Creating a Powerful Online Presence for Your Business
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Rick Nuske: Hi, and welcome back to the My Future Business Show. My name is Rick Nuske and I’m on the line with Marc Apple from forwardpush.com. How are you Marc?
Marc Apple: I’m great, Rick. How’s it going today?
Rick Nuske: Oh, we’re doing very well. Got two feet and a heartbeat. Cannot complain.
Rick Nuske: Now Marc and I were speaking a little earlier about hosting and some of the challenges it can cause for your business. And interestingly from that point on, Marc was talking about a recent client and how he helped them move over, not only hosting but started to do all their marketing and all these wonderful things which we are going to be focusing on today. But before we jump into digital marketing and social media, Marc, I’d love to learn a little bit about you and how you got to be, what you’re doing and what you do today.
Marc Apple: Sure. Great question Rick. So I’ve always been into marketing ever since I was a teenager. I fell in love with music at an early age and I decided to start a magazine when I was 14 years old. And by the time I got out of high school, you could get that magazine all over the U.S. I just created this distribution network where it was available where people would buy it. And back in those days, people would actually send you a letter and ask you to send them the magazine in the mail to them. That started my career in marketing, which eventually led to me working for various record labels and radio stations, doing their marketing and promotion around the U.S. So I lived in plenty of different states throughout the U.S., all the way from Detroit to Colorado, to Seattle, to San Francisco. And now I find myself in Atlanta where I currently run the ad agency, like you said, Forward Push.
Rick Nuske: Yup. That’s great. And I’ve been looking at your bio. You’ve worked with some pretty major corporations. Has that helped shape your perspective of digital marketing landscape and the marketing process overall?
Marc Apple: Yeah. 100%. A lot of times when I’m meeting with a small business client, I’ll share with them my background of working at these major companies. And I really believe that whatever they’re doing on Wall Street, in the ivory towers and these big high rise buildings, you can do on a local level right on main street. Certainly the budgets are different and maybe the tactics are slightly different, but when you think about it, that big company, they’re blogging, so why shouldn’t the small company on main street be able to run a blog? Those big companies are sending out emails, writing newsletters, why shouldn’t small businesses be able to have an email news letter program?
Rick Nuske: Yeah.
Marc Apple: Everyone has access to it. And really, if someone else is doing it, you can do the same and that’s what I try to tell my clients, and that really shapes how I think about what we can do.
Rick Nuske: Yeah, great insight. Thank you so much Marc for sharing that item. This is an audience that is small to medium size businesses, startup entrepreneurs, Marc. They love this sort of content. Now, in terms of being able to promote your small business online, what are some of the, I guess the pitfalls and some of the benefits that they should be looking out for if this is brand new to a business?
Marc Apple: Yeah. So the pitfalls, I had this conversation with someone earlier today, we were talking about their marketing. It was a small business owner. And throughout the conversation they kept bringing up what their competitor was doing and how successful they thought it was. And I kept telling them that we’re only looking at it one side. We’re just seeing what someone’s doing. We actually don’t know their metrics. We don’t know their analytics. We don’t really know how successful they are. We’re just going on sort of a gut, “Oh, they have a pretty website.” Or, “Oh, they’re always sending out emails.” But the reality might be that no one ever goes to their website. Maybe no one ever opens their emails.
Marc Apple: So I always find that a lot of small business owners get in this trap of, “What is everyone else doing,” versus, “What should I be doing?”
Rick Nuske: Yeah. It’s funny because I used to look outwards and I ended up giving up on worrying about everybody else’s, I guess, practices in their business, and it frees you up, doesn’t it?
Marc Apple: It’s most certainly does. I always try to remind our clients and myself even with running our own agency it’s like, “Stay in your own lane,” is something that I say to say to my team a lot, and I’ll say it to our clients. If we focus on what we want to do or what the small business owner that’s listening now wants to accomplish, then you really don’t have to worry about what anyone else is doing. Because really, at the end of the day, the people that are listening right now, they know who they’re trying to reach best. They know who their customers are, who their clients are, and they should know how to speak to them. And so if the guy down the street’s doing something a little bit different, it doesn’t really matter.
Rick Nuske: Yeah, absolutely. And I wonder, there are so many avenues that a small business can go down, Marc, in terms of their choices. It’s a worry for some of the people that I speak with. They said, “There’s so many platforms and I really can’t be everywhere all at once.” What would you say to people when they ask you that sort of question?
Marc Apple: Yeah, so I think the first thing to start with in that case is with Google. Google has so many different free things that you can use to figure out what your next move should be in marketing. So, whether that’s Google Analytics, [inaudible 00:06:40], people are coming to your site? What are the most viewed pages on your site? Really trying to figure out from a high level what’s actually happening and what’s working. That’s one way to help steer which direction you should go in. Google also has Google My Business, right? This is the online directory for every business. You can go ahead and register your business with Google under this Google My Business. You can put photos of your business, you can ask your customers to place reviews. I really look at this as the first step in becoming involved on having your business on the internet. And it’s zero dollars. It takes a little bit of time, but it starts to get you into the game.
Rick Nuske: Yes. Do you think, it’s a question I’ve often asked myself, given that Google is this behemoth and they have I guess almost a monopoly over this environment, is it good not to have these choices and just go with Google or are there any other options? And what do you say to people that ask that question?
Marc Apple: Yeah. So I believe, and just like you said, Rick, is certainly that they are having a large chunk of control over the internet. But it’s for a reason. I mean, how many times have you said to someone, “Just go Google it.”
Rick Nuske: Yes.
Marc Apple: Right?
Rick Nuske: Every day.
Marc Apple: Right? So we all have to play the game and me included, right. I also own a small business. So I think everything starts there. Once you have that footprint down, so now you’ve got a Google My Business page, you’re posting photos to it, you’re getting reviews. There certainly are others places where a business can promote itself. So there’s online directories, whether that’s Yelp or maybe due to your industry, there might be a specific directory where you can have a profile where your customers can leave reviews. The whole idea behind both of those is for people to find you and then validate by seeing what other people have said about you so that they know that they want to work with you.
Marc Apple: So that’s taking it from one step to go into another. So we went from Google My Business to being listed somewhere else. Then from there, really making sure that your website is solid, and then after that it’s social media. I kind of look at things in an order of progression. So the first thing would be making sure you’ve got this Google My Business page. Really solid. It’s updated because it is the first thing that someone most likely is going to find for you.
Rick Nuske: That more about the, about you top of content at that stage?
Marc Apple: Yup, exactly. That’s going to have your phone number. It’s going to have your web address. It’s going to have the hours that you are open. People can write in questions, or as a business owner you can actually post your own questions and answers. So you’re really helping the consumer start to figure out who you are right away. And that, how I look at it also is like self selection. Is the right person going to be calling you for your services? Allow Google to help you. And it’s at no charge again. So it’s almost the perfect tool for a small business owner.
Rick Nuske: Yeah, that’s great insights. I’m sitting here thinking about this idea of self selection. And then it made me think about business processes and how you can almost automate much of your digital marketing. What’s your views on the automation and self selection processes?
Marc Apple: Yeah. So huge fan of marketing automation. We not only use it for ourselves, but we use it for the majority of our clients. The idea is just to make it simple. Every small business owner I talked to has never once said to me, “You know, I got into this so that I could do marketing.” Right?
Rick Nuske: That is true.
Marc Apple: They got into it because they love being a chiropractor. They love being a real estate agent. They loved being whatever it is they do. They never once say, “Aw, I got into being a chiropractor so I could do email newsletters.” So, when you have automation in place and you have it on your website for someone to sign up to receive your email newsletter, and it’s automated, then a welcome email goes out to them welcoming them to being part of your subscriber base. You don’t have to do anything whether that person signs up at three o’clock in the afternoon or three o’clock in the morning. That’s just one example of a task that you can automate.
