Skip navigation
1 2 3 Previous Next

Technology

119 Posts authored by: Touchpoint

Instagram_Body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

 

In August, Instagram introduced Stories, its own version of one of Snapchat’s most popular features. Users create Stories by selecting a series of images that are displayed montage style, and can be augmented with text or graphics. Stories exist for only 24 hours. Instagram has recently moved the Stories feature so it can now be found in the Explore tab.

 

Since their launch, Stories have proven to be one of Instagram’s most popular features. Nearly 100 million users watch Stories daily, representing a third of Instagram’s user base. In an effort to attract even more views, Instagram is reportedly experimenting with adding Live Video functionality to Stories.

 

Creating compelling Instagram stories

Nearly half of the top 200 companies on the Fortune 500 are active on Instagram. The brands that have been most successful on the platform include Nike, Red Bull, and Mercedes Benz. They all share a similar storytelling strategy: rather than focus directly on their products and services, these brands create stories focused on the lifestyle their fans admire. Nike’s Stories include athletic accomplishments, while Red Bull features more extreme adventures. The Mercedes Benz feed features Stories illustrating the thrills that come with driving a luxury car through winding European mountain roads.

 

This strategy is definitely scalable for small businesses. While your company may not have Red Bull’s budget to host and cover cliff diving events, it’s more than possible to create Stories based on actual events happening in and around your community that appeal to your target market.

 

Instagram_PQ.jpgPromoting sales and product launches

The ephemeral nature of Instagram Stories makes them the ideal vehicle to promote flash sales and other promotional events. The retailer J. Crew had great success using Stories to promote their new Jane in Pink sunglasses. During a limited-time sale, the J. Crew team posted Stories featuring models wearing the sunglasses as they went about their day.  Sales of the glasses immediately spiked and remained strong even after the Story was gone from view.

 

But it’s important for small businesses to understand how much work goes into running a flash sale successfully. Creating the Instagram Story is only a part of this campaign. Any small business with an e-commerce platform must ensure their website, particularly the shopping cart functionality, is working flawlessly in advance of launch. Stories’ position on the Explore tab means your content can be seen by many people in addition to your normal follower base. You want to be prepared in case your offer resonates with these additional viewers.

 

Cross promotion is key

To realize full value from your Instagram Stories, you want to make sure to promote them across Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms you utilize. You may also want to feature the imagery used in Instagram Stories on your website. Messaging apps are powerful tools to use to drive customers to flash sales being hosted on Instagram. Make sure the path to purchase is extremely clear for these users.

 

 

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.GoogleInventory_Body.jpg

One of the biggest challenges small business owners face is bridging the gap between online interest and in store sales. The situation is particularly tough for independent retailers, who often don’t have the name recognition or massive advertising budgets larger chain stores enjoy. Google and Facebook have each put forward their own version of a marketing tool that can help level the playing field: local inventory ads.

 

Local inventory ads allow retailers to show customers online which items are in stock and in what quantity. If a customer is interested, they are directed to the retailer’s landing page, where the store owner has the option of making the item available in three different ways: purchase online, buy online-pick up in store, or in store only.

 

These options are important. While interest in online purchasing remains strong, surveys show that customers remain committed to in-person shopping. In May, Salesforce surveyed U.S. consumers to determine where they preferred to buy certain types of products. More than two-thirds of all customers preferred to purchase apparel and accessories, footwear, home goods, jewelry and similar products in person.

 

At the same time, customers are increasingly doing their initial product discovery and research online. Sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms give consumers a quick and easy way to identify products they’d like to purchase. Pinterest is particularly powerful: last year, the platform reported that users began saving images of products they’d like to receive for holiday gifts four months in advance. Further, the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that 76 percent of mobile users have clicked on at least one ad they’ve seen while they’re on social media.

 

GoogleInventory_PQ.jpgHelping customers make the purchase

Once customers have searched for the products they’re interested in, retailers can use local inventory ads from Google and Facebook to make the purchase process as easy and convenient as possible. For instance, Google local inventory ads show searchers what nearby retailers have items in stock. If a customer is interested, they are directed to the retailer’s landing page to purchase the item in the way that’s most convenient.

 

Facebook’s dynamic advertising tool is a newer offering. These ads also highlight inventory available at local stores, using carousel style image displays to show several different products at once. Retailers can tag their ads using relevant keywords. Facebook is using these tags in conjunction with mobile device users’ location data to target the ads appropriately. Unlike Google local inventory ads, which allow retailers to set a budget ahead of time, Facebook dynamic advertising currently charges retailers after the fact, based on the number of times the ads were served to nearby shoppers. Be aware that if you’re located in a shopping mall or dense urban area, you may not have access to Facebook dynamic advertising, as the development team hasn’t yet worked out how to determine whether people in your vicinity are active shoppers or just random foot traffic.

