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Posts Tagged ‘small business marketing’

Small Biz Resource Tip: Experiment.ly

February 1st, 2012 ::


An online ad campaign shouldn’t be planned with the attitude, “Let’s throw something out there and see what sticks.” Experiment.ly lets you test and measure the performance of many aspects of your ad campaign before you sink unnecessary dollars into your efforts. You can test anything–buttons, text or images–and there’s no need to get a designer or programmer involved. It’s easy to use, with drag and drop features, so you can quickly create different versions of an ad and see which version tests the best. A free version can get you up to 5,000 unique visitors a month. Other payment plans exist if you want a more extensive campaign.

Does Your Small Business Need a Marketing Boost?

February 1st, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Could you use a boost to your small business’s marketing budget? You’re not alone. According to the 6th annual Staples National Small Business Survey, just two-thirds (66 percent) of small business owners have some type of marketing and advertising budget for 2012. Even among those who do have a marketing budget, amounts are small, with the average budget just over $2,000.

The tough economy has affected marketing budgets. Sixty percent of small business owners say they have changed their sales and marketing efforts as a direct result of the U.S. economy.  They are using less traditional media (29 percent) and more viral marketing and word-of-mouth marketing (33 percent) than last year last year. In addition, 35 percent of survey respondents reported that they have increased their social media presence in the past year.

Small business owners have big ideas when it comes to marketing. More than half (52 percent) of small business owners surveyed said that if they had a larger marketing budget, they would invest in more advertising and direct marketing to grow their businesses.

To help, office supply company Staples recently launched the Staples “Give Your Small Business the Push It Needs” contest. (My company is working with Staples on this promotion.) The contest will enable five small businesses to win up to $50,000 each in free television advertising in their home market.

“Investing in marketing to grow a small business is essential, yet many do not have the money to do so,” said John Giusti, vice president of small business marketing at Staples, in announcing the contest. “Staples wanted to do something unique to support small businesses in their local markets.”

Small businesses can enter the “Give Your Small Business the Push It Needs” contest by submitting a 15-second video about their company on Facebook.com/Staples.  Five winning small businesses will be chosen to receive 15 seconds of advertising in a 30-second Staples television ad to run in their local market.  The prize package, valued at up to $50,000 worth of local cable television airtime, includes $500 in Staples Copy and Print or Staples EasyTech™ services.  Winners can choose to receive $50,000 in advertising or $40,000 in advertising and $10,000 in cash.

Learn more about the contest and enter by visiting Facebook.com/Staples.

Image Courtesy Staples

Who’s Buying What on Mobile Devices?

January 30th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

What are Americans doing—and buying—on their mobile phones and tablets? Increasingly, they’re buying products and services. Among smartphone owners, a December survey of a sample of TechBargains.com visitors found 32 percent of women and 25 percent of men made half or more of their holiday purchases via mobile phones, reports Internet Retailer.

iPhone users were most likely to use smartphones to shop. Overall, 34 percent of iPhone users and 20 percent of Android users who made purchases with their phones said they did half or more of their holiday shopping on the phones.

While tablets are relatively new to the party compared to smartphones, they’re already slightly ahead of smartphones as a shopping tool. Among tablet owners, 35 percent of women and 21 percent of men in the survey said that half or more of their holiday purchases were made using tablets. And overall, 75 percent of respondents had made purchases on a tablet, compared to 58 percent who had done so on smartphones and 94 percent who have done so on laptops.

For those who shop with their phone:

  • 79 percent use the phone to research products,
  • 77 percent to compare prices, and
  • 73 percent to browse stores.

Of the 58 percent of shoppers who make purchases via their mobile devices:

  • 69 percent use both the mobile browser and apps to buy products,
  • 18 percent only use apps, and
  • 13 percent only use a mobile browser.

What were users buying on mobile phones?

  • 70 percent of shoppers purchased digital goods,
  • 60 percent purchased physical merchandise,
  • 46 percent purchased services, and
  • 38 percent purchased consumable goods.

Of the 75 percent of tablet owners who use their devices to make purchases:

  • 90 percent use tablets to browse stores,
  • 89 percent research products, and
  • 85 percent compare prices.

