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Friday Small Business Roundup: Get Ready for Holiday Retail and More

August 23rd, 2013 ::

Is Your Ecommerce Site Making These 5 Fatal Mistakes? Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post and find out what you might be doing wrong.

Then start getting your ecommerce site ready for holiday 2013 retail: Read 3 Ways Email Can Boost Your 2013 Holiday Sales.

Get more out of your social media presence. Read Monika Jansen’s tips on How to Become an Industry Influencer.

Then check out her post 13 Small Changes That Will Greatly Improve Your Social Media Marketing for quick tweaks you can make right away.

Are you marketing to moms? Learn the secrets to attracting these powerful consumers in Karen Axelton’s post, When Marketing to Moms, Mobile and Social Are Key.

How Do Your Healthiness Habits Measure Up? Learn how you compare to other small business owners in Maria Valdez Haubrich’s post.

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.

 

Friday Small Business Roundup: The Secrets of Happy Customers and More

June 21st, 2013 ::

Want to Improve Your Customer Service? Do a Customer Survey. It’s easy–Rieva Lesonsky shows you how.

Want your marketing to go viral? Monika Jansen’s post How to Combine Viral Content to Really Turbocharge Your Marketing will help.

Maria Valdez Haubrich has some surprising news: The Greener Your Business, the Greener Your Sales, a new survey says.

Keep your customers happy. Read Rieva Lesonsky’s 5 Steps to Using Twitter as a Customer Service Tool.

Make sure your marketing efforts fit your target market’s technology. Read Karen Axelton’s Who’s Using Smartphones and What Does It Mean to Your Business?

Are You Driving Customers Away With These Common Customer Service Mistakes? Rieva Lesonsky’s post tells you how to avoid the errors and keep customers coming back.

Your PR efforts finally landed publicity! Now how to ace the interview with that reporter or blogger? Read Monika Jansen’s 6 Tips for Giving a Great Interview to find out.

Have to interview someone? Check out Monika Jansen’s 5 Basic Tips for Conducting a Great Interview to handle it like a pro.

Showrooming, Meet Webrooming

May 6th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

What do customers want from their retail experiences today? Well, if your business includes both an ecommerce site and a physical location, then you’re one step ahead of the game. A new study from Accenture found what customers want most is the ability to shop anytime, any way and anywhere they want to—so the more options you can offer, the better.

Some 89 percent of consumers in The Accenture Seamless Retail Study say it’s important for retailers to let them shop for products however is most convenient for them. But retailers still have a way to go to accomplish this goal. While 94 percent say shopping in-store is easy, and 74 percent say online shopping is easy, just 26 percent say it’s easy to shop on a mobile phone.

While online shopping is growing, and 43 percent of respondents say they plan to shop more online in the future, it’s not necessarily growing at the expense of in-store shopping. In fact, although 73 percent of shoppers engage in showrooming (examining products in a retail store and then buying them online), a whopping 88 percent participate in “webrooming”—looking at products online and then heading to a physical store to make the purchase.

Regardless of their original shopping touchpoint – in-store, online or mobile – consumers expect their interaction with retailers to be a customized, uncomplicated and instantaneous experience, according to the survey. The research also indicates that consistency weighs heavily on the consumer experience. For example, 73 percent of consumers expect a retailer’s online pricing to be the same as its in-store pricing, and 61 percent expect a retailer’s online promotions to be the same as its in-store promotions.

The biggest takeaway from the survey: Consumers expect the same pricing, promotions and products in your physical store and your ecommerce site. They also expect the same level of service and ease of use in both places.

How important is speed to online and offline shoppers? Well, that depends:

  • 25 percent would wait up to 2 weeks to get the product if it means they get free shipping.
  • 24 percent say a same-day delivery option is important.
  • Of those, 30 percent will pay $5 to $10, and 19 percent will pay $11 to $20, for same-day delivery.

Asked what they would do if a store had a product they wanted but it was after business hours, 39 percent would wait for the store to open and buy it there; 36 percent would buy it online from the same retailer; and 22 percent would buy it elsewhere online.

