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Carol Roth Headshot.pngTechnology – for better or for worse – has created the ability for you to connect with almost anyone, whether it’s a business professional you admire, a peer you desire to partner with or a potential future investor. In the movie “Wall Street,” Bud Fox had to regularly call Gordon Gekko’s assistant to try to get into the door. Nowadays, you can tweet, follow, “friend” and comment your way into a dialogue with just about anybody, including those people who can help you and your business.

 

However, when it comes to making those connections, far more people are bad at taking advantage of the opportunity than are good.

 

There is a protocol to getting noticed if you are looking to establish a relationship. Here are some of the do’s and don’ts that can help you meaningfully connect with influencers.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT CAROL ROTH

 

Don’t lead with an ask: Do not ask for something in your first few interactions. Building a relationship takes time and if you truly need assistance, insight or even some swag, influencers will be much more inclined to do so if you have done something for them first or at least built up a relationship.

 

Do be helpful: Offering your help and advice for a cause or endeavor important to an influencer is a good way to earn brownie points. If you comment on their blog, share their tweets, buy their book and send them a note about it or find other ways to be helpful, it can be a great way to build up trust with the influencer. But do it authentically. It’s obvious when someone sends an email saying they love your blog but clear they aren’t an avid reader. That’s an immediate turn-off for influencers.

 

Do be genuine and engaging: It’s clear when you are being yourself and clear when you are being a phony, even in 140 characters. Authenticity goes a long way, as noted above. Being funny doesn’t hurt either, but only if you have a good handle on the other person’s sense of humor – not everything translates clearly in writing.

 

Do talk about the influencer’s favorite topic – them: Everyone is open to flattery, although I advise that you don’t go overboard or you will look like a kiss-ass and/or a moron. Share what you admire about the other person’s work to start the conversation.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE 4 C’S OF SOCIAL MEDIA TO GROW BUSINESS (VIDEO)

 

Don’t be rude, offensive or defensive: Sometimes, people get their undies in a bunch if they don’t get the type of response they are hoping for when they reach out to an influencer. Building a relationship takes time, so be patient and influencers, almost by definition, are busy. If you act entitled, your targeted influencer will never engage with you. Being pushy isn’t a recommended method for making friends either.

 

Do be patient: As noted, influencers are busy, so it may take weeks or longer for them to respond. If you build a relationship and you have an “ask” that may take a long time to get completed, plan accordingly.

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Don’t make it difficult: If you want an influencer you connect with to do something for you, like be quoted in your article, invest in your business or write a foreword for your book, make it as easy as possible to say yes. This means don’t have them jump through hoops, click links or do something your way; do everything you can to make the process painless and seamless.

 

Do help them make money: If you have a referral for their business, that’s a great way to start or further a relationship. But make it legitimate, which means “getting in on the ground floor of your investment opportunity” does not count.

 

Do know the line between persistence and annoyance: There is a difference between being helpful and being a pest.  Always leave them wanting more. Also, remember that everyone needs to get some work done too, no matter how interesting you think you may be.

 

Don’t cross the line or be creepy, even as a joke: Seeking stimulating conversation is one thing. If you are looking for something else to be stimulated, look elsewhere. Remember trust isn’t implicit; it is earned. When the other person doesn’t know you from Adam (and yes, even if you are both on a social media platform, they don’t really know you), the creepy radar will be on high. Don’t make jokes that make you sound like a serial killer. You don’t want to end up on their list of people whose houses the police should check under if they go missing.

 


 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness. 

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngOftentimes business owners put a large focus on winning new customers or new business – which of course is necessary for business success. However, this may sound counterintuitive, but if you’re strictly focusing on getting new customers, you could be putting your energies in the wrong place.

 

Here are four reasons why retaining loyal customers is vital to success.

 

1. They cost less.

Statistics on the cost of acquiring customers vs. retaining customers vary widely, but common sense tells us it’s more expensive to land a new customer than to keep one you already have. (You can estimate your own customer acquisition costs by dividing your marketing budget over a certain time period by the number of customers acquired during that period.)

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

It’s easy to lose a customer. Nearly half of consumers will switch brands in return for a coupon, while 47 percent will switch to a competitor within one day of a poor customer service experience.

 

But it’s also easy to keep customers if you simply make the effort. While 68 percent of consumers won’t go back to a company once they switch, 80 percent say the company could have done something to retain them.

 

2. They spend more.

All customers are not created equal when it comes to their value for your business. A report from Accenture shows 43 percent of consumers spend more money with companies they are loyal to. In other words, they’re high-value customers, especially when compared to new customers who may make one small purchase and never come back. Loyalty program software or customer relationship management software can help you track how much a specific customer spends, how often they interact with your business, and how much they cost you so you can focus on your highest-value customers.

 

Try this:

  • Create a loyalty program. According to a survey by Facebook, 77 percent of customers return to the same brands again and again—but only 37 percent say they are “loyal” to those brands. To turn repeat customers into loyal ones, use loyalty marketing software to create promotions that resonate with specific customers based on their prior behaviors. B2B businesses can create similar incentives, such as offering bulk discounts.
  • Upsell and cross-sell. Encourage salespeople to upsell and cross-sell whenever possible (without being pushy). From the retail salesperson who suggests a handbag to go with the dress a shopper is trying on, to the B2B salesperson suggesting a customer purchase an extended service plan, this approach can really boost your bottom line.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: TURN AN ANGRY CUSTOMER INTO A RAVING FAN – [RIEVA’S] TOP 10 TIPS

 

3. They refer new customers.

Existing customers not only spend more with your business, but they are also a valuable source of new customers. Some 55 percent of U.S. consumers who are loyal to a business or brand will recommend it to family and friends, Accenture reports.

