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Ways to Utilize Customer Stories for Growing Your Startup

Customer stories seem to be really powerful. Startups should be smart enough to take the fullest advantage of inspiring customer stories or customer experiences. We know that only a great product cannot spell success. For a startup to grow and succeed you would be requiring both great marketing and also, a great product.

Startups usually do not have amazing marketing budgets. They may not be in a position to splurge on a single advertising campaign. However, the best thing about startups is that they do not require thousands to spend on advertising. Startups are known to boast strengths that they could utilize for fueling their marketing and grabbing customers. Customer stories could be used effectively for achieving incredible growth. If your business gains a lot of recognition, you could earn a lot of profits and you could make all your business debt repayments promptly on time. Your startup would be prospering without any hiccups.

You have got to agree that there is a massive difference between simple promises and real results. Every startup promises to provide a solution to a particular issue that sounds pretty exciting. However, nothing could persuade potential customers better to purchase anything than when they are actually sure that it works perfectly. This is exactly where the customer stories fit in. Startups could use effective customer stories for demonstrating how their specific products or services would be solving problems and making things easier for you. Customer stories must be powerful enough to motivate potential customers to ultimately take the buying decision. Let us explore how customer stories actually help in boosting marketing.

How Customer Stories Help in Boosting Marketing

Customer stories or powerful case studies could be utilized all through the sales and marketing funnels. They are supposed to be truly important not simply because of their versatility and flexibility but because they play a pivotal role in the accomplishment of three core responsibilities.

They Help in Building Credibility

If you are a startup and have recently started your business, it is necessary for you to convince your customers of your credibility. You need to prove to potential customers that you are trustworthy. If you are able to successfully demonstrate that there are several other people who are relying on you and are pleased and happy with your company, it becomes easier for the prospects to appreciate your worth and take the final step confidently toward buying your product or service.

They Demonstrate & Prove How Your Product Actually Works

It is obviously tough for people to understand how a product would be functioning when it is actually presented to them, in the abstract. A case study that reveals the story about the way you have assisted your customer would help other customers to visualize precisely how they would be benefitted if they work with you.

They Would Be Assisting You in Up-Selling & Cross-Selling Customers

While creating a customer story, you would be asking your customers to actually share the slightest details of how they have been successful in generating higher profits by using your product or service. When your customers start reflecting on the various benefits they had experienced with the help of your product or service, it is quite likely that they would want some more services or products from you.

Ways to Create Convincing & Compelling Customer Stories

Effective customer stories could be taking different formats including videos, written stories, and audio recordings; however, the persuasive case studies would be having certain things in common.

They Would Be Talking About the Core of the Issue:

Prospects are interested in knowing if your products could solve the issues they are facing. You must communicate very clearly that you appreciate and understand the problems and the associated pain.

They Describe in Detail the Precise Solution You Provided:

When you describe in detail and talk about precisely how you had helped in solving the problem, your customers would be visualizing the solution clearly in their minds. They could easily visualize how your product would actually work.

They Demonstrate How Exactly the Customer Was Benefitted:

Precisely how much revenue was generated by your product? How much savings did the customer achieve? How much time did he save? How many new customers did your client gain after using your service or product? The more clearly you are able to highlight the benefits, the easier it would be for potential customers to understand your true worth.

They Use Actual Names & Pictures:

People would not be convinced if you present a wonderful case study without including the actual name of the company. Most customers are reluctant about sharing details and personal info with others. So, it is essential to ask upfront if your customer is actually willing to contribute personal details while participating in the exercise. Many customers, on the other hand, would be incredibly excited and enthusiastic about the entire affair and would cooperate with you.

Easy Tips to Promote Your Customer Stories

  • Publish your customer stories on your website.
  • Publish a fascinating blog post.
  • Share the customer story on your social media platforms.
  • Incorporate inspiring customer stories into your presentations.
  • Request your loyal customers to share your authentic customer stories with their contacts.
  • If your customer has done something newsworthy with the help of your product, turn your customer story into an important press release to grab a whole lot of attention.