 

Customers use both search engines and social media interchangeably to find products they want. With that in mind, small retailers should consider making use of the local inventory advertising opportunities that exist on both Google and Facebook. If you want to choose just one, experts recommend looking at your website analytics to determine where the majority of your traffic is coming from, and invest there first.

 

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

Touchpoint

How To Do A Podcast

Posted by Touchpoint Sep 9, 2016

Podcasts_Body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.

 

Simply put, a podcast is an audio file that is available for listening or downloading through a web-enabled platform, such as Apple's popular iTunes store or even through your own company website. Strategically, a podcast provides genuinely useful content to prospects without the overt sales pitch found in traditional forms of promotion.

 

The audience for podcasts is small but growing. According to a survey by Edison Research, the number of Americans above the age of 12 who listened to any type of recent podcast jumped from 12 percent in 2013 to 21 percent today.

 

Small businesses that catch on to this wave can gain an edge over their competitors. Digital Trends, an online service that covers technology news, has these recommendations for producing your own podcast.  

 

1. Pick a theme for your podcast

Your podcast needs to be about something. Find a topic that you are ardently interested in and make that the core of your program. The focus can be as narrow or as broad as you want. For example, a manufacturer of heavy-duty construction equipment could discuss the state of the construction industry across the country or concentrate just on the equipment itself. The key is to be passionate and informed about the subject.

 

Podcasts_PQ.jpg2. Settle on a format and schedule

Each show in your podcast series should clock in at roughly the same length. Podcasts typically range from a few minutes to a maximum of 60 minutes. You should also decide on the frequency of your podcasts. Most come out weekly or bi-weekly. Choose a length and schedule that you can stick with comfortably.

 

3. Prepare a script

Even if you want your podcast to sound improvised or spontaneous, you should still write some type of script outline to keep the show on track. For shows that have multiple segments or a variety of speakers, an outline can also make your transitions smooth.

 

4. Choose your recording software

A small business does not have to invest a lot of money in sophisticated recording equipment. There are a few free alternatives that will do the job. Digital Trends recommends starting with Audacity, an open-source editing and recording program, or Acoustica Basic Edition.

 

5. Choose your microphones and headphones

"In all reality, podcasters should consider purchasing an external microphone," Digital Trends says. "USB mics, such as the CAD 37 and Fifine USB Plug & Play, plug directly into your computer and interface with your recording software, thus offering superior sound and greater flexibility than your computer's built-in microphone." Make sure every podcast member has his or her own mic. For headphones, Digital Trends says that any reliable pair is all you need.

 

6. Record your show

Don't get discouraged if you suffer a few bumps during your first podcast. Even the pros experience glitches. Get the show recorded and improve your methods as you go along.

 

7. Make your podcast available through a hosting service

A podcast needs to be hosted in order for people to access it. WordPress and Blogger let you host your audio files free of charge, but they don't offer much flexibility, according to Digital Trends. HostGator charges a modest fee, but provides more options.

 

Producing a regularly scheduled podcast might be intimidating at first, but small business owners who take the leap may find it an exciting way to build an audience of loyal listeners and future customers.

 

Check out the Bank of America Small Business Podcast

 

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

 

RFID_Body.jpgRFID technology is absolutely pervasive throughout modern life, yet many people are unaware of its existence. If you’ve had your pet microchipped to ensure its safety, have an EZ Pass or other electronic toll payment system on your car, or have made a purchase at a large chain store, RFID chips were involved.

 

Over 50 percent of U.S. retailers use RFID as part of their operations, according to GS1 US, a non-profit organization devoted to standardizing supply chain best practices. Industry observer Mark Roberti, writing for RFID Journal, reports that RFID is “a technology beginning to build critical mass in retail.” While big brands have been using RFID for a while, adoption by smaller businesses has been slower. However, opting out entirely may not be a viable option much longer, as this technology provides significant cost-savings benefits that can’t be ignored.

 

What is RFID?

RFID stands for radio-frequency identification. A RFID system is composed of small, scannable tags that contain information about the item they’re attached to, as well as a reader—similar to a bar code scanner—and the software that makes everything work. To use the system, tagged items must be scanned as they move throughout a system, from manufacturer to warehouse to the sales floor through purchase.

