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Companies have begun taking their marketing integration to the next level, baking marketing into every aspect of their brand, from the way they design their brick and mortar stores to their own employees’ brand experience.

 

These companies realize that modern consumers respond to innovative, immersive marketing. Today’s reality is that everyone is connected, all the time – living in a fully integrated world where we move seamlessly between interactions via technology and real-world experiences. To be effective, brand experiences should mirror that reality. Here are 3 tips for doing just that.

 

1. Design physical spaces with your brand experience in mind

It’s not enough to fill a square space with aisles, shelves or racks anymore – customers are looking for uniquely appealing spaces that are tailored to the brand experience. In a brick and mortar store, this can mean everything from innovation in the actual architectural design of the building, inside and out, to reimagining the purpose of a store and redesigning based on that new understanding. Craft stores, for example, could make their spaces hubs for creating and learning, basing the flow, the displays, and the set-up of their spaces around different sections for each type of craft – a knitting corner, a jewelry making table, a pottery studio.   51015342_s.jpg

 

Online stores with no physical presence can tap into this new design sensibility – pop-ups are all the rage these days, small kiosks created to be a temporary physical presence in a strategic location. And if a physical presence simply isn’t an option, video is always a possibility, bringing a real-world element to an otherwise purely online presence.

 

Related Article: Expand Your Business with Pop-Up Stores

 

2. Integrate technology wherever possible

Incorporating technology aimed at the connected consumer is key to creating physical spaces that will resonate with customers. Whether it’s a series of screens offering how-to information near certain products, a diagnostic kiosk to help consumers determine which product to buy, or interactive tech that turns an otherwise normal shopping experience into something memorably branded, strategic integration can have a significant impact. 

 

Once again, a physical presence is not a prerequisite – branded apps or online tools can do the job quite nicely for online businesses.

 

Related Article: The Emerging Tech That Could Boost Your Small Business

 

3. Create experiences based on customer data. 

We already know that most shopping is done online these days – but we also know that customers still enjoy real-world brand experiences. Tap into your customer data to find out what appeals to your demographic and your brand advocates specifically, and then design your brand experiences based on that information.

 

Maybe your customers love the feeling of luxury and pampering they get from visiting your bath and body store, but most your sales now take place online. You could reconfigure your store as a sample center, or even a mini spa, allowing customers to come in, experience new products, and get that real-world immersion in luxury – but then place orders for any purchases and have them shipped to the customer instead of stocking product in-store.

 

Related Article: How Video and Data Can Help Small Business Owners Better Target Customers

 

Integration has always been key to successful marketing, but this is integration 2.0. By designing physical spaces with your brand experience in mind, incorporating technology wherever possible, and creating experiences based on your customer data your business can provide consumers with the innovative, immersive brand experiences they crave.

 

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder Headshot.png

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

A trend born of the Great Recession is having a huge effect on retailers—nearly a decade later.

 

“Consumers don’t want to acquire more stuff—they want to do more stuff,” says Marshal Cohen, Chief Industry Analyst at NPD Group. Consumer spending is shifting from purchasing products to spending on experiences, such as vacationing, eating out or attending concerts.

 

To compete, NPD Group advises, retailers need to create a more exciting shopping experience. Younger shoppers, in particular, seek “experiences” as part of their shopping journeys.

 

How can you improve the experience factor of your store? Here are six ideas.

1. Tune in. Music not only soothes the savage beast; it also gets customers—particularly Gen Z’ers—to spend more time in your store. In fact, according to a report by Fitch, Gen Z considers music an essential sign a store is open. Without music, your store won’t get their attention. But Gen Z consumers aren’t the only people who prefer to listen while they shop: A whopping 84 percent of respondents in The State of Brick & Mortar: 2017 survey say music makes shopping more enjoyable, while 54 percent say they’re more likely to recommend stores that play music to their friends and family.

Learn more about Gen Z: Your Consumer is Changing Again: What You Need to Know About Marketing to Gen Z

 

2. Be touchy. According to Fitch, holding and feeling products before they buy is a key part of the purchasing process for Gen Z shoppers. If you sell consumer electronics, put out floor models for customers to play with. Do you sell cosmetics or gourmet food?  Have plenty of testers and samples on hand. If you sell apparel, accessories or home decor, create lush displays that tempt shoppers to reach out and touch. 54519930_s.jpg

 

3. Get social. Creating and sharing memories is more important to today’s consumers than buying products, according to NPD Group—so make your store a place where it’s easy for shoppers to share their experiences. For example, an Instagram-worthy window display can attract crowds to take selfies. Encourage and incentivize shoppers to take those selfies and tag your business in social media posts; then pick a winner every week and give them a gift card.

 

4. Mix it up. Technology has made shoppers’ attention spans shorter than ever. Just as they expect an ever-changing stream of social media content, younger shoppers expect new stimuli from stores, according to the 10 Trends Millennial Retail report from Kelton. Stop your store from being boring by frequently changing your window displays, moving merchandise around or adding seasonal decor. You can even experiment with “pop-up” stores at other locations.

 

5. Think local. Millennials in the Kelton study would much rather support small, independent local retailers than big chains. Play up your status as a local small business by getting involved in “buy local” initiatives and events in your community. Embrace the local community in your store, too. For example, you could hold a monthly in-store concert where a local band performs while shoppers enjoy a discount. Display local artists’ or photographers’ work on your walls and swap it out every month. (You can even sell the artwork and take a percentage of the price as commission.)

