In the last post, we looked at some great examples of Online Communities running on BC. This time we're looking at "Amplify Your Voice" as a strategy for your Online Business. This means that you're selling a solution to increase publicity for a cause or organisation. In particular we're focusing on sites using Blogs, Email Marketing and RSS, in synergy, to achieve this. Check out what we had to say last October, as part of our 6 Online Business Strategies.

Blogs as a Marketing and Publicity Channel

Small business owners and organisations are now using blogs to publish content to attract new customers and keep them interested. Blogs should be used as part of a broader, integrated Marketing strategy, where customers are alerted to blog and announcement updates via Email Marketing, and RSS Feeds.

Here are some cool examples of BC powered blogs:

Artsprojekt - reaching artists worldwide...

This stylish site by Level9 Design aims to "liberate artists worldwide" and keeps in contact with it's community by way of blogging. The Artsprojekt team use a BC Blog to post interviews, promote competitions and announce new products. If you look at the bottom of the right-hand side bar you'll notice a 'Email This' form which is an example of the 'Refer-a-Friend' module being added to the site template.

Dubbo City Council - media releases via blogs...

Dubbo City Council
Created by Bos Web Systems, this local Government site uses blogs and announcements to publish media releases and news, bringing the local community together. New content is displayed on the home page via an Announcements module, increasing blog visits. It's a great way for Dubbo council to keep in touch with it's constituents compared with the traditional mail-out that most other local Governments have.

Rob Munnik Productions - creating a media stream using a blog...

Community Productions
Joi Design has customized a BC blog that Rob Munnik & Community Productions use to post embedded video episodes of their weekly Television series called SchoolsInc Television. Embedding video on a blog is an easy (just copy and paste the HTML embed code from the video site of your choice) way to create your own media stream, like having a personal TV Channel.

Using Email Marketing to Increase Blog Traffic

Don't expect people to automatically come and visit your site when you make updates. You'll need to use Email Marketing and RSS to push updates to your audience. As part of an integrated marketing approach, "Subscribe Me " and "Tell a friend" forms can be used to capture users in your CRM database, whom you can email on a regular basis to tell them about site updates and news.

If your audience isn't interested in giving their email address to you but still wants to be updated then you still have the option to provide an RSS channel for them to subscribe to. 

Selling the 'Amplify Your Voice' Strategy To Your Clients

This strategy is about keeping an open and constant flow of communication between your client and their customers, so prospects are not forgotten, and neither is the business. Nothing is more powerful than fresh, high-quality content in attracting an audience. Make sure you make the most of it by using a combination of of Blogs, Announcements, RSS and Email Marketing so you can regularly update your audience on what's new!

In the next post of the series, we'll be looking at how BC Partners have built sites that automate Customer Service for their Clients.

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I was recently called in my capacity as a GoodBarry online marketing guru to give some advice to a friend who wanted to get a web designer to build her website. In the same way medical doctors get asked at dinner parties by friends for free medical advice or a 2nd opinion, mechanics about cars and computer engineers about...well you get the idea. My friend runs a make-up studio and she was one of those people who only knew that she needed a website...

She had no idea what Web Designers charge, she didn't know how her website would work for her, she hadn't thought about what content she was going to put there, she just knew it was 2008 and every small business needs a website like they need a yellow pages advert. Well, it was time to teach her a couple of things as a favor and correct her brochureware perception of websites.

Here's 5 Online Business goals I went through with her when I explained to her what she needed from her website:

Goal 1: Selling Online
- The most well known goal for Online Businesses where you're looking for an extra channel to push your products whether it's make-up, clothes, shoes, pet products etc.  

Strategy: To reach sales targets and reduce shopping cart abandons, you'll need to focus on an all-in-one eCommerce site complete with catalogs, products, shopping cart, shipping and a payment gateway and that provides an immersive and seamless shopping experience. Don't forget to add extras like upselling, recommended products, product galleries and plenty of credible product information to help meet your sales and orders targets.

But what happens when you can't sell online because what you sell is a physical service or you're not running a for-profit business? There's 4 other goals you can set for your Online Business to get return on investment...

Goal 2: Build Your Community - this goal applies particularly well to non-profit organizations like Churches, local Government organizations, Community organizations, Charities etc - they need to have online conversations/discussions with their current members and attract new ones.

Strategy: To build an online community, you'd need to nurture a social site with a discussion forum and post regular news on a blog to keep visitors coming back. Make a space for photo-uploads to show what's going on in your community, post podcasts of speeches or presentations for your visitors to download in a members-only area. Make sure members know about your site and that they contribute as well!

Goal 3: Automate Your Customer Service - are you spending a large part of your day getting interrupted by customer care phone calls instead of working on your business? You need an Online Business to be automating some of that for you.

Strategy: Some simple ways to to build a online self-help portal you would be to build a highly customized webform that qualifies your customers requests before they reach you. It would be good to focus on publishing a well organized FAQ page and direct customers to how-to and do-it-yourself articles on your site that you've published before they ask for live help. Not only is this good for your customers but it's good for search-engine optimization too!!

Goal 4: Generate New Leads - if you're a business that's selling high-value high-margin products (especially in the B2B arena) and you're having a tough time with the cold-calling and outbound marketing then you need your Online Business to be generating leads.

Strategy: A bit like automating customer service, you'll need customized webforms that qualify sales with questions such as: what products is the customer interested in? Price-range? Intended purchase period? Focus on publishing high quality information on your products and your services (features, price, value proposition) with calls-to-action to make an inquiry after which you can follow-up with a phone call. Set aside space to publish customer testimonials and positive customer feedback, websites make it easier for your customers to refer you onwards because they just pass your URL to your friends.

Goal 5: Amplify Your Voice - need to get your message out there at minimal cost?

Strategy: You need to focus on email marketing and blogs. Does your site have a incentivized email subscription box like a "Sign-up Here for our monthly specials?" or a "Sign-Up Here for our 5-part email series on recession proofing your small business". This will get you visitors opting-in to receive communications from you which you need to follow up with email-marketing. Too much push-marketing for you? Don't forget you can use your blog to publish material and pull visitors as well by posting your blog headlines on small and niche blog/news-aggregators and slowly building up from there!

Have you thought about your Online Business goals yet? Which ones apply to you and what strategies are you using to reach them? Just remember your website is so much more than an online brochure or an online catalog - it's an essential part of your business that can integrate your sales, support and marketing channels for you!
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