7 Steps to Create a Content Marketing Strategy to Grow Your Small Business

Businesses thrive on smart and accurate marketing strategies. Without a good strategy, consumers will have no idea what to expect from your company. A marketing strategy will enable your company to reach your target audience and let them know that you are a viable option. This is the best way to get attention for your business and get people to buy your product or avail of your services.

Large companies have a marketing team ready to strategize and plan how they sell their business. However, smaller companies may not have access to this. Because they are operating on a smaller scale, they might not be able to afford a large team in order to boost revenue. With the dawn of social media and online resources, it has become incredibly easy for small businesses to gain a wider audience.

If you are a small business looking to get that extra boost, read on. In this article, we list down seven ways that you can grow your business. From using media platforms to creating smarter campaign strategies, we discuss all things marketing. Here are the best ways that you can elevate your content marketing game.

Understanding Your Market

Knowing who you want to sell to is the first step in order to establish your brand. This determines the look and feel of the marketing that you will be doing. If your market is composed of mostly young people, consider making your advertising material eye-catching and modern. If you’re catering to the older population, make sure that your material is clean and gets the point across quickly.

Using the Media

The media is the best way to get the word out about your budding company or startup. Because they reach out to almost all people in society, placing your business on the map is a good idea in order to get things started for you. You have the option of either using traditional or social media.

Traditional Media

Traditional media is commonly known as print ads, radio ads, and tv ads. This form of marketing is best for audiences belonging to an older age group. Because this is seen as more traditional, not many young people will be able to see your ads. However, if your market is for older individuals, this is a good way to reach out to them. Keep in mind, though, that traditional media often charges you for the ads you want to be aired. Make sure that you remain within a budget to minimize costs.

Social Media

If you’re looking to get into a younger market, social media is your best bet. Social media sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are widely-used sites by the youth. This is a great way to reach out to a younger market and get your business on the map. The best part? Using social media for your business is totally free. While there are ways to pay for a wider reach, they aren’t necessary at all.

Planning your Strategy

Planning ahead is a great way to make sure you have a solid marketing strategy. Before you even start advertising, make sure you have a month’s content ready to publish to avoid dead air. This is the perfect time to plan out branding as well. Planning ahead can be what makes or breaks your future as a business, so make sure to take the time to plan it well.

Influencers

Some businesses reach out to influencers to boost their reach. This is a strategy typically done by businesses that target a younger audience. Because influencers have a wide reach, their influence can mean big things for your company.

When dealing with influencers, always make sure that the terms are clear. Some influencers ask for a payment, while others are happy with receiving a free sample of your product. Make sure that your budget is enough before reaching out to influencers.

Promos and Bonuses

If you want to give a good impression to your potential buyers, try starting a promo in your opening week. This can get people talking about your company and attract potential customers. Whether it’s a giveaway or a discounted price, people will surely be more likely to have an interest in your company. This is also a good way to establish good relations with your client base.

Have a Clear Schedule

Success doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes, your most loyal clients will discover your company a week or even a month into launching. In order to make sure you are seen, stick to a strict schedule. It doesn’t need to be daily, but make sure you’re marketing your company a few times per week. This can boost your chances of being seen and allow customers to flow in.

Invest in a Marketing Team

When you’ve already grown as a company, consider investing in a team that will handle all your marketing needs. It doesn’t have to be a large team composed of 20 people. It can be a small group that’s dedicated to getting your company on the map. By having a dedicated team, marketing will go efficiently and will yield greater results.

Conclusion

In this day and age, the competition in the business sector is high. With these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to stay afloat and stand out in the sea of competitors. Slowly but surely, you’ll be seeing your business grow soon enough.

Guest Post: About the Author

Laura Garber is a professional writer and career coach. She has led so many people to success and has helped achieve her dreams by helping them craft their resumes. If you are looking for someone who can do your resume in a professional style, she’s the best there is.

How to Increase eCommerce Sales for Retail Stores

Starting and running an eCommerce business is never easy unless you put in place the right strategies. In the eCommerce world, opportunities are less and competition high, and you, therefore, need to do things differently to enrich your site’s shopping experience. Increasing sales is a crucial goal for all enterprises, but it requires both dedication and effort. Here are various tips to help you boost sales and run a successful online retail business.

Optimize your site

You only have a few seconds to grab customers’ attention once they land onto your site. Therefore, invest in quality product images, make your site responsive, and quick to load. 

Also, make the shopping process seamless and eliminate any unnecessary steps during the checkout. Use the necessary tools to improve your clients’ details security. Cloud computing is cheaper, and it will also help you access customer data to help understand their needs better.

You may also want to consider search engine optimization to reach a wide range of potential clients. To achieve this, do keyword research to determine how clients search for your products online. You can then include the appropriate title tags, keywords, body copy, and image alt tags.

Enable Mobile Shopping

Ensure that your site is well-optimized for the mobile phone application. Most clients, especially millennials, love shopping from their phones or tablets. You can also consider building a mobile app to improve customer experience, which will boost sales. Further, run mobile-specific adds on Facebook to help direct potential clients to your product page.

Automate your Email Marketing

Emailing is one of the most effective online marketing strategies that give you a chance to engage with your target clients easily. However, automation will help boost your marketing campaign and smoothen the process further.