The iPad has the edge in mobile shopping with 86 percent of iPad 2 owners making purchases via their tablets. However, despite being brand new, the Kindle Fire is close behind, with 74 percent of users making purchases via their devices.

What about people who aren’t using their mobile phones to buy? Of those, 42 percent of men and 38 percent of women said security concerns kept them from buying on the device, while 54 percent of men and 59 percent of women cited problems in completing purchases. Want to capture shoppers’ mobile dollars? Make sure your security is airtight (and that you promote and explain this to users), and make sure your process is simple and easy to use.

Image by Flickr user Charantan Patnaik (Creative Commons)

Want to Market to Moms? Get Online

January 27th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

The image of mom as an old-fashioned traditionalist needs to fall by the wayside—at least, if you’re hoping to market to her successfully. Today’s moms, especially those with very young children at home, are embracing the digital world and increasingly researching, shopping and sharing product information online.

eMarketer recently reported on two studies about moms’ online shopping behavior and here’s what they found. In an Eric Mower and Associates survey, more than half of new mothers said they now spend less time watching TV (59 percent) and reading magazines (55 percent); 59 percent also spent less time shopping in stores. The percentages didn’t change much among moms with more than one child or who had older children.

So where were moms spending more time? On the Internet, where 25 percent of moms said they are going online more. And what are they doing there? Shopping: 33 percent of moms said they spend more time on ecommerce than before having kids.

But being smart consumers, moms aren’t just buying—they’re also using the Internet to do lots of research before they ever make a purchase. A separate survey by BabyCenter, reported by eMarketer, found that when it comes to comparing prices, searching for coupons or deals, comparing product features, getting product ideas and recommendations, deciding where to buy and actually finding a store, moms were more likely to use websites to do each of these things than they were to use retail stores, traditional media or their mobile phones.

Mobile phones are quickly picking up speed, however. For instance, 28 percent of moms used mobile phones to compare prices; by comparison, just 15 percent used traditional media like newspapers and magazines to do so. Sixteen percent used phones to figure out where to buy, and 29 percent used phones to find physical stores, compared to just 9 percent who used traditional media.

As moms’ kids get older and Mom is chauffeuring them to more activities, moms are even more likely to rely on mobile devices to get information, advice and directions. (That’s not from the survey, but just my own observation from knowing a lot of moms.) What does all this mean to your business?

First, digital clearly needs to become a bigger part of your marketing mix than traditional media, if it isn’t already. For many businesses, making sure your business comes up quickly in local search engines like Local.com or Google Places is becoming more important than having an ad in the Yellow Pages or local paper. Once you’ve got those basics down, consider offering your customers deals and discounts via mobile phone, whether that’s text messaging or sending your email newsletters and offers in a mobile-optimized format.

Moms’ adoption of digital and mobile shows no signs of slowing down, so your efforts to keep pace with them shouldn’t, either.

Image by Flickr user goodncrazy (Creative Commons)


Small Biz Resource Tip: Strutta

January 26th, 2012 ::


Starting a business page on Facebook is easy enough, but getting people to come back to it again and again is another story. One way to increase traffic is to offer promotions and hold contests on your Facebook site, and Strutta can make that happen. You can upload your own photos, videos, audios and text to create a promotion; then consumers can share your promotion and encourage others to participate. You can use the promotion on your website, too, and Strutta also includes an app that makes it easy to spread the word via Twitter or Facebook. Plus you can capture important data from the customers you’ve engaged.

What Do Consumers Expect When They Engage With Your Business on Social Media?

January 20th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

What consumers want when they engage with your brand on social media is often very different than what you think they want, according to a new study by The CMO Council and Lithium. The study, “Variance in the Social Brand Experience,” polled more than 1,300 consumers and more than 100 marketers and found that, by and large, businesses aren’t giving consumers what they want.

More than half (55 percent) of consumers say they interact with brands on social networks primarily to learn about new products. But the biggest group (65 percent) do so to enter promotions or contests or to play games. About one-third use social media to share positive experiences with a company, and 25 percent use social to connect with other fans of a brand.

