research phase - blog post

16 Tactics to Help Prospective Clients Find You in the Research Phase

When customers are in the research phase of the sales cycle, how will they find you? 

The research phase of the Buyer Journey is a stage that all customers will go through before making a purchase (we discuss this in greater detail in a previous blog post). It is a safe bet that many (if not all) of these customers are doing their research digitally. 
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Website Launch: Salt Spring Sea Salt

We have a new website launch for Salt Spring Sea Salt that we’re excited to share!

Owners Philippe Marill and Carolyn Kvajic, a husband and wife team, first introduced the gourmet finishing salt at the island’s popular Saturday market. In just a few years, online sales have grown exponentially. Salt Spring Sea Salt is now available in select retail shops in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, and the United States. Salt Spring Sea Salt is getting noticed for many reasons, from the purity of the product and process, to the exceptional taste.

WordPress Website

Phillippe and Carolyn needed a website that suited the needs of their growing business. We created a custom web design with full ecommerce capabilities to draw customers in and reflect their west coast values. Sea salt is a niche market, so we wanted to create a site that conveys their natural approach to harvesting and the simplicity of island living. We started from scratch and figured out exactly what our clients needed, and worked our way out from there, creating a website with clean lines and beautiful images of Salt Spring Island.

It was the pairing of a French culinary tradition with a natural West Coast resource – along with a dash of ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit – that created Salt Spring Sea Salt. Established in 2014, the Canadian company is based on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia and is garnering international recognition for its pure, handcrafted fleur de sel.

Phillippe and Carolyn are passionate about producing a gourmet finishing salt that rivals the very best French sea salt, and providing their customers with exceptional service. This dedication to quality has garnered a lot of attention – from a Royal visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to being featured as a Pit Stop on The Amazing Race Canada.

SEO and Analytics

We worked with Salt Spring Sea Salt to make sure that they didn’t just have a beautiful website, but a search engine optimized one as well. We wanted to make sure that they had all the tools in place to boost their fleur de sel to the top of their niche in Google searches. Providing SEO services on all of our websites ensures that our clients get a increase in online visibility and can generate more business.

We are proud to work with clients like Phillippe and Carolyn to help them achieve websites that are not only beautiful to visit, but are intuitive to navigate and deliver results.


Website Launch: Vital Plumbing + Heating

We are excited to announce the launch of the new Vital Plumbing + Heating website.

Vital Plumbing Website by Out-Smarts Marketing

Vital Plumbing + Heating is a locally-based and family owned company that has a long history with their clients in the Lower Mainland. They handle projects of all sizes, whether their clients are in the initial phases of a construction project or repairing the heating systems in an apartment building, they have a team of dedicated professionals ready to provide expert knowledge and service.   

WordPress Website

We worked with Vital Plumbing + Heating to create their vision of a WordPress website with a streamlined user interface that draws potential clients in with a fresh feel and easy to navigate design. Because dealing with the internal plumbing of a home can be stressful for homeowners and construction companies alike, we wanted to create a site that conveys a professional, simple solution to whatever issues they may have. To achieve this, we used a combination of clean lines and captivating imagery to attract their target audience.

Formerly known as Pacific Coast Ventures Inc., the foundation of what is now Vital Plumbing + Heating is a true Canadian immigrant success story. Arriving here with modest means, founder Ahmad Arang gained employment and Red Seal journeyman qualifications and went on to start his own business from scratch. Almost 20 years later, armed with a team of local experts, their company is well established with a proven track record of excellence.

SEO and Analytics

We worked with Vital Plumbing + Heating to make sure that they didn’t just have a beautiful website, but a search engine optimized one as well. Providing SEO services on all of our websites ensures that our clients get a boost in online visibility and can generate more business. As with all of our builds, we submitted the website to Google Analytics and Bing to gain more exposure.

We are proud to work with companies such as Vital Plumbing + Heating to help them achieve websites that are not only beautiful to visit, but are intuitive to navigate and deliver results.

