Learn What Clients Want with Two Google Analytics Reports

HowtoUseGoogleAnalytics_BlogWhen it comes to marketing your firm, you need to create content that your potential and current clients care about. You need to create content they want to read, view, download, etc.

The question is: How do you determine the type of content your clients want?

The answer: Use metrics gathered in Google Analytics.

Important Content Marketing Metrics

There are several important metrics in Google Analytics you should be checking out to help with your B2B content marketing efforts. These include average time on page, bounce rate, and goal conversions. Let’s take a quick look at each one to see what it’s saying about your content.

All Pages Report

Start by checking out the All Pages report under Behavior.

All Pages under Behavior Image

In this report, you can see the pages that get the most traffic on your website. The report shows the number of pageviews, unique pageviews (unique visitors), average time on page, entrances, bounce rate, % exit rate, and page value.

In the All Pages report, you’ll see a good overall snapshot of the top visited pages for your website. This is a great place to see what blog posts, pages, and content pieces are getting the most traffic. If you are looking to see what topics interest your clients, this is the place to look.

Look at the number of pageviews each page receives. In the example below, the 4th most popular page is a blog post about statistics. The 10th most popular post also offers statistics. From this, we can gather that statistics are important to potential clients and is bringing a lot of traffic to the website.

In many cases, the information here can be a little surprising. You may think that your clients are interested in how a service benefits them when they are actually more interested in how to convince their boss they need your service (like statistics!).

All Pages Main

Average Time on Page

After the number of pageviews, look at the average time on page and the bounce rate for each page.

All Pages Report View

In the example above, the blog on the look and feel of the website has an average time on page of over 7 minutes, however, the bounce rate is 92%. This means that visitors are engaging with the content and finding it useful but they leave the site immediately after reading it. From this, we can extrapolate that visitors to this particular blog aren’t the target audience.

Portfolio Image

In this next example here comparing a content piece in the content library and the client portfolio, we see the opposite. The portfolio page has a lower time on page but a very low bounce rate – which means the visitors are checking out more pages on the website. Visitors to the portfolio page are likely the target audience.

While the first example shows a high average time on page and the second has a low bounce rate, you want a good mix of the two. You want to create content that people are actually reading (the blog on the look and feel of a website) and you also want to create content that will nurture clients down the sales funnel (portfolio).

Conversions Report

The next report you can check in Google Analytics is the Goal Conversions report. A large part of any content marketing strategy is to track conversions. For example, if your website has case studies, white papers, ebooks, request consultation forms, contact forms, etc, you should be tracking all of those important conversions.


Specifically, for a B2B content marketing strategy, it’s important to see how the content pieces that you’ve created are performing. If you set up goal tracking in Analytics, this is a snap. From this report, you can see how many conversions each content piece received for a specific time period. The number of conversions tells what types of content are popular and what are unpopular. Ideally, you want to create more popular content and stop spending time on content that is unpopular.

That’s the gist of these two reports in Google Analytics and how they can help you track and improve your content marketing strategy. Have questions about how to maximize your content marketing strategy? Let us know in the comments.

Back to SEO Basics: Owned, Earned & Paid

Back to BasicsAs we strike out on a new year of business with all the possibilities, it’s time to check our foundation. It’s a good time to ask before we execute a master marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, do we have the basics down?

In this blog, we take you through the key things to consider in your sales, marketing, and SEO strategy. We are getting back to the basics of B2B marketing and how SEO factors into it. We’ll take a look at the three main channels of media: owned, earned, and paid and how to integrate all three into your SEO and marketing strategy.

Three Types of Media: Owned, Earned & Paid

While there is always an influx of new terms in digital marketing (like programmatic advertising, marketing automation, influencer marketing, etc.), it’s best to start with the three major channels of digital marketing and SEO.

Although Forrester presented the marketing mix of media types back in 2009 and Search Engine Watch had a great article on Integrating Owned, Earned & Paid for Better SEO in 2013, the mix of three types of media is still very relevant when looking at the fundamentals of your marketing and SEO plan today.

You Own It: Owned

Owned media is the digital media you have control over and can direct the messaging and branding on that channel. Owned media includes things like your website, your mobile website, your Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter/Google+ company pages. You can log in to all these media channels to update things like your logo, descriptions, images, etc.

These channels can also be optimized according to your SEO strategy, should be integrated into your marketing strategy and must be consistent with your branding.

Something Borrowed: Earned

Earned media is typically the result of outbound efforts and outreach. This type of media includes things like word of mouth (think Yelp), referrals, testimonials (Google+ and Facebook reviews), and shares/mentions/reposts. Content that is earned is not always positive and can harm your company if not handled properly. Great customer service and sharing excellent content on social media can earn your company excellent exposure; however, poor customer service and sub-par content shared on social media will earn your company negative attention.

A major mistake a company can make with their B2B marketing and SEO plan is to ignore or undervalue earned media. Earned media can be one of the most credible and far-reaching types of media in terms of digital marketing. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away; it exists without your support or interaction.

For example, did you know that a disgruntled or happy customer can create a profile for your company on Yelp without your permission? Your firm’s reputation is often communicated through earned media, so it’s important to pay attention and allocate resources to managing earned media.

It’s Gonna Cost You: Paid

The paid media channel is often the most straightforward of the three categories. Paid media includes Google AdWords, Bing ads, retargeting ads, banner ads, sponsorships, all paid directory listings, and advertising. This is the “pay-to-play” arena, where all listings and ads (even in search engine results) will cost money.

What Media Channels Should You Include in Your Strategy?

All of three types should be included in your B2B marketing and SEO strategy. It’s a simple answer, but it’s true. In order for one of these to provide great results, they must all be utilized effectively.

Your 3-Tiered B2B Marketing & SEO Strategy

If you are just getting started with your marketing and SEO strategy, you can take a three-tiered approach.

  1. Start with what you own, can easily control, and can optimize. Create a professional, high-quality B2B website and blog platform. Set up your company profiles on the relevant social media platforms (don’t try all of them, focus on the 3-4 you can easily manage).
  2. Next, share helpful information on social media and take control of all the review platforms available. Claim your Google listing so you are notified when a client leaves a review and do the same with Yelp and Glassdoor. Implement a social listening tool and set up an alert to tell you when people are mentioning your company online.
  3. Once you have established your owned media and are paying attention/trying to get earned media, create a paid advertising budget. Determine if there are any paid directories that are relevant to your industry that you must be listed in. Create a Google AdWords and Bing Ads accounts, set budgets, and start running search and display ads.

There you have it: the basics of marketing and SEO essential to creating an effective digital marketing strategy. This is a high-level view of the nitty gritty involved in creating, running, and evaluating a successful B2B marketing strategy, but it should help get you started. Check out our other blogs on creating SEO and content marketing strategies today.

What Is Influencer Marketing and How Can It Help Your Brand?

Influencer MarketingStrategic advertising and public relations will help build awareness of your brand, but word of mouth recommendations reign supreme.

According to the 2013 Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising, up to 84% of respondents say they consider “earned advertising” (word of mouth and recommendations from friends and family) to be the most trustworthy element in their purchasing decision-making process.

Influencer marketing is another way of describing word-of-mouth advertising. It centers on attracting the interest and loyalty of a few key individuals (rather than an entire target market)—individuals who have a clear, demonstrated influence over potential customers.

As noted, these can be friends or family members, but with the advent of social media, word-of-mouth is also digital. Many of us now look for advice and guidance to influencers on various social media platforms—advice and guidance that often directly shapes our consumer decision-making process. It makes sense to focus your brand-building efforts on influencing the influencers, so they can share news and recommendations about your brands with their networks —resulting in a potentially dramatic increase in the range and scope of awareness of you and your business.

Influencers can:

  • Write an article or blog post about your business.
  • Promote news and information about you.
  • Invite you to become a guest blogger on their site.
  • Share links to your original content with their fans or followers.

Who are the influencers in your field? Such individuals can be industry experts, popular bloggers, high-profile thinkers and others. If some of these people are already part of your professional network, it’s worth your time to make sure they know something about you and what you do. Keep in mind influencers can have a vast following, but “niche influencers” with a relatively small following can still have a sizeable impact on your brand.

Read the influencers’ blog posts. Comment on the posts, while making sure your comments add value. This makes you a more significant part of the ongoing discussion and will likely catch the eye of the influencer. Nowadays, you shouldn’t be adding links to your website within the comment as this automatically reads as spam.

A demonstrated record of participating and adding value is the start of the most important aspect of influencer marketing—building a relationship with individuals whose words carry so much weight with others. Relationship-building steps include:

  • Following influencers’ social media accounts.
  • Retweeting their content.
  • Inviting them to provide a guest blog on your site.
  • Posting a guest blog on the sites that they follow.
  • Asking to contribute a guest blog on their sites.

If you’re just discovering who the key influencers are, take a close look at their blog posts and get a sense of their fans as well. Chances are, these people are equally passionate about the subject and might also be valuable influencers in their own networks. It’s certainly helpful if they become familiar with your brand, too.

Forging relationships with key influencers takes time. Be patient in your communications with them (the hard sell won’t work). The process is similar to cultivating prospects for an eventual sale. Success rarely comes overnight. Your goal is to foster trust and that requires a concerted, ongoing effort.

Influencer marketing can favorably affect all of your business objectives, as long as you stay focused on building a long-term relationship and adding value to the online conversation.

Automated Holiday Cards: The Worst Marketing Tool

Holiday-MarketingEvery year, we receive a handful of holiday cards and emails from local businesses, consultants, and even clients. And every year we let out a big, bored sigh. It’s not that we don’t like seeing your group photo or that we don’t appreciate the gesture. It’s that, why not save those marketing dollars for a campaign that is thoughtful, creative, and actually differentiates yourself from the other companies?

The holiday card may already be sent out for 2013, but here are some new ideas to explore for 2014:

Clever End of Year Reports

Maybe sales didn’t sky rocket this year or you didn’t add any new employees to payroll. But maybe you presented at more than 20 industry events. Find creative ways to summarize the year to share with your customers and constituents. Most importantly, think of new ways to present the data instead of a typical email. We recently received MailChimp’s Annual Report and love that despite they’re an email marketing platform, they created a parallax site to share the information.

Sharable Social Images

Facebook and Twitter are giving greater news feed real estate to images. Capitalize on this new format by creating fresh images with bold colors, imagery, and copy. Keep the message brief, such as “Happy Friday!”, “Welcome to the office, Karen!”, or “Check out our 300th blog post.” While these images can be quick to create with little to no budget required, be sure to design for each platform’s image dimensions to avoid pixelated or off-centered posts.

Offbeat Holidays

If you absolutely must share holiday cheer, consider picking an unusual holiday to broadcast to your customers. Think of your company culture and what holidays throughout the year best reflect it. Is it National Bird Day for your aviary inspired logo? Is it a foreign holiday to highlight your international offices? Or is it National Pie Day because… pie is amazing. Picking days between February and October gets your company out of the busy email inbox clutter.

