What Your Webmaster Should be Telling You!

By Carl Weiss
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If you have a website, then you know your webmaster has the power of life or death over it.  You probably also know that he or she speaks in tongues, where terms like “Link Equity,” “SERPS,” and “Meta Tags,” have a meaning all their own.  In today’s blog, I will part the curtain and allow you to see what the wizard of the web is doing as they pull and tug on the strings of your website.  I will also show you what you need to know to make sure your web presence is a strong one and not just a billboard in the desert. 

First, let's Look at the Three Types of Webmasters?

The term “Webmaster” is somewhat nebulous, since the creation, optimization and control of your website can actually take anywhere from 1 to 3 individuals. 

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#1. Web Designer – There are two flavors of web designer.  The first and best is an online marketer who understands that the look of your website needs to take a backseat to the functionality of your website.  A marketing-centric web designer starts by determining what it is you wish your site to accomplish (generate leads, generate calls, or sell directly from the site).  Then he or she will build the vehicle that is designed to generate the desired result. The will put function over form, optimization over flash and beauty to make sure the search engines can find you. 

The second type of designer is more or less a glorified graphic artist who is mostly interested in the look of the site.  This type of designer will show you graphically intense designs that are beautiful, that most often don’t generate results. They will put aesthetic before function, flash and fancy before optimization. They often leave meta tag optimization out altogether.  (If you see a lot of rotating images and morphing graphics, this indicates the use of either Java (which the search engines hate) or Flash (which the search engines hate even more than Java).

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#2. Search Engine Optimizer – It helps if your web designer understands the ins and outs of SEO.  If not, then you will be forced to hire an optimizer to help you sell your site to the search engines.  This will entail having a conversation with a person that will spout all kinds of arcane jargon in order to describe what it is they need to do to make your website search engine friendly.  (This is another reason to hire a designer that is ready, willing and able to take care of this during the design phase.)

Unless you want to bring your techno babble/English dictionary with you when you meet with your SEO pro, I suggest you find a firm that can explain in plain English what it is they are going to do for you and how often they intend on doing it.  For the most part you should only need to optimize your on-page assets once.  Anyone who tries to sell your ongoing SEO services other than link building is wasting your money.

#3. Website Hosting and Updating – There are a number of “Webmasters” that only provide hosting and updating of your website.  If this is the case you need to be cognizant of the fact that should you need to make a change to your website, you will first need to go through your web designer who will then need to motivate your webmaster to grant him or her access to make the desired change.  You may also be required to pay both of these individuals to make said change.  Obviously the best solution is to hire an individual or firm who can do all this at once instead of by committee.
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Webmasters are a throwback to a time when it required a skilled IT professional to manage the server that contained your website.  This is no longer the case since nearly all servers are now cloud based.  This makes it doubly annoying when you submit a change order to a webmaster and he or she sits on a job for days that literally takes a couple of minutes to accomplish. 

Many websites are built today using WordPress as the back end platform. This makes it possible for the average business person to change and update content on their web pages without any programming knowledge. WordPress began its life as a blogging platform and now is the dominate web platform for non html/css programmers. Google has its own blogging platform called blogger and it too can allow anyone to create professional looking web pages without the cost of hosting or programmers.

Your Second Step?

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Once your website is up and running, you next need to register it with search engines and directories.  You can either do this manually or you can hire a firm to do this for you.  Again, there are professionals who will offer to perform this time consuming service.  The devil, however, is in the details.  That the task needs to be accomplished is obvious.  If you don’t register with search engines and directories your website will never get found.  The trick is to get your site or sites registered with as many search engines and directories as possible without breaking the bank.  (Working the Web to Win offers a search engine push package that will register a site to 100 directories for $300.)

Once your site(s) registered on scads of search engines and directories the traffic will start rolling in, right?  WRONG. Even a perfectly optimized site registered on 100 high quality search engines and directories will not prove sufficient to generate significant traffic all by itself.  Why?  That’s because the game of generating search engine position has gotten a lot more complicated in the past few years.

