that discuss information relevant to the event.

You can go one step beyond that and create unique videos for the event like Inbound has.


Whether it’s a collage of previous attendees at old events or a video of past speakers, what matters is that your content is making people aware of your event.

If you want to keep people interested and make sure they actually show up, you’ll need to create compelling promotional content.

Add your event to your email signature

Okay, I know what you’re thinking.

“Neil, this is corny/excessive/unnecessary.”

These complaints usually come from people who have been on the receiving end of lame email signatures.

Trust me, I get it.

And make no mistake, email signature event promotions can look downright cringeworthy when done poorly.

But if done tastefully, an email signature can pique your audience’s interest and compel them to click through to your site.

Something as simple as this Bizzabo signature can encourage a reader to click to learn more about your event.


The go-to rule here is to avoid an email signature that’s too long or tedious.

An email signature can be a simple yet professional way to promote your event every time you send an email.

Use email lists to your advantage

I’m a huge believer in the power of leverage.

One of the main reasons that I encourage businesses and brands to offer value is that it helps you gain an interested audience.

Let’s say that you’ve taken a page out of my book and created content so valuable that your competitors would have made people pay for it.

Here’s an example of a signup form for a webinar where I teach how to skyrocket your traffic through SEO:


If you gave that away for free, with the only expectation being that they sign up for your newsletter, you’ll grow a strong email list.

Not only will you get plenty of email signups, but the vast majority are probably going to be active emails as opposed to dead links.


Simple. When you offer major value, people take notice.

If your content is valuable, people will care. And when people are receiving value, they’re more likely to keep following your newsletter.

Of course, all this is great, but it doesn’t answer why email lists are so important to your marketing strategy.

Let’s face facts. Having your own list of targeted leads can be a pretty powerful marketing tool.

And promoting your event via that email list is the perfect chance to offer your followers even more meaningful value.

Promoting your event via email is actually pretty straightforward.

2-3 months before your event, you can send out your official invitation to your email list.

An effective invitation has three major components.

  • It covers the major event details (important speakers, location, etc.).
  • It shows what the attendees will gain from going to your event.
  • It is brief, personal, and to the point.

From there, you should periodically remind people about the event, but don’t overdo it. A clear reminder in your weekly newsletter should get the job done.

When you provide people with valuable information by letting them know you have a relevant event coming up, you’ll only reinforce the validity of your email list.

Create a unique event page

Make no mistake. Having a unique event page on your website is a massively important step. It helps people take you seriously, and it becomes a hub for event information.

Just take a look at what TechCrunch did with their Disrupt event.


There’s no need to make it something incredibly fancy. What matters is that it clearly lists all the relevant information about your event.

That means you’re providing visitors with an FAQ section to address any issues they might be wondering about.


You should also have a list of any important guests and speakers that’ll be presenting during your event.


My favorite aspect of creating a unique page for an event is that you can create trackable URLs for your website and landing pages.

Why does this matter?

Simple. With trackable URLs, you can collect data on which methods of promotion are working the best, and you’ll be able to determine which method has the highest ROI.

Share on Facebook

You can’t talk about online promotion without addressing the importance of your social media accounts.

If you’re looking for a place to get started, Facebook is likely going to be your best bet.

And it’s no surprise why. With 2 billion monthly active users, Facebook is by far the platform with the biggest overall reach available.

But how do you actually go about promoting an event with it?

Well, first you’ll want to create an event page on Facebook.

Take a look at the Inbound 2017 event page.


Whether you’re a fan of the Facebook event page system or not, there’s no getting around the fact that you get plenty of useful tools to use when you create a page.

My favorite aspect of the event page on Facebook is that it helps you build a unique space for your community to stay updated on your event.

Plus, there’s a variety of other things you can do with an event page on Facebook.

  • You can add images and videos.
  • You can update event details.
  • You can keep a list of who’s attending.
  • You can remind users about the event as it gets closer.

Share on LinkedIn

Promotion on LinkedIn might not seem particularly important, but your LinkedIn community can end up.

LinkedIn is all about creating and leveraging professional connections.

While the average person might think of LinkedIn only as a tool for finding a new job or filling in a position, this platform also has plenty of potential for things like event promotion.

There are a few different ways that you can do this, but they all revolve around the proper creation of a LinkedIn profile.

Even if you’re a small business, there’s no reason you shouldn’t create a LinkedIn page for your company.

Not only do you get to post updates for your followers, but you’ll also get to participate in the Group feature on LinkedIn, which will be an invaluable tool in your promotion campaign.

Groups on LinkedIn revolve around a specific interest, which means that you’ll need to connect with fellow users over some common objective.

Maybe like going to an awesome event that you’re hosting.

Creating a group is actually pretty easy to do.

First, you’ll want to click on the “Work” tab in the top right corner and scroll down until you find the “Groups” tab.


Click on that and you’ll end up on the Groups page.


From there, you’ll want to find the “My Groups” tab on the top left and click it.


Stay with me now.

Now you’ll want to click on the “Create group” button on the left-hand side of the screen.


Last step. Fill in all the information below and you’ll be good to go.


See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?

I typically recommend that businesses start adding to their Groups via their current network on LinkedIn, to cast as wide a net as possible.

And it’s about more than just connecting with your followers.

On LinkedIn, it’s just as important to reach out to other speakers, sponsors, and media partners.

Basically, anyone who could have a positive impact on your event promotion efforts.

Your Groups shouldn’t be arbitrary here, by the way.

Make sure to explain to users exactly what your event is and why they should go.

Keep in mind that nothing in social media exists in a vacuum. To get the most out of any social media platform, you’ll want to make sure you’re not ignoring things like content creation.

Content creation on LinkedIn, in particular, can help promote your event indirectly.

Instead of focusing on creating content exclusively for the event, you should aim to create content that’s relevant and valuable to your audience.

What does that look like?

Well, you can create articles on industry topics, which can easily raise awareness for both your event and your overall brand as an online authority.

You can then share that content in your Group, in order to ensure that the Group isn’t just a glorified notification page.

Whether or not you make the Group open depends entirely on your goals with this page.


If you’re posting general information that you wouldn’t mind the average person knowing about, there’s an argument to be made about keeping the Group open.

But if you’re posting information that’s sensitive or something that you only want VIP members to have access to, you’ll want to keep the Group private.

Share on Instagram

Every social media platform has something unique to offer when it comes to online event promotion.

On the surface, Instagram might just look like the place you go to post a fun selfie or a short video.

But the reality of this platform is that you have an impressive potential for event promotion.

To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with just taking a cool picture for the entertainment value, like this one where Steph Curry was on stage last year.


But here’s an interesting scenario.

Let’s say that you’re orchestrating an event in 6 months. Your company has been putting this event on for years, which means your loyal fans know all about it.

Instead of surprising people with a location a few months before the event, why not get them in on the fun?

You can identify three or four different venues, post photos of each of them, and then encourage followers to like the venue where they’d prefer to see the event held.

You can go one step further and post a short video of the venue, along with a brief description of what makes it worth considering.

The key here is to incorporate a visual component into the event promotion, while also giving users the opportunity to engage with you in a truly meaningful way.

Speaking of meaningful engagement, I’m a huge fan of user-generated content (UGC), and there’s no better place for it than Instagram.

Even the simplest pictures help promote your event in a unique way, like this picture taken at last year’s Disrupt SF with Instagram user iammikechiang.


Any type of campaign has the potential to create hype for your event, but UGC brings something special to the table.

What do I mean by that?

The effectiveness of any UGC campaign relies on two things:

  • Whether or not the campaign is legitimately engaging
  • Whether or not users actually share with their social networks

Aside from allowing you to create content without actually having to do any of the creating, my favorite aspect of UGC is the potential for word-of-mouth marketing.

Having a compelling Instagram marketing campaign is great. But you know what’s even better?

A personal recommendation from one person to the next.

The average consumer is more likely to trust another consumer’s recommendation more than your company’s content. That’s because a fellow consumer doesn’t have a vested interest in making a sale.

One of Disrupt SF’s top posts last year was Instagram user ronreeser raving about a gift he received from JBL audio.


This is where UGC really shines.

If the campaign is compelling enough, users will share it on social media or personally recommend it to their friends online.

Not only does that increase overall exposure, but it opens the door for more people to seriously consider attending your event.

Share on Snapchat

Snapchat is a unique social media platform, in the sense that it’s easy to get started, but difficult to actually master.

We’re way past the point of thinking that Snapchat is some passing fad, especially with its 166 million average daily active users.


