You already know that content marketing is widely considered to be essential for your business. Maybe you’ve already got a blog that gets some organic traffic.

What’s next?

The sad truth is that most local businesses aren’t blogging about the right things in the right way. As a result, they’re losing business that’s going to their competitors.

If your blog is getting minimal traffic, you might be tempted not to post often or even to write it off entirely. That’s a mistake. Instead, keep reading to learn about the types of content that will help attract more qualified visitors to your site and help you grow your business.

What Does the Buyer’s Journey Have to Do with Your Blog? 

I see a lot of local business who think that all blog topics are created equal. I cringe when I see post after post about internal company business or news that doesn’t tie into defined business goals. It’s a waste of valuable real estate on your website.

One of the best ways to use your blog to attract more qualified leads is to focus on topics that are relevant to your ideal customer and their journey toward buying your product or hiring you to perform a service.

A good way to start is to make a list of questions that people frequently ask about your products or services. Those can serve as the jumping off point for blog posts.

There are a few mistakes you should avoid with this type of content.

  • Avoid topics that won’t move customers through your sales funnel.
  • Avoid topics that are too competitive. You want to be able to rank and as a local business, you’re probably not going to outrank The Atlantic or Huffington Post. You can use a tool like Ahrefs to figure it out.
  • Avoid topics with search volume that’s too low.

You best bet is to focus on long-tail keywords and questions. Remember that voice searches are more popular than ever, and most people ask questions when they do a query with Cortana or Siri.

To make the point, let’s look at an example. If the owner of a fashion boutique were looking for blog topics, she might want to write about clothes. Her inventory is mostly casual clothing and ranges from designer jeans to office casual. She won’t be speaking to her buyers’ journey if she writes about:

  • Which clothing is suitable for a formal wedding?
  • Kids’ clothing for back to school

Likewise, she’s not going to be able to compete with articles about how to choose the right pair of jeans from sites such as Stitch Fix. And finally, she’s unlikely to get a ton of traffic if she chooses an obscure topic about buttons.

The goal with this type of content is to find a sweet spot that helps people find your website AND provides them with information that moves them toward a purchase.

Linkable Content and Traffic

Your second option is to choose blog topics that are likely to attract backlinks over time. This type of content usually falls into one of two categories:

  1. It provides actionable information that solves a problem; or
  2. It contains data that will be useful to other people.

In the former category, we might be looking at a post that explains how to restore and care for cast iron pans. That would be ideal for a kitchen supply store or possibly a cooking school. In the latter category, it might be a wedding expense infographic that helps people allocate their budgets properly, a topic that would be useful for a wedding planner or bridal boutique.

Because you want the content to be linkable and stay linkable, your best bet is to choose evergreen content. Evergreen content is content that remains useful over time. The alternative with a data-driven blog post is to commit to updating it regularly as needed to keep it relevant.

Tips for Finding Blog Topics

Thinking of blog topics can take time, so let’s finish with a few tips to help you decide which topics will help you attract new visitors to your blog.

  1. Have a goal in mind. Each blog post you write should be written with a goal in mind, whether it’s attracting more leads or getting backlinks.
  2. Mine your Frequently Asked Questions for blog topics. Look specifically at questions where you’ve provided a short answer to a question that could be fleshed out into a blog post. An example might be a question about how to use a product.
  3. Use Google AutoComplete to find topics. When you type a keyword into Google, you’ll see a list of potential searches. These can be excellent ideas for blog topics.
  4. Look at Google’s “People Also Ask” and “Searches Related To” sections on the results page. When you type in a question or keyword, Google will usually list 3 questions that people also ask about the topic you’re searching. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you’ll see a box with related searches. Both offer potential blog topics for you to consider.
  5. Use online tools to find topics. BuzzSumo is a good tool to learn what posts are trending and can offer ideas for popular questions and topics. Ahrefs’ tool can help you see which topics are ranking and which have a lot of searches.
  6. Pay attention to the content format. There are some topics that simply won’t lend themselves to blog content. If the listings you see on a search results page are mostly directory listings, remember that you’ll need to outrank them to see any real SEO benefit. Choose a topic that will work as a blog post for the best results.

I suggest making a list of potential topics and creating a schedule. Make sure that you cover each topic thoroughly and break your post up with images and subheadings. If you can use related questions and long-tail keywords as headings, you’ll be likely to attract traffic for multiple searches.

Marketing your local business can seem like a full-time job. Most business owners can’t afford to have a marketing department which means that you’re adding marketing to all your other responsibilities.

