November 17, 2011

Putting Your Online Shop on a Marketing Regimen

Filed under: Promotions — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 2:01 pm

It’s no secret: the more people in your target demographic who find your online shop, the better your chances are at making sales. Most of your website visitors are going to come from links or search engines. The good news is these things go together like peas and carrots. The more good quality sites you have linking to your site, the more search engines will favor your site. Inbound links are a top ingredient for search engine optimization.

Now getting 1,000 new links sounds like a daunting task. But what if I told you you could have more than double those inbound links to your online shop by this time next year? Let’s make a new year’s resolution: this time next year you are going to have over 2,000 inbound links to your website if you’re willing to do about 15 minutes of work every day on your marketing. That’s it! 15 minutes/day = over 2,000 links!

Now to start this plan you’ll want to do a little reconnaissance. Start by making a list of sites where you could get links. Here are the categories to consider:

  • Bookmarking sites (i.e. StumbleUpon, StyleHive, Digg, Delicious)
  • Social Media sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, Pinterest, Tumblr)
  • Niche Directory sites (i.e. Unanimous Craft, Bust’s Girl Wide Web, Indie Collective)
  • Blogs (i.e. Smaller Box, Design Sponge, etc.)

Make your list as extensive as you can, you’ll be referring back to it every day until this time next year when you have your thousands of links. It might take a few hours this week to gather your initial list, but once you’ve got it you’ve basically got your to do list.

Now here’s your regimen:

5 minutes: Posting new content to your website (i.e. a new product, a blog post, etc.). Make sure your content isn’t 100% your products. You also want to produce interesting content so people don’t feel like your site is nothing but a sales pitch. A site with good content is likely to get more attention than a site with nothing but products on it.

2 minutes: Posting a link to your new content on 2 social media sites (i.e. your Twitter account and your Facebook page)

2 minutes: Posting your link to your new content on 3 social bookmarking sites (i.e. StumbleUpon and Stylehive)

6 minutes: Adding your site to a new directory or pitching your site to a blog on your list of blogs to pitch. If you don’t have new content to pitch to a blog, pitch your services as a guest blogger, since guest posting still gets you a link.

That’s all you have to do. If you don’t have new content to share every day, go back through your archives and share an older blog post or existing product on sites that haven’t linked those pieces of content yet. This process should get you about 5 to 6 new links each day. By the end of the year you’ll have over 2,000 new links. You should see a gradual boost in your site traffic, search rank and sales as the year goes on.

ATTENTION ETSY USERS: If you’re thinking about enacting this plan for your Etsy shop, my advice is don’t. If you spend 15 minutes/day marketing, you’ll have dedicated over 90 hours of labor to your marketing by year’s end. All that link juice is benefiting Do you want to work an extra 90 hours this year to help Etsy be more successful?

I think 100% of your marketing efforts should 100% benefit YOU and only YOU. If you’re going to invest 90 hours of your precious time marketing, do it with your own website so that 100% of the benefits are yours alone. Don’t just take my word for it, leading marketing blog Copyblogger would say the same thing.

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March 10, 2011

FREE GOODIES! (Two Reasons You’re Going to Love Me Today!)

I have two really awesome FREE goodies for you today!

1. I just launched a totally free conversion calculator you’re gonna want to check it. It calculates the likely results of your ad campaigns! Check it out and tell all your friends.

2. I just put together a list of 49 resources I love. I am including websites, vendors, services, online apps, the works! These are resources that are either FREE or the best priced I’ve found. I’m giving you my list for (almost) FREE. All I’m asking for in return is that you spread the Smaller Box word. Click the “share to get button” below and a free copy of my resource list is yours! (If you’d rather not trade a tweet for this download, you can purchase the download for $9.99. To do that click the “Pay $9.99 to Get” button.)


Crazy! Why are you doing this?
I’d like to say it’s just cuz I’m nice (which I totally am), but in addition to that…

I’m testing out the idea of social media as currency. When I hear a marketing guru say “social media is currency” my eyes glaze over because it’s one of those statements that sounds like nonsense if you don’t have examples and evidence to back it up. So I’m here saying it: “Social Media is currency.” You’re paying for access to my resources with word of mouth. You get cool resources, I get your word of mouth, which translates into opportunities for me to sell products and services. (Plus link juice for my SEO, whee!)

I think it’ll work nicely, but it’s up to you to prove me right or wrong. I’ll let you all know how it goes. If you like what I’ve done here and are going “but how would I apply this to my product-based biz?”, well you’ll need to get my resources guide. I’ve included a tip on where to get ideas about that too.

