24 Awesome Free Tools Every Small Business Owner Should Be Using


Most small business owners are on a tight budget, they don't have the money to hire designers, marketers, videographers, etc, so most look to learn how to do things themselves.  And while using DIY software is great, paying for each one every month can add up pretty quickly.

There are so many tools available online for just about anything.  Some are free and some are paid.  The problem is figuring out which ones are worth your time and money and will do the job for you.  You can waste countless hours trying to figure out how to use a new tool, only to find out it wasn't going to be much help.

Below are 24 free tools that every small business owner should have.  They include tools for design, marketing, and productivity.  I use all of these tools myself, many of them every day, so I know first hand the value they bring.



Canva is the design platform for non-designers.  It's a drag and drop visual design editor that allows you to layer elements the same way you do in Photoshop, without the high technical learning curve.  If you use social media then this is a must have tool.  They also have a nice design course for beginners that is free as well.

Pic Monkey

Pic Monkey is my favorite image editing tool for fast and quick image editing if I don't want to open Photoshop.  It's web based, has browser extensions, and is super simple to use.  It's great for doing quick resizing, cropping and light touch-ups.  The free version will be fine to use for most people and does the job for most general image editing.


Piktochart is a free design tool to create your own infographics without all of the design challenges traditionally associated with creating infographics.  They have a large library of templates to start from as well as great tutorials on how to start creating amazing infographics.  It uses a simple to use drag and drop visual editor so there isn't much of a learning curve.

Open Shot Video Editor

Open Shot is easy to use open source video editor that allows you to edit video.  Many open source programs are difficult to use, but Open Shot has an intuitive editor that is visually similar to many paid video editing programs like Adobe and Filmora.  While there are many free video editing apps available on phones and tablets, if you need to do extensive editing you will see the frustrations with editing video on a mobile device.


Audacity is free to use audio editing software that works just as well as any paid audio editing software.  Audacity is one of the most popular audio editing tools around and many people prefer it to paid audio editing programs.  We have used it for years to edit our podcast, The Small Business Express, and have found it very easy to use and very reliable.




Grammarly is a Chrome extension that I cannot live without.  I'm not the best typer and make frequent typos when writing.  Grammarly scans your writing and shows you not only spelling errors but also grammar errors as well.  It also shows you the correction and replaces it with the click of the mouse.  This is a must for anyone who wants to ensure their writing is error free.  They have a free and paid version, but the free version is enough for most people.


Hemingway App is another app that helps with your writing.  If you paste your article into the app, it will show you numerous ways to make your writing simpler to read and make your sentences shorter and more concise.  The web version is free, the desktop version is paid.


Trello uses a Kanban style system that allows you to create cards and drag them across your boards until complete.  Think of it like putting sticky notes on a wall and moving them left to right as you get closer to completing a task.  It's a wonderful and simple to use productivity and project management tool and is great for small teams and solopreneurs.   Best of all, it's simple to use and free.


Zoom is a video conferencing tool that is easy to use, reliable and has a generous free plan.  There are many video conferencing tools out there but Zoom has the perfect mix of being very reliable and offering a super easy to use interface.  It also comes with a mobile app and Chrome extension.


Loom is a free to use video screen recording app that is great for creating quick video tutorials.  The browser extension makes it simple to use and created an instant share link when you are finished with your screenshare.  Loom is great for creating quick videos for customer support as well as explaining tasks to other team members.


Asana is an easy to use project management app that is great for managing small teams.  While I use Trello for most project management, Asana is a better choice for bigger teams and more complex project management needs.  It's a great platform for group collaboration and for making sure the entire team knows what others are doing.  They have a generous free plan for up to 15 team members.


If This Then That (IFTTT) is a free tool where you can create simple automation tasks by linking two services together.  This is just an awesome app and a total time saver for redundant tasks.  An example would be connecting your Gmail account to Evernote, so when you star a message in Gmail, it will save a copy of the email in Evernote.  Or if you connect Twitter and Google Sheets, you can automatically save any tweet you star in a Google spreadsheet.  The connection possibilities are endless and there are hundreds of different services you can connect.

Google Keep

Google Keep is a free note taking and to-do list tool that is simple to use but has powerful features.  I prefer paper when it comes to creating to-do lists but Google Keep is the one app that I use every day.  I love the ability to create multiple notes to-do lists with this app and to be able to color code and organize them how I want with a drag and drop interface.  It also syncs with Google Drive and allows you to import notes into Google Docs. Has mobile and web app versions.


I included Feedly and Pocket Reader together as they go hand in hand.  Feedly is an RSS feed app that lets you add the feeds of websites you want to track so you can get their content delivered to you instead of going to numerous websites each day to find their latest articles.  Feedly is great for staying on top of what is happening in your industry.  Pocket allows you to save articles for later viewing.  You can then read the articles later in an ad-free, distraction free reader that only shows you the actual article and nothing else.  I love the using the two of these together as I can scan my Feedly feed for anything of interest and save any of them to Pocket for later reading.


Evernote is my digital junk drawer.  Anything I might want to remember in the future, I either write to down in Evernote or take a quick picture of it and save it.  Evernote has tons of useful productivity features, but I mainly use it for saving stuff I might need later.  Notes you have written down, business cards, phone numbers, receipts, are just a few examples of things you can and should be saving for future reference.




Buffer is my favorite social media tool for schedule posting updates.  Buffer lets you curate content and share across your social media platforms according to any schedule you create with a touch of a button.  You set up the schedule once and then just load your queue with posts and Buffer does the rest. It is easy to use, powerful and has a ton of features like social analytics.  Buffer also integrates with just about anything so it makes sharing across your social platforms very easy to do.  The free plan is enough for most people, with a paid plan if you manage a lot of social media accounts.  And their customer support is fantastic.


Hootsuite is one of the original social media management platforms and is still one of the best.  Hootsuite lets you manage your social media accounts in one dashboard, allowing you to create and respond to messages within the app so you don't have to log into several different accounts.  The free plan allows one user and three social media profiles.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a free web monitoring tool that will send you a notification is a keyword is found as it scans the internet.  This is a great tool for monitoring mentions of your brand and personal name on the web so you can see where the conversations are happening online about you and your business.  You can setup as many alerts as you want, you can even track competitors and just about anything else you want to set alerts for.


MailChimp is the perfect email marketing software for any small business just getting started with email marketing.  it's super simple to use, integrates with just about anything and offers a generous free plan to get started (2oo subscribers).  Email marketing provides one of the best ROI's out of any online marketing channel (way more than social media), and MailChimp makes it easy to get started.  They also have great tutorials to get you started.


Rapportive is a free Chrome browser extension that will pull in the social media details of the person you are corresponding with.  This is a great business tool and will give you more information about a contact as well as links to their social media profiles.  LinkedIn purchased this tool so hopefully, they will keep it free in the future.


Soapbox is a free video and screen recording app from the team over at Wistia, which has a legendary reputation in the video marketing industry.  Soapbox allows you to create screen shares and video presentations right from your computer.  It also includes video editing software so you can record and edit your videos right inside the app.  They also store all of your videos online for free.


QZZR lets you create online quizzes that you can create for your website and social media.  Online quizzes are one of the best ways to create engagement on social media and for also building your email list.  Quizzes are fun, interactive and interesting to use.  QZZR offers a good free plan in addition to paid plans for a more advanced feature set.


Cyfe is an all in one digital marketing dashboard.  It allows you to pull in your website, social media and a bunch of other data into a single dashboard.  They have a solid free version that will be sufficient for most small business owners.


What tools do you use?

These are some of the free tools I use to help me run my business.  There are plenty of other free tools out there that provide lots of value so if you have any suggestions you can let me know on Twitter @3BugMedia.


The Missing Ingredient In Your Small Business Marketing Plan

I was speaking to a business owner at an event the other day who owns a successful retail store and she was explaining to me her frustrations with online marketing.  She said she had dedicated the last 6 months to learning everything she could about online marketing and she still can't seem to get anything to work.  She's at the point where she is almost paralyzed as she is afraid to spend more money for little to no results.

She has been following top marketing sites like Hubspot, Moz and Quick Sprout where she has learned a ton about online marketing, but still can't seem to get anything she has tried to work.

Sound familiar?

Just like in sports, there is a huge difference between learning how to play a game and understanding how to play it.

It's like basketball. You may learn lots of tips, drills, and tactics, but you still don't really understand how to play basketball and how to think strategically about it.  Or karate, do you think the movie The Karate Kid (the original) would have turned out the same way if Daniel had learned some karate tips from a magazine than from Mr. Miyagi?  I think not, so don't expect similar results by watching Youtube videos or reading blog posts full of marketing tips.

