5 ways mobile apps can help grow your business

Not so long ago, only huge corporations and nationally-recognized brands were interested in building their own mobile apps. Nowadays, though, companies of all sizes are using their own mobile apps to keep their customers engaged on the go.

With mobile app revenue slated to hit $189 billion in the next decade, there’s never been a better time to get in on the app-tion (sorry, we had to). Below are just a few ways mobile apps can help your business prosper.

Drive sales and profits

A mobile app allows your customers to make purchases immediately and instantaneously, without any second thoughts. It almost goes without saying that this will increase your sales. The time it takes for a potential buyer to track down a desktop computer, get comfortable, and wait for your website to load is an eternity in marketing time—precious seconds in which another variable could interfere and stop the sale. The easier the purchasing process, the higher your bottom line.

Boost your brand awareness

How often are your customers thinking about your company? The traditional answer is: when they’re a) shopping for your products and services or b) actively standing in your store. A mobile app breaks tradition by giving you the opportunity to engage with your target market anywhere—while they’re at home, on the bus, at work, standing in line, or anywhere else. This creates consistent brand awareness that will ultimately drive your sales even more.

Even closed mobile apps help your brand. 

Mobile apps can help your brand even when they’re not in use. Every time a user unlocks, scrolls, and engages with their mobile device, they’ll see your brand name, logo, and colors displayed on the screen next to their other apps. When they eventually do need your products or services, your name will likely be the first to come to mind.

Improve customer service and brand trust

Without sounding creepy, an app means your business is always with your customer, always ready to help, and always the same. Humans are creatures of habit, and when your business is continuously present and available, we start to develop the most powerful marketing driver in existence—trust. A solid mobile presence lets you always present your customers with the same face—an interface designed specifically to provide them with the best browsing experience possible.

Get personal

Thanks to modern phones’ location awareness, businesses can draw a perimeter around a certain area—like a store, a snack aisle, or an entire city—and deliver push notifications to customers within it. The creative possibilities for this are almost endless. A coffee shop could encourage customers to come warm up on a cold day; a real estate company could let passersby know a house is on the market; or a sponsor could message a stadium full of fans with a personalized, hyper-targeted message.

Now’s the time to go mobile with Red Letter Marketing.

If you’re thinking about entering the mobile marketing game, but aren’t sure where to get started, we can help. After all, we’ve seen mobile apps help many clients further their business goals over the years. Here’s what our lead developer, Dan, had to say about mobile apps:

“Our clients use mobile technologies to engage their customers around the world and around the clock. We’ve seen our clients increase sales, customer satisfaction, and brand recognition by taking on mobile strategies.” –Dan Ray, lead Software Developer at Red Letter Marketing

Want to learn more? Just give us a call or drop by for a chat, and we can help you find the path to mobile success.

4 Reasons Why a Website Maintenance Service is a Good Idea

Your new website is finally launched. Time to kick back and relax, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

The moment your gleaming new site goes live, various forces are already starting to pick away at it. Hackers poke at your infrastructure. Updates bob around, promising to make things better, yet often failing to do so. Forms and links which once worked perfectly start sputtering. The truth is, without a website maintenance service plan, your website will inevitably start to suffer. Eventually, so will your profits. Below are 3 reasons why regular site maintenance is a smart idea.

Protect yourself from cyberattacks

Phishing, ransomware, Trojan horses: The modern hacker has no shortage of tools to make your life a living, er, heck. And according to Forbes, over 30,000 websites are hacked every day—meaning any website owner is at risk. Since many hacking attempts take advantage of outdated plugins and other inconsistencies, a website maintenance service can help greatly decrease your risk.

Keep your rankings in search engines

If your website is slow and outdated—or peppered with broken links and error pages—the Google gods notice, and are not impressed. To put it more technically, when search engine spiders crawl your site, they take a tally of any broken links, missing images, and 404 errors. If they conclude that your site is inferior to its better-maintained neighbors, you’ll be lowered on results pages, and customers who would have seen your offerings first will see your competitors’ instead.

Impress your customers

These days, your website is your business. If your website functions poorly, your visitors will assume that your business runs poorly, too. And when it comes time to make that crucial purchasing decision, they’ll take their money elsewhere. To win customers and keep them coming back, it’s crucial to schedule regular site maintenance so that everything is running as it should be.

