Skip navigation
1 2 3 Previous Next

Sales & Marketing

147 Posts authored by: Touchpoint

By Jennifer Shaheen.

 

Ecommerce_Body.jpgWith the fall season fully underway, so too are farmer’s markets taking place all over the country. The goods they offer—delicious pies and cakes, hand-knit scarves and gloves, and beautiful artwork—are so different than anything purchased in a store. Yet, even these artisanal items can’t escape technology. Vendors at most farmer’s markets are able to process mobile payments via their smartphones. Where they fall short? Offering a website where customers can buy their products online all year long.

 

Growth in online sales

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, online sales grew by 14.6 percent last year and now account for 10 percent of all sales in the U.S. This continues a trend that has already lasted more than five years. Being able to sell products online exponentially increases a small business owner’s opportunities to connect with their customers. While a farmer’s market may be open on a seasonal basis, the Internet is available 24/7. In addition to facilitating off-season sales, a website can be the ideal way to showcase and sell items that can’t be displayed at a farmer’s market. If a customer wants to know if your product is available in another size, color, or flavor, being able to direct them to where they can immediately order it online from you will generate additional sales and give your small business greater visibility.

 

Ecommerce_PQ.jpgMaking the transition to e-commerce

If you’re a small retailer doing business at a farmer’s market, you might not want to enter the online market because you offer perishable products or feel that your customers strongly prefer to buy your products in a farmer’s market setting. Other vendors may want to sell online, but aren’t sure what they need to do to add e-commerce to their existing website.

 

E-Commerce platforms are an easy route

While it is entirely possible to build an online store from scratch, or to select and combine various digital tools to create a store, for most small business owners the most efficient way to get started is to take advantage of the tools offered by the payment processing service you’re already using.

 

Almost every company that offers mobile payment processing also offer fairly robust premade e-commerce websites to their customers. These websites are built using a template that small business owners can easily customize with their logo and images in order to reflect their unique branding and appeal. Best of all for the busy small business owner, these comprehensive e-commerce platforms handle all of the necessary functions of online sales, including accounting, POS, inventory and order management, marketing, merchandising, customer service, and financials. Combine these tools with the high-touch experience of a farmer’s market, and you’ll have a successful small business all year long.

 

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

BlackFriday_Body.jpgBy Cathie Ericson.


Quick: What do you picture when you hear “Black Friday?” Shoppers elbowing one another to score discounted TVs, socks, and other commodities in big box stores? With all the hype surrounding Black Friday, some smaller retailers might wonder if there’s a place for them. The short answer: Yes.

 

According to PwC’s 2016 Holiday Outlook, holiday spending is expected to increase 10 percent compared with the 2015 holiday season, and small retailers should make sure they’re prepared to get their share of the green on Black Friday. Since almost half of shoppers say they make their purchase decisions onsite, the key is to attract those customers to your store in the first place. Below are some tips from retail experts to make your Black Friday a success.

 

1. Reach out to loyal customers

‘Tis the season for giving thanks, so throw a gratitude party for your regular customers, their friends and family, suggests Jennifer Martin, a business coach and founder of Zest Business Consulting in San Francisco. If they are out on Black Friday anyway, you can offer your store as a port in the storm with warm drinks, snacks, and a quiet place to browse. Martin recommends sending out special offers prior to Black Friday to remind them you’re open and offer a discount or incentive to drive traffic.

 

BlackFriday_PQ.jpg2. Play to your strengths

You probably can’t beat many of the big box retailers on price, but you can beat them on service, says Jennifer Labit, founder and CEO of Cotton Babies in St. Louis, Mo. First and foremost, she makes sure her employees are trained and the store is stocked upand staffed up. “It’s an all-hands on deck day,” she says. “Most stores don’t have a sales associate available, period, so be there to steer customers and answer questions,” she advises.

 

3. Join forces

Partner with other local businesses in the area to cross-promote, suggests Martin. Consider offering a free gift to customers, but in someone else’s store. For example your shop might offer mini massages from the next-door spa, and they might have samples from your line of candies. You also could invite all the businesses in your area to have a special Friday evening open house and team up to promote it via social media and direct mail.

 

4. Maximize your online advertising

Consider optimizing your online marketing campaigns for local markets with targeted ads, suggests Sean Martin, content marketing manager at Directive Consulting, a Los Angeles-based digital agency. He recommends combing through your online pages and optimizing them for "Black Friday" keyword search entries so your site will pop up as people search on the go. You can also identify key hash tags that are in play surrounding Black Friday social media conversations and customize any online ads to include references to the Black Friday promotions and services you are offering.

