The Local Marketing Stack

Organic Marketing

HOW TO USE THIS GRAPHIC
Generally speaking, you should read the graphic from left-to-right and bottom-to-top. Points lower and to the left are more fundamental to the overall success of your business than points higher and to the right in the sequence.

THE STOPS
A suggested timeline of steps to build your Organic Marketing Stack follows below.

Customer Data

Zone 1 • Difficulty: • Sugg. Monthly Budget: $5+

Customer data can refer to a whole range of attributes, but at a minimum, every business should collect an email address from every customer (and prospect, if appropriate), and maintain a spreadsheet or database of each customer’s purchase history.

Useful even if you don’t have the time to use it
Even if you as a business owner never have the time to look at this data (a common situation!), software products are springing up left and right that can ingest this data, augment it with data from third-party sources, and analyze it for you with a keystroke. Over time, once your database gets large enough, you’ll be able to make smarter decisions about how and where to spend your marketing budget, and in some cases have software execute those campaigns for you automatically based on the data from your existing customers.

A big long-term payoff
These campaigns will both lower your marketing costs and make your marketing more effective, but it all starts with having an intentional plan to gather the data initially.

 

 

Recommended Vendors:

G Suite by Google

G Suite (formerly Google Apps) is the easiest to set up and most easily-integrated productivity suite for small businesses. Despite trying numerous competitive replacements for our own use, this suite remains the best option.

Cost: $5+

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Square

Not only is Square used and loved by many of your target customers; its add-on marketing toolsets are the gold standard in the industry. Using Square as your point-of-sale and customer data collector makes many future marketing initiatives much, much easier (and more effective).

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Referrals & Word-of-Mouth

Zone 1 • Difficulty: • Free Options Available

Perhaps the oldest form of marketing is the word-of-mouth referral–and it’s still the most effective, according to most small business owners.  Beyond providing a great product or service, there’s no silver bullet to word-of-mouth referrals.  Many satisfied customers are happy to provide them, but it takes a little nudging or prompting in order for them to do so.

A natural starting point
In-person networking is one of the most natural ways to get started: attending events where complementary business owners (and possibly even direct customers) are likely to be in attendance as well.  Whether that’s the local neighborhood business association or chamber of commerce, industry trade shows, or a community volunteer day, there’s no substitute for getting out and meeting local people.

Measure Net Promoter Score
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a simple survey that provides a single number that effectively calculates how likely your clients are to recommend you. It is effectively a measurement of your perceived quality and a great predictor of future business growth. As a standardized question it also allow you to compare your “word of mouth index” to others in your industry. 

Stay top of mind with satisfied customers
Regardless of the medium, your marketing is at its best when it keeps you top of mind with your satisfied customers and nudges them to pass the word along about your business to friends and family.

Amplify your word-of-mouth referrals
The best marketing tactics amplify your word-of-mouth, whether it’s a postcard received in the mail that reminds them of a friend who just asked about your service, great email newsletter that gets forwarded from a subscriber to a friend, a previous customer review that future customer sees on Google, or an explicit recommendation on Facebook.

Content

Zone 2 • Difficulty: • Free Options Available

Too many small businesses overlook the importance of content in their web presence, either ignoring it altogether or outsourcing it to an SEO agency who just writes some keyword-laden drivel in the hopes of attracting search engines.

Your content should be authentic, informative, and focused on your customers.