Karate Kid Final Scene GIF

That's not to say watching marketing videos or reading marketing blogs aren't helpful, they are super helpful and you can learn a lot.  I'm a self-taught marketer going on 12 years now and I read and watch marketing content daily.  But if you lack the foundation of really understanding marketing and how it works, then you'll most likely end up more confused at the end of the day.  It's like learning advanced drills and tips on becoming a great soccer player but you haven't really learned how to play soccer yet.  Helpful, but not practical.

If you want to become a good marketer, you have to understand marketing.  More importantly, you need to understand how your business works and how to create a marketing strategy for your specific business.  What works for one business won't work for another.

To be successful at marketing your business, you need to have a solid understanding of 3 things:

Who your ideal customer is.  If you don't know who you are marketing to, then save your money and just stop.  The foundation of marketing is understanding who your ideal customer is, what their challenges are, why they buy and how your product or service will make their life better.  Without this information, you are doomed to creating generic marketing campaigns that appeal to no one.

How people buy from you.  What do your marketing and sales funnel look like?  What does their decision process look like?  What information do they need before they will consider buying from you?  You need to understand how people buy from you and why, so you can make sure you give them everything they need in order to make a purchase.  This sort of quantitative analysis is crucial in forming a marketing strategy that works.

Where to find your ideal customer.  Once you understand who you want to reach and how/why they buy from you, you need to find out how to reach them online.  Is it through blogging (inbound marketing), Google Adwords, Facebooks Ads, social media,…..once you know who you want to reach it becomes clearer how to find and engage with them.

Video: Learn the elements needed to create a simple, but effective online marketing funnel for your small business

Once you have figured out all of the above, it will become clearer to you what your marketing strategy should look like.  You're not going to waste time and money on Instagram (despite everyone telling you to) because you understand now that is not where your ideal customer hangs out online.  Once you know these 3 things like that back of your hand, all of those marketing videos and blog posts will start to make more sense and you can pick and choose which ones are useful to you.

You need to develop an understanding of marketing and how it applies to your specific business.  You can either learn this yourself or work with a mentor or marketing consultant to help you figure out what your marketing strategy should look like.  If you skip this step and jump straight into tactics, you'll forever be like a ship sailing without a captain, drifting from place to place without a clear destination.

Most small business owners spend money on advertising or hire marketing companies without having a marketing strategy in place.  They assume (or hope) the company will develop it for them.  Most marketing companies are tactical in nature, they will run a Facebook Ad campaign for you but not knowing if you should be doing this in the first place.  Hiring a marketing company to do tactical things for you like run a Google Adwords campaign or do content marketing for your site is much different than working with a marketing company or consultant to help you develop a strategy tailored to your business.

Do you need to hire someone to figure this out?  Not at all if you are willing to spend the time to really understand how marketing should work for your business.  If you are not willing to spend the time to understand all of this, then working with someone who has the experience is your next best bet.  There are lots of potential mentors out there accomplishing exactly what you want to accomplish.

The worst thing you can do is nothing and continue to waste time and money on marketing tactics that won't work for your business.  You need a plan, a clear strategy, and system that will take turn potential customers into customers for your business over and over again.

You need to understand how to play the sport of marketing before you can excel at it.

5 Things Every Small Business Should Be Blogging About

Blogging is one of those things that seems easy on the surface but is difficult to do in practice.  People who don't write think writing is easy until they try it for themselves.

The majority of bloggers quit after just a few months of blogging.  In the beginning, it's a lot of effort for very little gain.  It can take a blog several months, even years to get the kind of traction that turns a blog into something worthwhile.  With a good social media and online advertising strategy, you have the potential to get results much faster.

When I first started blogging in 2007, I don't think I saw any increase in traffic until about the 8-month mark, and that was after about 35 blog posts under my belt.  I basically just posted articles and waited for Google to send me traffic, which is a long and slow way to grow your blog.  Social media was just starting to catch on so I had limited channels to share my content, which I did none of anyway, I just posted and moved onto the next article.  Online content is more competitive today but you also have more channels where you can share and promote your content.

One major benefit I had from my blog is that over the years  I met so many wonderful people from all over the world as a result of my blogging, those connections alone was worth the effort.

So why blog at all?

First off, blogging isn't for everyone.  Just like social media isn't for everyone.  You shouldn't do it just because someone said that you should.  Just like any marketing channel, you have to make sure it is a good fit for you and your business and that you have the resources and determination to make it work.

47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. (Demand Gen Report, 2016)

Business Blogging

A successful blog can attract thousands of targeted, potential customers to your website each month.  If your content ranks high in the search engines, people will find it when they do a search and will visit your website.  If you have engaging content, you can drive lots of people to your website through social media.  A great blog can also position you and your business as a thought leader in your industry, helping to make your business stand out from your competitors.

Setting up a blog is a long term marketing play for your business.  It's something that you have to put a lot of resources into up front with little gain, for a bigger payout later on down the road.  Kind of like SEO, where there is no immediate payout for your efforts but has great long term ROI potential.

You don't need to be a writer in order to blog.  I've been blogging since 2008, I've written over 500 blog posts, and I still don't consider myself a writer.  Writing is always a constant struggle, even professional writers struggle with their writing.

But what you do need is a clear understanding of what blogging is and how it will benefit your business.  You need a strategy for your blog so you can turn your content into leads and customers for your business.  This is where most business blogs go off the rails.  They start blogging without a clear goal or strategy in place and end up writing about random nonsense that nobody cares about.  Usually, after a few months of no direction and strategy, they see poor results and quit.

Don't let that be you.

If you are serious about blogging then read on.  Adding a blog as part of your marketing strategy can pay huge dividends for your business down the road.  The most important thing is that you have a strategy in place and you're not just blogging for the sake of blogging.  You also need to understand that blogging is a long-term marketing strategy, so don't expect immediate payouts like you would with advertising.

Marketers who prioritize blogging are 13x more likely to achieve a positive ROI on their efforts. Hubspot, State of Inbound

Here are a few basic tips for your blog. 

  • Content should be at least 500+ words in length. Shorter than that and you probably didn't explain the topic fully enough and the search engines tend not to rank flimsy content.  600-1200 words is a nice sweet spot to aim for
  • Add images and embed video when you can. People like multi-media and adding these can enhance your content
  • Use quotes, facts, and statistics when you can
  • Use headers,sub-headers, bullets and bolding.  Just like a book, a blog post, especially a longer one, is easier to read when it is broken down into sections
  • Set a steady posting schedule for your blog. It can be daily, weekly or monthly. The more quality content you produce, the faster you will grow
  • Aim for quality over quantity, the internet is already littered enough with sub-standard content

You should also take a look at popular blogs in your niche and look at how they structure their blog posts.

So if you are ready to start blogging, the next step is to form a content strategy.  What will you blog about?  I've listed some blog topic ideas for you below, along with why they are good topics for your business.

Question & Answer Blog Posts

This should be at the core of your blogging strategy and can be the biggest driver of traffic to your website over time.  Q&A blog posts are the most likely to rank in the search engines because people are always online searching for answers to their questions.  Your goal is to provide full and complete answers for people interested in your product or service.

It's easy to get started.  Make a list of the top 20 questions you get from potential customers and turn each one of them into a detailed blog post.  Sure you can create an FAQ page on your site and give 2 sentence answer for each question like most people do, but FAQ pages never rank high in the search engines and rarely get found.  Do the opposite, and provide the best answer to that question out of anyone in your industry and you will get rewarded with a higher place in the search engine results when people search for it.

If you need some ideas and examples, simply ask a question about a product or service you are interested in and read the top 5 results.  Then go read the results on page 3-5 of the search engine results and note the differences in quality and structure.


Case studies & Customer Success Stories

Potential customers love reading case studies and success stories, especially if they can relate to the challenge you solved for the case study subject.  These types of blog posts are great for converting potential customers into paying customers as it provides real-life examples of how your business solves people's problems.

These types of blog posts are great for social media, advertising, and email marketing.  You can also showcase them on your website and use them as a conversion tool.  Case studies and customer success stories also work great for Facebook Advertising, where you create a case study for a specific demographic, then target that demographic on Facebook with your case study.

Here are some tips for creating great case studies.


Local Topics

If you are a local business then local is what you should be talking about most of the time on your blog.  Instead of writing about general industry topics, write about those topics through a local lens.  Writing about industry topics but making them local in nature can greatly help with your local search engine rankings and make your content more relevant for you audience.  Localizing your content makes it easy for the search engines to determine that you're a business in a specific area and is much more topical for your local audience.

