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Watch the world change

February 19, 2020

Now that we’re a few months into the new year, I hope that you have more than begun to sketch out your plans for 2020 and beyond. As you push into 2020 and map out your plan for 2021, it’s a good time to channel your inner marketer and lean on your curiosity and imagination. You’re going to need them.

Think you don’t need to look ahead and anticipate how your world will change in the next year or two? Consider this: According to the World Economic Forum (in their report The Future of Jobs) 65% of the children entering primary school today, will end up working in completely new job types that do not yet exist.

Another example? According to Forbes, Airbnb is valued at about $25.5 billion, which is more than hotel giants Marriott ($20.90 billion), Starwood ($14 billion), and Wyndham ($10.01 billion). Hilton Worldwide is valued at $27.7 billion. Keep in mind — Airbnb doesn’t own a single hotel room.

The biggest mistake we can make as business leaders and marketers today is assuming that tomorrow will resemble today. That was probably never a wise position to take but today, it’s the kiss of death.

We must be purveyors of what’s coming next. We can’t afford to be surprised. In some cases, businesses have not survived being surprised.

If you want your curiosity and imagination to be firing on all cylinders, you need to keep feeding them new ideas and connections. This is especially true if you’re going to be considering what trends and cultural shifts might influence your company, your customers, your employees or the marketplace.

Here are some books, websites, and podcasts that will give you some additional food for thought as you march through 2020 and work on your 2021 plans.

Books

  • The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross
  • A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink
  • Abundance by Diamonds & Kotler
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Inevitable: Understanding 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly
  • The Truth About Your Future by Ricin’s Edelman

Websites/enewsletters

  • Trendwatching.com
  • Trendhunter.com
  • Springwise.com
  • PSFK.com
  • JWTintelligence.com
  • TED.com
  • Coolhunting.com
  • Web.SparksandHoney.com

Podcasts

  • Trends with Benefits
  • Trend Following with Michael Covel
  • Small Business Trends
  • Stuff You Should Know

I’ve just scratched the surface but you should be able to find a handful of new resources here that will help you and your team explore what’s coming ahead and how you can take full advantage of it.

You might want to keep a few of these as a part of your daily diet. Things are not going to slow down any time soon.

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The DNA of a marketing pro

February 12, 2020

I may be biased, but I think it takes a unique kind of person to excel in marketing. There’s a specific blend of skills and personality traits that equip someone to do the job well. Unfortunately, that particular combination may be difficult for others in the organization to tolerate, especially if they are risk-averse or not as open to change. No great surprise, most marketing pros typically clash with the CFO and CIO roles.

If you find yourself in the market for an agency or an internal CMO type of team member, you’re going to want to interview for these specific traits to make sure they can get the job done. But you may also have to steel yourself to deal with them on a daily basis if you tend to be more methodical and measured in your day-to-day activities and decision-making.

A study by Russell Reynolds Associates looked at over 5,000 data points, comparing CMOs with other C-suite roles and identified these trends and commonalities among those who shared the role. They found that CMOs have an extreme leadership and behavioral profile that included these attributes:

Growth minded: Marketing people love metrics, goals and chasing after a defined target. The drive to cross the finish line is admirable but may need to be tempered if it clouds bigger picture judgment.

Bold/risk taker: This trait is essential, but it can cause a lot of anxiety in the C-suite. It’s always been a vital aspect of most marketing professionals, but in today’s environment, it’s essential.

Rule-bender: CMOs are not particularly beholden to rules and guidelines. They’re used to being in undefined territory and having to figure it out as they go along. They’re far less about convention than many others in their organization. Limits and boundaries are more of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule.

Tenacious: Stubborn, persistent, unrelenting. While not entirely flattering, these are words that are often used as descriptors for those who choose marketing as a vocation. To be successful, they have to be willing to stick with a new idea or unconventional tactic to give it time to work.

People people: People tend to like CMOs and other marketing types. They’re outgoing and inclusive. They want everyone to come along for the journey, and they can usually persuade their peers to do just that.

Imaginative: This trait probably doesn’t come as a surprise. But actually, this skill isn’t so much about the marketing itself but instead about the organization’s overall business position, and the creative problem solving that is needed today.

Curious/abstract thinker: Marketers ask a lot of questions, and some of them feel a little random or unrelated. Don’t shut those down. Seeing how seemingly disparate elements influence one another or connect is one of their unique gifts. It helps you identify opportunities that others will miss.

