If you are a business owner wondering whether you should concentrate more on digital marketing or more traditional marketing methods, you are not alone. Many businesses today are asking the same question.

You may be surprised to learn, however, that choosing one of these methods over another is almost never a good idea. Instead, the name of the game is marketing integration.

While digital marketing seems to be all the rage, most marketers agree that if they are looking for the highest quality leads they will find those leads using decidedly traditional marketing techniques. In other words, at tradeshows, networking events and industry conferences.

That doesn’t mean you won’t need digital forms of marketing. While you may find some outstanding leads working a tradeshow, the best way to nurture many leads is through social media or other digital marketing methods. If you are interested in marrying digital and traditional marketing but are unsure how to do it, here are five simple ideas that will get you started.

  1. Parlay a TV ad into online exposure. A consumer will only see a television ad for 30 seconds but adding a digital call-to-action will keep viewers engaged in the long-term. This can be accomplished by encouraging viewers to go to your website, for example, to learn more about your product or to access special offers.
  2. While online shopping continues to skyrocket in popularity, more and more people are comparison shopping online and then making their final purchase in a physical store. Providing coupons online that allow shoppers to save in-store combines the virtual and brick-and-mortar shopping experiences. If you are trying to drive traffic to your website, make sure to have printed collaterals in your store that encourages shoppers to check you out online.
  3. Turn information collected online over to your sales team so that they can use this information to follow up leads with a phone call or personal note.
  4. If you are hosting an event at your place of business consider live video streams for those who can’t attend. You also can promote the event on your social media sites before they happen and post photos afterward.
  5. Make sure your print materials use keyword phrases that compliment your SEO strategy.

Whatever your marketing goals, it is important that you never view digital and traditional marketing as an either-or proposition. Instead use them together to engage customers in a more holistic manner.

Blogging can do wonders for a business. Driving traffic to its website and converting that traffic into leads are just two important benefits of blogging. Blogging also helps a business become seen as a thought leader in its industry which helps establish trust with current and prospective customers.

While it is easy to see why blogging is so important to a business, blogging itself can be much more difficult. Many times it isn’t the blogging itself that causes issues, rather the ability to come up with blog topics over and over. In order for blogging to successfully promote your business, it must be done on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, coming up with new and fresh ideas can be extremely challenging.

If you feel as if you have hit a wall in terms of blog post topics, rest easy. What follows is a list of ways to spark your creative juices and have you back at the keyboard in no time.

1. Ask questions. These questions don’t have to be profound. Next time you are talking with a client just ask that client what his or her biggest challenge is right now. And customers aren’t the only ones you can get ideas from, either.

2. Interview experts. People love to read interviews with leaders in their industry who have been successful. Interviews are great blogs because you don’t have to come up with the content, the interviewee does that for you.

3. Brainstorm. It seems simple but how many times have you asked your co-workers and sales team to sit with you for a few minutes and just throw out ideas. You might be surprised at how many topics you gain from such meetings. Bring donuts and the room will be packed!

4. Use personal experience. Think of a time when you learned an important lesson from a failure. Or when you stuck with an idea no one else believed in and it paid off. These types of blog posts make for great reading because they personalize the author.

5. Spy on your competitors. What are your biggest competitors writing about? If they are getting a lot of likes on their blog posts see if there is anything you could learn from their methods or topics.

6. Keep up on current events. This is a great way to write timely and creative blog posts. Sporting events are a good example. How about a post on how hiring employees is like preparing for the NBA draft.

7. Take a look back. What were your most popular blog posts? Consider updating those posts or expanding on them. Chances are they will be popular once again.

Blogging can be difficult but is essential to the success of your business. Hopefully the ideas listed above will make the task of blogging a little easier.

If you are looking for the best ways to market your small business, you need to know what the latest trends in marketing are right now. The problem is, it can be difficult to distinguish an important trend from a passing fad.

While you want to be on top of the latest trends, you also must be aware of what really works. Usually the answer is a combination of the hot new trends and the more tried-and-true methods. It also is important to remember that what is hot today may not be hot tomorrow.

So what is hot today? According to many marketing experts, in 2017 the following marketing techniques will gain small businesses the most traction with customers and prospects.