Make changes incrementally

Of course, not all updates are for security purposes; some are just plain fun. Many updates promise to add jazzy new features to your site that can keep your user experience fresh and engaging.

However, if you make 10 months’ worth of updates at the same time, it can have seriously negative consequences. Firstly, your regular users will experience a dramatic change in what they’ve come to expect, which can cause frustration and loss of sales. And secondly, in the words of one of our developers, “A website is like a car engine—you don’t want to just throw a bunch of stuff in there without thinking about how it all works together.” If you make gradual updates on a regular, scheduled basis, you’ll experience less problems all around.

Why a website maintenance service is good for business

When you make a small investment in site maintenance, your business benefits in multiple ways. You diminish the chance of security breaches; impress your visitors; elevate your search engine rankings; and make sure that changes happen at an even pace. It’s a win-win-win all around, for just a small percentage of what you’d have to pay to fix an issue like a crash.

If you’re just learning about website maintenance, and would like to get started, you might consider Red Letter Marketing’s OverSite™ website maintenance service. OverSite goes beyond automated tools and software. Instead, our real, live human developers will personally inspect your site once a month and scan for any glitches and errors. We’ll shoulder the burden of your site maintenance so that you can focus on running your business. To learn more, give us a call.

Drive More Business through LinkedIn Lead Generation Forms

B2B sales get easier with LinkedIn lead generation forms.

Ever tried to fill out a long, boring web form on your mobile phone? We didn’t think so. One glance at a dozen boxes to fill out, and suddenly, you’d rather revisit that how-to video on using toothpaste to get rid of carpet stains. Fortunately, the new LinkedIn lead generation forms significantly jazz up the form-entry process.

The new ad format eliminates hassles and allows your prospects to get right down to business. We have been testing campaigns for a number of Red Letter clients, and the results are promising. Here are the top 3 reasons to test out the new LinkedIn lead generation forms.

#1 B2B marketers can address the greatest hurdle to conversion: pesky lead forms.

LinkedIn’s new format drastically reduces the peskiness factor. Here’s how it works:

  1. Grab the viewers’ attention through an eye-catching visuals and a compelling headline

Linkedin Ad

 

  1. Bring them to a form that’s pre-populated with information from LinkedIn

Red Letter Marketing - Linkedin Leads

 

  1. Confirm their entry with Thank-You page, and an option to visit your website for more content

Red Letter Marketing - Linkedin Leads

You’ve still got to have an engaging message. But once you’ve got their attention with a grabber, moving them along to conversion is a lot smoother.

#2: Tap into LinkedIn’s vast user base to expand your reach globally.

LinkedIn’s audience is huge, and they used the platform for important decisions:

  • LinkedIn has over 500,000,000 users to date
  • LinkedIn is active in over 200 countries and territories globally
  • 4 out of 5 LinkedIn members drive business decisions

#3: Reach your best prospects and eliminate media waste through LinkedIn’s super-granular targeting options.

Here are just a few of the characteristics that we can use to focus your target:

Red Letter Marketing - Linkedin Leads Specification

Much less pesky. Much more targeted.

The new LinkedIn lead generation forms are a huge improvement. However, needless to say, you should always evaluate a new digital marketing tool in the context of your business goals and marketing strategy. If there’s a match, your business will be able to more precisely target prospects, and make it easy for them to express interest.

Watch Out for “The Guy”

“So, who’s managing the back end of your web site?” “Oh, we got a guy.”

And thus strike the gongs of doom. More often than we’d like, clients come to us because they used “A guy.” It conjures images of a self-taught, one-man shop working out of his basement to make websites on the cheap. He got hired because his price was way lower than other proposals. Turns out, there are reasons for that, and the client got what they paid for: too little. In this post, we discuss why low-cost web development isn’t really low-cost at all.

RLM’s experience with low-cost web development

One company asked us to fix their new website. It was less than 3 months old, but it didn’t provide a user experience that enabled them to get leads. After analysis to understand their business needs and how the site needed to deliver, it was clear the site could not be salvaged. They had to have a new one built from scratch, the way it should have been done the first time.

Another client opted for low-cost web development. A year later, the developer had disappeared, along with the access information.