Take your local focus one step further: Why Local SEO Matters More Than Ever (and 4 Steps to Success)

 

 

6. Get personal. Offer a personal touch by providing friendly guidance to help shoppers make decisions. Have salespeople bring customers accessories to complete an outfit while they’re trying it on, for instance. Start a loyalty program so you can record customers’ purchasing behavior and preferences. This enables you to customize your marketing messages for their specific interests, delivering a more personal experience.

Your Full Guide to Customer Loyalty Programs: The Small Business Guide to Customer Loyalty Programs

 

These 6 ideas will help bring in more traffic and ensure that you’ve optimized your customer’s experience in your store.

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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 now, everyone understands the importance of having a social media presence for their business – a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn page, an Instagram account. But what’s often less clear to business owners is how to take it a step further and use some of the other available social media features and tools in their marketing as well.

 

One of the most effective ways to reach your target audience on social media is through engagement in groups. Facebook and LinkedIn are the two platforms where groups can provide the greatest benefits to marketers, but each channel’s groups require a different approach. While Facebook Groups build a community of people who share the same interests, LinkedIn Groups are platforms for experts to solicit and share advice. Both require a careful touch when it comes to marketing – there’s no quicker way to turn off the members of a group than to spam them with sales pitches.

 

So how should you go about incorporating group engagement into your marketing strategy? Here are a few tips to get you started.

 

Facebook Group Marketing32944382_s.jpg

On Facebook, groups are casual, friendly, and helpful communities of like-minded individuals. While it’s possible to create a group that’s centered around your brand, it’s not advisable. People join and engage in groups on Facebook based on the image those groups allow them to project. In other words, while someone might balk at joining a group for “ABC Pastry Store Fans,” they might jump at the chance to join a group for “Moms Sharing Pro Baking Tips.”

 

Group interaction should be similarly focused on the people in the group, not on your company and what it has to offer. Interact regularly and authentically with your group members, and encourage them to engage with and support each other. Only share content that the members of your group would find truly valuable and interesting, and save promotional posts for special deals or news. That is how you develop a real relationship with your group members, gain their trust – and, eventually, their brand loyalty.    

 

LinkedIn Group Marketing

On LinkedIn, groups are professional networking platforms. Rather than creating your own group on LinkedIn, it’s best to join an existing group for your target audience’s industry. Once you have joined, chime in with expert advice or thoughtful questions whenever the opportunity presents itself.

 

LinkedIn group members are even more sensitive than those in Facebook groups when it comes to self-promotion, so it’s never a good idea to pitch your products or services in a group, even if they would provide a solution to someone’s problem. Instead, you can answer the question or provide the advice by linking to a blog post you’ve written on the subject, or simply address it in such a way that you demonstrate your expertise, but don’t ask for their business. Reading your answer and seeing your job title and business name underneath your name will be enough to convince some people to reach out individually for help. For others, it plants the seeds of brand awareness and may lead to something down the road.   

 

Engaging in social media groups can be a bit of a balancing act. However, engaging is worthwhile for the relationships built and the goodwill established with your target audience. Group interaction shows consumers that you care about them. Ultimately, this authentic connection can play a powerful role in transforming group members into brand advocates.

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder Headshot.png

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 marketing can seem deceptively simple. After all, how hard can it be to post a couple things on Facebook, or take a few pictures for Instagram?

 

Related:The Social Media Time Suck: How to Pick Your Platforms

 

However, in order to be effective, social media marketing needs a strategy and carefully crafted posts to achieve your business goals. 

 

So, what does that look like in practice? There are several different forms your social media strategy can take and all depend on your goals.

 

A company looking to grow their social media following and increase engagement will need to approach social media in a different way from a business wanting to boost traffic to their website or generate leads. For example, start discussions that keep people on social media as opposed to sharing links to posts on your site.

 

The key is to decide on a specific goal and then craft your strategy. Here are some of the most important considerations when creating your social media strategy.

 

When to Post54769385_s.jpg

One of the first things many businesses wonder about is which days and times are the most effective for posting on social media. The answer varies depending on your audience, as well as the platform you’re posting on. Stay-at-home moms will be on social media at different times from corporate executives, and people check Facebook at different times of day than they do Pinterest or LinkedIn.

 

In general, however, weekends tend to get the most engagement with weekdays getting more activity before and after work, as well as during lunchtime. Scheduling your posts in advance with a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite can make it easy to hit the right days and times with every post.

 

How Often to Post

Posting frequency is another common question businesses have about social media marketing. And once again, the answer is…it depends. Some audiences respond well to several posts a day, while others feel a couple posts each week are plenty. Some platforms lend themselves better to frequent posts, while others are geared more toward sporadic posts.

 

The key here is to choose a posting cadence and stick with it. Consistency is much more important than frequency in a posting schedule. Your audience needs to know what to expect from you to build that trust factor which leads to conversions.

 

What to Post About

The million-dollar question – what to post about? Again, it depends based on your target audience and your goals. But in general, the key to post topics lies in creating a balance between more promotional posts about your business and posts that add value to your audience’s feeds. In other words, you don’t want to overwhelm your audience with sales pitches for your product or service. Some promotion is necessary but if that’s all you focus on, no one will be interested in following you – except for the occasional deal or special.

 

Instead, it’s important to also post content of interest to your audience - content that is relevant to your business and your industry, but that doesn’t directly promote your company. Think how-to’s and tips, or updates on industry trends, for example.  This is the kind of content that turns people into followers, gets them coming back for more and can even make them brand advocates.