Above are just some ideas to ditch the holiday card and kick start 2014 planning. We plan to implement some new ideas as well and are looking forward to sharing them in the first half of the year. Until then, happy planning!

7 Marketing Resolutions for 2014

Marketing-Resolutions1) Break the Boring B2B Mold

Watch out prospective clients. We’re tired of being told B2B is unimaginative, uncreative, and flat-out boring. We think you’re tired of hearing it too. Let’s talk about humorous headlines, sensational social media, and wonderful website design. Don’t worry, professionalism still comes first, but personality is a close second.

2) Experiment With Customized Social Advertising

As a B2B-focused firm, we thought LinkedIn would always be our bread and butter. But just this month we experimented with Promoted Tweets on Twitter (for a webinar about LinkedIn no less) and gained some interesting impressions. While only receiving a handful of new visitors during the weeklong ad run, 85% of them were new followers to our website.

3) Don’t Toss Print Out of the Window

How special does it feel to receive mail nowadays? We don’t mean phone bills, the Pennysaver, or belated birthday cards. We mean awesomely designed, hyper-targeted, useful mail. We’re looking forward to creating direct mail for prospective and current clients, as well as some from yours truly. Will you be receiving a special delivery from us in 2014?

4) Optimize Websites for Mobile

We recently rolled out the mobile site for Bop Design, so we understand that it’s difficult for businesses to undertake yet another design and development process once the website is live. Don’t abandon or postpone the idea, we recommend designing a mobile site alongside your website design to ensure you’re addressing all the key needs of your business. You also may want to look into a fully responsive website in 2014 – a website designed for optimal viewing on all platforms.

5) Branding = Design + Content + Service

Perfecting the balance between a well-designed, relevant, and customer-oriented brand requires a lot of juggling. Oftentimes you’ll come across a great company with a lackluster website and brand message. Or a polished, professional brand with awful customer service. Thankfully, we’ve created plenty of tools to help.

6) Develop For Efficiency

As our design team pushes the envelop in web trends, our development will focus on creating the most efficient, optimized site possible. A beautifully designed site is useless without source code that is friendly to all the performance needs such as SEO, responsive, mobile and more.

7) Progress Over Perfection

We strive to create marketing solutions that seamlessly weave into your business and resonate with your ideal customer. This sometimes means picking a candid website image, starting a Twitter account, or changing your company name. We get excited to see executives passionate about their brand who do not overthink and understand that action is the most important marketing tactic.

Benefits of Working with an Outside Marketing Agency

Hiring-An-Agency-BenefitsAs marketing budgets become leaner and expectations higher, B2B companies struggle searching for ways to stretch their dollars while still providing the best marketing communications plan that optimizes brand awareness, increases lead generation, and sells products and services.

One way is utilizing the services and talents of an outside firm for specific projects, which are managed and directed by one to a few in-house employees. Benefits to working with an outside agency, verses hiring within, include:

Focus – Keep your in-house marketing team focused on creating the best strategy by steering marketing programs to line up with the overall goals of the organization. This maximizes their time, talents, and energy to address other corporate needs.

Expertise – If you have chosen well, your outside agency employs a diverse team filled with experts in their fields. They are up on the latest trends in the marketplace and have the talent to deliver programs that are fresh, on target, and successful.

Trends – A good firm will be up on the latest news, trends, and tools in the industry as a whole, keeping your employee entrenched in trends in relation to the company’s specific product and service offerings.

Working in a Bubble – Company employees can get bogged down by the day-to-day drudgery and office politics, which can sometimes dull the creative juices needed to come up with new marketing programs. An outside firm will approach the project with enthusiasm and fresh ideas.

No Overhead – It takes time and resources to hire, manage, and maintain employees. It’s possible that your current staff does not have the skill level, experience, or talents for specific projects that could be taken on by the outside firm, such as creating a website, SEO, social media, advertising campaigns, public relations, etc.

Most small and mid-size organizations can’t afford the management and cost of maintaining a fully integrated marketing campaign to support lead generation and sales support programs. Instead, they turn to an outside firm to create targeted, innovative, and creative solutions.

Organizing Web Leads in a CRM

Organizing Web LeadsA business with a full sales pipeline is generally a healthy business – unless all those leads get squandered due to mismanagement and/or poor organization.

Using a customer relationship management (CRM) software program to properly organize web leads offers many advantages. It allows you to easily segment leads into specific categories so that they automatically get assigned to the right person for follow-up. It enables you to rate and score the leads, based on preset criteria, to determine the appropriate response. It prevents leads from getting lost or falling through the cracks. Most important, organizing your leads makes it easier to convert them into sales opportunities and, thus, increase sales.

As any experienced marketer knows, some web inquiries demand more attention and care than others. And some web leads are more likely to close than others. So the first step in effectively managing web leads is to set up a classification system for rating prospective clients in your CRM. For example:

  • Inquiry = Completed form on website
  • Prospect = Exploratory call scheduled
  • Lead = Exploratory call held; price and personality qualified
  • Opportunity = Proposal delivered; strong contender for the business
  • Customer = Agreement signed

With this system in place, you can now determine the right people and the appropriate level of response for each category of lead. For example, an opportunity is almost always more important than an inquiry, although in some cases it can depend on who is doing the inquiring. Most of the time, however, an opportunity should receive higher priority since it has already been qualified and is closer to commitment than an inquiry.

Organizing leads with a CRM also makes it easier to know when to conduct the marketing-to-sales handoff. In general, marketing focuses on lead generation and lead nurturing. These are the first steps in the overall sales cycle, and they require different skills than actually selling a product or service. At some point in the sales cycle, marketing needs to hand the leads over to sales, which uses a different set of skills to convert them into customers.

In most companies, marketing takes a web inquiry through the qualifying process. If the lead turns out to be qualified, marketing then hands it over to the sales team. However, this can vary depending on the company’s organizational structure and sales cycle. The key to using your CRM to effectively manage leads is to ensure that both marketing and sales are in alignment on what makes a web inquiry sales-ready.

Another benefit of organizing leads with a CRM is the ability to track each step of your sales process with great accuracy. This enables you to determine any weak spots and identify areas of improvement. For example, you may find that you get a high volume of inquiries and prospects, but only a small percentage of those make it to the “lead” category. This might suggest a need to retarget your marketing materials. Or, perhaps develop a way for inquiries to pre-qualify themselves to reduce the time and resources you have to invest in that step of the process.

Finally, keep in mind that customer relationship management does not end after the sale is made. Instead, sales hands it off to customer service and account management, which can use your CRM data to better serve the client and possibly up-sell more services.

How to Avoid Common Project Delays

How-To-Avoid-Common-Project-DelaysComplex business projects with a lot of moving parts—like website redesigns—always seem to take longer than you plan for, even when everything goes smoothly. Missed deadlines, misaligned objectives, and lack of communication are just some of the problems that can throw a monkey wrench into the successful implementation of a project.

Fortunately, these and other issues can be easily avoided with a little foresight and planning. Here are a few common problems that arise during projects and suggestions for overcoming them.

Problem: Lack of clear objectives.

Solution: It’s the old saying: if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. Nothing slows down a project like having fuzzy objectives because people end up going down many different roads. Getting back on track requires constantly revisiting where you’re going and why. Having clearly defined, written goals will help to keep any project moving along at the desired pace.

Problem: The deadline isn’t fully understood by all parties.

Solution: Few things are more frustrating than missing the final deadline because the vendor doesn’t know about it. If you’re attending a tradeshow at the end of May and you need your brochure by then, make sure to communicate the deadline well in advance – both verbally and in writing.

Problem: The deadline isn’t realistic.

Solution: Unrealistic deadlines often lead to rushed, sloppy work, which can lead to doing it all over again. To avoid this common delay, set appropriate deadlines for the type and scope of project. Also take into account the needs of the vendor. For example, print projects typically require at least five to 10 business days for printing and shipping. Website design projects typically take two to three months due to their complexity. While most vendors can offer an expedited timeline, keep in mind that speed often comes with a higher price tag.

Problem: Lack of timely feedback.

Solution: Web design projects usually unfold in stages, so the web design and development firm needs to clearly state what kind of feedback they need and when they need it for successful completion of each phase of the project. In return, you need to commit to investing the time to review all necessary items and providing clear, direct feedback.

Problem: Too many cooks in the kitchen.

Solution: Design project vendors need your timely feedback, but not when it comes from 20 different directions. It’s okay to have input on the project from a few key players. But feedback should always be coordinated and forwarded to the vendor through one person or a small team (2-3 people, at the most). This will make the vendor’s job easier and allow them to stay on track with the project timeline.  Your vendors should also understand who has the authority to make changes and who doesn’t.

Problem: Changing decision makers in the middle of the project.

Solution: Ideally, one person or team on the client side will oversee the project from beginning to end. However, circumstances often dictate otherwise. If a transition has to occur, bring the new decision maker(s) into the project as early as possible so they can to be brought up to speed without undue delay. Make sure everyone is aware of the upcoming transition, and clearly define who will be responsible for what once it takes place.

Most important, stay on top of things by conducting regular internal project review meetings to assess the status of the project on your end. If you aren’t sure where your vendor is, ask. This will give you peace of mind knowing that things are still on track. And if small problems have arisen since the last meeting, you can identify and resolve them before they grow into giant obstacles that could cause lengthy delays.

What You Need to Know Before Starting a Website Redesign

What-You-Need-To-Know-Before-Starting-A-Website-RedesignIn today’s fast-moving digital world, your company’s website can get out of date before you know it. The design and layout can start to look a little shop-worn. The site may contain non-standard coding practices that can hurt your SEO rankings. New technologies can make some features and functions on your site seem old-fashioned. And it simply may be time to add new features, functions or pages to keep up with new developments in your business.

There are no hard and fast rules for how frequently to redesign websites. But industry experts recommend revisiting your design every three to five years at minimum. If your industry experiences rapid changes in products, services or technologies, you may need to do it more often.

Redesigning a website can be a difficult, time-consuming task. Following these guidelines will simplify the process and help you complete the project on time and within budget:

Start with the basics. Find out where your website is hosted and where your domain name is registered, as your website developer will need this information in order to proceed. For companies that set up their websites several years ago, this can be a challenge. WhoIsHostingThis.com offers a useful tool for identifying where your website is hosted. If you decide to move to a different hosting company, let your designer and/or developer know upfront.

Redesign with your clients in mind. Make sure you understand what your clients want from your web site, then design it to fit their needs, not yours. For example, if you sell mostly to a young, hip demographic, your design should be sleek, modern and maybe even a bit edgy. The look and feel of your redesigned website may not appeal to your personal tastes, but the goal is to create a great online experience for your site visitors.

Get involved.  Even though you aren’t doing the redesign, you need to stay involved throughout the process. Clearly communicate to your designer why you’re doing the redesign and what you want to accomplish. Put the “deliverables” in writing so there can be no misunderstanding regarding what you expect from the design firm. And give the designer prompt feedback throughout the process.

Evaluate current and future website content. A website redesign should always include an assessment of your current content strategy. Is your current content and messaging still on target with your audience’s primary issues and concerns? Or have their needs changed to the point that you need fresh content with updated messaging?

Get clear on content creation. If you decide that new content is required, don’t automatically assume the designer will create it. Many design firms have in-house copywriters who can create the content for you. Or they can recommend an experienced outsourced copywriter. But you can also write it yourself if you have the time and internal resources. Either way, content creation should always be spelled out in the service agreement.

Set a realistic timeline. Recognize that redesigns take time, especially with larger, more complex websites. At Bop Design, our average website redesign project takes two to three months, and that’s with a team of experienced professionals who specialize in creating successful websites.

Finally, never redesign your web site just for the sake of change, as that can annoy and confuse your clients. Every new design element should have a reason and a purpose, and every redesign should result in a positive online experience that makes it easy for prospects and customers to buy.

The Importance of Knowing Your Ideal Client

The-Importance-of-Knowing-Your-Ideal-ClientMarketing is a challenge for any business, but especially for small businesses with limited resources. That’s why identifying your ideal client is so important.

When you don’t know who to market to, you end up marketing to everybody, which is a sure recipe for failure. Identifying your ideal client narrows the scope of your marketing efforts and enables you to use your marketing dollars much more effectively.

To identify your ideal client, ask questions like:

  • Who should buy from us, and why?
  • Do they have the financial resources to buy from us?
  • Of this group, which clients will be the easiest to find and sell to?
  • Which clients are we most likely to develop ongoing relationships with?
  • Which clients will deliver the most revenue over the life of our relationship with them?

To answer these questions, start by gathering as much demographic information as you can. If you sell to consumers, this will include age, sex, occupation, income level, zip code and other lifestyle information.  If your market is B2B, demographics include the industry, sales volume, number of employees, geographic area and other factors.

Next, identify your clients’ “pain points” in relation to your products or services. This is especially important in the B2B arena. What problems, challenges or issues are clients looking to you to solve? How do your products or services solve them? When you solve them, what kinds of benefits does it provide the client?  For example, how does it help them to lower costs or operate their business more efficiently? How does it help them solve problems for their clients?

Once you have this data, study your clients’ buying processes. A lot of companies will have a legitimate need for your products or services. But some may buy in a way that doesn’t fit your business model. Others might buy in a way that could make it difficult to obtain your desired margins. This doesn’t mean that you will never do business with them, but they won’t qualify for the “ideal client” category.

If you don’t have the time or resources to conduct a lot of formal research, try this approach: pick your best current client and write down all the characteristics that make them #1. How big are they? How many employees do they have? What do they buy from you? Why do they buy from you? How much do they buy from you? What makes them easy to work with? Do they pay on time? Do they refer you to other clients? Do they suggest ways you could improve your customer service?

Think of everything that makes them a great client. Then create a profile that describes them in detail. These are the kinds of companies you most want to do business with. And these are the kinds of companies that should drive your marketing efforts. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do business with anyone that doesn’t fit this profile. But it tells you where to focus the majority of your resources to get the best return on your marketing investment.

When you have a clear picture of your ideal client, marketing your business becomes a lot easier and more cost-effective.  Rather than broadcasting your marketing messages to the entire world – an expensive proposition even in today’s Internet/social media world – you can concentrate all your resources on those clients most likely to buy from you.

Do I Need Biographies on My Website?

Do-I-Need-Biographies-On-My-WebsiteWhile it seems like most websites post biographies of key executives and staff, including them isn’t a necessity for all businesses. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you need to. It all depends on your business and goals.

You have to think about how you want to position your company. Large, corporate, aggressive, impressive? Or small, agile, client-focused, caring?

How do you want your clients and potential clients to perceive you? Here are some aspects to consider:

  • Bios — especially when photos are included — can make a company seem more personal. They can set the tone for what it is like to conduct business with your firm.
  • Bios can help sell the fact that your employees are knowledgeable and experienced. Someone looking for a lawyer will probably want to know that lawyer’s background and successes.
  • Including bios of everyone on your team, from the CEO to the office manager, can make you look bigger if people tend to think of you as a one-person firm.
  • On the other hand, if you list only senior management, your company can look even larger. Qualcomm, for example, only lists its leadership.
  • If someone leaves your company, always try to remove their bio from the website immediately. As much as possible, try to add new employees promptly.
  • Keep all bios a consistent length. If your CFO’s bio is longer than your chief engineer, your visitors may start to wonder why one seems to be emphasized over the other.
  • If you use photos, give them a consistent look. An easy way to do that is to make all of them black and white.
  • Include phone numbers and email addresses only if you’re prepared to respond to emails and phone calls in a timely manner. If they don’t, it can raise questions about your firm’s attentiveness to its clients.

Before deciding whether to include bios, check the websites of competitors, sites you admire and sites you don’t. If you like what you see and would consider doing business with those firms, try to imagine your site with a similar design. If not, get your ego check and leave the bios off.

Your Network is your Brand

san-diego-brandingWe’ve blogged here about the importance of becoming a thought leader in your field. Whether you’ve reached that lofty goal or are on your way, you still have an ace up your sleeve when it comes to promoting your brand: your business network.

It’s true what they say about being defined by the company you keep. If you have high-quality, capable business and personal connections, they can go a long way to position your brand as a trusted, highly regarded resource. They’re not only your network, but they’re also a part of your brand.

In fact, you want to be viewed as a resource to your clients – if they need a financial adviser, you should know three good ones to refer them to. If they need an insurance broker, you can connect them with an excellent one.

It’s easy to do. Assemble your “gold book” of connections for each business category: accounting, wealth management, insurance, human resources, IT, marketing, commercial real estate, banking, etc. Be ready, willing and able to share your connections. Talk them up, give examples of how they’ve helped you and others, offer testimonials. This wealth of connections effectively positions YOU as connected, competent, holistic — overall a business resource.

Conversely, help your sources be proactive by giving them access to your circle of influence: customers, clients, friends, family. Then you’ll become part of their brand as well. And these days, you just can’t do enough to enhance your brand.

Don’t Let Penguin Put Your Website on Ice

seo-penguin-updateIs search engine optimization on its way out?

Could be, if you believe a recent Forbes article titled “The Death of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR and Real Content.” In it, leading SEO consultant Adam Torkildson proclaims, “Google is in the process of making the SEO industry obsolete, SEO will be dead in two years.”

Torkildson was referring to Penguin, an algorithm Google launched last spring. It turns out that Penguin penalizes websites that incorporate some of the most popular techniques for achieving high rankings on search engines. Among the techniques: SEO.

Penguin puts a stronger emphasis on content than its predecessors, such as Panda. With Penguin, many long-held SEO tactics just aren’t as  effective anymore. Google says the reasoning behind Penguin is to stress the user experience. In other words, websites that offer outstanding content will rank the highest, as well they should.

In addition, rumor has it that Google will soon institute another change that affects SEO. It reportedly will push so-called zombie sites — those that are not updated regularly — farther down in search results.

Why the shift? Google and other search sites have evolved in their thinking. The prevailing thought is that quality content is far more important than keyword density. Previous algorithms actually encouraged keyword overuse because that’s the kind of data the algorithms were looking for.

Does this mean business owners and marketers should ignore SEO altogether? Not exactly. It’s still important for your website to have the basics of on-page optimization. The website’s code needs to be up to date and clean. The page titles and header tags should clearly (yet briefly) describe the content that’s on each page and your business. This just makes it easier for Google to find and evaluate your website. It’s also important to pay attention to 301 redirects and sitemap submissions when you launch a new website, but that’s another blog post.

The real shift is content. If you had to choose between spending hours upon hours optimizing each of your website’s pages around a specific keyword and writing a blog post every week – go with the blog post. This is important. In 2013 and beyond, great content should be your No. 1 goal.

What comprises great content that will get sites noticed? Pretty much anything that’s not overly marketing-oriented, such as thoughtful blogs, white papers, bylined articles, e-books, podcasts, plus informative appealing videos, infographics and graphic design. It’s still OK to use keywords. Just don’t use them to draw too much attention to your company, its products or services so Penguin won’t give you a cool reception.

If a Business Claims It Will Do Something for Yours, Make Sure It Does It for Itself

business-expertsIf your company makes custom iPad apps and you’re frequently seen tapping away on your Nook, how would that affect your street cred?

It’s not so farfetched. Examples abound of corporate hypocrisy — perceived or real — at every level. You can find business people embarrassing themselves all over YouTube, Facebook, Google+, etc. So it pays to be cautious in your personal and professional activities.

Any business that wants to stay competitive has to practice what it preaches. So you need to be certain a potential business partner accurately represents itself. Some examples:

  • If a business claims its staff are “SEO experts,” try searching for them on the web. If they are not prominent on search engines and they believe in search engine optimization as a viable marketing tactic, why are they nowhere to be found?
  • If a firm specializes in web design, check out their project portfolio to see if it meets your standards. More importantly, check out the firm’s own website. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals before entering into a business agreement.
  • If a company preaches social media, SEO, email marketing, web design, online advertising and other strategies, it must practice what it preaches. Ask for specific examples of how they helped clients and, again, seek out those clients for referrals.

Don’t be dazzled by flashy designs and splashy graphics. They’re just the tip of the iceberg. The really cool stuff is below the surface.

It might sound basic, but perform due diligence before you hand over a cent. In these times, the stakes are too high to let it slide.

Why You Shouldn’t Delay Your Website Redesign

website-redesignIt’s easy to find reasons to put off redesigning your company website. Too expensive. Too time-consuming. Too complicated.

The only logical response to all those excuses: Too bad.

Too Many Reasons, Too Little Time
Far too many business owners procrastinate when it comes to website redesign. Don’t be among them. It can hurt your business in more ways than you might imagine. Here are just a few of them:

  • Google can’t find you. A lot of older websites were built in Flash. If your website is built primarily in Flash, Google and other search engines can’t crawl it. Flash files are invisible to search engines, which means your rankings will suffer.
  • Prospective clients can’t see you. If your website was built on the web standards of five years ago (or more), it’s quite possible that text and images no longer display properly for some of your visitors. That makes your site – and your business – look out of step with the times.
  • Mobile devices can’t display your website. Browsers on mobile devices are designed with modern web standards in mind. A lot of websites built for desktops don’t display properly on mobile screens. If you use Flash in any part of your website, it doesn’t work on iPhones or iPads.
  • Your visitors can’t wait for you. People decide within seconds whether they want to further explore a website or not. If your website takes too long to load, they’re gone.
  • Your clients can’t get the information they need. A lot of older websites don’t have much content. If your visitors can’t get the info they need quickly (phone number, hours of operation, list of services, etc.), chances are good that you’ve lost them.
  • Visitors can’t tell if your company is open or closed. If the last update listed on your website is 2007, site visitors will wonder if you’re still in business.
  • Your brand can’t counteract it. An outdated or poorly designed website not only hurts your brand, but it also affects your credibility.