 

5. Play your own game

“The best way to win the Black Friday combat zone is to promote a Black Tuesday,” says marketing consultant Mark Stevens. By getting a jump on the competition before the holiday even occurs you can siphon off some of those dollars beforehand. He recommends going big: Offer your best deals, secure a Black Tuesday-related URL, and spend a month's budget on Facebook advertising to promote it. Then, enjoy the day with your own friends and family, gearing up for the rest of the season.

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

Crowdsourcing_Body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.

 

Crowdsourcing is a way to capitalize on the ideas, energy, and resources of large groups of people through efficient and timely means. Combining the words "crowd" and "outsourcing," crowdsourcing is like asking for the help of the crowd to meet an objective, instead of the more traditional route of handpicking a service provider and contracting with them to perform a task. Some people cite the creation of Wikipedia as an example of crowdsourcing, where "the crowd" contributed to the encyclopedia rather than a hired team of experts.

 

Since there are different types of crowdsourcing, it gives small businesses the freedom to choose a form that could work for them on a given project. David Bratvold, the founder of Daily Crowdsource, a San Diego, California-based open-format website, offers these perspectives on the most popular forms.

 

1. Crowdsource design

A business looking for a new design can state what it needs, how much it will pay, what the deadline is—and then turn to the crowd to get the work done. "By doing design this way, crowdsourcing actually increases the quality and decreases the price, compared to online freelancing," Bratvold explains.

 

Crowdsourcing_PQ.jpg2. Crowdfunding

Asking people to give you money for your project is another example of crowdsourcing. Bratvold says that non-profits and start-ups typically use this method to help fund their projects. Again, be clear about the amount you need to raise, your deadline, and any incentives to the crowd. If you don't raise your stated goal before the deadline—usually fewer than 60 days—the monies must be returned.

 

3. Microtasks

Let's say you have 1,000 photos that each needs a caption. With microtasking, you can split the work up among the crowd and get the work done quickly—sometimes seeing the results within just a few minutes. Paying for a microtask can cost as little as a few pennies for each response.

 

4. Open innovation

If you're having trouble settling on a business opportunity, getting the input of people from different niches is the idea behind open innovation. Bratvold says that this can be done using a dedicated web platform for feedback from outside your company or just by reaching out to employees within your own company. Put another way: open innovation is a way to get people from different sectors and with different specialties to collaborate and help you get your idea off the ground.

 

While crowdsourcing can often generate ideas quickly for a relatively small investment, be aware of its downsides. It is imperative to give clear instructions when addressing the crowd to avoid getting swamped with inappropriate responses that waste your time. The submitted work can vary, too, so install some form of quality control.

 

Crowdsourcing may not work for every business or task, but it is still another way to harness the power of the Internet to generate new ideas, relationships, and funding.

BestShipping_Body.jpgBy Cathie Ericson.

 

E-commerce continues to dominate the shopping landscape, with 2015 holiday sales growing more than 13 percent. Small businesses, which typically have fewer elves in their workshops, must be prepared to fulfill a projected deluge of sales in the crucialand shortholiday shopping period.

 

“As a small business owner, it's important to recognize customers’ expectations have changed exponentially regarding shipping timing,” says Mark Aselstine, owner of Uncorked Ventures, a wine club and gift basket business.

 

When he started his online wine club six years ago, customers were fine with monthly shipping, but now immediate gratification has become the norm, thanks to the rise of services like Amazon Prime. “Small businesses need to keep up, especially during the holidays,” he notes.

Here are some smart ways small businesses can ship their goods efficientlyat the holidays and year-round:

1. Stock up on supplies

Pre-purchase all the boxes, packing materials, labels and tape you'll need for the holiday season beforehand and stage them for ease of access, recommends Tao Wong, a marketing consultant who runs several e-commerce businesses through PDB Sales Inc.

BestShipping_PQ.jpg

See if you can lower the cost of the shipping supplies by looking into envelopes, rather than boxes, for example. For his part, Wong swears by polybags. “They are inexpensive to buy and ship, and one of the most flexible shipping supplies available since they can be used for domestic, international, first class and Priority Mail,” he says.

2. Prepare shipments in advance

For Aselstine, that means prepacking gift baskets and wine club shipments. “We work to get our ongoing members’ packages out as early as possible in the month,” he says, which leaves staff free for the last-minute online purchases that are sure to come in.

 

Pre-packing items works especially well for businesses that have a few bestsellers. “If you know which products you sell consistently and in what quantities, pre-pack and label them so they’re ready to go,” advises Wong.

