If you’ve known us at Panda Rose for a long time, you know these 5 words fit us well, and if you are just getting to know us or want to know more, here are some things you can expect!
I often hear people use this word to describe us at Panda Rose. Every employee is extremely knowledgeable, and quite multi-talented. If one person is ever stumped on a project, we collaborate and brainstorm with each other to reach a solution. This method is quite effective for us at Panda Rose, as so many employees are talented and knowledgeable in areas above and beyond their job title. Something really cool about us, is we actually train you how to manage your website on your own! We find it valuable for our clients to have control over their website and know how to run/oversee things.
(Or as some might say: quirky!) When I think of creativity, I think of Ms. Frizzle, the teacher on Magic School Bus! Her dress had different shapes and colours, her hair bright red and a little crazy sometimes, and her personality was always adventurous! And didn’t she have a pet lizard?
Anyway, while none of us drive a magic school bus (sadly, cause what a fun commute that would be), I would say this creative description suits us well! Most of us have quite adventurous personalities (and if you don’t believe me, watch a few of our YouTube videos and you’ll see what I’m talking about!) I would say our work matches Ms Frizzle’s outfit: it’s eye-catching, leaves a lasting impression, and displays your businesses personality perfectly (minus the tackiness)! Plus if you have glowing planet earrings you can believe we’re going to highlight it! In other words, whatever makes your business unique, we pay attention to the details and will design your website, mobile app, social media pages, etc. accordingly!
We like to have a good time at Panda Rose, and love to connect with people and network! If you are local to Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, and Saint Albert you have probably met someone from Panda Rose! We all love to laugh and have a good sense of humour, making us easy to get along with. One of my favourite social media posts we did was Father’s Day 2019. We sent out a bunch of dad jokes from people in the office, and you guys loved it! Creating an office and business atmosphere where people feel comfortable to express some of their biggest ideas, comes down the people. We are excited about your business and your future and our attitudes sure show it!
Panda Rose is located right here in Spruce Grove, and if you know anything about Spruce Grove, you know that we love to support each other’s businesses! Am I right, or am I right? This stretches as far as Stony Plain, Edmonton and surrounding areas. Good chance that if we work with you, we also look for any way we can support your business, such as buying your products because we genuinely love them or using your services! We are in the business of helping businesses, and we honestly want to see your business thrive.
We know how to work hard! We put in the time and effort it takes to generate results for your business so you see a profit. Your success = our success! Not sure if digital marketing, web development or any variety of things we offer will help your business thrive? We’ve seen time and time again that it does! But don’t just take my word for it, you can see for yourself! Check out our testimonials section on our website, and send us an email to see what we can do for you!
While there is a massive amount all of us can learn about business from a MBA program, I have found that two lessons I’ve learned from my exposure to these programs have been incredibly fruitful in helping me manage strategy and tactics while growing a business and navigating through both good and difficult times.
Don’t be Married to Your Business
If you haven’t learned about the Sunk Cost Fallacy , I recommend you read over the linked site. Just open it in a new tab. It’s ok, I’ll be here when you get back.
Basic gist of this fallacy goes as follows “the more you invest in something, the harder it is for you to stop investing in it.” We are all guilty of this. That significant other you spent over a year longer than you should’ve trying to keep the relationship together when you knew it was long over. That degree you finished because “well, I’m already 50% of the way through it,” and then proceeded to follow an entirely different career path in which everything you learned has been tangential to your current life. Even the business you’ve been working on for years, but never got any traction with.
When you are working on a business plan, or developing a business, you will find only after you have invested a lot of time, sweat, money, blood and tears into it that, unfortunately, your original vision was not that good. At which point you have a sticky situation, should you keep investing in the idea, or is it time to spin things down? I have seen many, many people stick to an idea long past it’s sell-by date, and the history of business is littered with business folks who went to the grave still trying to get that “great idea” to start to pay off.
Here’s the thing, sometimes your idea does suck.
Yep, sometimes it just isn’t as great as it felt it would be once it is built, and all the polishing and reconfiguring of the original idea might make no difference at all. It just is not going to take off as it exists.
So what does that mean? Well, luckily there isn’t a holy covenant between you and your company or your business direction. It is not a mortal sin to decide to drop that original business idea. In fact, that is the sign of a good business person.
YouTube, originally started as a dating site. Yep. Their selling point was that you could upload videos of yourself so people could get to meet the “real you,” before deciding to date. At the time, it seemed like a great idea. Dating sites were hot and making money hand over fist. However, in a very short period of time, it was clear that it was not the brilliant idea the original creators thought it was. Now, they could’ve superglued themselves to the original idea and simply tried to polish it further, making the video interface cleaner, making the matching algorithm better, a whole list of minor perfunctory changes. They could’ve decided that they were married to the original idea, ’til death us do part.
But they were good business people, and decided instead to concentrate on what was working and what wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, they tried almost everything to get stuff working. They even went onto Craigslist and offered women $20 a video to join and upload videos. Still no one came forward. So they said, screw it, let’s let people upload anything they want, forget the dating aspect. The first video ever was this one. YouTube took off and they sold themselves to Google for 1.65bn. If they were married to the dating site idea, they likely would’ve gone out with a puff of smoke, but because they were willing to divorce themselves from that idea and see what else worked, Chen and the other original team are doing quite well for themselves today.
Stick to your Guns
In short, this rule means: Don’t give up so quickly, just change your tactics and keep trying. The fact you built the tech to begin with and the fact that you’ve invested so much in it means that there is something there. However, there are so many external factors that lead to your plan not working. In some cases, the market simply is not ready yet for your product. In other cases, the strategy you are using to sell you product is not properly targeted to the sector in which you would do best. In a surprising number of cases, it’s simply bad luck in finding the right investors, employees and clients. If you stick with it, you are more likely to succeed.
