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Take your business out to the ballgame

alidell
July 19, 2012

Whether it’s Relay for Life, Red Ribbon Week, a local Little League or Dance Studio, most communities have at least one large event or community team in need of sponsors.  Community events and special local programs are the perfect opportunity to participate both personally and as a business.  Becoming more involved in the community will give you additional marketing avenues to promote your business and online presence.

Community involvement can help your business grow because it promotes trust, builds solid relationships, and puts a personal face on your business.  When people trust you personally, they will likely trust you as a business partner.  When you are known in the community, you are more than just a business, you are a real person who is a member of the community.

Sponsor a local sports team in your community.  As a sponsor, your business name can be associated with the team and can be printed on the jerseys, billboard or banner in the outfield or in a program pamphlet or brochure.  By stamping your brand with your logo and web address, in the community, you develop brand awareness, reach to a variety of target markets, and impact customers at a minimal cost.  At these special events you can give out t-shirts with your business’ information and URL.  You can even reach out to a wide variety of customers through print and your website community by promoting these local events that you are sponsoring.

Sponsorship offers businesses a variety of ways to reach out to their target audiences while receiving recognition for having a positive impact in the community.

So the next time you attend your son’s little league game, your daughter’s dance recital, or your grandchildren’s soccer game, take a look around and start building these important relationships.  Community is always about people. Enjoy being a part of the community.  When you are sincere about community involvement, you might be surprised at how much your business will benefit and how fast it will grow.  Who knows, you might even enjoy coaching :)

 

It’s a “Fair” Season to get Emails!

cbutcher
July 19, 2012

Fair season is upon us, and in some locations, in full swing. While many of us are planning on enjoying what the Fair has to offer, the smart business promoter is trying to work it to their advantage. Since e-mail is an efficient way to advertise, this would be a great opportunity to build to your email list!

Of course, you could just get a booth and wave people over, hope that your business is intriguing enough to entice those walking  by, or you could offer them a juicy deal! Contests are a time and time again proven opportunity to get a consumer’s attention. It costs nothing but a few scribbled characters for someone to give you their email address, and everyone that signs up is a potential sale, several potential sales in fact, so why not compensate that effort just a little?

The advantage of a good e-mail list is often priceless, since this is not only a way to spread news, share the joys and events that happen or pass through  the store, but entices your customers with deals, promotions, and new products, what is a small free gift in comparison?  Not to mention, in comparison to printing and circulating flyers (which is still the tried and true method of advertising) e-mails are nowhere near as costly, and can often generate very similar results to your print advertising.

Obviously the bigger the bait, the more fish will appear, so determine how much you want to spend in order to reach a certain goal. A gift card can work for any type of business, and is not a real loss because it is a guaranteed re-investment into the business.  However, you may be surprised to find what the results of offering a $5 gift card might generate!

Keep in mind, the fair is a perfect place to get this kind of involvement, most visitors are there to take a chance, be it a game, or a ride, or a show, so keep the ball rolling!

Take an Interest in Pinterest

mmottice
July 19, 2012

Still wondering what all the hype is over Pinterest?  Maybe you’re still not completely sure what it is, let alone understand how it can help you as a business owner.  Never fear, we are here to help you learn all about this fast growing social media network for business and personal use.  Just a forewarning, once you start pinning, you’ll have a hard time stopping.  No wonder why this addictive site was the fastest growing social media website in internet history, much faster than Facebook.  In fact, it drives more referral traffic to a retailers’ site than Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn combined. Now that I have your attention, let’s go over the basics:

What is Pinterest? Pinterest is an online pinboard.  Users have the opportunity to ‘pin’ or post things found on the internet that inspire or interest them.  Like Facebook, users can share and comment on each post while following their friends, family, and even favorite retailers.  Topics can range from wedding planning, redecorating, cooking, pets, travel, entertainment, art, crafting, beauty, fashion, and much more.

