12 Headline Tips to Draw Customers to Your Homepage — and Keep Them There

Homepage Headline Tips
The headline on your company’s homepage is the first thing site visitors will see, so it needs to be engaging to capture their interest and keep them on the page. From making visitors laugh with a funny title to emphasizing the value you have to offer, there are many tips and tricks you can employ to draw in potential customers. To find the best ones, we asked 12 entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) this question:

“What is your best tip for writing a homepage headline that catches the customer’s eye and makes them want to stay on the page?”

Homepage Headline Tips

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. State the Customer’s End Goal

“Start with the customer’s end goal, then use the rest of the content on your homepage (especially the space below the fold) to introduce a narrative that supports your business’s ability to help your customers reach their goals. People visit your website with specific needs in mind; to capture their attention, you must clearly show that you can provide a solution.” ~ Firas KittanehAmerisleep

2. Hire an Experienced Copywriter

“If you want a well-written, attention-grabbing homepage, hire someone who is experienced at writing well-written web copy. Investing in a skilled copywriter is worth every penny: They will help you get your message across eloquently and effectively. If you want to keep your customers on your webpage for as long as possible, leave it in the hands of someone who knows how to do just that.” ~ Jared BrownHubstaff Talent

3. Avoid Generic and Subjective Descriptors

“Avoid generic and subjective descriptors like ‘best,’ ‘amazing,’ ‘service,’ ‘tool’ or ‘product.’ Put a stake in the ground and clearly describe your offering in a way that people can instantly connect to (or opt out entirely — this isn’t a bad thing!). People have actual pain points and want actual solutions, not some generic fix that may or may not work or be relevant to them.” ~ Roger LeeCaptain401

4. Use Humor

“I believe humor is a universal marketing tool that goes unused, but would do more to attract a customer than saying anything shocking or dramatic. With so much negativity, it’s good to have a homepage headline designed to make someone laugh and smile. They will want to read on to hopefully laugh again, and feel good about what they are reading and what you are offering.” ~ Murray NewlandsSighted

5. Tell Them Where They Are

“One of the golden rules of homepage headlines is answering three questions going on in the mind of the visitor: ‘Where am I?’ ‘What can I do here?’ and ‘Why shouldn’t I go somewhere else?’ We often make the mistake of thinking our customers know as much as we do, and fail to answer simple questions that can significantly increase your conversion rates. Don’t get fancy: Make it clear to them where they are.” ~ Diego OrjuelaCables & Sensors

6. Emphasize a Common Pain Point

“The best way to write a homepage headline that catches the customer’s eye and makes them want to stay on the page is to address the most common pain point shared by your customers. Conduct a customer survey and find out what obstacles, frustrations and pain points they are trying to solve by using your product or service. Analyze the feedback and extract the most common issue.” ~ Nick ChasinovTeknicks

7. Showcase the Value You Offer

“When a homepage loads, the first copy should show the value a company offers. Everybody provides features, but what really resonates is the value you provide to your customers, such as saving time or saving money.” ~ Shalyn DeverChatter Buzz

8. Make It Short, Memorable and Easily Relayed

“You need to come up with one sentence that says exactly what you want your customers to say when they tell their friends about you. The simplicity and clarity of this description is what drives word of mouth, so really think about what you want people to say about you. Make that your headline.” ~ Erik HubermanHawke Media

9. Test Headlines Before They Hit the Homepage

“Successful email subject lines and ad titles can double as catchy homepage headlines. Before writing a homepage headline, test relentlessly through A/B testing of email and Google AdWords campaigns. Measure which headlines have the highest click-through rates, open rates and conversions. Those are the headlines you want on a homepage.” ~ Brett FarmiloeMarkitors

10. If You Confuse, You Lose

“We know from research that our web visitors make a judgement call on our homepage within the first three seconds. That’s why your headline should clearly state what your company does and why that matters. If you answer the question ‘What does my audience need to know, understand and believe in order for me to sell to them?’ in the headline, then you have gone a long way toward engaging them.” ~ Nick FriedmanCollege Hunks Hauling Junk

