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Friday Small Business Roundup: Marketing With Google + and More

June 28th, 2013 ::

Are You Giving Online Shoppers the Customer Service Essentials They Expect? Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post to find out.

Are you making the most of Google+? Read Monika Jansen’s 5 Steps for a Successful Google+ Hangout.

How Can Home-Related Businesses Market to Millennials? Discover how this generation is different from any other in Karen Axelton’s post.

Trying to reach new B2B customers? Don’t miss Maria Valdez Haubrich’s post How Content Marketing Helps Make the B2B Sale.

Speaking of new customers, did you know This Hidden College Market Could Be a Gold Mine? Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post to find out what you could be missing out on.

Struggling to make your B2B marketing compelling? Read Monika Jansen’s 3 Examples of Engaging B2B Infographics From Non-Visual Companies.

You’re always trying to get new customers–but what about the ones you already have? Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post Customer Service Tips to Keep Your Most Valuable Customers Happy to keep them coming back.

Become a brand customers love! Read Monika Jansen’s 9 Great Tips on Creating Lovable Marketing From Industry Experts.


Web.com Small Business Tip of the Day: Women Breadwinners Call the Shots

May 6th, 2013 ::

Want to target your marketing efforts to the breadwinner in the family? According to The Luxury Institute’s recent survey, women are not only the CEOs of their families, but 41 percent of women included in the survey were also the family breadwinners, contributing more than 50 percent of the household income. However, despite the fact that these educated women are earning six-figure salaries, their top priority is still family. So how do you market to these highly educated, affluent women? Think about their busy schedules and high standards. Make sure your website is attractive, professional, easy to navigate and represented on social media. And finally, consider test marketing to this category to get some helpful feedback on what could be improved.

Web.com Small Business Tip of the Day: Are Big Trade Show Events Worth It?

May 2nd, 2013 ::

Times are definitely changing. Remember the days of setting up a booth at a big trade show to market your business and find vendors?  A new study by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and Exhibit & Event Marketers Association (E2MA) says marketers find it more and more challenging to measure ROI from big events. While marketers still find value in events, 40 percent of respondents are cutting back on big trade shows in favor of more targeted events, while 44 percent are choosing to host their own events. If you’re not sure whether a trade show or event is worth it, ask the event organizers for any analytics available and talk to previous attendees and exhibitors for their feedback.


Help Your Customers Spend Their Tax Refunds—With You

April 30th, 2013 ::

By Karen Axelton

Tax time is over, and those Americans who are expecting a refund are already making plans to spend it. How? A study of Twitter feeds by IQ Agency found that as of early April, 65 percent of Americans already knew how they planned to spend their tax refunds. The result is good news for retailers, with

  • 14% planning to spend it on electronics
  • 11% planning to spend it on fashion
  • 11% planning to spend it on automotive
  • 10% planning to spend it on food and beverages
  • 7% planning to spend it on travel
  • 7% planning to spend it on events
  • 5% planning to spend it on music.

You’ll notice most of these purchases fall into the discretionary category, which means consumers can easily be swayed to buy by emotional appeals. Consider a marketing approach that does one or more of the following:

  • Focuses on the tax refund as “found money” that won’t impact the family budget if spent on discretionary items.
  • Emphasizes the “reward yourself” or “treat yourself” aspect of making these purchases.
  • Suggests making a long-desired, big-ticket purchase (such as a new TV or electronic device) that otherwise would be too costly.
  • Highlights the experiential quality of spending on vacations, events, or food and beverages, such as sharing good times with friends or making memories with the family.
  • Appeals to the sensible side by offering discounts or deals on these product and service categories to tempt consumers who may be on the fence.
  • Uses humor to sympathize with consumers’ tax time headaches and celebrate that they’re finally over.

Even for the 35 percent of Americans that IQ Agency found plan to save their refund or use it to pay bills, there could be opportunity for financial planners, insurance salespeople and advisers. With tax time fresh in customers’ minds and finances on their brains, you can:

  • Contact existing clients with suggestions for how to maximize their refund.
  • Offer to review current clients’ portfolios or insurance coverage, suggesting that refund money provides an opportunity to upgrade with “found money.”
  • Reach out to prospects by offering a free consultation as to how their refund can be the start of an investment plan or used to purchase needed insurance that they may have been putting off.