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Try this:

  • Ask satisfied customers for referrals. Build this into your sales process so you automatically ask for referrals once you know a customer is happy.  You can even automate the process—for example, by sending emails requesting referrals to customers who post positive reviews.
  • Offer a reward, such as a discount on the next purchase, to incentivize referrals.

 

4. They boost your business’s profile online.

Customers who have an existing relationship with your business can easily be persuaded to engage with your business online by posting reviews. This raises awareness of your business and attracts new customers.

 

Try this:

  • Ask customers for reviews; then link to the reviews on social media and your website.
  • Encourage customers to share their experiences with your business on social media, such as posting a photo of the new hairstyle they just got at your salon. Service businesses or B2B companies can ask loyal customers to provide testimonials for use in marketing materials.

 

You can’t keep your current customers forever, of course. As time passes, their needs inevitably change, and you’ll need to replace these customers with new ones. But by devoting yourself to satisfying existing customers, it’s easier to generate a steady stream of new ones, as well.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com.  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

                                                                                      

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Entrepreneur and pricing expert Ebong Eka explains why some small business owners forget the most important element of any successful business.

 


If you have questions for Ebong, please scroll down and ask in the comment below.  Ebong will do his best to respond.

 


 

About Ebong Eka

Ebong Eka is no stranger to the world of personal finance. As a certified public accountant and former professional basketball player he offers a fresh perspective to small business planning and executing. With over fifteen years of accounting, tax & small business experience with firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche and CohnReznick, Ebong provides practical money solutions tailored to the everyday person, the aspiring entrepreneur or the small business owner.

 

Ebong is the founder of EKAnomics, a sales, pricing and leadership firm. He is also the founder of Ericorp Consulting, Inc., a tax and management consulting firm. Ebong is the author of “Start Me Up! The-No-Business-Plan, Business Plan.

 

Web: www.ebongeka.com or Twitter: @EbongEka.

You can read more articles from Ebong Eka by clicking here

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngHave you heard the expression, “content is king?” Well, content marketing is one of the hottest buzzwords in marketing right now, which means it should be included in your marketing strategy if it isn’t already.

 

Content is wide-ranging and can take the form of articles, blog posts, white papers, videos and social media posts. All of these can help your small business build brand awareness, attract qualified leads and increase sales. So, what’s the trick to succeed at content marketing? Here are eight tips:

 

1. Set goals. As with any marketing effort, you must put measurable goals in place before creating your content. You may have different goals for different types of content. For example, Twitter posts may be intended to increase awareness of your business among new customers, while articles shared on LinkedIn might be targeted toward getting existing customers to contact you to purchase additional services.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

2. Understand your audience. Tailor content marketing to your specific audience. If you sell clever T-shirts targeted to teenagers, content marketing might mean posting funny GIFs on Instagram and Snapchat. If you sell IT services to businesses, sharing thought leadership articles on LinkedIn is more effective. What social channels, industry websites and other online venues do your target customers frequent? What common questions do they have about your product or service? What problems can you help them solve?

 

3. Plan different types of content. How-to content, visual content and online video are among the top content marketing trends, the Content Marketing Institute reports. If creating multiple types of content sounds daunting, try repurposing the same information in different formats. For example, create a white paper, break it down into smaller blog posts, pull out interesting facts to share as tweets, and use statistics to create an infographic.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE SURPRISING IMPACT OF EMAIL MARKETING AND HOW TO MAXIMIZE ITS EFFECT

 

4. Develop a content marketing plan. Your plan should specify what types of content you will share, where you will share it, when/how often, and your goals for each piece. Assign responsibility for creating content. If you don't have the staff or talent in-house, look for freelance copywriters and designers at sites like Upwork or Freelancer. If you’re going the DIY route, Canva is a great resource for creating infographics, charts and other visuals.

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5. Think mobile first. Whether you’re targeting B2C or B2B consumers, they increasingly view email, social media and websites on their mobile phones. Make sure any content you create looks just as good—and is just as readable—on a smartphone as it is on a desktop computer.

 

6. Include a call to action. Every piece of content should include a clear call-to-action (CTA) that helps you achieve the goals you set in Step 1. Examples include “Call for an instant price quote,” “Download our white paper on [X topic],” or “Learn more about [X product].” Link each CTA to a relevant landing page where viewers can take the next step, such as providing their contact information, making a purchase or filling out a form.

 

7. Promote and share your content. Host your content on your own website and share it on social media. (Budget for some social media advertising to make your content stand out in viewers’ crowded feeds.) Buffer and Hootsuite are popular tools to help you manage content on social media. Don’t forget email: A Content Marketing Institute study last year noted B2B marketers ranked email as the most effective channel for content marketing.

 

8. Measure results. With digital content marketing, you can see exactly how every piece of content performs. Use social media analytics and web analytics tools to track how many people interact with each piece of content and what they do afterwards. Also test different elements (headlines, images, keywords etc.) to see which get the best response from your audience.

It’s going to take some time, effort and investment, but content marketing can pay off big for your small business.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com.  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky.\ Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

           

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngMore than 83 million strong, Millennials (generally defined as those born between 1982 and 2000) account for more than one-fourth of the U.S. population and are becoming increasingly important as consumers. If you want your business to attract more of these influential customers, here are the seven things you should be doing.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

1. Get reviews. Some 85 percent of Millennials research products and services before making a purchase, according to a report from Kissmetrics. That means they’re checking out company websites, as well as looking at online reviews, checking social media and asking their social circle for recommendations.  Most (89 percent) Millennials trust recommendations from friends and family more than a business’s own claims, and 93 percent have made purchases based on these recommendations. However, recommendations from strangers are also important: 84 percent of Millennials say their purchases are at least “somewhat” influenced by user-generated content online. Make sure your business is on all the ratings and review sites relevant to your industry, and monitor your reviews for anything negative so you can quickly deal with the situation before it goes viral.

 

2. Be social. For Millennial consumers, it’s all about social media. They want to share what they’re thinking, doing and buying. Savvy brands are harnessing this social focus by creating “Instagrammable” products and services with visual appeal. (Facial masks, blue lipstick and rainbow-colored hair dye are all examples of beauty trends that have caught on with young consumers because they get lots of “likes” on Instagram.) Whether you’re brewing lattes at your coffee shop or creating hairstyles at your salon, think about how you can punch up the visual aspect of your business to create shareable moments. Then promote your business’ social media accounts and engage with your customers on them.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: YOUR CONSUMER IS CHANGING: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MARKETING TO GEN Z

 

3. Be socially responsible. Millennials like to support businesses that share their values. That might mean your business taking a stand on a political issue, getting involved with a global charity or participating in local community events. Choose a cause that makes sense for your business (Millennials value authenticity—they know when you’re trying to fake it) and be sure to promote it in all your marketing materials. Think of ways your Millennial customers can get involved, too—they want to be participants, not just observers.

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4. Offer convenience. More than any other generation, Millennials are all about convenience, reports PWC’s Total Retail Survey 2016. In fact, one reason this generation surprisingly actually prefers to shop in-store rather than online is they can’t wait for even one-day shipping! “Ease of checkout” is highly important to Millennials in the PWC survey. Since this age group is wedded to its smartphones, be sure to offer digital loyalty programs so they don’t have to fumble for a plastic or punch card. Consider upgrading to near-field communications (NFC) contactless payment systems like Google Wallet and Apple Pay or, at minimum, offer mobile payments via smartphone or tablet in your store, so impatient Millennials can pay anywhere without having to wait in line.

 

5. Provide free Wi-Fi. For a Millennial, a business without Wi-Fi is like a business without oxygen—unthinkable. Make sure your store, waiting area or restaurant has it. Eight in 10 Millennials in PWC’s survey use their smartphones in-store, either to look up product information or ask friends’ opinions of a possible purchase. Setting up a separate guest Wi-Fi network with no password required offers optimum convenience for customers.

 

6. Let them customize everything. Millennials expect what they want the way they want it, and they like to express themselves through the products and services they purchase. The level of customization can range from simply being flexible with menu substitutions in your restaurant to offering “build-your-own-breakfast-burrito” options (and don’t forget about gluten-free, vegan and Paleo choices). If you sell services, try offering different menus of mix-and-match services, or different packages (bronze, silver, gold-level) with different services included.

 

7. Emphasize your independent status. As I mentioned, authenticity is important to Millennials, and there’s nothing more authentic than a small, independent business. Your marketing efforts should emphasize this. Tell the story of how you started your business; share how your product is produced or where it’s sourced; let customers get to know you and your staff through social media. Getting involved in your local business community, such as promoting shop-local initiatives or organizing “First Friday” sales, will help raise your profile as an independent business owner.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com.  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

        

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Every brand makes mistakes now and then. It’s part of the growth process, and those mistakes can become valuable opportunities for improvement if the time is taken to learn from them.

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I think most of us would agree that we’d like to make fewer mistakes. Here are 5 common digital marketing mistakes that you might be making, and how to avoid them.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

1. Ignoring negative comments

 

In today’s digital landscape, ignoring a negative comment can do a lot more damage than the comment itself. Consumers today prize transparency and authenticity above almost everything else. They want to see you reach out to dissatisfied customers and try to fix their problem.

 

Dippin’ Dots CEO Scott Fischer took this truth to heart when he wrote a friendly open letter to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who’d disparaged Dippin’ Dots on Twitter. The letter went viral, resulting in a potential combined reach of over 1 billion and more than 10 million views, as well as dozens of high-profile media articles.

 

2. Producing content for the sake of producing content, rather than trying to give their audience something of value

 

Content is king - but really, valuable content is king. With the emphasis placed on creating a steady stream of original content, it’s easy to get caught up in the need to blog, tweet, and post photos daily - even if you don’t have much to say.

 

While creating content on a steady, regular basis is important, it’s more important that the content you do produce has value to your audience.

 

RELATED: THE SURPRISING IMPACT OF EMAIL MARKETING AND HOW TO MAXIMIZE ITS EFFECT

 

3. Posting indiscriminately on lots of platforms, rather than selecting the ones that work the best for your brand

 

46515315_s.jpgJust as it’s easy to place quantity over quality when it comes to content, the same is true of social media platforms. Many marketers think they need to have a brand presence on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Medium, and every other platform, but this usually means you have to overstretch your resources.

 

Instead, select two or three platforms that make the most sense for your brand and focus on making your posts high-quality and timely.

