Buyer Beware: Monthly Marketing Programs with Fees

Ahhh monthly fees.  We have them for many things and if you own a business you may be in a monthly marketing program that comes with fees attached.  Monthly Marketing Programs with FeesBased on the title of this post, you may think I am opposed to monthly marketing programs.  The truth is, I actually offer monthly marketing programs and 90% of my customers are on them!  With that said, I’m not opposed to monthly programs in general, just ones that don’t have both parties best interest in mind.

When it comes to monthly marketing programs many providers put them in place to guarantee your business.  The problem is, the way many of these agreements are structured, you practically have to give away your first born to get out of them and a lot of times they can be costly!  I’ve been running into a lot of marketing companies trying to push harsh monthly fees over the last month, which is what sparked this post.  So with that said, here are 5 things that often come up in monthly marketing programs that you need to be cautious of and why.

5 Things to Be Cautious of When Entering into a Monthly Marketing Program

1.  Agreements you are locked in to for an extended period of time – Like a cell phone contract, many marketers that charge monthly fees will make you commit to working with them for a specific number of months.  In some cases, it is necessary.  For example, take social media.  Many Social Media Managers set a 3 month minimum when starting to work on a new account.  Social media takes time to build up and there is typically a lot of work that goes into launching with a new client.  Setting a 3 month minimum is how many marketers spread out the up front costs over a period of time.

Over and above a 3, maybe 6 month commitment, I start to get nervous.  You never know where your business will be in 9 months.  Hopefully it will be booming, but you never know.  Also, maybe you find that you don’t work well with the provider.  It happens.  Not everyone can be “your people.”  Then what?  You’re locked in to working with someone you don’t like for months?  No thanks!

When you are considering starting a marketing program that comes with a monthly fee, ask up front what needs to be done to terminate the agreement.  Find out what, if any, fees are involved in doing so and how much notice you need to give to break ties.  Ask all of this before signing.

2.  Marketing fees that prevent you from having control of your assets – Yikes!  If you run into a provider that wants to maintain control of your domain name, your website log in information or be the only person that has access to your social media accounts in exchange for them managing everything for a monthly fee….RUN!  Your marketing materials are your assets.  You are investing money to brand your business and to grow your company by using these tools.  When a provider wants to retain control, you are no longer in control of your own property.  You should have full access to all your materials all of the time…period.  No questions asked. Anything else is unacceptable in my opinion.

3.  Monthly plans with big companies – This is sticky.  I don’t want to bash anyone here so I won’t name names but there are a lot of big companies out there that push social media, SEO and digital marketing services.  Don’t get me wrong, some of the bigger companies have their place and may do certain things well, but one thing I can almost guarantee is that you won’t get the personal service you’ll get from a smaller provider.

When you work with a smaller provider, most of the time, you are working with the owner, or someone who has some skin in the game and they want to make sure they know you, your business and what they need to do to help you succeed.  Most larger companies have so many clients they don’t have the time for that level of personal attention and they provide what I call cookie cutter services.  They do for you what they have done for every other client.  Again, in some cases its not a bad thing, but if you are a small business with a limited budget, your dollars would probably be better spent with someone who is going to roll up their sleeves and dive into your business as if they were a part of your team.

4.  Monthly plans that come with a high price tag – Again as I said earlier, you have no idea where your company will be in 9 months to a year.  Of course we hope for it to booming but if you are locked into a monthly marketing program that is costing you a fortune, you may have to pair back in other areas which could ultimately hurt your business.  Unless you can be totally sure that a high monthly fee is necessary, I always suggest you start out small and add more services as you need them.

5.  Monthly marketing plans that start out at an affordable price then go up in cost – This is my personal pet peeve.  It is no fun when you speak with a sales rep and they sell you on all the wonderful things their company can do for you for the “low price of $19.95 a month”  only to find that it will actually be $99 to get everything they showed you.

Beware of set ups like this.  I always find that these are companies that end up costing you more than they are worth.  Whenever I am watching a presentation on a marketing service, I always ask what the price will be to do everything they are talking about, not just the base price (which if often what they lure you in with.)

In closing, I’m not opposed to monthly marketing programs.  In many cases they are necessary and a good use of budget dollars.  This post was more or less my public service announcement for small business owners advising you to be cautious when entering in to any monthly agreement on behalf of your business because not every provider is looking for a mutually beneficial relationship.