Rick Nuske: And there are several out there and there are some great platforms around. I’m sitting here, Marc, just quickly, I thought to myself, “Marketing and sales, they’re related but they’re different.” How much of each does someone need to know, especially if there a one, two person organization?
Marc Apple: Yeah, I think the marketing part is figuring out what works for you best. There’s no secret combination and I think there is really no solid combination to tell someone. I know all the small business owners that I work with, everything’s a little bit different for each person based on their needs. And that’s for the marketing side. The sales side is really just being a great people person. And I think anyone can do that. If someone’s coming to you for your services, they really just have to know, like and trust you to sign up, to close the deal, to register for whatever it is that you’re selling. So I look at it that way, that sales is really just people to people. People love doing business with people they like.
Rick Nuske: Yeah, it’s one of those things that if somebody’s typically an offline business, Marc, they’re a traditional bricks and mortar type of business, is it valid for them to be considering doing any sort of digital marketing at all?
Marc Apple: I think a hundred percent. A hundred percent. I was reading this statistic recently that said, “Most consumers, every single day receive 4,000 plus marketing messages.” So when you think about that number, like how does that even happen? And I was trying to figure it out one day for myself. And so I woke up in the morning, like everyone, I grabbed my phone and I opened Facebook or Twitter or Instagram and next thing I know there’s a bunch of ads there. So, within my first five minutes of being awake, I’m already starting to see marketing messages come right to me. All right? And then I go downstairs and I turn on the TV for the morning news, there are ads. So all of these marketing messages started coming to me, right? I listen to a podcast, if it’s sponsored, there’s ads. I get on the internet, all of a sudden there’s ads. And you can see how this just stacks up and when you think about it, you’re probably like, “4,000? I hit that by lunchtime,” right?
Rick Nuske: Yes.
Marc Apple: So, right. So when we talk about this brick and mortar, well, unless I’m actually driving to you, like your destination, so I have an appointment to see you or I need the widget that you’re selling, how else am I going to be reminded of you? Because we all are online all day long. Right? Whether that’s scrolling through Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or any of the social medias, LinkedIn, etc., we’re always there. And so for a brick and mortar to ignore what’s happening online, whether that’s having an active Facebook page, Instagram, whatever the social media would make sense for them, we’re running ads. I think ignoring that, you’re really ignoring a large segment, in fact, probably most of the population to remind them about what great work you do.
Rick Nuske: Yeah, and this is wonderful insight for everybody who’s on the show today. Because I’ve often said, “If you’re not online, where are you in fact?” 21st century businesses just need to accept in many respects Marc, that that there is an online component to their business. Now, I’m sitting here thinking to myself, you’ve talked about some of the platforms, social media platforms and getting involved and it makes me wonder, should you have your own website so that you own that property so that if somebody changes their terms or conditions, that you can continue to promote your business? What’s your view on that?
Marc Apple: 100%. I am all in favor of people having their own property and then using the rental properties to enhance what they own. And so by own, I mean a website. And the rentals, I look at the Facebooks, the Twitters and the LinkedIns, the Instagrams of the world. For the agency, we do our own podcast as well. And this morning the topic that I talked about was that we’re now starting to see on Instagram there’s a little bit less organic reach happening. So we saw this with Facebook, right? Facebook originally told every small business, “Come on, get a Facebook business page. You don’t need a [inaudible 00:15:49]. Get as many likes as you can and we’re just going to show your business off to everyone.” And then suddenly the tables were turned. Right? Now, as every small business owner knows, we know a percentage, a very small percentage of your likes now see your posts, unless you want to play the advertising game on Facebook, and that’s certainly fine. That’s the model. But Instagram, owned by Facebook, we’re now starting to see that as well.
Marc Apple: So what do you do if you’ve put all your eggs in one basket, whether that’s Facebook or Instagram and all of a sudden you can’t talk to your audience anymore without paying? Wouldn’t you rather have them all come to your website? Wouldn’t you rather have their email addresses so that you could email them knowing that at least you’re going to hit everyone’s inbox, versus a post that you worked so hard to create, whether it’s graphics, videos, or even just texts, that possibly no one’s going to see unless you put some dollars behind it.
Rick Nuske: It’s clear to me that Forward Push has a great team. I’ve checked out the team there and you’re doing some wonderful things. When somebody new comes to you and they say, “Hey look, I’m a small medium size business and I need your help.” I’d like to shift the focus on the processes that you take them through.
Marc Apple: Sure, yep. So we get those calls quite often. And a lot of what we do, I think in the beginning of our relationships with anyone is discovery. The foundation of the agency is really to spend extra time with someone to become their marketing team. Whether that’s a small business of one owner or five people working at that small business. And we take the time to not only look at their website, we’ll look at their Google Analytics, we’ll look at their social media platforms. We spend a lot of time asking them questions and really figuring out what those answers are. And that just has to with their website and some of those social channels.
Marc Apple: But we also do something that is a little bit unique as an agency that likes working with small business and medium sized businesses, is we start to dive into what we call buyer personas. So each one of our prospective clients gets a buyer persona workbook for them to fill out. And this buyer persona workbook is their homework for them really to study what type of clients do they actually want to do business with. Because a lot of times if you ask a small business owner, “Who do you want to come in?”
Marc Apple: They’ll say, “Well, anyone that wants to buy, or anyone that wants to need.” The problem with that is “anyone” is not a good answer.
Rick Nuske: No.
Marc Apple: Right? But a lot of small business owners think that “anyone” is an acceptable answer. So this buyer persona homework really allows them to drill down, to really say, “You know what? I want this type of person. They’re this age, they’re this gender, they make this much money.” These are the concerns they have. These are the things they like, these are the things they disliked. Here’s how I can help them. And when we know that we can help our small business owners stay on track. Because it means that everything that we do on the marketing side is geared towards this buyer persona or buyer personas.
Marc Apple: It also helps them when they come up with those crazy ideas that small business owners will all the time, which we certainly love, but we can always go back to the buyer persona workbook and say, “Does this fall in line with actually who we’re trying to reach? Or is this an oddball thing that, we’re just chasing the squirrel?” Right?
Rick Nuske: Yeah. And once you’ve narrowed down that focus, I suspect everything for the client becomes much easier.
Marc Apple: Much easier. And it’s amazing the feedback that we get from clients after they fill out the buyer persona workbook. Because most people don’t do it. It’s almost like the small business owner that doesn’t do the business plan, which we certainly, everyone I know is sort of guilty of that. Whether it’s even just doing the one page business plan or the 50 page business plan, it’s something that small business owners tend to skip. And this buyer persona I think is equally as important. So with our clients, it’s something that we go through every six months and every year with them. So we’re constantly updating it because we know business models change and certainly the type of people that you’re attracting changes. But at least for a consistent amount of months, we need them to be focused, and we need us to be focused as well.
Rick Nuske: Yeah. I often think about the investment in time and money. And I think to myself, “How can I be the most efficient to get the maximum return on my time and money investment?” What’s the process that you take someone through to help them understand the benefit of working with Forward Push`?
Marc Apple: So part of the beginning of working with us is setting a benchmark. Whether that’s looking at their website and determining how they rank within a Google search. So some keyword research. We do a competitive analysis for them. So we’re looking at where their competitors rank within Google. We can also look at their competitors’ social media accounts. And we started really laying a path to say, “Okay, here’s where we are at day one.” We can estimate to say, “Here we are and where we’d like to be three months in, six months in, 12 months.” So we start to give them a realistic path so that they can see the return on the investment. Part of that and our ability is to speak to them and make sure that they understand what’s the average lifetime value of one of their customers. So while they’re spending money on marketing, how many customers do we need to bring in? How many customers need to convert to a new customer for this to have a positive return on their investment?