 

3. Do your homework on shipping rates

USPS, UPS, FedEx and moreeach small business needs to balance convenience, cost, and dependability to choose a preferred method. Will von Bernuth of Block Island Organics recommends using a tool like Stamps.com or pbSmartPostage to print postage and take advantage of the best USPS shipping rates—commercial rates offered for high volumes that small businesses might not otherwise qualify for. These postage platforms also integrate with many order management and e-commerce systems, points out von Bernuth. “This eliminates the time and error associated with manually entering shipping addresses,” he says.

 

4. Schedule your pickups for convenience

“We pre-schedule pickups from UPS, our preferred carrier, as soon as the time slots are made available, usually about two weeks out,” says Aselstine, who opts for the latest time slots offered each day.

 

Wong uses USPS’ app to schedule his pickups. “We then provide our carrier with a big bag and a scannable inventory sheet for efficient pickups,” he says.

By Cathie Ericson

 

OnlinePresence_Body.jpgIt used to be enough for a small business to have a website and a Facebook page. Those days are gone. Today, having a polished and robust online presence across multiple platforms is a business must. Here are five easy ways to enhance yours:

1. Make your online presence consistent

Surprisingly many businesses don’t double-check that basic information, like phone number, website and hours, are the same on all listing sites, says Heather Waugh, digital project manager at Digital Marketing Inc. in Kansas City, Mo. “Not only does having your information correct on all platforms offer better customer service, but it also gives you authenticity and authority in Google's eyes, which can improve your overall quality score and increase your search rank,” she says.

 

2. Have an easy to use website

“Google cares about user experience when it’s ranking sites, so make sure your site is easy for your visitors to navigate,” says Nathan Gotch, founder of Gotch SEO in St. Louis. Consider such factors as load time62 percent of consumers expect a page to load in five seconds or less—and responsiveness to mobile devices. Research shows that more than half of consumer traffic to U.S. websites comes via a mobile device, so your website must be mobile-friendly, and able to adapt to the screen on which it is being viewed.

 

OnlinePresence_PQ.jpg3. Be strategic about your social media

Customers expect both B2B and B2C customers to have a presence on social media, but don’t just arbitrarily pick a channel and start blasting out posts about an upcoming sale. First, choose your platform wisely by researching where your target audience is. If you own a home-related business, you’ll want to be on Houzz. If your product or service is targeted to millennials, a Snapchat presence will be important. Then, develop a thoughtful game plan for posting. Make sure you include a good mix of content, such as industry news and educational information, with only the occasional sales-related message. “Randomly posting memes or being overly self-promotional will get you nowhere on social,” says Waugh. Set up Google alerts for key words in your industry to help you find relevant material.

 

4. Learn the basics of SEO (search engine optimization)

It’s key to have your website show up on Google’s first page, given that fewer than 10 percent of web users click past the first page of results. Gaining organic search traffic from Google is all about ranking for important keywords, says Gotch. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEM Rush and UberSuggest to find prospective keywords for your business, and then include them in your website copy.

 

5. Create content that youand otherscan link to

Your content, whether it’s a blog post, a free tip sheet or other educational piece, increases your SEO in two ways. First, content that ranks well for your keywords will boost your standings. Second, it can help you acquire “backlinks,” which are links from other websites to your contentsomething Google loves. “Natural backlinks are possible if you are creating stellar content,” Gotch says. To highlight your content so others will link to it, make sure you promote it on social media and look for opportunities to “guest post” on others’ sites to help establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

By Jennifer Shaheen

 

SnapchatGeofilters_Body.jpg

Snapchat, the image messaging app that’s used by more than 58 million people in the U.S., chose the beginning of September to roll out a new set of template tools to make creating and using geofilters easier. Geofilters are visual files that can be applied over a Snapchat photo, and can include captions, logos and more. They appear, and are available, for a limited time only to users within a designated geographic range; this can be as small as an individual room in a building or as large as an entire neighborhood. People check out geofilters as a way to find out what’s going on in their vicinity. If they like the design, or are attending the event, or just feel like it, they can also apply the geofilters to their own images.

 

Geofilters also have an application as a small business marketing tool, particularly for those having an in-store event or sale. Read on to discover some of the ways that Snapchat’s geofilters can work for your small business. 

 

Choose where the geofilter is seen and for how long

The price for a Snapchat geofilter varies based on the size of geographic area included and how long the filter is available. You can select an area on the map and enter a date range when you’d like the filter to be available. Snapchat will let you know how much this will cost. It is easy to adjust both factors to meet your budget.

