Small Business Marketing Tips


Have you clicked on a link on a website only to get a page with a “Page Not Found” error? Create a custom 404 Error Page for your website and take advantage of the space:

If you have a broken link on your site and a visitor clicks on this link they will be directed to what is called a 404 Error Page. This is a standard page that will let the visitor know that the link they clicked on could not be found. We all know how annoying this page can be. The good news is that there are ways to make this error page work for us.

Although these pages can drive traffic away, we can design them to actually become productive sales tools. Customizing your 404 error page should be a fairly simple process. Check with your host or the program you are using for your site to see how it can be done. Consider the ideas below to change your 404 page from a hindrance to a benefit.

1. Warm Welcome – Add a warm greeting and make your potential customers feel welcome as opposed to chasing them away with a giant “ERROR” plastered across the page.

2. Apologize with Free Gift – Offer them a free gift for the mistake. Add a link going to a $5.00 gift card, a bonus product with order, a free report or ebook, etc. Try to give them a gift that will be beneficial to them and you.

3. Subscription Page – Send them to your subscription page. Be sure to give them a free gift for subscribing. Offer helpful info, needed resources and more in your mailings.

4. Affiliate Product – If you are an affiliate for quality products and/or services, add a link to your affiliate page.

5. Your Product – Redirect them to your product pages. Be sure you have well-designed, easy to navigate product pages.

6. Use a Little Humor – Add something humorous to the page to lighten the mood and make your visitors want to look around more. Use cute, happy, funny graphics to put a smile on their face. Be sure not to cross any lines and be professional.

7. One Time Offer – Give the visitor a special one-time offer. Give them a deal not available anywhere else.

8. SEO Benefits – Design your error page so it is similar to your site’s other pages. Give it a keyword rich title and content. Add your blog/site title. Add a link to your site map or a site search function. It is hard to avoid the error pages so making them work for us is a good option.

9. Main Site Links – Be sure to add the important page links of your site so the visitors will know where to go. Briefly explain how going on will benefit them and what you have to offer.

10. Call to Action – Be sure to add a call to action on this page to instruct the visitor what to do or where to go to next. In the seconds you have to get people’s attention after the error page comes up, a call to action will sometimes make the decision for them.

The goal here is to not let this usually irritating page make your visitors quickly leave your site. Grab their attention with something interesting or entertaining so they will overlook the error and stay on your site. This can lead to more traffic and sales for your business.

“10 Ways to Benefit from Your 404 Error Page” by Terry Seymore in www.sitepronews.com

If you’re not sure exactly how to create a customized 404 error page, contact your web designer for assistance.

Many people run into writer’s block when generating copy for their websites.  Deciding what and how much to include is always a juggling act.  Too little and your potential client may not feel comfortable that you know your business well enough.  Too much and you can scare people away.

To help I want to share a helpful article on writing for your website by my friend and Small Business Marketing maven, Stacy Karacostas:

Writing to Satisfy Both Readers and Skimmers on Your Website

Writing for the Web truly is different from writing for print. One of the most critical ways it’s different is that people don’t read the same way on the Internet as they do on paper. In fact, many people don’t read on the Web at all—at least not at first. Instead they skim and scan to see if your business has what they’re after.

Then, only if they’re really interested will they read your site content word for word. Or do a mix of skimming and reading.

So as an entrepreneur you don’t want to skimp on the amount of Website content (or copy) you write. Because, as I’ve talked about in previous articles, your Website has to have all the tools and information it needs to be a good salesperson. Otherwise it won’t help you grow your small business.

That means your writing has to be friendly and easy to understand. And your copy has to answer all your customer’s questions and deal with their objections…Then convince them to take action.

It also has to achieve three core goals:

  1. Make the shopping experience easy and convenient
  2. Inspire confidence
  3. Show what’s different, or better, about buying from you

That’s a mighty tall order to fill in the 250 words or less some “experts” recommend. Though really, it’s not about how many words of copy should go on a page because you need exactly as much as it takes to achieve your goals—no more and no less. It’s about how you write and format that copy.