Prior to 2005, all you needed to do to generate high ranking on the search engines was create an optimized website and register your site with the search engines.  The search engines would then send their spiders to analyze your site and determine its rank. That’s literally all there was to it. 

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Today on-page optimization (SEO) only accounts for 25% of ranking criteria, the other 75% is comprised of off-site assets, such as blogs, social networks, videos, images, podcasts and authoritative backlinks (like directory listing and B2B link exchanges).  More crucially, not only do you need to create, publish and distribute this online content, you have to do so consistently.  Simply having a Facebook or Twitter feed on your site isn’t enough.  You also need to grow and engage your followers by publishing social post that your followers are interested in.  The same is true of your blogs, videos and podcasts. 

Add to this the fact that the search engine spiders can not only read, but understand your website, blogs and social posts as well. You can see why generating ranking today is a huge undertaking.  I refer to the Internet as the elephant in the room.  Everybody knows it’s there, but nobody is prepared to talk about it, much less feed it regularly.  As search engine spiders continue to evolve, you need to understand that your success online comes down to a popularity contest.  The spiders award their favors to websites that create and engage the biggest audience.  Therefore, you need to either assign the task of feeding the elephant to several staffers, or you need to outsource the task to a company that will put a team at your disposal to get the task done.  (No single human being is capable of handling all these tasks.  It takes a team.)

Three More Factors to Consider

The other three factors you need to take into consideration if you hope to prevail are geotargeting, mobile marketing and reputation management.

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The Internet is no longer a world wide expanse of mixed global websites.  It is now not only possible, but desirable to geotarget your online assets to attract the best audience.  This is done embedding geographic information in all your online assets.  Before you go about creating or retooling a website, you first need to define who and where your best customers are located.  There is a big difference between creating a website for say a chiropractor that  normally has a client base reach of 10 miles from their office location, to a company that needs to market to a state,  regional or national scope.  Today geotargeting can be employed to narrow your scope to as little as an individual neighborhood.

The first thing you should do is register your business with Google Local and create a Google Map.  Since
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Google controls more than two thirds of all traffic in this country, the more Google friendly you become, the better your chances of success.  Even better is the fact that once created, you can embed your Google map right on your homepage.  This is another important thing to do if you hope to convert traffic into customers.  Nobody wants to search your site to find out where you are located.  Since people spend less than 2 minutes on your website, it is vital you give them everything they need to make a buying decision as quickly as possible.  Gone are the days when a web surfer would spend 10 minutes clicking around your site to check you out.  Today the next click you hear will be them going back to where they found you to check out somebody else.

This is also why it is vital that you put your best foot forward in a hurry.  This requires video. Why video? Studies show that people are four times as likely to click on a video than a text listing (paid or organic). There are also less videos listed on any search page.  If your current website is composed of a bunch of stock images, what does this tell prospects about your company?  Nothing.  If you want to entice prospects to take the next step they need to know what you are all about.  Since you only have 2 minutes or less to accomplish this task, a short intro video that shows who you are, what makes you special and why a prospect should take the next step is vital to your success.  It is also vital that the video be located prominently on your homepage, not buried below the fold. It is also a good idea to publish the video on YouTube.com. This makes it easy to embed on your site and also give you Google juice (because YouTube is owned by Google).
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Even better is a second video that shows satisfied customers singing your praises.  Like it or not, the biggest obstacle to converting clicks into cash is credibility.  Video testimonials are the ultimate credibility builder.  That and lots of reviews on Google will not only help you seal the deal, but it is a great way to create Google Juice.  When we shoot video testimonials for us or our clients, we routinely take the person being interviewed over to Google Maps to post a review as soon as the video is complete.  Once you get 10 positive reviews four red stars will also appear next to your listing which helps you separate yourself from the herd once you make it to page 1 on Google.

Mobile Friendly

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This brings us to the next of our three important factors for generating traction with Google: Making sure your website is Mobile friendly.  Several months back, Google made being “mobile-friendly” a high ranking factor, especially if the search was being conducted on a mobile device.  This means that if your website is not designed to reconfigure itself to tablets or smartphones, your chances of getting on page 1 of a mobile are nil.  Studies show that mobile searches produce 60 percent higher actionable traffic than searches done on desktop PC's. This means that a mobile search user is more ready to buy and if your not mobile friendly you lose out.  To see if your site makes the grade, simply do a search for it on any smartphone.  If the page doesn’t change shape to accommodate the mobile platform, it is definitely time you did a site makeover. You can also go to Google's test page by clicking here. Make sure your web designer is using a dynamic language such as HTML 5 or is using a platform like Blogger which is mobile friendly.  If not, you will need to redo the redo.

Don't Forget to Protect Your Reputation

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The last ranking factor all business have to content with today is Reputation Management. Today, a single bad review will nullify 9 strong, positive reviews. Or to put it differently, it takes at least 10 strong positive reviews to offset one bad review. Bad reviews actually carry more weight in two ways. Bad reviews are generally more vehement and passionate than positive reviews. Bad news generally travels faster and farther than good news. Most people who feel they have been wronged tell four times as many people about their bad experience, than happy people telling about their good or even great experience. Most review sites give bad reviews more weight because they feel some positive reviews are fake. To make matters worse, there are scam, review and complaint sites that get top billing (because they are directories).  When a person investigates your reputation in search, these review sites show up at the top of the list.. Many of these review sites even allow people to post a review anonymously. This means even your competition can besmirch your reputation without any recourse on your part.

To protect your reputation, you must actively pursue and encourage strong positive reviews of your business. In most cases, bad reviews can not be removed through negotiation or litigation. You have to bury the bad reviews with lots and lots of good reviews. Make sure you have a system in place to head off bad reviews by taking good care of unhappy customers. Also make sure you have an active, positive review solicitation system in place. This will make sure you are generating that most important 10 to 1 positive to negative review ratio we mentioned earlier.

What's the Bottom Line?

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Unless you have the means to hire an in-house online marketing team that has what it takes to create and distribute content to Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube on a continual basis, you will lose market share. You need to find a firm you can trust. Putting your marketing needs in their hands will make or break the success of your online web presence.  If not, you will find yourself at a greater disadvantage as your competitors (who are using a team approach) reap the rewards online and eat up more market share.  Because the biggest thing you need to understand online is this, “If you are not coming up on page 1 organically on the three major search engines and your competition is, your business is losing out!" Also you cannot buy an equally effective position with pay per click advertising. Pay per click is not as well trusted and much less effective at producing clicks that convert. Also, as many as 60% of Pay Per Click, clicks are produce by bots and bots don't buy anything!

In this article I have discussed six very important factors that most webmasters don't explain to their clients. Understanding these six elements will greatly improve a companies chances of achieving an organic page one position in search. Ignoring these six factors will virtually insure that your website will not be found.

If you found this article useful please share it with your friends, family and co-workers. If you would like to learn more about this subject, visit the notes page on this blog for the BlogTalkRadio show dated 7/28/15. I recommend checking out "Is SEO Still Important Today or in the Future?", "How to Avoid Being Caught in an SEO Phishing Net", "Are You Prepared for Mobilgeddon?"  or "Your Online Reputation Can Either Make You or Break You".  You can also search for other related articles by typing in “SEO or Internet Marketing” in the search box top of this blog.

If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we will give you immediate access to it. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.

Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio.

The Four P's of Online Marketing Success

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(AKA) How to Slay the Hydras of Advertising

By Hector Cisneros

Profits – every business strives for them. They are the end results of selling a useful product or service that the marketplace ultimately deems worthy. If you are a business owner, managing the sales of your products or services produce these profits. They are the ultimate measure of your financial success. Today, you have to become the master of not one, but two dragons of marketing. Old school media monster and the internet beast. To make matters worse, these two dragons are hydra's - many headed beasts that evolve and splinter as you master and cut each head off.  Luckily, both have overlapping marketing elements that allow us to create a formula for success. In this article, I will teach the principles you need to tame these beasts. We will cover the four P’s of marketing success along with the nine content elements these two dragons crave. So strap on your sword and come with me as we prepare to slay the hydras of marketing.

