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Does Your Business Fit The Web Foot Print?

“Look at that subtle off-white coloring. The tasteful thickness of it. It even has a watermark . . .”

Ah, the gay late 1990s, when a fictitious Wall Streeter impresses his mates with his personal “brand,” presented as a five-star business card.  So much for embossed lettering . . .

Today, that business card is only a part of a marketing plan. To really impress, smart business owners employ a tool box of advertising tools, including, yes, printed material. They also join business groups, such as a barter exchange, as well as create a presence on the Internet. They need a website. And, maybe a Twitter account. And, any media reference to them in any publication. In short, they must have a web footprint, a marketing term for their brand, presence and influence on the Internet.

A web footprint includes information they gather and publish in blogs or articles. It includes tweets about them, tweets that mention them; Facebook posts and posts that tag them; updates/comments from LinkedIn groups; guest blogs, activity on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, plus anything e-blasted by their partners, clients, customers or competitors.

If that sounds like the actual job may take a back seat to all that busyness on the web, take heart. A web footprint can be refined. And, it works best when combined with human interaction, such as the business transacted between barter exchange members. Instead of e-blasting the world about their company, however, business owners need to focus on the right demographic who will buy their product or service. Similarly, in a barter exchange, such as International Barter Exchange (IBE) in Sarasota, FL, members already have a targeted market: referrals from other members.  Both venues shorten the time and effort it takes to market their product or service, so they can get back to operating their business.

Even though barter members save cash by using alternative currency to build their businesses through referrals, they also save when creating a Web footprint. They can barter for a website, or a marketing consultant, or a photographer, or anyone connected to the computer industry. They can advertise these businesses to their social media contacts. They can direct their contacts to a barter member’s website. A plumber may use the services of a bartering social media expert to manage his Web sites. The manager or consultant takes charge of all the plumber’s updates and tweets, so he can be free to do his service, all on barter dollars.

“Once you are accepted in a barter exchange community, you’re associated with individuals who, even though you may have different career goals, in the end, you want something,” says Julio Lucas, with Human Lions advertising agency in Sarasota, FL.  “And, you use those services back and forth. The same thing happens in social media. Once you go through a group, [Facebook “group”, or Google+ “circles”] you know that everyone in the group for the most part, has similar interests. You go in there to interact. By utilizing barter and social media, it’s really a win-win. Mostly because you have already fine-tuned your group.”

Business owners form groups on social media to help each other grow their businesses, just like members of a barter exchange. Lucas says success relies on transparency. “You have to be willing to give a little to get something back,” he says. “You’re going to really win because you’re building friendships and, before, you couldn’t do that. Before, everyone held onto the secret. Everyone was intimidated by others. Now they’re realizing that they can grow their business even larger if they can admit, ‘I’m not good in this area and maybe ABC Company is good. They’re going to help me; I’m going to help them.’ So, bartering really benefited from that. There’s a huge benefit for doing both.”

Take the restaurant industry, barter and social media. Traditionally, restaurants compete against each other. Inside the barter community, however, restaurants can use the products from other restaurants to enhance or operate their business. If an Italian restaurants needs bread from a bakery, the two businesses can build a partnership. The bakery may need sauce from the Italian restaurant, and through bartering, they can obtain supplies without putting out cash. They can advertise each other’s products on social media, doubling the viewers and gaining customers.

Remember print junk mail? That marketing method of mailing to dozens of zip codes doesn’t translate to the web. However tempting it may be to market-blast on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and expect those sources to do your marketing work for you, Lucas suggests doing your homework. And, take your barter members with you.

  • “The first thing I would do is go on line and check out your competition,” says Lucas. Items to look for are groups. What group is getting or giving the most attention; who is posting, sharing, and who, eventually, will be selling your brand for you? “Once you have an idea of that, that’s when you can start whittling down your target,” he adds. Learn what a demographic does for sport, entertainment; or employment. Sure, they may look at Facebook. But, if your business is carpentry, Lucas recommends advertising on hardware networks or do-it-yourself sites.

“There are all these niche networks now, and that’s where you’re really going to benefit. You’re going to get your biggest bang for your buck,” Lucas says.  “The key is, use your demo. Do your shotgun e-blasting. See what’s out there. Once you find out who is really interested, that’s where you’re going to focus your time and attention.”

  • Understand your targeted demographic. “This is all based on what people have done in the past,” says Lucas. When you get to know the habits of your demographic, you’ll be able to put your message in front of your buyer. If your target is bankers, know at what times of the day those individuals may be checking their social media, before 9 a.m.; after 5 p.m.  At that moment, post something.
  • Produce a plan of how you want to showcase your brand. The venue dictates placement: For example, a speaker might use twitter; a graphic artist may use a Google+ circle. What devices will your demographic use most often? A tablet? A mobile phone?

Lucas says, “Research shows that certain demographics for certain targeted groups respond differently to product placement, or target audiences respond differently to images.”

  • Test-drive your product or services with your bartering partners. When barter members sign up to interact with members, they have to be open and fearless. The web invokes the same kind of lucidity.  “It’s all locally based businesses working together to better each other,” says Lucas. “If you’re using outside tools only, (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) to market your product, you’re not necessarily helping yourself. You might make a couple of sales, get some fans or followers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to grow your business.”
  • Install a website with analytic tools to determine what works, what doesn’t; click counts, where should your ad appear or not appear? In a Forbes magazine article on the importance of a good web design, contributor Mike Myatt says, “The Holy Grail is found in nesting great content within brilliant design. Don’t think ‘either/or.’ Think ‘and.’ Being found is nice, but it’s the experience and engagement that occurs (or not) that really matters. There are many ways to get eyeballs to your content, but what really matters is what happens when you get there.”

Design methods of conversing, getting feedback, blogging. Publish information that helps a potential buyer. The larger your presence, the more potential for new customers. “That’s free advertisement,” says Lucas. “People help you expand on the brand. It’s more about proper placement, more so than making sure the content’s there. Yes, you may have the most amazing website on earth, but if no one knows you are there, no one is going to the page.”

Barter exchange members work to get you there. Whether businesses trade within the barter community or send referrals through social media, barter members use alternative currency to build businesses and enlarge Web footprints. Business, indeed, is booming.

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