Conclusion

Stories are supposed to be shared experiences. Humans are actually hard-wired toward receiving information basically through storytelling. So customer stories would work great wonders for the growth of your startup. Customer stories could truly improve your marketing, sales, and PR. However, the outcomes depend largely on how well you go about creating customer stories and utilizing them to your advantage. Startups are clever enough to take advantage of inspiring and persuasive customer experiences for achieving unprecedented growth.

Guest post: About the Author

Marina Thomas is a marketing and communication expert. She also serves as content developer with many years of experience. She helps clients in long term wealth plans. She has previously covered an extensive range of topics in her posts, including business debt consolidation and start-ups.

How to Make The Most out of Your Direct Mail Marketing

Many people have dismissed direct mail since the introduction of online advertisement tools. While online tools are vital for small businesses, it is a mistake to assume direct mail is not as helpful; for one, it can be highly targeted. A small business owner has to purchase a mailing list with the addresses of people interested in what the company sells. It is much easier to entice people who are interested in your product or service, which is just one thing that direct mail marketing can do for a business.

Building Your Target Audience

The first step you need to take is purchasing a mailing list. The list will contain individuals who are interested in the products you sell or the services you offer. Now, some people just use that mailing list and send off their marketing material. The material is marked with a coupon or something similar that you can track if those coupons are used in your establishment later. You can slash the mailing list, and just focus on a particular area that responds well to your mailing list.

Another step you can take is to use the mailing list as a starting point. What you want to do is make a mailing list even more specific by using demographics. You probably already know which groups of people respond well to your product or services. Use that information to target your potential customers even better. What you are doing here is reducing waste because you do not want to spend so much on advertisements that may simply end up in a trash can.

Getting the Best ROI From Direct Mail

Making sure your direct mail marketing is effective takes work. There is no doubt about that truth. The following are a few tips to ensure the best ROI you can:

Clear Call to Action

Potential customers do not want to be confused regarding what steps they can take to benefit from your products or services. This means your direct mail should be very clear and use simplistic language to tell potential customers about your offers.

Be Sure to Include Perks 

Potential customers are being pampered by many other businesses like yours. You need to make sure that you pay attention to the perks competitors are offering potential customers and see if you can beat them. A good option is to offer a few coupons, but you can spice it up by partnering with other complimentary businesses to double your clientèle.

Use Names Effectively

People love to receive mail, especially mail that is addressed to them directly rather than just the resident. You want to make sure that you use the name of the person who lives in the location. Pepper the recipient’s name throughout the letter or marketing material.

Try to Avoid Being Aggressive

Yes, you want new customers, but you do not want to seem too desperate. Do your best to ensure you only include a few calls to action or just one. People do not like a pushy salesperson, so they will not appreciate pushy marketing material.

Taking these steps should help reduce the chances of your material being tossed away with the rest of the refuse in a household. Make sure you design your marketing material with intent. Usually, what works best is something clean, simple, and printed with big letters. It would be wise to speak to a direct mail marketing consultant. This specialist can help get your message across effectively.

Guest post: About the Author

Caylanne Crowne is a contributing writer and the media specialist for Allegra Network. She regularly writes for marketing blogs with an emphasis in career building and print marketing.

How to Help Your Audience Connect with your Brand Through Compelling Images

A famous saying states that a picture is worth a thousand words. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to increasing brand recognition and improving customer loyalty.

Did you know that 67% of consumers pay more attention to images, and often find them more important than written content, such as descriptions and even customer reviews? Including images in the way you tell the story about your company helps individuals create an emotional connection and become lifelong shoppers.

Read on to learn what type of images you should consider implementing for your business and how to choose the best ones within your budget.

What Images Can Help Your Branding?

Logo

Think of world-famous logos that require less than a second for a consumer to recognize them – such as Nike, McDonalds or Apple. This can help you understand how important a compelling logo is to the success of your business.

“We have less time and less space to tell our stories in than ever before,” says Alina Wheeler, branding expert. “To rise above the clutter, a symbol or a logo is the fastest communication known to man. It unlocks associations with your brand on sight, so it’s important to get it right the first time around.”