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My first exposure to marketing was in the 80’s. I quickly learned that to be successful as a business owner or manager I had to understand marketing. This was important because I had to learn how to tame the marketing beast which I now had to contend with. Back then the marketing beast I had to slay was what we now call old school advertising media. It consisted of TV, Radio, Newspaper, Yellow Pages, Billboard, Direct mail and Cold Call Marketing. Believe it or not, marketing your product or services was a much simpler affair 20 years ago. The internet did not exist. There was only one hydra to contend with back then.

Fast forward to the present and the world is changed dramatically. The Internet is the center of the marketing universe. All of the old school mediums have been forced to embrace the internet.  Watch the news and you’ll hear statements like “you can read more by clicking on the link on our website” or “find more on this and other stories on XYZ news.com”.  “Follow us on Facebook.” Most talk shows, special events and even the Super Bowl all redirect traffic to some specific web property or other. Yet few companies today reach real marketing success unless they are big players with lots of resources. Even then, large companies often fail at the elusive goal of deriving profit from the web.
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That’s due to the fact that the internet is always evolving, changing and splintering into a multitude of marketing arenas. Trying to master all of these venues is like trying to juggle the hydra as you cut off its heads. You only seem to end up with more and more issues to deal with.

The Secret Revealed - At our firm, we concentrate on feeding the beast only the most important food it craves. We look at the primary heads of this beast as consisting of Organic Search, Pay Per Click, Social Media, Websites, Blogging, Videos, Podcasting, Press Releases and Email marketing. Each of these heads can also be subdivided into many sub creatures all with their own elements, audiences and marketing agendas. For example, the audience for Facebook and Twitter vary greatly. The same is true for search and direct email.

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By concentrating on the essential content elements the beast craves, you can please 80 percent of the beast needs. Anytime you can reach an 80% of a marketing goal, you increase your chances of success many times over.  You will achieve the Pareto-Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. Feeding this marketing beast its primary food sources will always produce positive effects that can be measured and tweaked to achieve success.

Now, let’s talk about the four P’s
In our book, the four P’s consist of: Persistence, Preparation, Production, and Performance. These elements together produce Profits. Each of these elements is also imbued and created by making sure each step of the process is saturated with quality, consistency, relevancy, timeliness and when possible, a WOW factor. Each of the four P’s are diminished if one of them is missing. Now let’s look at each of these factors.

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Persistence is a critical factor for producing a strong following or audience. If your message isn’t provided on a regular basis, it will be forgotten, lack market penetration, and will not produce any branding synergy. It will also fail to produce the trust factor necessary for growing your audience. Any content creation, media channel, (including TV, Radio, Newspaper, and its internet brethren, like Blogging, YouTube, and Internet Radio) will only produce an audience if you fulfil the promise of providing quality useful content on a regular basis. Not only are articles, videos, post and podcast content, so are advertisements. Consistency is a key element of audience building. Other factors that are important in every phase of the four P’s are - Quality, Consistency, Relevancy and Timeliness.

Preparation is not any less important. You have to prepare for any endeavor to achieve success. Luck aside, preparation allows you to contend for the twists, turns and unexpected events you will encounter. The more you are prepared, the less these unexpected events will have an impact on your profits. More importantly, preparation (i.e. research) allows you to hone in on the best keywords, subjects, titles, messages, web property names or advertisement content.  Not doing your research has the added consequence of throwing your money down the drain.

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For example, the name, keywords, subject matter and content of our Weekly BlogTalkRadio show is the result of research and much preparation. The name of the show was selected because of the number of quality searches performed on those keywords at the time. It also matched the message and direction we wanted to take. To produce our weekly BlogTalkRadio show, we do lots of research on the show topic, write a 1200 to 2500 word article on the subject, read two dozen or more articles on the subject and gather related articles and other documents that support the topic of that show. Then we also create show notes to use during the show and get mentally prepared for doing it live. A successful ad, marketing campaign or show all require effort that starts with preparation.

Production has all the qualities of the other four P’s. However, we also strive to add a little WOW factor and stickiness if at all possible. Don’t get me wrong. Consistency, Quality, Timeliness, and Relevance are important here as well, but by adding a little WOW factor – i.e. adding items like: catchy phrases, pictures, videos, props, comedy, eye candy, etc.… and Stickiness factors like sensational headlines, catchy phrases, jingles, intro teasers and call to action, will make your final product stand out. You increase the usefulness and entertainment value of your message. This is true for any kind of content production (i.e. whether it’s a show, movie, article, advertisement, or even music). They are all types of content.

Performance is the final phase of the four P’s. This is where you deliver the goods. Make sure that the final quality of your ad, blog or show is the highest quality you can afford to produce. If you’re doing a live or recorded show, the audio and video performances must be upbeat, compelling, honest and real. Too much rehearsal can make the performance seem canned. We have found that the audience wants to connect with real people. This persona can only be created by giving it your best, most sincere effort. Providing a quality, consistent, timely and relevant performance, also helps. Emphasizing your unique style can add to the stickiness factor of your message as well. This is also true of your writing style or ad copy. Other factors of your message can include items that provide wow factors. Things like eye candy, additive elements like teasers at the beginning and end of your content. Elements like humor, drama and surprise can all add to the value of your content as well. All of these elements create content and accentuate your message towards one that is worth remembering or taking action upon.

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Old school marketing in the pre-internet era made it much harder to measure and accurately quantify your success. Today, most old school media will also include some form of internet tracking as part of its methodology.  For example, most TV, Radio and newspaper ads all direct traffic to a website or social media page. The Internet offers the best advertisement tracking available today. Any page that is viewed, any link that is clicked or any page mention can be tracked. Search and pay per click allows you to track and measure keywords, clicks, pageviews, messages and media performance. Social media allows you to track any keyword or phrase mentioned.  The internet also affords you the ability to target very specific demographic and psychographics so that you can hone in on your ideal customer profile. This ability to track actionable events makes digital media powerful. Trackability and migrating market share are two of the many reasons why all old school media is embracing the internet as well.

The four P’s actually makes it easy to be found on the internet? These elements all produce ranking factors. That is, they produce “Popularity Votes” making your content “Notable and Trustworthy”. Remember the four P’s are there to create an audience for your content, regardless of what type of content you’re producing. The total size, quality, market share and engagement of your audience determines your ranking. All of these elements also produce quality backlinks (i.e. Social post, blogs, podcast, YouTube videos, press releases, etc.…). Online, the web property with the biggest following wins. On the internet, this translates to who has the most backlinks producing the biggest buzz. Obviously this is a very dynamic process that is ever changing and requires constant new input (i.e. new content) to maintain position.

The next time you are tasked with fighting the marketing dragon (i.e. Creating an advertisement or marketing campaign) remember the Four P’s of Marketing Success and their sub elements (quality, consistency, relevance, timeliness, wow factors and stickiness). These elements along with the others mention in this article will allow you to tame, (if not master) these two marketing dragons and successfully profit from your efforts.

In this article I discuss what I call the four P’s of marketing, their subcomponents and how they are used to tame and master the complicated world of marketing. I  characterize marketing in today’s world as two types of dragons – both are multi-headed hydras that consist of old school media (.i.e. TV, radio, print et al) and the new school of internet marketing (made up of search, social, blogging, video and other venues). I have provided details of how the elements are used to successfully create many types of marketing content (advertisements, shows, articles and others). These are all used to build a following of various types. These elements will build trust, create loyalty and move followers to take the next step in the marketing process (i.e. is buying your product or service).

That's my opinion, I look forward to hearing yours.

