Effectively marketing your small business doesn’t have to cost you a mint says Tim Kelsey, marketing services manager for Pronto Marketing.
“One thing many business owners don’t realize is that they are their most valuable content resource,” he says. “Excellent content is a great way for small business to get noticed online and owners often try to outsource their content development when they could easily be doing it themselves.”
Take advantage of the fact that you and your team are experts in your industry and therefore the perfect resource for educating potential customers.
Local SEO is another overlooked tactic that small business owners should pay attention to, he adds, recommending that businesses claim their listings on major directories like Google Local, Yahoo Local and Citysearch, in addition to the most popular directories in your area. Add a good description and several nice pictures, then develop a system to remind happy customers to write a review for you.
We recently checked in with Tim to learn more about Pronto Marketing and get his insight on everything from online marketing trends to what makes the perfect burrito (he’s kind of an aficionado).
Can you tell us a little about your professional background?
I got into SEO about four years ago by just reading as many blog articles as I could. That was real my first introduction into how businesses market themselves online. I quickly realized that there was much more to online marketing than just SEO, so I started learning about content, advertising, email marketing, social media, etc., etc., and started realizing that SEO was just one piece of a holistic online marketing strategy that should embrace several different channels to drive leads and sales.
We hear you have a thing for burritos … what’s the anatomy of the perfect burrito? Where in the world have you eaten the best burrito of all time?
OMG … burritos. Well, a good burrito starts with well-marinated meat. I prefer carnitas or sometimes carne asada. After that, your typical fillings should be included – rice, beans, cheese and definitely don’t forget the guac and sour cream. Ideally, the perfect burrito should have all the fillings mixed before it’s rolled up. One of my biggest pet peeves is getting one bite of all guacamole, then one bite of all rice and then one bite of all meat.
Actually, my favorite burrito place has been closed for many years. As a teenager, I used to walk to a Mexican restaurant just down the street from my house. I must have eaten there two to three times a week and I would order the same thing every time: a carnitas burrito. I’ve had many delicious burritos around the world, but nothing beats my first love…sigh.
What’s the story behind Pronto Marketing?
Pronto Marketing was started about six years ago by our co-founders Derek and Cory Brown (father and son). Derek had been working for Microsoft for many years in their Small Business Server division where he developed close relationships with my small IT services companies around the world. He noticed that many of them had an outdated or non-existent online presence and decided that he wanted help.
Since then, we’ve expanded beyond IT services companies and now help small businesses of any kind with their online marketing.
What services do you offer and who should be using them?
We cover web design to analytics and everything in between – SEO, social media marketing, online advertising, copywriting, content marketing and email marketing. All of our services are built specifically for small businesses. We understand that most small business owners don’t have huge marketing budgets so we tailor our services to meet their needs and make recommendations on which of our services could have the most benefit for them based on their goals and their budget.
Often times, small businesses come to us because they just don’t know how to market themselves online. They have a website that is five years old and know they should be doing more to promote themselves, but aren’t sure what steps to take next. We work with these clients to build them a website they can be proud of then help them build and implement a marketing strategy that can help their business grow.
What sets you apart from other online marketing firms?
I think the biggest thing that sets up apart is that our core website management service comes as a monthly subscription. You pay us a set monthly fee and we’ll cover everything from design to development, from copywriting to SEO. Need a new page on your site? Just send us an email and we’ll get everything designed, written and implemented on your site — all covered under our monthly fee.
Traditionally, when building a website small business owners have to work with multiple vendors — a designer, a developer, a copywriter and an SEO guy. The project costs can easily run into the thousands of dollars, and once the project is completed, all the vendors disappear. Need some new graphics? Better go hire that designer again or hope someone on your team knows how to your Photoshop.
Our goal is to take the stress and confusion out of managing your web presence. We wrap all those separate vendors together so you only have to turn to one place when you need something done.
How is online/digital marketing changing? What should small businesses be doing to stay current?
The industry is always changing. It’s the nature of the game. I think in general, online marketing is becoming more competitive for small businesses. There seems to be a collective realization among SMB owners that they need more than just a website. They need a strong online presence that is actively working to drive leads and sales.
What should small businesses be doing?
Reading — a lot. Find a couple blogs you like and take some time each week to browse through their posts. The best thing you can do for your business online is to be knowledgeable about online marketing. Even if you’re working with an outside consultant, knowing a bit about link building or content marketing or AdWords will help you make better informed decisions about where you should invest your marketing budget.
However, I would stress that small businesses shouldn’t be jumping on every new trend that comes out. Bloggers love to jump on the latest hot thing and tout it as the magic button to your web marketing woes, but this is rarely the case.
A good example is social media. Occasionally, we’ll see that a small business has a dozen or so social media profiles. They read that Pinterest was the hot new thing, so they created a Pinterest profile, but didn’t stop to think about how that profile works into their overall strategy. Do they have great visual content to share? Is their primary audience women? If not, then Pinterest might not be a good fit for them.
What are some of your favorite digital marketing tools?
For my top tool, I think I have to choose Google Analytics. It can tell you how visitors behave on your site, which of your marketing channels is the most effective, how visitors interact with multiple channels as they make their way through the sales funnel and help you make better decisions about your marketing. Without analytics, you’re basically running blind. Best of all, Google Analytics is free!
I also really enjoy Moz’s tool set. Moz used to focus only on SEO, but have recently started moving toward more holistic marketing data. Their Moz Analytics tool covers everything from rankings to links to social to web mentions. It does a great job of covering your business’ entire online presence.
What are the biggest mistakes you think businesses make when it comes to customer service?
One of the biggest mistakes is not apologizing when something goes wrong. Even if it was something out of your control, apologize. A simple, honest apology can immediately turn an angry customer into one that is totally understanding and ready to do business with you again.
Name three things every business owner can do to improve their customer service?
- When a customer asks a question, don’t just give them the answer but try to think of any follow up questions they might have as well. This both saves them from having to contact you again and will also show that you’re very knowledgeable about the subject.
- When a customer is upset, don’t respond in anger. I’ve learned this one the hard way. When a customer is angry and insults your business, it feels like they’re insulting your baby. Take a moment to look at things from their perspective and take a few deep breaths to calm yourself down before you respond. Answering in anger is always a lose-lose for both parties involved.
- Let your personality shine through. It’s important to maintain a professional demeanor when serving your customers, but you should always be on the lookout for opportunities to connect with them on a personal level. Even talking about something as simple as the weather or sports can help foster a real relationship that will make your business relationship even stronger.
How do you advise businesses on protecting their online reputations? Why is it so important?
Most small businesses won’t have a full-blown online reputation crisis, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be monitoring it. This is particularly important for small businesses when it comes to reviews. Positive reviews on their local listings can not only help encourage people to become customers, but they can also help with local search rankings.
Likewise, a negative review can easily turn potential customers away. It’s really these negative reviews that SMBs should be on the lookout for. A negative comment that hasn’t been responded to might show potential customers that you don’t care about the service you provide. However, responding to a negative review quickly and professionally can convince those same potential customers that you’re willing to go the extra mile the make sure they have a great experience at your business.