The 4 Basic Pillars of a Successful Online Local Marketing Plan

I recently wrote about the many challenges small and medium sized business owners face while constructing and implementing a successful internet marketing plan. The often insurmountable challenges we pointed out were ‘time’ and ‘money’. Small business owners are consumed with what they do best; operating their business and making sure their customers are satisfied. In addition, many owner/operators also manage the marketing direction for their companies and do not have substantial budgets for advertising and outside marketing services.There are still local businesses that have virtually no online presence, but most have tried at least a few forms of online marketing. For example many businesses have a website, built by a neighbor’s son or the local web design company and may have even set up a Facebook page. Perhaps they even have one of the large PPC (Pay-Per-Click) firms running a Google campaign for their company. Most small business owners have put together their online marketing strategy over a period of months or even years and have purchased a few services along the way from outside marketing companies. As any good business person would do, they try to keep the parts that are working and get rid of the parts that are not yielding results.The inherent problem with this type of “hit or miss” strategy is that the success or failure of an individual online marketing strategy is often interdependent on the strengths or weakness of other parts of your online presence. Let’s discuss the four main components of a local online marketing plan.The Four Pillars of Success: Marketing Plans for Local BusinessPillar One: Targeted Web TrafficHaving a business website posted on the web is not going to create traffic from prospective customers all by itself. Websites need to be marketed in order to generate a steady flow of traffic for your business. Many business owners have the common misconception that having the prettiest website is somehow going to translate into a successful website. If I had to choose between a gorgeous website not positioned to gather traffic versus a simple, perhaps even ‘ugly’ website, that is positioned properly to gather significant local web traffic, I would choose the latter.What is Targeted Web Traffic?Local business websites can receive targeted web traffic from a variety of sources and methods. Let’s first discuss what the term targeted traffic means. In the most basic sense, targeted web traffic could be defined as a web user who visits your site that possesses at least one criteria or characteristic that you believe would fit within your definition of a potential customer. An example could be as simple as their location. If your business sells pizza or dental services, you might be interested in any consumers that live within 5-10 miles of your business, but you would not be interested in consumers that live 1,000 miles from your business location. Another example of a targeted web user is someone that is specifically searching for your product or service or has previously expressed an interest. The point we are making is that your goal as a local business marketer, is to position your website to receive traffic from local consumers that have (or are likely to have) interest in your products or services.Paid versus Free Web TrafficLocal web traffic comes from a variety of sources and all of them should play a role in driving targeted traffic to your business. There are some sources that you need to pay for on a per click basis or per impression basis and others that can be free, provided that you do the necessary legwork to position your website to take advantage. Developing an efficient mix of web traffic for your business will take time but this is the first part of a local marketing plan. The purpose of this article is not to delve too deep into the benefits or pitfalls associated with any specific source of targeted web traffic but rather to demonstrate that traffic is only one part of an overall marketing plan. Web traffic is only valuable to your business if your website has the ability to effectively engage with visitors and provide a mutually beneficial experience. If your web visitors reach your site and leave within 5 seconds, there isn’t much benefit to either party.Pillar Two: Websites that Engage and Convert Your CustomersThe manner in which your website presents your business to web visitors has a profound effect on how efficiently your site will help potential customers take the next step in engaging with your business. Website visitors will typically decide in a manner of seconds if they are on a page or site that can satisfy their needs. Most websites will fail this first test and lose potentially valuable traffic before ‘the game’ even begins. This is often referred to as ‘relevancy’. Simple, if your site doesn’t instantly appear to provide the information, services, products etc. that the web user is interested in, they will move on to a site that does. The second and equally important requirement for a successful local business website is ‘engagement’. Visitors must be enticed to take the ‘next steps’ with your business. This can be accomplished with a variety of simple techniques and is also a topic that will not be covered in great depth in this article. The point we are stressing is that the quality of your website design, from a marketing perspective, plays a significant role in the success a local business will have in converting web traffic into new customers.Pillar Three: Tracking, Analytics and TweakingInternet marketing is part science and part art, but the results are pure math. Your business pays real money to engage in internet and offline marketing efforts and you are expecting new customers that pay you real money as a result. The entire marketing process needs to be measured, tracked and periodically studied. This is the only way to make adjustments to your marketing plan in order to make as cost effective as possible. A few basic procedures can be implemented on your website and in your business workflow to give business owners the tools to monitor how well marketing efforts are performing and where change can and should be made. Tools can be used to help determine how well your traffic is performing, how well your website is performing and even how well your staff is performing. When you spot a weak part, you at least know where to make some tweaks. In addition, if you are using an outside marketing professional, they should be able to provide assistance with this, as opposed to just selling you one piece of the puzzle. The cost of a click or an impression may not mean that much to your business, but the value of web lead, a customer phone call or a store visit that results in new business is meaningful. The bottom line is you must have some concrete method to measure your marketing outcomes in order to determine if you are spending your money wisely.Pillar Four: Customer CommunicationThe internet has made inexpensive and free tools available for even the smallest local business owner to engage in an ongoing conversation with potential and existing customers. Businesses that are not taking advantage of these tools are leaving too much money on the table and certainly not maximizing the benefit (e.g. new business) they can extract from web visitors. Direct response may be your businesses primary goal, but not every potential customer you engage with is ready to make a buying decision immediately; but they may be ready in the near future. You will want to make sure your business is on “the top of their mind’ when they decide to move forward. Tools such as email, social media and even your website can be used to maintain an ongoing conversation with your prospects, so when the time comes for them to make a purchase, your business is positioned as a top choice and is easily accessible. To make this a reality, your web traffic, your website and your tracking need to be in sync with each other.Successful local marketing plans are built over time and are not about the latest “fad” or “get rich quick” scheme. Creating a winning formula for your business and one that can have staying power can be achieved by first understanding the basic components of success. This article only covers this “tips” of the four essential “icebergs” you will need to explore, but successful business plans must be laid upon solid foundations.