As my father always told me as a kid, “You miss every shot you don’t take.” I hear that some other great hockey player may have said this as well… Might’ve played for the Oilers for a while. Since they haven’t won a Stanley Cup in a long time, I’m guessing that’s why the name evades me, probably Kelly Buchberger. Kellys always have great ideas.
However, I can hear you all screaming at your phone: “Doesn’t this rule fundamentally contradict the previous rule?” Oh, I can see why would think that. The previous rule says that if something isn’t working, you shouldn’t continue to bury money into it. That’s the entire point of the sunk cost fallacy. However, I am not saying you continue doing something that is not working. I am saying you should look at what you have already done, learn from it, and adapt accordingly. Do not give up now that you have learned so much from lack of success. You should look at what you have built and then go, what can I do with what I have built.
You know what doesn’t work.
Which means that the category of possible actions that will work is smaller and easier to choose from. Sometimes the pivot is as major as what happened with YouTube, where the whole model was dropped, but the technology was kept. They stuck to their guns, the technology they had developed that worked and worked well. They got rid of what didn’t work, the original business idea. In the end they were very successful.
Take the chance, invest in the technology, build your ideas, but be willing to fail fast and pivot. If you are not getting traction with your current strategy, there is nothing wrong with changing tact. In fact, that is how most of largest businesses today have got to where they are.
I’m going to spoil this whole blog by telling you the three reasons you should build your own eCommerce website in this very first sentence: eBay, Etsy, and Amazon. That’s it, there you have it, that’s why you should build your own eCommerce website.
I know what you’re thinking: “Deborah, you’ve gone completely bananas. I couldn’t possibly independently compete with those three!”
Well I hate to break it to you folks, but I went completely bananas years ago. You should know that by now. But that’s completely aside from the point and unrelated to anything I’m saying here. Just let me continue, and stop mentally interrupting me, OK? Thanks.
Even when you list your products on those sites, you are still competing with all of them. But let’s take a closer look.
Of these big three sellers, Amazon.com was founded in 1994. Who even remembers having the internet in 1994? My family had an Apple computer back then, but eventually switched to a PC. I think we got dial-up in 1995:
. . . and then that sweet sound of connection. It wasn’t long before I discovered Amazon.com. It used to be all books, all the time, and soon after, I could also get CDs and DVDs, and better yet, I could soon buy them used from other sellers! I’ll admit, I have Amazon Prime membership in both the USA and Canada. As a buyer, Amazon is pretty great.
But what about as a seller?
Amazon is complicated. Their fees are high. You’ve got a huge amount of competition, including people who buy and bulk, which isn’t great if you’re a smaller business. Not only that, but you are also in direct competition with Amazon itself.
Speaking of competing products, several major brands have refused to sell on Amazon because they don’t police the grey market well enough. One brand even preferred to sell exclusively on Walmart instead. Not to dis Walmart or anything (loyal shopper here), but I kinda think that says something.
Ah yes, the wild west of online sales. Or so it seemed to be back in those first few years. eBay was founded only a year after Amazon, in 1995. It started simple enough. The first sale was a broken laser pointer to a fellow who collected broken laser pointers, who would’ve thought? Initially, listing an item was free, but the founder’s internet services bill got too high, so he had to start charging a listing free, which people found pretty reasonable.
(As an aside, my first year of high school, my school’s principal, Tom Sawyer (yes, that legit was his name, no relation to the real fictional Tom Sawyer, though), was an expert at calling auctions. You know, that really fast-talking thing. Everybody in town would get him to do live auctions. Pretty amazing. eBay should have hired him for . . . something.)
Thousands of people have found success on eBay, but more and more, people have become increasingly frustrated. In the words of one former seller, “eBay sacrifices its sellers to its buyers”. I know that “the customer is always right” is a good general policy, but eBay appears to take this a bit too far. According to this same seller, “eBay ‘insures’ purchases by resolving all disputes in favor of the buyer, and then forcing the seller to cover the costs. Paypal helps them by seizing the seller’s funds.”
So eBay runs on a guilty-until-proven-innocent-system where the seller can almost never prove themselves innocent. It also leaves the seller open to buyer fraud.
eBay can limit your sales very arbitrarily, despite your good record (and bringing in lots of income to eBay itself). An ill-intentioned person can give a seller a bad review, a postal strike causing a delay in shipment, or any other little fluke can lead them to limit how much a seller is allowed to sell. One seller whose whole business. You are subject to eBay’s whims. You may feel like your own boss, but you are at the mercy of buyers and eBay’s poor customer service.
Etsy, the newest to the market. Launched in 2005 on the east coast, it’s the indie girl’s heaven for vintage, handmade, and craft supplies. Yes, I’ve purchased all of the above on there. Etsy has been great for sellers of these things, but in recent years, Etsy’s policies have changed for the negative.
Etsy is no longer friendly to small business, you are literally competing with huge shops in China. It’s sad really — you see someone has designed something creative and lovely, and within a few months, other people are copying that design and it’s all being shipped from China. Sure, maybe it was handmade, but do you really think the worker got fair pay for the work they did?
Not only that, but because of Etsy opening up their policy to this type of business, small business owners have faced lower sales volumes and increased competition due to the sheer volume of shop owners on the site, and it’s not exactly easy to differentiate your own shop from all the rest. You get a name and you get a logo. That’s about it. It’s very difficult to truly build your own brand.
On top of this, Etsy has their own weird SEO algorithms that work completely differently from most ordinary search engines, and at the same time, Etsy items don’t rank well in Google searches. And then there are the fees. They can arbitrarily hike the fees whenever they please, cutting into the profit margin of small businesses as well.
