Friday, January 23, 2009

My Beautiful Old Oak Tree

As I was washing dishes on New Year's day, I glanced at the old oak tree in my back yard. It is a grand old tree with lots of character. It has endured winter ice storms, severe spring thunderstorms, long hot summer droughts and refreshing autumn breezes. It has witnessed over 150 years of history and will hopefully remain long after I'm gone. It patiently awaits the warmth of spring as it's branches reach out to the heavens.

Growing a company is much like this grand oak tree. The oak tree starts as a tiny, vulnerable seedling that can be easily trampled by the world around it. No one even notices it's presence or takes it seriously in the beginning. But, with time, patience and loving care, it survives the harshest of conditions. The tree develops thick bark to protect itself against icy conditions, just as we have to learn to deal with criticism and lack of belief in our quest to become successful entrepreneurs. The roots grow deep and wide to establish a strong hold against the severe spring thunderstorms, just as we have to give our companies a good strong base to deal with unexpected situations that every company experiences. The tree has to draw nutrients and moisture during the spring rains to help it endure hot summer droughts, just as we have to formulate a financial plan that will pay the bills today and tomorrow. We are currently experiencing the drought of our current economic state. However, with time, patience and loving care, our companies will survive and grow to be strong and thriving.

Don't give up, be patient, reach for the heavens, spring is coming.

The Kozy Nook offers a wide array of unique home and kitchen accents with personal style. Our products are both beautiful and versatile with over 40 different artwork designs to fill your home with the warmth and charm that will invite family and friends to slow down and enjoy spending time together.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What's Your Marketing Plan for the New Year

Now that the we've gotten through the holidays, what's on your agenda to make the New Year a successful and profitable year? Have you established a marketing plan? Have you decided on an advertising budget? As the saying goes "If you continue doing the same thing, you will continue to receive the same result". If you are already making all the sales you want to make, you may not want to change anything. However, most of us could use additional income.

I am on a very limited budget. My advertising expenses have to be carefully thought out to ensure a consistent ROI. Optimizing keywords on my website, blog, twitter, social networks and ads should provide a more consistent flow of new visitors to my website. In addition, I would like to make a point of sending out monthly newsletters with special coupons, promotion of new products, recipes and home decorating tips.

Personally, the past year was a year of building new skills. Learning to incorporate social media into my company was my main focus. It was a year of firsts; my first blog, twitter, social networks and newsletters. At times, it was confusing and frustrating, but, well worth the effort. The New Year will be a time to tweak and fine tune my efforts.

How do you plan to develop an effective marketing plan on a limited budget? Take some time to share your ideas and learn from others. I would love to hear what marketing strategy you plan to implement this year. I sincerely wish for you a year filled with good health, happiness and much success!

To your success,

The Kozy Nook

Kozy Online Shopping Mall

Monday, December 15, 2008

Prepare Your Website for the New Year

I recently visited a restaurant for the first time. Before I was even offered a menu, the waiter listed all the specials of the day in such a hurried fashion, I couldn’t understand what he was trying to sell me. In fact, when he saw the confusion on my face, he asked if I understood English! Needless to say, I did not order any of the daily specials.

Some websites developers try to cram such a huge amount of information on their Homepage, it can be confusing for their visitors. I have left many websites due to information overload. A well built website will help visitors focus on a general topic. A customer who is focused on a specific topic is much more likely to make a purchase as opposed to simply browse.

Know your niche, and market your products or service from your customers point of view. Women tend to buy when they can justify what they may initially perceive as frivolous. If you can demonstrate how your product will solve a problem she may be experiencing, she will be more likely to make a purchase. For example, I sell cutting boards. Most women have at least one unattractive cutting board that works just fine and can be hidden away when not in use. However, she may be more likely to purchase a new one if she is informed that new cutting boards are available in over 40 different artwork designs, are constructed of tempered glass which allows them to double as a trivet (protecting her valuable counter top), can be displayed as beautiful counter art when not in use and is currently on sale. She is able to make a purchase that is both attractive and functional, express her own personal style with a variety of choices and save money.