Image by Flickr user bradleygee (Creative Commons)

What Luxury Travelers Want in 2013

April 25th, 2013 ::

By Karen Axelton

If your business is involved in the travel industry, benefits from travelers or markets to them, you’ll want to know what luxury travelers are planning for this year. The news from Unity Marketing is positive: The company’s latest report, Affluent Consumers & Their Travel Plans for 2013, surveyed over 1,300 affluent consumers with an average income of $267,800 and found that nearly half (45 percent) plan to spend more on travel in 2013 compared with 2012.

Where are luxury consumers planning to go? Internationally, three destinations were especially popular compared to 2011: the Caribbean, Asia and Australia/New Zealand. In the U.S., Las Vegas and Nevada in general topped the list of planned vacation spots, followed by New York, Florida, Boston/New England and Los Angeles. 15 percent of consumers plan on visiting Western Europe, especially France, Germany Italy and Spain.

What else do you need to know about luxury travelers?

Luxury travelers typically take multiple long vacations. In 2013, the average luxury traveler will take 2.8 separate vacations lasting four days or longer.

Luxury travelers don’t want to spend a lot of money getting to their destination. They rarely fly first-class, for example, and they seek to use frequent flyer points and other means to economize on the trip. Receiving discounts was cited as more important this year than in the prior 2011 survey.

Once they get to their destination, however, luxury travelers splurge, typically staying in four- to five-star hotels. Experience is key for luxury travelers, and the types of experiences they want most this year are relaxation/stress reduction, sightseeing, and fine dining/food and wine experiences.

This year, luxury travelers are relying much less on travel agents and much more on online reviews and other online tools. Less than one-third will use a travel agent to plan their trips, and the importance of online reviews rose compared to the 2011 survey.

But there is still opportunity for travel sellers, tour companies and other travel-related businesses. To make the most of luxury travelers’ growing budgets:

  • Provide or link to online reviews of your business on your website.
  • Offer discounts, special offers or packages to appeal to luxury travelers’ desire to save.
  • Provide a curated experience. Luxury travelers care greatly about creating meaningful memories and having unique experiences, so if your business can help them discover or enjoy unusual experiences, you’ll appeal to their interests.
  • Focus on high quality. Luxury consumers demand the best, so make sure your service is up to their standard.

Image by Flickr user breezy421 (Creative Commons)

How to Craft Content That Works for Your Content Marketing Campaign

April 24th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

The essence of any content marketing strategy is, of course, content. But for small business owners, this is often the biggest stumbling block. Chances are you’re not a writer, so how do you and your team craft content that will work to improve your website’s SEO and drive traffic and sales? Here are some tips.

Focus on quality. You may read articles that give you the idea your content has to be stuffed with keywords. In reality, this leads to articles that make no sense (we’ve all read them—those blog posts that sound like they were written by someone who didn’t speak English). Think about what your audience wants to know, and write articles that answer their questions. For example, if you own a lawn care and landscaping business, your customers might want to know how to keep their lawns green, how to prevent weeds, what types of grass are best for the local climate, etc.

Include both timely and timeless content. You don’t want every article you write to become outdated in a month. However, tying your content to current trends (such as seasons, holidays or hot topics online) does help boost your SEO and make your site seem fresh. Aim for a mix of timeless topics (such as what types of grass are best for the climate, or how often to mow a lawn) and timely ones (such as popular plants this summer, or how to prepare your garden for winter).

Use keywords. I mentioned not stuffing your articles with keywords, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to use them. Figure out what keywords you want to be found for (for example: San Francisco lawn care, landscaping service, best landscaping company) and use those keywords in the headlines, subheads and first paragraphs of your articles. If you use photos or graphics, you should also use keywords in the captions, descriptions and tags of the artwork.

Enlist your staff. If you’re not a good writer, do you have someone who is on your team? Remember, content isn’t just words, so see what kind of talent exists on your staff. You might have someone who’s great at shooting videos or taking photos. Used properly on your website and social media accounts, these can be excellent traffic drivers.

Get professional help. Creating content, especially blog posts, articles and newsletters, can be time-consuming and stressful if you don’t have an experienced writer on staff. Consider outsourcing to a freelance writer or marketing copywriter. You can find tons to choose from on sites like Guru.com, Elance.com or Freelancer.com.

Image by Flickr user mrsdkrebs (Creative Commons)

What Do Women Want When They Shop?