You can use pre-set triggers to send timely messages to your clients. For example, if a client abandons their cart, he will receive an automatic email to encourage him to complete the transaction. As soon as a potential client trips an online trigger, he will receive an email inviting them to check out the products.

Offer more Discounts

Everyone loves getting good deals, and discounts are thus a great way to improve sales. Use regular offers to trigger inactive leads and keep previous buyers engaged. The more you give away, the more prospects will perceive your brand, resulting in more sales. Include some gifts in your business financial plan, use them to improve people’s perception of your products, and it may boost your profit margins shortly.

Discounts act as an excellent method to introduce your products to people and tempt them to purchase more. Also, reward your repeat clients by offering a loyalty program where you give them some points to enjoy more products, free shipping, or discount coupons. Further, you can include a free shopping promotion.

Active Engagement on Social Media

Social media advertising is a great way to drive visitors to your site and convert them into paying customers. Use multiple social media channels like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter to reach out to a million users interested in your products.

Target different people with varying ads to reach out to a specific customer base. Also, remain active across various platforms to grab your target customer’s attention. Engage your followers by answering all questions concerning your products and following up referrals.

Ensure Excellent Customer Support

To stand out in the competitive market, you need to deliver exceptional customer service. Set aside a reliable help desk to respond to your customer’s concerns swiftly. Your level of service significantly affects your business sustainability, and you may want to avail of various mediums in which clients can reach out to you.

Invest in a customer service technology like live chat or chat both to help in engagement automation in context chats. It will help push the client to ask questions, which may boost conversion rates by creating a great shopping experience.

Summary

If you experience slowing or stagnating sales, you need to adopt new strategies to market your products. Create a secure website, offer a lot of promotions, get active on social media, and optimize your site for mobile devices. The above guideline aims at shining light on how to increase eCommerce sales.

Guest Post: About the Author

Emily Lamp is a professional writer, working closely with many aspiring thinkers and entrepreneurs from various companies. She is also interested in technology, business growth and self-improvement. Say hello to Emily on Twitter @EmilyLamp2.

4 Ways Seasonal Businesses Can Strive for Success

Summer is nearly in full swing, and although it’s a bit different than usual, consumers are still looking to get out, try something new and spend money on experiences at seasonal businesses. Abiding by local regulations and navigating the ever-shifting landscape COVID-19 has thrown the brick-and-mortar space a challenge. However, the time is here to shake off the dust and take advantage of the summer because whether you own an ice cream stand, a marina, or boardwalk t-shirt shop catering to tourists, your season is limited.

Though you could dwell on the current circumstances, as a business owner, you understand every day is a new mountain to climb and these current times are just a tougher hand of cards you’ve been dealt with. So, what’s it going to be? If you’re looking to cash-in on your hand, read along for a few helpful tips and ways your business can strive for success during this summer period.

Stay Organized

Staying organized is something that every business owner would like to do. Having everything neatly aligned, shipments coming in on time, a clean shop and inventory always in stock can be seen as a dream for many, but you know that all is likely just too good to be true. So what are a few ways you can keep your business organized during this peak season?

  • Go paperless
  • Track time spent on tasks
  • Use mobile banking

You may already incorporate these tips into your day-to-day, but with a little fine-tuning, your business could be running even better and more efficiently. The benefits of going paperless are numerous and can even be financially fruitful and serve as an added safety measure. Keeping track of your time and managing resources based on the importance of tasks will not only help you work more efficiently but also being sure things are completed in the correct order.  When it comes to finances, choosing a small business bank can be the key for easily organizing your business’ invoices, payments, and deposits among other business necessities. Staying organized can come in several forms, so finding your unique pain points and identifying ways around them are paramount to succeeding.

Have a Plan

The SBA reports that over 80% of small businesses survive their first year, while 30% survive their 10th. As a seasonal business owner, you know your window for success is much shorter than the usual calendar year, sometimes only a handful of months. One sure-fire way to keep your business on the right path is a solid business plan. For a refresher on how to draw up a business plan, read more here. But, keep in mind that though a business plan is great, having the flexibility to alter it due to extreme circumstances is a must. For example, just because you are a sit-down restaurant doesn’t mean you should solely focus on people dining in, especially during these times. What are a few ways you can pivot from your initial business plan and stay relevant?

  • Offer take-out service
  • Re-arrange your space
  • Use online reservations for minimal contact

Your business plan is meant to be a guide toward success, but it shouldn’t be the end all be all. Adapting to the times, and making positive changes in the wake of unseen situations or altering landscapes can be the difference between your business getting ahead or being left in the past.

Be a Team Player

As an owner of a seasonal business, you’ve likely worked some long hours in non-peak season times by yourself. Transitioning to the height of your busy season after a long time off can be a change in itself, but one that is necessary. As the owner, especially if you are in a resort town, the ability to work and cater to an ever-changing customer market is a key to earning repeat customers.

For domestic travelers in the U.S in 2019, according to the U.S Travel Association, over 50% of vacation spend went toward food services, retail, recreation/amusement, and lodging, all sectors that cater to seasonal businesses. With so many travelers spending on experiences, you will want to make sure you not only keep a positive reputation in your town but also deliver a great product while you have them. Going the extra mile to please visitors can lead to a positive Yelp or TripAdvisor review and a lasting impression that will keep them coming back again and again.