So, let’s get back to what I was saying about skimming versus reading…

Most people will skim your Website before they read it—at least initially—because they want to see if you have what they are looking for. And they want to find it as quickly as possible.

However, when they’re really interested in what you are saying—or serious about buying soon—then they’ll devour every last word you put up there. Assuming, of course, that it is interesting, informative, and easy to read.

So, since some site visitors are going to read while others are going to skim, you need copywriting that satisfies both. How do you do that? Try editing and formatting your Website content with these important rules in mind:

  1. Banish Big, Bulky Paragraphs
    Big, long chunks of text are just not inviting to read. Especially on the Web. They just look like too much work, and are almost impossible to skim.Make all your paragraphs no more than five lines long. On the Web even a one sentence paragraph is fair game.
  2. Be Up Front
    Stick to one point and state it early in the paragraph. People who skim read the beginning of a paragraph far more often than they read the whole thing. And the last thing you want to do is bury critical information where it won’t get seen.
  3. It’s Good to Be Short
    It’s easier to both skim and read ideas that are broken down into bite-sized pieces. So keep sentences around 20 words or less. This seems hard at first, but you can almost always find a way to break a long sentence into two shorter ones. Use Tools/Word Count in Microsoft Word to keep yourself honest.
  4. Use 5 Cent Instead of 50 Cent Words
    Using long words take more thought, and are more likely to be misunderstood, than short ones.  Plus, these days most people (even college educated ones) read most comfortably at about an eighth grade level. So anytime it’s possible to use a shorter word, or two short words instead of one long one, do it. The exception: if the long word is specific to an industry or market you are trying to reach, then by all means use it.
  5. Catch Their Eye
    One of the best ways to make your copy both skim friendly and effective is with well-written headlines and subheads, and well-placed bolding and highlights. Someone should be able to skim nothing but these to get all the major points and decide whether or not to read deeper.
  6. Bring On the Bullets
    Next to headlines and subheads, bullets are one of the best tools for satisfying both skimmers and readers. Just make sure each one provides a clear, compelling benefit—not just a feature. Because it’s not just about what your product or service is or does. It’s what it does for your customer that matters.

By writing and formatting your small business Website content with these rules in mind, you make it easy for people to find exactly what they are looking for in an instant. And you can write as much copy as you need to satisfy anyone who wants to read more, and convince them to take action.

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Practical Marketing Expert and Business Lifestyle Architect Stacy Karacostas is on a mission to help other savvy entrepreneurs unchain themselves from their business. Discover how to market and grow your business with less effort, help more people, make more money, AND still have a life by grabbing your own copy of her *F*R*E*E* “Success without Shackles Starter Kit” at http://www.theunchainedentrepreneur.com

Have you seen these black and white squares as you’re out and about? They are becoming popular and more widely used as a marketing tool. These are called QR codes, short for Quick Response codes. They are similar to the UPC bar codes now used for scanning your groceries when you check out at the store.

You can link these to the URL for your website, text, videos, contact information, events, contests, and even maps. You take a photo of them with your cell phone (you’ll need a code reader application) and it connects you to whatever link you’ve stored for it. The one you see at the right is linked to the Viewpoints Archive on my website.

There are free QR Code generators you can find online and also versions you can subscribe to for a fee that allow you to customize the designs, adding color and images, store and batch process multiple codes. A few good ones to start with are:

QR codes are saved as an image that can be used on anything you can print on – business cards, brochures, direct mail post cards, real estate signage, posters, wedding invitations, warehouse stock control, even temporary (or permanent) tattoos!