No More Excuses
Be honest with yourself. Take a critical look at your site’s design every few months. Compare it to competitors’ sites for readability, graphic appeal and ease of navigation. If yours doesn’t stand up to the competition, don’t expect your site traffic to magically rise on its own.

Take the initiative to consult regularly with a web design firm to be sure your site is a leader, not a follower. Proactive web redesign means no more excuses. No more procrastination. No more imitating others. Make it your goal for others to emulate you.

Business to Business (B2B) Holiday Marketing

Holiday-Marketing-CampaignThe holiday season is quickly approaching. It is time to start planning your travels, dinner parties, gift shopping and prepping the house for company. Most of us start holiday planning early in our personal life, but many of us neglect putting together a holiday marketing plan for our businesses.

A holiday marketing plan can be beneficial to both Business to Consumer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B) businesses. For most B2C businesses a holiday marketing plan is critically important. The holiday season is when consumers notoriously spend the most money on food, retail items and travel.  If you are one of these B2C businesses hopefully you have already started to implement a holiday marketing plan. But, if you are a Business to Business (B2B) the holiday season can also be a good time to set up some holiday marketing campaigns.  The following are a few ideas to help get your creative juices flowing:

  • End of Year Discounts
    If your business has an overflow of inventory, or you want to boost sales before the end of the year it might just be a good time to create an “End of Year Discount” campaign. Consumers are incentivized to purchase during the holidays because of impending occasions, but sometimes businesses can also be incentivized this time of year to make a purchase.  You may just find that some departments you are selling into have money left in the budget that needs to be used before the end of the year.  Offering a discount, with an end of year expiration date, might just help incentivize them to make the sale happen before the end of the year.
  • Happy Holidays
    Consider sending a holiday message to your clients and followers to show them that you appreciate their business. This is a great way to reach out and engage with your contacts in a positive communication. Be sure to focus on thanking them for their support and wishing them a happy holiday season; please don’t get this message mixed up with a sales pitch. In addition, to offering thanks and well wishes be sure to include any charitable items your business is participating in. For instance, if your business is participating in any local charity events it would be beneficial to include this in your communications to show that you are proactively helping the community.
  • 2012 Reflection
    Let people know what you have achieved this past year as a business. Did you make any big product changes? Achieve major milestones? Do you provide better customer support? Put together items that will show how much your business has achieved in the past year.  You want to prove to your clients why they should continue to put trust in your business, be proud of what you accomplished and show how you are adapting. I would also suggest wrapping in some content thanking your clients for their help in achieving these milestones, either by providing their valuable feedback or continued support.
  • 2013 Look Ahead
    Inform your clients and followers of your business objectives for the next year. Provide a brief statement that on what your business is looking to accomplish for the next year.  It doesn’t need to entail all your goals, simply choose the ones that are most important to your audience. Are there going to be new product/service enhancements? Is your company taking steps to be greener? Whatever you choose for your message I would suggest making it relevant to your audience and something that would make them proud, happy, or look forward to remaining a client. Letting people know that you want to achieve record sales for next year is probably not going to help keep people as clients, or make people want to do business with you.

These marketing campaigns can be implemented through a variety of channels. These are a few channels I recommend pursuing:

  • Website
  • Social Media Platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc…
  • Email/Newsletter
  • Press Release
  • Direct Mail
  • Call Campaign

I recommend using a multi-channel approach to try and reach your clients, followers and prospects through as many outlets as your business has established.

Halloween is right around the corner, but fear not it is not too late to get your holiday marketing strategy rolling.

SEO Tips You Can Implement Today, Part 1

easy-seo-tipsSearch engine optimization is necessary for any business that wants to remain competitive. Most B2C companies understand that. Unfortunately, as is often the case with new marketing tactics, some B2B businesses are still behind the times with SEO. Far too many B2B businesses either ignore SEO altogether or focus on one narrow aspect. In the nineties, websites that used a few commonly searched terms as meta keywords quickly rose in the rankings. That doesn’t work any more, particularly with Google’s recent updates meant to punish websites that keyword stuff.

Those B2B companies that do take SEO seriously can take advantage of their competitors’ obsolete tactics. If you’re in an industry like this—say, business insurance or leadership and management consulting—you may be able to quickly improve your Google ranking with a holistic SEO plan.

While a thorough SEO is a complex mix of on-page and off-page optimization that should be guided by an expert, there are a few simple tactics that anyone can start doing to lay the groundwork. The best part is, you can start doing them right now.

Keyword Research
The first step is keyword research. While this may sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Think of at least 10 search terms your best customers might use to find you on Google (not including your company’s name, of course!). It’s usually best if keywords are geo-targeted. For example, Bop Design focuses on “San Diego website design” as one of our primary keywords.

Once you have your list of 10 keywords (it can be more, of course, but 10 is a less daunting number to start out with), go to Google AdWords and sign in (or sign up if you don’t already have a Google account). In the navigation bar, go to “Keyword Tool” under “Tools and Analysis.” Enter the keywords you came up with and click “Search.” Google will run an analysis on how often those keywords are searched and how many of your competitors are running ads based on those keywords. (In order to see the full results, make sure you go to the “Keyword Ideas” tab and not just the “Ad Ideas” tab.)

From this list, choose some keywords that seem best to you. This can be a little tricky for a non-expert, but just remember that this doesn’t have to be perfect. SEO is an on-going process—you always have to improve. There’s no sense in stressing about making it perfect from the very beginning. Choose some keywords that have a reasonable amount of search volume. Anything less than 100 might not be worth your time; that is, unless it’s a keyword that your ideal client would search for. “San Diego B2B website design” is a keyword Bop Design might target, even if the search volume is relatively low. Don’t worry about the keywords that are marked as having High competition. When you’re first starting out with SEO, it’s better to aim for the low-hanging fruit first.

The final step in the basic keyword search phase is to check out how your company’s website currently ranks for the keywords you want to target. While you could simply Google the terms yourself, that doesn’t always work. Google is smart enough to tailor results based on your past activity. If you’re signed into your Google account, chances are you’ll see your website much higher in the rankings than other people will. Instead, we recommend you download the RankChecker plugin for the Firefox browser. Enter your keywords into the plugin and it will generate a reasonably accurate report of where your website stands in Google. Remember that, by default, Google displays 10 search results per page. If you rank 43, you’re on page 5; if you rank 143, you’re on page 15. If you’re on page 4 or 5 for some keywords, you might want to focus on those first (even though the closer you get to #1, the harder it gets to increase you ranking), just because you’re already doing decently well without even trying!

Skip ahead to Part 2 of SEO Tips you Can Implement today.

How B2B Firms Can Use QR Codes

QRCodeWith mobile browsing reaching 12% of all web related activity in September 2012, businesses are becoming increasingly aware that they need to focus on mobile marketing. The trend is toward responsive design. The design of a business’ website should respond to the platform being utilized – smart phone, tablet, laptop, etc. It used to be that you had a separate mobile website and main website. With new customer demands, responsive design is needed. Mobile usage and responsive design presents a new way to engage with clients. More and more businesses are utilizing QR codes but there is rarely optimal implementation.

What’s a QR Code?

QR Code is “Quick-Response Code.” QR Codes are two-dimensional bar codes that are used to point people to websites, landing pages and other forms of digital content. In most cases, users use a mobile device to scan those codes and once it’s complete, a user is transported to the content specified by that code.

How does a QR Code work?

A business can present an offer such as a coupon through a QR code. A customer can scan this code with their phone. This takes them to a coupon page where they can download it, print it and redeem it.

How are QR Codes misused?

Too many QR codes just send a scanner to a firm’s website and nothing else. Many businesses were just proud to have a QR code, even though it did very little to engage a potential customer. Businesses should only use a QR code if they can offer something enticing to a prospect.

How can a B2B firm use a QR code?

Many B2B firms have an opportunity to utilize a QR code through print advertising and direct mail. The best execution of a QR code is when a firm offers a white paper, guide, resource that resonates with their ideal prospective client. A firm can run an advertisement in a magazine with the call to action being to download a resource through the QR code.

Sales Benefit of QR codes?

Print advertisements and direct mail can drive people to a firm’s website but many times, a business does not have any way to capture these leads and have the sales team follow up. A QR code is best utilized when a QR code scanner must complete a form to access the offer. The form must be short – take minimal time to complete. A completed form coming from a QR code scan can generate quality leads for a sales department.

In the future, consumers will see more and more QR codes. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that QR scans “have soared to 2 million a month, nearly double the rate of last year and up from 80,000 a month in 2009,” making them one of the hottest trends in marketing today. With all these QR codes competing for a customer’s attention, it is important for the QR code to be the right offer for the right audience.

Integrating Online and Offline Marketing

offline-marketing-strategyBusinesses and marketers know the important of having a company presence online. With 80% of consumers doing online research before making a purchase, having a branded website in place is essential. However, small businesses, locally-based businesses and even large corporations are still seeing a positive ROI from offline marketing efforts. Website design strategies for offline efforts can boost your marketing team’s success. Here’s how to do it.

Know Where to Spend

Just as with web design, whether your keep things in-house or outsource, it’s important to know where your money is going. Whether you choose a direct mail flier, guerilla marketing stunt or TV commercial, pay attention to where your cash flow is going. If you’ve hired a web designer, you probably asked for status updates, budget and other reports. Make sure you pay the same attention to detail across your online and offline marketing. You may spend more time on the copy of your website than the background. If this is case, you can budget your offline material production is a similar way.

Know Your Target

Websites are designed with both the brand and audience in mind. Your offline efforts should do the same. If your web design is colorful, youthful and full of slang such as “OMG” and “LOL,” a serious billboard might not be the best idea. Not only are you causing disconnect with current customers, your business brand has just been altered. Your online and offline audiences are often the same and your web design and offline efforts need to be cohesive. Knowing who you want to reach and when will make your offline efforts much easier.

Know the Balance

Successful web design balances creative and copy on the homepage and throughout the website. Your offline marketing efforts can use this same strategy for the better. Websites have CTAs, contact information, interesting images, etc. And so should the rest of your marketing materials. Balance your copy and design to create engaging offline, branded materials.

Know Your Message

Online marketers frequently hear the need to put the call to action (CTA) above the fold. This means the customer doesn’t have to scroll to perform the action that company’s marketing team wants them to take. Your offline marketing messages need to take this same approach. Have a clear to call action on all your marketing materials. Be concise to avoid any miscommunication. If you’re printing something out, include a short CTA that directs consumers down the path of converting.  Sure, you promote your website with social media and vice versa. Have social media icons on all your offline marketing materials so customers know where they can find you.

Apply the strategies you use in website design to your offline marketing messages and materials. Keep a balance between the right and left brain for marketing products that appeal to your audience. Direct mail and other offline marketing channels are becoming less of a priority for many businesses, but applying web design strategies to your efforts can yield a greater ROI.