Product Images

Images run the show when it comes to designing your products or showcasing them on your website, catalog or in your marketing materials.

Website/ Marketing Images

As online users are bombarded by information, they skim over website content quickly and prefer images to help tell the story. Images are also highly shareable and boost search engine optimization (SEO).

Where Do I Find Compelling Images for My Branding Needs?

Stock Images Websites

As a small business owner, you likely don’t have the budget to hire world class photographers or marketing experts. However, that does not mean you should forego using attractive and high resolution images for your business.

You can find high quality, yet low cost images on a variety of websites, such as iStockphoto.com‎, Shutterstock and iStock. These websites include free and affordable stock images that you can purchase for commercial use. Some of the images can be purchased for as low as $1! Simply type in the keyword or topic you need (dentist, secretary, high-heeled shoes) and find all the related images available to be purchased.

Fiverr

While stock images may be useful for design elements, when it comes to creating unique visuals for your brand, such as your logo, you can’t rely on an existing image. Fiverr is a very useful site to connect with freelance designers (and other specialists).

For as low as $5 (and up), you can find a professional to create a one-of-a-kind image for your business needs. Fiverr also allows you to read freelance profiles and customer reviews as well as view samples of their previous work.

Create Your Custom Images

You don’t have to be a professional graphic designer to create images for your company. If you would rather do this task yourself than rely on others, you can do so with the helpful of online tools.

Sites such as Canva provide ready-made templates so you can create specific visuals for marketing, articles, infographics and more! Freelogodesign promises to help you create a free logo in just minutes. You can then add that logo to merchandize to market your products or services.

There are a multitude of ways to find free and affordable images, or make them yourself with the help of existing tools. If you would rather invest in your brand by hiring a professional or need financial help in utilizing the images you created to market your brand, IOU Financial can help. Visit our site at www.ioufinancial.com to learn about our quick and easy small business loans.

 

 

 

Instagram Ads: The Basics

If you have explored advertising on any social media platform, you have likely focused your attention on Facebook. However, a rising star in this space is Instagram, which has grown from 90 to 800 million since 2013!

Although Instagram gives owners the potential to connect to a large group of users, cutting through the online clutter is difficult for small businesses that are trying to increase their brand recognition… Simply posting content and waiting to grow your following organically can take months, if not years.

A better strategy to reach a mass audience instantly may be to pay for Instagram Ads. The ads would be featured as “sponsored posts” that would come up on users’ feeds as they browse. The goals of utilizing Instagram ads would be to “grow brand exposure, website traffic, generate new leads, and move current leads down the funnel (and hopefully towards converting).”

Are Instagram Ads Effective?

Is investing in Instagram ads effective? The results speak for themselves. “In March 2017, over 120 million Instagrammers visited a website, got directions, called, emailed, or direct messaged to learn about a business based on an Instagram ad,” according to a source.

Why are Instagram Ads Effective?

Unlike advertising on a website or on television, where you can choose the channel, but not who sees your ads, Instagram allows you to target your audience base. This means that you have the ability for your ads to be shown to selected individuals, based on factors such as gender, age, location, interests, etc.

Plus, you can create groups for each ad, choosing between:

“Saved Audiences – interest-based targeting

Custom Audiences – retargeting audiences and customers

Lookalike Audiences – people similar to your other audiences”

How to Set up an Instagram Account to Create Ads

Using Instagram is very easy, and a business can set up an account within an hour to get started with the following steps.

  1. Because Facebook bought Instagram, you can use your Facebook account or create a personal Instagram account to get started.
  2. Sign up for a Business Manager account.
  3. Create a Business Page.
  4. Enter all the required information, such as your business name and details and your contact information.
  5. Create your ad.
  6. Choose an ad objective, which includes goals like brand recognition, engagement, reach, traffic, app installs, lead generation, etc.
  7. Choose who the ad will target, decide on your budget, create a schedule and narrow down on the creative aspect of your ad.
  8. Start advertising!