Since there are only so many hours in a day, it’s essential to have a few tricks up your sleeve: things that can help you fine-tune your marketing and get the most bang for your buck. Here are some marketing hacks to help you focus your attention and reap the rewards.

Pay Attention to Your Data

When was the last time you looked at your data on Google Analytics? If it’s been a while – and if it has, you’re not alone – then it’s time to take corrective action.

The truth is that your analytics provide a wealth of information that can help you improve your marketing and grow your business. For example, do you know which page on your website has the highest bounce rate? Can you pinpoint which blog posts are getting the most traffic?

Review your data and take notes. The best marketing decisions are data-driven. Then, I suggest setting aside some time – even 30 minutes a week can be helpful – to stay on top of your analytics and put them to use.

Ask Your Customers for Feedback

Customer feedback is essential for every business. You need to know what your customers think to figure out which marketing tactics will have the biggest impact.

There are several ways you can reach out to your customers. They include:

  • Email
  • Text messages
  • Social media posts
  • Surveys

I love client surveys because they provide an easy way to collect data. The key is to keep the survey brief and focused – and make it easy for your customers to respond.

Get Your Customers Involved in Your Marketing

You already know that reviews and testimonials can make a big difference for your business. You should be asking for reviews regularly – something you can do:

  • At the point of sale
  • In email
  • In a text message
  • On social media
  • Via a chatbot

You should also be approaching your most loyal and most satisfied customers to ask for a testimonial. Testimonials are generally longer and go into more depth than reviews. While written testimonials can be helpful, your best bet is to ask for and record video testimonials. Videos get a lot of engagement both on websites and on social media.

Embrace Video Marketing

Are you one of the small business owners who has shied away from video marketing because you think it’s too technical or too expensive for your budget? If so, it’s time to shed those (dated) beliefs and embrace video marketing for the powerhouse it is.

Video content can help you:

  • Increase your open rate for marketing emails
  • Get huge engagement numbers on social media
  • Earn a high return on your investment

You can post videos on your website or blog. You may also want to link to them in social media posts, emails, and text messages.

Keep in mind that video content doesn’t have to be expensive to produce. You can create Facebook Live videos from your computer or phone. Consumers don’t expect a high-gloss finish on live videos. Just make sure you have good lighting and a good microphone and do what you can to minimize background noise.

Market to Mobile Customers

When people look for local businesses like yours, they’re far more likely to search using a mobile device than they are a computer. That means that you should have a mobile-adaptive site and marketing that specifically targets mobile customers.

Some of the most effective mobile marketing techniques to try are:

  • SMS messaging (text messages)
  • Call-only ads
  • One-click calling on social media
  • In-app advertising

You may also want to think about beacon marketing, which allows businesses to use Bluetooth technology to ping customers when they’re near the business or store. Local customers want convenience and you can use mobile marketing to provide it.

Monitor Your Competitors

Has it been a while since you’ve peeked at what your competitors are doing online? If the answer is yes, then you’re missing out on a great opportunity to find gaps in their marketing or borrow their ideas for your own business.

Set aside some time to cruise your competitor’s websites and social media pages. You should be looking for:

  • The keywords they’re targeting
  • The audience they want to attract
  • The places where their marketing falls short
  • The content that gets the most engagement, e.g. blog comments or social media shares
  • The tactics they’re using to engage visitors to their site

It’s important to pay attention both to what works and what doesn’t work. You may have a close competitor whose website isn’t properly optimized for a local keyword or is missing out on connecting with their audience. You can capitalize on their shortcomings to fine-tune your own marketing.

Diversify Your Marketing

When I talk to small business owners, one of the most common mistakes I identify is that they’re not diversifying their marketing. Many have a few tried and true techniques that they use and they’re not in the habit of testing new things.

I’m not saying you should abandon the things that you know are working for you. However, it’s a mistake to rest on your laurels and assume those tactics will work forever. They may not. Marketing is a constantly evolving field and the businesses that do the best at it are those that remain agile and open to new possibilities.

What I suggest is carving out some money from your marketing budget to experiment. You don’t need to spend a fortune. With a small investment, you can play around with your ad targeting or test out some new content formats to see how your audience reacts.

The bottom line – and the thing I hope you’ll take away from these suggestions – is that you don’t need to spend a ton of time or money to get the most out of your marketing. Keep an open mind, try new things, and use what’s available to you. The profits will follow.

What do you do when business is slow, and profits are down?

If you think that the answer is “stop marketing,” then it’s time to think again. While it’s true that marketing might seem to be less essential than other areas of business, the truth is that a solid marketing plan could spell the difference between success and failure.