What type of advertising influences retail shoppers? Physical and email coupons and offers ranked number-one, cited by 56 percent of respondents. Almost half (49 percent) were influenced by in-store offers. The least effective ads were online popup or banner ads, with 69 and 62 percent respectively saying these ads “never” influence what they buy.

What’s the lesson from this research? Far from being a drain on an ecommerce business, a physical store is still a “crucial asset” in differentiating your business from purely online retailers, the report contends. If you have both online and physical locations, the key is to make sure your brand and your shopping experience are consistent at every stage of the purchase process, and every place the customer might encounter it.

Image by Flickr user lululemon athletica (Creative Commons)

 

 

Web.com Small Business Tip of the Day: What Are Your Customers Doing Online?

May 3rd, 2013 ::

What are your customers doing online? The answer is most likely social media, according to a new survey from Experian Marketing Services, which also showed five minutes of every hour is spent on shopping. A great deal of this social networking and shopping is happening on consumers’ mobile devices, which brings up the question, how are your online marketing efforts doing? Is your business well-represented on local search sites? How does your website look on a smartphone? Are you using social media to announce new products, promote daily specials and communicate with your customer? The truth is there’s probably more you could be doing, so make it a point to find out what you don’t know about online marketing and get your business on the right track.

The Future of Marketing: 3 Big Changes That Are Already Here

May 1st, 2013 ::

The Future of MarketingEach January, experts from every industry publish blog posts and articles that list their predictions of what’s going to happen over the next 12 months and how those changes will affect the industry.

This is not one of those posts – and not just because it’s May. We all know that marketing has shifted from offline to online, from analog to digital, and that marketing has become more personal.

Based on my research, there are 3 big changes that are already here but will continue to affect marketing over the next few years as they become more widespread.

1. Web and mobile sites will use responsive design to focus on the user experience

Responsive design means designing your website, tablet site, and smartphone site from one platform to keep the user experience consistent while taking advantage of each platform’s unique features.

Think about how you access the Web on each device. You navigate websites from a computer with a cursor, but you move around tablet sites by tapping and swiping. On your smartphone, you navigate a mobile site by tapping on a small screen.

What this means for you: With the explosion of tablet and smartphone use, especially when accessing email and the Web, it is critical that you have mobile and tablet sites that provide a great user experience.

2. Marketing will go beyond real-time

Ever hear of an Anticipatory Computer Engine? It will allow your smartphone to offer you relevant news, information, and recommendations based on where you are, what you’re doing, and what you’re talking about.

A San Francisco-based company called Expect Labs is developing a MindMeld iPad app, which will capture ambient audio, visual, and location-based information to interpret “meaning and intent from multiple different streams of sensor data.”

What this means for you: Yes, it’s kind of creepy, but think of it this way: one day, we will no longer have to search for information. The information we want will come to us, and, conversely, the information you are sharing online about your service will be delivered automatically to someone who is just sort of thinking about it.

3. Data will drive marketing

Analyzing and using big data for a variety of purposes will continue, but for now, there are quite a few tools at the small business owner’s disposal:

  1. Ad retargeting: Ads that appear in your browser after you leave a website without taking action (maybe you put 5 items in your Gap shopping cart but left the site without buying them).
  2. Predictive recommendations: Tailored recommendations based on products you have looked at or purchased (after you buy a book at Amazon.com, you always get recommendations for other books).
  3. Location-based social and mobile marketing: Mobile ads that appear from local retailers and merchants depending on your location (an offer from the pizza place you are about to walk by at 6pm).

What this means for you: Understanding someone’s behavior and interests helps you deliver tailored offers and messages when they are most receptive. In other words, you are marketing to people who are already qualified leads.

Are you already using some of the above technology? How has it improved your marketing?

Image courtesy of civilsociety.co.uk

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)

Why Local Search Matters to Your Business

April 19th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Are you taking advantage of all the ways local search can drive users to your business? The 6th Annual 15miles/Neustar Localeze Local Search Usage Study, conducted by comScore, found that local search is more important than ever in attracting customers and closing sales. Here’s some of what they found, and what it means to your business.

Search is the primary activity consumers conduct on mobile devices is search. Nearly 86 million Americans regularly look for local business information on their smartphones. Last year, the total number of visitors to search sites and search apps grew by 26 percent on smartphones and 19 percent on tablets.

In contrast, PC/laptop searches are in decline. The percentage of local searchers who say PCs/laptops are their main way of accessing local search sites has dropped by 7 percent year-over-year.

There are important differences in how users search on laptops/PCs, tablets and mobile phones:

Mobile phone searchers are more concerned about accuracy rather than depth of information. They are more likely than tablet users to say maps, driving directions and distance are helpful to them.

PC/laptop searches are more likely to take place earlier in the purchase process, during the research stage. In contrast, mobile and tablet searches were more likely to be used in the middle or at the end of the purchase process. These searches were also more likely to lead to a purchase. Just 59 percent of PC searches resulted in a purchase, but 78 percent of mobile phone searches and 77 percent of tablet searches did.

Local searches on tablets are declining too, dropping from 64 percent to 48 percent compared to last year. This suggests tablet users are becoming less mobile with the device, and is probably why they are more interested in in-depth information than mobile phone searchers are.

Accuracy of information was the most important factor for all three types of searchers; however, tablet and PC/laptop searchers gave slightly more importance to depth of content than they did last year.

What can you do to benefit from all types of local searches?

  • Make sure your business is represented on local search sites such as Local.com, Bing and Citysearch.com.
  • Provide driving, map and distance information to help users find your business.
  • Regularly check your listings to make sure they’re still accurate.
  • Provide as much detail as you can to help shoppers make the decision to visit your business, whatever device they are using.
  • Make it easy to contact you quickly with a click-to-call button or prominently displayed phone number for customers on the go.

Image by Flickr user vestman (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)

The Online Marketing Project: How to Improve Your Online Presence One Step at a Time – Part 1

April 1st, 2013 ::
This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Online Marketing Project

If you’re familiar with the book (and blog) The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, the title of this blog post series might sound familiar. In the book, Rubin works on improving a different part of her life one month at a time and offers suggestions on how to do it yourself at the end.

The Happiness Project is the inspiration for this 4-part blog post series. Because it is so much easier to reach your goals in small, doable steps, I broke down the elements of what goes into a comprehensive online marketing strategy. I don’t know if it will make you happier, but my plan will certainly make online marketing easier to put your arms around. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Audit Your Website

Because the foundation of your online presence is your website, that’s where we’re starting:

  • Look at your Google Analytics data – What keywords are you being found for? Where is your traffic coming from? What pages are visitors spending time on?
  • Update your website – Add new information and remove anything that is outdated. Bulk up the pages visitors spend the most time on and remove any that get no traffic.
  • Proof your website – Check that all links work, spelling and grammar are correct, and the keywords you are being found for are being used throughout the site.
  • Optimize your website – Work with a search engine optimization expert (ask your web developer for recommendations) to ensure your site is properly optimized. Set up a maintenance schedule with the SEO person to make sure your site keeps up with changes in technology and search engine algorithms.

Step 2: Build a Mobile Site

Thanks to the increasing use of mobile devices to access and shop on the Internet, now is the time to put together a great mobile site:

  • Prioritize content – Because mobile sites have smaller screens, you want to add only the content that is most relevant to a mobile user, like hours of operation, location (with a map!), a brief overview of products and services, and contact info.
  • Streamline navigation – To cut down on scrolling or tapping, make sure the developer keeps navigation super simple.
  • Make contact info actionable – If you add an email address or phone number, a user should be able to tap on it and instantly connect with their email or phone functions.

Step 3: Start Listening

Now that your website and mobile sites are in good shape, time to find out what your customers and target market care about:

  • Set up Google Alerts – Find out what people are saying about your business, industry, products, and services by setting up Google Alerts using relevant keywords.
  • Follow trends on Twitter – If you are active on Twitter, trending topics are automatically customized for you based on who you follow. You can find them in the left-hand column.
  • Ask your customers – Sometimes the most obvious solution is the simplest. Ask your customers what they care about on Facebook or with a survey. To increase the amount of feedback you get, offer a freebie.

In my next post, we’ll look at editorial calendars, social media, and blogging, but til then, what aspect of marketing do you most want to improve?

Image by Flickr user fra-NCIS (Creative Commons)