 

SnapchatGeofilters_PQ.jpgPay and submit your geofilter for approval

Snapchat individually approves all geofilter applications to make sure they’re appropriate for the platform and meet formatting requirements. After you submit your payment information and PNG (portable network graphics) files, it generally takes between one and three business days to receive approval. Your payment is not processed until Snapchat approves the geofilter. Be sure to follow their terms and conditions as a business.

 

Wait for approval notification

After you’ve submitted your proposed geofilter, Snapchat will email you to let you know the submission has been received. You’ll receive another email letting you know if it’s been approved. Assuming it has, you’ll get another email when it goes live and then when it’s done. In the final email, you’ll be invited to extend the life of the geofilter. If the campaign has been delivering promising results, it may be a wise move to run it a little longer, but keep in mind that the ever-changing, ephemeral nature of Snapchat is a large part of the platform’s appeal.

 

Measuring effectiveness requires in-person observation

The metrics available for Snapchat geofilters are still fairly rudimentary. You can see how many people view, use, and share your geofilter. Determining how this translates into in-store traffic requires monitoring the people attending your event and asking them how they found out about it—especially those customers you’ve never seen before. As Snapchat continues to evolve, it’s likely a more robust set of metrics will become available, but for right now, in-person monitoring is the most effective way to determine how geofilters are working for your small business.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

By Jennifer ShaheenMillenialBuyers_Body.jpg

 

In April, the Pew Research Center reported that millennials have overtaken baby boomers as the largest generation. There are 75.4 million millennials between the ages of 18 and 34, and their expectations are profoundly shaping the way small business owners promote their offerings and operate on a daily basis. While the millennial generation is incredibly diverse, they do have some traits in common that are important for small business owners to understand and act upon.

 

Instant accessibility is non-negotiable

The millennial generation is always connected, and they expect the brands they do business with to be as well. Even if your physical location is only open for a portion of the day, these shoppers want to be able to find out more information, research potential purchases, and even buy from you whenever they feel like it. Make sure your online presence is robust enough to meet and exceed these expectations by leveraging purchasing and customer service tools to automate processes as much as possible.

 

Kane Russell, head of marketing for Thanx, which builds apps for multi-location retailers, recommends a mobile first strategy. “Ninety percent of [millennials] have their mobile device in arm’s reach 24-7,” he says, adding that if you don’t have a mobile strategy in place, work to build one. Then make your content, including website, social media and emails, more entertaining.

 

Life cycles repeat themselves

Millennials are far more than “the young customer.”  More than half of millennials over the age of 25 are parents. The Zillow Housing Confidence Index, presented in partnership with USA Today, reveals that two-thirds of millennials are planning to purchase a home within the next five years. The pressures that come with parenthood and home ownership have shown to have some impact on millennials’ purchasing decisions.

 

MillenialBuyers_PQ.jpgJeff Fromm, president of FutureCast, a marketing agency focused on attracting millennials, characterizes these changes as pragmatic. Millennials seek deals, and make purchases that are useful and practical. When they do splurge, it’s on their children. There is less willingness among older millennials to pay premium prices for products that are environmentally friendly or socially conscious. Knowing this, as well as where your customers are in their life cycle and what events they’re currently navigating, will make it easier to craft marketing messages that really resonate.

 

Authenticity is everything

Millennials are notoriously resistant to hard-sell marketing. Instead, they’re seeking authentic, one-on-one connections with the brands they choose to do business with. Understand what makes your company unique in the marketplace, and communicate that consistently through all touch points. Follow through is absolutely essential. If your store positions itself as a fun, welcoming place to shop on social media, yet customers who come in find your staff to be hostile and snobby, this disconnect can be absolutely devastating for your brand.

 

Authenticity walks hand in hand with simplicity. A growing number of brands have had success reaching millennials with purely functional messaging. Busy millennials, perpetually overwhelmed by content, are seeking out low-stress shopping experiences. Make sure it’s easy for your customer to identify the path to purchase, particularly on mobile devices. Large buy buttons and smart page design are now more important than ever before.

 

Millennials are willing to share

Unlike previous generations, millennials are often willing to share significant amounts of personal data in exchange for perks, such as savings deals. Use this tendency to deepen your understanding of who your customers are. Going beyond generational traits into the nuances of what’s really driving your customers’ decisions right now means spending time looking at and understanding your data, but it’s time well spent. When millennials feel a brand really ”gets” them, they become loyal consumers and vocal advocates.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

By Robert LeroseFocusGroups_Body.jpg

 

The focus group is a venerable tool for getting into the minds of your target audience and using that knowledge to help your business make better marketing decisions. Essentially, it involves gathering your ideal prospects in a controlled setting to get their opinion of, and reaction to, a proposal, product, service, or initiative that your business is considering.