What are your thoughts on monthly marketing programs?  Post your comments here or visit me on Facebook to join the conversation.

 

An Instagram Trick Desktop Lovers Need to Know About

Instagram is a photo based social media platform that more and more businesses are using to gain exposure for their small business.  Like Facebook, I didn’t want to give in and jump on the Instagram band wagon, but I did and now I’m hooked.  Aside from being fairly easy to use, I really like the platform for small businesses for several other reasons.

Why I like Instagram for BusinessInstagram

1.  We are becoming more and more of a visual society everyday…people like to see good looking images that teach share knowledge – Instragram provides that.

2.  Customers like to connect with businesses they buy from.  Instragram allows you connect with your customers by sharing photos of your products, your office, your team, what ever you’d like.

3.  Unlike Facebook, Instagram is not dictating who sees your posts.  If someone follows you and you post something, if they are on Instragram, they will see it!

4.  It’s hashtag heaven.  Like Twitter, Instagram allows you to use hashtags.  As a small business, hashtags can help you connect with potential customers AND interact with them.

So this is why I’ve started using Instagram.  The only problem is…Instagram is primarily a smart phone based application.  For many business owners, this isn’t an issue, in fact it makes it more convenient to incorporate Instragram into their daily marketing routine, because let’s face it, we always have our phones on us!

However, for someone who loves their desktop, this could be a drawback.  As it stands today, you can log on to Instagram from your desktop and view your feed.  GREAT…but can I find new users to follow on Instragram from my desktop?  You sure can.  I found this great tutorial on how to do it using a site called http://followgram.me/.  When you go to this site from your desktop, you can log in using your Instagram account search for users to follow!  Here’s the tutorial video that I found to walk you through the process.

So, now that you know how to find people from your desktop, find me on Instagram @jenn_smalltalkmarketing and follow me as I catch marketing as it is happening.

Share your Instragram handles with me so I can follow your business too!

Client Success Story: Building a Brand

I love building brands.  It’s one of my favorite marketing solutions to offer.  Success Story - Plumeria Logo RedesignIn the case of one of my newer clients, Plumeria, they already had an established brand when we got to work.  They had a logo recognized by many of their customers and with the owner’s background in marketing, they also had a very consistent look and feel to the rest of their marketing materials.  We started talking about building them a new, Mac Daddy e-commerce site so they could get their products out to the masses and the next thing I knew we were re-branding their entire company.  Game on baby!

Building a Brand

If you’ve read through this site, you know that I often collaborate with other marketing agencies to get things done for my clients.  In the case of Plumeria’s brand and e-commerce site, I immediately thought of a company called The Savvy Socialista (TSS).  They are experienced at branding female focused companies, they make killer e-commerce sites and I knew they would make Plumeria’s brand look great.  For the purposes of this project I am serving as the project manager, acting as a consultant to the client and helping with copywriting.

The first step in the process was to create a new logo and brand elements for Plumeria.  The owner really loved her font and some of the colors she was currently using so we asked TSS to use her colors and font in a new logo design.  The initial thought was to give her existing logo a face lift.

TSS came back with a refreshed version of her current logo.  I was a little nervous because she did not use the owner’s beloved Lavendaria font, but the owner was open to change and saw how beautiful a little update could make things.  Here’s a before and after of the company’s logo:

Plumeria Logo Before Redesign
Before Redesign

 

Plumeria Bath Logo
After Redesign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to this beautiful logo, TSS gave Plumeria a full arsenal of brand elements to use throughout their marketing materials including textures, variations of their logo, social media icons, fonts and complimentary graphics.  Here’s their brand board:
plumeria brand board_FINAL_001

I couldn’t be happier for Plumeria.  With this refreshed branding, they are going to do big things!  This new look and feel has set the stage for future growth and now we are working on launching their new e-commerce site.  Stay tuned for the unveiling of that beauty.

About Plumeria

Plumeria makes all natural and organic luxury bath products including bath bombs, soaps, lotions and more.  Headquarted in Grand Island, NY they are almost two years old and already growing by leaps and bounds.  In addition to their website and retail location, Plumeria also has nearly 20 direct sales reps in several states selling Plumeria products to women and men who care about what they put on their skin.

What is marketing project management?

When you are growing a small business, marketing is important. You can’t expect people to just know about your business, no matter how awesome it is! Marketing project management is a service that I offer my clients. When I say that, many people look at me funny because they have never heard of such a thing…so in this post I’m going to explain!