Fill out form to get a Free copy.
If you found this article useful please share it with your friends, family and co-workers. If you would like to learn more, visit the notes page on this blog for the BlogTalkRadio show dated 7/21/2015. I recommend checking out “The ultimate Guide to Creating Your Ideal Customer Profile”, "Understanding the Difference Between Branding, Marketing and Advertising" or "The Evolution of Internet Advertising".  You can also search for other related articles by typing in “marketing or advertising” in the search box in the top of this blog.

If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below, it will give you immediate access to it. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.

Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success and co-author of Working the Web to Win.”

The Ultimate Guide to Creating an Ideal Customer Profile

Demographic criteria
By Hector Cisneros

You ever wonder why some businesses just take off and others just languish, not growing at all? What if you could focus all your marketing efforts towards the right area of town or region of the country? What if you knew how your best customers’ shop, where they live, how much they earn, what motivates them and why they buy your products? This would in essence pinpoint who your ideal customers are.  From there you could quickly deduce how to entice them to buy from you.  In this article, we will explore the importance of understanding your ideal customer profile. You will learn how to conduct research to gain insights into their demographic and psychographic attributes. You will learn how to target prospects by setting up better marketing based on these attributes. More importantly, you will better understand the significance of testing, measuring and picking the right marketing medium for your budget. 

One of the most fundamental marketing elements that few small businesses grasp is that of the ideal customer profile (aka ICP). Knowing your ideal customer grants you the power of focus. It gives you the ability to concentrate your marketing and advertising message so that it targets the right people. Understanding whether your customers are mostly male or female, rich or poor, have a large family or are single, discretionary income, where they live, profession, and education level, etc., allows you to target the your marketing message. Knowing who your ideal customer is by understanding their demographic/psychographic vital statistics can bring you closer to them. It allows you to perfect your product and your message so that it fits like a glove. This perfect fit is a very powerful competitive advantage. Once acquired, it is a weapon you can use to win the marketing war. Let me elaborate.

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For example, if you know your average client is 42 years of age, has 4+ years of college, is female, makes 59 thousand dollars a year, is married and has 2.2 children and lives in a specific area, you can then target media outlets geared for women of that demographic.  If you know even more information like what TV shows, music and books she reads, you have even more places to place your message.  If you're placing ads on internet properties, you will include keywords that match things that are important to her (her children, her profession, etc.) and place them on radio stations that play her music type and internet sites like Facebook where you can target her psychographics as well.

About 30 years ago I was tasked with managing the advertising budget for a ComputerLand franchise of which I was the manager. I had recently moved to Jacksonville, Florida and I only knew a little about the population in the area. Back then, advertisers like the local radio and TV stations would call on me and they would tell me about Nielsen ratings of the shows as well as the demographics of their audience. I was told that my target audience was 35 to 54 years of age and that they had a medium income of 45 thousand etc.… At that time I had no idea if any of it was true, and could only hope they were right. Luckily for me, my store already had a client base of 300 plus customers and we held a regular user group meeting at the store.

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I took it upon myself to look through the customer files to put together what I thought was a list of ideal customer types. I began my search by asking my employees, which customers they considered to be our best customers. I also asked the other store owners what they thought.  I created a profile sheet for each customer. I  filled them out as best I could and placed them in their file. At the same time I also started to group them by what I consider their demographic.  If you read lots of articles today about market segmentation, you will find hundreds of criteria. This is a good place to start when creating your own profile worksheet. Now I am not asking you to build one from scratch. I don’t want you to reinvent the wheel. All I want you to do is to adopt one that already exists.

One of my favorite profile worksheets is the Mackay 66. There are many such profile models that I like. Here are some links to some templates and articles that provide such profile models;

The notes page that goes with this article and the BlogTalkRadio show  about this subject has other examples,  links and other information you can use.