Consumers have high expectations when they interact with businesses on social media. They expect to get answers to questions or complaints within 24 hours, with 22 percent of consumers seeking instant responses and 19 percent seeking a response within a few hours. As for what they expect to get in return for following or liking your business:

  • Exclusive offers (67 percent)
  • Games and contests (65 percent)
  • Opportunity to interact with other customers (60 percent)

While consumers are focused on offers, games and chances to get a reward, marketers, in contrast, think consumers “like” their brands just because they like the content they find online, to get news and information about the brand, or to make their voices heard. Just 27 percent thought customers followed their brands in order to get special offers—and only 22 percent of marketers actually offer special promotions or deals via social media.

What’s the takeaway? Sure, your fans and followers want to learn more about your company, and they do want to connect with their fellow fans. But as the old advertising truism goes, their biggest concern when liking you on social media is “What’s in it for me?” Unless your social media strategy offers something of concrete value to them, you’re likely to find your fan base becoming less and less engaged, as they move to competitors who give them more of what they’re looking for.

Image by Flickr user birgerking (Creative Commons)


Mobile Shoppers Love to Search for Deals

January 16th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

The just-passed holiday shopping season brought home to small retailers and e-tailers the power of mobile shopping. A recent survey from SapientNitro-GfK took a closer look at just how the growing popularity of mobile devices is affecting consumer shopping behavior.

More than one-third (39 percent) of the approximately 1,000 consumers surveyed said that digital devices have “enriched” their shopping experience during the holiday season. Among younger consumers aged 18 to 24, the percentage was even higher, with 47 percent agreeing.

Consumers also used the word “empowered” to describe how shopping with mobile devices made them feel. Overall, 38 percent said the devices made them feel empowered. Among tablet owners, 56 percent felt empowered; among consumers 18 to 24, almost two-thirds (64 percent) felt this way regardless of what type of device they used.

In addition to actually making purchases, 67 percent used mobile devices to browse for or research items (up from 44 percent in 2010); 60 percent used them to compare prices (up from 40 percent in 2010) and 48 percent used them to look for deals (up from 35 percent in 2010).

The study says GPS-enabled mobile computing is an area to watch for mobile shopping in the future. The survey asked about specific mobile applications and features and found:

  • 31 percent use the GPS/location feature on their device to shop
  • 30 percent use mobile apps to search for or purchase products
  • 20 percent looked or posted something on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks to get advice on products or find products
  • 19 percent used a QR code to get information about a product
  • 18 percent used a mobile coupon at point-of-purchase

Among tablet owners, however, this behavior was far more prevalent: 42 percent had used a mobile app to shop for or purchase products, and 41 percent had used a QR code to get information about a product.

“Imagine the day when you walk into a store and the retailer already knows something about you based on location-aware services,” said Davey. “The implications for retailers — in terms of targeted promotions or in-store navigation — are fascinating.”

Image by Flickr user Mosman Council (Creative Commons)



Group Deals Are Growing Strong

January 13th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Has your business ever offered a group deal via a site such as Groupon or LivingSocial? Despite some reports of backlash against the programs, new data from MerchantCircle’s 7th survey of U.S. small business owners shows that group deals are growing steadily in popularity among small businesses. As of December 2011, nearly 12 percent of local merchants reported they had offered a daily deal at least once. That’s an increase of one-third (33 percent) since June 2011.

What’s more, three-fourths of respondents said they would offer a daily deal again, and 61 percent said they found deals effective in acquiring new customers, while 37 percent said deals were profitable for them.

However, not everyone is thrilled with daily deals. One-fourth of respondents said they wouldn’t offer a group deal again, with the top reasons being:

  • 42 percent said it was not effective for customer acquisition
  • 36 percent said it was too costly
  • 34 percent said they lost money on the deal

When businesses are deciding what daily deals service to use, here are their top considerations:

  • Cost: 64 percent
  • Local targeting: 57 percent
  • The ability to reach a large audience: 52 percent

While Groupon and LivingSocial continue to lead the daily deal game, MerchantCircle surmises these two may face increased pressure from Google Offers in 2012. In the survey, about one in five local merchants who have offered a group deal said they had used Google Offers since it launched in mid-2011. And 32 percent of merchants planned to use Google Offers for their next daily deal, as opposed to 26 percent who plan to use Groupon and 16 percent who plan to use LivingSocial.

In addition, Google Offers had the highest retention rate of all major daily deals providers, with 66 percent of merchants that had used Google Offers planning to use it again. In contrast, just 41 percent of merchants that had used Groupon and LivingSocial to offer deals say they plan to use these services again.

But Google Offers isn’t the only contender out there. Nearly half (43 percent) of local merchants have used other, specialized deal providers.

Customers love daily deals, and increasingly, merchants are taking to them, too. Have you used daily deals in your business?

Image by Flickr user Roger Price (Creative Commons)

The Sweet Smell of Retail

January 11th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Retailers are facing increased competition these days from online merchants. But there’s still one weapon brick-and-mortar stores have in their arsenals that ecommerce sites can’t use: scent. The use of scents in stores is growing, Reuters recently reported, as consumers expect more of an “experience” when shopping.

The technology for scenting stores is becoming more sophisticated, but also increasingly affordable. One expert cited in the story says you can scent a store for under $100 a month.

Scent technology can range from using fragrance-infused ceramic beads and diffusers to spread smells through a small store, or disseminating the scent via the ventilation system for larger stores.

Good scents put people in a good mood; experiments have found that people were more inclined to help others when in an environment with pleasant smells. As for the bottom line, studies have shown that shoppers in a pleasantly scented environment stay longer in a store, which generally translates to spending more money there.

However, determining what scents to use can be a science in itself, since there’s no one universal scent that everyone likes. Food scents tend to be popular, creating feelings of well-being or urging customers in, say, a bakery to buy. For example, popcorn scents typically make customers want to eat—which could be a good thing if you’re selling food, but not so good if it inspires people to rush out of your store for lunch.

If you’re using scents in your store, tread lightly. Overpowering consumers with odors can easily backfire, so make sure whatever scents you use are light and unobtrusive. Until you’re sure of the effects, it’s also a good idea to start with scents that quickly dissipate or can be removed, such as scented beads, as opposed to pumping scent through the ventilation system where it may linger.

Also keep in mind that in today’s allergy-riddled society, many customers are sensitive to fragrance. If your business caters to this kind of customer, perhaps a store that has no scent at all is the way to make the sale.

Image by Flickr user Dennis Wong (Creative Commons)




Mobile Shoppers Don’t Give Your Site a Second Chance

January 9th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

This past holiday season proved that mobile shopping is here to stay. And a recent Limelight Networks survey of smartphone and/or tablet owners showed that consumers have high expectations when researching and buying products online. A whopping 80 percent of respondents said they will abandon a mobile site if the shopping experience isn’t up to par.

Three-fourths of these customers say they won’t give up on the company altogether—they’ll just visit the site later on a desktop computer. But one-fourth will give up on the company and visit different sites so they can complete their research or purchase. What’s more, 20 percent of consumers said they wouldn’t return in the future to a site that gave them problems on a mobile device.

So what do consumers expect from the mobile research or shopping experience? Here were the top 3 features as defined by respondents:

  • 88 percent said the time it takes for the site to load is extremely important or important
  • 88 percent said detailed product images on the site (such as being able to “zoom in” on product details) are extremely important or important
  • 82 percent said mobile site optimization, or how well the site fits the screen, as extremely important or important

The number of consumers shopping on a mobile device is only going to grow. Already 67.4 percent of those surveyed have used their device to shop online; 83 percent have researched and purchased a product on a mobile device; and 17 percent have just researched.

What does this mean to your business? Increasingly, consumers aren’t drawing a distinction between the mobile Web and the Web. They expect the same level of accessibility, detail and convenience whether they’re shopping from their phone or on their desktop computer. So if you’re still making excuses for why your website is subpar on a mobile device, you’d better stop—because your customers aren’t making excuses for you. They’re moving on to your competition.

Image by Flickr user Ron Bennetts (Creative Commons)