Stay Top of Mind

With a short window to succeed for the year, staying top of mind is vital to capitalizing on customers visiting your seasonal business. When it comes to staying top of mind, you will want to be sure you are connecting with past customers or potential customers in as many ways as possible. If you have data from past customers, taking advantage of email marketing with Mailchimp can be a great touchpoint to keep prior customers updated on everything from upcoming deals, hours, or just general announcements pertaining to your business. If this isn’t the case, there are plenty of other ways to get your business in front of the eyes of customers.

  • Instagram ads
  • Facebook ads
  • Local radio ads

Getting your product or service in front of customers on social media can be a great, low-cost option for advertising. Take some time to get familiar with advertising on Facebook and features such as targeting your ads around travelers to a certain area between specific dates. Or, you could utilize the local radio station that visitors will be using while driving or checking the village news. Striking the chord between eye-catching creative and ads that are set up well can help you boost your brand’s awareness and drive more traffic to your seasonal business.

Conclusion

Running a seasonal business is no easy task, deadlines are shorter, the stakes are higher, but the fruits of all your work can be astronomical. Striving for success can lead to many seasonal business owners to focus on working harder rather than smarter and eventually lead to burnout. With a few smart steps, you can get your seasonal business moving in the right direction and maximizing your potential in no time.

5 Small Business Marketing Tips to Implement During COVID-19

Covid-19 has resulted in drastic changes in human life and socio-economic culture. The virus started spreading in December 2019, has resulted in the close-down of almost every country around the globe. The world is adapting towards the unprecedented situation, yet the loss it has caused to humanity, as well as the economy, is enormous.

Countries such as the United States, Italy, and Australia have suffered severely, along with multiple other countries, resulting in an unstable economy worldwide. More than 30 billion US citizens have been unemployed since the outbreak of the pandemic, and the number doesn’t seem to stop anytime soon.

All types of businesses, including the small scale, have suffered badly due to the spread of Coronavirus. The unavailability of resources and funds have caused multiple business owners to shut their businesses temporarily or permanently.

Some of the business owners think they will eventually have to shut down if the situations continue to persist. This tough time requires a bit of adaptability and reprioritization in your business models. The following are the 5 marketing tips for your small business that you can implement.

Adapt and Adjust your Marketing Strategy

Initially, most of the countries and citizens were in denial of the severity of this situation; however, over time, people have realized how crucial a time it is. Due to this, people are now adapting to the new “normal.” The new normal includes contact-less interactions, social distancing, and minimal exposure to the outside world.

Because of this, your business strategies must alter and adjust according to the new normal. You must be considerate of your situation around and change your content accordingly. You can experiment with the content and posting. Now that the lifestyles have changed, there is a change in trends and types of content as well.

Now is the Time to Show Empathy

The world is facing a tough time, and everyone needs a little bit of kindness. It is important that you, as a brand, must provide support towards the clients and audience. Whatever scenario that you might’ve faced during the pandemic, be sure to spread positivity, strength, and awareness through your platforms.

In the previous few weeks, we have seen a massive shift in several brand’s messages, where they stopped their usual functions and started to help out the community with the COVID-19 crisis. Multiple businesses donated a part of their sales for the relief, food delivery services delivered food for free to those in need, clothing brands such as Adidas, LV, etc. started producing masks for people to stay safe.

No matter how small your cause is, be sure to spread empathy and kindness even in your content. Being blinded towards the situation is not a good strategy to follow in such circumstances.

It is important to focus on your relationship with your current customers. A relationship with your audience can help you gain customer loyalty and trust for the long term. You can stay connected with your audience through:

  • Emails
  • Updating website
  • Informative live sessions and chat

Pivot Your Business

Pivoting your business is not easy, however, if the situation demands it, then you must think of ways how you can continue your service while being considerate. Think of ways to facilitate your clients to avail of your services during such a time.

For example, if you are a retail store, then you must shift to an e-commerce platform to facilitate the customers. You must also keep the virtual audience engaged during this time and not ghost them.

If you have introduced a new aspect to your business model, then make sure to communicate it to your audience and create content around it.

  • Create an online presence if you have not already
  • Build a Multi-vendor marketplace
  • Share useful and relevant information
  • Promote your services through social media campaigns
  • Introduce people to “behind-the-scenes” of your business

Work on Marketing Strategy

The situation around the globe is unexpected, and every day is a new day. Staying aware of the current situation and working on your marketing strategies to fulfill the need of the hour is important.

Stay ahead and try to work around the new strategy to follow. For example, if you have both physical and online stores, now is the time to focus more on your online platforms, promote them, advertise them, and streamline the processes.

Take this time as an opportunity to work on your website’s SEO, ranking, visuals, and inventory management. You can also look for ways to ensure contact-less, safe, and secure delivery for your audience.

Be there for your team members and employees, and guide them towards what can be done next. Now is the time to actively take action while making smart moves. Your new strategy must depend on the type of business. However, a few suggestions are:

  • Help others through your services
  • Paid ads are cheap these days, make use of them
  • Offer online webinars, sessions, classes

Partner With Other Business

Another strategy to follow in the times of COVID-19 is to collaborate with another business to help with the loss of sales or for a better cause. For example, partnering with a clothing brand for the production of masks or with any medical facilitators can help both the entities involved.