  • Why should customers choose you?
    Do you use the freshest ingredients? Have the fastest service? Unmatched years of expertise? You should clearly convey your value to your customers (and if appropriate, how that differs from your competition).
  • What are the most common questions that customers call, email, or ask you about in person?
    Answering the questions that people are already asking can not only help you rank for those same questions when prospects type them into a search engine, but also convert them once they land on your website or see them answered on social media.
  • Don’t forget–photos and videos are content, too!
    Don’t know what to write about? That’s OK! Think about visual case studies, video interviews with staff or clients, portfolio pieces…any visual that conveys what it’s like to work with you is great content!
  • Share others’ content.
    It’s not kosher to steal content, but sharing a snippet and giving your own perspective on it will interest your audience and flatter the original creator. It also positions you as a thought leader on top of the latest trends in your industry.
  • Ask your customers.
    Customer testimonials and reviews are some of your most powerful content. Not only are they persuasive and illustrative of what it’s like to visit you or work with you, but they’re likely to be peppered with keywords that will help you rank better in search engines.
Recommended Vendors:

Tidings

Well, we’re obviously a little biased. But we’d like to think we’re the easiest way to stay in touch with (and get referrals from) your clients via a weekly or monthly newsletter.

Cost: $19+

Visit Website

Answer the Public

A tremendous free resource that highlights the top questions consumers ask surrounding given keywords. Type in a few phrases related to what you sell and figure out what answers you should be providing with your digital content.

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Google Trends

A simple content idea tool that anyone can use, Google Trends shows you the popularity of any keyword search at Google (even down to the metro-area level) as well as related terms to those keywords. It’s particularly useful for generating ideas for what to write about.

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Email

Zone 2 • Difficulty: • Sugg. Monthly Budget: $20+

Since the dawn of the Internet, small business owners have ranked email marketing as one of their top three marketing channels (the other two today are usually social media and SEO). While various “experts” have predicted the demise of email for years, the reality is that it remains a ubiquitous and effective communication channel for businesses and consumers alike.

Newsletters and promotional emails get many-times greater visibility than unpaid posts on social media, and unlike SEO, email is a marketing channel that small business owners intuitively understand.

3 C’s to success with email marketing include:

  • Compelling
    Many small business owners fear sending too many emails, and with good reason. We’ve all unsubscribed from countless mailing lists because the content of the emails came too frequently and just wasn’t interesting.Regardless of how often you send, each time you do the content you include should be compelling–and if possible, personalized to the subscriber’s interests.
  • Clean
    We’ll use this term to refer to both the design of your emails — keep them uncluttered and with clear calls to action, and make sure they look good on mobile devices — as well as the hygiene of your mailing list. Never, ever send someone an email who hasn’t explicitly opted-in to receive it. You may get away with it for awhile, but one too-many complaints can flag you as a spammer and can impact the deliverability to your entire mailing list.
  • Consistent
    Set expectations for your subscribers when they sign up. Will you email them daily weekly? monthly? quarterly? Stick with a regular schedule to create the best brand impression and receive the most word-of-mouth benefit.
Recommended Vendors:

Square

Not only is Square used and loved by many of your target customers; its add-on marketing toolsets are the gold standard in the industry. Using Square as your point-of-sale and customer data collector makes many future marketing initiatives much, much easier (and more effective).

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Mailchimp

Hands-down the best email service provider for small businesses, Mailchimp integrates with all kinds of other apps and platforms. And, it’s free up to 2,000 subscribers. (We use Mailchimp for our Minutive newsletter.)

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Privy

Privy is the easiest way to grow your online mailing list, integrating with every email reputable service provider and website CMS under the sun.

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Tidings

Well, we’re obviously a little biased. But we’d like to think we’re the easiest way to stay in touch with (and get referrals from) your clients via a weekly or monthly newsletter.

Cost: $19+

Visit Website

Community

Zone 3 • Difficulty: • Sugg. Monthly Budget: $100+

“Community” is a concept that means different things to companies of different sizes.

The big-brand view of community
Larger companies frequently try to build their own communities around shared interests, shared goals, or shared content.  Examples from larger brands are initiatives like “My Starbucks Idea” for Starbucks enthusiasts to connect directly with each other and share suggestions with Starbucks employees, or the Quickbooks Community in which Intuit fans and experts answer questions from newer members. Both of these platforms build incredibly positive associations for the brands that operate them and loyalty from the customers who interact on them.

The local business view of community
There’s nothing to say that local businesses can’t build this same kind of community themselves, but it takes a lot of time and energy to build them, and frequently the connections with your customers are much more direct, so there’s no need to build out an entire community online.