April 22nd, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

The way women shop is changing, with brick-and-mortar stores no longer the focus, reports the second annual SheSpeaks/Lippe Taylor Women’s Buying Behavior Index. The study polled some 2,152 women in the past two months about their buying habits and future purchasing plans.

The biggest finding? Shopping no longer starts in stores, but online. Asked how they most often research products, some 71 percent of women say they use their desktop/laptop and 18 percent chose a mobile phone or tablet. Just 6 percent said they research by actually browsing in a physical store; amost as many (5 percent) say they ask friends and family.

Where do women most often make the actual purchase? Even when it comes to buying, digital still has a slight edge, with 47 percent saying they most often buy via desktop/laptop. Forty-five percent most often go to the store. Just 8 percent say they most often buy via mobile phone or tablet.

While mobile devices aren’t women’s top choice for making the purchase, they are heavily used for other types of shopping behavior:

  • 53 percent use phones and other devices to find store locations and hours
  • 49 percent use mobile devices in-store to look up and compare prices
  • 46 percent use them to search for coupons
  • 41 percent use them to get detailed product information
  • 24 percent use them to make purchases

If you’re trying to target women with your marketing messages, you’ll want to know when they typically do their research. Most (43 percent) said they research at home during the day; 42 percent say they research at home at night. Just 9 percent did product research at work and only 7 percent did so at home on the weekends.

Women’s purchasing habits don’t just affect the products and services they buy for themselves. Women not only wield major influence over men, they actually buy for them. Asked in what categories they are the primary shopper for their husband or boyfriend, 71 percent say apparel; 69 percent say grooming products; 51 percent cited travel; 39 percent said technology products; 29 percent said financial products and services and 18 percent said cars.

What does it mean to your business?

Online research is a huge factor in the purchasing process for women, with nearly 90 percent of women regularly going online on computer, tablet or phone before they buy. Make sure you provide all the information women need to make their decision, including:

  • Reviews and ratings of your business
  • Local search information about your business so women can more easily find you
  • Search-optimized website that drives women to your site when they use the keywords relevant to your business to search for information

Another huge takeaway? Even if you sell products and services for men, you need to take women into account, since women are buying just about everything for men (and, if not actually buying, most likely having input into the decision). When you picture your target customer, picture his wife or girlfriend, too, and target specific marketing messages to her.

Image by Flickr user Kevin Ryder (Creative Commons)

How to Use Video in Your Content Marketing Strategy

April 18th, 2013 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

If you’re trying to boost the success of your content marketing efforts, one way to do so is by adding video. Online video is becoming more a part of consumers’ everyday lives, especially when it comes to online shopping, according to a report from Invodo and the eTailing Group.

The survey of over 1,000 Internet users found that the majority (52 percent) regularly watch video during the online shopping process. About one-third say they always watch video if it’s available; almost all (90 percent) watch it at least occasionally. Shoppers are also turning to video earlier in the shopping process—during the research stage—especially when it comes to big-ticket purchases or complex purchases.

What’s important for content marketers to know—whether or not they are e-tailers—is that:

  • Internet users are showing more interest in video compared to prior years.
  • Consumer engagement is greater on sites that offer video.
  • Consumers are spending more time watching videos than in prior years.
  • They are also watching more videos in more product categories than in prior years.

While Invodo’s study focused on ecommerce-related videos, there is a wide range of options for small business video—from an e-tailer’s video demonstrating what clothing or apparel looks like on a model, to an accountant’s video explaining the latest tax deductions.

Clearly, adding video is a great way to engage your prospects. So what can you do to make sure your videos get watched?

  • Make them educational. Create videos that demonstrate your products or services, show past customers talking about their satisfaction with your products or services, or educated consumers about what you do or sell. Invodo found videos with an educational or demonstration aspect were more likely to get watched.
  • Make them easy to share. Consumers eagerly share videos on social media—in fact, they’re more likely to share videos than they are images or photos. Add share buttons or embed codes that enable users to pass your content along, as well as text encouraging them to share the video with others.
  • Consider mobile. Invodo found viewing of videos on mobile devices is on the upswing, so create your videos with mobile in mind. This means simple setups that are easy to see on small devices.
  • Shorter is better. Under two or three minutes is a good length for most types of videos. If you’re trying to cover a complex topic, break it down into a series of shorter videos. You’ll have more content and are more likely to attract views that way.
  • Post in multiple places. In addition to your website, post videos on social media and consider creating a YouTube channel for your business. The more places your videos are available, the more traction they’ll gain.