At the end of the day, is it really worth all this trouble?
Who are you really working for?
All three of these platforms make it somewhat easy to list your products in an online shop, but is it really worth it? How does it really benefit you as a business? Perhaps early on it might have been easy for people to search and find your products, but now they’re so over-saturated that it’s difficult for people to find you. You can’t truly build your own brand.
At the end of the day, with having to follow someone else’s ever-changing policies, very little control over how operations are run, and the inability to truly build your own brand while paying someone else fees, it sure sounds a lot like you’re doing a lot of work for someone else. You may have more flexibility than a typical job, but you’ve still got someone bossing you around.
But what else can a small business do?
Gosh, I’m sure glad you asked! The truth is, building your own eCommerce website isn’t that complicated. There are lots of options out there, though our two favourites are WooCommerce and Shopify. The great thing about your own site is you are in charge. You decide what your website will look like, your branding, everything. Nobody will tell you what kind of payments you will take, you get to decide that. You get to decide what shipping options you will offer, and where you will ship.
I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m pretty stubborn and don’t like being told what to do. I’m also a bit of a control freak, so being able to control every aspect of my business (or delegate to people whom I trust) is right up my alley. Both of these platforms offer countless tools to make it easy to do.
How will people find me if I’m not on one of these big sites?
OK, that’s the easy answer, but not the only one. Look at it this way: you’re not just selling stuff, you’re building a brand. Do you have a Facebook page? Instagram? Most of these eCommerce platforms have integrations with both Facebook and Instagram (WooCommerce: Facebook, Instagram; Shopify: online sales channels).
Back to Google though — this year they announced a new feature they are making available on their shopping search results. Currently their Google Shopping search results are all sponsored products, but this spring, in the US, they opened it up so that people could list their products for free (there would still be sponsored listings, a bit like regular search results).
This isn’t available in Canada yet, but one article suggests it will be quite soon for Canada, and another says that it will be global before the end of the year. I find this pretty exciting, as it’s another SEO opportunity for our eCommerce clients. It appears that already there are integrations for WooCommerce and Shopify.
OK, but what about the cost?
I’ll admit, there’s a bigger up-front cost with building a site yourself.
I take that back. Shopify isn’t all that bad, although they have monthly fees, because it is hosted, although the monthly fees might add up, but it comes with everything all-in-one full-meal-deal if that’s what you like. You can pay to have someone set it all up for you, have it match your branding and whatnot, or you can set it up yourself and you’ll probably get by either way. It’s a great option for someone who wants a store. Some pretty big brands use Shopify, including Hasbro, The Economist, Heinz, Crabtree & Evelyn, and Penguin Books.
WooCommerce is my favourite though. It’s a great option if you want a full website, more than just a shop. From what I understand the API is easier to work with, so if you like doing your own coding . . . stuff (sorry, I stick to html and css, disturbingly so), it’s a better option. I like that you can use their official plugins or third party plugins to make it do whatever you darned-well please. Many-a-time a client has asked “but can you make it do this?” and I’ve said “of course we can!” then gone to one of our developers and said “so . . . they asked me if we can make it do this” to be told “weird but . . . I guess so?”
As for cost, WooCommerce itself is free, though if you purchase it with a theme, it sometimes comes with other paid upgrades. There are paid and free plugins you can get for WooCommerce. Your main cost will be building the website, and then the monthly or annual fee of hosting it varies from provider to provider.
I may or may not be the Yes Girl, much to the chagrin of our CEO. (Sorry Kelly.)
Let’s do it!
So now that I’ve given you all the reasons why you really ought to have your own website instead of working for someone else, why don’t you give us a call, send us an email, or contact us through social media and let us help you get your business online! We can offer advice on what platform is best for you, or we can do all the work for you. Whatever level of service you need, we’re here for you.
And the landlord is still expecting you to pay rent.
And you’ve got bills to pay.
You’ve got products that are going to go out of fashion.
You’ve got people who rely on you for employment.
You’ve got your own family to support!
So what’s a business owner to do in a situation like this?
For obvious reasons, you can’t just open up your shop and run business as usual. A fine from the government is the last thing you need right now! But surely there must be an alternative?
Well, yes, in fact there is (I’m sure you saw this answer coming a mile away).
But wait, there are some things you need to consider first . . .
The elephant in the room
Yes, that one. Amazon. Let’s face it, as soon as you enter the online marketplace, you are competing with Amazon. That’s not an easy feat. You’ve also got Etsy, Ebay, and countless other well-established sites out there to compete with. You need to ask yourself these questions:
What makes you stand out from the rest? What makes you different? How are you unique? What do you have to offer that they don’t?
Do you sell something unique to the region? Do you sell something that everybody wants, but can’t get from the mainstream big box stores? Do you offer delivery services in your region? How about next-day pick-up so a customer can save money on shipping? These days it takes several weeks for even Amazon Prime members to receive items in the mail. For an online shopper, being able to get their hands on an item quickly is like gold!
But . . . how?
There are lots of ways to open your own online shop. The first thing you need is a website. If you don’t have a website, you need to get one 10 years ago! You can’t possibly tell me that you’re too good for a website and don’t need one. No lie: any time I’m looking for a new place to shop where I haven’t been, I try looking up their website to see if they’re worth my time. And honestly, if the look kinda ghetto, I’m less likely to go. So get yourself a good-lookin’ website.
But why else do you need a website? I mean, everybody knows about you and people find you through word of mouth, right? Well, what about when your friend Janice’s aunt Sally’s best friend Betty’s sister Noreen hears about the shop from aunt Sally, but aunt Sally can only partially remember the name, and Noreen has an even worse memory than aunt Sally, so she only remembers that your shop’s name had something to do with pigeons or birds or something and the name of the town it’s in.
Oh, yes, that. So let’s assume the website thing isn’t an issue. Now you need to figure out how to sell your items online. There are a number of ways to do that, either through third-party websites where your products will be lumped in with a bunch of other products for sale from other businesses, or on your own website.
Yes, you can actually sell your own products on Amazon. But do you really want to compete with Amazon on their own website? Probably not. If you’re selling a product that Amazon already sells, you must list it on the same page, you can’t duplicate a product, but you can’t incentivize your product with two-day shipping. That’s something you have to earn. And speaking of shipping, Amazon decides how much your shipping rates are going to cost. If you’re interested in trying that outlet, article on Amazon.ca has some basic info on what you need to know to sell on Amazon.
Ebay is an interesting place, but you have to do your research if you want to sell there. Taking a look at top-selling items can be helpful in telling you what people are looking for on ebay. If your product doesn’t really fall into those categories, then it might not be the right place for you. If you sell antiques and collectibles, it’s almost definitely the place for you. If you want to learn more about ebay, here is where you can check out their selling basics page.
While you’re on their site, it’s kind of fun to look at their prohibited items page. Among may other things, if you’re trying to sell any of these things, I suggest you avoid ebay:
Products that pose a health or safety hazard (that seems really open-ended to me)
Speleothems, stalactites, and stalagmites obtained from caves on government land
So, if your store sells any of these things, I’d steer clear of Ebay.
Is most of your product handmade/original product? You could choose to open your own Etsy store. If you sell something particularly unique, this is not a bad option, or if you sell craft supplies or vintage items. You will find yourself competing with a lot of suppliers from China, though, which is always a challenge. Warning: like ebay, you also cannot sell human remains on Etsy. Also off the table: metaphysical services, violence, and illegal items. If you want to read more about Etsy’s store policy, you can view it on the Etsy website.
Now, as much as I like shopping on these sites, if you’re a mature business with a storefront trying to move into the online world, a better option would be to create your own store rather than putting all your products into someone else’s store, and this is where Panda Rose would really like to help you out.
A very popular hosted E-Commerce platform for selling products is Shopify. You pay a monthly subscription fee and can add any number of upgrades for additional features. They’ve got a nice clean-looking catalog and it’s relatively user-friendly. And yes, you can get your own web address, so if you want your site to be www.myawesomepigeonstore.ca, it can be that. Shopify can adjusted to have the look and feel that you like to match your company’s branding, and it can integrate well with Canada Post, manage your inventory, connect with your accounting system, and anything else you could possibly want.
If that’s not enough, there are some big names out there who trust Shopify — Adele, Lady Gaga, World Wildlife Foundation, Hasbro, The Economist, Heinz, and BBC. As you might imagine, while it’s primarily a shop, it’s somewhat versatile in how you can use it.
As a drawback, it tends to be more on the “cookie cutter” side of things, which I’m never a big fan of.
Speaking of versatility, if that’s what you’re after, Woocommerce is what you’re really going to want. I might be a little biased because I enjoy working with WordPress so much, but I’ve always liked how easy it is to manipulate everything in WordPress, which also includes Woocommerce. They’ve got a plugin for everything, but you don’t always need that plugin, you can often figure out your own code to make things work the way you like.
One project that was particularly interesting last year was making WooCommerce work with a non-Wordpress site for doing fundraisers. The site was built from our own code, but pulled all the WooCommerce info for products and whatnot, and people completed their purchase on the site. Our client only really had to deal with the WordPress/WooCommerce side of things as well where their main site is, which kept things easier for them.
All this to say that: if there’s something you want us to build, we can make it happen. Our answer is rarely “no”, and when it is, it’s usually because it’s in your own best interest, and if you still insist anyway, then so be it! We generally believe that nothing is impossible. I think that WooCommerce aggress with us with their “sell anything” and “no limits” points on their WooCommerce Features page.
Are there other eCommerce platforms?
I mean, yeah.
Are you going to tell me all about them?
While there are other platforms that offer eCommerce like Squarespace and Wix we generally recommend against using those types of platforms. They are not good for SEO and their limitations are significant. Because of their business model, they also tend to nickel and dime you for every little upgrade you want. eCommerce or website, just avoid these platforms. They’re not nice to work with and they don’t look good to search engines.
So what now?
Give us a call, comment on this blog, send us an email, contact us through our social media, send us smoke signals, or whatever way you prefer to communicate and set up a meeting with us. We can walk through the wide world of eCommerce and help you make the best decision for the type of business you run. We can help you build or refresh your website, and we can help integrate eCommerce into it. If your funds are more limited, we can help set things up and send you down the right path with a bit of training.
At the end of the day, we truly want to see the small businesses in our community be successful. As long as we have the tools to help business owners do that, we’d like to be a part of that.
Things sure happen quickly, don’t they? Right now in Alberta “mass gatherings” can’t have more than 50 people attending it, unless it’s for an essential service. Lots of companies, especially tech companies like ours, are having their staff work remotely. No one has any idea how long this will last either. Two weeks? Two months? Longer? With that in mind, it’s time to dive into the options you have for marketing when more and more things are cancelled and shut down.
Depending on the form of advertising you’ll see different results. As people drive less and self-quarantine more physical and radio ads will have less impact since the most common place to listen to the radio is in the car and obviously someone who’s staying at home isn’t going to see your billboard. But if a form of advertising is likely to be seen by those trapped at home, then it will definitely still be as effective as normal, or even more effective in some cases. If you provide something that people are still likely to search for, Google Ads are a good idea. So a restaurant that does delivery? Definitely a good choice. But there are other searches that are less likely to have great results. I need some car repairs done. But at least until I’m done quarantining myself I’m not going to bother Googling my options. In short, if you provide something people need, putting your extra marketing budget into advertisements can be a smart choice. Otherwise there’s probably a better option for where you can put that extra cash.