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January 6, 2011

4 Ways to Prepare for Valentine’s Day Sales

Even if you’re single and hating it, there could still be an upside for you when it comes to Valentine’s Day: CASH! Every year people spend big bucks on gifts for their sweeties. Some people even buy Valentine’s day treats for their parents, children or platonic friends. To make the most of your V-Day sales, you have to start preparing now. Here are a few things for your to do list:

1. Red Hot Ad Campaigns
It makes sense to spend a little more on advertising when you know people are in a shopping mood. If you’ve been thinking about running an ad on your favorite blog or giving Adwords a try, now is a good time to give that a go.

If you’re on a tight budget, I Shop Indie’s Valentine’s Day ad co-op is a great way to reap the benefits of over $600 worth of advertising for only $65.00. (Unilke most other ads, the co-op comes with email marketing and social media marketing!)

When you’re designing ads, think about promoting your products as Valentine’s Day items. Feature products that come in red or evoke a flirty or romantic mood. You might even want to have your ads link to a special landing page featuring Valentine’s Day themes items.

2. It’s All About Merchandising
Make tweaks to your website so that Valentine’s Day products are easy to find. Think about featuring V-Day themed items on your home page. Create gift guides with suggested products for guys, girls and even singles and kids.

3. Start Promoting
If you sell online, you’ll want to promote products early so customers have time to place orders and receive products by mail before February 14. Come up with a schedule to promote your Valentine’s Day products and offers via your newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.

You may be able to boost sales by offering a special deal like a coupon code or a promotional price on a V-Day related product. Even an event like a contest is a great way to drum up traffic and interest and hopefully convert a few sales.

4. Get Some Press
Pitching your products for inclusion in gift guides and magazine articles is a great way to attract new customers and boost V-Day sales. Although it is too late to pitch monthly print press, there’s still time to contact weekly and daily print outlets. You also have time to pitch your products to online outlets like blogs.

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July 27, 2010

Use Your Contest to Attract Traffic and Get Links

Filed under: Promotions — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 7:58 am

One of the great things about contests is that they are terrific for attracting website traffic and getting people to link to your website. In my new ebook 45 Contests, I’ve created a list of 40 places you can easily get links to your contest, pretty much guaranteed. These sites will bring you both traffic and link juice to improve your search engine optimization. Today I’m going to share 5 of these resources, but if you want the full list, you’ll need to get my ebook.

Contest Girl
This site lists tons of contests so it may be hard to get noticed but this site has considerable traffic at over 226,000 visitors monthly. Submitting your contest is easy, there’s a form right here.

Contest Hound
This site offers the option to pay for a featured listing, but if you want a free one, you just have to link back to them. You can submit your contest here.

Online Sweepstakes
This is the mother of all sweepstakes directories, with over a million visitors monthly. It will bring you traffic in droves. You’ll have to create an account to submit your contest.

Sweeptakes Advantage
With over 538,000 visitors monthly, this site is a great place to get the word out. You’ll have to create an account there to submit your contest.

Cashnet Sweeps
By far, this site has the easiest submission form. You just have to provide a link to your contest page.

Don’t forget you can win a free copy of my ebook. Details here.

P.S. Check out Miss Malaprop and Makery’s reviews of the new book

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July 26, 2010

Make Your Next Contest Awesome

Filed under: Promotions — Tags: , — Meredith @ 3:49 am
I’m excited to launch my first ebook: 45 Contests. To celebrate I’m kicking off contests week here at Smaller Box. All week long I will be sharing contest-related resources and running a contest of my very own. First let me tell you all about the new ebook:

45 Contests is a 52 page ebook that explores promotional contests in depth and provides 45 real world examples of successful promotional contests. My ebook explains each contest in detail and explains how the contest sponsor benefited from the promotion.