For some, creating an ideal customer profile is not enough. They believe (as do I) that you
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should take the customer profile one step further. You should build an ideal customer persona. That is to say, build a detailed and highly focused profile of a fictitious ideal person by fully understanding all their demographic, psychographic, and motivational attributes, for every product or service that you sell. You then use this profile as a benchmark for employees to focus on. It allows the salespeople to go after the right prospects, production is making the right product/service and customer service and support is taking into account the needs of that particular persona. This helps the entire team to all move in the same direction and in general produces synergy that exceeds other  approaches I have seen. Along with the other links provided in the Notes Page of this blog, I recommend reading, "How to Create Customer Profiles to Reach Your Target Audience" by Greg Ciotti
. It provides many examples that you will find useful.

An important factor that is often overlooked by small businesses is the relationship between the profitability of your product/service line/s and that of your ideal customer profile. It is quite possible to do all this research and find you have chosen the wrong product/service to sell to what you consider your ideal customer profile. Conversely, you may find you have a great product, but your marketing it to the wrong people.

It's best to first determine what is your most profitable product/service (what you want to sell) and then determine who the ideal customer for that item is, instead of marketing all your items to determine the type of product/service and  customer that rises to the top. All things being equal, find a product or service that you want to provide, that gives you the most exclusivity, meets a current need, is  in demand and is also very profitable (this can be a tall order). If you have a product or service like this in your stable, that's the one to match your ideal customer profile.

Once you have a profile worksheet, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. In the rest of this article, I want to focus on how to find the information you seek.  Here is a list of nine ways to find useful information when creating an ideal customer profile.

#1). Start by looking at your existing customers. Who buys the most from you? Find your top 10 to 20 customers and analyze their demo and psychographics. Ask them why they buy from you. What compels them to seek you out. Use the ideal customer profile models we talked about earlier (like the Mackay 66 profile) to better understand who they are and more importantly what motivates them to act.

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#2). Send a survey to all your customers. Ask questions like what are the most important reasons they purchased your product or service. Ask them as many questions as you can about what's important about your company, product or service. Is it the speed of delivery, the location, or the distance they have to travel? Is it all about product exclusivity? Asking your existing customer base these questions can tell you a lot about your ideal customers.  When I was managing at ComputerLand I created a survey for the computer user group that met at our store. These were very motivated and enthusiastic customers and their answers gave me many insights into their motivations.

#3). Ask for media demographics, it's free. Earlier I told you that media companies like Radio, TV, newspaper and magazine companies can bring you lots of demographic information you can use. This is not a bad place to start. These companies will gladly  provide you with this information if you're willing to sit through one of their sales pitches.

#4). The Internet is a valuable tool.  Today, we have the internet. A search on the internet can yield lots of useful information. There are many websites that provide consumer and business statistics. For example; you can do a search for “what is the average age of computer buyers” or “what is the average distance a person drives to buy groceries” and “How much does a business spend on marketing”. Clicking on these examples will show you what I mean. The information and answers you can find are almost endless.

#5). Social media A/B testing is easy and cheap. You can use A/B testing in social media. A/B testing is where you create two different ads that market to your perceived target audience. You can also use social media effectively by running these ads simultaneously to not only figure out what ads work best, but also by running the same two ads targeting different audiences (market segments) to verify who is your best target audience. If you have a Facebook or LinkedIn account, you can run these test ads very inexpensively (in many cases for as little $1 a click). Many social platforms today offer built-in analytics and offer pay per click advertising. So you're not just limited to Facebook and LinkedIn.

#6). Don't forget to use AdWords as an A/B test bed. You can run similar A/B tests on Google AdWords. Of course Yahoo and Bing have their version of Pay Per Click. However, these services work best when you create landing pages so your ads will measure more that just click through rates. The landing pages can be blogs, social or video pages as well as websites. Again, these pages will also allow you to measure the success of your marketing message and conversion rate as well.

#7). If you don't want to do the work, sub it out. Earlier I said you can use media companies to provide you with useful information. Another way you can find this information is to hire a consultant or a media company to do your research for you. There are many companies that provide market research who do not sell marketing services. These companies usually provide the most objective results. However they can vary in price substantially. Expect to pay anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on how comprehensive the research and final report is.

#8). Ask for a competitive analysis from your vendors. Another form of market research is what is called a competitive analysis. Before accepting a company as a client, we  “do a free, competitive analysis of the “prospects current web presence”. We look at how they are using the internet to market their business. It's our belief that before we can propose any marketing solution we need to understand the prospects current position and goals.  We ask 15 key questions to analyse their on-page SEO, as well as the dynamics of their blogs, social nets, videos, landing pages and more. We also look at their competition to determine their strengths and weaknesses.

#9). Get a business coach to help you. Going it alone is always an uphill battle. We believe that maintaining objectivity in any business endeavour is extremely important. That’s why we hired Steve Goranson of ActionCoach Intl., to be an objective outside pair of eye and ears to keep our egos in check. We run all of our marketing efforts (business plans in general) by him just to have someone not vested in the idea look over our logic and stats. Here is a recent article Steve wrote about this subject.

Here in Northeast Florida, we also have an organization call Marketing Matters that provides great coaching for new and existing woman and minority own business. Their program allows these businesses to go through a program that teach these owners sound marketing practices and provides them with mentors to help them through the process. Part of their process is to create an ideal customer profile and persona. This gives these businesses a leg up on the competition, but only if they really put their heart and soul into the effort of creating their own Marketing Matter's detailed plans. Here is their Facebook page if you're interested.

What's Next? Placing your marketing message.

Courtesy of  pixabay.com
Once you have defined who your ideal customer/s is, it’s time to create a budget and select marketing venues. Creating a budget first is critical. Also, don’t run on the assumption that the marketing you select will produce the revenue needed to pay for the ads. This often is not the case. Your budget needs to be money you have on hand, in case it doesn’t work. Make sure you match the advertising venue with the attributes of your ideal customers. Ask the media vendors to explain how their product services your ideal customer. If it sounds like a stretch, it is! It's quite possible that the marketing being offer exceeds your budget. If so, don’t gamble, stick to your budget. You may have to find other revenues to do your marketing if your budget is too small. Other options may include trading service or getting a loan.

If you want to improve your marketing results, you must also understand that the marketplace is not static. It evolves over time. 10 years ago we did not have social media and Internet video was nowhere near as popular as it is today.  New media evolve to match consumer and business tastes. Even older media have had to evolve to stay in the game. Notice that TV, radio and print advertising today, almost always provide connections to a web address. A decade ago, this would never have happened. Along these same lines, internet media also evolves quickly.  For example, when Facebook first emerged as a phenomena, it was mainly populated by college students. Today the average age of a US Facebook user is 40.5 years. Subscribers  also varies by region, country and generational attributes as well. Today you will find more young people using Snapchat and many millennia using Instagram instead of Facebook. 

Courtesy of  morguefile.com
Most businesses engage in advertising. However, most small business (under a million in sales) don’t engage in much market research. Prior to the turn of the 21st century, conducting most kinds of market research was very labor intensive and expensive. Today, small businesses have many avenues to gather important market research. More importantly, they can do this at an affordable price. However, most small businesses ignore the avenues listed in this article and continue to fly by the seat of their pants instead.  This is unfortunate, because this pin the tail on the donkey method of marketing costs them much more, than actually doing the research in the first place.

In this article I have discussed what an Ideal customer profile is, how to create one and most importantly, how to gather this valuable information so that it allows a company to market more efficiently and thus be more prosperous. This article provides many useful links to existing ideal customer profile models and nine ways to gather customer demographics and other market segmentation information. This allows your marketing message to be focused like a laser on the right target audience.

Thanks for visiting. That's my opinion, I look forward to hearing yours.

If you found this article useful please share it with your friends, family and co-works. If you would like to learn more, visit the notes pageon this blog for the BlogTalkRadio show dated 7/14/2015. I recommend checking out "Understanding the Difference Between Branding, Marketing and Advertising" or "The Evolution of Internet Advertising".  You can also search for other related articles by typing in “marketing or advertising” in the search box in the upper left hand corner of this blog.

If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below, it will give you immediate access to it. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.

Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success and co-author of Working the Web to Win.”

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