What better time to build a social media following then a time when pretty much everyone is stuck at home? especially when over 50% of people using social media to check the news. Putting in the effort to boost your social media following now means that you’re likely to see results immediately. Even better, as you increase your following you’ll see more increases both short term and long term as your social media presence snowballs. And unlike advertising, you aren’t just putting yourself in front of someone who you hope wants to make a purchase right then and there. So if you provide a service that people aren’t really looking for, but you’re engaging with potential customers on social media, they’re more likely to see you on social media when they *are* looking for your services later on.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization is always important, but it’s also the only option on this list that doesn’t have short term effects (normally). That means that for a lot of businesses it has to take an unfortunate back seat to the other forms of marketing. You want a return on your dollar now and not in several months. So a time when you suddenly have more money to play around with in your marketing budget is a great time to finally tackle your SEO. And the lack of short term results isn’t as important when the short term benefits for marketing are down across the board as people self-quarantine more and more. In other words, while the downsides to putting your money in SEO are still there, they aren’t as noticeable right now whereas the benefits are still as strong as ever.
Deals on Products
Finally, depending on what you provide now might be the time to offer some deals. A great example would be some of the phone companies in the US. I’ve heard of several that are either increasing the data they’re giving to all their customers for free or even in some cases temporarily giving customers unlimited data plans. Now obviously, being larger companies they can afford things like this. Don’t run yourself and your business into the ground trying to look like a hero but it’s still important to recognize the effect that offering help in times of crisis can have. Obviously, there’s the fact that it will certainly be easier to sleep at night. That doesn’t really impact your business though. What does impact you is the goodwill you create among your customers. If you provide a service they need or one they really want right now, they’re well aware that even if you raised your prices they’d still probably buy it. So when you offer a deal instead, while the cynical types like me will recognize it for the smart strategic choice that it is, most people will look at how it’s a gesture of goodwill.
Online Trade Shows?
Alright, this isn’t something that exists, as far as I can tell, but it’s an idea that I had. And since it’s just an idea I haven’t fully fleshed it out yet so bear with me. With conventions and conferences being cancelled, many of them are turning to online formats. So what if there could be an online version of a trade show? Perhaps a Facebook group, though that seems too disorganized to me. Maybe an online forum? Or maybe a website with information on all the various companies taking part with some sort of online version of a trade show booth. Like I said, this is more of something that I’m mulling over. I might even go into more detail on it next week (I make no promises though), but it’s still something to consider.
That’s all for now. Hopefully these five options (well, four options and an idea in the back of my mind) will help you decide on a marketing strategy that your business can pursue in these chaotic times. If you’re not sure what option would be best for you, or if you’d like a hand implementing your strategy, get in touch with us. We’d love to help you out so that we can all make it out of these difficult times safely.
The coronavirus has been pretty big in the news. If you’re like me you’re probably already groaning about reading yet another article about it. But I realized that there is a very important thing that businesses need to consider, regarding this pandemic. We all know that if there’s a quarantine businesses will obviously lose sales as people stay home and only purchase necessities. But before we even reach that point, something else will be affected first.
If you’re a local business, your marketing plan might be about to change. Currently, conferences, trade shows, etc. all across the world are being cancelled. In addition to working for Panda Rose, I also do some contracting in the healthcare informatics industry and a big tradeshow coming up in Florida was cancelled the day before it was scheduled to begin. The NBA has canceled games. Ironically there was even a conference on the coronavirus that was cancelled because of the coronavirus. The coronavirus is now officially a pandemic and it’s gradually spreading across the world, along with the panic and toilet paper shortages. As it spreads, local and international events are all being cancelled in an important effort to slow down the speed of infection so that our hospitals aren’t overwhelmed.
What does this mean for you? If you or a conference your business was attending are in an affected area, it means you suddenly have more money available in your marketing budget. If you aren’t in an affected area though, it doesn’t mean you won’t be affected. It just means you’ve got a bit more time to plan for when that happens. But in both cases, you need to know what your options are.
This brings us to my main focus today. Marketing is about putting yourself in front of your audience. That’s why tradeshows can be so effective. You are physically in front of them interacting with them. But when people are being encouraged to practice social distancing and it becomes impossible to be physically in front of your audience, what can you do? Not too long ago, your options were radio and television ads. That was it. And even then, if your audience didn’t want to stop self-quarantining they weren’t going to go in to your store anyway. But the internet has created a much different world. You can show up on people’s computers through their searches on search engines and on social media, both of which are much more personal than a tv spot.
Ultimately, your main options are
Ads in various formats like radio, tv, Google, and YouTube
Focusing on social media
Optimizing your Search Engine Optimization
Some combination of the above
Next week, I’m going to do a deep dive into the pros and cons and associated costs associated with all your options if the tradeshows and conventions you planned to attend get cancelled. I’ll also give you some tips that your marketing department can implement to improve your online presence that won’t cost a cent, but for now I want you just to start thinking about it. I’m not telling you to cancel all public appearances and hide in your house for two months, but you should start thinking about contingency plans in case your marketing strategy needs to make a sudden u-turn.
One of the most confusing parts of working with a digital marketing company is understanding what in the world they’re telling you. It ends up sounding like they’re telling you to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.
Or in the words of the great John Cleese, “The scransoms above your head are now ready to flange. Please unfasten your safety belts and press the emergency photoscamps on the back of the seats behind you.”
To that end, I’ve compiled a short list of 13 of the most common digital marketing words. Hopefully it helps you make sense about what the marketing experts are telling you.