Image by Flickr user M4D Group (Creative Commons)

“Buy American” Is Still a Selling Point—If You Know How to Sell It

April 11th, 2013 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Are you hoping that the “Made in America” label will help your product sell better? Chances are you’re right. A recent Harris Interactive survey found support for buying American products across a wide swath of age groups, both genders and both political parties. However, it’s important to define what “American” means when it comes to a product.

Being made in America is the biggest deciding factor in whether an item is considered American. Three-fourths of respondents say a product has to be made in the U.S. for them to think of it as “American.” Being produced by a U.S. company or being made from parts manufactured in the U.S. was important to about half of consumers; being designed by an American was important to about one-fourth.

What type of people care about buying American? Just about everyone. However:

  • The older people are, the more importance they typically place on buying American. Respondents age 48 and up were most likely to say buying American is important; 18- to 35-year-olds were least likely.
  • Women were more likely than men to believe it’s important to buy American.
  • Republicans and Democrats, however, were equally likely to believe it’s important to buy American, and felt more strongly about it than did Independents.

What types of products are people most likely to want to buy American? Major appliances (75 percent), furniture (74 percent), clothing (72 percent), small appliances (71 percent) and automobiles (70 percent) were the categories for which respondents were most likely to say it was “very important” or “important” to buy American.

What are people trying to accomplish when they buy American? The most important reason for buying American was to “keep jobs in America,” which 66 percent of respondents rated “very important.” Next on the list was “supporting American companies” (cited as “very important” by 56 percent). Safety concerns about products made outside the U.S. were a very important reason for buying American for 49 percent of respondents.

Less important reasons for buying American were:

  • Quality concerns with products assembled/ produced outside of the U.S.
  • Patriotism
  • Human rights issues with products assembled/produced outside of the U.S.
  • Decreasing environmental impact since products don’t need to travel as far. However, even this factor—the lowest on the list–was rated “very important” by 32 percent.

Clearly, buying American is still a priority for many people. If you decide to use this as a selling point, be sure that you:

  • Are honest and accurate about exactly what “Made in America” means in terms of your product.
  • Emphasize the factors that matter to customers, such as keeping jobs in America or supporting U.S. companies, in your marketing.

To fine-tune your marketing message, drill down into more details about specific consumer groups’ opinions at Harris Interactive.

Image by Flickr user donkeyhotey (Creative Commons)

The Future of Online Retailing

April 1st, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Spurred by the rapid adoption of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, as well as by major retailers’ investment in their websites, ecommerce sales in the U.S. are projected to rise from $231 billion last year to $262 billion this year—an increase of 13 percent–according to the latest forecasts from market research firm Forrester. Three product categories account for one-third of that total: apparel and accessories, consumer electronics and computer hardware.

Ecommerce currently accounts for some 8 percent of overall U.S. retail sales (or 11 percent, if grocery sales are excluded). Growth in online retail sales is projected to outpace the growth of traditional retail sales in the next five years. By 2017, total ecommerce sales in the U.S. should hit $370 billion.

Forrester says the increased use of smartphones and tablets is a major factor powering ecommerce growth. With over 50 percent of U.S. online users owning smartphones, many smartphone owners use any spare moment to go online. As a result, people are spending more time overall online than they would if they had to go to their PC or laptop to shop—and that means more browsing, shopping and purchasing.

Another driver behind ecommerce growth is that major retailers are rapidly making investments in their ecommerce divisions in order to better integrate their in-store and online shopping experiences. Even customers who head to a brick-and-mortar store now often end up buying merchandise online within the store, or using smartphones to find the same products elsewhere and order them online.

Surprisingly, new shoppers coming online for the first time are not a major factor in the growth of ecommerce. Just 4 million people are projected to buy online for the first time this year. Instead, growth is coming because people who are already comfortable with online shopping are now spending more money online, ordering more often, and buying a wider range of products from a variety of sites. Forrester says online shoppers typically become comfortable with ecommerce by purchasing low-risk items such as downloadable music or movies. Only then do they move up to more expensive purchases such as appliances or home furnishings.

Forrester’s report has some more good news, not just for ecommerce vendors but also for the economy as a whole: Ecommerce companies are powering employment growth. Currently, Forrester says, U.S. ecommerce businesses employ over 400,000 people, and that figure is expected to hit 500,000 by 2017.

Image by Flickr user Mosman Council (Creative Commons)