You can use your digital platform to raise awareness and help facilitate a cause. Multiple social media influencers used their platforms to raise awareness about Coronavirus precautions in collaboration with the World Health Organization and government.

There can be multiple ways to collaborate with another brand. An example of such a partnership is; Metro Bis is a restaurant in Connecticut, partnered up with several grocery stores and prepared meals that were available at the grocers to help overcome the loss they faced due to the lockdown.

Other examples of such partnerships can be coaxial cable businesses offering discounted prices to internet providers during the pandemic, delivery services collaborating with e-commerce platforms to expand services whereby helping businesses. Get creative in how you reach customers.

Guest Post: About the Author

Arslan Hassan is an electrical engineer with a passion for writing, designing, and anything tech-related. His educational background in the technical field has given him the edge to write on many topics. He occasionally writes blog articles for Shireen Inc.

How Email Marketing Can Increase Small Business SEO

Digital marketing is a blanket statement used to categorize all types of marketing that happen via digital and internet-enabled devices. Ideally, every digital marketing campaign should incorporate every possible channel to maximize its return. Each channel works differently in how they reach out and engage with customers, but using them together is the best way to get the best out of their individual and collective efforts.

Unfortunately, when it comes to small business marketing, many brands either employ one channel or use a number of them independent of each other. Some of them think the aim should just be about keeping their branding and messaging efforts consistent with each channel.

What is needed is a symbiotic approach. Granted, the immense mutual benefits that having all these channels brings aren’t usually evident right off the bat. But this doesn’t mean that these advantages do not already exist from the beginning. This is especially true in the case of SEO and email.

These channels are among the biggest digital marketing routes, and understanding their mutual relationship can kick things up for your marketing significantly. We have outlined a few ways in which your email marketing strategies can rub off on your small business SEO efforts in the right way.

Emails help you achieve your SEO goals by bringing in qualified traffic

The ultimate objective of SEO marketing is to bring in more customers, and consequently, more revenue. Email can rake in massive traffic to your website — especially if you have a massive email list — like no other marketing channel. And not just any kind of traffic, but qualified traffic; people that have a higher propensity to follow through and convert after reading your email.

This ability is down to how effective personalization is with emails. Personalization allows marketers to send subscriber-specific emails and newsletters to everyone on their email list. When a customer knows that an email was crafted specifically for them and their interests, the potential for a click-through from them shoots up significantly.

If you haven’t started doing this yet, it’s thankfully not that difficult to get started. The first thing you should do is to segment your email list according to subscriber interests. For instance, writing service review companies like Best Writers Online and Online Writers Rating can categorize their email subscribers according to the type of writing service they need. Options include research papers, dissertations, essays, and paper writing.

This way, when they review new writing services, they can notify the different segments of their email list about only the writing services that align with their interests. The ability for an email to bring in this traffic lessens the burden on SEO and enables it to meet its target faster.

Email traffic will boost engagement on your site

No one wants visitors who hop on their site and then go off as quickly as they came. A huge factor that causes this is a disinterest in your site’s resources, content, product, or service offerings. Of course, this means that such visitors are not targeted, high-quality traffic.

However, with your email list, you can solve this problem somewhat. The traffic coming from your highly personalized emails are already interested in your offering and content. This interest causes them to spend more time engaging with your site’s resources. This can only be a good thing for your SEO needs. An average longer site visit and a lower bounce rate help your website rank better on search results pages. No one is sure how important these metrics are to ranking a website, but they certainly do not hurt your chances of ranking.

So even though these site visitors are coming from your email list, they are helping you boost your positioning for keywords. Generally, as long as you remain efficient at driving the right subscribers to the right content, your visibility on search engines can only continue to grow. Essentially, your email marketing will continue to make your SEO efforts and entire small business marketing look good.

Use data from your email testing to plan your on-site content strategy

When it comes to emails, a marketer’s job is never really done. It is common practice for email marketers to tweak the emails continually they send to their list to see which iteration converts the most. And there’s a lot to tweak and test: subject lines, tone and length of copy, CTA, personalization, sender name, target audience, sender’s name, and landing page, among other things.

Besides better conversion, another benefit of continuous testing is that you’re garnering a huge bank of data and insights from the results of your testing. These insights can be employed in your other digital marketing channels to significant effect.

For instance, let’s say that during your testing, you notice that your subscribers responded favorably to a particular email newsletter headline, you may want to consider using that as the title for the corresponding on-site page or to use it as a title for a related article. You may also discover that a particular call-to-action is responsible for a considerable majority of clicks. Consider using such a CTA all over your website, especially the home page.

The good thing about using these insights is that they come from your email list, which is an already proven customer base. So essentially, you’re planning your content strategy with reliable data. This method of “email marketing SEO” helps to draw a connecting bridge that can carry the successes of your email marketing planning over to your SEO efforts.

Repurpose your high-value emails and newsletters as content for your site

Coming up with original, new, and valuable content consistently is sometimes tricky, even for the best marketers. One way to keep delivering content to your email subscribers is to curate some of the best content from within your industry that is relevant to their interests. Use emails to send these posts across to your subscriber lists.