 

Social media marketing is anything but simple, but by creating a strategy based on your goals, and then deciding on the right posting cadence and topics grounded in that strategy, you can tap into its power for your brand.

 

Related article: The 4 C’s of Social Media to Grow Business (video)

Related article: The Top Social Media Sites You Should Consider for Advertising

 

Shama Hyder Headshot.png

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

Have you made a New Year’s resolution to take your marketing efforts up a notch? Good for you. Here are seven changes guaranteed to give you better results in 2018.

 

1. Update your website. Has it been a few years since you revamped your website? Is time on site declining or are conversions dropping? If your website’s not doing what you want it to do, it’s time for an upgrade. Since mobile devices now account for 51.3 percent of internet use, your website needs to be designed with a “mobile-first” approach in order to make the sale. If you’re not a website expert yourself, enlist the help of a pro—this is one area where you shouldn’t skimp.

          Related article: Is Your Website Driving Millennials Away? Here are 6 Warning Signs

 

2. Improve your website SEO. The keywords that got traffic last year (or last month) may not work today. Regularly research to see which keywords your target customers use when they look for businesses like yours. Then incorporate those keywords into your website text, meta descriptions, tags and page titles. As voice search tools like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa become more popular, voice search is predicted to soar in the next few years. Get ahead by incorporating natural, spoken-word keyword phrases. Like website design, SEO is another task best handled by an expert. While this will cost you some money, it will save you tons of time.55171740_s.jpg

 

3. Improve your local SEO. If consumers are not finding your local business, a few small tweaks to your local SEO can help. List your business on as many local search directories as you can, including Google My Business, Yelp and any industry-specific or regional directories your customers are likely to use. Be sure your business name, address and phone number (NAP) are listed exactly the same on each directory. Add detailed information to complete your profile on search directories. Finally, update your profile regularly to include new information such as special hours or upcoming promotions—this will help boost your local SEO, too.

Related article: Why Local SEO Matters More Than Ever (and 4 Steps to Success)

 

4. Maximize the power of online reviews. A whopping 97 percent of consumers read online reviews for local businesses this year, and 85 percent of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family. Harness the power of your online reviews by actively monitoring them, responding to them, and encouraging customers to leave reviews. Don’t offer rewards for reviews; instead, let customers know which review sites you’re on and make it easy for them to find you.

Related article: 9 Ways to Discover What Your Customers Really Think of Your Business

 

 

5. Create strong calls to action. Whether it’s a pay-per-click ad, a print ad, or the homepage of your business website, always direct your prospects with a clear call to action. Every marketing piece you create (including every page of your website) should tell customers exactly what you want them to do: “Shop now,” “Call for a consultation today,” or “Sign up.”

 

6. Fine-tune your email marketing efforts. Email is still one of the most effective marketing techniques around—not to mention having great ROI. In 2018, use your email marketing service’s analytics to really focus on what works and what doesn’t. Use A/B testing to discover the most effective offers, subject lines and cadence for your emails. And don’t forget to keep growing that email list.

Related article: The Surprising Impact of Email Marketing and how to Maximize its Effect

 

7. Spring for social media advertising. If you’ve been marketing with social media for a while, you know it’s gotten harder to get noticed organically. To maintain your social profile, you’ll need to invest in social media advertising. (With 79 percent of adult internet users on Facebook and 76 percent of those using it daily, you can’t afford not to.) An easy way to get started: use Promoted Posts on Facebook or Instagram to “boost” your most popular posts.

Related article: The Top Social Media Sites You Should Consider for Advertising

 

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

When it comes to marketing promotions, timing is everything. Here are some ways the timing of your promotions can boost sales.

 

1.  Seasonal promotions: Some promotions work best when timed to the seasons, such as summer or winter clothing, garden supplies in spring or back-to-school supplies at the end of summer.

 

2.  Holiday promotions: These days, it’s basically an American tradition to hold sales on every major holiday—and most minor ones. It helps to tie your promotions into the holiday themes, such as pizza shops and bakeries discounting pies on National Pi Day (celebrated on March 14 every year). Don’t overlook the “silly” holidays, such as Talk Like a Pirate Day, either.

 

3.  Cyclical promotions: Time promotions to boost sales during typically slow times of the year, such as your off-season. During extremely competitive times of year, you’ll need to increase your promotional efforts. Your customers’ sales cycles matter, too. Complex or costly purchases need a longer promotion time.51977953_s.jpg

 

4.  Event-based promotions: Consider tying promotions into events such as your business’s anniversary, election day, the Olympics or a community event.

 

5.  Last-minute promotions: Always be ready to profit from the unexpected. A sudden cold snap could make promotions on scarves and gloves profitable. Next time there’s an unexpected downpour, set up a display of rain gear at the front of your store. E-commerce businesses can hold flash sales tied to trending events, like an unexpected upset on Monday Night Football.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

6.  Purchase-based promotions: When a customer purchases a new winter coat, offer them a discount on a scarf or gloves to go with it. E-commerce businesses should have related products pop up (at a discount) on the checkout page.

 

7. Repeat customer promotions: Give customers who spent $50 at your business a gift card good for $10 — valid for the following month. This helps ensure a steady stream of customers come back to spend their gift cards.

 

8.  Limited-time promotions: If business is slow, try sending a limited-time offer or discount by text message, or posting it on social media. For example, a restaurant could offer a 2-for-1 lunch special from 11:30 to 1:30 only. Just be sure to use limited-time offers sparingly, or customers may come to rely on them.

 

How to Time It Right

How can you figure out what promotional timing is likely to be most effective? Start by reviewing your past years’ sales and marketing data. When do sales spike or ebb? What promotions work best when?  Do certain kinds of customers buy at specific times?

 

Review your digital marketing and sales analytics. What dates and times of day do your email, social media or mobile marketing messages get the best results? Sending an email promotion at 3 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. could make all the difference.

 

Let customers control the timing of the messages they receive. Instead of sending your subscribers marketing emails once a week, allow subscribers to customize their settings and get messages monthly, weekly or more often.

 

Watch your competitors’ promotions. If every other restaurant in town is offering a Valentine’s Day special, how can you time it differently? How about an order-ahead catered Valentine’s dinner for customers to pick up, or a day-after-Valentine’s Day special for singles?

 

Plan It Out

Create a marketing calendar to plan the best times for specific promotions. Build in time for anything that requires advance planning, such as placing ads or revising your website copy. That way, you won't miss any deadlines or get caught short when the time for a particular promotion is right.

 

Marketing automation software can help you time promotions perfectly by scheduling emails to send automatically when customers take certain actions. Drip, Infusionsoft and Zoho Campaigns are three marketing automation tools to look into.

 

Finally, always include restrictions and deadlines in your time-based marketing materials, so customers will never be taken by surprise.

 

Related Article: How to Start a Loyalty Program Before the Holidays

Related Article: 8 Cash Flow Tips to Season-Proof your Seasonal Business

Related Article: 13 Summer Marketing Ideas to Boost Small Business Sales

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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 Karen Harrison

 

A rising tide lifts all ships.

 

As women, we all know the power of a rising tide. Our “village” of relationships “lifts” our ship. From fellow business owners to book club buddies, these relationships make us stronger, more confident and more fulfilled.

 

Nawbo.gifAs a woman business owner, one of the most rewarding relationships you can cultivate is one with your local National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) chapter. Founded in 1975, NAWBO is the unified voice of over 10.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, representing the fastest growing segment of the economy. It propels women entrepreneurs into economic, social and political spheres of power worldwide.

 

Having been affiliated with small business for 25 years and a member of NAWBO (shout out to the San Diego chapter!) for 8 years, I can attest that NAWBO provides a differentiated experience from other networking groups. The mission of NAWBO is to advance women business owners – collectively – on issues like public policy (equal pay, anyone?), economic development and thought leadership. NAWBO is more than a place to source sales leads – it is a place to connect with other women leaders who are truly invested in supporting all facets of your business and your success.

 

The cornerstone of any business is knowing what you know and knowing what you don’t know. NAWBO helps you fill in the gaps. It’s like having your own personal network of professional advisors, without the fees. You can leverage the knowledge of others within the organization to help provide guidance, reveal your blind spots, and strengthen your weaknesses. It’s also a platform to exchange services or share contacts. Through these connections, you get stronger.

 

With more than 60 chapters from coast to coast, there’s probably one near you. Simply Google “local NAWBO chapter” to learn about upcoming events. You are welcome to attend as often as you like, without joining, to ensure this is a good fit for you. And, Bank of America has ambassadors, like me, in more than 55 of these chapters to help provide additional resources.

 

Welcome NAWBO to your “village” and help lift your ship and that of others.

 

 

Related content:

Are you ignoring an obvious way to boost your sales? If you aren’t marketing to existing customers, the answer is yes.

Most small business owners focus their marketing efforts on attracting new customers. Of course, you need to keep a pipeline of new business flowing, but you should never ignore your current customers. Selling more to them is a quick and easy way to grow your business.

Here are my top 10 tips for doing so.

 

1.  Keep your customers happy. Never try to sell more to a customer unless you’re certain they’re completely happy with your business. Conducting customer surveys, engaging with customers on social media, and following up after the sale are all great ways to gauge your customers’ satisfaction.41612078_s.jpg

 

2.   Pinpoint the most profitable customers. Go for the low-hanging fruit by identifying your best, most profitable customers and targeting them first. They’re more likely to trust and buy from you, so it’s a quick way to ramp up sales.

 

3.   Reward loyal customers. How do you feel when a business you’ve patronized for years offers discounts and deals for first-time customers only? Not valued, right? Don't treat your loyal customers like second-class citizens—offer special perks, discounts and rewards just for them. When customers join your official customer loyalty program, you can collect more details about them, enabling you to market to them more effectively.

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

 

4.   Stay in touch. Existing customers are already familiar with your business, so you don’t have to build brand awareness — but you do need to stay top of mind. Keep your business on your customers’ radar with email and social media marketing that lets them know about special offers or new products and services.

 

5.   Pay attention. Stay in tune with what customers are saying not just about your business, but also about their needs, on social media. This can give you ideas for how best to approach them. Suppose you notice a customer on LinkedIn is asking questions about selling overseas. Reach out to learn more about their needs and how you can help. 

 

6.  Make it easy to buy from you again. Did a customer buy school uniforms from your e-commerce site last August? Email her in July with special offers and an easy way to reorder the same styles as last year in bigger sizes. Set up auto-renewal programs that customers can opt into — it simplifies their lives and yours.

 

7.   Focus on the customer. Don’t barrage customers with irrelevant emails. Use what you know about your customers to personalize your outreach. Is there a customer who always brings her elderly mother to your restaurant for lunch? Let her know about your early-bird dinner specials or offer her a discount for home delivery for those times Mom isn’t up to going out.

 

8.   Follow up on dormant customers. Don’t let once-loyal customers fade away. Contact customers you haven’t heard from in a while with email or print offers to lure them back.

 

9.   Provide great after-sale service. Some companies put all their efforts into making the sale and then ignore their customers once the money changes hands. Follow up with your customers to make sure they’re satisfied. Ask if there’s anything else you can do for them? Once you know they’re satisfied, try cross-selling ancillary products or services, or upselling them to a more expensive version.

 

10.   Develop a system. Create a process for identifying customer needs, connecting with them, developing offers and suggesting additional products or services. When all your salespeople have a plan to follow, it boosts your chances of selling more.

 

In the end, selling more to your current customers comes down to developing lasting relationships. I’ve had longtime customers contact my business about services I didn’t even offer, simply because they trust our work. When customers know and trust your business, they’re more likely to turn to you first for anything they need.

 

RELATED ARTICLE:  How Good Is Your Customer Service? Here Are 6 Steps to Find Out

RELATED ARTICLE: Understanding Your Ideal Customer

RELATED ARTICLE: How to Start a Loyalty Program Before the Holidays

RELATED ARTICLE: The Value of Customer Loyalty − Infographic

RELATED ARTICLE: Why Listening to Social Media Can Grow Your Small Business

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

Does your retail business have a loyalty program in place? If not, now is the time to launch one before the holiday shopping season reaches its peak.

A loyalty program can get first-time shoppers to come back again and again for holiday shopping — and long after the gifts are unwrapped. With more traffic in your store, the holiday season is the perfect time to grow your loyalty program membership.

 

Loyalty programs have many benefits for retailers—and are highly popular with customers. According to the 2017 Holiday Retail Outlook, 76 percent of consumers belong to a loyalty/rewards program, and 72 percent say a loyalty program makes them more likely to shop at a specific retailer. Follow these steps to start your loyalty program.

 

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

 

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1.  Know what your customers want. What attracts customers to a loyalty program? According to the Holiday Retail Outlook, these are the most desirable features:

    • Earning rewards for my purchases — 88 percent

    • Receiving special services — 32 percent

    • Ability to use rewards for experiences — 14 percent

    • Having a mobile app to store membership info — 12 percent

    • Being recognized with a higher status — 8 percent

Before choosing a loyalty program, it’s a good idea to survey your customers and see what rewards they want most.

 

2. Make it worth their while. You can handle loyalty rewards in a variety of ways. For example, you can give points redeemable for rewards; give customers cash back on purchases; or offer “tiered” rewards where perks get better the more shoppers spend. You can also mix it up by offering all of the above. Whatever system you choose, at this time of year shoppers should be able to earn meaningful rewards quickly. More than half (59 percent) of consumers use loyalty program rewards to do their holiday shopping, so the faster they can earn rewards, the more shopping they’ll do in your store. (Be sure the rewards are helping, not hurting, your profit margins).

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Tips for Hiring Seasonal Employees Ahead of the Holiday Rush

 

3. Decide what you want. Many retail loyalty programs can also track shopper behavior and help you market to individuals based on their past purchases and other information. What are your goals for the loyalty program? What is your budget? What loyalty/rewards programs do your competitors offer? What kind of data do you want to collect about your customers and how do you want to use it?

 

4. Assess your options. Popular loyalty programs include Belly, FiveStars and Perka. Look for a loyalty program that is tailored for small retailers and meets both your and your customers’ needs. Be sure to ask about setup fees as well as monthly costs. Also take into account how easy the program is to use—both for your employees and your customers. For example, some customers may still prefer loyalty programs that offer plastic loyalty cards, not just mobile apps. Finally, with holiday season rapidly approaching, you’ll need a program you can get up and running fast.

 

5. Spread the word. Aggressive marketing is key to the success of a loyalty program. Promote your program in your holiday advertising, on your website, on social media and with signage in your store. Employees should educate customers about the benefits of the loyalty program and encourage them to sign up. Make it as simple as possible to join the program—no one wants to hold up the whole line of customers while they fill out a lengthy form. As you attract more loyalty program customers, you can even offer them rewards for getting others to sign up or spreading the word on social media.

 

Once the holiday shopping season ends, don’t let your loyalty program marketing lag. Keep signing up new members and creating new rewards. Do it right, and a loyalty program can be the holiday gift that keeps on giving.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

Online marketing is an ever-changing ecosystem. What was true six months ago is probably not anymore – and what worked two years ago certainly won’t work today.

 

The constant changes in everything from social media platforms to search algorithms, means marketing strategies need to be continually reviewed and tweaked to ensure they’re current. It’s all too easy to hold on to outdated ideas about marketing, especially if they worked well in the past. But in the always-evolving landscape of digital marketing, that approach can cause businesses to miss new opportunities and even hurt their bottom line.

 

Content marketing is no different. Its evolution in recent years has been dramatic, so it’s understandable that many business owners still subscribe to outdated notions about how it works or even if it works at all.

 

Let’s look at the five most common content marketing myths and dispel them once and for all.

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  • Content marketing is optional

This is arguably the most damaging myth– that having a blog isn’t a hard and fast necessity. Not only is it necessary, but your blog should be at the heart of your entire online marketing strategy.

 

Search engines prioritize websites with regularly updated, keyword-rich blogs. Facebook gives higher reach to organic posts that link out to quality blog content. Linking to a blog post from any social media platform, or from your email newsletter, draws traffic to your website – traffic you already know is your target audience, because they were interested enough to click. Content marketing is not just a vital part of online marketing – it is online marketing.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

  • Content marketing is too time-consuming

Yes, writing high-quality content takes time. But sitting down to write is not the only way to create a blog post. You can email interview questions to industry influencers or clients, and post their responses. You can post transcriptions of podcasts or videos or webinars you’ve done. You can create lists – lists of other industry influencers’ helpful blog posts, lists of relevant quotes, lists of helpful TED talks or books. You can invite influencers and others to write guest blog posts. You can even speak your blog posts, using speech recognition software to transcribe them. The possibilities for creating quick but quality content are endless.

 

  • Content marketing must be company-driven

Sometimes, the most effective content marketing is crowd-sourced. User-generated content produces an especially high rate of engagement. People are interested in seeing what other people like them have to say, or they check to see what others are contributing before adding their own voice. And it goes without saying that whoever contributed the content will share it like mad within their own networks. From asking for stories to testimonials to images on a given theme, crowdsourcing content can be time-saving and effective.

 

  • Quantity counts more than quality in content marketing

Sadly, this was once true – when Google was in its infancy. But now, thankfully, quality is key, both on social media and in search engines. One solid blog post per month is better than one hastily thrown together post a day because it’s about providing your audience with valuable information, not just satisfying a checklist of SEO guidelines.

 

  • Content marketing doesn’t produce ROI

Nothing could be further from the truth. The key is to begin by developing a strong content marketing strategy, and then execute consistently. Content is the engine that drives traffic to your site from search, social and email, so regardless of where your actual conversions are coming from, it all begins with content.

 

If any of these five myths have been holding you back in your content marketing efforts, now is the time to rethink your strategy. You might just be surprised at how much the right content can do for your business.

 

RELATED VIDEO: How to Scale a Content Marketing and Social Media Strategy

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder Headshot.png

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

Your e-commerce website faces stiffer competition every day. Does it have what you need to convince customers to buy? Here are 10 essentials to e-commerce success.

  1. Fast loading: Online shoppers are impatient. More than half (53 percent) of mobile site visits are abandoned if a site takes more than 3 seconds to load, according to a Doubleclick study. Make sure your site loads quickly, not just on desktops but on mobile devices too. Google penalizes sites that load slowly on mobile devices so it will also hurt your search engine results.
  2. Mobile optimized: While shoppers still primarily make purchases on desktop computers, they frequently start shopping on mobile devices.  It’s a good idea to design your site with a mobile-first approach, ensuring that customers can easily take action and get information no matter what type of device they’re using.
  3. Clear navigation: Don’t try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the layout of your e-commerce site. Sticking with formats that online shoppers are familiar with will help customers accomplish what they need to do quickly. Try having users unfamiliar with your site see how easily they can navigate, shop and check out. This will help you spot confusing areas that need improvement. 46650892_s.jpg
  4. Details, details: The more information you can provide about your products, the better. That means multiple product photos with different angles, the ability to zoom in on details, informative descriptions and videos of the product in use. Be sure to include relevant information such as product dimensions, fabric content, care directions, shipping weight and whether the product needs assembly. Use the manufacturers’ descriptions as a starting point and create your own—to personalize your website copy and differentiate yours from other websites selling the same thing.
  5. Transparency: Never hide key information such as shipping costs or sales taxes. Online shoppers hate getting to the checkout process, only to find you’re charging exorbitant shipping rates. Include a shipping and/or tax calculator that customers can use early in the process to estimate additional costs, or include this information where it's easy to find.                

     

     

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

     

     

  6. Free shipping:  What makes online shoppers choose one e-commerce website over another? Often, it's free shipping. In a Walker Sands Future of Retail 2016 study, nine out of 10 consumers say free shipping is the number-one factor that would make them shop online more often. If possible, offer free shipping—and it doesn’t have to be for everything, just for purchases over a certain amount. You can also use free shipping codes as an enticement to buy.
  7. Good search functionality: If a customer’s search is likely to return hundreds of results, you need a way for customers to sort and filter them. Customers expect sophisticated search functionality so be sure your site provides it.
  8. Trustworthiness: Include a privacy policy explaining how you secure and use customers’ personal and financial data. Prominently display your SSL certificate and any other trust or compliance certifications on your home page and checkout pages.
  9. Simple checkout: In general, three pages is the sweet spot for a checkout process. Streamline checkout for regular customers by asking them to create an account and store their information for future orders. However, don't require customers to create an account in order to buy—this is a big turnoff.
  10. Great customer service: Even when shopping online, consumers want to feel help is close at hand. Offer multiple ways customers can contact you, including phone numbers, email and online chat, as well as an FAQ page. Finally, make sure that your post-sale customer service lives up to its promises. That’s the best way to keep e-commerce shoppers coming back again and again.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE FOUR MOST IMPORTANT DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGIES FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

In a world where consumers and B2B buyers alike have hundreds of choices available at the tap of a touchscreen, customer service is becoming a key differentiator for businesses. In Microsoft’s most recent State of Global Customer Service Report, 61 percent say customer service is very important; in fact, bad service caused 60 percent to stop doing business from companies in the past.

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

 

How can you provide the kind of customer service that gets customers talking (in a good way) about your business and keeps them coming back? Start by unders

tanding the No. 1 thing your customers want from customer service: convenience.

 

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

 

Convenience likely means different things to different customers. To ensure you’re delivering the convenience your customers want, you need to know their demographics, key concerns and preferred communication methods. However, no matter what target market your business serves, convenient customer service basically boils down to four factors:

 

Speed. Rapid resolution of problems and complaints is crucial to providing customer satisfaction. That starts with responding to them quickly. In the Microsoft survey, for example, 57 percent of consumers say they’re not willing to wait more than five minutes on hold to speak to a customer service rep. Whether you handle customer service via email, phone, chat or some combination of the above, make sure you have adequate support to handle your customer load.

 

Consistency. Today, your customers want to do business with you wherever and whenever they please—online, in pe

rson or over the phone. They expect their experience with your business to be seamless. They don’t like having to repeat the same information they entered online on the phone, or struggle to pick up a package they ordered online in your store. Look for customer relationship management tools that help you maintain information about customers in a central, web-based location so you and your customer service reps can access it wherever you are.

 

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Flexibility. For a 22-year-old, convenience is being able to text a company’s customer service department. For an 82-year-old, texting is the opposite of convenient—he wants to call you and get a live person, not a voicemail menu. To ensure all your customers have a positive opinion of your service, provide a variety of ways for them to contact your customer service team. That might include phone, email, chat, text or even social media. When customers have the option to reach out to you in the way that’s easiest for them—you’re starting the customer service interaction off on the right foot.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: When it Comes to Marketing—Timing is Everything

 

Proactivity. More than three-fourths (77 percent) of consumers in the Microsoft survey have a positive opinion of companies offering proactive customer service notifications. After all, what’s more convenient than having a business take care of customer service issues before they even arise? Provide online training videos, how-to guides, or FAQs on your website to help customers better use your product or service. Create an online knowledge base or user board to help them resolve their own questions. Send customers automatic notifications when products need to be refilled, equipment needs to be serviced, or upgrades are available. Consumers will love it when you do the work for them.

 

Customer service is becoming a more important factor in business success. Fortunately, by providing the convenience customers crave, you can make your business stand out in a positive way.

 

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.pngWhether your business is B2B or B2C, summer calls for special marketing ideas. With summer fun on customers’ minds, it's a good time to loosen up, get creative with your marketing mix and experiment a little. Here are 13 fun summer marketing ideas to try.

 

Summer events

1. Every community has its share of summer events, whether it's a downtown July 4th celebration, a 10K run or a beachfront craft fair. Find a summer event that resonates with your target market and get your business involved. You can sponsor the event, rent a booth or hand out product samples—whatever works for your business there is likely an opportunity.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

2. Host your own summer event. Customers have more time to socialize in the summer, so invite them to an event at your business (or outdoors, to take advantage of the weather). Keep it fun and entertaining—instead of serious gatherings like workshops for B2B clients, host a happy hour, outdoor dinner at a local restaurant or beach barbecue. A beauty salon could partner with a clothing boutique and host a summer fashion show featuring the hottest hairstyles, makeup trends and outfits.

 

3. Give away tickets to a local summer event. Is your community home to an annual music festival, car show or other popular event? Take advantage of the event's popularity by purchasing some tickets and giving them away in a contest.

 

4. Print calendars that highlight summer events in your town. Target the calendars to your customer base—if your business sells toys or children's clothing, feature fun family events; if you own a personal training business, feature fitness-related events. Whenever your customers check their calendars, they’ll think of your business.

 

Get outside

5. People spend more time outdoors in the summer, so if your business is in a location with lots of foot traffic, use summer-themed posters, banners and window displays to get attention. If your business isn't near a high-traffic area, place outdoor banners advertising your business in parts of town that do get a lot of traffic.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: WHEN IT COMES TO MARKETING—TIMING IS EVERYTHING

 

6. Have a sidewalk sale. Join other business owners near your location and organize a sidewalk sale or “taste of” event, for example, where retailers promote sale items outdoors and restaurants sell samples of their signature dishes.

 

7. Take a road trip. A B2B business can go on a “road trip” to visit key customers and share their adventures on social media. A B2C business can go mobile with a cart, booth or display at sports arenas or community events.

 

34737923_s.jpgVacation time

8. Get your customers engaged on social media by holding vacation photo contests. Share your own vacation photos and those of your staff, and ask your customers to share theirs with your business hashtag or contest hashtag.

 

9. Entertain the kids. Summer vacation for kids can mean endless cries of “I’m bored!”. If appropriate for your business, hold classes or workshops for children to learn new skills, such as cooking or crafting, with supplies purchased from your store.

 

10. Target tourists. If your business is near a tourist area, print up brochures and postcards you can place at local visitors’ centers, hotels and other places travelers frequent.

 

Heat up your product mix

11. Plan summer-themed giveaways of seasonal promotional products, such as beach towels, reusable water bottles, portable mini-fans or sunglasses with your company name and logo on them.

 

12. Create summer-only products. Tempt customer with limited-time products. Develop special menu items for your restaurant or fun summer drink specials for your bar.

 

13. Put together summer-only packages. Package products or services to appeal to customers’ summer needs. For example, a beauty salon could offer a pre-beach package: a spray tan and pedicure. A gas station or automotive shop could sell compact first-aid kits for summer road trips.

 

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

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngIn an age when most of us spend a little too much time on screens (guilty as charged!), it is no wonder that small businesses seem to have finally read the memo that marketing today equals digital. 

 

That said, for some business owners, digital marketing remains a bit of a challenge. However, even though digital technology tends to feel like a very specialized skill, the good news is that that is only a façade. It really is not that difficult. It just takes a plan and some time.


CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

All of this begs the question: What works? Here is our list of the four most important digital marketing techniques:

 

1. Website: Yes, you must have a great website for your business. Period.

 

OK, with that out of the way, the next most important factor is that this is a place to not skimp - to do it right, and create something that is special and compelling. Your website is that important. It is the main portal where people find you today. Yours must therefore be clean, attractive, functional, easy-to-use, intuitive and informative. If a website looks cheap, the business looks cheap.

 

And don’t try to tackle this one yourself. Hire a designer, or find a reputable online point-and-click website design partner.

 

Additionally, and just as importantly, be sure that your website is mobile friendly. More and more people are accessing the Internet through their handheld devices:

 

  • Half of all searches are now done on a mobile device
  • According to Google, 61 percent of users will not return to a website that doesn’t load properly on their mobile device, and
  • 40 percent of those users will surf on over to a competitor’s website.

 

Digital marketing today means having a great, fast, mobile-optimized website.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: MOBILE MARKETING MADE EASY

 

2. SEO/Pay-Per-Click: Most consumers will begin online with a simple search (48 percent of users, in fact.) What this means is that you must invest a little time and money in your search engine optimization (SEO).  This means that you need to make sure that your website shows up in search engine inquiries by:

 

  • Creating specific pages that you want found
  • Including keywords in your website’s title pages and content
  • Using a good SEO plugin to analyze your pages and site

 

If you’re OK with spending some money, you should also consider pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. These are the ads that appear at the top and bottom of search engine results.

 

43380028_s.jpgEven if you don’t get organic SEO Page 1 Google rankings, with PPC you can buy your way there. How amazing is that?

 

The beauty of pay-per-click, as the name suggests, is that you only have to pay when a user clicks on your ad. This is perhaps one of the most important things you can do to increase website traffic, and ultimately increase revenue.

 

Google has a great SEO guide here.

 

3. Content marketing: Content creation is a powerful way to attract people to your website and social sites. Content creation can include anything from blog posts, to YouTube videos, email newsletters, and so on. The wider the array, the better the exposure.

 

The key is to create great content and have some of it link back to your site. Voila! Content marketing made simple.

 

4. Social media: Developing a robust social media presence is, as you know, one of the most important ways for you to communicate with your customers and spread your brand digitally. It is also a powerful way to keep current customers engaged, reach out to new ones, collect feedback, advertise events, and more. 

 

Additionally, if you are trying to connect your business with Millennials, then social media will be even more important – 81 percent of Millennials go on Twitter at least once a day, for example.

 

Can’t or don’t want to do all of this posting and clicking and blogging and tweeting yourself? No problem.

 

Hire a Millennial to do it for you.

 

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

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngTiming is everything—at least when you’re creating marketing campaigns. In fact, as mobile devices and social media connect consumers with brands and businesses 24/7, timing becomes even more important.

 

Consider these factors when deciding on the timing of your marketing promotions.

 

How long is the decision-making process? How long do your prospects typically take to go through the sales funnel from considering buying a product/service, to researching the field, to making a purchase? If you sell software to large corporations, your sales cycle could be 6 t0 12 months, or more. However, if you own a restaurant, the decision process, from consumers deciding to go out to eat to choosing a location, could take minutes.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

What are you trying to accomplish? For marketing campaigns with ongoing goals, such as increasing brand awareness, timing may not matter as much. However, if your campaign has a time-related goal, such as attracting more customers to your restaurant for your lunch specials or selling all your boutique’s winter sweaters before spring, timing is critical.

 

Is this a seasonal promotion? For marketing tied to a specific date or time frame—such as the holiday shopping season or Father’s Day—first, find out when customers typically begin shopping for the event. If, for instance, most people don’t shop for Father’s Day until the week before, marketing efforts six weeks out are a waste of money. Combine your customer data from past years with information from industry associations and trade publications to pinpoint the best timing.

 

What media do you plan to use? Lead times vary depending on the specific medium you choose. For television or radio advertising, for example, you will need to build in time to develop, record and edit your ad. For print advertising, you’ll need to create ads to fit different publications’ specifications and meet their print deadlines (which often are months earlier than the actual publication date). Allow time for copywriting, design and other creative work. Contact the media outlet for a media kit and other advertiser information.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: MOBILE MARKETING MADE EASY

 

On the other hand, pay-per-click ads, social media posts or advertising, and text message marketing can be created on the spot, making them ideal for timely promotions. For instance, if your store sells umbrellas and there’s a sudden downpour, quickly create posts or texts promoting the umbrellas and send them to your customer list. Is your restaurant having a slow day? Send a text message promotion about Happy Hour to attract people after work.

 

27490300_s.jpgWho are your target customers? Each demographic has its own habits when it comes to engaging with advertising and marketing. Millennials are likely to view your emails, online videos or social media posts on their smartphones, and be more responsive to digital marketing. Baby boomers are more likely than younger customers to watch TV and read newspapers, making these better marketing channels for this demo. Find out from your customers the media they spend the most time with. 

 

When are your customers paying attention? Ask the media you’re considering when your target customers are most likely to be watching/reading/listening. 

 

As for social media posts and email promotions, there are numerous studies—which all seem to contradict each other—about the best times, days and frequencies to post on social media or send emails. The only way to really know what timing works best is to test and monitor your results.

 

For television, radio or print advertising, code your ads to track which ones get the best results. For social media marketing and email marketing, use your platform’s analytics tools to see which days, times and frequencies attract the most attention — and convert the most customers.

 

By choosing the right timing for each marketing method and goal, your small business can achieve better results for each dollar you spend.

 

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 Americas 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 Administrations 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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