Self Employed Web

ASK the Expert: Marketing your Company

Posted on Monday, October 14th, 2013 by

Whether your company has been around 10 years or 10 minutes, marketing it to customers can be tricky. We asked marketing consultants Marcia Chithelen and Ellen Turbeville to answer a few of your questions.

Untangling the Web
Q. My company sells customized greeting cards online. How can I convert more Web site visitors into buyers? Also, how do I improve our company’s rankings on search engines?
Jim King
Custom Creations Unlimited
Wheaton, Ill.

A. Test your site. Get people who haven’t seen the site to take it through a test drive as you watch. Have them comment on what confuses them and how they interpret the way your links are listed. This is a good way to see where you might be finding “breakage” —places where visitors get confused or disenchanted and fail to become buyers. If you have a product you want to show off, provide pictures. Also, simplify your site. Don’t make visitors guess what is behind a link—make your words specific (“Buy Here,” “Contact Us”), and give them the opportunity to complete the buying process quickly. Finally, don’t assume that customers know everything. The words for your links have to be specific—don’t get cute (e.g., “Sample Holiday Cards” instead of “Yule Tools”).

Regarding the search-engine challenge, try a free site that offers tremendous advice on the ins and outs of search-engine listing and increasing your hit rates: www.searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/tips.html.

The second option is to pay for placement. You’ll pay “per click,” which means you’ll pay for the number of searchers who end up clicking on your URL from the results list. The more you pay, the higher your placement will be. Your ranking also is based on your bidding price and the number of bids received. Check out Overture.com, a network service that will take your bid and place your link in results across several search engines, including Yahoo, AltaVista, Lycos, InfoSpace and MSN. Overture will also limit your maximum bid to $0.01 over the next-highest bid. This ensures you won’t be wasting ROI. (Other placement services to visit: www.stepforth.com and www.firstlinx.com.)

Postcards or Letters?
Q. For promoting a business, which form of correspondence works better—postcards or closed letters?
Beth Gargan
Public Relations Consultant
Raleigh, N.C.

A. It really depends on what your goals are. Think about how much you have to say or if the message needs to be confidential or personalized. Traditionally, postcards are a cheap alternative when the message isn’t critical; letters are viewed as more personal and (this may be the clincher) professional. Never forget that anything you mail is only as good as the list it goes to. Also, your message has to be clear; if you’re conveying special offers—or even sending along a refrigerator magnet—the correspondence has to be pertinent.

Going Mobile 
Q
. After 10 years in business, we’re moving to a new location three miles away. What do you recommend we do to make customers aware of the change and ensure that we don’t kill our business?
Diane Richey
It’s All About the Cake/Blackforest Bakery
Dana Point, Calif.

A. First, let your customers know where you’re going. Send out a mailing, post signs in your current location and new location, and try to get some free publicity from the local press about your move. Regarding the message behind your move, play up the advantages of your new venue. Does it give customers more space? Is it convenient to other things that your customers might want or need? Is the parking better? Do you need a bigger bakery because you do so much business? All this should go in the promotional work you do.

Also, give your customers and referral sources a reason to visit your new location, including opening-week specials and free coffee—convince them to make the drive the first time, and the next time should come easier. And don’t forget to play to your new audience. Promote your business in the new location to those who frequent the area. If there are local restaurants, offer to let them serve some of your desserts—and give you credit.

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