Author Bio: Erica Bell is a small business writer who focuses on topics such as web design and direct mail marketing. She is a web content writer for Business.com Media, Inc.

All About Ad Retargeting

effective-b2b-advertisingThousands of sales are lost every month. In fact, researchers estimate that upwards of 98% of visitors leave a website without contacting the company. Typically the first visit someone makes to a website is for research purposes. The visitor isn’t ready to make a purchase yet. Studies have shown that it can take up to seven individual visits before a visitor is ready to take that next step.

Simply put – it isn’t enough to bring visitors to your website. You have to remind them who you are and what you do. That’s where ad retargeting comes in. Retargeting can help transform researchers into prospects and eventually clients. For small businesses that lack the major advertising budgets of large corporations, retargeting offers a cost-effective way to maintain brand awareness.

To give you a clearer picture of what ad retargeting is and how it works, here’s concrete example:

The Initial Search

Let’s say a law firm is looking for a new IT consultant. The law firm’s office manager searches for “outsourced IT for law firms.” One of the results leads to an IT consultancy with a creative web design that highlights their qualifications.

Don’t Let Them Forget

The office manager is impressed with the website, but wants to evaluate other options. Like the 98% we had mentioned before, the office manager doesn’t take any action other than browsing a few pages. After 2-3 minutes, she’s off to another one of the search results, perhaps never to return.

In a Prospect’s Consciousness

Because the IT consultancy set up re-targeting, the office manager doesn’t forget. Retargeting places a cookie in the visitor’s browser. The browser “remembers” that the office manager visited. Now she sees ads for that IT consultancy when she goes to websites like CNN, Mashable, and even YouTube.

Top of Mind When They’re Ready to Engage

The goal of the ad is to remind that office manager of the IT consultancy and how they can help her. Without retargeting, the office manager might forget and never contact the IT consultancy. With retargeting, she sees the ad frequently. After the typical six to seven touches, she goes back to the IT consultancy’s website (by clicking on the ad, of course!). When she visits the website again, she sees an offer to download a resource on what type of IT solutions law firms need. She fills out a form to get the resource, and now the IT consultancy has her email address for a direct follow-up.

Retargeting: Maximize ROI of B2B Website

A strong website design is only the beginning. Serious firms need to consider how they can draw visitors back and encourage them to take action. Ad retargeting is a great, cost-effective way to maximize the ROI of a B2B website design.

Guest Post by Therapy Changes: Increasing Confidence through Self-Talk

09.13.2012Everyone has feelings of doubt, worry, or anxiety at one time or another. As a business owner or entrepreneur, these sensations may be all too familiar. Believing in yourself, like any other attitude, can be learned. Research shows that you can increase self-confidence by changing the way you talk to yourself.

We all talk to ourselves. Some of us have full-blown conversations right out loud. Others of us recognize a silent phrase now and then. But we all engage in some form of self-talk, whether it is the positive or the not-so-helpful negative kind.

“I should have done a better job”, “She’s so much smarter than me”, “I’ll never measure up”, I can’t do it”, and “I’ll always be this way” are just some examples of negative self-talk. This pattern of thinking influences both mood and behavior and can become a significant roadblock in the success of your business.

Change your Self-Talk
Changing your thinking is not as simple as saying something positive to yourself. Effective self-talk requires that you actually believe what you are saying. Use the suggestions below to balance you thinking and start feeling more positive about yourself, your world, and your future:

  • Gather evidence to refute your negative thought; remember that your feelings are not necessarily based in reality
  • Realistically assess your strengths and weaknesses. Instead of allowing your mind to produce negative messages about yourself, consciously override these thoughts with positive statements about what you’ve done or do well
  • Consider that your lack of self-confidence could stem from lack of experience, and has nothing to do with your capabilities or skill level
  • Emphasize what is going right – work on overcoming the basic human nature of focusing on the negative aspects of ourselves and situations
  • Take an outsider’s point of view. Studies show that considering your progress from an outsider’s perspective leads to faster improvement
  • Change your feelings by changing your behavior – smile, compliment others, accept compliments about yourself graciously, and take good care of yourself

Be Patient
Increasing self-confidence through self-talk is achieved through practice. Many of us have years of experience saying unkind things to ourselves. It will take some time to counter your negative self-talk with positive, supportive statements.  Try writing the new balanced thought on a piece of paper and refer to it frequently throughout the day; especially before performance-based activities. Keep it up – feeling more confident in yourself will lead to better success in your business and an improved sense of accomplishment and self-pride.

About the Author
Rochelle Perper, Ph.D., founder of Therapy Changes, is a licensed clinical psychologist in Point Loma. She has established a caring practice focused on helping patients better navigate and manage life’s difficult transitions. Dr. Perper provides action-oriented therapy customized for individuals, families and couples. Her therapeutic approach involves helping people change their thoughts and behaviors from negative to positive in order to enhance their productivity and satisfaction.

Guest Post by Therapy Changes: How to Relax Fast… and Make a Great Impression

09.13.2012Whether you are about to walk into a conference room for a presentation or meeting with a potential investor for the first time, sometimes a need exists for a quick, and easy way to relax. Research has demonstrated that in order to operate at our personal best we must be in an optimal state of arousal. That is to say, with the right amount of anxiety our performance is highest – too little or too much anxiety and our ability to think clearly and creatively rapidly diminish. Mini relaxation exercises like the ones described below are helpful to use in the moment to reduce stress and make a great impression.

When you’ve got 1 minute
Place your hand just beneath your navel so you can feel the gentle rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. Breathe in – your hands should rise. Pause for a count of three. Breathe out – your hands should fall. Repeat as necessary.

When you’ve got 3 minutes
Stop what you are doing and sit down. Check your body from head to toe for tension. First relax your facial muscles and allow your jaw to fall open slightly. Let your shoulders drop. Let your arms fall to your sides. Allow your hands to loosen so that there are spaces between your fingers.

Uncross your legs or ankles. Feel your thighs sink into your chair, letting your legs fall comfortably apart. Feel your shins and calves become heavier and your feet grow roots into the floor. Now breathe in slowly and breathe out slowly. Each time you breathe out, try to relax even more.

When you’ve got 5 minutes
Spend five minutes of self-massage. Start by kneading the muscles at the back of your neck and shoulders. Make a loose fist and drum swiftly up and down the sides and back of your neck. Now use your thumbs to work tiny circles around the base of your skull. Slowly massage the rest of your scalp with your fingertips. Then tap your fingers against your scalp, moving from the front to the back and then over the sides.

Now massage your face. Make a series of tiny circles with your thumbs or fingertips. Pay particular attention to your temples, forehead, and jaw muscles. Use your middle fingers to massage the bridge of your nose and work outward over your elbows to your temples. Finally, close your eyes. Cup your hands loosely over your face and just inhale and exhale easily for a short while.

When you’ve got 10 minutes
Try imagery. Start by sitting comfortably in a quiet space. Breathe deeply and evenly for a few minutes. Now picture yourself in a place that conjures up good memories. Engage your senses to passively observe the pleasures around you. Allow intrusive thoughts to gently escape your mind and instead fill the space with positive images and emotions.

About the Author
Rochelle Perper, Ph.D., founder of Therapy Changes, is a licensed clinical psychologist in Point Loma. She has established a caring practice focused on helping patients better navigate and manage life’s difficult transitions. Dr. Perper provides action-oriented therapy customized for individuals, families and couples. Her therapeutic approach involves helping people change their thoughts and behaviors from negative to positive in order to enhance their productivity and satisfaction.

Don’t Know Where to Start Marketing? Start Here.

marketing-planSo you’re here because you’re a new to marketing. That’s fine—we all were at one point or another. You’re starting up a business or just bought one. Maybe you’re thinking about it. Whatever it is, you know you need to get the word out but don’t know how. Like they said in Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade—the hardest place to find is where to start.

So we’re hoping this post will help solve that problem. While every small business is unique and has different opportunities to capitalize on, there are some basic, fundamental things you can do to get started at the most rudimentary level and get you and your business on the proverbial map.

Write a mission/vision statement. Yes, they can be cheesy. Yes, they’re sometimes written by people who like to talk about themselves too much—but the truth is mission statements are a vital component of marketing. They tell your prospects who you are, what you do and—in some cases—why you do what you do. It serves as the bones of any marketing campaign or initiative. If you don’t have one, write one. If you don’t feel you’re best equipped to do it, find a marketing agency who is. Mission statements are extremely important—they give you an identity.

Develop an ideal customer profile. Who would benefit most from your service or product? What do they do? Where do they go? What worries do they have? How do you make their life easier? Where do you fit in their life? Who are their friends, what kinds of communities do they live in, etc. We know it’s a lot—but it’s totally worth it. Narrowing down exactly who’d be the best fit as a client helps you be more efficient with how you’re spending your marketing budget. Especially in the case of a startup, every penny counts.

Professionally designed website and marketing collateral.  You’re not going to believe how often you’re going to be asked for a business card. You’re going to be even more shocked at how quickly people will comment on it. Having cohesive branding means a lot—it tells people you’re serious and that you’ve put skin in the game. You’re not a moonlighter or someone trying something because you don’t know what else to do. It tells people who you are, that you’re serious and most importantly—that you’re open for business.

LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is basically Facebook for professionals. The tone is more formal, but the resources that can be had are immense. People can learn lots about you—you can recommend others, be recommended yourself, organize contacts, network, participate in discussion forums, etc. It allows you to personally brand yourself and have your information readily accessible in a place where anyone can get ahold of it.

Where you go from here with your marketing strategy is dependent on a lot of things, but having those four pieces of the puzzle firmly in place can go a long way towards making your future, more expansive marketing campaigns successful.

An Explanation of CISPA for Small Businesses

05.14.2012Recently the House of Representatives passed CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. With the SOPA debate that occurred earlier this year, not to mention its sister PIPA and several other lesser-known initiatives, 2012 seems rife with technology legislation for small business owners to wade through.

Although some are comparing SOPA and CISPA, there is little similarity. While SOPA was an attempt to prevent copyright infringements on the internet, CISPA is trying to reduce cyberattacks through data sharing. The bill allows private companies to share data about potential cyberattacks; this data can be shared with other companies or with the federal government.

SOPA was almost universally rejected in the tech world (in some cases quite vehemently). CISPA, on the other hand, has garnered more support. Microsoft and Facebook (at least as of this writing) have both expressed open support of the bill. Companies in support of CISPA maintain that the legal right to share data will help them better defend their networks against cyberterrorism. Even tech giant Google has declined to take a formal position on the bill, thus giving it tacit support, according to some. The only major player in the technology space that publically opposes CISPA is Mozilla, the creator of the popular Firefox web browser.

Why does Mozilla stand as one of the lone opponents to CISPA? One word: privacy. Mozilla sent a statement to Forbes summarizing its official viewpoint: “The bill infringes on our privacy, includes vague definitions of cybersecurity, and grants immunities to companies and government that are too broad around information misuse.”