Examples of Inspiring Instagram Ads

If you are not extremely creative, there are a multitude of examples online of Instagram ads that can inspire you, such as:

55 Amazing Instagram Ads

84 Best Instagram Ad Examples in 2018

You do not require a large budget to get started with advertising on Instagram. AdEspresso’s research has found that the average price of a pay-per-click Instagram ad is around $0.80. Although, to reach a substantial amount of people, you may want to hit the ground running!

IOU Financial can help you to market and grow your business with a small business loan of up to $300,000. Call us at 1.866.217.8564 or visit us online at www.ioufinancial.com to learn more!

How Text Messaging Can Grow Your Business

You likely text your friends and family, but have you considered sending text messages to your customers? If you have, you are not alone as 1 in every 10 text messages is between a business and a client. With over 7 billion people around the world owning a mobile phone, there is no better time to consider the benefits of using SMS communication (text messages) to grow your business.

Benefits of Texting Your Customers

No Internet Connection Required

In a battle between email, social media and SMS marketing, only one can be used without an internet connection—SMS. Although it may seem access to internet is never a problem, consider that less than half of mobile phone owners have smartphones. This means that while they can receive text messages, they cannot check their email or browse the web without access to WiFi.

Plus, a phone connection is simply more reliable than the internet; think about how many times you couldn’t use the web but were able to text and make phone calls on your mobile device!

In Your Face

When a text is sent, it shows up right on the screen of the mobile phone, and unless the person is a heavy texter, is extremely noticeable. Compare this to the dozens, if not hundreds, of emails that we receive daily. Plus, phones do not filter text messages, and there is no Spam folder for texts as there is with emails. Given the fact that 82% of mobile phone owners read every single they text they receive, it comes as no surprise that texts are read 98% of the time rather than 15-22% with emails.

Gives Your Customers Power

Texting isn’t a one-directional tactic; it is a two-way strategy that can play a significant role in attracting new clients. Half of the time (50% to be exact) a sale is dependent on timing, as a study found that shoppers tend to choose the company that they can get in touch with first.

If you share your phone number online and encourage customers to text you, you can improve your communication and offer them an immediate response, thereby increasing your sales.

Examples of Uses of SMS Communication

There are a multitude of ways you can utilize SMS communication to grow your business, such as:

Making/ Confirming Appointments

Text messages are an advantageous strategy to make or confirm appointments for businesses, such as medical offices, spas, salons and body shops. As the messages comes straight to the recipient’s phone, you won’t hear the excuse that it went to spam or wasn’t seen at all. Texting is a quick and convenient way to keep your calendar updated to stay on top of late shows and cancellations.

Verifications

With the rising amount of credit card fraud, asking for customers’ phone numbers to send them a verification code to confirm a purchase is a smart solution for all businesses. Plus, this allows you to store phone numbers to later use them for marketing purposes.

Location-Based Texts

Business owners can use geofencing, a service that sends texts to customers based on their location. You have the ability to send notices and coupons to your subscribers when they are in close proximity to your retail location, thereby increasing the chance they will visit your business.

If you need help integrating SMS or any other type of marketing to grow your business, you can benefit from a small business loan. Find out more about what services IOU Financial offers, and how easy and quickly you can qualify for a small business loan of up to $300,000.

 

Why Your Small Business Needs a Blog

If you have a small business and work as a hairdresser, mechanic or restauranteur, the idea of creating a blog may be unfamiliar and scary. Although your specialty may not be in this area and you are not a natural born writer, you can take steps to add content to your website once you realize how much it can help you in attracting new clientele and retaining your existing customers. Would it help if we tell you that a study found that 4 out of every 10 people read online blogs?

What is a Business Blog?

A blog is simply a collection of articles that you feature on your site. Although they can be written on any topic, for help with search engine optimization (SEO), you want to write on topics relevant to your brand.

This means that you can write blog posts that provide more thorough information about the products you sell than is available in your product descriptions, or simply provide your guidance on the best use of the products or services.

Two Enormous Benefits of Having a Blog

More Efficient SEO

Having a website is not enough to allowing online visitors to find it with all of the other online clutter. Having a marketing strategy is essential to attract new visitors to your website, thereby growing your business.

To get the best results from SEO, you need to update your website with fresh content on a regular basis. This way, when the Google bots assess your site, they will push it to the top amongst Google search organic (unpaid) results. As a rule, if your site is not featured amongst the first few results on Google, it is likely you are not getting a lot of traffic.

To help Google index your site, you need to include relevant keywords (words and phrases) in your content, and there’s no better place to do that than in your blog. A source found that sites that have a blog have 43% more indexed Google pages than those that do not!

Do a Google Adwords search to find keywords that your audience may be searching for, and center your writing around them.

If your business has a local presence, consider adding location-specific keywords (Baltimore Tattoo Shop or Fairfax Mexican Restaurant) to gain foot traffic.

Become an Authority

The truth is that regardless of what industry you are in, you most likely have competitors. A key way to distinguish yourself from them and work towards getting your customers to trust you is to become an authority in your field.

Consider these people:

  • Oprah Winfrey and her book club
  • Suze Orman and her portfolio of financial products
  • Dr. Oz and his medical products recommendations

Although people can purchase any of items from anywhere, they are most likely to listen to the advice of influencers in their given fields.

A blog provides you with an opportunity to educate your customers, making them feel confident that you are a true expert. Once you create a relationship based on trust, you can push products and services through your blog, and your clients will listen to your recommendations.

If you need help in marketing your blog, or feel that you will benefit from hiring a professional content writer, IOU Financial can help you with the associated costs. We work with small and medium size business owners by providing them with easy business loans. Learn more about our company by visiting www.ioufinancial today.

 

8 Effective Ways to Strategize Social Media Marketing for Your Business

For most brands, social media marketing is about accumulating as many likes and follows as they can. While this approach helps, it is just one of many maneuvers you should consider to grow your social media audience. The following are eight effective ways you should consider when creating a social media strategy for your business.

Create an effective content marketing strategy

After you’ve created excellent, unique content, the next step involves marketing this content in a way that guarantees results. You can do this by creating a social media posting schedule that befits your brand and using the right post publishing schedule. Doing this will grow your organic audience and reduce the need to use social media ads to grow your audience.

Conduct contests and promotional activities

What makes contests work on social media is the fact that they involve your audience directly and on a personal level. This has a significant positive impact on brand awareness. Promotional activities give your social media followers a reason to share your content with other social media users, ultimately increasing brand exposure to many other potential customers.

Indeed, there is research evidence to suggest that 35% of people who like your business page on Facebook did so for an opportunity to participate in your brand’s contests. Therefore, if you want to increase engagement on social media, consider conducting a contest.

Create and schedule your status updates

The key to posting on social media is consistency in posting content designed to empower, educate and entertain your audience. The status updates should include emoticons, questions, links, images and videos. Use a variety of post types to get the attention of a wide array of social media users.

Integrate social media sharing

One effective approach to social media marketing is the integration of social media plugins and share buttons on other brand channels like your website and email. Incorporating sharing buttons allows people who find your content educational or entertaining easily share it with their friends on social networking sites. Some of the most common plugins include Digg Digg, Flare, Mashshare and Ultimate Social Deux.

Create a personalized experience for your customers

This approach increases the chances of conversions by addressing the queries, concerns and questions a potential customer might have before buying your product or service. One way businesses are doing this is by use of chatbots. The chatbots create a more customized experience for individual customers and break the tradition that most customers are used to when companies are trying to sell them products.

Tell stories instead of selling stuff

Sometimes entrepreneurs are so enthusiastic about their products that they over-promote them on social networking sites. This can have a devastating effect on the long term viability of social media marketing for the business as many would-be customers get turned off by the overselling messages that make their way to their timelines.

Therefore, consider using social media sites as storytelling platforms first and only incorporate promotional posts occasionally. When you tell the stories that make your brand what it is, it personifies your brand and makes it more relatable. Finally, when it’s time for these people to buy your kind of product, your brand will be at the top of their consideration list.

Create a community for your audience

Growing your audience on social media is not simply about finding anybody who doesn’t mind liking or following your brand, it is about finding people who genuinely want to connect with your brand. Instead of haphazardly adding new people to your social pages, consider using social tools like Social Growr to find people who have a high likelihood of connecting and engaging with your brand. Growing this community will ensure your audience asks questions, gives you feedback, likes your content and shares it with their online social circles.

Respond to all comments, suggestions, inquiries, and complaints

You’ve spent a lot of time and money acquiring your social media audience. It is therefore important that you spend just as much effort engaging with it. When they comment on your post, they expect you to respond to their thoughts. When they make complaints, they expect you to address them. Indeed, a Convince and Convert report indicated that 42% of social media users demand that you respond to their queries within an hour.

 

Guest Post: About the Author

Marquis is a writer, social media manager and SEO content marketer.  She currently lives on the coast of Ecuador, working remotely as a freelancer. Her primary focus is on building online visibility of new, up and coming brand, particularly brands that promote health and wellness. She lives a nomadic lifestyle, though is originally from California.

Determining the Target Market for Your Small Business

It may seem a bit obvious, but targeted marketing is vital to ensuring that every dollar you reserve for marketing efforts is well-spent. When you’re able to identify exactly who is most likely to buy your product, you’ll be better-equipped to allocate funds that do double-duty to attract them. But it can be difficult for small businesses to effectively determine their target market, especially without shelling out tons of money to research firms and consultants.

Why Targeted Marketing Matters: The Research

Target marketing requires you to break down your entire market into unique segments — often by age, gender, education level, income, marital status or geographic location — so that you can specifically target the customers whose needs and wants most closely match your product or service. Savvy marketers implement this technique primarily to attract new customers, but it can also be used for other marketing goals, like increasing loyalty among existing customers and creating hype around a new product.

We all know that this is especially poignant in digital settings, and that online consumers prefer more tailored advertisements compared with broad and general ones. But it also matters in a physical landscape; designing shipping labels, brochures and even business cards that speak to your audience can translate to big gains. Think of what you put out in the digital world as equally as important as the things you put out in the real world, especially when it comes to brand messaging and storytelling.

Here’s why it’s just as important: A recent study by Neilson showed that millennials and generation X consumers are more likely to seek out products that are labeled organic, GMO-free and hormone-free, but that older consumers pay less attention to this kind of wording. This speaks to the fact that different segments prefer different things, and that when you advertise to your core segment, that group is several times more likely to engage with your brand. Simply put, target marketing is good for your bottom line.

How SMBs Can Determine Their Target Market

With all of this being said, identifying your target market can be costly. Small businesses have different budget considerations than large or well-established ones, which makes the process a bit more challenging. Still, it’s important to remember that even if you do have to put in some dollars to pinpoint the right segment, there’s a good chance those dollars will have a pretty big return once you use what you know in your marketing strategy.

No matter the size of your business, it’s important that you don’t make assumptions about your target market in your strategy. While your hunches may be right — you know your customer better than anyone else, after all — there’s no substitute for good, old-fashioned research. Putting aside your premonitions and instincts will help you overcome confirmation bias, which will help avoid muddled data.

  • Leverage Existing Customers
    Your loyal customers are key players in your quest for identifying the right target market. And, because they’re already liable to have a positive view of your brand, they’ll probably be willing to help you figure things out. We recommend providing an incentive to your customers — a percent-off coupon, a free gift or free shipping, for example — in exchange for filling out a survey. You’ll be able to identify key demographics that your existing customers share in order to narrow down your target market.
  • Use Digital Tools
    More than likely, you use big paid advertising tools to get the word out about your brand. Facebook, AdWords and other platforms often have built-in analytics tools that will help you discover who buys your product, how they buy it and when they buy it. eCommerce stores bring even more opportunity; platforms like Magento and Shopify can be customized with analytics plug-ins that store essential customer data and allow you to draw conclusions about your consumer.
  • Do Some Market Research
    Even though it seems like a waste of money, A/B testing and other forms of research prove fruitful time and time again. The process allows you to test variations of a product and identify how certain groups of people respond to each one. How does this help you narrow your target audience? It allows you to see which groups of people respond more favorably to your brand messaging, which helps you determine where you should funnel those vital marketing monies. For example, a brewery might show two iterations of beer bottle labels to a group of consumers to see which groups respond better to which design.
  • Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes
    We already mentioned that making assumptions can be detrimental to your target market studies, but using a little bit of empathy can go a really long way. Ask yourself what pain points or problems your product fixes, and then determine who is most likely to benefit from it. Take it a few steps further by asking yourself what kind of person would pay for your product or service and at what stage in life or the buyer’s journey they’re most likely to pull the trigger.
  • Engage Online and Off
    Using social media, blogs and e-mail marketing, you can reach your existing customer base or potential customers and send out regular customer surveys, but you also want to make sure you’re getting to know your clients offline, too. Every time you get face-to-face time with a potential customer, whether at a trade show or in a brick-and-mortar store during a demo, make sure that you take the opportunity as a way to learn more about your audience. Ask questions, identify pain points and record the data every time.

The most important thing to note when entering the target market research phase is that you may have to spend a bit of money at the outset for things like market research and promotions, but at the end of the day, targeted marketing has the potential to bring back a huge return on investment. Start by using the tools you already pay for — digital analytics and your current customers, for example — before shelling out for outside help.

Guest Post: About the Author

Kurt started Blanco in 1996 after working in the label industry for more than 10 years.  As a Salesman, Sales Manager, then Vice President of Sales for Southern Atlantic Label in Chesapeake, VA he gained a strong knowledge of the label and printing industry. Following Southern Atlantic , Kurt was Vice President of Sales at Custom Printed Products in Shreveport Louisiana. Kurt has experience with most every known Pressure Sensitive Label application, and is very involved in Production and Marketing at Blanco.

Need to increase your marketing budget?. IOU Financial can help with the funding you need to grow.  Contact us today to inquire about getting working capital up to $300,000 in less than 48 hours.

5 Most Common Small Business Marketing Mistakes

When dealing with a smaller team generating smaller profits, marketing efforts can often fall by the wayside. But many small businesses tank when lack of visibility is causing a dive in sales. In order to avoid bankruptcy as a small business owner, keep a few of these common errors in mind and learn how to draw in the right customers with the right tactics.

You Don’t Have a Website

One of the first thing a customer will do if they’re searching for a service or product is online search the service they require. So, if your business doesn’t have a website, how do you expect to be discovered when 43 percent of Google searches are conducted for local businesses?

However, if you do have a website, you need to make sure it’s designed with convenience and attractiveness in mind. Take the time to hire a talented web designer, or even better, learn some HTML to save money and have constant control over your site.

When it comes to the content and design, make sure your call to action is the first thing the potential customer sees, and set up the menus in such a way that they can easily find what they’re looking for. And for goodness sakes, place your contact information in conspicuous places! Nothing annoys a customer more than hunting for an email or phone number.

You’re Targeting the Wrong Audience

Imagine trying to sell meat to a vegan – doesn’t go over well does it? If you’re unaware of the needs of your target audience, you’ll likely see a dip in revenue because you have no clue if your product is something they are compelled to purchase.

The best way to formulate a target audience is to create audience personas based on your current clientele, the goal of your service or product, and your direct competition. With this data, you can answer the “what”, “where”, “who”, “why”, and “when,” and specify details like gender, personality, and employment that will impact potential buying habits from your target audience. From there, you can then begin marketing campaigns towards people that are most likely to benefit from your business.

You’re Not Paying Attention to the Competition

If you’re not regularly online searching similar businesses to monitor their strategies and progress, you’re doing you and your business a great disservice. Competition is scary, but it’s healthy having that comparison; it gives you as an owner the motivation to go that extra mile and improve upon your current marketing efforts.

While comparing services, it’s helpful to have some questions in mind and you can even make a chart to compare multiple competitor businesses at once. Some things you can ask yourself include:

  • What do they charge for their product(s)/service(s)?
  • Where are they located? Do they have multiple locations?
  • Do they have an online presence (social media profiles, website, etc.)?
  • How many employees do they currently have?

With this frame of reference, you’ll have all the information you need to continue to grow within your industry.

You’re Not Tracking Your Progress

Regardless of whether you are using email or direct mail campaigns, you need to track the responses carefully. The analysis of results plays a role in determining if a change in the message or medium is needed. Analysis can also tell you if the marketing method is cost-effective and should be repeated.

Your Message Isn’t Unique

Comparing your business to others can also backfire. Consumers are bombarded with numerous marketing messages throughout the day, and as a result, many of them are not absorbed or even read. And can you really blame them?

This is especially important if your business model isn’t one-of-a-kind. If you’re trying to sell handmade jewelry with diamond companies all over your city, you’re going to have to distinguish yourself from the rest and convince your audience why your rings and necklaces are better than the rest.

Small business marketing will affect your overhead, your sales, your brand image and more. This is an area that you cannot afford to gloss over without considerable focus and attention. With better understanding of these common marketing mistakes, you can take steps to more successfully implement a marketing campaign for your company.

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Guest Post: About the Author

Heather Lomax is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Gemstone Data. In her blogging experience, she often gives advice on improving marketing strategy for SMBs and formulating innovative ways to make your business stand out.

Your 2018 Checklist: How to Improve Your Marketing Efforts in the New Year

The new year is not only a time for personal resolutions, but also for professional ones. One of the most important aspects to focus on is how you can attract new customers and keep your existing ones loyal to your brand. This is best achieved by marketing; which means that the end of the year is the perfect time to consider ways to improve your marketing efforts with the following four-step checklist.

1. Review What Worked and What Didn’t

The first step in any plan for the future is reviewing what happened in the past. You can’t create a successful plan for 2018 without analyzing what worked and what didn’t in 2017. If you have available statistics, review which strategies provided the best returns on your investments and which tactics worked better than others.

Here are some questions to ask yourself about 2017:

  • Which social media platforms and/or websites brought the most visitors to your site?
  • How many of those visitors converted into paying customers?
  • If you utilized pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, which keywords were the most effective?
  • If you promoted content, which keywords got the most clicks?
  • Which pages on your site have the lowest bounce rate (the amount of time a visitor stays on it before leaving)?
  • Which influencers (if you used any) brought in the most business?

Finding out answers to these questions will allow you to decide on a course of action for 2018 so you can maximize efforts to work on the marketing strategies were the most fruitful.

2. Ask What Your Customers Want

In addition to reviewing what you did in 2017, consider things that you haven’t yet tried but that your customers may want. How do you know what messages will resonate with them? By asking them!

Conduct focus group with current and prospective customers, distribute surveys and ask for input from your your audience to get a better sense of not only what products and services they are seeking, but what marketing strategies will help you connect with them better.

This will also help you focus on segmentation, which helps you not to treat your entire customer base as a single entity and focus on individual customers. Turning right to your customers to ask them what they prefer takes the guesswork out of your marketing campaigns for 2018.

3. Create a Consistent Brand Image

We are so bombarded by advertising from television, the internet, billboards, magazines and so on, that customers have a hard time recalling the individual messages from different companies. The brands that have been able to cut through the clutter are ones that are able to tell a single story, creating a consistent brand image.

This requires reviewing your website content, social media posts, advertising, press releases and other artwork to make sure they are all on the same point and relaying the same message.

4. Follow Your Competitors

How can you attempt to stand out from the crowd and offer a unique experience to your customers if you don’t know what your competitors are offering? It is helpful to closely follow your competition to analyze what marketing tactics they are using, and what is working or not for them.

See if there is a gap in your competitors’ marketing strategies that you can capitalize on to set yourself apart from other similar businesses.

Finally, budget for your marketing efforts for the following year. If there is an opportunity that you feel is worthy of pursuing but you cannot afford it, we can help! IOU Financial helps small businesses finance loans of up to $300,000 in as little as 48 hours. Contact us today to find out more.