 

4. Failing to pivot when the data indicates it

 

The mark of a truly successful business is the ability to pivot – adapt and change marketing tactics or business practices when the data shows that change is needed.

 

This can be something as simple as changing the time of day at which you post on social media, or as complex as a full rebranding project. It takes courage and commitment to change something we’ve become used to doing. But if you’re not operating off of what the data tells you, what’s the point in collecting it in the first place?

 

5. Not taking advantage of automation tools

 

Automation tools can be a godsend for marketers who have to manage several social media accounts.

 

Scheduling tweets and posts allows you to maintain a regular posting schedule, which can boost your traffic by up to 192%, according to research by CoSchedule. It also means you won’t get home from work only to realize you forgot to send out that link to your latest Facebook Live video.

 

Mistakes happen, but they aren’t inevitable. By paying attention to these 5 frequent scenarios, you can easily increase your digital marketing success.

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.

 

Web: www.shamahyder.com or Twitter: @Shama.

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Shama Hyder to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Shama Hyder is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Shama Hyder. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

           

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Social media can be a great, cost-effective way to reach customers – but only if your posts are seen. Small Business Expert Carol Roth says small businesses can run successful social media programs if they follow the 4 C’s – Consuming Content, Creating Content, Curating Content and Communication. Watch the video as Carol explains how these C’s work together to create a compelling social media program to grow your small business faster.

 

 

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

                

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

With so many ways to reach out to your customers and prospects, from social media to direct mail to content marketing, you might think plain old email marketing is a thing of the past. Think again: Despite all the marketing options out there, email just might be your single, most effective choice.

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

 

Here are three reasons why:

 

1. Email is customers’ preferred way to receive communications from businesses. According to Marketing Sherpa, 60 percent of consumers say email is their favorite way to receive updates and promotions from companies they’re interested in.

 

2. Email attracts new customers and helps retain existing ones. Email is 40 percent more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. It also ranks as, by far, the most effective method for both acquiring and retaining customers, according to eMarketer.

 

3. Email drives sales. Most (69 percent) U.S. adults say a company’s email has influenced a purchase they’ve made, Marketing Sherpa reports.

 

Not only is email marketing highly effective, it’s also affordable for even the smallest businesses and easier than ever to implement. To maximize your email marketing results, try these tips.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

Segment your email lists.

You can slice and dice your lists based on any information you have about your customers—past interactions with your business, purchasing behavior, location, etc. Then send emails tailored to each segment. Marketers report that segmented email campaigns lead to a 760 percent increase in revenues (No, that’s not a typo).

 

Personalize emails.

Emails that use the recipient’s name are more likely to be opened. You can also create emails that reference customer details such as a previous purchase or items the customer has viewed on your website.

 

39764468_s.jpgTest, test and test again.

With email, it’s easy to see what’s working and what’s not. Do A/B testing of everything from your subject lines to your preview text to the color and size of buttons. Also test various frequencies for sending emails, including time of day and day of the week. Customers may want to hear from you more often than you think: 90 percent of respondents in a MarketingSherpa survey say they want to hear from businesses they’re interested in at least monthly, 60 percent want to hear from them at least weekly and 15 percent want to hear from them daily. For best results, give customers multiple options to choose from.

 

Optimize mobile devices.

Almost 90 percent of emails are read on mobile devices, and more emails are opened on mobile devices than on desktops, according to Kahuna. If recipients can’t read your emails on their smartphones, they’re going to delete them. Beyond making your emails readable on mobile devices, also make sure that any actions users take lead to a mobile-friendly landing page.

 

SIX TIPS TO GAIN NEW CUSTOMERS

 

Create email-specific landing pages.

Marketers report that this is the single most effective email marketing tactic, according to research published by the DMA.  If you can’t create a specific landing page for each individual email, at least make sure that links in your emails direct recipients to a page on your website that makes sense. For example, if you want someone to “Shop New Arrivals” on your e-commerce website, that button should go to the page with new products on it— not to the general homepage, where customers will feel lost.

 

Incorporate transactional emails.

These are emails that are triggered by some type of transaction between the recipient and your company. Welcome emails, order confirmation emails and return receipt emails are all examples of transactional emails. Transactional emails have eight times the open rate of marketing emails overall. Increase their value by including a call to action that drives additional customer interaction. For instance, a return receipt email could include a link to browse your website for new products to replace what was returned.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com.  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

           

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

By 2020, Generation Z - those born between 1998 and 2008, also known as “digital natives” - will make up 40 percent of consumers.

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Think about what that means: In just three years, 40 percent of all consumers will have lived nearly their entire lives using social media. 

 

If you want your brand to succeed among Gen Z, you’ve got to understand social media from this generation’s perspective. Here are 5 vital things you need to know about marketing to Gen Z:

 

1. Gen Zers almost universally use social media - but much more selectively than Millennials.

 

Many brands that are new to marketing to Gen Z will begin by blasting brand messages on every social network, because they assume that Gen Z lives on social media.

 

This is true in a sense; 74 percent of Gen Z spends between 1 to 3 hours per day on social media, but they’re also being highly selective about what they post, where they post, and who can see it. They’re masters at filtering out what they don’t want to be bothered with.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Shama Hyder

 

2. Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook are the most popular networks among Gen Z.

 

Even though Facebook has a reputation for attracting users from Millennials, Gen X, and older generations, Gen Z still classifies it as their “most important” social network, according to creative agency Swift. It’s the one Gen Z is more likely to say they use constantly.

 

Instagram and Snapchat, however, are the platforms most used by the largest number of Gen Zers.

 

3. 63 percent of Gen Z wants to see “real people,” rather than celebrities, in marketing messaging.

 

For Gen Z, an endorsement of your product from an influencer or YouTube star will almost always be worth more than one by a traditional celebrity.

 

Related article: 7 Ways to Boost Engagement from Your Social Media Posts

 

In fact, a Deep Focus survey of Gen Zers found that 67 percent of respondents preferred non-celebrities in ads, versus 37 percent that did prefer celebrities.

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4. Gen Zers want useful or valuable content, not ads.

 

Gen Zers not only possess highly selective, fast-moving filters, but they’re also voracious consumers of content, and are just as likely to watch a full 25-minute video as they are to scroll past an ad.

 

This means you have a huge opportunity to connect with Gen Z via your content marketing. If you can create something of real value that truly reflects your brand values, you’ll likely find yourself with plenty of loyal Gen Z followers.

 

5. If you want to reach Gen Z, you have to gain their attention within 8 seconds.

 

Gen Z has an attention span about 4 seconds shorter than the average attention span in the year 2000, so your messaging must be concise, quick, and relevant. If they like what you’ve got to offer, they’ll stick with you. If not, you’ll become another brand that gets blocked, scrolled through, or filtered out.

 

Brands that want to succeed today and into the future can’t afford to ignore Gen Z. By embracing honesty, transparency, and authenticity, brands can begin to win over this important demographic.

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.

 

Web: www.shamahyder.com or Twitter: @Shama.

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Shama Hyder to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Shama Hyder is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Shama Hyder. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

           

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

You work hard to get new customers in the door—but what do you do to keep them there?

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Finding new customers is more difficult, expensive and time-consuming than keeping your existing ones happy. Plus, happy customers spend more. Boost your sales by trying these five tips to improve customer retention.

 

1. Market to your existing customers. When you see promotions from companies you do business with offering deals to new customers only, do you feel annoyed? You’re not alone. Marketing that focuses on new customers can make loyal customers feel snubbed. Create promotions and deals that benefit the customers who spend the most money with your business. For example, a B2B company can offer volume discounts; a retail company can offer “rewards,” such as $10 in-store spending money for every $50 spent within a certain period. The goal: Show your existing customers that the more they patronize your business, the greater the benefits.

 

2. Make post-sale follow-up part of your process. Whether you sell B2B or B2C, following up after the sale should be built into your operations.

  • A. If you sell B2B, you can use customer relationship management (CRM) software to track customers’ purchases, then set reminders to follow up at a certain point after the sale with a personalized email or phone call. It also allows you to answer any questions they may have about the product or service they purchased from you, and find out how it’s working for them. Reaching out not only shows them you care about building a lasting relationship, but also offers an opportunity to uncover complementary products or services that might add value to their business.
  • B. If you sell B2C, capture customers’ email addresses, then reach out soon after the sale to see if they have any questions or feedback about their purchase. Better yet, include a link they can use to write an online review of your business.

 

Click here to read more from small business expert Rieva Lesonsky

 

3. Listen to your customers.  The more you listen, the more you’ll understand what your current customers want and need, the better you can tailor your products and services to meet those needs, and the more customers you’ll retain. Encourage your salespeople to ask customers questions and share what they learn with the rest of the team. Conduct regular customer surveys to find out how your business is doing and what customers want that you’re not offering. Hold focus groups with loyal customers who represent key target markets for your business. Finally, listen to what your customers are saying on social media. Whether you engage them in a conversation or simply “lurk” and listen in, you’ll gain valuable insights into how you can serve them better.

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4. Create a VIP program. Treat your best customers like they’re VIPs—because they are! Consider instituting different levels of VIP programs, such as silver, gold and platinum. According to research cited by HelpScout, people will work to attain a higher level in the loyalty program when they know there are lower levels below. You can also host special events for your best customers, such as a “Customer of the Year” luncheon for a B2B company or a private, invitation-only sale for a B2C company.

 

Related article: How to Adjust Your Business to the Gig Economy

 

5. Provide outstanding customer service. No matter how many carrots you dangle in front of them, customers won’t remain loyal to your business if your service isn’t up to par. In fact, it’s got to be better than “up to par.” With so many alternatives available at the click of a mouse, both B2B and B2C customers have higher standards than ever for customer service. Convenience, rapid resolution of problems and knowledgeable salespeople are key factors in customer satisfaction. Conduct regular training in customer service standards, measure and monitor customer service performance, and reward employees who go above and beyond in providing customer service.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com.  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Whether on Facebook, Twitter or your favorite site, have you ever found yourself in the middle of an article that was something along the lines of “7 Ways Your Business is Like a Rescue Dog” and then thought to yourself, “Why am I reading this?” 

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Well, it turns out that there’s actually some science behind why you find yourself tumbling down the Internet content rabbit-hole. In fact, there are certain tricks and formats for creating and packaging content that are widely used by the media as “clickbait”—aka, a method to get you to fill that knowledge gap by clicking on the content.

 

Because content is critical for small businesses from brand awareness to search engine rankings, you need to know the best way to get people to read and share the content you created. Here are 7 tricks to help you package the content you create so that you can get more people to read and share it.

 

1. Listicles

 

A listicle is an article format made up of a list of tips. Just as I did with the title to this article, putting things into compelling lists is a great way to get clicks and shares. Creating your content within the context of “Top 5 Ways” or “10 Tips” is a great, easy method for readers to consume content. 

 

2. Photos

 

Back before languages were developed, people used hieroglyphics for communication. Then, languages were developed. Now, we are back to emojis. This cycle is due to our short attention spans and the desire to consume content visually. Add photos to your tweets and articles. Use platforms that encourage photo sharing, like Instagram. The more that you can engage with visuals, the more likely you are to get engagement, as statistics show that these postings are shared exponentially more often on average that those with no photos.  

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Carol Roth

 

3. Bust myths

 

Busting a myth is always a great way to get someone’s attention. Curiosity naturally makes you want to know what it is that you don’t know. Think about an angle like, “5 Myths on Why Technology is Expensive for SMBs.” Just make sure that if you are using this format, you are actually dispelling a widely held belief or it won’t work.

 

4. Challenge the norm

 

One of the most successful ways to package content is to challenge a common perspective that’s widely held. I got a lot of click-through and social sharing on convention-busting articles like “Why Smart People Make Bad Entrepreneurs” and “Why Shark Tank’s ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Thinks Women Make Better CEOs”.  The second got double duty, given that not only was the women CEO angle a challenge of common thinking, but you also wouldn’t have expected that would have been Kevin O’Leary’s take, either!


5. Compare groups

 

Humans are competitive and we like to see that competition manifested between groups with some semblance of a rivalry. Compare women vs. men, small business vs. big business, millennials vs. boomers or make similar comparisons. An example would be, “Why Women Embrace Technology More Quickly Than Men.”

 

Related article: Selling to Millennials: 5 Tips to Market with Authenticity     

     

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6. Quote influencers

 

One of the best ways to get a ton of social shares on content is to have someone (or many someones) with a big following share the content. So, how do you get someone influential to share your content?  Include or quote them! That makes them more willing to share with their audience, exposing your business and your content to their audience.

 

7. Celebrity/pop culture

 

Love it or hate it, tying into hot celebrities, TV shows, movies and the like can be a great way to attract attention. For example, I used, “From Oprah to the Kardashians: 6 Celebrity-Inspired Business Lessons” as a way to package up good entrepreneurial learnings.

 

While it’s important that your content is worthwhile and strong, right packaging will help it become read and shared. Using the above tricks can help you package up your great articles and tweets in a way that makes them even more compelling.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness. 

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

                 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Have you ever watched the show Shark Tank? I love the ABC show for a few reasons: it helps me understand how smart investors analyze businesses, entrepreneurs and ideas.

 

Conversely, nothing gets me more upset on that show than when I see people who have put a ton of time, money, energy and effort into developing a product or business that is a good idea to them … but no one else. If you’ve seen the show, then you know what I am talking about – that entrepreneur who is crazy enthusiastic about an idea that solves a problem they had, but no one else ever encountered or worried about. They leave the show without any offers of money, and tell the camera that they are going to prove those shortsighted sharks wrong.

 

Example: The Wake ‘n Bacon – a wooden prototype alarm clock that wakes you to the smell of bacon. Fun idea, but probably not worth anything more than a second thought. Too bad the inventor didn’t vet his idea with others first who may have given him some valuable feedback that would have saved him a lot of time and money.

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Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

The secret to avoiding this fate is simple: Before you start, you need to discover whether or not there is a market for what you want to sell. Is it something people actually want to buy? There are two steps to figure this out:

 

1. Find a need and solve it: There is an old saying out there, “do what you love and the money will follow.” While noble and inspiring, it is also not always true. What if loved 18th century Flemish furniture? Outside of a stint on Antiques Roadshow, there probably are not a lot of ways that you could follow this passion and make a living.

 

Do what you love and the money won’t always follow.

 

The trick is to find something you are excited about (though maybe not necessarily “passionate” about) and figure out whether there are people out there who want or need what you want to sell. Is there a market for it? If so, what will they pay for it? Why would they choose you? If there is no one around who wants your proposed product or service, your business will fail. So, before you decide on a business, before you choose a name or get a business license, before you tap your 401(k) or credit cards, do your research and see if there is a market for your proposed solution.

 

Related article: Six Tips to Gain New Customers

 

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2. Do your homework: Is there a market need for a coffee house in your neighborhood? Why would people choose you over Starbucks? What can you offer that they do not? Market research will tell you.

 

What you need to do is, without emotion, analyze your idea and solution. There are several ways to get the feedback you need:

 

  • Form a focus group: Gather your friends, family and colleagues – people whose opinion you trust – and run your idea past them. Do they like it? Would they personally patronize your proposed business?
  • Ask online: If you have a website, poll visitors. LinkedIn also allows people to post polls. Get some feedback. Twitter is also a good tool for this.
  • Check in with trade associations: Almost every business and industry has a related trade group associated with it and these organizations typically have a lot of helpful research and data.
  • Check in with the competition: Contact a business owner in a neighboring city who is in the same business. Because you are not in the same locale, he or she will be far more likely to give you some honest feedback.
  • Surf: The web of course is a treasure trove of information.

 

The important thing is to make sure that you brainstorm, so that when people hear about it, they are wont to say, “I like it, and for that reason, I’m in!”