Read Meylah’s Review of 45 Contests

Within the book you’ll find:

  • 11 factors you must consider before launching a contest
  • 8 different ways to promote a contest
  • A master list of 40 places you can easily get links and traffic for your contest
  • Tactics for encouraging people to become fans on Facebook without breaking Facebook’s promotional rules
  • Top notch examples of how you can use contests to:
    • increase brand awareness
    • improve customer engagement
    • improve your SEO
    • drive social media connections
    • score media placements
    • encourage customer loyalty and brand affinity
    • increase your website traffic
    • develop better products
    • grow your mailing list
    • drive sales
    • reinforce your branding

Special thanks to those that made this book possible. Including:
Rosamond Gifford Zoo
Geben Communication
Strategic Guru
ChiZine Publications
Fox Valley Volkswagen

*      *      *

Win a FREE Copy of 45 Contests

Naturally, the best way to promote a book about contests is with a contest. So I am going to give away a free copy of the book! To be eligible to win do any of the following things. Each action counts as one entry. There are 5 ways to be eligible to win (so you can enter to win up to 5 times):

1. Follow Smaller Box on Twitter (after you do, post to the comments below that you’re following, along with your Twitter name)

2. Fan Smaller Box on Facebook (after you do, post to the comments below that you’ve become a fan)

3. Subscribe to the Smaller Box newsletter, it’s on the top right side of this page (after you do, post to the comments below)

4. Post about the new ebook on a forum or your blog (after you do, post a link to it below in comments)

5. Tweet about this new ebook using this link. (after you do, post a link to your status in the comments below)

I will select a random winner on Monday, August 2nd. If you purchase the book before the contest ends and are selected as the winner you’ll receive a full refund.

This content is copyrighted. See my content sharing policy here.

July 15, 2010

Would You Give Someone The Shirt Off Your Back?

Filed under: Promotions — Tags: — Meredith @ 7:45 am

Last night I was at my favorite neighborhood watering hole with my husband and a few friends. We were just hanging out drinking beers when a guy came up to our table and said “my friend really likes your shirt.” Matt (my husband) happened to be wearing a t-shirt he designed for Ex-Boyfriend (our ecommerce company). He said “thanks”. The guy persisted “She really wants that shirt. She wants to know if she can have it.” (From the guy’s table we could hear his friend going “penguins!“.)

Matt went over to the other table, explained that he actually designed the shirt and sells them online and handed over a business card. The woman still insisted that she wanted Matt’s shirt. (Which at this point was probably kinda gross and sweaty since he’d worn it all day and it was July.) Matt said “You really want this shirt? You can have it, but you have to tell all your friends I gave you my shirt and send them all to my website.” So Matt gave this woman the shirt off his back and gave a table full of strangers a story to remember.

This story reminds me of two things: Crafting an MBA’s post about being your own fan and another blog I read called Word of Mouth Supergenius. CMBA’s post talks about how you respond when strangers compliment something you designed and Word of Mouth talks about how you should do things that are memorable and unexpected. Handing a new fan your product for free is certainly something they’ll remember and talk about. Would you try this if a stranger complimented something you were wearing? What if you just kept gift cards on hand and gave them one, along with your business card? Is there something else memorable or unexpected you could hand out with your business cards?

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May 18, 2010

Test Promotions With a Friend

Filed under: Promotions — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 5:29 am

I recently got a promotion in my inbox from a very high profile website. The site was asking me to join their weekly newsletter to be eligible to win an ipad. Sounds good right?

I clicked the call-to-action link and it took me to the site’s home page. The sign up for the newsletter was below the fold. Uh oh! Now I have to scroll down to even find the place to get on the newsletter and there’s a ton of other stuff on the home page. I had to really hunt for this sign up.

Problem number 2: Once I found the newsletter sign up form and entered my email address I wasn’t added to the list. I was taken to a form asking for my address, phone number and birthday. What a bait and switch! That’s like asking to borrow a dollar and as soon as your friend pulls out her wallet demanding a 20!

I am sure the site owners were so jazzed about the idea of giving away an Ipad that they didn’t even think about the user experience for entering their giveaway. This is a great example of how a well-conceived promotion can really go awry.

The lesson here is this: before you launch a new promotion or campaign have it tested. Do NOT test it yourself, you’re too close to your own stuff. Ask a friend to test for you and pay attention to any stumbling blocks she identifies. If a friend finds your instructions, rules or page design confusing so will your customers.

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March 25, 2010

You’re Doing It Wrong: 4 Ways You’re Not Marketing to YOUR Customers

Filed under: Blogging,PR,Promotions,Social Media — Tags: , , , , — Meredith @ 10:26 am

One of the biggest mistakes I see smaller businesses making online is that they often don’t understand who their target market is. As a result they don’t actually market to them. Developing a successful small business means having a very clear understanding of who your target audience is. You might be saying “duh” right now but consider these questions:

Does your media list mostly contain indie blogs?

Do your Facebook statuses say “Just found a new source for fabrics on ebay.” and “Trying to figure out how to use Quickbooks for small business”?