CISPA’s effect (if it passes the Senate in its current form) will probably be felt mostly by individuals. Of course, anything that affects individuals will affect the small businesses run by those individuals. Do you use Salesforce for customer relationship management? Your data could be shared with other companies if it’s deemed useful to investigations of cyberattacks. Even your email could be subject to this, unless it is hosted on a server you own and not in the cloud.

Both opponents and supporters of CISPA agree that we need to continue the fight against cyberattacks. Many entities—especially non-profit privacy advocate groups—see CISPA as a step too far, infringing the basic rights of American citizens. Others, like tech companies that stand to lose the most from hacking and other cyberattacks, see CISPA as a step in the right direction. Interestingly, the White House has threatened to veto the bill, should it reach the President’s desk in its current form. Where do you stand on this issue?

Mozilla Slams CISPA, Breaking Silicon Valley’s Silence on Cybersecurity Bill
CISPA and Small Business
Time for Google To Speak Out Against CISPA

A Website Needs to be a Resource Center

01.30.2012In discussions with prospective clients, many view their firm’s website design as a priority but not a high one. Without any web analytics information, they make assumptions about how prospects find their firm and perform web research. After I review their Google Analytics reports – which they probably have never looked at – I cringe when a client downplays the importance of website design and content. By simply looking at an Analytics report for one minute, I can see the keywords that a website visitor searched that referred them to the site. A term such as “small business accounting San Diego” brings a visitor to the site, but since the website is not engaging or credible, the visitor lands on the homepage and then bounces off. I must remind all businesses, especially B2B services firms, that website design and continuous content creation is a critical lead generation and nurturing tool.

Living Resource Center

In the early 2000’s, an accounting or wealth management firm could accurately state that their firm’s website had minimal impact on populating their sales funnel. Most professional and business services firms’ websites served as more of an online brochure than a lead generation tool. Today, as more and more prospective clients rely on the web to determine the best partners for their business, it is important that your firm’s website design is not only compelling and professional but also a “living resource center.” You can’t hire website design firm, have them design the website and that’s it. A website needs to be constantly updated with timely, relevant resources.

Original Content

Excellent resources can be blog entries, videos, PowerPoint presentations with narration, podcasts, white papers, etc.  Your firm’s website needs to be updated weekly or prospective clients will not view you as a thought leader and won’t keep coming back to access new information. There needs to be accountability within your firm on who is responsible for generating new content and how often. The great thing with websites with an integrated content management system like WordPress is that a non-technical person can update the website without being tied to a web developer.

Content Curator

If creating original content can be difficult, serving as content curator is another effective way to ensure that your firm’s website is positioned as a resource center. There is an infinite amount of information on the web and if you can find the most relevant articles for your target audience and compile links to these resources on your website, it will save prospective clients time. This will also position your brand as thoughtful, innovative, informed, etc.

Continuous Rewards

As more information is being uploaded to your website, more and more inquiries and leads will come. Studies show that websites with more pages and content have exponentially higher conversion rates. From an SEO standpoint, more pages means more keyword rich content, which will help your firm rank higher for specific keyword searches. If you have four key people responsible for creating a blog entry a month, that’s 48 new pages in a year. Keep at it and the quality leads will come.

Discover how Bop Design can help you create a website design that is not only compelling and professional but also a “living resource center,” contact us today!

Generating Content For A Successful Website Design

12.08.2011Since the recognition of the importance of a visual identity is increasing, many companies seeking a new website design to increase business leads often get so caught up in the designs that they tend to forget the importance of the content of their website. Both the design and the content of your website are extremely important and work together to generate and nurture client leads.

The website design will make the company stand out and differentiate from similar companies. It will also create an overall feeling that the client or potential lead can relate to and connect with. Often, companies want to portray a warm, welcome feeling but imply a professional, established feel as well.

The content is the reason the client or lead visits the website initially, for information on what your company does and how it is unique. The content, if written well and aligned properly with your company’s capabilities, will not only generate new leads, but will keep clients long term by establishes a trusting relationship.

So how can you ensure that you generate content best suited for your company, as well as a visually effective website design? The answer lies in a content generation strategy. Content generation strategy is the planning and coordination that goes into coming up with effective copy for your website that fits well within the design process and ultimately, the final website design. This process varies from one design firm to the next.

In terms of content generation converging with the website design process, there are many “chicken and egg” debates about whether the design should be created before the content, the content before the design, or creating them simultaneously. Some design firms preach that you cannot begin a website design without the final, approved content. While having the final content does help the designer, it also prolongs the process. The design firm must wait for the company to generate content before a website design is started.

Contrary to what many design firms preach, it is efficient to generate content during the creation of the website design. This allows a company time to draft and correct content while the designer designs the website. This is also beneficial because the designer can show examples of possible designs, and the client is then able to select which will fit best with the identity they prefer, as well as with their content. It is common for a company to want a lot of copy to make sure all their bases are covered in terms of literal business message. Once sent to the designer to be put into the website design, often the designer will ask the client to edit the copy so it is more concise and to the point, which limits the amount of copy. This will make the message stronger, as well as improve the design, as too much copy can cause visual clutter. The inclusion of key words for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is also important and takes some time to get it just right. By designing and revising the website while the client generates and revises the content, the clients and the design firm stay in touch and are able to essentially work together to make sure the website design is exactly what the client wanted visually, and will work long term because the content is functional (in terms of SEO and other marketing tactics), true to the company’s culture and capabilities, and qualitative.

Here at Bop, our process for developing a content strategy varies based on our clients. Whether you have copy approved and ready to publish or you need a copywriter to generate all of your content, Bop Design tailors its process and services to meet your needs.

Smashing Magazine
Boag World
Shay Howe

One Tactic is not a Marketing Strategy

12.06.2011On average, I meet 5 to 10 entrepreneurs a week. When I meet with them, I ask them questions like: Who is your ideal customer? Who are good referral sources? Where do you network? How do you attract customers? 95% of the time entrepreneurs tell me that all customers come from referrals or networking and they do nothing else. I think this is a great strategy if one wants their business to remain stagnant. If an entrepreneur is satisfied with the number of clients and leads they currently have, then continue this marketing strategy. However, if an entrepreneur is serious about growing their business, one must focus on more than one to two marketing tactics. I remind entrepreneurs all the time that one tactic does not comprise an effective marketing strategy.

Tactical Mix

When determining a 2012 marketing plan, professional networking and referral partnerships should be two critical components of an overall strategy. Besides networking and referrals, there are other effective lead generation and nurturing tactics that most B2B firms can implement with successful outcomes. Remember that many business decision makers may not network as much as you do. How can you find and attract their business? Depending on your ideal customer, tactics such as direct marketing, advertising, email marketing, social media marketing, webinars, etc. can serve as effective tactics to generate brand awareness and “pull in” new ideal prospective customers. Different tactics resonate with different prospects. The decision maker who rarely networks may read the business journal everyday or may spend 30 minutes on LinkedIn each day. Even for the people who regularly network, follow up marketing tactics such as social media outreach and direct mail are excellent methods to nurture these leads along. Remember that a marketing strategy with a tactical mix will help you attract a variety of ideal prospective customers.

Fear and Ego

I think many entrepreneurs prefer networking and referrals because these tactics produce warmer leads than other marketing tactics such as SEO, social media marketing, email prospecting, etc. For most entrepreneurs, there is a fear of rejection with “colder” lead generation tactics. It’s hard to hear a definitive “no” from a prospect and most entrepreneurs’ healthy egos cannot take that rejection. This is why it’s easier for most to maintain a reactive marketing approach by only responding to referrals. A proactive approach is more aggressive and can be out of their comfort zone. Yes, networking is more proactive but you are only hitting a fraction of your target market. The key is to manage that fear and ego so more aggressive tactics are possible. The other alternative is to hire marketing or sales personnel who can handle the rejection much easier.

Lead Nurturing as Important as Generation

Many entrepreneurs focus solely on lead generation and pay little attention to lead nurturing. Remember that lead nurturing is just as important as lead generation. You may feel accomplished when you collect 10 business cards from a networking event or your firm’s new website design has generated 5 inquiries in a day. However, what marketing tactics are being utilized to nurture these leads from inquiry to customer? Lead nurturing tactics provide the follow up to build confidence in your prospect’s mind about your firm’s product or service. Your firm’s website design can be a lead nurturing tool along with white papers, capabilities brochure, success stories, references, etc. These tools allow a sales team to move the process forward and close the deal. It is important that marketing not only focus on generating ideal customer leads but also giving the sales team the tools necessary to seal the deal.

Guest Blog by Richard Clayman: Appreciating the Primal – Part 3 – Writing Your Script

07.01.2011aIn the last two posts, we’ve looked at what website videos and marketing videos are made to engender.


An immediate sense with the visitor that he or she doesn’t merely know what you do for a living, or what your taste is in fonts, colors, or IStock photos, or about your economy with written words (quite likely written by someone else, by the way).

We’ve discussed why it’s so important that your website visitors, human beings searching for someone to deliver a specific service or product, get an instant sense of more than what you do – who you are.  And why you shouldn’t sell in that intimate setting.

The whats and the whys.  Now let’s take a look at the hows.

The first step in creating a top-quality video is – just like with your website – the writing.  So who’s going to do that?  You could.  Take all of your experience in manufacturing baby rattles or surfboards, or addressing a jury, or filing a tax form, or investing people’s money, and use it when you put pen to paper and write a script.

Oh, right, that experience, profound as it is, doesn’t help much there, does it?

Okay, go hire a professional copy writer, perhaps that bright young woman who did such a nice job with your website text.

Although, quite likely, this will be her first teleplay.

For that’s what needs to be written for your videos.  A teleplay, the television version of a screenplay (which, of course, is the movie version of a play).  So tell me – would you have a plumber rewire your kitchen?  A labor attorney review your will?  A mortgage banker sell your home?

I don’t think so.  Then why would you have a (perhaps fine) writer with no video experience turn out your website video, product video, TV ad, or fundraising film teleplay?

Think about it.  While a screenwriter is a writer, a writer is not necessarily a screenwriter.

Remember, your website video or marketing video is, first and foremost, a film.  And if every aspect of its creation – beginning with the writing –  is not overseen by a true professional in the craft, well, it just won’t be as good a film as it could be.

Next time, more on what to look for in this kind of writing.

Read Part 1
Read Part 2

About the Author
Richard Clayman, Cloudwalker VideoWorks
Richard Clayman’s multiple award-winning career has spanned 30 years as a director, producer, writer, executive, and actor in television, theater and film. Projects on which Richard has directly worked have won dozens of Emmys, Golden Globes, and many other awards.

Accounting/CPA Firm Marketing Tips

07.01.2011bRunning an accounting firm can be a stressful but rewarding endeavor. If you manage your client relationships properly, you will retain a client for the long-term. As you market your accounting firm or CPA firm, there are a few marketing practices to remember and implement. Here are a few helpful tips-

Industry Specific

Many accounting firms do not want to focus on specific industries in their marketing communications. By focusing too much on industry sectors, they are afraid they are cutting off other business opportunities with industries not mentioned. There is a saying in marketing that says, “You can’t be everything to everyone.” As an accounting firm, it is important you “take a stand” and be explicit about the industries you typically serve. If the language in your marketing communications is too generic, your accounting firm brand message will not resonate with anyone. You don’t need to select one industry, instead, select four to seven industry sectors that comprise 85% of your business. This will make a prospective client comfortable about partnering with you.

White Paper Creation

A primary component of CPA/accounting firm marketing is positioning your firm as a thought leader in the marketplace. An effective method to highlight thought leadership is through the creation and dissemination of a white paper. A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that helps solve a problem. White papers are used to educate readers and help people make decisions, and can be used as a sales or marketing tool. For example, as an accounting firm that frequently partners with family businesses, your firm could create a white paper on accounting practices related to family or closely owned businesses.

Event Marketing

A typical challenge for most CPA/accounting firms is the lack of face-to-face interaction with clients. Yes, you are typically emailing and speaking on the phone but there is tremendous value in seeing your clients in-person from time to time. Coordinating an event for clients is an effective way to be in front of clients more. If you are an accounting firm that works with small businesses, a networking event with a known speaker is a great way to engage with your clients. This way, clients can network with your other clients – your accounting firm is essentially serving as a connector through an event. Also, an event that includes an expert speaker can add value and position your CPA/accounting firm brand properly.

Startup Business Marketing

06.29.2011Startup businesses are usually cash strapped and need to allocate resources carefully. When marketing a startup business, you need to find a balance between money and time allocation. Typically a startup business will have more time than money. Therefore, marketing tactics such as face-to-face networking, online social networking and blogging can be fruitful marketing tactics that require much more time than money. However, even if you have all the time in the world, there are tactics that a marketing agency is better equipped to handle.

As you discuss your startup business marketing plan with an agency, discuss the tasks you will be responsible for and the items the agency can address. An agency can develop a tactical plan comprised of effective lead generation and nurturing tactics. From there, you both can divide up the tasks. Being that a marketing agency does this all the time, rely on them to develop the strategy and advise you on implementation. For instance, an agency may develop a blogging strategy and advise you to blog. Even though you are a capable writer and can do this on your own, the agency can refine the approach – helping you with blog messaging, though leadership, distribution, etc.

Be up-front with an agency about your startup marketing budget. Also, be truthful about your skills and bandwidth. Being up-front will save time in the long run so your startup business is generating ideal customer leads faster. Being cash strapped, startup businesses typically allocate more marketing funds to online tactics versus traditional advertising. Traditional advertising is an effective marketing tactic but it can be cost prohibitive to startup businesses. Also, ensure the agency you hire does not devise a marketing strategy and not oversee implementation. Select an agency that can devise a strategy and has a proven track record with execution.

Marketing a Professional Services Firm

06.30.2011The term “professional services” could be the most generic-sounding business classification. According to businessdictionary.com, professional services “consist of accounting, legal, medical and other such services provided by a formally certified member of professional body.” Professional services firms provide solely service – they do not have a product or something tangible that helps differentiate their company. Word-of-mouth, referrals and testimonials are all critical components to marketing a professional services firm. As a professional services firm, how do you differentiate your firm without appearing too “radical” that you cut your firm’s credibility?

The most effective way to differentiate your professional services firm is by continuously engaging with your target market. Is your firm a thought leader among your target market? Is your website a resource center for common issues clients face? Are you regularly communicating with current and prospective clients with pertinent information? This can be done through email, social media platforms, phone, events, etc.

Fortunately most professional services firms are weak at marketing. They are too busy doing the actual professional services work and when it comes to marketing communications, they are more reactive rather than proactive. When it comes to professional services marketing, it’s all about being a step ahead of your client and serving as their trusted advocate. I can’t tell you how many small business decision makers complain to me that they never hear from their accountant or lawyer unless they need to be paid. A constant flow of communication to your clients will differentiate you from 90% of professional services firms.

Communication to current and prospective clients is part of professional services marketing. By implementing a marketing communications process, your firm remains credible and is able to be ahead of the competition. The communication can’t be irrelevant information though – it must be timely information that  is of concern to your target market. The more a professional services firm can serve as a “content curator” and in-disposable time saver, the more valuable your company will be to your ideal customer.

Life in San Diego as a Small Business

06.09.2011As a small business in San Diego, you’re one of many. Almost all businesses in San Diego County employ less than 100 employees. You’re probably thinking, “100 employees?? That’s not a small business!” Well, in the United States, a 100 employee is still considered a small business. Small businesses from 1 to 100 employees experience common challenges – one of the most critical issues being which positions to hire full-time versus outsourcing part-time? As a small business with limited resources, it’s difficult to bring all positions in-house. For many positions, from accounting to legal to marketing, it makes sense to outsource.

So what do you outsource? Think of positions you really only utilize 50 hours or less a month. Do you need an in-house legal counsel full-time? Do you need a full-time SEO specialist? Do you need a full-time CPA? For most small businesses, probably not. Small businesses tie up precious resources in some staff that is under-utilized. Plus, you’re allocating extra funds for benefits, workman’s comp, etc. Tapping into an outsourced employee pool where your workforce can expand or contract based on projects is the most cost-efficient way to run your business.

So why outsource? It’s extremely expensive to employ talented people in all business-critical functional areas. In San Diego, small businesses have the luxury of a plethora of talent to employ. You can employ a talented bookkeeper for 20 hours a month. The bookkeeper will be paid much more per hour and it will cost your small business much less. The same works for most outsourced professions. It’s a win-win! Also, outsourcing is an excellent way to test employees before you hire them full-time.

As a San Diego small business, you must wonder what is the best way to outsource? First rule, “Watch for talent!” If you lead a small business in San Diego, networking is key. You and your employees must be present at various networking events. Most San Diego networking events are attended by other small businesses that offer outsourced business services. You and your employees must be “on alert” for key business services. Your employees must be looking to build a business alliance group – a group of “power partners” who you can refer your small business clients to and utilize yourself.

A San Diego small business’ first instinct must be to outsource before hiring full-time. It’s the most effective way to keep your small business nimble and growing.

San Diego Marketing – What to Ask?

05.23.2011As a San Diego small business, you have a multitude of marketing options. For most San Diego small businesses, it makes sense to outsource marketing. Why employ a full-time staff when you can outsource the services your business requires for much less? Imagine employing a marketing strategist, web designer, web developer, SEO specialist, social media specialist and email marketing guru all at once? That will cost your business hundreds of thousands of dollars a year! Employing a virtual marketing department that can expand or contract based on marketing initiatives makes the most economic sense. It’s great that there are so many talented San Diego marketing resources. Here are some things to keep in mind as you search for a “San Diego marketing agency”-

  • Integrated Marketing- It’s all about implementing a holistic approach. Don’t employ an agency that only specializes in SEO or web design or email marketing. Select an agency that can employ a variety of marketing tactics and implement an integrated marketing strategy.
  • Project Management- Many companies employ a marketing coordinator to manage outsourced marketing partners. A capable marketing coordinator will cost at least $35,000 a year plus benefits. Search for an agency that will handle all the project management. They will have a defined process and will coordinate much more efficiently and inexpensively.
  • More about ROO, less about Recognition- Creativity is important but make sure that the marketing agencies you meet with are more concerned about your marketing objective and the ROO (return on objective). Unfortunately there are many San Diego marketing agencies that are more concerned about recognition at an ad agency award reception rather than the marketing strategy accomplishing what your company set out to do.

The good news is that there are plenty of talented San Diego marketing agencies out there. You just have to ask the right questions to ensure the best fit for your business.

Guest Blog by IES: Trends in HR Outsourcing for Small Business

04.19.2011A recent survey, conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit, found that senior executives around the world rated their HR departments as the worst performing of all their business functions. Being bogged down with administrative tasks, HR executives don’t have time to look at the big picture and work toward the goals of the company. In light of these findings many HR professionals have been prompted to outsource administrative tasks, such as payroll and benefits administration, in order to assume a more strategic role in driving employee performance and corporate profitability. We interviewed Harry Feinberg, Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Outsourcing Today LLC (the company that publishes HRO Today magazine, HRO Europe magazine and FAO Today magazine) to gain insight into the trends and future of HR outsourcing.

“HR administration is one of the easiest items for a company to outsource since the functions are transactional in nature and aren’t core to the company’s business goals,” says Feinberg. For years payroll has been the most common function outsourced, however, companies are starting to realize the advantages of outsourcing other functions such as 401(k) programs, stock options administration and health benefits. With many outsourcers offering automated systems to allow employees to modify their information and manage benefits, companies and employees alike are benefiting from the convenience. What’s more, HR outsourcing provides organizations with access to better expertise, customer service, lower costs and greater value. When freed from time-consuming administration, HR is better able to realize its full potential and deliver greater strategic value to the organization.

Research by the Yankee Group predicts that the domestic market for HR outsourcing will reach $42 billion by 2008. According to Feinberg, the market for HR outsourcing is growing at 25-30% each year. A main driver for growth is attributed to the convergence of finance, accounting and HR functions. “Through this convergence, organizations are starting to realize cost savings and increased efficiency, creating a market demand for greater integration of HR and financial data,” says Feinberg. “Moreover, many mid market companies have similar service delivery requirements and systems to run items such as payroll, benefits administration, accounts receivable and accounts payable, driving HR outsourcing providers to consider bundling their services to meet the market demands.” Feinberg also pointed out that many organizations recognize that HR administration is best handled by outside experts specializing in payroll and benefits administration outsourcing, as it is their core competency.

“The trend of outsourcing HR administration is initially started in larger companies, however, mid market and smaller companies have found outsourcing to be critical in helping them grow,” says Feinberg. More and more business leaders understand that it is imperative that they stick to their companies’ business strengths and outsource non-core functions. According to Feinberg, the most sophisticated companies outsource and the most sophisticated outsourcing providers outsource as well.

The market is rapidly changing and with that executives are going to need the flexibility to adapt. “If you decide to outsource then you should find a provider that keeps to a service level agreement, is a cultural fit with your organization and that properly benchmarks program success,” suggests Feinberg. Personally, Feinberg has been outsourcing for 20 years and couldn’t imagine running his business otherwise.

Guest Blog by Sarah Hardwick: 5 Strategies to Attract A’s

04.13.2011As an agency owner, you can attract your ideal “A” clients even in a tough economy with a little planning and creative visualization.  When times are tight, it can be tough to turn down opportunities that would bring immediate financial benefit, but might not be a good fit for your business in the long term. Filtering out these “B” and “C” clients will save you time and resources while producing more meaningful and profitable relationships in the future. Use your imagination and visualize the perfect client roster with the help of these five strategies.