Have the QR code link back to:

  • Your website
  • Your LinkedIn or Facebook Fan Page profile
  • Your blog
  • Sign up for your newsletter
  • A YouTube video
  • Real estate listing
  • Service discount coupon

The possibilities are endless! There’s no limit to how, or even how much, you can share with QR codes. I anticipate we’ll see them getting more and more popular. Take a closer look and see how the use of QR codes can enhance your marketing strategy.

Have you noticed a growing number of questionnaires on Facebook?  People are asking about your pets, what cities you’ve visited, your political view, even if you were going to stay up to watch the Royal Wedding on TV.

For Facebook users, you can implement Questions on your business fan page to interact with customers as part of their social media strategy.  Ask questions about your ideas or conduct a mini survey to determine which of your services is most popular.

To begin using Facebook Questions on your own page:

Step 1: Sign into your Facebook Fan Page.

If you administer multiple fan pages, go to the “Account” tab at the upper-right side of your Facebook account and click “Use Facebook as Page.”  Click “Switch” next to the fan page you would like to be signed into, which should be the page where you want to add Questions.

Step 2: On your Wall, where you would normally enter your Status, click on the “Question” link and enter your question.  Click on the “Add Poll Options” link and enter the survey options.

Step 3: Click on “Ask Question”

Yes, it’s that easy!  Come up with a question that you’ve been meaning to ask your clients and see what your Facebook network thinks.

Wow! It seems like I had stopped for just a moment to catch my breath and months have disappeared. Well…it’s time to take a deep breath, exhale and jump in and resume sharing my Viewpoints. So here goes…

It’s again the start of a new year. Many people take this time to begin new advertising and marketing campaigns, or at least take a closer look at where they are with their business. An article I read hit the nail on the head for things to take a look at. Although it’s mainly direct towards trade show marketing, the basic rules still apply.

Planting Sales Seeds by Mike Mraz via Skyline Trade Show Tips

“My nephew Andy is a farmer.  He’s wanted to be a farmer since he was a little boy.  For Andy, there’s something so special about tending the crop to harvest.

Spend a day with him and you’ll learn that farming is very hard but rather simple work.

Of course technology has made a significant impact on the farming process. Fields are now charted by GPS, seeds are engineered to withstand hardship and chemicals assist in maximizing output.

But, the process is still pretty simple; turn the soil, plant the seed, water the field and harvest the crop.

Imagine if Andy farmed like many organizations marketed.

Here are 5 lessons that farmer Andy could teach marketers today:

  1. Choose the right crop for the right field.  Market segmentation and targeted messaging allow us to focus our efforts and leverage our marketing dollars like never before.  The proliferation of smaller more targeted events, allows exhibitors the chance to tell their story to a very qualified audience.
  2. Remember where you planted your seed.  What’s the point to randomly handing out or letting people help themselves to your literature a trade show?  When that brochure gets stuffed into a show bag, it’s one step closer to the trash can.  Just like the farmer controls his seed, the trade show marketer must control his information.
  3. Nurture your seed as it grows.  Focused follow-up and relationship development after the show is CRITICAL!  The farmer would never toss his seeds to the wind and expect the crop to harvest itself.  Why do exhibitors think that they can show up at a show, hand out literature, give away a few pens and expect a harvest to follow?  The harvest will belong to the marketing farmer who works the field.
  4. Know when to harvest your crop.  Experienced marketing and sales people know when it’s time to ask for the business.  They take a very strategic approach to developing the prospect into a customer and know when the time is right to close.  And, close they must.
  5. Be a good steward of the land.  Give back to your industry.  Get involved with the associations you belong to.  Put your “knowledgeware” (your smart people) on display by getting them on the speaker’s platform and presenting at your big conference.  To be seen as a thought leader you need to act like one.

If farmers behaved more like the average marketer, this country would starve.

With the exception of field sales (interesting use of words), the trade show floor is the only marketing field where we are face to face with our market.  In this field we have the opportunity to nurture a good crop and grow your business like no other.

So put on your overalls, grab your pitchfork and get to planting. You’ve got mouths to feed!”

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