 

While some RFID tags are removable, the technology is trending toward smaller and smaller tags that are intended to remain part of the item permanently. Luxury clothing makers are currently experimenting with RFID tags that are thread-sized, meaning they can be woven into a garment as lasting proof of identity. In situations where counterfeit products are a concern, an RFID tag can prove that the customer is truly getting what they’ve

paid for.

 

RFID_PQ.jpg

RFID makes omnichannel marketing possible

Brands have a constantly expanding set of sales channels available to them, including selling in the store, through a website, on social media, through text messages and more. To provide a seamless sales experience for your customer, it’s essential to have very robust inventory control systems in place.

 

RFID tags make it very simple to know what you have and where you have it, in real time. This makes rapid order fulfillment possible, while preventing selling the same item to multiple customers. They also make it possible to offer “buy online, pick up in store” functionality to your customer, an increasingly popular option with today’s shoppers. As smaller retailers work to remain competitive in the marketplace, RFID systems will clearly be an essential part of their operations.

 

Cost controls with RFID

Many retailers use RFID tags as a loss-prevention tool, tagging very expensive, small items to prevent customers from walking away with them. RFID tags can be used to track other items as well, from file folders to tractor trailers, minimizing the amount of time your team needs to spend locating items. RFID tags can also be attached to sensors to let you know your inventory is being stored appropriately—such as on a thermometer to ensure frozen products are kept at an acceptably cold temperature. What started as a technology option for larger companies is quickly becoming affordable for smaller companies as well.

 

 

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

CashFlow_Body.jpgBy Heather R. Johnson.

 

Next to a business plan and a mission statement, cash flow management is one of the most important elements of small business success. With well-managed cash flow, a small business can more easily handle surprise expenses or a slump in sales.

 

“Proper cash flow will keep the business running when there are mismatches in receipts and disbursements,” says San Diego, California-based CPA Thomas E. Huckabee. “If you’re losing money, you’ll be okay until you start making money.”

 

To ensure stability through your business’s peaks and valleys, follow these tips:

 

1. Understand your breakeven point

Your breakeven point is the minimum amount of sales you need to pay your expenses. Knowing your breakeven point helps to project future cash flow. It also will show you when your sales equal—or surpass—your expenses.

 

2. Monitor often

Huckabee recommends that businesses develop a 12-month cash flow projection at least once a month. A cash flow projection lists cash revenues, disbursements, and identifies cash surpluses and shortfalls before they happen. During lean times, businesses may want to monitor on a weekly basis. Create an annual cash flow projection for years two and three to prepare for crises before they happen.

 

CashFlow_PQ.jpg3. Receive receivables promptly

An international survey of B2B payment behavior from credit insurer Atradius reported that United States businesses lose 51.9 percent of their receivables value when not paid within 90 days of the due date. To improve your receivables, use the following strategies:

 

• Take deposits from customers when you take the order or sign an agreement.

• Take credit cards. “You may lose two to four percent in transaction fees, but you get money in the door faster,” says Huckabee.

• Establish a collection policy—and follow it. Outline when to make the first call about a late invoice, when to follow up, and when to send an overdue invoice to collections.

 

4. Don’t pay bills early.

Pay vendors as close to the due date as possible without risking late fees. “If you’ve got cash in your bank account, you can make different choices than if you don’t,” says Huckabee. Take advantage of early payment discounts if you have strong cash flow. If you’re in a tight spot, try to extend payment from Net 30 to Net 45 when possible.

 

5. Plan for shortfalls

With accurate cash flow projections, you can identify times when shortfalls occur. Plan for these times. Keep some cash reserves in your bank account. Talk to your bank about a loan or line of credit before a shortfall occurs. Ask vendors and suppliers for an extension where you can.

 

6. Be honest with yourself

If a new client insists on taking 90 days to pay, and the delay will hurt your cash flow, find another client. If you have to send an unpaid invoice to a collections agency, don’t work with that customer again. “That’s one of the hardest things for business owners to do,” Huckabee says of turning away a customer. “But for good cash flow, you have to stick to your policies.”

 

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

Social_CustService_Body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

 

If you want to provide your customers with superior customer service, social media needs a prominent role in your communications strategy. According to a recent Salesforce survey, 81 percent of millennials use social media for customer service; 22 percent of those individuals expect a response in 10 minutes or less.

 

Meeting that expectation can be a challenge for busy small business owners, but it’s essential. Gartner, a technology research firm, has found that companies that ignore customer service requests on social media have a churn rate that’s fifteen times higher than companies that are responsive. Best practices for providing timely responses include:

 

Include customer service contact information in your social media profiles

According to Blue Ocean Market Intelligence, 73 percent of customers want to be able to solve their customer service issues on their own. Give them the information they need to make this happen in your social media profiles. A good best practice is to include designated addresses for common concerns, such as returns@companyname.com or specialorders@companyname.com.

 

Social_CustService_PQ.jpgMonitor all social media channels, especially Facebook and Twitter

While your company may be active on several social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter are by far the most popular channels used for customer service inquiries. Twitter is important even if you don’t have a lot of followers or activity associated with your account. That’s because customer service interaction via Twitter has increased 250 percent in the last two years. At least one member of your team should be receiving notifications when anyone comments, responds, or sends a Tweet to your company.

 

Relay customer service inquiries to appropriate employees

Because social media is a powerful tool for raising brand awareness and creating customer interest in sales and promotions, responsibility for it often falls to a company’s marketing team. However, these individuals may not be adequately prepared to address these concerns. Make sure you have a system in place to immediately funnel customer service inquiries that arrive via social media to the appropriate employees, so they can be addressed promptly and accurately.

 

Don’t tell customers to call you

Automatically giving out your store’s phone number in response to customer service inquiries is not a great idea anymore. According to the Aspect Customer Service Index, one third of millennial shoppers would prefer to do pretty much anything else other than pick up a phone and make a call. Give customers options, including email and messaging app contact information, they can use to contact you.

 

Track performance for best results

On a weekly basis, review the number of customer service inquiries that came in, the channels they arrived on, and the response time and outcome of each. This practice can help you identify common concerns that need to be more clearly addressed via your digital presence.  For example, if many people contact you each week to find out when you’re open, it may be time to make that information more prominent on your website and on your social media channels. Doing this will help your team understand and prioritize rapid response to all customer service inquiries.

 

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

Touchpoint

Is It Time for a Rebrand?

Posted by Touchpoint Jul 14, 2016

Rebrand_Body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

 

A brand is how the world identifies your company. It includes your name, logo, visuals, and messaging. Consistently deployed, a strong brand can help your small business stand out in a crowded marketplace, making it easy for your customers to find and do business with you.

 

When branding is not working well, it can be changed, but this is a fairly significant undertaking. Rebranding requires reintroducing the public to your organization and what makes you appealing. However, there is always a risk that you will lose some business, perhaps permanently. If your small business has experienced any of the following situations, it may be time for a rebrand:

 

A merger or purchase

After a merger, expansion, or other significant change in company structure, a new brand identity is often required. This can be done by combining company names—accounting firms Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand became PricewaterhouseCoopers—or by coming up with a completely new one.

 

Rebrand_PQ.jpgSluggish growth

Sluggish sales and a sense of being irrelevant in the marketplace are among the top reasons business owners choose to rebrand, according to a 2015 study from Dixon|James, a Chicago marketing firm. It reports that 75 percent of companies that have rebranded themselves have experienced moderately increased sales.

 

An outdated name

Technology and time can result in a company’s products and service offerings to shift over time. NCR Technologies, known best for manufacturing ATM machines, point of sale terminals, bar scanners and other retail hardware, began life as National Cash Register in 1884. They changed the name in 1974, when it became clear that cash registers were becoming far less central to their business model.

 

And old-fashioned look

Trends in logo design, color palette, and typeface change over the course of time. Holding onto one look for too long is the equivalent of wearing your high school wardrobe when you’re in your 40s: it may be possible, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Consult with a brand designer to determine how best to freshen your company’s logo or typeface.

 

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

OnlineRep_Body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.

 

Things said online about you or your business can have a measurable impact on your success. A negative review or erroneous information that is left unchecked can spread quickly and dissuade customers from buying from you. On the other hand, engaging with your audience in a direct, friendly, and constructive way can build tremendous goodwill and loyalty.

 

Taking control of your online presence is a necessary part of doing business today. Yet surprisingly, a report by Wakefield Research found that 53 percent of those surveyed don't check on what people are saying about them. Chris Smith of Argent Media, a Dallas, Texas-based search engine marketing agency, gives these tips for managing your online reputation.

 

1. Be visible all over the web

Open accounts for your business on the major platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. Consider opening a YouTube channel to post videos about your business. Use Pinterest, Instagram or Flickr to post pictures. Each account gives you a new opportunity to control how your business is portrayed.

 

2. Use your social media accounts

Once you've opened a Twitter or Facebook account, use them regularly. Set up a schedule for posting new content on a regular basis. This allows you to build your audience and engage with them in meaningful ways—enlarging your influence and spurring them to bond with you.

 

OnlineRep_PQ.jpg3. Establish a separate presence for each brand

If you have a diverse line of brands or products, consider creating a distinct online profile for each one. Not only will this give you a bigger overall presence, but you can also target your message more specifically to niche customer groups. 

 

4. Blog

Regular blogging lets you control the narrative of your business and improve your search rankings through a strategic use of keywords. "For reputation purposes it can give you a solid 'home court' ground where you can directly respond to any major assertions made about your company if necessary," Smith says.

 

5. Assess criticism fairly

Be open-minded when listening to online complaints or bad reviews, Smith says. Customers might be able to spot legitimate weaknesses or deficiencies in your business. If so, acknowledge them and take steps to address them in a prompt, effective manner.

 

6. Apologize

Owning up to a mistake made by your business and apologizing can often mitigate the situation and maybe even forge a stronger tie with your customers. Make sure your apology is genuine and direct, and consider offering some kind of unconditional remuneration.

 

7. Avoid online arguments

Don't get drawn into a public shouting match with a dissatisfied customer. Even if you are objectively in the right, you'll still project an image that is unprofessional or mean-spirited. "The best approach is to defuse situations and take communications offline to try to reconcile," Smith says. "Be nicer in your online interactions than you even think you need to be."

 

Adding online reputation management to your marketing strategy can pay for itself in satisfied, long-term customers and sustained business growth.

 

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.

InboxMgmt_Body.jpgBy Heather R. Johnson.

 

Small business owners often receive hundreds of emails a day. With so much virtual correspondence, it’s no wonder that a recent McKinsey Global Institute survey found email the second-most time-consuming activity, next to “role-specific tasks.”

 

If business owners react to every ding of their inbox, they’ll get very little done. A cluttered, disorganized inbox will also slow you down. To increase productivity, follow these tips to gain control of your virtual correspondence:

 

1. Check less frequently

Marsha Egan, success strategist and CEO of The Egan Group, Inc., recommends that business owners check email five times a day: Morning, mid-morning, after lunch, mid-afternoon, and 20 minutes before leaving the office. “This gives you at least 90 minutes of uninterrupted work time between checking email,” she says. “If you can reduce email interruptions, you can recover up to an hour in productivity.”

 

Egan also suggests that business owners close their email browser in between checking email. The growing unread mail count and the dings and flashes that alert us of incoming mail can distract us from the task at hand.

 

InboxMgmt_PQ.jpg2. Follow the five Ds

When managing incoming messages, choose one of the following: Delete, Delegate, Do It, Defer it (to a specified time), or Don’t Delay. “The overriding D is Decide,” says Egan. “When you read an e-mail, make a decision. Take action right now, or defer it.” Egan suggests that business owners create an “Action” folder for emails that need attention.

 

3. Use folders sparingly

You need to save many emails for future reference. Organize these emails into folders or with labels, either by client or by project. Keep the headings broad. If you have one folder with 30 subfolders, will you remember where you filed an email three months from now? Any time spent thinking about folders and labels is time that could have been spent on growing and managing the business.

 

4. Get out of internal email

Many businesses have moved onto internal communications platforms such as Microsoft’s Yammer, Salesforce’s Chatter, Podio, Jive, and Slack. These platforms allow for group- or company-wide chat, direct messaging, video conferencing and other tools. The platforms eliminate problematic email threads and provide a streamlined approach for sharing and project collaboration.

 

5. Write concisely

Write an email that gets an immediate response and you’ll eliminate time-wasting follow-ups. Put the subject of the email—the question or request—in the first sentence. Save the background for later. “About 70 percent of people skim emails,” says Egan. “If you want someone to read your request, put it in the first line.”

 

One sure-fire way to reduce email is to simply pick up the phone. You may be able to schedule a meeting in a 30-second phone call instead of spending several minutes on multiple back-and-forth emails.

 

Tomorrow morning, remember to make a decision regarding all emails, organize wisely, and don’t obsess over the inbox. By following these simple strategies, you can reclaim hours in your day to put toward developing 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

Rethink_SocialNetworking_Body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

 

When Facebook was launched, it introduced the world to the concept of social networking. At last, people had a way to keep in touch with college buddies and distant friends, largely via status updates that featured photos. Flash forward 10 years, and Facebook isn’t like that anymore. Today, it is the world’s most popular news and entertainment curator. In fact, in 2015, the Pew Research Center for Journalism and Media reported that nearly two-thirds of Facebook users cited the social networking site as the primary place they get their news.

 

Facebook is hardly alone. The legions of social networking sites that have appeared in Facebook’s wake have followed suit, clarifying and redefining their purpose until some platforms now say they’re not social networking sites at all. For the small business owner, it’s vital to understand both the nature of this shift, and how it impacts your digital marketing strategy.

 

Understanding how customers use various social sites is key

It is the way that users engage with a social platform that ultimately defines that sites’ purpose. For example, despite Twitter’s efforts to position itself as a social network, users have found it most valuable for sharing breaking news and links to headlines. Twitter acknowledged this by moving to the News section of the App store in April. Similarly, Pinterest’s CEO Ben Silbermann characterizes his site as a planning tool, noting people pin images for their own reference or enjoyment rather than in an effort to connect with others.

 

Rethink_SocialNetworking_PQ.jpgPeople go to Facebook to be entertained, informed, or, increasingly, to shop, while those personal networking-oriented conversations are taking place in more private venues, such as Snapchat or WhatsApp. The multiplicity of sites means users can accomplish the same goal—say, discovering new products—through a variety of avenues, each with its own distinct appeal. The same engagement ring that shows up in a YouTube video that tugs at the heartstrings can show up in a beautiful artistic Instagram photo or a funny Tumblr gif.

 

Social sites have their own agenda

The longer a user stays engaged with a social media site, the easier it becomes for that site to make money via advertising sales. Facebook’s recent launch of Instant Articles, as well as Live, which enables real time video broadcasting, are both efforts to keep users on Facebook, rather than clicking through to a website or leveraging a separate platform. Almost every major social media site now uses a content algorithm, which prioritizes which posts are seen first in a users’ feed; promoted and sponsored posts enjoy exponentially greater reach than regular posts.

 

Customized content is vital

Small business owners need to know how their customers use a social media site and what type of content performs best on that platform. The days of creating a single piece of content and simply sharing it across all sites are over; each platform requires its own presentation. This type of customization does take time and energy, but it’s worth it. Users will view this tailored content as more authentic and meaningful to them—key factors in attracting and keeping customers for the long term.

 

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

 

Similar Content


Social Media 101

Top Five Tips for Marketing in the e-Age

Reaching Customers With Live Streaming Video

Creating your first paid search advertising campaign

Snapchat for Small Business

Additional-Information-260px.gif

FacebookArticles_Body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

 

With Instant Articles, Facebook gives companies a way to post content directly to the social media network rather than linking to it from their website. Instant Articles load up to 10 times faster than linked content, a change that Facebook said it implemented to dramatically improve the mobile device user experience. During an initial roll out phase, Instant Articles were only available to major media brands; in April 2016, it was announced that the feature is now available to all users. This means small businesses can publish their blog posts or other content that appears on their website via Instant Articles. Here are some of the ways Instant Articles can benefit small businesses:

 

Increase reach

After a year of use, the first sets of stats related to Instant Article performance are becoming available. IGN, a provider of video game and entertainment content, has reportedly seen their Instant Articles reaching 12 percent of their audience, compared to an average of 7 percent reach for traditional linked articles. Facebook says that they’re not prioritizing Instant Articles algorithmically, which means any increase in reach is due to more users reading and sharing the content.

 

FacebookArticles_PQ.jpgMaximize the impact of your website content

Creating articles, graphics, and other rich content that’s relevant and interesting to your customers requires a significant amount of effort. Facebook requires that every piece of content shared via Instant Articles is also hosted on the business’ website, which means every time your Instant Article is shared, a link to your website is shared as well.  WordPress is currently developing a plug-in to enable publishing content to your website and Instant Articles simultaneously; it’s currently in beta-testing stage but is expected to be fully available later this spring. 

 

See an increase in web traffic

Popsugar, a media outlet specializing in entertainment and celebrity news, saw traffic to its mobile website increase 36 percent because of Instant Articles, according to a recent Digiday report. Talk to your web developer before launching Instant Articles to make sure your site is robust enough to handle the increase in visitors seamlessly. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that you can capitalize on this surge with additional compelling content, eye catching calls to action and data capture opportunities, such as an invitation to sign up for regular emails.

 

Get richer feedback

Facebook provides companies with information on Instant Article reach and engagement, time spent in each article, how much of each article is read, and engagement with rich media assets like photos and videos. Additionally, Instant Article data is incorporated into Facebook Page and Domain insights, giving business owners the opportunity to review geographic and demographic information about who’s reading their content.

 

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

Touchpoint

Snapchat for Small Business

Posted by Touchpoint May 12, 2016

Snapchat_Body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

 

Among teens and young adults, Snapchat is the most popular social media network. Nearly 30 percent of respondents ages 13 to 24 rank Snapchat above Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook as the social media site they consider most important, according to a study by global investment bank Piper Jaffray. Another demographic that values Snapchat are parents of young children. Parents.com reports that the very private, ephemeral nature of Snapchat makes it ideal for sharing baby pictures safely.

 

If you’re a small business trying to connect with either of those target audiences, Snapchat deserves a place in your marketing mix. The best digital marketing puts your content on the platforms where your customers are already spending their time. Users average between 25 and 30 minutes per day on Snapchat, and at this point, Snapchat’s video view numbers equal Facebook’s.

 

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a photo and video sharing app that enables the user to send out shared content—called Snaps—that lasts for no more than 10 seconds. Users can use filters to alter the appearance of a photo, add text, and more.

 

Snaps can be collected into Stories, which can be shared publically. This is where they can be useful to small businesses. Each Story consists of up to a dozen Snaps, viewed in chronological order. Stories are viewable for a longer period of time—up to 24 hours. The Story feature is the most popular aspect of Snapchat for users of all ages.

 

Snapchat_PQ.jpgUsing Snapchat as a story telling tool

It’s always a good idea to understand the culture and best practices of a social media platform before establishing a business presence there. Snapchat is all about speed and authenticity: the images shared there tend to be far less polished and professional than you’ll find on Instagram.

 

The types of Stories that are most popular on Snapchat have a casual quirky tone. Successful brands have built Stories featuring celebrities, sharing special offers—most often in the form of a coupon code revealed in the final Snap—and having regular, everyday people enjoying the brand’s products.

 

 

When it comes to deciding how many images to share to tell a single story, “Less is more,” says British Broadcasting Corporation social media editor Mark Frenkel. He limits his team to six Snaps per Story. Even though Snapchat is casual, your approach to posting content there should be anything but. On a platform where judgements are made in the blink of an eye, you need imagery that’s compelling and appropriate for the platform. A good best practice is to plan out your Story using four to six images and testing those via private Snaps to trusted customers or friends who are regular Snapchat users before taking the Story public.

 

On-Demand Geo-filters boost business visibility

Snapchat filters are designs you can overlay onto a photo you’ve taken using the Snapchat app. Geo-filters are available only to people who are in a specific area, such as your neighborhood or even the new restaurant  where your customers love hanging out. When creating a geo-filter, keep in mind Snapchat’s unique culture and stay away from overly promotional messaging; the most successful uses of geo-filters have been focused on fun events, with the emphasis on the fun.

 

 

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

Mobile_Devices_Body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.

 

According to one study, about 66 percent of U.S. consumers use mobile devices to access and read their emails—and the trend is expected to grow. For small businesses that want to reach on-the-move consumers, it's not enough to simply take their existing online messaging and drop it intact into the mobile environment. They need to have a viable strategy specifically for these portable devices.

 

Kim Stiglitz, director of demand generation and content marketing at Campaign Monitor, a San Francisco-based firm that helps companies design and run email campaigns, has these suggestions for optimizing emails for mobile marketing:

 

1. Choose the right subject length

Subject lines for emails on mobile devices should be shorter than those for desktop inboxes. A good target to shoot for is 25 to 30 characters, which work well on iPhones and Android devices.

 

2. Insert pre-header text

The pre-header text appears at the start of the email and often summarizes the main email message. Viewers use it to prescreen the email before opening it and deciding whether they will continue reading. The pre-header length will vary depending on the device and email client, but 40 to 50 characters is about average.

 

3. Make your email copy brief

Screens are small and users are typically distracted when using their mobile devices, so make sure your copy gets right to the point. Make it easy to scan and consume. Bulleted lists, headers, and short paragraphs are ideal.

 

Mobile_Devices_PQ.jpg4. Use images sparingly

Some devices do not display images. If you do include them, however, the copy should still make sense and deliver your message accurately and clearly without referring to or relying on the image.

 

5. Issue a clear command

"Place your call to action [CTA] near the top of your email to make it the most mobile friendly," Stiglitz says. "To ensure maximum clickability, make your CTA buttons at least 44 x 44 pixels."

 

6. Put in sufficient empty space

Don't crowd your message with tightly spaced links or call to action buttons. You don't want your customer to click on the wrong item by mistake. Instead, put sufficient space around parts of the message that require the user to take action by clicking.

 

7. Test your message with different devices

After you have the elements of your email in place, test it by sending it to different devices and email clients. If anything disrupts the delivery or readability of your message, make the necessary adjustments and test it again until the results are satisfactory and a consumer would have no trouble responding.

 

Following these easy but necessary steps can make your emails stand out on mobile devices and help you stay connected with your 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

Digital_Audit_body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.


For many small business owners, holiday sales play a huge role in determining the overall health of the business. Your digital presence has a vital role to play in your success. Customers will look at your website and social media when researching who has the best selection, most exciting deals, and more.


That’s why it’s a good idea to perform a thorough digital audit before the end of the year. If you haven’t done so already, here’s what you’ll want to look for:


Domain names

Make a list of all the domain names your company owns. Test them to make sure they’re connecting or forwarding appropriately. Ideally, all of your domain names should be listed on a single registry. If they’re not, move them to the registry company that’s been providing you with the best level of service and support. The transfer is a simple process and making the change will eliminate potential headaches and hassles that accompany lost or forgotten domain name renewals.


Social media integration

Check that customers can travel seamlessly back and forth between your website and social media without any disruption of the experience. Pay attention to your visual branding. The graphics, messaging, and feel of your website should be in alignment with your social media marketing. If you’re using “Buy Me” buttons on social media, make a test purchase to ensure that system is working properly.


Digital_Audit_PQ.jpgContact information accuracy

Your business address, hours of operation, and contact information must be accurate on your website as well as on social media and any review or directory sites you may be listed on. Today, people use Google to see if the phone number, address and hours of your business check out. Additionally, check to make sure information on your return, shipping, or other policy pages is accurate.


Email marketing

A thorough review of your email marketing lists will eliminate non-performing addresses. Additionally, cross-check your unsubscribe list against your in-house contact information. Great customers switch jobs and email addresses, and you don’t want to lose touch with them through inaccurate contact info. Cleaning your email list is also a great opportunity to assess the performance of specific campaigns. Look at your best performing messages to see what elements you can incorporate into this year’s holiday messaging.


Analytics

Review your website analytics and social insights. Check and make sure that you are blocking any spam sites that can affect the correct review and analysis of your website traffic. Test to make sure all your data tracking is accurate so you can better adjust your marketing throughout 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.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

Beacons_body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.


Beacons—the technology that sends welcome messages, savings coupons, and other information to a customer’s smartphone when they’re in or very near your store—is poised to become the next game-changer in retail. So far, beacons have proven to be fairly effective in increasing foot traffic and driving sales. In a recent report, BI Intelligence stated that beacons influenced over $4 billion in sales during 2015, and project that number will increase ten times by the end of 2016. 


How beacons work

Beacon technology is fairly simple and straightforward. There’s only one piece of hardware involved—a  small transmitter which retailers post in their store. Business owners log into their account to create welcome messages, coupons, and other incentive messages, which are then transmitted to the smartphones of any nearby shoppers who have the right app on their phone and their Bluetooth turned on. Some beacon apps allow shoppers to receive personalized discounts and offers based on their previous shopping behaviors, while others collect only very general data, such as the number and location of shoppers receiving beacon messages. 


Beacons_PQ.jpgUsing beacons to drive sales

Coupons are the most popular type of message currently being sent via beacon, by both large and small retailers. However, there are other ways to use this technology, including inviting customers to attend in-store demos or other events, upselling seats at sports games and concerts, and providing in-store maps and other information without the need to use Wi-Fi or the customer’s data connection. Some retailers are experimenting with promoting loyalty program participation with beacon technology, for example by reminding nearby shoppers they could earn or redeem points by purchasing items currently on sale.


Choosing the right beacon for your store

Google, Apple, Facebook, and other tech firms have each introduced their own beacon offerings, and competition to be the dominant firm in this newly emerging sector is fierce. For this reason, several companies have made at least introductory levels of their technology available for free for retailers. Choosing which system is best for your store requires some level of customer knowledge, as well as prevailing tech trends for your region. Facebook, for example, has an almost universal audience, while Apple’s iBeacon may be the better choice for the retailer trying to reach affluent customers. A good best practice is to test the beacon system’s appeal to your customers at the free level first. If it’s working, then investing in additional transmitters may be a wise move.


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.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

 

 

Filter Article

By tag: