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Honing Web ad strategy

September 22, 2008

Dear Karen: Our small manufacturing firm is desperate to improve our search engine optimization and online advertising strategy. Where do we get help?

Answer: Get personal referrals to consultants who specialize in search engine optimization. John McCarthy, search engine optimization director of WebMetro Inc. in San Dimas, suggested asking three questions: "Why is my site not ranking?" "How do we work together to achieve higher rankings?" and "Will this campaign produce an immediate return on investment?"

Home in on experts who can explain clearly where your site is lacking, he said. Good ones will tell you that increasing your online rankings will involve effort on your part, perhaps creating more online content or starting a blog.

Honest experts will tell you that search engine optimization campaigns take the better part of a year to produce a return on investment, he said. If you can't wait nine months, develop an online ad strategy with an eye toward using the profit generated to fund search engine optimization.

Marketing via independent reps

Dear Karen: I manufacture a product that I would like to market nationally. Can I get sales representatives to call on office and gift stores?

Answer: You can certainly hire independent sales reps, but first make sure that strategy fits into your overall marketing plan. For instance, the largest, most successful brokers might not have time to push a small firm's products because they are too busy with more established product lines, said Bay Area compensation consultant Dan Kleinman.

If you hire independent brokers, get solid information on their reputation and work experience. "Get referrals as well as examples of successes and failures," Kleinman said. Communicate clearly and in writing your performance expectations and remuneration agreement. "Set formal milestones to discuss and review progress, and preestablished actions that kick in when things are going great or not so great," he said.

Brokers typically work on pure commission, and their fees vary based on the products, target audience and locations. Independent brokers expect to earn $120,000 and $150,000, with specialized brokers, such as those in cosmetics, making up to $200,000 annually, Kleinman said.

Boosting worker retention rate

Dear Karen: I spend the time and money training employees, but they quickly move to larger firms. How do I avoid this?

Answer: Reexamine your business culture, said Peter Levin, head of the Los Angeles office of management consulting firm RHR International: "Is your company a fun place to work? Are your employees happy when they come in on Mondays or just on Fridays as they're leaving?"

Point out the benefits of working for you, including the freedom employees have to demonstrate their potential and move up. Let ambitious employees try out various tasks: "You may uncover talents you would otherwise have been unaware of," Levin said.

Studies show that younger workers, in particular, are likely to switch employers based on benefits. Check out a new online tool that enables employers to compare their benefits with those of other employers and see what employees in various demographics want. You can find it at: www.whymetlife.com/benefitsbenchmark.

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Got a question about running or starting a small enterprise? E-mail it to ke.klein@latimes.com or mail it to In Box, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

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