 

Patricia Lotich, founder of Thriving Small Business, a Bonita Springs, Florida-based business management consultancy, offers these perspectives on the uses and protocols of conducting an efficient and effective focus group session.

 

1. Have a clear objective for your focus group

Before you assemble consumers or prepare your questions, know why you're conducting the focus group in the first place. Is it to help you establish a new service? Discover what your target customer group thinks about a particular issue? Find ways to improve an existing product? Settling on one objective for the focus group should yield the best results.

 

2. Develop questions that fit the discussion

Start with an overview question to frame the discussion and then "drill down" for more granular details. For example, Lotich says, to find out why customers might not use a dry cleaner delivery service, you could ask: do you dry clean your clothes? How do you select a dry cleaner? What services do you look for in a dry cleaner? Have you ever used a dry cleaner delivery service? If no, why not? How much would you be willing to pay for this delivery service?

 

FocusGroups_PQ.jpg3. Keep the group to a manageable number

While it can be advantageous to hear from a wide number of viewpoints, too many participants in a focus group can result in an unwieldy session. Lotich says that eight to 10 people work best, allowing room and time for everyone to speak.

 

4. Choose a receptive group

You don't need participants to be devoted to your company, but you want consumers who possess a working understanding of the product or service under discussion. Also, try to find people with the same purchasing behaviors necessary for the product or service you're testing. Aim for holding three or four different focus group sessions with the same mix of people.

 

5. Decide on a moderator

It's certainly possible to conduct a focus group session yourself, but Lotich says that an outside professional facilitator could probably provide more objective results and perhaps add a fresh perspective in interpreting the findings.

 

The interactive nature of a focus group lets you collect the raw, first-hand reactions of consumers that can be used to help you develop or refine your product or service line.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

HolidayPrep_Body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

 

Hot summer days may not bring the holiday season to mind, but this is exactly when you need to start preparing if you want your online store to be successful during this all-important time. Here are some tips on what to do now to get started:

 

Understand the e-commerce calendar

The holiday shopping season begins before Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and extends into the New Year. This year, cyber Monday is November 28th; on this date, online shoppers expect the most amazing deals and offers of the shopping season. However, not everybody starts shopping early. Last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s numbers, nine out of 10 shoppers were actively buying gifts, décor, and other holiday items throughout December. America’s Research Group reports that 2015 saw the numbers of last minute shoppers hit a 12-year high, with nearly half of their respondents still actively shopping on Christmas Eve.

 

Time promotions and offers carefully

Purchasing behavior varies throughout the holiday shopping season. Your promotions and offers should be tailored accordingly. On cyber Monday, it’s all about price, whereas more sentiment-driven messaging can be used effectively during the first 15 days of December. Appealing to a buyer’s sense of urgency becomes powerful after that point, and once the holidays are done? It’s time to give your bargain hunters what they’re looking for and slash prices on slow selling items and excess inventory.

 

HolidayPrep_PQ.jpgUpdate your return policy and FAQ pages now

Customers want easy access to critical shopping information while they’re on your website and social media. Make sure your return policy, sizing and shipping information, and other important information is accurate, up to date, and extremely easy to find. If you’re using chatbots to facilitate your customer service, make sure they’re prepared with text that addresses these common holiday season inquiries well in advance of the holiday buying rush.

 

Know and share critical cut-off shipping dates

Delivery companies make a valiant effort to scale up in order to meet the increased demands of the holiday shopping season, but there are limits to what can be done. Strongly encourage your customers to place their orders in time to ensure holiday delivery. UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Post Office all post the cut-off dates for their different shipping options. Share these with your customers regularly to help them avoid disappointment. Emphasizing early orders is a good best practice, as even one bad weather event can slow down the entire delivery chain.

 

Start generating creative materials

The graphics, language, and imagery you use to support your holiday promotions should be visually consistent across all of your messaging channels, while also tailored to play to the strengths of each platform. This means the beautiful product photos on Instagram one day should reflect what’s current on sale in your online store. Pinterest and Facebook posts should also be in alignment. Use one platform to reinforce the messaging and engagement on another. For instance, when highlighting a specific offer, drive traffic to the exact location—a website page or social media commerce ad—where the customer can actually make a purchase. Creating the sales materials in advance means that during the holiday season you’ll be able to focus on providing superior customer service.

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

PopUpStores_Body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.

 

For a small business that would like to open a new location without the heavy investment of a long-term commitment, pop-up stores provide a popular and practical solution. Essentially, a pop-up store is a temporary structure that can last from a few days to a few months. It can be set up in an empty neighborhood storefront, a parking lot, within the confines of your existing retail establishment—almost any space where your customers might be.

 

Shopify, which provides a platform to help businesses grow and manage their operations, gives these reasons to consider trying a pop-up store.

 

1. Find new sources of revenue

A pop-up store lets you test a new product or service to see whether it could become a significant source of additional revenue without the expense of establishing a permanent retail presence.

 

2. Reach out to offline customers

Studies show that customers who shop online still like to try or touch products before they buy. Pop-up stores help you connect with online shoppers for an offline buying experience.

 

3. Drive sales through exclusivity and scarcity

The temporary nature of a pop-up store lets you promote products for a limited time or products that can't be found anywhere else—spurring customers to buy immediately.

 

PopUpStores_PQ.jpg4. Tie in products with the season

Customers typically spend more money around the holidays or look for bargains during particular seasons. Putting up a pop-up store at strategic times of the year can capitalize on, and even amplify, that buying impulse.

 

5. Deepen customer awareness of your product line 

Some products need to be explained in detail before they catch on with the mass buying public. A dedicated pop-up store can provide demonstrations, gain customer attention, and lead to sales of these hard-to-understand products.

 

6. Show up where your customers shop

Do your best customers shop in a particular neighborhood or street? With a pop-up store, you can set up a place to sell your products in prime locations that your customers frequent and be wherever they are. 

 

7. Spread the word about your brand

A pop-up store lets you distinguish yourself from your online-only competition with a visible, tangible presence. Events and other promotions directly tied to your pop-up store can boost awareness of your brand.

 

The modest costs and low risks of a pop-store let small business owners earn extra dollars and forge stronger bonds with their customers.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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. ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

Raising_Prices_Body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.

 

Increasing your prices without alienating your loyal customers can be a tricky balancing act for small business owners. On the one hand, your reasons for needing more revenue can be reasonable and justified. On the other hand, you risk losing steady but budget-conscious shoppers.

 

Christina Gillick, a Farmersville, Texas-based web strategy consultant and copywriter, suggests these steps for raising your rates while minimizing customer defections.

 

1. Create a tiered pricing structure

Take one of your products and offer it three ways: a low-priced version with no extras, a medium-priced version that comes with your standard features, and a high-priced version with extras and bonuses. Then keep accurate stats on how each version sells and make adjustments accordingly. Customers who want only the low-end product may actually turn out to be more profitable, but test your assumptions.

 

2. Eliminate low-priced items gradually

See whether you can replace one of your modestly priced products with an alternative that fulfills the same need but which costs you less. "Find a more affordable supplier for your product or replace lower markup items for higher markup items," Gillick says.

 

Raising_Prices_PQ.jpg3. Raise the prices, change the perception

Making your product more valuable to the customer can usually blunt any backlash when you raise the price. For example, Gillick says that you can enhance the perceived value of your product by making improvements, getting a notable endorsement, or highlighting hidden benefits.

 

4. Lock in a lower price for your existing customers

Before you increase prices for a product or service, give your longtime customers the option of locking in the current rate for a short period. It will demonstrate your commitment to them and minimize any bad feelings when the higher price kicks in.

 

5. Charge for other options

Many companies that have offered free shipping in the past can pick up additional revenue by eliminating that policy and charging for the service. A variation is to offer free shipping for items over a certain amount. You might find that customers will buy more than they expected in order to get the free shipping. Companies that provide services can charge more for rush jobs or expedited attention.

 

Giving customers different pricing options and adding genuine value to your products and services can often take the sting out of a justified price increase.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

AboutUs_Body.jpgBy Heather R. Johnson.

 

Second to the home page, the About Us page is likely the most visited and important page on a small business website. The About Us page presents your company to potential customers. It tells readers who you are and what do you, as well as why customers should do business with you.

 

“The About Us page helps to create trust and build credibility,” says Claudette Shatto, an advisor at the Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center at Napa Valley College and business development specialist for Napa Valley, California-based CellarPass.com. “It highlights the personality of the owners and showcases your passions.”

 

Here are a few ways to optimize your About Us page:

 

Focus on the why

Tell visitors why you started your business and the need it fills. Most small business owners have a passion for their industry, product, or service. Let that passion shine through.

 

Consider the customers’ needs

In addition to summarizing your background, explain what value you bring to your customers. What problems do they face and how does your business solve them?  Back up your claims with data where you can. “Our program saved customers a total of $500,000 in 2015” makes more of an impact than “We help you cut costs.”

 

AboutUs_PQ.jpgSummarize company history

Don’t bog down your About Us page with lengthy backstory. “People feel good about a company that’s been in business for four generations,” says Shatto. “But if you emphasize the history too much, you’ll lose your audience.” Reinforce company history in a paragraph and hyperlink to a separate History page if needed. 

 

Touch on awards and accolades

Include the most relevant certifications and awards, but leave the laundry list of accolades for a separate page. If you own an ice cream shop, it’s worth mentioning that you won “Best Ice Cream Parlor” in the latest city magazine reader’s poll. Omit the “crunchiest ice cream cone” award from the local PTA.

 

Include a call to action

Marketing software company HubSpot says to include a call to action (CTA) on every page of your site. Instead of visiting your site and moving on, you want visitors to take action. Invite them to start a free trial, download a report, or e-mail with questions. The CTA drives engagement, which leads to increased sales.

 

What to avoid

When writing about your About Us page, avoid these common mistakes:

 

• Bragging--Showcase your company, but don’t go overboard with the compliments.

• Length—Limit text to a few paragraphs. People spend, on average, less than a minute on a web page, so keep their attention with concise, well-written copy.

• Negativity—Don’t criticize a competitor in your About Us page or anywhere else. Focus on your story, what you offer, and why you’re passionate.

 

By touching on your company history, your passion, and your niche, you can create an About Us page that will instill trust in your brand and inspire customers to take action.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

Article-Body-Image-Square-tradeshow.jpgBy Robert Lerose.

 

Trade shows are an effective way for small businesses to connect with prospects who are interested in your products and services. They allow you to meet potential customers face-to-face and begin to establish personal connections—giving these events an advantage over remote marketing channels such as email campaigns and social media postings.

 

Timothy Carter, director of business development at AudienceBloom, a Seattle, Washington-based content and social media marketing firm, has these tips for making the most of trade shows:

 

1. Set objectives

Decide in advance what you hope to accomplish at the trade show. Instead of a generic goal like becoming better known within your industry, be specific. Goals such as acquiring names for your email list or demonstrating your product to 20 new people a day can keep you focused and help you measure your progress. 

 

2. Choose the right show to attend

Find out what trade show your best prospects go to and put it at the top of your list. Check out the trade show's website and perhaps contact the coordinator directly to get a clear idea of the type of people who attend. Carter even suggests getting in touch with exhibitors from last year's show to see the success they had.

 

3. Do research at other trade shows

Attend a few trade shows yourself to see how other small businesses exhibit. This is especially important for members of your team who have never been to a trade show before. Look for ideas on how these businesses market themselves, the kinds of booths they use, and how they drive traffic to their exhibit.

 

4. Promote in advance

Before the trade show, use all your marketing channels to tell your current prospects and customers where and when you'll be exhibiting. Build up excitement in the days and weeks leading up to the trade show, perhaps giving away a free surprise gift to anyone who stops by your booth.

 

Pull-Quote-Template.jpg5. Alert the press

Telling the reporters who cover your industry that you'll be exhibiting at a particular trade show could lead to media coverage for your business. Have a press kit ready in advance and even suggest possible topics or angles for news stories.

 

6. Train your team

Prepare the people who are manning your exhibit to handle a variety of situations. For example, educate them on how to concisely explain what your company does, how to ask booth visitors qualifying questions, and describe the promotions you're running at the show.

 

7. Design an attention-getting booth

Carter says that attendees should be able to see your booth from about 20 feet away and get a clear idea of what your business does just by looking at it. Have sales material ready to hand out.

 

8. Collect leads

Have some way to capture the names and contact information of prospects, such as holding a contest or offering a free demonstration in exchange for a business card.

 

9. Build interest with social media

Carter says that one member of your team should be designated as your social media reporter during the trade show, for example: sending tweets or posting videos and images about activities at your booth.

 

10. Network

Make time to leave your booth and network with other exhibitors and attendees. Taking a stroll through the exhibit hall or sharing a cup of coffee with another small business owner could lead to unexpected opportunities.

 

Investing the time and money in a well-coordinated exhibit at a trade show can be a vital part of your overall business-building and marketing strategy.

 

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

InfluencerMarketing_body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.

 

Small businesses often rely on two kinds of marketing methods: snail mail and email campaigns that are sent directly to the customer, and general advertising, such as print, radio, and TV ads. But there is another kind of marketing tool that is gaining ground, typically called influencer marketing. Essentially, influencer marketing leverages the credibility and contacts of bloggers and other social media luminaries to build awareness of your product or service and drive sales.

 

Sabrina Fenster, marketing manager for The Shelf, a platform for finding and connecting with relevant influencer marketers in niche segments, offers these tips for setting up an effective influencer marketing campaign:

 

1. Choose an influencer that matches your audience

It's tempting to want to engage with bloggers that have large followings, but popularity is not always the best gauge. Instead, look for outstanding bloggers with influence in the target market you want to reach. Read through their postings and gauge the rapport they have with their audience to determine if they would be a good partner for you.

