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Sales & Marketing

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This series explores some of the most common and difficult challenges faced by small business owners. Part 1 explored how to effectively manage cash flow, and Part 2 laid out steps to find and retain employees.

 

Marketing has always been a challenge for small business owners, but in the “olden days,” marketing methods such as print ads, direct mail and public relations stayed fairly stable. Digital marketing changes constantly, and with so many options for marketing online, many entrepreneurs are overwhelmed.

If this is you, take a deep breath, keep reading, and incorporate these online marketing “essentials” into your marketing plan.

 

Build a Website

It's hard to believe, but as recently as 2017, 29 percent of small businesses did not have a website. If you’re one of them, get moving! There are many providers that offer one-stop services including everything from registering your website domain name and hosting your site to designing, building and maintaining it.

Do you already have a website? Great! Now, make sure it’s:35338495_s.jpg

    • Mobile optimized. The percentage of online searches on mobile devices surpassed the number of searches on desktops back in in 2016, and by 2021, the number of mobile search users is expected to grow to 221 million people.  Make sure your site looks great and works great on all types of smartphones and tablets—not just on computers.
    • Fast. Your customers are impatient folks, and speed is especially important on mobile devices. According to data from DoubleClick, 53 percent of mobile website visits are abandoned because it takes longer than three seconds for the site to load.
    • Optimized for search. Search engine optimization (SEO) helps your website appear higher in search results. You can optimize your website for search by researching keywords that prospects are likely to use when searching for your business. Use those keywords throughout the site in text, headlines, product descriptions and “tags” on images and pages.

 

Get the Local Edge

If your business relies on local customers, use these local digital marketing strategies to get more business.

    • Get listed in local search directories.BrightLocal reports 97 percent of consumers searched online for local businesses last year. Google My Business is the most important local search directory (since more than 59 percent of all online searches start on Google), but there are many others, such as Bing, Local.com, Citysearch and Yellow Pages. It’s free to get listed, and having a presence in online directories makes a huge difference in whether prospects find you when they search online.
    • Take advantage of online reviews. Online reviews are the new word-of-mouth. According to BrightLocal, 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. Get listed on review sites such as Yelp or Angie's List. Then monitor reviews and quickly respond to any critical ones.
    • Related content: Why Local SEO Matters More Than Ever (and 4 Steps to Success)

 

Social Presence

Whether you own a B2B or B2C business, whether you sell products or services, and especially if your target customers who are millennials or younger, you need a presence on social media. More than half of small businesses say social media is somewhat or very important to attracting new customers, communicating with existing customers, and marketing to both new and existing customers.

 

Use social media posts to drive customers to take action, such as visiting your website, filling out a form or making a purchase. Want to get attention? According to HubSpot, photos and videos are over 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than text-based content.

 

Related Articles: Social Media Primer: When to Post, How Often and What About, Is Your Website Driving Millennials Away? Here are 6 Warning Signs

 

Don’t Forget About…

Email marketing has a median return on investment (ROI )of 122 percent—more than four times the ROI of social media, direct mail or paid search, according to DMA and Demand Metric. Use email to send special offers, newsletters, or updates about your business. Make sure your emails are optimized for mobile devices. If they aren’t, over 80 percent of recipients will delete them.

 

Get Help

Digital marketing is a huge landscape, and I’ve only touched on the basics here. The good news is, there are plenty of places to get expert help with everything from website design to email marketing and local search listings – with plenty of digital tips right here on the Bank of America Small Business Community.

 

 

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

Have you ever thought to yourself, I want to sell more products and services, but I don't want to be too salesy? If you're a small business owner, selling your products and services is necessary – especially if you’re the face of the company.

 

The challenge some business owners have is being comfortable selling “on stage” – meaning speaking to potential new clients – without feeling salesy or scammy. Here are five important tips to sell your products and services on stage, in live presentations or online without being overly salesy.

 

1. Identify the problems your ideal client wants to solve

Ask your audience what their greatest challenges are. Why? People buy for one of two reasons: to get a desired result or to solve a problem. If the needs your product or service fulfills are not great enough, your product or service won’t sell. Your customers won’t spend their money with you if they can't see how you will solve their problem.

37297008_s.jpg

 

2. Give your audience a level of certainty

From the stage, provide the audience with certainty that your product, services or expertise will solve their problem. You can provide certainty by sharing positive experiences with clients, compelling testimonials and favorable results from clients who have benefitted from your products and services.

More on this: 9 Ways to Discover What Your Customers Really Think of Your Business

 

3. What is your unique solution?

What’s your unique solution that can meet your audience’s needs or solve its problems? Explain how your process works to the audience. Show them how easy it is to implement your process with your help. You're walking customers through what working with you will look like and highlighting the results they could get. Remember, you're not selling them anything. You're presenting a problem and showing them a unique solution.

 

4. Why you are the one to solve their problem

Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. There are many individuals, small businesses, products and services vying for attention online and off. What makes you the right person with the right business and the right solution for your clients? While “on stage,” leverage your background, your clients’ success stories, and your unique value proposition to appeal to a prospective client.

 

5. Tell the audience how to get started

Finally, explain to your audience how to get started with you – after your presentation. In my presentations I show prospects the process of what it’s like to work with me – and how to get started. After my presentation, I want a yes or a no. If the answer is yes, then I want to sign that person up right there. If it's on a webinar, I want them to click the link and complete the transaction.

 

You don’t have to use slick sales techniques to sell your products and services. As a business owner, your responsibility is to make sure your audience gets what it needs. If you provide quality solutions that can help enrich and improve their lives, you can ethically sell your products and services on stage – whether in a conference room, webinar or showroom – without feeling too salesy.

 

More helpful articles:

Public Speaking Made Easier

How to Improve Your PowerPoint Presentations

 

About Ebong EkaEbong+Eka+Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

Ebong is also the founder of The $250 Tax Pro, which provides tax preparation and consulting services in the Washington, DC area.

 

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

You can read more articles from Ebong Eka by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Ebong Eka to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Ebong Eka is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Ebong Eka. 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 a question about your business? Let’s see if I can help; write your question here.

 

Hi Steve – I am really enjoying all of the new content here on the Small Business Community. So, I have a question for you:  A piece of advice I read here a lot is that we, as small business owners, need to engage with and utilize social media as much as possible. My problem is that I don’t really have a lot of followers either on Twitter or Facebook. Do you have any suggestions on how to grow my following?

 

I do indeed, and I will get to those in a moment, but let’s first consider all of the things social media does for your business:

 

  • It builds the brand
  • It allows you to talk directly to your audience
  • It allows you to create a bigger audience
  • It provides you with the opportunity to become a thought leader
  • It helps you sell

 

While all of that happens with or without a big following, let’s be frank – it’s better with a bigger following, right? Of course, having a lot eyeballs on you is good on social media. However, a purchased audience (see below) is usually much less effective than an organic one.

 

So, how do you build that ever-elusive big following? Let’s look at Facebook and Twitter (for the record, I have used these strategies myself to create roughly 100,000 followers combined on Facebook and Twitter).

 

Facebook

 

Let’s start with what you don’t want to do, on both Facebook and Twitter:

 

  1. Do. Not. Buy. Likes. Or. Followers.

 

Did you see the New York Times story, exposing all of the celebrities with fake followers? The list includes people like Paul Ryan, football star Ray Lewis, and Kathy Ireland (who reportedly bought 300,000 fake Twitter followers).

 

Not only are these followers phony, thereby doing you little good, many are also disreputable. I have a social media influencer associate who bought 5,000 Twitter followers, and almost all were from adult entertainment accounts. Let’s just say, those were not the sorts of followers she wanted media executives to see when they perused her social channels.

 

Here’s what you do instead:

 

1. Create great content. Great content gets people to want to share posts and follow pages. So, what kind of content is that?

 

        • It’s emotional.
        • Posts that are short, sweet, topical, and visual.
        • Content that is real, authentic. Authenticity works. If your genuine voice is funny, even better. Either way, being honest and transparent is what plays in a cynical world.

 

2. Engage: The more you engage with the audience that you do have, the more likely they are to become, not just followers, not just fans, but fanatics. They’ll share your content and refer you to others. And in the end, that’s what we really want – word of mouth advertising. Social media begins to grow exponentially when people start sharing your stuff and talking about you, and they may start talking about you when you start talking with them.

 

3. Advertise: Yes, organic reach is great, but so is paid reach. Personally, I have had great success advertising on Facebook and converting those eyeballs to likes. Just look at the options Facebook gives you when you launch an ad campaign:

It can be very affordable, which is all the better.

 

Twitter

 

Everything said above about Facebook applies here, with some tweaks. Here’s what you do on Twitter to grow a following:

 

1. Tweet quality: This is Rule # 1 for a reason. The best, organic, and most authentic way to get real followers is to tweet with real value and substance. Do NOT just tweet about you, your business, your lunch. Instead, tweet what will be of value to others:

        • Articles
        • Videos
        • URLs
        • Specials
        • Quotes

 

If you tweet things that add to people’s day, they will follow you, retweet you, and therein lay the Twitter magic. That’s when you go viral.

 

2. Follow the right people: There is an unwritten rule, a Twittequette if you will, that says that you are supposed to follow people who follow you. So, by following the leaders in your field, you will see that many will follow you back – then watch when some of their followers begin to follow you.

3. Follow the right hashtag people (#): As you likely know, hashtags signify Twitter conversations. People who join in on hashtag conversations relevant to you and your business are people who will likely be interested in your quality tweets.

4. Advertise: Again, this is different than buying followers. As with Facebook, look at what you can do with ads on Twitter:

So there really is no reason not to have a robust social media following. All it takes is time, maybe a bit of money, and some great posts.

 

Get more great guidance on social media from our Small Business Experts

 

Related Content:

Social Media Primer: When to Post, How Often and What About by Shama Hyder

 

The Top Social Media Sites You Should Consider for Advertising by Shama Hyder

 

The Social Media Time Suck: How to Pick Your Platforms by Carol Roth

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

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

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.                

     

     

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  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

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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.

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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

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