Not convinced? It turns out there’s research to support the idea that marketing is critical during a recession. A Harvard Business Review study looked at the performance of 4,500 businesses during recession. It found that the companies with the most forward-thinking attitudes – in other words, those that didn’t engage in drastic cutting of their marketing budgets – performed the best both during the recession and in the long term.

This evidence doesn’t mean you should go on a spending spree, buying ads left and right. What it does mean is that smart marketing should be your focus. Here are some tips for marketing on a budget.

Audit Your Existing Content

One of the best ways to market on a budget is to make use of what you already have. Existing content can be updated or repurposed. Here are some tips:

  • Review your blog posts, videos, graphics and photos to see what may be relevant to your current marketing plan.
  • Make note of content that would need updating to be used again.
  • Don’t forget to review your social media posts to find content that can be used again.
  • Other assets to consider include emails, lead magnets, eBooks, white papers, case studies, infographics, and web pages.

You may want to set up a spreadsheet to keep track of everything. You can use it to indicate different potential uses for content, too.

Brainstorm New Ways to Use Old Content

Once you’ve completed your inventory, it’s time to think about what you can do to repurpose your old content and make it relevant to your audience in the here and now.
For example, you might be able to take an old blog post and revamp it as an infographic; or turn an eBook into a webinar.

Keep in mind that you may need to do some work to make the content reusable. A blog post that uses statistics from three years ago will need updating before it can be turned into a chart or infographic. You don’t want to have outdated data.

Connect with Your Customers

It can be tricky to determine what kind of content would be useful to your audience in the new reality we’re all experiencing. You might not be able to spend a ton of money on customer research. That said, there’s no reason you can’t reach out to your audience and ask for their input.

One of my favorite ways to conduct audience research is by creating a survey and sending it out to my email list. Surveys should be short – no more than 5-10 questions at most. Make sure it’s easy to complete.

Another option is to create a poll or post a question on social media. On Facebook, you can actually create a poll and post it as a status update. For other sites, such as Instagram and Twitter, you may want to pose a question and ask the people who respond to use a hashtag you create for that purpose.

Any information you collect can be used to inform your new marketing strategy. Your focus should be on learning what kind of content your audience wants to see, where they want to see it, and what products and services they’ll find most useful during the pandemic.

Focus on Local SEO

You’re probably sick of hearing me talk about local SEO, so I’ll keep this section brief. Local SEO is your best bet for pandemic marketing on a budget.

Let’s talk about why. First, consumers are eager to support local businesses in this time of need. They need to know who you are to support you and local SEO is the best way to reach them.

Second, local businesses can avail themselves of options that national businesses can’t. For example, you can deliver or offer curbside pick-up services. Those things are convenient to customers and can help you attract new business.

Finally, local SEO is, by definition, highly targeted. It lends itself to marketing on a budget because you’ll spend less to reach people in your local audience.

Enough said.

Collect Reviews and Testimonials

Online reviews have never been more important than they are now. I’ve already quoted the statistics for you in past articles, but here’s why you should be focusing on them now.

As noted above, customers are actively looking for local businesses to support. They’ll be more likely to take a chance on you if you have recent reviews on sites like Yelp and Google My Business.

It’s also worth noting that reviews are free, which means they’re an inexpensive way to attract new business.

My suggestion is to decide how and when to ask customers for reviews and be consistent about it. For example, you might send them an email asking for a review a day or two after they order from you (or within a few days of delivery, if applicable.)

Then, monitor your reviews and respond to all of them, positive and negative. Consumers want to reward businesses that engage with their customers.

Create a Digital To-Do List

So far, I’ve focused on short-term strategy; now, let’s talk about something you can do that will help you out in the long term. I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of things in the marketing arena that you’ve been wanting to do. They might include:

  • Updating your website
  • Creating an online store
  • Segmenting your email list
  • Standardizing your social media profiles
  • Fixing broken links
  • Testing ads and content

Guess what? This is the perfect time to tackle some of these projects. Not only will they give you a focus during a time that might otherwise be stressful, they’ll also set you up for success in the future. You can do many of these things without spending a ton of money.

Nobody’s a fan of this pandemic, but if you handle your marketing properly now, your business will survive the storm. You may even find that you come out of this time more successful and profitable than ever!

In the past two months, business owners and employees have had to adapt to working remotely. The probability is high that even after we have a vaccine, there will be a paradigm shift. More of us are going to be working from home, and that means we’ll all need to have tools to help us manage our assets, collaborate, and connect with one another.
With that in mind, here are some of the best tools available for working remotely, now and in the future.

Asset Management Tools

A lot of companies have moved to cloud-based backup systems, but some haven’t. If you need a way to manage your data and assets online, so everybody can access what they need, here are some suggestions.

  • Google Drive is a free tool accessible to anybody with a Google account. While it updates frequently, and that can be frustrating, it’s easy to use and allows you to work on documents with colleagues. It also tracks changes.
  • Dropbox is a tool with free and paid options where you can have employees and freelancers put documents for you to access. It’s easy to set up folders to organize your content.
  • Canva is one a tool that’s intuitive and easy to use for creative content. They have a free option, but the premium account is ideal for business content and collaboration, even for people who don’t have any design experience.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud is one of my favorite tools to create and collaborate on visual content. You can add team members as needed and give them editing privileges.
    If you’ve been reluctant to embrace cloud technology for file sharing and asset management, now is the time to embrace it.

Time Tracking Tools

If you bill clients hourly – or pay employees hourly – then you need a way to track time spent on projects. Here are three tools to try:

  • Harvest is a simple tool that allows you to create projects or to-do list and track the time spent on each item. It’s best suited for tracking personal time, but not the best tool for managing employee productivity.
  • iDoneThis is a tool that tracks team progress on projects. If you have multiple employees working on the same project – and you want to avoid duplication of effort – this is a useful tool to have on hand. It will send everyone on your team a digest to recap what everybody did.
  • Time Doctor allows you to create projects and track time spent on them using a clock. It’s ideal if you need to manage employees or freelancers.
    Tracking employees’ time helps to keep people accountable when they work from home.

Virtual Meeting Tools

Virtual meetings are everywhere these days, and I’m willing to bet you’ve already tried some of the tools I’ll cover in this section. Keep in mind that some of these may be useful for keeping in touch with friends and family as well as for business meetings.

  • Skype is the original video calling tool. It’s not the most sophisticated tool on this list, but it’s suitable for one-on-one calls with colleagues or collaborators. There’s a chat feature where you can put links and other information.
  • Zoom is the video conferencing app that’s received the most attention. It’s useful for large group meetings. In addition to real-time conversations, you can share screens and record meetings for later viewing.
  • GoToMeeting is ideal for speaker meetings where you want people to be able to dial in and listen to a speaker or host. You can also record meetings to share later.
  • Google Hangouts are a free and convenient meeting option, especially if you’re already using Google Calendar or Google Docs.
  • Join.me is a great app for screen sharing meetings. You can also use it to create a dedicated meeting room for people to visit when they need to meet with you.

Keep in mind that Zoom’s free option limits meetings to just 40 minutes, but their paid plans start at just $14.99 per month. That will get you meetings up to 24 hours with up to 100 participants.

Remote Login Tools

Depending on your situation, you or a member of your team may need to log in to a computer in your office while you’re at home. Here are some tools that can help you.

  • Remote PC allows you to access computers and create teams to allow for easy collaboration with your employers or freelancers.
  • TeamViewer has a free option for personal use and a business option where you can allow multiple users to log in remotely.
  • LogMeIn offers a free trial and account options for business owners and IT professionals who may need to log in remotely to fix computer issues.

Keep in mind that for any of these tools to work, the computer being accessed must be turned on.

Project Management Tools

Even small businesses may have ongoing projects where multiple employees must collaborate to complete their work. Here are some of the best project management tools to try.

  • Asana allows you to create projects and tasks, assign them to employees, upload files, and communicate via live chat.
  • Trello gives you an easy-to-use dashboard where you can track projects, mark them as urgent, and even color-code them to make it easy for collaborators to see what they need to do.
  • Basecamp has calendar management and project management tools on a convenient dashboard. You can grant access to employees and freelancers for easy communication.
  • Microsoft Office Teams allows you to download Microsoft tools such as Word and Excel onto your computer and collaborate with employees.
  • G Suite is a Google-created tool that allows teams to collaborate and manage products using Google Docs and Google Slides, as well as creating and working from a shared calendar.

The likelihood is strong that working remotely will be the norm in the future. It’s going to be essential for business owners and employees to have the best tools to help them keep track of their assets and collaborate with one another. The tools on this list are some of my favorites.

There’s no question that we are living in a surreal and scary time. The COVID-19 virus went from being a distant headline to an overwhelming reality. Cases in the United States and around the world are increasing exponentially and in a short time, we’ve gone from business as usual to most of the world’s population sheltering in their homes.

For business owners, the element of uncertainty looms large. Governments are advising non-essential businesses to close to protect employees and the public. If your business is going to survive, it will be because you find a way to keep your products and services relevant to the people in your target audience.

The answer for most businesses is going to require creative thinking. Here are some tips to help you find your relevance and maintain your audience during the global crisis.

Start with Your Customers 

In a time of uncertainty, it’s always a good idea to let your customers lead the way. Ask yourself what your customers need from you right now – and what they’ll need from you a month from now. Better yet: ask your customers what they need.

While there’s certainly a lot of stress involved in running a business during a pandemic, it’s important to remember that we have resources that are still available to us even if our offices and stores are closed. We have technology to help us keep in touch with our audiences. That’s not a small thing.

Your customers may need you to deliver services in a new way. They may need your services or products to adapt to their current situation. You won’t know unless you ask.

Embrace Creativity to Retain Your Customers

Once you know what your audience wants, it’s time to figure out how to adapt your business to provide it. The answer may be an obvious one. For example, many restaurants have transformed into takeout and delivery services. Diners may not be able to come in and sit down, but people still want to support their favorite eateries.

Here are some other suggestions that may inspire you:

  • Fitness trainers can do Skype or streaming classes. A great example comes from the martial arts community, where schools have been agile at switching to virtual classrooms to keep their students engaged.
  • Consultants, including personal coaches, lawyers, and financial consultants, can offer Skype or Zoom sessions in lieu of face-to-face sessions.
  • Some businesses (think electricians and plumbers) may be able to keep working with proper protective gear, including masks and gloves.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to figure everything out on your own. There’s help available.

Prioritize Safety

No business will survive the current crisis that doesn’t take the situation seriously. This is not a time to take the pandemic lightly or act as if the safety of your employees and customers doesn’t matter. People are being hit hard by an ever-worsening reality and they won’t thank any business that’s dismissive of their fears.

Some of the things you can do to show you care and that you take your customers’  health and safety serious include:

  • Posting a statement on your website and on social media outlining the precautions you are taking to minimize the risk. Here’s a good example from Target. You’ll notice that they’ve talked about what they’re doing to help employees, new cleaning procedures for their stores, precautions for product pick-ups and deliveries, and their community efforts to help people impacted by the pandemic.
  • Offering deals on your products or services that are specifically helpful to people at this time. That means being creative and being mindful of the needs of the people you serve.
  • Avoiding anything that seems opportunistic. Of course ,you are worried about the survival of your business, but showing empathy to the very real concerns of your audience won’t help you survive.
  • If you have clients or customers that owe you money, work with them to create payment plans if they ask you to. It’s natural to be concerned about cash flow but pushing people who are worrying about their own financial futures won’t make them pay you more quickly. In fact, it may make them avoid you. Be compassionate and you’re more likely to get paid.

In other words, you should market and advertise, but it’s essential to do it in a way that’s mindful of the current circumstances and shows your audience that you care.

Embrace the Uncertainty

Uncertainty can be difficult to cope with, but the truth is that none of us knows what tomorrow will bring – or next month, or the month after that. Despite hopes that social distancing would be a temporary measure, the rising number of cases suggests that we’ll be battling this virus and its devastation for a long time.

One difficult decision that’s on the horizon for some businesses is the need to lay off employees. If you can’t meet your payroll, then it’s best to lay people off now and file a claim with your local department of labor or unemployment office. When you file as the employer, you’ll be smoothing the way for your laid off employees to collect unemployment benefits.

The businesses that will survive this crisis are the ones who manage to maintain their agility in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. As a business owner, you’ll need to lead your employees in a way you never have before, providing steady guidance and reassurance even if you’re filled with doubt.

Take Help If You Need It 

Finally, and this is important, don’t hesitate to take help from any source that will provide it if you need to do so. I’ll go into greater detail about the help that’s available in another article, but you should be aware that the Small Business Association is providing disaster loan assistance to qualifying companies. You can learn more here.

Old CTG website

Rolled out in 2009

You may have heard the old phrase that describes how a busy cobbler or shoemaker is always too busy working on his customers’ shoes that his children are barefoot.  Well that’s the way it’s been around here for the past few years.  A website should be a living thing with additions and changes happening periodically then a totally new look every few years.  So we know we’ve been “dragging our feet” on getting our own site refreshed since it was first rolled out in 2009 (Yikes!).

So we’ve finally gotten to this long overdue project and have moved forward with our new site as you’ve found obviously.  We can now look as good as our clients, update and add content much faster and enjoy lots of options that are available using WordPress and related technology as we’ve been doing for our website clients for the past 5 years.

It’s a great feeling to be current, fresh and have lots of ways to tell you how we can help your business!  Please leave a comment on the new website and let us know if we can get some “shoes” for your business.