Backlink – A link from someone else’s website to yours. If it’s a reputable website this link will increase your search result rankings.
Bounce Rate – the percentage of people viewing your website who leave after only seeing one page.
Conversion – Someone who performs an action as a result of viewing your website or ad. Such as signing up for a mailing list, taking a survey, buying a product, etc.
CTR – Click-through rate. The percentage of people who see your site somewhere (usually search engines) that actually click through to your website.
Follow/No Follow – Whether or not search engines will follow a backlink to your website, boosting your rankings.
Keyword – a word or phrase that internet users search for on search engines. The more specific the term, the more valuable it is since people searching for something specific are more likely to click through to relevant sites.
Remarketing – Advertising that targets people who have already interacted with your website.
Schema – A way of telling search engines what all the content on your website is. Such as the title, author, and/or ratings and reviews of your website or products.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization. In other words, ensuring that Google and other search sites
SERPS – search engine results pages. Where the results for a search show up. Ranking higher on a SERP means that you show further up on the results page.
Sitemap – a file that lists all of the urls for a site. Search engines can read these to find urls they wouldn’t otherwise know about.
Tags – Tags can refer to two different things. In blogging it refers primarily to relevant words or phrases to your article so that people interested in those things can find similar blog posts. In SEO it refers to things like the title of your page, metadescriptions, headings, alt-text, no-follow tags, etc. Don’t worry if you don’t know what those are. Part 2 of this series will have a lot of the most common tags in it.
Web Directory – a website that provides lists of other websites. Most directories require manual submissions of entries and usually include more details like contact information. They are the easiest way to build up backlinks.
If there are any terms you’ve heard before and you have no idea what they mean, let me know and I can include them in a part 2.
So you’ve hired someone to manage your social media accounts. It takes time to manage so many accounts and see growth and that’s time you just don’t have as a business owner. While social media is widely used for sharing funny memes, and picture perfect content, your social media manager should be doing much more than that when it comes to their clients.
You social media manager should know and ask about your marketing objectives and follow them. There could be many marketing objectives for your business and it’s important your social media manager is knowledgeable in all of them. This is after all what is going to make it worth it in the long run.
Keeping up with how many followers you gain each week or month is great but not all of these followers will be potential clients or customers. Tracking how many organic engagements you are getting, will give you a greater understanding on how your day to day strategy is working rather than being swayed by the big numbers your ad gets. While ads are great for exposure, the insights may not be as relevant. Ads show the number of impression your content is receiving, but did you know some ads count impressions where if one account has been shown the same ad 100 times this counts as 100 impressions. So while the big numbers may look great, the organic ones are where you want your social media manager to focus their energy on. Being smart on how you track your progress and statistics is just as important as the insights themselves.
If your social media accounts aren’t active this may be a big concern. One of the biggest parts of hiring a social media manager is to get the activity on your account that you don’t have time for. This is a time consuming part of the job and extremely important. Just as importantly the content being published needs to be engaging to your audience. You social media manager should be researching and learning your audience and what interests them, as well as their needs and how your business can help them. Along with being active on your accounts, your social media manager should be keeping track of inquiries and directing them to the right people or resources within the company. If someone is inquiring about a service you offer they should make the initial contact with the customer, then direct them to the professionals in your business if they can’t answer the questions, or feel it’s better left to the experts in that area.
Scheduling & Calendars
Scheduling content is not just a trick of the trade, it’s necessary. This is how content can be posted at any and all times, based on your insights of optimal times to post. Keeping a calendar of content planning is a habit your social media manager should be doing. This is key to not only organization, but to have a plan for future content. Your social media should have a goal, and planning in advance helps you stay on track. A content calendar improves the efficiency of your social media specialist, so your content isn’t being left to the last minute, rushed to get out and susceptible to simple mistakes.
Content is another one of the biggest jobs for a social media manager. This is probably one of the main reasons you hired them in the first place. You didn’t have time to find or create content, and still don’t. Finding info to share that meets your audiences needs and interests is a very important part of a social media managers job. While your social media specialist doesn’t have to be a professional photographer, they should be creative in the kind of content and images to capture. They should also be somewhat photo savvy or have connections to a photographer they can work with, as making an attractive Instagram account etc. is part of their job. If your social media manager works remotely, they should at least be sending you content ideas that are easy enough for you to take yourself, or for a hired professional to take, and they should not be using only stock photos on your account.
Part of branding is being recognizable. Your business colors are a big part of who you are, as is your brands voice, and logo. All these things should be used as much as possible. Don’t be stuck promoting others graphics, or words. Your social media manager should get creative and create a template that you can post quotes on, or promote sales. This helps increase brand awareness and makes your content original and shareable, let others promote your business and graphics not the other way around.
Your social media marketer should be keeping up with the latest trends for your industry and on social media. This also means keeping up with algorithms on social platforms. If video content is doing the best, your social media manager should be encouraging videos. If other businesses in your industry are active on Youtube, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc. then you should be too. Your social media manager should be keeping your business in the loop so you don’t miss out on opportunities to be seen and heard.
This may be overlooked by some social media mangers, and definitely shouldn’t be. Research should be done on your business, on the things you offer, and the people you are selling to or targeting. This is actually an important part of their job as well, if they don’t know what you offer and the people you are targeting, how will they be able to cater your content or ads to the exact people that want and need to see your business.
Social media managers are extremely important and helpful for your business. As social media is growing… and definitely not going away anytime soon, you will want your businesses social media presence to be made known. Your social media manager should be posting content that is relevant to your industry, they should be doing their homework on your business so they are sending out content that is appropriate to your industry. When done correctly, social media managers can help increase brand awareness, sales, grow digital presence, generate new leads, retain existing customers, along with so much more.
