Small Business Marketing Archives - BuildFire

How to Get Started Advertising White Label Mobile Apps

White labeling is a highly profitable business model, especially in the software space. But like any other product or service, your reseller business needs a marketing strategy.

The marketing aspect of a white label business can feel a bit overwhelming for some resellers, especially for those of you who have never been through this process before.

Recently, our white label sales and support teams have been fielding questions about advertising for resellers and how to get started. Those inquiries inspired me to write this guide. 

Whether you have an existing agency and you’re white-labeling mobile apps as a new service, or you’re creating a new app reseller business from scratch, this guide has you covered. 

First, I’ll clarify the differences between agency marketing and app reseller marketing. Then I’ll explain when you should start your marketing campaigns before diving deep into the step-by-step process of white-label advertising from scratch. 

White Label Marketing for Agencies

If you already have a digital marketing agency, consulting firm, PPC agency, or agency offering similar services, you have a leg-up on those starting from scratch. I’m sure you have an existing website, social media profiles, email list, and other online marketing channels. 

Now it’s just a matter of expanding your existing channels to include your new app development services. A simple starting point here can be as simple as a new landing page on your website to showcase your services. Then you can send an email blast to your current list, share the landing page on your social channels, and leverage other free marketing campaigns. 

Aside from the existing channels in place, here’s the most significant advantage for agencies—you already have clients.  

Rather than trying to educate new people that your brand exists, you should spend the majority of your time tapping into your existing clients and contacts. 

You have a 5-20% chance of selling your app services to a new prospect. But that probability jumps to 60-70% when you’re selling to an existing client. 

Not only do you have a better chance of selling to an existing client compared to a new one, but you can also close those deals faster. Check out this graph from Marketing Charts that shows the typical sales cycle in the B2B space.

 

For existing customers, you can close those deals in less than one month 22% of the time. 38.4% of the time, you’ll close those clients in one to three months. That means over 60% of closed deals with existing clients will happen in less than three months. For new customers, expect just 25% of those deals to close in that same time frame. 

Depending on the type of services your agency already offers, there’s a good chance your existing clients will also need a mobile app. So you’ll be offering them something that they already need, and they’re likely aware that they need it. 

Your pitch will likely come with open arms.

Furthermore, if you’ve had success working with this client in the past, they’re going to be much more comfortable working with you in the future. It’s easier for them, so they don’t need to go shopping around for other options. 

If you need some guidance on how to handle these conversations, check out our guide on how to pitch a mobile app to your clients

White Label Marketing for Mobile App Resellers

You do not need to have an existing business to become a mobile app reseller. But your marketing strategy will look a bit different if you’re starting from scratch.

Early on, you’ll need to focus your efforts on establishing a trustworthy online presence. Things like building your website, creating social media profiles, and making sure your reseller platform is up and running will be the preliminary steps. 

From here, you’ll need to develop a system of getting quality leads. Whether it’s through paid campaigns, content marketing, organic search, or email list building, your top priority needs to be getting leads into your marketing funnel. 

You may even need to get some new clients signed or apps built at a significant discount. This will show proof of concept to other prospects, and you’ll have something to display in your portfolio. 

While you won’t have the luxury of an existing website with existing traffic when you’re starting from scratch, new resellers still have a huge advantage—you can focus all of your marketing efforts on mobile apps.

For example, check out this homepage from King Concepts:

It’s clear that these guys are offering an app builder and custom development services as their primary and only offerings. Believe it or not, King Concepts is a white label reseller using BuildFire’s platform. You can read the King Concepts case study here to learn more about this model and how they got started with BuildFire. 

Other agencies have to continue pitching their other services. The app development options may not even be above the fold on their homepage. But you have the opportunity to hammer home apps and nothing but apps. 

It’s also a great opportunity for you to showcase yourself as a specialist. Some prospects seeking app development solutions won’t be interested in going through a jack-of-all-trades agency. They’d prefer to stick with a mobile app agency, which is something you can brand yourself as.  

Within the app development services space, you can also differentiate yourself by focusing on specific niches. Maybe you want to offer pre-built apps to restaurants and gym owners. Or maybe you’d prefer to resell a no-code app builder to DIY entrepreneurs. The opportunities here are seemingly endless. 

But you’ll definitely want to have some idea of your desired path before you start advertising anything. This will make your life easier and give you a sense of direction for your campaigns. We’ll talk more about this in greater detail shortly. 

When Should You Start Marketing Your White Label Services?

Some of you might be wondering when it’s appropriate to start your marketing campaigns. The answer is pretty simple—it’s never too early.

Here’s why. As you’ll soon realize, the first few stages of your advertising plan don’t actually involve any marketing campaigns. So you won’t be running ads, creating content, or sending any emails just yet. The first few steps (which we’ll cover in greater detail below) are designed to set you up for success. It ensures that you won’t be wasting valuable marketing dollars, and your advertising strategy will actually yield positive results. 

If you wait until your new white label reseller program launches or your service is live on the site, then you can’t expect to get new clients on day one. But if you have a solid strategy in place ahead of time, then you might even have a waitlist of prospects by the time you’re ready to proceed. 

For those of you who have an existing agency, you should also start marketing your white label services ASAP. You’ll have a better chance of building hype and getting a waiting list started than a company starting from scratch.

If your sales are declining or your previous marketing strategies were unsatisfactory, these are also signs that you should start advertising your white label services. 

After the initial campaigns, white-label advertising will always be an ongoing process. You may ultimately switch strategies based on your goals, budget, and other factors. For example, you might start with PPC ads for the first six months to a year. But once you have a steady stream of income, you may devote more of your budget to organic content for long-term SEO purposes.

How to Get Started With White Label Advertising for Mobile Apps

Ready to start advertising the app services in your white label reseller program? Just follow the five simple steps explained below:

Step #1 — Identify Your Target Market

The best advertising campaigns are highly specific. They speak to a narrow niche, which ultimately drives higher conversions. If you’re planning to sell your app maker or custom app development services to “everyone,” then your marketing campaigns will suffer. 

That’s because your marketing efforts need to address pain points for a specific target market. A midsize enterprise looking for an internal communications app for their employees will have very different pain points than an ecommerce site trying to drive mobile sales. 

Even the difference between a B2B and B2C target market will have a significant impact on your advertising strategy. 

This can also determine the types of channels you use for your campaigns. 

So take the time to research your target market. Create an ideal customer persona, and use that as your north star for the rest of this process. 

Step # 2 — Research Your Competition

Once you’ve narrowed down your customer persona, take a look at other companies out there that are offering the same or similar services to yours. Focus on the ones who are targeting the same market as you.

What marketing channels are they using? How are they reaching their customers? What are they doing well? Are there certain strategies or campaigns that could use improvement?

There are a few reasons why this step is so important. 

One of the obvious reasons is inspiration. You can look at a competitor’s campaigns, find the best ones, and try to replicate what they’re doing well. Ideally, you want to try and outshine their top strategies. It all depends on how you want to brand yourself. 

But a somewhat less obvious reason for this step is to identify gaps in their marketing strategy. What is something that your target market needs that your competitor isn’t promoting? 

For example, maybe your top competition doesn’t offer a free trial. Or maybe they offer a really limited free trial. Then you can focus your marketing campaigns on driving conversions with your extended free trial. 

Competitive research can also help you avoid costly mistakes. Some of your competitors may already have a niche cornered. Rather than trying to compete with them, which will cost a fortune, you could adjust your niche and go after the low-hanging fruit. 

Step #3 — Identify Your Goals

What do you want to achieve as a result of your advertising strategy? 

Yes, I know you want to make money—lots of money. Unfortunately, this isn’t a goal. You can’t use this as a way to navigate or improve your campaigns. 

When narrowing down your marketing goals, use the SMART goal-setting method

Here’s an example of a SMART goal for a reseller:

I want 50 high-quality leads in my marketing funnel within two weeks of launching the campaign. Then I want to move at least ten of those leads into my sales funnel and close half of those deals by the end of the month. Within three months of launching my app development services, I want enough recurring revenue to cover my reseller platform costs. Within six months, I want to have 3x recurring revenue. 

This type of goal is highly specific, and you can use it to guide your marketing strategy. Rather than trying to expose your brand to 10,000+ people worldwide, you’d focus your efforts on a smaller group to get high-quality leads and nurture them through your funnel with varying campaigns. 

Step # 4 — Create a Marketing Budget

Now it’s time to determine how much you want to spend on advertising. The only way to do this properly is by defining a marketing budget.

Put it in writing, and plan it out for the next three, six, and 12+ months, at a minimum. 

Where you allocate those funds might change based on the results of your campaigns. But the dollar amount in your total budget should stay fixed for at least a year. 

For example, let’s say you have $25,000 to spend on advertising next year. Rather than splitting that evenly over 12 months, you could run experiments in your first month to see which channels and campaigns are yielding the highest results based on your goals. Then you can adjust your monthly spending moving forward to allocate more funds into the top campaigns. 

Factors to account for in your marketing budget may include:

  • Market research
  • Email marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Paid advertising (PPC, social ads, etc.)
  • Content production (blogs, videos, infographics, etc.)
  • Influencer marketing
  • Website costs

This list will obviously vary a bit depending on your business model and target market. That’s why it’s so important to narrow that stuff down first. 

Step #5 — Launch Your Campaigns

Now you start to run different advertising campaigns. As mentioned above, don’t go all-in on one channel or ad type until you’ve done some experiments. 

Pick three or four channels and campaign types to target in your first month, and go from there. 

If one of those campaigns isn’t getting results, drop it, and prioritize the ones that are making the most progress toward your previously defined goals. 

Don’t think spending more money is the answer. Sometimes, a low-cost strategy like cold email outreach could be enough to get quality leads for resellers. 

If you sign up for BuildFire’s reseller program, we’ll send you a free copy of our cold email outreach playbook. This resource has 25+ cold outreach strategies that you can simply copy, paste, and customize with your own content. These proven sequences make it easy for anyone to have success with white label marketing—and they’re designed specifically for mobile apps.  

Conclusion

Advertising your white label mobile app services can be slightly different from other product or service offerings. 

But whether you have an existing agency or you’re starting a reseller business from scratch, the formula described in this guide will get you started and put you on the path to success.

If you still haven’t found a reseller platform for your advertising services, you should definitely take BuildFire into consideration. I’m obviously a bit biased here, but I think our app reseller program is second to none in this space. 
You should also check out our free ebook, The Ultimate Guide For Mobile App Resellers: Getting Started and Boosting Profits. Anyone can download this resource for free—even if you don’t sign up for our reseller program.

Geofencing for Small Businesses

Small businesses can’t survive without the customer.

While this statement holds true for all companies across every industry, the bigger players on a larger scale won’t crash and burn if they lose one customer. But small businesses can’t afford to lose any.

As a small business owner, I’m certain that you’re aware of this. You’re used to interacting with your customers on a daily basis and you understand how valuable they are for your survival.

Here’s something you need to closely monitor. What’s your customer acquisition cost? If this number isn’t something that you know offhand, it could be a problem.

If customer acquisition costs get out of hand, it could have a snowball effect on your company.

Rather than focusing your efforts on customer acquisition, you can spend more time on customer retention. You’ve got a much higher chance of selling to an existing customer as opposed to a prospective customer.

sell to existing customer

If your retention tactics are getting stale and don’t seem to be working, you can use new technology to assist these efforts.

You can use geofencing to get your current customers to spend more money and also acquire new customers at the same time.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with geofencing or don’t know how to apply it to your company, I’ll explain what you need to know.

Geofencing technology can make drastic improvements to your small business. Here’s how you can use this strategy to your advantage.

Continue reading “Geofencing for Small Businesses”

21 Best Marketing Blogs You NEED To Read

Which blogs do you follow and read?

If you’re into digital marketing, then you need to identify marketing blogs that will nudge you to keep at your game.

You already know there are thousands of online marketing blogs out there and it gets overwhelming for marketers and businesses to find and read the right ones.

But I’ve done all the heavy liftings for you. If you religiously follow and read the blogs below, your insights, experience, and conviction will take on wings and your business will fly.

It’s high time you stay updated on everything that’s happening in the marketing industry worldwide.

Here’s a list of 20 best marketing-related blogs that you should read and learn from:

1. Unbounce

Unbounce Blog

Unbounce is the official blog run and owned by Unbounce which is a platform that helps marketers create, convert, integrate, and optimize landing pages.

Their blog covers topics related to landing pages and conversion optimization. It publishes scientifically-proven tips and best practices about landing pages.

If you’ve always struggled to create landing pages that convert and do the job, Unbounce blog is where you’ll find all the answers.

22 Brutally Honest Landing Page Critiques is my favorite post from Unbounce blog that criticizes 22 landing pages and shows you what’s wrong and how it has to be fixed.

2. Copyblogger

Copyblogger

Are you struggling with content marketing and copywriting? Copyblogger is the place you should be.

Brian Clark and Sonia Simone are the two big guns behind the blog. You’ll get to learn the best tips, guides, and strategies on copywriting that will make you a better blogger and copywriter.

My favorite post from Copyblogger is The Ultimate Copy Checklist: 51 Questions to Optimize Every Element of Your Online Copy. This post will make you a better copywriter than you are now.

3. QuickSprout

QuickSprout

The QuickSprout is a marketing blog by Neil Patel where you’ll find guides and tips on everything digital marketing with a focus on traffic generation. If you religiously read QuickSprout, I’m sure you’ll never have to struggle for web traffic again.

My favorite article is none other than The Beginners Guides to Online Marketing. If you haven’t read anything on online marketing, this guide will be more than enough.

4. Marie Forleo

Marie Forleo blog

As a marketer, there are times when you need motivation or life-changing advice from an expert. Marie Forleo is the blog where you’ll find ideas and resources that will help you change your life.

Let’s start your journey with Marie from this vlog: What to do when you feel useless and alone.

5. Mirasee

Mirasee

Mirasee is a brand founded by Danny Iny. The purpose of Mirasee is to provide businesses with resources and education that help them impact their audience and change the world.

This is what exactly you’ll find on their blog. It covers topics ranging from businesses to audience engagement to digital marketing to case studies and more.

My favorite guide is their inspirational 10 lessons from debt to 7 figures. You’ll not earn 7 figures exactly but the lessons you’ll learn will change the way you do business and earn.

6. HubSpot

Hubspot

Inbound marketing seems to be incomplete without HubSpot. The have a massive marketing and a sales blog where you’ll find data-driven blog posts, case studies, templates, guides, expert opinions, and everything about inbound marketing.

If you cannot find it anywhere else on the web, chances are, you’ll find it at HubSpot.

State of Inbound 2016 is my favorite report by HubSpot that shares data and information that is worth millions.

7. John Doherty

John Doherty

This blog is run by John Doherty, who is an entrepreneur, marketer, and a top consultant. John mostly writes about SEO and content marketing. One of best things about this blog is that you’ll find exclusive case studies and best content from around the web. John reads, summarizes, and shares the best content on marketing with his subscribers every week.

One of the most insightful posts and my favorite is SEOs are Growth Hackers. Do read it.

8. Content Marketing Institute (CMI)

Content Marketing Institute

Joe Pulizzi founded CMI who is a content marketer, entrepreneur, author, and speaker.

Content Marketing Institute (CMI) publishes new articles on content marketing and copywriting every single day. Not just that you’ll find content marketing guides and templates but they talk about recent news and events in the content marketing space.

I love the post by Brody: 12 Things to Do After You’ve Written a New Blog Post. It is old but still valuable.

9. Buffer

Buffer

Buffer isn’t just an interesting social media scheduling app, their blog is even better.

At Buffer blog, you’ll find posts on social media marketing, digital marketing, case studies, and posts on news and trends. The real beauty of Buffer blog is their in-depth and detailed blog posts that cover every topic in extreme detail.

The first thing that you should read on Buffer blog is the Sidekick case study: 7 Powerful Social Media Experiments That Grew Our Traffic by 241% in 8 Months. You’ll love it.

10. Econsultancy

Econsultancy

Econsultancy is an ecommerce data-driven blog that publishes content on marketing and analytics. It publishes statistics and opinions on marketing and ecommerce. If you plan to learn more about ecommerce, econsultancy is your best bet.

My favorite blog post on the blog is: What marketers need to know about Facebook’s ethnic affinity ad targeting. If you get a chance, do read it.

11. BigCommerce

BigCommerce

BigCommerce blog provides you with some of the best and latest content on eCommerce. The blog posts regularly on the topics related to ecommerce, ecommerce design, payment processors, shipment and fulfillment, ecommerce marketing, and more.

If you want to stay updated on what’s happening in the ecommerce industry, stick to the BigCommerce blog.

My favorite recent post is: Instagram Shopping: The Future of Mobile Ecommerce + 19 Tips to Increase Conversions Now.

12. 9Clouds

9Clouds

9Clouds is an inbound marketing blog that is must for those in the automotive marketing niche. While you’ll find articles on pretty much everything on marketing but since 9Clouds is an automotive digital marketing platform, therefore, most of their content is based on automotive marketing.

My favorite article: An Excerpt From the 2017 State of Automotive Marketing Report

13. GetResponse

GetResponse

Get Response is an email marketing platform that helps businesses with email marketing, landing pages, marketing automation, and more. Their blog is one of the best in the market that talks about marketing, productivity, automation, and email marketing.

Nobody writes better than Get Response on email marketing.

My favorite article: How to Start a Video Content Campaign the Right Way

14. ConversionXL

ConversionXL

Founded by Peep Laja, ConversionXL is the leading conversion optimization blog that publishes resources, guides, courses, and case studies on conversion optimization.

If you plan to learn more on how to get better at conversion optimization and how to grow revenue, subscribe to ConversionXL.

My all-time favorite blog post is: The Beginner’s Guide to CRO. It is a collection of several valuable articles that will enable you to get better with conversions.

15. Social Media Examiner

Social Media Examiner

There is no better blog on social media marketing than Social Media Examiner.

Not just social media marketing but they publish on other marketing topics too like content marketing.

Whether it is new research, case studies on social media marketing, latest events and conferences or talk shows, Social Media Examiner is every marketer’s best resource.

My favorite article on Social Media Examiner: Essential Facebook Marketing Resources: A Complete Guide.

16. Inside AdWords

Inside Adwords

Inside AdWords is the Google’s official blog about Google AdWords. They post the latest news, best practices, guides, and updates about AdWords.

You’ll not see new posts very often but every time they post, you will learn something awesome and probably before your competitors.

Subscribe to the Inside AdWords blog if you use AdWords, you’ll never regret it.

One of the best recently published articles is: A fast start to 2017 for click-to-call ads.

17. GetApp

GetApp

GetApp is a home to more than 5200 apps for businesses. They blog about business apps including the best marketing apps, marketing plugins, marketing software, and more.

GetApp blog has several articles on employee management, business, customer engagement, sales, analytics, and more. You’ll find everything on apps and latest tools at GetApp.

My favorite article is: How to Choose Marketing Automation Software: A Handy Checklist.

18. Marketo

Marketo

Marketo blog is a leading marketing blog that publishes extremely valuable and insightful articles on marketing.

The blog covers all types of marketing topics including automation, content marketing, modern marketing, lead management, branding, etc. There is hardly anything that you won’t find at Marketo.

One of the best things about Marketo blog is that it categorizes its posts on the basis of B2B and B2C that makes it easier to find the right content.

My favorite article is: The Definitive Guide to Engaging Content Marketing.

19. GetFeedback

GetFeedback

GetFeedback is an online survey software. They publish insightful content on topics related to customer experience, surveys, salesforce, audience engagement, and data collection and analytics. If you’re planning to create a consumer survey to collect data from your customers, GetFeedback blog will provide you with some great articles.

My favorite post is: 3 Ways to Increase Retention with Customer Feedback.

20. Wistia

Wistia

Wistia is a video platform for marketers and businesses. Their blog is your best resource for video marketing. It publishes tips, news, guides, and case studies on video marketing that will be helpful for video marketers.

My favorite article: Your Business’s Videos Should Include Faces. Here’s Why.

21. G2 Crowd

G2 Crowd
G2 Crowd’s Learn blog is an educational resource for leading marketing, sales, design and general business topics. The blog consists of ultimate, long-form guides, resource roundups, infographics and other valuable content.
My favorite post is: how to build a website from scratch.

Conclusion

Essentially, you’re what you read and who you follow. If you frequent blogs that inspires you to do your best work and impact your world, you’ll be fired up to do just that.

These 20 marketing blogs aren’t the best, but they will keep you engaged all year long, and prepare you for what lies ahead. Constantly reading new posts on these blogs will keep you updated on latest happenings in the marketing industry, and help you build a thriving business.

How To Promote Your Business: 20 Proven Strategies

Success in business breaks down into two simple things:

  1. Can you supply something that people want at a price they’re willing to pay?
  2. Can you get your offer in front of those people?

Nine times out of ten, people start a business because they are capable, competent, or even brilliant at that first part. They know their industry and they are able to supply what people want.

The second part is where things get tricky. How do you get your offer in front of the right people? Or in other words, how do you promote your business?

Today, we’re going to be looking at # incredibly simple yet highly effective ways to promote your business. You can implement all of these quickly without needing special expertise or significant investment.
If you’ve been looking for new ways to reach your target audience, you’re in the right place.

1. Insert Calls To Action In Your Team’s Email Signatures

The average office worker sends a receives 122 emails per day. For a business with ten staff, that adds up to around 600 outgoing emails per day.

These emails are actually a tremendous promotion opportunity, but not using traditional email signatures. Nobody is going to take notice of your employees’ job titles or websites. Nobody cares about your favorite quote.

What CAN get attention is a big obvious Call To Action button.

CTA on emails

Notice how well this CTA stands out and attracts attention.

When you view email signatures as a marketing tool, they become dynamic ways of introducing your products or services to potential customers.

For a single email, you can simply set something like this up via your email client, but if you are interested in rolling it out across your entire team (most beneficial), you’ll want to use an app like Sigstr, which will let you manage signatures and rollout campaigns across your entire team at once.

The best way to take advantage of email CTAs is to offer some sort of lead magnet or freely available offer that will interest your target audience and push them forward in your funnel.

2. Set Up A Google My Business Account

Google is not only a search engine, but also a small business directory. Take advantage of these tools. Setting up a Google My Business Account provides three major benefits for companies who rely on local business:

  • Your local business is listed on Google maps and search.
  • It’s good for search engine optimization, so that your business gets found easier by the people who are looking for the services or products you provide.
  • It’s good for when your customers start adding reviews of your business; these reviews help Google display your business in their “3-pack”, which gives you free advertising at no cost.

Google My Business

Google My Business Reviews have earned these companies the top spots in Google search results.

Your GMB listing is the baseline for all your online citations and listing, and it’s important that every listing matches your GMB listing, particularly when it comes to your three primary pieces of information, known as NAP (Name Address Phone Number).

3. Audit Your Online NAPs

NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone number, also often referred to as citations.

Out of Moz’ top 6 “Foundational Ranking Factors”, (for search engine ranking), 3 are related to NAP quantity, quality, and consistency, and out of the top 13 “Competitive Difference Makers,” 6 are about NAP quantity, quality, and consistency.

If you’ve listed your company on Google My Business, you need to make sure the details there are the same for all your online listings.

Good & Bad NAP

Image Credit: Moz

If any of the details elsewhere are not the same as it is listed in Google My Business, then you might not be “rewarded” by search engines and it could also damage your search ranking.

A suggestion is to keep an Excel spreadsheet of all your listings, to make it easy to keep them consistent.

Moz offers in-depth information about NAP audits and how to do them.

4. Set Up A Joint Venture

As I mentioned earlier, promoting your business is all about getting your offer in front of the right people. One of the easiest ways to do this is to find existing audiences filled with the “right” people and simply place your offer in front of them.

In some instances, that can be done via advertising, but an even better option in the short term is to partner with non-competing businesses marketing to the same people as you are.

Joint ventures are a brilliant way of getting more customers fast. Take Teachable, which was started in 2014 by Ankur Nagpal. He says that 6 months into starting the business, they had less than 20 active customers making money from courses. In 2015, they created a joint venture which gave them more customers fast.

Nagpal lists a few examples of joint ventures they’ve since used in their marketing strategies, one of them being a simple affiliate partnership with marketer Melyssa Griffin. Teachable gave Melyssa a unique promotional tracking link plus 50% commission on every sale.

Joint Venture

Melyssa Griffin, affiliate marketer and joint venture partner with Teachable.

Find out more about joint venture examples from the founder of Teachable, which now boasts a monthly growth rate of more than 20% in 2016, increasing its revenue tenfold in one year, with more than 1 million students.

5. Create An Email Marketing Strategy

Email marketing is the cornerstone of online marketing.

From a technology standpoint, email has withstood the test of time as a communication channel. From a marketing standpoint, email converts at a higher rate than nearly any other channel.

As recently as 2016, email marketing was the leading marketing expense among global business leaders.

Email Marketing Strategy

Email marketing allows you to nurture relationships with potential buyers over time. It allows to place visitors who aren’t ready to buy into a funnel that keeps them connected with your business instead of having them forget about you.

To begin taking advantage of email marketing, you’ll need to create something valuable that can be given away for free in exchange for a visitor’s email address. Digital info products are often best for this purpose.

Next, you’ll want to create a series of emails designed to introduce the new lead to your offer, establish your authority in the industry, and deliver educational value on related topics of interest.

To learn more, check out these fantastic email marketing examples.

6. Offer a Free Or Discounted Product/Service

In a similar vein to the lead magnets we just talked about, offering something free or at a discount is a great way to draw in new customers. Depending on your business model, it can even be effective to take a loss on this in order to pull in market share.

There are many iterations of this that can be used to drive leads, sales, referrals, etc. Ecommerce stores in particular have had amazing success with introductory discounts.
Here’s an example from lingerie e-retailer Yandy.com:

Offer a Free Or Discounted Product/Service

Other possibilities include free software apps or free trials. For example, BuildFire allows prospective customers to create an app for free, allowing them to experience the actual product before being required to pay anything.

7. Give A Presentation or Webinar

This strategy can be equally effective online and offline. By offering a webinar or workshop, you can attract your target audience and collect their contact information for future followup.

First locate where your target audience hangs out, then set up meetings. For instance, AwaiOnline recommends “Lunch ‘n Learn” sessions of one hour. Organize lunch and do some advertising to the right people, and then teach them something in one hour, over lunch. Try hosting it at your local Chamber of Commerce or other business networking groups.

Copywriter freelancer Steve Slaunwhite used online “Lunch ‘n Learn” sessions to promote his copywriting services to his target audience and said, “The Virtual Lunch ‘n Learns would get me in front of my target audience and position me as an expert at what I do. Of those who attended the teleconferences, some would decide to give my services a try. These were small numbers of prospects, but they were high quality. I got several leads and referrals and some very good clients by doing these sessions.” (Source)

Mary-Ann Shearer, health guru, whose vegan restaurant is located in an area known for its affinity for meat, educates people by holding talks for groups at gyms, running clubs, churches, etc. When she does, she gets email addresses from people that are already “sold out” to her, because within minutes, she is able to prove herself as an authority on her subject. When her presentation is over, she has collected well qualified leads; people who are sure to start buying products from her online store.

Give A Presentation

Mary-Ann Shearer conducting a group talk about natural health at a local gym.

If you don’t want to go the offline route, you could instead host a webinar or podcast interview (I recommend using PodMatch.com to quickly get booked on podcasts), or do a joint venture with a partner who hosts a webinar, as a way to collect email addresses.

PodMatch

Jeff Rose hosted a webinar on “How to Protect Your Investment Portfolio”.

8. Ask for Reviews

54% of people visit a website after reading positive reviews about the business, and 84% trust reviews as much as they trust a personal recommendation. (Source)

Reviews build trust and credibility for your business, and they carry a lot of weight. You can also use them on your website, specifically your home and about page. But that’s not the only thing reviews are good for. They also increase your search engine ranking, which results in increased website traffic. Why? Because search engines recognize the value of customer reviews.

Bella Luna Toys, an ecommerce company, started using reviews on their website, and since doing so, their conversion rates shot up by 15%. They’ve also generated more than 4500 genuine customer reviews. (Source)

Ask for reviews

Bella Luna Toys have increased conversions by 15% since incorporating reviews onto their website.

To collect reviews, simply setup your Google My Business listing and other citations that take reviews, and then send the links to your customers with the request that they leave a review. Alternatively, you can use an app like Yotpo to collect written reviews or VocalReferances to collect video reviews as an automated part of your checkout system.

9. Comment on Blogs In Your Niche

Leaving a comment on other related blogs can help rank your content on search engines faster, because:

  1. Adding a link to your site from a comment on another site, gets Google and other search engines to pick it up, and if the website you’ve left a comment on, is reputable, search engines are likely to index your content with a higher ranking, because of your association to the website through the link left in your comment.
  2. If your comment adds value, it may get attention from a future customer who is so impressed by what you’ve written, that they click back to your website.
  3. Adding value-add comments on other blogs helps build relationships with bloggers and others in your niche, which may very well open doors to joint ventures.

Comment on niche blogs

Example of comments that are well written and add value to anyone reading them.

The image below is taken from a data analytics page and shows how backlinks from comments are counted, even if they are no-follow links.

Link building

10. Do “It” Better Than Your Competitors

Business are often started as an attempt to do something better than the existing marketplace. The same mentality is true for promotion.

When it comes to any marketing channel, usually the top marketer or two in that channel will captivate 90% of the competition. Instead of being middle of the road on multiple channels, it’s best to identify a channel where you can “do it the best” and pursue that channel.

For instance, an online academic book and technology business in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, wanted to increase their website visitors. A consultant was brought in who compiled a report showing what the worldwide benchmark company was doing, and these are some of the findings:

The benchmark company had a whopping 7394962 Facebook likes, with a 100% response rate, while the other company had a mere 5839 Facebook likes, and a 0% response rate. In addition, the benchmark company had tons of content and their product descriptions were customized.