  1. Quality Blog Posts: Not only will a quality blog aid your SEO efforts, it will help you acquire new leads. While it is important that you update your blog on a regular basis, quality always trumps quantity so make your blog posts worth reading. In other words, every blog needs to connect, educate and inspire.
  2. Social Media Advertising: Targeted ads can do wonders when it comes to acquiring qualified leads. Facebook is one example of a social media site that allows businesses to specify what audience a specific ad will reach. These ads also allow a business to track the specific behaviors of its target audience and then tailor its efforts in light of this information.
  3. Mobile Marketing: Mobile marketing has been all the rage for some time and it shows no signs of slowing. No matter how aware you are of the importance of mobile marketing, you might be surprised to learn that 98 percent of text messages are opened. Add to that fact that 95 percent of Americans use a mobile device and it is easy to see that mobile marketing must remain a top priority for businesses.
  4. Live Streaming: While visuals have always been an important part of marketing, live streaming is becoming the go-to method of getting noticed online. With more than 100 million hours of video viewed every day online, live video is one of the hottest marketing techniques out there.
  5. Email Marketing: Many businesses are turning their attention from their email marketing efforts but this can be a costly mistake. Considering that more than 90 percent of consumers say they want to receive promotional emails and it’s no surprise that email marketing remains an outstanding marketing strategy.

What is hot this year may not be hot next year. But as a marketer you must keep up with what speaks to consumers at this very moment.

Lead generation is the lifeblood of any business. While there are many effective ways to attract qualified leads, often you a little something extra to jumpstart your efforts.

While we aren’t suggesting that you forgo the tried-and-true methods of lead generation, there’s no harm in augmenting those methods periodically. What follows are some ways to do just that.

1. Consider product videos. A majority of people are visual learners. Consider posting videos that illustrate how one of your products works.

2. Get rid of (the word) spam. Research shows that when a company proclaims that it will never spam a customer, just reading the word spam makes a person less likely to buy. Protect your privacy is a better phrase to use.

3. Make sure your call-to-action stands out. When you make your call-to-action LARGER it results in more leads. Speaking of calls-to-action, more is almost never better. Instead of sprinkling a variety of calls-to-action on your webpage or in an email, stick with just one. Research shows that when people have too many choices, they are less likely to make one.

4. Don’t be afraid of a little self-promotion. Promoted tweets and Facebook posts get you more customer exposure. While these type of posts often get a bad rap, the truth is that as long as your promoted content is original and offers something of value, these posts can payoff.

5. Update your blogs. We all know how important original content is but updating blogs (when appropriate) can work just as well. If you previously wrote about an industry trend and new numbers come out regarding that trend, simply update your original blog to garner attention without spending a lot of extra time.

6. Make the most of your signature line. Studies show that the simple act of linking the signature line in your emails back to your website or landing page can increase traffic back.

7. Administer a quiz. When you offer a quiz on a timely and relevant topic, you can also gain a number of new leads. Make sure the quiz is simple to use, however, or people won’t bother to take it.

Adding a little something extra to your lead generation efforts doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. The payoff, however, makes it well worth it.

If you are a small business owner looking to improve your content marketing efforts, driving more backlinks to your website is essential to your success. This can be a difficult task, however, if you aren’t sure how to generate backlinks.

While everyone talks about content marketing and all that it can do for a business, it can be difficult to gain traction-especially in the beginning. What follows are some ways to generate the all-important backlinks necessary to get your content noticed.

  1. Guest Post. Writing an article for someone else’s website or blog is one of the simplest ways to drive traffic back to your site. Not only will it drive more traffic to your website, it gets your name out as a thought leader in your industry. Be prepared to return the favor when people ask to publish on your website, however. You also can find guest posting opportunities on Twitter by using Twitter Advanced Search for quality sites that need niche writers.
  2. Practice Link Reclamation. Seek out sites that mention you or your brand and make sure that there is a link back to your site.
  3. Get Listed. Directories are a great way to build backlinks. Write a unique description of your brand and get it listed in one (or more) of the many free web directories out there.
  4. Help a Reporter Out (HARO). When you sign up for HARO, journalists are able to find you if they need a quote for a story.
  5. Publish Infographics. Everyone loves visual content. Find out what is trending in your industry and create an infographic and promote it. The more it’s used, the more backlinks you will enjoy.
  6. Give Testimonials. We all want customers to give us testimonials but your testimonials are valuable as well when it comes to gaining backlinks. Gather a list of products or services you have used recently and visit their websites to see if they have a testimonials page. If they do, write one to be published.
  7. Entice Bloggers. Exchange goods for reviews. Do a search for bloggers in your industry and reach out to them by asking them to review a product or service you will provide at no charge. This is a win-win fo you and the blogger.

Building backlinks is easier than you might think. The key is to always be reaching out to others to gain important backlinks.

Customer reviews and testimonials are one of the best ways to increase sales. This is especially true for small-and medium sized businesses that don’t have a huge marketing budget.

Consider this statistic: 90 percent of shoppers say they take online reviews and testimonials into consideration before they make a purchase. Therefore, if you aren’t actively encouraging customers to comment on your products and services, you are potentially losing out on a lot of business.

So why is it so hard to get customers to write reviews? Well, maybe customers aren’t really the issue. Instead maybe we should look at ourselves and ask why it is so hard to ASK customers for reviews? And asking for reviews is difficult. There is no way around it. It’s kind of like asking someone to pay you a compliment. It just feels wrong. That’s why so many business owners back away from the task.

While this aversion is natural, it also can be costly. Customer reviews and testimonials are some of the most effective marketing techniques out there. The best part are that they are absolutely free. In light of these facts, business owners simply can’t pass up the opportunity to ask customers to review their products and services.

While asking for testimonials is never easy, there are some ways make it as painless and effective as possible.

Build solid relationships. Asking for reviews face-to-face or over the phone is the most effective way to get someone to agree to write a testimonial. But here’s the caveat: you need to have a relationship with that person. So make sure you know your customers (which is the best way to keep them loyal in the first place). Customers that know you and appreciate your products or services will be more than happy to help you out with a testimonial. The fact that you took the time to actually stop in or call them is simply icing on the cake.

Email it the right way. In some cases asking for reviews by email is your only choice (and make sure it is before you ask this way). When requesting a review via email take the following steps:

  • Make sure the email comes from someone they know. Their sales rep, for example. And make sure the email is signed by the person who sent the email.
  • Include a prominent call-to-action button in the email that makes it very clear to your customer where to go to submit his or her review. It also encourages them to submit the review sooner rather than later.
  • Use plain text.

Evaluate. If you aren’t getting a lot of positive responses, go back to the drawing board and evaluate your approach.

Obtaining customer reviews can be a tricky prospect. However, the payoff is too significant to ignore!

If you aren’t actively building a brand for your business, make no mistake, your brand is still being built. In other words, every day customers, prospects and even your competitors are helping to shape your reputation.

Social media means that a disgruntled customer need only post about one terrible experience they had with your business and in the blink of an eye, thousands of potential customers may be swayed to believe that yours is not the type of business they want to patronize. This is unfortunate since one bad experience does not a business make. But that is the world we live in.

While branding is often thought of as creating a name for yourself, it would be wise to remember that it is so much more than that. It is an ongoing process that can literally make or break a business.

So what do your customers, prospects and the public at large think of your business? While it is true that one rogue customer can do an untold amount of damage to your brand, you still have a great deal of control over your reputation.

The key is to remember that every single day, everything you do speaks volumes about your brand in ways you may never have expected. Nothing you do as a business is insignificant. It is imperative to keep this in mind whether you are closing a sale with your biggest client or answering a phone call from a prospect who seems unlikely to ever purchase one of your products.

So how can you make sure you are sending the correct message about your brand every single day? Consider the following:

  • If a current customer calls your business and is put on hold for an extended amount of time, this customer will assume that you don’t value his or her time.
  • If a prospect visits your website and finds it outdated and difficult to navigate, this prospect will decide that your business is outdated.
  • If you make it difficult for a customer to return a product they are unhappy with, your brand will be seen as inflexible and concerned only with making a quick buck.

Whether you have spent huge amounts of money branding your business, or haven’t spent a dime, you must remember that your brand is always, to some degree, in the hands of those who interact with you. In light of this fact, you must never forget that the most effective branding messages take place one interaction at a time.

We’ve all been there. Everyone is talking about the latest movie, fitness craze or current event and instead of admitting we have no idea what they are talking about, we nod knowingly and pretend like we do. After all, who wants to come across as out of touch?

Many small business owners admit to feeling this way when the conversation turns to content marketing. While content marketing has been around for a while-and has proven itself to be a powerful tool-there is no shame in admitting that you aren’t exactly sure how it works.

Thankfully, you don’t have to admit this in front of a large group of people. In fact, read the primer below and you won’t have to admit it at all!