Create an Ideal Client Profile

Create a list of ideal qualities for “A” clients and focus your business development efforts on retaining and attracting clients that fit those criteria. You can include factors like minimum annual deal size, target industry, etc., or characteristics such as “supportive, intelligent, grateful, easy to work with, realistic in what PR can achieve for their business.” Use the criteria as a checklist and be strict about qualifying all new prospects.

Rank Your Current Clients

To be successful in attracting “A” clients, you may need to make room for new opportunities by letting go of less profitable clients currently on your roster. First, rank your clients according to your ideal guidelines. You might be surprised at the results! Then, decide whether you want to create a growth plan or choose not to renew contracts when they expire.

Focus on Your Passions

Spend the bulk of your new business effort focusing on the unique niche(s) you are passionate about to develop client relationships that are both personally and professionally rewarding. Look for companies that align with your mission, vision and values who are working in areas that your team is excited about. Get creative and consider putting up a vision board with images, quotes, anything that inspires you on a daily basis.

Leverage Key Influencers

Tap into your network of key influencers to gain access to ideal clients, establish credibility and top of mind awareness. Ask your current “A” clients to be referral sources to other high quality prospects. Another tactic is to create an advisory board to strengthen relationships with your influencers and obtain advance notice of opportunities on the horizon.

Refresh Often

As your business evolves over time, you will need to continually refresh your ideal client profile to stay in line with shifts in your strategy and the competitive landscape.  Review your checklist on a quarterly basis and ensure your team knows what qualities are most important. Keep your eyes on the “A’s” and trust your instincts for success in achieving the perfect client mix.

About the Blogger Sarah Hardwick

Sarah Hardwick is founder of Zenzi Communications, a Solana Beach, CA based PR and social media firm dedicated to helping clients “Be Known.” Follow her at www.twitter.com/SarahZ, visit www.zenzi.com or www.Facebook.com/ZenziBEKnown

Guest Blog by CJ Westrick: The Biggest Risk to Your Company

04.08.2011Most small businesses owners have a fear of a variety of governmental agencies. Often, this fear is warranted because most of you do not really know, positively, what is expected of you by those agencies. That leaves you with the fear of the government “catching” you for having done something wrong or just not having done something.

On the other side of that is the small business owner who does not worry about the government because they believe they are “just too small” to be noticed. This group of owners is often right. The government usually spends their time and money chasing after the larger employers where the fines and penalties involved make it worth the effort.

In the end, it is this mix of fear and lack of concern that creates the problem. You really cannot wait until your company is bigger to worry about the government because if they know about you, they will target you. And so many of you make it way too easy for them to catch you.

So, where is the risk? How and why are you coming to the attention of a governmental agency? Take a look around your office. See those people working for and with you? They are your biggest risk; they are the ones holding big signs that say “look at this company.”

Don’t say it, I’ve heard it too many times… “but these people have become my friends, my family, and they would never hurt me.”

Over the past two or three years, I have heard many small companies talk about hiring people as independent contractors or paying people under the table. Yes, it saved you from paying payroll taxes and higher workers’ compensation costs. It could also end up costing you much more than you saved.

If the person you hired as an independent contractor did not come to you as a business, then they aren’t a business. That contract you both signed will not convince a governmental agency that you really have a sub-contractor relationship rather than an employer-employee relationship. This type of false independent contractor relationship usually falls apart in the unemployment office.

Once you no longer need this person, they will do what they’ve always done when they are out of work… apply for unemployment. But wait a minute! EDD doesn’t have a record of this person as your employee, does it? Alarms sound and an audit of your payroll records for the last four years is ordered. You will be looking at fines, penalties, possible overtime back pay, and, later on, IRS knocking at your door for unpaid taxes.

So, is it safer to just pay people under the table? No. I am amazed at how many employers don’t even realize that the concept of “under the table” means there is no paper trail. That means you are not paying the person with a company check and you are not writing it off as a company expense. Where’s the risk?

Again, that person is following past habits. When the money stops coming in, they file unemployment. They list their “official” pay and then mention that they also received some cash from you. After all, the more money they say they were making, the higher the unemployment check. This is also how a cash bonus backfires on you (as opposed to a bonus that is properly run through payroll).

While you might consider coaching this person on what to and not to do or say, you have no real control over them once they stop working with you. You really can’t be sure of whether or not they will “tip” the government about your illegal methods. And, yes, these are illegal methods.

Most of the time, these “non-employees” are not trying to harm you intentionally. However, they often harm you by not understanding the legalities of the situation. Even if they understood the harm they might cause, when it comes down to saving you money or making more money themselves, who do you think will be first in their mind?

About the Blogger:
C.J. Westrick, SPHR, owns a human resource consulting firm, HR Jungle (www.HRjungle.com), which specializes in working with businesses that do not need full-time HR assistance but want a high level of experience and knowledge.

Keyword Research – The First Step To Increasing SEO

03.28.2011Before you launch an SEO strategy, it’s important to take a step back and analyze the keywords being targeted. The keywords you target are critical to the success, or failure, of your SEO strategy.

Assuming you have an existing website, the first step is to check the effectiveness of your keywords. The following are a few items to research when checking keyword effectiveness:

  • What percentage of visitors used your keywords to find your website?
  • What queries are people typing to find your website?
  • Where do you currently rank for these keywords?
  • Are your keywords attracting targeted ideal customer leads?

*These are just a few of the free tools that are available to help you evaluate keywords: Google Analytics, SpyFu, Google Keyword Tool.*

Casting a wide net – this might work very well for fishing but not an effective strategy when it comes to choosing keywords. You want to choose relevant and specific keywords for your business so you attract targeted leads. If a house painter chooses the keyword “paint,” they are going to attract more “junk” web visitors than potential clients. People searching the word “paint” might be looking for paint supplies, oil paints, pink paint, finger-paint, etc… These phrases have nothing to do with the house painting services – he has cast too wide of a net. But, if this house painter targets the keyword phrase “house painting San Diego,” the people searching this phrase and landing on his website will more likely fit his ideal customer profile. Determine if your keywords are bringing in the right traffic with visitors that will spend some time on your website rather than leaving shortly after arriving.

Now that you have selected relevant and specific keywords you are ready to go…well not quite. Next, you should research the traffic for your chosen words. If the words or phrases are too niche or industry specific then there might be little to no traffic for these keywords. Try different variations of these keywords to find ones that remain specific enough but still have a critical mass of people searching.

This brings me to my next point – checking the competition for your keywords. If all it took to show up on page 1 in Google was picking the highest traffic, relevant keywords then keyword optimization would be a “piece of cake.” But, unfortunately you have competitors vying for these same keywords. If there is much well-established competition for your keywords it could take years, if ever, to show up within the first 10 results on Google. After you assess the competition for your keywords then choose keywords that have low to low-medium competition so you can start competing today.

Keyword research and optimization is the backbone to the success of your SEO strategy, so take the time to choose the right keywords. In summary, your keywords should be targeted, popular, low competition, and attract your ideal customer. Good luck and let us know if Bop Design can help!

Holiday Time- A Tale of Two Companies

11.27.2010The holiday season can be a dramatically different experience depending on the type of company you are. Most people associate the holidays with the pinnacle of commerce- many retailers do 50% of their business in the month of December. However, for many B2B companies, this is a dark downtime.

As B2C companies such as retailers, hotels, airlines, etc. gear up for their busiest time of the year, most B2B companies go into hibernation until January. In November and December, Bop Design will speak to many companies about their marketing plan for the coming year. There is much talk but little action. Bop Design has the most client meetings in November and December, but most projects are not implemented until the following year.

Companies like to do long-term strategic planning in November and December and determine marketing initiatives for the next year. Bop Design is roped into many of these discussions. Whether it’s implementing a new direct mail lead generation strategy or designing a new website to lure new clients, many of these discussions happen at the end of the year. We think there needs to be more implementation at the end of the year.

If you have the budget and the resources, implementing a new marketing strategy at the end of the year will give you a “leg up”over the competition. Most companies just talk at the end of the year. Instead, you talk and then act. The first week of January comes and you already have the new strategy developed and can move forward. Meanwhile, much of your competition decides to implement in late January and won’t see the plan come to fruition until March.

For a B2B company, January and February can be as frenetic as a B2C company’s December. Before the frenzy hits, a company should have its marketing strategy in place and implement the new lead generation tactics on January 2. For B2B companies, the slow holiday time is an ideal time to perform long-term strategic planning. They plan but delay action and once January hits, they are back to their usual reactive mode of responding to current clients. A company must not only strategize but immediately implement tactics that can develop new opportunities in the coming year.

Brand Positioning and Promise

10.26.2010I attend at least three networking events a week. Of course, I discuss what Bop Design does for small businesses. When speaking to people, I have noticed there is much confusion about branding. Many people think branding is really just a logo or the “look and feel” of a website. They focus on the design elements behind branding but don’t think of the strategy. Two major elements of branding are brand positioning and the brand promise. As a small business owner, it is critical you focus on both elements.

With brand positioning, marketers try to create an idea among their target market of what a service provider or product stands for. For instance, WalMart is positioned as the “low cost leader.” BMW is positioned as the “ultimate driving machine.” TRESemme is positioned as “professional, affordable.” Usually a product or service is positioned by qualities like cost, quality, or target market. The brand position needs to be consistent throughout your marketing efforts or customers will be confused. For example, the Snickers Marathon energy bar targeting health conscious, fitness buffs could create some confusion. Most people think of the Snickers brand as a candy bar that “really satisfies” when you’re hungry not when you’re about to run a race! As a small business owner you must make sure that your brand is positioned consistently and accurately in all marketing efforts from website to advertising to social media, etc.

The next element of branding is the brand promise, which is related to brand positioning. The brand promise addresses customers’ expectations about a product or service. For instance, WalMart’s brand positioning as the “low cost leader” promises customers that they can trust WalMart has the lowest price for a product. Chances are, customers will not expect Nordstrom type service when shopping at WalMart- that is not an aspect of their brand promise. The brand promise is the execution of the brand position. Sometimes brand positioning and its execution are misaligned. An example of this is Kaiser Permanente. Over the past few years, Kaiser’s brand campaign has positioned the brand as a high-end health care provider focused on wellness, which targets affluent customers. The campaign is summed up with the tagline, “Live Well and Thrive.” Now I grew up with Kaiser insurance and as one of my doctors put it, “Kaiser is a great healthcare plan for healthy people.” It was a healthcare plan that served as a cost effective solution for my parents who were raising five children. I never thought of Kaiser as a “country club” health plan. If I was a marketer of Kaiser, I would be concerned about customers having unrealistic expectations about the brand and utlimately being disappointed by Kaiser’s service delivery. Its brand promise cannot be executed and customers will not be happy.

As a small business, start thinking about how you want to be viewed by customers and delivering on your brand promise. By positioning your brand effectively, there will be no mystery among your target customers regarding what you stand for. If you deliver on your brand promise, you will achieve long-term customer satisfaction.