Don’t build your own (at least right off the bat) — barnacle onto other communities.
A better bet is to leverage existing platforms (such as NextDoor or Facebook Groups) to build these same kinds of positive brand associations.

Real-world involvement wins the day
But where community really matters for small businesses is in real-world involvement.  Participating in your local neighborhood association.  Sponsoring local charities.  Pitching in for school fundraisers.  You need to be sure this offline involvement gets translated online, though, for maximum exposure, so leverage all of your community involvement with

  • creating and posting photos and/or videos of your involvement
  • adding your logo and a link to your website or social profiles from the organization’s members or sponsors page
  • getting occasional shout-outs from the organization on social media

Start small and shoot for $100/month in sponsorships or time donated.

Represent offline community involvement online
As our friend Mike Blumenthal likes to say, it’s no longer enough to have your logo on the back of the little league team jersey, or to get a participation plaque from a charity. These are both great, but they don’t really do anything for your business beyond the few families who have kids on the team or might happen to glance at the plaque in your lobby. You need to make sure that search engines and social media followers can see this involvement represented online.

Recommended Vendors:

Mighty Networks

The modern version of a forum, with custom-app-like bells and whistles, Mighty Networks is a great option for more advanced businesses in knowledge-intensive categories.

Cost: free+

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NextDoor

A local version of Facebook, NextDoor has grown substantially in the last couple of years and is expanding its business offerings in parallel. Helping your neighbors with questions and needs is one of the best ways to build word-of-mouth.

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Zipsprout

Zipsprout’s unique matchmaking service pairs local businesses with non-profit organizations and events in their area whose audiences align, and who provide digital recognition of their sponsors.

Cost: $99+

Visit Website

Reviews & Testimonials

Zone 3 • Difficulty: • Sugg. Monthly Budget: $30+

Reviews and testimonials are some of your most compelling content. 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and they’re one of the most authentic ways you can convey what it’s like to work with you or purchase from you.

Essential in many industries
Reviews and testimonials are great for SEO — and in many industries such as hospitality, personal care, and food/beverage, they’re essential.  You often need a baseline number of reviews just to rank in the first place, and the keyword associations consumers use naturally when describing your business helps you rank for those keywords.

Big impact on conversion
Even more important than the positive impact reviews and testimonials have on rankings is their impact on conversion.  The difference between 3 stars and 5 stars on Google is a full 25% increase in clickthrough rate, and displaying reviews and testimonials on your site increases the chance someone clicks to purchase, picks up the phone to call you, or drives to your business.

Institute an acquisition routine
The bottom line is that asking your customers if they had a good experience at your business should be part of your everyday routine. The vendors listed here can help you implement that routine.

Recommended Vendors:

GatherUp

GatherUp helps you easily acquire customer feedback & encourage online word-of-mouth with your customers, with great analytics around who’s reviewing you and what they’re saying.

Cost: $29+

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Grade.us

If you’re looking for a more robust marketer’s toolset to acquire reviews, Grade.us puts the whole package together for you, with complete creative control.

Cost: $29+

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SEO

Zone 3 • Difficulty: • Free Options Available

In the late ’00s, SEO was the low-cost, high-return marketing option for the overwhelming majority of small businesses. But with Google’s move monetize more and more search results with paid ads, as well as the kinds of results Google now prefers to show, the number of small businesses who will get a steady stream of customers from SEO will decline over time.

Nonetheless, diminishing returns don’t mean no returns, and there are a number of straightforward, low-cost techniques that can improve your search engine presence fairly quickly–many of which are represented elsewhere in the Marketing Stack.

