Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right: Learn from Your Competitors’ Mistakes

They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. And when it comes to marketing, many small- and mid-sized businesses are all too happy to imitate what their competitors are doing … which means they often wind up copying the mistakes, too.

Copying a marketing idea simply because you see someone else doing it is not a smart way to run a business. Borrowing ideas makes sense. But you need to know they’re winners before moving ahead with something similar. And that calls for some diligent monitoring.

Start systematically monitoring your competitors

Choose five key competitors (maybe even choose a different group each year), then “Like” their Facebook pages, follow their tweets, sign up for their mailings, subscribe to their customer newsletters, and regularly check their websites. In other words, act like an interested customer.

There are also online services that can help:

Sign up with, and you’ll be notified via email whenever something new about a competitor appears on the Internet.
With, you can see actual samples of your competitors marketing mailers, marketing email and more.
Use to see the ads your competitors are placing on the Internet.

Separating the hits from the misses

The Top 5 Marketing Strategies of Successful Small Businesses

With all the so-called marketing experts making spectacles of themselves online today, it’s harder than ever to separate the marketing strategies that really do work from those that are duds, lies, scams or repeats of ideas spread by people who have no business offering marketing advice.

So instead of letting the loudest voices lead the way, we decided to search out some of the most successful small businesses, and investigate the marketing strategies they use to pump up sales and attract more clients.

Some of the businesses using these ideas are real estate agents and longtime Xpressdocs’ clients, some are from outside the real estate industry. But they all have one thing in common: they’re proven winners.

If you’re on the hunt for marketing strategies with true breakthrough potential, follow the examples set by the leading small businesses:

They ‘integrate’ their marketing

Instead of relying too much on one method of marketing (direct mail, email, social media, public relations, etc.), the most successful small businesses combine a variety of those mediums into an integrated marketing campaign.


6 Secrets to Closing More Business Deals

No one likes to be badgered and bullied into moving forward with a business deal. But if prospective customers are left to their own devices, most will take the path of least resistance, which is usually to take no action at all.

If you want to be successful at sales, you need to be able to help people make up their minds and overcome their natural tendency to procrastinate.

Of course, every sales process should be focused on drawing out the unique needs of the prospective buyer, and establishing a personal relationship. But at some point, the paperwork needs to be signed and handshakes made. The deal needs to close in order to be considered a sale. That’s when you need to do something like …

The Very Best Deals and Discounts to Offer at the Holidays

According to recent predictions from two different companies that study consumer trends, the 2013 holiday shopping season is either going to be one of the worst in recent history for retailers, or just mildly slow. But play your cards right, and your business will be one of the ones that comes out on top when all is said and done.

The best way to combat lethargic consumer spending is with creative discounts and exciting special offers. Big discounts can cost big money – and often only produce short-term wins. But if you’re creative and strategic with your specials, the benefits will not only be rewarding but long-lasting. Included below are some of our very best ideas.

Offer a discount in return for more marketing access/customer information – This kind of offer not only helps to move product now, it fills your marketing database with valuable customer contact information for later. Ideas include:

“Update your customer profile in the next five days, and we’ll give you an extra $5 in bonus rewards.”

“Get free return shipping when you register as a VIP customer.”

“Sign up for our email newsletter and save 10% on your next purchase.”

“Like us on Facebook and we’ll ship your next order for free.”


Back to Basics: The 10 Commandments of Good Marketing

It’s easy to get lost in the details when you’re putting together a new marketing effort – which is why we recommend you stop what you’re doing and take a moment to review the ten commandments of good marketing included below:

Thou shall always use the right marketing medium
No single medium can be successful for all […]

Never Advertised Online Before? Here’s How to Place an Ad with Google

Buying an ad in the local newspaper has been standard practice for most small- and mid-sized businesses for decades. The problem with that marketing strategy today: Traditional newspaper readership has been in dramatic decline for years (in 2002, just 41 percent of Americans said they read the daily print newspaper; today, that number has dropped to 23 percent).