Most have a good understanding about what common social media platforms offer. Some think the more the better (target as many people on all corners of social media and you’ll reach more potential customers), but with social media this isn’t necessarily the case. The best way to approach social media is to find channels that are the most beneficial to your businesses unique needs. Each platform attracts different age, gender and even industry demographics. Depending on your target audience you want to be present on the platforms your audience is using most often.
This is the best platform to start on for any business, it has the widest range of age demographics, and currently has 2.38 billion active monthly users. This is a great platform to make connections and build community. You can easily share important aspects of your business, and find potential customers. On this platform you want to post videos and curated content. Although if your business is targeting a younger audience, ages 13-17 this age group spends less time on Facebook than 18 and up.
Instagram has quickly become a massive platform, with 1 billion active monthly users. This platform is great for product based businesses, as it is highly visual and just recently released the shopping feature making it even easier for customers to buy your products. Instagram is focused on creativity and building community. If your target demographic is under 35 this is a platform you cannot skip. 63% of users are between the ages of 18 to 34, and to make it even better its virtually an even split between male and female users. On this platform you want to post good quality aesthetically pleasing images and stories, use this platform to become more personal with your customers.
Twitter is the go-to platform for being updated on the latest news and trends, it is fairly fast paced so posting often is key. This is another great platform for sharing interesting information, or contributing to a conversation about your industry. Studies show that tweeting content with visuals does significantly better than without, although other studies show posting your traditional “one liner” tweet is just as good (we’ll leave it up to you to decide for your business on this one.) This platform also tends to have a younger audience 38% user are 18-29. But with that said, still a high number of users age 30-49 are active on Twitter making up for 26% of adult users. Both male and females are active on Twitter so if your business targets one or the other, or both this is a great platform to gain exposure on.
LinkedIn is one of the best platforms for professionals. This channel is best used for business-to-business brands aiming to make interactions with the decision makers of a business. Gender demographics are well balanced here as neither male or females are more active on this platform. Businesses are looking for certain industries or job titles rather than ages or genders. This is a great place to post job openings, update other business owners and professionals on company changes and share professional content. 34% of users between the ages of 18 to 29 and 33% of users between the ages of 30 to 49 are active on LinkedIn.
Pinterest is a platform that is often overlooked as it used to be a community of home makers sharing recipes and DIY projects. While this is still true, the user base is more female dominant on this platform, 50% of new accounts are being made by males. Pinterest should be seen as a search engine more than a social media platform as 2 billion searches are made every month. It’s a great site to direct traffic to your website and gain exposure for blog post, and products. The content on this platform is highly product based, as users on Pinterest are usually searching for a product.
There are so many more platforms you can choose to be active on but these are the biggest ones you want to focus on as they are highly popular. Social media is a great way to reach more people and build rapport with customers. It’s a way to show off your aspects of your business that may otherwise be looked over.
Tip: remember to be social on the accounts you have, respond/leave comments, and share things you find interesting. Whatever your company culture may be let your content also express this same energy to your viewers. Your account can be whatever you want it to be, not just what everyone else in your industry is doing!
Today when people are searching for your business they are mainly going to their phones or computers to find you. Google is the biggest search engine out there, and if you aren’t on board, people may be missing you. Starting a Google My Business account or optimizing your existing one is vitally important for your business and how it appears in searches.
Setting Up a Google My Business Account
If you haven’t set up a Google My Business (GMB) account yet, you’ve got one mission for today…set up a GMB account! No seriously, it may seem like just another place to add your business to but this one is important and here’s why. When people are searching for a product or service they jump onto Google. For example, searching “office supplies” pulls up the Google accounts of places that offer these supplies. This image is what your GMB account will show up like. You will see the rating of your business, location, some images and much more as you go in further. If you have a good GMB account, this may even show up before your website listing. The initial set up is straight forward, but it’s the actions you take in each of those steps and after your account is set up that makes or breaks your account.
Images Are Everything
When you have the option to add pictures of your business, always, always do it. You don’t want to resort to stock images because Google will find them and remove them. Take this chance to show off your business, inside and out. Take multiple pictures of the front and inside of your building. People feel comfortable when they can see different aspects of your business. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer either. Take clear, well lit images of the first place you see when you walk in, the staff and definitely your products. Don’t make people feel like they are going on a blind date when they are coming to you. If a business adds stock images as their product photos or avoids images of their building, I usually question why their products weren’t deemed “good enough” to make it to the front page. Or what the building looks like so I wont drive past, or wonder if I’m at the right address. Including these images shows you are proud of your work and prepared. Add pictures of the people working there, recognizing a face when walking into a business, even if it’s just from a picture, helps puts people at ease and builds trust.
Take advantages Of Features
Just recently, Google made it available to get a short name for your business. Creating a short name makes it easier for people to send links to others to leave a review. When adding a logo to your profile be sure corners aren’t being cut off and it is a good quality image, a square usually works best. Choose a header that represents your business well and be creative when writing your business description. Please don’t copy and paste directly from your website, make your description unique.
Be active on your Google My Business account, post every week about new features or products. Bring to life aspects of your business that go unnoticed. Posts will expire so keep your account updated for the best reach. Regularly check your categories because they are often updated and new categories are added that you may want to be found under.
Reviews aren’t as scary as they seem. We have an entire blog post about how to manage bad reviews. So when it comes to Google reviews, don’t be afraid to ask customers to leave a review after their visit. It’s a great way to hear about their experience and gain exposure! Although in the event that a bad review pops up, don’t take it personally. Be professional, address the issue, create a solution, if it hasn’t been solved already, and apologize for their experience. Keeping emotions out of it is the best way to professionally solve a problem. Since you can’t control the actions of others, it starts with you. Don’t become aggressive or invalidate their experience. Accept it and always apologize, then respond to them in a positive way. This is important. Always respond to reviews, good or bad, in a positive manner. Recognize that some bad reviews are good. Many people want to look at bad reviews just like they want to look at good reviews. They take note of how you responded and what your solution was to the problem.