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

                 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

By 2020, Millennials are going to make up a majority of the workforce. They’re already the largest living generation, and the back end of the generation is still in college. That means the buying power of Millennials is only going to increase, but unfortunately, many businesses aren’t properly marketing their goods and services to Millennials. That has to change if businesses want to attract and retain Millennials as customers. But what do they need to focus on?

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1.     Create Useful Content

Millennials are the most educated generation to date, and 34 percent of them have at least a bachelor’s degree. One thing they don’t want to see when they search for a product or brand is content that doesn’t serve a purpose. Articles and blogs that merely drive at a point without providing any real, useful information just looks like advertising to them, and thus they are less likely to trust that brand. A how-to guide, a YouTube tutorial, or even thorough explanations of commonly asked questions are all preferable to content that’s full of fluff.

2.     Tell An Authentic Story

But content doesn’t just have to be utilitarian, it can also tell your story. In fact, Millennials are usually very interested in the backstories and missions of their favorite brands. If your content is interesting and exciting, it does a much better job of attracting and retaining Millennial shoppers than a casual advertisement. Millennials are extremely receptive to authenticity and genuineness. 

Related article: Marketing to Millennials

3.     Promote Your Cause

This ties into the idea of telling an authentic story. Millennials are a socially conscious generation, and they like to promote and support causes dear to them. You’re more likely to gain and retain Millennial customers if you can articulate your mission and provide them with a way to feel good about the purchase they’ve just made. Patagonia is an example of a brand that connects with Millennials because of an authentic image backed up by environmentally and socially conscious decisions. Your small business probably can’t afford to give away the profits of your entire Black Friday sale, but it’s the type of approach to keep in mind as you develop marketing efforts.

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4.     Push The Experience

Another interesting fact about Millennials is that they consistently rate experiences as more important than possessions. That doesn’t mean they’re forsaking all their possessions and moving to the desert, but it does mean it’s important your marketing efforts tout the experience your brand provides. This is the culmination of creating compelling, authentic content. 

5.     Think Mobile

Whether it’s an app or just a fast, easily navigable website, you need to have a mobile resource for your Millennial customers. Many Millennials shop on their phones, but there’s more to it than that. The vast majority also use their phones to comparison shop when they’re in a physical store, or before they make a purchase online. Smartphones are ubiquitous among Millennials at this point, and any business targeting them not considering mobile engagement is missing out on a huge opportunity.

Related article: Six Tips to Gain New Customers

Millennials are constantly being praised, reviled, and analyzed in the public eye, in part because of their growing buying power. If you want to tap into that potential, then it’s time to focus your marketing efforts on what really works.

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.

Web: www.shamahyder.com or Twitter: @Shama.

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Shama Hyder to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Shama Hyder is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Shama Hyder. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Whether you own an e-commerce website, a brick-and-mortar retail store or both, succeeding in a rapidly changing retail marketplace is a challenge. Here are five consumer shopping trends you should know about for the coming year to make sure you’re ahead of the pack:

 

1. Mobile everythingRieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Consumer time spent on mobile devices and the mobile Internet now surpasses that spent on desktops. Shopping on mobile devices hit record levels during the 2016 holiday season, with over $2.4 billion worth of purchases made on mobile devices on Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone, CIO reports. Your customers are browsing, buying and looking for retail locations on their mobile phones—and it doesn’t stop once they get into the store, where they use their phones to look at product reviews, information and pricing.

To be successful in 2017, retailers will need to up their mobile game. Start by making sure your business website is mobile-friendly and, if you have a physical store, that your online presence is optimized for local search. That means your business’s name, address and phone number should be consistent across all listings, from your website to your social profiles and online reviews. Offer customers free Wi-Fi in your store, and incorporate mobile advertising to get them in the door. This can range from sending SMS text messages to geo-fencing or geo-conquesting technology. (The former sends messages to users within a certain radius of your business; the latter sends messages to users within a certain radius of your competitors' businesses.)

Finally, if you haven't already incorporated mobile payment into your retail store, 2017 is the year to do it. Accepting payments on mobile devices speeds up checkout and provides greater flexibility. Also look into mobile wallet solutions, which are increasingly popular with younger consumers.

2. Convenience

Whether shopping in-store or online, consumers in 2017 are all about convenience. For e-commerce retailers, that means offering free shipping and returns and the ability to track shipments. Make shopping easier by letting customers set up accounts so they don't have to re-enter information every time they buy. Offer subscription programs for consumable products or “buy again” options for frequently ordered products.

Related article: How to Scale your Marketing Plan for Lasting Impact in the New Year

For brick-and-mortar retailers, convenience means a well-stocked store with well-trained staff that’s knowledgeable about your products. If you have both a physical and digital retail presence, consumers will expect to be able to order online, then pick up their products or return products in-store.

 

3. Personalization

Small retailers have long relied on the personal touch to give them an edge—and it works: an Accenture Interactive study reports that “56 percent of consumers are more likely to shop at a retailer in-store or online that recognizes them by name.” However, in 2017 you’ll need to go beyond just remembering faces. Smart retailers will use loyalty and membership programs to collect information about what their customers buy, how they shop and what offers they respond to. The good news: 54 percent of shoppers are willing to share personal information and shopping preferences with retailers in return for personalized offers, emails and other marketing materials.

In 2017, e-commerce retailers will use chat bots to answers customers’ questions, make suggestions and otherwise personalize the online experience. Brick-and-mortar retailers should focus on getting to know their customers and building loyalty with a “personal shopper” approach, such as having sales assistants contact customers when new shipments come in or set aside items they think regular customers might like.

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The end of 2016 saw several traditional department stores, such as Sears, JCPenney and Macy’s, struggle with disappointing sales; all three plan store closures. Online retailer Amazon announced it will open physical stores, while Target and Walmart are opening small-scale versions of their huge locations. What gives?

In 2017, small, specialized and independent retailers will capture customers’ hearts. Shoppers want unique products—hence the growing popularity of shops that specialize in artisanal and local goods. Instead of wandering the aisles of giant superstores or endlessly clicking among a selection of 25,362 different blue sweaters, shoppers are looking for small, welcoming stores that offer a carefully curated selection of products.

5. “Retailtainment”

Consumers of all ages are spending less on “things” and more on experiences. And if they do need to buy a “thing,” they can just pull out their phones. Given this shift, what will it take to lure shoppers into physical stores in 2017? People still want to gather in public places, touch and feel merchandise, and be entertained “in the real world.” The most successful retailers will tap into these desires and create a memorable experience by offering a mix of retailing and entertainment—call it “retailtainment.”

Click here to read more articles on sales & marketing from our small business experts.

New technologies such as augmented and virtual reality are already being implemented to add a new level of interaction to shopping at large retailers; in 2017, they’ll increasingly become available to even small businesses. You can also incorporate “retailtainment” using low-tech methods such as hosting events in your store or displaying work by local artists on your walls. Try holding a live fashion show in your clothing boutique or hosting cooking classes in your home goods store. Throw a special Saturday-night sale and invite a local band to play in-store. Small retailers can also piggyback on larger entertainment concepts by locating near movie theaters, restaurants and amusement arcades where consumers go for fun.

 

I think 2017 is going to be an exciting year for retail. By planning how your store will incorporate these five shopper trends, you can make it one of your most profitable years ever.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com.  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.             

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Was one of your New Year's resolutions to get more customers? Every small business needs a steady stream of new business to keep it going—and growing. Here are six ways to attract more customers in 2017.

 

1. Reach out to dormant customers. One often-overlooked way to get new business is to contact former customers who haven’t purchased from you in a while. Use loyalty marketing software or customer relationship management (CRM) software to track your customers so you can automatically follow up with them when a certain time period has passed. Depending on your business and the nature of the relationship, you can reach out to them with a phone call, email or special offer. This is also a good time to find out why they stopped doing business with you. For example, perhaps they experienced bad service or poor product quality and never told you about it.

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2. Get referrals. Word-of-mouth has always been a great source of new business for entrepreneurs. Accelerate yours by setting up a system for asking satisfied customers for referrals after every sale. For example, when you follow up with customers to make sure they’re satisfied with their purchases or to provide additional training, make it a habit to request referrals. You can also ask for referrals via email, inserts in paper bills or at the point-of-sale. Don’t stop at customers: ask friends, family, colleagues and even employees if they know anyone they can refer to your business.

 

Related article: 7 Ways to Boost Engagement from Your Social Media Posts

 

3. Offer a special for new customers only. This is a time-tested promotional tactic for a reason—it works. Try offering a two-for-one dinner special at your restaurant, a 30-day introductory membership to your karate studio or a free consultation with your accounting firm. You can either handle the offer yourself, or try using Groupon and similar services, which can help extend your reach. (Helpful tip: if you use such services, be sure to spread the deal over a long enough timeframe that your business doesn’t get overwhelmed. The goal is to attract new customers and wow them with your service so they’ll keep coming back—not to create angry customers because you ran out of product.)

 

4. Clean up your online presence. A few small changes to your business website and local search listings can make a huge difference in attracting more customers. Start by making sure your business website is mobile-friendly. Most people now look for businesses on their mobile phones, so if your website doesn’t display properly when they find you, they’ll look elsewhere.  After that, improve your website SEO by making sure you’re using the proper keywords to attract the right type of customer. SEO can get tricky, so it’s worth enlisting professional help here. Finally, if your business relies on nearby customers, make sure you’re easy to find using local search - this means claiming your listings on local search directories, such as Google My Business, and making sure these listings are complete and accurate. It’s important to be consistent in the spelling and capitalization of your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP) across all your online listings. This means you shouldn’t spell out “Street” in one listing and “St.” in another.

 

Click here to read more articles on Sales & Marketing.

 

5. Step up your digital marketing. Once your website, SEO and search listings are in order, investing in online advertising can help attract even more new customers. Try using pay-per-click (PPC) advertising—it’s easy to create your own ads that fit your budget. Plus, you pay only when someone clicks on your ad, so you know you’re getting results. Advertising on social media, such as Facebook or Pinterest, can also be very effective if your target customers spend a lot of time there. Social media advertising can target your ads very narrowly to specific customer groups, such as women who have children under age 5, live in St. Louis, and buy organic food.

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6. Co-market with related businesses. Other businesses can be a great source of new customers. How? Look for businesses that are complementary, but not competitive. For instance, if you own a pet grooming business, complementary businesses might include a

veterinarian’s office, a dog-walking service, a doggy daycare or a pet-sitting business. Contact these businesses and ask if you can cross-promote with them. For instance, you link to each other’s websites, put the other company’s brochures or business cards at your point of sale, place ads for the other business in your email newsletters, or recommend each other to customers.

 

These six tips are set up to help you win new customers. Once they’re in the door, it’s up to you to provide the kind of outstanding service that will keep them coming back.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com.  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

                                                                                                                                  

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

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