When developing your website, offer a variety of options that will be of interest to your customers and encourage them to click on an option that will place them in a specific category of products. This will allow your visitors to stay focused and not wander aimlessly through your site. Make certain that all links work properly. You wouldn't want to lose customers due to bad links. My customers have the two shopping options, by Category (Ceramics, Beverage Coasters, Kitchen Accessories, etc.) or by Theme (Food/Beverage, Roosters, Horses, etc.) with a series of links which also serve a keywords when I optimize my page for search engines.

Limit your affiliate links to companies that compliment your products or service. Be sparing when using advertising. The point is to keep your customer interested in what you have to offer, not to send them away.

Take some time to re-structure your website to reflect how much you appreciate your customers and make their shopping experience as enjoyable as possible. Here's to a successful New Year!

The Kozy Nook features home and kitchen accents with personal style.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

10 Easy Tips for Successful Marketing

Developed to assist those who are relatively new to online advertising. It goes without saying, there will always be new and updated advertising techniques for promoting your online business. However, I have put together some basics that you should be familiar with when trying to develop an online presence. The best return of your investment dollars will be achieved when you reach your niche market with the desired product at the right time.

1. Know your target market - those who will be the most interested in what you are offering.

a. Your broad market

Your broad market is anyone and everyone who might want what you offer at some point in time. Example: Home Décor

Most everyone would be interested in home décor at some point, whether for themselves, gifts for others or someone whose profession may deal in interior design. Your broad market could include hundreds of thousands of people and would be quite costly to try to accommodate them all. It would not be cost effective to try to advertise to your broad market.

b. Your general market

Your general market is interested in the general categories that your website offers. Example: Home Décor >Kitchen Accents

· Anyone who may be remodeling their kitchen, searching for table linens, needing kitchen wall art, engaged to be married or looking for the latest greatest kitchen appliance that will make their life stress free. Your general market would still be quite large. You may not carry an extensive selection of kitchen accents, gadgets or appliances that would accommodate your general market. In all probability you would not receive the ROI (return of investment) that you had hoped for. It would not be advisable to target your general market. When working on a limited budget, you have to be wise when making your advertising decisions.

b. Your specific niche market

· Your specific niche is interested in specific items offered on your website. Example: Home Décor >Kitchen Accents >monogram absorbent coasters

· This is especially important when you use a Pay Per Click form of advertising. The more specific you are in your advertisement, the more likely that the click you paid for will result in a purchase. Lots of traffic does not necessarily relate to lots of purchases. You want to target those who are interested in what you specifically sell.

2. Select Keywords carefully

a. Keywords are words used in your ad to describe what you are offering. The keywords should be relevant to your website and be included in your content.

b. Broad keywords such as the best, the most beautiful, the most unique, the greatest are a waste of advertising words. Most online advertising limit the number of characters used. Carefully consider each word you use in your ads.

c. General keywords are not much better and should also be avoided. Example: coasters. When you type coasters into your search bar, you will be presented with millions of results including everything from The Coasters R&B band to roller coasters. The chances of your website being included on the front page search or even the second and third page is highly unlikely.

d. Use specific keywords - you may actually sell beverage coasters. The better keywords to use would be absorbent beverage coaster.

e. Target your unique niche for the best results. To attract your unique niche use specific keywords that narrow the search to your exact product. The best keyword choices would be Thirstystone monogram absorbent beverage coasters.

f. Use keywords in logical, understandable phrases. Use abbreviations carefully. You may know what your abbreviations are saying, your site visitors may not.

g. Try to include your company name when possible. This will help to associate your company with the product being advertised.

3. Write an effective ad

a. Use your keyword(s) at least twice, no more than three times. Usually once in the title and at least once in the body of the ad.

b. Incorporate a call to action phrase. Example: Instead of “We have Thirstystone monogram absorbent beverage coasters.” Consider saying “Browse our selection of Thirstystone monogram absorbent beverage coasters.”

c. Consider ending with a trailing sentence to enhance interest. Example: Browse our selection of Thirstystone monogram absorbent beverage coasters. Save money when you …..

d. Whenever possible your Url should send prospects to the landing page that specifically features what you are advertising.

e. This is what an ad for The Kozy Nook might look like when promoting their Thirstystone beverage coasters:

Kozy Thirstystone Beverage Coasters

Browse our selection of Thirstystone monogram

absorbent beverage coasters. Save money when you….

f. Although the URL shown is for the main page of the website, you can usually specify a specific landing page that is not seen. The actual landing page URL might look like:

4. Landing Page

a. The Landing Page is where your URL sends the visitor who clicks your ad to obtain more information or to purchase what is being advertised.

b. Keep advertised products easy to find. If you can’t send your site visitors to the exact product page, only require them to click once or at most twice from the landing page to find what they are searching for.

c. Test the ease of finding the advertised product by asking co-workers, family or friends to view the ad, go to the URL and locate the advertised product.

· Was it easy to locate?

· How long did it take to find?

· How many times did they have to click before finding?

· Was the product represented accurately?

d. Use source codes when available

· A source code is an extension placed on the URL that allows you to track where your traffic originated.

· Some website hosting companies provide a system for including source codes within the URL you post. Keeping track of where your traffic originated allows you to compare different ads and only spend advertising dollars where you actually receive the best ROI (return of investment).

5. Offer incentives

a. Free shipping

b. Buy one get one free

c. Coupon for next purchase

d. Monthly specials

6. Advertising Online

a. PPC (Pay-per-click)

1. PPC is a form of advertising that charges you a specific amount whenever someone clicks your ad. You specify how much you want to spend for each keyword. A monthly budget is set for as little or as much as you can afford. Some of the more popular PPC providers are Google AdWords, Yahoo Marketing Solutions, Microsoft adCenter and BidVertiser.

7. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

a. SEO is when you develop your website to attract Search Engines. Depending on how your website is developed, you will either attract search engines or not. If you attract search engines, your site will miraculously generate traffic. If you don’t develop your site to attract search engines your site will be forever lost in the black hole. Although, there are literally thousands of Search Engines, some of the more popular Search Engines include Google, Yahoo, MSN, Alta Vista, Entireweb. Many web hosting providers have an automatic submission process that will analyze your web site and suggest changes that will make your site more appealing to Search Engines. In addition, many will automatically submit your site to the most popular search engines and allow you to manually submit your site to many others. Optimizing your website to make search engines happy is one of the most important aspects of developing an online presence. If you don’t have a website pleasing to search engines, you may as well place a sign on your front lawn and hope people from all over the world will at some point drive past your house and spot it.

b. Some of the most important features a Search Engine looks for are:

· Are your chosen keywords relevant to your website

· How often do you add new material

· New, unique content

· Back Links from other companies that lead to your site add credibility to your company

8. Where to find inexpensive or free online advertising

a. Social Networks

b. Link Exchanges

c. Write and submit articles

d. Craigs List

e. Classifieds

f. Signatures

Develop and utilize custom signatures that include your company name and URL whenever you communicate online

g. Banner exchanges with businesses that offer similar or complementing products as your company.

9. Banners and Buttons

a. Develop and use banners and buttons whenever you communicate online. This can be included as part of your signature.

b. There are many companies that allow you to develop your own banners and buttons inexpensively or free.

10. Affiliate Links

a. Affiliate Links are when other companies place their ads on your website. You are paid a pre-specified amount whenever their ad is clicked from your site.

b. Some companies require the interested visitor who clicks their ad to make a purchase before they will pay a fee.

c. Affiliate links are a great way to help subsidize your paid advertising costs.

I hope you have found this article useful. Establish your niche market, use targeted keywords, send site visitors to a relevant landing page, easy site navigation and developing a search engine friendly website are crucial to an Effective Advertising Campaign. Written by Lindy Pina