Make your case studies about a local business people know.  Talk about industry topics and use examples from your city.  Your city may have unique challenges when it comes to whatever industry you are in, point these out and let people know these differences from the generic content they read online from other blogs.

So if you are a real estate agent, don't write about generic real estate tips like every other agent, make your content local and specific.  Write about the 5 best neighborhoods in your city for young families, or do a profile on a new housing development in your area.  Interview other local businesses and community leaders and do writeups about local events.  This kind of content is much more interesting to your readers than another, “5 Best Tips To Sell Your Home Fast” nonsense.

Whatever industry you are in, take popular topics and turn them into local blog posts for your readers.


Industry Content

Write about what's happening in your industry.  Talk about new products and services, trends happening and how your industry is evolving.  These types of blog posts help to educate your customers and potential customers about the latest in your industry.  It also helps to spread awareness to your customers and potential customers to create new buying opportunities.  Just be sure to use common language and not industry speak, which will confuse and bore your audience.

These types of blog posts are great for emailing to your existing customer base and for sharing on social media to existing and potential customers.  This type of content positions your business as a thought leading for your industry and helps you to stand out from your competitors.

The easy way to execute this is to stay on top of industry news, trades journals and other professional publications, then write a consumer friendly version of it for your readers.  You can include this content in your newsletter as well as on social media.


Behind the Scenes & Your People

Look at many popular TV shows like Undercover Boss or How It's Made, people love to see the inner workings of the businesses and products they know.  Take your customers behind the scenes and show them what life is like behind the counter.

If you sell products, show your audience how your product is made and the people who make them.  Most people will likely be surprised at all of the work and moving parts that are involved in bringing a product to market.  People may better appreciate your product or service if they can see all of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

Showcase yourself and your employees.  People love to know the faces behind the business.  If you have consumer-facing employees, do a  profile on them so people can better relate to them.  If you have behind the scene employees, bring them front and center and show your customers how they make things work behind the scenes.

Social media is a perfect platform for this.  Post pictures and stories on Instagram about your business.  Same with Facebook.  Make videos you can post to Youtube and on your website.  Most social platforms let you embed your social feeds, so put them on your website so customers can stay up to date on what you are doing to better serve them.  These are perfect times to relax and show your customers the lighter, more fun side of your business.  People love being a fly on the wall, let them see your business how you see it.


Start your business blog today

Starting a blog for your business isn't a quick way to generate leads or gain popularity.  It's a long-term strategy that can pay off in spades if you do it right and stay with it for the long haul.  Business websites are littered with blogs that started half-hazard and stopped almost as fast as they started. Don't let that be you.

Before you start blogging, make sure you have a strategy in place and you are committed to making your blog an important part of your overall marketing strategy.  If you do this, a year from now you will be a very happy person as you watch all of the wonderful things a great blog can do your business.

How To Create a Highly Effective Marketing Plan For Your Business


Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face – Boxing Quote

Why do military leaders spend an unbelievable amount of time planning for a battle when they know 80% of their plan will go out the window as soon as the fighting starts?

It's because the discipline of planning every detail will allow them to make smart and accurate decisions on the fly, which would not be possible if you did not take the time to plan beforehand.

Same goes with marketing.  If you don't plan out your marketing strategy, you'll always be on uneven footing as you did not take the time to really analyze your business, your competitors, and your customers.  Every hour you spend planning will save you two hours of headaches and mistakes later on.

Thorough planning gives you a deeper understanding of how your marketing will work and will make it easier to spot potential dangers and pitfalls along the way.

Most entrepreneurs want to take action, which is great, you just need a good plan to take action on.  So if you are serious about creating a rock solid marketing plan for your business, set aside some time and use the steps below to get started.


Conduct a Marketing Audit For Your Business

Before you start planning, you'll need to take an inventory of your current marketing situation and how effective it is for your business.

Make a list of where you are spending your advertising dollars and where you are spending your time marketing your business.  Once you know where your time and money is going, you want to analyze each activity and marketing channel to see what kind of impact it had on your business.

If you spot areas where you are spending a lot of time or money but is not bringing in the results you want, you'll need to ask yourself a few questions:

1 – Am I putting enough time/effort or money into this activity to make it work effectively for my business?

2 – Is this the right channel to find customers and grow my business?

3 – Should I commit to improving this marketing channel or should I focus elsewhere?

Many business owners fall into the trap of spending time on marketing activities that they are familiar with and ones that feel safe for them.  These activities are often not the best ones to grow your business, but they are “comfortable” to the business owner so they continue to spend time on it despite seeing little in the way of results.  Look at networking, go to any Meetup.com group in your area related to business and you'll see tons of people asking for referrals week after week (with little results) when they should really be spending their time doing outreach and cold calling to drum up business.  But networking is much safer than putting yourself out there with real potential clients.

Take a hard look at how you spend your time and money and cut out anything that isn't helping you grow your business in terms of leads, sales, and customers.

How effective were you in the following areas:

  • Referrals
  • Partnerships/Joint Ventures
  • Customer Retention
  • Email Marketing
  • Online Advertising
  • Offline Advertising
  • Social Media
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

You don't need to be doing all of these, you just need to analyze the effectiveness of the channels you are using and measure the results you got compared to the time/money spent on them.  As a small business owner, you can't do everything, you need to focus on the few marketing channels that will bring you the most results.

Look at where your sales are coming from.  Look at your web analytics to see where your traffic and leads are coming from (If you don't have Google Analytics setup, do it now!).  Dive into your sales data and try to connect the dots so you can trace your sales back to its origins.  If you can figure this out, then you'll have a good idea where you need to spend more of your time and money going forward.


Define Your Audience

Do you really know who your customers are?  If you say everyone is your customer, I can say with confidence that your marketing is mediocre at best.

Being able to market to people effectively starts with having a deep understanding of your customer and what their likes, fears, and concerns are and being able to address them.

Creating universal marketing messages that try and appeal to everyone rarely works.  The reason why the 35-year-old mom of four buys from you will be different from the 65 yr old retiree who has a passion for travel.  You need to segment your different buyers into “buyer personas” and then to find out as much as you can about them and why they would buy from you.

Once you have this information, then you can start crafting compelling messages that resonate with them.  That's how you create highly effective marketing campaigns, by understanding your customers, then doing your best to give them the message and offers that most resonate with them.

Yes, it's more work that creating a generic ad that you send to everyone, but you're probably reading this because you're not happy with your current marketing results.  The better you plan, the more effective you'll be.

Once you have these “buyer personas” created and have a better understanding of what's important to them, you can start reaching these personas as a group, with specific messaging.  You may do this by running multiple, targeted ad campaigns targeting each persona.  You may segment your website where each persona has its own page with its own message, the idea is to segment your potential customers and tell them what they want to hear so they will become your customer.

Conduct a Competitor Analysis

Now that you have a solid understanding of your current marketing situation, you can start analyzing some of your top competitors.  If most of your leads and sales come from online, then focus on your top 3 online competitors.  If most of your leads and sales come offline, then focus on the competitors you go up against offline.  Better yet, do both!

Once you have your list of competitors, ask and answer these questions:

1 – Where are they spending their marketing time and money?

2 – How visible online are they in the organic search results (Google.com, Bing.com) and are they doing online advertising?  How effective is it compared to my business?

3 – Are they using any marketing channels that I'm not?  Should I investigate these channels as well?

4 – What is their main message on their website and in their advertising, does it resonate with potential customers better than my message?

5 – Are they doing anything new that I was not aware of?

6 – Are they missing a crucial marketing channel that will give me the opportunity to exploit this gap?

7 – How can I do take what they are doing and do it even better?

There may be more questions you want to ask, but you get the point.  Compare your efforts to theirs, look for opportunities and weaknesses, and strive to beat them by doing things smarter and better.

You can read this article on finding the arbitrage in your industry and exploiting it.


Set Your Marketing Goals

At this point you should know:

1 – The state of your current marketing effectiveness, what is doing well and what is not

2 – Who your customers are, broken down into different “personas”, each with their own message that resonates most with them

3 – Who your competitors are, what they are doing marketing wise, and opportunities for you to beat them

Now you need to set your marketing goals in place, the more specific the better.  Your goals should be set on measurable KBI's (Key Business Indicators) and not outcomes.  A poor goal would be to hit 1 million in revenue by the end of the year.  Why? Because it's an outcome, the end result of many different things you do in your business to generate revenue.  You can't tell your employees to “make more revenue”, but you can set goals on activities that will ultimately produce the revenue goals you want.

Examples of specific marketing goals would be:

  • Generate 10 new leads per week. You may set this because you want to acquire 2 new clients per week and your typical conversion rate is 20%.  You achieve by determining the right, marketing mix to reach your lead goals each week, which could be advertising, cold calling, email marketing, etc.
  • Create, publish and promote 2 targeted blog posts per week.  You may set this goal as part of your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy where you create targeted blog posts aimed at the personas you have created.
  • Create an online course to educate potential customers.  You may create this because it will become part of your lead magnet strategy to bring in more leads through your website.

So you get the point, focus your goals on things that will ultimately produce you the end result you are looking for.

Here's a tip.  Don't just set annual goals for your business, set goals throughout the year.  Break your goals down into weekly or monthly targets so they don't seem so distant or unattainable because they are so large.  Set goals for the year, for the quarter and for the month, once you hit them, create new goals.  You don't have to create goals once a year in January.    Make hitting your goals fun, have prizes for your employees for reaching goals or reward yourself with a weekend trip for hitting your goals, the point is to keep everyone positive and motivated throughout the year.

Once you have your goals in place, you can start planning your marketing with the intent of reaching the goals you have set.


Decide On Your Marketing Channels

Now that you know where you are and where you want to go, you just need to decide on the best way to reach your potential customers with you message/offer.  This may be online or offline, and most likely a combination of the two split between paying with advertising or paying with your time.

Here are my favorites and what works for me as well as our clients.

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & creating content on your website
  • Google Adwords
  • Facebook Ads
  • Email marketing
  • Email and cold call outreach
  • Sponsorships
  • Joint ventures with other businesses

You may also use other marketing strategies like social media or networking, I personally like to choose marketing strategies that tend to lead to a direct conversion, like a sale or contact form submission.  Strategies like social media and networking do work, they are just more difficult to quantify and the path to a conversion tends to be long and winding.  I like to take the shortest path possible.


Take Action

Now that you have everything you need to create a killer marketing strategy, it's time to put it into action.  You can read this article on putting your marketing plan in action, it includes some free download worksheets to help get you on your way.

Have questions about creating a highly effective online marketing strategy or want someone to help create it for you?  You can contact us here.

How To Start Implementing Your Marketing Strategy Today



As a small business owner you have to assume many roles, from the chief marketing officer to the VP of Janitorial Services (e.g., cleaning the bathrooms).  With so much on your plate it can be difficult to find time to do what is probably the most important activity for your business, marketing.

If you’re not an experienced marketer, which most first-time business owners aren't, you may find it overwhelming to keep up with the never-ending need to market your business.  Taking time to research and plan your marketing activities can be difficult when you have dozens of other things to do during the course of the day, but you must spend the necessary time to plan and implement your marketing strategy if you want your business to grow.  No matter how great your product or service is, it doesn't matter if people don't know about it.


Break Your Marketing Down Into Actionable Steps

Just the thought of creating a marketing campaign would make many small business owners cringe, the key is to break down your marketing activities (or anything really) into bite-sized action steps that you can complete in a short amount of time.  By breaking down your marketing activities into smaller steps, it allows you to take action more often, without having to wait until you have a large block time.

Whenever I have something important I need to get done, I like to create a mini-project out of it.  If you simply write down something like, “write a blog post”on your to do list, it might not get done.  Why? Because writing a blog post requires several activities to be performed in order to create a new blog post.  The key is breaking down all of those activities in order and gathering all of the necessary resources you will need for the project beforehand.  The method I use is based on the book, “Making Ideas Happen”.

While most of my life is digital, there are some things where I still prefer a paper and pen, and a to-do list is one of those things.  If you prefer digital, there are several online applications that can help manage prjects, the one I use and highly recommend is called Trello.  It's simple to use, it's free and it kind of feels like you are using index cards on a corkboard, which I also love.

What I use is a simple folder to hold any notes or information I might need and paper clip a sheet of paper on the front of it that breaks down all of the activities I need to do in order to complete my project, which in this case is creating a new blog post.  See the image below for an example (you can download a PDF of the sheet I use below)

Marketing Project Worksheet Sheet Example

Create a List of Marketing Opportunities

Make a list of all the available marketing opportunities you would like to pursue.  Hopefully, you can get this information from your marketing plan. If you do not have a marketing plan in place yet,  just make a list of marketing opportunities. You may have been meaning to place an ad in the local paper or to create a new Facebook advertising campaign, list out everything on a sheet of paper or on your computer.


Turn Each Marketing Activity Into Its Own Project

I personally love the Action Method by Behance, where you turn everything you need to accomplish into mini-projects that lets you break anything down into simple action steps.

Using a sheet of paper, do the following:

  • Write down the marketing activity you would like to take action on
  • Write out all of the steps necessary to make it happen, in sequential order
  • Gather necessary information and resources that will be needed and put them in your folder
  • Keep all of your resources together for reference.  You can print your resources and place them  in a folder or add the reference links to your computer document.

Better yet, download these project sheets for free based on the action method used in the book, “Making Things Happen“.


Take Action

Now that you have each marketing activity written down with its own action steps, you are ready to take action.  Starting with the most important marketing activity, simply take one action step at a time until the project is completed.  Don't feel the need to wait until you have enough time to finish all of the steps, do one at a time and continue when you have the opportunity.  For example, if the project you have has four steps and you think completing all of them will take two hours, start with only the first step which may only take twenty minutes and continue to step two when you have more time.  If you do a little bit at a time you will keep moving forward until the project is complete.


Below is a sample of a project created for placing an ad on Facebook To Drive Traffic To Your Website


  1. Read the tutorial on Facebook on how to create a Facebook ad (15 min)
  2. Read three articles like this one on Facebook advertising (20 min)
  3. Create a profile for the type of customer I will be targeting (20 min)
  4. Sign up for Facebook advertising (10 min)
  5. Determine the budget that will be allocated to campaign (10 min)
  6. Write out 3 versions of my ad and gather images for each ad  (60 min)
  7. Create each ad and start campaign ( 15 min)


As you can see, I took a project that was going to take me approximately 2 1/2 hours and broke it down into seven smaller steps that can be completed one at a time, without having to continue on to the next step if time does not allow.  It may take you a month to set aside 2 1/2 hours, but you may be able to start tomorrow if you only need fifteen minutes to complete a single step.

As you can see, it's really a simple system, but it works.  This method not only applies to your marketing activities but to any tasks that will require time to complete.  There is also the satisfaction of crossing off each step as you complete them, getting you ever closer to your goal.

5 Places Where Your Business Is Leaving Revenue On The Table


5 Places Where Your Business Is Leaving Revenue On The Table

Every business wants to generate more revenue.  More (and hopefully better) marketing is usually the solution to that, at least that is how most business owners see it.


What business owners don't see is the mountain of revenue that goes untapped each year in their business.  Right in front of them, all around them, are opportunities to generate more revenue without gaining a single new customer or spending a dollar on additional marketing.


So why is the focus almost always on finding new business instead of maximizing the business they already have?  In my opinion, it comes down to the complexity of the solution.


More marketing usually means spending some money on advertising to generate interest and leads.  Pretty straightforward, spend some money and get some business.  Yes, a super simple example but you get the point….it doesn't require a ton of planning/effort on the part of the business owner, only some money in most cases.


On the other hand, generating more revenue from missed opportunities in your business usually requires more planning/effort than money.  Figuring out how to generate more revenue with existing opportunities requires evaluation, strategy, planning, and execution……who has time for that?  Many internal opportunities lie in operational inefficiencies, lack of training and lack of managerial oversight.  All things that pretty much place the responsibility and blame on the business owner.


Much easier to just spend more money on advertising than to confront these complex issues.


So while every business needs to generate a continual stream of new business in order to stay healthy, they also need to look at their existing business and figure out how to generate more revenue from the leads and customers they already have.


Below are some common places where businesses continually leave money on the table.


Current Customers

Your current customers are your most important source of additional revenue.  You have an existing relationship with these people and they have already proven that they are willing to spend money on your business.  You have already spent the time and money to acquire them, so why not make the most of it?


Look at your current customers and see what additional products/services you can offer them.  Many of your current customers may have no idea what else you offer, it is your job to introduce them to these other offerings.  If you sell a one-time product, like a home generator or HVAC system, you can offer a yearly maintenance contract to service it each year.  Look at your current customer list and see who you can offer this subscription service to.


If you sell replenishable products, do you know when each of your customers should be running out of product?  Timely reminders and discounts can entice customers to purchase more frequently from you.  If they currently buy from you twice a year on average, imagine what your business would look like if you could get your customers to buy three times a year?