If you’re a marketing professional, I’m guessing that you recognize yourself in at least some of these skills and traits. You probably also recognize that there are aspects of how you show up at work that may cause your peers to struggle with your methodologies. One of the ways we can get to the goal line quicker is to find ways to bring the rest of the team with us as we move closer.

If you plan to hire someone to handle your marketing (either as an employee or as a business partner) or you just want to get better at marketing yourself – these traits are the common denominators that will get your company the exposure and growth you want. But you have to decide if your organization is ready for the disruption that comes as part of the package.

This was originally published in The Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Do you keep score?

February 5, 2020

In marketing, keeping score matters. There was a time when being funny or memorable was enough. Back then, there was an obvious line between marketing and sales and we marketing types didn’t need to worry as much about ROI.

Today, that’s how a CMO or agency gets fired. Every dollar spent needs to contribute to either increasing the bottom line or cost savings somewhere along the way. Big data and digital made it more possible and the recession made it mandatory. Knowing that we need to keep score is different from knowing how to keep score. It’s an area where mistakes are easy to make and expensive to fix.

No matter how large an organization is — no one has an infinite budget. Every dollar spent has to get the company closer to their defined finish line. That doesn’t always translate to more dollars. Sometimes the yield is that we learn something new about our prospects. Sometimes it’s that we get a repeat sale from a happy client. And often, it’s that we’ve moved a prospect a little further in the sales funnel towards their first purchase.

Marketing is an imprecise science for sure. But that doesn’t mean we can’t measure. To survive and thrive, we must start every new client relationship and project by defining what we are going to measure. If we don’t determine what success looks like, how will anyone know if/when we get there?

There are some obvious and easy to calculate metrics like new client relationships and an overall increase in sales and profits. New customers are a win for sure. But we need to dig a little deeper.

It’s easy to get so enamored with chasing after the prospects that it becomes a volume game. Unless you’re the Wal-Mart of your industry, it has to be more refined, or you’ll lose your shirt. If you cast the net too wide, it’s easy to catch prospects that are not a good long-term fit. Sometimes we forget how expensive those first sales can be. The win is exhilarating, but it’s costly. The real profit comes from cultivating an on-going relationship with someone that aligns with your brand and offerings, so they quickly become a repeat customer and a loud referral source. When you land a bunch of “one and done” sales, you can actually lose money in the long run because you never have the opportunity to level out the cost of acquisition.

That’s why you shouldn’t set those success metrics before you define who your ideal customer is and what they need and want from you. Take a look at your current client list. Identify which ones are the top 20% in terms of both profitability and repeat business. It isn’t helpful to build your target audience profile on the very profitable but very occasional client. It’s also not smart to create that profile based on the frequent buyer who cuts your margin too thin.

The other element of realistic goal setting is that your budget is going to have a significant impact on how quickly you can get to your goals. I know this sounds rather obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many organizations do not connect those two data points. It might be awesome to double your customer base, but if you have a meager budget, that’s going to take a while.

We have to keep score, there’s no doubt about that. But there are some pretty costly mistakes we can make if we don’t factor in the understanding that every customer is not a good customer and that the resources we have are going to play a significant role in timing. Combine those elements wisely, and you’ll be much closer to scoring a win.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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The Mechanics of a Successful Webinar

January 29, 2020

When I’m talking about a webinar, I am not talking about a one-on-one web-based demonstration or sales meeting. I’m talking about an event you would promote to a larger audience, and the event itself is intended to be a group experience.

Webinars are a smart tactic if you want to:

  • Educate prospects or customers
  • Field objections and questions in a live environment
  • Demonstrate aspects of your product or service in an interactive way
  • Establish your thought

Note that “drive sales” is not on that list. A webinar is not a hard-driving sales tool. It’s higher up in the funnel and serves more of a marketing function. That doesn’t mean you won’t garner sales from the webinar. But it shouldn’t be your focus. Webinars are successful if they’re helpful, if people connect to the presenter and feel like they walked away with knowledge or insights that are valuable.

Here are some mechanics to consider as you think through your webinar strategy:

Tools: There are many good webinar tools out there and the right one for you will depend on price, number of attendees possible, the ability to record and other factors.

Timing: Assuming you mostly serve North American clientele, shoot for 1 or 2 pm eastern. The east coast attendees aren’t so close that they’re wrapping up for the day and at the same time, the west coast is up and into their productive zone by then.