  • Use keywords in your Title Tags
    Title Tags are not always obvious when you’re viewing a webpage, but they’re the most important on-page attribute for SEO. You can see what your existing Title Tags are by performing a “site:” search like this one at Google. The blue links on that search result are your Title Tags.
  • Implement User Experience (UX) best practices
    Good UX is good SEO. Just like users, search engines like responsive fast-loading websites, clear navigation, and obvious contact information.
  • Claim your local profiles
    Presenting consistent, accurate contact information for your business across major local search engines and directories gives Google more confidence they’re directing searchers to a real business, and this confidence can lead to higher rankings.
  • Get customers to review you
    Get a process in place to ask for customer feedback, if you don’t have one already. Especially for businesses in the food and beverage, personal care, or hospitality industries, reviews have become “table stakes” for local rankings.
  • Be involved in your community
    “Votes,” or backlinks, from websites of community organizations you’re involved in (such as charities and chambers of commerce), and stories about your business in local newspapers and blogs, are a strong influence on your search engine rankings.

 

NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP WITH SEO?
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Recommended Vendors:

Yoast

While WordPress is the most SEO-friendly content management system, it doesn’t quite optimize on its own. Enter Yoast, an amazing (free) plugin that helps you maximize WordPress’s search-engine-friendly capabilities. Also offers additional modules for local businesses, ecommerce websites, and video.

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Social Media

Zone 3 • Difficulty: • Free Options Available

Social media consistently ranks as one of the top three marketing channels among small business owners. And with good reason — everyone’s on Facebook, you don’t have to be a technical expert to be great at social media, and the possibility of one of your posts going viral holds tremendous appeal.

Social Media is increasingly becoming pay-to-play.
But be careful not to think of social media as a silver bullet for your entire marketing strategy. Only a few fans out of 100 will see an average post from you on the most popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, as these companies start constricting organic visibility in favor of advertising.

Don’t fall victim to Shiny Object Syndrome.
Just because Snapchat is taking off with Generation Z, for example, doesn’t mean your business needs to be active on Snapchat.

Prioritize your time and energy based on your customers.
A good social media presence takes time to build, and doesn’t have to be the same quality across all channels.  Think about where your customers are likely to hang out online (the best way to do this is simply to ask them!), and that’s where you should be spending time as a business owner.

 

NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP WITH SOCIAL MEDIA?
TIDINGS RECOMMENDS CREDO »

Recommended Vendors:

Buffer

Buffer enables you schedule and cross-promote your content on multiple social media platforms. Sign up for the Awesome Plan at $10/mo.

Cost: $10+

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Perch

Perch is a free app that monitors your local reviews (as well as your competitors’ reviews and social media), helping you stay on top of what people are saying about your business and one step ahead of the competition.

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Sprout Social

Although a little pricey for what it does (especially relative to Buffer’s Awesome Plan), Sprout Social is a great option for small businesses whose customers exhibit higher levels of engagement on social media.

Cost: $59+

Visit Website

Landing Pages

Zone 4 • Difficulty: • Sugg. Monthly Budget: $30+

Technically, every page on your site *is* a landing page. But what we’re referring to here are pages that are specially designed to convert a particular kind of web visitor into taking a particular action.

What’s on the landing page varies by industry.
So, for example, you might drive prospective customers from a paid search or paid social media campaign to a landing page where they enter their email address in order to download an e-book.  Or register for an event you’re hosting.  Or just purchase a particular product you’re especially interested in selling.

Squeeze the most customers out of every ad dollar.
Well-designed landing pages convert more customers and make your paid advertising (and organic media) more cost-effective by getting you more customers for the same amount of ad spend.

Use a third-party vendor.
If you’re not an HTML whiz (and even if you are), these pages can be super time-consuming to create, and there’s a number of best practices you might not be aware of, so it’s best to use a third-party vendor to streamline the process and automate the implementation of some of these best practices.

Recommended Vendors:

LeadPages

Amazing templates and extensive third-party integrations make Leadpages a great choice for businesses of all sizes who are serious about A/B testing and converting more customers from all digital media.

Cost: $25+

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Instapage

Instapage might be a little easier to get the hang of, but it’s hard to pick a favorite for landing pages between Instapage and LeadPages. Both offer comparable feature sets at similar prices.

