Most Successful Marketing Strategies Have These 6 Features

By George Otte

How’s your marketing strategy looking these days?

There’s no shame in taking a hard look at what’s working and what’s not. In fact, subjecting your entire marketing plan to a thorough annual review isn’t a bad idea at all. Best practices are changing faster than ever, and it’s up to you to stay on top it of all.

Your business is unique, which means your marketing strategy will have its own unique set of contours and quirks. But most successful marketing strategies share some attributes in common — like these five hallmarks.

1. Robust, Adaptive Social & Word of Mouth Campaigns

Social media marketing is relatively affordable and highly cost effective. Per Hootsuite, social media marketing budgets can be surprisingly complex, but they’re usually smaller than traditional advertising budgets. Even on premium channels such as Facebook, you can expect your cost per thousand impressions to be as little as 20% to 30% of what you’d pay for broadcast TV advertising.

And that’s assuming you pay for your social media placement at all. Some of the most effective campaigns are totally organic — bringing the power of word of mouth into the 21st century. You shouldn’t expect all, or even most, of your social posts to go viral. But, if you hire savvy communicators who know your audience well, you can turn your social accounts into powerful amplifiers for your message.

2. Effective Call Screening

Effective marketing campaigns produce leads. However, it’s crucial not to become a victim of your marketing efforts’ success. Reliable, scalable call screening helps your team qualify leads faster and with less uncertainty. Use a telephone answering service to screen calls and manage your inquiry inflows so that you can focus on the most promising leads. After all, your time is valuable.

3. Far-Reaching Direct Mail Capabilities

In an increasingly digital world, direct mail gets less attention than it should. Mail remains an incredibly powerful and cost-effective way to meet your prospects wherever they are — and, when executed properly, to stick in their minds long after they’ve set your mailing material aside. Plus, direct mail is secure (since it’s not connected to the Internet) and never trips up email suites’ promotional or spam filters.

If you’re serious about making direct mail work for you, you need to work with a partner that understands how to personalize and “localize” direct mail for your audience.

4. Virtual Receptionists to “Personally” Handle Inbound Leads

Looking to infuse your inbound marketing and sales operations with a personal touch? A virtual receptionist can help you do just that — providing a human foil for prospective customers and clients calling into your office for the first time. Keep in mind, your virtual receptionist doesn’t have to replace your office manager or onsite receptionist. Instead, your virtual receptionist can function as an extension of your sales team, freeing up valuable time for onsite staffers to work on other projects.

5. Automated Registration Capabilities

Trade shows, conventions, annual parties, and community events are all great ways to build buzz around your brand and get prospects talking about what you can do for them. However, they can be extremely challenging to manage, especially on larger scales.

Automated registration services greatly reduce one major logistical headache associated with event and convention management. With automated registration, you can quickly and seamlessly register dozens or hundreds of guests and allow them to manage their own relationships with the event. That’s a major time- and energy-saver for your human staffers, who likely need to attend to more pressing matters in the run-up to the big day.

6. Thought Leadership

This is an admittedly nebulous term, but the basic idea is simple: thought leaders are viewed as respected authorities in their fields. Thought leadership content takes many forms, including narrated videos, in-depth articles, friendly Q&A interviews, and more. It’s best posted on your personal and corporate LinkedIn page, your personal and company website, and on websites and social pages aligned with your company’s goals (for instance, trade associations), and it can be seamlessly integrated into a broader marketing strategy focused on your company’s competence and capabilities.

You Need a Partner for These 5 Critical Business Functions

By George Otte

You’ve probably heard the expression: “If you want something done, do it yourself.”

There’s something to be said for taking this type of approach to running your company. But, in the fast-moving, rough-and-tumble business world, it’s simply impossible to stay on top of everything. You need help — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Admitting that you need help is an important first step. Next up: figuring out what do you actually need help with and who’s going to provide it.

Only you can answer those questions. However, unless your company specializes in one of the following business functions, it’s likely that you can start by outsourcing each of them to qualified professionals and service providers that delight in making life easier for their clients. In some cases, these partners can help you partially or fully automate repetitive processes without ceding control over them — achieving the optimal mix of scale and adaptability.

1. Legal Services

Most small businesses don’t need to keep lawyers on call around the clock. Many don’t even have legal experts on their payrolls. However, every small business needs a reliable legal resource that can provide basic services — incorporation, contract creation, confidentiality agreements — in a timely fashion.

One of the most cost-effective ways to outsource legal services to reputable, reliable partners is to purchase a monthly or annual retainer package with a reputable cloud-based company such as LawDepot or LegalZoom. If your legal needs are very basic or sporadic, it might be even more cost effective to simply purchase customized documents as you need them, rather than pay for a membership.

2. Accounting and Bookkeeping

Technological advances have breathed new life into the once stodgy accounting field. Thanks to online accounting platforms such as Xero and Freshbooks, you can now keep your own books with minimal guidance from human experts. When you do need professional assistance, perhaps at tax time or following a complicated transaction, you can turn to a local CPA who charges by the hour or project.