Do you blog mainly about going to trade shows and how to put in a perfect dart?

If you’re guilty of these faux pas, you probably aren’t marketing to your target audience and you may not even understand who your target audience is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to pitch indie blogs. There’s nothing wrong with giving customers a little behind the scenes peak at your day to day life. The problem is that’s all some small businesses do. Unless you sell supplies, most of your potential customers probably aren’t small business owners or artisans. They’re people who admire unique products, but can’t necessarily produce them on their own, and aren’t even terribly interested in how you do your magic. They just enjoy the end result.

So here are four places you can change your ways immediately and start marketing to potential customers instead of, well, yourself.

1. Blog
Blog about things that are interesting to your customers. If you sell dog leashes, blog about cute dog videos from Youtube. If you sell cosmetics, blog about how to achieve the perfect smokey eye.

2. Social Media
Stop spending all day on Etsy’s self-promotion forums. Stop tweeting about new Ebay seller policies, troubles with your merchant account and CPSIA all day. Start Tweeting and Facebooking about stuff your customers will find interesting, amusing or informative. If you want to socialize with fellow artisans or small business owners create TWO social media accounts, one for customers and one for peers.

3. Advertising
This is a biggie. There is a giant world of advertising to be had out there. There are niche publications for nearly everything. So stop spending all your ad dollars on publications mainly read by other artisans and business owners (again, unless you sell supplies or services for business owners or something). It’s okay to do a little marketing to that audience, but make sure the bulk of your ad dollars are being spent on publications that reach potential customers and not just your peers.

Check out sites like Blogads, explore Google Adwords and Adbrite. Think about who your target customers are and what publications they read and what websites they visit. Speaking of which…

4. Media List
Make sure your media list contains press relevant to your brand. A press list for a jewelry company should be different than a press list for a company that mainly designs housewares. Make sure you’re thinking about niche audiences that might like your products. A company that makes jewelry out of circuit boards should be pitching to geek publications. A company that makes pendants featuring different dog breeds should be pitching to pet publications.

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January 7, 2010

Tip: Never Send a Package Without Swag

Filed under: Branding,Promotions — Tags: , , , , , — Meredith @ 1:57 am

Everyone loves getting a little something extra for free. Why not add some wow factor to your packages by sending customers a little something extra with every order.  Many brands just send flyers, business cards or an invoice with their orders. Customers tend to throw such things away and you know what they say “out of sight, out of mind.”

Why Give Swag?
It engenders good will for your brand. People will remember that ordering from you is fun because their purchase comes with a free surprise. The freebie should also serve as a promotional tool. Give them something they won’t throw out so they won’t forget about your brand. If you sell pet products, a free dog or cat toy with your logo and URL on it is a good choice. If you sell cosmetics, a free make up brush with your logo and URL might make more sense.

What To Send
Make sure whatever you decide to send fits with your brand and products. If you sell art, a postcard with a print of your work might be most suitable for you. If you sell candles, a free votive holder might be a better fit. Be sure to pick something that, cost-wise, makes sense for your company. If your average order is $50 you can afford to offer a more expensive freebie than a company with an average order value of $10.00

Some Examples of Great Swag

  • 1″ buttons
  • Stickers
  • Bottle Openers
  • Pens and Pencils
  • Mini Samples (great for bath and body, cosmetics or edibles)
  • Postcards
  • Chip Clips
  • Keychains
  • Magnets
  • Post it Notes

Where To Get It:
A quick Google search for promotional items will probably bring up loads of websites where you can have promotional items custom made. A few places I’ve used in the past are:

All of those companies, in my experience, do good quality work for a great price.

Got a resource for great promotional items? Got a cool promo you use for your business? Ever received something especially neat in a package from an online order? Feel free to share your expertise below in the comments 🙂

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October 23, 2009

How Do I Get My Giveaway/Contest Noticed?

Filed under: Promotions — Tags: , , , , — Meredith @ 11:32 am

Giveaways and contests are a popular way to market your business. They engage customers, give them a reason to take a desired action and help get your business noticed. That said, contests and giveaways aren’t magic   bullets. They won’t rocket your unknown business to superstardom over night. If you want your contest or giveaway to perform at its peak, you’re going to have to apply a little elbow grease. All too often, a business owner will come up with a contest and then wonder why no one’s participating. The answer: no one’s heard about it…

Read my tips on how to get your contest noticed over on Indie Fixx, where I posted this article as a guest contributor >>

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