Cost: $29+

Visit Website

Conversion Rate Optimization

Zone 4 • Difficulty: • Sugg. Monthly Budget: $100+

Conversion Rate Optimization, or CRO, is a logical next step after you’ve dipped your toe into the waters of Landing Pages.

Convert visitors to customers.
CRO software, or a CRO expert, helps you analyze the landing page data from your various analytics programs and suggests changes to color, layout, copy, and more, in order to convert even more visitors to those pages into customers.

A natural extension of Landing Pages.
Many landing page companies are now baking in CRO as a core feature of their products, and we suspect that landing pages and CRO will continue to blend together over time.

Extend what you learn.
The improvements you make to your landing pages don’t have to stop with paid campaigns.  Use what you learn from your CRO expert (or software) and update pages that get most of their traffic from organic sources with the same best practices.

 

NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP WITH CONVERSION RATE OPTIMIZATION?
TIDINGS RECOMMENDS CREDO »

Recommended Vendors:

Google Optimize

A free A/B testing platform from Google that’s less user-friendly than many other options in the market…but it is free.

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Blogs & Columns

Zone 4 • Difficulty: • Free Options Available

Few techniques establish you as a thought leader with prospects and customers to the extent that a consistent, authentic blog can. Demonstrating your involvement in and knowledge of your industry and community helps establish trust with your customers and also helps you attract more of them through organic search and social media.

Answer questions your customers and prospects ask
Many small businesses don’t have the time to blog regularly, though, and even if they do it can be hard to come up with topics to write about. The best place to start is to answer common questions that your existing customers ask, and then move on to questions from the broader public using freely available online tools like Google Trends and Answer the Public.

Doesn’t have to be on your own website
If you’re unsure as to whether you can sustain a consistent blogging regimen, you might think about establishing a monthly or quarterly guest column with a local newspaper or neighborhood blog. Guest columns can help you get in front of a wider audience and may help your SEO as much or more than a post on your own blog, if the placement of the column is sufficiently authoritative.

Recommended Vendors:

Answer the Public

A tremendous free resource that highlights the top questions consumers ask surrounding given keywords. Type in a few phrases related to what you sell and figure out what answers you should be providing with your digital content.

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Google Trends

A simple content idea tool that anyone can use, Google Trends shows you the popularity of any keyword search at Google (even down to the metro-area level) as well as related terms to those keywords. It’s particularly useful for generating ideas for what to write about.

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Loyalty Programs

Zone 5 • Difficulty: • Sugg. Monthly Budget: $150+

Depending on the study you look at, it costs between five and seven times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. And one of the best ways to retain existing customers–and keep them coming back to your store or using your service–is through a loyalty program.

Taking the punchcard digital
Lots of businesses have traditional punch cards or VIP clubs, but making those programs digital can have considerable benefits.

Integrated with your point-of-sale system
The best loyalty programs integrate with your point-of-sale system, learn the buying patterns of particular customers, and nudge them with offers related to the products or services they’ve ordered from you in the past. They typically require a little bit of work on the front-end and become largely automated on the back-end.

Plays nicely with other marketing programs
Loyalty programs and brand marketing complement each other perfectly.  A number of Tidings customers have implemented a loyalty program for personalized transactional marketing and a newsletter for brand marketing to stay top-of-mind with their customers and prospects.

Recommended Vendors:

Square

Not only is Square used and loved by many of your target customers; its add-on marketing toolsets are the gold standard in the industry. Using Square as your point-of-sale and customer data collector makes many future marketing initiatives much, much easier (and more effective).

Cost: free+

Visit Website

FiveStars

A robust loyalty offering for companies not using Square Point-of-Sale or unsatisfied by Thanx.

Cost: $199+

Visit Website

Thanx

One of the simplest, most compelling loyalty programs available–and one that can live independently of your existing point-of-sale system. Newer features focus on marketing automation as well.