3. Appointment Scheduling and Registration

If you run a business that sees lots of clients, you can probably benefit from outsourcing your appointment scheduling activities using a virtual answering service. Rather than task an onsite staff member with taking appointments and making reminder calls, why not scale with an outside provider that’s well versed in the details of scheduling?

Likewise, if your company sponsors large events — awards dinner, trade shows, holiday parties — it’ll likely benefit from outsourcing event registration to the company that handles its appointment scheduling.

4. Direct Mail Marketing

Direct mail marketing is an effective tool for businesses of all sizes and functions. It’s superior to email and other forms of digital marketing in several ways: it can be personalized and customized as needed, it has local cachet, it’s digitally secure, and it doesn’t trip up email spam or promotional filters in the same fashion as its digital equivalent. Retaining a partner to assist with and scale your direct mail marketing efforts can boost your company’s visibility without putting a strain on its human or financial resources.

5. Inbound Call Handling

When customers, prospects, and vendors come calling, who answers? As your company grows, the answer to this question becomes ever more important. Partnering with a virtual answering service to handle and direct your inbound calls is an effective way to control costs and manage time as you expand. Like appointment scheduling, inbound call handling is vital – so why not outsource to experts that can represent your business in the best manner?

6. Customer Relationship Management

Most small businesses lack the manpower to manage customer relationships on a consistent basis, especially if they sell products or services that require lots of hands-on help. Outsourcing this vital function to a trusted partner keeps you on top of your customers’ needs without taking away from other mission-critical activities or requiring you to rent lots of additional office space to handle a larger headcount.

Which business functions and processes are you looking to outsource and automate?

5 Tips to Protect Your Digital Life in 2017

By George Otte

The cyber-threat landscape has never been more complicated. And, as our digital and analog selves inexorably combine, the risks to our personal and financial security have never been greater.

However, this isn’t cause for despair — merely increased vigilance. Simply by taking the time to educate yourself about the most common threats to your digital security, and taking commonsense steps to protect yourself online and offline, you’ll find yourself ahead of the majority of your peers.

Not sure where to start? As we move into 2017, use these five simple “hacks” — many of which are explained in detail in this excellent Laptop Magazine article — to protect your digital assets.

1. Confirm Network Identity Before Connecting

First things first. If your device is configured to automatically connect to open WiFi networks (a common setting on mobile devices) in public, turn that capability off.

Think of WiFi connectivity like a job interview: you always want the leverage. That leverage is lost the moment you connect to an open WiFi network, at which point your computer (and all the devices, passwords, and personal information to which it’s connected) becomes vulnerable to malicious actors who may want to do you harm.

Next, before you connect to a network, confirm that it’s the correct one. Clever hackers sometimes camp out in public areas (coffee shops, hotel lobbies) and set up “dummy” networks that resemble trusted local networks. For instance, “Peet’s Coffee Guest” might be a safe, sanctioned, fully secured network; “Peet’s Coffee WiFi” might be a dummy network designed to catch careless surfers. When in doubt, ask trusted staff members.

2. Use a VPN

There are plenty of reasons to take steps to conceal your identity and location while surfing the web. In fact, cybersecurity experts make a convincing case that everyone should take this step, absent specific rationales against doing so (for instance, triggering location-specific shopping deals). Look for paid VPNs that always safeguard your identity — though free options exist, they’re generally not as secure, and reliable protection is worth a few dollars per month.

3. Control Your Sharing Settings

If you regularly use your computer in public, restrict your sharing settings so that your computer is only visible to trusted machines in private networks. Otherwise, everything on your computer (including passwords and financial data) could be visible to potential cyber-criminals.

4. Protect Your Passwords (And Use More Than One!)

Password protection is absolutely critical. Millions of consumers continue to use easily cracked passwords such as “password1” or their first and last names to protect sensitive data: bank and credit card logins, tax returns, health records.

Don’t fall into this seductive trap. Use unique passwords for every login, so that a breach in one part of your digital life doesn’t affect the rest. Don’t store these passwords online, where they’re vulnerable to hackers; instead, write them down and place them in a secure location (ideally a fireproof box) or use an encrypted cloud storage service.

5. Invest in an Anti-Virus

Anti-virus software can’t detect and neutralize every threat, but it’s certainly better than leading your system totally unprotected. The best systems offer comprehensive protection against the many forms of malware, plus additional security measures for sensitive activities (such as logging into bank websites). Your peace of mind is worth the annual cost.

Is Total Protection Possible?

Following these tips and taking additional precautions to safeguard your digital life can certainly increase your chances of protecting yourself against many cyber threats, but unfortunately not all. After all, cybersecurity is complicated: for every neutralized threat, a new one appears in its place.

Some may ask why we bother to take protective measures at all. Fair question. Optimists know that basic protective action can both dramatically reduce the risk of damaging breaches and shorten recovery time when they do occur. Simply by being prepared for the unknown, you’re in a better position than most of your peers.