Forums

When analyzing the online activities of a worldwide benchmark company, it was found that their differentiating factor was lots of value-add content.

Next, they checked how their top local competitors were doing online, and found that if they were to implement a content strategy, they could whip all the others in their area.

What they took home from the analysis:

  1. The need to start creating Facebook posts that would attract their target audience, and to start paying for Facebook ads to boost their Facebook page engagement rates.
  2. The necessity of responding quickly to social media messages from their customers.
  3. The need to start writing customized product descriptions.
  4. The importance of website content.

11. Write A Bunch Of Guest Posts

Guest posting is one of the most effective ways to promote your brand online.

Guest posting is where you can write an article for another website that they then publish and promote to their audience.

While guest posting will rarely drive any significant amount of actual traffic, it can be very valuable for a number of reasons:

  1. Establish yourself and your brand as an authority in the space
  2. Get backlinks to your website from popular, high-ranking websites
  3. Get your brand directly in front of your target market
  4. Network with influencers in your niche (potential joint venture partners)
  5. Link to people who will then link to you in their own guest posts

Silvio Porcellana is the CEO and founder of Mob.is.it. The company provides a tool which helps agencies and professionals build mobile websites and native apps.

When he realized that the website needed more organic search traffic (visitors brought in from search engine results), they decided to implement a guest blogging campaign.

Within 5 months, they published 44 guest posts on 41 different blogs. The result?

The website’s search traffic increased by 20%.

Here’s an illustration by Writers In Charge of why guest blogging is so effective:

Guest blog posts

12. Utilize Facebook Instant Articles

Facebook Instant Articles is a distribution platform where you can share content just like you would on your own website, or on Linkedin articles, but with interactive elements that enhance the mobile viewing experience. The content on Facebook Instant Articles is accessible to Facebook users on Android and iPhone devices.

It’s especially valuable if you want to build value, credibility and brand awareness. The benefits of using this function is:

  • Fast load time. Facebook reports that Instant Articles has 70% lower bounce rates and 30% higher share rates than most of the web articles accessed via mobile devices.
  • You can make money right from the platform with your own display and media rich ads and you also have the ability to display Facebook Audience Network ads if you so choose.
  • You have control over your own branding.
  • The platform allows integration with other measurement tools like Google Analytics.
  • Interaction for a better reader experience.
  • You can add content that’s already been published on your website, and there’s a plugin to make it all easier if you’re on Wordpress.

Gray Television integrated local news with Instant Articles and generated $250,000 in revenue from the Facebook Audience Network.

FB Instant Articles

Gray Television integrated Instant Articles with local news.

13. Use Visual Media To Build Your Social Media Presence

There are 2.3 billion active social media users. Whatever your target audience looks like, you can find them on social media, and visual content is one of the best ways to expand your social presence.

Here’s a good place to start:

  1. Create visual content that is relevant to your niche
  2. Use high quality images or video
  3. Get your customers involved
  4. Tap into trending hashtags and current events

In the beginning, before you have an audience of your own, it’s important to engage with people directly and tap into your target niche. One of the easiest ways to find these individuals is hashtags.

These are images that were uploaded to Instagram, all hashtagged, “veganrecipes”:

Use Visual Media

If you wanted to get in front of people in the vegan niche, finding out what people are talking about and favoriting around #veganrecipes would be a great place to start.

For more insights into this strategy, read this case study about how Fusion Farm used hashtags to promote an event.

14. Create Content That Attracts Your Audience

Some of the tops blogs in the world make an average of $15,000 to $30,000 a day.

People love consuming blog content online, and it’s highly unlikely your niche is exempt. In order to tap into that demand, you simply need to create content that attracts the same audience you wish to sell to.

For example, Glen Allsop, founder of PluginID, was a complete newbie in his field when he first started blogging. Because of adding great content to his site, his subscription list grew to 26,000 subscribers, many of whom also became customers, helping his business take off.

Create attractive content

Glen Allsop’s internet marketing blogging content grew his subscriber list to 26,000 in a short timespan.

And just like we are giving you ways to promote your business, you will also need ways to promote your blog content.

15. Promote Your Content

Promoting blog content is a great way to build authority in your niche will also directly promoting your business. In fact, it’s one of the few ways you can get away with shamelessly promoting yourself. You can share blog posts is a lot more locations than you can directly advertise a product or service.

There are many, many ways to promote content, but here are some of the best ones I’ve tried:

  1. Send the content to your email subscribers
  2. Share it with your social followers
  3. Share it on Reddit and other community sites
  4. Use the best paid promotion channels you can find
  5. Answer questions on Quora
  6. Etc.

Promote your content

There are many different ways to promote content, and to know what will work for your business, at the end of the day, you’ll just have to experiment.

16. Implement Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization, mostly known as SEO for short, is a way to optimize a website  for search engines and improve your search engine rankings.

The goal is that when people search via Google for phrases that are relevant to your product, your website shows up as quickly as possible.

Implement SEO

Unlike most other promotion tactics, getting your site ranked for various keyphrases will result in increasing amounts of traffic over time, or at least for as long as people continue to use search engines.

You get traffic month and month after month, and outside of the expense to rank the site and maintain your ranking, the traffic is free.

By incorporating an SEO strategy, Candoni Wines experienced a 70% improvement in organic search traffic within 6 months. In addition, their site ranks for more than 1000 keywords, and as a byproduct, 20,026 Facebook page likes were added throughout the initial campaign.

70% improvement Candoni

By implementing an SEO strategy, this website experienced a 70% improvement in their organic search traffic within 6 months.

17. Participate in Community Events

We live in a predominantly digital world, but promoting your business at physical events is still a great way to grow.

As Digital Vidya discusses, both offline and online marketing are essential:

“As the marketing maxim goes, consumers do not make purchase decisions based on a single ad or message alone. The marketing ‘rule of 7 ‘ states that consumers need to be exposed to a message seven times, on average, before purchase. Buyers gather bits of information from various channels and piece them together in making their decision. Data gathered, from multiple channels, through multiple stages of the buying process, are the building-blocks of sales. Integrated messages that build upon each other, make a compelling case for purchase. Consistency across channels, renders messages more impactful and increases the probability of conversion. As such, integration (of online and offline marketing) is not just about brand synergy – it is about improving ROI.”

Going back to a graphic we looked at earlier, we can see that offline events still make up a sizable percentage of investment for most business decision makers.

Marketing spending plan

This chart shows that global business leaders are still investing in offline events in their marketing strategies.

Participate in those community events where your target audience are. For example, if you are targeting a national audience of retailers, being at a big trade show (see the next point) makes sense. Or  to save costs, you could join another company in the same niche at the trade show.

If you depend on local business, local events can be a great way to get new customers, or at least add new people to your email list.

Another idea – if it’s relevant to your business – is to check online event sites for local events.

You just need to figure out what events will be most beneficial to you according to your target audience and goals.

18. Exhibit at Trade Shows

A whopping 99% of marketers say they find unique value from trade shows that they don’t get from other marketing mediums, probably because trade shows pull together a mass group of buyers and sellers in particular industries, who can be considered “hot leads”:

  1. According to Exhibit Surveys, Inc.,67% of attendees represent a new prospect for exhibiting companies.
  2. According to CEIR, 81% of tradeshow attendees have buying authority, and 46% of them are in executive or higher management.

Trade shows can be costly to set up, so how do you know if you should take the gamble? Colleen Francis, an influential sales person, recommends participation only if you can make 10x the revenue back within 6 months of the show vs. what it costs you to be there.

Trade Shows

Xeikon, a digital printing company, used a trade show as their one main marketing focus for the year, gearing up towards it and following up after it. They experienced these results:

  • About 1,000 prospects were identified
  • A 14% response rate from email marketing efforts
  • 140 new, qualified leads
  • 300% return on investment

Find out more about using the sales funnel approach to managing tradeshows.

19. Join A Paid Membership In Your Niche

If you can find some sort of group that requires money to get in AND caters to your target audience, you’ve just struck marketing gold. Joining some sort of paid membership is a perfect, if perhaps a bit sneaky, way to get in front of your target audience.
Paid memberships create an automatic level of trust. The monetary barrier ensures, at least theoretically, that everyone there is committed to being there and on the same page. It’s very easy to promote your products and services in a group you have paid to be in, provided you do so in a subtle way that seems helpful as opposed to spammy.

Examples of this could be local business groups, mastermind groups, paid clubs, course communities, etc.

20. Pay For Advertising

Many of the methods provided in this article help to build a customer base over time, but one of the most effective ways to get quick and consistent exposure is to pay for advertising.

Three of the current most popular advertising methods include:

  1. PPC ads
  2. Facebook ads
  3. Television ads

In 2015, the Content Marketing Institute, conducted a survey of 3,714 worldwide marketers, and found that 76% of B2C marketers use paid advertising; 64% rated search engine ads as effective, and 59% reported that they found paid social ads to be effective:

Use PPC Ads

Paid advertising requires some expertise to get right and some experimentation to find the right channel. This is one of the more common promotion activities that business outsource to agencies.

Conclusion: How To Promote Your Business

I hope this article has given you a better feel for how to promote your business. These relatively low investment methods will help you get the ball rolling.

Ultimately, there is no single guaranteed winning strategy for promoting a business. It’s a lot of trial and error, and this list should get you started.

12 Realtor Advertising Strategies to Get More Calls, More Viewings, & Close More Deals

As a realtor, for the most part, your success and earnings are directly proportionate to how many properties you list and how many deals you close.

There’s other factors too, like the price of your listings. But closing deals is the main thing. Because if no deals are done, you’ve got no income coming your way.

So for the sake of this article, we’ll focus on realtor advertising strategies to get more people interested in you as a realtor and the properties you’ve got listed… so you can both increase the number of deals you close AND your income.

By the end, you’ll have at least two or three solid advertising ideas to increase the number of buyers and sellers who come to you within your specific niche, helping you reach your goals for the quarter and the year.

This list is by no means 100% exhaustive, but it is pretty lengthy and the methods have been tested for stellar results.

Pssst…. You really, really don’t want to miss out on #12.

 

1. Create a Listing on Zillow

Before you slam me for being too obvious, let me just say this: 92% of people who want to buy a house use the internet to help them in their preliminary shopping.

Which means that even if people do eventually come to you for help finding the right home, they’re using the internet first.

Plus, since Zillow’s kind of become the default go-to for people like me (read: your typical home buyer) who want to know what kind of homes are available in the area and the realistic price ranges, it’s pretty much a must-do item that should be at the very top of your list every time you get a house to sell.

And here’s some numbers that’ll blow your mind: the site itself gets over 130 million visits per month. That’s like over 40% of the entire population of the United States visiting every single month. It’s a big deal.

So if you’re already using Zillow, give yourself a pat on the back.

If not, drop what you’re doing right now (as in, stop reading this article), and get your listings up there ASAP.

 

2. Use Door Hangers

At this point in my life, I live in an apartment that I rent.

That won’t always be the case, but it floors me how many post card mailers I get offering me help to sell my home… with a clearly-labeled apartment address on the front.

This is an example of a realtor wasting his money on the wrong target audience. (So don’t do that.)

And while direct mail has proven itself to be a valuable advertising method, consider bypassing the mail man & automatic addressing systems altogether and just delivering your message directly to the homeowners themselves.

Yeah, it takes a little more man power, but how often to you read the junk postcards that come in the mail?

Almost never, right?

I know mine go directly to the recycle bin.

But how often do you read the flyers that someone’s left hanging on your door?

Almost always, yeah?

If you want more buyers in your market, you could focus these door hangers on apartment complexes with high-turnover rates and with lots of millennials living there. (They’re the ones entering the home-buying market now, after all.)

If you want more sellers, put your door hangers up on residential neighborhoods.

You don’t know who’s in the market to buy or sell, so most of the door hangers will go unanswered.

But for people who want to or are thinking about it in the near future, they’ll be much more likely to remember you and get in touch with you instead of your competition… giving you more possibilities to earn a commission from.

(And here’s a hint: If you’re not currently working with your “ideal” properties or buyers, use the door hanger strategy in neighborhoods where they live. It’ll get you “to the top” a lot quicker than other methods of climbing the ladder.)

 

3. Create Testimonial-Based Ads

As a realtor who works day-in and day-out with the intricacies of the real estate market, it’s hard to imagine people who don’t have any basic knowledge of it.

But for the average buyer… whether it’s a millennial buying his first starter home or a business owner looking for her first small office space downtown… it’s mostly above their heads.

Sure, they probably have some knowledge of loans out of financial necessity, but the intricacies of how things work are a large mystery.

Which is why advertising with realtor-speak will often be a big turn-off to potential clients.

You could be the best realtor in the area, say the best things, but as humans, we’re inherently suspicious of things we don’t understand.

But something about the real estate market your target market does understand?

How other people feel about working with you.

By asking your previous clients who’ve had a great buying or selling experience to give you a short testimonial, you’re nearly guaranteed to get advertising material that’s in prospect-friendly wording… and evoke the kinds of feelings your prospects can’t say no to.

You can use these testimonials to advertise however you choose: in internet ads, newspaper ads, mailers, or on business cards you leave laying around town.

realtor testimonial

Can you imagine something like this on your advertising materials? (Image from IDX Central.)

 

4. Give Free Advice on Internet Forums

I’ll admit: I’m a little biased towards this strategy as my favorite one, but only because I’ve seen how useful it is to both help people and to drive targeted traffic back to your website.

The idea behind this strategy is this:

As a realtor, you’ve got a ton of knowledge that can help buyers, sellers, renters, and landlords alike.

Depending on your specialty, search Google (or any other search engine) for keywords you think your target audience might type in when they need your help.

It’s not just about the moment they realize they need a realtor to help them either.

It could be homeowners who are trying to sell their houses themselves and are searching for certain answers out of frustration of things not going the way they planned.

It could be landlords who usually list the vacancies themselves looking for advice from other landlords on where to list for more inquiries or to find higher-quality tenants.

It could be business owners just starting their search for office space, and looking for generic information to make a plan to get started.

You get the idea.

When you search these terms in Google, chances are you’ll eventually come across some forums where people are asking questions that you have the perfect answers to. (Yahoo Answers, Quora, and Reddit are some really popular ones if you just want to cut to the chase and search there.)

And while the person you answer may not be the one to reach out to you for help, these forums get viewed by TONS of people everyday… and once your answer is up, it lives there forever.

So by putting up a thoughtful, genuinely helpful answer (not just “Get in touch, I’d love to help you!”), people will see your expertise and follow any invitation you give to learn even more back on your website.

yahoo answers

Here’s a question on Yahoo Answers that could really benefit from quality, unbiased advice from someone in Oregon’s real estate industry.

5. Yard Signs

These are as old (if not older) than the book on realtor advertising. (You know, if there were “a book” on this.)

If you’ve got a listing in a highly trafficked area, you literally can’t go wrong with printing one of these and putting it out for all passers-by to see.

You never know who’s in the market for the kind of property you’ve got on hand… or who will give a word-of-mouth referral to your ideal customers based on a sign they saw while running errands.

template

Here’s a basic for sale sign that lets people passing by know that the house is available to buy. (Template from Signs.com)

Pro tip: Take your sign to the next level—and make your property way more desirable—by putting pictures of the inside of the property on the sign itself. Humans are super visual creatures, and this is an incredible way to increase desire.

sign photos

See how this sign gives you a peek inside the home as well? (Photo from Fit Small Business)

 

6. Write Search-Specific Blog Posts

I’m going to advise this for local keywords only.

As a realtor with lots of other responsibilities on your hands, trying to compete with an enterprise-level website for broad-reaching keywords just doesn’t make sense.

It’s so much work, and for the most part, the vast majority of realtors only care about their local reach anyway… if someone three states over wants to sell a house through you, as much as you’d be flattered, it just won’t happen.

The “advertising” strategy here is free (it just involves your time), and can earn you search engine traffic for years to come.

Here’s what you do:

Go to Answer the Public and type in a keyword related to your niche of real estate along with your city name.

You’ll get a ton of results.

Pick the queries you can answer most easily, and write a blog post for them, with that exact search phrase as the title.

Optimize the rest of the post for basic SEO (I recommend using Yoast to help you do this), and try to get a few backlinks to the page… or at least post the link in places where interested people congregate online.

Works like a charm.

 

7. Network Marketing Groups

If there’s one phrase of useless career/networking advice I could stop hearing forever, it’d be “grow your network.”

I mean, I know it’s a good idea, but that piece of advice doesn’t tell you how to grow your network, what to do, what to focus on, or what the actual point of having a network is in the first place.

But you can cut to the chase of having a network and using that network to grow your realtor business a lot quicker if you join a network marketing group like BNI.

Within these groups, members are encouraged and incentivized to make referrals to others in the group, which can help you get access to your target market a lot faster—and via warm leads—than if you did a lot of cold advertising from behind your computer screen.

These groups usually have a paid membership, but most people who join swear that the fee is worth it.

 

8. Ad Retargeting

Imagine this: someone is property shopping online and they come across something they really like on your website.

They click around to view photos, read details about the property, and look at the Google Maps widget to get a better idea of the location.

But because they’re only at the first stages of the home-buying process, they click away and close your tab because they have eight more tabs open to check out.

They liked your listing, but its details soon got jumbled up with the details of the next three houses they looked at, so they forgot about yours.

Now imagine they’re browsing Facebook or checking out a website that hosts Google AdSense ads.

And right there in their sidebar is an image of the house they looked at on your website and loved so much.

Your house stays top-of-mind, and hopefully at some point (when they get a little more serious and actually want to view properties) they click through on your retargeting ad and get in touch with you to see the property.

Exactly how to setup a retargeting ad can get a little involved, so I’ll leave it to our dear friends at Facebook to explain exactly how they work with the videos on their Remarketing page.

 

9. Facebook Targeting Ads

Guys, Facebook’s ad targeting abilities are incredible.

And I’m in love with what it can do for realtors—especially for those of you dealing with residential properties.

Basically, Facebook lets you hand-pick who sees your ads (and can click on them) and who doesn’t see your ads based on the vast, vast information available in each person’s profile.

One of the most impressive things you can do to target potential new buyers, for example, is to show ads to people who’ve just moved to the area. Or people who’ve just got a new job at a local company who live elsewhere. Or couples who just got married.

It’s incredible. And in my opinion, not an opportunity to be passed up.

 

10. Incentivized Referrals

Here’s where you rely on word-of-mouth advertising, but where you let other people create the buzz for you… which is always a win, if you ask me.

Basically, you want to get in touch with people who have high-touches with others in your niche and who might be in the market to either buy or sell properties.

For a residential realtor, this list could look like:

  • Banks where people open new accounts after moving to the area
  • Marriage counselors for couples just getting married and moving in together
  • Divorce lawyers for couples who will sell the house and split the value
  • Funeral homes for families wanting to liquidate their loved one’s assets
  • HR managers of large companies doing a lot of non-local hiring

You could do a referral fee of a few hundred dollars for each house that you sell, or give them a kickback for each qualified lead they send you, regardless of whether a deal happens or not.

They’ll love you for setting up this partnership because they get to help their customers on an even deeper level, and they get paid for it. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

 

11. Give Your Ads a Millennial Twist

Believe it or not, millennials are the ones in the home-buying market now.

So especially if you specialize in starter homes, giving your advertising a millennial-friendly slant will serve you well.

According to Forbes, to market to Millennials, you need to make sure your messaging encompasses these six values:

  • Social responsibility
  • Worker’s rights & fair pay
  • Protecting the environment
  • Being a help, not a hinderance
  • Tolerance
  • Diversity

Not all of these values will directly correspond to the relationship between you and your millennial clients, but if you see an opportunity to latch on to some of them, doing so will definitely help you stand out in the millennial market.

 

12. Cold Call Expired FSBO Listings

Unless you’re in a severe seller’s market, FSBO (for sale by owner) listings usually don’t do as well as listings that have the power of an experienced realtor or realty firm behind them.

And because of this, a lot of them expire without ever actually selling the property.

Usually, the people who decide to do an FSBO listing do so with the best intentions—they’re ambitious and feel like the extra work will be worth the money saved in realtor fees.

You can find these listings all over the web… at ForSaleByOwner, Zillow, and the namesakes, FSBO.com.

When you reach out to the owners of the property, you can ask them what went wrong (or if they simply just decided not to sell), and offer some genuine advice to help them.

I wouldn’t make the initial contact all about the sales pitch, but instead about providing value.

For example, if they’ve decided not to sell, you could suggest renting. If they still really want to sell, you could give them a few suggestions of other places to make a listing.

Of course, there’s still a lot of work on them and they’ll probably feel a little defeated after their initial failure.

So when you prove yourself to be helpful, you can then mention advanced services you offer when you feel they’re ready to know more.

Pretty cool idea, isn’t it?

 

Your Assignment: Pick One & Go

Like I said in the section on Zillow, if you don’t have your listings online, make sure that’s the very first thing you do.

But if you’ve got that taken care of, which advertising strategy you choose next to grow your real estate business is up to you. Most likely, there was one strategy that really stuck out to you as something you’d really like to try, so go with that one.

To be honest though, you really can’t go wrong with any of these tactics—they’ll all help you close more deals.

19 Awesome Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses

Today, I’m going to show you 19 different marketing strategies that have a proven history of success for small businesses.

Half of these options will probably be viable growth strategies for your unique business.

Four of them are probably worth testing out over the next month.

And one of them has the potential to skyrocket your growth over the next year.

These work really well if you want to find inexpensive ways to promote your mobile app.

Once you’ve achieved product/market fit, your growth is simply a matter of smart marketing on the front end and a good customer retention on the backend. By the end of this article, you will know exactly what to do next with your marketing.

But before we get started, let me share a secret with you.

There Is No Magic Marketing Strategy

There is no magic bullet.

The goal of marketing is to connect your business’ value to the right customer base. It’s a simple concept but it can take on a million different shades.

  • What demographics make up your customer base?
  • Where do they live?
  • Where do they hang out online?
  • How do they look for products in your niche?
  • Who do the listen when making decisions relative to your product?

The answers to these questions determine which marketing strategies will be viable and which will be a waste of time.

In other words, the key to success for your business is not Facebook Ads.

It’s not SEO.

It’s not conference networking.

There is no magic, universal strategy that will revolutionize your business. I have literally no clue what will work for you, because I don’t know you. I don’t know your business. I don’t know your customers.

But fortunately, you DO know your business! You DO know your customer base!

And after reading this guide, you will have an expanded awareness of viable marketing channels, any of which could hold the key to your future growth.

Eight of the channels we will discuss are strictly digital strategies, which will be conducted online. The other eight are a bit more general, with strategies that can be conducted offline (although many have online applications as well).

Let’s get started.

1. Facebook Advertising

Two million small to medium sized businesses advertise on Facebook; it’s an inexpensive and effective way to market to virtually any audience.

Facebook Advertsing

Image Credit: ibisinfotech.com

Facebook ads excel at advanced targeting. They allow you to target a specific audience based on location, interests, age, sex, online behavior, and many other factors.

Creating Facebook ads is very easy. You just need a solid headline, a bit of descriptive copy, one image, and a link.

Promote your app icon here as well.

The Facebook Ads Manager also makes it fairly simple to run and test multiple ad sets, allowing you to hone in on a winning formula and reach profitability without needing advanced technical expertise.

That said, many new users have a lot of difficulty succeeding with their initial campaigns. It takes some persistence, but on the plus side, Facebook’s popularity has produced numerous 3rd party tools that can help you succeed.

If you decide that Facebook is the right channel for you, I’d recommend using a tool like AdEspresso to run your campaigns and speed up your journey to positive ROI.

If you run a business that has a strong visual component, it might be worth trying out Instagram Ads instead. As a subsidiary of Facebook, Instagram Ads benefit from the same data base and targeting options, while allowing you to connect with an audience that is better primed for visual sales.

Additional Reading

  1. Facebook Advertising Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide by Neil Patel
  2. How to Run App Install Ads On Facebook by Aki Merced

2. Google My Business

Ranking your Google My Business (GMB) listing is one of the most powerful things you can do for your business.

In fact, if you run a local business targeting local clients, I would dare to say it is THE most powerful strategy available to you.

For example, if someone searches for a “Portland contractor”, this is what they see:

Google my business

What you are seeing here is one paid ad, followed by THREE Google My Business listings before we even see the normal organic search results. If you can rank your GMB listing in these top 3, you can pull in large numbers of highly qualified leads day in and day out without needing to spend a dime on ads.

Google My Business combines all your different Google platforms into one central place, which includes your Google+ profile, Google Maps profile, your Google reviews, access to data on Google Analytics and Google Insights, and more.

If you have a unique brand name, you can even get a large display like this to show when people search for that name:

Google Plus Profiles

GMB immediately gives your business credibility and visibility, and as I said before, if you run a local business, it should be #1 on your priority list.

And best of all, ranking your GMB listing is really not that hard. It simply requires you to optimize your profile and then collect reviews and citations.

Additional Reading

  1. How to optimize your Google My Business listing: expert tips by Graham Charlton
  2. 7 SEO Mistakes That Leak Money From Local Businesses by Jacob McMillen

3. Google Adwords

There are more than 40,000 search queries on Google every second. No other advertising method has the potential to get your business before that many pairs of eyes.

Google Adwords

Google Adwords is sort of the godfather of online marketing channels. It’s been around a long time. It’s competitive. It’s expensive. And if you know what you’re doing, it can work very, very well for you.

Despite being a paid channel, Adwords’ goal is still to deliver relevant search results to users, and as a result, it will be less expensive for you when you are utilizing proper on-page SEO.

Google assigns a quality score to your ad, which is dependent on CTR (Click Through Rate), relevance and the landing page your ad sends traffic to. This quality score factors into the bid rate you will need to get an ad displayed, with higher scores lowering the bid cost.

Unlike many of the channels we will discuss today, Adwords is a remarkably symbiotic channel that can be paired with many other strategies to maximize output. As a paid marketing channel, it also allows you to obtain immediate results and can scale as far as your budget allows.

Additional Reading

  1. The Complete Google AdWords Tutorial by Jerry Banfield
  2. The Iceberg Effect: How Your AdWords Strategy Is Slowly Drowning by Johnathan Dane

4. Content Marketing

18% of marketers say that content marketing has the greatest commercial impact on their business of any channel in 2016.

Greatest commercial impact activities

Image Credit: SmartInsights

Content marketing is the process of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience and drive profitable customer action.

Unlike paid advertising, content marketing focuses more on long-term results. The initial payoff tends to be low, but the long-term, sustainable growth in visitors, leads, and customers can single-handedly carry a business.

Content marketing is not easy, however, and requires every element to be done right:

  • Quality content
  • Relevant topics
  • Optimized for SEO
  • Optimized for readers
  • Consistent content creation & promotion

Content is not limited to blog posts. It includes videos, podcasts, online courses, and a host of other mediums in which people consume information.

If you are considering this strategy for your own business, make sure you have the time and capital needed to get going with no initial ROI, and then DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Too many businesses these days are just wasting resources creating mediocre content with no payoff, now or ever.

Additional Reading

  1. Getting Started With Content Marketing by Content Marketing Institute
  2. Why You Need a Growth Model For Your Blog (And How to Create One) by Devesh Khanal
  3. How to Start a Blog in 2020 (and Make Money): Free Easy Guide to Start Blogging Today
     by Ryan Robinson

5. Organic Social Media

Using social media for business is really a non-negotiable.

67% of consumers use social media for customer support, and 33% prefer using social media instead of the telephone. If people can’t find your business via social media, they will look for your competitors who ARE present on preferred social channels.

The real question isn’t whether you should have active social media accounts, it’s how much time and resources you should be investing in growing your social audiences.

For some businesses, it makes sense to invest heavily in organic social media growth.

For example, Instagram users that follow fashion influencers are actively looking to purchase new styles. By building an active, fashion-savvy audience, a clothing retailer can build a consistent direct sales channel.

organic social media

For other businesses, investing in Instagram might not make sense.

The key is identifying where your customers are and how they like to be approached. If social media is the answer to both those questions, it’s the perfect channel for your business.

Additional Reading

  1. 7 Step Beginner’s Guide To Effective Social Media for Small Business by Jamil Velji
  2. The Ultimate Guide To Creating The Perfect Social Media Calendar by Sandrine Sahakians

6. Coupon Deal Sites

Whether you sell a product or offer a service, you can use coupon deal sites like Groupon to quickly promote your business.

Coupon deal sites amass massive audiences, grouped by location, and then allow local, regional or even national businesses to offer limited-time discounts to their members.

coupon deal sites

Benefits include mass exposure, targeted local advertising, increased brand awareness, and an influx of new customers. The cost comes in the form of low revenue per sale. In the case of Groupon, you are required to discount your product by at least 50%, and at least half the revenue goes to Groupon.

In other words, unless you are running a 300% markup, you will lose money on your Groupon deal. It’s essentially paid advertising.

The primary purpose for using coupon deal sites is not sales. The more significant your discount, the more popular your deal will be. The goal is to get people in your door or trying your product, and from there, your customer retention strategies kick in.

As an added bonus, many new potential customers will browse your website even if they don’t decide to purchase the deal.

But be warned!

If your deal gains traction, you can quickly be overcome by more customers than you are prepared to handle, and if you don’t do the math correctly, you can lose a lot of money. It’s important to be ready and to have a plan for handling different tiers of new business.

It’s also important to have flawless customer service during the period after running your deal, with the expectation that your coupon-driven customers will be even harder to please than normal customers.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Follow deals going on in your area and see how they play out. If you can, talk with fellow business owners who have run deals and learn from their experience.

And make sure – for the love of all that is good and decent – make sure you do the math.

Additional Reading

  1. Doing The Math On A Groupon Deal by Jay Goltz
  2. The Real Cost of Groupon and What it Means to Your Marketing Planning by Mana Ionescu

7. Email Marketing

Email marketing is the cornerstone of digital marketing.

Most of the people who visit your site will not buy from you immediately. Capturing contact info for additional marketing and “lead nurturing” is the best way to sell in 2016, and email remains the highest converting channel for interacting with leads.