 


Marketing Predictions and Digital Trends for 2018

Ten years into the great social media experiment and 2017 was the year we saw Facebook hit the 2 billion user mark, the proliferation of real-time video across social platforms and the continuing email renaissance. With 2018 coming up fast upon us what better time to reflect on the past year, to dust off the crystal ball and to predict what 2018 will bring for marketers.

This post is divided into five sections to mirror the disciplines Out-Smarts focuses on websites trends, SEO – getting found when people search online, email marketing, social media and overall marketing strategy.

Website Design Trends

We know that Google is going to continue to emphasize the importance of mobile in 2018 so expect to see function taking precedence over form with a focus on usability and minimalist site navigation and content proliferating. It’s going to be interesting to see how the content is king crusaders balance their obsession with publishing content with minimalism and mobile. Expect to see more valuable content related to buyer intent rather than simply content for the sake of putting something out there.

Will 2018 be the year when small businesses finally catch up? 50% of small businesses still don’t have a website; we’re hoping this new year will be the one the laggards finally catch up. It is interesting that social media adoption for small business is much higher than website adoption. The popularity of social media is likely because of a low barrier to entry of social platforms. However, it is important to consider that you don’t own your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter pages (or any other social media presence you might have) the social media company owns it. What happens if they switch directions or go out of business? A website belongs to your business, not to a third party.

Watch out for more animation (logos in particular) and websites that incorporate GIFs in 2018 too – hopefully, they’re less cheesy than their Flash predecessors. Artificial Intelligence is going to be everywhere in 2018 too as enhancements make Chatbots get better and better at answering questions and simulating conversations with website visitors.

Search Engine Optimisation

Don’t let anyone tell you that keyword research is no longer important. It is and will continue to be, but there will be a shift in 2018 to focus more on semantic search, buyer intent and topics rather than specific keywords. SEOs will focus more on having their site show up at the right time when people are actually considering a purchase, rather than having the site show up to attract particular personas.

Another aspect that should be on your SEO radar in 2018 is voice search which means you need to hone your long tail keywords, i.e. keyword phrases that are hyper-specific to what you are selling.

Image search will continue to grow in 2018 so now might be the time to make sure all the images on your website have well thought out and optimized alt tags.

Email Campaigns

The email renaissance will continue in 2018. Get ready to watch videos embedded directly in email campaigns. Technological enhancements in email clients will continue to lead to more and more email apps that support embedded video. Right now less than half of all email clients can play embedded videos but thanks to Apple mail, iOS and Samsung this is changing. Up until now, most senders have opted to embed a fake play button in the email with a link to the video on a separate site or by GIF.

Including video in emails can lead to big increases in open rates – Campaign Monitor

Watch for more sophistication in list segmentation too. Segmenting campaigns so that specific audiences receive emails that contain content tailored to their unique perspective.

Social Media

2017 was the year of streaming video in social media; LinkedIn In and Twitter followed Facebook Live’s lead and began supporting live streaming video content. In 2018 watch out for growing adoption of these technologies and more creative live streams.

Over 8 billion videos or 100 million hours of videos are watched on Facebook every day (TechCrunch, 2016). – via Buffer

Not doing short video is not an option – Kat Hahn

In 2018 we will also see the increased adoption of short-lived content, content that’s only available for a short period of time before it disappears, – like Instagram stories and Snapchat. Marketers must start developing strategies to maximize the reach and impact of ephemeral content as well as considering tactics to get this content noticed.

On platforms like Instagram and Facebook, only a tiny percentage of followers actually see the content you share on your page. To get noticed in 2018, you will need to invest in ads on these platforms. Consider video ads to spice things up a little.

Social media analytics, measuring tools and management solutions will become more sophisticated in 2018 with an emphasis on enterprise social marketing integrating all platforms.