How Effective Is Weight Loss Surgery?

For severely overweight individuals that have failed to see results from diet and exercise alone, weight-loss surgery has become the safest and most effective means of achieving significant weight loss. In fact, studies have shown that with diet and exercise alone, nearly 95% of obese patients will gain all the lost weight back within 5 years. On the other hand, long-term success rates for weight-loss surgery – including the LAP-BAND procedure – are remarkably high, allowing patients to maintain a loss of between 50-70% of their excess body weight. Though there are many factors that can impact an individual patient’s weight-loss success, weight-loss surgery is simply the most effective long-term weight loss and healthy lifestyle solution for severely obese patients.Studies show that most patients that undergo weight-loss surgery will lose between 50-70% of their excess body weight within the first three years following their procedure. Those that undergo gastric bypass surgery will lose excess body weight more rapidly in the first 12 months than those that choose LAP-BAND surgery. However, gastric bypass patients typically experience a greater number of complications and side effects than LAP-BAND patients, as the LAP-BAND procedure allows for more gradual and natural long-term weight loss.From a clinical perspective, a weight-loss surgery is considered successful when the patient loses at least 50% of their excess body weight and keeps the weight off for at least five years. While important lifestyle changes need to be made to ensure that the weight loss is maintained in the long term, studies have shown that most weight loss surgery patients are able to maintain a 50-60% loss of excess body weight 10 years after the surgical procedure. However, it is important to note that a weight loss of just 10% of total body weight can begin to have positive health effects in resolution of obesity-related condition like asthma, gastric reflux (GERD), and diabetes. As weight-loss surgery is usually performed on patients that are at least 75-100 pounds overweight or have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 35 with a health condition, overall weight loss can range anywhere from 40 pounds to over 100 pounds. But the patient is really the leader behind achieving these results.


While patients will certainly look and feel better after weight-loss surgery, there are also numerous health benefits associated with successful weight loss. In most cases, health conditions that develop as a result of excessive body weight or are worsened by obesity can be improved upon or, in some cases, remedied by weight-loss surgery.But there are other ways to measuring success with weight-loss surgery, like the LAP-BAND System. For instance, many weight loss surgery patients take great pride in being able to perform certain activities that may not have been possible for a number of years, like crossing their legs, bending over to tie a show, walking up stairs without being easily winded or sitting comfortably in an airplane seat.While most patients that undergo weight-loss surgery experience incredibly positive results, there are many factors that can impact the overall success of an individual patient’s procedure and follow-up treatment. Here are some important factors to consider as you try to determine whether weight loss surgery is right for you.Pre-surgery WeightGenerally speaking, the higher a patient’s pre-surgery weight or BMI, the more excess weight the patient can lose after surgery. However, recipients of weight-loss surgery with less excess body weight will eventually come closer to their ideal weight when committed to long-term diet and exercise. Also, resolution or improvement in obesity-related diseases can occur with even moderate amounts of weight. Often many diseases can become closer to cured than improved with earlier intervention at a lower weight.Overall HealthWhile pre-existing health conditions can impact the overall success of weight-loss surgery (for instance, patients with type 2 Diabetes typically lose less excess body weight after surgery), studies have shown that many ailments linked to obesity are either improved upon or fall into remission after a successful procedure. For instance, a 2000 study performed on 500 weight loss surgery patients showed that nearly 96% of health conditions associated with obesity – such as high blood pressure, depression, sleep apnea, back pain and diabetes – improved greatly following loss of excess weight and long-term commitment to diet and exercise.Surgical ProcedureAs there are potential risks and complications associated with any surgical procedure, potential patients should always seek to have their weight-loss surgery performed by a trusted medical staff. Prospective patients should inquire about their surgeon’s success rates with weight-loss surgery and listen to the experiences of former patients. Additionally, a patient’s weight-loss success may also be impacted by the quality of post-surgery care and counseling provided by their bariatric outpatient facility.Diet and ExerciseAs diet and exercise are two of the most important factors in any weight loss plan, patients with the physical ability to exercise after weight-loss surgery have increased chances of meeting their goals. To maintain the weight loss achieved by surgery, both exercise and healthy eating habits must become integral parts of a patient’s lifestyle.


CommitmentThe ability to remain committed to suggested dietary guidelines, exercise regimens and any follow-up care recommended by the bariatric outpatient facility is important for both short-term weight loss and long-term weight management.MotivationPatients that are motivated to lose weight and willing to follow through with diet and exercise prior to receiving weight loss surgery may experience greater levels of success immediately following the procedure and in the long term. Most people did not find themselves severely obese overnight. It took years to reach that weight and therefore patients should be patient with the weight-loss process, which will also not occur overnight. Successful patients find small victories along the way to celebrate and stay motivated.SupportAs weight-loss surgery will require some time away from everyday activities, it is important to have the support of family, friends and coworkers before undergoing any surgical procedure. Furthermore, as the ongoing weight-loss process following bariatric surgery may require a certain level of emotional support, prospective patients may want to establish a support network – including friends and family members that can join in on exercise and healthy eating.Considering that significant weight loss can not only remedy many health concerns, but also improve an individual’s quality of life, the potential benefits of weight-loss surgery are plentiful. For severely overweight individuals that are unable to lose weight via diet and exercise alone, weight-loss surgery is the most effective method of losing weight – and keeping the weight off.

Outdoor Activities For the Family

Spending time outdoors enjoying family activities with your children is one of the best ways to pass a day. There are fun family outdoor activities that you can take part in year round. Doing things with your children in this way offers unique opportunities to communicate and reconnect while also having fun.Planning fun family outdoor activities takes a little preparation. It’s best to talk with your family and find out which activities they would enjoy, then plan outings accordingly. Medical conditions have to be a consideration also. A child with allergies probably won’t enjoy a walk in the woods as much as the rest of the family. You have to take everything into account so the whole family enjoys the activity.


There are quite a few outdoor activities to choose from. Here are some you might want to consider:o Boating: If you do have a family member with allergies, you might consider boating as an outdoor family activity. With boating you don’t have tree and flower allergens to deal with.o Hiking: Going for a hike is a great outdoor activity for the whole family. You can take traditional hikes in the woods of your local state parks, go to military parks and use the hike as an educational tool, or even go to botanical gardens and caves for day hikes. Hiking is an activity that you can partake in most any time of the year if your state doesn’t have bad winters. Just make sure you and your children have the appropriate clothing and gear.o Swimming: A day spent swimming at the lake is probably the ultimate fun family outdoor activity. Children love splashing around in the water, and going to the lake is usually a fairly inexpensive activity which is good for your wallet.o Fishing: Get the kids and the fishing gear together and head out to catch the big one. Fishing is a sport that everyone can enjoy. They even have pink fishing poles for little girls these days to make them more interested in the activity. Fishing offers great opportunities for reconnecting for the whole family. Sitting on the creek bank, or in the boat, waiting for the fish to bite, is the perfect time to ask about each other’s day.


o Skiing: During the winter months the family can go skiing together. Everyone can start out on the bunny slopes together while they learn the ropes. Being on top of the mountain and looking out at the vast horizon and beauty surrounding you is one of the best feelings in the world.Those are just a few ideas to get you started. There are numerous outdoor activities that families can enjoy. Being together is the most important thing. Spending time doing fun family outdoor activities will improve relationships, develop bonds that last a lifetime, and keep everyone active. Make outdoor family activities a part of your life.

‘Sexting’: A New Crisis for Relationships?

‘Sexting’… So what is it anyway? ‘Sexting’ by definition is sending or receiving sexually explicit messages or photos by mobile phones or other social media. This is a trend that has increased steadily through the years as more and more people have utilized phones as their main method of communication. In fact, 88% of adults have engaged in some kind of ‘sexting’ within the context of a relationship according to a paper called: “Reframing Sexting as a Positive Relationship Behavior.” 2Is ‘sexting’ more common than we believe or are these research studies just turning up coincidences with this type of behavior? Emily Stasko, at Drexel’s University in Philadelphia, surveyed 870 heterosexual individuals and found that more ‘sexting’ was associated with a higher level of sexual satisfaction. 2These are just two studies, you might say, and don’t represent the population at large. Well, another way to look at this is that technology is something that most people (in larger cities or suburban areas) concentrate on daily. People are very involved with social media on mobile phones, computers & tablets. They are using these social media applications for various reasons (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat, etc). Is there any reason to think, even for a minute, that people are not using technology to date or enhance their present relationships? People all over the country (and the world) have access to texting/messaging, social media, and video chatting (Facetime, Viper, etc.). It is extremely easy to use any of these modalities in the context of a relationship.So how do people view ‘sexting?The problem is that not everyone defines ‘sexting’ the same way. Is it the sending of sexually explicit or provocative messages? Is it primarily the sending of sexual images? Some people see it as one, the other or even as both. This has been unclear because there have been various opinions about the subject. ‘Sexting’ may not be limited to just messaging but could also include the use of Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Facetime, as well as, other social media platforms. This could also mean sending sexually explicit video or showing nude body parts while video conferencing. This complicates matters even more and broadens the current definition.Most people have really warmed up to the idea of ‘sexting’ and according to the research, previously cited, a very high number of people have engaged (and continue to engage) in this behavior. These research studies and surveys have focused on how ‘sexting’ can improve relationships and rekindled sex lives. However, there is a darker side as well. This article focuses on those individuals that use ‘sexting’ as a way of seeking excitement, sex, and/or attention outside of their present relationship. The lines are sometimes blurred with regards to virtual or internet relationships because they are not viewed as being “real.”Is ‘Sexting’ outside of a relationship considered cheating?That is a good question. We already know that ‘sexting’ or sending these sexually provocative messages can really enhance a committed relationship. However, what happens when people send these types of messages outside of a committed relationship? How is ‘sexting’ viewed among the general population?”A 2013 Huffington Post article of 1,000 U.S. adults found that 85 percent of women and 74 percent of men consider ‘sexting’ a form of cheating.” 1′Sexting’ outside a relationship can be exciting especially for those individuals that are looking for ‘that extra something’ in their lives. Perhaps these individuals love their spouses or partners but seem to have ‘lost’ the passion or excitement in their relationship. For other individuals, maybe they are looking to find someone else online or in a virtual sense (i.e. via texting, online websites or other media) that they can flirt with and is considered “safe.” That could fall into the “grass is greener on the other side of the fence” scenario. A person may be very happy or mostly satisfied with their partner but think that they might be able to find something better outside their relationship.Other scenarios could include men or women that seem to feel as if they are invisible to their partners or spouses due to over demanding careers, children, mental illness, physical illness, alcoholism, etc. These individuals may find that through ‘sexting’ with a 3rd party that they can feel loved, desired and even sexy. It is through this media (and possibly other reasons) that people justify their actions and tell themselves that they are not cheating because there is no physical relationship.Is this behavior wrong? Is it cheating? There are various reasons why an individual may decide to engage in ‘sexting’ outside of his/her relationship but what is the intention exactly? Some people may believe that due to the virtual nature of ‘sexting’ that it isn’t necessarily wrong. ‘Sexting’ doesn’t have to involve physical contact and it could just be chalked down to a simple fantasy (or something that they don’t intend to pursue). It may have started as something very innocuous (like work-related messages sent to a colleague, coworker or fellow student) but then it moved forward to a more sexual type of relationship.However if a person is deleting texts, hiding cell phone bills, or being secretive about this virtual relationship then it seems that he/she has become more involved with someone other than a spouse or partner. This person is now thinking about another person, sending pictures to that person, and possibly wishing he/she could spend time with that other person. If we are looking at the health of a marriage or relationship, any time someone else becomes involved, that health has now been compromised. We could also argue that the commitment toward the relationship or marriage has waned because of the 3rd party that is now part of the equation.Case Examples:Maria and Thomas (not their real names) have been married for 3 years but have been together for about 12 years. Thomas had been dealing with anxiety issues for his whole life but had developed a drinking habit to numb the intense feelings that he dealt with on a daily basis. This drinking problem had become so bad where Maria had found him passed out on the couch a few times after work and he spent a good amount of time drinking with colleagues. This situation caused her to feel very detached and distrustful of Thomas. She didn’t feel as if Thomas loved or desired her and that his drinking had become his new relationship. Maria decided to contact a former male friend from school with which she began a ‘sexting’ relationship. She never sent any sexually explicit photos of herself to this other person but the messages they shared were very provocative.Maria never had any intentions of actually cheating on Thomas but she just felt lonely and unattractive. She sought companionship with someone that showed interest in her and chose to continue this ‘sexting’ relationship for a couple of months. She mentioned that this person made her feel sexy and desirable. She also felt good that someone was interested in her and although this person requested to meet her in person, she never did. Maria had some guilt that she was busy sending messages to someone other than her husband yet she continued. She got so frustrated with Thomas that she even ‘sexted’ this friend of hers while her husband was next to her on the couch.Now, although this behavior of Maria’s was not having a physical affair it was an emotional affair. Maria was tired of trying to get through to her husband about his drinking and lack of interest in her. She spent a good amount of time looking for affection outside her relationship because her husband was not available to her. When Thomas found out about this ‘sexting’ relationship that Maria had started, he was devastated that she would do such a thing.Maria made the decision to seek therapy to discuss her concerns and disappointment in herself and her relationship. Obviously she realized that while her marriage was not in the best state that she needed help to put things into perspective. After a few sessions, Maria wanted to bring her husband to join in the sessions. These sessions were spent having both of them discuss their feelings and how they were each disappointed with one another. Maria was able to discuss how she felt undesirable and lonely while Thomas received validation for his anxiety issues. Thomas was confronted for his alcohol abuse and how that was affecting their relationship. This couple was able to communicate, forgive each other and move forward.—A second couple, Julio and Gabrielle (not their real names) were not so lucky. Julio started ‘sexting’ with another woman he met online just after the birth of his daughter. He had been unhappy with Gabrielle for some time however just didn’t know how to communicate his feelings. He had come from a family in which communicating feelings was highly discouraged. So while his wife was pregnant and tired a good portion of the time, Julio was online looking for some attention.At first, things were very mild. He sent a few texts here and there just looking to see if other women were interested. However, once his daughter was born, Julio spent a lot of time on his phone. He ‘sexted’ with a particular woman with whom he had a connection at work and in the car. He also deleted all of the messages because he didn’t want his wife to become suspicious or to find them ‘by accident.’ So he was able to keep up this front for some time…a good 6 months.However, one day he wasn’t so careful. Julio forgot to delete some messages and his wife looked at his phone while she was up in the middle of the night feeding the baby. She was appalled and devastated at what she found. Gabrielle chose not to say anything right away because she wanted to see if she could catch him or get him to admit to this behavior. And one day she was able to do just that. She found him in the bathroom taking pictures of his genitals and sending the pictures & messages. She confronted him on the spot and but he denied ever meeting up with this woman. Gabrielle realized that they needed some serious help and sought therapy.She communicated that she loved Julio and wanted to keep their marriage intact but was not going to accept this type of behavior from him. Julio was able to finally, after some encouragement, to communicate that he had been unhappy with Gabrielle for years. He stated that he only married her because she had become pregnant with his daughter but he didn’t feel that the two of them were very compatible. She also found out in therapy that Julio had lied about meeting up with the woman that he was sending messages to and that they had been dating. It was at this point that Gabrielle and Julio decided to separate because their relationship was not reparable.So what should you do?If you have found yourself interested in finding attention outside your marriage or relationship, it is important to ask yourself some important questions.What do you want to accomplish? What are your intentions? Have you found that you are not interested in maintaining your marriage or relationship? What is the reason you are trying to connect with someone else? Are you looking for some attention because you are not getting it at home? Are you seeking out something more exciting or compatible than your partner/spouse? Or is your relationship salvageable with the help of someone who can encourage better communication and engagement? Are you just looking to make you’re your partner/spouse jealous? These questions need to be answered before the relationship deteriorates past the point of no return.If you decide that you are simply not interested in continuing with your present relationship, then some honest dialogue needs to occur with your spouse or partner. It is important to communicate your feelings and to allow this other person the opportunity to hear that the relationship is over. This allows your partner to start the process of grieving the relationship and eventually moving on. Hopefully, you are able to provide some support and compassion for your spouse or partner and allow for a more amicable separation.————-However if you have recently found out that your spouse or partner has been involved in a ‘sexting’ relationship, it is important for you to maintain composure. It is completely normal to have intense emotions regarding the situation however it will not help in the communication process. Please ask questions about this other relationship and find out about your partner’s intentions. It is important to know if your spouse or partner is interested in continuing with your relationship and ending the other one or not. It is helpful to have an objective 3rd party there to help both of you to determine in which direction you both want to travel.Emotions will be high in either situation especially for the person that has just found out about this outside relationship. If you are too deeply hurt by your spouse or partner’s ‘sexting’ relationship to stay with him/her, then this must also be addressed. Each person deals with highly emotional situations in different ways. One couple might be able to communicate effectively even in difficult situations while another couple might not be able to be in the same room together. So it is important to know how your spouse or partner will react in this situation and find a way to come to a workable conclusion that best fits both of you.ConclusionSince ‘sexting’ has become such a popular activity among adults in monogamous relationships and with those that are dating based on the research provided in this article, it is important for everyone to be more knowledgeable regarding the topic. The research shows that ‘sexting’ can enhance a monogamous relationship. The case examples show two different scenarios that can ensue. If people are unhappy in their present relationship and choose to utilize ‘sexting’ to find excitement with another person, the end result could be relationship or marital dissolution.Couples are encouraged to seek out help. A counselor, therapist or psychologist can help couples to find their way through this situation. If a relationship has been extensively damaged by ‘sexting’ (through which a physical relationship may or may not have begun), there are important feelings on both sides that need to be addressed. Depending on the desires of both people involved, these relationships can be saved but does take time to rebuild trust and confidence. Since most of these relationships consist of one (or both) persons seeking out someone else, it is vital to encourage verbal communication about the things that each person views is lacking in the relationship. Feelings need to be communicated and each partner or spouse needs to have the opportunity to express him/herself. Forgiveness plays a HUGE part in this type of situation. Each person has to ask him/herself if forgiveness is an option and if so, they can proceed toward creating a new relationship together. They can do this by spending time together and discussing how to satisfy each other’s needs. Only after these important issues have been brought up can the couple begin to move forward on a new path toward happiness.References:1. Rebecca Adams, “A Look Inside The Insidious and Adulterous World of Sexting,” Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/02/sexting-cheating_n_6185288.html?utm_hp_ref=sexting2. Rachel Zimmerman, “Sexting Among Adults May Be More Common Than You Think, Survey Suggests,” WBUR’s Common Health Reform & Reality, http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2015/08/sexting-adults-relationships