 

2. Go after second tier bloggers

The most influential bloggers in your demographic will most likely have a relationship with large companies and brands. Small businesses should search for bloggers in the second tier that have influence, but not necessarily the reach of the biggest names. Fenster recommends using tools like BuzzSumo, Cision, and The Shelf's own platform to uncover bloggers in this category.

 

InfluencerMarketing_PQ.jpg3. Customize your contact approach

After you've identified a blogger you'd like to connect with, put together a concise, personal email that explains why your product would be a natural fit for them. Use tools like Sidekick to track and analyze the open rates of this introductory email, then tweak your message and subject line accordingly until you make contact. "When it comes to outreach and relationship-building, personalization is not optional, it's mandatory," Fenster says.

 

4. Be straightforward and transparent about your goals

Once you've received a receptive reply from the blogger, be candid about the type of response you're aiming for from an influencer campaign—and ask them if they think it is realistic. Ask for the blogger's media kit to get up-to-date information on their demographic.

 

5. Work out a compensation structure

Bloggers must invest time and effort to your product or service, so compensate them. Some businesses think that "gifting" the blogger with their product is enough, but Fenster disagrees, especially if the blogger is highly influential. Treat influencer marketers like any kind of outside help, such as public relations or advertising agencies. Factors such as the size and make-up of a blogger's following and a projected return on investment will affect what they charge, so do some comparison shopping to help you figure out what you can afford to pay.    

 

6. Collect and analyze performance metrics

Tell the blogger that you will request performance metrics at the end of the campaign. Pay particular attention to the actual number of hits that converted to sales or to another goal spelled out at the start of the campaign. Seeing the return on investment will help you determine whether to continue working with the blogger and any changes to be made to the campaign. 

 

Adding influencer marketing to your existing strategy can enlarge your chances for building awareness of your business and driving sales in today's e-commerce environment.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

Unhappy_Customers_body.jpgBy Cathie Ericson.

 

Unhappy customers can sink your business. When word of mouth was king, we used the adage that one unhappy customer would tell 10 people about their experience. Today, customers have the ability to broadcast their opinions to unlimited numbers of people via social media and review sites.

 

And even if they don’t share their negative experience online, that one lost sale can translate into billions of lost revenue—an estimated $83 billion in fact, according to Business Insider’s Customer Service Report, which found that 60 percent of U.S. consumers have not completed an intended purchase based on a poor customer service experience.

 

“The customer might not always be right, but a savvy organization will work to help them feel as though they are right,” says consultant Elaine Allison, who helps corporations, government agencies, and schools improve their customer service.

 

Here are her top tips for handling an unhappy customer:

 

Use the "ask, don't tell” approach

When a customer is upset, the natural tendency for many employees is to tell them what went wrong or how their actions violated your policies. A better tactic, Allison says, is to investigate the root cause as a way to show your interest in their issue and your intention to fix it. She recommends asking questions such, as "Can I look into that for you?”, "What can I do for you?", or even “Can I get more details?” She says that even if the plight seems obvious, these questions show you are concerned.

 

Unhappy_Customers_PQ.jpgFind a way to say yes

When a customer is upset, he wants to hear the magic word, “yes,” rather than “no,” so find a way to incorporate it into your answer. “You might still be saying ‘no,’ to what they want, but by using the word ‘yes,’ they are going to feel more satisfied.” For example, you can say yes to a future discount, or yes to removing some portion of the cost of the product or service from the bill.

 

Look for a third way

There are many times when a company really can’t fix what’s wrong even after they’ve understood the reason a customer is unhappy. But it doesn’t have to be their way or the highway; often there is a third, mutually agreeable solution. “If you brainstorm enough, you can usually find a creative way to fix things to everyone’s satisfaction that is simple, free, or a minimal cost,” Allison says. Expert customer service people see a complaint as a challenge to find that third way. “They are always thinking ‘what else?’ even when they know the customer is wrong.”

 

Turn complaints into opportunities for continuous improvement

Customer service cultures that are on top of their game track, follow, and report their complaints, Allison says. They then feed the issues back into the organization to look for opportunities to improve. They also know that fixing a customer’s problem can ultimately make them even more satisfied than if they had received what they wanted in the first place. “It resonates to a customer when they see a company really hear them and take great lengths to fix the issue,” she says. “That is the story they will then share with their friends, family, and followers.” Allison says that the companies that will beat the competition are those that have a resolution culture and mindset.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

Filter Article

By tag: