Simplify Your Content Marketing Strategy with a One-Page Plan

The recent Content Marketing Institute release, a B2C content marketing report, took the attention of all content marketers. It’s an important annual study because it helps shed light on various aspects of content marketing that we’d otherwise be blind to.

B2C marketers with a documented strategy were found to be more effective than those without one in every aspect of content marketing. But yet, only 39% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy.

Why do you need a one-page strategy?

We’ve already established that having a documented content strategy is far better than the alternative. For people that don’t have a written content marketing strategy, having a simple one is a great place to begin.

On the other hand, if you do have a detailed strategy but are having a hard time with it, simplifying it is going to help you figure out where the weaknesses are and possibly seal them.

A one-page content marketing strategy is advantageous regardless of the size or stage your business is in, because it helps in the following concrete ways:

  • It helps clear up holes in your overall business plan.
  • Content producers can all be sure of what exactly is expected of them.
  • It gives the business a more focused vision.

For smaller business, it might end up being all you need. Most times content strategies end up being too convoluted and ineffective.

Pinpoint the organization’s needs and goals

The first step in creating a simple content marketing strategy is to find out what the organization aims to achieve in that year. Since almost every company’s ultimate goal is growth, they share almost the same objectives. This should be outlined in documents like internal memos. They should help you outline:

  • The profit target
  • Revenue target
  • How growth is to be achieved

With all this data, the next step is to figure out what role content marketing is supposed to play in helping the company achieve those three goals. Don’t forget to have a way to measure the kind of impact content marketing will have had on the company’s end goals at the end of the year.

What to include in your one-page strategy

Having been used to writing five pages of more worth of details for your strategy, how do you know what to include and what to leave out? The following are the most important aspects it will normally boil down to:

Goals

Business goals are the most critical achievements your business should reach in the near fiscal year or over a 5-year period or so.

Examples of goals that could be outlined in your content marketing strategy include:

  • Increase market share of your product from XX% to XY%.
  • Grow percentage of sales from new products

Objectives

There is understandable confusion among marketers when it comes to differentiating between goals and objectives of a business. Goals are the general guidelines that are going to direct you over the long term and reflect the mission statement and vision of the company.

Objectives are meant to define how the goals are to be achieved – think of them as measured steps towards achieving your final goal. These should optimally have a measurable impact, should be specific and, preferably, have a completion date.

For instance:

  • Increase revenue by XX% over the next 12 months.

Strategy

This part of the document should detail how exactly you plan on achieving your goals and objectives. What qualitative impact will content marketing have on the business over the course of the next year? For example:

  • Increase awareness of the new product by launching an ad campaign.
  • Create a better customer service experience by retraining company representatives.
  • Increasing brand engagement by launching a social media campaign.

Metrics

This section should detail how you are going to measure what the content marketing strategy has achieved in the course of a year or so. These should directly reflect on the goals, objectives and strategies the business has put in place for itself.

It’s important to note that all details included in this section should be concrete and measurable. For example:

  • Awareness of the new product was increased by XX%.
  • Customer satisfaction rating improved from XX% to XX%
  • Sales revenue jumped from XX% to XY%.

Other useful details to have at hand

Once all of this is said and done, there are a few more factors you might have to consider when it comes to a content marketing strategy. A one-page strategy is a great rough guide for how the business should achieve its goals, but you may end up leaving out some finer details that are required to get to the end result.

These include:

The type of content to produce

There are several different kinds of content that can be used to reach the eventual end goals.

  • Blog posts: Blog posts are an excellent way to increase search engine presence and make your business discoverable on the internet.
  • Case studies: Case studies usually coincide with testimonials and are an excellent way to let potential customers know how your customers feel.
  • Videos: Videos have risen to the top of the content marketing world because they are one of the most engaging forms of content that can be produced. According to the data presented by HubSpot, videos are 40 times more likely to get ahead on social media than other kinds of content. Granted, it needs a larger amount of investment, but it has a proportionately higher ROI.

If you want to outsource your content to an expert, find the best essay writing service through essay review and domywriting reviews online. It will help you focus on your core areas and get you better results with the help of professional online writing experts.

To sum up

A Content Management System (CMS) is a program that helps to manage all the content you create and could have a lot of bearing on how your content appears and what kind of analytics you can harvest from your visitors.

Some of the most popular CMSs out there include WordPress, Contentful and HubSpot. Your business strategy might include new ways you can use and implement a new CMS or how you can leverage the power of the old one to your advantage.

Guest Post: About the Author

Lilian Chifley is a digital marketing expert working mainly with online writing services. Her current assignments are with Assignment Masters, Dissertation writing service and Custom writing services. When she’s not at work, she loves to go out for jogging or cycling, read motivational and inspirational books and spend time with her two young daughters.

How To Optimize Your Business For The Digital Age

Nowadays, everything and everyone is digital. But how do you keep up? With a few simple tips on how to optimize your business, moving it online and utilizing the cloud for example, you can be on your way to fitting in seamlessly with today’s ‘phone-zombie’ crowd.

Be Realistic

You have to consider the pros and cons of doing a full-on move to the online world vs. just dipping your toe into the digital revolution. Not every business will need to drop everything and go entirely online, so consider the scope of your business and the degree of change which will be necessary. Taking down a checklist of your personal goals for your company, and seeing how many of these could be made easier or achieved by going online, might help – do you want to reach global customers easily and cost-effectively? A website would be a good idea. Do you want to become a quaint local business, and cater to the surrounding customers? Maybe the internet isn’t quite for you, or at least you shouldn’t put too much of your budget into building the perfect, modern website.

Consider Employees

“Employees are the backbone of your business, so you can’t make any major changes without considering them,” Charlie Miller, a marketer at Lastminutewriting and Writinity, says. “If you have a fast-paced, modern set of staff, then they will, most likely, have no problem with some hardware and software updates, and will most probably welcome the modernization. However, older and more conservative employees may be harder to convince, and need specific training or even just less change altogether in order to keep the office running smoothly.”

Plan Frugally

Of course, moving online isn’t going to be an inexpensive process, but you can make sure that your bank account takes the least amount of damage possible by planning ahead and making your budget stretch as far as possible. If you’re working with freelancers – which is a cost-effective method in itself since it eliminates a lot of the cost associated with traditionally hiring – make sure that you communicate and only hire at a reasonable rate. Hiring someone – traditionally or otherwise – to keep your finances in order might be a sensible idea, so that you don’t splash the cash and end up running low on funds for your business after a digital buzz.

Keep Security In Mind

“Although the internet is a wonderful place, it can also be very dangerous.” Izzy Hicks, a business writer at Draftbeyond and Researchpapersuk, warns. “Hackers are constantly trying to access normal people’s information, so businesses are a higher risk, higher reward target to them. If they can get into your data, which your digital transformation (if you don’t consider security) will give them more access points to, then it could be horrible for your security, and cause you to lose massive amounts of customer trust and possibly even money.” Invest in cyber-security, possibly even hiring some employees specifically for this purpose, to make sure that your digital move is secure.

Work With Your Employees

Not all employees will be as happy about the digital move as you are, so make sure that you don’t just sweep their concerns under the rug and actually deal with them head-on. Staging meetings where all employees are welcome to voice their opinions and ask any questions about the digital move which they might have. If you’re certain about the level of your digital changes, then make sure that you can bring all employees up to speed, and not just some. Everyone needs to feel welcome and like they can contribute and work with the digital changes to the office.

Automation Is Key

Once you’ve started your digital change, something you should consider is automation. Ideally, automation should be so stream-lined and smooth that a customer doesn’t even realize it exists in the first place – the difference between a human response and your automated response should be minimal at best. Emails and social media can benefit from automation, and giving your employees some training on implementing and working with automation could do your business a world of good.

Mobile

Finally, mobile phones are key. Almost everyone now carries a smartphone in their pocket everywhere they go, so you need to take advantage of that and make sure that you are catering to the huge mobile phone-using audience. Many prefer a smartphone over a laptop, so you’ll need to make sure your website is optimised for viewing on a smartphone screen, or perhaps even invest in the creation of an app (which could be commissioned by a freelancer) to appeal to this very modern, digital audience.

Guest Post: About the Author

Ashley Halsey writes professionally at Lucky Assignments and Gum Essays, while being involved in many projects throughout the country, which focus on both writing (and the English language) and business. As the mother of two beautiful children, she is well-used to working through adversity and getting her job done alongside bringing up the kids, and yet she still finds time for travelling to amazing places, reading fantastic novels and attending business training courses – her schedule is almost as busy as the creative insides of her mind, which is really saying something!

 

 

Social Media Tricks That Can Bring a Fresh Breath to Your Business

Growing your small business through social media should not be that stressful. If you know which tools to leverage and you are equipped with ample knowledge of online marketing, especially social media marketing, it will be easier to attract prospects and gain customers. Social media is a huge platform where you can promote your business in fun, simple and cost-effective ways. If you have a small business and want to conquer all social media channels, here are some social media tricks that can bring a fresh breath to your business.

Cinemagraphs

If you want to keep the interest of your prospects online, don’t bombard them with lengthy texts since they will only find these overwhelming and boring. Instead, make visual content your weapon in increasing engagement. For one, use cinemagraphs or still images with some animation. Unlike actual videos, they are very easy to make using programs like Fixel and Fotodanz. Using these apps, you can make beautiful cinemagraphs which your audience will surely find interesting and engaging.

Stock Photos

If you don’t have enough time to take your own pictures or you just want to save some bucks from hiring a professional photographer, you can always take advantage of stock photos. They can increase your business’ visual appearance and make your content more appealing. Stock photos are easy to find, save and upload to your social media page and they have the same quality as the photos taken by professionals.

Hello Bars

Also known as floating bars, hello bars are simply notification bars that prevent your visitors from being disturbed when browsing your page. These will notify your customers and prospects when you are making announcements, offering a lead magnet, showcasing more content, asking your prospects to subscribe to your email list or running a limited-time offer. By using a simple floating bar, you can easily promote your business without annoying your prospects.

Free ‘Click to Tweet’ Option

The click-to-tweet option is a good way to promote your brand and boost your sales. This is free and you can put it on your website or anywhere there is text on your page. If people like your content, they will click it and share it on Twitter, where more prospects can see it. A lot of people use Twitter and when people start sharing your content in this platform, you’ll have a higher chance of gaining customers.

Shopping on Instagram

Every month, more than 800,000 consumers use Instagram to shop and business owners around the world have been using this platform to share their products and stories. Now, you cannot just use Instagram to share content, but you can actually sell your products here. You only need the approval of Facebook shop and you can start tagging your products on your posts. This is a great way to increase your revenue since more people can now see your products and go to your website when they find any interesting item from your shop.

Killer Captions

Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, always make sure that you use killer captions. Don’t post your content right away without making an interesting caption or checking each word you wrote. If you’re not that good with wordplay, you can let your social media manager take care of it or hire a copywriter to improve your captions. Killer captions are made with some storytelling using captivating words. Just make sure the captions are free of clichés and focus on quality instead of quantity.

Catchy Hashtags

Hashtags are also a great way to increase your audience so make good use of them all the time. To garner a broad interest, use popular hashtags in your industry and include your company’s name in the list of hashtags you use. However, avoid using too many hashtags and only put relevant ones. Try to shorten your hashtags since long ones are difficult to read due to the lack of spaces.

Giveaways

Everybody loves freebies and even though giveaways are very traditional, they hardly fail marketers in boosting their sales and engagement. Because people are always on social media, it is a great place to run all these contests. Take advantage of holidays and celebrations and run a contest where you can give some nice giveaways. The rewards may come from your shop or you can also offer other appealing and valuable items. It is also a great way to thank your customers for their patronage and encourage them to buy more of your products.

Fun Facts/Inspirational Quotes

Sometimes, you can rest from posting videos and other visual content. You can also post some fun facts or memes to entertain your customers or share some inspirational quotes to cheer them up. If you’ll notice, most fitness coaches use this trick but even if you’re not in the fitness industry, you can always do this to increase engagement and motivate your customers and prospects.

Guest Post: About the Author

Lidia Hovhan is Digital Marketing expert and SEO guru. She contributes articles about how to integrate digital marketing strategy with traditional marketing to help business owners to meet their online goals. You can find really professional insights in her writings.

A Good First Website Visit: 4 Non-Negotiables You Need

Maybe you’re just about to launch your own business, and the next task on your to-do list is to set up your website. Or maybe you already have a website, but you don’t seem to be getting very many leads from it. The truth is, a good website can make all the difference to the success of your business. And by good, we mean a website that makes a favorable first impression, draws repeat visitors, and leads to increased sales. To make a good first impression, you must insist on several non-negotiable items. We can divide those items between content and design. Read on to learn more.

Content-Oriented Items

Content is king. That is, good content doesn’t guarantee a sale, but bad content invariably costs you one. Good content requires several non-negotiable items.

1.     Language

The single most important item for creating a successful first website visit is the quality of the language you use. Nothing turns off potential customers faster than the poor use of language, which includes:

  • Spelling and punctuation mistakes
  • Bad grammar and syntax
  • Clunky or run-on sentences
  • Passive voice
  • Long paragraphs with too many themes
  • Missing text elements, such as captions

2.     Ideas

The reader wants to feel assured that you are reputable, knowledgeable and worth their time. You can’t achieve this if you litter your website with problems like:

  • Factual mistakes
  • Unclear ideas
  • Unconvincing arguments
  • Unrealistic promises
  • Stupid jokes
  • Unbridled boasting
  • Lack of fresh content every week or two
  • Lack of call to action

Different websites have different purposes. If your purpose is to promote your business, your pitch has to sound convincing. Include evidence to back your arguments and by all means add footnotes and/or links to reputable sources. Humor is a great tool, but a tricky one too, so use it advisedly. Always include a call to action, perhaps backed by a free goodie, such as a special report, eBook, coupon or promotion code.

3.     Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The most important task in ensuring a good first website visit is a first website visit. Sure, you can pay for ads on Google and elsewhere. But in the long run, you’ll maximize your marketing return on investment by organically ranking high for search engine results on specific keywords. That means creating a website with authoritative content, but it also means making it easier for Google to classify your content. That’s the job of SEO, and includes:

  • Keyword research: Pick three to five keywords that express the purpose of each page on your website. You can use Google’s Keyword Planner to research the most effective keywords and the amount of competition you face for each one. Populate your website content and titles with your keywords. Use them throughout the page, but don’t overuse them.
  • Logical organization: This includes easy-to-navigate menus with well-organized items. It also includes the use of compelling titles and paragraph headings, linkages between different pages on your website, proper use of captions, and creation of a website map that the search engines can easily scan.
  • Technical items: SEO comprises many other technical issues. If you don’t have the expertise yourself, consider hiring an expert to get things right.

4. Design and Style

A well-designed website invites visitors to read the contents. Using thoughtful style elements can draw readers down the page and make information easier to comprehend. Some important items regarding design and style include:

  • Attractive theme: There are thousands of website themes available for free or at a modest cost. You can also use a website builder with built-in themes that are appropriate for your purposes.
  • Interesting style elements: These include your choice of fonts, images, graphics, colors, and on-page organization.
  • Welcoming landing page: Your home page and/or landing pages should be especially strong, with plenty of images to supplement a relatively sparse use of words. Your job is to draw visitors into your website, not bombard them with tons of information on one page.

Conclusion

A good website requires a lot of thought and a fair amount of expertise. If you don’t want to personally handle the task of creating and maintaining your website, consider hiring contractors to help you with content, design, and style.

How to Better Manage Your Online Reputation

The first page of Google results can be dangerous territory. Many web searchers never look beyond the first page when reviewing results from an inquiry. That has profound implications for your business’ reputation, because any negatives that appear on Page One will be seen by the widest audience. Even if the next two pages sing your praises, most folks never see them. So, managing your reputation on social media starts with positive entries on the first page of Google search results.

Reputation Management Firms

Reputation management outfits claim to help clients improve their reputations by suppressing negative information that shows up in response to Google searches. This means pushing unwanted results off of Page One, replacing them with favorable information. Some of these firms charge $5,000 a year and up. However, some are geared to more modest budgets, with services starting for as little as $80. It’s not our purpose to review these sites or pass on their efficacy. However, its hard to understand how the same outcomes can cover such a wide cost range.

Do It Yourself

If you are a hands-on business owner who doesn’t want to rely on a reputation management firm for results, there are plenty of things you can do yourself. These measures might not cause negative information to disappear, but they do offer you the opportunity to present a positive image to the online audience. Here are five things you can do yourself:

1.     Inquire Upon Your Company

Enter a Google search of your business name to see what come up. Also check the image results. You can set up a Google alert when any new content about your company appears. Now you know what you are dealing with and some idea of how much effort it will take to manage your reputation.

2.     Purchase Your Domain(s)

You can buy domain names for as little as $12 each. Some experts advocate you snatch up a bunch of domains, but others maintain that it’s best to buy one domain and use it to establish a good reputation. So if your business is called, say, Chocolate Beagles, you’d want to start with chocolatebeagles.com, and then perhaps get the .net version. You can branch out to chocolatebeaglesonline.com, mychocolatebeagles.com, etc. However, we recommend you start with just one domain and build it up so that it will appear on Page One for a related Google inquiry. If you feel your business name is seriously compromised, consider changing the name and starting fresh.

3.     Load Up the Content

The common phrase is that “content is king.” What this really means is that Google will reward websites that provide authoritative information. You can do this using WordPress, About.me, Tumblr, and website builders like Wix and SquareSpace. Start with general information about yourself and your company, including a discussion of your products and services. But the key is to regularly add blogs and guest articles discussing your industry and related topics in a fair, honest way. Write frequently with authority and Google should reward you. If writing isn’t your thing, hire an expert freelancer.

4.     Use SEO

SEO stands for search engine optimization. This is a collection of techniques that helps Google find, recognize and evaluate your website. These are not difficult to learn and employ, but if you don’t feel up to the task, you can use a webmaster to take care of it for you. With good SEO, you can build your brand with positive information.

5.     Scrub the Internet

Remove items on your own accounts that are causing you problems. This includes Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. You can privatize your posts and limit old posts through appropriate use of privacy settings.

Conclusion

Whether you do it yourself or pay a firm, it’s important to manage your business’ online reputation. It might not be possible to eradicate all negative information, but you can try to crowd it out with positive content that Google ranks highly. In the worst case scenario, you might want to rename your business.

10 Video Content Ideas That Work with Your Small Biz Budget

Savvy marketers know that, in 2019, video marketing simply must be a part of the strategy. To illustrate why that is, let’s take a look at a few stats: 93 percent of businesses say they’ve earned a new customer by posting a video on social media and 72 percent of users say they prefer video over text when they’re learning about a product or service. Video as a digital medium and a mode for advertising grows exponentially every year, making it a requisite for all businesses looking to position themselves for success.

With all of this in mind, it’s clear that your small- or medium-sized business could benefit greatly from integrating video into your process. But with a limited budget, is that even possible? Indeed, it is! Start by realizing that you don’t need any expensive equipment or software to shoot viral-worthy vids. In fact, you can transform your DSLR camera or iPhone into a high-tech piece of equipment by purchasing affordable video accessories to outfit your existing gear, and there are plenty of free and cheap editing programs out there.

Coupled with some of the affordable video concepts listed below, you’ll be well on your way to a successful campaign that doesn’t bog down your budget.

  1. Crowd-Sourcing Content: Basic User-Generated Videos

    Looking to produce compelling video content without actually making any videos? Here’s a tip: encourage your users to make their own vids that you can use in your campaigns. Offer an incentive to your fans to create a review, a tutorial video or a testimonial that you can then turn into its own video. Nothing’s better than word-of-mouth advertising, and this is one of the best ways to do it in the world of modern marketing, where everything’s online.

  2. Getting Personal: Meet the Team and Behind-the-Scenes

    One of the things that video marketing does especially well is helping users connect with brands, giving marketing a real, personable face and voice. Filming a few behind-the-scenes videos, such as a meet the team video or a how it’s made video, will help your viewers, fans and potential customers get a better idea about the essence and vibe of your company. Don’t forget to film an interview or a feature showcasing your founder and the origins of your brand.

  3. Brand Rep 101: Testimonials and Reviews

    Perhaps the most obvious way to use video as a marketing tool is to create content that promotes. Invite in a few of your most loyal customers or those who have seen amazing results from your product and film an interview-style video featuring their feedback. Make sure your testimonial videos are built for success: make them short, simple and authentic, and definitely don’t use a script.

  4. Educating Users: How-Tos andTutorials

    Gone are the days of in-store demos and door-to-door salesmen. These days, YouTube is all you need to explain how your product works. Have one of your most camera-ready employees film how-tos and demonstrations detailing how your product or service works. Whether you film it yourself with your iPhone (and a few essential filming accessories, of course) or have an artist create a custom animation just for you, you can count on these vids to educate and sell at the same time.

  5. NoFilmingNecessary: Webinars and Audio-Only Videos

    Naturally, with the set, the hair and makeup and the lighting, the visual component of video marketing can be hard on the budget, especially when you’re working with minimal funds. Consider recording audio only and then pairing the audio portion with still photos, screen-sharing shots and other components to provide the same enjoyable viewing experience of a regular video. This can be done relatively easy with your phone or DSLR and a camera microphone.

  6. Expert’s Circle: Interviews and In-Depth Guides

    If you want to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry (and therefore gain more leads and better brand recognition), you need to be pulling insight from the experts in the field. Cater to general searchers who are looking to learn with educational, expert-driven content that adds to a broader conversation.

  7. Live-Streaming:Day-to-Day Snippets

    No doubt about it: embedded videos and a strong presence on YouTube and other platforms are great, but you also have to make sure you’re leveraging your “one-and-done” channels, like Snapchat, Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories to get your products in front of users. Film and post everything from employee community engagement to press conferences and company networking events.

  8. Listicles: Turning Your Text Content into Compelling Videos

    You’ve probably come across short videos on Facebook and Instagram that feature still photos and video clips with text overlays, highlighting interesting facts or telling a story. This is a great format for companies that want to repurpose their existing text content into video format — listicles, tip articles and buyer’s guides can make surprisingly sharable video content.

  9. Adding Art: Animations and More

    It may be a lot cheaper and even more effective to ditch the video footage altogether. Instead, consider hiring a digital artist to create an animation or a stop-motion video highlighting your product or service. These kinds of videos tend to capture the attention of people scrolling through your feed, but they don’t require actors or a set, so they can save you a pretty penny.

  10. Influencers: Creating ‘Why We Love It’ Vids

    Finally, don’t forget to invite real, influential users to come onto your channel to help highlight why it’s worth trying your product or service. Whether you enlist a real-life user from your community or a professional influencer is up to you, but you can count on these vids ramping up your reputation and earning you more followers.

Once you start exploring, you’ll be surprised to find out how many clever video concepts you can nail without a hefty investment. It’s all about leveraging what you have around you — your existing equipment, your existing content and your video-ready team — and then dialing it up a few notches by adding the special sparkle of video. When your brand goes viral, you’ll be glad you made the effort!

Guest Post: About the Author

Ethan Long is the business development director for MovoPhoto. Before starting with them, he worked in advertising in NYC where he gained over eight years of experience in content and video marketing. In his free time, he enjoys being outside, learning new photo and videography techniques, and spending time with his wife and their dog, Rory.

Small Biz Marketing in 2019: What to Avoid

Every business owner should have marketing at the forefront of their minds. This is imperative to connect with new customers and to encourage existing customers to remain loyal.

The marketing landscaping is ever changing, and staying on top of this field is necessary to beat the competition and keep your brand relevant in your industry. In 2019, there are many new developments to stay abreast of, but even more importantly, there are four main things to avoid!

Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in 2019

Not Having a Clear Direction

In 2019, there are more marketing opportunities than ever before—from social media, traditional advertising, mailers and search engine optimization (SEO), it can be overwhelming to try and pursue every single avenue. Unfortunately, small business owners simply don’t have the financial or operational resources to compete with the big brands that dominate all marketing channels.

A smart strategy is to create a concise marketing direction annually, and carefully choose the channels you will pursue based on available resources. This will allow you to connect with your target customer base instead of spending time and money becoming diluted in many different spaces.

Not Using Analytics

It’s imperative to measure your return on investment (ROI) on any marketing strategy you invest in. This is impossible to do without measuring the analytics of every marketing goal to see how well it performed.

Having a clear objective in mind is important before implementing any marketing step. Consider whether you want to:

  • Get a certain amount of clicks on your site
  • Get a specific amount of sales
  • Get a certain amount of shares on a social media platform

Measuring the results of your strategy is necessary to minimize marketing waste and make adjustments to make it more successful.

Not Conducting A/B Testing

Not allowing your customers to choose what type of content they prefer is the third major mistake of 2019. Split testing, also known as A/B testing, allows the business two create two versions of an email, website or other content. While it can seem daunting to have to create two completely different templates, you may choose to test only the email subject line, sender address, image, font and/or content. For example, you can test what type of product images your clients react to more, or what email subject results in more readers opening an email.

Split testing allows you to poll your audience without them knowing it; their actions will dictate the more popular choice. You can test whether they prefer a statement or a question in the subject line of an email, serious or humorous content on your site, sales or new product announcements, etc.

Although split testing does not offer any guarantees, getting detailed information about what your audience prefers will help you improve your marketing strategy in the long run, leading to an increase in engagement and conversion rates.

Not Using Videos

If you are not using video as part of your marketing strategy, you may be losing up to a third of your potential visitors! Videos keep the attention of individuals up to 37% longer than other forms of advertising, which is great for engagement.

YouTube is catching up to Google as one of the world’s most popular search engines, so not investing in video marketing is just not smart! Videos allow you to interact with your customers, giving them access behind the scenes and offering product demonstrations and unboxing videos.

To truly take your business to the next level, you will need financial resources to market your brand. Remember that your competition is likely trying the same strategies you may be, so having a specialist in this area to guide you can be extremely advantageous. Let IOU Financial help you finance your business goals with a loan. We can have the money in your account in as little as 48 hours, call us today to find out more!

How to Use Instagram Stories to Engage with Your Customers

Instagram is an extremely popular social media network that over ⅛ of the world, or 7.7 billion people, is currently enjoying! It allows users to share their photos and videos, follow others and search for content based on keywords.

While Instagram is not intended specifically for business use, such as LinkedIn, all of the biggest and many of the smaller brands around the globe are seizing the opportunity to connect with a broader audience. Learning how to use Instagram stories, a great newer feature of this platform, is a proven way to engage with your customers.

Instagram Stories Explained

Instagram users are able to share content by uploading it to their profile grid, but they can also create stories, which is a feature that shows photos and videos in a bar at the top of the main feed. Unlike regular content on the feed, stories disappear within 24 hours, making it more tempting for your followers to view your stories daily, or risk the chance of never seeing them again.

When your followers open their Instagram account, they are able to see circles with the accounts they follow that uploaded an Insta-story. All they need to do to see it is to click on it to see it. In addition to uploading your content, you can add music, text, images and locations to your stories. Note that your followers can’t like or comment on stories like they can on other content.

How to Use Instagram Stories

Creating a story is extremely easy; just click the “+” sign on the top left of your screen. You will have the option to upload content from your phone or to use the camera to take a new video or photo.

The screen will provide you with the options to customize your content with filters, stickers, drawings and text. You can check analytics of who has viewed your story by clicking on it; you will be able to see every single person who saw the story, along with a total count.

Tips to Encourage Engagement with Instagram Stories

Tag Your Location

If your business has a physical storefront, make sure to tag it in every single Insta-story you create. The location tag will show up right on the story, allowing your followers to clearly see your business name.

Instagram allows users to search for companies in certain locations, such as “hair salon New York,” and is a great way to connect to a new customer base.

Add Hashtags

Hashtags are keywords that you can add to your story along with the # sign. Examples include:

  • #cheapmechanicLouisville
  • #ChineseFoodinLosAngeles
  • #trendiestshirtsonline

Instagram now allows users to search stories by hashtags, so as long as you know what keywords your customer base will use, you can attract them to your profile with your hashtags.

Use Polls

Polls are a fun feature on Instagram stories that allows you to ask your followers to vote on a certain topic. After adding a photo or video, add the “Poll” sticker to your story and write your question with two answer choices. Voters will be able to choose their selection right on your story, and you can see the answers.

This is a great way to engage with your followers and ask them what they prefer to see in your stories, what questions they may have, what products or services they are mostly interested in and more!

Instagram is a fun way for you to connect with a wide range of audience online. It can be a great marketing strategy, but since there is so much competition, it may be helpful to work with an Instagram specialist or influencer to truly make your business stand out on this social media channel.

As this takes a financial investment, you should consider a small business loan. IOU Financial is ready to fund your next loan in just under 48 hours. Click here to learn more.

6 Security Tips For Small Business Websites

Website security is something that matters just as much to any business with an online presence, though the reasons vary. An enterprise-level company has a huge amount to lose from a data leak — customers might desert it, and its reputation might be left in tatters. A small business, however, is trying to get established, and its website is key to that: should it become compromised, it might completely arrest any momentum and prove very costly to address.

If you’re running a small business website, then, it’s important that you commit the necessary time and attention to maintaining a reasonable level of security. Fail to manage it, and the consequences could be dire. Here are 6 simple tips for how you can keep on top of it:

Don’t leave passwords around the office

When you’re just starting out, or you just don’t have a large enough operation to feel like a viable target, it’s very easy to form bad habits when it comes to password security — even to the extent of leaving your admin passwords on sticky notes attached to PC displays. This is a really bad idea! At some point, you’re likely to want clients, business partners and/or prospective employees to visit your office, and you can’t afford to have them learn your login details.

A lot of businesses manage to get through the digitization process without truly grasping the basics of cybersecurity, so this is your opportunity to revisit the essentials. Sure, it’s unlikely that someone who sees your password notes will do anything with them — but if someone unscrupulous doestake the opportunity to access your system, they could blackmail you for money, or leak your data just to be vindictive. Don’t take the risk.

Update your plugins when possible

Whether they’re billed as plugins, extensions, apps, or add-ons (this will depend on the CMS you’re using), you can accomplish a great deal with plugins — they’re often free, and can add a huge amount of functionality to a small site without the budget to invest in custom development.

That said, every plugin you add constitutes a fresh security risk, because it has extensive access to the main system. If one of your active plugins got hacked, the hacker may well be able to take control of your entire website — and the longer you go without updating your plugins, the more vulnerable they become to attack.

You may be able to enable automatic updating, so consider that if it’s an option, but the only thing that ultimately matters is that you install updates when they’re available.

Use two-factor login authentication

Two-factor login authentication demands more than just a username and a password to gain access to a system — it adds a second step, usually in the form of a temporary verification code sent to a phone number or email address. Add it to your website, and you’ll make your admin dashboard far harder for hackers to access. Here’s a more extensive guide to give you pointers.

Use a website host you can trust

If you’re not running any enhanced ecommerce features, and using a popular platform like WordPress, then find a suitable host to back you up. If you’re an online merchant, that’s still a great option, though you should also consider hosted ecommerce platforms because they’re designed to scale: either WooCommerce or Shopify would be a great choice, the former being a self-hosted WordPress plugin and the latter being a paid SaaS option.

Make regular site backups

Over time, the amount you have invested in your website will inevitably go up. You’ll accrue valuable content that brings in traffic, resources that establish your expertise, and (eventually) a notable level of domain authority. Leaving aside the prospect of blackmail for a moment, you still have a lot to lose from a hack — namely, the current form of your website.

Imagine that someone gained access to your admin dashboard and deleted every post on your site, or even got into your hosting account and deleted the entire website. Would you be able to recover? If you get into the habit of making and storing full-site backups, then a hack — no matter how catastrophic — won’t be able to completely shut you down, because you’ll always be able to go back to a slightly-older version.

Follow industry news

Security demands change over time, and while some threats enter public awareness, many only get mentioned in industry publications. Even if you don’t understand the underlying principles (you may not be particularly technical), it’s worth following such publications, visiting them occasionally so you can scan the headlines.

In the event that you read about a new type of hack or fraudulent activity that’s making waves, you can take action to guard your website against it, and be more alert about possible signs of intrusion. Sites like ThreatPost and the TrendMicro Business Security blog are particularly worth checking out for small business owners.

These days, the website of any small business is its primary hub: its main platform for communicating with the world, promoting its wares, and driving interest. Given that importance, it makes no sense to give security short shrift. It needn’t be especially complicated to protect your site, so follow these tips, keep an eye on developments in the website security world, and you’ll have a stronger foundation for further growth.

Guest Post: About the Author

Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer and campaign designer for MicroStartups, a website focused on the charity world, and microbusinesses. With years of experience in the sustainability, marketing and creative the industries, Kayleigh knows how to grow a business from the ground up. Visit her blog or follow her on Twitter @getmicrostarted for the latest startup and entrepreneur-based news and tips.

How to Get Customers to Engage With Business Text Messaging

Engaging with customers is necessary to promote customer loyalty, increase sales and fight the competition. Keeping an open line of communication between your customers and your brand is important, but what is the best way to do so?

There are so many different ways to promote engagement—from online ads, social media presence, content creation and email marketing. While all of these can be beneficial in their own right, it’s surprising that business owners often overlook the most effective and least expensive way, text messaging!

Did you know that almost every single American (95% to be exact) owns a cellphone? It’s rare to see any adult, or even child, without a phone in their hands. While you have to wait for your customer to check their email or visit a social media site, a text message just pops up on their phones! This is a much faster and effective way to communicate with your clients.

Here are four proven strategies to get your customers to engage with business text messaging:

Encourage Opt-Ins

In order to utilize SMS marketing (text messaging) with your customers, you must encourage them to give you their phone number. This is usually most effective when a certain reward is offered.

For example, you can offer an exclusive discount, a special promotion, or a free product or service for signing up to your list. Alternatively, you can explain the benefits customers can expect from your text messages—such as being the first to hear about new products and sales.

Follow the Law

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is very strict when it comes to enforcing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The Act states that businesses must disclose in a “clear and conspicuous” manner the fact that they plan to text their customers if they provide their mobile numbers.

Consider adding this text anywhere you allow your customers to share their mobile numbers:

  • “By participating, you consent to receive text messages sent by an automatic telephone dialing system.
  • Consent to these terms is not a condition of purchase.”

Be very careful about following this act, because failure to do so can leave you with a hefty fine!

Create a Personalized Experience

It’s advantageous to segment your customer base by certain factors, such as age, shopping preferences, location and so on. That way, you can personalize your SMS communication based on these aspects instead of sending general texts to all of your customers.

This extra step will make your texts more valuable to your clients, and will promote their interest level in reading the texts and frequenting your business.

Insider Information

People love to feel special, so why not help them to feel like a VIP and offer them insider information via your texts? Send photos of sales racks the day before the event, share your plans for the future and pics of new merchandise before its displayed in the store.

This exclusive information will pique your clients’ curiosity, and will keep them waiting for the next text!

If you truly want to invest in your SMS marketing strategy, hiring a professional or purchasing special software can be beneficial. IOU Financial recognizes that small businesses may not have the budget for this, so we are happy to secure a small business loan for any of your needs. Contact us today to learn more!