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Mandy McEwen is a digital marketing consultant and Founder of Mod Girl Marketing. Mod Girl is a full-service inbound marketing firm that helps forward-thinking companies achieve strong return on investment (ROI) through a winning combination of content marketing, SEO, and social media strategy. Mandy has been listed as a top marketing influencer across dozens of sites and has been featured in various blogs such as The Huffington Post. Mandy’s newest eBook, The Modern CMO’s Handbook, guides marketers on how to exceed their ROI goals using the latest inbound marketing strategies and tools.

Q. What are some of the benefits of being “small” that a business owner can leverage to beat out the “big” guys?

A. Personalized services. Being small allows businesses to offer one-of-a-kind, unique and personalized services tailored to the unique needs of their clients. The big companies simply cannot offer this type of customer service and for those customers who appreciate the one-on-one attention, a small business has a great shot at winning their business versus the big competitors.

Q. Is there a common place where you see many small business owners go wrong when they start to market online?

A. Social media – this is no surprise. The problem with most small businesses when it comes to social media is that they have no strategy, no consistency, and they lack the know-how to properly connect with and engage their target customer. Social media marketing is so much more than throwing up a few random Facebook posts every now and then. Unfortunately, a lot of small business owners do not grasp the importance of a solid social media strategy and a dedicated social media specialist. Businesses cannot expect to succeed at social media without investing the proper resources into strategy, management, and ongoing optimization.

“The problem with most small businesses when it comes to social media is that they have no strategy, no consistency,”  -Mandy McEwen on where small business owners go wrong    Tweet This

Q. We all know those emails or websites that “look” like spam, but what are some strategies you’ve see business owners do to demonstrate their credibility?

A. Personalization is key. If you want to stand out, make your prospects feel like you care and you truly can help solve their problem. If you’re sending cold emails, take the time to visit the company’s website and comment about something you read or a new product they released. Anything you can say that will make you seem less like a spammer and more like a person will help your chances of getting a response. When it comes to credibility, social proof is key. Make sure you have plenty of customer testimonials and use them where you can to boost credibility with prospects.

Q. With so many places for business owners to turn for online advice, how do you recommend they cut through the noise in order to make an impact?

A. Understand your customer. Know their needs, where they hang out, what problems they are facing, and how they want to be helped. This process is called creating buyer personas and I talk a lot about personas, and include a template, inside The Modern CMO’s Handbook. If you know the digital platforms your ideal target customer frequents and you know what they are searching for, focus on those avenues first. For example: If your target market is 57 year old females from Tennessee who love to bake, you should probably focus on Facebook. Blogging and video marketing would be perfect for this audience as well. Bottom line – know your audience and where they hang out – start there.

Q. When working with new business owners, what are some tools or steps you use to come up with a digital strategy unique to their business

A. My answer to question 4 is where we always start – creating and refining buyer personas. This is such a crucial step and if you get this wrong, your entire strategy could fail and your ROI could be poor. Once you have the buyer personas created, conduct research:

– Keyword research to see what keywords your prospects are searching for

– Competitive research to see what your successful competitors are doing

– Market research to see what blogs and content pieces have been successful recently

Then devise the cohesive digital marketing strategy from your answers.

My favorite tools for research and strategy:

– BuzzSumo

– Ubersuggest.io

– Mod CMO Club (includes templates, checklists, strategies, tools)

Q. Can people expect to get results from purely organic campaigns these days or is it pretty much required that they have an ad budget for a campaign?

A. If you are patient and have the budget, you can see growth that is purely organic. BUT, it’s smarter to start with a good combination of paid advertising and organic. Investing in advertising early on will allow you to see a positive ROI quickly so that you can invest more into organic marketing for future growth. It’s always smart to invest in both, but if you can only afford one, start with the paid until you start increasing revenue, then invest in organic.

Q. Online-to-offline: Do you have any examples of companies doing a great job driving traffic to their physical store through online campaigns?

A. User-generated content is a great way retailers are growing their social media audiences and increasing foot traffic in stores. Retailers like TJ Maxx and Marshalls are utilizing their customers to generate content and promote their brands.

Q. What tool/strategy do you think will make the biggest impact in 2017?

A. Live video is hot right now and we expect that to only grow larger. Video content consistently outperforms photos and text when it comes to likes, shares, website visits, and engagement. Live video just adds another element of engagement and brands that are embracing live video are seeing great results.

Q. Who are some of the influencers who have made a large impact on how you think about online marketing?

A. Ryan Deiss, Frank Kern, Alex Becker, Larry Kim