Cost: $500+

Visit Website

Classifieds & Marketplaces

Zone 5 • Difficulty: • Free Options Available

One of the oldest forms of advertising is still one of the most cost-effective…although there are several companies that have recently put new twists on the idea.

The established incumbent
In terms of online classifieds, Craigslist is still the king in many markets, but posts expire quickly and because of Craigslist’s stringent terms of service, there are very few ways in which to automate your presence on the site.

The challengers
Newer classified marketplaces like Thumbtack and HomeAdvisor/AngiesList enable business owners to post once about their products or services, and then receive requests from consumers who have expressed interest in these products and services. Rather than the old newspaper-style model of paying a fixed fee per ad, these sites allow you to pay a fixed fee per lead based on the value of the project or customer.

A little more neighborly…
In a way, NextDoor operates a little like a classifieds website as well, allowing residents of a particular neighborhood to post their needs and have business owners (or fellow neighbors, or both) respond to those needs.

Recommended Vendors:

Craigslist

Riddled with spam and badly in need of an interface overhaul, Craigslist nevertheless can still drive occasional leads in certain categories, particularly in smaller metro areas.

Cost: free+

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Thumbtack

A more business-friendly hybrid of Craigslist and Yelp, Thumbtack generates leads for local service businesses at relatively low rates.

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Angie’s List

Angie’s List is sort of an old-school Thumbtack, with heavy emphasis on home services categories.

Cost: free+

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NextDoor

A local version of Facebook, NextDoor has grown substantially in the last couple of years and is expanding its business offerings in parallel. Helping your neighbors with questions and needs is one of the best ways to build word-of-mouth.

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Marketing Automation

Zone 5 • Difficulty: • Sugg. Monthly Budget: $200+

Marketing automation is a broad field, and different companies define the term differently. The ideal is an “easy button” for all of your marketing and advertising activities, that delivers

  • the perfect marketing message
  • personalized for each individual customer
  • at exactly the right time
  • in the channel they’re most likely to engage in
  • at the lowest-cost
  • with the highest likelihood of converting a sale

Can it be done?
That’s a tall order, and we’ll likely never get to a true “easy button” for marketing, even with all of the advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, big data, and any other technological buzzword you want to throw in there.  Human beings are irrational and complex and our purchase behavior probably can’t be reduced to an algorithm.

Horseshoes, hand grenades, and marketing automation
All that said, marketing automation software in many cases can do a “good enough” job of delivering on its promise, identifying better marketing messages, personalized for customer segments, at better times, in better, lower-cost channels, and can increase the chances of conversion. The time savings alone can often justify the cost of a subscription.

Look for reasonably-priced options
Hubspot is the best-known marketing automation company, and although Wall Street considers their customers “small businesses,” their product is actually quite expensive for the average local business. Comparable solutions exist with smaller, more targeted feature sets, depending on the industry your business is in.

Recommended Vendors:

Square

Not only is Square used and loved by many of your target customers; its add-on marketing toolsets are the gold standard in the industry. Using Square as your point-of-sale and customer data collector makes many future marketing initiatives much, much easier (and more effective).

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Mailchimp

Hands-down the best email service provider for small businesses, Mailchimp integrates with all kinds of other apps and platforms. And, it’s free up to 2,000 subscribers. (We use Mailchimp for our Minutive newsletter.)

Cost: free+

Visit Website

CustomerLobby

CustomerLobby offers a complete customer retention solution, that includes reputation management, email, SMS, and direct mail outreach. Integrates with basically every accounting and point-of-sale solution on the planet.

Cost: $199+

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Kit

If you’re an ecommerce company on the Shopify platform, you should definitely be using Kit. It’s the easiest CRM tool we’ve ever seen, at an incredibly low price.

Cost: $10+

Visit Website

Thanx

One of the simplest, most compelling loyalty programs available–and one that can live independently of your existing point-of-sale system. Newer features focus on marketing automation as well.

Cost: $500+

Visit Website

Drip

DIY marketing automation tools can be hard to set up on your own, but Drip has one of the most intuitive interfaces out there. It also plays nicely with a ton of other applications.

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Leadsius

Leadsius is a straightforward-enough product to use on a DIY basis. But if you’re new to marketing automation you might also find their reasonably-priced onboarding package incredibly valuable.

Cost: free+

Visit Website

Influencers

Zone 6 • Difficulty: • Sugg. Monthly Budget: $60+

Influencer marketing seems to be all the rage as a modern form of old-school endorsement. One of the reasons brands (and influencers) have gravitated to it so quickly is the lack of clear guidelines around how to designate a sponsored post. Posts that blur the line between genuine endorsement and paid promotion tend to perform at least as well as those distributed through a platform’s formal advertising infrastructure.

An increasingly slippery slope for large brands
There’s some indication that the FTC may start cracking down on some of the more egregious offenses involving globally-popular influencers, but it’s unlikely they’ll have the resources to enforce a conflict of interest by a local influencer with a few hundred or a few thousand followers anytime soon.

The risk for smaller companies
The risk of damage to your brand in the court of public opinion remains substantial, however, if word gets out that your business is involved in a clear conflict of interest.

A fundamental marketing technique
Influencer marketing doesn’t need an inherent conflict of interest, though.  In fact, getting your product, service, or content in front of movers-and-shakers has long been a fundamental marketing best practice–as long as there’s no quid pro quo implied or expressed.

Relationships, relationships, relationships
That takes real relationship-building over time, and an understanding of how you might be able to help the influencer beyond just a monetary payment.  There’s no magic formula for building those relationships, though there are a few low-cost tools that can help with your outreach.

Recommended Vendors:

Sprout Social

Although a little pricey for what it does (especially relative to Buffer’s Awesome Plan), Sprout Social is a great option for small businesses whose customers exhibit higher levels of engagement on social media.

Cost: $59+

Visit Website

PR

Zone 6 • Difficulty: • Sugg. Monthly Budget: $10+

The worlds of SEO, content marketing, social media, and PR have gradually blended together over the past decade, and it won’t be long before they blend together entirely.

A long-term proposition
Regardless of what you call it, getting attention for your company from prominent media sources is one of the best long-term marketing investments you can make. But it takes time, and in many cases a significant budget, in order to be truly effective.

Relationships, relationships, relationships
While you can try to perform this outreach yourself, cold calls and cold emails rarely work (and sometimes backfire unless you’ve done your research about the recipient in advance).  Hiring an expert who has relationships with the widest-reach publications and websites in your content arena is usually the best, and sometimes the only, way to get coverage from those outlets.

Recommended Vendors:

Mailshake

Mailshake helps you keep track of your PR outreach, and can also be used as a proto-CRM tool. It integrates directly with G Suite (formerly Google Apps).

Cost: $9+

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Events

Zone 6 • Difficulty: • Initial Cost: $2000+

Events are a great way to spread word-of-mouth about your business, recruit new customers, and make a deeper connection with your existing customers.

Under-utilized content and media benefits
Done properly, they become content hubs, as you not only promote them on your website and social channels, but recaps after the event is over. And they’re great for SEO and organic social media because they get a lot of people talking about your business.

A big investment
But they are time-consuming to put on (especially without the help of a dedicated event planner), they can be expensive to travel to, and if you’re putting them on yourself, expensive to promote.

Recommended Vendors:

EventBrite

Eventbrite is the defacto ticketing platform for business events. An added benefit of hosting your event on Eventbrite is the free exposure in their upcoming events directory.

Cost: free+

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Picatic

A slightly simpler event platform with fewer bells-and-whistles than Eventbrite, Picatic’s event pages are incredibly attractive and easy to set up.

Cost: free+

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Charlene Kate Events

Charlene Kate Events manages all Tidings events. We highly recommend her for everything from a handful of people at a coffee shop to 1500+-person conferences.

Cost: $500+

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