  • What is it? Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach in which businesses create and distribute content designed to appeal to a particular audience. Unlike advertising copy that tries to entice a huge swath of consumers to buy goods or services, content marketing helps a business connect, educate and inspire a particular group of people. In other words, it attracts people who are likely to be interested in what a business is selling, and when they are ready to make a purchase, they will think of that business first.
  • Who should use it? Everyone. The best thing about content marketing is that it works for every business, no matter what the industry. Whether you sell hair care products or farm implements, content marketing can work for you. The key is to provide your audience with a steady flow of unique information that helps solve a problem or improves their lives. In the process of helping others you come to be seen as a thought leader in the industry and someone people can trust.
  • How do you get started? The first step in content marketing is defining exactly who your target audience is and what they need. Only then can you begin producing content that will draw your target audience in. You also need to make sure your target audience finds this content. This is accomplished by determining where they hang out online. Do they watch videos on YouTube? Read articles on LinkedIn? Frequent online industry publications? Once you know where they are, you will know where to post your content.
  • Content marketing isn’t complicated but it does take time and effort. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you won’t see results overnight. After all, it takes time for people to get to know you and learn to trust you.

In today’s digital marketplace there have never been more ways to promote your business. Despite these new promotional avenues, tradeshows continue to be one of the most important marketing investments a company can make, particularly in the B2B industry.

The average B2B company will investment almost 40 percent of its annual marketing budget on tradeshows. This is not surprising considering tradeshows’ excellent return on investment.

So the question is not if a B2B company should attend tradeshows but rather which tradeshows should they attend. And this is an important question since tradeshows are a tremendous opportunity to show off new products, make new contacts and, most importantly, secure new sales leads.

In light of these facts, it is essential that you attend the tradeshows that are right for your particular company. Before you attend any tradeshow, however, you need to consider the following:

Cost: While it would be great to have a presence at all of the hottest tradeshows, a lot will depend on your budget. Once you decide how much you have to spend, you can determine which tradeshows to attend. It is important to do your research as different tradeshows charge different rates for many of the same offerings, including booth rental. Display design, shipping and traveling costs are all important considerations, as well.

Prepare: Once you have an idea of how much you have to spend on a particular trade show you need to make sure your booth is scaled for your rental space. You also need to make sure you have filled out all the necessary paperwork and are aware of any deadlines so that there are no surprises once you arrive at the tradeshow.

Promotion: Attending a tradeshow is a great way to promote your business but just showing up isn’t enough. Launching a new product? Make sure you have demos and product data sheets ready to go. Further, make sure your collateral is printed, checked and re-checked as far ahead of the tradeshow as possible.

Staffing: Who you will send to a tradeshow is almost as important as the tradeshow itself. The first thing you need to decide on is a point-person who will be responsible for making sure that everything runs smoothly. Next, make sure the individuals who will staff your booth are not only the most knowledge but also the most energetic. Tradeshows mean long and sometimes grueling days and nights of promoting your brand and the products and services you offer.

Finally, the most important aspect of any tradeshow is the follow-up. Make sure all of the leads you obtain at a tradeshow are immediately and correctly classified so they enter your sales funnel in the just the right place.

The most successful marketers have one thing in common—a laser-like focus on what they want to accomplish. This has never been truer than it is today.

While in the past marketers had only a few ways to market their products or services or promote their brand that is no longer the case.

Modern day marketers find themselves in a much different situation. The options available to market their products and services are virtually endless–social media, podcasts, blogs, content creation, radio and TV ads, print ads, white papers, cold calling, SEO. So what’s a marketer to do?

It all comes down to focus. Today’s marketers must focus on what they want to achieve with their marketing efforts. They either want to draw people to their business through inbound marketing or they want to get their message out to as many people as possible through outbound marketing.

Inbound marketing uses things like social media marketing, content creation and SEO. This type of marketing allows a business to be seen as a thought leader in their industry. And when a prospect is ready to make a purchase, he or she naturally is drawn to that business.

Outbound marketing is a more traditional form of marketing. Businesses who use outbound marketing want to get their name in front of the largest amount of people possible. They want to build brand awareness and so employ tactics such as cold calling, direct mail, and print and broadcast ads to do just that.

There are pros and cons to both of these methods. Inbound marketing requires patience as it takes time before results are achieved. Outbound marketers usually see faster results but those results are often short-lived.

As a marketer, it is important that you decide which technique fits best with your business model remember that if you choose to concentrate on inbound marketing that doesn’t mean you can’t throw in a print ad every once in a while. In general, however, it is important to concentrate on either inbound or outbound since the best results are achieved this way.

Finally, in order to decide between inbound or outbound marketing you need to look at your target audience. Decide which method aligns with that audience. Inbound marketing is usually best for businesses who really know their target audience. While more budget friendly, inbound marketing does require more time to see results. Consumers usually find this type of marketing less intrusive.

Outbound marketing is more costly but reaches a much larger audience. It is often preferred by businesses that are trying to get on the map. Outbound is often preferred by older consumers, B2B customers and when larger purchases such as cars are involved.