You could also focus on finding gaps in the way your industry talks about pertinent industry-specific issues. Then address these gaps in your emails.

But what if it is site content that is your problem, and not email content? It is still essentially the same problem — a content problem. It can even be solved with a combination of curated and original content. However, another huge source of site content could be your emails. At this point, you’ve probably already sent a lot of high-value content to your subscribers via email. Consider repurposing these topics for your blog and resource pages. Besides, emails can only be so long. Making your emails and newsletters into full-blown high-quality site content not only gives your site more SEO juice, but it also gives you an avenue to expand on relevant information in a way that emails do not allow.

Encourage your subscribers to share your content on social media

If your subscribers connect with your content, they’ll most likely have no problem sharing it on their social media. But asking for the share through your emails allows them to share socially through your marketing campaign.

Google has come out to say that social media shares do not directly help site ranking. Still, a rise in social visibility positively impacts your SEO and improves search visibility, as this Hootsuite study reveals.

Conclusion

As I stated earlier in the article, digital marketing channels are best deployed to complement each other. Don’t be deceived if these channels look unrelated at first glance; the real gem is beneath the surface. Using the small business marketing advice on this list will put you in good standing with your subscribers, and with Google’s rankings and search visibility.

Guest Post: About the Author

Aaron Swain is a writing specialist. He is passionate about marketing and SEO. He expands and improves his skills throughout the writing process to help and inspire people.

13 Ways to Market a Local Small Business

Small businesses with a physical brick-and-mortar presence have a unique opportunity to promote their goods and services while leveraging their reach in the local community. These 13 local marketing ideas will get you more involved in your town and gain more visibility for your small business.

Form Alliances with Neighborhood Businesses

Consider teaming up with a neighbor business to cross-promote and maximize your reach. Create partnerships with multiple businesses that offer customers incentives for shopping at each of your alliance businesses.

Join Your Local Chamber of Commerce

Local Chambers of Commerce provide a number of benefits for small business owners, including providing networking opportunities, giving businesses visibility in the community, and bringing credibility to your business and your expertise in your industry.

Send Press Releases to Local Media

Local newspaper reporters are always looking for newsworthy items to feature in articles. Use press releases to notify the media about new and interesting things happening in your business.

Use Social Media

Social media sites can give local businesses an extended reach to the local market. Take time to create and update business profiles on Facebook, Google+ and Google Places, Foursquare, and Yelp so customers can find your business when searching online.

Leverage Online Review Sites

Customers share their shopping experiences — positive and negative — on various online review sites. You can maximize exposure on these sites and manage any less-than-great reviews by creating official profiles and checking for feedback on a regular basis.

Provide Freebies or Giveaways

Regardless of what type of business you have, there are “freebies” you can offer to draw in new customers. You don’t have to give away the store or even anything with a high cash value, but small things like coupons, samples, and free consultations can attract the interest of customers looking for a deal.

Advertise Where It Counts

Local businesses have several options when it comes to advertising — newspapers or town newsletters, radio, billboards, in-store ads, even online advertising works for some local businesses. Before investing in any advertising, though, take time to determine which option will reach the largest portion of your target audience.

Host an Event

Get your name in front of potential customers in the community by offering free events such as workshops, classes, or networking events.

Use Printed Marketing Collateral

Small business owners can get customers to think about their businesses repeatedly by strategically using business cards, postcards, flyers, brochures, and other printed marketing materials.

Sponsor Local Youth Sports Teams

Donate to a local youth sports team or charity event to get your name included in the program, on apparel, and other places where it will lend visibility in the community.

Optimize for Mobile Shoppers

Many people shop locally with their mobile devices in-hand to find stores, check deals, and compare prices. Don’t miss out on an opportunity by neglecting your mobile presence.

Encourage Shoppers to Join Your Email List

Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch with customers long after they have left your store. Make it easy for customers to sign up for your email list while they’re in your store. Consider offering an incentive such as a discount or a special offer upon sign up to generate interest.

Use Your Website Wisely

You may have a small-town business, but there are still many ways to leverage a strong web presence. At a minimum, make sure your website is updated frequently, includes your address and hours, and provides multiple ways for customers to contact you. If you have a service-based business, you may even consider incorporating an online booking tool into your website to make it easy for customers to schedule appointments.

Pick one or two of the marketing ideas above to get started, give them a try, and see what impact it has on your business.

Guest Post: About the Author

Alana D. Frazier is a copywriter at paper writing service. She is fond of learning something new so that she tries to keep up with advancing technologies. Additionally, she attends different conferences and presentations to improve her skills.

Relationship Marketing — What is it and How Can You Use It?

Does your marketing process create long-term relationships with your customers, or do you instead focus on getting the sale and moving on to the next prospect?

There’s a lot of value in building strong relationships. They enable you to spend less time and money on new customers, and it maximizes the value of the ones you have. And customer retention makes a big difference in your bottom line; a retention increase of 5% can increase revenue 25-95%.

What is relationship marketing and how can you take advantage of it to improve your return on marketing investment? Here’s what you need to know.

What is Relationship Marketing?

Relationship marketing is designed to foster long-term engagement, interaction, and loyalty with customers. You want to develop strong relationships by personalizing your marketing approach and meeting their needs as directly as possible.

This relationship is created at the beginning when a prospect is just becoming aware of your brand, and it is fostered through and after the sale. Excellent customer service is a crucial component, as many people leave a company, not because of an inferior product, but because of a poor experience.

Businesses can use a variety of technologies to facilitate the relationship, from social media outreach to email marketing. The data created from these interactions has to be analyzed so your brand can keep pace with how people are reacting to your messages. The key is to deeply understand your customer —  when you know exactly who they are and what their most significant needs are, you can construct highly personalized marketing that helps them feel connected to you.

Understand Your Current Brand Loyalty

The starting place for any relationship marketing program is to know where you are now. Hopefully you already have a strong brand that engenders loyalty, but if you don’t, you can learn how to create one. Understand the psychology behind what makes customers loyal to your brand, and make a plan to move in that direction. Do you currently have a customer loyalty program? If you do, how well is it working? What feedback are you getting from customers who use it— and who stop using it?

Finally, what does your current customer churn look like? Today’s big data and technology mean that you can see this at a very detailed level without much effort. You can not only see what happened in the past but predict what your churn levels will be going forward. Once you’ve gathered data on where you currently are, it’s time to use relationship marketing to improve loyalty and customer retention.

Use Data to Personalize Your Approach

You already understand precisely who your customers are; now it’s time to be deeply personalized in your approach. People crave a unique experience that feels like you know them personally. Companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu do big business by using individual customer history to recommend future purchases.

A personalized experience helps a prospect bond to your company and trust you more strongly. They believe that you understand their needs,  and they are more receptive to hearing your ideas on how to meet those needs. This trust is the beginning of a relationship, and when you keep your communication consistent, that connection deepens over time.

Create Compelling Content

Part of building a relationship with your customers involves not continually focusing on the sale. You want to bring them into your brand story and help them to see a more personal view of your company. For instance, Marriott advertised in 2017 on Snapchat with “Snapisodes” that highlight a variety of travel destinations. Of course, they hope you’ll book with them when you travel, but the marketing itself isn’t a sales pitch. It’s educational and informative and helps build the relationship young people have with the brand.

As another example, Zappos uses their “Beyond the Box” page as a newsroom of behind-the-scenes content, including a story about an employee determined to live their best life despite cancer.

These stories aren’t direct sales pitches, but they are emotional, compelling snapshots that help readers feel more connected to the brand.

Make Your Sales Process Efficient and User-Friendly

When people are ready to buy, you don’t want to put any obstacles in their path. Be sure you’re aware of the user experience on your website and throughout the sales process. Smooth user experience will reinforce the sale and increase your profitability.

You also need to make sure your behind-the-scenes processes are efficient, from the sale to customer service. Customer service is especially important because a poor experience here can undo all the hard work you’ve put into building your customer relationship. With an easy-to-use sales process and great post-purchase support, you can win a customer for life.

Maintain Your Relationship After the Sale

The biggest goal of relationship marketing is to maintain your connection to a customer after the initial sale. When an existing customer makes a second, third, or further purchase, they often spend more money. You also don’t have to spend all the marketing time and money on winning those subsequent purchases.

Existing customers aren’t just valuable because of the additional buying they do, but also because of the advocacy they can provide for your brand. A happy customer will talk to friends and family about your products and encourage them to buy as well.

A great customer relationship pays significant dividends over the long term. That’s why you can’t afford to focus on single-transaction marketing. Start building relationships today!

Guest Post: About the Author

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

Guide to Marketing Your Small Business

When you run a small business, you may not have as much money in your budget to work with as you would like.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you should cut your marketing expenses when funds are tight.

As a small business owner, marketing is one of your most valuable tools. As such, it is one that should never be neglected. While you may not have the money to run multi-million-dollar campaigns, there are marketing methods that are affordable on even the tightest of budgets.

If you are looking to get the most out of a limited marketing budget, keep reading to discover some helpful tips in this guide to marketing your small business.

Get a Clear Picture of What You Can Afford

If you know that you have a limited marketing budget but don’t know exactly how much you can afford to spend, now is the time to crunch some numbers. Before you dive into creating a campaign, you need to figure out exactly what you can (and can’t) afford.

Coming up with a marketing budget can be tricky. If this is something that you are struggling with, talk to your accountant. They’ll run the numbers for you and help you determine how much money you can afford to invest in your business’ marketing efforts.

Create an Elevator Pitch

As a business owner, you should be marketing all the time regardless of where you are. That’s where your elevator pitch – a short statement intended to engage someone and pique their interest in your products or services – comes in.

According to a study conducted by Microsoft, the average human attention span is a mere eight seconds. In other words, you only have eight seconds to engage someone and make them want to know more about your business. From there, you only have around a minute to sell them on your service or product and make them want to buy.

In short, you need a killer elevator pitch.

If you are good with words, writing your own pitch is your best bet. If it’s something you struggle with, though, paying a professional writer to help you out is well worth the investment. A solid elevator pitch is something that you’ll use time and time again, and the return on your investment will be huge.

Invest in the Right Swag

When you are working with a limited budget, trying to market your business with wholesale hats or t-shirts might seem out of the question. Hear us out, though.

While the initial cost of investing in branded swag for your business may seem out of reach, there are ways to make this type of marketing more affordable. And using the right promotional items can provide a huge return on your investment.

Buying customized pens or keychains has a smaller upfront investment than buying t-shirts or hats, but think about what usually happens to those items. They end up in junk drawers or trash cans and are never seen or thought about again.

Something like a hat or t-shirt, on the other hand, is likely to be used time and time again. If you buy wholesale blank t-shirts and print your logo on them, every time someone wears one, they become a walking billboard for your business. The number of impressions that can be made by a single hat or tee is huge, so this type of swag offers a lot of bang for its buck.

If you can’t afford to pay for custom-printed apparel or accessories for your business, there are ways to make it more affordable. You could, for example, buy wholesale blank t-shirts and customize them yourself using iron-on vinyl decals. Another option? If you have a friend or associate with a screen printing or embroidery shop, see if they would be willing to customize your blank hats or shirts in exchange for the products or services your business offers.

Embrace Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is huge, and it should be a part of every small business owner’s overall marketing strategy. When you consider the fact that email marketing has an average return on investment of $38 for every $1 spent, there is no denying that money spent on digital marketing is money well spent.

Email isn’t the only option, though.

Search engine optimization, online advertising campaigns, social media marketing, etc. can all help you build awareness of your brand and connect with your target audience. Don’t try tackling it all on your own, though. Working with a marketing agency is well worth the investment. Keep in mind, too, that most agencies offer service packages at various price levels to make it possible for even smaller businesses to afford their services.

Build Relationships

Consumers don’t want to be sold to. They want to have meaningful relationships with companies that provide the products and services they need. Rather than inundating members of your target audience with advertisements and marketing materials, get to know them. Provide them with valuable resources that will help them out without costing them a single penny.

Keep in mind, too, that keeping customers is less costly than acquiring new ones. Make customer retention a primary focus in your business. Keep your current customers happy, and give them an incentive to share your business with their family and friends. Treat people the way you would like to be treated, and you will likely see an uptick in your revenue.

Conclusion

You don’t have to have a multi-million-dollar budget in order to successfully market your small business. As you can see, there are all sorts of affordable marketing methods that will enable you to build brand awareness, gain new customers, and keep existing ones without spending a small fortune. You may need to get creative, but you can market your company on even the tightest of shoestring budgets.

Guest Post: About the Author

Brenda Kimble is a writer and stay-at-home mother of two daughters and a son, plus their beagle named Duke! In her free time, she loves crafting, spending time with her family, and writing for companies. She also enjoys strolling the streets of her quaint neighborhood in Austin, Texas to find the trendiest hot spots for fashion, food, and live music.

How To Recover From A Sudden Fall In Web Traffic

One of the things no one likes to see when logging into their Google Analytics account is that their website traffic is in decline. Especially if it seems to be completely out of the blue, and very suddenly. There is no reason to start panicking yet, and you should be aware that any feedback, even the negative one can be helpful, and actually turn out to be a great way to improve. If you’ve noticed such a decline, it simply means it is high time to perform another SWOT analysis of both your brand and its website. Follow these guidelines and find your weaknesses in order to level up! 

Double-check the data

Before starting with the damage control process, you need to make sure you are dealing with the correct and up-to-date data. There is always a possibility that the latest upgrade has altered the status, so the first step is to log into your admin account and inspect the code to check for any delays in the reporting of data. Imagine that, you may not even have the problem! You can do this by entering the control/command + F, and search for the analytics section. If your code is not altered and there is no missing data, it’s time to see what’s caused the drop.

A more thorough analysis of the data can be done with the help of the search console. Google is offering this option for the fastest tracking of errors, in order to improve your website’s user experience. The next step is to check the ranking of your targeted keywords, so you can optimize them better if needed. You can even check for any other websites that are proving a link to your site by choosing the “Search Traffic” option. External links are important, but the internal linking structure maybe even more. You don’t want users to have any error messages due to some broken links, which may be the cause of the fall. Now, when you’ve gathered this information, you are ready for the next step.

Check for Google penalties

There are numerous messages from Google which can help you see the problem. So, if your website has been violating some of the recommended rules and regulations, Google has reserved the right to give you a penalty. Don’t worry, if this is the case, there are some things to do about it, and get the said penalty removed, bringing your traffic to the original levels. One of the most common reasons for the violation is the omission factor. By using this phrase, Google is telling you that your website has weak links in the code.

For example, your website may be prone to some processes that are not in your control, which can not be a good thing. Remember that Google is trying to warn you because if not in compliance with all the regulations, your website can be an easy target to be hacked. And everything you’ve been building and working on can be lost, not even to mention that you’d be risking your visitors’ personal information and IP addresses. You need to make sure that your site doesn’t support or allow any type of spam content, whether from users, or some other hack-related problem.

This is only one of the reasons why it’s highly recommended to hire a service of a digital marketing agency to help you track the regulations and any irregularities. Furthermore, investing in SEO services will result in better on and off-page optimization, preventing most of these issues. The experts can read into the results faster, and there are whole teams of people dedicated to specific areas, who have already dealt with similar issues, meaning they will know what is the priority. They can also help you in the analysis of your competition, checking for any negative mentioning of your brand.

Pinpoint the major problems

It is true that the website is losing traffic, but it can’t possibly be the whole thing. Meaning, there must be certain pages or keywords that are declining in a number of clicks. You must identify them precisely, and track these changes. Change the date range in order to see if the decline is steady, and compare the results for several time intervals. This will help you put the things in perspective, and gain some valuable input. Perhaps it’s time to alter the targeted keywords, or add some new ones!

If you have established that the penalty was given, check for other search engines to confirm this. So, if your ranking hasn’t dropped on, for example, Yahoo browser, there is your confirmation. There are two types of penalties and you’ll have to deal differently with algorithmic and manual penalties. Check for the Manual Actions field in the Search Traffic option to see if you have any messages. Any duplicate content or unnatural links can be considered a threat, and you need to remove it as soon as possible.

Damaging reviews and misleading content

Consider the possibility that there is a decline in your website traffic due to some bad publicity stunts created by your competition. Or maybe one of your customers was not satisfied with your service, and it turns out they have a blog, vlog or are popular influencers. People are following the trends and listening to reviews of “relevant” others, so check for anything that could’ve caused the problem, as you may be able to fix it. Brand awareness is crucial in business, but it can be a double-edged sword.

The public perception of your brand is hard to establish but quite easy to destroy. Negative reviews can follow you for a long period of time, and they will drive away potential customers. And not only from your website but from your brand completely. Don’t put yourself in such a risk, and work hard to get to the bottom of it, if this is the case. Try to find the source of these negative reviews and offer a formal apology, along with a gift in merchandise, service or discounts for future cooperation.

Conclusion

There are plenty of reasons and causes for the fall in traffic, and for each of those numerous variables to consider. The best you can do in order to solve the problem is to investigate all the data thoroughly and invest in a professional service to help you speed up the analysis. Whatever the reason behind the decline, you ought to approach the problem systematically and without any panic moves. Be aware that there is a real possibility that traffic simply fluctuates if you can’t find a problem in your code or any other sources we’ve mentioned. You can always use this situation to improve your business in general, and maybe even find out about new methods and strategies you can apply to grow traffic.

Guest post: About the Author

Nick is a blogger and a marketing expert currently engaged in projects for Media Gurus, an Australian business, and marketing resources. He is an aspiring street artist and does Audio/Video editing as a hobby.

How to Leverage Customer Reviews to Grow Your Small Business

You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of customer reviews to support and expand your business. The vast majority of consumers read reviews before making a purchase and use social media to help them decide. Customers who take the time to write reviews want to see them posted and discussed. Moreover, prospective customers want to read reviews. Therefore, for better or worse, customer reviews are necessary if you want to sell your products or services.

It’s your challenge, and opportunity, to leverage customer reviews to the benefit of your business. Check out these tips on getting the most from customer reviews:

  • Make search results work for you.

    By increasing your online visibility, you can increase website traffic and exposure to customer reviews. You can use these reviews for SEO and search rank purposes, as well as showcase your excellent offerings.

  • Share positive reviews in your marketing efforts.

    Most consumers will have a better perception of your offerings when they are exposed to positive reviews. For example, if a customer gives you a great review on Yelp, feature it on Facebook and Twitter. There is no harm in bragging, especially when sourced from a happy customer.

  • Take negative reviews seriously.

    Don’t be defensive when you receive an unflattering review. Instead, respond to it by offering your assurance to address the issue. Then, do just that – use the review to improve your products and services. Reviews can reveal all sorts of problems, whether at your store or on your website. If multiple reviews identify the same problem, your top priority should be to fix it.

  • Good reviews can improve your profit margin.

    When you receive consistently good reviews, you’ll likely see an increased demand for your offerings. That should allow you to raise prices and beef up your profits.

  • Answer questions.

    If you have a small business, you probably have a manageable number of customers who have questions. In other words, you should take the time to answer all the questions you receive on your website and social media.

  • Use reviews to gather intelligence.

    You have competitors, right? It’s worth your time to monitor their reviews on sites they don’t control. It’s a great way to learn about their strengths and weaknesses. Use that information to adjust your own business to accentuate why you’re better than the competition.

  • Invite bloggers to review your offerings and then link to those reviews.

    When a popular, authoritative website links to yours, you gain some valuable link juice that gooses your SEO. Therefore, consider contacting well-known bloggers and influencers and ask them to review your business. See if you can suggest the link’s anchor text to extract maximum SEO value. You can encourage bloggers to review your business via an affiliate program in which you actively promote the products of affiliates.
    The affiliate program’s financial incentives can encourage bloggers to review your offerings.

  • Make your website review-friendly.

    That means asking visitors to leave reviews and making it easy for them to do so. Make reviews easy to find, whether on your website or on mobile devices. Don’t ignore valid bad reviews, as these make your business more trustworthy. Of course, always respond to the negative reviews in a positive, non-defensive way.

  • Seek reviews and comments through email campaigns.

    You should be building your customer email list all the time. Use that list to ask for a review whenever a customer makes a purchase.

As you can see, there are many actions you can take to get more value from customer reviews. It may take some extra work, but when leveraged properly, that additional work should pay for itself many times over and help you grow your business.