From additional sales to more referrals, examine your current customer database to find opportunities to grow your revenue.



Are you making the most of each sale?  Why do you think supermarkets are full of candy, magazines, beverages and small ticket items in each checkout lane?  Because these are impulse purchases that people make that they probably wouldn't have if they were sitting there in front of them.  Better yet, train your employees (or build into your checkout process if e-commerce), to offer complementary products/services at the point of sale.


If you sell swimming pools, offer a discounted pool chemical package at the time of purchase, they will need it anyway.  You can also offer upgraded filters, pumps, heaters, etc at the time of purchase.  A customer may not even know these upgrades are available and won't know to ask unless you offer it to them.  If you are a bakery, remind people that it's cheaper to buy by the dozen or offer a free pastry if they purchase a dozen, it can help push someone only wanting 6 pastries into buying 12.


Think about how you can bundle additional products/services at the point of sale to increase your average ticket size. The easiest time to sell to someone is when they have made or are about to make a purchase.  The wallet is out, their wallet is out, make the most of it because you may never see it again.



I had a client that used to continually say that not getting enough leads was the one big bottleneck in their business. They would say they had a great sales team, support staff and everything needed to grow their business….except they did not have enough leads.  Since transactions happened offline, it was difficult to see conversion numbers but I was told they consistently had a 30-35% close rate once they scheduled an appointment.  That's a pretty impressive close rate considering they were selling services that cost between $8-30K.


Over 3 years we doubled the amount of leads they received each year, but the revenue was barely growing.  So we instituted a new CRM/Marketing Automation package to closely track every lead that came in.  And guess what we learned?  Conversions are actually sitting around 7% and a good chunk of their yearly sales are coming from old, existing referral business where the sales were pretty much automatic.  So much for a well-oiled machine.


With a dismal conversion rate, it makes no sense to spend more on marketing until you can fix your conversion issues.  It's like having a shower with very little water pressure due to a leaking pipe and trying to fix it by cranking up the water pressure.  Yeah, you had a nice shower but flooded your basement in the process.


Examine your conversions (if you use your gut, you are 100% always wrong) and your sales process and see where the leaks are.  Increasing your conversion rate by only a few percentage points can have a dramatic impact on your bottom line.  But like I said earlier, it's easier to spend more money on advertising than it is to repair a broken sales process.


Past Customers

Just like current customers, past customers can be a gold mine of additional revenue waiting for you to take it.  Once people stop doing business with you, it's easy to forget about them or to place them on some generic newsletter until they finally mark you as a spammer.


It's hard work, but maintaining relationships with past customers can keep the door open to new business.  People stop doing business with you for a variety of reasons.  Maybe they no longer needed your services, or finances got in the way, or maybe they decided to try a competitor, the point is that they purchased from you once and some of them will purchase again.


Maybe you are offering new products/services from when they were your customer.  Maybe their circumstances have changed and they are now ready to start buying from you again.  You will never know unless you re-open the lines of communications again.


I have a client who has a corporate training business that wanted figure out how to generate new business as it was in decline ever since the recession hit in 2008.  We went through his business and discovered he had run over 1500 corporate training events over the past 20 years.  When I asked him what he did to stay in touch with these past customers and to get repeat gigs, you know what his answer was?  Nothing.  Yes, he spent all of his energy trying to figure out how to get new business and completely ignored 20 years of past customers.  Shocking but true and there are many businesses out there that do the exact same thing.


Even if they don't need you anymore, maintaining a good relationship will keep the door open for referrals from them in the future. Go through and find some of your best past customers and start building a relationship with them again.


New Offerings

Do you know what your customers want?  Have you ever asked them?  For internet marketers, the most successful strategy going is to build a huge audience (leads for their online business) and then just ask them what they want.  Once the audience tells them, they go out and make it for them and make lots of money in the process.  They actually do the exact opposite of every other business, they build a relationship with their audience and then sell them whatever they are looking to buy.


Maybe you need to offer additional products or services to your business.  Maybe you need to bundle your products/services or the opposite, breaking your product/service into smaller parcels for your customers.  Maybe you need to do all of this.


Snack packs came about because some people didn't want to buy a giant pack of potato chips, they only wanted enough for a single serving.  Costco came about because families wanted to buy in larger quantities (at a cheaper price) than they could get at the supermarket.  Online tax services well audit protection services as an add-on because people who do their own taxes are afraid of the prospect of having to deal with the IRS on their own if they get audited.


Look at your customers and look at your current offerings and see where there is potential to offer them something new, something old just packaged and presented differently.


Go find that revenue

So now you have a few ideas where you can increase revenues without needing new customers or paying for more advertising.  It takes more time and effort, but cashing in on these opportunities can have a huge impact on the financial health of your business.

Crush Your Competition by Exploiting the Arbitrage in Your Industry


Marketing Arbitrage

Are the businesses in your industry using all marketing options available to them to their full potential?

The answer is no.  And in many industries, the answer is, “not even close”.

If you take the time to study your industry and your competitors, you will find that there are numerous examples of marketing arbitrage ready for you to exploit.

What is Arbitrage?

Arbitrage is a term traditionally used with financial instruments like commodities and stocks.  There are sometimes differences in the price someone is willing to pay for a financial instrument and what people are selling them for. Arbitrage is the exploiting of this middle price area where you simultaneously buy and sell that financial instrument and make a profit off of the price difference between the two.

You use arbitrage all the time.  A simple example is going to a garage sale where you see an antique table selling for $10.  You know it is worth more, so you buy it and then resell that table on Ebay for $50.  You took advantage of the arbitrage in what the table was selling for and what it was actually worth.  In this case you made a cool $40 because you were able to spot the arbitrage where no one else was.

If you are in a service industry like mortgage brokers, real estate agents, cleaning companies, you probably know of several companies offering to sell leads to you for a price.  These companies are already taking advantage of the marketing arbitrage in your industry.  In this case, they know they can get a lead at a certian price and then sell it to you for a much higher price.

So now that you understand what arbitrage is, do you see how this can be applied to marketing?

Marketing Arbitrage

Marketing legend, Jay Abraham, was the one who introduced me to the concept of looking for marketing arbitrage opportunities.

I'm primarily an internet marketer, that is what I sell and where I spend most of my time.  But I also own another business where we spend plenty of time and money on traditional marketing so finding marketing arbitrage opportunities is not just for online marketing.

You can find marketing arbitrage opportunities in many areas, like where businesses are marketing, how they package/position their product or bringing ideas from another industry into yours.

Finding the  Arbitrage in Your Industry

In some industries, marketing arbitrage is easy to spot.  Many traditional industries are still stuck in the stone age,  thinking that a Yellow Pages ad or a roadside billboard places you in on the cutting edge of marketing.

Lawyers, especially older firms, are an example of an industry still living in the past.  I personally know of two lawyers who have been paying for Yellow Pages ads for over 25 years just because that is what they have always done.  Neither of them have a website.  Yes, no website.

Car dealers still spend the vast majority of their advertising budget on billboards and newspaper ads.  They still go with the outdated  motto of, “people are coming through the door and buying cars so it must be working”.  What a waste of money and what an opportunity for the car dealer down the street who is ready to venture into new marketing territory and to think differently from their dinosaur peers.

On the flip side, you have many internet first companies spending 100% of their resources with online marketing, which is why you are seeing some internet companies starting to use more traditional methods of advertising, they are looking for areas of opportunity in their industry that are not being exploited.

While many of the arbitrage opportunities we are speaking about revolve around marketing, you can find opportunities in the actual product/service, technology and how you deliver your product/service.

If you want to spot the opportunities, then you need to study what your industry and competitors are doing to market themselves.  Search online, subscribe to competitor newsletters, buy the local papers and look through the ads.  Buy their products, call their companies, let their sales reps give their pitch to you (or a friend) You need to know what your competitors are doing (or not doing) before you can find the arbitrage and exploit it.

Some questions to ask.

  • Where are they spending their time and marketing dollars?
  • Who are the innovators in my industry and what are they doing differently?
  • Who really impresses you with their marketing?
  • What was the last big change or innovation in your industry?
  • Are the businesses in your industry marketing the same way they did 10 years ago?

What you will usually find is that there are a handful of first movers who are always on the front line of news things, some do it very well and some are still trying to figure it out.  The majority of your competitors though are still stuck in the status quo, going along with everyone else like a school of guppies.

Some industries innovate faster than others, but many are just waiting for someone to come along and turn the industry upside down.  In your case, you don't have to turn your entire industry upside down (unless you want to), just your local market.


Diamond Candles

Candle making is thousands of years old.  It's an industry, for the most part, that has been left unchanged aside from new scents and candle shapes.  Unless you sell bulk, it doesn't really make sense to sell online since anyone can go their neighborhood box or dollar store and buy a candle.

Diamond Candles came in and turned the candle industry on its head.  And they did it with no budget, no prior experience in candle making and no connections in the candle industry.  I believe last year, they had revenues of over 20 million dollars selling candles online and they have only been in business a few years.

So what did they do differently?  

They looked at a complacent industry and looked for ways to bring innovation to it.  They used the classic “combining” creativity technique and brought together two industries.  Candles and jewelry.  Every candle has a ring inside it, with some of them having a diamond ring inside it.  So when you purchase a candle from them, you get the suspense of waiting to see if there is a diamond ring waiting at the end of your candle.  People have gone nuts of this concept and has spawned dozens of copycats and variations on this concept to the candle industry.

If you want to learn more about the creative technique of “Combining” along with dozens of other creativity exercises, read the book, “Thinkertoys”, by Michael Michalko.  It is the best book I have found on creativity.


The Taxi and Limousine Commission has left the taxi industry virtually unchanged in 50 years.  They still use the same radios, pricing system and equipment they have always used, despite numerous opportunities to bring innovation into their industry.

Along comes Uber, who said, “people getting frustrated not being able to hail a cab, yet there are thousands of people driving around in their cars who would love to make some extra money”.

So what did they do differently?

They combined technology and an untapped workforce to democratize the taxi industry, allowing just about anyone to make some extra money whenever they feel like it.  They also made a lot of enemies and pissed a lot of people off along the way, but like it or not, that's how you innovate.

Is your industry underutilizing technology or other resources that you can exploit?  I bet if you do an hour of brainstorming you will find at least one gold nugget on your list of ideas.

Similar to Uber, Airbnb has disrupted the hotel industry and has turned anyone with a rental property or a spare bedroom into a hotelier.

Some Arbitrage Ideas For You

There are hundreds of opportunities waiting for you, but below are some ideas and examples to get you started.

Online Marketing

I have a client who uses Google Adwords for their Pay Per Click marketing.  Problem is that virtually all of their competitors are on Google Adwords, with a single click costing over $20.  But when it comes to Facebook Ads, there is only one other competitor on there, leaving the entire platform wide open for us to dominate it and at a fraction of the cost of Google Adwords.

Look for online marketing opportunities in your industry that your competitors are ignoring or don't really understand.  This could be SEO, paid advertising or email marketing, the point is to look for the gaps and opportunities you can leverage.


Are your competitors only using outbound sales practices like cold calling, door knocking, email marketing?  If they are not using inbound marketing strategies then that is a golden opportunity for you to leverage your expertise to become the thought leader in your industry.  Think of Dr. Sears for pediatrics or Seth Godin for marketing.

On the flip side, if everyone is focusing on creating content and waiting for the leads to come to them, go out and initiate some outbound sales practices and account based marketing for your business.  The key is, if the norm in your industry is to do “X”, then go and try “Y”.

Product/Service Innovation

If you offer a service, look at productizing some of your offerings.  If you have a product or service, think about how you can bring a product or idea from another industry and apply it to yours, just like Diamond Candles did.

Create value propositions that will make your competitors too scared to match.  An unconditional money back guarantee is something most businesses are afraid to offer, but can increase sales by 10x.  The truth is, and why most retailers like Amazon offer them, is that the rate of return is minuscule compared to the increased revenue they get by doing something others are afraid to do.

If you want to listen to how it's done from an expert, click here to listen to Tony Robbins interview Jay Abraham.

If the standard warranty for you industry is 1 year, make yours 5.  You've seen this in the auto industry over the last few years where standard 3-year warranties have become 10-year bumper to bumper warranties.

If people come to your business, then go to their homes.  If your product comes in a certain size, offer more sizes.  Use healthier ingredients in your products or just offer more of it at the same price as your competitors.  Start a generous loyalty program or awesome value adds with every purchase.  The thing is to look at what your competition is not doing, or doing poorly, and leverage it to your advantage.


Make strategic partnerships in your community.  Other businesses, non-profits and local government are all ways to stand out from your competitors.  Most of your competitors probably don't have the time to do this kind of business development, but strategic partnerships can not only grow your business, they can also give you leverage in your community that your competitors can't easily copy.

Find the arbitrage opportunities in your industry

Now that you know what arbitrage is, examples of how other companies used it and some ideas to get you started, where is the arbitrage in your industry and how will you take advantage of it?

How To Get an Entry Level Marketing Job



Are you looking for an entry level marketing job?

Maybe you're close to finishing university and starting to look at the current job market or you're switching careers and want to get into marketing.  In either case, you probably know by now that the competition for marketing jobs is fierce.

And when I mean marketing jobs, I don't mean marketing jobs where you sit in a call center all day annoying people or selling door to door for some MLM scheme.  I mean a real marketing job with a real marketing agency doing real marketing.

I've hired my share of marketing newbies over the past 9 years and have also hosted  several marketing internships. I've also hired for many marketing positions on behalf of my clients.  What I have learned is that most universities (at least the ones I have hired from) do a poor job in preparing marketing majors for the real world.  Sure, they may learn all about brand positioning, AIDA, the P's and C's of marketing, market research, etc, but they rarely teach the skills that marketing agencies are really looking for.

Too Fast For School

I work primarily in the digital marketing space and I think it moves too fast for university curriculums to keep up to date with, which is why they mostly teach broad, timeless marketing principles. Many that are woefully outdated.   While this may serve as a good foundation for individuals just getting started in marketing, it still leaves marketing agencies with the heavy task of training new hires in pretty much everything.

Have you ever done a marketing internship?  If you're like most students, you were either the office gopher (more coffee please?) or you were stuck doing the grunt work nobody else in the office wanted to do.  Why?  Because you did not have the skills that they were looking for and they did not have the time or energy to train you or hold your hand all summer so instead they matched you for what you were qualified for, not much.

Am I being harsh?  A little bit, but there is a lot of truth in what I am saying because I hear it from marketing students all the time.

So what do you do?

The first thing you do is to realize that a marketing degree gets you a ticket to the game, but it does not get you a ticket to a marketing job, or even a marketing internship position.  It's nice that you graduated with a marketing degree, you and 50 thousand other people this year.

The second thing you need to realize is that what will get you your first entry-level marketing job is not what you have done in school, but what you have done outside of school while you were in school.  That's a mouthful.

When I look at a marketing resume, the only things that jump out at me are the marketing accomplishments outside of school.  

Things I Look For

Your Own Blog

Do you have a blog?  No?  Why not? Having your own blog shows that you not only love marketing, but also love to write about it.  It's your chance to show people and future employers your ideas about marketing, how you think and to show off how much you know.  Marketing today revolves a lot around content, showing future employers that you know how to write gives you a leg up on your competition.

Social Media Presence

On a personal level, I'm not that active on social media, though I do have a decent Twitter following.  This only happened once, but I had a marketing student interview for an internship and when I checked her Twitter profile, she had a following twice the size of mine.  Color me impressed!  Not only do I know that she understood social media, she was really good at it.  Moral of the story?  Actions speak much louder than words.

Certifications and Skills Earned Outside of School

Most people don't realize this, but you don't have to go to university in order to learn.  Want to walk into a marketing interview with accomplishments that 99.99% of your peers will not have?  Show up to an agency interview as a Google Certified Adwords Individual (you will have to get an agency to sponsor you or sign up as an agency)  or a graduate of Hubspot Inbound Marketing University or Hootsuite's Podium.  What do all of these have in common?  They are freely available to anyone who wants to take them.  You can also sign up for courses on Udemy or similar platforms and start educating yourself on that is important in marketing today.

Dilbert Marketing Quote


Skills Most Agencies/Companies Look For In New Marketing Hires

Content Marketing

Content plays such a big role in marketing today.  From SEO to branding, inbound marketing is how many companies are spending their marketing resources and creating great content is the cornerstone of a great inbound marketing strategy.

You should have an understanding of copywriting, how to edit and format content for the web and how to use Content Management System,  like WordPress.  Having your own active blog will demonstrate all of these proficiencies for you to a prospective employer.

Conversion Optimization

Conversion Optimization gets its roots from direct mail, where you are creating an environment for people to take action.  It's setting up your website, landing page, advertisements, and emails so they move prospective customers through the path you want to take them, which will eventually lead to a sale or similar conversion goal.