Yet another client had their site hacked, and their data held for ransom, because the developer was hosting the site on their own servers, which were not as secure as they should be. But his price was really low.

See a pattern here?

We don’t like seeing businesses suffer the consequences of shoddy website development or maintenance.

It reflects poorly on our profession. We’d much rather spend our time helping clients grow their business instead of fixing problems that should not have happened in the first place.

That’s not to say there aren’t some terrific one-man or one-woman shops out there who are highly qualified and professional. But they are not doing it on the cheap. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Imagine your company has outgrown its offices and the board has agreed it’s time to build new headquarters that will better serve the business. Do you cast about for Some Guy who says he can build it cheaply, or do you consult with architects who are experienced in designing buildings of just the type you need? Do you hire the cheapest construction company, or the one that will do the best job within parameters of cost, time and quality?

Websites are complex.

Behind even the simplest appearance is an extensive design process and array of code and plugins that are hard to imagine. Additionally, there are changes on the internet almost daily that can affect your site, requiring disciplined monitoring and ongoing updates. Good sites are not inexpensive. The only thing more expensive is a poor site built on the cheap.

3 Great Secondary Marketing Research Resources

The difference between a smart business decision and a disastrous one can come down to whether you have the right secondary marketing research on hand.

Research and data are the lifeblood of great marketing. When conducting marketing research, you can go two ways: Either you gather primary research data, which is new information specifically collected for your immediate research needs, or you avail yourself of secondary marketing research sources, which is data material collected by others and readily available in the public domain or for purchase.

The information you need may already be waiting for you.

While new and tailored to your needs, primary research can be costly and time-consuming. Moreover, you may be collecting data that is very similar or even identical to existing sources, making your efforts redundant. So it’s usually best to start with secondary marketing research sources.

Advantages of secondary marketing research:

  1. Far less expensive than primary data. Other companies may have already collected data that is available at no cost, or sold to you for much less than it would have cost you to.
  2. Fast and easy to obtain. Often, the data is sorted away on websites just a click away.
  3. Useful to design primary data research. With collected secondary marketing research on hand as a basis, you can now build your strategy to collect what you need to complement your existing data.

Secondary data is quite valuable, as it can be used for purposes such as fact finding, model building, and database marketing. Your own company may keep internal records for sales, expenses, and customers which may be useful. To identify market trends, patterns and changes, tap into the many sources already available.

A few useful sites to gather information for all kinds of topics, demographics, and markets are the following:

US Census Bureau

The US Census Bureau is the principal agency of the US Federal Statistical System, which produces all kinds of data about our society and economy. With over 5,500 employees, you have a huge staff that gathers information and the ability to keep it current. Learn about the fastest growing counties or research income and poverty levels. Curious about US retail e-commerce sales as a percent of total quarterly retail sales for the last decade? A nicely compiled PDF will give you a compelling report.

Data.gov

Managed and hosted by the US General Services Administration, data.gov is developed publicly on GitHub, an open source project where you can contribute. Not only will you find data sets, clearly marked with available file formats, but also news and articles that relate to all kinds of topics that pertain to our economy and life in the US. Topics such as manufacturing, health, finance, consumers, energy and many more topics are covered. Data sources are available in csv, html, xml, pdf, or zip format, depending on the kind of information produced. Thousands of data sources can also be narrowed down by state, county or zip code, making data.gov a very flexible search site to narrow down the information relevant to your needs.

Euromonitor International

Euromonitor offers over 115 million standardized statistics from around the world for topics such as consumer goods, healthcare, and travel services. Whether you want to research an industry, consumers, or other economic topics, Euromonitor’s intuitive interface offers objective views into a variety of topics to gain global and local insights. Follow trends that impact business and make your strategic decision-making easier with readily-available data.

If you want to be successful in the marketplace, conducting research is vital.

Secondary marketing research is often a way to begin, and these are just a few of the many sites to find valuable information to conduct marketing and business research. Leverage readily-available information from data sites to make your business more successful.

Christmas in July: Why Your Business Should Prepare for the Holidays in Summer

You’re probably familiar with the phrase “Christmas in July”, a phrase used loosely to describe summer indulgences. It holds an actual function for countries in the southern hemisphere, whose seasons are reversed. And though we find ourselves on the top half of the planet, we are thinking about the holidays even in the 90+ degree heat and a longing to be on the beach or by the pool.

A little planning now makes you smarter in December.

At Red Letter Marketing, we start holding meetings and discussing our holiday plans six months ahead of time, and we recommend you do the same. Ideally, it gets you ahead of the game—no competing for holiday resources, no employees out who’re necessary to complete projects, no last minute dashes for this or that. But to be honest, it simply keeps you on track. It keeps that feeling of “we never have enough time around the holidays” away.

Starting early leaves more time for creativity.

Our recommendation comes out of experience. In the early days of our company, we scrambled. That’s not to say things don’t get hectic still, but it helps greatly when you know in what direction to panic. Brainstorming for ideas in July means they’ll be solidified by summer’s end. Then you’ve got fall for execution, when nearly all employees are in the office. Since holiday projects come secondary to actual client work, it’s good to have these projects in queue for when employees have downtime, or simply need to work on something different for a bit. You’ll be surprised how much cooking gets done on the back-burner.

It doesn’t matter what your line of work may be. Marketing or otherwise, you’re likely responsible to clients, partners, friends, or supporters of some kind. Show them your organizational prowess. Plan ahead.

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

Do we ever say no to clients? Yes. Here’s why.

The headline might have brought to mind a familiar scenario.

Client: Shouldn’t the email blast have our logo in it somewhere?

Designer: Your logo is in it. Down there in the corner. Get closer to the screen.

Client: I guess I see it. Could we maybe . . . embiggen it a smidgen?

Designer: No. Next question.

Maybe it’s never happened exactly like that but, most of us in marketing have witnessed exchanges along those lines. The designer in that scenario has taken her advisor role to its extreme, where advice has transmogrified into unyielding command.

We don’t do that here. (If you don’t believe me, here’s what you should do: Become our client. Then you’ll see. I stand ready to receive your call at 336-676-6822.)

But we do say “no” sometimes. And when I tell you about a recent example, your first reaction might be something like “What kind of naïve imbecile would do that?”

There are times when I am a naïve imbecile, but this was not one of those times. What happened was, a client called and said “I’ve got some money here and I’d like to give it to you folks. Please take it and use it to redesign our sales kit.”

So yeah, here’s the part where you go “Did you really say no to that?” And then your next question is “Can I have the phone number of that client please?” (Now I’m saying “No” to you.)

Of course there is more to the story. I didn’t just decline the funds and wish my client a good day. I reviewed her sales kit and agreed that it could stand some grooming. However, I knew that the basket of money she was waving in my face was all she had in her marketing budget for the rest of the fiscal year. Some serious prioritization was in order.

Now, this client wasn’t asking me for financial advice. She wanted design advice. So I was indeed risking a scenario in which she picked up her basket of money and stormed out.

It was a risk worth taking. In our experience, good clients welcome all kinds of advice, even when it is counter to their original request. In a job long ago, in a galaxy far away, I had a client who had built an astonishingly successful logistics company. He was a really smart guy—smart enough to welcome challenges. I once attended a meeting in his company’s stately conference room; also in attendance was my trusted account director, Mike. At a certain point in the meeting, the client held up an ad he had torn out of a magazine. It featured a scantily clad model draped over an outboard engine. My client asked “Why aren’t we doing stuff like this?”

The room got very quiet.

Mike (my hero) blurted “Because that would be the stupidest thing you could possibly do.”

The client smiled. He still liked the scantily clad model, but he liked frank advice even more. (Mike and I expanded on that first comment, and the client saw our reasoning.)

Okay, back to my client with the request for a sales kit redesign. When I put the brakes on that idea, she was disappointed. She even kind of whined and begged a bit. (She was half-joking.) But when I told her that there were better uses for her remaining budget—uses more likely to trigger sales—she graciously accepted my advice.

Maybe we’ll get to redesigning the sales kit next year. Meanwhile, our client knows that if we always said “yes” to her suggestions it would only feel good for a while. The occasional “no” may be briefly annoying, but it can be more rewarding for the client in the long run.

Is Marketing Short-Sightedness Limiting Your Business?

The most popular definition of marketing, according to a quick Google search, is “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” This definition, while practical, covers a common, but short-sighted perception of the role of marketing. By this description, companies make a product or service, and it’s the job of the marketing department to advertise and support sales efforts. But mine deeper, and you’ll discover a larger, more powerful vision–a marketing strategy that can truly help your business.

True marketing is the discipline of discovering, creating, and delivering value.

Phillip Kotler is the S.C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. A formally trained economist, Kotler is internationally recognized as the world’s leading expert on marketing strategy. Here is how he defines marketing:

  • “The the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit.”
  • “The art of creating genuine customer value. It is the art of helping your customers become better off. The marketer’s watchwords are quality, service, and value.”

In short, one must understand customers’ needs, then ascertain the best way to deliver them value. Kotler believes marketing to be both science and art. Science, in the form of research, delivers the critical information necessary to shape marketing strategy. But information without insight is impotent. It must be translated into authentic connections that touch and resonate with people.

It’s the discipline that drives all other functions of business.

A great (and still relevant) giant in business management was Peter Drucker. He stated,

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Marketing, then, must lead and drive all other business activity. Here’s an example.

One of our clients is a century-old company that had enjoyed success with a traditional, push-driven manufacturing model. They made cabinets on a mass scale, then sent sales people out to sell them to builders. This was good work until imports drove basic builder products into a price point game, radically changing the marketplace. Rather than continue their manufacturing-driven business model—which would almost certainly result in the demise of the business—they took a courageous initiative to change, and adopted a marketing-driven business model.

They listened to their customers as never before. Then, they studied the marketplace and identified ways to create value that would put them in a long-term, sustainable position for success. They redesigned the product planning and manufacturing processes in order to deliver on said value. Finally, they focused on using a marketing model to drive business planning and production. Now, as it goes into its 110th year, the company is bursting with renewed energy and stability. The future looks bright.

Use marketing strategy to position your business for success.

Companies that implement a marketing-driven business model can establish competitive advantages that build long term success. By constantly seeking new ways to deliver value, they are able to innovate and align their resources appropriately. Those who treat marketing as a tactical activity, simply to feed the sales pipeline, miss out on the area’s long term power. When rapid changes occur in the marketplace, they struggle to adapt.

Remember the Drucker quote: “marketing and innovation.” Follow the true meanings of these words, and remain malleable to success.

Interested in learning more about marketing strategy and how it can drive greater success for your business? We love to talk!

NC Businesses: Today’s Marketing is Complex

We wanted to learn what’s important to NC businesses when it comes to marketing. So we conducted an informal survey to discover common threads of thought.

If you’ve ever felt like the tidal wave of new marketing technologies and media is overwhelming, you’re not alone. NC businesses report their top marketing challenges are generating leads, brand awareness, budgets, and staying current with marketing technology.

Among the items people mentioned as their biggest problem was just keeping up with marketing developments. Additionally, they cited tracking results, keeping up with Google, and determining the most efficient advertising sources. Sound familiar?

When asked what kinds of marketing they do, over 70% of NC businesses mentioned digital marketing.

Within the digital category, social media and websites ranked prominently, followed by email. Interestingly, although over 70% of replies mentioned websites, less than 20% mentioned SEO, as shown in the chart below. PPC (Pay-Per-Click) and retargeting were less than 10%. We believe there are big opportunities for smart marketers to gain a competitive edge and capture more leads by practicing aggressive SEO and content development. Additionally, digital advertising is low cost and can be effective in driving quality traffic and capturing conversions.NC Businesses

The research also revealed that traditional media remains an important part of the mix. One of the challenges mentioned was how to integrate traditional media like print and broadcast with digital tactics. Companies need to understand how to integrate the various media types, and the role each medium plays in the purchase cycle.NC Businesses

Whoever was the first to coin the phrase “May you live in interesting times” may not have imagined the world we live in today, but it certainly captures the marketing world. Today, it’s almost a full-time job just to keep up with the changes in technology and the digital landscape. It’s easy to be distracted by the latest hot tactic or trending social site. But the rewards are greater when businesses invest the time to make sure the fundamentals are in place. If your website looks nice but your SEO is lagging, you are likely missing business opportunities.

The Bottom Line: Digital marketing is crucial for businesses

Companies that practice ongoing SEO and digital marketing garner more visits and leads than those who lack a disciplined, consistent program. But too many companies don’t have the time or expertise to manage the constant changes in a nearly real-time environment. If you find yourself experiencing similar issues, give us a call.