Email marketing funnels begin with a “lead magnet”. This is something compelling you offer your website visitors in exchange for their email address. Possible options include a free digital download, a free service trial, a “seat” at a webinar, site membership, a coupon, etc.

Here’s an example from HubSpot:

Email Marketing

HubSpot offers a reliable and feature-packed email marketing tool that’s suited for growing businesses — for free. The tool allows you to create professional marketing emails that engage and grow your audience. You can start from scratch, with the easy drag-and-drop email builder, or use one of the goal-based templates available. 

Other benefits of email marketing include:

  • Low cost
  • Global reach
  • Easy to automate
  • Easy to segment
  • Immediate communication
  • Easy to setup and run
  • Easy to track and optimize

There are a lot of marketing channels that are hard. As you may have noticed from the above list, email marketing is one of the few that can be described as “easy”.

Additional Reading

  1. 21 Powerful Ways to Quickly Grow Your Email List by Jacob McMillen
  2. How to Build Your Email List: The (Better Than) Ultimate Guide by Aaron Orendorf

8. Webinars

A webinar is essentially a seminar that takes place online. It can be in the form of a presentation, demonstration or discussion.

webinars

Image Credit: boss.influxentrepreneur.info

Webinars are often used as lead magnets for email marketing and the right topic can drive a large batch of new subscribers to your list. It can also be used to build credibility with your current subscribers.

Webinars can also be recorded and used as standalone products or even a series of products. They are a great medium for both live and recorded training.

Webinars tend to be more engaging than simple videos, even if they are used in exactly the same way. The actual start time and live Q&A tends to make people feel like they are receiving significantly more value than if they were watching a video with the exact same information.

You will need webinar software to run a webinar that utilizes the following functions:

  • 2-Way Audio – the presenter speaks while the viewers are muted, but the presenter can “turn on” individual viewers so everyone can hear their question
  • Screenshare – the presenter can share their screen or switch to video for whiteboard teaching or live demonstration
  • Polls – the presenter can invite viewers to take a poll or provide feedback in other ways

Webinars work very well in certain niches. You’ll have to test one out to see if it works with your target audience.

Additional Reading

  1. Webinar Marketing: 15 Steps to Revenue Generating Webinars by Georgiana Laudi
  2. How to grow your business with webinar marketing by Ross Beard

9. Promote A Free Consultation

When it comes to professional services, people want access to expertise.

If you have done a good job of positioning yourself as an expert or authority in your niche, promoting a free consultation is a great way to generate new leads. If you have a good interpersonal sales process in place, it also sets you up to close a large percentage of leads.

free consultation strategy

A lot of service providers worry about disclosing too much info in a free consultation. They feel like potential clients will just take the info and run.

In reality, the exact opposite is true. While freeloader types might grab and go, they were never going to buy anyway. The type of people interested in paying for quality will be impressed by the value you provide in the consultation.

After all, if you can provide so much value in 30 minutes to an hour, they will believe that your claims are true and that hiring you is the right decision.

This can be used both online and offline. It can be advertised via pamphlets, newspapers, signs, or even word-of-mouth. And it can be prominently displayed on your website and social media channels.

This strategy won’t be ideal for every businesses, but if you offer an expert service or a high-priced service, it is very much worth considering.

Additional Reading

  1. Should You Offer Free Consultations? by Courtney Johnston
  2. 6 Ways To Make Free Consults Work For You by Laura Simms

10. Offer Staff Incentives

Referrals are one of the best ways to find new customers, and who better suited to obtain referrals than your current staff?

Your employees know your product or service. They know your customer base. Some of them will take initiative without financial motivation, but most won’t, and those you bring in new business should be encourage to repeat the process with financial or otherwise meaningful reward.

Offer incentives to your staff members who refer new clients. Research proves that it doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary; incentives can even come in the form of:

  • A sleep-in day: staff get to to sleep in late for a certain period of time.
  • Membership to publications (of their choice).
  • Vouchers for massages, movie nights, restaurants.

Like any type of compensation, incentives are about matching your business’ goals to the goals of your employees. If you can find out what they want most, you can motivate them to help grow your business.

It’s also important to give them the tools they need, whether that’s a customized landing page, printed coupons, a special discount for employee referred clients, or whatever.

Hold training sessions and teach your staff how to effectively promote your business, but remember that this form of marketing will only work if they genuinely feel good about your business and are properly motivated to pitch it to friends, family, and acquaintances.

Additional Reading

  1. How to Create a Referral Program that Boosts Retention & Rewards Employees by Joe Flores
  2. Determining The Most Effective Rewards For Employee Referrals by Dr. John Sullivan

11. Advertise In Niche Print Media

While much of the world has moved online, print media still exists, and in some niches, it still thrives.

In fact, as recently as 2014, retail consumers cited printed materials as the chief sources of information behind their purchasing decisions.

Niche print media

As print media continues to decrease in overall popularity, pricing for ad placement lowers as well. In the right niches, it is now possible to run effective ads at incredibly affordable prices.

That said, print media is rarely effective as a solo marketing strategy. It is best used in conjunction with online marketing strategies, with the two channels arranged to compliment each other and create an engaging experience for potential buyers.

Additional Reading

  1. How To Combine Print And Digital Marketing Campaigns by Jeff Bullas
  2. Is Print Marketing Really Dead? by Chris Holloway

12. Write A Column

If you are a decent writer, sharing your expertise in the form of weekly or monthly write-ups can do wonders for your brand.

This isn’t usually a situation where you get paid, but it’s also not a situation where you have to pay. These columns give you the opportunity to make consistent contact with an audience, building an actual relationship with the publication’s readers. That audience then begins to think of you when they think of experts in your field.

On the more accessible end, local newspapers or non-profit magazines are often looking for quality contributors. One the more exclusive end, publications like Forbes, Inc, and Fast Company are made up almost exclusively of unpaid expert columns.

But believe me. These experts make bank thanks to their place on these influential platforms.

Make sure that what you write about is valuable to the target audience. This isn’t lowkey advertising. It’s a chance to access and build trust with an audience someone else worked really hard to build.

Plus, even if you don’t land a column, you might be able to land a guest post, which can be incredibly valuable as well.

Some ideas for articles you can write include:

  • How-to guides
  • Current events commentary
  • Interviews with interesting people
  • List posts
  • Reporting on trends or events

Additional Reading

  1. How to Secure Guest Posts on Big Publications (WSJ, Forbes & HuffPo) by Sujan Patel
  2. How I Wrote for Fast Company, Copyblogger,& Entrepreneur by Aaron Orendorff

13. Join Local Business Groups

Joining local business groups will give you the opportunity to meet up with other like-minded people who already share some common ground with you: owning a business. While a lot of more general entrepreneur groups exist, there might also be some niche-specific groups and meetups in your area.

These groups are a great opportunity to bounce ideas off other smart people, share referrals, find talent, and identify new opportunities.

They are also a major catalyst in expanding your network around the city in which you live. Connections tend to multiply, and if your group takes networking seriously, you can leverage your seemingly minor connections into much significant ones.

While these groups are typically best found online, it’s preferable to have in-person meetups for the bulk of your interactions.

Lastly, these groups can lead to joint ventures and profitable partnerships, which we will discuss more in the next section.

Additional Reading

  1. Top 10 Business Networking Groups You Should Join by Brian Morris
  2. How To Find A Mastermind Group by Pat Flynn

14. Partner With Other Businesses

Teamwork is always more effective than singular effort, and combining resources with another business can help you do things you could never accomplish on your own.

It’s typically best to target companies in your local area, even if your clientele isn’t local. Your goal is to work out a complementary arrangement that provides mutual benefit for both businesses.

Some joint venture examples include:

  • A PPC agency could partner with a CRO agency to refer clients to each other.
  • A coffee shop could offer free coffee vouchers to a plumbing company’s customers.
  • A marketing company could partner with an accounting firm to recommend each other’s services during new client onboarding.
  • A beauty therapist could offer free manicures for a hair stylist’s clients.

There is really no limit to what’s possible. Simply identify crossover in your audience and a non-competitor’s audience and then find a way to tap into that crossover in a mutually beneficial way.

Additional Reading

  1. Why Small Businesses Should Partner Up With Other Brands by Web Smith
  2. 5 Tips To Partnering Alongside A Business For The First Time by Deborah Sweeney

15. Direct Mail Marketing

Like print media, direct mail marketing is not dead.

As online channels become more and more saturated with content, fewer companies look to direct mail, and that means opportunity for you.

Like with any marketing strategy, success comes down to targeted creativity. You can’t just spam people and expect a return on your investment. Just like you need to compel people to click your blog post headline, you need to compel mail recipients to open your letters.

Start with the envelope, which will never be opened if it looks like a run-of-the-mill promo piece. Stand out. Use a colored envelope. Use an unusual shape, size or material. Make it look interesting.

If possible, handwrite the address on every envelope or include something bulky inside to make the envelope lumpy – anything you can do to grab attention

Compare this envelope:

Direct mail marketing

Image Credit: Freelogoservices

With this one. You’re more likely to open the following envelope, right?

free logo service

Image Credit: KezzysCreations

The next thing to focus on is the content. If you want the best results, your headline has to be enticing, and your copywriting needs to hold the reader’s attention through the duration of your pitch.

Like most offline campaigns in 2016, direct mail is typically run in conjunction with an online marketing funnel.

Additional Reading

  1. How to Create a Direct Marketing Campaign by Entrepreneur.com
  2. How to Plan Your Direct Mail Marketing Campaign by George Oliveira

16. Speak At Events

In terms of branding and establishing yourself as an authority, few things are more impactful than being a speaker at popular events in your niche.

While invitations to speak at larger events are often extended as a result of accomplishments or visible influence, you can also work your way into these opportunities by becoming a talented speaker and delivering great talks at smaller events.

Or you can simply use it as another marketing channel, by speaking at some of these types of events:

  • Local clubs – think Rotary, Lion’s, Chamber of Commerce.
  • Business networking groups.
  • Specific interest clubs (photography, hiking, sewing, etc.)
  • Browse local events on Eventbrite.com and Meetup.com.
  • Schools.
  • Churches.
  • Check events in your local newspaper and magazines.
  • Big companies and their employees.

Be prepared, and treat every event like a big deal.

Additional Reading

  1. How To Start Speaking At Events by Chris Brogan
  2. Why I Get Invited to Speak at Events (And How You Can Too) by Rohit Bhargava

17. Small Business SEO

Small businesses are often tempted to give short shrift to SEO in their overall marketing, perhaps because mega-corporations such as Walmart and Amazon invest millions in dominating the search game. While it’s true that there will always be a competitor out there who has built a better small business SEO operation, it’s also true that today’s small business owner can’t afford to neglect search.

Here’s why:

  • It works. A well-planned and executed SEO strategy will yield results in terms of increased organic traffic and better positioning.
  • It’s cost effective. Compared to pay-per-click, social media marketing, and even purchasing email marketing lists, SEO delivers a respectable return on investment.
  • It dominates market share. About 90 percent of consumers search a product or service online prior to making a purchase. They won’t find your business if it doesn’t show up in search.  
  • Mobile search is exploding. This year, Google announced that mobile search outpaced desktop search for the first time, and in fact, Google Search is the 4th most popular app in the United States.

Of course, if you operate a local business, you really can’t afford to ignore SEO in your marketing plan. Google’s latest algorithm favors local businesses in its search results in an effort to deliver the highly relevant and individualized results today’s consumers demand. This is especially true for consumers who use Google on their smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices.

If your business has a mobile app, give yourself kudos for being ahead of the curve for marketing and SEO. The exponential growth in mobile search is a huge boon for businesses who capitalize on the SEO advantages of a mobile app.

Your mobile app helps SEO in two distinct ways:

  • Google is now treating as a “universal” result in mobile search. Apps with optimized titles and good ratings and reviews will float to the top, displacing even mobile websites with top organic rankings.
  • Google considers “high quality” apps to be a positive factor in ranking mobile search results. This means that deep links between your app and website could improve your mobile search rank.

If your business markets to a highly mobile audience or relies on mobile search for traffic and leads, you might want to consider adding a mobile app to your marketing strategy.

18. Link-Building for Small Businesses

The Google algorithm factors the quality and quantity of sites that link to you in your search rankings. In fact, some SEO consultants even recommend that fledgling businesses actually buy links to boost their ranking. That tactic, however, may do more harm than good.

There is no question that high quality links build authority and credibility, ultimately improving your ranking, but changes in the Google Penguin algorithm actually penalizes sites containing too many low-quality or “spammy” links. The key is building links the old-fashioned way—by creating useful, relevant content that people want to share.

For SMEs, this means investing the money and resources to develop highly shareable, top quality content. Long-form blog posts and in-depth articles, infographics, and video tutorials are examples of high performing content likely to garner links.

19. On-Page Optimization

If keyword research is the foundation of your SEO strategy, on-page optimization undergirds the rest of the search infrastructure. On-page optimization includes everything from optimal keyword density to site load speed that helps Google evaluate and rank your page. Great keywords won’t deliver results without good on-page optimization. Here’s a look at the basics:

  • Title Tags

Page titles should have an H1 tag (most content management systems do this automatically) and include a keyword and your brand name, if applicable. Limit your title to about 55 or 60 characters, which is all that displays in search results.

  • Meta Descriptions

While metas aren’t technically factored into search, they do give the searcher more information, entice them to visit, and often serve as a call to action. Limit them to about 150 characters or so.

  • Site Load Speed

Use Google’s Page Insight tool to see how your site stacks up. Aim for a score of 85 or better and make any recommended changes or fixes marked with a red exclamation point. If time and resources allow, make “yellow” fixes, as well. 

  • Schema Markups

Adding schema markups is one of the most powerful ways to boost your website in the SERPs. Schema tells the search engine what your content means, not just what it says, which changes the way the content is indexed. Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper makes it easy to add schema markups to your site.

  • Keyword Density

While there is no “optimum” keyword density percentage, there are some best practices to follow, such as including keywords in the title, meta, and anchor text, and avoiding keyword stuffing on the page. Use natural language and aim to drop the keyword at least once in the first 100 words of copy on a page.

  • Social Sharing Icons

Social media has a prime place in small business SEO; Google bots make a direct connection between your website and your social media profile pages. Include relevant social icons on your web pages—it not only improves your search, it adds credibility for visitors who land on your site.

Be sure to look at all your pages, including landing pages, product pages, and your company blog and implement SEO best practices across the board. Don’t forget ALT tags for images on your site; while the impact is small, the cumulative effect could make a difference in your rankings.

Conclusion & Summary

Well, that’s the scoop: 16 proven marketing strategies that have worked for thousands of businesses and can work for you.

Here’s the full list:

  1. Advertise on Facebook
  2. Rank your Google My Business listing
  3. Use Google Adwords
  4. Invest In content marketing
  5. Grow your organic social reach
  6. Run a coupon deal
  7. Build an email marketing funnel
  8. Host a webinar
  9. Offer a free consultation
  10. Incentivize employees to refer new clients
  11. Advertise in niche print media
  12. Write a column
  13. Join a local business group
  14. Partner with other businesses
  15. Launch a direct mail campaign
  16. Speak at events
  17. Small Business SEO
  18. Link Building
  19. On-Page Optimization

While only half of these are probably worth considering for your unique business, I’m guessing at least four of them are great fits, and as I said at the beginning of the article, one of these channels has the potential to skyrocket your growth this next year.

Evaluate the criteria I talked about at the beginning.

  • What demographics make up your customer base?
  • Where do they live?
  • Where do they hang out online?
  • How do they look for products in your niche?
  • Who do the listen when making decisions relative to your product?

Use the answers to select four viable channels from today’s list of marketing strategies for small businesses, and then run small tests with each strategy to see what fails and what performs.

15 Small Business Management Tips That’ll Save You 40 Headaches Everyday

When you’re just getting started with your small business, simply deciding which goal to tackle first—and knowing what to do and when—can be a job just by itself.

None of us are born with business smarts or an entrepreneurial playbook pre-printed into our brains. It’s stuff that we’ve all got to figure out along the way, and that most of us make some sort of horrible mistake over.

And especially when we first get started in business—when we don’t have years of experience to help us make smart, educated guesses—business management tips and advice from others can be incredibly helpful.

So today we’re going to focus on management tips—people management, time management, money management—you name it.

But they’re all tips that’ll help you as a new small business owner manage your business better so you can avoid unwanted headaches and just push forward to the progress you want.

 

1. Set Up an LLC (or Some Form of Official Business Entity)

Even if you’re totally self employed, don’t have anyone else working for you, and are 100% self-funded from your own pocket, you need to set up your business as a separate taxable entity from day one.

Some service professionals like writers, designers, and coaches feel safer skipping this step while they’re still ramping up their client base, but it usually costs $1,000 or less and almost instantly protects your personal assets from any legal trouble your business might get into.

I’m not saying your business will get into legal trouble—most small businesses never do.

But just in case you accidentally used a name that was copyrighted elsewhere in your state or get a totally horrible client that completely screws you over even though you have a contract… the worst thing that can happen is your business dissolves.

Which would suck, but at least you wouldn’t have to foreclose on your house just to pay off what you’re getting sued for… you know?

Headaches saved:

– Business financial troubles seeping over into your personal finances

– The IRS breathing down your neck

– Getting sued for everything you own

 

2. Separate Your Personal & Business Finances

Let’s say for some reason setting up a legal entity isn’t an option.

Or for some reason your paperwork is being held up, but you just can’t wait to get cracking on your business.

Please, please, please, by all means, don’t accept payment in your personal business account or put business expenses on your personal credit card.

Most banks will require official business paperwork to open something up in your business’s name, but at the very least, you can open separate personal accounts that are designated for only business transactions.

Regardless, even if getting your LLC paperwork was a breeze, this is something you have to do.

Since you and your business are separate taxable entities, you need to have separate finances. Otherwise things just get messy and you might as well assume you’ll have to deal with an audit—even if you’ve got nothing to hide.

Headaches saved:

– More trouble with the IRS

 

3. Pay for Accounting Software

A lot of brand-new business owners—especially those who are bootstrapping—are constantly looking for ways to save money.

So much so that tasks like accounting and bookkeeping—or keeping track of money in/money out—is something they assume they can do on their own.

But honestly, there’s no need to go full-out and hire an on-staff accountant. At least not at first.

There’s so many options for good, easy-to-use accounting software, that it’s just silly not to use them.

And honestly, for as little as they cost, they almost always pay for themselves with time saved.

You can get basic versions starting at $10 to $20 per month, and if sending invoices are a thing you do, they’ll look so much better and take so much less time to make than if you tried to fumble around Excel and do it yourself.

Headaches saved:

– Losing receipts

– Forgetting about your major expenses

– Not looking like a 7-year-old “playing business” while sending an invoice

 

4. Invest in Your Education

Heart-to-heart right now: the best money I’ve spent on my business has been on my own education to further it.

If I don’t know how to do something, I know it’s silly for me to keep trying to Google solutions, go through months and months of trial and error, and maybe get it right after that.

Instead, it makes a lot more sense to pay a few hundred dollars (sometimes even a few thousand, depending on the skill) to have someone who’s been there, done it, and been successful at it teach me how to do it right the first time.

Because even though those courses cost money upfront, they more than pay for themselves in return on saved mistakes alone… not to mention how much they help me actually make more money because of the things they teach.

I’ve done courses on how to set up my business, how to manage clients, how to market, how to advertise, how to write, how to pick colors and do basic web design, how to network, and how to create an info product.

Free courses are available yes, but they only scratch the surface. Paying money to dig deep into the topic and really learn it goes so, so far. Trust me.

Headaches saved:

– Wasted time

– Wasted money

– Failed experiments

– Leaving sales on the table

– Googling for 13 hours straight while your eyeballs bulge out of your head

 

5. Train New Employees Well

Recently I heard John and Kate (the couple behind Entrepreneur on Fire, not the reality show stars with 8 children) on a podcast talking about how when you hire someone, you should actually expect a temporary increase in work instead of immediately being able to offload responsibilities and have the free time you dream of.

That’s because, even if you make the smartest hires in the world, they’re not going to understand and acclimate to your business right away.

Instead, they’re going to need time to learn the ins and outs, to understand your expectations, and to mentally put the puzzle together to see how all the small pieces add up to your larger goals.

They’re not going to hit the ground running on day one, and you shouldn’t expect them to.

Train them well to do their jobs—even if they’ve filled the same role five times before at five different companies and you assume it should all be the same. (It’s not all the same.)

If you’re not sure how to put together a training plan, check out this guide on Inc. and its dig deeper resources.

Plus, when someone feels more competent in their job, they feel more empowered and proud of what they do.

Headaches saved:

– Harsh firing

– High turnover

– No wasted time going back to un-do employee mistakes

6. Ignore Your Inbox the First 4 Hours of Every Day

No doubt you’ve read productivity articles that have advised you not to check your emails first thing in the morning.

Because it’s a piece of advice repeated so often by people doing nothing but parroting one another, it can be easy to ignore.

But, it does serve a purpose, and a good one at that.

The thing is, when you’re actively going through your emails, your brain feels busy. It is busy, actually, but not with the most important tasks of the day.

And studies have shown over and over again that decision fatigue as the day wears on and as our brains keep thinking is very much a thing.

Which means that if you spend the first four hours of your day weeding through emails from those SEO spammers, you’re burning your brain power out on things that don’t even matter.

Which means you’ve got a lot less brain power left over to think critically about important business decisions and situations that can actually make you more successful. (Unlike those fake SEOs.)

Plus, when an “emergency situation” pops into your inbox and you don’t see it until the afternoon, at least the majority of your to-do list is taken care of before you have to handle it.

Headaches saved:

– Not getting behind on your to-do list

– Not making decisions you regret

 

7. Invest in Marketing

An “Open for Business” sign on your front door and/or a website that’s finally gone live isn’t enough to get you customers.

It’d be nice, but that’s just not the world we live in.

The world we live in requires small business people like us to force our way in front of people, show them something valuable, and somehow have them listen to our pitch.

Because without that, ain’t nobody going to just be compelled out of the blue to buy from us.

So to invest in marketing properly, you’ll need to do a little research to find out what works best for your business model and your market:

  • Renting a booth at a festival?
  • Online content marketing?
  • Ads in the newspaper?
  • PPC ads in Google?
  • Facebook ads?
  • Network marketing and referrals?

Whatever it is, you’ll want to start doing it from day one.

Or if you’re really smart, you’ll use it to start building hype, loyalty and anticipation before day one.

But whatever you do, don’t sit around and twiddle your thumbs and then decide that maybe you should look into marketing when you realize your business isn’t as profitable as you initially planned.

Do it right away and you’ll thank yourself.

Headaches saved:

– Sore thumbs from too much twiddling

– Zero cash flow

– Going in debt because of no income

– No funds to pay yourself or your employees

 

8. Schedule Meetings With Yourself

As the business owner, you’ve got a ton of decisions to make.

You’re the one responsible for your company’s ultimate success or failure, you’re the one all your employees look to for direction, and you’re the one that’s got to see the big branding picture to know what moves to make next.

But because running a business—even a “small” business—requires so much work and such a long freaking to-do list, we often get so caught up in feeling accomplished by getting that work done and those to-do items checked off that we forget to check in with ourselves as business owners.

In short, we get caught up in acting like an employee to such an extent that we forget to be the boss.

So every week—I schedule mine on Friday mornings—take 30 minutes to an hour to have a meeting with yourself as the chief strategist of your business.

To start off the meeting, acknowledge what your big-picture goals are and then for each of those goals, figure out if what you’re doing right now is aligned with making those things happen.

If it is, great.

If it isn’t, figure out what you can do to change it.

If it kind of is, but there’s room for improvement, figure out what that improvement needs to be.

When I do this, I often find that the things I’ve let myself get heavily focused on probably need to be set to the side for a week or two while I get something else in order.

And even though I don’t make progress on the thing I set aside for half a month, when I do pick it back up again, the progress is always smarter and faster because of these meetings with myself.

Headaches saved:

– Getting behind on your goals

– Not keeping up with the market or your competition

– Watching part of your business crumble

 

9. Pay Your Taxes Every Quarter

I’ll admit, this is something I didn’t always keep up with until this year.

And the reason I’m keeping up with it now was because when I filed my taxes last April, I had to pay a fine for not paying my minimum amounts on time.

I had every intention of paying my taxes, I just assumed it wouldn’t matter if I paid them ahead of time or if I paid them at the time of filing. But I was wrong. The IRS wanted your money within 3 months after I made it.

It makes sense… if you pay sooner they can make better use of your money and/or earn interest on it.

So if you’re not already paying your taxes on a quarterly basis, talk to your accountant to see what your quarterly minimums should be and make sure you send them in.

The best part is, you don’t have to do the filing paperwork every quarter. As long as you send in the checks (or pay online) and keep track of what you’ve sent, you’ll be good to go and now have any sort of fee to pay.

Headaches saved:

– Hard-earned money spent on unnecessary fees

– No IRS employees breathing down your neck

 

10. Ban Multi-Tasking

Because really, who are we kidding here?

It astonishes me that I still see job descriptions seeking “competent multi-taskers” when it’s been proven in one study after another that multitasking  is both impossible and that attempting to do it makes you about 3,000 times less productive.

So don’t let yourself or your employees multi-task.

Don’t think you can absorb the information in an instructional podcast while also blasting through your email inbox.

Or deal with your Twitter notifications while you’re on a conference call with your suppliers.

At any point you’re paying attention to one while the content of the other is just coasting right over your head without any cognitive recognition from your brain.

By doing one thing at a time—and only one thing at a time—you’ll find that you actually get more done in a day, that your work rises to a much higher quality, and that you’ll make fewer mistakes that you have to go back and undo later.

Headaches saved:

– Embarrassing typos in emails sent to important customers

– Having to go back and listen to the same podcast episode for the 3rd time

– That frazzled feeling in your brain when you have to constantly switch back and forth between tasks

– People not taking you seriously because they think you’re a space case

 

11. Have a Go-To Accountant

In addition to the advice to have accounting software that I talked about above, it’s also smart to have an accountant you can go to as-needed.

Again, I’m not talking about hiring one to keep on staff with you.

Instead, I mean finding a certified CPA who you can hire to do your taxes when the time comes and get financial advice from as and when you need it.

It also never hurts to have an accountant review your business’s cash flow to make sure you’re covered for a risky economic situation—even if it’s unpredictable. (Remember 2008?)

If you know your numbers and stay on top of them, you’ll always be in a better situation than if you kind of think you’re doing good enough for the time-being.

Headaches saved:

– You don’t suddenly find yourself in the hole

 

12. Leave 20% of Your Day Open

If you’ll be “at the office” for five hours, only schedule four hours of work.

If it’s 10 hours behind your desk, only eight hours of work.

Because the thing is, there’s always something that comes up last minute that you have to deal with. There’s always a phone call with a needy client that goes 60 minutes over it’s allowed 30 minutes. And there’s always something you thought would take an hour to finish, but it takes two.

And if nothing like that comes up one day?

Perfect.

You now have time to catch up on your emails, read up on what’s happening in your industry, or dedicate more time to your passion project within your business.

Or, you know, you could just take that time off for the sake of your mental health.

But by leaving 20% of your day open, you know that you can confidently take care of those last-minute things that come up without scrambling around and worrying how it’s going to affect the workload of the rest of your week.

Trust me.

I used to book my days, Monday through Friday, at full capacity.

I wanted maximum profitability, I was healthy, and I knew I’d have the weekends off, so I didn’t see any problem with it.

But when all of a sudden on Tuesday morning I realized I had to go to the store for an external hard drive to have enough space to store my videos?

Geez.

I started calculating in my head whether or not I should cancel Thursday night’s date or if it would really be that bad to work an hour or two on Saturday morning.

Not a fun problem to solve.

But now that I now the value of scheduling in white space, I don’t have that problem nearly as often anymore.

I still have packed and busy days, but I can usually get through the week without procrastinating something or having it suck up my precious weekends.

Headaches saved:

– Necessary weekend office hours

– Involuntary late nights

– Cancelled plans

– Your friends and family hating your workaholism

 

13. Use the Pomodoro (Or Similar) Technique

Productivity articles and advice are a dime a dozen, I get it.

But making sure you squeeze the most—and the most productive—work out of the time you’ve got is essential to meeting your goals.

The way I do this is by using the Pomodoro Technique.

Basically, it’s this: work for 25 minutes, break for five minutes, and repeat until you work four 25-minute segments.

Then take a longer break.

Then come back and repeat it again.

Each set of four lasts for about two hours, and I’d swear you’d get at least three hours or more worth of work done.

Because you can “only” work for 25 minutes before taking a break, you feel like you need to have something to show for that time, so you automatically stop wasting your time on Facebook.

Also, because it’s only a 25-minute work segment, there’s absolutely zero pressure to finish a project in one sitting, eliminating the stress of getting started and making it easier to make progress.

I started using this technique months ago and haven’t stopped. I get more work done, I stay on task, and I finish my work day earlier—leaving more time for myself.

Headaches saved:

– Procrastination

 

14. Be Relentless About the 80/20 Rule

While this rule makes 100% sense in theory, it’s one of the hardest things for us to implement as small business owners.

For one thing, analytics are never fun to set up or look at (for most people)—so that in itself is a huge barrier.

But also, we take a lot of pride in our work and don’t want to realize the things we’re passionate about and have been working on don’t pay off for us.

Believe me, I get it.

But the thing is, if you’re wasting our time marketing on podcasts and no one from the podcast-listening world ever converts on your website, it’s probably time to cut off podcasting from your promotion strategy.

And with the time you save from not podcasting, you can use it towards areas that are actually growing your bottom line and generating a profit for you—like guest blog posting or working on your Facebook ad strategy, for example.

Because the thing is, when you implement the 80/20 rule, you have less wasted time and you make more money.

And with more money and time, you can always leverage your business for even more growth.