What is marketing project management?
Marketing Project Management

If you were to build a house, you would hire a contractor to oversee the project right? Unless you have experience working in construction, your answer would most likely be ‘yes’. They know the best way to build a house so that it stands the test of time and you have minimal problems with it. They also know who to call for plumbing, electric and building supplies. If you had to figure all this out on your own, it would take a lot of time and you may find yourself working with providers that are less than reputable.

The same holds true for your small business’s marketing projects. Marketing projects range from building a website to putting together a new brochure and everything in between. Let’s take building a website as an example. When you don’t know the ins and outs of the process to design a new website, the process can be overwhelming and you are making yourself vulnerable. It can also be confusing to understand what you need and want.

Having an experienced person in your corner can really help make designing a new website a lot easier.  It can help you get a website that works the way you need it to and generates leads for your business.   And yes, you do have to pay for their time, but having an experienced marketing person working as a part of your team can actually save you money in the long run.

Let’s Save You Money

On numerous occasions I’ve seen business owners who opted to try and manage the design of their own website and they ended up getting taken advantage of by “professionals” that are only out for one thing…money! Of course, we are all in business to make money, but there is a fine line in the sand between the marketing provider that wants to help the client and make a profit versus the one that just wants to deliver a product and get paid. Do you see the difference?

Also, when it comes to website design, I have seen customers who try to manage this project themselves end up with sites that don’t function properly. Even if the site looks nice, a few months into using it they find out things aren’t what they should be on the back end. Then what happens? The client is paying to have the site fixed or rebuilt properly.

The Morale of the Story

So the morale of this story is, if you aren’t sure how to build a website, design a brochure or manage other marketing projects on your to-do list, consider working with Small Talk Marketing & Communications. If I don’t offer the service, I have a trusted pool of resources I can call on to get your marketing project done on time, on budget and get it done well! Plus you’ll have me, Jennifer Calero, Small Talk’s owner advocating for you throughout the process and explaining things as we go.

Need more information on how Small Talk Marketing & Communications can help you with your next marketing project?


Contact me for a complimentary consultation.

The Website Update That NEEDS to Be On Your To-Do List

Our friends at Google are at it again!  Google, the industry giant that is known for dominating the search engine world, is making a push for website owners to create mobile friendly sites.  In a blog post released earlier this month, Google announced that they will be again be changing their algorithm that determines how mobile search results are delivered to their users.

What makes a website mobile friendly?The website update that needs to be on your to do list

Before I dig into Google’s announcement, for those of you that are new to web design, let me first explain what is meant by a “mobile-friendly” website.  Mobile-friendly, also referred to as responsive design, is when a website is designed so that it can be easily viewed and used on any device.  If you’ve ever tried to visit a website from your smart phone or tablet and it has appeared very small, it has taken a long time to load or it has not functioned as you’ve seen it do on a desktop…chances are that site was not responsive.

With a responsive web design, the website will respond to what ever device it is being viewed on and format itself to function properly on that device.  In some cases, mobile ready sites may look different when viewed on a mobile device, but they keep the same functionality and provide the same information.  Websites are not automatically responsive, they have to be intentionally built that way.

Why is having a responsive website so important?

2 reasons. 1, Google says so and 2, it is estimated that up to 50% of all website traffic could come from mobile devices in 2015*.  Google’s announcement earlier this month stated that starting on April 21, they were updating their alogrithim to include mobile-friendliness as a part of their ranking system.  Once that is in place, when a consumer goes to Google on their mobile device and searche for something, websites that are responsive will be more likely to show up in the mobile search results.

Why does Google care about responsive websites?

Google wants people to use their search engine for browsing.  It’s how they make money.  The way they stay the consumer’s preferred search engine is by providing relevant search results.  Because more and more consumers are using mobile devices to search the web, Google believes that updating the algorithm to include mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor, while improve the consumers experience with them and keep us coming back for me.

I can’t say I disagree.  I ALWAYS use my Android for searching and if I come to a site I can’t access, I just leave it and move on to the next.  With that said, I actually think this is a good move on Google’s part.

What does this mean for you, the website owner?

Well the answer is simple…if you own a website and it is not responsive, you need to put updating your website to a responsive design at the top of your to-do list.  If you are not sure if your site is responsive, check it out on a tablet or other mobile device.  If you have questions about improving your website and making it more mobile-friendly, drop me an email and we’ll talk!

*Reference – Survey on Internet Trends