Best practices for website forms in 2017

So we’ve talked about the importance of adding forms to your site but doing them well is a whole ‘nother story. Here are some tips on the best practices for your site’s forms in 2017.

Keep it simple

Fewer, specific questions are better. It’s easy to want to ask people all of the things beforehand but think about your own experiences – are you likely to fill out a form that asks for too many things?

No. You’re going to click away or be perturbed that this company wants so much information from you, like your email address and phone number and social security number and blood type. Continue reading “Best practices for website forms in 2017”

Your website forms matter

For a small business and sometimes even really large businesses, forms are an afterthought or overlooked.

Web forms, however, are one of the most important components of your website. They are the vessel for which people can get information to you, whether it’s about a purchase or a question or anything in between. It’s a simpler method of communication that’s often overlooked.

But it shouldn’t be. Continue reading “Your website forms matter”

Tool Review: Hatchbuck

Marketing automation is a relatively newer, shinier thing for smaller businesses. It’s the process of automating repetitive tasks, like email campaigns or lead notifications.

For example, every time someone signs up for your email list, it would be nice to send them a welcome email, right? Marketing automation enables you to create a template email so that the system you’re using does that for you.

So, this would help you out rather than you getting a message every time someone new signs up and you having to write something new or copy and paste an old message you sent to the last sign-up. Or even worse, getting no message every time someone new signs up and you having to manually check the system.

The biggest problem with marketing automation is that it’s too big and too expensive for most small to medium sized businesses. Until now. Hatchbuck, a marketing automation and CRM tool, is our current go-to recommendation for marketing automation.

Even though it has a pretty stupid name. Continue reading “Tool Review: Hatchbuck”

Determining your marketing metrics

When it comes to marketing, most people have assumed it is like a magical black box – marketing goes in, and business results may or may not come out.

During the age of reliance on TV ads and print ads, where measuring your ad spend was a very nebulous experience, it makes sense. It’s very hard to gauge the effectiveness of a TV ad when you don’t know how many people truly saw it, how it influenced their buying decisions, whether it stayed on their mind or not…any of those variables.

Fortunately, digital marketing makes things a lot more clear for marketers and business owners alike. And you wouldn’t put money in the stock market or invest in a company without keeping tabs on their performance, now would you? So why would you put money in a Facebook ad or two and not record those results alongside your website’s traffic?

Everyone who’s engaging in marketing should be tracking and measuring their metrics. The question is – how do you determine what to track? Continue reading “Determining your marketing metrics”

Tool Review: MailChimp

When it comes to email marketing, we’ve helped businesses use a ton of different tools at Exothermic. Depending on your company means you may have different priorities and needs. Fishbowl, for example, is one of the main email marketing programs for restaurant and food-chains. Bronto and Listrak, on the other hand, works more with larger e-commerce corporations.

But if you’re a small business getting started or even a larger one doing your first email marketing push – MailChimp is currently our go-to recommendation.

Forever Free

MailChimp was one of the first email marketing providers who created a free plan and then stuck with it. To date, they still have a “Forever Free” account tier where you can have up to 2,000 subscribers and send those subscribers up to 12,000 emails per month.

 

They don’t require a credit card, a contract or anything other hassles.

Integrations

If you’re using WordPress or another common content management system (CMS), any of the top e-commerce tools (Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce or BigCommerce), Salesforce or other notable customer relationship management (CRM) tools – the list of compatible integrations with MailChimp goes on and on.

Integrations are important for tools in your “marketing stack” so they can play nicely together. You wouldn’t want an email marketing tool that can’t connect with your website, for example, because then you’d have a really hard time providing an easy way for people to sign-up. Speaking of…

Sign-up Forms

MailChimp does a really, really great job of making it easy for you to add people to your system. A lot of systems we’ve used before have very convoluted sign-up processes or data migration processes if you’re taking names from one system and adding them to another.

Sign-up forms and other methods for getting contacts actually into your database are key to growing your email marketing efforts. MailChimp does well at holding your hand through this process and making it easy for nontechnical people to set these components up.

Continuous Improvements

They’ve also come a long way. MailChimp used to be the go-to for start-ups and more technical people because although they had a free plan, it used to be ideal only for teams that were able to upload their own HTML into the system to send it off. Which meant you had to have someone savvy with HTML to make good use of it.

Now, they’ve made continuous improvements to make the user interface (UI) more intuitive and enabled people with no technical skills to get up and running.

It’s still not the most intuitive but with some guidance (and actually taking the time to read their really excellent support materials), just about anyone can get by.

It’s easy to move on

If you outgrow MailChimp’s free plan, they make it very easy to upgrade but also to move on to another system. MailChimp used to be a stepping-stone service but they are doing more and more lately to keep users within their system – and being very transparent about it, too. They even opened their own business and used MailChimp in their “What’s in Store” series to walk people through their own experiences.

All in all, it’s our go-to for getting brands new to email marketing onto a system over other tools like Constant Contact, AWeber, MadMimi, MyEmma and Hatchbuck.

That being said – if you’re new to email marketing and you have the money to invest (rather than opt for free), you may also want to check out Hatchbuck, a relatively new player in this scene that we’ve come to really like.

Getting started with email marketing

Email marketing may seem passe by 2017, but it’s still one of the most effective digital marketing channels to date.

Nearly everyone has an email address, whereas social channels are scattered across different demographics. There are hard, trackable numbers you can associate with email marketing and a ton of different ways to use them, regardless of your business’ focus point.

Here’s a quick overview on using email marketing for a small to medium-sized business. Continue reading “Getting started with email marketing”

The legal basics of email marketing in the US

In the US, the primary law you want to familiarize yourself with if you’re doing email marketing is the CAN SPAM Act of 2003.

Each and every separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $40,654.

For the most part, the law is in line with common sense and helps your relationship with your customers in the long-run. But here’s a breakdown of the main components. Continue reading “The legal basics of email marketing in the US”

SEO doesn’t have to be complicated

Search engine optimization (SEO) has had a mixed rap for many years now. Several people claim to be SEO experts while failing to effectively help sites boost their search rankings. On the flip side, small business owners have been intimidated by the a lack of HTML and technical knowledge in order to utilize the basics of SEO.

There’s also a fear of messing things up and Google (or other search engines, like Bing or Baidu) “punishing” your site.

But truth be told, for most businesses…experts aren’t needed here. If you’re a small business owner with a small team running the majority of your operations, there’s a simple way to manage SEO. Continue reading “SEO doesn’t have to be complicated”

What’s the most important digital marketing channel for brands?

Your website.

I’m tempted to just end this article here…but I guess I’ll explain why.

Owning vs. Renting

As a business owner or a marketing team, you want to spend more time on the properties you own versus the ones that you rent.

You own your website. At no point will the Internet say to you, “You can’t do this on your site” or “The permissions on your site have changed” or “We are not going to promote content from you as regularly.”

SEO algorithms may change, which may affect your traffic and your rankings in subtle way. But for the most part – you own this property. An entity telling you what you can and can’t do here is limited. Continue reading “What’s the most important digital marketing channel for brands?”

Set your business goals before your marketing goals

I am consistently asked by business owners, “Should I make a Facebook page?” or “What keywords should I use for my SEO?” or “If I want to increase sales, what ads should I spend money on?”

My most consistent answer: I don’t know.

With a follow-up question: What are your business goals?

If your marketing tactics aren’t flowing up to your marketing strategy and if your marketing strategy isn’t flowing up to your business goals and strategy, that Facebook page is going to be a complete waste of time. Continue reading “Set your business goals before your marketing goals”