Marc Apple: So we look at that as well, because we know with small businesses, it’s not a blank check, right? It’s not an unlimited amount of marketing money. And there is someone that’s actually watching how much is being spent. Maybe on the larger side where it’s a corporation, maybe there’s not so much care being given. So we’re extremely sensitive to that. So when I talk to a small business and we started looking at lifetime value, we have to start to figure out, if you’re going to spend $3,000 a month on marketing, 2000, whatever the number might be, 10,000, how many customers do we need to generate in order to just make that up? And then we start to figure out what the plan and the strategy is going to be. Because at a small business level, sometimes it actually doesn’t make sense. You might not be able to do blogging or have a social media strategy. You might just be able to do some of those free things we talked about until you can raise the value of your customers.
Rick Nuske: Yeah you talked about earlier, some keyword research. I noticed here in the breakdown that if listeners to the show give you their website address, you will help them do some keyword research.
Marc Apple: For sure. Yep. So anyone that reaches out to me personally, it’s Marc firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me your website and I’ll be happy to figure out what are the top five keywords that your website ranks for. And if you’d to tell me one of your competitors, I’ll even do the same. I think it’s really, and the reason we do it, because I really feel like it’s eyeopening. A lot of people will come to us and say, “Oh, I ranked number one for this.”
Marc Apple: And I always ask them, “Well how many times have you searched for that yourself?” And it’s always them searching for it and Google we know will give you the best answer you’re looking for.
Rick Nuske: It’ll give you what you want.
Marc Apple: It’ll give you exactly what you want. No one’s usually unhappy with the first or second choice, right?
Rick Nuske: No.
Marc Apple: So it’s always eye opening because we’re going to use professional tools to really show. So, we’ll get those conversations, we’ll all hear, “Oh well my competitor’s always number one for X, Y, Z, and X, Y, Z town.”
Marc Apple: And we’ll actually be able to show them, “You know what? Actually not true. You just keep searching for their names so their number one.”
Rick Nuske: Yes. There are so many different rabbit holes we could have gone down today on today’s call. Marc, this is such an expansive topic that you know what? We can’t ignore it. It’s there. It’s going to be omnipresent. We need to be educated, we need to know what we’re doing and instead of wasting time as small to medium size business owners, I definitely recommend that you reach out to Marc. Now, Marc, when people want to work with you, where exactly are they going to find you?
Marc Apple: Yup. So on the internet.
Rick Nuske: On the internet, funny that.
Marc Apple: Yeah funny that [crosstalk 00:25:00]. And it’s very simple: forwardpush.com.
Rick Nuske: There you go.
Marc Apple: Yep, yep. Very simple. There is a contact page there. And also of course we’re on Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn, and it’s all under the name Forward Push.
Rick Nuske: Well there you go. It’s that easy. It really is that easy to get this started for your business. Definitely reach out to Marc. I’ll be making the links available back to Marc and his wonderful team.
Rick Nuske: Marc, thank you so very much for spending some time with me on the My Future Business Show today.
Marc Apple: You got it Rick. It was my pleasure. Thanks so much.
Rick Nuske: Thanks for joining us today. If you enjoyed the call, then make sure to subscribe. Leave a comment, share us with your friends and book your spot on the show at myfuturebusiness.com/interviews. And if you’re looking for solutions that will help grow your business, then visit myfuturebusiness.com/shop.
By Marc Apple
Marc Apple is recognized as a leader in the marketing industry and has 20+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their digital marketing. He specializes in website design, SEO, social media, and paid search programs. He is a frequent contributor to other marketing websites and speaks regularly about marketing to small business owners and startups. To learn about Marc and to contact him, visit his author bio page.
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