How Marketing Strategies will Evolve in 2018

2018

I am going to go out on a limb here and predict that 2018 will be the year that our obsession with all things digital and only digital will end. It’s also going to be the year we’re going to start calling our discipline marketing again (rather than digital). Marketing in 2018 will encompass all aspects of the marketing mix, both online and off and marketers will use the means most likely to help them attract their target audience.

Consider this, there are 65 million business pages on Facebook, 90% of businesses use social media. These are substantial numbers, but for marketers this means that it is becoming increasingly difficult, not to mention more expensive, to get noticed. If you want to attract your target audience’s attention in 2018, then widen your horizons and consider sending them a direct mail piece (depending on the audience) in a nice coloured envelope with handwritten wording. It will likely be the only physical mail the recipient gets that day (or maybe that week or month!), they’re going to open it, and if your copy is effective they will act on it!

Conclusion

2018 is going to be an interesting year; technological advancements will continue to speed up. To be effective as marketers, it’s going to be important not simply to jump on the bandwagon of the next big thing but to consider options strategically and with your target audience in mind (rather than from a product or service-centric perspective). That said, video popularity has been growing year over year and won’t stop. Cisco predicted that video would account for 80% of internet traffic by 2020. So if you do nothing else, consider how you might incorporate video into your digital approach in 2018.


Search Engine Optimization – Small Business SEO Checklist

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) isn’t something that should happen as an afterthought. If you are planning a blog post, a new page on your small business website or other content such as an event, new product or service, it is important to consider SEO right at the start. If you do so then your post, page or listing will be more relevant, in demand and it will get more traffic, visitors and shares. What is there to lose? Here’s a Small Business SEO Checklist to make this easy for you and to help you stay on track with some of the simple SEO tactics that can help your post, page or listing get found:

Small Business SEO Checklist

1. First determine what your blog post is going to be about and draft some pertinent keywords – i.e. words that your clients might use to search for your content and that describe what your post is all about. Go with your gut instinct and think about the words your customers use when asking you about this topic.Google suggestions - Small Business SEO Checklist

2. Use Google Trends to determine whether people are searching for these words or phrases. Google suggestions is also a great way to determine if this is a good topic, just start entering your word or phrase in Google and see how it completes it in the search dropdown that shows up. The suggestions that show up first are the most popular searches relating to your keyword. If you want to go really deep you can use Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool to determine the competition and value of your intended words or phrases (which isn’t ideal as it’s based on data from paid advertising and not overall search), or even better, a tool like Keyword Explorer from MOZ.

Another even easier way to determine the competition for a key word / phrase is to Google it and see how many results there are.

Your goal in this step is to determine phrases or words that have a high volume but low competition.

3. After doing the research in 2 above, determine a) your focus keyword / phrase, and b) secondary keywords that apply (use these in the text when writing your content). Craft your text and content around these.

4. To make it more likely that your page or post will be found when people search for it, the word / phrase that you have identified as your focus keyword / phrase should be used in the:

  • Title of your post
  • META title
  • META Description
  • Focus keyword
  • Alt Tags of your images
  • Text of your page – but not repetitively – you are writing for people not search engines! A good rule of thumb is 3 – 6 times for a 300 – 600 word post or page
  • In your headers and subheadings
  • URL

Yoast is a great tool to help you with this, if you are using WordPress I highly recommend it.

5. The META on your site might be the first impression anyone sees of your small business so take a little extra time to craft it well. When entering your META follow the META tag rules below- if you are using Yoast this plugin will help you with this:

Your META title (in purple in the image below) should be less than 56 characters, META description (below the URL in grey on the below)  should be less than 156 and it should compel people to click.

META Tags - Small Business SEO Checklist

The focus keyword phrase we’ve used in this post is Small Business SEO Checklist FYI!

SEO is Important

Small Business SEO ChecklistI meet a lot of people who think SEO is too technical so they simply avoid doing it but it doesn’t have to be and ignoring means you are losing out on lots of potential visits and shares. I hope that this simple Small Business SEO Checklist will encourage you to add SEO to your posts and pages. Doing so could be huge for your site and your business!