How does it work? Pinterest is twofold.  Users have the ability to install the ‘Pin It’ bookmark tool on their browser for easy pinning while on the web.  If they find a new idea or something they like, for example a DIY chandelier made out of mason jars, they can post it to their Home Improvement board by clicking on the ‘Pin It’ button.  In order to credit the source, each pin contains the original url that links back to the website.

Secondly, users can ‘Repin’ items either from featured public categories or through anyone they are following.  After logging in, all new pins appear in the user’s main feed, similar to the Facebook Newsfeed.  Commonly, pins are repined directly from the feed.  Suggested Friends and a log of recent activity of friends appear to the left.

How do I get started? To request an invitation to join Pinterest visit http://pinterest.com/ and click the red, ‘Request an Invite’ button. Existing users can also invite their friends directly, and they can search among facebook friends.

How can this benefit me as a retailer? Traffic, traffic, traffic! Pinterest generates a lot of referral traffic that connects retailers and customers.  Think about it, once someone posts their favorite product it will be shared within their social network where all of their friends can see your product.  In turn, users would be more inclined to visit your website as well as business.  A great way to connect is by installing the ‘Follow me on Pinterest’ button which is available to business members to post on their websites or blogs.  Lastly, retailers can also pin items for sale.  These items are organized by price and listed under the Gift section.  Did I mention that Pinners tend to repin these items too?

Pinterest is a great way to connect with your customers.  This growing network proves to be an asset to any business.  For more information, visit http://pinterest.com/about/.

Referral Traffic Report from Shareaholic: http://blog.shareaholic.com/2012/01/pinterest-referral-traffic/

The Name Game

mabbott
July 18, 2012

There is an old adage that says for small business owners 20% of your customers will equate to 80% of your business. Because this sentiment usually rings true, it is important to really focus on that 20% of your customers that do the majority of your business.

A large advantage against big corporations is the ability to learn your customer’s names. Not only do you have the opportunity to learn their name, but you can get to know their family as well. This is a major factor in getting and keeping business when you own a small store or stores. Chances are your customer’s father and grandfather shopped at your store. You know their kids and when they come into the store you treat them like family and address them by name. Your employees will most likely know all of your customers as well which keeps the cycle of feeling at home intact. This keeps your customers coming in because they feel comfortable in your store and know that they are more than just people buying products from your store.

Also, you have the ability to go the extra mile for your customers. Whether they want an item or product special ordered, they need you to meet them early at the store or stay open just a little later, do what they need you to do so you can show them just how important they are to you. These are a few things you can do to beat out the larger competition.

Also, another way to win the war against larger companies is to find a niche. Certain things, usually smaller items that these large stores pay little attention too, will still leave you as the place to go. This can be bird feeders, old-fashioned soda, and much more. This is something that the larger stores do not pay attention to. Find out what keeps your customers coming in that no other place sells.

Fishing with Hot Dogs

jthomas
July 17, 2012

For those of you who feel uncomfortable about building a mailing list, this blog is for you! Recently, my son had told me about a conversation he had with one of his friends at day camp. He explained to me that his friend uses hot dogs as bait while fishing. Having never heard of this, I thought it was kind of funny, but was also intrigued to find out if this actually worked. The next time my son went fishing, he used hot dogs on his hook as his bait and ended up catching eight fish!
Building your email list can sometimes be hard to do; it’s almost as if you are asking for money. If you have spent any time fishing, you know that it can be as challenging as collecting emails. Giving something away in return for their email address can be a great place to start. Creating a “decoy” is easy to do. This can be as simple as giving away a product (hot dog) that you could sell, but instead give it away, in exchange for an email address (fish). With summer weather in full swing, why not have a customer appreciation day, or some other customer friendly event, and give away a hot dog to anyone who signs up for your email list. This not only is a great way to build your email list, but a great opportunity to have a couple minutes to talk with your new subscriber and explain what your newsletter is all about. Inform them the information they receive will be of value, including monthly offers, expert articles and tips, etc. A great way to inform them you have just added new information to your website and they should check it out!

Practice Thinking Like a Customer

jarbuckle
July 17, 2012

As a small business owner, you take pride in your website. You probably spend time searching through the content, making sure everything is in tip-top shape. But be careful; is the information important to you really important to your customers? Follow these tips to optimize your website from the viewpoint of those who matter the most.

1. What does your most common customer usually buy?

Find out your most successful featured products, and make sure they are available on your home page.  Make it easy for customers to find what they are most likely looking for. This can be more effective than showcasing products you feel are unique or exciting.

2. Do you have a unique benefit your customer needs to know about?

Online consumers have many options when searching the web. You know exactly why they should do business at your store, but do they? Make sure this information is loud and clear on your web page.

3. Did you keep it simple?

Too much content to read on any web-page loses customer engagement quickly. Think about what information is absolutely essential to your customer: contact, location, products, or events. Make these things easy to find.

4. What are common questions that the average customer has?

This is a great opportunity to combine your in-store experience online. What questions do you most receive before or after purchases? Find a place for this information on your website to make sure you have engaging content that consumers care about.

It’s understandable to get caught up in the logistics of running an effective business. But every once in a while, take a trip through your webpage just like a new customer would. Try to imagine what information truly interests you, and what information drives you to make a purchase.

 

Jump Start your Facebook Page!

Francesca
June 18, 2012

Facebook contests are all the rage right now! Big businesses have been making a huge splash with their success stories from contests! It’s been amazing to see… but are Facebook contests just for big businesses? NO! Small business owners, listen up, this is for you! Use contests to improve your Facebook business page in more ways than one!

Before we get ahead of ourselves, there are some rules set forth by Facebook that we should address just to make sure we are all on the same page.

Click here for full list of rules by Facebook – below are just a few of the rules highlighted for you:

  1. Promotions on Facebook must be administered by a 3rd party app (we’ll get into this later)
  2. The only Facebook features you can use for entry into a contest are
    1. Liking a Page
    2. Checking in to a Place
    3. Connecting to your app
    4. You may not offer registration or entry of a contest based on a user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall
    5. You may not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion
    6. You may not contact the winner via Facebook

There are some great apps available for Facebook contests that won’t have you breaking the bank! Here is a break-down of 3:

EasyPromos

  • The first promotion you run is free
  • It’s easy to use (the name says it all)
  • Variety of campaigns
  • $15.00 per promotion after the first one is done using the Basic Version
  • You have the ability to manage and customize your promotions

OfferPop

  • Pay per campaign (2 week time frame per campaign)
  • Variety of campaigns
  • Option to fan-gate is built in for free

Wildfire

  • Basic promotion is $5 and then $.99 per day
  • Variety of campaigns
  • Unlimited participants

Facebook contests are a great tool to help you lay the groundwork for your page, they are a proven way to increase your likes. Contests allow you to increase engagement and show your customers how important it is for you to communicate with them! There are so many different types of contests that you can appeal to a wide variety of audiences. Here are two contest ideas to help get you started:

1. Photo contests

Photo contests are a great way to increase your fan count and create engagement on your site! Facebook won’t allow you to offer a prize for someone to upload a photo directly to your page, but if you use a 3rd party app, users can upload a photo to that.

Encouraging fans to post photos will help to drive the traffic of their friends and family to check out the photos! This will help to increase your likes and keep fans coming back long after the contest is over!

2. Enter-to-win sweepstakes

Enter-to-win sweepstakes is a Facebook contest idea that will be sure to boost the likes of your page! Just keep it easy, contests with a low barrier to entry are sure to get great results! Just offer a prize to anyone who likes your page and posts on your wall during a certain time frame! It’s easy, fun, and shareable!

Just remember to promote, promote, promote! Let everyone know that you are holding a contest and make a huge deal about the fact you’re giving something away!

Once you get results from your contests, you need to maintain your page on a regular basis!

 

Reach the front page of Google local searches, for free!

jarbuckle
June 15, 2012

According to Google, 97% of consumers search for local businesses online. This has huge implications for your small business, and Google has provided a free tool for you to reach these consumers effectively: Google+ Pages. Creating a descriptive and personalized business page on Google+ will drastically increase your chances of making the front page of local searches for your products or services, and below we will tell you the simple steps you can take to create a free Google+ page.

Step one:

Create a specific Google account for your business. Avoid using your personal email, so sign up for an account such as: YourBusiness@gmail.com. You can easily do that by clicking here.

Step two:

Create a Google+ Page for your business. This is also very simple, just follow the instructions Google provides. You will have to verify your business through phone or mail, so Google knows you are reputable. You can create your Google+ Page by clicking here.

Step Three:

Optimize your page for search results. Google will provide you with prompts on your business page about how to create important content, but make sure to follow these key guidelines:

  1. Make absolutely sure your business phone number and address is listed exactly as it is on all your other online media sites. Google will take into account this information when it ranks your page.
  2. Add Keywords to your business description. Make sure you use only a few extremely important keywords, as opposed to stuffing many slightly-related keywords in.
  3. Ask at least one satisfied customer to leave a review on your page. This greatly increases your rankings. Make sure never to leave reviews from the same computer as the page was created, or you will damage your rank.
  4. Add a few photos to your page, as well as a URL to your website.

Those are the super easy basics! You can now leave your page unmanaged if you like, but remember Google+ Pages is a social network, just like your Facebook page. Share content if you wish, and have fun with your new free marketing tool!

The Results:

Below we see the front page search results for “Pet Food in Syracuse, NY”. The top 7 businesses listed all have Google+ Business Pages, as well as a convenient address and phone number right next to the business name!

Lighting up the year!

mmottice
June 15, 2012

The Fourth of July is the one day of the year we remember what our country was founded on.  In an effort to honor our nation’s independence, show customers you care by trying these easy Fourth of July promotions that will light up the whole year.

Raffle off a Fourth of July basket…

Make a patriotic basket that contains in-store coupons and popular items from your store.  Display the basket near the entrance and sell the raffle tickets at the counter.  Announce the winner the week of July fourth.

Host a Fourth of July Facebook photo contest…

While hosting a contest on Facebook is prohibited, using a third party ap is a great way to connect with your customers online and bring traffic to your page.  The contest guidelines can be customized to fit your store.  Costume contests, for example, can be customized to fit any retail setting.  Post the photos to your page so users can like their favorites.  The photo with the most likes wins.  Award the winner by featuring their photo in your next catalog or advertisement.*

Support your local military

Find a local organization that supports military families.  Ask customers to make a donation at the register.  Display the names of customers who have donated throughout the store.   This encourages your customers and the community to honor a soldier that fought for our freedom.

Kick off America’s Birthday by taking advantage of these easy promotions that will be remembered all year long!

*NMR offers information and assistance when hosting a contest or promotion using Facebook.

Using QR Codes In-Store

mabbott
June 15, 2012

Coupons are an excellent way to reach out to customers and offer them an incentive to buy. However, clipping coupons and carrying them to the store in a purse or wallet can be an inconvenience and a hassle. What are customers to do when they forget their coupons at home? There is an ever-growing solution that can be simple to execute and convenient for the customer.

Smart phones are becoming increasingly popular among shoppers. A study done by Shopper Sciences shows that 57% of shoppers looked up product information by using their smart phone. Also 47% of those same shoppers searched for coupons, 43% scanned a barcode or QR code and 39% redeemed a digital coupon all using their smart phone.

Now you might be asking what can I do to reap the benefits of this new trend while helping my customers at the same time; the answer is simple. QR codes are very popular and almost everyone that has a smart phone already has a QR reader application or can download one in minutes for free. Putting coupon signs with QR codes on them in the aisles with products on sale would allow customers to scan the coupon code and be taken to the code on their phone where they could use it at the register.

This would not only save time for your customers but it would allow you to directly reach out to everyone, not just the customers who cut out coupons. Printable coupons are still effective and you will always have a customer base that will want the paper kind, but it is time to start thinking about the new generation and their paperless ways.

*Statistics gathered from http://www.shoppersciences.com/storage/Holiday%20Shopping%20Trends%202011.pdf

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