Creating a Google My Business account increases the amount of people you reach. It helps give more information about who you are and what you do. It encourages people to find you in other areas, like Facebook or maps. You don’t want to skip on an opportunity for people to see your business and to gain more customers.
Have you ever bought from a business knowing full well that you could go somewhere else and get a better price? Some people have, but why?
Maybe it’s that they’re closer to your business, or the quality of the product, but the main reason people keep coming back is because of the relationship you have with the staff, manager, or owner. Sometimes companies buy from other companies because there’s a history between them. Maybe it’s a personal friend you want to support. But most likely, it’s because they have great customer service. Client relationships are valuable for your business and your customers. In fact, avoiding taking an interest in your clients or taking too much interest can hurt your business as much as a poor product.
Learn your customers
Getting to know your customers helps you get to know more about their business, why they buy your product, and their buying habits. This helps you anticipate their needs and fulfill them. But on a deeper level, learn the person. Learn their interests, if they have a family, and how they got into the business in the first place. This helps you leave a lasting impact on them. I’ll give you a story of how asking about people and their lives leaves people feeling valued and wanting to come back.
I used to always go into the bank to do all my business, walk up and talk to a teller instead of stop at a machine and tap a screen. The one particular teller began to recognize me every time I came in. She recognized my mom and sister and took an interest in their lives as well as my own. This lady would ask about trips we were taking, offered places my (fresh out of high school) sister could stay as she traveled abroad. This teller became the person we all looked forward to talking with when we went in to do business. Before leaving she would always ask us to say hi to the rest of the family and knew us by name.
She started with small personal conversations, asking about our family, what we do for a job and how we like doing it etc. I’m not necessarily saying offer your home to anyone who walks into your shop or even at all, but you may share similar interests that you never knew about. You my gain a golfing buddy or a fellow sports fan of your favorite team. Building trust with customers is so important, you can easily ask questions about their life, go beyond the small talk, and bringing up the weather. That’s how you become familiar with clients but never create a relationship.
These two seem to go hand in hand. If you invest time into the clients that walk through the door they will keep coming back. In a marketplace where your customer competition is high it’s vital to rise above the rest and show amazing customer service. Don’t promise too high and deliver low.
Recognize the people who buy from you, and remember things about them. If a person buys three cans of paint and is telling you about a project they are working on. Remember it and ask them how it turned out the next time you see them. As easy as it is to walk to the ATM machine, I preferred to go to a teller because of the positive experience I had. If you give this to your customers they will chose to buy from your flower shop instead of buying at a Walmart, or stop at your coffee shop instead of Starbucks.
Angry customers tell their friends
People don’t generally say anything if they are satisfied. That’s because they aren’t blown away if their expectations are met. But if they are mistreated, the word will likely spread fast. If someone has a bad experience they will tell friends and family. They don’t want others wasting time and money if they are getting mistreated or their needs won’t be met.
Client relationships are extremely important when running a business. Building trust and community with your customers will keep people coming back and make it easier to get new work.
Instagram is a visual platform, its important to catch a persons eye and quickly. Having a cohesive feed and a impressive bio is great, but you may need more than just that to make people stick around. So here’s some tips on how to get more engagement on your account.
Its difficult for your followers to appreciate your content if they never see it. Make a schedule of when you are going to post, and plan your content. Include captions as well as the time, because posting at the right times is a game changer for your engagement. You can use apps like Buffer to schedule your content, this includes your image, caption, time and location. Posting regularly increases the legitimacy of your account. Many times users will bounce if the last post you shared was December 2017.
Respond to all comments
Yes, even (especially) the negative ones. Instagram has added a nice feature that you can now like comments, this is the least you can do to show appreciation for a comment. Try to make time to authentically respond to comments it makes your followers feel heard, and valued. Think how you feel when you comment on an account you admire or inspires you and they comment back. It’s a good feeling, you feel like you were important enough for them to read and respond to your comment no matter how busy they may be. Give that love back to your fans! In order to increase your engagement you need to be social too, leave comments on accounts other than your own.
Always use images
This applies to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, as Instagram won’t let you post without a photo. Tweets with images get 150% more engagement than those without. Images capture more attention than just text or a link. Don’t just add any picture, post ones that are relevant to increase your engagement.
Include questions in your captions, it’s a fun way to encourage your followers to leave a comment. Ask fun and simple questions, for example ask about which they prefer, Apple or Android, if they are early risers or like to sleep in. These questions are super easy to ask, people can answer without really having to think about the answer. Where as a question that requires a long thought out detailed response, or that is too complicated to answer in just a short comment may not be the ones you want to start with. If your audience is really good with engaging, you can occasionally ask more detailed questions!
Using emojis on your social media accounts will result in higher engagement, but don’t use just any random emojis. Using certain ones will also increase your engagement. The smiley face can boost interaction by 25% whereas the grimacing emoji can boost it by 138%. Using emojis you will see an increase in your likes, comments and shares. This trick is really simple to experiment with and doesn’t require much extra work.
Get more followers
The more followers you have the more engagement you will most likely get from them. All things leading up will help you get more followers but an account with 100 followers compared to an account with 10,000 will get more interactions. Social media can be a numbers game but the quality of your content is the most important aspect of your posts.
Social media platforms are incredibly useful tools to help increase visibility for your business. It can although be challenging to get yourself noticed, these tips will help you become more legitimate on social media platforms so that your audience will begin to be more social.