Promotion: Webinars are not a “build it and they will come” sort of thing. You need to get the word out and issue multiple invitations. Give yourself at least a 30-day window for promotion. If you already have a list of prospects, that’s a smart place to start.  You’ll get your biggest flurry of sign-ups around ten days before the event. If you make a big deal out of the fact that they’ll get access to a recording of the webinar whether they attend or not – you’ll get more takers.

Leave behind: I think of my PPT deck as a leave behind when I am working on a webinar. I’m always going to offer it to the attendees at the end, so I build it with that in mind. Unlike a deck for a speech, where I might have a single image and no words, I use a lot of bullets and text for my webinar decks. I know I am in essence taking notes for the attendees, so my slides are a little denser in content.

Format: As you think about constructing your webinar, explore easy to grasp “packages” for the information you want to share. Like:

  • Five mistakes to avoid
  • Ten questions to ask before…
  • Four unexpected benefits of…

This style of formatting will help you tease and promote the content. It will also help you avoid trying to pack too much information into the webinar. It lends itself to a strong wrap up for you as a presenter and gives your attendees something to grab hold of and remember.

No matter how or when you deliver your webinar, be sure you know what you want to happen once you sign off. Do they get a “thanks for attending” email? Do they get a link to deeper content on one of your key points? Don’t lose the momentum. When the webinar wraps, it’s not the end, it’s the beginning.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Now can we get to work?

January 22, 2020

Well, here we are, a few weeks into January and everyone is raring to go and ready to work hard for a few weeks. Until some distraction surfaces to take your eye off the ball. And before you know it, it’s June 1st and the summer holiday hits with vacations, the 4th of July and company picnics and then it’s back to school and Labor Day. You would think that with the official wind down to Summer that, in theory, we would all be ramping up.

And in September, people will gear up. Until early November and then the holidays will be looming and people will say, “once Thanksgiving is over, we’re going to push hard to the end of the year.” About December 10th, people decide no one is listening to them anymore so they shut down for the rest of the year.

The reality is – whether it’s because several of your team are on vacation, or you’re traveling or it’s not your company’s peak season – we can excuse away going at half speed just about any time of the year and many people do.

It’s a little like dollar-cost average investing. If you wait for the optimum time to deliver your messages, advance your next project or launch something new – it will never happen. It’s impossible to time your marketing precisely. Sure, there’s a seasonality to some work and messaging, but for the most part, it’s about being in front of your key audiences every day, delivering help and insight whether they are actively listening or not.

How do you keep the momentum going, even with all of the holidays, vacations, Super Bowls, and general sports excitement going on all around us?

One of the answers to that question is to operate in sprints. A sprint is a defined period of time (typically 2-6 weeks) where the entire team is focused on a single objective or project. It doesn’t mean they stop doing their day-to-day jobs. It just means that the entire team is working together on a new initiative as well.

The beautiful thing about sprints is that they force us to take action. Many teams get stuck in the discussion/discovery stage and never seem to be able to move from talking to doing.

To work through a sprint, you need to include these five elements:

  1. A set time frame for your sprint
  2. A planning meeting to determine goals and assign roles
  3. Daily stand up meetings to keep the team on track
  4. A tracking system that everyone on the team can access and update. Keeping it visible (like a big whiteboard in your conference room) is ideal.
  5. A post sprint review

Some best practices you should implement include:

Once you set the sprint’s length, you can’t change it.  Otherwise, you will find yourself in one never-ending sprint as you allow excuses, distractions, and surprises derail your efforts.

You can’t kick off your sprint until you have SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-specific) goals defined.

In your daily stand up meetings (which should not last more than 10-15 minutes) each team member should quickly answer three questions. What did I do yesterday? What will I do today? Are there any issues/impediments that the team needs to know about?

A side benefit of working in sprints (all part of the scrum methodology) is that your team is likely to love their work even more. They feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in moving things forward.

The point of these sprints is that you and your team get into a groove every 2-6 weeks, regardless of what the calendar says. You may adjust timelines or team members based on vacations or a company-wide holiday, but you don’t let the “seasons” become excuses to get in the way of your progress.