They really don't teach this in school. but if you have a firm grasp on how conversion optimization works, you will be ahead of pretty much all of your peers, even many of the people you would be working with.  This is something you can learn on your own and practice on your own.  You can learn about Conversion Optimization here, here and here.

Search Engine Optimization

This is the holy grail of skills in marketing.  Many people claim to be good at SEO but most people don't really understand what it is, let alone have the skills/knowledge to be good at it.  The reason is that good SEO involves a wide skill set and involves have a grasp of technical/coding knowledge, content creation, and the hardest one of all, link building (or link earning, as many new age SEO's like to say).

Now, as an entry level marketer, you would not be expected to know all of this, but you can look like an all-star in your interview when you can demonstrate functional proficiency in SEO.  You can learn the basics of SEO here.

Social Media

Most companies (even agencies) are still trying to figure out how to make social media work for them.  Having a firm grasp on how social media works, and being able to prove it with your own social media profiles, will go a long way in demonstrating you can “walk the walk”.

It's a big letdown when I read a resume saying they can have experience in social media and then check their social profiles to see that their online presence is lame at best.  The funnier thing is, you'll see marketing agencies specializing in social media with pathetic online presences…..go figure.

If you are going to walk into an interview saying you get social media, be prepared to show them proof through your own social media accounts.

Pay Per Click and Social Media Advertising

Google Adwords and Facebook Ads are the two Kings of pay per click marketing, with the two of them giving you advertising options for a good chunk of the internet.   Pay Per Click advertising is when you show an advertisement and only pay when someone clicks on your ad.

The thing is that getting start with pay per click advertising is not very hard, but it is very hard to be good at it.  When it comes to online advertising, you need to be both a creative person and a data geek at the same time.  You have your creative side where you research and create the ads and the data side where you have to figure out what is working and how to make the ads perform better.

This is a skill I don't think even gets touched on in University.  Like SEO, it changes so fast that it is difficult to create curriculums around it as they are usually outdated by the time you graduate.  The good news is that there are lots of great resources online to learn about pay per click advertising, you read about it here and here.


So much of marketing today is data-driven, even branding is getting more and more data-driven as companies want to understand what is working and what is not with their marketing dollars.  The most popular web analytics platform used today is Google Analytics.  Looking through Google Analytics is like peeling a never ending onion, there are always additional layers of data underneath the data you are currently looking at.

Google Adwords and other ad platforms also have a plethora of data and you will need to be able to read through the data and derive meaning from it.

The real skill with analytics is being able to look at the data, pull the few points that are important to you and your business, and be able to derive meaning from it.  Analytics is useless without action, so someone good at understanding analytics can pull actionable insights out of the data.  You can learn more about the basics of Google Analytics here.


So, I need to learn all of this?

No, you don't.  Even seasoned marketing professionals aren't experts in all of the above, but they do have a solid understanding of them.

Most likely you will be applying for a specific position that will only require 1-3 of the above skill sets as many of them overlap.  But also, be prepared to be thrown into other areas of marketing not outlined in the job description, as many companies will try and use your skill sets across different marketing channels.

The more skills you have in your toolbelt, the more valuable you will become in the eyes of a marketing agency or company looking to hire an entry level marketer.  You don't have to wait for school to teach you marketing, it is all around you if you look.

5 Easy Things Every Business Can Do To Increase Conversions On Their Website



Having trouble getting website visitors to convert into leads for your business?

Join the club.

The majority of small business websites do a terrible job at creating a compelling website experience where people become engaged and will want to take action.

Most of the time they simply don't ask people to take action or they fail to make it clear what actions people are supposed to take.

Here's a test for you.  When someone visits your website, if you could have them take any one action on your website, what would it be?  Now look at your website, is that action crystal clear to people that visit your website?  Is your website set up to move people towards that conversion action?

If not, then you need to think about the end result you're looking for people to take on your site and start creating your website experience to support it.

Below are five relatively easy, but powerful changes you can make on your website to start turning it into a lead generating machine for your business.

Create a Powerful Value Proposition

A value proposition is a statement telling visitors what value you can bring them if they do business with you.  When people land on your website, the first thing (the only thing actually) they want to know is, how is this business going to help me and make my life better?

Value Porposition Example

A value proposition is not a catchy headline or a self-gratifying statement ( we are #1 in sales), it is a value based message, letting people know what they stand to gain if they decide to do business with you.  It can be a combination of your headline, supporting statement and value based bullet points letting people know all of the value your are ready to give them.

Evernote Value Proposition Example

You can read more about value propositions and how to create them here.

You can read this for help on writing a great value proposition.

Make an Offer They Can't Refuse

The easiest way to create more conversions is to make an offer where people are thinking, “Hell, Yeah!”  Create an irresistible offer where the benefits far outway the costs of choosing your business over any other.  How do you do this?

  • Make it very clear the end result the customer will receive
  • Take away the risk of this type of purchase
  • Make the benefits far outway the risks of choosing you
  • Make it a no brainer


Examples Great Offer

So what are some things you can offer?

  • No questions asked, money back guarantee or a double your money back.
  • Lifetime warranty, or warranty far longer than your competitors
  • Extended free trial period
  • A value-add that has a large perceived value to a customer but low cost to you
  • Get a second product or service free with purchase
  • Free training or free resource access with purchase

These are just some examples, but you get the point.

Ebay Money Back Guarantee

Look at what your competitors are offering and then make an offer that puts them to shame.  Afraid to offer a money back guarantee or rock solid warranty?  If you deliver what you promise, the vast majority of people will never take you up on your offers, but will feel comforted knowing they are there when they make the purchase.  Even if you do have a few people that want a refund or call you on your warranty, the increase in business you get by putting yourself out there will far outway the occasional person who wants a refund.

And if you do have a lot of people wanting refunds or requesting multiple warranty calls?  Then stop what you are doing and go fix your business because it's broken.

Want to learn how to create irresistible offers?  Learn from the best.  You can also read more about creating irresistible offers here.

Place a Contact Form and Call To Action Right On The Homepage

Turn your homepage into a conversion-centric landing page.  Too many business websites bury their contact form in a single place, their Contact Us page.  Why are you making it so hard for people to contact you?  Make it easy for people to contact you by placing contact forms throughout your website, along with strong calls to action.

Example Small Business With Call To Action

And if you can't place the form on your homepage, then at least have a call to action and a button that will direct people to your contact page or to take some sort of action that will move them closer to contacting you.

The two easiest places to add a contact form is right on your homepage as well as all of your secondary pages, which usually has some sort of sidebar waiting for you to add some value to it.

Example Website With Contact Form on Sidebar

One mistake many website owners make is to assume everyone is starting their visit on the home page.  If you have a lot of pages on your site, especially if you have a blog, then many visitors will be starting on a page other than your homepage.  So what do you need to do?  Look at every page on your website and make sure each page has everything people need to know about your business and an easy way to contact you.  Essentially, every page on your website is a landing page.

Add Testimonials and Social Proof

If people are coming to your website from an ad or an organic search, chances are they do not know you or your business.  They don't about your high level of integrity or the awards you have won over the years, you need to let them know that it is safe for them to trust you.  How do you do this?  By adding trust and credibility elements to your website such as:

  • Customer reviews and testimonials
  • Links to 3rd party review sites
  • Trade associations you belong to
  • Industry awards you have won in the past
  • Media outlets that have interviewed you


Landing Page with Customer Reviews

Let people know that is safe for them to trust you.  Most of the time businesses bury their testimonials on a dedicated testimonial page…..that is not very effective because you are assuming every visitor to your website will visit that page.  If you look at your Google Analytics, you will see that is not the case.  Best practice is to spread out your testimonials, customer reviews, awards, etc across you entire site, especially important pages like the homepage and your service pages.

Man Packs Landing Page Example

Learn more about the power of social proof here.

Get Clear With Your Copywriting

Copywriting.  While the design and images on your website will get people's attention, it's the words on the page that will turn them into leads.  Don't be wishy-washy with your copy.  Good copywriting for a business website should be clear, specific and value based, so the reader knows exactly what benefits and outcomes they will be getting by doing business with you.

Your website should talk about 3 things:

  • The features of your product/service (size, ease of use, technical details, etc)
  • The benefits people will receive by using it (how using it will help them)
  • The outcomes people will have by using it (How their life will be improved by using it)

Unfortunately, most businesses never get past the features, which is the weakest part of the value chain here.  People want to know the benefits they will receive, and more importantly, the outcomes.

Here's an example using an Apple iPod Touch.


  • Comes in 5 colors
  • 8 megapixel camera
  • 32 megabytes of storage


  • Bring you entire music library with you wherever you go
  • Take stunning pictures while on vacation
  • Enjoy hi-definition stereo sound for a full music experience


  • Capture precious family moments anytime the moment strikes
  • Relax while listening to your favorite music in hi-definition, you'll feel like you're at the concert
  • Create customized playlists, to push you through that last grueling mile on training day

If you want to create powerful words on your site that will engage readers, focus on the benefits and outcomes your product/service can offer.

You can read more about creating great copy for your website here.

Start getting more conversions on your website

If you do the above 5 things for your website, you will be ahead of 99% of all other business websites on the internet.  Think about that, not just your competitors, but all business websites.  Start a plan today to start turning your website into the lead generating machine you always dreamed it would be.

10 Reasons Online Marketing Is Smarter Than Traditional Marketing


Online Marketing Outperforms Traditional Marketing

Is traditional marketing dead?  Sort of.

There will always be a place for traditional marketing such as direct mailers, newspaper ads, etc……but using traditional marketing as your only source of marketing is as dead as the companies that continue to stubbornly refuse to embrace the internet.

It's like being alive in 1925 and still thinking automobiles are just a fad.

Proves ROI for Your Marketing Dollars

Online marketing, especially when using Marketing Automation, will let you track a user from the moment they click on a specific marketing campaign you are running……..all the way until they become a paying customer.  Sometimes this will all happen in a matter of minutes, other times it will happen in a matter of months.  It gives you a clear picture of how your online marketing campaigns are impacting your revenue.

When you run a television commercial or a radio spot, how do you prove ROI?  If you're like most business owners, you hope for an uptick in business following the ad campaign and attribute any additional business to that campaign.  If you have a direct marketing mindset, you may include channel specific offer codes, which will give you, at least something you can track

But what if you have an extended sales cycle?  How do you trace a sale today back to a specific television ad you ran 6 months ago?  You can't.   With online marketing, you can.

71% of companies planned to increase their digital marketing budgets this year – Webbiquity (2015)

Better Matches Consumer Behavior

Traditional marketing is also known as interruption marketing.  Just when somebody is very engaged in an activity, like reading an article or watching a TV show, you “interrupt” them with your ad, which they often find non-relevant and annoying.  Consumers today are very savvy, they do not want to me marketed to, they want you to be there when they are ready to see what you have to offer.

Seth Godin Death of Traditional Marketing

Well run online marketing campaigns place your business in front of a consumer at the moment they show interest in what you have to offer.  They are the most engaged at this time and offers you the perfect opportunity to introduce them to your brand and the value you can bring to them.

Online marketing allows you to reach consumers when they show signs of buying and the most open to your marketing messages.

Adults 50 years old and above represent the Web's largest constituency, comprising one-third of the total 195.3 million Internet users in the U.S. – Abobe CMO 2014

More Cost Effective

Two things make online marketing very cost effective compared to traditional marketing.

Search Engine Optimization.  90+% of consumers do research online before making a purchase.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a marketing method where you get your website ranked high in the search engine results.  Once you get your rankings, you do not have to pay each time someone clicks and visits your website.  A quality SEO campaign can produce tens of thousands of visitors each month to your website for free.  It's like paying for a television commercial once and then having it run free of charge for the next 3 years.

Targeted Marketing.  Would you rather pay for a magazine ad based (and priced) on it reaching 50K people, but only 100 of them may be interested in what you have to offer, or would you rather just pay to market to those 100 interested people?  That's the difference in spending $300 on a targeted online ad campaign vs paying thousands of dollars for a mass advertising campaign that reaches the same amount of interested people.

SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate. – Search Engine Journal

Deep Segmentation

With mass advertising, you create a single marketing message for everyone.  Not really an effective strategy.  People buy your products for different reasons, online marketing allows you to create different marketing messaging for each of your different customer segments.  Why highlight how cost effective you are to your wealthier customer segment who are more interested in your higher end features?

Online marketing allows you, all the way down to a one on one level, to communicate with your customers with the benefits they find most valuable.  This type of marketing segmentation creates more relevant marketing communications and higher conversion rates.

60% of all Internet activity in the US originates from mobile devices and about half of total Internet Traffic flows through mobile apps. – CMOcouncil.org

Real Time Results

A good marketing strategy isn't something you create once, it's something that is continually improved upon over time.  Online marketing allows you to see the results of your campaign in real-time, allowing you to make changes on the fly based on the data coming in. If you see something working very well, you can double down on your winner and drop your losers without having to wait until your entire ad budget is gone.

With mass advertising, television ads and direct mailers, you have to try and get it right the first time as there are no changes once production starts.  Online marketing allows you to be nimble, making changes as you go so everything isn't riding on getting it right the first time.

72% of marketers think branded content is more effective than advertising in a magazine; 69% say it is superior to direct mail and PR. – NewsCred (2014)

Campaign Testing and Optimization

One fo the greatest benefits of online marketing is having access to a wealth of data, helping you make smarter marketing decisions.  Testing your marketing campaigns, using multiple variables, can help you determine the right message that resonates with your potential customers.

Split testing, also known as A/B testing, allows you to test different headlines, offers and designs to see which ones consumers are responding to (and which ones are turning into revenue).  These side by side, real-time comparisons allows you to make decisions faster and save you from wasting money on poor performing ads.  The nice part is that they are run simultaneously, on the same audience, so there is little bias in the results.   It would be like running two newspaper ads side by side at the same time to see which one people respond better to and dropping the poorer performing one without having to pay for it.

Content marketing in 2015 generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but costs 62% less – Hubspot

Wider Reach

Most traditional advertising options are local or regional in nature, unless you are a major brand and can pay for nationwide coverage.  So you have to pick and choose your markets. With online advertising, you can segment locations all the way from the entire country (or planet), down to a specific neighborhood in a city. You can choose specific cities across the country or even specific neighborhoods in each city.

This slicing and dicing of where you want to advertise allows you to advertise only in the areas that will give you the most bang for your buck, without the waste.  It's like being able to choose only the cable channels you want to watch, instead of paying for a bundle with hundreds of useless cable channels.

Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. – The Annuitas Group

Better Targeting Options

With traditional advertising, you will usually get vague, generic demographic data like gender, age and income information from the media outlets selling these ads.  While it gives you a general idea of who is reading or watching, it doesn't necessarily give you detailed information or signs of interest or buying intent.

Two things you can do with online advertising that you can't do with traditional advertising:

  • You can run Pay Per Click ads, where you only pay whens someone searches for what you are offering and then clicks on your ad, which leads them to your website.  This is advertising based on buyer intent (I want to buy), which is what the entire Amazon.com platform is built on, people searching to buy stuff.
  • You can create highly targeted ad campaigns based on demographics, interests and behaviors. Facebook is the king fo this so I will use them as an example.  With Facebook, I can run a specific ad campaign (I'm a motorcycle dealer) that targets males aged 40-55, that live in Charlotte, NC that are belong to one or more motorcycle member groups and have purchased a motorcycle in the last 3 years.  I can actually dial down a lot tighter than in this example, but you get my point.

 97 percent of consumers go online to research products and services locally – BIA/Kelsey

More Interactive With Consumers

People want to engage with the companies and brands they love, not read one-way marketing messages.  Online marketing allows consumers to engage with brands in a way traditional marketing cannot do.  You can speak to your customers directly via social media or answer questions from potential customers. You can offer visitors to your website free downloadable guides or free tools they can use to help them make smarter buying decisions.

Traditional Marketing Image

The ways you can engage your customers and potential customers are endless and gives you the opportunity to deliver value to people on an individual level. This type of personalized experiences is what consumers love and what they are coming to expect from all of the companies they do business with.

 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance.  – MarketingSherpa

It's the Present and the Future

The internet is here, online marketing is here.  It's only going to become more so in the future as people move more and more from paper and scheduled viewing to bytes and on-demand viewing.  You be hard pressed to find anyone with a traditional Yellow Pages book in their home (under 75) just as you ar finding less and less people subscribing to cable television.

People want to read, watch and buy when they want and how they want.  The internet is the only medium that lets companies reach these people when they indicate they are interested.

37% of B2B marketers are using marketing automation to generate leads

So, is traditional marketing dead?

No, it's not dead, it actually can play a very important role as part of a bigger marketing strategy that uses online marketing as its cornerstone.

The most important thing is to understand where consumer behavior is heading, which is online,  and to make sure your company's marketing strategy is evolving along with the times and that your marketing dollars aren't destined for the recycling bin.