Meanwhile, the number of people getting their news (and just about everything else) from the Internet is on a rapid rise. Today, the average American spends 32 hours a month doing something online; and a whopping 76 percent of the public reads the news on the Web.

So if your customers and potential customers have all flocked to the Web, maybe it’s time you started advertising there, too. As they say, “it doesn’t take a genius” to figure these things out.

Most businesses that advertise online use Google AdWords. Those are the text-only ads that appear in the margins of your computer screen whenever you do a Google search for something. They also appear in the margins of millions of websites.

Unlike with newspaper advertising, there’s no cost to post a Google AdWords ad, however, each time someone clicks on it, the advertiser – that’s you – pays a pre-determined rate (usually between 35 and 45 cents per click).

Yes, it’s more convoluted and confusing than buying a newspaper ad. But the cost for giving it a try is very small (Google even offers free-trials from time to time). Here’s how to get started:

4 Ways to Improve Your Online Marketing with Google Analytics

As a small business owner it can be difficult to understand the results from your online marketing initiatives without paying a lot of money for expensive software. How do you know if your website and online marketing campaigns are effective? Fortunately, Google Analytics is a powerful analytics tool that helps you to monitor traffic patterns and the effectiveness of your website and it is totally free. Here are some of the features that could benefit your small business.

How visitors are viewing your website

Understanding what technologies are being used to view your website can tell you a lot about your visitors and helps for optimizing your web design. For instance, if a good majority of your visitors use a Chrome browser over Internet Explorer, you could infer that they are tech-savvy and you would want to test your web design thoroughly in that browser. In addition, you can also see which devices are being used to view your website. With mobile devices continuously growing in popularity, you might want to consider building a mobile-friendly version of your website.

6 Ways to Build Targeted Marketing Campaigns

Many small- and mid-sized businesses are loath to launch a segmented marketing campaign. They’re so used to generic campaigns that the idea of launching a marketing effort that only appeals to a sub-group can be downright frightening.

The key: Remember that marketing to sub-groups is almost always much more lucrative than any generic campaign. Sub groups with a real affinity for your product or service will buy more, buy more often, and spread the good word about your business.

Generic advertising is everywhere, and people have learned to simply tune it out. If you want to open their eyes to what you have to sell, you’ve got to present it in way that resonates with them on a personal level. That’s what segment marketing is all about.

Opening Doors with Word-of-Mouth Marketing

According to WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) a whopping 92% percent of consumers worldwide trust recommendations from friends and family more than any form of advertising. And, when asked what sources “influence your decision to use or not use a particular company, brand or product,” 72% claim reviews from family members or friends exert a “great deal” or “fair amount” of influence.

Sure. Okay. But you can’t control what people tell their friends and family about your product or service, right? Wrong. Customer service and advertising are actually the two most powerful drivers of word-of-mouth marketing.

Satisfy their Customer Service Needs First

There’s nothing like exemplary customer service to get people talking about your business. But don’t make the mistake of believing you only need to be better than your direct competitors. Your customers and prospective clients are actually judging you on how well your service stacks up against UPS, Wal Mart, Amazon, and all the other service providers they use. They don’t differentiate, and neither should you: Study how companies in other industries handle things, and incorporate their best ideas into your own service offerings.


Who’s Talking About Your Business Online?

With all the places for people to post their personal opinions online today, it’s more important than ever that you know how to monitor and track what’s being said about you, your products and services.

A few positive tweets or blog postings from respected sources (“He was smart and savvy from beginning to end; I’d recommend his services to anyone.”) can have new customers clamoring for your attention – especially if you’re an independent sales agent whose livelihood depends on referrals, word-of-mouth marketing and repeat business. While negative listings on any of the peer-review sites (“The lobby was filthy and the customer service non-existent.”) can just as easily send sales into a slide.


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