When it comes to event promotion, one of the most impressive aspects of this platform is its ability to reach a demographic that’s typically difficult to isolate.

Beyond that, Snapchat offers you the ability to give users a behind-the-scenes look at the process of putting an event together.

Need some ideas of what to share?

Publish a few snaps about the planning phases of your event.

You could even just publish a list of the speakers scheduled to be there.

The key here is that you’re raising awareness for your event, while also giving your followers content they wouldn’t find anywhere else.

Embrace the power of the contest

Okay, I get that this might sound a bit silly, but hear me out!

Social media contests might be nothing new, but their potential for raising awareness about your event is undeniable.

The implementation of this can actually be pretty straightforward.

The contest offers tickets to the winner, with the only criteria being that they share the event on their own social media page to qualify.

Social Media Examiner used a similar approach with their Social Media Marketing World 2017 event.


It’s easy for your audience to get involved, and the exposure alone is worth the free ticket.

But why stop there? You can combine UGC with this giveaway and get content and promotion at the same time. Two birds, one stone.

At the end of the day, the contest is just another way to offer value and encourage event promotion.

Social media ads

No matter what your stance is on social media ads, the fact remains that they’re one of the most effective ways to raise awareness and drive engagement on social media.

But why use them for event promotion?

The reality of event promotion is that, while your core audience might be ready to hear all about your next event, there are plenty of people who won’t.

Is organic traffic still plausible today on social? Yes and no, but here’s the good news.

If you’re using paid ads, you don’t have to worry about that.

You might be paying for exposure, but the benefits that you get are typically worth the price of admission.

Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have some of the easiest ad systems to use, making social media ads a no-brainer when it comes to event promotion.

If you really want to get creative, create ads that encourage people to build UGC.

Heck, you can even tie in a giveaway to make the offer as irresistible as possible.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which of these options you choose. What matters is that you’re using social media ads to maximize your potential for exposure.


Event promotion is no easy feat online.

No matter how expansive your network is, or how experienced your business is, it can be difficult to get people excited about your event.

Fortunately, there are now a variety of tools at your disposal.

Social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn offer you event-specific pages to connect with users.

Other platforms like Snapchat and Instagram are powerful content creation tools that can help drive meaningful engagement.

Whether you choose to use one method or all of them, what matters is that you understand just how effective an online event promotion campaign can be when you’re using the right tools.

What has your experience been like when using social media to promote an event?

Are there any online promotion tools that you’ve experienced success with that aren’t on this list?

How Blogging Can Help Your Online Store Sell

Yes, blogging can help your online store sell much more than you think is possible. Content marketing is the biggest driving force of sales online and if you want a fighting chance to make it, then this guide should be for you.

How Blogging Can Help Your Online Store Sell

The Reason Why You Should Start Blogging For More Sales

Blogging is content, content that gets ranked into search engines, and that ends up in front of the billions of eyeballs that look to Google (and other SE) for information every day.

Now if you’re smart, you would agree that having some more exposure (which by the way comes for free from Google and social media) is beneficial to any business.

Blogging will help you do just that.

How To Promote Your Online Store (With Blogging)

I am in a position to tell you this because at the time of writing this, I do have an online store that sells jewelry and I use blogging to drive traffic directly to the store and also to individual products.

Here’s how you can do that too:

Mention & Link To Your Products

Let’s take for example you have a store that sells “smart home technology”.

With blogging, you can write an (unlimited) amount of content that is related to that niche (topic) and then link to your store from the blog post.

But why is this important?

Because (taking this example), nobody will understand why they need a “smart gadget for home” but if you take the time to explain it in a very detailed, very informative blog post, then people will understand the WHY!

I’m doing this myself with my other online business and the one thing I realized is that individual product listing are very hard to find in the search pages and if you do find them, it’s usually an Amazon product listing with a direct link to buy from them because they have that much authority and trust!

What blogging does is it takes the “selling” out of it and your only job is to provide a good reason why “product x is great” or “why product x is better than product y for situation z”

Do Product Reviews

Continuing on from the last point, I just have to share my biggest tip for making more sales with your online store and that is; product reviews.

Products reviews rank extremely well (which is already a benefit in itself) but don’t forget that the people that are looking for reviews, they typically tend to buy (or are very close to buying), in which case your rock solid review should do trick.

Nobody is researching “best smart-home technology reviews” just to kill some time. Most probably it’s a customer that has the card in their hand ready to make a purchase.

This is a perfect example of how blogging can help your online store sell more products and build it up to be a profitable venture for you.

We can help

Here are a few online store software and service we provided to help grow your sales and marketing. Give them a shot and see what they could do for you.

A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Email Marketing

You’re in their house

People are inundated with interruption, pitches, and advertisements everywhere they look, and though you might think yours is special, there’s a high probability that to the reader, it looks the same as the rest. This is why it’s important to remember where you are, and use your good manners as a result.

Getting into someone’s inbox is like being invited to their home for dinner. If they ask you to take your shoes off, you respectfully do so. It’s the same with email marketing, so before we begin I’d simply like to remind you to be on your best behavior at all times and remember…you’re in their house.

Phase I: Getting Permission

Of course, no email campaign was ever built without getting permission to get started, so first we’ll need to focus on building a sizable email list.

There are many ways you can do this of course. Some prefer to give something away for free while others simply offer a newsletter or product updates.

I can’t tell you which is the right or wrong answer in this case, but I can tell you that it’s important to have a clear purpose when asking for an address. This is where a strong call to action comes into play, and copywriting is super important.

  • What do I get when I give you my email address?
  • Are you going to spam me?
  • How often will you email me?
  • Will I get discounts?
  • Will I get a first crack at your beta?
  • Will you send me relevant offers or more junk?

These are the kinds of things you’ll need to address if you want to be successful in phase 1. Simply posting “enter your email for updates” isn’t going to get anyone excited to do so. Instead, consider sharing specifics:

crutchfield newsletter form

chris email example

Note the Clear and Concise Call to Action in the Examples Above

Take a look at the examples above and you’ll see that the first tells me I’m getting a free catalogue and a series of reviews and special offers, while the 2nd tells me exactly when I’ll receive the newsletter updates. This is a far more specific, and effective, way of doing business.

A quick look at my own practices tells me that the offers I subscribe to most often are for:

  • Email Series’ (i.e. 6 Ways to Change the World)
  • Free Downloads
  • Free White Papers or eBooks
  • Update Lists (New Issue Notifications, Product Updates, New Releases)

Lastly, and Amazon does this really well, your customers make great candidates, so don’t forget to integrate some form of registration or email subscription as part of your purchasing process. Just remember to treat these addresses with special regard, which we’ll talk about in phase 2.

Get Whitelisted

While almost all reputable email service providers work very hard to make sure that your emails are not blocked by major ISP’s, they can’t control whether or not your emails hit the inbox or the spam box. Although most will help you by providing a quality score to help you determine availability, getting whitelisted is the most effective way to ensure that your emails get delivered properly.

Essentially, getting whitelisted is equivalent to being marked as a friend, and the best way to achieve this is by being added to the recipient’s address book. The best way to do this is by providing instructions to do so at the top of each email, especially on the initial thank you and first follow-up email.

Furthermore, here are instructions from some of the more popular online providers:

Phase II: Playing the Numbers Game

Manage Expectations with Follow-Up Efforts

Email marketing is all about expectations, and it’s up to you to set them. If your call to action is strong, and your follow-up is consistent, then you can count on a positive campaign. However, if you promise to send one email per week and instead send them daily, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. On the contrary, if someone is expecting daily updates or critical product updates and you don’t’ deliver, then they are likely to be just as upset in that case too.

hugh macleod email

Because I asked, I expect Hugh MacLeod to email his cartoons daily.

This is why the first follow-up email is so crucial to the success of your email marketing efforts. Almost all email service providers give you the option to create an autoresponder sequence, and it’s imperative that you take advantage of it.

The initial follow-up email should be sent immediately as a way to introduce yourself and detail what you plan on doing with your new subscriber’s email address. It’s better to be long-winded and detailed than it is to be quick and unobtrusive, but if you can pull off quick and concise then more power to you.

From here, it’s simply a matter of living up to their expectations.

When to Pitch

If you’re going to get in the habit of pitching often, try to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Ask yourself if your messaging is consistent with the expectations you’ve set. As I said before, Amazon does this well because they send relevant offers based on my buying habits. Those that send blind offers are far more likely to lose permission to keep doing so.

amazon recommendations

Notice how Amazon recommends products based on my prior buying habits.

Another option to consider is the value you’re providing. While Amazon can provide value in an offer, you might have to provide it with a newsletter or in linking to blog posts or other forms of media content.

Again, each business has different needs, and there aren’t any hard and fast rules as to how often you can pitch or provide content, but remember that an email list is a permission asset and it’s better to err on the side of caution than to play it loose and reckless.

What’s in a Newsletter

sprouter sign up form

The Sprouter Newsletter is a welcome addition to my inbox because they provide value through insights, updates, and new content. Each email is prefaced with an introduction, and includes a list of great posts, local events, and hot startups.

While we’re on the topic of content, let’s talk about the difference between a good newsletter and a bad newsletter.

The first sign that you’ve received a bad newsletter is that you don’t recall ever asking to receive it. Typically, this happens when a business either fails to maintain a regular email routine or uses poor form and manually adds me to their list after receiving a business card or personal email.

I find that the most compelling newsletters are those that do a great job of mixing messaging and updates. For example, while the email might contain a list of product updates and images, it’s balanced by a personal message or friendly update.

As a rule of thumb, try to use your newsletter as a way to further your relationship with the reader/customer rather than to pitch them. Save the pitch for unique updates, offers, and announcements.

Using the Autoresponder

As a marketer myself, one of the issues I run into most often is that I forget to talk to my list until I have something to sell. Obviously, this is not ideal.

This is where an autoresponder can save you, and why I recommend scheduling content to be delivered on a consistent basis over the course of several months.

For example, Copyblogger offers a newsletter titled “Internet Marketing for Smart People,” and it contains a dozen plus great pieces on how to market better as an online entrepreneur. I can’t remember when I signed up, but I do know that I’ve received an occasional email at least once per month over the past 6 months.

The benefit of that is when you do need to announce a new product or sale, you can count on the fact that you’ve already been in touch, having built a relationship over several weeks/months, and are much less likely to annoy your readers. Of course, it’s important to schedule your autoresponder sequence on specific days so that you know when you can afford to send an email. More than one per day and you’re probably mailing too much.

If you find yourself asking “will this email be one too many?” then it’s probably one too many.

Phase III: Segmentation and Analytics


aweber stats example

Notice the detailed daily statistics for open rate on a recent AWeber campaign.

We’ve talked before about the importance of analytics in web copy, and email is no different. Every service provider I’ve ever worked with provides complimentary analytics.

Though they’re all important, the 3 most important to me are open rate, click through rate (CTR), and unsubscribes.

Your open rate will tell you how well you’ve built your relationship; if the number is low, it means that people have started to delete upon receipt, which means you need to work harder on providing value and/or managing expectations.

If your CTR is low, it means that your message is either not targeted enough, or simply not getting through. In this case, focus on improving your copy.

If your unsubscription rate is high in relation to your opt-in rate, then you’ve passed the point of building value and writing good copy…you’ve got some serious work to do. If this is you, try to examine when people are leaving and take action based on those leaks.

If they’re leaving after a certain autoresponder email, then re-work it. If they’re leaving after marketing messages, then re-work the way you present offers. If they’re leaving early on in your funnel, then you need to fix your original call to action so that it’s in harmony with what you’re sending.

Email analytics are critical in that if you’re paying attention, they’ll give you very specific clues as to what you’re doing wrong. Of course the key variable here is “paying attention.”


If you’re unfamiliar with the term, segmentation is the practice of splitting up your email list into more targeted groups.

For example, the following are ways to segment a larger, more unified list:

  • Customer List (in comparison to leads)
  • Product Updates (in comparison to a customer list)
  • Newsletter
  • Daily Email List (in comparison to weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc)
  • HTML (yes, some people prefer the option for text)

In dividing your list in this manner, you give yourself the ability to send more targeted communication. Some customers want both product and sales updates, while others might only want to hear about new versions. If you don’t give them the chance to choose, you risk losing them all-together. Since customers make the best buyers, it’s fairly obvious why you want to keep them subscribed to your customer email list.

With segmentation, you can send a broadcast only to those that didn’t open your last message (ask them why), or to those that showed interest (a 2nd pitch). You can also split test messaging amongst different groups in order to refine your best practices.

As you can see, segmentation isn’t rocket science, but it is work, which is why most don’t take the time to do it right. If you do, you’ll immediately separate yourself from the pack.

The Value of Your List

In the future, we’ll talk about more advanced techniques, such as measuring the cost of lead acquisition, but for now know this: your email list is one of your most valuable resources, and if you learn how to treat it right, the cost of doing so will pay for itself.

If you can imagine that each person on your list is worth a set value, say $5, then you can understand immediately how losing several hundred could be dangerous to your bottom line.

What do you think? How has email marketing served you best? What practices help you to keep your numbers growing and your readers engaged? Share in the comments.

We can help

Here are a few online store software and service we provided to help grow your sales and marketing. Give them a shot and see what they could do for you.

Using Social Media to Promote Your Online Store

What’s in it for you?

Connecting social media with your ecommerce presence allows even the smallest shop to tap into an enormous—and still growing—potential customer base. With more than 400+ million users on Facebook alone, this single network now boasts more traffic per week than Google in the U.S. The real value in Facebook and other social networks is in their exponentially powerful word of mouth marketing. Believe it or not, 75% of consumers trust peer recommendations of products and services, while less than 15% trust paid advertising. This means you can have a much more honest dialogue with your customers through social media.

Direct Product Marketing

The easiest way to get started in with social media integration for your e- commerce business is with direct promotion of products, services, special offers and events distributed through a Facebook Fan Page or Twitter. By sharing news about new products, special offers for Facebook or Twitter followers and even exclusive events, you can build a loyal and engaged following that will want to share their “secret” find with their friends. Contests, giveaways and special promotions designed to encourage fans to spread the message can help to grow your network and customer base. For example, create a contest whereby the 100th follower to Re-Tweet your “deal of the day” receives a special discount or gift certificate., an online jewelry boutique that uses Shopify for their online store, has incorporated word-of- mouth marketing into their Facebook page by offering an incentive for the customer to tell friends about the store. By inviting 20 friends to become a fan on Facebook, follow on Twitter and join the mailing list, the customer is entered into a sweepstakes to win a $300 gift certificate. The message about Charm and Chain is spread exponentially.

Brand Building with Indirect Marketing

Besides direct promotion of products and services, social media provides an easy and effective way to build brand leadership and trust among your customers and fans. Blogs are an excellent way to weave a bit more of your shop’s personality and expertise into the sales conversation without a direct sales push. Blogging about new products and events is important but by also sharing your knowledge, tips and thoughts on industry news, product trends and other “big picture” aspects of the business, customers will be more inclined to turn to you for their purchases based on this established trust factor. Active participation in community forums is another powerful way to maintain engagement with customers beyond the sales transaction. Answering questions, providing feedback and serving as an information resource in your own or other public forums positions you as an expert in your industry, someone your customers can trust and a company they can turn to in order to meet their needs. Finally, don’t forget to integrate these efforts with Facebook and Twitter. By sharing a link to a new blog post over Facebook or Twitter, for example, you can reach your audience in multiple ways thereby making it easier to keep up to date on your news.

Integration Tools Make it Easy

While integrating social media with your ecommerce presence may be free, it may still come at a price: your valuable time. Maintaining multiple online presences, pages and feeds can be extremely time consuming. Fortunately, with the right ecommerce platform, you can easily integrate—and automate—these efforts to save time. First, build a Twitter applet, Facebook “Like” button andd a blog feed directly into your storefront to make customers aware of your social presence and make it easy for them to find you. Second, choose an ecommerce platform provider with social media integration tools that automate the distribution process. This way, when you add a new product, launch a promotion, post a new blog article or have any other bit of news to share, the message is distributed instantly and automatically across all the social networks you’ve established. With just a single point of contact to spread the message across multiple platforms, you can dramatically reduce the amount of time you invest in social media management to improve efficiency without sacrificing valuable customer engagement. While it may seem overwhelming to step into the social media fray, the opportunity for growth by leveraging this evolving medium simply cannot be ignored. With easy-to-use integration tools at your disposal, building a social media presence can not only easily generate an impressive return on investment, but it can also be a fun and energizing way to interact with your customers and learn more about what makes them tick—which can pay further dividends long down the road.

We can help

Here are a few online store software and service we provided to help grow your sales and marketing. Give them a shot and see what they could do for you.

20 Ways to Get Word of Mouth Marketing for Your Business

Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is an effective and inexpensive way to bring in business. Getting a recommendation about your business from a friend or acquaintance can be the confidence booster potential customers need. Here are 20 ways to generate great word of mouth for your small business.

Word of mouth marketing has always been an important tool for businesses. It drives sales because buyers want to be sure they are making the right choice when they make a purchase. Hearing other people say good things about a product or service helps build a buyer’s confidence that their purchase won’t be a mistake.

Small businesses often think of word of mouth marketing as free advertising. But word of mouth is so powerful that big businesses pour millions of dollars into advertising campaigns to make consumers think everyone has a great experience when they purchase their products. Think about the Burlington Coat Factory ads, for instance, where consumers brag about how much money they saved on clothes by shopping at Burlington. Then there are the DSW Shoe commercials where one woman runs up to another and asks in awe, “Where did you get those shoes? ”The answer is the company’s slogan – “DSW – It’s where you get those shoes.” The implication: DSW is the place to go for shoes that will make you a standout.

Small businesses don’t have that kind of money to spend. Nevertheless, savvy small business owners have learned to generate great word of mouth reputations on tiny budgets. How do they do it? How do they get customers to not only appreciate them, but promote them to other people as well?

Here are 20 free and low-cost tactics you can adopt to drive word of mouth marketing for your small business.

  1. Provide top-notch products and services. Customers will only extol your virtues if they are happy with what they’ve bought. What you sell and how you sell it, should live up to or exceed what your customers expect based on your ads, sales pitch, and industry standards. Remember, word of mouth works two ways. If customers are unhappy with your company, they will complain loudly and publicly about their bad experience.
  2. Provide excellent customer service. The secret here: treat your customers and prospects the way you’d like to be treated yourself. A few basics: Smile at customers when you talk to them. Be polite. Answer their questions. Don’t keep them waiting unnecessarily. Whenever possible have a real person answer the phone. If you must send callers to voice mail, have something in your voice mail announcement that lets them know how soon you will return their call. Then, return their call within the stated time frame. If you provide a service, get the customers’ projects done on time and within their budget. Keep them informed about changes, delays, or other information they’d want to know.
  3. Be friendly. If you have customers you come into your store or restaurant regularly, take a minute to smile and say “Hi” and ask how they’re doing today. If you know a customer’s name, call them by name. Friendly hellos and a few seconds of small talk make most people feel welcome and like they’re dealing with a friend. If you have customers call you, do the same thing, if possible.
  4. Answer questions that prospects have with facts, not jargon, and if you sell something technical, don’t talk down to the customer or get annoyed if they have trouble understanding what you are saying. Rephrase your answer so the customer does understand it. If there’s some industry news or product information that will be helpful to customers, pass it along to them.
  5. Thank your customers for their business. Everyone likes to be appreciated, and customers are no exception. While you may have the words printed on receipts or included in email confirmations of sales, or you or your staff may say “Thanks” in person, doing something such as sending a handwritten thank you card to new customers or a returning customer will set you apart as a business who cares about their customers and is worth recommending.
  6. Return calls as promptly after you’ve made the sale as you did before. If there’s going to be a delay in delivering a product or service, let the customer know about the delay as soon as you become aware of it, and let them know why there’s a delay and what options they have.
  7. If a customer calls with a complaint about your product or service, don’t argue with them or point fingers. Apologize (even if you think the customer may be wrong) and solve their problem or offer a refund. By handling problems quickly and efficiently, you and your employees can turn angry customers into fans and advocates.
  8. Be sure you and your employees are always polite no matter how rude or angry a customer may be. Never raise your voice, be sarcastic, or speak in a demeaning way to customers.
  9. Keep in touch with customers and prospects by email. Using email to communicate regularly with customers and prospects who have requested to be on your mailing list helps them remember you and brings repeat business. If you’re regularly providing interesting information, coupons, or other material customers want, they’ll brag to their friends who have similar interests about the benefits they’ve derived.
  10. Be personally visible to your market. Join networking groups and industry groups that your customers join and be a regular attendee at meetings and events. Talk to people at meetings to find out what they do and what’s important to them and what challenges they face. When you can, give them tips or point them to resources they need, even though it has nothing to do with your business. Your goal is to be thought of as a friend and problem-solver – not just a salesperson.
  11. Be Active in Social Media. Set up Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Linked In pages for your business. Consider Pinterest and SlideShare, too. Choose the social media channels that are most likely to reach your target customers. Then encourage your customers to like them, follow them and share what you post on them. Run contests and special promotions to encourage shares. A social media “share” spreads the word of mouth about your company to all the people who follow and like the customers who share your information. Test paid ads or promoted post options on Facebook, too.
  12. Add social share buttons to your website and email messages. The easier you make it for customers and prospects to share your information and promotions, the more likely it is they will do so.
  13. Offer to be a speaker or give seminars at conferences, industry meetings, and libraries. Be sure your talk delivers plenty of useful content. Delivering useful, factual information and problem-solving tips about issues common to the audience will set you up as an expert and the go-to person to solve the problems you talked about.
  14. When people praise you, ask if you can use their comments on your website and/or promotional material. The comments are testimonials you can use to help prospects “hear” good things about your company.
  15. Publicize any publicity you get. If a reporter quotes you, you win an award, you are a guest on a talk show, let other people know about it. You can post newspaper clips on a store bulletin board, link to them from your website, and mention the accomplishments in a newsletter. Knowing other people are talking about you, will give your customers even more incentive to tell their friends about you.
  16. Be involved in your community. Whether it’s sponsoring a little league team, or an organization event, your participation will help you and your business name be remembered.
  17. Make your business name and phone number easy to find. Have it painted in big letters on vehicles you use to service consumers or businesses so anyone who can see your vehicle knows how to reach you. Leave several business cards with customers so they can hand them out when a neighbor asks if they were happy with the job you did… and how to get in touch with you. Make your business phone number visible on every page of your website.
  18. Hone your networking skills. Join and become active in local business, community, or industry groups that attract your targeted customers. Win respect (and business) by helping others in the group achieve their goals.
  19. Refer business to noncompeting businesses. When you refer customers, patients or clients to others, those businesses are more likely to refer business to you.
  20. Thank people who refer business to you. How you thank them will depend on the nature of your business. The thanks may be in the form of a hand-written thank you card, a coupon, a cash reward, or whatever is practical, expected, and ethical for your line of business. Thanking those who help you will make them feel their efforts are appreciated, which will make them be glad to recommend you to more people.

