January 21, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week


Every day I check out the 100s of subscriptions in my RSS feed about marketing, PR, advertising, branding, social media, and a host of other topics of interest to small businesses that sell online. Most of what gets posted isn’t earth shattering but I reserve Fridays for the best reads of the week. So here you have it, the most valuable things I read in the business blogosphere this week:


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January 7, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Filed under: Link Love — Tags: , , , , , — Meredith @ 8:54 am


Every day I check out the 100s of subscriptions in my RSS feed about marketing, PR, advertising, branding, social media, and a host of other topics of interest to small businesses that sell online. Most of what gets posted isn’t earth shattering but I reserve Fridays for the best reads of the week. So here you have it, the most valuable things I read in the business blogosphere this week:

Reminder: The Valentine’s Day co-op is about to get started. If you’re thinking about joining, sign up today! Our ads start running Monday and our newsletter goes out to over 3,500 subscribers on Friday!


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December 17, 2010

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week


Every day I check out the 100s of subscriptions in my RSS feed about marketing, PR, advertising, branding, social media, and a host of other topics of interest to small businesses that sell online. Most of what gets posted isn’t earth shattering but I reserve Fridays for the best reads of the week. So here you have it, the most valuable things I read in the business blogosphere this week:


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

December 10, 2010

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Filed under: Link Love — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 8:26 am


Every day I check out the 100s of subscriptions in my RSS feed about marketing, PR, advertising, branding, social media, and a host of other topics of interest to small businesses that sell online. Most of what gets posted isn’t earth shattering but I reserve Fridays for the best reads of the week. So here you have it, the most valuable things I read in the business blogosphere this week:


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

November 19, 2010

ABT!!! (Or Why When You Assume You Make An Ass Out of U and Me)

I noticed some chatter earlier this week about my posts on remarketing. I wish the conversation had been here on this blog, but I always have an interest in hearing what my readers say, even if it’s off on Twitter, message boards etc. The gist of what I heard is “I hate to be remarketed to, therefore my customers hate it.” I want to tell you right now why this thinking is wrongheaded. Your customers may very well hate being remarketed to, or they might really like it. You aren’t your customers so unless you test, you won’t know what they like. A successful marketer lives by one very important motto: Always Be Testing (ABT).

A successful marketer doesn’t make assumptions. She makes hypotheses and studies trends and industry standards, and then before she commits to a strategy, she does some testing to see what actually works.

First, why:
If I had a dime for every time a small business owner started a sentence like “My customers don’t like…” or “My customers love it when I…” I’d be off on an island with cabana boys bringing me daiquiris. My first response to those statements is always “how do you know?” Unless you’ve tested you don’t actually know jack. Testing is your best and most reliable way to find out who your customers are, what they want, what they don’t want, etc.

It’s never safe to assume your preferences are in line with your customers’ preferences. This goes for statements like:
“My customers don’t want me to remarket to them.”
“My customers only want it if it comes in black.”
“My target market is 18-25 year old women.”
“My customers don’t want to get more than one newsletter per month from me.”
“My customers come to my shop to look for jewelry so if I started selling art prints they wouldn’t like that.”
“My customers are only interested in steampunk fashion so they wouldn’t respond to a product line inspired by recycling.”
“My customers wouldn’t pay more than $20 for my products.”

These are all things you can actually test, so there’s no reason to assume these statements are true unless you actually have tested them.

How do you test?
This is actually a really broad subject and there are a ton of ways to test. The short answer though, is segmenting. Below I’m just going to talk about a couple of popular ways to segment and test some important parts of your marketing:

1. Your Email Marketing
Want to know what’s the best time to send an email or what frequency you should use? Try some different tests. Most email service providers allow you to segment your mailing list. Let’s say you have 900 subscribers and you want to test for frequency. Try segmenting your 900 subscribers into 3 groups of 300. Send newsletters to one group every week, one group every 2 weeks and one group just once in the month. Repeat your experiment a month later so you have a couple of mailings to compare.

Then pay attention to the open rate, click rate and conversion rate your newsletters get. You should notice a pattern and be able to tell which sending frequency is getting you the best results. Once you figure that out you can tweak day of week and time of day.

2. Your Pricing/Site Design/Product Offerings
One of the best testing tools out there is Google’s Website Optimizer. This FREE tool allows you to run more than one version of your website at a time. You can use this technology to test your site design, your pricing, your product offerings, just about any component of your website.

Let’s say you assume people only want to pay $20.00 or less for a necklace. What if the $20 price tag makes the necklace appear less exclusive and upscale and turns customers off? You can find out with Optimizer. You can create one version of your site showing the necklace priced at $20.00 and another version priced at $50.00. Optimizer will rotate the versions of your site evenly among site visitors and then you’ll be able to see which price leads to more sales.

Google’s got some very nice tutorials and videos that explain how to use Optimizer and introduce you to the concepts of A/B testing and multivariate testing. You may also find this tutorial handy.

One more thing about remarketing
To bring this post full circle, I want to point out that to prepare to write my posts on remarketing, I actually spoke to some business owners who do it. One smalll business owner told me that doing personalized follow ups with cart abandoners recovered a whopping 98% of her sales! She isn’t a huge corporation, she’s a one woman business just like many of my readers. A marketer from a larger company who sends automated remarketing messages told me his company recovers 20% of their business lost to cart abandonment. According to SeeWhy, the average remarketing campaign recovers 10-30% of abandoned carts! These stats are nothing to write off and can make a huge difference in a company’s revenue.

My reason for pointing this out isn’t to convince you that remarketing is going to work wonders for YOUR business. My point is that the assumption that all customers hate it is clearly a mistake and you won’t know how your customers will respond without running tests. Your customers may welcome the chance to give you feedback about pricing, shipping options, your site usability, or an array of other topics. They might be delighted to accept a discount on an item they really wanted but was a little out of their price range. The bottom line is you won’t know until you test it out.

Further reads:

Smashing’s Ultimate Guide to AB Testing
ABTests.com (really cool site that shows you actual AB test results, may even give you some ideas for AB tests of your own.)


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May 11, 2010

Cool Tools: Concept Feedback

Filed under: Cool Tools — Tags: , , , , , , — Meredith @ 6:00 am

Back in January I wrote about the 5 Second Test site which helps you discover what people notice about your website. Today I’d like to introduce Concept Feedback.

Concept Feedback offers marketers, designers and developers “quick, actionable feedback from a professional community.” Best of all, this tool is free.

You can get feedback on your logo, website, product design, concept, etc. Just upload and the community will respond. You can also give other professionals feedback on their designs and ideas.


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May 6, 2010

How Do I Track the Value of My Marketing Efforts

Yesterday I wrote an article about the cumulative effects of marketing and a reader asked how I track my results. First and foremost, if you missed my article yesterday, let me repeat YOU CANNOT PERFECTLY TRACK EVERYTHING. You just can’t. Things happen indirectly as a result of your marketing, that’s where some of that cumulative magic comes in. (Read my article from yesterday for examples of this.)

Now that we’re clear on that, let’s talk about what you can track using Google Analytics (because it’s free and pretty easy to use):

1. Bounce Rates
When you find a way of promoting your site be it advertising, guest blogging, cross-promoting, etc. You’ll want to pay attention to what the incoming traffic from these sources does. If your traffic has a high bounce rate from a source (meaning the vast majority of visitors leave after viewing one page) that source might not be very well-targeted for you and you may want to turn your attention elsewhere.

Important: View the bounce rate in the context of your site’s bounce rate. If your entire site has a high bounce rate, the problem may be your site, not your marketing venues.

2. CPC
CPC, or cost-per-click, is what you pay to get a person to come to your site. It’s easy calculate a CPC for an ad. If I pay $100 for an ad and I get 500 clicks then I paid 20 cents per click. The tricky thing is everything has a CPC, even “free” stuff. (Side rant: There is no such thing is as FREE marketing. I am so sick of hearing about FREE marketing. All marketing costs money unless you don’t subscribe to the thought that time is money. And if you don’t you should. Your time is valuable. If your FREE marketing costs 20 hours it is 20 hours x  your hourly rate. Sometimes FREE can be expensive.)

To calculate CPC on stuff you don’t pay for, such as blogging, SEO, etc. keep track of the hours you spend on those things. Then decide what you think your time is worth hourly. If you spend 2 hours per week blogging and you think your time is worth $25 per hour, you spend $50/week blogging. Now go into your site stats and see how much traffic your blog generates. If your blog gets 100 visitors per week you are paying 50 cents per click.

What is a good cost per click?
There is no general answer. Lower is better, but good depends very much on your business. It should be based on the average value of your orders and your conversion rate.

3. Conversions
This is the metric we look at most often. How much did a traffic source result in direct sales? I recommend that, if possible, you track other things than sales, such as Facebook fanning, Twitter following, newsletter sign ups, etc.

Tracking that stuff can be difficult because you either need to be pretty tech savvy or spend money on fancy technology. Google Analytics is free and it will track sales and newsletter sign ups (assuming you can install Google tracking code on your thank you pages for newsletter and sales). It won’t track your Facebook and Twitter sign ups at this time but it’s better than nothing.  (I am sure eventually you will be able to track that stuff with Google Analytics, but not today.)

Tech savvy types can use cookies or track IP addresses of their visitors and use that to track visitor activity in a database. They can use AJAX to track clicks on their Facebook and Twitter links. This technology allows the business owner to see a complete profile of a customer’s activity on their site.

4. Overall Traffic
You should be seeing an overall increase in traffic as you spend more time and money on your marketing efforts.  I know that as we increased our advertising expenditures on our ecommerce website we saw a drastic increase in site traffic from all over the place. It’s because more people were coming to our site, sharing our links with friends, spreading our site around via word of mouth, etc.

If I get 1,000 people coming to my site each day and just 1% of them are sharing my site with others that means I have 10 people promoting for my brand EVERY SINGLE DAY! Now multiply that over the course of a year and I end up with thousands of people promoting my brand.
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