Be productive no matter what distractions are trying to steal your focus.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Great versus remarkable

January 15, 2020

I think we, as marketers and business owners, have to adjust our expectations. Many business leaders assume that if their organization delivers its promises, that is enough. If all you’re hoping for is a satisfied client – it may be. But if you are expecting your customers to shout from the rooftops how remarkable you are just because you did your job like you said you would, you might be disappointed.

For the last several months, I have been using a cleaning service called The Queen of Clean. Every time they came to clean my house, they did a great job. They were leaps and bounds better than the cleaning company I had been using so they exceeded my expectations, based on what I had been receiving previously.

They left a checklist, showing me what they’d done, and the house was spotless when they left. They kept their promise to me.

In return, I continued our contract and had them come back. But I didn’t tell anyone about them. I didn’t recommend them to anyone. I didn’t leave a positive review anywhere. I didn’t even reach out to the owner to let her know they were doing a great job.

I like to think I’m a nice guy and I understand the power of reviews. So why didn’t I make the effort?

I was satisfied. But nothing more. The good job that the cleaning crew was doing didn’t inspire me to do anything but let them come back. They did what they promised, and I did what I promised in return. The exchange was equitable.

Then, something changed. I came home after being gone for five days. The cleaning crew had been scheduled to clean while I was gone and clean they did. I walked into a very clean house, and I was satisfied.

I went into the master bathroom, and when I flipped on the lights, I started to laugh. One of the ladies had taken the time to use the vacuum cleaner hose to “sculpt” Mickey Mouse’s head into my bathroom rug. As you might guess if you know anything about me, my entire house has a healthy sprinkling of Disney items throughout so she just added to my “collection” of Disney art but in a very original way.

At that moment, I went from being a happy customer to being a delighted one.

Here’s what I did in response:

  • I took pictures of the rug and posted them on my Facebook wall, and I tagged the Queen of Clean’s Facebook page
  • I liked the Queen of Clean’s Facebook page and wrote a post, sharing my photo and telling them how Tori’s artwork had made my day
  • I left them their first review on Angie’s List
  • I left a 5-star review on YELP which counterbalanced a very negative review
  • I saw on their Facebook page that they were supporting a charitable event, so I participated in that opportunity with them
  • I am writing about them and mentioning them by name on purpose, so other people can learn about them

All of that happened not because they did a good job cleaning my house, but because they made me laugh out loud. Because they paid attention to who I was as a customer and went out of their way to do a little something extra that had nothing to do with their core service.

A little something extra. That’s all it takes to go from having a satisfied but silent customer to creating a fan who will sing your praises on review sites, to their friends, and on social media.

Which would you prefer?

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Where will you be a year from now?

January 8, 2020

I know you’re barely getting used to writing 2020, but I want to get you to think about 2021 for a few minutes because before we know it, it will be here. Will your organization be in the same spot a year from now?

As the slow start of January wanes and everyone is gearing up for a busy Q1, my fear is that you’re going to get so caught up in the day to day grind and before you know it’s going to be December and you’re going to wonder where the year has gone.

I’m a firm believer in you achieve what you measure, so let’s talk about creating a simple dashboard that will help you ensure that you are where you want to be in 2021.

You may have an elaborate business plan but in many cases, once it’s done and approved – it sits in a filing cabinet or a folder on your laptop and never sees the light of day again.

But this simple dashboard can literally be posted in your company’s break room or a single sheet document that gets updated and shared monthly. It becomes a working tool rather than a plan that you dust off every so often.

First, you need to decide what matters most. Take some time and answer these questions.

  1. If you can only accomplish one thing this year – what would matter most to your business?
  2. What system or process improvement (or addition) would impact your business the most?
  3. What is the most single most important financial metric you should monitor to gauge the health of your organization?
  4. When you think about your workforce, what one metric (retention, employee satisfaction, etc.) could you measure to track the stability of your team?
  5. How will you track/monitor how you’re doing in terms of customer delight? (Don’t shoot for satisfaction – that’s like working hard for a C.)
  6. Last but definitely not least – what is the one thing you, as the leader, could change, learn, or add to your skillset that would really be a game-changer for your organization?

Once you’ve answered these questions, identify a monthly metric that you could easily use to measure your progress on achieving each of those mini-goals. You may have to implement some measurement mechanism, like a monthly employee satisfaction survey but if you can’t measure it – it doesn’t count.