We can help

Here are a few online store software and service we provided to help grow your sales and marketing. Give them a shot and see what they could do for you.

Promote Your New Online Store

To make the battle easier to win, below are 5 sure-fire ways to make your new online store first sale, and then some.

Word of mouth

Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is an effective and inexpensive way to bring in business. Getting a recommendation about your business from a friend or acquaintance can be the confidence booster potential customers need. It drives sales because buyers want to be sure they are making the right choice when they make a purchase. Hearing other people saying good things about a product or service helps build a buyer’s confidence that their purchase won’t be a mistake. Here are 20 ways to generate great word of mouth for your small business.

Social Media

The social media revolution has made it possible for business of all sizes to reach an infinitely expanding audience. With the right integration tools, it’s simple and easy to automate your social media activities directly with an ecommerce storefront and eliminate the intimidating time commitment that can accompany the move to a social marketing program. Click here to see some great examples of how to use social media to promote your business.

E-Marketing “You’ve got mail.”

Do you remember hearing that? It’s one of those legendary pieces of Internet history formed when the road was still being paved and we were foraging our way through the wilderness of what was the original World Wide Web.

Although times have changed and AOL no longer sends CD’s in the mail, we can still thank them for introducing us to email and our addiction to it.

These days, we’ve replaced that message with Tweets, likes, and status updates, but that doesn’t mean that our affinity for email is any less. In fact, because of the noise that is social media, one could argue that the inbox has become our virtual dojo, our place of solitude amongst the chaos.

This is why, as an entrepreneur, I believe that building successful email marketing campaigns has never been more important than it is now. But there’s a problem; most people don’t know how to do it right. So in the interest of furthering best practices and helping you succeed as a business owner, let’s get back to the basics and talk about how a great email campaign is built, from the ground up. Learn more about how to create a successful emarkerting strategy with our Beginner’s Guide to Successful Email Marketing


If you have a store online that sells products of any kind (digital or physical) then I would highly suggest you start thinking about some form of content marketing (blogging) campaign to help build up your business to new heights. Here are some helpful ways that how blogging can help promote your online store


How you choose to promote an event can have a direct impact on how successful that event is. That’s why I put together this guide to event promotion. Armed with this, your online promotion efforts are going to help drive meaningful engagement and, ideally, increase attendance.

We can help

Here are a few online store software and service we provided to help grow your sales and marketing. Give them a shot and see what they could do for you.