Do you ever wish there was an effective and efficient marketing strategy out there that could bring you new customers while at the same time building loyalty with your current ones? Poof — wish granted.

Referral marketing is a seriously underutilized method of driving traffic and revenue by small businesses, likely because of their limited time, budgets, and tech resources. But the good news is that referral marketing doesn’t have to be costly or complicated. Your program can be as simple or robust as you’d like — the important thing is that you have one.

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When it comes to creating community around your small business, there are lots of different routes to take. We’ve talked about creating community with offline efforts, in-kind donations, and rewards programs. Today we’re going to talk about creating a literal community using established social media tools.

There are three major providers of social media communities: Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. Because we are talking about communities with a business and marketing focus, we’re going to exclude Facebook for today, since you have to join or create a group from a personal profile instead of business page on this platform.

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During the month of August, we’ll be talking about how you can help your small business succeed by creating community around your brand. One way to do this is by getting know your audience well, and celebrating them in your marketing efforts.

A great example of this tactic is YouTube’s declaration of Geek Week, which began August 4th and goes through the 10th. YouTube knows that a huge part of their user base is made up of self-declared geeks, and they are rewarding their loyalty by celebrating “geek culture” all week long:

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As more and more companies – many of them small businesses – enter the marketplace, it’s more important than ever to set yourself apart. One of the most effective and long-lasting ways to do this is by creating a strong and enduring brand for your business.

If there are 25 other wedding photographers working in your area, how will you make sure that clients choose you over your competitors? By creating a brand that helps people really understand how your business aligns with their own values and associations.

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For today’s post on web design tips and trends, we’re bringing out the big guns. Meet Justin, Mikael, and Rebecca — Webs’ intrepid team of UI/Product Designers.

What do you think is the biggest trend in web design right now?

MikaelFlat design is getting a lot of attention right now. That is, putting colors and images right up against each other without drop shadows, bevels, and gradients. Think Window 8 and Microsoft’s new look. While flat design can be really nice, it’s important to use it appropriately – as with any other design trend. Do not just follow a trend, but do what makes your website look best and communicate the message — and your brand – better.

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Last month we talked a lot about small business branding, and how creating a strong brand can add a great deal of value to your business in the long run. But what do we mean when we talk about “brand value”?

Brand value is a term that comes up a lot for companies with shareholders, because positive brand value can do a lot to convince people to invest in a business. It also comes up when talking about the buying and selling of companies when determining an appropriate price.

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Have you ever run a search in Google for your company’s name or a product and noticed that a competitor has usurped your number one spot? If you have, you’re not alone. Many companies have fallen from their cushy top spots only to be replaced by a copycat website who spells their name just differently enough to avoid a lawsuit or a website which uses keywords related to your business, but have no relation to their own. These types of competitive practices are downright dirty and can be frustrating to deal with.

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Today’s article is a guest post from Webs’ Head of Marketing, Rochelle Sanchirico.

We’re right in the middle of what will likely be a multi-year house renovation, so I spend a lot of time looking for and at small business reviews.  As someone who has worked in the digital marketing space for a long time, I know that online reviews have tremendous power–to do both good and evil.  While some of your more savvy customers and potential customers may know to apply a healthy amount of skepticism to the things that they read online, others may not have the same level of understanding.  How can you make sure that the online reviews and discussions of your company are consistent with the brand that you’ve worked so hard to create over time?

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Last week we talked about how some brands will base their brand values on the ideals of their founder or a prominent figure in their company. Often, one of those ideals is the importance of doing good in the world outside of your industry.

Have you ever been trying to decide between two competing products and found yourself looking for a tie-breaker? At least for me, that tie-breaker has sometimes been a brand’s emphasis on corporate citizenship. I was recently deciding whether to buy a pair of shoes from a local big-box store or to order a pair of Toms. All other factors of comfort and style being equal, I ultimately decided to pay a few dollars more and go with the Toms because I am aware of their philanthropic pursuit to give shoes to kids in need. That’s a very specific example, but we make decisions like this all the time — consciously or unconsciously — when we chose to which brands we will be loyal. We have a sense that some brands share our values, and therefore we choose to support those companies instead of the alternative, even when there is a notable difference in price.

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Today we have an exciting guest post from Sarah Henderson about maintaining brand consistency throughout your online marketing efforts. 

The rise of digital marketing has made cultivating an effective brand image more important to businesses than ever before. Whether you are funneling content across social media outlets or participating in PPC advertising, online marketing puts you face to face with expansive pools of potential clients, making it essential to deliver a consistently positive impression. In order to tap into the full potential of your campaign, consider these five steps for ensuring your brand image is supported by your marketing, while your marketing supports your brand.

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