Once you’ve decided what you need to measure and how you’re going to get those monthly metrics, you need to decide when you’re going to review/discuss the monthly results. Odds are you hold some sort of leadership or management level meeting on a weekly or monthly basis. You need to build this dashboard into that meeting’s agenda.

But don’t stop there. Share these six metrics with your entire team. Yes, even the leadership goal you’ve set for yourself. Let them know that these are the barometers you’re going to be using to track how the company is doing throughout the year. I think you’ll be surprised at how interested they are in helping you hit these metrics.

If your organization doesn’t have a good meeting process that allows you to focus on making progress on key goals, rather than just a status report, I highly recommend the book Traction by Gino Wickman.

The book has a brilliant framework for taking on large, internal projects that normally get lost in the shuffle or drag on forever – and actually getting them done quickly and well.

Here’s the amazing thing – if you actively watch and work on moving the needle in the six items on this list, your organization will be healthier, stronger and more profitable a year from now.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Do you or don’t you gate your content?

December 31, 2019

Your website is your marketing workhorse. The more people who visit it and find the content compelling, the better. It should reflect not only what you sell but also who you are as a company and how you connect with your customers.

Unfortunately, it’s not a “build it and they will come” sort of a deal. We need to go out and find our audience and entice them to visit our site. For many organizations, creating compelling content is one of the core ways they get that done.

Creating content that is of value to your audience is a topic we’ll explore in the future because it deserves more than a mention. But for now, we’re going to assume you’ve already created some killer content that will really teach your audience something of value and that they’d be anxious to get it.

Once it’s been created, the question becomes how you do want to allow them to access it? Do you want to just let them download it without you requiring any information or do you want to gate the piece? If you don’t know, gated content refers to the act of putting something on your website or landing page that people want and asking them for information in exchange for that information.

There are some distinct advantages and disadvantages to both methods.

Advantages of gated content:

  • You’ll know who is accessing the content so you can gauge the content’s effectiveness in terms of attracting your target audience.
  • You’ll have some contact information so you can continue to market to them with additional content/offers.
  • When people have to “pay” for something with their email address or contact information, the perceived value is higher

Disadvantages of gated content:

  • Many of your website visitors will opt out of downloading the content because they don’t want to give up their anonymity.
  • If you’re using the content to earn links, shares and social amplification, the barriers will make that tougher.
  • Depending on how you protect the content, you may lose SEO opportunities.

Advantages of open access content:

  • You will get your content into the hands of the largest possible audience if there are no barriers to accessing it.
  • If you’re going to use retargeting, a larger audience is ideal.
  • Social shares and unlimited access will drive traffic metrics, SEO benefits, and page rankings.

Disadvantages of open access content:

  • It’s tough to create leads or connect eventual sales from anonymous visitors.
  • You can’t follow up or proactively offer additional content or support to your site visitors.
  • It’s difficult to know if your content is attracting your ideal audience when you allow them to remain anonymous.

There’s no right or wrong answer. And gated versus open access aren’t the only two answers. You might want to consider a hybrid solution.

You can create semi-gated content or layered content. With this strategy, you would create an introductory piece that you would give away without restrictions. As a part of that piece, you’d invite them to get even more goodness, if they want it. Then, you expand on the original piece to create something with so much value that people will gladly trade their email address for it.

Whether you gate, ungate or semi-gate – it all boils down to offering something that is truly helpful or valuable. It can’t be about you or feel like a sales pitch. Once you have something good to offer, carefully consider your end game and weigh the advantages and disadvantages carefully.

There isn’t one right or wrong answer. But odds are there is a strategy that is more aligned with your goals.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Why referrals can’t be the only answer

December 24, 2019

When I meet a business owner or leader, I love learning about their organization and how they attract new clients. Once they find out I own an agency, the talk almost always turns to marketing and sales. Inevitably they will say something along the lines of “most of our business comes from referrals” and for them, I believe this actually translates to:

“We don’t have to do much marketing because our customers are happy enough with us that they send us their friends.”

There is no more powerful marketing than a referral. It’s inexpensive, effective and odds are, the sale is usually a slam-dunk. Today, thanks to all of the rating and review sites out there, our referral reach is greater than ever before.

But it’s not enough. All referrals are not equal. I’m guessing you are serving a client right now that you aren’t making a dime on and in fact, you are probably paying for the privilege of working with them. Why? Because one of your good clients made the referral, so you feel obligated. Let’s call this referral customer Bargain City.

I’m also guessing you are serving customers today who need things that are not quite in your wheelhouse but you have gerry rigged your process or system to accommodate them. Sure, it’s more expensive and labor-intensive to do, but it’s how you make them happy. For the sake of the conversation, let’s call this client Custom.

Let’s look at this pattern and see where it goes. Referrals are wonderful and satisfying. There’s nothing better than having a customer love you and your work enough that they introduce you to someone who is important to them and ask us to take good care of them. While they are wonderful endorsements from clients we greatly value, they are also an obligation. We feel compelled to serve them because we don’t want to disappoint the referral source. This is not really an issue if most of your referrals come from an anonymous online source. But for most of us, the lion’s share of the referrals are coming from within our own customer base and often times, from the clients we value the most.

So when they send someone our way, we do feel a sense of obligation. Which is how we find ourselves serving Bargain City and Custom. Having one or two of these types of new customers isn’t an issue. We can probably afford to take on one or two less profitable clients. And our systems can tolerate one or two aberrations from our carefully created processes that allow us to deliver incredible results efficiently. It’s not ideal but we’ll survive both.

But if we rely on referrals as our sole or biggest source of new opportunities, then over time, those anomalies become not the exception, but the rule. Now we have a problem. Now, we are losing money over price and process. And someone else is defining our business for us.

The truth is, the more referrals you get, the more and better your marketing needs to be. You need to clearly define for the marketplace (including your current clients) that you best serve, the specific products, services and outcomes you deliver. Your marketing and outbound sales efforts need to create boundaries and thresholds, so both your existing customers and their referrals can clearly see how you do business. And you need to attract and win enough “right fit” customers that you can afford to take on a few Bargain City and Custom clients to honor your existing relationships.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Be findable!

December 18, 2019

Who doesn’t want to be found? Whether you have a retail shop or sell your time and talent – every business needs to be findable. There’s an expression that says “if Google doesn’t know you exist, then you don’t exist” and in today’s world, there’s a lot of truth in that statement.

We know that 80+% of people use the internet to do research before making a purchase. That number gets even larger when the purchase is expensive or is business related. If Google doesn’t offer you up as an option, you may never get the opportunity to try to win the sale.

For many businesses, their circle of influence and potential customers are within a certain radius of their physical location. If you’re a dry cleaners, then you know your radius may not be more than a couple miles. But if you’re a financial planner or lawyer, it may be 100 miles or more.

There are some strategies you can employ to make sure you’re found when someone in your local market conducts a search for your kind of business. None of this is a promise of first page placement but the more of these tactics you put into place and keep updated, the better your search ranking will be.

You absolutely can spend money on Google Adwords or other paid search options. But before you do that – make sure you have a strong foundation laid.

Make sure you are listed: Go to https://www.google.com/business and search for your business. You can claim your business (you’ll have to verify it through the mail or by phone). Be sure to include quality photos of your business, your team and even a few of the items you sell.

Even though Google is the king of search, don’t neglect Bing, Yelp, Apple Maps, Facebook and any other directories specific to your industry.

Establish citations: Citations are websites where you can list your business. There are a bazillion of these sites, so don’t try to do it all by hand. There are sites out there called aggregators that will provide your information to all of these citation sites. Or you can use a service like Moz Local (https://moz.com/local/overview) or Yext (http://www.yext.com/).

Actively seek reviews: Most business-to-business organizations dismiss reviews as being “a retail thing.” And most retail businesses dread the review discussion. The truth is, you’re going to trigger reviews, whether you want them or not. So why not influence them so you can invite your happiest, best clients to speak out?

Unless you’re in an industry that has a very well-known specialty review site, focus on Google and if it makes sense for your business, Yelp. Don’t waste a lot of time on obscure sites that don’t get a lot of traffic.

Credibility links: Are you a member of the local Chamber? Or is your company profiled on a trade association’s site? Think about all of the places your business exists online and link to them within the context of your site. Whether it’s a membership, an award or even a media story – take advantage of the power of the other sites’ credibility and Google juice by linking directly to them.

Build your site with search in mind: Some of the basics really matter. As you write or add content to your website, remember to be smart about key words, the number of words on each page and other organic search basics.

No matter what your company does, search is incredibly competitive. You can’t afford to ignore this marketing playing field any more. But, before you spend a dime, make sure you’ve done everything you can for free to impact your listings. That will become a much stronger platform to launch from.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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