Headaches saved:

– Wasted time

– Missing out on potential profits

 

15. Once You Train Your Employees, Avoid Them

Okay, I’m not talking about not helping your employees out once in a while.

But like we discussed above, if you’ve got a good training program in place, once that training is finished, they should be empowered and competent enough to make most of the decisions that fall within their job role on their own.

Plus, if an employee has constant access to you—especially if he’s new and doesn’t have a lot of experience—he’ll take advantage of it.

So set up structures that allow your employees to contact you in ways that don’t interfere with your own workday.

In the beginning, using email can work—that way you respond when you have time.

As things get more sophisticated, a project management software where you can collaborate with multiple employees without everyone having to sit together in a meeting to decide on one thing can be a great idea.

Don’t get me wrong, weekly face-to-face meetings definitely still have their place. You still want to maintain the feeling of working in a team as much as possible.

But at the same time, the reason you hired your employees was for them to be able to do work you didn’t want to do or didn’t have time to do… so having them suck up your time just doesn’t make any sense.

And if you have a separate office, set certain office hours where people are welcome to come and knock on your door for help. (In other times, it’ll be off limits.)

Headaches saved:

– Annoying, repeat questions

– People constantly knocking on your office door

 

Conclusion: It’s a Lot to Take In, But You’ll Get it Down (I Promise)

Okay, I realize I’ve just totally inundated you with a lot of “do this!” and “now do this!” and “don’t forget to do this too!” kind of advice.

And I realize that you’ve already got a to-do list a mile long, but if there’s anything on this list that you haven’t done yet or that you haven’t incorporated into your management style, consider adding one item at a time to your to-do list until you get them all checked off.

There’s no rule that says you have to master everything all at once. (Thank goodness, right?)

So take a deep breath, pick one thing off this list to tackle, and forge ahead with the confidence in yourself that you’ll take care of the rest later. (So no need to stress over it right now.)

8 Great Places To Get Free Small Business Advice

There’s nothing close to a shortage of free small business advice online.

Just Google the term and you’ll be inundated with more than you could ever possibly read.

This isn’t a bad thing—it feels great to know that the people on the internet have your back and are ready and willing to offer you advice when you need it.

But at the same time, since most of this advice is written in an article or recorded in a video, the person giving the advice doesn’t know your exact situation.

They’re giving advice based on assumptions of what happens in most business, so the advice isn’t tailored to your specific situation.

They might be giving you great advice and telling you to make sure you have an email autoresponder in place to sell people an introductory offer as soon as they download your lead magnet—but what if you don’t have an introductory offer yet and the only services you sell are really expensive?

What do you “sell” them on then?

Or they might tell you to make more money, you need to raise your prices.

But what if you feel like you’ve already maxed out your prices in your current market and are too scared to jump into a new market without a security net to catch you?

What if they’re telling you to outsource your easy-to-replicate processes to a VA, but you’ve already tried it a few times and it was a complete failure?

The advice in and of itself isn’t bad, but the fact that it isn’t tailored exactly to your business and your current needs inherently means it will fall short at some point.

And while hiring a personal business coach to see you through these problems is always an option, it starts to get pricey after a while—especially when you’re a small business without super gargantuan profits.

Fortunately, there’s places you can go to get personalized attention and advice (for free!) to grow your small business, get past your challenges, and learn how to start off on the right foot in your new venture.

Don’t worry—I’m not going to suggest any blogs or online forums where just anyone can log in and give half-assed advice.

In fact, if it’s online—for this post anyway—it’s off-limits. (I do make one exception, but you’ll see why.)

I want to show you places where you can go to get free, personalized, in-person business advice from people who’ve been there and done it.

 

1. SCORE

score

SCORE, which stands for Service Corps of Retired Executives, is the ultimate place to get free, quality advice from people who already have a lifetime of experience growing successful businesses.

Every member of SCORE is a retired executive or entrepreneur.

They’ve had incredible successes, experienced crushing mistakes and failures, and have kept going and kept their businesses profitable. And they’ve got a wealth of information, experience, and advice they’re ready to share.

Their core work is to connect small business owners and entrepreneurs to mentors who can guide them in building a successful business.

And better yet, it’s free.

It’s sponsored by the Small Business Administration and a slew of other sponsors like Google, Intuit, Microsoft, Staples, Office Depot, Vistaprint, the Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc, and The Wall Street Journal, among others.

With such high-level names backing the project, you already expect it to be incredible. And from my personal experience, it is.

Where I live, SCORE members are hugely involved in the local entrepreneurial and business community and are always looking for ways to reach out and help us.

Since making my first connections with SCORE members, I’ve been asked to speak at some of their events and received a free panel review from a small handful of retired executives to help me spot how to take the next step in my business when I was feeling stuck.

But even if you haven’t run into SCORE members in person yet, you can still take advantage of their free, personalized advice by requesting a mentor here.

And the advice is there for anyone at any stage of business—not just for people getting started.

For example, Designing Digitally had been in business for 10 years, and though they were successful, their owner was facing new challenges like process, production, planning, sales, marketing, and managing his own task list. So he got in touch with SCORE for some advice.

“Once the mentors helped us work through improving our processes,” the owner said, “we focused on building a stronger pipeline between the sales person and the production team.”

With twice-weekly meetings with their mentors, the company is taking on more workloads and hiring and training sales staff to take them to their next level of success.

 

2. Community College Small Business Centers

Most community colleges will have a small business center that’s funded at least in part by the government.

The reason they’re there and that the government invests in them is to support the local economy and help bolster its growth. And many times, the best way to do this is to offer support to motivated individuals, as it often proves to be an incredible investment with a great ROI.

The Small Business Center page from the community college in my city sums it up pretty nicely: “We aim to increase the number of viable businesses across the state by providing high quality, accessible assistance to small business owners, which in turn, leads to job creation and retention.”

And one of the main services they offer to help do that is professional business counseling—given at no charge.

They’re there to help you with legal questions, planning, growth, cash flow, setting goals that make sense, and reaching those goals.

They even offer free services like HR, accounting, patents, web design, marketing, and business management.

 

3. MeetUp – Startup Planning Sessions

meetup

I’ll admit: this strategy for getting free, quality business advice is a little more hit-and-miss than the two options mentioned above.

Especially since when you have a free, open-to-the-public group, you’ll inevitably get plenty of wannapreneurs or people who are all talk and no action.

But, if you hone in on the event descriptions of the MeetUp groups, you can really help yourself weed out the bad apples and go where the good (free!) advice is.

Because when you do get a hit, it can be one of the most valuable things ever.

Within entrepreneurial MeetUp groups in your area, look through their past events for these things:

  • A healthy number of RSVPs
  • Comments from attendees about how valuable the MeetUp was
  • Each meeting as a topic of focus
  • There’s workshop-style meetings happening where everyone comes to work on their business and not just talk about how great it is to be self-employed
  • It’s a group that’s been going strong for more than a few months

And if you really need some good, solid business advice, I’d suggest really looking for and going after MeetUps that are labeled with “workshop” or “working group” or “working session” or something similar.

Another tip is to go for planning-focused sessions. In my city, there’s a MeetUp focused solely around the Lean Startup methodology, and every single meeting is focused around helping attendees plan out their business. The best part is, it’s led by people who have experience starting businesses and making them successful, so if you bring your ideas there, they can give you their own experienced input.

4. BusinessAdvising.org

bao

Okay, is technically a website, but the “online” part only matters in that it’s how they match you with a volunteer advisor… and that the advising can happen virtually.

But I think we can all agree that meeting with an advisor (for free!) via Skype is almost as good (if not equally as good) as meeting with one in person—especially when that advisor is hand-picked for your specific situation.

And according to their home page, small businesses who work with an advisor via their program grow their revenues by 26% and create jobs 11 times higher than the national rate—which is not an opportunity to ignore, if you ask me.

The only potential drawback though, is they don’t serve brand new businesses.

The requirements are that you’ve got to have been in business for at least two years, have at least $150,000 in annual revenue, have a minimum of at least two full-time employees, and either be focused around creating jobs economically underserved communities or have a compelling social mission.

But, they do say they’re flexible, so if you don’t meet the criteria 100%, you can still get in touch. (It doesn’t hurt, and honestly, what do you have to lose?)

Each advisor is asked to commit to five hours per month per person they mentor—meaning that’s at least a one-hour call every single week.

Kipper Clothiers, a socially-oriented business that didn’t have the experience to scale as they got more and more orders, turned to BusinessAdvising.org for help when they needed it.

After working with a mentor, the founders restructured their marketing plan, gained new clients, and learned how to put on amazing events.

Angela T. Jones had never run her own business before she started Super Woman Productions and Publishing. And as her business started to grow, she realized she really needed some advice.

Her mentor helped her improve the marketing of her offerings, increase engagement with her target audience, and see the big picture of her efforts.

 

5. Avoo

Avvo logo

Okay, I know I promised no websites or forums, but I’m going to include one because it’s just too good not to ignore.

Avoo is a company that helps business owners hire experienced lawyers to help them with their legal issues and problems.

But as a part of their site, they also have a page where you can submit a question and get an answer from a real lawyer for free—often within a day.

Which is perfect if you’ve been Googling yourself silly trying to find an answer to something you just can’t figure out, but you know it’s a question a lawyer could answer easily—so there’s no reason to hire one to consult with you for an hour.

And yes, it’s free.

avoo

Here’s the question form where you can request free legal advice without having to pay a lawyer’s hourly consulting fee.

 

6. Small Business Legal Clinics

Ironically, even though this post isn’t about focusing on websites, I don’t have a single website to point you to for uncovering information on this one.

All I can tell you to do is to Google something like “small business legal clinic + [city]” or “small business clinic + [city]” and maybe substitute “clinic” for words like workshop, center, class, support group, or seminar. “Pro bono” is also a good term to throw in there.

It’s a little bit of work and a little bit of an art, but it doesn’t take that long to figure out if there’s anything near you, and if there is, it can be a great place to go for free, quality business advice.

For example, when I Googled it, I found NC LEAP, which I never even knew existed before.

It provides services to low-wealth entrepreneurs for whom even bootstrapping would be a stretch—helping make sure they get what they need to succeed rather than becoming a statistic of another failed business.

Access to all the legal services for participants are pro bono, meaning the lawyers are offering them on a volunteer basis and they’re free to you as an entrepreneur.

Other events like this include things offered by independent law firms, B2B business who have Pro Bono offerings and events, and you’ll also probably see your community college and SCORE offerings (mentioned above) show up in this search.

 

7. Women’s Business Centers

owbo

The Small Business Association (SBA) started the Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO) in 1979 to make sure women—who’ve been historically excluded and under-served in the entrepreneurial world—participate more strongly in the economy.

Beyond training and counseling, the OWBO also offers things like financial resources via business loans, access to procurement opportunities, and local offices where you can connect within your own community.

The tool on this page helps you find Women’s Business Centers in your state—complete with addresses and phone numbers so you know where to go and who to call if you find yourself needing help.

And because they’re a part of the SBA network, they’re also heavily connected with resources like SCORE and community colleges to help you get the most out of all the free resources available to you as a small business owner.

 

8. Veterans Business Outreach Centers

VBOC newlogo

With 19 different participating centers across the United States, these centers are not as readily available as others, but if you’re a veteran with a small business, they’re definitely something to take advantage of—even if the closest one is two states away.

The program is designed for veteran entrepreneurs who either already own a small business in operation or who are thinking about starting one.

If you’re just thinking about starting your own business, they offer concept assessments, pre-business plan workshops that address issues of self employment, business plan prep, and feasibility analyses to predict your likelihood of success.

And once you’ve got a business up and running, they offer counseling, training on entrepreneurial skills necessary to keep a business growing, mentorship from experienced individuals, and access to services like international trade, online marketing, accounting, and franchising.

Better yet, it’s currently led by Barbara Carson, who herself has 20 years of military experience and who has been an entrepreneur since 2006. She’s someone who’s been there & done that in all aspects of being a military veteran and an entrepreneur, so she’s got your best interests at heart.

 

In Conclusion: Awesome, Free Advice is Just Waiting for You

So basically, as you can see, awesome, free business advice from kind people who’ve “been there, done that” is out there just waiting for you. All you have to do is take a little bit of initiative to uncover where it’s sitting in your city.

I’ve been floored about how forthcoming and nice people are about helping me when all I do is simply ask for it. And it’s definitely helped me see the bigger picture of my business outside of my own perspective, which has been crucial to planning smart next steps that make sense for growth and not just my own personal comfort.

If you’ve ever used any of these free resources, what did you think about them? (Personally, I think SCORE is my favorite from the list because the people are just so knowledgable and helpful.)

25 Restaurant Marketing Ideas You’ll Love

What specific steps are you taking to grow your Restaurant?

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you’re confident that your restaurant is one of the best in your city or town. At some point, your customers have even praised you for making such a delicious meal.

You felt on top of the world.

But, you’re still stuck. Not knowing what to do to get more customers. You reasoned that too many restaurants are spring up in your city. And competition will grow even stronger.

Here’s the solution: You need to stand out in through effective marketing.

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been running this awesome “spot” for few years, you can’t do without marketing.

You may not attract angel investors, but at whatever level you operate right now, you can boost your sales – in the same manner Pinocchio’s Italian Eatery increased their sales by 16.7%.

Focus on achieving consistent daily sales. Because that’ll determine your weekly average, then monthly, and more.

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Having said that, here are the 25 simple and creative restaurant marketing ideas that will work for you:

 

1. Engage local food bloggers

You can’t successfully promote your restaurant all by yourself. You need the help, audience, and expertise of other food bloggers.

These influential online entrepreneurs can promote your restaurant on social media networks and niche-specific discussion boards.

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You may have heard stories about succeeding as a single body. It’s not entirely true. The local food bloggers of this internet-driven age understand what you’re trying to do, so they’ll go all out to help you.

Business is about relationships and team building rather than going solo. The overall victory seen on the outside can be broken down to individual input of a larger crowd.

So how do you engage local food bloggers?

Well, you can invite them to share their cooking tips with your website audience. You may even host an event and invite a handful local food bloggers as keynote speakers.

Most of these local food bloggers have built up a strong following on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They can help amplify your marketing efforts – and drive more customers to your restaurant.

 

2. Grow your email database

Are you building your email list?

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?

In case you’re not aware, it’s a fact that if you’re not capturing your website visitor’s personal information (e.g., email address, phone numbers, address), you’re not truly in business.

Sooner or later, you’re going to hit a deadend in your business.

As a restaurant owner/marketer, don’t be left out of this. Email marketing is not only for digital marketers, local businesses can take advantage of it, too.

However, when you pay attention and study your market, you can actually add more email and phone subscribers to your list – from those who are interested in foods and restaurant.

Building targeted list will produce better results for your restaurant business. Here are proven means to get it done effectively:

i).    Collect phone: Often times, you would have people call-in to make reservations, ask questions about your menu, cuisines, services etc.

You may not be the one at the receiving end, but your restaurant staff or team member taking the calls should get the caller’s mobile phone number, or/and email.

ii).   At the point of purchase: You can give a voucher or discount coupon to your customers who come to dine at your restaurant, on the condition they give their mobile phone/email.

Putting up a good creative show can equally help you add more targeted customers to your list. In this case, even timers to your restaurant will drop their mobile phone number/email, once they have derived a value from your event.

You can find out the opinion of the majority of your customers before moving on with your messaging.

With your targeted list, you can either use a bulk SMS or email autoresponder to send your customers special bonuses/freebies, especially during occasions of their birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, etc.

 

3. Build a tribe with your landing page

A tribe is simply a loyal group of customers who believe, trust, and will do anything to buy from you. Building a tribe takes time, and it’s better done with a landing page.

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Restaurant owners are becoming aware of the need to build new landing page for their campaigns.

A landing page is your web page with a single purpose. When potential customers visit this page, it’s a good opportunity to get their opinions, feedbacks, emails, phone numbers, etc.

Getting it done the right way is the only way to get the right results. So, here are a few suggestions:

i).   Let your landing page load within 2 seconds: The human attention span is 8 seconds. Consequently, you need to build landing pages that are insanely fast, on both desktop and mobile devices that your audience uses to access it.

ii).   Set the tone you desire on your landing page: Make it clear what the landing page is for. If you’re giving early access to a new recipe or food club, then your page must be about nothing else.

 

4. Get active on social networks

Are you actively promoting your restaurant website and center on social media networks?

Michael Lukianoff, Fishbowl’s chief analytics officer told CNBC in an interview that “social media gives smaller, independent, and regional [brands] a level playing ground to get their message/voice out.”

In other words, you can’t compete successfully with other restaurants without a strong presence on social media.

There are so many social media platforms, (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+), but you’re not required to use all of them.

Through years of experience with restaurant businesses, I can boldly say that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and the best – you should focus on them.

On the flip side, you don’t have to take my word for it. You need to find the social networks that suits your brand and stick to them.

This you can find out by clearly getting to know the kind of audience your brand serves, your industry, the social marketing technique that works best for you.

Above all, only share relevant information on these social channels. That’s the only way to differentiate your restaurant from others.

Your relevance can be looked at, from the quality of the content you share on those channels.

Use the resources available to you, to create beautiful content you so desire, in the forms of mobile apps, and source for useful information online.

Sharing useful and relevant information is important, but you share it matters, too.

For example, take a look at what Grubhub is doing. Among other things, they make you want to eat the food – just by the way the presented it on their website.

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5.   Have a functional, and professional website

You need a functional website to stay above the fold.

For you to be seen as an authority by your industry, your website must be designed to be practical and useful and professional.

Gladly, a Phoenix-based restaurant increased customer conversion by 70% after they designed a simple, but good-looking website.

In fact, when Gladly added a Notification Bar for Restaurant Week, to further engage the customers, it generated additional 374 clicks.

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Your website doesn’t have to be sophisticated before it can attract local customers to your restaurant.

In marketing, being “relevant and clear” is alway better than trying to be clever and miss the essence.

On of the best ways to keep your restaurant website relevant and your value proposition clear is by producing helpful content.

To avoid messing around with html, CSS or PHP codes associated with dynamic websites, it’s advisable to start a WordPress blog on your restaurant website.

Let’s look at it briefly…

 

6.    Start blogging about food

Blogging is a powerful sales driver. When you start blogging, you generate leads. And leads become customers when you nurture them.

In fact, blogging frequently can increase your leads generation by 89%.

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If you want your food related content to be read, shared, and aid customers in making purchase decisions, you need to study your market – and understand the restaurant trends.

Making the decision to blog consistently isn’t easy. Here are few tips to supercharge your food blog:

a).   Be original: Your audience will love you if your blog posts, articles, videos, and other multimedia content are unique.

b).   User friendly design: Your blog design should make visitors want to stay. There shouldn’t be any difficulty with navigating on your blog.

Additionally, people should find it easy to comment, follow you on social networks directly from your restaurant blog, and share your content.

c).   Go beyond publishing: It’s no longer enough to just write article and expect people to read it. When you publish your helpful content, promote it actively on social media networks.

d).   Keep your blog open: Yes, don’t do it all by yourself. Get other food bloggers to write content for your blog – and share their expertise with your audience.

 

7.    Engage in local SEO practice

Local SEO (search engine optimization) is basically the process of optimizing your local business (restaurant) website and blog posts rank highly in Google for keywords that your audience inputs into Google search.

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In local search optimization, you want Google to rank your web pages primarily for keywords that have your city, town, or state. E.g., where to eat in Boston, top restaurants in Los Angeles.

You can make use of this checklist from Smallbiztrends. The simple step by step approach involves the following:

i).   Keyword research: Find the keywords that your audience is inputting into Google search. You can use the Google Keywords Planner or Keywordtool.io.

You may also ask your customers, friends, and family members what they usually type into Google search whenever they’re looking for a particular restaurant or meal plan.

Since you operate a real business, you also need to check your title tags, meta descriptions, and Name, address, and phone number (NAP) information.

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As shown by the image below. The first ring of purple, is the title tag, and the second which is in black, the meta description.

ii).   Optimize your website images: The way search engines see images is quite different from the way we do. In order to get your site images search friendly, you need to pay attention to your file name, title text, alt-text, and size.

You can use JPEGmini to optimize your images and convert into JPEG extenstion.

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iii).   Claim your restaurant in Google Places: It’s free. All you’ve to do is sign up at Google My Business.

iv).   Improve your page authority: Before Google can confidently rank your content pages in their top results, you need to build links to those pages where you’ve published helpful content.

 

8.    Integrate loyalty programs into foodie apps

Foodie apps are used on mobile phones. Examples are Tender, Off The Menu, Kitchenbowl, etc.

Considering the increased use of mobile devices, mobile phone users can now make some food decisions on the go now. Isn’t it awesome?

Sadly, if mobile users can’t access your restaurant or order a meal online, you can’t really get along with the competition.

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However, for these foodie apps to truly bring your restaurant success, you need to incorporate loyalty programs.

Loyalty programs are special programs that restaurants and businesses use to build deeper connection with their customers.

You need an understanding of your customers, and what motivates them to visit a particular restaurant over another.

Use foodie apps to collect user behavior data from your potential restaurant customers. It’s expected that at the click of a button, your new and existing customers should be able to get the latest information about your restaurant, meal plans, recipes, and other benefits.

Using mobile apps to further engage your customers is a powerful marketing idea that’s proven to work. As an example, Jaspare’s Pizza generated over $117,000 with their restaurant app.

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9.    Make an irresistible ‘’special’’ offer to social fans

It’s high time you get creative with your offers.

Don’t just make “offers” that your competitors can flip over.

Make it special.

Special offer can be a discount , a coupon, or just sending food over to your customers who may have participated in your contest either on facebook, or other social media channels.

Here’s an example of a special offer from 56 North Bar & Restaurant.

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Not only is it going to make more people/customers order from your restaurant, it’d also create a buzz that would make your audience wait for your next announced contest.

10.   Collect and sort customer behavior data

Putting customer behavior data and sorting them is essential if you must increase daily orders. It helps you make better decisions – and ensures that your restaurant offers aligns with customer’s expectations.

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What specific information should you focus on?

a).   Personal info: This includes the customer’s full name, sex, age, location, and earnings. Of course, you can collect this information by studying a customer’s order history.

b).   Personal disposition: This involves their attitude/behavior while they were using your restaurant’s product/service, as well as when they visit your restaurant.

It also involves the reason they would choose yours over another, what they hope to get from using your restaurant, etc.

When you’re armed with these vital data about your customers, you’ll most assuredly serve them well.

 

11. Gamify customer experience with mobile

Gamification is a popular marketing approach that works, especially for restaurant businesses.

Gamification is the concept of using game design elements in non-game applications, to make them more fun and engaging.

For one, there is an increase in gaming in the US and other parts of the world.

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The high demand by customers for quality service has made running a restaurant a daunting task. Because, there are hundreds of new restaurants springing up around your locality, as I write this.

Since the introduction of mobile app which makes it easy to access a product or service from anywhere at any given time. It has become difficult for marketers to increase sales, by solely depending on offline marketing strategies.

Mobile searcher are the most targeted group of customers you can ever get. According to KISSMetrics, 78% searches for local business search made on a mobile device resulted in a purchase.

In order to increase and retain your customers, you need to optimize your marketing tactics – using gamification tactic.

And considering that almost 155 million Americans are regularly playing game, if you can approach these people in this gaming language that they understand, you’ll definitely acquire more customers to your restaurant website.

Adding a little fun to your restaurant business; through mobile apps, or online reservations will dazzle your audience and help you achieve your goal.

To get started, create simple games that will be launched on mobile apps. You can use Buildfire app builder, which comes with a lot of templates related to food, healthy living, fitness, and so on.

Remember that when people use this game, they are more likely to order from the restaurant.

With the use of innovative ideas, your game should definitely stand out from the rest.

Be creative. Add more features to make the game more fun for your users. For example:

  •  Providing a quick and easy ordering feature for gamers to place an order within the game interface.
  •  Pricing calculator to make it easy for them to check the price of what they want, and make a choice based on their budget.
  •  Added benefits for high scorers in the game, should be awarded with free meal from your restaurant. It’ll encourage more people to play the game regularly, not only for fun, but also for what they stand to win if they attain a certain score.
  •  Request modification to help your customers adjust their order.

 

12. Use Facebook retargeting ads regularly

Most people will not order from your restaurant at first visit.

It’s estimated that only about 5-8% of your website visitors will convert on your page. Question is, “how do you recover 95% of leads who ignored your offer the first time?”

That’s where retargeting (also known as remarketing) comes into play.

Unlike popup ads, people actually like retargeted ads.

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Retargeting can be executed on several platforms, but Facebook seems to the best for most marketers.

I’ve personally better conversion rate for retargeted ads using Facebook than Google AdWords.

Facebook retargeting is a powerful marketing technique that you can use to serve ads to people who visited your restaurant website initially and left without placing order, or participating in your contest.

This is how it works:

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Retargeting ads effectively can help you build your customer base, and increase revenue.

For example, Nissan, a Japanese car manufacturer sold over 160 cars through leads generated from facebook ads.

Postano, a company that works with brands on social media strategy, through retargeting, saw a 278% conversion rate lift in 60 days.

When a potential customer visits your restaurant website or landing page, a cookie is added to the visitor’s browser.

That way, when you retarget ads, such as will be triggered by the user, the moment they visit any of the publisher networks through their browner.

As often as these people see your ads, they urge to place order will grow. This is why you see TV commercials for a particular product.

Retargeting basically drives potential leads back to your website, by targeting the users who have previously visited your website.

 

13. Leverage Yelp reviews to inspire customers

In the world of marketing, word of mouth has been confirmed to have a great positive impact in lead conversion. Customers are more confident when they read reviews on a product.

Data from the Search Engine Land 2013 Report, “85% of consumers say the read online reviews for local businesses, up from 76% last year.”

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One of the reasons why Amazon grew to become one of the largest online store, is the priority they place on customer reviews. They even append customer reviews to specific products to persuade new customers.

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You can actually use this to your own benefit, too.

Yelp is the best way to find local businesses. Rankings are based on positive reviews from each local business.

If you want your local business to be accessible on Yelp, you need to become active on social media networks where your Fans and Twitter followers can amplify your reach by leaving positive reviews about your customer service, recipes, snacks, and restaurant.

 

14. Connect and build relationship with local food bloggers

The high inflow of professional chefs have made the restaurant business more competitive than ever, coupled with high customers demand for better service.

If you want to get more sales in this business model, start building relationship with local food bloggers. In case you don’t know, the top rated organizational goal of B2B content marketing is brand awareness.

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You can build a strong brand by connecting and building relationship with other bloggers in your industry.

According to a post by Sethlui, you can get instant exposure just by engaging the two most famous food bloggers in Singapore, Ladyironchef or Ieatishootipost. With them you can get  up to 300,000 visitors a month to your restaurant website.

Are you concerned about reaching out to a large number of people? Blogging is a great way to do that and probably gain customers. The chart below shows the impact of blogging on customer acquisition.

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Local food bloggers can contribute to the success or downfall of your local business. To be on the winning side, connect with them.

 

15. Setup your Google+ account

If you’re already active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, what about Google’s own Google+?

Google+ is a social network like no other.

Although, having a Google+ account doesn’t mean that your local business website will rank in the #1 position.

But when you grow your connection and add more people to your circles, this can bring more people to your restaurant – whether online or offline. With over 25 million users – you benefit from Google+

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How Google+ can boost your restaurant business:

  •  You can reach out to large number of customers on the platform, or circle when offering promotions.
  •  Since you can select group or circles you wish to send message to, Google+ makes it easier for you to specify people who will receive your message.
  •  You can easily promote your brand to more than 20 million active Google+ users. You can edit them about your dishes, recipes, and huge benefits of eating at your restaurant or ordering from your website.
  • With the use of video conference feature , it’s more easier for you to relate with your customers on Google+.
  •  Above all, it helps to improve your search engine ranking on Google. Since Google+ is a product of Google. It’ll tend to rank you higher than brands that are only on facebook, in order to encourage more people to use their platform.

 

16. Use geo-targeted keywords in your ads

Do you know that using geo-targeted keywords in your ads can help you acquire the right customers? Geo-targeting is important every local business, not just restaurants.

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Why waste waste money on Google AdWords, when you can make more money through effective targeting.

For instance if your restaurant is located in US, there is no need targeting Canadians. Trust me, this is where most restaurant marketers miss it.

Facebook encourages geo-targeting as well  – where you’re given the chance to select country or state to aim your ad. Take a look:

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Using geo-targeted keywords, you get to focus more on people that are likely to come to your restaurant.

In a nutshell, if your restaurant is located in Los Angeles, then you need to aim your ads to local consumers in that location, since you’re closer to them.

 

17. Send out promotional email newsletters

“Email newsletter is the best way to maintain customer relationship on the internet.”

Jakob Nielsen

As a restaurant owner/marketer, you’ve got to understand that sending email newsletter, can help you reach a targeted audience. According to Adobe, if you invest $1 in email marketing, you can derive up to $40 ROI.

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For your newsletter to be effective, and convert subscribers into customers, you need to send relevant offers coupled with educational content.

Recent study shows that 70% of emails are opened in search of a deal or discount.

Focusing on sales promotion alone will discourage email recipients. Better yet, offer a discount or deal that recipients can’t resist.

 

18. Use dedicated solo ads to run a campaign

What are solo ads?

I thought you should know this by now. Anyways, solo advertising is the processes of sending educational and promotional emails to a third-party email subscribers.

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When you’re doing solo advertising, your leveraging other restaurant’s email or phone list.

If you want to achieve better results, don’t try to sell your products to strangers. Because, obviously, your first email to subscribers who don’t know you will sound strange.

Use that opportunity to offer something for free.

Ideally, use solo ads to build up your own list. When you’re marketing your restaurant online, you can’t get ahead with a targeted list of hungry customers.

To get started, look for food bloggers, online restaurant marketers, and fitness experts with loyal subscriber list. Then, strike a deal with them, and use their list to grow your restaurant.

 

19. Offer a deal in the local paper

Why not take advantage of local newspapers to bring in new customers to your restaurant?

Offering a deal in the local paper can equally improve your reputation, and up your brand. If you’re just starting out, creating massive brand awareness is critical to your success.

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Since the cost of advertising on local newspaper is not that expensive, you can use it to offer discounts and deals. Just like free things, people see it as an opportunity to spend less and save more.

Overall, you’ll see increased orders when you offer discounts on your dishes. More so, people hate to lose. Consequently, they’ll take action on your offers.

 

20. Focus on promoting your Restaurant’s brand

The most important thing about your restaurant business is your brand.

Don’t be too engrossed on the profit. Work hard and smart to get your brand name on every of your customer’s mind and lip.

And there are so many ways to build a brand in your locality. Let’s briefly consider a few of them:

i).   Sponsor a local sports team: Taking the bold step to sponsor a local sports team can help your brand in a tremendous way.

You could provide them with new branded jerseys. Since they have lots of viewers both live and on TV., you’ll enhance your brand identity – and impact your community.

iii).  Donating food in a community events: Volunteer to feed people during special events organized in the community. It gives people the opportunity to know your restaurant and feel obliged to visit often.

iv).   Donating money at community fund raising events: Either donating anonymously or publicly, the community will appreciate your effort.

And definitely want to patronize you, since they know you’ll contribute to their fund raising in the nearest future.

 

21. Build relationship with delivery service

If you wish to take online orders from around the world, you need to start building a relationship with delivery services like UPS, DHL, and the like.

These delivery services can help you get your products to customers around the world. Distance is no longer a barrier. If you want to focus on delivery within your locality or environs, you can use the services of Bitesquad.com.

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Often times, customers are too busy to come over to your restaurant, or maybe a celebrity who wouldn’t want to be spotted at your restaurant.

But if you can deliver delicious meals where they are, they’ll quite appreciate it and order more.

 

22. Use guest blogging to create more attention

Guest blogging is another way to grow your business online. As a restaurant owner, you are probably equipped with lots of experiences.

GrooveHq, a customer service company used guest blogging to grow from $0 to $100,000 in monthly revenue.

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Use your experience and knowledge as a restaurant and food professional to build your business. Picking topics that you can write like:

  • How To Successfully Get More Customers To Your Restaurant
  • How You Can start a Small Restaurant Business and Succeed.
  • 7 Ways To Get Repeat Orders From Your Customers Easily

Contributing useful articles to other blogs that have lots of visitors is the quickest way to build your own audience, and redirect customers to your restaurant.

 

23. Offer coupons and discounts

Are you offering coupons and discounts?

If you’re not taking advantage of it, you’ll struggle to get more customers to your restaurant website or eatery.

For one, coupons are powerful engagement drivers. Socially Stacked stated that 42% of customers prefer a coupon code when ordering a product. But that’s not all. Take a look at this infographic:

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Make no mistakes about it, customers will always look for free gifts, or coupon codes. In this competitive marketing era, you need to provide more than “good” service to your customers.

Treat them with honor. Appreciate them. And always look out for ways to build interest in them – concerning your product.

 

24. Start a food truck: take your business out there

Instead of waiting for your  customers to come, go all out for them.

After all, they deserve all the best treatment and appreciation from you. Just like offering a coupon code gets them excited, a food truck will equally build in them the desire to purchase from you.

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With a food truck, your restaurant is mobile and versatile. Maybe you’re in a location with a fierce competition. This is the only way to move beyond restrictions.

Here’s the harsh truth: Majority of the customers you will sell food to may never come to your restaurant.

But with a food truck, you can reach them. This will also advertise your restaurant and strengthen your brand to the customers.

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Most important, the relationship could be very strong someday, such that if you didn’t go looking for them, they will come looking for you. Isn’t that awesome?

Don’t sit back in your restaurant, blaming the economy. Stand up and reach out. They are waiting out there.

 

25. Use online reservation Restaurant tool

Online reservation restaurant tool is a software that allows you to manage your orders. It’s not easy managing a restaurant, but with this tool, it’s fun.

Statistics found that more than 16,000 restaurants are using online reservation tool to take orders from their customers, especially in the US.

With this tool, a guest can book a place to eat. The tool also manages traffic, rewards customers, create brand awareness of the restaurant and motivates people to write reviews.

It gives you ample time to attend to other things while business goes on.

It may interest you to know that 73% of restaurants have seen the need of this tool, and want to upgrade their operation this year. You’ve to see the need to use this software. It will save a lot of stress.

This online reservation tool carries all the necessary information needed by customers to make informed buying decisions. All in all, it can boost your restaurant’s revenue.

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When you make life easy and simple for customers, they’ll buy more.

For example, the ease of staying in the office or home and ordering a favorite meal, and receiving it within 10 minutes could help you win lifelong customers to your brand. With this tool, you will always be busy delivering orders from your online opentable.

 

Conclusion

Your restaurant is calling out for you.

With these 25 marketing ideas, nothing can stop you from dominating your market. One important thing you have to do is build a marketing funnel for your restaurant website and landing page.

This funnel will give you the opportunity to cater to every customer as soon as they visit your website – regardless of the stage they’re in the customer buying cycle.

From the early stage of awareness, down to the bottom of the funnel where they eventually orders from your restaurant or visits in person, you need to understand, educate, and inspire them with useful content.

Which of these restaurant marketing ideas have you executed? Share your opinion.

10 Powerful Real Estate Marketing Strategies to Sell or Rent a Space ASAP

Every realtor follows the same patterns.

Buying magazine and newspaper ads. Hosting a weekend open house. Making sure Zillow is updated. Adding properties to listing sites and social media pages. Putting a sign in front of the property. Maybe laying out some flyers or business cards around town.

There’s nothing wrong with a realtor doing these things, don’t get me wrong.

They do them because they work and generate a profit.

The problem comes when realtors use these strategies as their crutch and depend on them to be their life blood.

Especially in a tough market or with unique properties, such as a church.

They continue using these strategies… which are the exact same strategies their competition is using… but they somehow hope for or expect better results.

And while we’d all like to think that wanting or hoping for something bad enough means it will manifest itself in our lives, we all know that it logically isn’t true.

So if you’ve got a property that you’d like to sell or get rented out ASAP… even if that property’s been sitting on the market for ages, you can whip these tactics out of your back pocket and just watch closing after closing after closing start to happen.

Come up with some new ideas.

These real estate marketing strategies will help you stand out, get attention, get remembered, and more importantly… close any deal as quickly as possible.

(And better yet? Most of them work for both residential and commercial properties.)

1. Target Life Events on Facebook

We all love bragging about our life events on Facebook.

Almost as soon as they happen, we’re broadcasting them to the world.

It’s to the point that for “proof” we now say things like “Pics or it didn’t happen” or “It’s not official until it’s Facebook official.”

We joke about it, but we do mean it.

But people openly and willingly announcing their major life events on a social platform that gives advertisers access to this data is pure gold for someone a realtor working in residential real estate.

Think about it.

Because the vast majority of these major life events mean that people will need to make sure they’ve got the right space to accommodate these new life changes.

Life events like:

  • Engagements
  • Marriages
  • Moving to a new city
  • Announcing a pregnancy or a birth

And if you sign up for Facebook as an advertiser, you have access to target all of these life events within the geographic area you serve with your real estate business.

So if you specialize in inexpensive apartment rentals?

You can target a campaign towards young, single professionals under the age of 30 who’ve just moved to the city. (Probably because a job brought them there.)

If you specialize in starter-level homes for new families?

Engagements, marriages, and pregnancy announcements are going to be your thing.

And yes, you can have different ads show to the different life events: one set of ads for engagements, one set of ads for marriages, and another for pregnancy or baby announcements.

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Here, WordStream shows us how to find these life events when setting up your targeting for a Facebook ad.

 

2. Invest in an Emotion-Invoking Copywriter

I just pulled this description for a $529k home off realtor.com:

“Location, Location, Location! North Asheville ranch! 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, hardwood floors, built-ins & private, landscaped back yard. New roof, HVAC, & electrical. Charming, slated porch off family room!”

In this particular location and neighborhood, the price is higher than average, and the pictures of the living room with old, ugly, outdated wood paneling certainly aren’t doing anything to get prospective buyers in touch with the realtor about this house.

Sure, the location is nice, but if you can get a more or less equal home for over $100k less in the same neighborhood… what gives?

If you want people to even consider this house, which is obviously going to be a pretty tough sell at that price point, you’re going to have to hook potential buyers with more than just a list of features, photos, and that description.

Since the features won’t change and that wood paneling in the living room is also probably there to stay, you’re going to have to dig really deep to find some emotionally-hooking phrases to get the attention of someone who’s clicked through. You want them to really look at the house and make sure that they remember that house over the 10 others they explored in that one online shopping session.

So what if the description read something like this instead?

“Less than a 10-minute drive from all the funkiness of downtown, this ranch-style home in North Asheville sits near the center of the Grove Park area of the city… directly in between the two major country clubs, next to some of the best up-and-coming restaurants. The quiet neighborhood is a retreat, but you’re only ever a few minutes away from the best Asheville has to offer.

The home itself has 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and the most charming little porch that acts as an extension for the rustic, truly ranch-style family room. It’s country-meets-city in all the best ways.

The back yard that extends from the porch has been carefully landscaped to showcase some beautiful flower bushes and to accommodate all kind of fun outdoor activities: spring barbecues, summer water balloon fights, or peacefully soaking in the sun while you drink your coffee on a crisp fall morning.

Plus, with hard wood floors, and a new roof, new electrical, and a new HVAC system, you’ll be set in not having to worry about repairs for a long, long time.”

You see how that makes a difference, don’t you?

Suddenly the reader goes from ticking things off a somewhat existent list in their brains to see if the house is a fit for their family… to actually imagining and getting emotionally attached to the idea of their family in THAT particular space.

Suddenly, they’re way more interested and you start getting more and more calls for showings.

Coming up with this kind of description may not be your cup of tea, but hiring a copywriter that specializes in emotion-invoking phrasing like this (especially for a property you think will be a harder sell) will pay for itself way more quickly than you’d imagine.

Pssst…. I know I gave a residential example here, but this works equally well for commercial listings. Business people are NOT just cold-blooded creatures in suits. They’re humans and have emotions too.

 

3. Retarget Web Viewers with Property Images & Emotional Ad Copy

Alright, so someone looked at your website page for a specific property but didn’t fill out your form to get in touch with you?

No problem. Not all is lost.

When people are shopping for a new home or a new office space, it’s really common that they check the market for all different kinds of options before they start getting in touch with realtors about a showing.

It’s a normal behavior that you can capitalize on to make sure your listings get sold or rented out quickly…. via retargeting.

I’ll keep the technical explanation of how this works really brief:

If you have a listing you want to sell or rent fast, you can rig that listing with what’s called a retargeting pixel.

This pixel gets attached to visitors who spend time on that page checking out the listing.

When the people who’ve seen that listing are browsing the web—reading other websites or scrolling through their Facebook feed, for example—they’ll see ads for the property they’ve already checked out because they’ve been pixeled.

And beyond the visual recognition and reminder of what the property actually looks like, you can use this retargeting to evoke the same emotions you evoked with your description copy on your listing’s page.

In a case study done by Think With Google, one luxury watch company saw a 1300% ROI with their remarketing strategies within just six months.

If this sounds like an interesting strategy you’d like to try, but you’ve got no idea where to start, here’s some links to check out:

Disclaimer: You only have the power to pixel people on websites you own. But it’s still a really, really effective strategy.

4. Take Prospects Out on the Town

If you’ve got a prospect for a commercial or residential listing who’s interested in the property itself but isn’t 100% sold on the location, take them out on the town.

Find out the sort of activities they like and the kind of local amenities that are important to them, and take them around to sit in and experience some cool places within reasonable distance of the property.

For example, if a company is looking for a new office space but wants to make sure there’s a good selection of bars with happy hours for their employees to enjoy after work, take them out to a couple different bars close to the office space during happy hour.

Or if a home buyer wants to make sure she’s close to a variety of freelancer-friendly coffee shops and coworking spaces, buy her a couple of passes to the coworking spaces or give her a gift card or two to some of the best coffee shops for freelancers next to the home she’s considering.

Actually getting a buyer’s’ feet wet in the neighborhood of a property they’re considering helps them imagine their life beyond their living space, which for most buyers, is equally important to the time they’ll spend indoors.

Actual, first-hand experience builds up a knowledge base within your prospect’s mind that can never be replaced by simply telling them about things and showing them pictures

“Someone telling you about how something tastes, in effect, giving you a vocabulary for describing tastes, is not of great value,” said Roger C. Schank in a 1995 technical report called What We Learn When We Learn By Doing for Northwestern University’s Institute for the Learning Sciences.

“The experiences that build up a knowledge base cannot be obtained vicariously,” he went on. “One must have experiences, not hear about them. The reasons for this are simple. Hearing about them means that the teller has crystallized his own experiences, shortened them, summarized them, and in effect has taken from them the material of indexing, the stuff from which we can build our own index. One cannot index on someone else’s experience largely because that experience, as transmitted, will omit many of the details that are the fodder for indexing.”

 

5. Hold an SMS Campaign With Your “For Sale” or “For Lease” Signs

Putting a “For Sale” or “For Lease” sign is probably already one of your first to-do items any time you get a new property in your portfolio.

And that sign probably already has ways for people to get in touch with you about it or to learn more about it… It probably lists your website, your phone number, and maybe even your email address.

But you can take that typical “For Sale” sign to the next level by using it as a lead-gathering magnet for an SMS campaign.

You’ve seen those things that say “Text ‘Coupon’ to 800-555-1234 to save 10%,” haven’t you?

If you live in any remotely civilized area in 2016, the answer is yes. You’ve seen them.

And these things are effective.

More effective than apps, even.

Because not everyone in the US has a smartphone, but almost everyone does have a mobile phone with SMS capabilities.

And on average, 90% of all SMS messages are read within 3 minutes of being received. I couldn’t find data on how long it takes to check app notifications, but if my behavior is any indicator, it’s a little longer.

With that said, creating a mobile app is still a viable way to promote your real estate business.

PLUS, not only do they prompt people to get in touch with you in a relatively non-committal way, it also gives you their phone number so you can, get this, actively reach out to them.

And I don’t mean scaring them away by calling them the instant you see that they’ve texted you for more info.

Because that’s just creepy.

Instead, I mean feeding them information about the property over a series of days, and then making a call or sending a message to see if they’d like to arrange a viewing.

For example, if you’re selling an office space in a popular downtown area, you could put your sign in front of the office building that says something like “For photos of the property, text ‘Pics’ to 555-1234.”

Then, as promised, you respond to their text message with a few photos of the property and information on the property’s specs.

Over the course of a few days, send them more pictures (different ones, of course) along with interesting pieces of information about the property itself and the neighborhood it’s in.

This is a non-invasive way of selling, each text has the opportunity to opt out if they think the property isn’t for them, but it’s also highly personal because it’s information delivered to their phone… one of the only devices in life equally as important as their house keys.

The backend of how this all works is a little too complicated to get into in this blog post, but to be honest, you probably won’t even have to worry about that.

There’s lots of softwares that can help you get this done easily, including:

Or ZDNet has a DIY approach combining Google Voice and Gmail.

 

6. Video Footage of the Space

Recording high-quality video footage of a space works really well with remote home buyers who want to set up viewings before they get to town, or with renters of higher-end vacation properties.

Video (with a professional camera crew, not your smart phone and a selfie stick) showcases the space in a way even the best pictures simply can’t.

It shows you (or someone else who’s really great in front of the camera) moving through the space, fitting into the space, and enjoying it.

It shows how things work together practically and helps people imagine themselves living out their lives (whether it’s their personal life, their work life, or their vacation) in that exact space.

It gets them emotionally attached to it pace and piques their interest to get in touch with you about coming to see it or booking it.

One of my favorite examples of this was when Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert decided to sell her home.

She hired a videographer to follow her around and outside of her house while she talked about all the wonderful and enchanting aspects of it.

In the video, she’s happy, she’s open, she’s fun, and she’s relatable. And she clearly loves the house, which shows.

And while you watch the video, even if you live nowhere near New England or that kind of price range is out of your budget, you can totally imagine yourself living there, can’t you?

 

7. AirBNB for Buying Prospects

Before we buy a car, we test drive it.

Before we buy a new pair of shoes, we try them on our feet & walk up and down the retail aisle.

But before we buy a property, often the only “trying” we do is spending 30 minutes walking around the inside and outside of a house, forcing ourselves to quickly imagine what our life would be like there.

We never actually try a new space on for size until we’ve actually sunk a mortgage worth hundreds of thousands of dollars into it.

Which thinking about it, seems a little crazy, doesn’t it?

So why not let your buying prospects try out the new space and “live” there for a few days and nights?

Of course, this is something you’d have to clear with the current owners, but if they’re ready to have their property sold yesterday, this can be a great approach to get them on board with.

The idea is you list the space on AirBNB and let a buyer—or the buyer’s family—“rent” the space on the platform for a nominal fee.

They come in, unpack a small bag in a bedroom, watch TV, drink coffee on the porch, leave to go to work, come home from work, go on a sunset walk around the neighborhood, and get a real feel of how enchanted their life could be in that space.

Not only does it drive home the point that the space is desirable, functional and worth the asking price, but it also taps into the buyer’s emotion via the physical experience of actually experiencing daily life there.

The underlying psychology here goes back to the quote from Roger C. Schank in section #4 about taking your potential buyers out on the town.

It builds up their own personal knowledge base of the place instead of relying on what they hear you (the realtor) and the current owners say.

And by giving them a first-hand experience that’s way more “real” than just a walk-through, it creates more of an emotional attachment to the property you’re trying to sell than any other property they’d be considering with their purchase.

8. Host a Biz-Friendly Event in the Space

If you’re selling or renting a commercial property, though, letting a business “rent” the space for a set number of days doesn’t make any sense… it wouldn’t even be worth it for the buyer who’d have to invest loads of time moving office equipment back & forth.

Instead, you can take a spin on the open house idea and host an actual event in the space that caters to the kind of businesses who’d be ideal for the space, or people whom you know could refer the right businesses to you.

For example, if you have a small property that’d be ideal for a small, boutique agency of 5-10 people, host a free networking luncheon in the space with a basic buffet.

Send invitations out to local owners of growing small agencies and to the coaches, accountants, and consultants that work with these agencies to come, network with each other, and check out the space.

Make sure to mention during the event that you’ve sponsored it, what you do as a real estate professional to help these types of businesses, that the space you’re standing in is available, and what kind of perks come with the space and its location.

 

9. Sell the Neighborhood, Not the Property

Just like in idea #4, we’re focusing more on the neighborhood the property is in than the property itself.

As you approach a property with the prospective buyer, make sure you spend plenty of time pointing out all the perks of the neighborhood that lead up to the actual property’s location that you know they’ll be interested in.

If you know they’re foodies, point out all the boutique restaurants and what they’re known for.

If you know they like a good nightlife, point out the bars and clubs.

If art is important to them, point out the music venues, art studios, and nearby galleries.

By doing this, they’re already imagining themselves living life in and enjoying the neighborhood of the property before they even see the property in person.

And particularly if the property is a little less stellar or really isn’t anything “special”, they’ll be able to overlook more of its misgivings than you’d imagine if they’re already so emotionally attached to the neighborhood.

To be clear, this isn’t about tricking buyers into a space they’ll be unhappy with or that won’t work for them… but is more about giving them something that’s perfectly functional and gives them the lifestyle they’re after.

 

10. Referral Incentive Strategy

And, finally, here we are talking about referrals.

You may already have a referral strategy in place, and if so, you’ve seen how powerful incentives can be for getting leads of the right buyers and renters for your property.

But if you haven’t started a referral strategy, start making a list of people you trust to send you quality referrals. (You know, people who you know won’t waste your time with ill-fitting referrals just for the chance of getting some sort of monetary kickback.)

If you don’t have anyone in your network—or you only have one or two and you want more—you can build out your list intentionally over time.

Think of the kinds of job roles and positions that come in touch with your target market on a regular basis.

For example, if you focus on selling starter homes in your city, you could list out marriage counselors, financial advisors, and mortgage bankers.

Once these people are in your list, start reaching out to them to find ways to get to know them, and if, after a while, you feel like they’d be a good person in your referral network, you could offer them your referral incentives.

In this post on Duct Tape Marketing, Jonathan Fields talks about how he incentivizes new customers while they’re still in the honeymoon phase of a product or service and increased his incoming referrals by 300%

Doing One Thing ‘Outside of the Box’ is Often More Than Enough

Turning a property around—whether you’re responsible to rent it or sell it—can be tough, especially when you’re in a buyer’s market.

But just because the cards are technically stacked against you doesn’t mean selling or renting a property as soon as possible has to be difficult.

Often adapting just one or two of these tactics into your property selling strategy will make a huge difference in how quickly you’re able to get offers and close deals.

What are some of your favorite ideas?

Key Marketing Metrics You Need To Be Tracking

Trying to make a marketing strategy work without using marketing metrics to track results is kinda like setting out on the longest road trip of your life, only without a map.

Sure, you might know where you started, and you might know where you’re going, and you might know what general direction (north, south, east, west) you should head in too.

But because you don’t have a map, you don’t know which highway is fastest, which roads lead to nowhere, and which motels you should stop at for the night. As a result, even if you do end up at your destination (which is highly unlikely), it would have taken you a long time (with a capital L).

In this post, we’ll explore the nitty-gritties of marketing metrics: what statistics you should be tracking, how you can use the results to focus your marketing strategy, and what tools you should be using.

 

The Marketing Metrics that Count

With the marketing metrics tracking tools available today, you can track just about anything and everything. As a result, it’s easy to end up wasting your time tracking the marketing metrics that don’t give you concrete, actionable information you can actually implement to improve your marketing.

In this section, we’ll take a look at the 5 major categories of analytics (see below), and we’ll investigate each one in depth. We’ll talk briefly about why it’s important to measure to see which metrics will be most useful to you.

  • Traffic
  • Email
  • Conversions
  • Customer Activity
  • Bottom Line

 

Traffic

The most popular statistics that webmasters track by far are the ones that have to do with traffic.

The Problem with Big-Picture Traffic Statistics

This makes sense, because traffic is a category of analytics that we can easily translate into money for our business. After all, it’s a simple equation:

More traffic = More people viewing my site = More people buying my products = More money

Google Traffic Metrics

 

Image via QuickSprout

Because of this seemingly simple & valid equation, people tend to focus on the big-picture traffic statistics, i.e. the number of visitors per day/month/year.

But even though the equation is valid to a certain extent (your online business isn’t going anywhere if you have zero traffic), it is by no means the end-all and be-all of marketing.

The importance of big-picture traffic statistics (e.g. number of visitors per month) is overestimated, for several reasons.

Firstly, these big-picture statistics do not indicate how well that traffic is translating into money. You might be getting 100,000 visitors per month, but if you’re only making $1000, then you’re only making a cent for each visitor.

Second, these statistics also don’t take into account how much money you’re spending to produce that traffic. If your monthly marketing budget for content, graphic media, promotion, etc. is $2000 all-in, then your business is losing a cent on every visitor (continuing with the previous scenario).

Last, but certainly not least, the big-picture statistics ignore acquisition: i.e. how your traffic performs as a function of where it comes from.

Reddit and Stumbleupon, for example, are notorious for producing high volumes of traffic, but also very high bounce rates and laughably low conversion rates.

Reddit-Traffic

That’s because most people who use Reddit and Stumbleupon aren’t actually looking to seriously engage with the websites they visit through those networks.

On the other hand, traffic from sources like Facebook ads tends to perform much, much better since Facebook allows you to target their users by age, location, interests, and more.

Facebook Ad Targeting

So while you should definitely pay attention to the overall traffic figures, don’t get too hung up on them. Also, you should realize that these big-picture marketing metrics are not going to give you information you can act on to improve your marketing. That comes when you investigate the following statistics that are much narrower in scope.

Acquisitions

As we briefly touched on above, assessing your traffic according to the channels through which it comes is a crucial step to analyzing traffic appropriately.

For starters, you’ll want to think about the volume of traffic that arrives through each source.

Is social media your biggest driver of traffic? Guest posting? Or do you get visitors the ol’ fashioned way, via organic search rankings?

Once you know exactly through which channels your traffic is coming, you can capitalize on that information by focusing your marketing efforts on the sources that deliver visitors.

For example, if you’re running a fitness blog and you discover that Pinterest and other social networks drive you more traffic than anything else, then you’d probably want to focus on building your social media presence even further.

Pinterest-Fitness

Another important metric to track with traffic acquisition is the cost of each visitor based on the channel through which it comes.

In keeping with the fitness blog example above, let’s say that you got 10,000 visitors in a month from social media. In that same month, you got 5,000 visitors through organic search. Obviously, social media seems like the traffic channel to focus on.

But now let’s add a new piece of information to the equation: cost. If you spent $500 on social media marketing in that month, then you’re spending $0.05 per social media visitor. And if you spent only $100 on SEO, then you’re spending $0.02 per organic search visitor.

Suddenly working on social media presence doesn’t seem like the best idea, does it? Pursuing more organic visitors would mean more traffic at a lower cost per visitor (which translates to more profit).

Average Time on Site

The average time on site metric is a great way to measure engagement on your site.

This slice of data measures the average amount of time a visitor spends on your site each session.

If each visitor spends only about 30 seconds on your site before hitting the back button, then you know that there’s probably something repelling about your site. Get to work on fixing that.

Bounce Rate & Pageviews per Visit

The bounce rate and pageviews per visit metrics are also important indicators of your traffic’s engagement level.

A “bounce” is a visitor that happens on your website, views only one page, and immediately leaves (there are other definitions of a “bounce”, including one that limits bounces to <30-second, single-page visitor sessions).

Therefore, bounce rate measures what percentage of your visitors view only one page before leaving.

Google Analytics Page Marketing Metrics

Image via Qualaroo

A high bounce rate is a negative result and definitely something you’d want to improve on.

Pageviews per visit is essentially the other side of the same coin: it measures the average number of website pages each of your visitors browse through in each session on your website. More pageviews per visit mean that your visitors are interested in the content on your website.

Returning Visitors

The returning visitors metric is another type of engagement metric altogether. This metric analyzes what percentage of your visitors are ones that have already browsed your website before.

This statistic isn’t black and white, like some of its predecessors on this list.

As we just discussed, a high bounce rate for instance is obviously bad while a low rate is clearly good.

With returning visitors, however, a super-high or super-low measure isn’t necessarily good or bad.

If a very high percentage of your traffic are return visitors (e.g. >70%), then that means two things: 1) your traffic is engaged with your site, but 2) you have very few new visitors.

The second result – very few new visitors – isn’t a result that you’d want to have, since that puts a ceiling on your growth.

The same is true when you apply the reverse. A very low returning visitors percentage means that even though you are getting new visitors, your traffic is never engaged enough with your site to visit it a second time.

The key, therefore, is to aim for a healthy 50/50 or 60/40 balance.

 

Email

Email marketing is a crucial element of any successful business. This fact is evidenced by a simple statistic: 44% of email recipients last year made a purchase because of a promotional email (that’s nearly half of everybody who uses email!).

And according to a 2013 study done by the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing has one of the highest ROIs of any marketing strategy: 4000%. That’s $39 profit on every buck spent on email.

Email Marketing ROI Metrics

Image via Adobe

But you won’t be getting these sorts of ROI figures by simply setting-and-forgetting an email campaign. To improve the effectiveness of email, you need to track every aspect of your campaign, and use the information you get to continually improve.

Here are a few important email marketing metrics to get you started.

Open Rate

Open rate is one of the most basic email marketing statistics, and an absolute must-know for your campaign.

This metric measures the number of people on your list who open your email. For example, if your latest broadcast got an open rate of 12%, that means for every 100 people on your list, 12 people opened the email.

According to benchmarks provided by email marketing vendor Mailchimp, open rates are notoriously low across almost every industry.

Open-Rate.png

In not even one industry Mailchimp tested did email campaigns get an average open rate above 30%.

If your open rates are significantly lower than that, then it’s time to do something about it.

Subject-Line

Test more subject lines, try a more attention-grabbing first sentence, and above all, ensure that your emails aren’t getting redirected to the spam folder.

Click-through Rate

Click-through rate (CTR) refers to the percentage of people who receive an email click one of the links in your email.

As you can see in Mailchimp’s data above, CTRs are usually less than 5%, meaning that for every 100 people on your list less than five are likely to click the links you post in your emails.

One technique you can use to increase your CTR is to repeat a specific link several times within the body of your email.

Click-Through-Rate

Neil Patel over at QuickSprout does this in every email he sends out marking the addition of a new post to the blog. He repeats the link to the new post three times from the first sentence to the last.

Unsubscribe Rate

The unsubscribe rate is self-explanatory — it refers to the percentage of people who unsubscribed from your list after reading a specific email.

Typically, a high unsubscribe rate means that there’s something particularly unappealing about your emails. It could be that the content feels too salesy, is properly formatted, or that you email too rarely for your list to remember why they subscribed to you in the first place.

Find out what’s causing the unsubscribes, and work to eliminate that flaw.

Delivery Rate

The delivery rate refers to the percentage of your emails that actually get through to your list’s inboxes. For example, a 99% delivery rate shows that out of every 100 emails you send, one gets stopped by the subscriber’s anti-spam/malware filter.

If your delivery rate is low (less than 95%), then one of the below two reasons are probably responsible:

  1. You have too many links (esp. affiliate links) in your email/It sounds & looks spammy.
  2. Your email marketing service isn’t doing a good job.

Spam-Email

Reason #1 warrants a review of your email campaign.

Reason #2 shows that it might be time to get in touch with your email marketing service. If the problem doesn’t get resolved, then it might be time to switch services altogether.

 

Conversions

Conversion-related marketing metrics are another highly important category of analytics to pay close attention to.

A conversion is defined as when a website visitor completes a goal action. For example, a visitor could “convert” into a subscriber by accomplish an opt-in goal or a subscriber could “convert” into a customer by completing a purchase-product goal.

Buildfire-Subscriber-Conversion

Conversion rate, therefore, is essentially a metric of how productive your traffic is. The more conversions your traffic gives you, the more your visitors are doing exactly what you want them to do.

One of the biggest drivers of conversion rate optimization is a/b testing, wherein you sent a portion of your traffic to a certain variant of a webpage and another portion to another variant of the same page to see which variant is most productive.

A/b testing is absolutely vital to increased conversion rates: without it, you simply aren’t going to make any progress on the conversion front.

Here are a few key conversion metrics you need to track.

New vs. Return Visitor Conversion

The first metric to analyze is concerned which of the following groups of your traffic converts more: new visitors who have never browsed your site before, or returning browsers who have already had multiple on-site sessions.

Typically, you’ll find that return visitors are more likely to convert — especially when the conversion in question is a big deal (like purchasing a product or becoming a client).

Buildfire-Customer-Conversion

This is a logical result: return visitors are more familiar with your site — and since they’re visiting it multiple times, they obviously find it appealing enough to want to return. Therefore, they’d be more comfortable with spending money on your site.

New visitors, on the other hand, are more likely to convert in other ways. For example, unique visitors may accomplish an email marketing conversion by subscribing to your blog after reading just one post, or they might complete a social media conversion by sharing one of your posts.

Acquisition

Just as with traffic, it’s important to keep in mind the channels through which your conversions come. You should be tracking how much this costs.

PPC and email traffic often convert at much higher rates than traffic from organic search, referrals, or social media, since they are generally much more targeted towards your ideal audience.

Cost per Conversion

Once again, cost is a major metric to track. You should be able to tell approximately how much you’re spending on each conversion.

You will probably have to look at the conversion acquisition channels data to get a good indication of this metric.

Conversion-Metrics

Image via Ryan Gum

If you spent $500 on PPC traffic last month and got 250 conversions from PPC traffic, then you’ve got a cost per conversion of $2. Obviously, your target is reduce this number as much as possible, while still maintaining conversion quality and value (see below).

Conversion Value

Another conversion statistic to keep in mind is the value of each conversion (i.e. the impact of each conversion on your bottom line).

This metric may not be so cut-and-dried as you think.

Obviously, the easiest type of conversion to ascertain the value of is a sale. If the target conversion is the purchase of a $50 product, then the value of that conversion is $50. However, you can also assign values to either types of conversions, like email list subscriptions.

For instance: if approximately 10% of your list goes on to become customers (spending $50 on your product), then each time you get a new subscriber you effectively add $5 to your bottom line.

Customer Activity

You may be a little confused at first by this category of marketing metrics, as it’s not one that gets mentioned very often, for a simple reason. Because measuring customer activity doesn’t always produce tangible results like most of the other analytics, it isn’t a very ‘fun’ one to focus on.

But nevertheless, tracking levels of customer activity is absolutely crucial to your business.

When I say customer activity, I’m essentially referring to how your customers interact with your business after having become a customer.

Now why is it important to keep your customers engaged after they’ve already become your customers? After all, they’ve already bought one of your products/produced money for your business, so they are pretty much useless now, right?

Wrong.

Two words: repeat sales.

Repeat sales — i.e. where a customer buys a second or third product/service from you — will easily be one of the biggest drivers of revenue for your business.

Repeat-Customers

Take a look at the above graph from Sweet Tooth Rewards. It shows how on average, 27% of first-time customers are likely to buy from you again. 45% of second-time customers are likely to buy again. And 54% of people who have purchased something from you at least three times are likely to spend more money with your business (and on the trend goes).

So in short, someone who’s already become your customer is far more likely to give your business more money in exchange for goods/services than some random website visitor who’s never bought from you before.

The buy-again potential of customers is largely untapped in the online business world. Many marketers forget that the most productive source of new sales is often their existing customer base.

But you won’t get very many of your customers to buy from you again if you aren’t working to keep them engaged and continually interacting with your brand.

In the following sections, we’ll take a closer look at what sort of customer-brand interactions you ought to track.

Social Media Engagement

Social media is a great way for your customers to interact with your brand, for two reasons:

  1. It’s ubiquitous — nearly two thirds of the US is on social media, according to Pew Internet
  2. It’s an easy tool to use — customers can tweet, write a Facebook post, or publish an Instagram image in just a few seconds.

Track how much your customers use social networks to engage with your brand. You can monitor mentions of your social media page, brand-related hashtags, and the effectiveness of your social campaigns among customers.

BuildFire-Social-Media

BuildFire’s Twitter profile.

Of course, to keep your customers engaged on social media, your business itself must have a strong social media presence. If you don’t have one already, then Jamil’s post on strategies for social media success is definitely a must-read.

Email Engagement

Yep, we’re back to email.

When a visitor turns into a customer, they should immediately be put on an email list that’s designed and segmented exclusively for customers.

Email Engagement

For example, here’s an email from Darren Rowse at Problogger that’s sent exclusively to the customers who have used his job board.

This customer-targeted email list can typically be a little bit more salesy/promotional than your other campaigns; as we discussed above, customers are quite likely to buy from you a second time, so don’t be afraid to push for a sale.

Track how often customers are opening emails, clicking through the links, and unsubscribing.

Onsite Activity

Another important metric to keep track of is how your customers continue to interact with your site. Are they still reading your blog posts and perusing your about page as they were before the sale? Do they spend more time on your landing pages and product pages? Or are they (gasp) not visiting your site anymore at all?

If your customers are still engaging with your site even after the sale, then that’s a good sign that they still have an interest in your business and may possibly spend more money on it in the future.

On the other hand, if a customer is completely abstaining from heading to your site again, then one of the two following reasons are probably responsible for that:

  1. They got what they needed, and now have zero interest in engaging with your brand again.
  2. They wouldn’t mind checking you out again, but you haven’t given them a reason to.

In scenario #1, there’s nothing you can do except accept the fact that customer was a one-and-done type of guy/gal.

In scenario #2, you need to work harder to re-engage the customer.

Customer Social Media Engagement

Try dropping him/her a special email to check how the product is working, or send out a quick tweet directly to the customer to start a conversation (see above).

 

Bottom Line

Finally, we have bottom line metrics.

Unsurprisingly, bottom line metrics are all about your bottom line. This category of metrics is concerned with the most major performance indicators in all of business: revenue, costs, and profit.

Bottom-Line-Metrics

Image via Danube Delta Investment

Revenue

First up is revenue. As you already know, revenue is the aggregate sum of money that you make from your business.

This includes money from customers & clients, advertising, affiliate marketing, or whatever other income streams that you may employ in your online business.

Costs

The second metric is costs. Now, when most people think of costs they think strictly in dollar terms. For example, a list of costs might include things like the following:

  • Website-related services: $500/month
  • Marketing: $2000/month
  • Product development: $2000/month
  • Accountancy & bookkeeping: $500/month
  • Legal fees: $1000/month
  • etc.

However, the one cost that most people tend to overlook is time.

Time is always more valuable than money, and entrepreneurs are among some of the most time-poor people in the world.

When you’re busy growing your business, don’t forget to take into account how much time you’re spending on your work.

For this purpose, I’d recommend a time-tracking app like Toggl.

Toggl-Time-Tracking

This neat webapp (which I personally use just about every day) allows you to quickly and easily track how much time you’re spending on each part of your project in a smooth, intuitive UI.

Profit

Last, but certainly not least, we have profit, which is revenue – costs.

As the founders of startups, you’re all no doubt experienced with being in the red early on.

After all, the costs associated with building an online company — although they may be far from the costs of building an offline one — certainly are nothing to sneeze at.

The key here is to realize and accept that you may not be profitable for a while. Amazon, for example, is still be in the red. However, with its continual growth, the eCommerce giant geared to make bucketloads of money when it does hit profits.

 

Marketing Metrics Tools

Now that we’ve finished talking about what you should track, let’s get into the how.

Note that marketing metrics tools come in many different forms, perform many different functions, and are categorized in several different pricing tiers. You have tools dedicated for email stats, conversion analytics, bottom line metrics.

You have tools that cost $0 to use, and you have tools that can run in the mid four-figures every month.

In this post, we’ll cover a few tools at different price points for each of the five categories of marketing metrics that we’ve just discussed.

 

Traffic Marketing Metrics Tools

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the undisputed king of web analytics. Used by people all over the world, Google Analytics is powerful, versatile, and as an added bonus, totally free.

There are no hidden upsells or upgrades that you need to pay for access to — everything you will need on the platform is 100% free of cost.

Integrating the platform with your website is as easy as adding a few lines of tracking code to your website. If you’re on WordPress, then that process is as simple as a few clicks with the free Google Analytics by MonsterInsights plugin.

Google-Analytics

Image via Content Marketing Institute

Google Analytics isn’t limited to just traffic metrics, either: it also has some neat conversion-tracking functionality built-in as well. You can track goal completions (conversions) and also assign values to each conversion so you can visualize the amount of money made in each conversion as well.

Clicky

Clicky is another highly popular web analytics tool. Unlike Google Analytics, Clicky does have paid plans — if you want to track more than 1 site and/or more than 3,000 pageviews per day, then you’re going to have to shell out at least $9.99/monthly.

However, Clicky does come with great bang for your buck. It’s real time data is much better than GA’s, and it has more detailed information about each visitor that comes across your website (see below).

Clicky-Visitor-Profile

It also features heatmaps that show you where visitors click on your pages, spam/bot filtering, an upgraded bounce rate metric, dynamic conversions (that don’t have to be pre-defined) and much more. You can see a tabular comparison of Clicky and GA here.

If you want to learn more about Clicky, read Ramsay’s full review at Blog Tyrant.

Mixpanel

Mixpanel is a fully-featured analytics tool with a lot to offer. It’s targeted at a more premium customer base (paid plans start at $150 monthly), although it does included a very limited free plan.

Mixpanel-Analytics

The tool features segmentation, retention, funnel, and engagement analytics, as well as built-in A/B testing and notifications for the front end user. If you have the budget, then Mixpanel should definitely be near the top of your list.

KISSmetrics

KISSmetrics has built up quite a name for itself in the online marketing industry with its terrific content strategy that includes a (very) popular blog, comprehensive e-business guides, and regular webinars.

KISSmetrics is pretty much on an even keel with Mixpanel. They both mostly have the same features, and both have similar pricing (KISSmetrics starts at $120/month and Mixpanel at $150/month).

KISSmetrics-Analytics

A review of both platforms by Sacha Greif came to the following conclusions:

  • Go with KISSmetrics “if you want to focus on attracting people
  • Go with Mixpanel “if you’re more interested in tracking trends and applying formulas

Email Marketing Metrics Tools

Mailchimp

Mailchimp is easily one of the most popular premium email marketing tools. It’s very budget-oriented: the tool is free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. However, the free plan does mean a limitation in the available feature set.

Mailchimp-Email-Analytics

Premium plans start at $10/month. Features include integration with several eCommerce softwares, an intuitive email editor, automation workflows, and mobile options.

TJ’s review of Mailchimp at Small Biz Trends offers a comprehensive overview of the tool.

Vero

Vero is a more premium option for those who have the budget. It starts at $99/month for 12,500 subscribers and 25,000 emails/month, but the impressive feature list makes the cost worthwhile.

Vero-Email-Analytics

Comprehensive reports on every subscriber’s activity, A/B testing functionality, powerful automation ability, and a sleek UI all make for a killer combo.

Here’s a comparison of Vero with two other popular drip email marketing tools published on LinkedIn.

Conversion Metrics Tools

Google Content Experiments

Google Content Experiments is a built-in part of Google Analytics, but it doesn’t function the same way as do the other conversion optimization & tracking tools available.

Google-Content-Experiments

Image via Rich Page

Unlike traditional conversion testing tools that allow you to a/b test variations of the same webpage, Content Experiments actually sends traffic to two separate URLs to see which page converts better. This isn’t as handy as the tools that allow you to test on a single URL, but that’s the sacrifice that comes along with a $0 price tag.

Visual Website Optimizer

Visual Website Optimizer, commonly referred to as VWO, is a popular conversion testing tool with appreciable functionality. The tool comes with an easy to use website editor, detailed reporting, heatmaps, traffic segmentation, and multiple third-party integrations.

VWO-Conversion-Analytics

Starting at $49/month for 10,000 tested visitors, VWO certainly isn’t cheap, but its snazzy UI and reporting ability merit the pricing.

If you want to learn more about VWO, check out Rich Page’s review.

Customer Activity Metrics Tools

The best type of tool to use to measure customer activity is a CRM. These tools can track each visitor’s individual actions on your site, right from their first session to their post-sales activity.

CRMs also often come along with many other features, including marketing automation functionality like overall traffic analytics, email marketing, and conversion rate optimization. So if you do decide to go with a full-featured CRM, keep in mind that a lot of the above tools will be redundant.

ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign is quite popular with small businesses, and for good reason: it packages into email marketing, automation workflows, and a nifty CRM into one affordable solution.

ActiveCampaign

The tool starts at just $9/month for up to 500 contacts (comes with a two-week free trial), and is well known for its premium customer support. I’ve used the tool extensively myself and have always found it super-simple to navigate and altogether quite easy to work with. If you’re on a budget, then ActiveCampaign is probably the way to go.

In this post, Carl Taylor details why he moved over to ActiveCampaign, and why he thinks you should, too.

Infusionsoft

Infusionsoft is well-known in the online marketing space, but its high pricing point can be a turn-off to many. Infusionsoft’s cheapest plan starts at $199/month, and all plans require purchase of a “kickstart” (customer onboarding), which begin at $699. That makes the minimum spend upfront about $900, which is quite a daunting sum for many.

Infusionsoft

However, if you can afford the tool, then it’s hard to make a case against it. Infusionsoft features a full suite of CRM and marketing automation functionality: detailed analytics, close interaction with contacts, payments, multiple integrations, and oh-so-much more.

Here’s Seth Ellsworth’s take on the tool.

Bottom Line Metrics Tools

Baremetrics

Baremetrics is an affordable income tracking tool specifically for SaaS business. It creates detailed analyses of some of the most important cash flow metrics through integration with Stripe.

Unfortunately, the only thing that Baremetrics cannot take into account is cost, so you don’t end up with an overall profit/loss picture. But regardless, it’s still a highly useful tool.

Baremetrics-Analytics

As seen in the screenshot above, the founder of Baremetrics, Josh Pigford, publicly displays the company’s own bottom line figures with the use of a public Baremetrics dashboard that you can view here.

Pricing is based on your monthly run rate, and starts at $25/month for a $2500 MRR. All plans include email reports, instant notifications, goal analysis, and more.

Pulse

Pulse is a neat cash flow management app that was created by a small business, for small businesses. Unlike Baremetrics, Pulse does come with the functionality to report costs & expenses so you have a great overall picture of your business’s performance.

The app allows you to import income and expenses from external sources, choose between one-time and recurring items, and project future cash flow based on previous payments.

Pulse-Bottom-Line-Analytics

You can test it out with a 30-day free trial, after which it’s only $14/month for up to 3 accounts, 3 users, and 3GB file storage.

Conclusion

And there you have it — the beginner’s guide to marketing metrics.

This one has been quite a long read, so let’s take a moment to quickly recap the post in a few bullet points:

The five major categories of metrics:

  1. Traffic — look at the big picture, but don’t ignore the narrow-scope metrics like acquisition and engagement indicators
  2. Email — always track open rate, click-through rate, unsubscribe rates
  3. Conversions — investigate the best sources of low-cost, high-value conversions
  4. Customer activity — track how your customer interacts with your business through social media, email, and your website so you know how to get more value out of each one
  5. Bottom line — carefully account for your revenues, costs, and overall profit

And the best tools for each type of metric:

  1. Traffic Google Analytics, Clicky, Mixpanel, KISSmetrics
  2. Email Mailchimp, Vero
  3. Conversions Google Content Experiments, VWO
  4. Customer activity — (use fully-featured CRMs) ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft
  5. Bottom line – Baremetrics (for SaaS companies), Pulse

Remember: all of these types analytics are critical for your business. You’ll never achieve the full potential of marketing metrics without using all of the above in conjunction.

It’s time to get tracking!

How do you use marketing metrics to grow your business? Dso you have any tools you’d like to recommend? Leave your comments below!

 

diy

 

13 Easy And Effective Customer Engagement Strategies

Love your customers.

I guess you already know that. But the question is, “do you really love them?”

Or you’re just concerned about milking them dry.

Think about it. If you truly love them like you claimed, then, why are you in so much a hurry to get their money?

Don’t you think it’s more honorable and easier to engage customers first, and fan their hunger and thirst for your product?

Customers are the lifeblood of your business. Whether you sell ebooks, software, consulting, coaching, or a physical product (e.g., clothing), without loyal customers, you’ll fail.

If you’re looking for actionable “no regrets” strategies to engage your customers, this in-depth article is for you.

I’m not really here to lecture you. You already know that without engaged customers, it would be difficult – perhaps, impossible to win them.

Most brands tend to pay more attention to lead generation and customer acquisition.

They forget that until these ideal customers are motivated, and upgraded in their state of mind, they’ll likely switch to competitors – it’s only a matter of time.

The way you treat your customers matters. Are you giving them a good experience?

According to Verint, 61% of consumers would tell friends and family about their experiences, while 27% reported that they would sign up to the company’s loyalty scheme.

Positive customer experience effect

People have a diminishing attention span. Since these people (customers) come from different sources, it’s important to track engagement on both desktop and mobile devices.

According to a recent report from IMRG Calpgemini, “a total of 52% of web traffic to retail sites currently comes via smartphones and tablets.”

More so, over a third (36%) of online sales are now completed on a smartphone or tablet device.

More customer interactions across channels and devices will give them a “welcome note” to remain loyal.

Let’s explore the 13 customer engagement strategies together:

1. Use social media as an engagement tool and not simply a platform

You’re closer to reaching your personal peak, if only you can change your mindset about social media.

hubspot social media tool

Listen up: social media networks, such as Facebook and LinkedIn are not merely platforms for connecting with people.

Yes, these social platforms are primarily for that, but you should use them as tools, if you want better results.

The rapidly evolving behavior of consumers in this age should impact your perception about social media marketing.

Social media is huge. As of July, 2015, the total worldwide population is 7.3 billion. And out of these, about 2.3 billion people are active social media users.

Social Media and mobile devices

What do you think that these billions of people want?

Do you think that connecting with them is all they want? If that were all, then, it doesn’t make sense – because you can connect with people outside of Facebook.

When people follow you on Twitter, or like your page on Facebook, they took that action because they trust that you’ll help them.

Make no mistakes about it, these people have problems that need urgent solutions. Through customer engagement, you can retain and make customers happier.

Customer Retention Problem

Begin to see social media as a tool, not just a platform. This means that you can use the tool to connect, share, identify questions, research influencers and other experts, and create content that your fans will scream, “Wow, ‘ve been looking for this!”

Most brands merely regard Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks as platforms.

But Lenovo, a global leader in computer technology sees social media differently. As a brand, the company uses digital social tools to deliver immense value to its customers.

Lenovo

The company uses social media to obtain user data and after analyzing it, gets ahead of its competitors – in terms of consumer trends.

For example, after listening to customer feedback, ranging from color preferences for laptops, to screen sizes, Lenovo has mastered product development.

Like Lenovo, if you begin to view social media as a new and viable means to engage with prospects and customers, you can shift your brand’s social media strategy – and begin to cater for your customers.

2. Engage customers with In-Product messaging

When it comes to product messaging (i.e., notifying your customers about your new product), there are several key channels that you can use.

Communication Channels

Out of these four channels, in-product messaging happens to generate the best conversion.

Overall, follow up emails have poor conversion rate.

But you can improve your conversions, by sending in-product messages. Because, that’s what your intimate customers are desperately looking for.

According to Wikipedia, in-product messaging means:

“Content, and related media delivered directly to a user’s internet-connected device or software application, with the purpose of informing, gathering feedback from, engaging with, or marketing to that specific user or segment of users at often-higher engagement rates than other digital marketing and online marketing channels.”

The part of this definition that you should consider critically is:

“Marketing to that specific user or segment of users.”

From the definition, you can see that when you send targeted message to a segment of your users, you’ll get higher engagement rates.

You should segment your email list. Because if you don’t, you’ll blindly send the same message to everyone.

Sadly, not everyone of your subscribers or ideal customers want your latest product or ebook.

Sending out of context emails will likely increase your customer’s email fatigue.

The ideal approach is to message a specific segment of your customer base with the exact product/offer which they’ve indicated interest.

In-product messaging is a viable strategy to adopt, because there is a market fit, which is the direction correlation between product and market.

Product Market Fit

Not all CRM software are equipped with in-product messaging feature. If you find any marketing automation software that supports it, you should grab it with both arms.

A lot of startup and software companies agree that you can leverage in-product messaging to move new customers through a seamless onboarding process and use email to engage customers who are still stuck on a step.

onboarding process

3. Nurture free trial prospects and get them to upgrade

Free trial prospects have gone beyond “onlookers.”

They’re actually customers – even if you haven’t charged them yet. By definition, a customer is someone who had made a transaction that would benefit the business.

To use your product, customers have to spend focus, time, and money.

nurture free trials

How often do you sign up to try a new software or solution but never actually upgrade or renew account?

It’s very easy for free trial users/prospects to get overwhelmed when they first signed up to a new service. The ultimate question in their minds would be similar to this: “Should I upgrade my account?”

A study published in the Journal of Marketing Research found that free trial customers act differently than paying customers.

According to the author, “starting a relationship through a free trial influences usage and retention behaviour, how these free trial customers respond to your marketing messages, and ultimately how long the consumer will remain with the service.”

Sadly, companies are struggling to convert their SaaS free trial users into paying customers.

convert trials into paid users

Data compiled by Sixteen Ventures shows that users active in the first 3 days of free trial – regardless of trial length – convert higher than inactive users.

To nudge free trial users to upgrade their account and use premium features, you need to nurture them.

One of the proven ways to do that is through personalized communication. “Getting to know your customers is easier if you give them the chance to get to know you,” says Belle Beth Cooper.

As simple as this might seem, it can help free trial users know you by name, and they’ll feel more secured about your brand.

To get the full tactics for turning free trial prospects into engaged customers, see the resource guide below:

4. Communicate with VIP customers with promotions specifically for them

Simply put, VIP customers are those who have been with you for a long time, purchased your product, referred friends, family members, and fans to your business.

retain vip customers

VIP customers are not one-time buyers. But the good news is that through customer engagement, you can turn casual buyers (or one-off buyers) into loyal and trustworthy customers.

Here’s an excerpt from an article on Early To Rise:

“Think of what a VIP customer is, and what it takes to keep him. Think of his long-term value once you have figured out how to motivate him to spend five to 10 times what others will pay for essentially the same product or service. Think about the very small cost of reselling him as compared to the cost of acquiring a new customer.”

Truly, having a lot of VIP customers could mean that your business will thrive even in the midst of economic turmoil.

There are 3 types of retail VIP customers:

i).   Liberal VIP Customers: These are customers who are loyal to your brand. They usually purchase the most over a period of time. Doug Fleener says he measures spending over an 18 – 24 month period.

ii).   Community VIP Customers: These are important group of customers, too. According to Fleener, they aren’t actually big spenders, but you can’t do without them. Because, they refer qualified customers.

Social media influencers and pro bloggers fall into this category. When they tweet your post or new product, you can expect tens if not hundreds of new subscribers and buyers.

iii).   Advocates/liberal VIP customers: This are customers who make impact in your brand. They’re brand advocates as well as big spenders. They’re not only happy after purchasing your product, but they can tell others, too.

As a rule of thumb, dazzle every customer. But elevate the DAZZLE or experience, and provide a more personal touch for your VIPs.

On the other hand, if you neglect or take for granted these very important customers, you’ll lose them. Top notch customer service is what brings about VIP customers, not just great products.

According to data from LinkedIn, “68% of customers will leave your company if they believe you don’t care about them.”

Churn reasons

The keyword is “believe.”

So, it doesn’t matter what you think, or how great you claim your customer service to be, once customers begin to feel ignored, they’ll switch over to, maybe your strongest competitors.

Rachel Miller says you should treat all customers as royalty, if you want your brand to be known as a top notch service provider.

Remember to invite your VIP customers to live events and one-on-one coaching programs. You need to be closer to them.

If a customer can spend up to $2,000 with your business, you should allot more time to them.

Apple treated Dang Sung as one of their VIP customers, after he spent £12,000 for an Apple Watch Edition with 18-Carat Yellow Gold Case with Black Classic Buckle.

It all boils down to delivering enormous value in your product.

5. Obsess over your customers by delivering enormous value

No matter your niche or market, when you put customers first and think about their welfare, you’ll nurture an army of brand advocates.

Avis has one of the highest level of consumer engagement for the Car Rental market. They always go the extra mile to answer customer questions and address complaints.

AVIS

Do you know that customers are distracted?

In case you’ve forgotten, there are more businesses, products, and information online today than there was in 2010.

Information overload has become a major roadblock to engaging customers. Majority of the customers who lack focus could find themselves switching brands.

A study by Accenture found that, “46% of U.S. consumers said they’re more likely to switch providers than they were 10 years ago.”

More so, recent data shows that 72% of U.S. shoppers want to feel more in control than ever before when shopping.

Impact on loyalty

Obsess over customers, and not competitors,” says Evancar Michael

Amazon always top the chart for overall customer satisfaction among America’s largest companies.

Amazon seeks to be Earth’s most customer-centric company …”

And the company, which is being navigated by Jeff Bezos is committed to customer service.

“Obsess over customers, says Jeff – who’s famously a customer service leader.

Above all things, he’s passionate about the welfare of customers. He pays attention to customer questions, listens with rapt focus and delivers outstanding results.

This explains why Amazon is the no #1 online shopping site in the U.S., if not the world over.

6. Create custom content that addresses a bugging customer questions

Are you engaging your customers with custom content.

Overall, content marketing is used to drive leads and acquire new customers, whereas, custom content is primarily used to engage and nurture existing customers.

There you go. That’s the difference between content marketing and custom content marketing.

It’s important to create useful content for your customers. This engagement strategy didn’t just begin today – it’s been used by large companies in the U.S., Uk, China, and more – although, in various forms – several years ago.

b2b content marketing usage

Even in the digital marketing world, top brands such as HubSpot, KISSmetrics, Moz, Search Engine Journal, QuickSprout, and the like, have mastered the art of using content to inspire customers.

Custom content is the way to go. According to Demand Centric, “78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing. And 61% of buying decisions are influenced by custom content.”

61% decision is influenced by custom content

How did Shopify acquire and nurture over 165,000 loyal customers who are billed on a monthly/yearly basis.

Yes, Shopify provides one of the best shopping cart software, but it’s more than that.

The company have also embraced content marketing – specifically, they create more custom content that shouts out to their existing customers.

Here’s one of such posts:

Shopify

Here’s what you should know:

Your existing customers have questions bugging their minds right now. What are you doing to proffer answers to them?

Time is precious. If you’ve a large customer base like Shopify, Moz, Volusion, and so forth, you can’t afford to answer every customer.

The easiest way to address that question is to create a custom content. I told you earlier that custom content is a type of content written to customers who are familiar with your product.

You could create custom to inform your customers about new features of your software, or how to install and setup a feature. KISSmetrics does that too well.

Kissmetrics

It doesn’t even have to be a new product or feature. It could be a new content that highlights an upcoming event, benefits, and how your customers can buy tickets.

Moz recently announced the MozCon 2016 and how their customers can qualify and win a free trip to the event.

Mozcon

All of these are examples of custom content. Because, the sole objective is to engage existing customers and give them a reason to stick to the brand.

7. Hold a customer-engagement summit

There are so many ways to learn today: books, blogs, articles, magazines, newspapers, journals, videos, podcasts, and multimedia.

However, attending a summit or conference will broaden your horizon, and upgrade your learning curve in a dramatic way. The benefits are enormous.

Adobe conducted a study on the impact of summit in attendees’ lives.

The company found that 98% of attendees met or exceeded their expectation. And 80% of them discovered new skills to impact their organization and their career.

Customer Engagement Summit numbers

If you’ve the resources, I encourage you to host a customer-engagement summit. You could collaborate with other businesses to make this a success.

It’s really not about the ambience, but the value you plan to bring to the table. What matters is the impact you’ll make in customers’ lives as they come.

According to the Academic Association of Contemporary European Studies, when you attend academic conferences, you’ll learn from others and dramatically improve your own skills and knowledge about your field.

As you engage with other people’s work, dare to ask questions.

In like manner, hosting a customer-engagement summit gives you the rare opportunity to meet face-to-face with your customers (especially the VIP customers).

These customers can ask questions, and instead of answering via email, support system, or phone, you can infuse personality and humor while providing answers.

Brand personality

That would make a lot more sense. And your brand will stand out in the crowd.

If you look around carefully, you’ll agree with me that successful digital companies that have loyal and engaged customers all have annual or semi-annual summits/conference.

For example, CEO of Digital Marketer, alongside his inspiring team organizes the Traffic & Conversion Summit yearly.

The summit is regarded as one of the largest conversion summit in North America. As I write this article, the company is about to launch a second flagship summit, which they call, “Content & Commerce Summit.

T&C 2016

Remember that the focus of a customer-engagement summit isn’t necessarily to provide great customer support. Rather, it’s to cement the relationship that you already have with your customers.

Customer engagement goes beyond managing the initial touch points. It also cuts across understanding what your customers want and how they want it.

Yes, if your customers want you to create a digital product, have you determined the type of product that you’ll create?

Is it going to be an ebook, software, membership site, online course, email course, or a one-on-one coaching?

You should got to find out.

And it’s through engagement that you become certain. Customer engagement is your responsibility – and you’ve got to do it now. By the way, it’s not a destination, though, but a journey that never ends.

Be proactive

8. Produce interactive content to feed customer demand

What type of content are you producing?

A study by Demand Metric found that interactive content is an effective approach for educating customers.

And when customers are educated and excited, they become engaged and willing to take actions.

Content effectiveness

Content marketing is the way to do. I’m sure you don’t want me to preach about it. Do you?

In the past, traditional marketing strategies worked well. A lot of brands still use them today – although, with mixed feelings.

When you come over to online, content is king.

Your ability to produce the right content is your one-way ticket to generating more leads, more inbound links, and more sales.

But it’s easier said than done. According to Content Marketing Institute, 52% of B2B content marketers are struggling to produce the kind of content that engages. 39% do not have a budget in place to hire professional content creators.

Biggest b2b content problems

No two articles are created equal. Or should be.

Do you realize that two writers can write an in-depth article on the same topic, one of the articles could go viral – generating thousands of social shares, comments, links, and clients, while the other may not even reach a few hundred readers.

What could be the cause?

Well, there are several factors that could lead to that.

One thing you should know is that the rules have changed. Content is no longer about the quantity, but the quality.

As an example, Brian Dean writes and publishes one article per month, yet, he drives over 100,000 qualified visitors to his blog. And hundreds of social shares on every new post.

backlinko

Although, Brian updates his blog once every month, but he doesn’t sacrifice the quality of his post. In fact, he always up his game.

On the flip side, if you want to create an engagement stream that never runs dry, you need a different type of content.

Interactive content.

From the term “interactive content,” It’s simply the type of content that talks back at the reader.

In other words, there is an interaction that goes on when readers go through it. Here are some examples of interactive content:

interactive-content.jpg

A typical blog post is not really an interactive content, but it can become if you spice it up.

Generally, humans live to interact. Consequently, if your content follows that pattern, your customers will not only be engaged, but they’ll feel at home with your brand – and become motivated brand advocates.

The real measure of any form of content is action. If you write content and the right people aren’t able to take action, it means that you didn’t achieve any goal. You’ve wasted time.

To truly understand interactive content, here’s an excerpt from a post on Copyblogger:

“By its very nature, interactive content engages participants in an activity: answering questions, making choices, exploring scenarios. It’s a great way to capture attention right from the start. Individuals have to think and respond; they can’t just snooze through it.”

Interactive content is what engages the user and provides enormous value. A typical example of an interactive content is “Your Life on Earth.”

life-on-earth.png

It involves scrolling text with images and video and you get to participate in the HTML5 quiz (interactive element).

Your Life on Earth isn’t solely an integral part of iWonder guides, but it’s in the same development cycle at the BBc of “doing, not just viewing’ content. You should try and play it.

9. Create a “listening center” to drive conversation

Without communication, your customers will be lost.

Confusion sets in only when you neglect to set up systems that will aid effective communication.

A listening center isn’t just an avenue where you listen to your customers, it’s equally an opportunity to pay attention to details – as you sort all questions and make a promise to answer them – if you don’t have all the answers at one sitting.

Cisco and some of the top brands are redefining customer engagement and service. Although, these companies have come a long way, you too can create a listening center that will drive conversation.

Create engagement

There are several benefits to developing a “listening center.” For one, cisco sees and hears social media at new listening center.

In case you don’t know, here’s the truth: your customers are in a haste. It’s your responsibility to shorten response time – especially when they ask questions that’s been bugging their minds.

Knowing which questions to answer first, and how to send it across to your customers will go along way to excite them. That’s what customer engagement entails.

With a listening center, you’ve got a system that you can leverage on to further strengthen relationship with your existing and new customers.

10. Scale your customer engagement budget

Business is not as it used to be.

There are new strategies, tools, vehicles, and content types at every corner. Most companies are confused, because they can’t figure out how they can afford all of these with their limited budget.

Trust me, content creation and distribution is where the budget is mainly at. Recent data from Dcustom shows that marketers are now spending $44 billion on content marketing

Content Marketing Spend

Content marketing is expensive.

If you consider the time, research required, money, and sometimes the network that you need to build to make it work, you can’t really equate it with anything.

However, it’s important to scale your customer engagement budget. If a large portion of your budget goes into content creation and distribution, your engagement will suffer.

Ideally, you can optimize your inbound marketing budget like this:

marketing tactics

A wise marketer will always put the customers first. After your content has attracted new customers to your business, you need to motivate and fan their zeal.

If you don’t do it, your customers will likely switch – irrespective of the value that your content delivers.

When companies recognize that there’s plenty of money allocated to one aspect of customer relationship marketing, they will map out a strategic means of communication.

A means that will enable them communicate with customers more productively.

If you’re in a tough niche, then creating more content may not help you trounce the competition – but creating the right content and scaling your network.

This means that you connect with more businesses, marketers, influencers, and content curators – who can help amplify your content to reach more people.

If you look at the comparison chart below, you’ll notice that when marketing budget is high, especially towards developing and documenting a content strategy, as well as hiring a competent chief content marketer to manage every aspect of content marketing, the resultant effect is “very effective.”

impact on content for b2b

11. Improve customer support by making it your team’s duty

No matter the product you deal on, what you’re truly selling is experience.

Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos once said that his business wasn’t primarily for delivering shoes or clothing, but for delivering happiness.

As the Chief Executive Officer of a thriving shopping brand, Tony hires and fires – based on their core values.

Core values that are based on human psychology – and what makes people happy.

Zappos values

I’ve a question for you: “Are you satisfied with your present customer support system?”

I’m not talking about the latest helpdesk solution, tool, or program that you’re using to improve customer support.

Rather, I’m talking about the one-on-one communication that you once had with your customers.

Of course, you can’t possibly connect or communicate with thousands of customers one on one, but you can add personality to your voice.

Because you’re not a robot.

But a human being, with blood flowing through your veins. You understand that customers aren’t “traffic” as we call them – but real people with questions that needs answers.

To help improve your customer support, one thing I recommend for my clients is to make customer service everyone’s responsibility.

Yes, “everybody should be involved.”

It doesn’t matter whether you have a sales team (you should), or administrative team – all hands must be on deck.

Poor customer service will cripple your business.

According to Insightsquared, “$41 billion is lost by US companies each year due to poor customer service.”

Poor customer service

Your staff or team should be helpful and kind when communicating with customers. A study by New Voice Media found that about 42% of customers will switch if they’re put off by rude or unhelpful staff.

I encourage you to become customer-focused brand. It doesn’t matter your designation or profession, put customer service at the forefront.

This means that if you’re engaged with a particular task outside of customer service, and you receive complaints from a customer, what should you do?

Here’s what I advise you to do:

Pause whatever task you’re handling and address the customer’s complaints. Be kind to them. Show them that you’re not after their money, but their love and trust.

When customer service becomes your no #1 priority, customers will trust you more, and refer new customers to your business. Drive this urgency into every of your team member.

Let them understand that the customer has been crowned king – and should be treated as royalty.

According to Harvey Mackay, Author of ‘How to Swim with The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive,’ “Successful organisations have one common central focus: Customers.”

It doesn’t matter if it’s a business, a professional practice, a hospital, or a government agency, success comes to those, and only those, who are obsessed with looking after customers.”

12. Respond promptly to customer calls

How fast do you respond to customer calls?

Fast replies generate revenue. When an airline responded to a customer’s Tweet in less than 6 minutes, the customer was willing to pay almost $20 more for that airline in the future.

Fast replies generates revenue

By “calls,” I’m referring to feedback, not just phone calls or emails. The customer is the absolute priority.

Companies like Dell, Xerox, Starbucks, Apple, and several the like are leading the way – because they respond promptly to customer calls.

In case you don’t know, here’s a shocker:

Customers are impatient.

It’s estimated that humans attention span is 8 seconds – which is 1 second lower than that of a goldfish.

avg human attention span

You’ve got to understand that people are not ready to wait for 48 hours to get their questions answered, when another brand can answer within 24 hours.

Even if the question requires some technical know-how, it’s vital to up your game. You can achieve tremendous results if you have a technical team or department to handle these technical issues.

When it comes to responding to customer’s feedback quickly, don’t make excuses.

How fast you respond will help you gauge and understand the difference between customer service and customer experience. “Experience” is as a result of the service you provide.

If your service is awesome, but you are slow, customer experience will be negative.

On the other hand, if the service is great and the time it took to deliver it blends properly, customer experience will be high and positive.

Don’t wait for a customer to resend a question, or create a new support.

Although, I use GetResponse email autoresponder, but their response time is discouraging. The last time I emailed support, I didn’t receive feedback until after 2 days.

I agree that the company is good at what they do, but I can’t recommend them in terms of customer service.

Speed is critical.

13. Create mobile apps

Have you created your first mobile app yet?

If no, what are you waiting for?

It’s easy to learn different programming languages.

You can drive growth easily with mobile apps. Take a look at the average number of apps used and time per person each month, from Q4 2012 to the Q4 2014.

avg apps used monthly

Deep analytics combined with good psychology for user behavior are the defining factors that differentiates an app from a website or other software.

When it comes to customer engagement, we’ve seen firsthand how apps can turn a casual conversation into a bonded relationship that generates sales.

Having a unique app icon helps too.

If you’re looking to engage your customers, while providing unfeigned value that will remain fresh in their minds for years to come, then you should seriously consider creating mobile apps.

By the way, you can get started with your first mobile app in 15 minutes – Sign up with Buildfire.com

buildfire

Conclusion

The key learning here is that customer engagement isn’t a destination, but a journey. Because it doesn’t stop.

I’m yet to find any brand, business that can boast of mastering customer engagement 100%.

If only you can take these 13 strategies to heart and implement them, you’ll not only inspire your customers, but you’ll build a brand that thrives in the midst of market downturns.

Using BuildFire to create your app will help keep costs low.

Which of these customer engagement strategies have you used in your business?

14 Useful Business Apps to Help Small Businesses Grow in 2016

There’s a good reason why business growth is one of the most popular topics online today.

It’s the #1 goal of most business owners. After all, business growth means more money, and just about everyone wants to make more money.

But what actually makes a small business grow?

Things like good management, good employees, a solid marketing plan, and…

Mobile apps?

That’s right.

And I’m not just talking about creating a cost-effective mobile app for your business (although that’s a great idea too). I’m talking about downloading apps to your smartphone and using them on a daily basis. Who knows – you might even want to recommend certain business apps to your employees too!

Bottom line:

By using apps to boost your productivity or otherwise improve your business, you can propel your business to greater success than ever.

So today, we’re going to discuss 14 business apps that’ll help you do just that.

Let’s get started.

 

BONUS: 14 Business Apps to Help Small Businesses Grow in 2016 Get My Bonus

1. Evernote

evernote

Have you ever felt frustrated after losing an important notebook or document? Or wished for a more effective way to take notes at meetings, organize your thoughts, and plan your content (like blog posts)?

If so, you should consider using Evernote.

Simply put, it’s a digital notebook you can use to quickly keep track of your ideas so you can revisit them later and avoid forgetting the important stuff.

But don’t dismiss Evernote if that benefit doesn’t make it sound useful – you can use it for so much more than jotting down random ideas. For example, you can use it to take notes on client calls, outline blog posts, and organize all of your business information.

Best of all, Evernote Business (the $12 per user per month version) allows you to easily collaborate with everyone on your team. You can invite co-workers to join specific notebooks and leave their own notes on what you’ve written.

And you don’t have to worry about not having access to your notebooks when there’s no WiFi nearby – you can access them any time. No internet connection necessary.

2. Square Register

square

Imagine what your professional life might be like if you had to haul around a clunky cash register everywhere you went to accept payments. What if that was literally the only way you could accept customer payments when you’re out of the office?

It’d be ridiculously difficult – so much so that you’d probably avoid accepting payment altogether.

Fortunately, you can use the Square Register app to easily turn your phone into a credit card reader so you can accept payments without invoicing or using a physical register.

Want to offer a discount of accept a gift card? No problem – the app allows you to do both.

On top of that, Square Register app allows you to send digital receipts to customers, track your inventory and sales history, and download previous transaction information as an Excel file. You can even use the app to allow merchants and customers to give each other feedback if an issue arises with the product sold.

3. Wunderlist

wunderlist

Paper to-do lists are a thing of the past. In today’s business world, it’s often better to go digital. That way, you can reduce paper clutter (and go green!), keep track of your lists more easily, and access your lists conveniently from anywhere.

Interested? If so, download the Wunderlist app.

Not only is it great for creating digital to-do lists – it allows you to share those lists, sends you reminders for tasks that need to be completed soon, and let you re-arrange your list items as your priorities change.

Worried that your many to-do lists will get lost and start to overwhelm you?

That won’t happen if you use the Wunderlist features to their full potential and filter your tasks by due date (or other specifications).

And guess what? The app is free to use. But if you want more functionality, you can download the premium version, which allows you to assign unlimited to-dos, upload large file sizes, and more.

BONUS: 14 Business Apps to Help Small Businesses Grow in 2016 Get My Bonus

4. Slack

slack

If you’re researched communication apps for your small business at all, you’ve probably encountered Slack. It has become wildly popular for its simple, intuitive interface and useful collaboration features.

But don’t think that you’ll be able to use Slack to its full potential right away – there’s a bit of a learning curve, so you and your team might need to devote a week or two to figuring out the best way to use the app based on your business operations and customize your Slack experience.

Don’t let that stop you from using the app though.

Once you and your team figure it out, there’s a good chance you’ll notice improved productivity due to the way the app streamlines the way you collaborate.

For example, instead of digging through your emails for a conversation/document, you can simply use the Slack search tool to find what you need. You can also create multiple groups for different departments, projects, etc.

You can get the Lite plan for free if you want to try Slack out. From there, you can always upgrade to the paid plan, which starts at $8 per month per user.

5. HipChat

hipchat

Similar to Slack, HipChat is an app that makes it easy for you and your team to collaborate using group messaging, instant messaging, and file sharing.

One of the biggest differences?

The price. HipChat offers more in the free plan, and the HipChat Plus option is only $2 per user per month. A perfect option for a small business on a tight budget.

If you’re not sure whether HipChat or Slack is the better option for your team, consider checking out this study that examines the pros and cons of each app based on employee responses.

You can always try the free version of both apps. Once you’ve done that, you should be able to see what works best for your team and choose one app or the other based on that.

6. RescueTime

rescuetime

Any business-related app that receives an “Outstanding” 5-star rating from PCMag is worth talking about and considering. That’s why RescueTime is on this list.

But what is RescueTime, exactly? And how can it help your business grow and improve?

Simply put, it helps you stop wasting time – no more wondering where your day (or week) went.

With the RescueTime app, you can track how you spend your time and see reports/data based on the information collected by the app.

That way, you can learn more about how you really spend your time during the day and make adjustments that allow you to be more productive. And, as seasoned business people everywhere know, improved productivity can easily lead to improved profits.

If you also want features that allow you to block distracting websites, alert you when you’re not being productive, and log time away from your desk, try the Premium version of the app. It’s $9 per month.

 

7. Wave

wave

There are a lot of accounting apps out there aimed at businesses – and many of them come with a shocking price tag. Often, these apps do far more than what the average small business owner needs, which means that those business owners end up paying extra for unnecessary features.

Wave is a better accounting option for small businesses on a budget. While it’s not as robust as an app like Quickbooks, it gets the job done for business owners with simple accounting needs and a handful of employees.

Plus, it’s free. But there is a paid version available if you need premium support and payroll.

If you need more from your accounting software than what Wave can offer, consider an app that offers more features, like Quickbooks or Freshbooks.

BONUS: 14 Business Apps to Help Small Businesses Grow in 2016 Get My Bonus

8. Basecamp

basecamp

Picture this:

You’re out of the office, but you need to get some work done remotely. The problem is that you’re being pulled in a million different directions due to all the programs you need to use to complete tasks, collaborate, and share ideas.

If that situation sounds familiar, Basecamp can help.

It’s a project management app that helps you manage your tasks (and your employees’ tasks) so you can stay involved in all the activities going on at your business, whether you’re in the office or not.

And it’s not a one-size-fits-all experience – you (and everyone on your team) can look at tasks in a calendar view or list view depending on personal preference. You can also upload and share documents directly in Basecamp – just pick the storage size that best meets your business needs.

The best part?

A Basecamp account will help your business without destroying your budget. You can get the smallest monthly package for just $20 per month, and even the largest package they offer is just $150 per month. That’s a small price to pay for a project management tool that helps you and your team stay on task and get organized.

9. Spark

spark

If you’re like many business owners, you probably have multiple email addresses. You may even have different email apps on your phone.

If that’s the case, you probably get a bit overwhelmed just by looking at your phone screen. The little red notification showing you how many unread emails you have can cause serious stress.

While you may not be able to get rid of those unread emails, you can take the hassle out of email with the Spark app.

Think of Spark as a unified inbox that allows you to view your inbox from each email account in one place and takes the pain out of having many different email addresses.

It also allows you to categorize and filter your mail, set up notifications for your most important messages, and pin messages to the top of your inbox for easy viewing. Plus, it’s compatible with the most popular business apps, including Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive.

It’ll even work with your Apple Watch so you can use your watch and voice dictation to acknowledge and respond to emails quickly.

10. TapeACall Pro

tapeacall

Imagine this:

You and your team are sitting in the conference room talking to a new client. The onboarding call is going well, and everyone is taking notes and figuring out how they can best serve the client.

Then, the call ends, and everyone starts working on their tasks. There’s just one problem:

Some of your co-workers forgot to write down important details of the client call, and now they’re not sure what to do. They don’t want to call the client back and bother them.

The solution?

TapeACall Pro.

With this app, you can easily record client calls for later reference. And the recordings don’t even have to take up storage space on your phone – you can simply upload them to Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Drive or send them to your email address.

The app also allows you to stay organized by labeling your recordings. For example, you might choose to label a client call recording with the client’s name and the date of the call.

If you’re interested, you can get the app in the App Store for $9.99.

11. iTranslate

itranslate

Do you ever travel out of the country for business?

If so, you know how frustrating it can be when you don’t speak the local language. Thankfully, the iTranslate app is available to make your travels much more enjoyable and manageable so you can accomplish everything you need to.

To use the app, you just open it and speak into your phone in your native language. Then, the app repeats what you said back in the other language of your choice.

That’s right – you don’t need to type a single word into your phone to use this app (although typing is an option if you’d prefer that). You can even use the Phrasebook feature to save your most commonly used phrases so you can easily access them later.

You can download the app for free or opt for the paid version for $2.99.

BONUS: 14 Business Apps to Help Small Businesses Grow in 2016 Get My Bonus

12. Hootsuite

hootsuite

If you’re a small business owner in 2016, you need to market your business on social media. Period.

Now, I know what you might be thinking:

Social media marketing takes up too much time! And it takes too long to see any results from it, so I’d rather spend my time on something else.

You’re not alone. In fact, 1 out of 3 small business owners don’t think social media is important for their business.

It’s true that social media marketing, much like content marketing, requires some time and effort before it pays off. But fortunately, you can use the Hootsuite app to majorly cut down on the time you spend posting to your social media accounts.

Hootsuite allows you to schedule your posts ahead of time, which means you can get all of your social media marketing done at once rather than having to constantly worry about it. You can even post to multiple social networks at once and shorten links (this really helps when you’re working with Twitter’s character limit!).

You can use Hootsuite for free, but you also have the option to upgrade to a paid plan if you want other features, like premium app access, multiple users, real-time analytics, and priority support.

Plus, they’ve got an amazing app icon.

 

13. Pocket

pocket

Have you ever come across a blog post or website you wanted to look at, only to get sidetracked by a more urgent business-related task?

It’s a common problem for busy business owners. If you’ve ever experienced it, try Pocket.

This easy-to-use app allows you to save videos, articles, blog posts, and pretty much anything else you’ll find online so you can view it later.

And you don’t need an internet connection to view your saved items – all you have to do is open up the app, and it’ll be there waiting for you.

That means no more missing out on the things you’re most interested in that can help you power your business forward. It’ll all be stored in your digital Pocket.

14. Swype

swype

If you didn’t grow up using a smartphone, you might find typing on your phone tedious to the point where it significantly slows down your productivity.

With Swype, you can make typing on your smartphone easier than ever.

That’s because the app relies on gesture-based input as opposed to the normal keyboard, which relies on tapping of individual letters.

In other words, with Swype, all you have to do is drag your finger across the keyboard. Then, the app identifies the word you’re tracing and adds it as text.

That might sound like a recipe for disaster as far as accuracy is concerned if you’ve never used the app before, but Swype is actually known for its accuracy. On top of that, the app includes an emoji keyboard and allows you to customize your keyboard layout for easy use.

It’ll cost you 99 cents to download in the app store, but it’s completely worth it if you find yourself regularly frustrated with typing on your smart phone.

There you have it – 14 apps that’ll help you grow your small business.

Start downloading, and take note of how much each app helps you. Who knows – you might be surprised at the huge difference a simple app can for your business.

Which of these apps will you plan to download? Share in the comments!

14 Reasons Why Your Restaurant Needs a Useful Mobile App

 

There’s a lot of preachy advice out there on how important it is to develop a mobile app and make sure you have a strong mobile presence.

But the vast majority of that advice is written by app development companies with no real concern over how well your business eventually does as a result of your marketing efforts… they just want to scare you into signing up for their services by throwing out scary-sounding numbers that may or may not be backed up by actual, published facts.

But when you consider that 60% of local searches on mobile convert into buying customers within the hour, and the fact that Starbucks (a company notorious for leading the trends in the food and beverage industry) conducted 16% of their monetary transactions over their app alone.

Which means that even though someone has to be in a physical Starbucks location to buy one of their drinks, $1.6 billion of a $10 billion revenue was all done via mobile.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think $1.6 billion is anything to cough at.

So it’s clear that the ideal of mobile for restaurants is an upcoming trend… but the real question is, is it worth the investment for your business?

We’ve got 14 data points to present to you… all complete with real-life examples to help you do the math on the potential revenue and customers you’re missing out on so you can make that decision to invest in a mobile app for your restaurant.

1. Location-Based Deals

I think by now we’re all familiar with Apple’s iBeacon.

For those who aren’t, it’s basically a small device you can set up in and around your location to send push notifications and deals to people in your location’s physical proximity to lure them into your restaurant during meal time.

Beyond that, you can also rely on a person’s GPS settings to tell you where they are and send out relevant deal information if you’ve got more than one location.

The Bookatable app, for example, started using beacon-based technology in 119 of their participating London restaurants, sending push notifications to users of the app who walked within a 50-meter radius of one of the restaurants.

By doing so, they were able to jump out at users of the app who might be looking for a bite to eat, but weren’t sure exactly where to go. By helping totally eliminate or expedite that decision-making process, Bookatable was able to get more visitors into their participating restaurants, boosting their business.

image01

Bookatable offers location-based deals using beacon technology.

But beyond sending push notifications about deals to prompt more purchases, you can make sure people know where they’re going, find the right place, and don’t get sidetracked into another restaurant while they’re walking that last stretch to your restaurant’s front door.

 

2. Loyalty & Referral Programs

On Black Friday 2015, a pizza joint called Pizza Ranch ran a promotion that gave their customers double points for coming in and buying from them that day, which generated 67.6% more business for that day than they normally do.

It was such a successful and low-cost strategy to employ that their ROI was 780% on the money and time they invested.

One of the biggest reasons this works is the fact that mobile-based loyalty programs are far more personal than the ones that involve a simple punch-card being handed out to every customer who buys a drink.

The data and the interaction is on their phone, a device that hardly ever leaves their side.

Plus, you can insure continued use of your loyalty program and more purchases to contribute towards final goals by sending push notifications reminding your loyal customers how close they are or suggesting for them to come in for a meal or a drink that would put them over the edge points-wise for their prize.

But don’t just think that loyalty programs are solely about the free stuff.

According to research, 65% of restaurant customers would be willing to download your restaurant’s app if you promised them exclusive offers and deals from time to time, and a whopping 80% of those people would proactively return to your restaurant to reap the benefits… even if it meant they’d have to keep buying a few times before they got anything.

Broken down, that’s 52% of ALL restaurant-goers (which in the US, is just about everyone—so you’ve got over half of the population) willing to download your app and proactively return to your restaurant to redeem deals and loyalty promotions.

image09

Effective rewards programs don’t have to be elaborate or difficult… as you can see with this screenshot from Starbucks.

Ka-ching.

Beyond that, you can incentivize your customers to refer their friends and family to your restaurant by offering them points or credit towards their bill based on how many people they refer to your location and come in to make a purchase.

image14

Fronto Lock Screen makes referrals for their app easy and incentivized.

 

3. Easier Internal Order Fulfillment

Beyond making more money, mobile apps (especially the ordering options for pickup or delivery) make it easier to fulfill your orders.

Instead of having someone constantly man the phones and try to understand what the person on the other end is saying and relying on their handwriting to accurately convey what needs to be done to the cooks, the people responsible for filling orders can see plain and clear exactly what needs to be made, along with any special requirements given by the customer.

And with in-app payment, there’s one less thing your front desk staff or delivery guys have to worry about.

For example, if someone has to call in to place a delivery order, there’s a constant back and forth between them and your receptionist to write down the order, double-check it, write down and double-check the address, and if they pay by credit card, the communication to make sure every single digit is correct.

Even if you only pay minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour) for that position, it’s labor you could completely do without by having customers place their order, write out special instructions (like no pickles) directly into a comment section, and have them confirm their saved address directly within the app itself. It’s quicker & more painless for everyone involved… and it saves you around $2,000 per month.

image06

Taco Bell lets customer customize their orders from directly within their app without having to take the time to speak with someone over the phone about their preferences. This also makes it easier for the cooks because they can plainly see if any ingredients need to be tweaked.

4. Increased Sales Amongst Millennials

Arguably, you’d increase your sales amongst all demographics, but the millennial market is quite strong in their preferences here.

According to Food Tech Connect, 98% of 18 to 34 year-olds who’ve paid a bill via mobile would like to do so again. But beyond simply paying, 35% like to place their orders on smartphone or tablet, and 40% actually prefer a mobile payment over other options, especially for restaurants offering quicker service.

image12

When possible, millennials prefer to pay for their order directly within the app itself.

According to Restaurant Marketing Labs, each millennial spends an average of $174 per month on eating out. ($21 more than the average non-millennial.) So by catering to their preferences of offering mobile payments, you can get a larger chunk of their monthly spending power into your business revenue.

 

5. More Seats Filled

In case it hadn’t been clear already, it was obvious that something was up with online means of making restaurant reservations when travel companies began buying out restaurant reservation operations… with some of the deals worth billions of dollars.

Knowing that you’ll have a table at one of your favorite places when you’re traveling in an unknown city or just trying to plan a nice night out is really important for hungry eaters who don’t like to wait.

Estimates on exactly how many restaurant reservations are made on a monthly basis via mobile vary greatly… but it seems safe to say that it’s at least in the 100,000 range.

Plus, by allowing your customers to just use your app to make a reservation without the worry of having to call in, catch the host or hostess by the phone at the right time, and compete with the roar of a typical restaurant’s background noise, you make the process of making a reservation pleasant.

image04

Here’s a basic screen we use to help our restaurant customers take reservations via their mobile app. Click to call is always an option, but so is using a third party reservation service.

So, if your restaurant brings in $5,500 on a Friday night and your app helps increase those reservations by 10%, that’s an additional $550 in revenue just for that night. Across a year, even if only done on Fridays, that’s another $26,400.

 

6. Better On-Site Service

Though creating a mobile app for your restaurant is mostly about catering to the customer and their experience, using one can also improve on-site service… and the reviews that reflect it.

Here’s an example of how:

Let’s say you run a sandwich shop that relies heavily on carryout orders from surrounding businesses for the lunch hour.

Your shop is rather small and doesn’t have much standing room in the front, which is slammed with sweaty, hungry people from 11:45 to 1:30 every single day… all who either just want to place an order and leave, or some who just want to sit down at a booth.

Mobile ordering before they show up in your doorway sweaty, hungry, and confused can help clear out a lot of that congestion.

Instead of waiting for in-shop fulfillment, your staff can see a new order as soon as it comes in, put it together, price it, and prepare it for immediate carry out. Your carry out customers only spend a few moments in your shop and are happily on their way, clearing out your small standing area for other carry out customers and your traditional customers waiting for seating.

Plus, it makes order fulfillment a lot faster.

According to food ordering app GrubHub, fulfilling an order that takes place via a phone conversation takes two minutes to fulfill, while one of their mobile orders only takes 45 seconds… resulting in a much quicker turnaround and streamlined pickup experience. (Plus the fact that the host can be fully attentive to people coming in and doesn’t have to worry about minute-long phone conversations that keep people waiting.

7. Social Sharing

One of the best parts of integrating a mobile app into your restaurant’s other online profiles is the ability to collect more reviews the instant someone happily leaves.

Particularly if you run either reservations, ordering, or payments through your mobile app (or all three), you can set a timer for after one of those transactions is completed to ask your patrons to review your app on one of your online profiles or share their experience on social media. (Possibly for more loyalty reward points… are you seeing how all this works together now?)

Getting your customers to share positive experiences on social media is a great way to advance the word of mouth and social proof around your business… boosting your reputation in the mind of the public, leading to increased business over time.

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The text next to these social sharing buttons says, “Share this deal with friends and family and everyone receives a lower price.”

 

8. More & Better Reviews on Ranking Sites that Matter

And beyond asking people for social shares when they leave and are satisfied with your restaurant experience, you can also send push notifications asking them to leave a review… directing them to the ranking and review site that matters most to you at the moment.

For example, if you know you’ve only got three reviews on Yelp and you’re losing business because of it, a couple weeks of satisfied mobile customers leaving happy reviews can turn that around in no time.

Plugins like Appirater for iOS let you ask for app-based reviews when someone is ending a session.

And though such a plugin doesn’t exactly fit the purpose of this point, you can easily see how you could prompt a customer to rate their experience in your restaurant in connection to a third party site like Yelp after their dining experience is over and they’ve completed the function of paying their bill.

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And rather than worrying about building the functionality directly into your app, you could simply prompt a button to show up that would direct them directly to the Yelp page for your restaurant where they can start typing their review.

 

9. Better ROI on Specials You Offer

Push notifications can easily solve eating out decisions.

If it’s Friday or Saturday, you can plant the idea of eating in your restaurant that night as early as lunch time. For example, if you’re running a special on some popular dinner plates, you can send a push notification to your app users to let them know. When the time for choosing a restaurant comes, they’ll already be thinking about eating your food and validating it with the fact that they can save money on it.

For example, a restaurant called Tacolicious in San Francisco started sending out push notifications about their Margarita Monday happy hour.

And according to their owner, that was all they needed to fill the house on a Monday night… a night when most people don’t usually go out for a drink.

“Our Margarita Monday happy hour push notifications filled the house!” he exclaimed.

iOS 8 iPhone 6

This push notification example from Leanplum is a perfect example of a simple push notification you can send to your users to boost business.

 

10. Easy Menu Access

According to research conducted by the firm Chadwick Martin Bailey, 62% percent of customers are less likely to stop into your restaurant if they can’t easily see your menu on their mobile device.

And instead of relying on funny renderings of mobile-responsive web pages, you can make sure your menu is easy to access, front and center, in your app.

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Steak N Shake makes their menu a main navigation item in the bottom right corner. This ensures that users can find it instantly without feeling like they have to dig for the information.

11. Click to Call

Beyond building ordering, reservations, and delivery directly into your app’s functionality, you can also add a click to call button for customers with questions they’d like to have answered about the menu, reservation times, or location.

It seems like a small detail, but it cuts down on the customers need to first look up your phone number in Google, note it down somewhere, and then call you to get their question answered.

With this feature, it’s instant.

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The line with the phone icon and the store’s number is a click to call link, meaning that all a user has to do is tap on it to start a call to that branch.

According to research commissioned by Google, 70% of people who search on mobile use click to call, so when you put that feature directly in your app, there’s no need for users to do a Google search for that number and stumble across a better deal from a competitor.

 

12. Higher Coupon Redemption

Coupons have historically been one of the most popular ways of boosting business, and today is no different.

The first coupon went out in 1887, 129 years ago, when a Coca-Cola executive created hand-written notes for a free bottle of Coca-Cola, which then cost five cents.

The idea took hold, and Coca-Cola served 8.5 million free drinks this way between 1894 and 1913, and by 1895, it was sold in every US state.

Coupons work.

The only thing that’s changed, however, is most people don’t read a physical, daily newspaper where coupons have been traditionally printed, so you’ve got to get a little more creative with coupon delivery.

And when you deliver your coupons via mobile, you’re not only getting more people to notice it, but you’re increasing their likelihood of actually coming into your restaurant and redeeming it since they don’t have to bother with carrying around tiny pieces of paper.

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Here is how integrating coupons into your mobile app can keep customers happy and saving money at your restaurant without worrying about carrying anything extra around. All they have to do is show the coupon to the waiter. (source)

When Carl’s Jr. decided to send out mobile coupons for their deals (they used SMS instead of app notifications), they had 19% of the coupon recipients come in and redeem them… and for every dollar they spent on the campaign, they made $14 back.

 

13. More Referrals

In line with the ideas of creating a rewards program and the idea of prompting reviews and social shares, developing a mobile app as a tool for your restaurant’s marketing campaign can boost referrals when you pair these two concepts.

If you have a happy customer participating in your rewards program, you can promise them even more rewards points for sending out SMS or social referrals to their friends.

According to Referrizer, 83% of your customers would be willing to refer your restaurant to your friends, but less than 29% actually do.

By offering incentives to your loyal customers for making referrals and offering a deal for first-time visitors, you can both increase your client base and customer retention.

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This restaurant ordering app offers a $7 incentive to make referrals. (source)

14. Photo Display to Entice

Much in the same way you’d use images of your food on your website and in your menu to prompt desire for the plates you’re trying to sell more of, you can insert enticing photos of your food on your app.

Seeing an image of food that’s “ready” to eat taps into a core, animal desire to keep ourselves nourished and fed… and the better it looks (and the more hungry we are), the more likely we are to act on it.

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Pizza Hut displays a partially-eaten pizza front and center on their app’s main screen. So even if you weren’t that hungry when you opened the app, you are now.

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Yogurtland even does this with their flavors. Though they don’t serve food that looks exactly like this, they serve this flavor. A picture like this is much more enticing than simply seeing the words “Salted Caramel Pecan” in a list of 30 other flavors, isn’t it?

Where possible, try to add photos of your product (food) in context (people eating it). Showing the food “in use” adds action, interest, and helps app users imagine themselves happy and in the exact same situation.

Geez, is anyone else hungry now?

 

Conclusion

I’ve got a secret for you.

Even though it feels like app marketing and app development is being preached to small businesses and restaurants like crazy, 95% of restaurants didn’t have an app a year ago.

So this means if you do decide to develop one, you’ve got the potential to be one of the top 5% of restaurants in your area. Which is a pretty big deal, if you think about it.

The reason, we think, is because while the idea to develop an app is a good idea, the work behind making it a reality is too much for busy restaurant owners to handle.

Which is why we’ve set up a system where you can set up a basic app for your restaurant that will get you a lot of the benefits we’ve discussed above. The creation is free, won’t take even the slowest person more than half an hour, and you don’t start paying for it until you’re ready to use it.

Go ahead, check it out.

 

How to Market Your Small Business on a Budget

It’s a new year—and for small business owners, that means new goals to achieve: More leads, more sales, more return customers, whatever your metrics for success happen to be. If you’re like many small business owners, however, you don’t have the budget (or the time) to devote to marketing to help you achieve your goals.

Fortunately, there are lots of marketing ideas and tactics you can implement that get great results and don’t break the bank. Ready to jumpstart your small business marketing? Check out these # budget-friendly marketing tips every small business owner should try.

Implement a Content Marketing Plan

If you have a website, you can get started on one of the most valuable trends in digital marketing. Content marketing is a way for you to connect with your customers and potential customers in a personal, non-salesy way that helps you establish relationships and grow your brand awareness.

Think you’re not a writer or can’t possibly have anything interesting to say? There are lots of ways to make content marketing work for you. Check out these examples anyone can adapt and use:

?Make a how-to video tutorial. A restaurant owner, for example, can demonstrate how to properly open, aerate, and decant a bottle of wine. A fashion e-commerce business might show several ways to tie a scarf. Think about what you know that your customers might want to learn—and then show them how to do it.

?Create or curate a best-of list. Numbered lists are extremely popular content and they’re easy to put together. Again, approach this with your customer’s needs and interests in mind. A gym might publish 8 Best Fitness Apps for iPhone, for example, while a farmer’s market might curate 6 Best Recipes for All Your Zucchini. Be creative!

?Write a product review. Even if “creative” writing isn’t your thing, you can easily craft a product review. Use bulleted lists of pros and cons or a quick spreadsheet comparing two or three different products.

?Show the hidden side of your business. Interview one of your employees and explain his role in the business. Walk customers through the manufacturing process for one of your products. Do you sponsor a local charity or sports team? Share pictures of the events you participate in.

?Ask for guest posts. You probably have lots of untapped potential in your employees and co-workers; give them an opportunity to share their expertise and information, whether it’s an opinion piece, a recipe, some technical insight—anything that might interest your customers.

Depending on your business and customer base, aim to publish fresh content at least once or twice a week. Content marketing can help you boost your brand awareness, develop your reputation as a trusted expert in your field, bring customers in the door, and keep your website fresh and interesting.

Embrace Email Marketing

If you aren’t building your subscriber list and regularly emailing your customers, you’re missing out on a very cost-effective marketing tool. Here’s why:

?72% of consumers prefer to be contacted by email.

?91% of consumers like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with. 

?73% of brands say email is one of their core marketing channels.

?25% consider it the best channel in terms of ROI.

Encourage customers to sign up for your email list, both in the store and on your website, and give them an incentive to do so—a discount on a future purchase or a free sample, for example.

Email marketing software is surprisingly affordable; some vendors even offer free plans for small businesses that have all the features you need to get started. How often you want to email your subscribers is a function of both your business niche and the amount of effort you can devote to creating useful content. If the idea of putting together an email newsletter leaves you cold, find a freelancer who will do it for a reasonable rate.

One note of caution: Don’t be tempted to rent or purchase an email list. This is almost always a bad idea for small businesses. Use your website and other channels to organically grow your mailing list, and use your emails to build relationships with your customers by offering them useful tools, content, and offers.

Build a Mobile App

homepage-phone

Today’s consumer is a mobile consumer; more content is consumed on mobile devices than on desktops, and mobile search topped desktop search for the first time in 2015. People use their smartphones at every phase of the purchasing process, from researching products to comparing vendors and prices. In fact, mobile commerce accounted for 30 percent of all e-commerce and is expected to grow three times faster than e-commerce in 2016.

Even if you’re already reaching your mobile customers with your mobile website, a mobile app makes sense for many small businesses. Studies show that 85 percent of smartphone users would rather navigate through an app than through a mobile website, and the vast majority of mobile content is consumed through a mobile app.

Services like BuildFire make it easy and economical to build and host a mobile app that gives you on-demand access to push content and information to your customers. Why is this important?

?74% of consumers use their smartphone to help them shop.

?Mobile offers are redeemed 10 times more frequently than print coupons.

?Over 50% of consumers say they’d be more likely to shop at a nearby store if they received an offer on their phone.

?42% of all mobile sales originated through a mobile app.

Your mobile app will give you a leg up on other useful small business mobile marketing tactics, such as loyalty rewards and social media marketing.

Offer Loyalty Rewards

Every business owner knows that it costs more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. Not only that, returning customers tend to spend about 67 percent more than first-time shoppers. It only makes sense to do everything you can to encourage sticky customers with a loyalty program, which is why about 65 percent of marketers use them.

For most small businesses, it’s best to keep things simple; a points system or tiered rewards program works well and is easy to manage with a mobile app or loyalty card. For frequent, smaller value purchases, a point system based on dollars spent or quantity of items bought is easy to implement. For larger, less frequent purchases (think hospitality or insurance, for example), a tiered program keeps customers engaged.

No matter how you structure your loyalty program, make it easy for your customers to understand how it works, and to track their progress toward their next reward. If your reward program formula is something like, “Earn one point for every $15 spent, 10 points is good for a coupon for 10% off a single item purchased on the 2nd Friday of every month,” you’re not rewarding your customers, you’re antagonizing them.

Start a Customer Referral Program

Encourage your loyal customers to spread the word about your product or service with a referral incentive program. Depending on your business, your referral reward can be a free product, a cash bonus, a service discount, or any combination. You can also combine it with your loyalty program by depositing a set number of points in a customer’s account for every referral they make.

The trick is finding a balance between offering a valuable enough incentive to encourage referrals without being so generous your program costs you money. And don’t forget to promote your loyalty and referral programs across all your marketing channels, as well as in the store.

Learn to Use Social Media Effectively

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Image via Flickr by mkhmarketing

Over 80 percent of small businesses use social media in their marketing efforts, probably because:

?Over 70% of all adults use at least one social networking site.

?3 in 5 SMBs say they have gotten new customers through social media.

?57% of your sales funnel is in social media.

Most SMBs have a Facebook presence, and many are dabbling in paid Facebook ads. While paid ad ROI is elusive on this platform for many small business owners, organic social media activities are delivering measurable results. Here are some tips for smart social media marketing:

  1. Use your buyer persona to help you discover where your buyers spend their time on social media. Target your efforts on the platforms that align with their activities and interests. Make sure your posts fit best practices for the sites you use.
  2. Use an online automation tool to manage your social media postings; many offer free options for individual users or SMBs.
  3. Start user-generated content campaigns to keep followers engaged. They’re also an excellent source of fresh (and free!) content for your social media accounts.
  4. Know what you want to accomplish with your social media efforts (more web traffic, more landing page conversions) and establish measurable goals.
  5. Don’t be afraid to look at niche networks like Reddit, where you can engage with a very specific target audience. StumbleUpon is another up-and-coming social network that works well for certain businesses.

Run Some Online Contests

Few words attract online interest as well as “win,” “free,” “special offer,” and “giveaway,” and running an online contest is a great way to use those words to grow your customer base and acquire valuable demographic data about your audience. They can also be a convenient pipeline for user-generated content (think of Starbucks Red Cup Contest on Instagram).

You can make entering your contest as simple as liking or retweeting a post, following you on social media, or signing up for your mailing list—or you can ask your audience to enter their photos or Vines. Rafflecopter is a popular tool for managing every type of online giveaway, whether on your own website or any major social media platform. It’s also very affordable for SMBs, with no contracts or long-term commitments.

Get Serious About Your Online Reputation

Do you know what people are saying about your business on customer review sites like Yelp! or Angie’s List, or Google Review? If you don’t, you probably should: About 90 percent of consumers say their buying decisions are influenced by positive online reviews. Not only that, anecdotal evidence suggests positive ratings even help your search rankings—though Google hasn’t confirmed it.

You can (and should) take proactive steps to build your online reputation. Here are some tips to get started:

?Research the review sites that are best suited and/or have the most influence in your industry. Create or update your profile on the sites you identify, as well as any sites that turn up with reviews about your business/brand.

?Create a page on your website with links to the review sites you want to highlight. Promote that URL in your other online marketing; include it in your email signature, for example, and on your social media profiles.

?Ask your customers to leave feedback and reviews, and make it easy for them to do so. Do you send a thank-you email to customers after a sale? Include a link to your review site and ask them to write a review.  Direct customers to your review site on in-store receipts or printed flyers and incentivize them where possible: Enter customers into a monthly gift drawing if they leave feedback or write a review.

?Monitor your review sites and respond promptly to any negative comments. Practice good customer service—and don’t forget to thank reviewers who leave outstanding feedback or remarks.

?If you’re a local business, focus on getting feedback on Google Maps (Google+ Local). Consider an email campaign to your customers with a gmail address asking for Google reviews.

Marketing your business on a small business budget doesn’t mean skimping on the high-impact tactics larger businesses use; it just means taking a smart and targeted approach to the activities that deliver results. Social media, content marketing, mobile—all are easily scaled to small business needs and capabilities.

Have any great marketing ideas that work on a budget? Share them in the comments below!

 

Everything You Need to Know About Google+ for Your Local Business

Based on media reports and coverage, it would be fairly easy to dismiss Google+ as a failure, with certain large media outlets often referring to the service as a “ghost town”. However, these same media outlets also make the mistake of looking at Google+ as a social network rather than a social platform.

Google+ might have started out as its parent company’s attempt at a social network, but over the past 3-years it has (somewhat awkwardly) transformed into a social platform, with The Next Web (TNW) describing it as a “social layer”:

it’s a series of tools that are being layered into every single product that Google has ever made popular. The measure of success that Facebook tracks, time on site, likes, etc. aren’t the same things that Google is aiming for as a company.

Worldwide market share of leading search engines from January 2010 to 2014

Image Source: Statista

Why Google+ Still Matters

There is no denying that Google dominates the search engine market, with a Search Engine Watch study putting their US market share at 67.6 percent , while Statista has Google’s worldwide market share at more than 80 percent. This dominance, when combined with TNW’s statement that Google+ is

a series of tools that are being layered into every single product that Google has ever made popular

help explain why Google+ still matters. When customers go looking for information about your business, or any of the products and services offered, they turn to Google, not Facebook. And while Facebook can be quite powerful when it comes to engaging your audience, many of the tools offered by Google, and specificially Google+, are more beneficial to small businesses.

What Tools Does Google+ Offer?

Most of the tools offered by Google+ are available to all users, but there is one that is only available to businesses – Google My Business. My Business replaces Google Places for Business and the Google+ Dashboard, becoming a central hub from which to manage your presence on Google. If you previously used either of the above you would have automatically been migrated to My Business, but if not you can begin by visiting Google My Business and adding your business information.

The most important step in setting up your Google My Business account is choosing the right business type, with the following options available:

  • Storefront – this is for businesses with a physical location, such as restaurants, retailers, hair salons, small hotels, etc.
  • Service area – this is for service providers who don’t have a physical storefront or location, but do serve a specific geographical area, such as plumbers, taxi services, etc.
  • Brand – this is for national and international companies, products, performing artists, etc. and not recommended for local businesses at all.

Once you have selected the correct business type you can then proceed to add all the relevant information for your business, before linking to your own website, checking that your business shows up correctly on Google Maps, and finally establishing your presence on Google+.

Poquitos in Seattle doesn’t post any updates to Google+, but they have still ensured that their local presence is complete by adding all their relevant information. They have added their own header image, and they have set their profile image to the restaurants logo.

Poquitos Google+

All their relevant information appears below their profile image, including their address, business hours and website URL. Scroll down the page and you get to see their location on a map, a brief description of the business, along with images and reviews left by customers.

Business information

Google+ Circles

On Twitter you follow people, on Facebook you like people, and on Google+ you circle people. Google+ allows you to organise the people you follow (and who follow you) by adding them to specific circles. You create and name the circles, and add people according to your own rules – you could organise based on actual location, age, gender, interest, but you are also able to add people to multiple circles. This allows you to more precisely control who sees your updates: you can post a general update that is visible to everyone, but then you can also post an update and limit its visibility to only a particular circle of people.

Image Source: Moz Blog

Another important difference is that Google+ gives you more control over the formatting of your posts, allowing for the following:

  • A headline
  • Bold, italic and strikethrough text
  • Lists (numbered and bullet points)

in addition to links, images, videos and hashtags. Formatting not only makes your updates easier to read, it also helps them stand out, while your headline would also feature for any of your Google+ entries that appear on SERPs.

Google+ Hashtags

Hashtags are particularly important on Google+ since, as Ann Smarty points out:

Other social networks use hashtags to curate content by filtering updates that include a specific hashtag. If you search for #easyrecipes, your results only show updates that include that hashtag. Google+ uses hashtags to explore a topic rather than curate it. When you search for a hashtag within Google+, the network auto-selects related hashtags and trending topics and returns those along with the hashtag you typed in.

By default Google will automatically add relevant hashtags to any posts you make on Google+ (you can disable this feature), but you should still add your own.

Focus on keywords relevant to your brand and the audience that you are trying to reach, and experiment with using your business name as a hashtag too. Google’s approach to hashtags can be of great benefit to your business since it means your content (and your brand) can reach a larger audience outside of people you are connected to in Google+. However, it should not be seen as an invitation to go overboard with hashtags; always keep them relevant to the audience you are trying to reach.

Lockhart Smokehouse BBQ Google+

The Lockhart Smokehouse BBQ restaurant in Dallas is very active on Google+, posting updates almost daily. Each update includes a short, but always relevant sentence and a great image of the restaurant or its food. Hashtags are either included in the sentence, or added automatically by Google.

Hangouts and Hangouts on Air

Another powerful business tool available through Google+ is Hangouts, or more specifically, Hangouts on Air (HOA). Hangouts are essentially a private group chat (with or without video) limited to no more than 10 participants. Hangouts on Air (HOA) are also limited to no more than 10 active participants, but they are not private and can be viewed by a limitless number of people, in addition to being recorded and saved to YouTube. And this difference is what makes HOA such a powerful tool for small businesses, with suggested uses being:

  • Hosting a regular Q&A session – invite customers to send you questions about your company, services or products, that you and relevant invited guests answer.
  • Host a regular HOA where you either showcase any new products, or better yet, demonstrate how to use certain products.
  • Interview an industry expert, or a product specialist (for example, a small clothing boutique could interview a fashion stylist regarding upcoming trends, while a salon could interview a prominent colorist, or even beauty editor).

The Chopping Block in Chicago is on all the major social networks but still manages to keep their Google+ presence fresh and engaging with a variety of updates almost daily. In addition to this, they also host regular HOA’s featuring short demonstrations aimed at encouraging their audience to sign up for their cooking classes. Each HOA is promoted on Google+ and their website, and afterwards the video is made available for anyone to watch on their YouTube channel.

Google+ Events

Although HOA allow for up to 10 active participants, it isn’t a requirement. You can be the only person presenting/participating in the HOA, but unless you actually promote the HOA, very few people will be watching it. Naturally it makes sense to invite people from your circles to the event, but you may also want people from outside your circles to be aware of the event. Which is where Google+ Events fit in.

Google+ Events allow you to schedule an event (either online in the form of a Hangout or HOA, or at a physical location), customise the invitation, and then send the invitation to selected people and/or make it a public event. Public events are listed on Google+ and anyone can attend, and once anyone indicates that they are attending the event the details are automatically added to their calendar.

It is also recommended that, like The Chopping Block, you promote any upcoming events on your website.

The Importance of Local

The way people search for business information has changed: the Yellow Pages and directory assistance has been replaced by a Google search, and most queries will list businesses with local presence near the top.

Google Local Results

In the past, getting your information to show required a separate process of adding your business to Google Local, but now that Local has been layered into Google+ the process is simpler. Using Google My Business in conjunction with Google+ means you are able to manage most aspects of your Google presence from one account, and giving you greater control.

All that remains is for you to find ways to use the tools provided by Google and Google+ to your advantage.

Is it Time That Your Small Business Considered a Mobile App?

The two dominant app stores – that of Apple and Google launched in 2008, and one of the first mentions of mobile-first followed in early 2009. At the Web 2.0 Expo in early 2009, Marc Davis used the term when speaking about the mobile internet and the future of the mobile industry. On ReadWrite, Sarah Perez wrote:

As the mobile web evolves, [Marc Davis] said, it’s no longer good enough to simply port the PC experience to the phone’s small screen – it’s time to start building “mobile-first” products instead. What are “mobile-first” products? They’re services designed to take advantage of the strengths and abilities of the mobile devices themselves, leading to entirely unique creations that can only be found on the mobile web.

During his speech, Marc also introduced the concept of W4:

Or, in more simple terms, a mobile experience includes the Who, What, When, and Where. A mobile phone knows the answers to these questions: it knows who you are, when you are, where you are, and what you’re doing. If, as a developer, you know these things, you can improve the user experience and content through ad targeting, personalization, and recommendation.

While a mobile-first approach isn’t suited to all businesses, the growing popularity of the term suggests instead of asking:

Have you considered a mobile app?

We rather ask:

Why haven’t you considered a mobile app?

With services such as Buildfire, the cost and skill required in developing an app are no longer significant factors, so let us look at four points that should be considered before you decide against a mobile app.

Is your website optimised for mobile?

Anyone who has ever used their phone to browse the Internet knows that websites that aren’t optimised for mobile look and function terribly. This has prompted Google to begin rolling out a Mobile-friendly label in search results, highlighting which sites are optimised for mobile, and warning that websites that aren’t mobile friendly may also be ranked lower in search results.

SERP snippet

Image source: Google

While there are advantages to this approach, it does put strain on small businesses who are being told they should have a mobile friendly website and a mobile app, but often aren’t able to justify the cost of developing both.

One approach to consider would be to use a service such as Buildfire to launch an affordable mobile app, with the only changes to your website being to include links to the app on the relevant app store(s) and, more importantly, adding a Smart App Banner that encourages anyone visiting your website on a mobile device to download and install your app.

mobile website

Image source: Social Strategies

An added advantage of this approach is that with a mobile app you now have a physical presence on your customer’s phone, rather than being a bookmark tucked away inside the browser, making your brand far more visible and less likely to be forgotten.

Are your current marketing efforts successful, and sufficient?

Marketing in a small business is always a challenging task; the marketing channels you have available are often limited, and they aren’t supported by detailed insights and analytics that large business have access to. Having your own mobile app can change this.

With your own mobile app you have a direct link to people who, by installing your app, have expressed interest in your company. They could be existing customers, or potential customers, but the most important thing is that you are now able to market directly to them. While your traditional marketing methods might often be limited to focusing on brand awareness, with an app you are more easily able to experiment with different types of marketing, from highlighting specific products or new arrivals, to offering special discounts and limited-time offers.

Marketing is one area that can be significantly improved by the Who, What, When and Where available via a mobile app.

What are your competitors doing?

We have previously written about being aware of what your competitors are doing, and this still applies when you are wondering whether or not to launch a mobile app. If any of your competitors have a mobile app, they are already benefiting in ways that you are not, and if none of them have an app yet it shouldn’t be seen as a reason to not launch your own.

What your competitors are doing when it comes to mobile apps only influences your decision in terms of:

  • Do you have a blank slate – if they haven’t already launched an app of their own, you get to decide which features to include in your app without outside influence bar what you and your customers need;
  • Do you have a template – if they already have their own app, you can use it as a lose template on which to base your own app.

However, you are advised against simply copying what they have; instead you need to look at what you can improve on in order to set yourself apart from them.

How will you and your customers benefit?

Almost every decision in a business is centred around benefits: either how are you going to benefit, or how will your customers benefit. Many business owners lose interest in a mobile app once they learn that most of the benefits are not immediate; similar to how when you first opened your business, you have to build up an audience. You have to generate awareness of the app, and then give your customers a reason to install it, and use it on a regular basis.

A big benefit for both you and your customers is engagement. How customers engage with businesses is constantly changing, with convenience always the first priority; just looking at the last two decades we have seen it shift from email to websites, and then to social media and now mobile apps.

And again the Who, What, When and Where should not be ignored.

Conclusion

Sub-Saharan Africa population coverage

Image source: Datafox

For many years small businesses were able to resist launching a business website by arguing that their customers did not have Internet access. A similar argument against a mobile app is simply not valid, especially when you consider that in Sub-Sahara Africa more people have access to a mobile phone network than have electricity in their homes. And while not having a mobile app probably isn’t doing your small business any harm, it also isn’t benefiting you or your customers in any way.

7 Ways That Your Small Business Can Win on Pinterest

You’ve seen the stock images with the businessmen shaking hands or the smiling woman in her early 30s enjoying a cup of coffee, or the little bubble men with pencils and other gadgets trying to do something with other, smaller, indiscernible shapes.

Lame, right? Of course it is. Why? Because it’s generic. When you slap something like that up on Pinterest, you’re basically telling users that you’re:

1. Not very creative with your image-posting skills and;

2. You don’t really care about the image

More than that, you’re killing your SEO and social impact, and Pinterest is nothing if not social. So, ditch the templates, stock images, and cheesy sales pitches. Here are 7 easy wins that actually work.

1. Scout The Competition

Find the search bar in the upper left side of the Pinterest website. Enter your competitors’ website address. It will generate a list of all of that company’s pins. Now, make sure that the “all pins” tab is selected. Now you can scroll through your competitors’ pins and see what you’re up against.

Why is this valuable? Because, in some cases, you may want to mimic your competition. In other cases, you may want to know how you must differentiate yourself. Your competition is giving you all of the information you need to know – what they’re pinning, what’s working, and what’s not.

2. Create Brandable Images

Dig up an image file that either gives you unlimited modification rights or you snap your own photo. Alternatively, you can hire someone to snap a photo for you.

Just make sure that the person is actually snapping an original photo (as opposed to just surfing the web and downloading a copyright-protected stock image) so you don’t get hit with a lawsuit 5 years from now when you have millions of dollars in your corporate bank account. When in doubt, use Google’s advanced image search. If you find an image in there, and there’s no copyright or licensing information, assume it’s protected content.

Once you’ve found your image, dress it up with apps like Typic, Photogene2, Letterglow, Rhonna, Photoshop, PicMonkey, or even GIMP or Paint.net if you’ve got design skills.

Some apps, like Typic Photogene2, Letterglow, and Rhonna take a lot of guesswork out of the image customization process.

They use templates that you can customize, and they’re really pretty neat. There are some limitations with them, but mostly, you’ll find that you can create custom brandable images (like the one at the top of this post) that don’t feel like they were created from a template.

With programs like Photoshop and GIMP, bring your “A” game, you’ll need it. When you’re done, you’ll have a blog post image that, in and of itself, is sharable or, in this case, “re-pinable.”

3. Send Your Images To Email Subscribers

Do you want more activity on your boards? Give people a reason to re-pin your stuff. Send your awesome branded photos out to your email list. This is a deceptively simple tactic, but it does a few things.

First, it trains your list subscribers to expect image attachments from you – images that will undoubtedly be much cooler than what they’re used to seeing on the web or in email.

Secondly, the images can be hyperlinked, which will train list subscribers to follow the email back to your blog where they can read more stuff written by you (or other contributors).

Most importantly, in the context of Pinterest, it’s training subscribers to pin images (from your blog or email) and then re-pin your images (natively, on Pinterest).

4. Include Prices In Your Photos

Like any respectable business, you’re selling something. So why not include the prices of goods in your photos? People on Pinterest aren’t necessarily in buying mode, but they may be in “window shopping” mode. So, if you sell sneakers for example, take an awesome macro shot of them, add a clever slogan to the image, and then discreetly affix the price somewhere that’s somewhat conspicuous but at the same time not too distracting.

Then, link your photo back to the product page where people can buy the item.

5. Create Demo Collages

Take a tip from big brands – create an image collage that consists of a series of photos of you demonstrating what your product or service does for users. This technique is not only instructive, it’s interesting to look at and it’s also re-pinable.

6. Pin Your Blog Posts

All images you pin to a board can by hyperlinked back to your blog. This is an excellent strategy if you want people reading more of what you write. Again, if you’re using branded images, it will be an easy win.

7. Use The Onboard Analytics

Pinterest has built in Analytics that many businesses (for some odd reason) overlook or refuse to use. But, these analytics can tell you a lot about how people view your brand on the site, what they’re saving from your website, what they’re re-pinning, what boards they love (and hate), even what devices people use when pinning your photos. If you’re not using this feature, start.

At The End Of The Day…

At the end of the day, “winning” on Pinterest isn’t just about being more clever or interesting than the next user. You have to be relevant and have a message that other users can connect to.

It’s also about fulfilling a need or solving a problem. People use this site to discover new ideas, research products for projects they want to do, or purely for entertainment purposes. But, all of those purposes have a value. What about you? How will you fulfill that value? Post something in the comments below.