11. Answer a Popular Question Related to Your Niche

“I’ve actually done this before. After noticing that there was a huge amount of traffic directed to my personal website from Google, I investigated to see what the common theme was. I found out that people wanted to know ‘what is’ or ‘how to,’ and my page was one of the top search results. Don’t wait to put this information in an FAQ page. Get (and keep) them on the homepage.” ~ Cody McLainSupportNinja

12. Promote Curiosity

“Many leading sites such as BuzzFeed have generated millions of visitors and interactions by creating enormous curiosity with their headlines. This works best when the reader knows at least a little bit about a topic and you use a headline that promotes curiosity. It leaves us feeling deprived if we don’t learn more, and that’s what gets people engaging, reading and clicking. Studies prove this!” ~ Alex MillerUpgraded Points
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Forty Ounce Wines Story Shows, When You Go Viral, Be Ready!

Be Prepared to Go Viral

Think going viral is all fun and games for a small business? Think again.

Having your brand or product suddenly go viral can actually be very challenging, as the creators of Forty Ounce Wines recently learned. After one of the founders posted a photo of the 40 oz. Rose product to his Instagram account, the product got picked up and featured by some big names like Time, Elle and Cosmopolitan. The founders said their website visits increased from about two per day to more than 2,000, seemingly overnight.

Since they were not prepared for such a huge response, they didn’t bottle a ton of the product right away. So when demand increased suddenly, they weren’t exactly prepared. And they were only able to offer limited availability to customers.

Be Prepared to Go Viral

Of course, it’s not always feasible for small businesses to be prepared to go viral. It wouldn’t make financial or logistical sense to have tons of extra stock and help in place just in case a product gets popular. But having a plan for what to do if business picks up suddenly could be a worth developing. If you can create a waiting list or quickly put processes into place to get products to customers quickly, then you can better take advantage of all that priceless buzz your business is receiving.

Image: Forty Ounce Wines

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10 Examples of Great Integrated Marketing Campaigns

Integrated Marketing Campaign Examples

“Integrated Marketing combines both outbound, traditional marketing with inbound marketing and other tactics to promote accelerated success in businesses,” Mark Schmukler, the CEO and Co-founder of the Sagefrog Marketing Group.

That means you can and should use social media to promote a live event where you’re highlighting your goods and services. After all, what better way to fill the hall with prospects than by reaching out to them directly on Twitter or Facebook?  Still, that’s just one possibility because integrated marketing builds a bridge between online marketing and it’s more traditional print and PR cousin in a variety of ways.

Integrated Marketing Campaign Examples

Here’s 10 examples of great integrated marketing campaigns that work by combining content, digital and website marketing, with traditional marketing methods like PR.

Porsche: Popup Autocross Event Series

It’s not a small business, but still a brand small business can learn from. Porsche recently ran a Popup Autocross Event Series with ads on social media to announce big events at places like Chicago’s Soldier Field. Added on were 360 videos of driving experiences.  The total integrated experience.

GoPro: Be a Hero

A great example of a small start up that took off, GoPro themed a recent campaign Be a Hero and is using a variety of outdoor ads, brand related sponsorships, and even a firefighter’s original video.

Always: #LikeAGirl

Designed to further a cause rather than promote a product, Always, a feminine hygiene brand, ran its #LikeAGirl campaign. The video’s jumping off point worked with the hashtag to spark a debate centering around gender equality.

SFPCA: Condoms For Pets

You read that correctly!  San Francisco Society For Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals ran this ad to highlight the need to spay and/or neuter your pet in 2015, but it stands up. They developed a website and a brochure with the mock condoms.

Mike’s Hard Lemonade: “Mikehacks”

Another blast from the past if you consider 2015 all that long ago, the Mikehacks videos for Mike’s Hard Lemonade included a barbeque-in-a-can of the beverage and paired this with in store retail displays.

Snap Inc.: Spectacles

Another great example of integrated marketing with a twist, Snap Inc. understood the possibilities and how to blend brick and mortar with online efforts. The company placed “Snapbots” in select cities. These were actually vending machines for Snap Inc.’s Spectacles product and people posting on social media while they waited in line caused the buzz to intensify.

H&M: ‘Come Together’

Here’s proof positive that the old blends well with the new as far as integrated marketing is concerned. This interesting and innovative Christmas ad featured Adrian Brody and brought old school star power to cyberspace and YouTube.

Levi Strauss & Co: Ready To Work

Documentaries about rebuilding efforts in a rundown steel town across multiple media sources made this campaign an integrated marketing gem. It was real Norman Rockwell stuff that stuck a chord.

Volkswagen: Kombi’s Last Wishes

When Brazil closed the last assembly line for the Volkswagen Kombi in 2013, they decided to host an ‘unlaunch.’

The company asked people who had bought the vehicle to place stories about their experiences on a special website.

The campaign spurred a worldwide conversation across a variety of mediums and was promoted with a series of well placed ads reflecting the truck’s “last wishes.”

Pret A Manger: Customer Outreach

Natural food store Pret A Manger actually asked their customers what they wanted and then acted on it. When they asked for input on recipes and menus, they got it to the extent feedback has been shared all over the world. Seeing your menu items in print after you’ve posted them and having that kind of input engages both customers and prospects. The integrated campaign didn’t stop there either. The company opened a second vegetarian location in London last month with 20 new items on the menu. There are  plans to crack the U.S. market in the future.

Integrated Marketing Photo via Shutterstock

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10 Reasons Your Business Needs an Integrated Marketing Campaign

Why Integrated Marketing is Important

Integrated marketing combines the more traditional outbound marketing with the kind of inbound variety made popular by the digital revolution.

If you’re looking to understand why integrated marketing is important to your small business, why not take some advice from Mark Schmukler, CEO and Co-founder, Sagefrog Marketing Group. His company is considered an industry leader and the latest version of their 2017 B2B Marketing Mix Report makes the case clear.

Consider the facts that:

  • The report shows that the highest ROI can be found in online marketing and tradeshows and events. The very one two punch Schmukler champions for integrated marketing success.
  • 43 percent of those polled plan to increase their marketing budgets.

Why Integrated Marketing is Important

Still not sure why integrated marketing is important? Here’s 10 reasons your business needs an integrated marketing campaign.

Digital Marketing Doesn’t Cover All the Bases

As much as we like to think that digital is the be-all-to- end-all when it comes to getting a small business the exposure it needs, that’s not the case. In fact, Mark Schmukler is clear:  “Outbound marketing and modern inbound marketing are equal sources of qualified leads for B2B companies today.”

Integrated Marketing Optimizes Your Marketing Investment

Accessing all the tools you can is important for fast moving industries like technology and healthcare. You don’t want to leave any stone unturned.

You Don’t Have a Marketing Rudder to Steer

According to The 2017 B2B Marketing Mix Report from Sagefrog Marketing, 55% of small business don’t have a marketing plan. Putting together a strategy that involves PR and digital elements has a proven track record.

You Haven’t Defined Your Target Market

According to the same report, one of the top sales lead sources is social media. Putting together some posts and gauging the feedback through analytics can help. Narrowing down the focus of the folks that are most likely to buy what you’ve got to sell is critical.

People Don’t Always Hear You the First Time

Seven. That’s the number of times a prospect needs to hear your message before they’ll act on it according to small business leadership expert, Gino Wickman. Integrated marketing allows you to spread your message out over several mediums and increase your chances of having it heard and acted upon.

Management Professionals Know the Difference

“I don’t see this as one or the other,” Schmukler says. “Companies should optimize across all the available channels using all the tactics they can.”

Chances are Your Competition Knows How Important This Technique Is

One hundred marketing and management professionals participated in the Sagefrog survey.  Half of those polled think social media is an important part of any marketing mix and tradeshows and events were ranked high on the ROI scale. They’re paying attention. You should too.

You Can Avoid Wasting Marketing Money

Bringing everything together under one umbrella means you won’t be duplicating any messages and wasting resources.  A Twitter hashtag about your live event before it happens gets prospects out to where you can interact with them.  A YouTube stream to the same event might be adding too many cooks.

It Works Well for Everyone

If you think your small business wont fit into the Integrated Marketing puzzle, think again. Sagefrog Marketing assures us that it works right across the small business board although

they say researching your target market and industry will help to pinpoint best practices.

You Need to Accurately Measure Results

Traditional methods are a good idea but hard to measure.

“You can hit a home run with PR, but that might be very tough to track,” Schmukler says.

Digital offers the analytics so a small business gets a more accurate picture of what works and what doesn’t.

Integrated Marketing Photo via Shutterstock

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The Top 7 Benefits of Email Marketing (Pay Close Attention to No. 5)

The Top 7 Benefits of Email Marketing (We Love #5)

The numbers show that email marketing is still a widely used, and successful, marketing channel.

However, your small business can use email marketing in many different ways. How do you choose your approach? One way might be the following chart from the Email Marketing & Marketing Automation Excellence 2017 Report:

Top Benefits of Email Marketing

Source: Email Marketing & Marketing Automation Excellence 2017 Report

Top Benefits of Email Marketing

The chart illustrates the seven top benefits of email marketing (ignoring “Other”), each of which is a worthy goal depending on what your small business is aiming to achieve.

1. Generating More Leads

Encouraging visitors to sign up for your email marketing list is just one way to generate more leads. Another strategy is to encourage your email subscribers to forward your emails on to friends, families, and acquaintances or to share it on social media.

2. Improved Sales

If every subscriber on your list turned into a customer, you’d be in small business heaven. Unfortunately, that’s probably never going to happen. However, you can increase your sales by focusing the right email campaigns on the right people. The secret to doing this is email list segmentation, a process that enables you to nurture each of your list subscribers with the right message at the right time, eventually moving each through your funnel to becoming a customer.

3. Improved Conversion Rates

In order to sell, you need to convert and the key to email conversions is to nurture them using content. Like #2 above, the key lies in email list segmentation however, it helps to know what type of  content to use at each stage of the sales process. Once you nail that, your nurturing efforts will be much more effective and, your overall conversion rates will increase.

4. Reduced Marketing Costs

If your small business marketing budget is tight, you’ll be interested in low-cost ways to promote yourself. Happily, there are a lot of email marketing tools out, many of which offer a free tier of service and low prices when you need more features and functionality.

5. Identifying Better-Quality Leads

The last thing you need is to waste time on bad leads. That’s why, before marketing your small business, it pays to have a lead qualifying system in place. Happily, email marketing itself is a lead qualifying system that demonstrates a prospect’s interest based on:

  • The fact that they signed up for your list in the first place;
  • Whether they open your emails; and
  • If they click on any of the links within your emails.

6. Integrating with Other Media to Boost Response

Integrated marketing is a powerful tool in any marketer’s kit. One of the best integrations for email is with social media where your emails can include:

  • Social share icons;
  • Super-sharable content; and
  • Deals to share which then give a referral reward back to the subscriber who shared it.

7. Shorter Sales Cycles

Email marketing is a great way to get your most convincing content in front of prospective decision makers. If you’re nurturing the right subscribers via email as mentioned in No. 5 above, and you’re using both segmentation and the right content as mentioned in No. 2 and No. 3 above respectively, then you can speed up your sales cycle by getting the right content to the right decision maker at the right time.

Now that’s powerful stuff.

Email Marketing Photo via Shutterstock

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25 Tips for Creating Great Marketing Videos

25 Tips for Creating Marketing Videos

In recent years, videos have been making inroads in digital marketing, emerging as a powerful promotional tool for businesses to promote their wares in an exciting and engaging way. Though when it comes to video marketing, there’s some pretty definitive ‘rules’ businesses should stick to in order to get their videos right. Get them wrong and marketing videos can be more hindering to a company than profiting.

Fortunately, if you’re a business looking to embark on an effective video marketing strategy, you’re in the right place, as Small Business Trends explores 25 tips for creating marketing videos.

Tips for Creating Marketing Videos

Tell a Story

Instead of being overtly salesy, an effective video tells a story. As the Digital Marketing Institute notes, businesses should utilize the emotive power of video by appealing to their customer’s needs and desires.

Make Sure the Introduction Stands Out

A little like how we are unlikely to click on an email if we’re not inspired by the subject line, an incredible one fifth of viewers click off a video within 10 seconds if they’re not interested in what they see. With this in mind, the introduction of the video is vitally important and should be made inspiring, entertaining and informative, to hook the viewer and encourage them to view the whole of the video.

Create a Stimulating Title

By the same token, your video’s title should be stimulating and eye-catching in order to grab a viewer’s attention. Furthermore, by using relevant keywords in a title, the video is likely to show up on the search engines when viewers search for the topic.

Focus on the Mission and Less on the Product

Instead of being overtly focused on the product and all its benefits, channel the message of the video into the mission of the product. Dove, for example, are hailed are being experts in creating emotional viral videos that focus less on their product and more on their mission.

Don’t Be Boring

Who wants to watch a boring video? It goes without saying, if you want your business’s video marketing campaign to be successful, create exciting and inspiring videos that can never be considered boring.

Get a Little Bit Risqué!

While too much naughty content is unlikely to do the credibility of your business many favors, as Inc. writes, just the right amount can be good for page views — as long as not overdone.

Make it Mobile Friendly

With more and more people using mobile devices to get online, it’s imperative corporate videos are mobile friendly. In fact, according to YouTube, mobile video consumption increases 100% every year! Marketing videos therefore need to be able to be downloaded and enjoyed on mobile devices.

Think About SEO

Quite simply, Google loves video content and an effective video marketing campaign should have Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in mind. To ensure maximum SEO value from your videos, accompany the video with a well-written description that is tagged with relevant keywords to help boost the video’s SEO.

Include Your URL in the Video

Displaying your website address in a marketing video is a good way for companies to get exposure and generate traffic to their website through a video.

Educate Your Audience

As the Digital Marketing Institute informs, one of the most powerful ways to implement effective video marketing is to educate viewers. Often videos that offer advice, information, tips and other informative content can be more effective than a solely promotional video.

Make the Video More Atmospheric with Music

Music is a powerful tool on video content, evoking a myriad of emotions. Don’t be afraid to use music in your video that fits the mood of the message and crafts a more exciting and emotive video.

Use Video Content Generated by Customers

Putting your customers behind the camera to talk about how they have used and benefited from your product, can be a powerful way to engage viewers and appeal to prospective customers.

Include a Call to Action

Similar to how all blog posts and content should have a call to action at the end, which invites the reader to take further action, such as signing up to a newsletter, or visiting a website, so too should a marketing video. Ask yourself, what do you want viewers to do when they’ve watched the video and then encourage them to do so without being overtly salesy.

Take Viewers Behind the Scenes

Consumers love to get up close to a brand and video marketing offers the perfect opportunity to take customers behind the scenes and into your business’s ‘natural surroundings.’

Include Tutorial Videos

Posting tutorials that are relevant to your niche is a great way to connect and engage with customers. Tutorials shouldn’t give away all your industry secrets, but should be enough to entice the viewer with informative and useful content, leaving them wanting to learn more.

Keep Them Short

Online viewers often don’t have much time to spare before they’re off looking on a new site and at a new video. In this sense, shorter marketing videos can tend to work better than long ones. As Helen Klein Ross told Kiss Metrics:

“The less you say, the more likely people are to remember.”

Use a Professional Voice

Words spoken with clarity and professionalism will always come out better in a corporate video than an amateur speaker, whose lack of experience speaking on the camera is obvious. With this in mind, it might be a good idea to have an employee that is experienced on speaking in front of the camera record for the video, or even think about calling in a professional.

Use Micro-Video Apps

Along with all this talk of keeping videos short for  the viewer, it’s also true shorter content is a better format for most social platforms. As Forbes notes, short, concise content triumphs over longer forms of content, particularly on social media channels. Video marketers should consider using micro-video apps, which shorten videos to less than 10 seconds, so they’re ideal of sharing on the likes of Instagram and Twitter.

Pose Questions

Strive to create engagement and conversation with your video by asking viewers questions. Ask viewers to leave answers to the questions in a comment section below the video.

Don’t Be Preoccupied with Perfection

Videos for marketing purposes aren’t Hollywood movies and nobody expects perfection. Whilst you want the video to look professional, don’t become too obsessed with perfection that on the 50th take you still haven’t got in right.

But Don’t Forget Production Quality

That said, it’s important a marketing video is produced professionally. From the camera work to lighting, edited to voice overs, it might be a good idea to call upon the expertise of a professional video production company to ensure the video is produced in a high quality.

Use Videos to Help You Create Your Own Effective Video Marketing Strategy

Head to the likes of YouTube to see how businesses are already building videos that have managed to go viral. Featuring the likes of Coca-Cola, these ‘10 Epic Viral Marketing Videos’ on YouTube will give you some pointers on how some of the biggest and well-known brands are producing a video designed to go viral.

Build Hype Around the Launch of the Video

Instead of just going ahead and launching your video, build hype around the video by promoting its launch date on your website, blog and social media channels.

Provide Some Humor

Not all corporate videos need to be serious. On the contrary, some humour can work well in generating more interest in your video. Vidyard gives an example of a humorous marketing video that proved hugely successful — a parody by cloud invoicing provider Taulia of the award-winning commercial series ‘Get Rid of Cable’ by Direct TV. As Vidyard writes:

“The video not only delivers a laugh, but this kind of humorous take on B2B solution can really get your customers feeling connected with your brand and help you stand out in what can be a stuffy market.”

Embed a Video in Landing Pages

Think strategically about where you are going to place your marketing video. Statistics show that embedding videos in landing pages can raise conversion rates by as much as 80 percent.

With video forecast to claim more than 80 percent of all web traffic by 2019 and 90 percent of customers reporting that product videos help them make purchasing decisions, it is imperative companies create videos that resonate with their audience and ultimately help sell their services and products.

Making Video Photo via Shutterstock

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McDonald’s Frork Promotion Shows Gamble of Humor in Marketing

McDonald's Frork Promotion Shows Gamble of Humor in Marketing

McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) has already admitted that its latest innovation is essentially useless. But the company still hopes that it serves an important purpose for its marketing efforts.

The product is called a “frork.” It’s essentially a fork, but with french fries instead of prongs. The purpose? According to an infomercial type video from McDonald’s, you can use it to pick up and eat all the toppings and condiments that fall out of McDonald’s new signature crafted sandwiches.

The video features Anthony Sullivan, “preposterous product pitching powerhouse” delivering a passionate presentation for the new product. But while McDonald’s did actually create a limited number of frorks for this promotion, the whole thing is clearly aimed more at getting attention than promoting the actual product.

Humor is the key for McDonald’s in this case. They’ve created a concept and a video that are fairly ridiculous and aimed at getting customers to laugh while also building just enough intrigue to actually get them to try the new signature sandwiches.

Humor in Marketing

But humor can be a tricky thing for businesses. If people don’t “get” the infomercial or if it just doesn’t strike the right chord with customers, then all of those marketing (and in this case actual product creation) resources will have gone to waste.

That doesn’t mean that businesses shouldn’t use humor in marketing. But it’s not always as easy as it looks. And it requires a really strong understanding of your audience if you want to be successful.

Image: McDonald’s

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The Benefits of Texting to Promote Your Small Business (INFOGRAPHIC)

How Can You Benefit from Text Message Marketing

Businesses often spend a fortune on digital marketing initiatives, but miss out on a simple-yet-effective channel: text marketing.

A powerful and cost-effective tool, texting can provide more bang for your promotional buck if you use it properly.

UK-based text marketing company TextMagic has compiled data to show why businesses should take text marketing seriously. The firm has also provided some useful tips to make the most of this business-friendly channel.

Text Message Marketing Can Help Businesses Engage Users

According to data, a text message has the estimated open rate of 98 percent, compared to email’s 20 percent. What’s more, 90 percent of the time a text is read within the first three minutes of receiving the message.

Text messages are also found to be more effective for companies that operate their businesses on an appointment basis and face no-shows.

Statistics show automated text reminders reduce no-shows by up to 40 percent.

How Can You Benefit from Text Message Marketing

A well-defined text marketing strategy can prove extremely beneficial for businesses. Let’s understand this in a bit more detail.

For time-sensitive promotions, text messaging can be a great tool to spread awareness. If time is not a critical factor, marketers can combine text and email campaigns.

Another tip is to create QR codes to draw customers with discount coupons or vouchers.

Text messaging can also prove beneficial for businesses interested in boosting customer satisfaction. For this, consider sending an automatic confirmation text after you receive an order from a client.

But to ensure text messaging provides desired results, make sure your message is short and includes important details.

For more information, check out the infographic below:

How Can You Benefit from Text Message Marketing

Texting Photo via Shutterstock

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How to Strengthen Customer Relationships When Time is at a Premium

How to Strengthen Customer Relationships When Time is at a Premium

As a small business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your business. And while the things that go on behind the scenes certainly matter, you can’t focus on them at the expense of your relationships with customers.

Small Businesses Are Built on Relationships

When people think about small businesses, a certain image is conjured up in their minds. They picture a quaint storefront on a main street in a small town. They see friendly storeowners who know customers by their first names and interact with them as they walk in. They picture handshakes, smiles, and promises that are always honored.

See, small businesses are all about interpersonal relations. They thrive on connections and conversations. But somewhere along the way, companies moved away from the heart of small business. With so many different forces and distractions competing for attention, small businesses have started spending less time focusing on relationships and more time dealing with “important” administrative tasks and responsibilities.

The problem with this shift in small business management is that nothing is more important than customer relationships. While payroll, accounting, digital marketing, website analytics, paid media, hiring, and training matter, they can’t take away from the focus on customer relationships. As soon as relationships erode, the business follows closely behind.

Do yourself a favor and conduct a quick analysis on your small business. Are you so wrapped up in the day-to-day tasks and managerial responsibilities that you’re no longer fostering healthy relationships with new and existing customers?

If this is the case, you aren’t alone. It’s an epidemic in the business world and you’ll find thousands of other business owners in the same boat. However, at some point, you have to make the conscious decision to get out of the boat and return to what made you successful: relationships.

4 Ways to Strengthen Customer Relationships

You can’t snap your fingers and wish your way into stronger customer relationships. What you need is a customer relations strategy that targets particular weaknesses in your business and builds on the strengths that you already have. And while every business will have different needs and action steps, the following tips should provide you with a solid footing on which you can build for the future.

1. Use CRM Software

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a term used to describe the handy tools small businesses utilize to streamline the management and nurturing of customer relationships.

“It’s usually a cloud-based system that stores information about your clients, potential clients and contacts in one central safe place that everyone in your team can access and update wherever they are,” small business expert Nadia Finer says. “A CRM can also help you grow your business and keep customers happy by keeping track of interactions and tasks, and giving you a clear view of your sales pipeline.”

What Finer is really getting at is this: CRM makes it easier to manage customer relationships when you don’t have the time to manually handle every task.

As a general principle, most businesses extract 70-80 percent of their profits from 20-30 percent of their customers. One way to maximize the value of your CRM system is to use the built-in analytics tools to keep track of who your most valuable customers are.

As marketing manager Christopher Meloni explains it, “This sort of tracking, with the help of your CRM software, will in-turn enable you to allocate your resources in such a manner that those 20-30% of your customers get the best customer service, always. This is called target-based allocation, and it can prove wonders for you and your business organization.”

CRM can also be used to help you handle customer complaints in a swift manner. By delivering fast responses, you can deal with problems as they arise (instead of letting them fester). Other valuable uses – depending on the CRM system you use – include the ability to analyze customer buying patterns, send out automatic updates, and keep track of who customers are and how they’re likely to respond in certain situations.

2. Invest in Business Intelligence

Are you currently invested in business intelligence? This is the fastest developing trend in small business and you have to make it a priority if you stand any chance of acquiring and maintaining a base of loyal customers that continue to come back time after time.

“Business intelligence for small business helps to gather data about your customers’ behavior and structure it in a clear form so that it can be analyzed fast and easy,” explains Heiko Troster of datapine. “With insights about your customers’ behavior you can make effective business decisions.”

Data is the ammunition of your communicative efforts. When you understand who your customers are and what they want, you can effectively forecast needs and satisfy their desires. You still have to strategically act on the information you have, but at least business intelligence tools can provide you with valuable data that you’d otherwise miss out on.

3. Gather More Information on Customers

Customers want to be known as more than an invoice number or receipt. They want to be seen as individuals with personal lives, needs, and sensitivities. When you have advanced CRM and business intelligence tools in place, you can tactfully gather more information on your customers and gain a fuller picture of who they are and what their needs are. This will benefit you in the long run by allowing you to interact with customers on an individual basis.

4. Reshape Your Social Media Strategy

What does your current social media strategy look like? If you haven’t made a conscious effort over the years to make your social media presence about your followers, then your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles are probably self-serving. All of the content you post is about your brand and you aren’t adding any real value to your customers. Sound familiar?

If the goal is to strengthen customer relationships, you’ll need to reshape your social media strategy and make it less about you and more about them. Make it an avenue for two-way conversations to take place.

“Unlike a one-way conversation where a company typically dominates the narrative and doesn’t really acknowledge or interact with visitors/followers , a two-way conversation directly connects brands and consumers,” says Carolyn Edgecomb of IMPACT. “A two-conversation is a dialogue, where brands speak and listen to their audience, responding directly to their wants and needs.”

The classic rule of thumb is that 80 percent of your social media posts should add value to your brand without directly promoting your products and services. Try your best to meet this goal.

Make More Time for Customers

Forging strong relationships with customers takes effort. But thanks to the technologies you now have available to you – such as CRM systems, business intelligence tools, and social media – it doesn’t have to require a ton of time.

Now’s the time to create a game plan for success. How are you going to handle the many needs of your company without compromising on the customer relationship front? It’ll take some trial and error, but you can find a solution.

Business Woman Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “How to Strengthen Customer Relationships When Time is at a Premium” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Chocolate Rain 10th Anniversary Calls Attention to Power of Viral Marketing

Viral Marketing Lesson from the 10th Anniversary of Chocolate Rain

This week marks the tenth anniversary of viral sensation “Chocolate Rain” by singer and internet personality Tay Zonday. And this milestone isn’t just about celebrating a flash-in-the-pan online hit. It also serves as an important reminder for businesses.

Chocolate Rain was one of the first truly viral internet sensations. The original video has been viewed more than 110 million times. And the song has been referenced in pop culture all the way from 30 Rock to Spongebob Squarepants.

Even Zonday himself has created spoofs of the song and performed on late night shows and in other venues. Now, Zonday has released a new video commemorating the tenth anniversary of his viral hit.

Viral Marketing Lesson from the 10th Anniversary of Chocolate Rain

For businesses, the lesson of Chocolate Rain is simple. Digital channels have lowered the barriers of entry so that even an unknown brand can capture global attention with the right content. And the payoffs can be huge!

Once you do start receiving some recognition, you can capitalize on it by accepting the additional opportunities that come your way. Because if the 10th anniversary of Chocolate Rain is any indication, viral content can have both an immediate and lasting impact.

Image: Tay Zonday/YouTube

This article, “Chocolate Rain 10th Anniversary Calls Attention to Power of Viral Marketing” was first published on Small Business Trends

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